December 09, 2021

Fall garden full of surprises

Fall is my favorite season. Call me a romantic if you want, I don’t care. I am a romantic. There’s something about the angle of the sun, fall colors, and the smell of decaying leaves, that makes me want to lie down on a grassy knoll, in the warm afternoon sun, and melt into nature.

It was on such a Saturday that I decided to strip off what remained in our garden and put it to rest for the winter. Our garden this year, as is typical of most years, was full of surprises. The pumpkins died off from too much rain in the spring, so there were no happy, orange heads to give away and decorate front porches. The Indian Corn, however, was outrageous, growing 10 feet tall and producing multi-colored ears a foot long, with sometimes two ears per stalk. A scary-looking opossum tried to help itself, but I outsmarted it (twice) with a live-animal trap and a sacrificial ear of corn. The opossum hissed at me, but I cautiously released it to enjoy another day. Opossums, I’m told, are quite beneficial as they cause very little damage and eat their fair share of ticks, snails and slugs (and Indian Corn if you’re not vigilant).

The cucumbers were disappointing and over-achieving at the same time, sorta like teenagers. I planted two rows of the burpless boats, but only three plants came up. Grrr. However, those three plants produced more fruit for salads, cucumbers-and-onions, and relish than Ginnie and I could give away, consume, or slice, salt and eat. My palate runneth over.

Each year Ginnie and I like to try something new. Last year it was okra, the year before it was strawberry popcorn. This year it was sunflowers. Ginnie bought a packet of one-dozen giant heirloom sunflower seeds from Our Iowa magazine. Of the dozen, 10 came up and reached for the sky. Oh, my gosh! We won’t have to purchase anymore heirloom seeds for a while because I harvested enough to last for eons. Ginnie’s gonna give away little packets of sunflower seeds for Christmas presents. When I put the word out on social media about the heirloom seeds, we had quite a number of takers. I sent one packet to Hiawatha (that has a nice ring to it). Might as well spread God’s bounty throughout the world. And, yes, our sunflowers were giants — 12 feet to be exact. We have proof. Ginnie took a picture of me on a ladder with a tape measure up against one of the giants. She had the paramedics standby just in case.

My, my, my. The Indian Corn! I didn’t count, I just shucked and filled the back end of Ginnie’s Gator. I put a picture on social media before I was halfway through harvesting and we had people driving out to get some. They tried to pay but I said, “Naw, God’s bounty is free to all.” I sent some to Fairfield and even to an old friend in Georgia. In return, he sent me a book on spiritual experiences. Seems fitting. In a way, harvesting Indian Corn was spiritual.

While shucking Indian Corn I stepped on something. A cucumber! Lo and behold, there were dozens of the stunted little guys hiding in the weeds. How cute. I grabbed a bucket and filled it. My curiosity up, I looked further and found an abundance of green peppers and, flashing in the sun, trying to draw attention, red ripe tomatoes, both cherry and regular, and even a few onions. Great day in the morning! Go out for Indian Corn and come back with a cornucopia. Ginnie made stuffed-pepper soup!

Let it rain, let it snow, let it freeze. The garden will lie fallow until next spring when I burn off the weeds and fire up the tiller. Add a little cow manure and she’ll be ready for spring planting. What will we try next? Any suggestions?

Contact Curt Swarm at curtswarm@yahoo.com