Friday, September 25, 2009


Journey Round the Sun: September

The crystalline light of a lowering sun
Fills the valleys,
Gilds brown hills gold,
Makes every trembling leaf and blade
A tiny mirror.

Equinox: Earth rides its axis straight.
Night and day see eye to eye.
Morning has teeth: premonitions of frost.
Noon blares hot.
Light and dark are in fleeting balance
While temperature see-saws.

Knowing the portents,
Birds flock for fall flight,
Swallows are gone,
Long-necked geese mark the sky
With directional signs, all pointing south.

We who enter a private autumn
Hear their fading cries
And remember the
Hurrying arrow of time.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tomato Extravaganza

By Labor Day, last Monday, the tomato situation was getting critical. It was quite clear that soon there would be tomatoes tucked away onto bookcases (which has happened before) and in the bathroom cabinet (which has not happened so far). The photo above shows everything on hand on Monday afternoon -- mostly Better Boys, lined up from ripest on the left to just-picked, still-slightly-orange on the right.

There are also bowls of Sungolds and the volunteer red cherry tomatoes for snacking and salads, and two demonstration Black Krims at lower right, just to show we are capable of growing heirlooms.

A plethora of Better Boys means it's time to go rummaging in the garage for the mighty Squeezo, the venerable Vittorio Strainer, veteran of many a tomato sauce session of Septembers past. It didn't take long to clean it up from its long hibernation and attach it to the dining room table.

The whole process is so simple. The ripe tomatoes are first rinsed and quartered. (Let the orangey ones sit for another week to ripen up.)

Then all you have to do is fill the hopper with tomato pieces, press them down with the mallet, and turn the handle to push the juicy mass through the screening funnel. Skin and seeds drop out at the end of the funnel while the luscious juice and pulp flows down the trough into a bowl.

The next step is to cook the juice down a bit and package it up in pint size freezer containers as a base for tomato sauce. Take some out in gloomy November or in chilly February and make it into sauce for a vivifying taste of congealed sunlight, a distillate of summertime itself.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Farewell to August

The pink lilies which are the hallmark of high summer in our backyard and all over the area are faded now. But before all traces of this fruitful August, just past, disappear completely, here is a memento.

Journey Round the Sun: August

Sudden pink lilies on tall bare stalks
Leap from dead ground.
Ripe fruit thuds into hot dust.
Perseids streak the night sky,
Space gravel burning in air,
Silent and swift as Newton's thought.

Earth turns in its spiral dance,
Leaning into light.
Up, down, around,
We all move to the same music.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Monday Harvest -- Fruits of Our Labor Day

Today is a holiday so I can get this post up on time for the harvest round-up at Daphne's Dandelions.

This week it has felt like the garden is slowing down because most of the plants look middle-aged, a bit like stressed-out parents with too many children. But bedraggled as the plants might be, their progeny is beautiful and plentiful. The peak harvest time continues.

We are pretty much keeping up day to day with eating lettuce, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, Black Krim tomatoes, an occasional pepper or eggplant. But the heavy producers that need to be processed for the freezer are accumulating. Counter tops are covered with Better Boy tomatoes and there are bulging bags of beans and zucchini in the refrigerator. Not to complain, of course. Abundance is not an obligation but a celebration!

Week of Sunday, August 30 through Sunday, September 6

Sunday, August 30 (This should have been included with last week's portfolio, but I got the days mixed up.)
Above, left to right: one Cochella zucchini; a handful of Kentucky Wonder pole beans; Better Boy tomatoes; lemon cucumbers; volunteer red cherry tomatoes; Blue Lake pole beans.

Tuesday, September 1

Blue Lake pole beans; Better Boy tomatoes; one lemon cucumber; one Black Krim tomato; Green Racer zucchini; Sungold cherry tomatoes.

Thursday, September 3

Red Sails summer lettuce; Better Boy tomatoes

Friday, September 4

Sungold cherry tomatoes; Better Boy tomatoes; Blue Lake pole beans; one Japanese eggplant (first one -- yay!); three Pimientos de Padron; one lemon cucumber; one Black Krim tomato; Green Racer zucchini; volunteer red cherry tomatoes

Saturday, September 5

Better Boy tomatoes; lemon cucumbers; a surprise resurgence of Tavera French haricot beans; lots and lots of Sungold cherry tomatoes; Blue Lake pole beans. Not pictured: another pile of Red Sails summer lettuce, picked before dawn because a certain canine companion just HAD to go out. Prime lettuce picking time.

The Kentucky Wonder beans have pretty much stopped producing -- nothing harvested since August 30. The spider mites got them. But that's a story for another time.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Monday Harvest(s)

Another Monday has come and gone! Lots more portraits of gorgeous produce have been posted at Daphne's Dandelions. It's thrilling to see the lush harvests people around the country are bringing in.

To add to the collective cornucopia, here is a belated record of what has come out of our backyard in the past two weeks.

Week of Monday August 17 through Sunday, August 23

Tuesday, August 18
Above, left to right: Lots of lovely, rustly, fragrant Genovese basil for pesto; Kentucky Wonder pole beans; Sungold cherry tomatoes; Blue Lake pole beans; Better Boy tomatoes; the last of the Tavera French haricot bush beans; Green Racer zucchini.

Friday, August 21
Kentucky Wonder pole beans; Better Boy tomatoes, including a couple of green ones that fell off the plant (they have ripened on the dining room table); Sungold cherry tomatoes; Cochella zucchini; lemon cucumbers; Green Racer zucchini; Blue Lake pole beans.

Saturday, August 22
Red Sails summer lettuce; Sungold cherry tomatoes; Better Boy tomatoes. With the abundance of lettuce, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes, we are gobbling up garden salads every night.

Sunday, August 23
A Black Krim tomato! -- only the second one so far, but worth the wait; lemon cucumbers; Kentucky Wonder pole beans; Better Boy tomatoes; Blue Lake pole beans, Green Racer zucchini.

Sunday, August 23
Trombetta di Albenga Italian squash. The biggest ones are about three feet long and almost ten pounds in weight. B. suggested we honor his Irish heritage by making Shillelagh soup -- and indeed they do look like big cudgels. Ha ha.

Unfortunately, all but one of them started rotting from the bottom and ended up as biomass in the compost bin. The green, curvey, bulbous one in the middle has a hardened rind so I put it in the garage to see if it will last. I believe this variety can work as both a summer and a winter type. Meanwhile, there are several more growing. We will have another chance to actually cook one of them.

Week of Monday, August 24 through Sunday, August 30

Monday, August 24
The last of the pears. We never did get hold of a ladder, but, with B.'s help, I stood on a kitchen stool and managed to pick most of what remained in the upper branches of the little pear tree. What I couldn't reach we shook down into the ivy below. About a third of those were lost to nicking and bruising but we still ended up with plenty to set ripening in the garage, with a few set aside in the refrigerator.

When ripe they are absolutely delicious. For all these years we have been letting gourmet fruit rot away untended. Sometimes we regret this, but when sweet pear juice is dripping down your chin, you just want to live in the moment.

Wednesday, August 26
Kentucky Wonder pole beans; Better Boy tomatoes; Sungold cherry tomatoes; lemon cucumbers; Blue Lake pole beans; Green Racer zucchini.

Sunday, August 29
The biggest one-day harvest so far. Left to right: one overgrown Cochella zucchini; Red Sails lettuce; Genovese basil; Kentucky Wonder pole beans; nestled among the beans is one red cherry tomato from the volunteer plant growing amidst the morning glory vines; lemon cucumbers; Better Boy tomatoes; Blue Lake pole beans; Sungold cherry tomatoes; Green Racer zucchini. This represents pretty much all the vegetables in the garden except the Trombetta squash, oh, and also the peppers and eggplant which are not yet really up to speed.

It's really remarkable how productive an ordinary yard can be. I read a blog post recently that claimed there are 19 million acres of arable land in suburban yards across the county. And that's just the suburbs.

We are in a small city. I've noticed that more than a few people in our neighborhood have taken out their front lawns and replaced them with vegetable gardens. Who knows what is going on in the backyards.

Let the gardening revolution begin! Gardeners of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your counter space.

UPDATE: Another source states there are 30 million acres of prime farmland in the suburbs now being tended as lawns. Key quote:

Fortunately, in the United States, “suburbia occupies vast swaths of former prime U.S. farmland. NASA’s ecological forecasting research group reports that the people living there already water about 30 million acres of lawn, three times the land planted in irrigated corn.

UPDATE 2: I found the original source for that quote.