We planted Winterwunder lettuce today. And finally I planted my little goji berry bushes, which I got months ago and have only now the clarity on where to put them. Then I began cleaning out the garden. The borage plants have fallen over completely and lay like clouds of blue flowers across paths and garden beds. I chopped them at the base and took them to the back end of the garden to compost, hoping they would bless the soil there with borage cheer, for this is one of its fine qualities. The paths are overgrown with grass and weeds, and I wacked away at those too, making good progress. I have lots of green tomatoes, and baby butternuts, too. It’s rained so much I wonder if these have gotten the sunshine they need to ripen.
Already I’m planning for next year. There are a few herbs of which I’d like to grow a more harvestable crop—valerian, butterfly weed, nettle, and Echinacea come first to mind. There are areas of the garden that need to be revitalized, and as always new places to grow things. And still there’s many herbs to be harvested before August 7th, which is, according to archeoastronomy, the exact date of Lammas. After this there will still be things to harvest, but the window for herbal vitality will be closing. Then it will still be the season of elderberries and elecampane roots.
The more I gather from my garden, the more I harvest from the fields and slopes around me, the more I find myself woven with mystery. Yesterday we ate our first peach of the season. I haven’t eaten but one commercial peach all year, and this made it all the more remarkable. What alchemists plants are! To take the same soil and sun and rain and make each its own miracle: leaves fortified with iron, as with kale, or gold flowers endowed with medicine, as in calendula (which is the queen of my garden right now), or the sweet perfection of a peach. I can’t help but think that our culture of mass-produced food has taken away not only the vitality of our food, but also our own vitality, for what can compare to the experience of eating something as rare and fine as a peach grown on your own land? No matter how perfect the South Carolina or California peach, it is just a peach. It has traveled from some unknown tree to your kitchen. But to know the tree, and the miracle of its fruit, which has survived late Spring snow and wind and grown from a hard green pebble to a robust blushing fruit, and then to eat that miracle—there is nothing like it. It is precious and joyful and fine.
And it is the peach chopped into bite size pieces to share with Renee, and the bee balm flowers dried and now stored in a mason jar, smelling of heaven, and the St. John’s wort tincture sipped by my worry-minded husband till he tips over into cheerfulness—all these gifts and thousands more have become my rituals, the means by which I know the divine.
Tonight’s dinner: vegetables with lentils over pasta, splashed with ume plum vinegar and sprinkled with feta cheese. The vegetables were onions and carrots, grilled artichokes and sundried tomatoes, plus yellow beans, basil, thyme, and chard from the garden. The lentils were seasoned with miso as well, which rounded out their flavor nicely.
I hope tomorrow to have enough half and half to make homemade peach ice cream. Yummm.