I could not be happier to see the first week of fall. It is so wonderfully cool and clear. The gardens are looking spectacular in this lower light. One must look, of course, with a soft eye to avoid seeing weeds and dead flower stalks. The wild goldenrod I neglected to pull now looks like I planned it. Once again, I shall take credit for Mother Nature’s work.

One more plus in the fall season — I found a parking space twice this week.

Last week we dispatched our pigs. Son Reuben fired up the smoker with some hickory and tended a big slab of shoulder for several hours. I cooked it at 275 degrees for 12 hours in my enormous crock pot. Mackenzie, one of my workers, remarked, “This is so good I want to cry.” I made a giant stock from the smoky bones for the freezer. I am looking forward to a hearty soup some cold winter’s day.

I try to keep my criticisms anonymous concerning gardening practices. I cannot help but comment on the new plantings at the roundabout, though. First of all, holy overkill. Was it necessary to have that number of grasses in the center circle and triangles? I’m pretty sure we are paying for them. I was trying to figure out a ballpark amount but gave up — tens of thousands, no doubt.

Secondly, I hate the lioropi on the edge of the circle. I know it’s a big seller in the landscape architecture world. It’s green forever but the little purple flowers are below the foliage in the fall and it is confusing to cut back (or not) in the spring. Oh well. To each his own.

We had a touch of frost last week in Vineyard Haven. It was on the car in the early morning. My green beans (the third-almost ready planting) took a tiny hit. Some of the leaves were touched. I do not believe we’ve had a frost this early ever. I’ve had dahlias on the Thanksgiving table in the past. I was hoping for at least another six weeks.

I picked the first of my three watermelons. It could have used a few more days but some critter would have had at it if I took a chance. It was, nonetheless, delicious. It was a Sugar Baby, a small seeded non-hybrid about the size of a soccer ball. Remarkably, no insect pests attacked the vine this year.

It is difficult to know when they are ripe. Thumping them has never worked for me. I don’t know what I was listening for. I learned a trick from one of Ruth Stout’s writings. There are a couple of little curlicues between the vine and the melon — tendrils if you will. When they turn brown the melon is ready.

I have promised myself to get seedlings planted into the hoop house this weekend so that they have time to get up to size before real cold and low light. Right now I have peppers in the house which should produce a few weeks more than those outside. The plastic gives just enough added protection from chilly nights and a possible light freeze. I wish I had some Sungold tomatoes in there. Mine in the garden have seen better days.

Donald Kaul has a great article in Liberal Opinion entitled the Bully Party. He says “if our government were a card game, the American people would surely have realized by now that they are playing with a marked deck. The Republicans are cheating.”

In the 2012 elections, Democratic candidates won five per cent more votes than their Republican opponents overall. Republican state legislatures, mainly in former confederate and western states, have gerrymandered their congressional districts to make it impossible for Democrats to achieve House representation.

Still not enough, Speaker Boehner applies the Hasert Rule to avoid bills coming to the House floor without the support of the majority of the Republican caucus.

The 118 Tea Party members hold a virtual veto over the president, Senate, and even the majority of the House.

This latest shut-down-the-government-unless-you-defund-the-Affordable-Care-Act is just one more example of political bullying.

The Rand Pauls and Paul Ryans and other true believers refuse to acknowledge climate change, are dead-set against health care coverage for the uninsured, want no regulation of financial institutions, won’t support research, won’t support public works, nor do they respect public cultural institutions. They believe in cutting off food stamps for millions. Too bad they refuse to accept that the national debt has actually gone down. They want to shrink government until it truly fails. How will they then collect their bloated salaries — farm subsidies? I’m feeling particularly discouraged this week. Oh, for a moderate sensible Republican — a Nelson Rockefeller or Bill Scranton. We need both parties for a vibrant democracy. Have compromise and just plain getting along gone out of style?