Talk about a busy time of year! Last week I got my bear baiting gear sorted, organized and ready to go, and had put out four sites where I might be lucky enough to garner the attention of a passing bruin. I have seen bears in all four places in recent years and can reasonably expect that at least one of the sites will hit the jackpot. Now it’s a matter of checking, replenishing the bait and deciding which bear is the one I want to go after.
Somewhere in the middle of all this I happened to wander past the garden and was astounded to find that just about everything I’d planted except corn was now ready to pick. Holy moly! I literally spent three days doing nothing but picking, snipping, cutting, blanching and freezing. I’d only meant to check on the yellow beans and found that they were not only ripe but ready to pick. I’d made a ring around the garden of yellow beans and every plant held a fistful of bright yellow, crunchy beans. I set to work with a vengeance and ended up with three 5-gallon pails of first pickings – with more to come. I spent several hours snipping, cutting, washing, blanching, cooling and packaging my harvest, more than enough to last me through the coming winter. I’ll have another, lesser batch in a few days, which should be all I’ll need.
There certainly is no rest for the weary! I cleverly planted my squash (yellow and zucchini) in the same pattern as the yellow beans, hoping to emulate the early Maine Indians who would plant squash, beans and corn in the same mound. The Colonists thought this was outrageously wasteful, but the Indians thought the Colonists’ row-on-row planting was silly, too. All I know for sure is that my squash plants are four feet high and loaded with perfect yellow or green fruits that kept me busy for another full day of processing. The corn, of course, won’t be ready for a few more weeks but that was my plan all along. The squash and corn provide sturdy backing for the beans, which, for the first time in my farming career, did not fall over onto the ground. I picked beans and squash at the same time and tossed them all in the same bucket, which made harvesting and processing a little easier. I think those Abenakis may have been on to something!
While wading through the garden greenery in search of forage I realized that my cucumbers had also some to fruition. Some of their vines had wandered through the beans, squash and corn so that here and there I’d find a nice, fat cucumber hanging a foot off the ground.
My rows of Big Beef tomatoes are now taller than I am and full of green tomatoes, but when viewed from different angles I can see a ripe, red specimen that needs to be picked. On any given day I’ll have four or five big, fat tomatoes ready to head for the table. It is odd that I can’t see them from one side of the garden yet they are glowingly obvious from another vantage point. One might think that a red tomato the size of a softball could be so hard to see amongst all that dark green foliage, but that has been the case for a couple of weeks now.
What spare time I could find lately has been spent picking blueberries and strawberries from my raised beds, and now the wild red raspberries are coming on as well. My little harvest bucket gets no rest these days!
It will be a while before the apples, pears and plums will be ready to pick, and most of the rests of my plantings have been flowers, so there’s nothing to do but admire them, which I find easy to do at day’s end while I conduct a back yard walkabout while enjoying my evening cup of hyssop tea. Even though I do a routine daily check on everything I grow I must admit that I hadn’t expected the beans and squash to be so early. I just planted them June 1, and I’m guessing they’ll have gone by before the end of July. Must be all that water I give them.
In a way I’m pleased that the garden is doing so well. I am hoping to have everything but the fruit put away for the winter by Aug. 29 because, of course, that’s the start of the bear hunting season and I certainly can’t miss that. I’ll be spending eight or more hours per day sitting on a stand somewhere hoping to see a shootable bear, which means there’ll be scant time to waste on such mundane things as yard work and gardening.
This is also the reason why I get my firewood cut, split and stacked in the wood shed by the end of April. Turkey season opens May 1 and I don’t want to miss a minute of it.
I’ve had this affliction for over 50 years and still can’t stand to spend an “open season” day doing anything other than hunting or fishing. I’ve skipped school, work and a wide variety of routine responsibilities just so I can spend more time outdoors. All I have to do is see an interesting bird, animal or natural event and I consider it a day well spent, although there have been many teachers, employers and significant others who tended to disagree. We all have our addictions (Pokemon seems to be the current rage) but mine happens to be whatever is happening outdoors.
Every year it turns out the same way; once bear season opens I won’t really see my yard again till December, when the deer season ends. With luck and good weather I’ll get the raking and other fall chores done before snow flies. If not, well, there’s always next year!