Thursday, June 16, 2011

Seasons Changing, Gardens Changing

The fall-planted garlic has given all it can - it's done now

I think one of the neatest things about outdoor bloggers, whether we are writing about New York City, New Delhi, or New Orleans, urban windowbox gardening or bobber-fishing an Arkansas levee, is that we have our minds, hearts, and senses right in the dirt of God's green earth.  With any stability there's the natural, animal tendency to grow complacent and used to the routine ("Yup, going duck hunting again today, it's pretty cold"), so the change of seasons is really the time when we really notice how dynamic a place the earth can be.
The romaine bolted - super bitter and headed for the compost bin
The shift from spring to summer is upon us right now in Maryland.  It's been drastic and quick, and easy enough to sense by thermometer alone.  Air Quality Red Alerts.  Heat indices in the 110s. School closures.  Nope - doesn't take a genius (or an outdoors blogger) to tell you that it's summer now.

Here comes the summer squash!
  But spending time in the outdoors - whatever your outdoors may be - gives anyone a chance to really watch how steadily and unstoppably the earth is actually moving around the sun.  To watch and understand how things struggle to survive in their infancy, triumph through growth and setbacks in their life cycle.  The most successful individuals of any species are rewarded with a chance to reproduce and then to continue to live a long life - for most species it's measured in hours, days, or maybe even weeks -followed by an ultimate, unavoidable death.   When you're outdoors, you see it.  I've been working hard in the garden since the thermometer went from 78 to 106 a few weeks ago, and I've been watching it, in all its fascinating glory.

Fall-planted Salad Bowl leaf lettuce has been great to us
Struggling tomatoes and peppers are on the move.  The spring planted spinach turned into delicious food for us - selectively picked so it can continue to live.  The fall planted spinach bolted and was killed by us. The leaf lettuce has been amazing this spring, and I'm letting it live (while being cut) for as long as it can hang in there.  The romaine? Bolted and bitter.

I started off in March with several hundred seedlings under the lights. We're down to about a dozen cuttings of sweet potato and a half dozen peppers that will be planted where the lettuce is currently marching toward its death.  The basement plant lights and shelves are empty.  Turned off.  Open space on the workbench where just two months ago, I was mixing soil a few times a week.

I'd been pretty sensitive toward the warm weather herbs so far this spring.  No longer.  I cut the tops off of parsley, basil, and cilantro with no regard for the plants' survival.  It's summer - it's their time.  I cut a handful of provence lavender sprigs for Amy - they smell amazing.  48 hours, I coudn't tell that it had been cut.

Slugs, a huge presence in the garden just a month ago, have all been fried out of their homes.  The rabbit nest in my lettuce has been vacated.  I don't think any of the rabbits survived.  I have a much bigger rabbit now.  I almost got him the other night.  He (she?) is big, fast, and smart.  The caterpillars are here, they're enjoying the dying lettuce and the nearby tomatoes and peppers.  I've put off chemical control so far, but I sense an application of Bt (a anti-caterpillar bacteria bomb) might be coming soon.

No change is more evident than my own offspring.  I certainly feel more tired and beat down than I did at age 24, but no more so than I did at 33 or 35.  Hank, however, changes every day.  He is soaking up so much information from the world around him.  He knows of TCBY only as the "ice cream place," and we are not teaching him letters yet, but somehow the other day he pointed at the TCBY sign and yelled "T! C!"  In addition to "NO! No! No! No!" he walks around saying things like "I (I'll) get it." and "My nana (my banana)!" The change is really striking if you just stand still enough to watch it.  Here he is last week - my sweaty, boogery garden assistant (his primary duties are to carry around PVC stakes and pick up rocks):

And here he is in the garden one year + one week ago:

I can't imagine Hank being any "way" than the "way" he is right now.  Back then, he couldn't even crawl. Or talk.  Now it seems like he does everything except speak well and dress himself.  And even with all the time I spend observing the seasons outdoors, I still don't understand where the time is going, or why it's slipping away faster and faster. But my God, as years continue to slip by, the ride's getting more and more awesome. 


Unknown said...

They grow up too fast. Cherish every moment!

Kirk Mantay said...

I am loving it! It has its own special stress, but it's getting more and more fun by the week.

No Video Content For You

Over 12 years ago, I started this blog. There were very few conservation or outdoor blogs at the time, few websites with fast-breaking con...