Posts Tagged summer solstice

Summer Solstice Anticipation*

tomold1

One of the great imponderables of gardening life: Why does it take so long for the first tomato of the season to ripen? And then when it does, why does it take forever for the rest of the tomatoes to transform from hard green to juicy red?

Amidst the heavy harvest of Fortex pole beans, one Sweet Treats cherry tomato was ready yesterday. It was consumed with great ceremony at last night’s dinner — one half going to Wonder Spouse, the other to me. It was so good!

Yesterday's harvest.

Yesterday’s harvest.

But now the waiting begins in earnest. So many green tomatoes, so few signs of color change — except for yesterday’s delicious outlier. Somehow the memory of its perfect tomato flavor must satisfy us for — who knows how long?

All the tomato plants are still very actively growing. I tie new growth to the trellises daily. The undersides of my thumbnails are stained dark green from using my nails to snip off unwanted suckers as I tie my enthusiastic charges. When I wash up, the soap suds turn yellow-green from the tomato pigments that coat my hands as I groom the plants.

I’ve been doing this — growing tomatoes — for over four decades now. The routine is the same every summer. About fifteen or so summers ago, I wrote a poem about growing tomatoes. I hope you’ll indulge me as I share it with you here.

Embracing Tomatoes

There they go again.
This year I swore I’d keep them under control —
every sucker pruned,
every new shoot tied to a support.

tom2

Just yesterday,
I thought I had them tamed.
Obediently, they clasped their cages —
yellow flowers nodding
from the weight of visiting bees.

Today, the riot is well underway.
An antigravity avalanche of green
shoots skyward, sideways, all ways —
like a group of guilty children scattering
in all directions at the approach of an adult.
I can almost hear them giggling.

tom1

So here I am once again —
embracing tomatoes.
This is not a task for timid souls.
You must wade right into the plants,
disregarding spiders and sticky aphids.
You must show no fear as you use a firm hand
to tie them to their supports.

Emerging from the struggle,
sweaty and coated in green tomato tang,
I bow to my partners.

tom3

Soon they will offer me heavy red globes
to transform into refreshing summer salads,
and fragrant rich sauces to freeze for winter feasts,
certain to fuel warm dreams
of summer sambas with tomatoes.

Coming soon, we hope!

Coming soon, we hope!

Happy Summer, everyone. May the fruits of your labors bring you as much delight as mine bring to me.

* I hope you enjoyed this repeat of a post from 2013.

 

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Another Turn of the Wheel: Welcome Summer

red cactus zinnia

Flowers and fruits abound as we celebrate the arrival of the Summer Solstice, which in my area, will arrive at 6:34 this evening. This year — the first time since 1948 around here — the solstice’s arrival will be enhanced by a full moon. The myriad fireflies that dance in my landscape after sunset may have trouble being seen as they compete for visibility with that bright orb in our night sky. But she will dim in a few days, and the fireflies will dance for another month or so.

Unfurling inflorescence of bronze fennel

Unfurling inflorescence of bronze fennel

Late spring was kind to us this year, and most plants are only just now beginning to notice that the frequent rains have diminished, that the temperatures are trending suddenly much higher, and our famous southeastern humidity has arrived to make humans sweat even during early morning tasks outside.

Cucumber 'Diva'

Cucumber ‘Diva’

Yesterday shortly after sunrise, I was in the vegetable garden tying enthusiastic tomato shoots to their trellises, watering thirsty beans and squashes, and hunting drowsy insect pests before the sun energized them when I heard cicadas thrumming for the first time this year. One day ahead of the arrival of the solstice, I thought perhaps they were testing their instruments to ensure they could greet Summer with fully tuned accompaniment.

Honeybees pollinating a squash blossom

Honeybees pollinating a squash blossom

Busy insects abound. Dragonflies patrol the skies for tasty morsels, honeybees and myriad other bee species diligently visit flowers from dawn to dusk, mosquitoes buzz, flies swarm, ladybugs devour sluggish aphids — it’s a jungle out there.

dragonfly

I spend too much time these days taking photographs, as I vainly try to capture early summer’s energy and diversity. But it’s all so wonderful, I can’t help myself. Do you remember that feeling of release and energy that overwhelmed you every June when your elementary school let out for the summer? Our futures glowed with possibilities filled with sunshine, warm water, fireflies in bottles, and long, warm evenings playing with friends, or sitting with elders on wide porches listening to their stories of summers past.

First signs of ripening for my Sweet Treats cherry tomatoes

First signs of ripening for my Sweet Treats cherry tomatoes

Summer’s arrival is a moment of infinite possibilities for gardeners too.  Sweat equity starts to pay off handsomely in fresh green beans, tender squash, refreshing cucumbers, and the ultimate reward — fresh tomato-basil sandwiches — truly the taste of summer at my house.

Zucchini 'Dunja'

Zucchini ‘Dunja’

Savor Summer’s soft side today, my friends, for soon we begin the hard slog through heat and humidity, rampant bugs and insidious fungal diseases. But today — today we embrace the new season with hopes for bountiful harvests, the welcoming symphony of thunderstorm rains, and nights full of fireflies, cicada songs, and family gatherings.

Daylily 'Ron Rouseau' -- and friend

Daylily ‘Ron Rouseau’ — and friend

Happy Summer Solstice to all!

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Sir Turtle’s Solstice Curse

As is my daily custom this time of year, three days ago, I climbed the hill to my vegetable garden before the sun topped the trees to glare down on my thirsty charges. I toted my camera in my harvest basket, in case something photo-worthy appeared. I was glad I had done so when I approached the garden gate and spied this fellow impatiently waiting for me, his neck outstretched as he puzzled over how to get past the pot I use to block the bottom of the gate. turtle at gate“It’s about time you showed up,” he grumbled. “The early turtle catches the worm, you know.”

“Good morning, Sir Turtle,” I replied. “I thought that axiom applied to birds, but if it’s worms you’re after, you’ll likely find more down on the floodplain. That’s where the Red-shouldered Hawks hunt for them. Are you sure you weren’t perhaps interested in something else in my garden?”

“Water,” he replied. “I smell water in the green things growing in there. I was hoping you would share.”

“Ah, now we’re down to it, aren’t we, sir? You aren’t the only creature interested in the growing food I’m trying to coax through this heat and drought. I actually put that pot there to deter the bunnies I meet often – right where you’re standing – their noses wiggling, ears erect, as they imagine gorging themselves on the fruits of my labor.” turtle2 Sir Turtle snorted, “Bunnies are idiots, and notoriously greedy. If you let me in, I promise you won’t even know I’ve been there.”

I thought about it briefly, then shook my head. “I’m sorry, sir, but I don’t think it’s wise for me to trust your discretion in this matter. First, you would find yourself trapped within the fence — just as there’s no way in for you, there is also no way out.” Fortex beanlets “Second, you have a lean and hungry look in those red eyes of yours. I don’t think you could stop yourself from munching on low-hanging green beans, ripe tomatoes, and succulent squash fruits. Would you munch my drought-stressed parsley too? And the carrot and beet greens valiantly struggling to fill out their roots below in the parched earth? Would you nibble my zinnias, or perhaps my nasturtiums? It’s not a large garden. I’m afraid I just don’t have anything to spare, especially given our sky’s unwillingness to rain.” first Early Blue Ribbon tomatoes Sir Turtle pulled his head half way into his shell and studied me. “If it’s rain you want, I can help. If you open the gate and let me in, I’ll pull some strings and summon showers.” turtle4 “I don’t know, Sir Turtle,” I replied. “You’re a land creature, not a water beast like your Snapper cousins who dwell in the muddy creek bottom. What sort of influence do you have with rain gods?”

“Trust me, old woman. Let me in, and I will call the rain.”

Frankly, I doubted his claim of watery influence. After all, the Yellow-billed Cuckoos called at the appearance of every juicy cloud that passed nearby, but the clouds did not come. The Copes Gray Tree Frogs chorused lustily every time a cloud darkened the sky or the humidity rose a bit. Same for the Narrow-mouthed Toads whose nasal drones rattled the windows as they sat around our front pond and begged the clouds for mercy. If these known rain-callers remained unsuccessful, I could not imagine that a dusty-shelled box turtle could do any better. froglet “I’m sorry, Sir Turtle. I just can’t bear the thought of you eating your way through my little vegetable patch. I must respectfully decline your request.” I gently moved the pot out of the way, opened the gate enough to squeeze through, and closed it behind me.

Sir Turtle turned his back on me, but before he scuttled off through the dry grass, he paused to make his parting pronouncement. “You shall pay for your lack of generosity, old woman. The dawn of the Summer Solstice will greet you with a prolonged round of heat and drought, the likes of which will make you long for the weather of previous weeks. Old Sol will burn your tender green babies and drain your shallow well into muddy uselessness.” turtle5 “You may well be right, Sir Turtle,” I replied. “Such is the lot of gardeners everywhere. We sow, feed, weed, and water as best we can. We rejoice in the good years, and weep at the bad years of whimsical weather patterns, reminded always that we are not in charge of our little green kingdoms, merely caretakers. Good day, Sir Turtle. May we all be blessed with what we need to flourish.”

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