Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Battles and Victories

Every morning I step on the rock in just the right spot to lever it up and free the gate to allow a tender visitation from a rather doting garden mamma. Since the tomatoes are right there, I walk down the row and pinch out the suckers. I swear I check closely every day, and every day I find just one that looks as if it had been there since the tomato first pushed out of the soil. Damn. As I go, I check on the little fruits themselves. With the rain, they swell until their skins can just barely hold them in. Then, like a pregnant belly, they pause for a moment and allow for some internal adjustment that allows them to swell just a little more. My wee tomatoes (which will hopefully become less wee) are still entirely green, but the bottoms are starting to show lighter green streaks that stretch toward the stem. I know a few more hot sunny days and the pale green will predominate the palate. Nestled at the base of the tomatoes are basil plants. Lemon, Thai, and Italian basils all transplanted during this mini-drought. They’re toughing it out like the true Mediterranean plants they are. I pinch back the flower buds as I go. The first row of tomatoes ends in ruby chard. (Honestly, could I grow anything else?) Those blazing stalks stand out in the green garden. The volunteer cilantro at the end of that row is just going to seed, but the seeds are still green. I’m keeping an eagle eye on them because Shane cooks excellent southwestern style food, and coriander is a household staple.
Weeds are slowly creeping up on me these days. Sigh. While the average weeds are a cinch to pull out of the soft deeply dug beds, the witch grass poses a stronger threat. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as pulling a foot or more of long pale suckering root from the beds. More commonly though, the root breaks off in the compacted walkways and I just know the witch grass will return in a day or two to taunt me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Lesson in Remorse

I feel a twinge of remorse every time I kill something, whether large or small. I regret when I bisect a worm in the garden, not simply for the sake of the garden, but for the sake of the worm. I imagine his name was Sven. Even mice, which eat and poop and are generally a nuisance. The snap of a trap leaves me feeling a little sad and a little guilty. The slitting of a chicken’s throat definitely qualifies.  This twinge is healthy. It is what separates us from serial killers, sociopaths, and members of the mustelid family.

Monday, July 2, 2012


Everyone who grows up in a small rural Vermont town has early exposure to farms. Kindergarten classes take trips to the local turkey farm and second graders learn how to make butter in a jelly jar. In third grade you hatch baby chicks in an incubator and learn why you must draw on the eggs with a pencil, not a pen. Fifth and sixth grades often include a long unit on early Vermont life, where you discover how much easier farming is now than the homesteading of the 1800’s. My family lived on a dirt road, and like many children, I grew up walking balance beam across the beaver dam in my back yard and making fairy tea parties in the balsam stand just up the hill. It was only natural that when I was ready to have a job, my parents paid me to weed the garden or feed the chickens. My mom and I canned everything we could get our hands on, especially peaches, and the entire family ate canned sunshine all winter long.  I am the child of hippies who found a welcoming safe haven in the tight knit community Cabot offers. I grew up with kids from all different backgrounds and since there were so few of us, we managed to muddle along just fine. What we had in common was this tiny farming community that we were inherently a part of. This was our world.