filigree...
"An intricate, delicate, or fanciful ornamentation."
(The Free Dictionary)

"Whoever loves and understands a garden will find contentment."
          --Chinese Proverb

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The Filigree Garden.
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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Harvesting

The end of summer comes faster each year it seems, and with it comes the bittersweet flood of freshly harvested garden vegetables. Though I adore the taste of sweet yellow pear tomatoes straight from the vine and the crisp crunch of home-grown cucumbers, this last mad influx of produce means that the long winter and a time of fallow fields is not far behind. Already the squash vines are browning and fading away, the herbs are setting seeds, and the sunflowers are bowing their heads to the ever-shortening hours of sunlight. I will surely miss the wonderful flavors of summer when the greenery is gone and the garden is bathed in frost.

Yet there are many ways to preserve the pleasures of the harvest long into the winter. For the moment, my crafting life must take a back seat to food preservation. Hours and hours spent now skinning, seeding and simmering fresh tomatoes means having a taste of summer in January in the form of spaghetti sauce kept fresh in a chest freezer. I have been busy putting up dozens of pints of freezer pickles, sweet relish, tomato sauce, and quarts of mashed potatoes made with red and white potatoes from our bountiful crop. Some things are dried with a dehydrator and packed in glass jars, such as oregano, basil, chocolate mint, and sage. Other vegetables can be kept for weeks in a cool section of the basement; the balance of our potatoes is stored in perforated brown paper bags sitting on top of an unused air hockey table. Not the ideal root cellar arrangement, but it will have to do until we can build a more proper storage area.

So how did the garden grow this year and what is still left to be harvested? It was a strange summer in terms of weather. Early warmth was followed by weeks of rain. Then a cool August was followed by a hot and humid first week of September. Mid-summer rains caused the tomatoes to stay green until late in August meaning a relentless number of red fruits are now coming in. Green and wax beans were plentiful again this year. The sage grew like weeds. Our two-year-old peach tree produced a dozen delicious fruits. The cucumbers flourished on trellises, a method we will use next year as well. Radishes happily germinated and almost all the garlic plants produced healthy bulbs. The new asparagus bed is now well populated by lacy asparagus ferns. On the downside, the squashes were attacked by vine borers yet again, causing a reduced winter squash yield, although a few new summer squash bush varieties were very productive. In the future we'll plant only the bush type to save space and make the borers more manageable. Unfortunately beetles and grasshoppers feasted on the basil and kale, making the crop mostly unusable, and the broccoli never produced heads for the second year in a row.

There were a few wonderful surprises in the garden this summer. After a poor showing by potatoes planted in containers in 2007, we planted several in-ground rows of plants this year. Having survived an early attack of Colorado potato beetles, the plants went on to surpass our wildest expectations by yielding over 110 pounds of potatoes! And before you ask, no, we don't have a farm! We live in a suburban neighborhood and have a back yard garden that comprises only about 3% of our land. It is amazing how much food can be produced in a small area if the popular focus on large expanses of green lawn is traded for a love of well-placed, intensive gardens.


One other interesting twist occurred in a last minute raised bed we created in our south-facing front yard. Running out of space and time, we tossed some watermelon seeds and the extra home-grown tomato seedlings into this new bed. We waited and waited and yet no little watermelon seedlings appeared. Then, one day, seemingly overnight, watermelon vines began covering the bare soil at an incredible rate. The prolonged heat in the front yard apparently fueled their growth spurt and soon several green melons were forming under the lush foliage. One of these green beauties is now over 18 inches long! We are anxiously waiting for the day that this giant surprise baby can be opened. Will the center be sweet, red and juicy? Or will it be pale and lacking flavor? Only time will tell.

Like the hidden and mysterious interior of the watermelon, one never knows what will grow in the garden each year; its progress cannot be rushed and the outcome is always unpredictable. Sometimes waiting for the harvest can be a stressful and tedious process. Those long, quiet days when nothing seems to be happening are masking the intense changes taking place underneath the surface. Watching a garden grow builds patience and forces our acceptance of things beyond our control. It develops our appreciation of success and failure as two sides of the same coin; the flourishing of one thing balances the shortcomings of another. Gardening encourages us to be unafraid of trying something new for the results may lead us in an entirely unexpected and rewarding direction. Of course these lessons are more acceptable in hindsight at the end of the season. I am sure I will need to relearn them again next year as I curse at the bugs and wait impatiently for fruit to ripen. Hindsight may be 20/20 but it has a short memory. Luckily Mother Nature is always willing to repeat the lesson.

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12 Comments:

Blogger Sixsisters said...

I wish I was eating that peach. The photos are great
and so is the writing. Thanks for the treat.

September 8, 2008 at 7:07 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

This is wonderful as usual, Liv! I can picture the harvest and my mouth is watering!

September 8, 2008 at 7:08 PM  
Blogger ZudaGay said...

Liv, your posts are always such a joy to read!! Love the pictures of yumminess as well. I sure hope your watermelon is as good as it looks! Have you ever made watermelon rind pickles? YUM!

September 8, 2008 at 7:19 PM  
Blogger Chauncey said...

Great post Liv! I can't wait to hear about that watermelon. Having met you I am really laughing at the thought of you "cursing at the bugs"

September 8, 2008 at 7:29 PM  
Blogger maryeb said...

Wow, what lovely photos and descriptions. Your have an enviable garden. I am so impressed!

Squash borers have been such a problem for me that I've given up trying to grow squash.

September 8, 2008 at 8:06 PM  
Blogger fireflyglassdesign said...

What a wonderful garden. We had a garden in IL and I really miss it here in AZ. Your pictures and descriptions are beautiful.

September 8, 2008 at 8:23 PM  
Blogger The Filigree Garden said...

Thank you all for visiting my garden via the blog. :-)

September 8, 2008 at 8:24 PM  
Blogger joonbeam said...

Beautiful post, beautiful photos, beautiful garden, beautiful prose. Your blog is always a feast for the eyes. It's no wonder your garden is so fruitful!

September 8, 2008 at 9:48 PM  
Blogger Judy Nolan said...

What a wonderful post, Liv! Both your description and your garden are lush, and the care you bestow on both are apparent. I really enjoyed this account.

September 8, 2008 at 10:15 PM  
Blogger AltheaP said...

Liv, your blog is a work of art. What a beautiful tribute to Mother Nature.

September 9, 2008 at 11:37 AM  
Blogger MonasMane said...

You take such beautiful pics, you are very talented indeed. You asked me about my natual dyeing experiments. Well, like I said before- teas were a hit. I was going to start using berries soon- blackberries for example. I even started using Kool aide, which turned out unexpectedly well. Walnut shells is next on my list. I do it occasionally, you probably know more about it than I do now.

November 13, 2008 at 10:11 PM  
Blogger The Filigree Garden said...

Thank you for the compliments on my photos. Nature is the perfect subject! I am considering adding some plants for fiber dyeing next year. There is so much to learn on that topic.

November 14, 2008 at 9:31 AM  

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