Journal Entry: Gardening Is Difficult, and Other Truths

exquisite flowers, not from our garden

Early this morning I stood outside near the badminton net in our back yard, clutching a dog poop bag in my hand and waiting for Scout to do his doings. Something on the ground caught my eye; further examination revealed a half-eaten green tomato, abandoned. Dammit. Hope you enjoyed it, scalawag, whoever you are, I said aloud to the cool morning air.

When Scout had finished and the two of us climbed the back steps to the door, I noticed a tomato frame situated over one of several galvanized tubs on the back deck was askew. Yep, it was definitely our green tomato that had been pilfered by an unknown creature. Funny it chose a green one, I mused. There were three perfectly ripe red ones ready for the picking, untouched.

Inside the house, I mentioned it to The Chef, whose displeasure was written on his face. A while later he went outside to inspect for himself, and then came back in and told me about the spider who’d spun a web between two of our tomato plants, said I should be careful, and asked did I want him to remove it. Nah, leave it be, I said. I went out to see, and found this spectacular orb weaver:

She is a beauty, and I suppose is the silver lining in this latest episode of garden predation; too bad she’s not a tad bigger.

We have all but given up on gardening. Chef and I agreed that the cost of planting is clearly not worth the yield—we can go to the local farmers’ market or the little grocer down on the corner and pick up gorgeous produce. About the only thing we’ve had any success growing, aside from a few tomatoes, is fresh herbs. Herbs, we can handle. But this year, the thieves have taken all our lettuce, every single bean, and they’ve even bitten the blooms off our flowers. David planted marigolds after reading that they discourage garden pests; but as soon as the first one started blooming, BOOM! Gone. (Thing is, I don’t think they’re especially unattractive to the mammalian variety of pests.)

The two of us have been watching a series on Netflix lately called The Last Kingdom, all about Danes who wear bones in their beards (heathens) and Saxons (devout Christians) vying for power in the eighth century—it is mainly an excuse for bloody gore, and references to “plowing” women (and I don’t mean women out tilling fields), and scenes of the plowing of women, and more bloody battles, and Important Meetings, and arranged royal marriages, et al., in a plot that at least whispers of historical accuracy. Still, it is entertaining enough. We just call it “Chest Thumpers,” as in, Would you like to watch Chest Thumpers this evening, or shall we find a movie?

Anyway, that single half-eaten green tomato in our back yard got me thinking about those eighth-century chest thumpers and how missing a tomato like that, together with the rest of the yield, might be serious news indeed. We have the luxury of the supermarket to fill in the gaps left by thieving squirrels, ground hogs, skunks, and whoever else has been robbing us blind.

On this weekend’s run to the supermarket I bought ingredients to make a different kind of soup, a thick, green spinach, potato, and leek soup topped with a lovely pistachio gremolata. I spent the afternoon making it. This is a soup you can eat hot or cold, a nice option this time of year.

nothing has pilfered our fresh herbs

I made some substitutions. Instead of sautéing the leek and garlic in olive oil, I used olive oil spray in a non-stick wok (and not a Dutch oven). Instead of adding salt, I used about a tablespoon of low-sodium soy sauce (a Pritikin trick I lean on all the time). I used a low-sodium chicken broth, and I retained the skins on the potatoes, because 1) less work, and 2) potato skins are an excellent source of nutrients and fiber. If you wanted to make this soup vegetarian/vegan, you could use vegetable stock in lieu of chicken stock.

I also used my immersion blender for the first time. It was a gift from Chef David several Christmases back, at a time I was missing some things left behind when I moved from Tennessee to Vermont, or lamenting things that were broken in a previous chapter of my life but never replaced. I was a little gun-shy about using it in my lovely wok, so I transferred the soup to a mixing bowl to perform this final step. The result: an aromatic, vibrant green potato soup that will be lunch all week.

the pistachio gremolata adds an explosion of flavor

I leave you with images of our evening outdoors on an unseasonably cool August evening in this southwestern corner of Vermont. The aioli for the tacos is a concoction of The Chef’s devising we’re calling ‘pestoli’ because a chief ingredient is our homemade pesto. Be sure to admire the citronella candle The Chef made a little earlier this afternoon from the wax remnants of spent candles.

Stay safe, live well.

One thought on “Journal Entry: Gardening Is Difficult, and Other Truths

  1. The problems with the garden sound all too familiar. We discovered that the chipmunks were our biggest pests. The fencing kept the rabbits and wood chucks out but the chipmunks just sped through the fence like it wasn’t there! They ate all the buds on the beans and took out our second planting of radishes and removed all the cherry tomatoes they could reach! We had to fence off the garden from our dog because he loved tomatoes – ripe or green. I hope Scout is not the tomato thief! The soup recipe looks delicious and I’m going to try it! Sparky loves all things potato and spinach…

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