Last spring I came clean about my gardening ineptitude, my thwarted ambitions to cultivate an indoor jungle. Readers of The Morning answered my S.O.S. with wisdom (“Ignore them”), admonishments (“Water the plants according to their needs, not your schedule”), philosophy (“Plants are intelligent and also have a strong sense of interbeing”) and detailed prescriptions for horticultural success (“First, have no kids,” one committed plant parent advised).
Now, five months later, the living room is lush, populated with hardier specimens that can stand the southern exposure. A moisture meter has taken the guesswork out of watering. But it’s fall, and the light is changing. As Margaret Roach writes in her gardening column this week, “Plants are flopping, and leaves are dropping; the garden is letting go.”
“Again with this?” I groaned to the dracaenae. (“Talk to them!” numerous readers advised.) The plants chuckled and shook their heads. No they didn’t. They’re plants! They sat there in their perfectly calibrated soil. They abided. “The sun won’t set any later than 6:00pm in NYC again until March 12th, 2023,” the New York Metro Weather Twitter account reminded me this week. I reminded the plants. They took it better than I did.
The evidence is the same every year: earlier sunsets, cooler mornings, the smell of wood smoke. Winter’s coming. This fall-into-winter is the third since the pandemic began. What will this season bring?
This weekend, I’m off to see the foliage, whatever leaves are still there for the peeping. I’m taking the counsel of my colleague Erik Vance, who wrote about seasonal melancholy recently: “Somewhere in the crunching leaves, crackling fires and chilly air, you might locate a feeling of possibility, even electricity.”
I’ll return to my makeshift hothouse, optimistic that my improved gardening hygiene will keep the plants thriving-ish through the darker months. There are bright spots if you look for them. On Sunday, for instance, a late-blooming perennial: “The White Lotus” returns for a second season.
Before you go: We turn the clocks back next weekend. How do you adjust to the end of daylight saving time? Send me your best tips, along with your full name and location, and I’ll share some in next Saturday’s newsletter.
THE WEEK IN CULTURE
🍿 “Barbarian” (Out now): It’s the last weekend of October and you have to watch something vaguely Halloween-y. These are the rules, I don’t make them. It doesn’t even have to be scary — try “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” on Apple TV+ — but it has to fit the season. That being said, if you do want something scary, tense and gross, one of this year’s several horror hits is streaming on HBO Max. It’s about a woman who arrives at her Detroit Airbnb rental to discover that someone has already checked in (cue discordant piano notes).
📚 “Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing” (Tuesday): As Elisabeth Egan wrote in her wonderful profile of the “Friends” star Matthew Perry, “by the time he was 49, he had spent more than half of his life in treatment centers or sober living facilities.” It’s more than a celebrity memoir. It’s the story of someone grappling with heavy addiction. As Egan told me, “I was hoping the book would be funny — and it is, in places — but mostly it’s just gut-wrenchingly honest.”
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
One-Pot Rice and Beans
Halloween is on Monday, which means that this is the weekend to pull out your vampire fangs and cat ears. But before you head into that dark and potentially creepy night, you might want to eat a little something. I’d suggest Ali Slagle’s easy, adaptable one-pot rice and beans. You can follow the recipe exactly and end up with a satisfying, earthy meal, spiked with hot sauce if you like things spicy. Or check out the recipe notes for other ideas to jazz it up. Garlic, sweet peppers, tomato sauce, salsa, sausages, sofrito, coconut milk, lime juice: Make these rice and beans as simple or as fancy as you like. Either way, they’ll fortify you for all the festivities on your schedule, whether that’s running around to parties or staying home and watching scary movies on the couch.
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Consider the scythe
Neither a mower nor a string trimmer, a scythe can be an efficient way to cut overgrown grasses and weeds into orderly rows — great for fall cleanup on sections of a large property where the mower made no regular appearances over the summer. A scythe is especially good for areas that are too gnarly for a lawn mower, either because the grass is too thick or because the ground is too uneven. And compared to a string trimmer, a scythe is quieter and leaves less of a mess. — Doug Mahoney
GAME OF THE WEEKEND
Philadelphia Phillies vs. Houston Astros, World Series: Perhaps the best description of this matchup came from a Wall Street Journal headline: “Consistency vs. Chaos.” On the consistent side are the Astros, who have been to the World Series four times in six years. They stormed through the season, winning 106 games and going undefeated in their first two playoff rounds. The Phillies are the chaotic ones. They barely made the playoffs — coming in third in their own division — but clinched the National League championship with a thrilling home run. Oddsmakers say that the Astros have the edge, but the Phillies have shown they’re comfortable playing the underdog. 8 Eastern tonight on Fox.