Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Catching Up

Today is David's last day of school, a full eight days after mine, and he is beat. I remember being in his place two weeks ago, when I couldn't muster up excitement that the year was nearly over. I was swamped with 87 final exams and 50-something Huck Finn papers, so the tunnel was long and dark.

Exhausted, I left my classroom a wreck and returned just yesterday to start cleaning it. In the afternoon, I sunbathed on the back porch and read Finn, a new book by Jon Clinch that is a sort of prequel to Twain's classic. (It's deliciously sinister, by the way.)

Ahhhhh...finally, I truly feel On Vacation, my visit to school notwithstanding.

The garden is gloriously in bloom, and David has been diligent about upkeep and documenting it (by photos, not by blogging, obviously). Our Team Bernstein concept was shipwrecked for awhile when I was in my first trimester, scarfing down ginger ale and saltines and acting like a zombie. David was left to make all five raised beds, fill most of them himself, and rototill the soil until it was was sweet and smooth. I did a lot of the planning and planting, but he definitely played first string this year.

We worried that the "organic" compost we bought from a colorful and loquacious character in Franklin was more like mulch -- huge pieces of bark and wood -- but it seems to be doing well, especially after the addition of some good humus, compost, and fertilizer, then mixed together with the de-rocked original soil. We haven't tested the soil, and we did little to vary it for different vegetables (except for the potatoes' spot, to which we added sand). (Those purple flowers are from the purple potato plants.)

My niece Emma asked what other vegetables we grew (I'd sent her a photo of our first potato -- a marble-sized tuber), so I made a list:
yellow squash
acorn squash
butternut squash
15 types of tomatoes (34 plants in all)
3 types of potatoes
4 types of beans
8 types of lettuce
swiss chard
paprika peppers
herbs (basil [four types], oregano, marjoram, chives, cilantro, dill, lavender, rosemary,
chamomile, tarragon, parsley, and thyme)
The catnip took some strategizing, because last year, Sawyer and Finley (and several neighborhood cats) lounged all over the human herbs as they munched on their special treat. This time, we got smart, planting two catnip varieties away from the other plants, and spaced about a foot from each other. At the rate Sawyer is currently catnipping, it's a good thing: one plant can recover a few leaves while the other gets devoured. In a seed mix-up, I planted butterfly weed and catnip together and planted them both in the herb bed. The private stash is now blossoming, free from feline marauders, and I hope Sawyer doesn't notice. When he eats down his stores, we'll transplant the secret plants.

David says his favorite garden chore is collecting suckers from tomato plants, and he performs this task every day after school. Hands smelling of tomato leaves (there's nothing like that scent!), he is pleased to control the wayward growth of our favorite crop. It really has made a difference, I think, in the quality and size of our plants. They are the largest and strongest we've had to date, now that their energy is focused on producing a central stem and fruit. The tomatoes have varying lengths of time they need to produce a harvest (the shortest is 68 days, I think, and the longest almost 90!), but we already have a good many little green tomatoes and tons of flowers).

Here is a series of shots, taken approximately one week apart, of the same bed of tomato plants (June 7, 14, and 20th, respectively):

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