August harvests

In my little speck of earth, there aren’t many harvests in August. Some of my gardening neighbors down at the Gardens have given up, cleared out, and are waiting for fall.

Others have given up, and are waiting to clear up until later – leaving any possible harvest to the birds and bugs.

But I’m a little too stubborn for that.

Peppers are still going. The bell peppers are thirsty ladies, and have slowed down, but the hotter, smaller, and drier the pepper, the happier they seem to be.

This cayenne, for example, had out done itself – literally. It made so many peppers it fell over.

That one plant  just gave us a heaping double handful.

I actually planted two this year. I’ve learned that a household really only needs one cayenne plant.

One of the prettiest peppers I’ve ever grown has made a comeback. Don’t these just make you think of the Christmas lights from the 50s?

And how about this? I grew a melon! I still feel like it should be bigger, but I’ll taste it all the same. It’s also possible I’m mis-remembering the qualities of the variety and really does only get this big. I have only had melons set fruit this year (third year trying) so perhaps next year I’ll have learned just that extra bit that helps them grow larger.

Some surprises from the backyard garden as well!

Carrot Lace.

Queen Anne’s Lace was my favorite flower as a child. It grows wild in the Willamette Valley. Some years plentiful, some years scarce, but always it grows. The center blossom, usually, a dark blue or purple. Occasionally, a scarlet center (those are the ones with extra magic, you know.) I loved those blossoms for their delicate nature, their bold center, and their stubborn stems. More than once I would try and pick one only to end up on my butt in the dust with the flower only slightly worse for wear from the battle.

Even the fact that eventually it meant picking cockle-burr after cockle-burr from my socks when the petals turned to seeds didn’t turn me off to their brass nature cloaked in dainty appearance.

And so, when one carrot, the largest carrot, the center-most carrot, decided to shoot to three feet tall overnight, I let it.

It lacks the bold center and the gentle upward curvature, but hits the soft spot in my heart all the same. My hypothesis is, I didn’t plant cockle-burrs to get carrots, so perhaps, if I’m lucky, I’ll have smooth tiny black seeds in a little while. My first saved carrot seeds. If I’m lucky.

Beginnings and ends.

I think I’m still getting used to cycles in this part of the globe. As a child, the pensive hours, the long days indoors, and the ends came in the winter months before the beginnings of spring. The holidays were there to keep you company. With family, with baking, with decorating, with giggling cousins or parents’ friends’ stories, the long grey days seemed warm (and the wood stove helped!) There was candlelight and cookie icing to brighten the end of the year and hold everyone over until the daffodils broke ground. Until the green shone through the drizzle. Until the beginnings began again.

This part of the world, you get your cabin fever in the summer. You get addicted to the AC. You avoid the UV. You make your alphabet soup with different letters, but it’s still alphabet soup. It occurred to me today, that as I finish harvesting the carrots, the beets, the chard, the beans. As I finish harvesting the more sensitive families of food, it’s time to sow the seeds for the fall. Minus the heat-lovers and the cool-friendly, the rotation is about the same – what grows in the spring grows again in the fall, except here the die-out is over the summer.

So the onions, beets, and carrots will begin again in October, even though they’re also ending now.

The peppers and tomatoes are still going strong. They are loving the heat, but will soon lose their taste for it when it averages another 10 degrees higher each day. As they end, their seeds are dried, labeled, and stored for sowing just after Christmas.

It’s an adjustment, to find new-growth withdrawals as summer officially begins with the solstice tomorrow, but I make do.

It’s simply odd. When the winter doldrums are setting in for most gardens I hear about, read about, or dream about, they are ever-surprised at the winter growth going on in my beds. It only makes sense that when other gardens I hear about, read about, and dream about are in full growth swing with their flowers blossoming, their growth beginning in the summer: I have the same surprise, the same envy.

And so, I help new life into the world. I bring the sunshine in. I sow the seeds of the next cooler season and watch hope grow. Hope for evening breezes, for light sunshine kisses, for days so glorious you beg them not to end.

This time, hope takes the form of Lemon Basil, Cumin, Dark curly leaf parsley, and always – always – a volunteer squash.