The Gardener

Many of you know of my lifelong fight against nature in trying to grow vegetables in my backyard, population 3 boys,  5 deer, 18 birds, 22 rabbits, umpteen slugs, and every species of vegetable eating bug known to man.  A couple years ago I tried to give the vegetable garden to Kevin so when things went wrong I could just look at him pityingly and tell him better luck next year instead of feeling wrath and rage and responsibility of my own.

That didn’t work very well.  I’m not a great liar, and we both knew whose vegetable garden it really was and who should take the blame.  I learned that there was no point in planting carrots, that any attempts to grow peppers will result in mutations, and you have to offer up the first crop of beans to the slug gods.

But now my sister is in horticulture classes and she has actually taken over the vegetable garden and holy cow, I can’t keep up with it. 

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We had peas!  We have beans!  We have tomatillos, which I think I know what they are!  Red peppers, green peppers, jalapeno peppers which are sometimes red and sometimes green, which is confusing!  We have tomatoes!  We have rhubarb!  We have pumpkins!  We have a stressful amount of cucumbers!  A troubling amount of yellow squash!  An alarming amount of kale! 

Now, if only I could train myself to enjoy eating cucumbers, kale, and yellow squash!

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I’ve learned so much about gardening this year, like how the only possible answer to the question, “Could you use some kale?” is, “Nah, I’m good.”

Even though I am excited at the enormous success Jnet has brought to my garden, I have to say I did feel a little I-told-you-so when the eggplants only made one measly little eggplant and the rabbits ate half our peas and the voles ate all our carrots and the peppers looked like they might have teeth and the slugs ate our first crop of beans.  But I’m a grown up now and I don’t say things like, “See, Jnet?  Are you reading this right now?  Because I told you so!”

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I have never before felt empathy for a vegetable.

Anyway, my sister didn’t just stop at the vegetable garden; she took a look at our fruit trees as well.  When we bought this house fifteen years ago, I decided to plant a fruit tree a year until we had an orchard positively dripping with fruit.  We started with a fig tree.  Each summer, the deer would eat the entire tree until it was just a single, scraggly stick.  One year the deer left it alone and we let our hopes rise, but then we looked outside to see little Leo beating the fig tree with a bat until there was only one stick left.

The pear tree I planted died, as did one of the apple trees.  The plum tree got huge and thrived, but only one year did it get a single plum.  We’d go out every day to look at that green, growing plum and talk about how it would taste best.  In a pie?  A pudding?  A sauce?  Sliced razor thin and drizzled with honey?  But then one day we went out to discuss the plum and it had disappeared. Was it was something we said?

After about five years of planting trees with the vision of an orchard in our backyard, I gave up.  We were left with a barren plum tree, an apple tree whose apples made you desperately thirsty with one bite, and a very depressed fig tree.

Jnet looked at our fruit trees differently.  Not as someone whose romantic orchard dreams withered on the vine but as someone who sees a terrible car wreck at the side of the road and gets out to help.

Normally when the apple tree gets its fruit, we count the apples and then decide which members of our family will get a whole apple this year and which of us will need to share.  There are five of us, remember. 

But this year we got dozens of apples!  I didn’t even count them,* there were so many.  And you don’t need to chug a cup of water in orderto eat one!

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Also, for the first time since we planted it fifteen years ago, our fig tree got a—wait for it—a FIG!!!!  A real live fig!  And even if it only grew to the size of a sidewalk ant before something ate it, still.  A fig!

I think I can say my dream has been achieved.  We have two fruit bearing-ish trees.  In our orchard.  Which looks like this.

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Right.  So we still have a ways to go.

In conclusion, I mostly wrote this post because I wanted to use the line “I have a stressful amount of cucumbers.”  Anyone who has ever grown a single cucumber plant knows exactly what I’m talking about.

And now for some beautiful pictures of vegetables, most of which, especially the first one, are technically fruit.

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Thanks, Jnet! 

And also, could you use some kale?

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Gado gado salad (goodbye, yellow cucumber and beans pictured above)
Applesauce (goodbye a bunch of the apples pictured above)
Fruit
Blackberry cheesecake bars

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