Category Archives: garden

One wants a shawl

Something I’d like to do in 2011 is read more poetry than I did last year. I’m printing out quite a few I like and hope to spend time with, and will keep my new friends in a notebook handy. I have an old three-ring binder that can’t hold another sheet, and I’ll like to get re-acquainted with some of those verses, too. As I was browsing my computer collection I ran across one that I’d like to have written myself this morning.

Today’s a nipping day, a biting day;

In which one wants a shawl,

A veil, a cloak, and other wraps:

I cannot ope to everyone who taps,

And let the draughts come whistling thro’ my hall;

Come bounding and surrounding me,

Come buffeting, astounding me,

Nipping and clipping thro’ my wraps and all.

From ‘Winter: My Secret’, Christina Rossetti.

Old Year Resolve

My new year resolve is phantom; perhaps it will become more real in the coming weeks. But looking for it engendered some substantial end-of-year resolve to get a few loose ends tucked in so that the to-do list for 2011 could be a smidgen shorter.

The two ingredients for this rice-bag project had been purchased months ago, and I put them together before New Year’s Day. We warm them in the microwave at night and hide them near our feet under the bedclothes, where they have been a great coziness, providing extra heat for many hours. For days fog has been hanging over us like a cold uncomforter — is this not the worst combination of weather elements? — requiring extra weapons in the war against shivering and sadness. Pippin taught us this technique that she learned in those northern reaches where one can’t go to bed without a rice bag. Ours are red because they were the cheapest tube socks I could find at the time.

A couple of other major accomplishments last week were a thorough cleaning of my expansive bedroom and cheerful progress in getting pictures back on the walls. Our bedroom had become the overflow space twice in the last nine months, and took a full five hours to get spiffed up. Moving boxes of this and that, and stacks of books, bedding, and folded laundry from one room to another is the kind of highly-skilled labor I’m getting really good at.

The walls required a lot of thought, but once I ordered the new picture on which everything seemed to hinge, I was able to figure out where all the old ones could fit in. When the new art arrives and I can take pictures, I’ll write about my other pivotal piece of woodsy decor that I started crafting last spring. On New Year’s Day B. and I ordered one picture and hung four. It’s beginning to feel homey around here again.

These snowdrops also were news back in December. And now I think I’ve finished with that year, which was Very Good, thanks be to God.

Summery Cucumber Story

Before the summer is past, I want to share a true story I wrote more than ten years ago, when it appears I was already developing my habit of complaining about my garden, and trying to break the habit, too.

This spring I was grumbling more than ever about the less-than-ideal gardening conditions I work in. Here, close to the San Francisco Bay, it never gets hot enough for this lady born and raised in the San Joaquin Valley of California, where most of the fruits and vegetables all of you eat are grown, where tomatoes and melons and peppers and eggplant all thrive. Rather, we have fog many mornings in the summer, and a few hours after that burns off the cool afternoon breeze comes through, followed by the fog again. I wear flannel nightgowns all summer.
Our back yard doesn’t have a lot of space, and half of it is shaded by our trees and the neighbors’, which get bigger every year. My bean and zucchini crops shrink annually. But in spite of my discouragement, I planted again in April. I have had nice lemon cucumbers in the past, so I planted some again in the usual place. Well, not quite usual. Whereas in the past the vines could crawl across the concrete patio, now they would have a big sandy square where my husband had jack-hammered out the old cracked pavement with plans to replace it eventually.
Before my cukes poked up out of the ground where I had poked the seeds in, big round leaves sprouted up in a few places in the sandy square. They were not the true leaves yet, but I could recognize them for cucumbers—oh, goody, I thought, some volunteers! And I carefully sculpted some bowls around my “hills” so I could water them efficiently. You know, it doesn’t normally rain in most of California in the summer so we have to irrigate everything.
The expected cucumbers came up, too, though not so many. I was glad for the “drop-ins” and was happy to see the space filling with healthy green foliage and vines running off in every direction. Along about July I walked by my sprawling cuke bed and saw…..what was that?…a watermelon!
I could not have been more stunned; to think that I had not recognized their distinctive leaves, so different from the cucumbers growing close by. But there is the power of a foregone conclusion: I had never really looked at those leaves. I simply knew they were cucumbers. But when I thought back, I remembered that the previous year we had enjoyed watermelon on the Fourth of July with friends, and the many children had sat on the  edge of the deck spitting seeds into the sand.
So now what was I to do? There was no real likelihood that watermelons could get sweet here in the Land of Fog and Shade. I have grown melons before in another place. I know they need months and months of heat, Real Heat. But I had been nurturing these plants for months, and they were so healthy and green…and our water use isn’t metered! It was not possible to turn my back on these babies, so I kept watering them, and sheepishly telling visitors about my confusion and enlightenment, as we gazed at the multiplying fruits, some of which grew large.
August was cool. My children asked me many times, “When are we going to pick our watermelons?” and I told them I would wait as long as possible, until the season of possible heat waves had surely passed…just in case. But I didn’t wait that long. I thought I would try one per week, and I started on Labor Day, the First of September. We picked a big melon, and weighed it: 25 pounds. We hacked it open and it was pink inside. I tasted a slice. It was juicy, it was SWEET. A miracle, but true. Better than what we have often bought at the store. Our neighbor heard us exclaiming and peeked over the fence, so we gave her one. We picked a third (32 pounds) to share with our married children, and found out today that it is sweet, too.
Now the children are saving seeds and hoping that Papa will not replace that concrete just yet. And I am smiling to myself at God’s sneaky kindness, giving me in the midst of my grumblings, of all things—watermelons!

Cherry Tomatoes Then and Now

Today I had a hankering for soup, so it was lucky that I found in the freezer a quart of the Cherry Tomato Soup I concocted last summer, or fall, to be exact. It seemed to want to go with the quart of Ham and Bean Soup that I also found in there, and after that, it was only natural to throw in the leftover green beans that had a smearing of pesto on them. Yum.

Here is what last year’s soup looked like before freezing. When I went back to find the post to link to, I noticed Anita’s tale of how her curried tomato soup happened, and it sounds like something I’d like to try this year, if my eight plants produce. But–I’m afraid they might have blight!

Here’s the biggest picking of tomatoes I’ve made so far. The green one is a Green Grape. It looks more like the Green Cherry I had last year, compared with the red one there, a plain Grape. The dark ones are Black Cherry, and the yellow are Yellow Cherry.

Thank God for cherry tomatoes, which ripen fairly quickly. Even they are three weeks late, and we are still waiting on the big tomatoes.