BBK bails on his photo op; she rakes leaves for mountain

Sydney Craft Rozen

I spent time in my Church of Dirt and Flowers this week, planting bulbs and thinking of springtime, when the tulips will bloom in a curving ribbon near the front of our garden. Some of my fall-flowering plants are still alive, even after several overnight freezes. Purple asters and red and gold chrysanthemums add bright patches of color among the withered leaves and hollow stalks of summer’s end. Our daughter noticed the asters and said she wants to plant some in her own garden. They remind her of wild asters growing in rock crevices where she and our son-in-law like to go backpacking.

Leaf Mountain Day — our four grandchildren’s annual jump-in-the-leaves celebration — will happen this weekend, even if it rains. For years my husband Lee raked fallen leaves from our two maple trees and towering oak into a rounded pile, taller than our oldest grandchild. As the kids grew, the mountain grew taller, too, but finding enough leaves this year has been a challenge. Our oak tree, and its 60 feet of leafy branches, is gone, lost to disease. The uncharacteristically thin carpet of leaves in our front yard made us consider replacing Leaf Mountain with small, raked piles, which the kids could race through and send flying. But they wouldn’t be able to do cannonballs, and our teenage grandson couldn’t somersault into the heart of the mountain. Nobody could bury themselves deep in the pile, laughing and sputtering as they broke the surface. Our family’s tradition might sputter, too. Earlier this week, I glanced out the dining room window and saw our neighbor across the fence, raking piles of leaves into five big plastic bins. Only one small apple tree grows in his family’s front yard, so this good-hearted guy was actually raking windblown leaves from other neighbors’ trees, including our own. I ran over to his yard, mentioned our grandchildren and the family tradition, and asked if we could have his leaves. He smiled, loaded all five bins into the back of his truck and emptied the entire haul into our yard. Leaf Mountain lives.

Benjamin BadKitten sulked for days after I posted a Facebook photo that proved I really did grow 14 pumpkins this year. BBK and Marlon, the vagabond cat I feed, followed me outside on the morning of the photo shoot, where I planned to pose my chief garden staffer among the pumpkins. To lure him, I smeared a bit of his fancy cat food on a pumpkin and set him down behind it. Lee knelt on the grass, ready with the camera, as Benjamin sniffed the bait. We both sighed when he sensed a trap and hightailed out of the scene. Marlon, however, sensed breakfast. While Benjamin crouched off-camera, glaring, the big guy slowly licked away every speck of food — time enough for some good photos — and ended up taking center stage in the Facebook picture. A few days later, though, the BadKitten proved he is more than just a cute, furry face — unlike a certain publicity hog he could name. Marlon was napping in our laundry room when Benjamin and I went outside to the side yard, where I would rake up a sparse collection of leaves to add to the mountain. Even when a cold drizzle began, BBK stayed by my side, until I lost track of him as rain fell harder and faster. I felt certain, though, that my faithful companion was waiting nearby. When I finished raking and we met up inside, I couldn’t understand why I was soaked all the way down to my garden shoes, but not even a strand of fur on his fat tail was wet.

Two weeks after Halloween, Craft Rozen’s prized pumpkins have turned soggy and sickly green, which is not a festive look. Email her at scraftroze@aol.com.

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