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I hate to report it, but my green thumb isn’t looking too green this year. For the last few years I have enjoyed (for the most part) a little gardening time. For years my father-in-law provided fresh bounty from the soil, but as he is past 90 now his effort is limited to a few tomato plants.
The last two years I have patted myself on the back after producing a bumper crop of peas, string beans and the usual vegetables. I measure a good crop by the amount of feedback I get from my wife. The more peas and string beans she puts in the freezer – the same freezer that always has some leftover from previous years – the more she complains. It’s not that she doesn’t enjoy cooking them, or even eating them, but after spending her childhood helping her father in the garden she has far less enthusiasm. She even recalls ducking down in that garden when her friends would pass, but I better not go there.
I would also stress the importance of a well-stocked freezer, or freezers as she notes, could be important if something ever happened. My argument strengthened, at least in my mind, when the pandemic disrupted our nation’s supply chain and we saw the grocery store shelves get a little bare. Now before you start scratching your head, I’m not a prepper or a conspiracist. I just enjoy watching a garden grow and the delicious food that comes from it.
Back to my current status, after a strong start things are going downhill. My rattle-snake purple hull string beans (not to be confused with my purple hull peas) were off to a strong start. The seeds sprouted within days, two long beautiful rows coming up with no skips. First the rabbits found them, and after a few nights my rows were looking a little rough. Next we had a couple of big showers that left water standing in the clay dirt. Within a day, over half of them had wilted. They were almost ready to start running and I was back to square one.
I decided to replant one entire row last weekend. Determined, I slogged down a muddy row sticking seeds in the mud. I’m not sure how that will work, but it was worth a try.
Now to those purple hull peas, I planted eight long rows. I planted them later than the string beans and there was plenty of moisture to make them sprout within days. The only problem is that so far, only half of them are up. A beautiful stand of peas, in places, with no apparent reason for the rest of them not to sprout. Next came the crows. A day is all it took, I noticed them in the garden one morning and when I got home from work the damage was done. The good half of the peas that came up had been worked over, sprouts pulled up by the crows and left behind as they ate the seed.
I had purposefully planted them thick, so the crows’ work wasn’t too bad. I hastily assembled a scarecrow, my first attempt, and even though it worked I am probably better not show off my handiwork.
Next came the attack on the squash. My beautiful plants were only six inches tall when I noticed a problem, or should I say problems – the squash were dying. In the day-and-a-half that I didn’t go in the garden because it was too wet, the squash bugs attacked. I have never had a problem with squash bugs until the plants are much larger. I killed the squash bugs, mixed up a concoction to spray, and went to work on them. About half of them were too far gone, so I replanted those hills.
Meanwhile the only additions to the freezer have come from a few fishing trips. My buddy and I hit it hard each May after turkey season closes, catching bass, bream and crappie. We fish the farm ponds, easy pickings, and fillet everything we catch. The only thing better than a fresh tomato or fried okra is fried fish. Crappie is the best, but when you mix bass and bream fillets in it’s hard to tell the difference. Just ask my wife, we always tell her we are cooking crappie and she hasn’t caught on yet!
I guess the moral of the story is we better thank a farmer, a truck driver and our grocers. And it might not hurt to keep a rod and reel handy, just in case.