Hello friends! Today I was taking some photos for my monthly garden update, when it struck me as a good opportunity to reflect on the act of gardening in relation to honoring my feminine side. My dear Natural Medicine community is running a challenge for all of us to express what sacred femininity means to us. Well, we don't call it "Mother Nature" for nothing, but I think sometimes it is easy to forget that connection when we are going about day to day life. In this time of fear and uncertainty, I think we can all use some nurturing and watching things flourish as opposed to being burned to the ground.
Initially I had thought about exploring my thoughts on why I feel my country in particular needs more of a feminine touch in politics and government, but I honestly don't know that I have enough mental energy reserves to go down that particular rabbit hole. I'd rather revel in the beauty of what we have nurtured in our garden this season and in my role as plant mama. It is summer here after all. I'm in the mood for warmth and light! I'll leave the darkness to the depths of winter reflection.
Gardening really does bring out the latent maternal side in my personality. Yes, I adore my time as an auntie to the burgeoning feminine entities I get to call my nieces, but there is something more motherly in growing fruits and vegetables totally from seed. Even though we don't always have luck with every seed sprouting and making it to full maturity, we do really enjoy starting with that small speck of life. Sprouting the seed, watering the seedling and trying to nourish the soil in which we eventually plant our little ones. It is a beautiful process that so many take for granted as the bulk of their food comes from the grocery store, or even a restaurant. There's many trials and tribulations along the way. Oh the hornworms are always a frustrating sight on the tomato plants!
But that is motherhood, isn't it? You don't just spawn a child and it becomes this perfect being. You have to put the time in, but it makes it all the more special to watch it grown and step up to the challenges of life. I still don't have any desire for an actual human baby, but by golly I love watching our plant babies grow each season. I think we all have a bit of Earth Mother in us. My boyfriend even tends to let me do the harvesting despite him being the one that does the bulk of the daily watering and other maintenance (though I do get more hands on every year). I think he knows what joy I find in finally plucking the fine specimens off the vine. I often even weigh the big babies to see how hale and hearty they've become! Then of course the next phase of creation begins in the kitchen--beginning the whole next step of mothering to bring forth a dish worthy of the hard work to bring that fruit to the plate! Which also reminds me I could do a whole separate post on the divinely feminine side of cooking and feeding your loved ones...
Well, let's not keep all this joy to myself. Let the latest garden tour begin!
Cucumbers, More Cucumbers...
As you might have noticed from my latest posts, we have been swimming in cucumbers this season. Though we have had good harvests before, I think the addition of the lemon cukes this year exponentially increased the overall output. I have enjoyed sharing them with friends and family, and we have an entire shelf in the refrigerator full of pickled cucumbers. Along with another batch of fermented ones getting happy for another day or two on the counter. Just when we think they are done, we go out and find a whole handful more!
It's a good thing I have large hands! We really didn't even have that many cucumber plants. I honestly think only four in total, but they were all monster producers. We have plenty of the lemon cuke seeds leftover to grow them again next year, but we'll enjoy what we have while the season carries on.
Our patty pan squash wilted and died off at the beginning of July, and I thought after harvesting three good-sized Candy Roasters that plant would also wilt and need to be pulled up. The beautiful specimen in my cover photo was my first one for the season, which I believe I showed pictures of in my last garden update while it was still on the vine. That one topped out at four pounds, which is actually not that large for the type of squash. Just this week after cutting back some of the dead leaves and vines we've had about four more squash pop up! The plant does wilt a little in the afternoon heat, when I took my photos, but in the morning and evenings it perks right back up.
We also realized our volunteer squash plant that popped up in one of the beds was actually a Butternut instead of another Candy Roaster. I just pulled the first squash off the vine, though another is almost ready and a few more babies are coming along. That first one was almost four pounds, as well, so we have about 11-12 pounds of orange-fleshed goodness waiting to be enjoyed. My freezer is going to be full soon!
Given how fantastic our tomato plants were looking once we started the magic of fertilizing with diluted urine, I thought we were going to look forward to a wonderful harvest. Then the caterpillars came. As I mentioned above, the hornworms came first. They do become stunning moths, but in the process they can ravage your tomato plants so we diligently hunted them and re-homed them to the grass in the yard. Then we realized it wasn't just those caterpillars, we also have tons of other black ones meandering through all the leaves and even the tomatoes themselves.
We also seem to have trouble getting our tomatoes to ripen on the vine. Perhaps there is something else we are missing in our nurturing of the plants. As is, we are just starting to pluck the larger green tomatoes before the pests can get to them and add those to our growing pickle collection. Perhaps I'll whip up some more (baked) fried green tomatoes soon, as well. At least my farmers keep me in delicious ripe maters.
White Whippoorwill Cowpeas
After a slow start (we planted them with our string beans) the cowpeas found the cucumber plants particularly helpful in giving them a structure to climb. I believe we did make the mistake of not supporting our beans early enough on, but it was the first year trying to grow them. It has been fun to watch this plant weave in and out of the cucumber vines, and it now climbs out even above the tallest cukes!
With only one plant we won't get a large harvest, but I do plan on letting these dry in the pods and will extract out the individual beans. There are actually a few edamame pods on the sole soybean plant, as well. That was a learning experience this year, but I think we took some good lessons to have an even better harvest next year!
All the rest...
In the bed where the Candy Roaster vine rests (along with some cucumber vines), we found the turmeric finally sprouting up. I think there are at least four popping out of the mulch from pieces of our roots we harvested last year. It will be nice to have more of that fantastically healthy item fresh from the garden soon. I keep meaning to add ginger to the list to grow for a one-two anti-inflammatory punch.
As far as herbs go, the dill has gone to seed, but I found the parsley flourishing in the shade of the cucumber and cowpea plants. The lemon balm is also staging a comeback after a vicious culling when it started to take over the whole garden. We have almost a metric ton dried now, but it might be time to work on a tincture again to add to my growing natural medicine cabinet. The pine catkin and oregano tinctures are being utilized by both of us as needed. With all of the stress of current times, the calming effects of lemon balm would be a welcome addition to rotate in along with the tea and infused water we do more days than not with the lemon balm and mint. Oh, we also dried more oregano for kitchen use, but still have plenty fresh as that plant just keeps on going.
I'll finish off with the view from above surveying most of our little plot. The only thing missing is the new fig clipping we planted in the front that seems to be slowly but surely growing. Hoping we can get at least a few figs as soon as next year if Mother Nature allows. In the bed closest to the bottom of the photo we did start some more fall seedlings to see if we can get a jump start on the next season. When I thought our Candy Roaster plant was a goner I asked for a few more of those plants, so three more plants are happily growing on the left. I have a feeling we may be giving those away soon! But they are hard to find anywhere else, even at the farmers market, so that will be a fun one to share. On the right side we also started some sugar pumpkins, which are perfect for pies. One of my co-workers is a pie fiend, so perhaps I'll get to practice my pie-making skills and keep him happy this fall. We also have some rutabaga (Swedes) seedlings just popping up, and the other two rows will hopefully become cauliflower and celery root.
It will still be hot for quite a while here, so we should have plenty more time left in the growing season. Of course I'm also loving the market offerings every week from the bounty that my farmers bring. Figs have been my favorite new fruit this week, and pears should be coming this Saturday. Apples will also pop up here shortly to fill the void as the berries and peaches are about done until next year. Oh the plums are absolutely divine, as well! We've been saving pits to plant out back to continually add to my hopes of having a suburban food forest. A girl can dream, right?
Thank you to the @naturalmedicine team on Hive for bringing such a lovely challenge this round. Of course a special shoutout to @simplymike for hosting the [Garden Journal](https://peakd.com/homesteading/@simplymike/hive-community-garden-journal-challenge-july) virtual get-together each month, as well. I'll update my post with the link to that challenge once it is up.
I really am even more grateful than ever to have space to grown nourishing food and get my hands in the dirt. To find repose each day, and marvel at pure, organic creation. As someone who thrives on lots of movement in my hobbies and career path, food is the basis for keeping my energy for all the activity I do every day. Having that connection straight from my energy source helps me do my job that much better. Gardening keeps me grounded in more ways than one!
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