The Rollercoaster

18 Jun

I’m on furlough right now.

This means I get a week off from work, but no pay.  I’m quite happy with this arrangement if it means I get to keep my job, and those around me get to keep theirs, too.  Isaac and I are spending the week up at the house.

I had planned to mention this last week, but failed to finish that post, which I had planned to do over the weekend, and then on Monay and then on Tuesday and then on Wednesday, yet somehow I find myself at Thursday already!  Time has a way of slipping past me without my hardly noticing.

What I have noticed in the six days we’ve been here so far though, is the rain.  It has rained nearly everyday we’ve been here.  And then there was Monday. The day started bright and sullen with me discovering a deer had made its way into the garden and through my peas and sunflowers, and ended with 2 1/2 inches of rain and an inch of large pea-sized hail.

I was so angry in the morning, cursing deer and the human who had left the gate open, and then by the evening, I was just glad for any plant left standing with a leaf to it’s name.

Of course, I’m assuming this was all punishment for my over-the-top lettuce-induced braggadocio at my step-sister’s birthday dinner.

I had begged my mom to let me bring a salad over, since on Sunday night it looked as if Isaac and me were about to drown in a sea of leafy greens.  But I also wanted to show off.  I picked only the most perfect lettuces.  One perfect, bronze-flecked Spotted Aleppo.  One perfect frilly, jade-colored Tennis Ball.  One perfect head, out of only three Brown Dutch that actually grew, and one exceptionally perfect Paris White Cos.  They were so pretty that I didn’t even bother to wash them before going to my mom’s.  I was so proud.

And at dinner I bragged and bragged, about how sweet my peas are, how my little Ronde de Nice zucchini and Red Kabocha are both already bearing squashletts, how my Cyklon pepper is already producing, about how the eggplants are about to pop, about how my tomatoes are already covered in blossoms, about how my beans are just climbing and climbing to the sky.  And then Monday happened.

By early evening, I was finally over the deer incident, and started prepping for dinner.  The plan was to start a pork roast on the grill, to get good smoky flavor, and then move it to the oven to finish roasting low and slow.  To use up the remaining coals, I had tomatoes, tomatillos, poblanos, corn, and onions for grilled vegetable salsa and rice with grilled corn and rajas.

I was in the kitchen contemplating a pot of Brown Tepary Beans, when Isaac came down and said, “We should get a move on with the grilling, I can hear some thunder rumbling off in the distance.”  So we hustled on upstairs, got the charcoal started and the food on the grill just as the first gentle drops of rain started.  Fifteen minutes later, Isaac ran to the car to get the umbrella, and we flipped the food.  And then we went back inside.  And then the rain started falling harder.  And harder.

And then the rain began bouncing.  No… Not bouncing rain…. Hail?  Yes. Hail.  And lots of it.  Drifting and rolling and bouncing all over my herbs, pinging off the grill, tearing and ripping and ravaging my plants’ leaves.  Twenty minutes passed and I was nearly in tears.  An inch of hail.  And still it fell, as did the rain.  Down and down and down.  And then, after about an hour, it stopped (or came close enough). We pulled the food off the grill and then Isaac went back outside.

I cowered in the kitchen pureeing and praying, and then he returned with the “oh it’s not that bad,” report.  I didn’t believe him, but dinner needed finishing, so we pulled it all together and sat down to rice and beans and pork.  It was warming and delicious after the last hour of suspense and foreboding.  And then, while Isaac did the dishes, I went outside.

In the last light of the day, it looked horrible.  Like a battlefield.  The kale had huge, perfectly round bullet-sized holes through every leaf.  The eggplants looked like the ears of a dog who had been in a very bad fight.  The beans had lost their leaders, the radicchio looked like a green mat and the squash leaves looked like the sail of a boat that had just come through the perfect storm.

And then there were the tomatoes.  I was so afraid to look, but oddly enough, they were mostly okay.  Some branches had snapped off where they stuck through the cages, and a few were a bit ragged looking from the wind, but all-in-all, they weren’t so bad.  Sadly, the same could not be said of the perfect little round nasturtiums I had inter-planted with the tomatoes.  They’re mostly gone.  Only a few leaves remain, and they now look more like a volatile stock chart than a perfect ellipse.

I awoke on Tuesday filled with dread.  But, you know what?  It wasn’t that bad.  After clearing away all the broken leaves and staking a few plants here and there, it all looked a lot better.  I started actually feeling hopeful again.  We tested the soil and found everyone to be a little nitrogen deficient, everyone got a little top-dressing of compost and a quick sip of a seaweed and worm poop cocktail.

By today, things are actually looking good.  We’ve harvested and cooked some of the less damaged and bruised greens.  We had a lovely, delicate salad of rescued lettuces, and I made stuffed shells with tattered turnip and radish greens and radicchio trimmings that I’m hoping to have hot and steaming for this weekend’s house guests when they arrive on Friday evening.  And, fingers crossed, I hope that we’ll soon be drowning in greens here again very soon.

But this time, I’m going to keep the bragging to a minimum.

10 Responses to “The Rollercoaster”

  1. Teri Tynes June 18, 2009 at 6:17 pm #

    Gad! Hail! Growing up in Dallas, in a dangerous part of Tornado Alley, as kids we were scared (but secretly thrilled) to even utter the word “hail,” because in Texas twang, “hail” and “Hell” sound exactly alike. Since it would in fact “hail” from time to time, I would associate hail with eternal condemnation.

  2. Pdx-r June 19, 2009 at 12:23 pm #

    Bragging does feel like a jinx sometimes, doesn’t it? I keep reminding myself that it’s all nature- we may monkey with it to get items we want, but in the end- it’s not really under our control. I keep losing any sunflower sprouts to our friendly neighborhood squirrels. And the squash seedlings that I was so proud of a few days ago quickly shriveled away to nothingness as of last night. Disappointing and frustrating but also a learning experience. Good luck with the recovery!

  3. Christina June 20, 2009 at 9:29 am #

    Whew. What a day! My thoughts are with you.

  4. Kevin Kossowan June 23, 2009 at 8:50 pm #

    You had more rain in that squall that we’ve had here all year!! 5mm is an accomplishment here, never mind 5cm!!?!? My sympathies: hail sucks.

  5. ann June 24, 2009 at 5:33 am #

    Teri — HA! I’ll never be able to say ‘hail’ the same again! Thanks for making me smile when I think about hail!

    Pdx-r — I keep losing my sunflowers to deer! Who knew deer even liked sunflowers? Oh hail! Ha, that works!

    Christina — It was indeed a day, thank god the rest of the week was a little calmer.

    Kevin — Oof. That sounds horrible. Feast or famine as they say. By the end of the week, we had had nearly 6 inches. In one week! (9 in two according to Margaret) Thank god the garden has good drainage. There’s a local seed bank that is literally underwater.

  6. Jess June 24, 2009 at 11:25 am #

    That hail is unreal. All things considered, it sounds like your garden is quite hearty!

  7. Julie June 24, 2009 at 12:22 pm #

    Gardening where you are is obviously not for the faint of heart. I’m glad it wasn’t as bad as it might have been.

    Lots of beautiful pictures (as always!).

  8. Jean June 26, 2009 at 12:22 pm #

    I absolutely love your photography. My “macro” pics always seem to turn out blurry, but yours are amazing. You have a real way with words too.

  9. ann June 29, 2009 at 6:33 am #

    Jess — I’m learning that plants are amazingly resilient. Not that this should come as a surprise, I mean, in the grand-scheme of things, they really have been around for a lot longer than us measly humans.

    Julie — HI! Coming to NY soon? Hope all is well.

    Jean — Practice, practice, practice. And lots of cursing at your camera when it doesn’t do what you want it to.

  10. shibooya June 30, 2009 at 11:48 am #

    I believe my job will end up doing furlough within the next year or so. It’s a strange concept to me – I mean, I like that people get to keep their jobs, but that also means I’ll be getting less pay than I am now.

    It’s an interesting prospect but I might appreciate the time off like you’ve done. Lovely photos!

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