The other day I blogged about creativity and acting in the image of God, and I mentioned gardening as one of the ways to be creative. Even though it is early-mid December it got me thinking about my garden and how much I miss waking up every day in the spring, summer and early fall and working on the garden. Whether it is watering, planting, picking crops, or just messing around and doing a whole lotta nothing out there, my time spent in the garden is truly rejuvenating to the spirit. I realized I had not done my traditional wrap-up article on how things went, so here goes:
I had several tomato plants, including one in a topsy-turvy upside down thing. I started from seed outside rather than from seedlings, so they never really got to be huge, but I did get a steady stream of small, rather ugly but organic tomatoes. Next year seedlings. We had several pumpkin plants stretching across the yard and over a thicket of plants, and we got three jack-o-lanter pumpkins (interestingly, this kind of pumpkin is yellow rather than the deep orange you associate with the name) of various sizes. Definitely a success. The blueberry bushes were disasters. Last year we had endless, delicious blueberries. This year we had about five and they were tart. My gardening guru Karen says that it is probably because I never pruned the bushes; therefore, one of my late fall activities has been pruning them for next year.
The apple tree, on the other hand, yielded like the blueberry bushes did last year. We had apples all summer long, and they were delicious. The same with cayenne peppers – I was harvesting these all summer, and as winter approached I still had 30 or so green ones going. I took them in, put them in a plastic bag so they could ripe, dried them out, and ground them into crushed red pepper, just like what you put on pizza or pasta. I also had a steady flow of pickling cukes all summer. They grew like crazy, and I harvested them when they got to a certain size so they wouldn’t get too seedy. Eventually they all died out due to some thing that gets to the plants, but definitely a success.
I tried yet again to grow musk melons (similar to cantaloupe, which is not actually grown in the US) and had little luck – three small, rather bland ones that broke off early. Apparently these guys need constant sunlight, and that just isn’t happening here in New England. Garlic was a disaster because I didn’t cut off the flower and the stalk ended up breaking from the weight. I planted a few potatoes that had eyes all over them, and this too didn’t really work out. They were almost an afterthought – next year I will try harder. The strawberry plant grew like crazy but no fruit – my understanding is it has to do this and then next year it will yield.
Later in the season I got two packets of lettuce seeds and planted buttercrunch and romaine lettuce. Unbelievable – I had heads popping up within a week, and each day we were able to harvest a fresh head. The buttercrunch worked out better than the romaine, and they both grew well into the fall, just like the peppers. Next year I am definitely expanding the lettuce section.
What am I leaving out? Let’s see…we had many potted herbs and spices, and they all did well – mint, chamomile, basil, Greek basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and…I forget the others, although I recall that there were two different kinds of mint. And we had our usual harvest from the crabapple tree. No surprise chives this year – last year some grew late in the season in an abandoned pot.
So how will I fill the gardening void over the winter? By switching gears. We plan to cook up another batch of homebrew soon – Russian Imperial Stout, a powerful beer that is very appropriate for a cold New England winter. I have the mushroom log, which has been a disappointment, soaking, so we will see how that goes. At some point we will make cheese and vinegar – I have kits for both – and I may try to make wine. And, if Fr. Peter can convince me, I will try to cook up a batch of mead. I also plan to start the garden indoors in February by growing some seeds. So all things considered, I should be kept well occupied with this stuff until I am back out there again in the dirt.