Almost on cue, the garden is packing it in for the summer. The tomato vines are drying up. Some fruit ripens on brown vines. Other fruit dehydrates where it hangs.
With some help and a helper’s chipper, any soil exposed by the dying crops is now mulched by the gift of a fallen limb.
It may be a bit early, but I couldn’t help myself. I have the first of the fall crop transplants sown in plugs in the laundry room.
The outdoor oven (aka the weather) has begun. Perhaps I’ll set aside some corn stalks for Halloween. They’re drying where they stand quite nicely.
“Peas? More peas?”
“Caderperar right dere?”
“Tomayo!” (And a sweet potato volunteer…)
“Uh oh. It get down.” (The arbor fell in a storm.)
“Snail! Hold it? Mama hold it?”
“Carrots ok.” (And more sweet potato volunteers.)
“Lello flowers.” (On a broccoli that never made broccoli but made plenty of greens and is now over six feet tall. This photo is at my eye level and it’s well over my head.)
Now, onto preparing for a little gardener’s airplane party… (“aye-plane!Noise…See it!”)
My husband is an amazing cook. Countless times I’ve been asked where he studied. Countless times I tried to explain that he hadn’t. Then one time I remembered a line from Goodwill Hunting about how Mozart could just play. I appropriated the explanation. “You know how some people never took lessons but can just play music? He’s like that with cooking. He just does.”
These past months, our schedule is such that four nights a week he is gone to class during the time to cook and eat dinner if we’re to hit bedtime on schedule. So he’s been prepping what can be prepped, texting me instructions, and coming home in time to hopefully sneak a few bites before “splash splash” and “pjs” and “nilk.”
This means that inadvertently, I’ve been learning how to cook.
Let’s back up a little…
I’ve always baked. I remember my brother and I kicking our parents out of the kitchen to make cookies by ourselves. I wasn’t yet four, he wasn’t yet six.
Cooking…never my strong suit. Overdone or raw, too much or too little, and without fail:
underseasoned not seasoned.
When we first moved in together I was 18 and he was 19. It was our first night in the apartment and we’d just gotten home with dinner fixin’s. I went in the kitchen to start making whatever it was (probably rice and beans, we were painfully poor) and he came in the kitchen to ask, “what do you think you’re doing?”
“Get out of my kitchen, silly,” he teased.
I obliged. I think I made dinner three times our first year together.
In the many years since then, I’ve acquired a few pony tricks. I can make chicken soup without a recipe. I can make a chicken/rosemary/bacon thing in the oven. I can usually manage to steam vegetables appropriately (and remember to salt them!) without them turning to mush. But that’s honestly about it.
So fast forward back to now, and I’ve learned a lot in the recent weeks. I now know you don’t sear scallops in butter because the lactose makes them stick to the pan. And the (steel) pan needs to be heated empty, oil added, heated, and then scallops (that have been patted dry – and seasoned!) I know many things I didn’t.
Tonight was the night I applied my lesson about scallops. It was also the night I didn’t overcook the squash (“turn it off when some are looking cooked and some still look raw.”) I did want some greens, and without his guidance ahead of time my intended serving for four ended up quite under-sized (but seasoned!)
“Hope you don’t feel like I think you’re doing nothing. You’re doing important work.”
Exactly what I needed to hear today.
I find myself with conscious gratitude surfacing more and more as bed rest continues. Is it the slowing down that allows room for it to grow? Is it the perspective shift front and center bringing gratitude into focus more clearly?
I’m grateful for mother daughter strawberry picnics on blankets with airplanes flying overhead.
I’m thankful for an over-extended partner extending himself even further to keep us all going, garden included.
I’m grateful for our small village who wash dishes or do “splash splash” (bath time) or just sit and talk politics and nonsense with me.
I’m grateful for fresh muffins made while I sleep in and for the financial ability to stomach a pretty decent property tax hike.
I’m grateful for “smoo” (smooth) and “buhpee” (bumpy) pebbles, and the daughter that carries them to my pillow and blanket fort to tell me about them.
And I’m grateful that for another day, our little Blueberry is still growing safe and sound in my belly.
I almost forgot to water the seedlings. Again. There are spikes in the neediness of work. A flux in the hours I spend around people, in front of a screen, or rarely anymore – scribbling notes to myself on paper in a hand few can decipher. This past week has been one such spike. Three weeks prior, I downloaded an app to my phone that tracks usage. It was part of a social experiment called Bored and Brilliant. I’m not sure how much I contributed to their experiment, but I do know that simply downloading the app has made me more aware of time spent diddling on my phone instead of doing things I, you know, actually want to be doing.
Let’s just say that there’s a little monk that provides encouragement and feedback, and last week he had tears running down his face while he begged me to put my phone down. But such is work sometimes. (Othertimes he smiles, hugs himself, and let’s me know he appreciates my taking it easy.)
So among all the monk feedback and work madness, I nearly forgot to water the seedlings. Again. But they were still moist, and were ready for the light to inch up slightly higher, and had more friends in the neighboring plugs. The aspects of gardening I find most successful in the days since becoming a mother are those that succeed under a “set it and forget it” plan of action. I’ve begun building a compost pile (as opposed to feeding the spinning barrel composter DH gave me as a gift years back) and building it smack dab where I want a perennial bed. Why not? If I can get it to cook where I want to serve it (so to speak) I won’t have to find the time to shovel and haul and spread it.
I did manage to pull and burn more grass weekend before last, which was satisfying. Anytime the world feels off-kilter, I know that I either need sweat running over a pounding heart or dirt cramming under the nails of fingers building calloused skin. Or a nap. Occasionally all it takes is a nap to set the world right again.
So I continue to marvel in the child who grows like a loved upon weed and allow the new beds I wish to build, the grass I wish to pull, and the plants I wish to invite into my space…to wait.
She really is growing like the most beautiful creature I could imagine. And all of my gratitude for that erases any itch I can’t scratch in the time I do muster together to work on calluses or dirty up my nails.
So instead of any pictures from recent days let’s take a peek at Februaries past…