“How does your garden grow?” a friend asked me at church Sunday morning.
“It grows not at all,” I replied wretchedly.
Not a single yellow squash peeks out from under the giant green leaves of a fuzzy plant. Not one okra pod awaits the gumbo pot. No purple Crowder peas send their tendrils up on the Ellis plot to intertwine with other tendrils. Not even one pepper of any variety grows in the usual spot.
I encounter friends about town and they ask after our garden.
“How were your snow peas this year?” they ask. “I don’t remember your mentioning them.”
“I didn’t. They were spitefully nonexistent,” I reply, only half good-humoredly. “We had no lettuce, no Spring onions, no reason to step out to the sacred plot out back other than an outing for the dogs.”
Usually by this time of the year we are eating squash at every meal—squash fritters, smother-fried squash, squash casserole bubbling with cheese, even grilled squash. The zucchini situation in the past has gotten so far out of hand that I have forbidden Larry’s planting the large green vegetables ever again. However, I’ve about changed my mind. Right about now I’d welcome a large basket overflowing with green fleshy zucchini. I’m nigh on to desperate.
Truth be told, we are gardenless at this point in our lives, and it is a depressing situation indeed. How then are we fallen so low? It’s true that Larry is an avid gardener and ordinarily grows far more than we can eat, freeze or can. We usually supply many friends and neighbors with produce, but not this year. No, not this year. The garden lies fallow and barren. The freezer sits woefully empty, humming along wasting energy on a few bags of peas from the grocer’s frozen food aisle. Three dollars a bag they cost me.
This weekend I was forced to take desperate measures. I donned my dark glasses, pulled my hat down to my eyes, and sneaked off to Hazlehurst in search of a few squash for my poor freezer. I couldn’t force myself to show my face among my gardening neighbors at the Baxley Farmers’ Market, so I slipped off in the other direction.
Might I say that my quest did not go unrewarded. I returned with 2 large buckets of golden yellow squash, a few ears of corn, and 6 luscious bell peppers. For a few lovely hours, I scraped the skin off those squash and happily prepared them for the freezer. As I worked, I imagined my grandsons Jakey and Trey gobbling up my squash casserole. They ask for it often, it’s practically synonymous with Grandma’s kitchen, and all the cooks out there know that you just can’t make it if you don’t have our home-grown, home-frozen summer squash to work with.
Fate conspired against our garden this year. First of all, the deluges of the early spring kept our ground far too boggy for plowing. Larry’s had no time for plowing and hoeing lately. He’s been far too busy with a more important project these last few weeks. My sister’s relocation preempted the garden and I won’t hold it against her. After all, she’s suffering from a lack of squash, too. Moving is a tremendous job, especially after living in the same house for 42 years. She’s moved now, but it’s too late for much more than a few peas and maybe a few bell peppers. I don’t know if I can pass a summer without those.
In the meantime, Larry’s already planning the fall garden, but first we have to make it through this long hot gardenless summer. How will we ever survive?
Beware! If your garden is pretty, I might come sneaking around some moonlit night with a croker sack and fill it with all I can carry. Don’t worry. I’m an old lady and can’t carry much. Next Saturday, I’ll hie me off to the Baxley Farmers’ Market. I heard they had some luscious tomatoes last week while I was off gallivanting in Hazlehurst. I do love a good vine-ripened tomato. It really enhances a plate of squash and peppers.