This year’s yard work featured more landscaping and less gardening. I planted fewer pumpkins and the yield on the pumpkins and tomatoes was paltry compared to last year. I planted no sunflowers, but three volunteers came up from last year. And our hop plant did better (enough to be worth harvesting) but is still not as robust as I’d like.
I also spent less time fussing over the neighbor’s yard, going on two years neglected now. As with last year, he came through once or twice, parked or removed his boat, mowed, and went away. He also took one of the two pumpkins we’d managed to grow, which I can’t very well complain of, since it was on his side of the fence (I assume it was him anyway). The gutters are falling off the house. I did still mow the yard more than he did, and prune the roses. And we harvested the plums from his tree.
The half drawn blinds still show an empty living room with stained carpet and ripped linoleum in the kitchen. The first couple of times I mowed the yard it was in the spring and the grass was grown nearly waist high in the back. I whacked away with a sickle and scythe on one of the hottest days of June and thought of all the women in the world who are principally responsible for agricultural labor and do it with handtools and babies on their backs (and probably prolapsed uteruses and obstetric fistulas for that matter). I got out my electric mower and gave thanks.
The kale prospered mightily. And the children ate it. Starting in the spring, just about everyday at dinner I’d go out and pick a few leaves for salad, saute or chips. We felt very virtuous (and avoided the guilt of having a bunch of $1.99 packets of store bought leaves wilting and yellowing in the fridge). But by now we’re all sick of kale and are reverting to boxed spinach. The small bit of spinach I planted bolted quickly, but tasted gloriously salty while it lasted.
We got a chunk of volunteers this year: a bunch of sweet lemon basil, reseeded from last year, pear tomatoes, a cantaloupe reincarnated from last year’s compost, and what I think might be an avocado shrub. The volunteers did little better or worse than the things I planted on purpose. The watermelons bore a single fruit that never matured. We got two butternut squash and a bunch of exceptionally beautiful beets. One pepper plant yielded a few fruit and one egg plant yielded a single fruit that the slugs took. Last year’s potatoes persisted, and were still tasty.
Barring the cherry tree, the kale and a spate of sunsweet tomatoes, the garden was pretty much a bust. As I lined up our sad little haul of cucurbits, I thought of the stress of actually having to rely on ones harvest to get through the winter. I had the same square footage (sparse) of garden this year as I did last year, and spent the same amount of time (minimal) watering and tending it, for barely half the yield. Multiplied out across more acres, time, and risk, it’s sobering odds.
Last year we got about a dozen pumpkins. This year I carved the single pumpkin we grew into an owl jack-o-lantern.