In early October, I drove deep into Oregon’s wine country twice, but I never had a sip of wine.
Instead, I returned home with a beautiful bouquet of zinnias and dahlias, courtesy of Beth Satterwhite, co-farmer of McMinnville’s Even Pull Farm. Beth, along with her partner Erik Grimstad, grow an impressive number of vegetable and flower varieties on two acres of rented land tucked beside hazelnut orchards and grass-seed fields. Though only two years into full-time farming, the couple has quickly assimilated into McMinnville’s food scene, and their vegetables are prominently featured in wine country home kitchens and local restaurants.
A garden can lift you up or break you down, and this year, our garden has succeeded at doing both.
Some of our garden’s struggles were the result of human error, despite planning and best efforts. The first summer we lived in this house, we rescued our backyard doug fir trees from their ivy blankets, which had wrapped far up the trunks and was quickly threatening to kill the decades-old trees. Thanks to us, the trees are thriving, their branches now extending more than halfway into our backyard and blocking valuable light. In fact, a few problems can be partially attributed to one of the constant struggles of urban and backyard gardeners: instead of wide, flat fields, the sun free to shine all day long on the plants, my yard is surrounded by trees, trees that make living in a house and city pleasant but make gardening far more challenging.
The garden really comes into its own by early July. After months of excessive care, problem solving, and troubleshooting, my time spent in the garden at this point is – for the most part – relaxed. I can simply sit on the back deck and look at it. I can wander amongst the raised beds and take notice of just-opened calendula and about-to-open sunflowers. I can make guesses as to when those green tomatoes will transform into red orbs. It’s at this point in the season, every year since I’ve gardened, that I find myself wondering if there’s more I should be doing. I suppose when you spend an entire spring seeding, potting up, setting up slug and pill bug bait, laying protective netting, and hammering in stakes for trellises, it’s natural to feel confused that this period in July is simply about enjoyment.