What a reward for a hot afternoon of thinning out my garden! A sweet wild strawberry.
I let many things grow in my garden along with my chosen plants, and wild strawberries are one plant that grows all over, wherever it pleases. It’s fairly short, just a crown of leaves, sprouts and grows early and reliably at the beginning of June I find tiny sweet-tart berries. The leaves shade the ground and act as a natural mulch around taller plants, and their shallow root system doesn’t compete with plants like tomatoes, peppers and corn. Where beans, salad greens and root crops like beets and carrots are concerned I remove them so they don’t shade the shorter plants, but I usually transplant them elsewhere. One great benefit is that the bunnies and groundhog like the leaves—a lot—and will often choose the strawberry leaves over my garden plants.
So it was that I was pulling other plants from around the tomatoes and encountered the first wild strawberry of the year. And more to come, as you see below.
Well, maybe not tomorrow, but probably next week! Mmmmmmmmmm………….
Some very new potatoes dug up in the bed where I’d grown potatoes last year and from which I could swear I had dug up all the potatoes last fall. They are still covered with a little soil, best for keeping them moist, but the sun still shines into the white and yellow flesh as it seems to glow.
These are mostly Red Pontiac and Yukon Gold, and are the ones I missed last year which managed to live and grow in the soil below the frost line. The largest is about two inches at its largest dimension, and they make a wonderful side boiled with butter and olive oil, the first scallions or chives and parsley. Sometimes I have these and the first asparagus together, but this year the asparagus is late.
It’s my annual paean to gardening and the cycles of life.
Every year in the month of March I awaken one morning with the knowledge it’s time to plant the peas, another step in the flow of the seasons. Though I have plants growing indoors, this is truly the beginning of the gardening season for me. Whether it’s the sun, moon, weather, schedule or simple urge to get out there and get my hands dirty I don’t know, but I enjoy the simple manual labor without assistance from any electronic device, ears open to the birds, face feeling the breeze, hands and feet feeling the earth. Many a photo, poem, essay and painting has been inspired by the simple acts of growing things.
Today is not the day, yet later this week, I feel, it will be, and then I will be far too busy, and nowhere near my computer, to post this essay, so I want to share it now, and share my excitement for the coming season of growing. I first read this essay for the first New Year Poetry and Prose Reading of the erstwhile Carnegie Writer’s Group which I’d led from 2003 to 2006. In the meantime, I’m soaking my “Early Sweetness” peas so I’m ready when the day comes.
On Planting Peas
It is early March and I am planting peas. The wan spring sun is finding its heat and lays like a warm hand upon my back as I work. Signs of approaching spring fill my senses in the mild air on my skin, the scent of damp soil and the shrieks of children as they run in frenzied circles of freedom, much like the birds swooping and circling above whistling their mix of songs.
We have passed the first intoxicating days of air that does not bite, endless sun warm enough to melt the last snowfall into a composition of dripping and trickling, soften the soil and make one’s blood run with the abandon of a stream overflowing with spring thaw. The dawns have come noticeably earlier and the muted indigo dusks have lost the sharp quickness of winter and softened to a moist lingering evening.
Perhaps it is the phase of the sun or the moon, the proximity to the vernal equinox or some eternal voice that speaks to those who will listen about the time and season of things, or my own impatience to join in with the cycle that has been going on without me for a few months. Whether it is any of these reasons or all of them or none of them, I awaken one day in March every year with the knowledge that this is the day to plant the peas. It is as clear a yearly anniversary for me as any holiday, and can…
A ripe tomato surrounded by seed heads of grass , dried asters and goldenrod and her own shriveled foliage, doesn’t last in the November garden; her color is faded, and the warming sun has forced the frozen juices from her skin to form one hesitating, reflecting drop.
Cold rain fell on the peppers but didn’t dull their colors, a warming sight for a cold day. I applied the “fresco” filter in Photoshop to this photo; the original is below. The red chiles were so intense in the cool light that I couldn’t get the color under control.
My neighbor balanced a few beefsteaks on his deck rail. Perfect composition; often the best are unintentional.
As I posted on Facebook earlier today: I had other plans, but I was just overtaken by a combination of two black cats, green apples, a cobalt blue glass pitcher, and angled autumn sunshine. If I recover from this any time soon, I will post photos. This happens when the sun shines in one of the windows and the cats find it. So I did spend some time sorting photos from this despite other things I had wanted to accomplish today. Above is the one that, at least at the moment, is my favorite of the group. Below is a slideshow of a sampling of all my favorite photos from this session.
To see other photos from this beautiful event, please visit The Creative Cat at Daily Photo: Overtaken By Beauty
All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.
I photographed this everyday vegetable in my kitchen when the sun angled through the window, highlighting only that, but reflecting in a few other places. It wasn’t want I’d been intending, but I like it better than what I’d been literally shooting for. It’s a red onion, as you might guess from the little tail in the lower right. It’s on an olive green glass raised platter and I’d been trying to get the contrast between the maroon onion and the yellow green glass, but the sun moved before I got the full shot. It just looks like a collection of visual elements until you see the onion.
I have some lovely butternut squash, but these are not those. I shot these black and whites with film about a decade ago using butternuts from my garden.
I love their shapes, so voluptuous and sensual, and reminding me so much of the moon in her phases.
And those twirling tendrils, both the tendrils and the shadows they cast, delicate but definite.
I still scan my black and whites in full color, and they appear here in RGB, not grayscale, to maintain the integrity of all the gray values. At one point I had thought the resolution and detail of these scans was fine, but now I’m considering a negative scanner to capture all those black and whites.
I shop at a very large farmer’s market in Gladden, “out in the middle of nowhere” as it were. It’s huge with 40 vendors at the height of the season and it’s open three nights a week from May until the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
I sat in the back seat of one of my dad’s vast cars as we drove there when I was growing up, and the drive out there and the market, and my enjoyment of both, haven’t changed much since then. A glimpse of horses or cows or a farmhouse lit by the golden early evening sunlight and nestled on the gently rolling hillsides is still just as exciting. Even now, the crowds of people earnestly shopping for their produce, the conversations flying back and forth over the tables of produce and products between the farmers and the customers, the smells of the cooked food and the sound of the clanging kettle at the kettle korn stand are so familiar that I miss it when it’s over and long for it in the spring.
Even though the place is at a desolate intersection on a four-lane highway, beginning this year I’ve sat in line at the left-turn light for up to fifteen minutes to get in, even almost two hours after the market has opened for the evening. I don’t mind—in fact, I’m glad of it because it means more and more people are shopping there. For many years I couldn’t find any markets and couldn’t make it to this one very often at all, but now they’ve sprung up everywhere and seemingly every community has its market every week for most of the summer.
I’m glad to see people taking advantage of good food grown locally, and it seems they take the food more seriously when it’s sold to them by the very people who planned the crops in the winter, planted and tended the plants through unpredictable weather, harvested and cleaned and packaged and brought it to the place for sale. I sometimes wonder how farmers do it, especially when they often have day jobs to make ends meet, as if farming isn’t enough of a day job already. I like to look at the person who’s done all that work mostly for my benefit and smile and say “thank you”, and if they think the thanks is just the formality of a small business transaction, I know better. Read about two of the oldest farmers I know of who have been there for decades.
My cayenne pepper plants are hanging with so many long slender peppers already, like ornaments on a Christmas tree, and still more flowers are blooming. It is all so green, but soon those peppers will turn red and warm many foods come winter.
These four colorful peppers in one end of my basket were eye-catchingly beautiful and mouth-wateringly tempting. They’re not absolutely uniform, perfectly formed, evenly colored and even have a little bit of soil still on them from a rain earlier in the day. They are good, honest farmer’s market peppers, picked that day, sorted, washed and packed, driven here and put on display by the person to whom I handed my money.
I chose this particular basket because of the arrangement of these four peppers. Then, when I got to my car and set it down to open the door, I looked down to see this perfect photo and took it right there in the parking lot of the farmer’s market, in the warm evening sun.
The little bit of mud-splash left on them from a storm earlier in the day just confirmed their freshness. These four have already been grilled along with a big red onion and thick-sliced tomato and placed atop pasta with some freshly-grated parmesan. A good bit of the joy of food for me is what it looks like.
You can purchase prints of this photo up to 24″ x 24″ at my Fine Art America site, Four Peppers.
I run this each year around Labor Day, as I note below, but today was a great day for a trip to the farmer’s market to get what’s not growing in my garden. At the height of the growing season, visiting the farmer’s market with all its shapes and colors and people and languages and sounds and smells, and gathering herbs and vegetables in the quiet of my own garden, then the afternoon of organizing the ingredients, cleaning and trimming and chopping, stirring things in the big pot, the slightly steamy windows and the scents filling every area of the house seems to set the tone for autumn.
I long ago finished the last container from the freezer from this very pot of soup made last year. I’m looking forward to taking out a container of harvest freshness in the dark of the coming winter.
This was my “labor” on Labor Day!
I make All-day Vegetable Soup on the first cool day in the fall with the freshest vegetables from my garden or the farmer’s market if I’m out of something. A big pot of soup simmered all day tastes different from a small pot of soup cooked just an hour or two. The cooking is gentler so the goodness is coaxed out of the vegetables into the broth, and each vegetable manages to maintain its flavor and texture with the long, slow pressure of gentle heat.
It’s also a great day to make bread because it will rise beautifully with the steam and warmth from a big pot of soup.
Use the big canning pot that holds five gallons of liquid, add two gallons of stock you’ve made over the summer from simmering vegetables, or just use plain water.
Add, to taste:
- garlic (I use a whole clove)
- onion, white or yellow, one or two large ones
- six stalks chopped celery, reserve tops for later
- 3 lbs. chopped tomatoes
- four cups chopped carrots
- four cups chopped potatoes
- four cups green and/or yellow beans snapped in 1-inch sections
- whole small head of cabbage or half large, chopped
- four cups slice zucchini
- fresh corn kernels from four ears of corn
- four cups fresh peas
- four cups chopped broccoli
- four cups chopped cauliflower
- anything else you have on hand: turnips, parsnips or other root crops, brussels sprouts, collard greens, kale, mustard or other greens whatever you want in your soup
- two cups of dried beans, can be all the same but I use a little of each kind of dried bean I have in the kitchen: kidney, pink, great northern, navy, lima, etc.
- chopped fresh herbs like parsley, tarragon, thyme
Reduce to simmer. Add dry beans.
Add chopped vegetables one by one, beginning with the firmest, like carrots, and ending with the greens.
Simmer at least two hours past the last vegetable added.
Add chopped fresh herbs, simmer one half hour more.
Let sit, covered, for about an hour.
Eat several bowls.
Let cool completely, which can take hours depending on how much you made.
Can in pressure canner or freeze in freezer containers.
Open a jar in January and remember summer.
Only two things money can’t buy, and that’s true love and homegrown tomatoes (thanks Guy Clark).
From my garden. September tomatoes are the best, even if it’s only September 1.
It doesn’t get much redder than a scarlet runner bean flower.
Hummingbirds are frantic, still need to catch a photo of them.
Tomato just beginning to blush, all is green right now. I also liked the shadows on the tomato.
I love to photograph my vegetables, even just to document them.
And I had set the basket on the top step then turned around and saw it was a sweet photo with the green and yellow beans, basil, lemon verbena, a yellow gerbera daisy and just a splash of pink phlox in the background.
I passed a tiny side entrance to Homewood Cemetery, an huge old city cemetery where so many famous and infamous are resting, and instead of crypts and tombstones in this back corner, I saw gardens and remembered the public plots for gardening instead of burying this garden had always offered.
Well kept by ever-changing groups of volunteers, the garden site has hosted several dozen gardens since some time in the 1960s. I love to look at gardens, and can only imagine sharing garden space with total strangers.
But gardening makes friends of us all.
The lead pea plant stands up to make an announcement.
“Today’s garden report shows that, despite the extreme heat and rainless weather, the peas have sprouted and are happily producing new leaves each day, some are even sprouting little tiny tendrils to help them stand when they are tall and mature and covered with pea pods.”
Really, doesn’t this pea plant look as if he is standing with a book open in his hands and he’s reading from it? Don’t know why he’s so much taller than all the others in his row, or in the entire pea bed, but I’m definitely going to keep an eye on him and save seeds if he continues as such an over-achieving pea!
I love each plant in my garden. Some mornings it’s hard to leave it and come inside.
They speak for themselves. Having a berry hangover from yesterday, especially seeing these berries at the market.
Nothing fancy, just a little work in PhotoShop on a very common vegetable. These are the flowers for leeks, a member of the onion family. They are biennial as onions are, growing greens and growing their bulbs the first year, which is when we usually pull and use them. If left to overwinter in the ground the second year the bloom in June with big spheres of flowers at the ends of long rays; these spheres can vary between 2″ and 5″ in diameter. The flowers are pale yellow with a pinkish tinge, but the rays vary from pale pink to bright magenta.
Seeing them in the garden they made me think of balloons on long strings, and abstract patterns. I photographed them from all angles trying for total darkness in the background, and then found I had to adjust some levels because of the contrasts of dark and light I had included in the photos, discovering how cool it looked with just the pink. So I desaturated the green and yellow and left the red, magenta and blue channels alone. Below is a closeup of them.
Leeks are also highly attractive to bees, which is one of the reasons I let them bloom in my garden. All kinds of bees large and small and all colors and shapes come to visit the leeks, bees I’ve never seen before. Here’s a photo of a leek flower with a few bees hanging onto it in Daytime Fireworks.
When the beans are sprouting I am always reminded of the poem “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” by William Butler Yeats and enjoy the summer mornings in my “bee-loud glade”, though I do not have a cabin and there is no lake near, yet the veils of morning and the midnight’s glimmer are real, and I feel the pull of nature in the earth’s deep core.
And I always plant nine rows of beans.
To my surprise, the seeds I planted last Saturday began sprouting this morning! I’ve gotten a late start on my garden and had a good bit of cleanup to do, and even had older seeds; I wasn’t even sure they’d sprout. But I turned the soil and added compost and grass clippings and turned other plants under, raked and smoothed the soil, and planted two different kinds of green beans and two different kinds of yellow beans, peas, corn and a variety of other plants and seeds.
I watered deeply on Sunday, but this week was long and excessively hot; I watered deeply again on Wednesday and wandered the garden early each morning but not really hoping to see a sprout in less than seven days, likely ten days. Usually, the seeds will wait for a nourishing rain, but the moon and sun must have been in the right places because the first beans must have sprouted with the sunrise—by the time I got out there just a short time after that a half dozen were up in one variety and the soil was lifted and split open in other places.
So of course I had to keep wandering outside to check and see how many more; two of the beds had shown no sign of sprouting but by later in the day they were up, as you see in these photos. We had a nice soft rain later in the morning, then a sunny afternoon and later I noticed a few other things were sprouting as well.
I practically watched the bean seen above split open this morning. Still covered with the soil of its birth, standing tall and leaning toward the source of its nourishment, the sun, the seed is slightly split and inside are the furled leaves, ready to begin the true process of its growth. What a glorious event, the beginning of life, even if it’s only a green bean plant.
And these aren’t only ornamentals, these are, in part, my sustenance, my fall crop of green beans that will grow up to the first frost, the ones I’ll blanch and put in the freezer to eat through winter, or add to soups, or pickle for snacks. I love these beans from their first moment, and treasure this little relationship with my food; the more I love and nourish it, the more it will love and nourish me.
The bean seeds put on a wonderful show when they sprout: first one lone bean pushes a curve of a stem up through the soil much earlier than everyone else, then a day or two later the soil begins to erupt, bumps and ridges forming and growing, and through that day and the next and the next the beans push aside the soil, split their seeds, stand up tall and eager, reaching for the sun. I’ve always wanted to get a time-lapse camera just to be able to photograph the progress.
All the parts of tending a garden a full of images and enjoyment, and watching seeds sprout, or plants grow and flower, has always been such a source of wonder to me. This is my cathedral, where I’ve always found my creator.
The bean seeds were so inspiring; please enjoy the slideshow below.