Everything matures in its own time
I took a bite out of summer while making dinner earlier this week. I stood in the kitchen and savored the taste explosion of a summer tomato while a bit of warm juice snuck down my chin.
My garden started out this year with high hopes. We cleared some raised beds and got ready to plant. The problem with gardening, at least around here, is that the parts I like are not always the tasks that need to be done. I find great satisfaction in ordering seeds and coming up with little schematics of how the perfect garden should look.
Clearing a space is fun up to a point. Mixing in some amendments and digging are not real high on my list. And starting those plants from seed? Let's just say it's a good thing that I over order because those seedlings don't stand a chance in my kitchen window.
This year was different. A friend offered to start seeds for me, and she brought over a couple flats of hardened plants ready to be planted. It got better. My friend rounded up the kids and showed them how to prep the beds. What was a chore with me was fun with a friend.
The plants nestled into their new home. The children watered them and they thrived. The kale and chard took off first. I jealously guarded the first harvests of greens, saving them for breakfast. I sautéed them, topped them with a couple fried eggs and reveled in my good fortune.
As the greens matured and multiplied, I added them to sauce, hid them in meatloaf and tossed them with pasta. My excitement at their abundance began to wane somewhat. I walked quickly past the garden, not wanting to see what needed to be harvested. This past Monday, I noticed that some of the kale plants were under attack from aphids. I was secretly relieved. I wondered if the little aphid children complained about having greens — again — for dinner.
Squash plants came in next. No surprise, we had a solid supply. By July, I was throwing random zucchini over the fence into the chicken pen. Good nutrition for the hens, I told myself. Gotta keep those eggs coming, right?
In the midst of our fertile garden is a bed full of tomato plants. They are covered with green tomatoes. We've had, at most, a handful of tomatoes ripen thus far. It is the end of August, and I am the only gardener I know who is not enjoying red tomatoes. Grown in the same soil as the kale and zucchini, those tomatoes have no excuse for not ripening. I have been forced to rely upon our CSA (community-supported agriculture) box, the local farm stand and the kindness of green-thumbed friends who have taken pity upon my sad plight.
When I bit into summer earlier this week, it was a tomato grown by someone else. With fall in the air, I am starting to wonder if I'll be stuck with a mess of green tomatoes. I'm not a big fan of fried green tomatoes. And so I wait.
As always, kids wander in and out as I ponder the mysteries of the garden, and I start to consider that my children are sometimes like those tomatoes. I tend them, I nurture them, I educate them. Sometimes I ask for help to cover my weak spots. If things don't progress in the fashion I anticipate, I start to compare my children to others, just as I compare the zucchini to the tomatoes. When will the hard work, the anticipation pay off?
I wait. I hope. I pray. In my finer moments, I remember that tomatoes — and children — come along eventually, at their own pace, in their own way. And when that happens, the success is all the sweeter.
Rose Godfrey is a speech pathologist and homeschooling mom in Meridian. Her homeschool blog can be found on the Appeal-Democrat website at appealdemocrat.com.