Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Prodigal Gardener

My son has recently spent some time camping and hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina so we took a trip up to meet him, see some of the places he explored (albeit from the remote vantage point of the Parkway overlooks) and hear about his adventures. This photo is lovely, but doesn't adequately reflect the scope of the altitude, steepness and vastness of these mountains. Of course there are steeper mountains, but the Blue Ridge is way up there for this Georgia girl. My son told me geologists have determined that the Blue Ridge has been taller than the Alps three times in the known history of the earth. It is on a fault line and geologic events have thrust the mountains upward, only to be weathered and eroded to this relatively modest height over ages -- three separate times. Isn't that interesting? Standing atop this ridge, in the cool fresh air, closer to the sun and clouds, one would assume these rocks have always been here, from the beginning of time. Well, maybe they have been, but they are alive and changing like everything else, just in a slower time frame.

The next part of our North Carolina odyssey was to the Outer Banks to see my husband's parents. I was so busy visiting, I didn't even get a shot of the ocean this time, but as we were setting the table for dinner on the deck last Thursday this view of heaven got my attention. This is a cell phone photo. Less than 5 minutes later we were all scrambling to rush everything inside and turn the chairs and tables upside down so they wouldn't blow away. At that moment a front came in which brought powerful winds, driving rain and thunder and lightening. We actually saw a waterspout about 100 yards off the beach. This heavenly view quickly transformed into an eerie, deep pink-purple as the clouds roiled. Nature's fury is always so much more dramatic at the shore. It was quite a show. The deluge lasted all night, and my mother-in-law and I noticed the condo swayed with the winds.

Back home the weather that night was also violent, spawning a tornado, though there were no injuries that I know of. By the time we got back, ten days after we left, evidence of the storm we missed here was a downed tree in the woods, and the return of the water damage we just had fixed a couple of weeks prior. The wallboard under the fresh paint is bubbled anew, and the water stain on the ceiling is back. Ah, home ownership!

Yowza -- look at the garden! After ten days of neglect in this humid, moist, hot environment, the plot is a mess. Some type of opportunistic, ground-covering weed has had its way with the soil around all the plants I put in. I don't know what it is, but it kind of looks like a creeping thyme. At first I attempted to eradicate it, but quickly found that it would adapt any part of itself to form a new root and dig in -- in other words, if I left a piece I'd pulled, it would re-root itself instead of shrivelling. Also, the roots are deep and delicate, so when I thought I'd pulled the whole plant out, I'd left a tiny bit underground which would quickly make its way to the surface and be reborn. The weed doesn't really seem to bother the veggies, it just makes the whole garden confusing to me.

The onion arsenal is more unkempt than ever, long and tangled, but appears to be doing its job deterring pests. I've seen no nibbles, not even from this guy, who is just happy to live safely under the wooden frame, apparently in an allium-induced haze.

A recent harvest revealed the bush beans had matured before the Chinese long beans, and the radishes are all grown, very large and flavorful. I sliced this one thinly to savor with a nice glass of Pinot Gris as I prepared dinner. Then I ate it's spiny leaves, undressed so I could assess the flavor -- peppery! The beans were added whole to a veggie melange including yellow squash, zucchini, vidalia onion, mushrooms, tomatoes and several whole twigs of thyme. All the veggies were store bought except for the beans and thyme -- my nightshades aren't ready yet. Olive oil, salt and pepper and the whole bowlful was cooked in a grill pan by my husband. Delish!

I plan on surrendering to the garden's will at this point, and savoring it's un-nibbled bounty. Can't wait for the tomatoes!

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