F O R A G E R
3 September 2014
Five or six weeks of early inertia seems to have yielded a
whole season of below average missteps, surprises and plain disasters. With the well down, not having our normal supply of water precluded many cultural activities and we were obligated to farm somewhat on the fly and without as much deliberation as normal. Tillage suffered, and, as you no-doubt fathom, when your tillage suffers one inherits a string of difficulties. Compaction leads to puny roots and if thy roots be puny thy crop will suffer. Without water, we could not move the soil around as we liked without raising brown clouds of undesirable evidence of unprofessionalism and carelessness. We can be bold, but never brazen.
We give ourselves a strong C- on the melon, a D on the main season cucumbers and a B on the summer squash. The squash started out with an abundant torrent of nice food. Early, too. We were so proud of having zucchini at the end of April that we neglected to replant it in June. Perhaps the drudgeries affected our desire to plant more squash, because to plant it is to condemn one to pick it. And pick it. And pick it some more. There is a lot warm weather stooping involved and the branches be prickly enough to draw blood. The melon really showed what soil compaction will provoke: the stand failed to receive and hold water and just punied up. We lost faith and let the nut sedge ravage it as do the hordes at Mondos Beach on a Labor Day weekend. You who witnessed last year’s watermelon tsunami will agree that this year’s offering was barely a gesture. Sweet, gratifying, but there wasn’t a backbreaker among the lot. Next year. Oh next year we’ll whopper the hell out of those Mountain Sweets, you betcha.
The green beans have been a success because they had to be. They were weeded and watered and harvested well and the gladness was given. We determined that something must achieve greatness in our summer of disappointment. The rounds of summer lettuce have of course been nothing less than genius. Genius and daring, somewhat reminiscent of one of Marat’s cavalry charges during the early Napoleonic Wars, when spiteful, fearful monarchies sought to undue the Revolution. Marat’s horsemen did not intend to vanquish the Austrians, only to distract them enough so that they remained ignorant of Bonaparte’s cannons being wheeled into place.
Then the Corsican let loose fusillades of corn and cherry tomatoes, stopping the antiquated Austrians in their tracks. They had forgotten to bring along butter and salt from Vienna for the corn raining down on them and they errantly thought they had already consumed enough cherry tomatoes during the contest but when more baskets were placed in front of them they could not resist. The chopped basil lavished on the tomatoes made their retreat from Jena less miserable. Lacking fire, they ate the corn raw for the first time as the cannons boomed at their backs and learned why their forbearers had always insisted on barely boiling the ears before munching. The stuff is easy to overcook, mein Freund.
I assume that the prolonged harvest of Red Bor Kale has provided satisfaction to some and the recent entrance of some rather nice chard in the Dog Days has given cause for some to raise the woof. Whenever I go down to Suncoast Nursery to pick up the certified organically produced plants I have ordered I always ask Lucio, the manager, what transplants lie lingering in the shadows therein that some overly ambitious farmer elected to abandon. Sometimes my zeal leads to foolishness, whereupon I recklessly planted 800 feet of Charantais melon last year and used half of them for target practice. You ate the rest. But I have lucked into quite a few modest brilliancies, like the fine chard before you now. When Lucio offered 1200 Red Russian Kale Plants at a low, low price I intuitively knew that planting them in advance of the Bagrada infestation just around the corner would be naïve. Oh how right I was, because with the onset of late summer the Bagrada infest again by the scad. They’re on the corn, and the cabbage. They’re sucking the life from my late kale and even sample the basil. But they have taught me well to plant something else and walk away from the nasty, merciless savagery they inflict on anything they choose to lay upon, thick as sesame seeds on a Farmer and Cook side salad.
Feast while ye may because we are turning the corner now early into weeks of scarcity, or in any event, the end of summer’s seed-bearing abundance. The eggplant has been resplendently productive, while the tomatoes have suffered the blight early and late. The Green Zebras are an endangered tomato, as are the Peche and the Jubilee. Oh the Jubilee! Orange bombs of nearly seedless perfection in most years, but during this season nothing more than a faint, receding glow of what was once a fine promise and now lies discarded in the dirt for the ever-threatening murder of crows.