Wednesday, August 17, 2011
I have been putting it off. I have been waiting. I have been hoping that surely, somewhere beneath all the leaves and blossoms, there would be an abundance of beans, or cucumbers, or tomatoes. But today is the day I will give up the garden - well, this year's garden. Today is the day I will admit failure. Today is the day I will pull out and clean up and consider what could have produced a greater yield. Maybe it is because I remember too vividly the huge baskets of vegetables picked as a child. My expectations are unrealistic for this small plot of ground. I always hope that this year will be different - that maybe the squirrels won't show up or the rains will be regular and gentle or the types of seeds I have selected will be stronger and prolific in production. Surely something will grow.
There were some successes. We wait and watch, spray and stake, watch and gather. How gratifying to cut enough okra for one or two meals. How tasty to blend up the cucumbers for a perfect cold, cucumber soup or the basil into pesto. How satisfying to keep making "Chuck's Squash Casserole" and to know that you yourself picked those squash. How special to turn those extra zucchini into loaves of bread for giving - and toasting for breakfast. Maybe the scarcity makes it all taste better. Today I'm racking my brain as to how to stretch a handful of green beans to feed two people.
While my little garden is whimsical and I hope for at least some fruits of my effort, the garden my parents tended was essential for my family to have food throughout the winter. All summer long as the produce ripened our kitchen was an assembly line of work. Imagine this: by the end of the summer, the storage room in the basement would be lined with: 60 quarts of green beans, 60 quarts of tomatoes, 30 quarts of peaches, and a variety of relishes and jams, jellies and preserves. There was a chest-type freezer where there would be 60 packages of corn, 60 packages of broccoli, lima beans and squash, strawberries, blueberries, rhubarb - and what have I left out?
As a child, my job was to count and sort the jars as they would arrive in the cool storage room (being the youngest has its advantages.) I would watch the weekly additions as the crops gave up their yield, never really thinking too much about the tremendous amount of work and effort that went into the picking, sorting, washing, trimming, scalding, water-bathing and pressure-cooking. When the vegetables were ready to be picked, all hands were given a job in the production line. And there never seemed to be a crop failure - maybe that is the advantage of planting a large garden. Sow a lot of seeds. Allow for the birds and squirrels and bugs. Something will grow. It's the "abundance mentality."
I look out the window and see the work waiting for me and I am reminded of the verse in scripture that says, "The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord." Looking at a garden is true expression of that goodness. Watching a bloom open (or not) or a vegetable grow (or not) is all part of waiting on God, watching Him work, hearing Him speak. Maybe that's it. We simply don't have much to say in a garden. We mostly listen. I understand now I cannot recreate what I once had. The lush edible gardens in my mind are only a memory and try as I might, I cannot achieve the same results in my small, too-shady vegetable plot. Things are just different. But I will not give up trying. Something will grow there. I must try. Rethink it all. Find new plant alternatives. Read up. Pull out. Start again.
Something will grow.