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Friday, June 18, 2010

Builds character

Beloved re-re-replanting summer starts on uncommonly warm and dry afternoon, June 16 -- 58F.

We are certainly experiencing our comeuppance for complacently watching all our Eastern friends go through garden hell last summer. It's too early to tell if we will have blight -- the potatoes are looking good -- but we've almost given up trying to grow our favorites: tomatoes, zukes, cukes, winter squash, eggplants, or, heartbreakingly, sweet corn, at all this year.

Not that there's not food. In the photo, clockwise from center foreground, is a triumphant patch of peppermint; beyond the grass path is the new blueberry bed, which is producing; to Beloved's right are four mixed beds of favas, red and Yukon Gold potatoes, bok choi, lettuce, red cabbage, kale, collards, cauliflower, beets, garlic, and peas. There are green beans climbing the peas now; but the scarlet runners have been hammered and are re-replanted.

At the far end of the far beds is a fence line of Jerusalem artichoke, with apples and a new cherry tree beyond. It's an apple year, but no quinces, figs, cherries, pears, plums, figs, nectarines, or peaches are to be had. Risa has seen all of three honeybees in 2010. The hops drowned. The plum trees, and one of the peaches, are dying of some kind of fungus and will have to be replaced.

Over by the open compost drum are more apple trees and two of the dying plums. Nearer bed is three kinds of grapes -- these, like the apples, are having a good year. To the left of thr grapes is a bed of mostly mature favas, with cabbage, bok choi, kale, and a little spinach. And more peas.

Garlic - good. Onions - bad. Marjoram and other perennial herbs - good. Basil and the annuals - bad. Rhubarb -- anywhere from drowned to flourishing.

How the heck do you drown a rhubarb plant?

So, perennials and cool-weather crops, less slug damage, and a few fruits, will pull through. Most annuals are an unmitigated disaster. We've cut back on our consumption of last year's dehyrated tomatoes because they may have to last us through next winter. It's probably our worst garden year in our 17 years or so at Stony Run.

The previous worst year was the first -- 1993. Fall -- winter, really -- began, that year, on the last day of July or thereabouts. In order to keep the tomatoes going in the constant cold downpours, Risa built frames around the individual plants, of salvaged windows. And let's not forget 1996/7, when the main garden, on the western, sunny side of the property, floated out to the Pacific after an eight-inch day of rain.

A garden can savage one's overabundance of expectation. They say it builds character.

To enjoy your year-round "spring garden," walk through the beds gathering a little mint, parsley, lettuce, kale, cabbage, edible pod peas, bok choi, garlic leaf, or what pleases your fancy. Bring these in, rinse out the baby slugs, and dump them in the blender with an appropriate quantity of well water and perhaps a bit of powdered stevia or ginger, or both. Liquefy. Strain or pour into a tall slim beer glass. Risa leaves the chewy bits in -- they form a froth on the green liquid which makes it look, to the color-blind, like a nice smooth glass of amber ale.

Build up the fire a bit and sit, sipping, watching the ducks in the rain happily gobbling up grass. Raise your glass in salute to better garden years.

May they return soon.

From time to time.

You can never have enough peas -- John Seymour


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