"Where I live, summer's keynote is abundance. The forests fill with undergrowth, the trees with fruit, the meadows with wild flowers and grasses, the fields with wheat and corn, the gardens with zucchini, and the yards with weeds. In contrast to the sensationalism of spring, summer is a steady state of plenty, a green and amber muchness that feeds us on more levels than we know. Summer is the season when all the promissory notes of autumn and winter and spring come due, and each year the debts are repaid with compound interest." -----From an essay by Parker Palmer, "Summer"Yesterday was a watershed day. The two Red Star hens, determined since their arrival in early May to sleep by themselves in the coop annex, finally condescended to join the others in the larger and much fancier main coop. I have no idea what finally flipped their switch, but assuming a continuing pattern it will be much easier on guest flock attendants in the future to only service the one location. Since several of the hens prefer to lay eggs in the humbler quarters, I did open the annex this morning just to see what other behavioral patterns may be continued or retired, but hopefully we have finally become one happy poultry family -- residentially if nothing else.
And yesterday saw the first harvest of ripe tomatoes. As if they, too, resolved that it was finally time to come home, fully a dozen announced themselves "ready." I have no wish to denigrate the rest of the garden -- the long bean pods dangling from the vines; the potatoes and carrots and beets quietly maturing underground -- but ripened tomatoes are the garden's celebration analogous to the cacophonous burst of fireworks at the end of the 4th of July show. Red and yellow and purple and black, they are what we have been waiting for -- longing for; hungering for -- ever since we first broke garden ground.
Tomatoes, then, meaning no offense to the continuing avalanche of cucumbers and squash and lettuce and braising greens that have sustained through the wait, along with a new handful of red okra spears and purple tomatillos, plus several Ancho chiles that hopped into the harvest hod as well.
It is, indeed, a profligate time when, as Palmer notes, this season redeems with interest the promissory notes of the other three. Add to the garden haul close to a dozen eggs a day from the chickens and it's harder and harder to keep up.
And there is the grass.
And the weeds.
Only experience cautions that all the excitement is only for a time. As if to forestall the inevitable, today I planted the seeds of the second crop -- delicata squash, butternut squash, a fresh round of kale, two different collard greens, spinach in two varieties, kohlrabi, brussels sprouts, parsnips and edible pumpkins. Sowing, to trick winter into thinking that summer is still ascendant. It's true that I may never see the fruits of these labors. Autumn's length is unpredictable. An early freeze could punish my attempts at deception and burn them all back. But in the midst of summer's abundance, hope springs eternal.
And in the meantime, we simply smile as the juice trickles off our chin.