Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Gardener Tries to Control Time

Growing basil in the cold.

A chill is in the air.

I feel like this is a momentous occasion. It's Saturday, the end of a furiously fast week. It's the first of the season's freezes, at the end of a hectic two-garden summer. It's almost the end of a milestone year that included two graduations and a hell-bent for leather pace at the office. I feel like I'm riding a deranged steed, bareback, yet still holding on.

But yes it's Saturday and just above freezing outside in the garden. And I've started a little experiment to see if I can keep some green growing over the winter. Last Saturday, I bought two basil starters and slipped them into a fresh serving of potting soil and placed a bell jar over them to grow in a sunny spot on my deck. Last night, the first light freeze of the season brought white frost to the grass. Not a hard freeze at all. The Swiss chard is still holding its own and so are the impatiens. The last rose of summer may be singing its swan song, but this morning, I went out and snapped a picture of my basil inside its cozy terrarium. Well sure enough, it's as if I've stopped time and it's the First of May all over again.

Now, would that I could stop time so easily. If I could. Here's what I'd do. This week, I would have stopped the clock on Thursday at about noon. That's when my sweet girl Claire was walking home from her school in Ecuador and a man grabbed her from behind and a women covered her mouth and robbed her of her back pack. Could I have that moment back please, so I could fix it and make it go away?

On Tuesday, I would have stopped the clock at about 12:30 at the gym. That's when the exhilaration in my dance class was at its peak and the beat of the music and the sweet synchronicity of ladies in lockstep brought joy to my heart. Could I have that moment back please, just to savor it and make it last a little bit longer?

At work, on any given day, I wished that I could have stopped the clock just to get ahead on my load. Seemed every time, I finished something, the next thing was at my throat. With a new boss in town, the demand is going to be not only exciting and fun, but aggressively intense. Could I have a little more time please to get it all done?

And now it's Saturday, a beautiful chill morning, sunny outside, my fireplace is roaring, the coffee tastes good. Can I stop the clock right now? The Putterer

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Chilly Tonight and the Lemon Is In for the Winter. Should I Pick It?

My Meyers lemon tree is "in" for the winter.

And so ends the 2011 gardening season. This evening, after working all afternoon at the office—and not in either of my gardens, I quickly hauled in all my plants. The temps are supposed to be in the 20s in some parts of the area and I don't want to take any chances. Our family room looks like a tropical forest. The blueberry bush is poking up over Patsy's head. There's a strawberry plant peeking out from behind Jim and I'm snuggled up between the fig and lemon trees. I pulled the geraniums in too, because I just love the idea of overwintering them again this year, just like Grandma used to.

The question is this. When do you pick the lemon? I read that lemons don't ripen after they are picked and my prize is almost totally yellow. But on the other side of my superstar, there is a tiny patch that is still green. (Its brothers on the other branch are still limey green and likely won't ripen indoors.) So I'm waiting for just the moment. But, when the time finally arrives, what will I do with it? What worthy endeavor will I find for my single lemon? An oven roasted fish dish? Or perhaps, a twist for a late afternoon iced tea. Does a lemon harvested in one's own garden taste any less bitter, slightly more nuanced? The temptation to pluck it has been quite overwhelming these past few weeks. And any time I happen by my lemon tree, my internal iTunes always plays: "lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet, but the fruit of the poor lemon, is impossible to eat."

This lovely lemon tree has been giving us such a treat all year. Early this spring, even before it warmed up enough for it to go outside, it was already in bloom. And the scent of its sweet blooms kept our room so fresh. Now we close out the season with that bloom's progeny very soon at the ready.

Now when should I pluck it? The Putterer