Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth. ~ H.D.T
Tonight, we accepted the passing of a season.
If you were to look out my kitchen window on any given afternoon this week, a few things would be very apparent:
- And pair of skis, a busted home-welded (attempt) bike frame, and other odds and ends nailed to or hanging precariously from our garage
- A fire pit that doesn’t get used nearly as much as it should
- A border collie standing on a wood pile and a blue heeler with her noes to the neighbor’s fence…among other things
However, what you may not have noticed this week were the once-full-of-life, but now sad (yet still green!) leaves of several garden plants – namely, the zucchini, pepper and tomato plants.
About a week and a half ago, our little 7,884 feet above sea level town got its first frost of the season. And by 2PM the next day, the leaves of these three plants were nothing more than shriveled, dangling, blobs. And though we had an amazing zucchini harvest this year – with multiple loaves of bread and countless dinners of sautéed goodness – only 4 small red tomatoes and one green pepper were harvested from our garden.
Growing up in northeast Pennsylvania, I never had a real vegetable garden. In fact, it wasn’t until my husband and I moved back to central PA that I actually felt inspired to start a garden. I had spent the summer of 2009 as a counselor at a science camp and helped build some geothermal garden beds and many summers before that indulging in local produce at famers markets from Scranton to State College – so I knew about gardens and loved looking at and eating from gardens.
So, after living in apartments and having semi-successful potted veggie plants, I was ready for the big leagues; and by 2012, we rented a farmhouse on a 60 acre horse farm and got to work…
In Pennsylvania, you can have zero gardening skill or experience – I mean, like, none, as in, you don’t know zones or growing seasons, spacing or watering techniques, or what the seed you just stuck in the ground will look like when it actually sprouts something edible – and you can STILL be successful!
In PA, we had more volunteer tomatoes in a bed next to the front door than we could have ever imagined (and I didn’t even know that was a thing – volunteer tomatoes?!)! We had dead plants that we stuck in the ground “just in case” that flourished. And even with the bunnies, chipmunks, deer, groundhogs, and who-knows-what-else roaming the property, we had a harvest I could only dream of! Giant green (when ripe) tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, orange and purple tomatoes…and the peppers! Bell peppers, Anaheim chilis, ghost peppers, orange and yellow and purple peppers. And then there were the cucumbers and the beans (yellow wax beans – OH! to grow and harvest yellow wax beans again!) and all the greens we could ever hope for.
But up here, in a high alpine desert at nearly 8,000, my tomatoes just won’t ripen. And my peppers? Forget about it – they barely flowered!! But my spinach, mixed lettuce greens, and kale. Now that’s where the money is 🙂
But I digress…
So today, I finally accepted the fact that the tomato plants, in particular, were done. And if there was any hope, I would need to pick the three dozen green, unripe, hard, tomatoes and bring them inside.
But to do that, I needed help – well, I didn’t know I needed help, but that little boy of mine knew it all along. So, we ate our supper and headed into the garden.
That little boy knows how to pick some tomatoes. Sure! He called them apples, but wouldn’t you?! He knows tomatoes. Yes, this kid knoooows tomatoes. He eats them on the daily. Organic, beautiful, little plump nuggets of freshness (thanks to City Market & our local co-op, of course).
So we picked, and we picked, and we picked, and we thanked the summer for all it gave us. I appreciate that I can stay connected to life-giving plants by growing them in my backyard. Kale, chard, root veggies, squash – all these great things will grow up here. So next year, I’ll be prepared. Sure, I’ll likely stick a couple toms and peps in the ground too, but next year is going to be different than the last few – I promised Forest, too. More goodness planted by our hands and grown outside our home.
For now, I’ll keep sipping my tea, embrace the gorgeous colors of fall and resign myself to the influence of the earth while we wait (hope and pray) for these apples…er, tomatoes…to ripen up.