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garden

Nature, U.S.

Waiting For The Invisible, Part III

I think I could write about autumn forever. Something about this turning of the season insists on words. I would like to complete the series I began at the start of the summer, ‘Waiting for the Invisible’ (though who knows, there may be more to come), on the process of planting and growing and mostly waiting…

The invisible has made itself known in a brilliant display of flowering trees, fruit-bearing plants, and a startling array of greens. Now, so soon, it begins again to slip beneath the Earth’s surface. Exuberant vines shrink and fade to brown; trees begin to shake themselves free of their leaves, laying a blanket down upon their roots; and the flowers drop their petals and turn inward, arming themselves against the coming cold.
Though we still have hot, Indian Summer days like today, which bewilder us with the promise of a winter-less year, the brisk nights and turning leaves belie the charade. Autumn lurks in the corners, and at her heels, Winter.
As the summer picked up, gardening mostly lost out to other, more insistent commitments in my week. The weeding got away from me, until I could no longer where the paths had once lain. My cucumbers foundered in poor soil, and the squash—I forgot to check the squash, so I don’t know…
You could say I forgot to wait for the invisible to fully unveil, and like an unwatched pot, summer came to a boil while my back was turned, my attention elsewhere.
Soon, a crackling carpet of brown will cover the evidence. The lively communities that kept me company these past months will settle once more to a nearly inaudible hum underground. The creature who rummages each night in the compost pile will go into hibernation (or maybe not… I can’t be sure since I don’t know what he is, or if his kind hibernates!).
The invisible, irrepressible clamor of life and green and growth will have come and gone, and I don’t know that I will be any the wiser for the waiting.

But I will remember its exuberance. I will know, next time, that whether I wait and watch or not, heeded or not, the invisible will wake and unfurl and rise again.
~
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Nature, U.S.

Waiting for the Invisible, Part II

(I promised lots of pictures this time…)

Watermelon flower. I think I am a little bit in love with these plants.

It’s official, there is nothing invisible about my garden now. Two strapping zucchini vines are nearly two feet tall, competing with the flowers I didn’t know were already planted there. Tomatoes have turned from green to orange. Red is just around the corner. The turnips that I don’t want to eat and will probably give away are pushing round white haunches out of the earth. Even the watermelon vine (Yes, watermelon in Vermont!) displays one tiny fruit the size of my pinky nail, and several flowers. The haricots vert, too, are in bloom, with the scrawny beginnings of green beans dangling beneath.

Teeny tiny baby watermelon!

Soon we will be enjoying fiori di zuccha (zucchini flowers), stuffed with cheese and fried, fresh tomatoes and basil warm from the sun, and… something with turnips. (Maybe I will grow to love turnips.) Here they are, round two of garden photographs:

Purple basil flowers. I hear you are supposed to clip them, but they’re too beautiful!

Oh turnips, what will I do with you?

Tomato before.
Tomato now.
Zucchini before.
Zucchini now.
The haricots vert survived the rabbits, hedgehogs and foxes!

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do! Check back for Part III.
~
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Food, Nature, U.S.

Waiting for the Invisible

I expect this garden will teach me many things this summer. Though garden is perhaps too tame a word to describe it– too civilized. No tidy rows or neat squares here. On all sides of my house the land extends outward and upward in near vertical lines, and the eye loses track of the boundaries between the cultivated and the wild. Pockets of arable soil dot the landscape, reclaimed from the hill by sheer determination. Vines tangle with maples and violets fraternize with garlic chives and clover. Beans that were planted in one patch willfully assert themselves in the neighboring one– “volunteers,” as my friend Rae calls them.

Nine days now have passed since I planted what remained of these plots. (The owner had already planted beans and peas, chives and thyme some weeks prior.) I contributed squash and zucchini, cucumbers and collard greens, turnips, parsley and arugula. Nine days later and I begin to lose patience. Where are they?

The herbs and tomatoes I bought as starters stand strong in their pots by the driveway. Turnip shoots emerge from the earth in droves; the zucchini begin to display a few shy leaves; and the rest… the rest remain hidden, continuing along a mysterious, underground journey that I can only guess at. Well, thanks to high school Biology I can do more than guess, but even so, where are all the rest? I ask, exasperated. I don’t even like turnips!

Calm down, I remind myself. Breath. In and out. These are seeds, not magic beans, and they don’t in fact grow overnight. When I ‘woofed’ (worked on an organic farm) in Sicily, I arrived in June, at the start of a lengthy harvest season. Zucchini already a foot long and figs falling off the trees. There was no waiting; I enjoyed an instant gratification of food production matched only by… supermarkets. And fairy tales.

But in the real world of dirt and seeds and seasons and cycles, there is a germination period: 4-12 days for cucumbers, 7-14 for squash. That’s a lot of days. Nine days in, and I have to remind myself to have patience; to quiet the pessimistic, doubtful voice in my head whispering, they’re never coming.

Where are those darn plants? They’re coming. Are we there yet? No, but we’re on our way.

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