Friday, August 4, 2006

There is still time...

The garden is in high gear. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and beans are now coming on seriously. Vacations beckon but home garden demands. Weeding, watering, and most important of all at this time of year: harvesting begins in earnest. And if you like flowers, a few minutes of deadheading each week makes the difference to keep the flowers blooming and the dead at bay: fall is soon enough for dried brown flowerheads. No time to take a vacation, but going out into the garden, if regularly enough, is escape enough. But I went anyway. The family draws even harder on your heart than the plants. And it is good to get away from home to another place once in a while and shed the usual and simplify; but who will take care of the garden?

Every year something does well, and something fails. The humiliation of high August with its assault of insects, weeds, heat, and drought; and the seductive call of the lake and the pool. There are never enough cucumbers that follow the promise of the early plants, for all the pickles that we would like to give as gifts at Christmas. Watering by hand never matches the gift of water from the sky.

The sound of cicadas stops time when it rises up in the afternoon, swelling into the evening into the chorus of the crickets: the music that evokes deep silence--a percussion ensemble totally absorbed in mono-tony, yet it rises and falls and suddenly stops. Are new ones joining in?

Just get out there when you can. Be outside however you can. Enjoy the sweat. Soon enough the walls and the heating system will close in. The pink sky through the haze above West Hill draws me out onto the porch. Cars have died down in the west end, thankfully. The insects almost drown them out when you're outside the house.

It's not too easy to think of fall crops now, but you'll be happy later if you did. It's probably too late now to start broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, collards, and brussel's sprouts. They probably needed to be started by mid-June to get fall crops, though you can never tell what the weather will be like, especially with global warming. We go by experiences in the past--averages and extremes. Carrots should've been sown by mid-July, but no regrets! There is still time to direct seed lettuce, spinach, arugula, cilantro!, mustard greens, chinese cabbage, tat soi, pac choi, and probably a host of others. The rewards will be ample. Diligent watering keeps them going during the hot spells. If you're good and the winter is mild like last year, you can pick the biggest leaves of spinach and lettuce in the fall and then cover the little plants with dry leaves for the winter. In spring, brush off the leaves, and find precious early salads for weeks that predate those sown in March or April.

Salsa time. Peppers are coming on slow, but one little hot purple pepper, ripening to red, is ready and hot enough to carry the salsas. I managed to overwinter Pretty in Purple in a pot over the winter in a south-facing window. A find from Johnny's Selected Seeds, a wonderful seed company from Albion, Maine. It used to be my favorite seed company before discovering the less glossy, more economical, but just as devoted Pinetree Garden Seeds from New Gloucester, Maine. Their seed packets are smaller, but plenty for the home gardener.

The tomatoes are lush. Hybrid Early Girls ripened first, and then the Sweet Million cherry tomatoes. But now the heirloom tomatoes are kicking in with incomparable flavor--Pruden's Purple (I'd sure like to know who Pruden was--is all I know is that this is delicious, a dusky pink and considered to be an early Brandywine) and Golden Queen (this one is from the Amish introduced in 1882). Brandywine, another Amish tomato, has not yet totally ripened. Hardly a meal goes by without some manifestation of tomatoes.

Oh, the kids are hungry or thirsty! They are running downstairs. What will they find in the kitchen? The kids are old enough to poke around and find something good. Rachel is well-rehearsed in what is available, and since she entered her teens, she has shown more interest in good nutrition.

I was just enjoying some sun tea;--very refreshing-made with a little English Breakfast tea for a little kick, and for flavor, herbs from the garden, dried--bee balm, peppermint, catnip, maybe some thyme flowers? Each time I make it it is a little different--I follow my nose and throw in what smells harmonious.