By Lynne Irons>

Every year the human heart loses several grams of muscle mass and therefore pumps less blood as we age. Those of a certain age experience the change of temperature with less good humor as the years fly by. I, for one, am fond of woolen long underwear for my outdoor activities. I do work outside year round. Remember, there is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. I have a cashmere sweater that I wear next to my skin. The point of this paragraph is to encourage you to bundle up and get into the garden.

I finally had a freeze here in Vineyard Haven on Nov. 3. Remarkably, the yellow garden cosmos and the classic zinnias survived. My dahlias were just barely touched, so I will wait a while to dig them for winter storage.

I chained myself to my desk this week and ordered my spring flowering bulbs. Talk about an hour late and a dollar short. Naturally, they were sold out of some of my favorites so I randomly picked substitutes on the spot. I do tend towards impulse buying, but only for the garden. What irks me is that I had big plans, now thwarted, for a new area.

I had a sorely neglected bed filled with tansy, ancient irises and mugwort. I had my son Bobcat the entire thing into the woods. I am going to try only yellow and white in it. Don’t ask me why, it simply appealed to me and I did have some yellow hostas and white astilbe kicking around. I also put some white crocus and yellow emperor tulips for spring and the lovely Yellow Sun gaillardia for late fall. I will let you know how it all comes together.

As far as planting bulbs — go ahead as late in the season that you can get a shovel into the ground. I long ago threw out the wrist-breaking bulb planter. If you still use one, get a good chiropractor. I dig a hole about 12 inches wide and equally deep, line the bottom with Bulbtone, cover with an inch or so of dirt, plant between five and 10 daffodils, cover again by two inches of dirt and then some crocus. Finally I top it off with a baby perennial like phlox or plan for a mass of annuals on top next summer. This way I get a lot of mileage out of the same spot.

I finish with a healthy helping of Bulbtone. I have had terrible luck in the past with skunks digging up my bulbs to get to the yummy bonemeal. If you put enough on the top, they just lick it up and move on. Perhaps I should put out a nice silver place setting.

Now is the time to drain the water out of the hoses and put them away. If you have the frost-free type that can be left on all winter, you still need to remove the hose as a little water left in the end of the hose can freeze the faucet. I only tell things I have learned by default. Oh, and by the way, if you leave the end of a hose submerged in — say — the horse water trough after filling, it could actually siphon back into your well. I have had it come back through the hose into a leaky connection.

The hurricane two weeks ago did some interesting pruning. I will never look at another willow tree the same again. On a property in Edgartown an enormous one came down in a neighborhood. It must have measured five feet around and was easily 50 feet tall. It somehow (by the grace of God) missed the pool, garage, neighbor’s house, and the surrounding trees. The inside was totally devastated by termites or carpenter ants — pure sawdust. Only six inches of life at the bark was holding it in place. Chuck Wiley told me that this is the nature of willows. Why couldn’t the willows at the water’s edge of the Tashmoo Overlook suffer a similar fate?

I heard that FEMA has cut off access by its workers to any of the trailers being stored in Mississippi and Louisiana because of the high levels of formaldehyde. The carcinogenic agent is used in the carpeting, drapes and counter tops. Meanwhile, 57,000 American citizens have been living in those trailers since hurricane Katrina. Many are experiencing asthma, headaches and nosebleeds. These trailers were manufactured by companies who received hefty government contracts. Is there any more corporate or governmental integrity?