I bought myself a new pair of galoshes. I love that word, galoshes. It brings to mind yellow rubber duckies and chubby kneed toddlers jumping in puddles. Purple umbrellas, rain streaking down window panes, and good books. So I have a new pair. Sleek, navy blue and mid-calf, with a bright orange lining, they are my new favorite shoes. Partly because I get to wear them every day, morning and evening, and sometimes in between. They are made by a company called Hunter, the Rolls Royce of rubber boots. The last pair I had were made by Hunter too, although I cheaped out and bought them slightly used on Ebay. I got what I paid for, by the way. They must have been more than “slightly” used, because they only lasted a few seasons. After a few weeks of doing my chores in wet socks this spring I broke down and bought a new pair directly from the company. And not a moment too soon. The pretty box lined in bright orange with the fancy Hunter logo gave me almost enough gratification to justify the price. At least they are getting a good workout.
It’s been a wet summer here in the northeast. Wet and hot. A wet summer following a cold late spring. Following a weird winter. But no one needs me to tell them that the weather is out of whack, all you have to do is look out the window, or better yet look at your garden. I’ve got tomatoes splitting open on the vine before they ripen, peppers dropping all their leaves and huge eggplant bushes with no blooms on them. My carrots are two inches tall and as fat as sausages, the watermelon, winter squash and pumpkins have no fruit at all, and the raspberries mold before I can pick them. I have cabbage spitting open like hatching eggs and basil plants with leaves as brown and slimy as pond scum. Things are composting before I can harvest them. It’s wet.
It’s in my nature, sadly, to point out the tragic and flawed first. When someone comes for a tour of the garden, or is just walking through, I’ll delightedly complain about all the garden failures. Maybe it’s my way of deflecting blame, as if I’m somehow responsible for the weather. I need everyone to know that despite all my efforts, things are not perfect, and I recognize it. I make them note the worst so they know that I know the flaws exist. That I’m not proudly displaying what is obviously not the way it should be. It’s a terrible way to behave, and not very self-serving. Most times, not only would they not have recognized the not-perfectness of things, but it robs them of the desired delusion that things really are perfect, and just the way they should be. They leave thinking either I’m a downer, or just not very good at what I do. Or worse, they feel the need to reassure me, and make me feel better for my multitude of failures. Ridiculous.
So, now that you’ve heard the worst, both practically and subconsciously, I’ll tell you the good news. Onions the size of softballs. Leeks that are three feet tall. Abundant parsley, mint that is overflowing (isn’t it always) and cucumbers that just keep coming. The garlic harvest was successful, fat white and purple heads drying on racks in the garage. The kohlrabi, while a bit tough on the outside, was none the less plump and crunchy. And the summer squash. Oh, the summer squash. I’m reminded of Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal Vegetable Miracle where she informs her children that they lock the car doors in summer not to deter someone from stealing the car, but to prevent neighbors from dropping off bags of calf sized zucchini on their back seat. Lock your doors folks, it’s that kind of year.
And I can’t forget the flowers. Almost everything was abundant, tall, vibrant and with enormous blooms. My ‘Dinner Plate’ dahlias are actually the size of dinner plates. It’s the best year I’ve seen for poppies, and the Sunflowers are 10 feet tall. Of course the weeds are 10 feet tall too. Some of the grasses growing in my flower beds have become ornamental. I’m trying to go with it and resist loudly declaiming to whomever will listen that I didn’t plant it there, and I haven’t gotten around to pulling it out yet, and if it weren’t for all this blasted rain you wouldn’t notice it.
I’ll let out a little secret. We harvested about 6 gallons of honey from our two hives last week. This is big news for all the folks to whom we give honey as a Christmas gift. While a few of them no doubt have jars of honey stacked in the back of the pantry, I know for a fact the majority can’t wait for their Christmas bag of goodies from the Winter Pantry, the honey being the golden prize. This years honey was pale, golden and sugary, redolent of clover blossoms, honeysuckle and apple. Much different from previous years, when we’ve seen honey that has been almost molasses-like, dark amber and thick. The weather makes a difference for the bees, too.
Not being a bee person didn’t stop me from helping this year. Helping is a misnomer, really, but I was there, standing several yards away and trying to breathe deeply and radiate calm normality. As if that’s my natural state. Ha. Only once did I do what I had promised myself not to; shreek, hop, and swat hysterically at my hair in an attempt to dislodge one furious lady trying in vain to defend her home. Of course my husband, who is a bee person and for whom calm normality is a way of life, came to my rescue, and plucked the poor thing from my head before she could sting me and ruin both our lives. He had repeatedly picked the angry things off his arms and neck without a peep, lifting out the heavily laden frames with calm aplomb. Different nature, I guess.
And I must mention the fruit. The abundant rain and humid weather has certainly been a blessing for all the fruit setting plants. Fat yellow plums are dripping off our diminutive trees and for some strange reason the birds haven’t yet discovered them. Perhaps they are thrown off by the color? It is wonderful to harvest so many unblemished fruits. The downside being that they don’t spoil as fast, so I’m disinclined to make jam, or even to freeze them. Sorry friends, no plum jam in the Christmas bag. Instead they sit in big bowls on the counter and get gobbled down five at a time. This time of year it’s not unlikely for me to make an entire meal of plums, blueberries and peaches while I stand at the counter dripping juice on myself. Elegant.
Conclusion? The weather is weird. It’s different than last year, different than any other year before. Science says it’s going to get weirder. But nature will win out, in the end, I think. And us gardeners, what can we do in the meantime? We have to deal with what we get, acknowledge the bad and celebrate the good, and then go forth and try to be more responsible to the planet. We plant and harvest and eat, we fail and succeed and mostly do the best we can. It’s in our nature.