Hugh is 7 and a half months old and my garden is ripe within the heyday of summer. While both still require time and attention (more for the baby than the garden, obviously), lately the tide has shifted from constant analysis to moments of pure enjoyment.
Around this time each year, I have no choice but to shake free of the failures of my garden and enjoy the successes. It’s too late to replant a crop that didn’t work. It’s too late to fill in a gap in one of the beds. This year, my tomatoes, eggplant, and delicata squash are either fruiting or setting flowers, promising future harvests in weeks or months. The potatoes have flowered and the potato plants are beginning to wilt, sending their final bit of energy to the underground tubers. The basil is perky and richly green and the beans require constant picking. These are the highlights, and this year, more than any year in the past, I’m reveling in them.
Raising Hugh has gifted me with an admittedly still burgeoning ability to take pleasure in the triumphs and notice—but not dwell—on what’s not working. There’s no such thing as a perfect garden (or a perfect anything, really) but my garden enjoyment in year’s past has always been tinged with annoyance or even sadness about the vegetables that didn’t work. Last year, due to weather and timing, I didn’t harvest any melons and only plucked two butternut squash off the vine before temperatures made it impossible for any more to mature. I agonized over this, vowing to “do better” next year. Next year is now this year and it’s a guessing game as to if we’ll harvest the delicata before frost. The plants are abundantly healthy with many flowers, but I have to wait and see if they’re able to fruit and if the remainder of our summer is hot enough to encourage quick growth.
Once again, my melons and peppers have not worked. I grew healthy melon starts that transplanted well. The plants quickly put on runners and sent out flowers but have basically remained in stasis for about a month. Let’s get real: it’s mid July; I’m not harvesting any melons this year either. The pepper plants did not transplant well, potentially seeking a nutrient the bed wasn’t able to provide. No flowers = no peppers.
It’s hard to write this, but it’s not crushing. No melons or peppers. Big deal. I’ve learned even more lessons for the next growing season. (Start even earlier, grow under a makeshift greenhouse, soil test all the beds).
Now back to focusing on what is working—dozens of potatoes curing in the soil, green tomatoes inching towards red, yellow bush beans aplenty, more basil than I know what to do with, and the possibility of harvest baskets full of eggplant and delicata squash.
Hugh is now babbling nearly all day (gunga munga he says), sitting upright, eating, and beginning to really play with toys. It’s hilarious, heartwarming, and as every parent knows, bittersweet, to observe my infant start his transition into capability. Things are changing quickly around here. It was just a month ago that he was neither sitting up nor eating solids and today he sits in between my legs banging his toys together to test sounds and then sits beside me at the dining table jamming cantaloupe in his mouth, smiling at me. When we go on walks and he’s outward facing, he kicks his legs, he smiles, he babbles, and as a result, i’ve had more kind conversations with random people than ever in my entire life. These are precious moments in which I’m trying to be fully present. In garden analogy, his babbles, laughs, and early play are my garden’s potatoes, basil, and beans.
When Hugh is out and is smiling and laughing, I’m frequently asked “is he always like this?”. Well, no. No, he doesn’t always smile and laugh, but it’s truly nice to be as present as possible when he is. The days he’s teething, the days he only wants to eat, the times he hurts himself or gets scared, the aborted excursions because he’d rather be home, the food all over the floor. That’s part of it too, and should be recognized to make a complete picture. Yet just like I’ll remember the successes and take note of the misses in this year’s garden, with Hugh I hope to remember and bask in these fun times, while knowing that the more challenging moments are necessary, both for his growth and mine.