Friday, September 28, 2012


There are new blossoms on the tubed pepper plants growing on the deck.  And more tomatoes are appearing on the grape tomato vines.  And today I picked a handful more of peppers from the garden.  All this, after the supposed "killing frost" last Saturday.  Perhaps this is the definition of resilience.

I think back to the stories emerging from the coastal regions along the Gulf of Mexico about how the area is recovering more rapidly than imagined, let alone anticipated after the BP oil rig offshore expelled copious amounts of oil into the waters a few years ago.  The awe-struck word they used to characterize it was "resilience."  Nature tenaciously clawing its way back to health.

Or in my case, back to growthful vigor.  My guess is that there is a lesson to be learned in all of this, not just for coastlines, waterways, peppers and tomatoes, but the whole of nature as well...

...of which people are a part.  Sadly, our species has worked hard through the generations of "civilization" to distance ourselves from the rest of creation, preferring instead to focus on that whole "dominion" assignment given by the Creator in the beginning.  We have relished and excelled in the multiform arts of "subduing" that supposedly went along with that divine assignment, loathing the thought that as creatures ourselves we might be subject to the same natural laws that applied to everything else around us.

But in all these personal and collective seasons of challenge when we are prone to despair, perhaps we could remember our "roots" and trust in the same capacities for resilience inherent in us as those plentiful examples in nature around us.

Anticipating the freeze last Saturday, Lori and I grabbed up what we could from the garden and the deck, including subjecting the tassly chives growing in one of the deck tubes to a severe haircut.  Now, scarcely a week later, the scalping and the frost notwithstanding, if it were a head of hair it would already find itself in need of a comb.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Too Little, Too Late

  by Taproot Garden
, a photo by Taproot Garden on Flickr.

I had heard of the dreaded monsters, but hadn't had occasion to see one first hand.

Until yesterday.

Watering and generally checking over what remains of the garden, I came across this curious beast emerging from a bean row. About the size of my index finger, i couldnt decide if it was a Pygmy snake, an Amazon worm, or a neon caterpillar sans bristles. After reviewing the photo I had sent with my query, my farmer friend/expert resolved the ambiguity.

"Unfortunatly, I know that caterpillar all too well! It is a Tomato Horn Worm," he lamented.

My initial reaction was horror. "An infestation of these little buggers would be like science fiction horror," I mused in disgust. Even their name is off-putting. Anything with the words "horn worm" in their name sounds intrinsically ominous.

Before long, however, my disgust melted into into amusement. Recollection of Saturday's damaging frost flashed to mind, and how in anticipation Lori and I had gleaned all the extant tomatoes that had lingered on the vine. And only now arrive the tomato horn worms. It's like showing up at the dance after the band has left the stage.

I noted in retrospect that the worm, when I discovered it, had actually been headed out of the garden.

No doubt with its little tubular tummy growling with hunger. I couldn't help but smile.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Redeemed by Chow Chow

The squash, I suppose, is all that really surprised me.  Not the yellow summer squash or even the remnant zucchini, but rather the pumpkins, butternut and buttercup fall varieties.  I had every reason to think they would survive.

By Friday we had been warned of a likely freeze -- frost, at the very least -- on Saturday night, and that if anything sacred remained outdoors the attentive would surely take some precautionary measures.  Our brand of precaution was simply to gather up flashlights and the harvest basket when we returned home Saturday night and head out to the garden for a preemptive harvest.  There were green tomatoes, after all, and peppers and okra at the very least.  Most of what remained -- the root vegetables, the cold-hardy greens, etc., and yes the autumn squashes -- we assumed would be fine.  Upon closer inspection this morning, however, the larger extend of the damage became clear.

As expected, the pepper plants took a hit, along with the okra.  The beans seem fine, and surprisingly the tomato plants.  True to form, the collards, broccoli, spinach and kale look as hardy as ever, and the cabbage, if anything, looks stronger.  I see no reason for concern over the root vegetables -- the beets, the carrots, the turnips, parsnips and rutabagas.  In a demonstration of what a difference six feet of altitude can make, all the plants in the PVC pipes on the deck seem to have successfully weathered the weather.

But the squash.  Vibrant, healthy and vigorous one day; withered and wilted the next.  Clearly I have homework to do on fall squashes.

In the meantime, we made good use of the premature harvest.  The green tomatoes and the peppers were appealingly transformed into green tomato chow chow, courtesy of a recipe from Emeril Lagasse, canned and water bathed and nested on the shelf.  The only problem is the patience required.  Like virtually everything else associated with the garden, gratification is necessarily delayed.  The last line of the recipe instructs, "allow the ingredients to age for two weeks before opening."

As a friend of mine responded, "I've marked the date on my calendar."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Drops of Rain...and Time

The weather has broken -- at least for the moment -- and the morning is the chilliest yet of the season.  A heavy sky has offered up gentle rains, and all seems quieter for the change.  The nights have gradually been cooling in recent weeks and even the weeds have seemed calmer, somehow less aggressive.  Perhaps the bugs will take the hint and slow their voracious chewing.  Dripping with a kind of beckoning interiority, the day feels suddenly open -- less obligated; reflective and available.

It reminds me of those rare winter days growing up in west Texas when snow risked its way into down.  The cancelled school that necessarily followed felt like the exact same bonus day to a kid as this cool and wet autumn day feels to an adult gardener.  A gift.  A free and available day; as though a 25th hour had been squeezed into the day -- a 366th day shoehorned into the year.  The raindrops may not lend themselves to rolling into snowmen, but they create their own options for alternative pursuits.  There are books piling up and words as yet unwritten.  There is housework long overdue, and some tools to organize and repair.

And there are some thoughts, long fenced and channeled, that need some open range to roam.

Which is to say that the cool rain is as welcome to the clenched soul as to the curling leaves and the cracking soil.