Water, rocks, fireflies: They're the main characters in our June gardening plot.
If last week's torrents of four-plus inches of rain didn't wreak havoc on your corn, sunflowers and tomatoes, and your mulch didn't wash away, you're embracing this season like a long-lost friend. I'm still wishing for sprinkles every few days. This year, I've gone simple with hoses, coming full circle from elaborate drip irrigation grids and brass water-junction schemes. Standing in the quiet garden late one afternoon, holding one hose over one plant, I realized I was doing my favorite thing. The whole world slowed to that single spray of water. Each plant got my full attention.
Later, sitting in a rusty but oh-so-comfortable chair by the garden gate, it was as if I could actually see the twisting tomato vines growing, reaching for the sun. A month ago, everything was so neat and tidy, so full of expectation and anticipation. Now nature's chaos has kicked in. Some plants are floppy, and some seem asleep. Some are little tough guys, while some are already at the third level.
Because of last year's swarm of squash bugs, we had to move the zucchini patch to a once weedy, failed blueberry mound. A dozen robust zuke plants have announced that they are the new kids in town. Before fencing them in, I add healthy doses of chicken-coop compost and good luck soil from our garden.
When I mow the edges around the orchard, I must stop every few minutes to pry out rocks from the orange clay soil. In the deeper woods, old field patterns from decades before mark discarded corn and tobacco rows. These stones, I think, are like history's weeds: I know I'm not the first person who's bent down, pried them out of the ground and flung them aside.
Recently, I was weeding the garden a little too aggressively behind a great weekend glass of iced coffee. On my hands and knees, I did the basil and peppers, then did a flip turn to keep the momentum, focusing now on the grape tomatoes. "Damn," I thought. "Where did all these bushy weeds come from?" As I cupped my hand to yank the first bunch, I smelled a sweet, faint aroma—mint. This was my wife's row of several special mint varieties. Woe to anyone, two- or four-legged, who messed with it. I was done weeding for the day.
Our home-for-the-summer daughter wanted to go exploring several days ago. Heading for the blueberries, rounding a corner of the very familiar path, she called back at me wryly, "Whoa, Dad, what's that?" She had encountered a pair of large black snakes copulating under an apple tree.
If it's after 8 p.m., go outside. Take a friend. Find some green grass and let your eyes adjust. Oceans of fireflies will present themselves for your summer delight.