What happened? Next weekend is Labor Day. September. The unofficial end of summer.
Carol Burnett used to close her show with “Seems we just got started and before you know it?, comes the time we have to say, ‘So long.'” It feels like summer has just begun, although I can see that the flower garden has peaked—while still lovely, the flowers have begun to fade. The vegetable garden has entered a waning production mode. Although we are still planting a few fall crops, like greens and kohlrabi, our focus is on harvesting the steady, though not abundant, flow of vegetables. Cucumbers have been our best crop. We were never overwhelmed by summer squash and zucchini—we’ve had just enough to eat fresh, plus Cherisse has made several loaves of zucchini bread, frozen to enjoy throughout the winter. Our eggplants looked better than ever, and we’ve had some nice fruits. The same with our pepper plants. However they, and our tomatoes, seemed to halt their development, perhaps because we’ve had unseasonably cool nights this August.
Bunnies mowed down our parsley, though I may yet be able to freeze some. Our basil flourished for awhile, and then suddenly looked like it burned—although that doesn’t seem possible. We’ve made just one ice cube tray of “pesto”—basil pureed with a little olive oil, which we’ll cook with this winter (usually we have bags of pesto cubes). The lettuce and swiss chard have done well, and while the cabbage took a hit from worms we still have some nice (smallish) heads. The celeriac looks good, and will hopefully see us well into winter. Our carrots taste great but some suffer from carrot flies (we just cut off the bad ends). We had several nice melons growing, but lost them to slugs or rabbits (or both).
Our fruit has done well this year. Strawberries were abundant, and our blueberry bushes produced a steady supply through July. Two peach trees are covered with fruit. One is ripe, and good, but the fruits didn’t get very big (perhaps they weren’t thinned aggressively enough). I am eagerly anticipating a big crop of Asian pears—one of our trees is covered with them, and they look perfect so far. We have three apples (total) on our five trees, although that is three more than we’ve ever had, so I call that progress.
By all those measures, time has clearly marched on, so I must ignore the voices saying “wait, we’ve just begun.” Once upon a time, time did stand still, in the best possible way. Twice recently I’ve been reminded of the summer nights I spent in Boston, with my work softball team, our ranks rounded out with our friends, mostly ringers. The day I started at Yankee magazine I was told we had a game that night, and we were short women players…did I know anyone who could play? I called Cherisse (a ringer), who was working at MIT, and I raced home to get shorts and a t-shirt. That was the first of many, many lovely evenings, playing softball, drinking long-neck Rolling Rocks, yelling and cheering while the sun set over a baseball field. Once the game ended we’d join the other league teams at a nearby bar, and we’d hang out eating terrible food, drinking more beer, and knowing that life was grand and time would always stop for us.
Eventually we all moved on, finding other jobs, starting families, buying homes. Responsibilities, pressures, a bad economy…all these things shifted our priorities. I love my life and don’t want to go back in time, but I remember those summer nights, when there was nothing but the crack of a bat, a red sun in an outfielder’s eyes, the whump of a ball hitting a baseball glove…that made me feel so completely in the present.
Now I think “surely September isn’t next weekend.” But it is. Soon the garden will die off for a few months, and I’ll abandon that unfinished list of outdoor activities, and move on to other things. I’ll accomplish a handful of those, only to be startled by the 2014 Fedco seed catalog, which will remind me to order new seeds. I’ll think back on what did and didn’t work in the garden and imagine a fresh start. It happens each year, and in its own way, the relentless passage of time feels reassuring. I’m glad we’ve had this time together.