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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Getting back to nature, with the bites and rash to prove it

You never know what you’ll find in a garden. To the untrained eye, my garden seems to be a mass of green with no veggies or fruit just yet. The tomatoes are green, the beets, carrots and onions have not yet started to crown and the potato plants aren’t flowering so I don’t think they are ready to dig yet.
Just for fun, I lifted one of the vines the other day. It’s covered in prickles so you have to have gardening gloves on or you’ll be suffering with hair-like slivers for the rest of the day. I didn’t expect to find anything under the vine. There were a few green gourds and ovals – squash in the making. And there, lurking like the great crocodile of the garden, was a two-and-a-half foot zucchini. Wowza.
I remember my friend said you could stuff those, so I set about finding a recipe for the Farmer to use at Sunday dinner. The two seeded halves of the zucchini were trimmed down to fit on the cookie tray. I put out the ingredients and watched as my husband mixed together hamburger and tomato sauce (spaghetti sauce leftover from night before worked just fine), sliced sausage, rice and egg to glom it all together. Then he stuffed the zucchini and covered each half with a fine layer of shredded cheese and a sprinkling of parmesan. It was delicious. Victory over mutant zucchini.
I was quite disappointed that none of my beans or carrots came up this year from the seeds I planted. I guess I’m better off with plants. Or maybe they would have come up if I hadn’t left the sprinkler on that night back in May. All night. Anyway, I’m looking forward to my tomatoes ripening so I can make salsa.
On Saturday I was back in the garden for our weekly weed-tackling session when something rustled under the pumpkin vines. Immediately I thought of the little black snake I had seen in the field that moment but no, it was just a barn cat seeking some shade away from flies.
I don’t like it when animals surprise me in the garden. One year I stuck a pitchfork into the flowerbed at the stone fence, only to hear a scream from something not human. Immediately I pushed the giant toad off the end of my fork and then threw the fork into the bushes. The toad looked at me. He actually looked at me, and then he hopped away, seemingly unharmed. I saw him again later that year – at least I think it was him, because he gave me the hairy eyeball like we had something to settle. No more pitchforks for me. I stick to a hoe and spade now.
My vegetable garden is behind the miniature house that the Farmer built for his girls when they were little. We keep the door closed so the barn cats can’t get in but we did have a nest of wasps to contend with. I saw the hole leading under the structure but never saw who made it. There is a group of baby groundhogs living under the school bus shelter at the end of our lane so I just assumed that, once weaned, one little groundhog had decided to make his home under the playhouse.  The Farmer tried to catch it in a live trap with smelt and catfood for bait. No luck. Mustn’t be the right food for his liking.
I was yanking fistfuls of weeds out of the garden when I met the playhouse occupant. One of the fattest groundhogs I’ve ever seen came bounding across the meadow and nosedived into his dug hole under the structure.  So I may have some help weeding my garden and harvesting veggies in the near future, if we don’t discover the right type of bait for the live trap.
Oh and there’s one more surprise in my garden. It isn’t poison parsnip, poison ivy, hogweed or stinging nettle, because I know what they look like. But something is the cause of this lovely rash I’ve got running up my forearms.
Maybe it would just be easier to sign up for a farm share and let someone else do the gardening. Please pass the calamine lotion.


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