Summer means traveling out of state to visit friends and family over the next couple weeks! And that means leaving my garden for days at a time. Lucky for me and our family of plants, they’ll be in good watering hands each time I’m away. Farewell, little ones! Fare well!
There are two pumpkins growing side by side in the garden now... I think. Actually, I don’t know what they are anymore. Let’s play it safe and say there are two cucurbits growing side by side.
Both fruits are on the pumpkin plants, so they’re definitely siblings. They share a pumpkin mother. They started out looking identical, but as they’ve grown their shapes and textures have diverged so significantly that it’s become clear those maternal pumpkin blossoms were pollinated by bees fresh off blossoms of different plants. They’re half-siblings, then: they have different absentee fathers.
One looks more like its dad could’ve been a blossom from my nearby cushaw plant, or maybe the squash my neighbors are growing—butternut, perhaps. The other looks more like it’s pure pumpkin. Who knows how big they’ll each get, what shape they’ll take, what colors they’ll ripen to! This is the sort of accidental hybridization I’d try to avoid if I were hoping to grow a single uniform crop or preserve a specific variety of seeds for next year. As it is, I’m happy to let nature get a little promiscuous and see what comes of it.
Well, that tangle of squash plants is determined to take over the world, and the race is on. In comparison, the garden’s sole melon plant seems so timid and delicate. Different natures, I suppose. While the squash is pouring all its energy into exploratory vines, the melon is quietly at work setting its first fruit, and in that sense already a big step ahead. Look at those tiny little flowers, and the tiny little melon that emerged over the weekend!
Once you’ve reached far enough and grasped hard enough, no simple garden fence can keep you in. The world is yours for the taking.
If you keep reaching longer and farther, eventually you may just make contact...
I guess the only thing to do when you’re crowded out is to keep reaching further into the void.
The squash plants are putting out vines and leaves at such a frantic pace these days, competing for ever-more-limited space, it’s hard to recall how three months ago my main concerns were about whether they’d sprout at all. Now I’m afraid they’ll start strangling each other. Things just looked so empty back when I was planting. Noted for next year: sow squash seeds farther apart.
And with the rains come the rainbows.
When the monsoon season comes each here, Albuquerque evenings have the magic recipe for rainbows. The clouds that have blown across the city come up against the Sandia Mountains to the east and shed silvery walls of rain in the distance, while the sun descends in clear skies to the west, casting everything in gold. Out of that alchemy comes a shimmering arc of color over us all—sometimes two.
Winds were over twenty-five miles per hour this evening, causing the trees to toss above us as my dog and I walked through the park. A few downed branches attracted his attention and are now officially marked (how the mighty have fallen). At one point I made eye contact with a cat tensed some ten feet from us, ready to spring into fight or flight, but I guess all those gusts kept the feline scent from us, because Tycho didn’t even glance in its direction.
I love these winds, not just because they flood the city with coolness, but because they unsettle us. Everything is up in the air, as if anything could happen. The top branches are now the lowest. The cats can get close to the dogs. The smothering heat of summer can lift and we can all feel fresh again for a moment.
There are storms in the forecast. Storms, plural. Monsoon season is upon us, and I can’t wait for what it’s bringing.
I’ve heard many times over the months that there’s a long and storied history in this region of singing to one’s plants. Maybe it’s a tradition in communities around the world. I assumed from the start that this is one custom I wouldn’t bother adopting in my garden... until I did. By which I mean I’ve unconsciously developed the habit of humming while I water, and saying hello to the fresh blossoms each morning, and now of having conversations with my baby pumpkins and ever-taller corn and sprawling squash vines as I weed around them and peek under their leaves. Good morning, little ones! How are things going for you today? Are you getting everything you need? Any new buds or fruit to reveal?
Another development in the last week is a sudden burst of flowering from a few plants that haven’t otherwise shown much development throughout June’s heatwave. The buds are tiny—tinier than the nail on my pinky, so tiny I didn’t manage to get them in focus—but they’re there! Above is amaranth; below are bean and melon plants. Maybe now that we’ve had some cloudy days and highs have dropped from the hundreds back into the nineties, these plants are finally able to channel some energy that had been reserved for sheer survival toward creating the next generation.
Each person, human or no, is bound to every other in a reciprocal relationship. Just as all beings have a duty to me, I have a duty to them. If an animal gives its life to feed me, I am in turn bound to support its life. If I receive a stream’s gift of pure water, then I am responsible for returning a gift in kind. An integral part of a human’s education is to know those duties and how to perform them.
Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
The question of the survival of the family farm and the farm family is one version of the question of who will own the country, which is, ultimately, the question of who will own the people. Shall the usable property of our country be democratically be divided, or not? Shall the power of property be a democratic power, or not? If many people do not own the usable property, then they must submit to the few who do own it. They cannot eat or be sheltered or clothed except by submission. They will find themselves entirely dependent on money; they will find costs always higher, and money always harder to get. To renounce the principle of democratic property, which is the only basis of democratic liberty, in exchange for specious notions of efficiency or the economics of the so-called free market is a tragic folly.
(Wendell Berry, Bringing It to the Table p 34)
The wider the gap between us and our food, the more opportunity there is for the industrial food system to exploit our fears and drive us further into its camp.
To build alternatives and assert our independence requires that we rebuild our confidence as both individuals and communities. In effect, the dominance of the industrial food system is related as much to a crisis of confidence in ourselves as it is to that system’s ability to use its amassed power to control policy makers, markets, and consumers. Since a frontal assault on that power would be as futile as it would be foolish, the path to victory is by way of a renaissance of food knowledge and a reemergence of citizen democracy.
...erelong the most valuable of all arts will be the art of deriving a comfortable subsistence from the smallest area of soil. No community whose every member possesses this art, can ever be the victim of oppression in any of its forms. Such community will be alike independent of crowned kings, money kings, and land kings.
(Abraham Lincoln, Address to the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, 1859)
Community Supported Agriculture consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community's farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production. Typically, members or "share-holders" of the farm or garden pledge in advance to cover the anticipated costs of the farm operation and farmer's salary. In return, they receive shares in the farm's bounty throughout the growing season, as well as satisfaction gained from reconnecting to the land and participating directly in food production. Members also share in the risks of farming, including poor harvests due to unfavorable weather or pests. By direct sales to community members, who have provided the farmer with working capital in advance, growers receive better prices for their crops, gain some financial security, and are relieved of much of the burden of marketing.
Not only have my neighbors next door lent me the beauty of their sunflowers, my neighbors across town have blessed the whole community with a summer’s worth of fresh produce. Earlier this year I signed up to participate in a local farm’s Community Supported Agriculture program, or CSA. From now till the last harvest this fall, the two young farmers who run the place will gather a fresh supply of fruits and vegetables for participants from the community to pick up every Tuesday. This marks the fourth week that I’ve stopped in and loaded up, and so far we’ve feasted on apricots, beets, carrots, onions, garlic, lettuce, kale, chard, sweet peas, radishes, beets, turnips, and more. We’ll see what tomorrow brings!
My sunflowers have yet to grow up—the seeds I planted in April were promptly picked off by birds, and I waited too long in vain for them to make an appearance before replanting (deeper this time!). They’re still just babies at this point. But my next door neighbors planted a whole row of seeds a couple months ago, and they’ve been steadily reaching skyward this whole time. In the last couple of days, first pair opened up, right across from my own back door. Thanks, neighbor.
We reached a magic tipping point this morning! The cushaw squash and sugar pumpkin plants have been putting out beautiful golden blossoms for about two weeks now, but each one I’ve inspected has been male (thin neck, single anther, powdery yellow pollen). Today our first female opened up! The ants wasted no time in crowding around her sticky stamen, and I can only assume they were blissed out on nectar when I interrupted. But I wasn’t the only one to interrupt. Bees were buzzing from flower to flower as usual. Pollen with a side of nectar—jackpot. And hey, along the way, please do your thing, little ones: help this pair of flowers make a baby.