Sunday, July 26, 2009

Weekend Mishmash: The Not-So-Secret Garden

Dan and I make no secret about it: We love spending our summers in the woods of northern Michigan. Up here, the air is pure, the trees are lovely, and the days are long. Sometimes, the sky doesn’t turn dark until ten o’clock at night... and there’s nothing quite like watching the sun rise above Big Bear Lake (on the rare occasions that we’re up that early).

Of course, despite such natural splendor, we feel isolated at times. We’re a long way, after all, from our friends in Los Angeles (where we spend our winters) and my family in New Orleans (where we spend the spring and fall). But, most of the time, we’re grateful for our peaceful summers – the perfect way to rejuvenate our weary spirits, in the months between our two hectic film festivals.

For the past three summers, though, there’s been one aspect of our Michigan stay that Dan and I have anticipated the most: growing our little garden, beside our little house. For Dan, there’s nothing better than cooking with fresh produce. For me, there’s nothing better than eating it right off the vine.

True, Dan has the green thumb in the family – and he’s much better than I am at tending the herbs and vegetables. But, despite my shortcomings, I enjoy sifting the dirt with my hands, situating the small plants in May, watering them throughout June and July, and observing the zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, and other delectables in August and September.

Every year, we’ve tried something new. The first summer, it was bok choy. Last year, it was green beans. This time, it was eggplant. And while the summer of 2009 has been particularly cool – especially at night – and caused the unfortunate shriveling of more than one plant, some of the herbs and produce are indeed thriving. During a recent rainstorm, the aromas of mint and cilantro were overpowering, and we’ve already plucked two amazing specimen of zucchini.

Perhaps, the rest of the plants will rally soon. By the end of August, I hope that the teeny bell peppers will have expanded, the green tomatoes will have ripened, and the elusive eggplant will have appeared – if only so that Dan won’t feel so dejected about this season’s efforts. But, no matter what happens, it’s still fun watering the plants on a warm summer’s day and looking up to see our curious kitty, Ruby, watching from the bedroom window.

Or is it a fluttering butterfly that’s captured her awareness? Sometimes, it’s hard to say with her.


Weronika said...

I've been in Michigan a few times; my family has friends there from the time we lived in Wisconsin. I haven't, however, experienced much of the 'natural' effect of the state, which is unfortunate. I hope that the two of you are enjoying your stay! I wish you the best of times!

Laura Martone said...

I don't find many people who have been to Michigan - but I really love it here. My dad (who's lived in Louisiana since birth) thinks there's nothing beyond Detroit. It's so frustrating, trying to explain to people just how beautiful this state is... especially in the northern parts, where I live. Anyway, thanks for the warm thoughts, Weronika - Dan and I are having a groovy time (as always). I hope your summer's going well, too.

A misinterpreted wave said...

Your vegies look amazing. I agree with you - they are so nice to eat off the vine, especially tomatoes ( I know they're not a vegie but ...)

I have a little patch and have started to grow peas, carrots and strawberries. I hope that it will inspire my 2.5 year old to eat them

Stephanie Faris said...

I'm missing that green thumb but how exciting. My boyfriend's mom has a tomato plant outside on her patio and it makes the best tomatoes, although they're small. Unfortunately, I'm not much of a vegetable eater, although I wish I were.

Laura Martone said...

Wave - Oops, you're right. Tomatoes are not, technically, a veggie. Well, darn it all, they're still good with the rest of the salad veggies. And I do confuse easily. Anyhoo, good luck with your own garden - I'm impressed with your efforts to grow strawberries... I've never been so brave. And I sure hope your little one eats them... I've always loved fruits and vegetables, but then, as my husband so lovingly points out, I'm kind of a freak.

Stephanie - Yeah, I wouldn't have much of a green thumb on my own - but I sure can appreciate a decent garden. I especially love the little tomatoes - sometimes, the smaller they are, the more flavor they have! Making up for their small size, I suppose. Well, I can only hope that you'll be more of a veggie eater someday... I've loved veggies since I was a little kid (guess Mom's tastes wore off on me), and I still love them. There's nothing like eating a big ol' salad - it's yummy, and I feel good about myself.