Tag Archives: Gardening

The Saga of Penelope the Peach Tree

Once upon a time, in our backyard, there lived Penelope the peach tree.

Actually, two lived there. But even as we moved in, Percy the peach tree took one look at us, his new owners, and said, “There goes the neighborhood!” He never recovered.

Penelope delayed her judgment. Still, she expressed her disapproval: not one peach appeared that first summer. Next spring, though, pale pink blossoms crowded Penelope’s branches, exquisite as an oriental painting. I told Hubby, “That tree loves us.”

Visions of bubbling, crusty pie à la mode and caramel peach praline shortcake filled my salivating days.

However, when Hubby thinned tiny, excess peaches from Penelope’s branches, she took revenge by producing three edible fruits — and a thousand that resembled green ball bearings rolled in pepper.

The mutant peaches did not go to waste, however. I made jam as Christmas gifts for my less-than-favorite relatives.

Penelope the peach tree can be temperamental.

The following year, we respectfully requested Penelope produce real, peach-colored peaches, bigger than a marble. And no black rash, please.

Some trees, like some people, can’t take constructive criticism. The following spring, she wore only a few sulky blossoms and no fruit. Our fractured relationship distressed me. My relatives started speaking to me again, once they knew they wouldn’t receive pepper peach jam at Christmas.

It was a very sad year.

Next spring, however, blossoms crowded Penelope’s branches. Perhaps she’d repented of her pettiness. More likely, she simply forgot. Peach trees aren’t known for sharp memories.

When hubby thinned Penelope’s too-plentiful peaches again, I exercised caution when walking behind the garage, her domain. Would Penelope throw her remaining peaches at us?

Surprise! Penelope’s green peaches grew from marble to golf ball to baseball size. So many loaded one branch that it cracked. She obligingly provided just enough greenish, pepper-dotted fruit to make Christmas jam for my relatives.

But Penelope’s peaches ripened in her time frame — not when I was free to pick, peel and slice. Because of writing deadlines, I remained chained to my laptop.

Hubby made new weekend plans.

As my dearly beloved donned an apron, we heard devious chuckles from behind the garage. Penelope exacts revenge on peach-pruners, one way or another.

Hubby griped. But I had infected him with my pie and praline shortcake vision. He peeled and packaged.

Is he a peach of a guy, or what?

To Penelope, this ending to her saga may seem like the pits.

But smiling at each other over hot peach pie and ice cream, we’ll take Penelope’s “happily ever after” every time!

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite peach indulgence?

 

 

Author, AKA, Garden Warrior

Having finished writing a novel, I crave ice cream, human conversation and sunlight. A Moose Tracks sundae proves perfect therapy. My husband, still awaiting a coherent word, takes my grunts as portents of better things to come. Then — ah, the sunlight. Fresh summer air. Green, living things.

Unfortunately, most are weeds. Thousands of Klingon sticker weeds have conquered our garden.

Ha! They do not realize this pale, flabby author will wage a down-and-dirty battle to rescue her oppressed plants. To arms, garden warrior!

I don grubby jeans, “No Fear” T-shirt, and holey tennis shoes.

Hubby: “No pajamas? You’re wearing real clothes?”

For him, it was a long novel.

We bathe in sunscreen, then assemble deadly weapons: hoe, rake and digger.

Weed phasers would be nice additions. But Hubby strikes vicious blows with his hoe. I attack a beleaguered tomato plant’s foes.

Sleek-looking cyclists zoom past. Hubby looks after them longingly, but continues his valiant efforts. Cute runners wearing designer exercise attire and perfect makeup stare as if they hope what I have isn’t contagious.

Whew! After a morning-long battle, we shower and wolf sandwiches. Hubby leaves for work. I decide to savor a rare view of our tidy garden.

My jaw drops.

An overloaded mulberry tree branch has dropped across it.

Hardly a whisper of a breeze cooled us this morning. Yet this beam-like limb collapsed, bending tomato plants’ cages. Branches, leaves and mushy berries smother veggie rows.

The tree providing our sole shade was in cahoots with the Klingon sticker weeds!

The moment Hubby’s truck departed, it unleashed its barrage. Briefly, I wonder if my dearly beloved is in league with them, too. But he did hoe all morning. …

The gnarly branch barely budges.

“You think you’ve won, Klingon-sticker-weed-lover?”

A swoosh of anger can fuel a woman to do great things, even energize an everyday person to ninja feats. Armed with hedge trimmer, two saws, and Hubby’s old Boy Scout hatchet, I reduce my enemy to sawdust.

Well, not exactly. But by evening, I’ve consigned most of the purply mess to trash cans. And myself.

This ninja still can’t move the big branch. Later, Hubby saws it into sections and hauls them away.

Miraculously, the garden suffered little actual damage. We wish we could we say the same.

But now I savor the rare sight of tidy vegetable rows.

Ah, the colorful sunset. The fragrant summer evening. Green, living things that are legal.

A tired writer’s perfect therapy.

Guaranteed to send her back to her laptop forever!

What has been your biggest gardening battle?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: What, Exactly, Is a Weed?

O my God, why, when You plant hardy, luxuriant flowers, do we yank out those “weeds” and plant fussy replacements? Yet King Solomon, who topped biblical best-dressed lists, couldn’t compete with these. OMG, thank You for these lilies that make my yard look like a field.

 

 

We(eds) Are the Champions!

Our September Garden of Weedin'

Our September Garden of Weedin’

In our September garden, we grow the best weeds in the Midwest.

The hubs and I nurtured this elite crop all summer. Yet — can you believe this? — no one awarded us a grand champion ribbon.

Last spring, my husband, risking vitality and vertebrae, rented a tank-like tiller to prepare the soil. We planted the highest quality vegetable seeds and plants. Why? They attract the highest quality weeds.

I fertilized the garden, nurturing early weed development. Hubby shoveled mulch between rows, providing moisture.

With this year’s bullying June rains, I feared our weed crop would float downriver. But despite such watery adversity, they grew strong.

Our garden in June

Our garden in June

At first, the dastardly efforts of vegetables and flowers were winning. Rain morphed scrawny tomato seedlings into scary green monsters. Lettuce, carrots and peppers crowded out crabgrass and ragweed. Berry bushes actually produced berries.

Insidious squash vines crushed the life out of purslane and poison ivy. Squash — a fitting name for such invaders, don’t you think?

But squash aggression could not match barbaric cucumbers that wound deadly vines around helpless clover and cockleburs. They even turned against their allies, the zinnias, hanging fat-bellied cucumbers around the zinnias’ skinny necks like fifty-pound pendants!

Cucumber reproduction surpassed that of rabbits. I fled through nightmares in which thousands of cucumbers chased me, finally pickling me in a giant Ball jar.

Fortunately, other allies supported the weeds. After record-breaking rains, July drought sucked out the vegetables’ fighting spirit. The brave weeds, however, persevered.

Area animals also came to the weeds’ rescue. Deer sacrificially forsook hundreds of acres of wild food to munch our garden’s green beans, tomatoes, and peppers. Bunnies wiped out berries, saving us from the sad necessity of eating them. Squirrels stole cherry tomatoes. As they could not carry Big Boys in their mouths, they contributed by taking one bite out of all they could reach.

I did question the knee-high weeds’ newest allies: chiggers. But what are a few thousand itchy bumps compared with the joys of paying high prices for store-bought vegetables that taste like Styrofoam?

Despite trials and tribulations, we weed-growers will never give up. When hostile vegetables and flowers multiply, we enjoy the deep-down satisfaction of giving our all to cultivate the finest crop this side of Green Acres.

Even if we receive no purple ribbon — not even a participation one — to hang on our wall.

Even if we never see our picture in the paper.

We will not lose hope.

There is always next year.

 

Which won your garden battle this year? The veggies or the weeds?

 

The Great Zucchini Mystery

In the history of mankind, has anyone ever recorded a zucchini shortage?

My husband and I certainly have not suffered such famine. Which is odd, because in April, the seeds we bought reflected our zucchini prejudice: lettuce, spinach, green beans, and cucumbers.

No zucchini.

Steve did not place zucchini in the same class as lima beans — he declares God never meant them to be eaten — but he dislikes zucchini, even in sweet breads welcomed by most zucchini haters.

Besides, we heard frightening tales about this squash intent on world domination. Our pastor warned the congregation to lock their cars during zucchini season, as desperate gardeners had been seen stuffing boxfuls into back seats.

What next? Would innocent citizens be forced at gunpoint to accept a minimum of two oversized zucchini per mugging?

Enough corruption existed in the world. We would never plant zucchini.

Actually, I planted nothing, because my workload doubled. My less experienced husband attacked gardening with great enthusiasm. Steve faithfully followed every jot and tittle of planting directions, identifying vegetables with empty packets.

ZucchiniPlantOur garden flourished. The cucumber plants seemed bunchy, but perhaps seed companies had invented new varieties.

Soon long, green vegetables emerged from yellow blossoms. But they sported speckles instead of bumps. Slices of our firstfruits confirmed the truth: The seed packet said “cucumbers,” with the corresponding picture, but we planted zucchini.

Three hills. With several plants apiece.

I hated to break the news to my hardworking husband. Perhaps weeding made him crack, because when I did, he refused to believe. He had sown seeds from a cucumber packet, and those long, green things were cucumbers.  End of discussion.

But not the end of the zucchini.

ZucchiniBirdHeadOur plants laid them daily, like eggs.

In our hour of need, I called on our grown children, waving one in their faces: “What’s this?”

Our daughter didn’t hesitate. “A zucchini.”

Our son, married to a master gardener, agreed. “Besides, those are zucchini plants, not cucumber. Zu’s are bunchy.”

The kids’ verdicts shook Steve, though he didn’t visibly back down. When I skewered zucchini chunks on beef kebobs, he said, “You’re grilling cucumbers?”

GrilledZucchiniBut he did check on-line, and in answer to my prayers, admitted, “You’re right.” He even learned to like zucchini grilled. We freeze them, and we’ve brainstormed about other ways to use our excess.

His favorite theory: Grow ’em big so we can market them as sports equipment.

Some consumers would have sued the seed company for this serious error. Instead, we share our blessings. As we speak, a dump truck, filled to capacity, speeds on its way to the seed company’s corporate headquarters.

And they don’t lock their driveway.