Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Back to the Garden

The activities of life are so diverse, especially with kids around.  Even a daily routine tends to wend its way around variety.  And so, my daily ritual of watering the garden and putting the chickens up is only a slice -maybe a forkful - in the pie of life.  Today, though, we go back to the garden, the center of our little homestead.

It's not quite the middle of July now, hot and sticky and perfect for a water fight in the yard.  The dogs sleep on the cool slate floor of the mudroom much of the day.  I yearn for anything refreshing.  I have conceded to run the much-loathed air-conditioning after a month's long pseudo-battle with Chad.  And, my vegetables are even yawning a bit in the heavy air, a dichotomy of prolific production and stalled growth.

As I stoop in my hot-pink garden clogs to pull the endless, inch-high pin-oaks from the soil, the world is so serene.  I pet the leaves of the acorn squash, coaxing it to grow.  Chickety, the "guard hen" peeks from the chicken run to see if I'm bringing leftover watermelon, then tries to peck the new sunflower seedlings, just out of her reach.  The greeting of my mini-farm is a morning prayer to me;  It begins my day with nature as a my guide and brings me peace that I can then bring back inside to my children who are about to wake up and demand television and cereal.

(Cherry, Butterscotch and Lemon on their roost, sunflower seedlings that line the chicken run.)

But, the business of the garden must be attended as well.  And, I'm a bit puzzled by that this morning - a feeling I don't favor but am learning, out of necessity, to appreciate.  There is a lesson in everything.  There are so many plants that are doing well:  For anyone who has tended a garden, peas and beans are prolific.  They make me feel successful even though I've done very little to earn that recognition.  My lettuces, which I've been replacing when harvested, have been feeding us deliciously a few times a week with a little homemade dijon vinaigrette.  Another success.  I'm on my second round of radishes.  Success.  While the yellow squash aren't growing to the size of baseball bats like my neighbor's are, they are certainly making perfectly sunny wands that I've enjoyed sauteed or with hummus.  Even my little pumpkin patch is taking off!
(the shelling peas have fallen over, but they have produced enough to share with friends or freeze.)
(yellow squash)
(I dare say this one is self-explanatory)

There are horror stories, here, too.  I had to yank the cantaloupe and watermelon plants that Westley had his heart set on.  They were a bit of an experiment, planted along with the pumpkin.  Well, the pumpkin overtook the bed, as they are wont to do, and the melons withered.  I then left the herbs on my deck so they would be accessible from the kitchen when I need a quick snip of dill.  However, I forgot to water them.  I managed to save the basil, sage, and rosemary, but the dill, thyme, and parsley are no more.  And, I am just completely befuddled by the peppers.  As of this morning, it looks like I have one tiny little pepper bud.  Now, maybe peppers are late-bloomers like I was, but it seems to me they should be further along. The potatoes didn't even sprout.
(my saved herbs vs. the dead)
(tiny pepper bud? - well, it's a pretty picture, anyway)

And, then there's the rest, that's sort of fair-to-middlin'.  The carrots are doing well, though they seem to have slowed a bit. Root vegetable that they are, they should be bursting from the ground, eager for their emancipation, in a month or so.  The cucumbers are curly, which I was not expecting and don't really know how to handle.  I was so hoping for the standard straight cukes I'm used to, so I'm going to have to consider this a learning opportunity.  And, for the second year in a row, the beets are a failure.  This is too bad for me because I absolutely adore them.  Better this year than last, but not edible.  Am I expecting too much?
(carrots and cukes)

I must remember I am still a novice at this.  And, since I learn by doing (Chad teases me because I can't remember how to get places we've gone a thousand times until I drive it myself) I am bound to have some bumps in the road, some sand in my proverbial soil.  Armed with evidence of my problem areas, I will visit Gilbertie's Herb and Garden Center to pick up a copy of Sal Gilbertie's gardening "bible," Small Plot, High Yield Gardening to see if I can glean any tips.  

Your tips, my fellow gardeners, are welcome too.  My high-school friend Dawn commented with a suggestion for a container system for my tomatoes, which are still a source of some angst for me.  One pot of Roma's have some good looking fruit now, but the other five pots are...  Well, I'm just not sure how they are.

Today, I am thankful for all my garden teaches me.  I can grow at my own pace, just like my lovely, if irksome, tomatoes -- sometimes bearing a great deal of fruit and sometimes conserving my energy.

I wish for patience and the joy that comes from delayed gratification.

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