Gretchen-Joanna, affectionately known in my book as GJ, left a lovely comment on my last post, complimenting me on the neatness of my garden. Now, normally I would just sort of duck my head and paw the ground with the toe of my shoe while mumbling "Ah, shucks," but the fact is, I've worked very hard on my garden this year. I built the beds and the paths, hauled in the mulch (lots and lots of mulch), and have spent the week since returning home from the beach weeding like a madman. So GJ's comment felt like a little valentine.
In the past, the Man has been, well, a bit of a garden hog. He is a more knowledgeable gardener than I, having spent years helping his granny garden back in the day, and he's of a more scientific mind than I am. He is also a manager by nature, and is good at thinking things through, while I'm more likely to jump in head first and hope the water's deep enough.
But this year, we have His-n-Her gardens, and I got the big one. The Man is very busy at work, and he knew he wouldn't be able to keep up with a big garden this year. He has the small garden by the side of the garage, where he is growing tomatoes, cucumbers and crowder peas. He waters but does not weed. Weeds have not been a huge problem in his garden, in part because it has been a dry summer, discouraging weedy proliferations, and in part because he laid down some serious mulch this spring.
I weed. I tend. I putter and fuss. I am pretty much in love with my garden. I stare at it from the porch the way you would stare at your baby's face while he's napping in the crib.
I have discovered the amazing powers of chicken manure. See that corn (above) at the end of the path (the recently weeded, soon to be remulched path)? Last Wednesday, I side-dressed it with chicken manure and it shot up a foot practically overnight. In the plot next to it, my little sugarbaby watermelon vines looked healthy, but lacked vim and vigor in terms of real growth. After a healthy application of chicken manure, the vines grew six inches in twenty-four hours. I kid you not.
Unfortunately, chicken manure stinks for a few days after you apply it. It's also very expensive--in fact, it's probably cheaper just to keep chickens. The Man is iffy about having a flock, and I respect his hesitancy--sometimes even a good idea can feel like just one more thing to deal with, and I believe right now the Man's plate is fairly full--but, boy, could we use that poop.
Right now we have a bumper crop of cucumbers. I don't know why our plants are doing so well. Usually we have a good week or two, and then they get a case of some sort of wilt or another, and that's it for the cukes. But they've been producing for several weeks and are still going strong. They're in a different bed this year, so maybe that's a factor, or maybe this dry spell is good for them.
So I've got excessive quantities of cucumbers, and while I can easily eat one or two a day all by myself, I can't keep pace with the vines. Back in 2010, Jody over at Gumbo Lily sent me her refrigerated pickle recipe, the one she received at her bridal shower from her high school chorus teacher many years ago, and yesterday I dug it out and made me some pickles. I haven't tried one yet--I thought I'd give them a day to marinate--but I have three beautiful jars in my fridge and I'll be opening one of them at lunch.
(ETA: The pickles are amazing! Wow!)
One of my favorite things about having a summer vegetable garden is that at dinner I can lay out plates of sliced cucumbers and tomatoes (and now a bowls of pickles) and crunchy green beans, and I just feel rich with good food.
I'm re-reading Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker's Creek, which I first read about twenty years ago. In one passage she writes, "That it's rough out there and chancy is no surprise. Every thing is a survivor on a kind of extended emergency bivouac. But at the same time we are also created. In the Koran, Allah asks, 'The heaven and the earth and all in between, thinkest thou I made them in jest?' It's a good question."
On my walk this morning, that's the quote I pondered. "Do you think I made them in jest?" No, no I don't.
I'm a writer and a stay-at-home mom who keeps meaning to mop the floors because I think it would make me happy if I did. I love books and music and writing, spend entirely too much time in the dentist's chair (I bet I have more crowns than you do), and used to think I was sort of bohemian, but now I wonder. No tattoos. Minivan. That story.