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Poor Will's Almanack: September 10 - 16, 2013

Flickr Creative Commons user jayandd

As frost time comes closer, I bring in the tomato plants I seeded in July, and I set up the greenhouse for winter.

The bugs and I will fight there until the new year. It will be a fair fight up until then, but they will begin to win as January ends, their ability to breed outlasting my ability to keep up with them, or my hope of overcoming them.

I could, I suppose, eliminate the insects with strong andefficient poisons, but they are part of a psychological system as well as an ecological system I set in place each year.

Throughout the early and middle winter, I can pretend I am lost in the seasonal wilderness. I have escaped the lush expectations of summer. I can hide and rest. I don’t need to produce. I can build energy. I can wait and plan.

In this hermetic endeavor, the tomatoes, the white flies, mites and aphids are my allies. I don’t need the tomato vines for my survival. They are simply friends. Their fruit is a gratuitous response to my awareness. And so the bugs are not so much a threat. In fact, they keep me on my toes. They are a gauge of my interest and the quality of my hibernation. As long as I keep them in check, I know the trajectory of winter is on the rise.

Once the insects get the upper hand, however, I know my resolve is weakening. I know I am getting restless for spring. And the tomatoes, of course, know too. By the first of March, bugs or no bugs, they will become tired and pale. The season will fall apart, and I will grope to find a new purpose. I will be less dependable and caring, I will be looking elsewhere.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the Second Week of early fall. In the meantime, plan your winter hibernation. Watch how you change in the months ahead.

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Bill Felker has been writing nature columns and almanacs for regional and national publications since 1984. His Poor Will’s Almanack has appeared as an annual publication since 2003. His organization of weather patterns and phenology (what happens when in nature) offers a unique structure for understanding the repeating rhythms of the year.