In The Weeds

30 Jul

The road between New York City and Tupper Lake passes through many states.

Heading north, we drive through Grace, Beauty, Longing, Happiness and Anticipation. But the trip home passes through some different places–Nostalgia, Melancholia, Reflection, Dolor and Blah.  Leaving the mountains was especially hard this year.

The weather was damn near perfect up in the Adirondacks, and we took full advantage.  We hiked and paddled (seriously people, if you’ve never tried kayaking, get out on the water stat!), and sat outside marveling at loons, ducks, dogs and bald eagles and went for boat rides and grilled steaks.

And when the weather wasn’t so great, we went inside and sat and read and played with my nephew, little J, who’s at that age where he’s over Thomas and protective of his Legos yet somehow still a blast to be around, and when we were hungry, we cooked.

There were shrimp and controversial grits, (we tried to tell little J that the grits were polenta, something he loves, but his four-year old mind couldn’t get over the fact that they weren’t yellow).  There was also beet pasta with the greens thrown in for good measure, roasted squash and mint salad, braised radicchio, tarragon chicken and sandwiches and salads galore.  We ate and lived well on our short week up north.

And then we came back to reality.

My tomatoes aren’t doing so well.  So far, they have managed to avoid It is confirmed now that most of them have been hit by the late blight rampaging across the Northeast (thank you big box stores for unleashing this, no, really, thanks) but they’ve got something, and I’ve taken to praying, praying, for just one week of dry weather.

In an effort to help my much loved and longed for tomatoes get to that one fabled dry week, this past weekend I suited up, put on some disposable gloves and a face mask and sprayed them with a copper spray.  It’s considered okay for organic gardeners, but it’s still nasty stuff and something I hope to never have to use again.  That said, apparently we got four six inches of rain yesterday.  Yep, in one day, over four six inches of rain. Sob.

But, to look on the bright side, the pumpkin patch is bursting at the seams (literally, they’re all trying to escape the fence), the zucchinis are nearing *that* stage, the Brussels look like they’re about to start sprouting, there’s scores of beautiful beans everywhere, my peppers and eggplants are going bonkers and the patch of sunflowers, cosmos, zinnias and other assorted flowers I ferociously protected from hungry deer are as beautiful as I had hoped they would be.  But, without the promise of tomatoes, it all seems a little hollow.  Funny how that is.

Outside the garden, the high-bush blackberries are delicious.  In just one week, Isaac picked more than 5 1/2 pounds, and if our guess is correct, there should be at least that much again when we get up there this weekend, as long as the deer and birds haven’t eaten them all.

So tell me, do you have any wonderful blackberry recipes?  I’m especially interested in jams and pies.  And how’s your garden growing?  Have you had to deal with the late blight?  The heat wave on the West Coast?  Has your backyard completely washed away (happened to a friend last night, I swear, Mother Nature is not happy)?

Leave a kvetch, some advice, a story, a photo or a link in the comments, and if you have tomatoes, send those. You’ll be my best friend forever!

P.S. Someone recently asked on my flickr if I sold prints of my photos.  Honestly, I had never thought of it before.  Is this something people are actually clamoring for?  If so, I’ll certainly look into it.  Leave a comment or drop a line at chickeninacart [AT] gmail [DOT] com.  And thanks!

9 Responses to “In The Weeds”

  1. Christina July 30, 2009 at 5:39 pm #

    Oh, I’m so sorry about your tomatoes, Ann. Summer and tomatoes go hand in hand, and I can understand that not having what you tried to grow is so frustrating. Last summer, I grew beautiful tomato plants but had almost no fruit because of the weather quirks causing no end of blossom drop. 10 plants last year and less than 10 pounds of fruit. This year is a whole different story though. Your next year will bring new challenges in the garden, but hopefully it will also bring gallons of tomatoes.

    Speaking of gallons, I’m so so so so so envious of the blackberries. Blackberries were one of the first things I planted here, but the don’t start fruiting until their second year, so all I have so far for me effort at thorny vines. I hope to someday have a glut of blackberries with which to dream up new recipes. When I’ve purchased blackberries from local markets, I’ve made pie, blackberry-port sorbet, peach-blackberry-cognac jam, and blackberry gelato. One one of the roadtrips my husband and I took, we were followed by ripening blackberries as we drove north, and they quickly became a theme of the trip. We fell in love with blackberry jelled candies that we purchased at one of our stops that summer, and I’ve been on a quest to figure out how to make them sense. I’ve had a couple attempts that were okay, but I’m not quite there yet.

    And, my kvetch: the gophers got all but one of my Asian yardlong vines. Luckily, that one vine is producing pretty well, but it is just one sad little lonely plant.

    Remind me of your mailing address, and tomatoes just may appear.

  2. Miriam July 31, 2009 at 8:49 am #

    I would take your rain if I could. We’ve been in a 16 or so month drought in Austin. Heck, I’d settle for a cloudy day at this point.

    Your photos seemed particularly beautiful this time. Was really struck by the one of the sky and lake (it seemed like the sky and water went on forever outside the camera’s viewfinder) and the water reflections.

  3. Toni July 31, 2009 at 10:27 am #

    Dear God, woman – you DEFINITELY should sell your photos!!! They practically bring tears to my eyes.

    If I had enough tomatoes, I’d send you some. Here we’ve been overwhelmed by heat, which they definitely love. We’re also experiencing a drought – so we are restricted in our water usage. But they are surviving, and I am drowning in delight each time I pop one in my mouth.

    Kvetch? Yeah – how about gophers?? They have attacked the entire neighborhood….Grrrrrrrrrrrr………..

  4. Carol July 31, 2009 at 9:49 pm #

    Blackberry-peach crisp. And use cornmeal in the crisp part. Best dessert EVER.

  5. ann August 2, 2009 at 1:18 pm #

    Christina — Well, I’m doing what I can as we speak. I awoke on Saturday to find that we finally had the blight. I knew it was going to happen, so I guess I’m just kind of happy its finally come and, uh, gone? Well, I pulled up nearly 40 pounds of plants and many, many pounds of green tomatoes. I am canning some of them as a sauce, and made dinner with others last night for my parents. It was actually pretty good. Never better than ripe tomatoes, but not bad. There are a few plants that seem to still be okay, so I’ve got my fingers crossed for them, but, as you can guess, yep, it’s raining again. Sigh.

    So, as to those tomatoes, I suggest a trade. I’ll send you some blackberry jam, if you’ll send me some seeds for next year :-) Sorry about the gophers, they seem to be a recurrent them in the kvetches here!

    Miriam — Thanks, I love that one too. I wish I could send you our rain, and our clouds. There’s a real plethora of both today. Sigh.

    Toni — Alrighty then! I’ll look into it :-) The gopher plague sounds horrible. Who knew they were so annoying?

    Carol — Man that sounds good. Maybe next weekend :-) This weekend I made Shaker blackberry pie. More on that at a later date!

  6. Christina August 4, 2009 at 9:56 am #

    Sounds like a great trade. How’d you make the green tomato sauce? I have some greenies too, and I don’t know quite what to do with them. I wish we could get some of your rain.

  7. Julie August 4, 2009 at 11:14 am #

    I feel sort of bad mentioning it but while everyone else is having a miserable summer, we’re having a pretty great one. Baltimore is cooler than usual (at our house we still haven’t turned the a/c on) and our garden is doing well. For once we’re not in the middle of a drought and so far (knock on wood, fingers crossed) I’ve seen no sign of the tomato blight. Besides having planted too many cherry tomatoes and not enough full-size tomatoes, we’re in good shape. Go figure. Gosh, I hope I’m not jinxing things.

    Sorry to hear about your tomato grief but next year will be better. (I think that’s the gardener’s mantra but next year always seems to hold the promise of less weeds, more tomatoes, finally outsmarting the deer, the groundhogs, whatever.)

  8. Terry B, Blue Kitchen August 4, 2009 at 9:09 pm #

    I’ve been away too long, Ann. Even when you’re kvetching, you do it so eloquently. In our tiny Chicago garden, our tomato problem is squirrels. As Marion walked up to the front gate coming home from work the other day, she saw a squirrel running from our yard, tomato in its mouth.

  9. Jean August 5, 2009 at 6:49 am #

    That darned tomato blight. Mine got hit early, but after careful cutting and pruning to remove most, if not all, damaged areas, suddenly (well, within 2 weeks) my tomatoes are thriving and quickly producing. Curiously, only my cherry tomato plant was hit, while my roma (right next to it) was never affected. Good luck.

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