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Two more tomato plants for the garden from the farmer’s market: Black Krim and Yellow Pear, the latter placed at the corner for the best access for small hands and short arms. They’re big beautiful plants, which my seedlings were not, but now that they’re all in the ground the difference is rapidly disappearing. I love it when nature makes up for my mistakes.

Chloe and I went into the garden yesterday to eat a blueberry popsicle. Well, we went outside to eat the popsicle; we went to the garden to “tee if any tawberried are twipe” (she has yet to master Ss). The slugs have been industrious and I haven’t replaced my Sluggo yet, so she’s been disappointed in a couple of ripe berries and was willing to try anything that looked even a little bit red. It turns out that half-ripe garden strawberries are slightly tart but still full of tangy flavor.

The pea trellis is crawling with life, so we tried a few peas, too. She loved these. She likes peas to begin with, and will eat frozen peas and corn for lunch (sometimes heated up, sometimes still frozen), but these were clearly a different experience. She delighted in receiving the two halves of the pod I split open for her–“like a butterfly” and picking out the peas, one by one. She gave me slightly less than half, which I thought was pretty generous.

We’ve got a few corn stalks coming up, which she also wanted to eat until I told her they weren’t the same as the corn on the cob we’ve had a couple of nights in the past couple of weeks. (Can’t she tell the difference? When I point out the seedling that look like a fatter grass, and is quite clearly not a plump cob full of sweet kernels? Toddlers are strange.) The squash and peppers and eggplant are doing okay, for now at least. I’ve got a bunch of what looks like cucumber volunteers coming up among the tomatoes. I don’t know what they’re from. Compost, I guess. What cucumbers did I grow two years ago? Do I want to keep them? I have a hard time pulling them out, when you buy them for $2 each at the local nursery, but they can’t stay and crowd my tomatoes, either. I moved one to a better spot and we’ll see how it grows.

I’ve also got some volunteer dill among the weeds that are slated for later slaughter, and some Hopi Red Dye amaranth. I love that that’s still popping up here and there. Also some tomato volunteers in the side garden, but they’re getting pulled out when I get a chance because as I recall they were awful in previous years.

And the beans and greens and carrots and roots are growing well–as are the weeds, but let’s ignore that for now–and I’m pleased with what I’ve wrought so far, even if I fear for the summer. And staying out late in the garden picking half-ripe strawberries and half-grown peas for my girl was just what I felt that garden is for.

The first ripe tomato went into a sandwich a few days ago. I meant to go out and look for more today, especially since we’re having tacos tomorrow, but vacuuming and playing with Chloe and pondering frosting somehow took the day away from me. (Chloe’s birthday party is next Saturday, and I’m making a cake. The cake part is settled, but I’ve never decorated a cake before, and I don’t like buttercream but Eric doesn’t like whipped frosting. What to do?)

My weed escapade has kept the side garden relatively nice-looking, though the poor lemon sorrel is baking now that it’s not shaded from the heat by all the other overgrown plants and weeds. I was afraid of that. I need to get some mulch. The reporter who wrote the Blade piece on my garden offered me some, but I totally forgot to go and fetch it, and since she’s now invited me over three times and I haven’t gone, I kind of feel like I’ve flubbed my chance. We’re now on our third summer of a tight budget because of Eric being out of work, so I’m not overly eager to buy mulch, but I never am, and the poor garden needs it.

I am contemplating what to plant in the bare patches. More zucchini? Carrots, for the fall? Lettuce? It ought to be something. Of course, it should be something very low-maintenance.

On the plus side, the peaches on the tree are just about ripe. On the minus side, I didn’t remove nearly enough of them, so they’re all apricot-sized instead of peach-sized. Now I know how many is too many for a tree that size to support. How big a peach would a tree with just one peach on it grow? Unfortunately I don’t think anyone who owns a peach tree and likes peaches would be willing to find out.

Chloe and I have been eating raspberries off the bush for several days now. They’re planted along the little fence between the back door and the garage, some red, some golden. The golden ones are milder and sweeter, and also ripened first. At first there were just a few, and I’d have one and give Chloe the rest. Then it was one for her, one for me. Now she gets the golden ones and I get the red ones, and if there are enough left over I bring some inside for Eric. The raspberry season is young; I think there’s going to be plenty for Eric.

This is exactly how raspberries should be eaten. We had a patch when I was growing up, and Dad would send my brother and me outside with a four-quart bowl. “Pick raspberries,” he said. “Watch out for the bees.” We watched. We picked. We filled up the bowl, besides eating some ourselves. That’s what raspberry picking should be like: bounteous plenty, with a red-stained mouth, and the prospect of more every day. The state of almost being tired of raspberries, only you can’t because they’re raspberries. I’m so glad my raspberries are finally grown up the way they’re supposed to be, and I’m so glad I’m sharing it with Chloe, even if she’s too young to remember right now. Wherever we live, we’ll have raspberry patches just like this.

I bought my first hoe yesterday. Yes, that’s right, I’ve been gardening for three years without a hoe. The side of a rake works okay, you know? Except that maybe a hoe would have helped avoid the weedpocalypse I’m facing. So I bought one. Also a packet of peas, late but just in case, and some onion sets because I confidently expect the seeds I started not to come up.

I also planted potatoes and onion sets and turnips and broad beans, and cleaned up the strawberry beds. Those strawberries were choked by weeds last year (also parsley, which technically counted as a weed since I didn’t want it where it was–parsnip is going to be the same way this year) but still managed to put out tons of runners. I ended up digging up all the strawberries (all the ones I could find, anyway), clearing away the weeds, regrading the bed, and replanting the strawberries. And adding mulch. It’s from the pile of grass clippings from last year, because the bag of actual mulch I bought last year and left out for the winter had strange orange filaments in it and I was suspicious of them. But I’m pretty sure that even if the orange filaments are a new killer fungus that destroys vegetation as we know it, those strawberry plants will keep on trucking.

I weeded the melon patch yesterday. Man, did it need it. I certainly didn’t pull all the weeds out, but I pulled most and gave the rest a haircut, and as a result was actually able to see some dirt. None of the cantaloupe seeds I planted germinated, and the watermelon ones that did germinate seem to have disappeared, but the plants that I bought are going strong, especially the muskmelon.

After the weeding I sank a few short stakes in the ground and planted Kentucky Wonder beans. I remembered too late that I’d intended to put the Hutterites there, since I don’t want to have to step on melon vines while harvesting green beans. Oh well. I’ll live. Maybe the beans will, too.  By the time they were in I was warm enough that the mosquitos had found me, so I left without watering. Tomorrow, I’ll water and also tie up the tomatoes, which desperately need it.

The Giant Marconi growing is so tall it’s touched the ground, which is probably not good for it. I don’t remember getting peppers this early before–but then, I didn’t do a lot of purchased pepper plants before. I could like this whole early-start thing. Maybe eventually I’ll get good enough at seed-starting to make it happen myself.

You would think that, having plants in my garden that are at that exciting stage between seedling and producing adult, I would visit the garden even if I didn’t work in it. Apparently not. It’s not exactly that I feel guilty about not weeding (though I do); I just haven’t had the urge to be outside much. I trust this will pass somewhat once I become a fruit-producing adult myself.

I did go into the garden today, though, because it had been a while since I’d gathered those strawberries and I thought there might be a few more. And there were. It’s kind of nice having a producing strawberry bed after two years of not being able to get anything from them; my expectations are low. As it is, I got about a cup of small, sweet, beautiful strawberries, and felt blessed.

I also noted that the tomatoes are in need of tying up, and of course that the weeds are in need of killing; and that my zucchini plant is thriving and the peppers are doing well for themselves. I took these pictures a few days ago, but check it out: I really do have a garden out there.

Yesterday I dug up the grass patch. It was not a congenial task. It also irked me to notice that the neighbors put up a lattice in place of the fence that used to be between our yards, and (this is the irksome part) tossed the sawed-off ends into my yard. I know my garden is not as well-kept-up as it should be, but it cannot reasonably be mistaken for a junkyard. But I did find a sunflower volunteer, unexpectedly tall, hanging around near the Asian pear, which made me quite happy, even though it meant I had to carefully scrape away the weeds around it. I desperately need to weed, especially the garlic patch, but the mosquitos thronged and I grew irritated and went inside.

I noticed on the way that there are actually two tiny peaches on the peach tree. I considered getting some netting to cover them and protect them from squirrels and bugs–we’d considered it last year but figured it was too much work. But I’m not sure what would work against bugs, so it might be futile. I should probably just appreciate the fact that they survived the freeze and give them up to nature.

Inside, I realized that I really needed to throw away the barley salad I made the other day. This made me sad, since I used my Mitla Black tepary beans from last year to make it, plus some frozen homegrown corn and herbs; but the barley is just too…well…mucilaginous. However, I went out and picked all the rocket leaves to make pesto with (more on that once I get some parmesan), so at least I’ll have something homegrown in the fridge.

“We should think about thinning the baby pears on the pear tree,” I said to Eric this evening as we were making French vanilla ice cream (our first try at a custard-based ice cream). “I don’t know if you’ve noticed,  but pollination was obviously very good, but we don’t want a ton of tiny ones like we had last year. Also, I’m worried that the peach tree hasn’t bloomed yet.”

“Maybe it’s not time yet,” he replied. “When did it bloom last year?”

“I don’t know. I’ll look it up later, I know I took a picture.” So I did. “Late April,” I reported, while the ice cream mixture was cooling before being put in the fridge to chill.

“Oh. Um…but it’s still early May! Or mid May. Mid.”

I started looking online for clues.  Wikipedia mentioned that peach buds can be killed starting at around -15 degrees C. “How cold did it get this spring?” I asked Eric. Before long, I came upon this article, which starts out, “Think it’s cold out there? Try sitting naked in a pile of sticks stuck in a tree. Better yet, be glad you’re not an Ohio peach. They’re as good as dead this year.”

I read this to Eric, who said, “Dammit,” which was exactly what I was thinking. I wonder what price peaches will be at the farmer’s market this year. I was planning on buying peaches this summer anyway, since our tree isn’t nearly big enough to give us as many as we’ll want; but I wonder what the supply will be like, and if I’ll have to get up early in the summer to get any. I wonder if plum trees are as sensitive to freezes as peaches are. Pears obviously aren’t, and I think apples aren’t either.

Incidentally, I went to the market today (looking for rosemary and lavender plants) and found that some people are selling tomatoes at summer prices–I don’t know if they’re imported or hothouse or what, but if I’d found anybody selling parsley we might have had some out-of-season tabbouleh for dinner tonight instead of leftovers.

I chopped down the lemon tree this afternoon. Including the lemons. They had scale on them. I should have realized that was going to happen, but I didn’t, and they were on the underside so I didn’t notice until I went to pick them. It’s possible I could eat the lemons anyway, but that seems unhygienic and I won’t. Into the garbage they’ll go, along with the poor fading leaves and bumpy branches. Here’s hoping it takes the winter to recover and rises again, with a new, bug-free start, in the spring.

It was 64 degrees on Saturday. We’d spent part of Friday chipping away at the ice that encased our (long, long, terribly long) driveway so that we could go out to eat, since we were tired of cooking–like, I expect, a lot of people on that day. Saturday the driveway was damp but clear. “Why did I get a sore shoulder from chipping when we could have just waited?” Eric wondered.

It was wonderful to go out in a light jacket, but I was also ashamed of my yard. My parents were there (after being stranded at O’Hare after American Airlines cancelled their connecting flight and rescheduled them for a flight the next night, Christmas Eve, which would have had them waiting for thirty hours at the airport, and offered no hotel or food vouchers, just a vague apology. We got them two of the last train tickets out of Chicago and they spent most of the thirty hours with us instead) and they quite naturally wondered why the yard was covered in bronze beech leaves when the neighboring yards were relatively clear. We made excuses about the late leaf fall and the early snow, but I was still embarrassed. I’m waiting for it to snow again so I don’t have to see the yard. I could have spent some of Saturday raking (or maybe rescuing the leeks), but we had a lot of goofing off to do and not much time to do it in. The garden would wait.

Mom was amazed by my lemon tree, which has at last yielded two mostly-yellow lemons. I’m waiting for them to ripen fully. Then I’m going to make lemonade, or lemon ice cream, or lemon meringue pie, or maybe eat them straight, and finally hack down the tree to get rid of the scale. (Incidentally, we made a lemon meringue pie with real lemons for Christmas dinner, and Dad, who has never had anything but store-bought before, commented that it was so much more lemony than any other pie he’d tasted. I was quite proud.) I’m a little sad that my annoyance over the scale is intruding on my enjoyment of the fruit, but it’s probably best this way.

She was also interested to see that one of my pomegranate plants had a single flower bud on it. She has several plants but hasn’t seen any of them flower. It hadn’t quite opened by the time she left. I’ll have to take a picture and send it to her.

Since it hasn’t snowed yet, I’m contemplating fixing up the compost box when I get home today, or maybe on New Year’s Day since I’ll be off and there will be daylight (though it’s coming back now!). I’ve been dumping my compost onto the raised bed as a temporary compost pile. I think I’ll probably keep doing that. It’s winter; therefore it is not time for gardening. I can’t say that part of my brain is switched off, but my desire to get things done is pretty dormant. The garden will wait.

Flowers and even fruit are only the beginning. In the seed lies the life and the future.

Marion Zimmer Bradley

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