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My hands tell the story.  Left fore-fingernail – broken this morning in collision with a wall I was scrubbing. Right middle finger cut – something bit back when I was pruning. Left ring finger – grazed by a misapplied pot cleaner.

It’s the week of preparing our Swiss husli (little house) for its winter hibernation, and us for migration back to the New Zealand spring.

The weather is not helping. It’s gorgeous, and promising to be warmer here next week than the forecasts we’ve seen for down under.  Deck-chair days, not scrubbing weather.  I count on a foretaste of winter here now to confirm we’re right to fly south. That’s not going to happen this year.

Still, we’re sufficiently ahead of the checklist that we could take a day earlier this week for a long meander through the Appenzell countryside.

The green of Canton Appenzell

There was a bit of a Föhn  – the warm wind from the South, which moved the grass on the hillsides enough to make them glimmer with green light.  Where we’re going, the southerly wind is the one that brings Antarctic chill, rather than a fine red dust of Sahara sand.

However there’s not been time to make sufficient sense of the 1462 (!) photos of our Russian trip to even think of sharing some of those with you.   So – with a promise that a New Zealand southerly wind will have me hunkering down to do that soon enough, here’s a little seasonal something to go on with.

Portrait of a Very Small Garden.

Autumn is slash and burn time.  Only the truly winter-hardy things will survive, so everything else is evicted from its pots, and the pots emptied of soil so they won’t crack when the soil expands with ice.

On the left the always-flowering diplodena, on the right the always-bearing scarlet runner bean

The Diplodena is the only exception – that gets unwound from the veranda tomorrow and taken to the garden centre for its winter holiday.

The Elder tree is pruned back to bare basics.

But joy – I’m saved from having to cut down the scarlet runner beans, because a neighbour has volunteered to eat the still-growing beans and take out the plants when they’ve truly finished.

I hate this.  Throwing geraniums still in flower into the compost bin seems almost immoral.  I make bunches of flowers and herbs for friends – and still have to harden my heart to finish the job.

The amazing elder will shoot again to give us spring flowers, full summer shade, and late summer fruit

A Red Fox enjoys the Sonnenhut (Echinacea)

Summer was wonderfully productive.

“The farm”

Our “farm” is a row of pots along the sun-heated south wall.

The cherry tomatoes – both the bought plants and the self-sown seedlings – kept us in vividly coloured flavour-bursts.

Cress sprouts there in three days, and rocket takes only a little  longer. The pot-herbs flourished.  And the beans – ah the beans fed friends and neighbours as well as us.

And, bless the gods of growing things, they all did it while we simply observed from the shade of the elder tree.

Spring is so sudden, so dramatic here.  Things do “spring forth” as if they’ve been tightly coiled waiting for a signal from the weather.

A rose bush goes from bare branches to blooms in what seems to be only a fortnight or so.

And our peonies responded to the particularly cold winter in spectacular style.

Not our own roses, but by our community’s swimming pool

Now the kiwi fruit vine tells the story.  It has gone from bee-full spring blossom to goldening leaves.

Kiwi-fruit vine turning to autumn

The days here are shortening rapidly now we’re past the solstice…. So time to head for where the light is lengthening, and our other kiwifruit vine is bursting its buds.

Aah – homewards!   I smile as I write that.  I know our ‘two halves” life is enviable.  I know that if there are two countries in the world it is good to be “at home” in, they must be Switzerland and New Zealand.   Both beautiful.  Both small enough you can feel yourself encompass the country, not just a small piece of it.  Both independently and peaceably-minded.

But… as my fingernails take their annual autumn-cleaning punishment, that feeling always rises in me…. really home soon.

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