The last harvest

I made stir-fry today with Thai holy basil fresh from the stalk. This is a treat I did not expect to be having in mid-November, even in Georgia.

Thai basil
Thai basil

Here it is, November 11, and we still haven’t had a freeze or even a frost. I planted these herbs in early March, which means they have been growing on our deck for more than eight months.

The forecast is for 35 degree lows on Friday and Saturday, so this may be the last harvest …. Or not.

The regular basil gave up in early October, but everything else – thyme, oregano, chives, bee balm, rosemary, lavender, Thai basil, peppermint and spearmint – just kept growing, albeit a little slower. I left the fallen tree leaves in the pots, figuring it acts as insulation for the soil.

Oregano, with oak leaves
Oregano, with oak leaves

I had more peppermint and spearmint than I could use this summer, and so I have been plucking the leaves and grinding them in the Ninja to form into ice cubes.  I love having fresh mint to use in cooking and drinks all winter and spring.

Ice cubes of mint are not quite the same as the fresh, but they will still retain the best of their qualities. Not the least of which is the sheer memory of their stalks, alive, in the warm sun.

Those trips out to the deck in the morning, scissors and colander in hand, are a soothing balm against the hours in front of a computer monitor.

Most of my herbs are in the mint family, which means that if you run your hand across their leaves your skin will pick up their fragrant, medicinal oils. The mint family is known for its antibiotic properties. And for its ability to calm frazzled nerves.

So many times, when the crunch and heat of too many problems have been interrogating my brain since 3 a.m., just the simple act of walking on the deck and touching the mint leaves reverts my brain to a smoother path.


The normal growing season for deck herbs is over in early October. To have the gift of an extra month, in a period when I’ve been feeling especially out of sorts, feels like tremendous blessing.

It is in my nature, though, that when something goes well I immediately anticipate a disaster to follow.

This frost-free fall, gift though it is, also feels like a warning. It may be that I have many future autumns where I am still harvesting my herbs at Thanksgiving.

What will the consequences be of never having a frost in October? Which are the plants that rely on that frost to set their seeds for proper germination? What happens when the squirrels and bears are awake and roaming for an extra month? Is there less food for the spring babies? Do fewer oaks make it to maturity?

I fear I will live to see the day when the last harvest of the season is simply the last harvest.

Until then, I will gather the mints, pluck the leaves, and freeze them carefully into ice cubes, against a harsher winter.

Day 128’s penny is a 2015, the first year of the November last harvest.

Day 128 2015