Archive for August, 2009

Excuses and the green alien

August 19, 2009

I’ve found a variety of excuses  for not doing all the things I put off until the summer, pleading the need for hot weather to dry the wood so I could do the exterior painting. The interior painting is another of those things. If I were to paint inside, it needed to be warm enough to leave the doors and windows open so that the paint would dry quickly and the smell would go away. But when summer came, it got too hot, and the smell and the heat would have overwhelmed me, so I put it off to cooler, drier  days; but then it rained.

Two years ago when I took over care and handling of this lovely house, I found the decor reasonably to my taste and jokingly referred to the previous matron of the house as my personal decorator. There was little I wanted to change.

I had to paint the girls’ room because it was to become my office and I couldn’t have blue teddy bears swinging from the moon as my office decor; I had to paint the basement because it hadn’t been painted since Methusala was born and I needed to see where the spiders and their cobwebs were. All the rest of it could be put off until better days.

But slowly I became irked by a few things. The upstairs bathroom had been given a few new pre-sale gleaming fixtures – bath towel racks, a toilet paper holder and some new chrome towel hooks.  When they had been installed, the walls had been patched but not painted. It was unfinished; unaesthetic. Every time I soaked away the garden dust while lounging in the tub, my eyes would be on level with these unsightly patches and I vowed to repaint these spa-room walls.

It took me a year to ponder the colour I wanted. A pale new leaf green, I thought, would be a cheery uplift to this small room. Where else could I make such a colour statement and live with it for twenty years? And if I tired of it, it was a small room to repaint. It would only take an hour or two, n’est pas?

When it came right down to it, though,  I lost my nerve about the choice of green and I decided on a neutral warm colour. I searched amongst the rows and rows of paints left to me by the former owner and the ones that I had brought from my mother’s house.

There was a robin’s egg blue; a Tuscan sun, a desert sable and many other exotically named colours, but only two tins of paint promised the durability of kitchen and bath paint. One with a rusty lid and a spot of pale yellow colour was marked “kitchen” on it. The other was an equally messy tin with “dining” noted on the top, containing a pale peach that just would not do. Neither was enough to paint the small bathroom in any case. It was a perfect excuse to not paint the bathroom. I had no desire to go out to the paint store and buy more paint. Where would I put  the leftovers? I was running out of shelf space for more paint.

Then, in a brilliant flash of environmental conservation, I wondered what would result if I dumped one into the other and stirred it.  Et, voila! I took the two tins, wrestled the lids off and poured the peach into the yellow, complete with a bit of iron oxide dust from the lid. Amazingly, the colour was acceptable and the iron oxide just blended in like a pure pigment that it was. After a vigorous stirring, not a speck of it was to be seen.

Bonus! I had an empty paint pail to send down to the paint recycling depot.

The choosing of paint and reorganization of half-filled paint pails had exhausted me. I had been at it for at least a half an hour.

I found my tools – the paint tray, roller and brushes;  a few rags,  a pile of newspapers a hammer to close the pail when I was finished and an old ice cream bucket to wash my brushes into afterward. I took the things up to the main floor, set them on the bottom step to upstairs. All that effort deserved a cup of coffee.

I sat on the couch and turned on the news. It wasn’t long before the coffee was gone and I was settled comfortably into the cushions, two propping my head gently as  I dozed off to sleep for two hours. I had dreams of procrastination and perfectly new-leaf green walls but when I awoke, startled, to an extra loud commercial of some sort, I was only too aware that the paint pot was sitting on the bottom step and not one drop of paint had been married to the wall upstairs.

It must have been time for dinner. I had a blind craving for something to eat. I couldn’t start painting on an empty stomach, now could I? I made a cup of coffee and then a chicken sandwich with crab apple pickle, one of my home preserves. As I was rummaging through the fridge returning the pickle, I came across some fresh nectarines and brought one out for dessert. I snitched a few fresh blueberries from the blueberry bowl while I was at it.

They would taste a lot better with a tiny bit of ice cream, I thought; and I chopped up the nectarine and an apricot I found sitting out on the counter. I added the bit of ice cream and settled myself down in front of the television to watch the news.  I hadn’t heard a bit of it all day.

Three soldiers in Afghanistan had been killed by a bomb. A refugee had been expelled from Canada, having lost all right of appeal. A recent immigrant had been returning to Canada and had not been allowed to re-enter because her passport photo had not been clear. There was a follow up on a Vancouver murder and an exposé of a door-to-door scam. The last of the aggravating car insurance ads for that half-hour came on loudly and I suddenly remembered the upstairs bathroom and my intentions to paint it this summer. It’s late August. I’m going away on holiday. It was tonight or nothing!

By eight o’clock, I’d cut in all the corners and the tops and bottoms of the walls where the roller couldn’t go. I had unscrewed all the shiny new fixtures and set them aside. I had put away all the towels and the regular array of bathroom counter stuff – toothbrushes, toothpaste, hand lotions, soaps, shampoo, mirror, reading material, the clothes hamper and the scale . It was time for a coffee.

It just so happened that a favorite program was on. Couldn’t miss that, could I? Besides the paint had to dry before I put on the next coat. The next program was good too.

I went back up to finish rolling up everything. On the north wall, high up in the corner, there was a patch of green that wasn’t there before. I climbed my step stool to see what it was and encountered a bright green little man with antennae. He was complaining in a low clicking sound:

“When I booked this hotel, they promised that it would be freshly painted before I came and they promised that it would be in my camouflage colour. Here I find the painting is not all done and I can’t hide anywhere.”

He wasn’t nervous at all.His stolid complaints annoyed me. I tried to dislodge him from the very corner I wanted to paint. I got rather close to him with the roller but he wasn’t backing down. He was asserting his rights.

He complained further. “It’s bad enough that I had to pay a huge fee for the astral travel, but this takes the cake! I’ll lodge a complaint with the travel agency. You’ll see. ”
“I want something done right away.”

It was getting late. This little alien creature had more mouth than it did sense. Where else would he stay? Obviously the Martian travel agency was running  as scam. That didn’t mean I had to fall for it. I found a  glass that was nearby and captured him underneath it. He had no earthly street smarts; he never even suspected I might take him prisoner. He didn’t budge.

I put him on the bathtub shelf enclosed in the glass, and he calmly went to sleep, or so it seemed. Perhaps he felt better in a glass bubble. Maybe that’s the way they operate in Martian space.

I pondered the ability of Martians to divine my intentions to paint in leaf green as I continued to paint, rolling up the four walls with the creamy blend of scrubbable paint. I vowed to photograph him when I was done with painting.

At midnight, I surveyed my progress. It was looking good, but all the cut in edges had to be done again – the first coat hadn’t covered, but it couldn’t be done until the paint dried.

Reluctantly, I admitted that I would have to finish it in the morning.  I wrapped my brushes in a plastic bag and put the roller in a tube just like a tennis ball tube so that I wouldn’t have to clean up twice. I put myself to bed and slept soundly.

In the morning, I arose and cut in the corners again before I even had coffee. I put the  towel racks back up and the holder for the toilet tissue. I protected the brushes so that I could wash them up later – much later. I put all the sundries back in  place and the towels back on the racks.

It looked wonderful.

#1 128 small

#1 130

I got out my camera and photographed this alien creature. I had never seen one of these before and I still have no idea what he is. When finally I released him to fly away outside, he clung like fury to my wild shaking of the glass mug.  I ended up having to poke a stick into the glass mug to encourage him out. But he didn’t want to go.  I can imagine that, as a tourist not speaking the language well, he would be fearful of finding a safe hotel on his own without that exterrestial travel agency. But out he went. I wasn’t keeping him – he complained far too much and he was so insistent on green.

Well, he must be staying in my garden somewhere. There’s lots of green for him there.

Advertisements

Twin Berry

August 17, 2009

Mrs. Stepford is a kindly soul, and a bit of an animal psychologist.

In this unusual heat wave, she has watched her poor dog become more and more lethargic. The once jaunty little Scottie dog had slumped into a funk, barely moving during the day, looking soulfully at Mrs. Stepford as if to say, “Can’t you turn this heat off? Can’t you please do something?”

Mid morning, Mrs. Stepford phones.

“Would you take me to the Primp Dog Spa? Jessica is feeling out of sorts. She needs to be shorn. I’ve made an appointment for twelve thirty. If you can’t bring me back, I’ll get a taxi.”

“Sure, I’ll take you. On condition that I can swing by the blueberry farm to get the blueberries for Dorothy. If there’s time left, we can waste it in some air conditioned store. How about the thrift store on Lougheed. ”

Dorothy is moving. Her house sale went through surprisingly quickly and her move date is on the August 15th.  She hasn’t time to come out to get her berries, and since she has to move her freezer, she needs to ship it empty. Between Mrs. Stepford and myself,  I promised to buy the berries; Mrs. Stepford offered to keep them frozen for a month.

At noon, Mrs. S and I leave for the groomers. We drop the dog off and then head into the farmlands to the red barn. Yes, that self-same farm where I met Mr. Handsome, the strawberry man. Now should I call him the Blueberry man? He’s one and the same person. You choose.

When we get there, the only shady spot is in the wake of the old silo now encrusted in various olive green, black and ochre lichens and strapped every twelve inches with a a thick metal wire banding.  Mrs. Stepford is out of the car and at the weighing machine much faster than I.

When I get there, she is already engaged with Mr. Handsome about the purchase of her berries.  I say hello and mention something about bringing my friends with me. He says hello but he’s not so friendly as last time. Barely seems to recognize me, but he’s friendly still and welcoming.  But something is not right. He’s distracted, which accounts for the disconnect, I figure.

Mr. Handsome is wriggling the connection of the weighing machine to an extension cord that snakes far away across the floor to an outlet somewhere out of view. When that wriggling exercise does not provide results, he tries the connection between the power cord and the electronic scaler, itself. To no avail. It’s not working.

All these efforts have given me the time to look as he bends, stretches, crouches,wriggles the cord in his lean, lanky, athletic fashion.  There is an advantage to getting old. Your eyes can  appreciate without risk of engagement. But this delightful man is also so  socially friendly that he keeps bobbing back, apologizing to Mrs. Stepford about the inoperative weigh scale, then about the delay in finding an alternate solution.

“Ah! I know!” he exclaims.  “We can weigh them on the conveyor belt scale!”

He strides off to the conveyor belt.   It’s organized in an an oval shape with six young migrant workers sitting along the far edge picking off unripe berries, squished berries, twigs, small round leaves Their fingers pluck at the moving belt as if they were encouraging a melody from a well-tuned harp. Their fingers deftly pick out these things to a small band of polished stainless steel at the edge that catches this detritus. The berries amongst it will be saved for the jam factory or other by-products. The leaves and stems will be blown away. Only the firmest, plumpest berries go up for sale to stores and drop-by customers.

There’s something different about Blueberry man today. Since last I saw him, he has grown  a small beard looking much like a punctuation mark, a bold-text dash, just under his lip. It’s jet black.

I point this out in a whisper to Mrs. Stepford.

“It’s got a name. It’s called a soul patch, ” she informs me.  “It’s kind of a new thing. When a man starts to ruminate on some important idea, he’ll take his thumb and index finger and worry at it. It’s meant to signify a person with a deep soul. It’s a thoughtful beard. Expressive.”

Blueberry man was holding onto a ten pound box at the end of the conveyor belt and allowing the berries to drop into it instead of into the large blue plastic container beneath the belt. The box is filling with berries. He pauses to weigh the box. It’s not enough. He returns the box to catch more berries and  continues to hold the it there for the additional amount that will bring it up to ten pounds.

As he does this, Newton comes up to me and says, “How did your exhibition do? ”  I’m stunned. Baffled.

How can Blueberry man be standing at the end of the  conveyor box gathering the offerings of the blueberry gods and be here talking to me at the same time. The man before me has a piece of masking tape on his impeccably white golf shirt with his name on it. He has no soul patch. The other man is standing at the conveyor belt, weighing up his adjusted box. He scoops up a double handful of plump indigo coloured berries from the box below and dribbles them in until he gets to ten pounds.  He turns and comes toward us.

“You’re twins!” I exclaim. ‘You’re not Mr. Blueberry!,” I state looking at the man with the box. “You’re Mr. Blueberry!” I say, pointing at Newton with the scrap of masking tape stuck on his shirt.

Mr. Soul Patch nods with a wonderful smile on his face.  “Yes, some people say we look alike. I don’t see it really.”
“Identical twins?” asks Mrs. Stepford. She always knows the right questions to ask. They nod. Mr. Soul Patch points at his golf shirt with Twinberry Farms embroidered in blue  on his left breast. Two plump berries are embroidered right under the lettering. The significance of the company name fits into place.

Mr. Soul Patch bobs off athletically to get Mrs. Stepford’s change.

I direct my comment to Mr. Blueberry. ” No wonder he didn’t recognized me when I came in. He hadn’t a clue what I was talking about. No wonder he was a bit dumbfounded when I was talking about bringing more customers. It wasn’t the same man.”

“And your exhibition?” he smiles as he reminds me of his earlier question. “How is that going? Can I go see it? I’d like to go.”

I fill him in on the date of the opening. I invite him to it.  He says he would like to. I remind him that I, too,  would like to purchase berries, and he facilitates that transaction.  We bid goodbye, smiles all around.

Mrs. Stepford puts her berries in the trunk and so do I. We get back in the broiling car and drive off to the air conditioned, silky-cool pleasure of the thrift store and then to pick up her dandified Scottie dog.

“That was lovely,” she chuckles. “Double your pleasure! What a treat those two men are!”

“That was lovely. I agree! They are so personable. It’s just how anyone would want to have their sons grow up. Respectful, handsome, intelligent, dependable.  And their mother got two of them. What a treat!”

That was yesterday. Today, Mrs. Stepford calls.

“How’s Jessica, the Scottie princess?” I ask.

“The little monkey!” laughingly says my friend, the amateur dog psychologist. “That hair cut was just the thing. She’s dancing around the place; wriggling with all her lack of hair, begging to have her short hair caressed.

“Must be something like touching a teenage buzz cut,” I reply.

“Exactly. She’s so happy. Such a princess! She has all her energy back. It was just the thing to do!”

Radish greens

August 13, 2009

The saga of my productive garden is becoming legendary for its inability to produce.

We had a lovely day at 22 degrees Celsius and a mild breeze making even full sunshine very pleasant. I tackled the front lawn, if you can call it that.

I have a young man come to cut my lawn every two weeks, but I canceled this week because the grass had not grown. The only thing that had grown was a fine crop of dandelion-like weeds. They were waving their pretty yellow flowers about a foot off the ground. My basic goal was to get the flower heads off; while I was at it, I dug up as many of their roots as I could.

I found a little red-handled tool, distressed with age that my father had used many years back – he died in ’80 so it’s almost 30 years, give or take a few months.  It looks much like a shortened sabre with a curved handle and the blade part  forked at the bottom like a snake’s tongue. One inserts this in at the centre of the weed and levers the tap root free of the soil. Then, the weed can be wiggled out of the soil easily, most times without breaking the root. If the root breaks, then the remainder left in the soil persistently will simply re build the plant and give up another finely rooted yellow flower waving, mockingly, “ha ha!!!” in a week or so.

As I was pulling out the deeply rooted  weeds, I was pulling out anything that was just starting. With each of these littler weeds came fistfuls of moss. I didn’t have a lawn. No wonder it hadn’t grown in the past two weeks. Moss and weeds – that’s what my lawn man has been cutting!

Typical of my gardening efforts, midway through my allotted time for weed-pulling, this very effective tool split in half just where the metal part and the handle met; so I gave up weeding and turned my attention to other bits and pieces that needed doing in the garden.

One of these was harvesting the radishes. Of course, we all know what a radish should look like. You can get them at fifty cents a fine bunch of about ten radishes. The leaves were so high on my radishes I was convinced that I should get something for my diligence in planting and tending these crunchy, refreshing,  “easy to grow” “ready to eat in 45 days”vegetables.

It was no surprise to me. My green thumb having once again received the inept award this year, the radishes came out with red roots alright, but there wasn’t an edible round globe to be seen. The roots were long, like two inches long or more, hairy and thick like a straw. I couldn’t resist, thinking that perhaps I had purchased an odd variety of seed, and I chewed into one of these once they were washed.  Woody. Unchewable. No taste at all.

But I was in possession of a vast amount of radish greens.

If that’s my crop, I say, then what can I do with it?  So I hopped onto the Internet and Googled “radish greens”.

Much to my delight, there were a number of references for radish greens.

I started and ended with this one. Its pages look so yummy. And since the recipe was out there for everyone to see, I thought I just might try to cook up some Radish Greens  Soup.

http://veganvisitor.wordpress.com/2009/06/09/dont-toss-those-radish-greens/

I’ve been at it all night. After washing them, I tossed them in a large pot to steam for ten minutes. They were soft and very green.When I tasted them, they tasted pretty green too. There’s not much flavour – but then again, there are a lot of vegetables without flavour that are made delicious by the spices and herbs or garlic and butter that one seasons them with. So I added in onion and parsley, salt and pepper and some chicken flavouring. That made it taste much better.

Then I took my hand held blender and began the blending process.  The greens don’t look too appetizing by themselves and the photo on the Vegan Visitor blog looks so scrumptious.  I was looking for that kind of smoothness. Only, every time I put the  blender in the pot, it would start dancing on it’s own. It did not want to be led systematically into chopping up my soup.

Finally, it began to whir in an unfamiliar tune. You know how motors all have their own sounds. I drew it out of the pot. It was as tangled as if it had gone underwater and been attacked by green octopus; or perhaps it resembled Medusa’s head full of tangled snakes.  The stems, you see, are woody and stringy but I didn’t know that in advance.

So there I was at midnight, still trying to free the blender blade from these incredibly tough  threads of Radish. They are so durable they could be used for dental floss. Now there’s an idea. Organic dental floss!

I had a long needle from my upholstering project and I’d dig it in under the tangled mass and pull out what I could, then cut it with scissors; extract that, and then begin again. I got it all, alright, but I was weary of it long before it was done.

Did I taste the soup, you may well ask? Of course!

It’s an interesting taste. The bit of mint lifts it right out of the ordinary, and yes it’s good. I added some yogurt to get it to go creamy and that improved the recipe, if you ask me. I would have tried sour cream if I had any, but I wasn’t about to go grocery shopping at midnight.

In the end, after three hours of work, I have three large yogurt containers filled with radish green pulp more or less blended. With the rich harvest this year, there’s not much room left in the freezer, so I guess I’ll be living on Radish Greens soup for the next little while.

Anyone want to come over for soup?

Five cents to the good

August 4, 2009

zz 1083 small

At fifty cents a bunch, mid summer, radishes come in tens or so. I figure the  nice round edible one I pulled from the ground yesterday puts me five cents to the good on my profitability count for the vegetable patch.

Don’t get thinking, though, that this luscious zucchini flower is from my garden. The glorious thing comes from Mrs. Stepford’s garden. Miracles happen in her garden overnight. Especially zucchini miracles. She will take all the fresh zuchinis out of her garden and give them away to friends. They are growing so fast that the next day, she will find another whole crop! They grow over night. It’s creepy, in a way. This long vine-like plant just keeps marching across the lawn with its giant green prickly leaves, sending down toe-holds onto the grass, producing one fruit after another. Amazing!

I’ll have to go out this afternoon and see if I have any flowers developing.

To the gods of adjustable water temperature

August 2, 2009

Kristin at 3982W36As I knelt before the gods of adjustable water temperature and let the ablutions of cool water run over my head, I reflected on the skill at which I had managed to keep water out of my ears and soap out of my eyes and how this skill had been acquired over a number of years. I wondered upon this simple act of washing my hair.

As a child, my mother washed my hair, her hands in moving blessing upon my head, being so careful to keep the stinging soap from running in rivulets to my eyes; and how, if that were not successful, I would wail and let her know of my distress. Patting with a soft towel came next, to stop the stinging, and then to wrap my child’s head in a turban of towel.

Later, I was consigned to undertake the ablutions of my tresses by myself. The most vivid recollection of this is standing by the upstairs sink and putting my head under the flowing tap, sudsing up and then letting the water runnel about my head until all the soap was gone. There was a lovely, deep blue towel that Mother had had forever, with a carved pattern of same coloured diamond in it. With time, it had become, it seemed to me, far more absorbent than newer towels. I struggled with the act of making my own turban. It had a tendency to loosen and fall about my face and shoulders. My hair was long. I wore it in two braids; and when I washed it, it took a long time to dry. I was ten.

As an aside, I kept the last of those midnight blue towels until last year when it finally could go on no longer. It was almost threadbare and had a hole or two in it, but the selvedge was still strong and unfrayed. It had survived hand washing and wringer washing then automatic washing for sixty yeats. It had been dried out in the sunshine on the line for twenty years or so and later in a dryer, for another forty,  and still it had it’s deep midnight blue colour. It had served remarkably well.

We envied the Swiss girl down the end of the block who had blond braids right down to her waist. We marvelled at the length and breadth of them and how she could wear them, crossing right over the top of her head in a crown or looped around her nape and pinned with curl of them around her ears. But she was different. Foreign. And we never really made friends with her.

She was, perhaps, like my freckled friend Susan who also had long braids down to her waist, but hers were copper coloured. She boasted that when she washed her hair, she had to put her head near the open oven door to dry it.

Then I wore my hair in an upturned bouffant of the ‘Sixties in adulation of Jacqueline Kennedy. It took quite a bit of coaxing and wrapping in uncomfortable curlers to achieve this so-desired look; only to be defeated by the mists and fogs of Vancouver that could ruin it in a trice.

In between then and now, I have searched for an acceptable look with the minimum in care. I had high hopes for a permanent wave but it didn’t suit – and didn’t work either. The curls went their way, not mine. The smell of it was gagging. How could I possibly have thought it would make me beautiful?

I reverted to the long hair and even braids when I turned hippie, and only gave that up when I had to go back into the corporate world, the world of work and conformity. I went, silently kicking and screaming, as a hippie in disguise.

Now I have a bob. It starts out short and is well enough cut to last a few months, going through stages as it lengthens. As I allowed the tap to bless my head with flowing water this morning, I was thankful.

I am thankful for the blessing of adequate water. I am thankful that I live in a corner of the world where I can keep clean by means of a good soak in a tub full of water. I’m thankful for the electricity that heats it; and the mixing valve that can adjust the water’s temperature to my seasonal desire for it. I am thankful for small things and small rituals and find miracles in them.

News from the garden

August 2, 2009

Frank came by to install baseboards on the main floor. He did an excellent job of it. We hadn’t seen each other in months.

In my solitary life, I’ve employed my time with writing, gardening and painting. I see friends and am working at promoting my art work. Of all of these, the only thing in which he is remotely interested is the gardening, so I took him on a tour.

I’m rather proud of what I have accomplished in the two years I’ve had this place. It was overgrown. Shrubs had to be cut back. The boxwood was so prolific that a car could no longer drive up the driveway. The iris beds were overrun and so thickly matted together that it was impossible to get a spade through them to thin them out as they should be. I’ve still not tackled that problem.

This year I have cleared some areas and turned the soil. I am a rank dilettante at this and happy to be so. I’m mostly interested in seeing what I can grow and with the renewed interest in growing one’s own food, I thought I might give it a try.

I understood that several things would thrive on rich soil such as one might find where a compost heap had once been. Whistler, on one of his lengthy visits, found the original compost heap and we used the surface dirt in other areas.

When I planned my food garden this year, I had to work around the fact that really, there was very little space left for food plantings. In May, the Triple Tree Nursery had a door crasher sale on seedlings. I went to get some tomato plants at sixty-eight cents each. There were cucumbers and squash plants as well and I had the luminous idea to put one or two in the old composting area. Since the trees had been cut back, lots of light came into this little corner of the yard.

I had an ulterior motive. All that garden area needs to be dug over and it’s a big spot.  It’s riddled with buttercup and I’ve only taken out a fraction of what needs to be removed. I had a hopeless thought that perhaps the squash and cucumber family of plants would grow so prolifically that their large leaves would cut off all the light from the buttercup and my garden woud not look quite so unkempt.

Then I lucked out on a purchase of several flats of annuals from a local farm. They were finished with their sale of plants. In amongst those things that I bought were fennel, so much Brussels Sprouts that I had to give more than half of the seedlings away,onions,  a few more tomatoes, some celery plants, more cucumber plants and what else I no longer remember. I spent perhaps fifteen dollars on the total of it, and seven dollars could be attributed to potential vegetables.

When I said I didn’t know exactly where I was going to plant them, that the garden was already pretty full, the farm lady said, “Your Brussel Sprouts can go in with the flowers. They are tall and their leaves very pretty. When they flower they are magnificent.

Within three days, all was planted. They were not in a vegetable patch. They were, as she suggested, in amongst the flowers with which, normally, I have a modicum of success.

That was the end of  May. When Frank saw the garden it was the end of June. It’s the end of July now and this is a progress report.

In the cheeriest voice I could muster, almost knowing before I said it, what his reaction would be. I said to Frank, “How do you like my vegetable garden?”

I chuckled inwardly as he struggled to keep his disdain from his voice. We have a tenuous friendship now and he was keeping his response in mind of this fact.

“I hope you didn’t outlay too much money for all this,” was all he would say, with as neutral a look as he could muster.

Since, I’ve had several occasions to doubt my ability to grow vegetables.  All previous attempts in my earlier years were disasters. Why would this year be an;y different? Notable  was the year that the deer got everything just a few days before I intended to harvest.  I consoled myself that they had not eaten the root vegetables, except for the tops of them. When I pulled out the remains, there were no roots. I think I had not watered them as I should.

Last year, the only food crop I had planted was yellow beans, but they were not successful. I gave the only bean that produced – yes, just one bean – to my sister to eat, and it was so small and tender that it did not even need cooking.

I took Lizbet to see Lillian’s wonderful garden on the fifteenth of July. Now, there is a garden! The cabbages are twenty four inches across. The garlic flowers stand six feet high. The raspberry canes are calling out for passers-by to steal a few of the plump berries. There are rows of tall onion plants. The lettuce crop has come and gone. She allows them to go to seed for next year and they are really rather beautiful, standing a good two to three feet tall with large leafy bases, some ruffled with red, some with a pale soft new green. Everything is developing, growing robustly, big and bountiful.

Several times, I’ve thought I should see whether or not my twenty dollars of seedling purchase could be justified. I would love to say that I had profited from my labours.

I’m inching up in this regard. The strawberries – perhaps a bowlful as the entire crop – doesn’t count. The plants were free, a gift from Lizbet. The handful of raspberries are already harvested. There were so few at a time that I ate them at the start of my gardening session, a kind of encouragement for my labours. They too, don’t count – the canes were a gift from Heather from her garden. Twice I have given a haircut to my chives and eaten them chopped fine in an omelet shared with some visiting relative. Again – no monetary return.

On Tuesday, I harvested ten lovely big broad beans, tender, full of goodness and tasty with just salt and butter. I ate them for dinner. I’ll hazard that I’m thirty cents to the good on that one. More are coming.

I don’t know what got into me today. The thriving potatoes that I had planted from sprouting old ones in the bottom of my fridge vegetable bin started to annoy me. They take up too much space. The Brussel sprouts are not growing and I suspect it’s because they don’t have enough light. So I pulled one out this morning only to find a potato half the size of a baseball.  I was encouraged.

I kept digging, dreaming of a new potato dinner. By the time I was finished, I had a pound of potatoes, I’ll hazard a guess. There’s another fifty cents. I replanted a few of the potatoes that had tiny new potatoes coming to see if that might work. You never know.

I cooked my harvest up for dinner. They have rather rough skins which I peeled away. When they were cooked al dente, they nevertheless fell into a powdery mush. Ach! I fried them up with butter, trying to make the best of a doubtful deal. They are the mashed potatoes type of potato. The little bit of butter became a big bit of butter. It didn’t matter how much butter was added, they simply absorbed it. I ate them all – and I didn’t even really like them.

I will add though, that my rhubarb is finally eight inches high, the celery is not any higher, the Brussels sprouts are on the average six inches high (my friend Lillian of the green thumb, hers are four feet high. Raspberries and strawberries, are of course, finished for the year. I have one big beautiful flower on the Butternut squash and the leaves, just today, have become big and are beginning to travel across the garden in a direction opposite to the buttercup they were supposed to disguise.  The onions that are supposed to be big like a baseball are still looking like bunch onions – small, weak and thin.

And that’s my progress report.

I think I’ll go out and rip all the potatoes out when it gets cool tonight. I didn’t even like them!