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2017-10-18 / Loose Ends

Drying times

Salvaging the fall
BY SUSAN NIENOW

I like the color in the fall. I like the gentle night rains. October is supposed to be a fairly dry month, and so it was until I invited a friend over to hunt for dried flower arrangement things in the yard.

But, having promised a yard full of dry stuff, it is now drizzling after a day of steady rain. My dry yard stuff is still dry – that is, not growing anymore – but it’s temporarily wet. Thank goodness I have gathered most of the things I need.

I love dried pods and stalks. I have collections of dried grasses and their plumes, pussy willow branches, curling vines from honeysuckle, interesting branches and stumps from long-dead trees. I love seedpods from perennials, trees and shrubs.

Annuals have often cast off their seeds by now, and I can count on all the ones from weeds to sprout in the spring. Some of the flower seeds will also sprout, like cleome, vinca, blackberry lilies and goldenrod. There are others but those are the only names I can remember. Ask me for others tomorrow. Several things in my garden are nameless – at least if you ask me.

Wherever we go this time of year, I collect dried things like acorns, mimosa pods and branches with lichens. I also have a bark collection. No, I don’t strip bark off trees. I wait until the tree is dead and on the ground, covered with moss, or until it is dead and shedding bark while still standing. It doesn’t hurt the tree.

I have some interesting pieces of hearts of pine – the part left when the rest of the tree disintegrates. It doesn’t look anything like planks for flooring. It has arms where the branches came out of the trunk.

I have three mushrooms that dried to look almost real. I must have caught them at just the right stage of growth. Mostly they turn to mush, and I throw them out. We won’t eat any of them. It is nearly impossible for experts to tell poisonous mushrooms from edible ones in the wild.

Right outside I have a small tree stump drying in the sun whenever it comes out. The humidity last week didn’t do it any favors. Can anything dry in 90 percent humidity? My other half picked it up only to find it was infested with ants. I recommended leaving it out in the rain to wash them away, but he used a spray. It probably was a better idea. Rain would have just caused the ants to go deep into the partially rotten wood.

When I am sure the thing is ant-free I will use a wire brush on it to get rid of any rotted wood and clean it up to use in live flower or dried arrangements. Or, I may look at it and decide it is just the other side of interesting. Sitting in the driveway it looked like a large dead bird. Do you have a place I can dry it out?

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