Friday, August 22, 2014

Summer Doldrums

Last night when Miss Chef came home from work, I confessed that I have been feeling uninspired and unproductive for the past three weeks.  I’ve felt a slide into (mild) depression, with a side of disinterest in all things writing, local food or gardening.  I wondered if this whole “writing thing” was a ridiculously short-lived phase that had petered out already.

Miss Chef responded “I know exactly what you mean.  I’ve been feeling the same way.”

Misery loves company.  This revelation didn’t make my mojo jump up and come flowing out my fingertips, but it was comforting.  Maybe it’s the disinterest that’s a phase, and not the “writing thing.”  Depressions often do that to me, robbing me of a larger perspective while I get lost in the panic of the moment.  I did manage to finish up my weekly paid blog post last night, which felt like a minor victory.

All of which is to say, I’m going to wander in an uninspired way through this post, because I need to get my writing muscles back into shape. 

So, I’ve been mooching around feeling sad, and spending most of my time at home with these two mooks.


Yes, that is the bathroom door.  I posted this photo to Facebook with the caption “…and she never peed alone again.”  Still, I am grateful to have them around, as spending most of my time alone with the radio or tv for company would be much less entertaining.  Every day around 1:00, Mckenna wakes up and trills her way into the office, to see if she wants my attention.  This naturally wakes up the dog, who has to follow her to make sure I’m not about to go outside or eat something without her. This inevitably results in a tiny parade of two upright tails and four curious eyes, and who can ignore a parade?

In between pretending to work on various articles and keeping the menagerie assuaged, I’ve managed to keep the garden looking nice, if oddly unproductive.  Only one bean plant has grown to its full potential, and they’ve all provided a desultory harvest.  Cucumber production has been averaging 1.5 a week; one of my three plants gave up entirely a week or two ago, and the others aren’t far behind.  I’m looking at only my second squash ready to harvest this season.  My plans had been to have all of these plants overwhelm me with food by now.  But thus goes the gardening life.

Still, there is hope.  My previously barren Mortgage Lifter tomato has put on two additional fruits (only $1 each at this rate!), and the first two are looking more attractive every day.


Since I took this photo, the one in front has finally turned pink, and may be only a day or two from harvest (God and the rabbits willing).  Miss Chef’s Cherokee Purple plant has also set quite a bit of fruit, so while we may be late to the party, we may eventually get enough ‘maters to make it worthwhile.

Of course, the cherry tomatoes are producing constantly, to the point that I ignore them until I’m ready to make a trip to Friendship Trays with my little basket of donations.


(Oh, yes, my pepper plants have been doing pretty well.)  Things have changed a bit with Friendship Gardens.  The short story is that they aren’t interested in expanding the Backyard Gardener program the way my co-coordinator and I had been planning on, so he’s stepped back quite a bit in his leadership role.  We’ll keep up with the communications we already had in place, but aren’t going to make much effort to recruit new gardeners.  It’s been kind of odd trying to figure out how much I want to take on myself during this period of general disinterest, but I trust that my passion will rekindle sometime, at least by the time this summer heat abates a bit.

In anticipation of that time, I took the time to put in a little bit of a fall garden.  This is a new concept to me, having grown up in the snow belt.  But here, fall is so long and winter often so mild that it’s like a second spring.  One farmer told me fall is the easiest time to grow a garden, because the early heat gives young plants a jump start, but the pests and diseases have mostly run their course.  The trick is all in the timing.

Well, that, and remembering how dang hot it is!  After planting all kinds of onion and broccoli seeds three weeks ago, I watched in amazement as not one seed germinated.  They were brand-new seed packs—which I blithely gave away the extras of—so I knew the fault was mine.  After chatting with a helpful fellow at our local old-timey hardware store, I realized that I hadn’t bothered to make sure the seeds stayed moist long enough to germinate.  Duh.  When I plant in the spring, a good watering can last several days.  When it’s 95 degrees, that top inch or two of soil dries out fast.

So I’m trying again.  I brought home another pack of onion seeds, but it’s too late for seeding broccoli, so I bought six plants instead and stuck them where the lettuce and peas used to be.


I’d rather have not planted them all together, but with most of the bed still full, I had to disregard my companion planting principals.  Sort of.  I did seed onions in among them, as well as in patches along the central pathway.  Like garlic, they will sprout, winter over, and finish up next summer.  I left the outer periphery for the garlic, which will go in a couple of months down the road.

I also got a little bit excited when I saw the nursery had Brussels sprouts.  I grew them several springs ago, and they were a lot of fun to watch develop.

July 015b

That picture was taken in July, and I’m very happy to say that the weed situation is much better this year!  With my current plants, I did find spots in the bed to scatter them in among the peppers and tomatoes, where they look a little lost among their looming brethren.


At least they’ll have some shady protection from the blazing August sun.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll get to harvest some by Thanksgiving, as sautéed sprouts with brown butter sauce is one of our traditional side dishes.

One benefit of this whole Writing Thing is that I’ve gotten to expand my friendships with a lot more of the folks who do this Food Thing for a living.  Last weekend I had an appointment with one of them at the end of market hours, to interview him for an upcoming article.  I’m working on a story about what it takes to get local produce out of the field and into customers’ hands, so I got to learn about the nuts and bolts of Daryl Simpson’s day at Walnut Ridge Farm. I also got to hang out at his booth for awhile.  (You know what I love about this particular market?  I just realized I know four of the five people in the background of this photo.)


Like many local farmers, Daryl has a part-time job (in his case, for the benefits), so he doesn’t get to start harvesting for Saturday’s market until about 10:30 Friday morning.  His wife works off-farm that day, so he’s on his own in the fields until about 6:30, at which point he can head home to wash and package everything.  It’s exactly this kind of detail I’ve been wondering about every since I got to know some farmers.

And the biggest question I was curious about?  He gets up at 4 am on Saturday mornings.  His wife Tonya gets up an hour earlier, to pack the CSA baskets.  And yet, he was willing to hang out an extra hour with me after the market to share his story.  I have so much respect for the people who grow my food.

Tomorrow I have another interview set up with Lee at Wild Turkey Farms, and then I’ll have three days to whack together a 1,000-word story to intrigue, amuse and hopefully inspire local readership.  I have faith that my mojo will show up by then.


  1. Sounds like your mojo is creeping back to me.
    I think you need an adventure. Kayaking? A weekend away? Something!

    1. That's exactly what I've been thinking. I'd love a little escape to our cool, lush mountains.


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