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This is a test. I’ve expanded my gardens this year, and challenged myself with keeping up with them. In past years, I plant, sow, and then, around mid-June, it gets too hot to go outside and it’s pretty much every green guy for itself. I know it’s cruel, wasteful, and ridiculous, nonetheless, that has been my pattern. This year I endeavor to change it. I have no out-of-town trips planned after June 1. I’m committed. It’s here in print–you’re a witness!

This is more against the grain than just my aversion to heat. I am not so much a morning person, but I realize that I only have till maybe 10am on summer days to get everything done before the heat is overwhelming, so I’ve started rising much earlier than the other night owls. And there is the golden sunlight angled through dewdrops, birdsong in full regalia, fog in the valley of the vista–a setting unique to that time of day. It’s beautiful, and a rare sight for me.

Since I am a gardener in training, I am unaware of how real gardeners do things, but here’s my routine so far, and I’d love your input. The new transplants get watered first, from buckets filled at the rain barrel. As I do this, I inspect them all–yesterday I finally saw what is causing the holes in the broccoli leaves (cabbage worms), and I found spots on my eggplants that jumped when I reached to investigate them (flea beetles). I see what’s growing between the beds and yank what I can. Then–and this will seem silly, I’m sure–I move what’s sprouting from where I don’t want it to be to where I hope it will grow after the interruption. At this point, that’s the large oriental poppies that are just showing up, and the maypops (passion fruit)–both of whom don’t like being transplanted, I’ve found, but I do it anyway. In the early morning, things can be uprooted easier.

My next ritual is even crazier, I’m sure, but hopefully this will be the last year I must do it. There’s a beautiful little orange poppy–not sure of the variety, may be Thai Silk–that came from nowhere but has spread everywhere–it even grows in the cracks of my driveway! First I take pictures–the sun shines through the flower heads that bend to face it–then I clip all the unripe seed pods off. The sap from the cut stems stains my clothes, my hands look like I’ve been attacked by roses or a cat. My logic is that this will keep it from reseeding. Yes, a few might get away, but next year I’ll have to be strong and yank them as I see them coming.

I’m also catching up, little by little, with all the things I was supposed to but didn’t do over the winter. Chipping away at these while it’s still reasonably cool seems an excellent use of time. For a person who is generally go-by-the-flow rather than scheduled, I get a feeling of utility and a glimpse at organization through these small windows.

All the while I’m doing this, I’m admiring the fortitude of plants and their determination to survive, the grand design of a plan that features vast variety, visible and invisible, leaf, flower and fruit, the pests that challenge it and the rest that rely on it, each element feeding the next in the Circle of Life, and… okay, done for the day, coffee, please!

Ellen Rubenstein Chelmis

Ellen Rubenstein Chelmis

Ellen Rubenstein Chelmis retired from manufacturing to start her fourth career as wife and mother at 37, she now, at 63, enjoys dabbling in various voluntary efforts to “save the world.” She’s a self-trained creative cook and lover of ethnic cuisines and her consistent passion for food has evolved to embrace the Local Food movement, so much so that she now grows food in her front yard (can’t get more local than that!). If Ellen can do this, anyone can. Ellen is a 13-year transplant to Asheville via Tampa, Washington DC suburbs (most of them) and Charlotte.