When I returned after a month away from my garden, I discovered tomato carnage. I’m pretty sure it was the crows. Not only had they pecked away at tomatoes INSIDE the garden but they would fly the half eaten tomatoes out to the lawn and finish the deed. My lawn and garden pathways were littered with half eaten tomatoes. I also had a problem with some critter eating the leaves on my sweet potatoes. I suspect it was the deer.
Much of what I have been up to since I returned is reestablishing territory. This is MY garden, not yours. In years past a neighbor’s dog regularly established territory on the posts of my garden fence, and I’m sure it went a long way toward keeping the deer away. But alas, Toby the black lab has moved to the Pond and I am left to solve this problem on my own. I put up bird netting over the tomatoes, and I sprayed Bobbex on the sweet potato leaves. The first evening I was home, right about 6:30, eight crows flew in for dinner. I went out there and noisily shooed them away. They haven’t been back since.
Then this weekend, with the help of house guests, I built my first scarecrow. It sits out there proudly as sentinel against the crows.
There is reason for celebration here. Last evening I harvested my first artichoke. I have been trying to grow artichokes for the past three seasons. Each year I learned a little more, and now I am hoping to go that one extra step of successfully guarding it through the winter so it will be a perennial.
There are several factors that contribute to this year’s success. First was the switch FROM “Imperial Star” TO “Green Globe” seed at the suggestion of a gardener at Monticello. Second was planting a dozen seeds from which I got three plants … they are VERY susceptible to damping off. Third was planting them in the ground instead of in a raised bed. Fourth was planting them in a hole filled with well composted manure.
The stalk came up while I was away. I was so busy admiring the two artichokes on the plant that I failed to notice that the larger one was, in fact, turning into the thistle it is intended to be. So I snipped it last night and ate it for dinner. The leaves were a little tough, but the heart was very tasty.
OK. Let’s talk corn for a minute. I have resigned myself to the sad truth that I will never grow my own without the intervention of raccoons. And my garden is too small to keep both them and me happy. My local producer at Morning Glory Farm grows superb corn, and on Friday night I had my first ear all summer.
My mouth had been watering all day ever since I had placed my hands on the firm ears that brawny young farm hands from the fields were pouring out of huge burlap bags. It was still watering when I cleaned them before dinner and bit into one raw and realized it didn’t even have to be cooked.
The first bite was sublime. There was no reason for butter or salt. Deep in my limbic brain my raccoon ancestors were taking over. Then on Saturday I had half an ear for breakfast an ear and a half for lunch and another ear for dinner. This is high summer indeed.
Thursday the agricultural fair began. I find it is for me a day like Election Day or Thanksgiving … a day when the priority is voting, or preparing and eating a turkey, or in the case of the Fair preparing vegetables, delivering them and finally seeing how others judge what you have done.
I am pleased to report that my leeks and my garlic were judged of blue ribbon quality. I submitted a new stiff necked variety of garlic called “Pskem” that I purchased from Filaree Farm last year. It was not the largest among the competitors but it was a clean, tight, colorful (purple stripe) specimen. I agonized over the leeks, but the two I chose to submit seemed to impress the judges.
The Fair is a great time to check in with other gardeners. “I had trouble with crows, too this year!” “I secure my deer netting with a cork over a nail at the top of my post.”
This is high summer. There is something timeless in these days as first the goats and then the vegetables and then the poultry and then the other livestock all pass before the judges. It feels like the whole world is holding its breath before the final exhalation of summer.
As you can see, mon petit jardin has started to produce enough basil to season my eggs, and now I am going home. As much as I have enjoyed the melons, it is time to bite into an ear of corn and slice a warm tomato.
Here are some garden scenes from France to remember.
The French charentais melon is sublime. I remember it fondly from a trip I took to France in 1976. Since I have been in Paris this trip I have always had one ripening on the counter and one in the fridge. I have seen it listed at market as Charentais, Cavaillon, “La Tranche de Miel” [slice of honey], and Melon de Lectoure.
Its flavor so outdoes the taste of a cantaloupe that there really is no comparison. The price will range from 2.00 Euro to 4.50 Euro for a single melon. There is very little variation in flavor, though I give the edge to a “tranche de miel” I tried early in the visit.
I have tried to grow these melons in my humid, coastal New England climate to no avail. My season is too short and I need more dry heat like I would find in Provence. While I can’t change the humidity, I ran across an interesting solution to the length of growing season the other day at the Jardin des Plantes.
While searching the net for a few final answers to a tattered Sunday NYT crossword I’ve been carrying with me, I ran across a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to Charles Wilson Peale in 1811 from his home at Poplar Forest. It is the entirety of a letter which surrounds a Jefferson quote I hold dear. Enjoy!
To Charles Wilson Peale Poplar Forest, August 20, 1811
It is long, my dear Sir, since we have exchanged a letter. Our former correspondence had always some little matter of business interspersed; but this being at an end, I shall still be anxious to hear from you sometimes, and to know that you are well and happy. I know indeed that your system is that of contentment under any situation. I have heard that you have retired from the city to a farm, and that you give your whole time to that. Does not the museum suffer? And is the farm as interesting? Here, as you know, we are all farmers, but not in a pleasing style. We have so little labor in proportion to our land that, although perhaps we make more profit from the same labor, we cannot give to our grounds that style of beauty which satisfies the eye of the amateur. Our rotations are corn, wheat, and clover, or corn, wheat, clover and clover, or wheat, corn, wheat, clover and clover; preceding the clover by a plastering. But some, instead of clover substitute mere rest, and all are slovenly enough. We are adding the care of Merino sheep. I have often thought that if heaven had given me choice of my position and calling, it should have been on a rich spot of earth, well watered, and near a good market for the productions of the garden. No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden. Such a variety of subjects, some one always coming to perfection, the failure of one thing repaired by the success of another, and instead of one harvest a continued one through the year. Under a total want of demand except for our family table, I am still devoted to the garden. But though an old man, I am but a young gardener. Your application to whatever you are engaged in I know to be incessant. But Sundays and rainy days are always days of writing for the farmer. Think of me sometimes when you have your pen in hand, and give me information of your health and occupations; and be always assured of my great esteem and respect.