Sunday, July 3, 2016

My Imperfect Plot: Rain is a Good Thing

We got some much needed rain Tuesday night.  It was a good rain too, not so heavy that it threatened to damage plants, but a nice steady rain. It was the all night kind that makes everything seem fresher and greener in the mid morning sun.  An added bonus was that it took place over night while we slept, Mother Earth refreshed herself bringing a beautiful sunny Wednesday for us to enjoy amidst our work and play.

Oh, and play they did.  Seven little girls ran, and chalked, and slip’n’slided, and made obstacle courses, and…..boy did they play.  Me, I weeded.  The rain, the steady, refreshing, all night rain, the one I’d been waiting for, had come. Now, I must weed.  The damp dirt felt cool on my feet as I edged my way through the plants.  Craig had hoed, twice since I last weeded.  It help of course, but it’s only temporary.  You’ve got to get the roots.  If you chop it off, it takes a bit to grow back, but you can bet it will be back.  But if you get the roots, at least you’ve got a chance.
So in I went, carefully lifting the lush leaves of the tomatoes, and the zucchinis and the yellow squash, pinching just above the dirt for maximum leverage.  The peppers, those are a little different to weed.  They don’t have big leaves to get in the way, to push back and peer through, trying to see what is weed and what is not.  

Peppers have smaller leaves, but their stems are more similar to those of many weeds.  The thin pepper stems could easily be mistaken for that of a common weed often found in my garden (it might be good here if I knew the name of it, but I contend that I only have so much room in my brain and the names of weeds do not warrant taking up such valuable space).  Regardless, one much be careful to take only the stems of the weeds and not get overzealous.  Just one big handful of thought to be weeds and you could end up down a pepper plant or two—a depressing thought.  

Beans are delicate too.  It’s not that they get mistaken for weeds. Rather, the whole plant is more delicate.  It happens to me several time each year; I pull a weed -- a stubborn little guy with roots like a willow tree, all spread out and clinging tightly to its earthy home.  When you pull one of those guys out, they tend to take a lot of dirt with it.  Sadly, with it comes the poor lil bean with its short and not so stubborn, not so spread roots.  They are delicate in the picking stage too.   Tug too hard to pull a bean off and the whole branch snaps off, and sometimes even the whole plant just breaks loose.  (I could rattle off one of Craig’s jokes about ‘surrendering like France’, but I don’t tell jokes well.)
It took several stages to get through the little plot—by the size of the space, one wouldn’t think it should take so long.  I’d like to claim it took a long time because I’m meticulous, but I’m not sure I can make that claim.  I did have to stop for various things: to greet our friends who were playing for the day, to make pizza dough (we grilled pizza for lunch), to monitor the children, to make lunch, to clean up lunch... I won’t bore you with the list.  Honestly, I never did finish the beans, but hey, there's always tomorrow.
Probably the best part of weeding on Tuesday was listening.  I did not ask for help from the girls. Their friends were here for their last play date, while their parents packed the moving truck—headed out of state.  I was not about to take that precious little time away from them.  I did listen.  The seven little girls went about their business as if I were not there.  A fly on foliage, but they did not perceive me as a threat to their conversations or an intruder to their games.  I was simply able to watch a little, and listen a lot.   I always find it interesting -- the things my girls and their friends say when they don’t realize anyone else is listening.  In these opportunities, I find myself pleasantly surprised.  I am fully aware of the contempt kids, especially girls, can have for their parents, and their peers.  The movie “Mean Girls” was really pretty accurate.  I am not disillusioned either.  While some live in the “not my kid” world, I’m firmly vested in the land of “It was probably my kid”.  However, aside from the occasional ‘inappropriate vocabulary’ I have heard very little that would cause the hair on my neck to stand on end.  Of course, there were squabbles, tiffs over who was using the most coveted toy, and whose feelings were hurt because someone was spending more time playing with her sister.  Overall though, I was not concerned by what I was hearing.  So, they played, I weeded.
The garden looks great now, lush and green with intermittent pops of yellow and white blossoms.  There’s fruit now too!  We picked two young yellow squash to cook for dinner last night.  There are a few baby peppers too, but they won’t be big enough to pick for another few weeks.
I was busy in the kitchen this week.  I (we) made several batches of strawberry jam. One of my twins loves to cook and bake so she’s learning the trade.  Some of the berries came from my back yard plot, but the bulk of them I purchased from Schwab’s Farm Market.  They are a good group of people there, and they are locally grown of course!
I finally got around to using those scapes too.  Pesto is yummy!  I really enjoyed the pungent flavors of the scapes combined with fresh basil (yep, I grew that too).  If only the pine nuts weren’t so expensive…..  The girls found it a bit too “spicy”.  That’s how they describe anything that has a strong flavor or even a tingle like soda, it amuses me.  I tossed some of that fresh yellow squash with pasta, a bit of the pesto, a few cherry tomatoes and a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese.  Now that’s a good dinner.  I was surprised to find the recipe made so much pesto, which worked out perfectly.  I packed it into six cubes of my Ball herb trays and popped it into the freezer for use later.  I think I’d like to try it on some hot from the oven bread with tomatoes later this fall—it’s too hot to bake bread now.
This week’s accomplishments: 17 pints of strawberry jam, 6 cubes of pesto, and a few fresh meals from my little plot.  Not bad for a week full of kids and fun.

Wendy Bacon is always willing to try new recipes even though she knows the minions won't even pretend to like it.