Garden season closing with rabbits in the lead

It’s been a rough year for the garden. By mid-July the tally was 49-0 with rabbits, squirrels and raccoons for the win.

They grazed through petunias, lilies, sunflower starts, destroyed phlox and mowed an expanse of zinnias like a lawn tractor with zero-turn radius.

The main component of my flower garden was tufts of fur from rabbit tails. They’re soft enough, but they just don’t look all that great in a vase.

They also harvested beans, broccoli and an entire sweet potato planting.

Many mornings I would s stick my head out the back door and yell, “Would you like that steamed or oven roasted?”

This triggered laughter, followed by baby cucumbers thrown at my head.

They were hard core. Ate everything straight up. Make that straight down—to the ground.

They grew increasingly brazen and danced Conga lines across the patio with fresh parsley hanging from their mouths.

“You’ll get yours one day,” I shouted. I didn’t know what “yours” was or when “one day” might come, but it felt good to heckle them as the gardening season inched away. Then the red-tailed hawk came.

It was lean and hungry and had a wicked glint in its eye.

We hustled small children inside with instructions to stay away from the windows.

A couple of weeks later, the hawk left.

Twenty pounds heavier.

Took that hawk six runs before it could get airborne.

The hawk left satisfied and so were we.

There was still a chunk of growing season remaining and leftover seeds in the garage. I planted zinnias and daisies, all of which sprouted and started to bloom. These encouraged battle-weary phlox and renegade larkspur to return on their own.

Then the ultimate challenge: I tucked a fresh round of cantaloupe and watermelon seeds into the ground thinking they might just mature before the first frost. There must have been 50 blooms on the cantaloupe vines and 20 on the watermelon. But no fruit.

Then one day I was giving a friend the Poor-Me Pity Tour of the garden and she spotted a cantaloupe hidden beneath a vine. It was a whopping 2 inches in diameter.

A few days later, I was checking on the cantaloupe and spotted a teeny, tiny icebox watermelon, deep green, perfectly formed that was the size of a penny.

Every day I checked one cantaloupe and the one watermelon. They were growing—slowly and ever so slightly, but maybe, just maybe.

Last week I checked the “crops” (I feel entitled to use the plural since there are two melons, not just one) and gasped at the watermelon.

A critter had eaten through the side.

Our last great hope is the cantaloupe. We will be up against first frost date, but if the temperature dips, I will tent it and sit beside it all night with a thermal blanket if necessary.

I envision a pageant of sorts when it is finally ripe, gardeners cheering, throwing peat moss in the air and waving trowels as it is transported to the house.

Then, for the grand finale, we will put it on a silver platter, and all scoop out a bite. With demitasse spoons.

It won’t be much, but it will be one in the win column.

 

The gifts and treasures keep piling up

I have received some splendid thinking-of-you gifts lately and it’s not my birthday or anything.

A paper bookmark sits on my desk with each letter of the word “Grandma” drawn in a different color. It is a large bookmark with zigzag ends and a small heart cut out of the middle. You slip the corner of the page you want to bookmark into the heart.

Genius, right?

Last week I received a new pillow. The pillow is pale pink with a tiny green and white floral print and measures about 10 inches by 10 inches. Each seam is sewn straight as a ruler. We also have homemade pillows made by grands in a bright sunflower fabric and a bold camera print. We didn’t know we needed more pillows, but this was made with love, so you can bet we’ll find a place for it. It will be a prominent place because there are pillows and then there are pillows.

Next to family pictures sitting on our bedroom dresser are several small rocks and a dried black walnut that were gifted to me. These treasures were not parted with casually. They were mined from the earth with grubby hands and loving hearts.

A letter sent for no special reason arrived the other day with a sweet note inside. A paper star also fell from the envelope. It is blue with a red heart in the middle with the letter G written in the center of the heart. I can pin the star with a “G” on my shirt.

I imagine this will be akin to wearing one of those medic alert buttons, only my paper star doesn’t connect to first responder services.

Thoughtful. Very thoughtful.

Sometimes I receive short stories or newsy letters and remind the authors that this is exactly how many famous authors got their start. Maybe.

A few weeks ago, the doorbell rang and there stood a boy, beaming from ear to ear, holding a shoe bouquet of wildflowers. Cheerful black-eyed Susans, wild geranium and Virginia mountain mint, all tucked into a shoe. A worn, dirty, mud-caked, tennis shoe. It was a beautiful award-winning bouquet. Best in Shoe.

 

The boy also had an old blue Ball jar that he had discovered digging near an old cabin on their property and gave that to me as well. Plus, he wanted his mud-caked shoe back. It was a good trade.

If you see a woman with colorful pillows under one arm, a book with a bookmark hanging from it tucked under the other, assorted artwork, small rocks, a dried black walnut, a wilted wildflower bouquet in a blue Ball jar in her hands, and a paper star with a “G” pinned to her shirt, please point me out to others and say, “There goes the richest woman in the world.”

Back to school — in the kitchen

It took me two days to watch a documentary that was an hour and 15 minutes long. I tend to lose consciousness when the action is slow and the dialogue ends. “School of Housewives” was slow, but good.

Please, do not confuse “School of Housewives” with “Housewives of Atlanta, Beverly Hills, New York City” and wherever else women bounce about, day drink and swipe long acrylic nails at one another.

The School of Housewives stands in Reykjavík, Iceland. Most who attend wear sweaters and Birkenstocks.

The school has been running since 1942. It was popular in the ‘50s and ‘60s with waiting lists but has struggled of late. According to the director, attendance correlates with the economy: when the economy is good, there is a downturn, and when the economy is bad, there is an influx as people are more interested in economizing.

Students learn how to cook, host, garden and put out kitchen fires.

Much of what they learn was a flashback to my junior high home economics class, a class in which my projects were often notated “needs improvement.”

A teacher at the School of Housewives said students were not there to collect grades, but to collect wisdom, and know how to work with their hands.

If only my home ec teacher had embraced that attitude. I eventually self-educated through trial-and-error, watching early Martha Stewart and phoning my mother.

Some of the things these students learn are basics I have been doing for years. I was thinking I might go to the school. You should, too. We all should. It would be nice to be validated as actually knowing a thing or two. We might even get advance placement status.

A couple of the male students have great praise for the school. One said it reinforced who he is as a conservationist, learning how to make better use of one’s things and using things as long as you can. Students learn how to knit, crochet, sew clothes, reattach buttons and mend holes.

When they’re not fixing something, they are cooking something. Detailed cuts with razor sharp knives into pastry were works of art. I wanted to reach through the screen and sample one of everything. Well, at least until they started making blood sausage.

Then there was the sequence with the head of an animal. I purposefully drew a mental curtain, but I do recall as they tore it apart for cooking, they were instructed to discard the eyeball and rip out the cartilage in the ear.

Waste not, want not.

I was already at the point of wanting not.

Students also learn to weave. The click of the loom is soothing and watching a pattern come together is amazing.

Reflecting on their stay and all they had learned about keeping a home, one student tenderly said, “So much happens here. It’s just a wonderful life.” What a lovely thing to say of any home.

Of course, a few probably left “needing improvement.” But as a one student mused upon entering the school, if she failed here, she could always go to YouTube.

The documentary is streaming for free until the end of September. You can find it by clicking here