Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Putterer Sputters and the Garden Grows Wild

I've selected this tender photograph to head up the post because I'm afraid to even enter the garden today, let alone take any pictures. I know it will be a wild place given over to spiders and their webs, mosquitoes and their stings, and rampant weeds and their climbing vines. This has been a rough summer for the kind of gardener, who hopes to keep nature tidy. But for nature, it has been a rambunctious and wild ride.

The image was taken a few weeks ago, when I was home from work recovering from surgery. Patsy was babysitting the neighbors' children and we took her charges to Brookside Garden to see its most excellent butterfly exhibit, "Wings of Fancy." The monarch alighted on little Maya's hand and her brother Johannes reached out to share in the experience. It was enough sentiment to make you want to weep. And Patsy, the photographer, caught the decisive moment.

Meanwhile, as the Putterer sputtered, the garden was left to its own devices. I clipped around the edges and Jim helped with some of the heavy, heavy stuff. But the mosquitoes took over, and though the spiders tried mightily to eat them all, they constructed their webs across all my paths. Then the sun beat down in one of the worst heat waves ever and the hydrangea that I transplanted from sunny spot to shady side last spring still took a hit as the soil cemented itself around its weary roots. The single squash plant took over the vegetable bed, it's prickly stems grew wickedly sharp. The cukes tried to fruit even as the deer nibbled its leaves to a quick. The eggplant delivered, but then toppled. The peppers gave up. The tomatoes did fine, but the squirrels and the raccoons stole the fruit. And then the rains came. A deluge, that bent the flowers over and dropped dried branches from the trees. I've seen evidence that locusts are on their way.

Today, strong and recovered, the Putterer will don long pants and sleeves, pepper herself with DEET, sharpen her clippers, and after asking Mother Earth's permission, she will advance into the wild place and make tidy the garden. The Putterer

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ginormous Harvest Today

Four foot-long cukes and four foot-long squash.
What happens in the garden when the gardener gets laid up and can't get out to garden? Worse yet, what happens when the quick-growing poke weed jumps up so tall that it towers over the squash and cucumbers, providing cover so a few of the fruit can go rogue? That's right, the gardener reaps a harvest that is so enormous, so ginormous, so beyond big, that it borders on the obscene.

Today, after wrestling with about 25 four foot tall poke weed plants, yanking them free of the soil and bagging their sorry hides, I was able to pull from deep under the yellow squash plant four amazing foot-long wonders. After that, I freed up four more cucumbers. Two of them had grown so large that they'd given up being cukes, having turned from green to a scary pale yellow that made them look more like an alien-like birthing pod.

Preliminary research seems to be indicating that this biomass of vegetation is going to be either too course, too bitter or too seedy to eat. But I'm not inclined to give up just yet. So I've found a buttermilk squash recipe that calls for two-and-a-half pounds of yellow squash (One down, three to go.) and I've got another cucumber and yogurt soup recipe that calls for three "large" cukes. (Hmm, I wonder if that means some 36 inches of cucumber, the length of my three-foot-longs laid end to end.). We're also going to have some sliced cukes marinated in balsamic vinegar, more bathed in ranch dressing, and still more dipped in a vinaigrette.

And I may have to make more squash bread and stick those in the freeze with the half-dozen that are already there. On the other hand, if you're reading this, maybe I could foist a two-pound squash off on you? If nothing else, you could try hoisting them numerous times as a healthy knew way to build up your biceps. The Putterer