Tonight after my work was finished I sat in the garden studying a squash plant, hoping for some answers. Earlier it was the beans and yesterday it was broken limbs of several tomato plants that took quite a beating several nights ago in a storm that blew through. Summer is here no matter what the calendar says. Summer for me is marked by scorching days in the field battling crab grass and Bermuda on behalf of struggling vegetable crops.
It’s like this every year, the only difference is this year the work I’m doing now is a month early. My spring work of lumbering through soggy fields admiring heads of lettuces and greens standing out against the dark soil, with only little cultivation needed passed quickly, I feel like I missed it all together. I do get little comfort in knowing come fall I’ll get another chance. The carrots, beets, turnips, radishes and all things spring will get their chance to flourish again come the cool days of fall. But right now it’s down to the summer business of daily harvesting, hacking away at the grass that threatens the peppers, tying up tomato plants, and of course watering.
Something is getting my squash plants. It very well could be the vine borer but when I dissect a wilting plant I find no trace. Whatever it is, it strikes at the base of the plant just barely below soil level like a cut worm, although, again I have found no evidence. So there I am sitting, watching, expecting the answer to appear before my very eyes. It’s always something, squash bugs, vine borers. So I just take out the dead and dying, cultivate the soil a bit and re- plant usually no questions asked. No use fighting with squash bugs although I do try and I will go to the effort of careful surgery on the vine borer.
I miss the cool mornings of spring, walking into the field in a sweat shirt, shorts and muck boots wet with dew, coffee in hand and small pad of paper in my pocket. No time for that now, no time for morning walks. Mornings are windows of opportunities to get hard jobs done before the heat becomes unbearable. Walks now are in the evening just before the sun goes down, glass of wine in hand and a small pad of paper in my pocket so I can write down something I see that needs to be done. I can’t trust myself to remember.
Summer is a crucial time of year, it’s when all the winter planning comes to bear fruit, failure and success delicately balanced, anything could happen and usually does. So much rides on summer, recouping all the investment that came from purchasing seed, compost, tools and labor and insuring a smooth financial transition into winter when income is extremely small. Back in February when I first broke the winter sod with the chisel plow, cutting through the earth loosening the ground to make way for an edible landscape I was full of hope of what summer would bring. Sometimes things don’t work out and I have to cut my losses, I’ve come to accept that now and come to understand what is worth saving.
It only takes a few things going wrong to make summer a living hell and it only takes a few things going right to make that living hell half bearable. One must be an optimist to survive an Oklahoma summer. One must always look to cooler days and second chances and lessons learned. That’s part of summer work, mopping your face with your filthy shirt and going on to the next thing on the list.