Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Lotus Pond

Last summer David brought home a black plastic tub and some tiny lotus plants.  He filled the tub with mud, brought water from the farm pond to introduce a few water creatures, nestled the plants into their new home and we waited.  Within a couple of months we had breathtaking, spectacular flowers.

D would visit the little pond daily to see what was up, who was hatching, growing, zipping in and around the floating leaves.  All kinds of frogs moved onto the scene.  The lotus pond became a source of entertainment and natural wonder.

During the first warm nights this past spring, when we opened the windows to let in the night air, along with the breeze came a deafening call of dozens of tree frogs just outside the bedroom window where the little pond sat.  David constructed a plywood sled that he hoisted the pond onto and then used to drag the heavy pool across the yard and settle the tub further away from the bedroom window.  He brought soil to pile around the edges and planted iris and ginger lilies to soften the black plastic rim.  Just this past week the lotus began to bloom again. 

They are ethereal.

Along with the frogs and whirly gig beetles, tadpoles and skimmers came dragonflies.  Nymphs that spent the winter in the mud began to crawl up out of the muck onto the stalks. Their backs split open and out hatched the winged creatures, filling up like butterflies coming out of a chrysalis, then taking wing around the yard, snatching up mosquitoes and other small flying insects.
Dry nymph shell above, dragon ready to fly below

Buddhists consider the lotus to be representative of the journey to enlightenment, from the murky mud rises a beautiful flower, its opening an awakening or rebirth.  I'm glad to see the fat purple buds and pink flowers gracing the yard again and its timely that they came at the summer solstice, I certainly have felt my own energy rising after the passage of the first day of summer.  I've not reached enlightenment, I'm far from that, but I do feel a release from things that were weighing me down, a renewal of my spirit moving me forward to new things. 

I'm trying to embrace summer as best I can.  

Swimming outside, riding my bike, long evenings drinking gin and tonics, playing croquet and watching the fireflies rise up from the lawn, suppers of tomatoes, corn, squash and cucumbers, and I picked our first ripe blueberry today.

Yep, summer has arrived.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Spring Vegetables Coming to a Close

 The day lilies have begun
We've harvested about all of the sugar snap peas at this point, it's been a good run but there are several truths about peas, one of them being that they only produce for 2 to 3 weeks and then they are done.  But another truth is that  peas are so green, so crispy, so sweet, that it is well worth turning a patch of soil in mid-February, soaking a few seeds and nestling them into the chilly ground, throwing up a trellis, and sitting back and waiting until late May when they finally offer up their goodness. 

There is an art to picking snap peas.  The first is to see them, they are the same color exactly as the plants. The second is to get them at just the right moment, too small and they won't be sweet, too fat and they'll be past their prime.  And lastly, the technique of picking is key in order to avoid yanking the entire vine off the trellis.  My method is to grasp the vine with my thumb and forefinger and then to grip the pea with the middle through pinkie fingers of the same hand and pop the pea free of the vine.  Alternately one can hold the vine with one hand and pull the peas with the other, I find this best when working with children or others not so nimble.

We picked about two gallons off two narrow trellis's, about 8 feet of row in total and it's been all we could do to eat them.  We've shared some and there is still at least a quart in the fridge to devour soon, I don't think they freeze well so I just want to eat them daily till they're gone. I like to string them, blanch them in boiling water for about 1 minute, then have them hot with butter or chilled in salads.  They can also be eaten raw but I find the quick blanch really brings out the sweetness.

Today I declared the end of the spring garden.  I harvested the bolting spinach, the on the edge of bitter lettuces and the broccoli.  I was tired of battling the caterpillars that attack the brassicas every spring, I spray with BT for a few weeks and then I just give up. I uprooted all those plants and tossed them on the compost pile.

I also  harvested a huge pile of beets and made pickles, the ones I made last year were so delicious and excellent for winter salads that I vowed to plant extra this season specifically to can.  It took about two hours and yielded only 6 pints, but there are more to come and I'll have forgotten the hard work when I pop open a jar in January and sink my teeth into the tangy sweetness.  I add ginger and onions too so they are tastier than your average store bought variety. 

Food preservation must be a bit like having a baby, you forget the pain when you see your darling offspring, you forget the hot kitchen by the time you open that jar.  I was ecstatic the other day when I unearthed the last quart of tomatoes from last summer, thinking they were all gone and then I found one more. Oh boy.

Still we have a good patch of carrots and more beets yet to come, the onions, garlic and potatoes are laying down so it will soon be time to harvest all of those and set them to cure and dry.  I've been pilfering taters regularly from each end of the bed, so turgid, they pop when you cut them with the knife, sweet and creamy, they are nothing like a potato that you buy in the store.  I resisted growing them for lack of space, but since I took it back up a few years ago, I'm determined to continue.  We don't grow enough to last all year, just enough for a few months worth of tater salads, roasted spuds and home fries with breakfast now and then.

The rain just keeps coming, another 3.5 inches here at our house in the past week thanks to tropical storm Andrea traveling up the east coast and yesterday another little front of some kind passing through bringing rain all day long. I don't remember such a wet year in a very long time.  Plants are looking happier than ever  and keeping the grass mowed seems a never-ending chore.  The only concern is the tomatoes, they hate the moisture, but they flowered well and are starting to make fruit so hopefully the plants won't rot before the tomatoes ripen.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Change of Plans

 In my last post I told of my impending trip to the Weymouth Center in Southern Pines, but in a flash everything changed.  I could have titled this post "shit happens"  because it did.  First David woke on Saturday night with vomiting and diarrhea.  I nursed him two days and he slept and I thought I had dodged the bullet and happily packed my bags and lots of groceries, along with all my writing accoutrements and headed out Monday afternoon to join my friends for gin and tonics on the porch, supper and chatting.  I unpacked that night, set up my little room, computer on the desk, my writing books in a stack to one side, journals on the other, pens in the drawer, clothes in the closet, I was ready.  Then it was my turn to wake retching.  Needless to say, this colored the week for me and everyone else.

I rested and was nursed until on Wednesday I felt strong enough to return home where I have continued to recuperate.  Only one of my companions was struck down, she on Wednesday night, returned home on Friday, two more were left standing and stayed the whole week, another, she who nursed us, returned home on Thursday and was also spared the crud.

It was not the week we had all been dreaming of.

I'm trying to move on, though it's hard to let go.  But here at home, feeling stronger each day, I've read, written, taken walks, worked in the garden a bit, eventually been able to cook and enjoy food again, slept and spent some quality time with my man.  Yesterday, I ventured down to the creek during the heat of the day.  Some of the mountain laurel were still in bloom, their white flowers hanging over the deep green, some falling, drifting down the stream or scattered on the mossy banks.  I rested my feet in the cool water, too chilly to go all the way in, I was satisfied just to soak my toes and feel the breeze, listen to the sound of the water burbling past, watch the play of light on the trees.
Sometimes, there is just no place like home