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Bulbous, white mushrooms dot the winding paths to the garden and the orchard, as magical markers to a bountiful, colorful and unexpected harvest.

Natural chaos 

Bulbous, white mushrooms dot the winding paths to the garden and the orchard, as magical markers to a bountiful, colorful and unexpected harvest.

If you tilled your garden early and stayed up with the mulching, nature took care of the rest this year, with regular monsoon downpours, freakish hailstorms and Weather Channel-worthy micro-bursts. Ping-pong ball sized hail "thinned out" our squash and shredded a few tomatoes, but the veggies came back strong.

Believe me, we tried to be creative with all the yellow squash. It just kept coming.

A garden starts out as a feng shui landscape at spring's first planting, the rows and mounds following the contours of the soil. At our house, a slight east-west incline allowed for curving rows to contain rainfall. It looks beautiful to come home to, and even better at dawn.

But then the plants start growing. The yellow squash streaked across the sweet potatoes, the pumpkins took up residence in the cherry tomato vines. The butternut squash decided they liked it better outside the fence. Cucumbers scaled the tomato cages with glee. There's an aging potato plant happily nesting with a Big Boy. A living garden is natural chaos.

Sure, I had narrow paths to start with, to run the hoses, provide for the wheelbarrow. Top-heavy tomato plants, bushy green peppers and those ubiquitous yellow squash vines now block passage. In the longer term, the blueberry bushes, planted so "nicely" (and too close) to complement apple, cherry and pear trees have simply taken over the water table, sending out sprouts and runners in every direction. The poor, sage apple trees didn't know what hit them.

Competing with the birds and the deer, we filled plastic buckets of blueberries all July.

My wife showed up in the blueberry patch one morning with a 9-foot stepladder. It's been that kind of summer.

Our garden is off limits to our eager dogs. One wag of the golden retriever's tail, and "Oops, there goes the basil." But the cats love the wilds of the watermelon and squash vines for napping.

You know how it is when you plant stuff. You cheer on each green shoot, exclaim at the first flowers, give thanks for the bees and rain. I especially root for the volunteers.

We make detailed lists in April of what seeds and sets we want. In July, we find out what we get. Vibrant green tendrils of some unknown squash family renegade showed up in one corner last month. They're the most alive thing in the garden right now. I've rigged up side-by-side wire towers for these prospective gourds. Nearby, the roma tomatoes are going gangbusters, but each day the last thing I do when I visit the garden is check out the outlaw gourd encampment. What are they planning? When will they show their colors? Are they just waiting for the right time to headbutt the rah-rah romas?

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