Hat and bibs for Garden '21 - Empty Nest by Curt Swarm


I didn't get the garden in until Wednesday, May 12, this year, Hump Day. (Am I over the hump?) In a burst of energy, guilt and backache, I slammed the plants and seed into the ground all in one day. Ginnie couldn't help 'cause she was taking care of Granddaughter, Aria, while Aria's mother was having surgery. Aria is such a pretty name, it means melody sung by a single voice. So fitting.

            I planted a dozen tomato plants—four Beefeater, four Early Girl, and four Sweet Cherry.  (Ginnie always wants the cherry, and then is aghast at what to do with them all.)  Alongside the tomato plants went six peppers—two green Bell Boys and four Big Reds.  Crowding the peppers are red onions, for salsa, cha, cha, cha.   

            I'm gonna “Give peas a chance” this year (Green Arrow), although rabbits eat them right off, but leave the lettuce (Butter Crunch and Baby Romaine) alone.  Strange. 

            What's lettuce without radishes?—Cherry Bell. 

            We've had good luck with Blue Lake bush beans in the past, so I planted two long rows of green beans.  (We may need help.)  Cousin Rick from Arizona comes to our house each summer just to eat green beans and sweetcorn.  I personally love beans-and-bacon, along with sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and onions, sweetcorn, and wilted lettuce.  I could turn into a vegetarian in the summer, although grilled burgers or steaks go good with garden veggies. 

            Along with the Peaches and Cream sweetcorn, and a good distance away so as to prevent cross pollination, I threw in what I call Indian Corn, although the politically correct term is Decorative Corn.  Within the rows of Indian Corn went three hills of Connecticut Field “punkins”--the jack-o-lantern size.  (I don't like having to get the forklift to move monster “punkins.”)  What's fall decoration without orange “punkins” and colorful Indian Corn? 

            I may have messed up and planted the cucumbers (Green Dragon Burpless) too close to the “punkins.”  Last year the “punkins” and cucumbers cross pollinated and created a strange gourd that was next to worthless, although sort of attractive for fall decoration. 

            Each year I like to plant something different.  This year it's sunflowers!  “Our Iowa” Magazine has a competition to see who can grow the tallest sunflowers from their heirloom seeds—Russian Mammoth, 12' or taller, heads as big as dinner plates.  Ginnie bit, so along the north edge of the garden will be sunflowers.  We may have to erect a scarecrow to keep the birds away. 

            That rounds out the garden for '21, a hefty undertaking that always gets the better of us, trying to keep up with weeds and harvesting.  But then I overdo most everything.  I did major battle with chipmunks last year.  They like to dig up seed and stuff their cheeks.  Hopefully, I've eradicated them, although I did see some dirt mounds when tilling.  Hmmm. 

            While I was working in the garden, I noticed our McIntosh Apple tree, loaded again with blooms and tiny apples.  Amazing.  Rabbits literally stripped the bark off the tree trunk and high up into the branches.  But the tree rebounded, seemingly unfazed.  Nature never fails to amaze me. 

            While working in the garden I cut some tender young rhubarb stalks for Ginnie.  She tried out a new recipe on me: rhubarb-pudding crisp.  Man-o-man, with vanilla “i-scream”--melt in your mouth.  Does Ginnie spoil me?  Yup. 

            I may have made a major blunder last fall.  Thinking we had Purple Martins swooping our yard for insects, I spent a lot of money with the Amish and bought a rather expensive Martin House and erected it (another story).  We waited and waited impatiently this spring for the Martins to return and take up housekeeping in their new “hotel.”  It was also a lot of work keeping the sparrows and grackles from nesting in it.  Finally the big day arrived when we saw our first “Purple Martins.”  However, they nested in one of our sheds, building a nest of mud and sticks, instead of using the fancy Martin House.  Come to find out we have Barn Swallows instead of Purple Martins.  Dang it!  

            But the finches have returned in full regalia, both the Gold Finches (Iowa's State Bird) and the reddish House Finches.  They like to hang upside down from the perches on our window feeders (so cute).  So we'll make do with the birds we have.  I dunno what will become of the Martin House.

            Due to a recent skirmish with skin cancer on the top of my head, I was real careful to keep a hat on while working in the garden.  I used to laugh at “old people” who kept themselves covered when out in the sun.  Now I are one.  My, my, how things change as we age, I mean, mature.      

            I spent $33 on seed and plants for the garden this year.  Not bad.  As I was working in the garden, a pick-up truck pulled in the driveway.  It happens quite often: I'm working outside, someone drives by and sees me and decides to stop.  Anywho, I'm feeling rather sheepish about what I look like in my “pith helmet” and bib overalls.  But the guy doesn't seem to pay any attention, like this is my normal look, and wants to buy one of my metal pheasants.  I accommodate, $40.  Ka-ching.  Holy moly, guacamole, I made money planting the garden!

            One week after putting the garden in, May 19th, Hump Day again, I notice the lettuce and radishes are up.  To celebrate, I cut some more rhubarb.  Ginnie asks me how I'd like it fixed.  I order up strawberry-rhubarb pie, my, oh, my. 

            Fun in the sun for '21! 

Have a good story?  Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at curtswarm@yahoo.com or visit his website at www.empty-nest-words-photos-and-frames.com.

Curt Swarm, editorial, Empty Nest, guest author, Mt. Pleasant, opinion, Pen City Current


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