Saturday, September 09, 2006

Gardening in Minnesota's unknown coldest spot

My gardening plans took an abrupt turn this morning, as I realized that not even 6 mil plastic or old tarps can fend off 25 degree frost.

Beans, done. Summer squash, done. Winter squash, done. Cucumbers, done (although there may be a vine or two that survived.) Peppers and eggplant, of course. Basil, a fragrant memory. Tomatillo, maybe I can harvest the fruits but they are so small I don't know if it's worth it. Tomatoes...I'm beginning to wonder if it's possible here.

I really thought I would feel more devastated than I did. I may have uttered an expletive or two when I first viewed the damage, but surprisingly I was thinking, Okay. So the final crop will be less than expected, but what has been the harvest this year?

The harvest has well exceeded the crop. Although I won't have a bumper crop of tomatoes this year, and I won't even get to taste some of the varieties I planted, I still come away from this gardening season with more than what I put into it. I have the knowledge, from observing soil conditions, plant health and insects, but it's more than what I learned. I realized that the largest harvest comes from the doing, the planning, the moments spent out there looking across the swamp, the morning I saw the harriers in their courtship flight, the honest muscle aches from a hard day's work, the standing back and seeing the beauty of it all. The crop is just a small part of the harvest.

I have had my fill of summer squash. Of cucumbers. I have enjoyed a few tomatoes, and the smell of fresh basil. I have a bucket full of onions, and enough garlic to last for a while. Tomorrow I will plant more lettuce and kale and spinach; even in autumn there is still room for growth. Carrots still wave their feathery heads, and the Swiss chard is indestructible. I have rutabagas, and parsnips, and potatoes to dig. And there are enough ripe, and almost ripe tomatoes, and maybe a few pints of green tomato salsa to make.

As a matter of fact, I could not help but notice the overwhelming beauty of the world today. The kids spied a red-tailed hawk riding the wind currents, and said "Mom! An eagle with a red tail!" Asters bloomed everywhere. I took a walk in the woods with Calvin and discovered parts of our own land I'd long forgotten. The sky was a clear, piercing blue, the woods smelling of frost and decaying ferns and pine needles. I found a new blueberry patch, on our land, to check next year, and blackberry growing everywhere. It was all wonderful, the best place I could ever hope for. The small setbacks; they are just that. In the larger scheme of things, this is it. Living in the moment.


LauraHinNJ said...

Give thanks for the harvest (though I'm sad you've had frost already!)

I haven't had my fill of tomatoes yet, luckily they will ripen into early October here.

You have harriers on your land? What a treat.

pablo said...

Nicely done post. I especially like the strong ending.

Our suburban tomatoes did not do well this year. The toms mostly rotted before they ripened.

I'd love to have blueberries on my land, but I'm told it's too dry.

How many acres are in your wonderland?

Floridacracker said...

What an excellent post.
"The harvest has well exceeded the crop"

madcap said...

Sorry about the tomatoes. We haven't had a true frost yet, it's been exceptionally warm for an exceptionally long time here. I remember that two years ago on September 9 we had a heavy snow!

Are your poly-tarps draped over the plants themselves or are they on a frame of some sort?

Deb said...

LauraH- The harriers were indeed a treat. I've noticed a lot of them around here, but the pair I saw was just magical.

pablo- we have 40 acres. I usually stop at the woods south of our cabin, about 10-15 acres of pines, birch, and aspen. I've been meaning to cut some trails thru there, but there's always something else that takes higher priority.

FC- thanks. I get a lot just from the act of gardening.

madcap- I have PVC hoops over most of the tomato beds; basically a 10' (I think) length of 1" PVC pipe bent to cover a 4 foot wide bed. There are 3 or 4 of them per 8 foot bed. Over that I stretch 6 mil building plastic, not any fancy greenhouse stuff. The beds that don't have hoops I cover with whatever's available; old tarps,lumber wrapping, whatever.

But, you see how all that worked. I'm thinking of constructing a permanent greenhouse, or having beds covered with the large size bubble wrap for insulation. Seriously. I want to grow tomatoes here!

Lynne said...

25 DEGREE FROST!! I think you beat Embarrass!

Tracy said...

What a beautiful post. You captured my mood as autumn approaches. People from other parts of the country always wonder why we want to live here in Minnesota. I can never really explain that the changing seasons are just what they are supposed to be, and that even if we give up one thing (the garden), we also gain so much more as each season passes into another.