Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Hello Friends J  It’s been awhile since we chatted, and I hope as I reenter the blogging world that I find you all healthy, happy and joyful. Where have I been? Funny you should ask…

This summer has been a busy one, full of fun day-trips and adventures all nicely balanced by quiet, refreshing days at home. It’s hard to believe that another autumn approaches, but cooler nights, drier (and shorter!) days and the first changing leaves signal me of the coming change. They urge me to fully enjoy these last moments of one season as we step into another. After all, it may be necessary to call upon these warm, sunny  memories to sustain me through a long, cold and snowy winter. ;)

Summer is proving to be a time of intense growth for me. I tend to shift inward, reading a lot, learning more, always with an ear cocked for guidance from my ever present Spirit voice. I’ve succeeded in living more mindfully, for an extended period of time, than I’ve ever managed before. Days, even weeks flowed into each other as my focus remained constant. Now I’m feeling the beginnings of yet another shift, most likely in tune with the changing of the seasons. I feel more of the urge to step outside of myself and actually share what I’ve learned. It’s my small way of changing the world, it’s what I can do, and you never know, perhaps someone is listening. J

The garden in July, before things really went crazy!
You can still see all of the healthy tomato plants, dripping with green, growing tomatoes
As you can imagine the garden has been a pretty large endeavor and where much of my energy has been directed this summer. It has produced/is producing massive amounts of food for us. It’s been a wildly abundant year and I am deeply grateful for each bean, squash and tomato that finds its way to our table. For awhile we were eating fresh zucchini almost daily, and they were delish (my mouth is watering at the memory!) We weren’t the only ones rejoicing in the growing squashes however… squash borers also moved in and made themselves pretty cozy. In droves it seems. They invited many, bringing along neighbors, friends and family to the party. I kept on top of them fairly successfully, performing ‘surgery’ as I call it. Riley Mae would help me to locate the little feasting buggers and I would proceed to slice the stems and extract these hungry and destructive critters before they killed the host plant. Constant work, but with each bite of succulent squash I was glad for the time invested.

Yup, that's me. Performing surgery. ;)
One Sungold tomato plant produces enough for an entire family!!
I managed to get about 20 batches (meal sized containers) of tomato sauce before blight took my plants. Within 48 hours plants that were as tall as me and healthy as you’ve ever seen, were brown, withered and so, so sad. It nearly broke my heart to pull them out, but I managed to keep it all in perspective. At least we harvested some of the crop, and really that’s just part and parcel of the reality and experience of gardening. Truthfully though, I’m thinking about skipping the tomatoes next year, the organic farmer down the road sells sauce tomatoes fairly cheap and it would save me another year of heartache. Of course there are many months between now and next planting for research, so we’ll see. I do so love to problem solve.

 Another banner year for cucumbers. We had enough to eat, to share and to pickle. Jordan and Riley Mae took this photo after a particularly large harvest. I think all of this was picked within a 24 hour time period. Awesome, right? Jordan is my devoted harvester. She loves to just wander out to the garden, usually armed with her camera, and comes back in an hour with arms laden with veggies. Often it requires two or three trips just to get it all inside where we can ooh and ahh over it all.

Right now we have tons and tons of green beans. Admittedly green beans have never been a favorite vegetable of mine. This year I decided to change all of that, and yes, it really is that easy. I’ve discovered that for me it’s just a matter of finding the ‘right’ way to prepare them, the way that pleases my taste buds the most and has me craving more. Tons of flavor is most always the secret. These herbed green beans are so super delicious that I went from 'barely liking' to loving is only one sitting. I also managed to convert two of my nieces and my sister. Not bad. Spaghetti squash is also doing tremendously. I would eat this everyday, but I’m trying to pace myself. Recipes to follow soon...;)

The pumpkins all came from a plant that sprouted 
spontaneously in the compost pile. We've picked seven so far with more growing.

We picked our first butternut squash (ate it for lunch today!) and watermelons are taking over. The sunflowers take my breath away each time I walk out there; their sunny, yellow faces can brighten the gloomiest of days. And so, so extraordinarily tall. I feel like they’re keeping watch out there for me, my beautiful and patient sentries. 

This garden spider has been hanging out in my tomatoes all season
What won’t I plant next year? No cabbage, no cauliflower, no rutabagas. Jury’s still out on artichokes and Brussels sprouts, but I’m leaning towards a 'no' on those too. Farming organically can be a challenge, especially when your method of pest control is picking off the critters and eggs by hand on a daily basis. Virtually overnight the cabbage, cauliflower and rutabagas were covered, covered in little green caterpillars and no matter how many we got rid of, there were always another dozen on the next leaf we turned over. Just not worth the effort, Riley Mae nearly melted under the pressure of it all. Instead I’ll support my local Stop & Shop and say fervent prayers of gratitude for all of the organic famers out there who take on the challenge of these veggies. 

I'm in love with this new variety of pepper... too bad I can't remember what kind it is!!
The work of the garden is winding down now. We’re not even watering on a daily basis. I've pulled out the plants that have passed and spread a new, thick layer of grass clippings with a sprinkling of goat manure. I’m already busy planning next year based on what worked, what produced the most, and what has the most natural and inherent bug repellents. What am I keeping? Most everything else ~ green beans, zucchini, summer squash, peppers, watermelon, sunflowers, butternut squash, spaghetti squash and tons and tons of flowers! Just because they make me smile.

I love my rows of flowers, and nasturtiums have become my new favorite. Such gorgeous green leaves, fragrant scents and breathtaking colors. Several times I've thought how absolutely stunning an entire garden of these beauties would be. Cosmos, marigolds and zinnias are also thriving and attract swarms of garden helpers. It’s so fun to wander out there on a sunny day and hear the buzzing of happy insects everywhere. I sent them silent thanks almost daily. We make a good team. J

 As far as the four legged pests go? We have a mama deer that has her babies in the field behind our house every year. She easily jumped our garden fence and tasted a sunflower one summer eve. I  immediately made a concoction of raw egg, garlic, cayenne and apple cider vinegar which we proceeded to spray down the plants with. Worked like a charm. This adorable little critter lives under our shed, but has been wise enough to keep his furry paws out of the garden and off my crops. Why? I can't say for sure. All I know is that I've protected the area with white light all season long. Laugh if you will. Roll your eyes if you must. I intend to keep that white bubble firmly in place. If only it would keep out squash borers... 

All in all it has been a remarkable summer and I'll be back soon to share more of our adventures...

Have a lovely day friends.