Summer Evening Ramble.

Gardening is a tricky hobby. This is my sixth year in the business of vegetable gardening. It almost feels like the word “hobby” is an understatement. Gardening is a part of my life, and has been for years. I spend winters reading, designing, preparing, and ordering seeds. Spring is a mad rush to start seedlings indoors, amend my soil, direct sow cold crops, and wait impatiently. Summer is supposed to be when all of that pays off. I water and water and water, I weed and weed and weed. And I wait, and wait, and wait.

If there is one thing I’ve learned from six years of tending to a tiny garden, it’s that it is quite impossible to supply enough for my family of four. We can maybe have a salad once a week from my lettuce. And my herbs are always available for seasoning. But most of it is a waiting game. I probably have around ten tomato plants, all of them with plentiful flowers. In the spring I had several rows of beets and carrots. Now I have one of each, because the devil in the form of a rabbit has been helping himself to the buffet that is my vegetable garden.

It’s a lot of frustration, but I can’t possibly expect anything more. I can hardly compare my yields to the growers at the farmer’s market- they have acres and acres, they use fertilizer and pesticides. I have only 64 square feet of vegetable growing space, and my go-to amendment is compost! But every year I do it again, because I love it, because it is a part of my life. I love the excitement and promise of a new spring, I love the hot summer afternoons of hauling watering cans. I love serving my family a bowl of delicious salad from lettuce I grew myself, even if it is only an occasional salad.

This summer I’m taking a course at my local community college. I’m still in high school, but my school doesn’t have anything remotely resembling an agriculture program. This class is three times a week, and lasts for three and a half hours. My friends wince when I tell them this- but they don’t get it. Every single minute of those three and a half hours is useful and interesting. I’m learning about conventional versus sustainable, I’m learning about crop rotation and sub tillage, cover crops and fertilizer. I’m learning things I never even dreamed of learning until college, and the best part is that the course is completely free (thanks Obama!).

I am sitting right now, overlooking my backyard. You could call it a back garden, since the summer flowers are so abundant. Colorful and blooming coreopsis, mandevilla, sedum, day lily, black-eyed susan, calibrachoa, and hibiscus line the stone walls. This scene is my favorite part about summer. It reminds me of cookouts, family, warmth, and life.

As I type away at my laptop, Boris the Pug attempts to wolf down the crushed walnuts he finds underneath the butterfly bush. I attempt to catch him and he runs behind the tall ornamental grass. I can see his glittering, mischievous eyes from behind the fronds even now. He unabashedly crunches on what must be a particularly satisfying shell, and then drops it on the bark mulch to find more.

It feels like the clouds are holding their breath. They completely coat the sky in milky white, with purple undertones in places. They seem heavy with moisture, and have brought a cool breeze all afternoon. On the radar an angry red splotch is racing in my direction, and should be here within the hour.

 

 

Veggie of the Week

Photo Aug 24, 5 15 32 PM

The Purple Pear tomato is underneath that bright red one. It has a green tinge towards the top.

This week, for vegetable of the week, I have chosen the Purple Pear tomato. Like all of my plants, I ordered my seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., but these ones are special. Because I ordered these seeds about four years ago, when I began my heirloom vegetable garden. My first year, I didn’t even know what “heirloom” was. But when I stumbled upon heirloom tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, swiss chard, kale, etc.. at the farmers’ market, I fell in love. I had to grow them. So that year, instead of buying tomato starts from the garden center, I bought a few paper packets of seeds that came in the mail encased in bubble wrap. And one of these glossy packages was the Purple Pear tomato. They had excellent production the first year they grew. I got countless amounts of these reddish-greenish fruits.

But Fall came, as it often does, putting an end to my garden’s harvest. The left over, frost kissed, and very withered tomatoes soon fell off their vine, into the soil. The soil got covered in three feet of snow for a few months, and then turned over once more in the spring. In late May, I noticed green tomato plants poking their heads up through the ground. I never thought they’d flourish, but they did.

Next year, the cycle continued.

And again.

And again.

It took four years for this little tomato to slow down in production. Some disease took all of my tomato crops, making the stems wither and die, and rotting unripened fruit. And I STILL got a pretty good harvest. Two baskets worth.

I think this vegetable certainly deserves the title of Vegetable of the Week. But I won’t be letting the fifth generation grow next year. I need to get rid of that disease!

Farmer’s Market

Today my mother, sister and I got up early and headed into town. We arrived at a coffee shop, ordered our mocha and vanilla lattes, and sat back to enjoy each other’s company. After the bottoms of our cups were visible, we ventured outdoors, passed a row of teenagers smoking goodness knows what. Whatever it was, it smelled strangely like the inside of an office I had been in. Hmm. 

But that’s besides the point. We passed through a little alley way, and walked down the side walk and across the common. There we found the farmer’s market, a long line of farm stands full of heirloom tomatoes, carrots of every color, swiss chard, lettuce, blueberry muffins, watermelon, and any vegetable you can think of. Well, not any vegetable. I love the abundance, the colors, the smells. And every single bit of it is grown right here. The farmers always look so jolly, and everyone there is united in the belief of local, wholesome foods. Sure its expensive, but its worth every penny. 

Photo Aug 16, 11 52 52 AM

 

Today is a big day for me. At 2 o’clock I’m walking down to the local farm stand/store to ask for a job taking care of their animals. I’m hoping to clean stalls, care for the chickens, goats, donkeys, and cows, do some feeding and watering, and all the other chores that they involve. Its a win-win-win-win situation! I’ll get a little bit of money, learn the ropes of farming, spend time with animals that I love, and have something nice on my college application in a few years. I’ll probably have to do some cashiering and store responsibilities, but I think that the pros are just to good to pass up! My stomach is in knots though, and the anxiety is a persistent feeling that won’t go away. I’m so doubtful of myself- who would want a wimpy teenage girl as their farm helper? I’m worried they won’t take me seriously (though I’ve met the two farmers, and they are really kind). Perhaps these worries are completely unfounded. Either way, I need to learn to deal with situations like this. 

Wish me luck!