Thursday, August 18, 2011

Yesterday was one of those glorious late summer days, with perfect 80s temperature, low humidity and loads of sunshine.  Having managed to get much of my endless to-do list checked off, my two youngest boys and I found ourselves with a free afternoon and no one to play with but each other.

Now, Westley loves coming into the garden with me, but Brenner, who eats no fruits or vegetables whatsoever except for pickles, isn't much of a gardener.  Miraculously, though, he agreed with enthusiasm to join me for carrot-testing!  In other words, I told him he could pull a carrot.

(Brenner and Westley pick carrots)

Before we even got to the garden gate, though, my eye was caught by something red off to the right.  Could it be?  Our first sunflower!!!

And then more about to bloom!  I had to run back in for my camera.

Intending only to pull up the dead pea vines and make room for maybe some potatoes and other fall planting, I turned away from the boys and got to work.

"Can I pull a beet, Mommy?" asked Westley from behind me.

"Yeah.  Sure.  Why not?" I replied, dryly.

Those beets, which should have been sweet and juicy and the ruin of a couple kitchen towels, had stagnated all summer.  They'd grown colorful leaves for a while, but when I'd checked on the bulbs, those were small and hairy, the size of a scallion.  I planned to pull those up, too, so why not let Westley "check on one."

"Mama, you have a beet!" From Brenner, who seemed as surprised as I was to watch Westley pull a smallish but respectable beet out of the ground.  Westley was not surprised at all, of course.  He practically took credit for it.  

Then Brenner, again.  "Uh-oh.  I'm sorry, Mama.  It just fell off."

"What fell off?"

"The pumpkin."

"Oh, sweetie, that pumpkin's been there a while.  I think it was ready."

The vines from that single pumpkin have started taking over.  Their prickles ravaged the cabbages, but I'm holding on to hope there.  If nothing else, the vines make the garden look like it's doing something besides dying off.  I followed the vines for a while, retraining them away from anything that might have a little life left.

I found, to my now lessening surprise, that more pea shoots had started growing.  The kholrabi had sprouted, and there were little green bean plants, too.  It's a little late in the season, but some of it just might produce a meal or two.  It's worth finding out.

Others had to go, though, I'm afraid.  Most of the lettuces were hard, bitter stalks that would have sat pathetically on my table if I'd tried to put salad dressing on them.  Yuck.  But, even the plants that don't work out so well have a purpose - they become food for the chickens who will eat anything green.

The bell peppers, too, might not be plentiful, but here were three bell peppers, a few jalapenos, and a handful of habaneros, turning colors, and teaching me just what I'll need to do for them next year.

And, what is this strange thing laying among the pumpkin vines?  It had been there a while, and I just wasn't sure what to make of it.  It surely couldn't be a pumpkin.  It didn't look much like anything else, though, either.  I've kept thinking it would turn into something easily recognizable, but it hadn't changed at all in the last two or three weeks.  Time to pull.  A yellow squash!!!  I thought that was impossible since my yellow squash plants had withered in their pots.  But, here was one totally edible squash growing in the pumpkin vines.  Go figure!

Finally, I transplanted the strawberry bush that had grown leaders out of its pot and had started to permanently attach itself to the ground.  The little spot behind the fence and near the shed would make a lovely strawberry patch, I think!  Next to them, I'll do blueberries and raspberries, too.

With several hours still left in the day and weather too perfect for indoor inactivity, I threw our three bikes in the back of the minivan and headed over to the ball fields where there is a paved circle to ride around on.  I could have just sent the boys out to ride in the driveway, but boys need to GO!  And, frankly, a ride sounded awfully good to me, too.  Brenner has just learned how to ride his two-wheeler, and now there's no holding him back.  Then, it was off to Christie's Country Store for an ice cream.

Oh, wonderful summer!

I might just scoop out that pumpkin and toast the seeds.  If the flesh is right, I'll roast it.  If not, I'll give it to the chickies.  Today is also Farmer's Market day, and I plan to buy a few varieties of potato and see if they'll grow eyes to plant.  I'd love to know from readers what, if anything, you plant this time of year.  You see, blogging about gardening doesn't make me an expert.  This is only my second season, and I have so very much to learn.


I wish summer hangs on a while, long enough for me to dig up the rest of my yard for a garden expansion.  And, I wish to learn how to prep the soil this fall for next year's plantings.

I am thankful for an afternoon to share with my little boys, free from errands and housework that can wait.  I am thankful for giant smiles on their little faces.  And, I am thankful for the fullness in my heart and belly that even a garden as small as mine gives me.

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