I feel rather like I do staring at a kitchen overtaken by dirty dishes and pots and pans after the meal has been consumed and the guests have left for home. Every flat surface is stacked with the detritus of culinary hospitality -- the carnaged infrastructure of appetizer, entree, dessert -- and all-in-all I'm tired and would rather go to bed. It is the wisp of smoke drifting out of the barrel of a fired gun.
Except the garden is the workplace I now observe with numbed aspiration, and it's the garden that needs to go to bed.
I have confronted this reality each of the preceding years. It's more fun to imagine the garden and plant it in the spring than it is to clear it and prepare it for winter. There are hoses to coil and hang in the shed; there are irrigation drip tapes and feeder lines to detach and roll and store. There are crop remnants to pull and compost, and the remaining greens and tomatoes to harvest and freeze. There is manure to spread and dry beans to gather and shell. There are fence lines to clear of grass and weed and breaches in the fortifications to discover and repair. Clean up and closure, nothing tantalizes me toward the duties; they are merely the grunting labors of sweeping up spent fireworks.
But I smile as I remember. We have, indeed, enjoyed the fireworks. It has been a good summer in the garden. It is far more satisfying to detail the abundance as we have this year than to stammeringly admit and account for the disappointments as in previous seasons. Not everything flourished -- I still don't have a brussel sprout to my credit or an eggplant to call my own -- but I can hardly complain about the otherwise bounty. We have eaten from our own hands, and eaten quite well -- and will, well through the winter. Every time one of us pops open one of those jars or thaws one of those freezer bags we will smile all over again.
And anticipate yet another crop.
Already there is its foretaste. In recent days small boxes have arrived, packed with seed garlic to be planted in the next couple of weeks, over-wintering in the ground preceding next summer's harvest -- a glimmering nod to the magic of expectation,
But before giving too much thought to next year's cooking there is more immediate work to do. The garden's sink is full of dirty dishes, and magic elves are no more likely to slip in by night to clean up out there than they are inside
the kitchen. The cleanup duties are all mine.
And with winter on the way, I'd better get to work.