Just a few days ago, we had the hottest day in Nashville history. Ever.
109. Degrees. It hasn’t cooled down much, either. And to think my last post was “It’s Hot As…” and it wasn’t even 100 then. But, guess what? You think that might stop us from gardening here in the compound? Guess again. GWD—Gardening With Dad—continues, and parts of the gardens thrive, actually most parts.
Last week, I told a California friend that it must be too hot for the hummingbirds because I haven’t seen one, and then, this morning, a shiny red throat buzzed in and out of the red daylilies. I still don’t see any at the feeders but, hey, that sugar juice in those hanging jars is hot!
The mockingbirds are always with us, though, annoying creatures that they are. They are trying to help us, though, probably without any honorable intention. They’re mocking the squeaks and whistles from the animal pest control boxes we bought off the Internet. We hear the warnings overhead. If they would just fill in the spots closer to the ground where the sounds of the Yard Sentinels don’t reach, I think we could keep the gardens clear of the critters who love to mow down beans, okra, and corn, not to mention the raiding of the ripening melons on the ground. The raccoons are believers; they don’t go near the vegetables.
Dad’s harvest is abundant. We’ve eaten romaine, sweet corn, green beans, cucumbers, cabbage, eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini, blackberries, onions, red potatoes, beets and tomatoes. Mom and I put green beans and blackberries in the freezer; then she made pickled beets and a few jars of blackberry jam. Today we got lima beans. We’re waiting for watermelons, butternut squash, and peppers—and there’ll be more of almost everything else.
We share with the neighborhood. The Al-Akashis next door bring us some of their yield and we try to outdo them in reciprocation. Dad leaves baskets on the back porch of the single-mom family across the street. A church friend stopped by to leave plastic communion cups and candle holders in our recycling bins. She got tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers.
After the July 4th indoor cookout (or should that just be a “cook-in”), our guest went home with corn, squash, and something else that I can’t remember. I took a load to a nice lady at the end of the street who rescued Murphy and me from a big dog last week. She was ecstatic, her husband less enthused. I think he’s afraid she’s going to make him eat eggplant.
The weather forecast for the week says “more hot and dry” with only the slightest chance for rain. We hear thunder almost every day and some clouds gather but it doesn’t rain.
Dad waters the vegetable garden and young trees from the big rainwater tank he placed in back of the apartment. Dave and I tap the Cumberland River flow from the front and back spigots to water roses, pots of all manner of blooming things, vines (morning glories, hyacinth bean, and cypress), and various beds. And still, much is dry and brittle. The lawn crunches under foot. I don’t pull weeds down in the big garden for fear of unsettling a perennial in this punishing heat. Some previously dependable sun-lovers cry uncle.
I try to water my portion of the grounds early. It takes just about an hour to hand water the pots, the plants under the ramp, and the “back door garden”, the one beside the patio entrance to The Cellar. After that, I set a sprinkler on the big corner garden for at least an hour and follow with an hour of drip irrigation on the roses. Dave has a similar regiment out front.
Our standard is every other day. We will lose some plants to this heat wave, even those that we water every morning. The roses are fine and so are the daylilies. In fact, almost all the perennials promise to be with us next year and the year after.
We have a couple of new intruders who threaten petunias and even the roses and daylilies. Deer. Walking through the vegetable garden. I’m sure they are thirsty. They circumvent the solar-powered noisemakers, double back to lick their lips from green tomatoes, and then prance through the patio to the petunias. I haven’t seen chomps out of the roses—yet—but we all know Bambi loves her some rosebuds.
And then there’s Old Fatso, the resident groundhog. Dad has watched him pretty carefully all spring and summer. Old Fatso respects the whistles and shrieks from the Yard Sentinels and so does his newly-discovered cousin (or brother or sister) so they’ve avoided the garden, but one day Dad found him eating the petunias on the side of the apartment where there is a dead spot for the alarms. Does everybody just love petunias? I feared Old Fatso had transgressed beyond redemption. Doesn’t he remember the disappearance of five family members we took over to the Agriculture Center last year?
When I left Mom and Dad after the cocktail hour last Saturday, I noticed the daylilies swaying and shaking down in the lower gardens.
“What?” I yelled and burst through their door above the courtyard. “Get out of my garden!” Old Fatso hauled A to the ravine.
“Okay, Dad,” I said the next morning, “I want you to set the trap over there in my big garden. He won’t be expecting you to try to catch him over on that side so maybe we can get him.”
“Yeah. I was thinking about that. I think I’ll put some cantaloupe in there for bait.”
“What are you going to do about the deer?” I asked.
“I’m going to stake a string around the garden.”
“Well, your mom is perfuming up some strips of cloth and we’re going to tie them on the string. They don’t like that.”
At dusk, Dave and I watched the raccoons push the trap around in the garden, trying to find a way to get the cantaloupe without entering the cage. We both agreed that we would need to free a raccoon the next morning. There was nothing in the trap.
Dad pulled out of the drive in his Nissan pickup the next morning. I waved him down.
“Where are you going so early?”
“To get some apples. Old Fatso loves apples.”
After a little rehab work, Dad moved the big cage back to the downside of the vegetable garden. The scent of steaming Red Delicious filled the hot air under the trees next to the ravine.
“I got Old Fatso!” he yelled the next morning when I went out to water.
“I guess you and Dave will be making a trip to the agricultural center?”
“Yeah, sometime today.”
Dad turned in his chair that evening to look out the window.
“What are you looking for?” I asked.
“Nothing,” he said. “I just miss Old Fatso.”
“Do you think you really caught Old Fatso?” Dave asked. “That groundhog we took over to the ag center was scrawny; he looked like a young one.”
“You’re right. That wasn’t Old Fatso. That must have been his cousin.”
“I named that one Jumbo,” Mom said.
“Yeah, we caught Jumbo, not Old Fatso,” Dad said.
A bunch of my friends are enjoying a summer bounty of vegetables from Avalon Acres, a local farm that receives and distributes produce, meat, and dairy from other local growers. We have GWD, Gardening With Dad, here on the ravine. Avalon Acres’ program is CSA, Community Supported Agriculture. Such an alliance allows the local farmers to sell their produce, meat, dairy, and eggs; it is a wondrous treat for the rest of us.
“What did you get?” I asked a friend just after her box arrived from Avalon.
“Fennel, Veronica cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, a yellow melon of some kind, peaches, corn, eggs…and goat’s milk and goat cheese!”
“Wow!” I said. “I wish I had some goat cheese. We need some goats.”