Sunday, September 30, 2007

Time to Be an Ant!

Today we will begin with some wisdom of the ages as given in one of Aesop's fables, "The Ant and the Grasshopper."

"In a field one summer's day a grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart's content. An ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest. "Why not come and chat with me," said the grasshopper, "instead of toiling and moiling in that way?"
"I am helping to lay up food for the winter," said the ant, "and recommend you to do the same."
"Why bother about winter?" said the grasshopper; we have got plenty of food at present." But the ant went on its way and continued its toil. When the winter came, the grasshopper had no food and found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing every day corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer. Then the grasshopper knew: It is best to prepare for the days of necessity."

Each year we put potatoes, onions, and apples away for the winter, and then feel safe and secure that as the snow comes down, we'll always have some food safe out there in the woods, ready for us when we want them. The amazing thing is that when the grocery stores only have soft, wrinkly nasty sprouted potatoes each year to offer, we can wade through the snow, lift the lid, and pull our crisp, crunchy, delicious potatoes. Somehow these cans, buried in our sandy soil, just provide the perfect storage spot for them.

We now have three cans buried, the one Jim's working on has mesh bags of potatoes layered in straw to keep them separated, the can behind him has red and golden delicious apples, and the smaller one to the back has bags of onions. What more could we need?

The garden is winding down. We get a few things every day, but not much now. Today we picked a few tomatoes, one small cucumber, and there's a big bunch of green beans waiting for the time hunger for them strikes us.

We also have some things we planted recently coming on. The greens, peas, beets, radishes and lettuces will hopefully provide some goodies yet. This is our first year to try those, but they're looking good so far.

I thought this spot at the back end of the garden showed such neat color and complexity. In the very foreground is our new fence enclosing the garden. Then right inside that is the row of arched pipe supports I put up to hold the climbing green beans. Then the new patch of greens coming up for fall, and next to that, horseradish plants reaching for the sky.

The empty space is where the melon plants have been pulled, and now it's covered by grass clippings, enriching the soil for next spring's crop. The brilliant orange of the marigolds provides a backdrop of color right against the back edge of the fence, then the corner of the wild portion of our woods, to the right the tall yellow blossoms of the jerusalem artichoke, behind that the overgrown herb garden, blueberries, and the yellowing trees of the back woods. A whole lot going on in one picture!

The trees are dropping their leaves and bursts of brilliant color surprise us everywhere. The mosquitoes have finally left, the days are shirt sleeve warm, the nights are just cool enough to want to snuggle in deeper. What a beautiful time of year!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Fencing In the Garden

We've added a fence around the garden. Here's a picture of Jim watching as Anna digs with her blue plastic shovel in the soil of the garden. Notice how empty it looks now?
It's amazing how the garden goes through phases as it grows. Where they are working was a tangle of melon vines just a few weeks ago, now the melons are all gone, and they were delicious, and the vines cleaned up so we can toss the new-mown grass on the space to prepare it for spring.
The fence is a new thing. Seems like we needed to add some formality to the space, and give the plants a permanent trellis to climb on. Sort of like declaring this as an orderly productive place, dedicated to producing food for years to come.
Anna's outfit this day was funny. The mosquitoes are so bad this year, and we want to let her outside and are reluctant to put repellant on her, so we loaded her down with overalls and a sweater, and a big old soft hat, hoping to guard her from bites. She didn't care, and joyfully ran around digging holes, and peering out at the world from under her floppy hat brim. Didn't get any bites, either!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Where Did The Summer Go?

I can't believe the whole summer has flown! We've had a marvelously full summer with travel and lots of wonderful things happening around the old place. Two family reunions, a couple of nice trips, and lots of stuff sold on ebay, as well as a summer full of good stuff from the garden. Tonight it got cold enough here that we lit a fire and relaxed over our glass of wine and talked about what we'd plant next summer, and here I went to post a picture of our first fire of the fall, only to find that my last posting was the first tomato of summer! Where did it all go?

The garden was amazing this summer, with all we could eat of greens, tomatoes, cantalope, watermelon, beautiful bountiful red sweet peppers, and just wonderful stuff. We even got ambitious enough to plant a fall crop when we'd pulled out some of the dead plants of summer. So even though I went out yesterday and harvested all the ripe tomatoes, that are right now simmering down into sauce with garlic and basil added, out in the garden we have radishes, three kinds of lettuces, garlic, peas, spinach and beets coming up new and fresh, for eating during these long, cool days of fall, and also a big patch of mixed greens.

What a bounty we have, and we're so glad to be here and able to work on it together. Our spectacular thing this fall is the castor bean plants. One plant is over 12 feet tall and still green and growing. I'll insert a picture of Jim as he stands by one of them, looking like he's being attacked and dragged off. It's amazing to see, and when his family was here, some of them wanted seeds.

We have great plans for next year's garden, and Jim's working now on a fence around it, to enclose it and give us a lot of space for climing trellises for cucumbers, peas, gourds, beans, or whatever else wants to climb.

So this evening it got cool enough to start a fire. We finished our dinner, rice pasta and polenta with fresh tomato sauce over it, and a great salad with feta cheese and other veggies. We also had a quick cracker bread made with manoic flour and parmesan cheese. Good stuff. We moved to our big soft chairs and lit a small fire built with small sticks from trimming the blueberry bushes in the spring. How relaxing, to finish our wine, watch out the window for the deer and talk about what we'll plant in next year's garden. A little chocolate goes well with it too. You've got to love the fire, it's just so very relaxing. And it all just makes me wonder, where'd the summer go?