There were many things I had intended to do with my week home alone, but so far the only thing I've managed to accomplish is puttering around in the garden, like some little old lady. Yesterday, I finished planting out my new perennials--with two months left before the ground freezes solid, they should have time to set out roots. I replaced the sad, stringy petunias in my urns with some perky maroon mums. And I finally admitted to myself that my beautiful blue cabbages were fatally afflicted with cabbage fly and that all of those "squash" I thought I was cultivating are actually weeds, so I did a thorough housecleaning in the vegetable beds. Nothing was spared.
Although the general consensus is that it has been a "bad summer"--too cold, too wet--my garden has produced a few tasty dishes. I've had a robust crop of rhubarb, chard and lettuce (but then they always do well here). A fair crop of raspberries (the strawberries, sadly rotted in the rain). And even some peas and beans--but they ripened when I was on deadline at work, and so I never got to harvest them.
Then today I harvested my first crop of carrots, and they were so sweet and orange and crisp, that I can't imagine using the grocery store variety for anything other than soups in the future. The tomatoes are still green on the vine, but in my defense, so are everyone else's. To my credit the plants are laden with fruit. Hopefully September will bring a few weeks of Indian Summer, so that they'll ripen and I can try that canning I've been dreaming about*.
Naturally, all of this puttering in the garden made me a little hungry, so tonight I broke my vow of not cooking while the boys are away and made myself a chard-and-tomato quiche (with tomatoes from the farmers' market--thank God for the farmers' market) and a true "garden salad" from the last of my Marveilles des quatre Saisons lettuce, my carrots and whatever herbs I could find in the flowerbeds: cilantro, parsley, a little dill. It was a delightful meal. The only drawback was that I had no one to share it with.
Instead, I brought Francine Raymond to dinner with me for company. I've been a fan of her books, particularly All My Eggs in One Basket, for some time and tend to pull it down from the shelf whenever the seasons change, searching for seasonal recipes to try in my own kitchen and salivating over a few exotic ones that I couldn't possibly reproduce here--like Sloe Gin or Bottled Quinces. Reading about Francine's productive small holding in Suffolk always makes me want to start canning and get my own little backyard laying flock of Buff Orpingtons, but that will have to wait until Kevin and I move to a more hospitable climate. I can't image venturing outside when it's negative twenty to break the ice off the water dish or rub Vaseline on their frozen feet and combs.
I see from Francine's website that she's decided to sell her edenic Kitchen Garden. If only Kevin and I had the wherewithall to relocate to Bury-St. Edmunds, I'd buy it in a minute. But as it is, I'll have to make do with my own tiny, soggy raised beds and dreams of peach-coloured poultry. Perhaps when I'm a little old lady, I, too, can have my own half-acre of British countryside and can putter around in my garden any old time--and not just when the boys are out-of-town.
*Even though I haven't been able to do any canning of my own, I've enjoyed gifts from friends' larders. Thanks for the pin-cherry jelly, Nancy. It was delicious!