Before I could cover my ears, Ron Hearst of KY3 News said two nasty words. He announced a killing frost would occur Halloween night; as if October 31st wasn’t scary enough without Jack Frost creeping around the yard taking out plants.
“Boo, Ron. How about a little notice?”
“Are you talking to me?” RJ yelled from upstairs.
“Can’t hear you,” I said, even though I could. “You’re yelling at me from upstairs.” (RJ says he can’t hear me when I yell from upstairs, which is true when his hearing issues are flaring up.) I walked to the bottom of the staircase and said, “I’m talking to Ron Hearst. It’s going to freeze tonight.”
A muffled “I know” came from the upstairs bathroom.
“You know? How long have you known there could be a killing frost tonight?”
“Since Monday when they started talking about it.”
“And ‘they’ are?”
“My coworkers, the mail lady, the weathermen. You should watch the news sometime.”
“I pay attention to the news,” I said, “but not necessarily the local news. Besides, I have five weather apps on my phone and I just stopped wearing shorts two weeks ago. There are summer flowers blooming in the garden. If it’s going to freeze, I have to prune the Hawaiian hibiscus and move it inside, wash the houseplants and move them inside, harvest the tomatoes, peppers, basil, cilantro, sage, lemon thyme, lavender, rosemary…” I glanced at the clock, “and I have two hours until it gets dark.”
RJ hurried to his computer and studied several graphs and weather reports. “The weather service says there’s a freeze warning down Highway 65 to the Arkansas line. We’re included.”
“You’re one hundred percent certain our county is included? I don’t want to pick unripe tomatoes and peppers if I don’t have to.”
RJ gave me his expressionless face. “I have a show tonight. You’ll have to figure it out.”
“Fu-udge,” I said softly. “Guess I know what I’m doing tonight.” (In certain situations like this one, the “udge” sounds like “uck”.)
“Sorry,” RJ said. “I’ll cover the lettuce and broccoli when I get home.”
“They do okay in cold weather but thank you.”
I went to the closet and looked at the coats with disgust, choosing a windbreaker before gathering scissors, a Sharpie, pruners, Ziploc bags for freeze-drying herbs, pots and potting soil for begonia cuttings, my flower press, paper bags for drying herbs upside down, Lysol to clean pots and gin, vermouth and olives for fortitude.
After carving one eye and two eyebrows in a pumpkin, I carried a huge Boston fern inside, leaving a trail of fronds and dirt from the kitchen door to my bedroom. I vacuumed and cut flowers for my press. At 6:45 p.m. I turned on the outside lights and grabbed a Black and Decker Lantern from the utility room.
At 8:00 p.m. I handed out candy to four trick-or-treaters, ate the last olive from my martini and warmed up homemade split pea soup. I exchanged my windbreaker for my down parka and returned to the garden—I think it was my garden—to pick peppers and harvest herbs. It was 10:30 when I threw the tools, supplies and remaining plants and cuttings in a heap on my potting bench in the garage.
RJ covered the lettuce and broccoli with old blankets around midnight.
I woke up November 1st and rushed downstairs to check the damage. The Angelonia, mums and hacked-off herbs were fine. The pepper and tomato plants were cream-of-mush. “What was that?” I said. “A hit and miss killing frost? A Halloween joke?”
RJ shrugged. “A discriminatory frost? Most of the annuals are toast. Of course the cold crops are fine. It’s probably because we live in a micro-climate here by the lake.”
“I know where we live but do you know what this means?”
“Yes Ma’am—fried green tomatoes for dinner.”
“Don’t call me Ma’am. It makes me sound old.”
“Okay, Miss Julie,” RJ said.
“Not sure I hear you, Richard,” I replied.