Ever Bigger

The garden fruit is coming in now, which I have to say is my favorite time of the year. A few figs have begun purpling (is that a real verb?) and promise to be delicious.  Surprisingly, what we were told were june berries turned out to be something called wineberries, which are native to this part of the country and completely scrumptious.  There are however, a different kind of berry growing in the same bed, that look a bit more like blackberries, but could turn out to be the june berry.  I’m learning things all the time in the garden as more new things grow.

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My hands are always this dirty nowadays
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Beautiful wineberries with a smattering of cucumbers
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Blackberry, or june berry? Only time will tell.

Speaking of learning new things: WE HAVE AN UPDATE ON THE MYSTERY SQUASH.  Drumroll pleeeeassse!  *rapid snare drum comes out of nowhere*

They’re PUMPKINS! Baby pumpkins!  Seeing as they’re only about the size of a fist, they probably aren’t good for pie making (DRAT) but will make excellent coffee table decoration.  Where they came from, though, is still a mystery.

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Not quite orange yet

Another one of my favorite, and completely unexpected, things to have happened in the garden this year is, what I’m calling, the bonsai sunflower. Our sunflowers are over six feet tall at this point, with beautiful burt orange blossoms just larger than tea cup saucers.  However, one flower made it’s way into another bed, a bed with a much more shallow soil depth.  As a result, this sunflower, which I can only assume to have been on the same seed as the giants ones, is only about 18 inches tall, but still with a full blossom!  Nature’s quirks never cease to amaze.

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I’ve decided to name him Tyrion.

We had plenty of volunteers at our new Sunday workday, which was a relief because Elise and I have been trying to eat all of these cucumbers by ourselves. We’ve got Boston pickling cucumbers coming out of our ears.  The lemon cucumbers are also beginning to come in, and I still don’t know where they taste like lemon, or just kind of look like lemons. I’ll find out I guess.  We’ve harvested just about the rest of the kale, and a lot of swiss chard – a wonderful ruby red – and practically had enough produce to distribute our own little CSA boxes for the volunteers on Sunday.

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Lulu keeping guard over the harvest
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Volunteers harvesting some chard
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The chard money shot. Yum!
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UVa Community Garden CSA? And yes, those are green beans!

I just finished Joel Salatin’s book, Folks, This Ain’t Normal which was completely engaging, funny, horrifying, and uplifting all at once.  I highly recommend it for anyone who cares about food or human culture in general. I could be biased though, because really the book appeals to my inner grumpy old man, who, unfortunately, is becoming stronger every day. Joel takes a look at standard practices in food culture, derived from a systemically produced American idea that we don’t ever screw up, and points out that not only are they not healthy, nor sustainable, nor responsible, but they just AREN’T NORMAL.  It only took me a few chapters to understand that the tone of the book’s title is not one of a scolding father, but one of an exasperated neighbor who does not understand what is going on.

It would seem that in our quest to do and make and have things faster, cheaper, more efficient, larger, we never back track.  We’ve shot a hole in the roof of our house, and instead of figuring out ways to fix the roof (or improve our aim) we’re trying to figure out which would be the best bucket to put underneath the hole when it rains. And when that bucket leaks, we find another, and another. You know Albert Eisten said the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expected a different result.

But what I think the most valuable thing I got out of this book was what he said when it comes to farmers.  When you move somewhere new, you have to find a new dentist, a new GP, a new job, a new school, a new park to take your dog to.  You should also have to find a new farmer.  Find the person who’s going to be providing you with food.  Know who they are, what they do, and how they do it.  Have a relationship with your farmer and with your food.  Would you really want your teeth cleaned by a dentist you never got to meet, and whose credentials were, at best, dubious?

That wouldn’t be normal.

-Grace

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