Sunday, November 23, 2008

Late Harvest

Last weekend we started cleaning out the summer garden with the intent of planting the winter garden - including my favorite crop, lettuce! You may think lettuce sounds boring, but fresh garden lettuce is one of my absolute favorite things. And with the tenderness and the variety, it's really not boring at all. So I was all for the changeover to the winter garden.

Our decision to take out the last of the fall plants was, as usual, thwarted by a late spurt of production by the tomatoes and peppers. Long after the tomatoes should be through, they finally start really doing something (just like last year, and the year before...). I think the summer heat had been too much, especially for the Romas. Now, with the milder weather, there were blooms, green tomatoes and red tomatoes. We literally watched some turn red over the course of the morning, seeing the color develop by the second.
James and Zack always have fun with the garden, and we brought Sammy out in his bouncy seat to enjoy the cool, sunny day. Zack continues to be fascinated by the produce and the creatures. We have been finding these caterpillars of the black swallowtail butterfly on the parsley for the past few weeks. I think this was the last one for the season. At first it was tempting to pull them off, but they only ate about a third of the parsley (plenty left for us) and the butterflies were beautiful (wish I could have gotten a photo of one!).
Aside from the lettuce, one of the best things about the garden is Zack's experience of planting, waiting, watching and harvesting. He is thrilled to gather up the red tomatoes and bring them in or go out and break of a few sprigs of an herb. And he will happily pop a "snacking tomato" in his mouth as a reward for time working in the garden. My recent reading on the politics of our food supply (letter to the "Farmer in Chief" and associated interview and the books Food Politics and What to Eat) confirms what James has always known - our kids have so much to gain from growing a bit of food (and so do we). I'm astounded to realize how much we've been blessed by planting in this little five by twelve foot space on the side of our traditional backyard.

Even leaving the now producing tomatoes and peppers (and the parsley and chives that often survive over until the next year), we cleared out enough space to get several more things planted. We enjoyed a trip to the Natural Gardener (wow, they've got some MONSTER sized swiss chard right now!) for plants and seeds, but then ran out of time to get them in the ground. Now we've just today gotten around to doing the planting, so I guess lettuce is that much further down the road. The good side of the delay was that the neighbor girls came and planted seeds with Zack. The kids spent all of twelve minutes at it, so I doubt it was imbued with great meaning... but I'm envisioning getting to show them the sprouts when they emerge and later the plants as they get to edible size. Our relationship with our neighbors has been growing lately as the girls (first and fourth grade) play so sweetly with Zack and the two year old boy at the next house down, so it was a nice opportunity to send them home with some truly succulent tomatoes. Add the relationship building benefit to the joys of the garden!

Now I can't wait to get some lettuce to share too!

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