Sunday, June 20, 2010


Last night, I went out to the garden and came face to face with the first deer of the season. I'd seen her damage that morning. A host of the old yellow daylilies on the path rising out of the wild meadow had been deflowered .

Her head poked out of the rich vegetation and the two of us just stared at each other. And then I began banging my fists on the rail of the deck in impotent rage. "Get out of here!" I screamed. "You don't belong here." She stood blinking doe-like at me as if she lacked any trace of comprehension, or fear, for that matter. She was just a large, pre-programmed eating machine. Her destiny was to snag any botanical hors d'ouerve that fate sets before her without caution or prejudice. And indeed, as I stood there screaming at the unwelcome intruder, my periphery vision was registering her destruction. All my budding daylilies were gone.

Only earlier that day, I had taken one of my good friends into the garden for a tour. And poking out from the black-stemmed hydrangeas were the gorgeous first flowerings of the daylily cotton candy. Tamara, my friend, who has as much interest in gardening as a hermit does in entertaining, commented appreciatively. I was a proud gardener. It is too early in the garden season for this deer to come. A gardener must learn to share her garden with all comers, even the pests. Slugs munch the lettuce. Caterpillars defoliate the bushes. Something else causes the peaches to rot. It's all part of a master plan that not even a master gardener controls. But last year, the destroyer waited almost a full month longer until July 18 before intruding in my paradise .  So I'm selfishly sad this morning. I even shed a tear or two. Okay, I admit, it was an all-out snotty blubber. I hate you deer! The Putterer

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hot Out and The Cones are Coming!

It's quiet. Not even the birds are chattering. Both daughters are home and sleeping the morning away in their beds and today promises to be a crisis of demands. My time will be divided among everyone's needs. Likely, I won't garden. But now the garden hardly needs me. The squash plant has so far delivered three golden fruit (yes, I checked squash are fruit!). The tomato plants have tiny green nodules. The cukes continue their ingenious climb up the cage. The eggplant could use perhaps a little spray of soap-sodden water to ward off the pest that's nibbling away at its leaves. But other than pulling out the occasional bind weed or poke weed intruder, the garden is likely the only one who won't make any demands on me today.

Out front, I am waiting with anticipation the arrival of my purple coneflowers (right). This heroic lady was the last to give up her glorious reign last Thanksgiving, when her purple pedals stood firm against the chill breezes rolling in. Already, her cousin Rudbeckias, the crazy daisies are in full bloom. And her companion black-eyed Susans are vigorously green and full of promise.

The Rudbeckias, or Beckys as I like to call them, are members of that huge family the Compositae of which the majestic sunflower is king. But I didn't realize that the name "Rudbeckia" stems from a little Linnaen payback to a wealthy patron. Poor impoverished Linnaeus, who stuffed his shoes with paper and often went hungry, was invited to live with Rudbeck the Younger in the town of Uppsala in 1702. (Readers of the Girl with the Golden Tattoo, which I just finished, will recognize that significant town from the story.)

Rudbeck was working on a thesaurus of English and Asiatic languages and the Linnaeus was engaged in sorting out the order of plants. The two hit it off and as a guest in Rudbeck's home, Linnaeus got to eat well. So in naming this genus, he declared: "So long as the Earth shall survive and as each spring shall see it covered with flowers, the Rudbeckia will preserve your glorious name." Word is that Nissan Pavillion must now be referred to as Jiffy Lube Live. Indeed, as naming rights go, Rudbeck has had some staying power.

I hurriedly type now to finish. One daughter is up. Pancakes anyone? Then, we're off. Claire wants me to sign her up for a gym membership. Patsy needs scores of documents prepared for her school counselor to begin helping her with the college search. There's no food in the house. The bundles of mail are stacked and in need of sorting. The sheets and towels must be laundered. Shouldn't I finally sort the winter clothes out of my closet and put them away for the summer? And the yearly physicals and doctor's appointments need to be scheduled before school starts again in the fall. And the dog needs a walk. And the Sunday meal must be prepared--a fish dish? And all the friends will be over soon to welcome Claire home. The morning quiet is ever so short lived. But to tell you the truth, I'm poised and ready for all the noise to begin. The Putterer

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Cuke Cuke Ca-Chew

The cucumber plant is my newest fascination. I'm watching this botanical engineering wonder and I'm starting to get my hopes up for a bountiful cuke harvest.

The searching tendrils that the plant sends forth before it ventures any further growth has got to be one of the more ingenious in the plant world. A delicate finger reaches out tentatively for the next rung on the tomato cage. It grows randomly, blindly searching for something to grasp onto. I help it by gently nudging it toward the green cage where it wraps its tiny tendril lasso-style around the rungs.

I've never grown cukes before, but I feel a genetic closeness to this awesome vegetable. I can almost smell my childhood in a cuke. It's cool, soft flesh and prickly parts take me back to my grandparents' farm and the sweet green cukes that my grandma pickled in jars with dill and vinegar  and stored on wooden racks in the cellar is one of my most vivid childhood memories. Grandma and I would labor in the kitchen side by side making pickles. It was my job to label and date the jars, so that years later I would come back to her house and pull those dusty jars out of  the basement, bearing my little girl scrawls.

My cukes are salad bush hybrids. They are supposedly perfect for small gardens and indeed, they seem to know their place in my tiny vegetable plot. I have two plants set side by side. Adjacent to these I popped in radish seeds, because I'd read that the radish guards against the plant's enemy, the cucumber beetle.

This evening after a particularly violent thunderstorm birthed a cool breeze in my garden, I went out to study my cucumber plants. And between the time that I took this picture yesterday and today, already the plants seem to have grown another level of infrastructure. There's a rosebud structure forming at the top of the leaves and a few more yellow blossoms have opened. How is it that I don't actually see these plants actually growing before my eyes when they morph so rapidly from one day to the next?

The cuke, it turns out, is a mighty versatile fellow. It can be counted on to erase cellulite, banish pests from the garden, freshen your breath and even cure a hangover, according to this fellow garden blogger.

Me, I can't wait for the day I become that obnoxious office mate forcing dirt-caked cukes on my colleagues. The Putterer