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Too small, too big, just right

October 12, 2009

last harvest day 007Today the kids and I harvested the last offerings of the garden. We pulled all but the tiniest carrots, which we decided to pry out of the frozen ground on Thanksgiving day. Col ripped off the outer purple cabbage leaves which the caterpillars had turned to lace and fed them to our chickens, wriggling, neon green caterpillars included. Rose helped me pull dusky green leaves off the stout kale plant that is as old as her, 2 years now, and just like a second child, grows strong and sturdy in the shadows while everyone fusses over a cherry tomato.

With most of the garden already cleared out, this year’s garden failures caught my eye like a flirtatious wink. Some of the carrots had grown so big they split at the seams, opening up their flinty orange innards to slugs and potato bugs. Meanwhile, some of the cabbage heads were so small that after taking up a square foot of garden space for 5 months, they could disappear into one family meal. And then there were the cucumbers—shriveled and blackened now—which I fussed and fretted over all summer long. Gritting my teeth in July, I pulled all the gorgeous magenta cosmos that cast a scalloped shadow on those cucumbers, and still not a single fruit grew on the stunted vines.

But today, with gold leaves fluttering through the flawlessly blue October sky, I felt the relief of letting go of failures, and of gratitude for simply the act of growing food. I imagine this is what parents feel thumbing back through the pages of their lives after their children are grown. So many seasons have come and gone that regrets fall away like baby teeth, and what shines is the love, the effort and simply the act of growing children.

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2-year old kale "trunk"

2-year old kale "trunk"

Col washing carrots

Col washing carrots

chard leaves making a comeback

chard leaves making a comeback

squabbles at the carrot washing station

squabbles at the carrot washing station

last harvest day 011

7 Comments leave one →
  1. October 12, 2009 11:17 pm

    Please write a post about the chickens sometime! I’m so intrigued by them and fancy getting some of our own if the city passes its darn ordinance.

  2. Rachel Kohnen permalink
    October 13, 2009 8:11 am

    So kale plants can live through the winter and provide yummy food for the next year? Huh! And I just rip them out of the ground…

  3. 6512 and growing permalink*
    October 13, 2009 8:20 am

    Katie, you are welcome to come over with your kids anytime and meet them; they are a fun bunch of ladies. And using chard? Exactly how you would use spinach.

    Rachel K, our 2 year kale plant was a happy accident, but I tend not to pull plants up so their roots can decompose in the ground. I bet if you covered some chard or kale with lots of straw, they might simmer quietly thru an Iowa winter.

  4. October 14, 2009 1:33 am

    It’s hard to believe but good to know even you have failures in the garden my little Green Queen! A beautiful and meaningful post that gave me the chills. I do so love watching you grow your family and am impressed by your ability to not let the memories fall away like those regrets.

  5. Ike permalink
    October 14, 2009 7:25 pm

    I am inspired by your writings on gardening and also enjoyed helping in the harvesting two weeks ago. I was also fortunate to get to eat many of the vegetables and fruit you grew. Who knows I may even plant some seeds in the Spring. One obstacle is that the Berkeley Farmer’s Market has such good organic produce that it is easy to use that as an excuse.


  6. October 15, 2009 10:10 am

    Beautifully written. I feel the same.
    Your blue October Sky sounds like a song.

    It is fog and rain here in MT this morning, but will hopefully clear out.

  7. November 2, 2009 1:54 am

    Congrats on the harvest. I’m envious of all your carrots.

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