Rare Harvests

I have figs! I have figs!

Perhaps six years ago, I got to taste a fig straight off a friend’s fig tree. It was the most unique and amazing flavor. I decided I wanted to grow my own, and so the saga began.

The winters here are borderline for growing figs. The first winter mine all died. The second winter I wrapped them in burlap and moved them to a protected corner of the yard. And they still died. I thought.

After I planted new ones, the roots of the previous years’ sprouted fresh. That winter I brought them inside when it got below 20 degrees outside, but then it stayed cold and they stayed indoors and came out of dormancy. They leafed out and sprouted fruits but didn’t get enough light and the tiny figs fell off.

Last winter I brought them inside when it got below 15 degrees outside, but got them back outside quickly. The winter didn’t have too many cold snaps, and they happily started growing at the first signs of spring. Like every other year, this summer they were nice and green and leafy. Unlike other years, I saw figs forming!

I held my breath, ready for the figs to drop too early, but, no! They turned dark and heavy with sugar. Would the flavor be as extraordinary as I remembered?

Yes indeed.

Another rare harvest is the butternut squash. I got four small ones off of that volunteer vine! It looks like it’s true that the squash vine borers don’t like butternut squash because the vines never succumbed. I will definitely plant more in the future. The only problem came when we brought Larry the cat inside after he’d spent a month roaming my garden. It only took a week before the squirrels were making a mess of it.

I’ve also harvested a couple melons (one too early, sadly), the corn is looking good from a distance but aphids have damaged the ears, the okra is blooming (really the flowers are the main reason I grow okra!), I’m collecting one blackberry at a time in the hope of having enough to make jam (though with Larry the cat outside, the birds and squirrels left me more berries this year), the beans finally started to amount to something, the flowers are blooming, and tomatoes continue to ripen (although I have yet to taste some of the most intriguing varieties including Dragon’s Eye and Cosmic Eclipse).

Larry the cat has been doing OK in his life indoors. He is a difficult cat, which we anticipated when we brought him in. He has tons of energy, he is a gawky teenager, and his brain seems to short out regularly which results in people being bitten. He’s loving, too.

This morning I felt like I bargained for his soul. It turns out that he belonged to the relative of a neighbor but had come to live with the neighbor when the relative lost her apartment. No one at his new home could stand him indoors, so they put him outside. Then he disappeared for the last week and everyone was worried.

I told them we’d taken him to the vet and were treating him for problems that the vet had found. I told them I could tell that he’d been cared for. I offered to take over caring for him and said I had been planning to see if we could work him in with our other cats. His previous caretaker seemed a little relieved and agreed.

She did make sure I knew his real name is Raja and that he’s part Bengal. She said if she could find them she’d drop off his vet records.

He always turns to look when he hears voices across the street. He still considers her his person.

Meanwhile, the Ladies are a little stressed about another cat being around, even though we can’t officially introduce them all until Larry’s intestinal parasites clear up. The one good thing for them now that he’s indoors: they can sit uninterrupted at their back door once more. They can’t complain too much about their life of leisure and luxury.

The Usual Drama

Hard to believe, but my garden has been around for about 8 years now! Every spring it unfolds itself in such a beautiful way. By now I know what to expect and the beauty to look for, but its predictability doesn’t make it any less beautiful.

The daffodils have only now stopped blooming. I was inspired by a friend to get a couple new varieties every year and in no time I’ll have a wide array blooming throughout the spring. Already it’s a successful strategy.

I loved my dramatic orange tulips last year, so I ordered more for this year. Again, they were fantastic. This year, I noticed the beauty as they changed. First they were green buds with a hint of orange around the edges. Then they were oranger buds whose tight petals held interesting shapes. Next came brilliant blooms that looked great with the curvy green leaves of the hostas, and finally the fading blooms fell open but continued their color variety.

Every year it is also amazing to see the ferns appear from the ground as small knots that slowly unpack themselves and expand into the form they will keep throughout the summer and into the fall. It’s another process that carries a different beauty in each of its stages.

And there are many other things emerging, growing, changing, expanding, and blooming.

And the hostas are slowly reaching toward their final height. They are reminding me that summer is just around the corner despite the continuing spring blooms from the bulbs I’ve planted. Looking at their leaves, I think of July when they dominate my shade garden.

And for good measure, here are some photos of the cats. They’re wonderful ladies.

With the nice spring weather, I’ve been thinking of Shamoo and how much he enjoyed spending mornings sitting on a chair at the open back door while I read the paper. So far this spring we’ve had several days that he would have thought were perfect.

I still like to have the door open, and Ygraine in particular has been drawn to it. I tried putting a chair in front of it to boost her up like Shamoo, and though she looked at it with interest she seemed to repeat to herself, “No! I must not get up on the furniture. I must not get up on the furniture.”

Last weekend, the bird sounds were too much for her and she launched herself at the screen door, first climbing up it and then bouncing off of it. She seemed to know that this was bad kitty behavior, but I could also see that she couldn’t help herself.

I got the chair and put her on it.

She jumped down in horror: “I must not get on the furniture!”

I picked her up again and held her there. I tried to point her toward the screen window, but she turned to try to leave.

I patted her and told her she would enjoy looking outside from the chair and that I knew it was what she really wanted.

Still she fought me.

Then she saw a little bird motion behind her and she turned to the door and was entranced. It’s been her happy morning spot ever since.

Sensing Spring

Despite a couple snowfalls last week, springtime is starting to make subtle hints that winter will be on its way out soon.

February dusting

I’m refilling my bird feeders daily, looking out for the goldfinches who swarm them. Specks of bright yellow have begun to appear among their feathers as they switch to their flashier summer plumage. Slowly the sunny yellow will take over the drab.

Indoors, my fig trees decided that it was time to come out of dormancy.

little figs

I’ve tried growing figs for the past three years after tasting a fresh fig straight from the tree in a friend’s garden. It was a wonderful flavor and they are pretty trees. The first winter killed my figs. The second winter I wrapped the trees in burlap and put them in a protected area, but they still died back to their roots and had to put all their energy into regrowing.  This winter I brought them indoors just before the first time that temperatures dipped below 20 degrees. I’d hoped they’d remain dormant longer, but suddenly leaves emerged a couple weeks ago and now they are fruiting. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, so we shall see. I’m making it up as I go.

Meanwhile, every variety of snow crocus has now bloomed. It’s an outbreak! The yellow ones, the blue ones, the white ones, and the purple ones. They are all particularly early varieties. Other bulbs can’t be too far away from flowering now, can they?

And solitary bees are hatching indoors! I brought in a wind chime that needs to be repaired. It’s made of bamboo. For the past week or two I’ve heard odd little sounds coming from its general direction. Then there were a couple bees on the floor near it. Maybe I should install a solitary bee nest this summer.

solitary bee

And I’ve experienced my first moment of being overwhelmed by all the seeds I’ve ordered. I tried to organize them last week, strategizing which to plant when and where so everything is staged correctly to maximize the little space I have.  Looking over the four seed orders that have arrived in the past couple months plus older seed packets I still have filed away, I wondered (as I do every year) what was I thinking? How will I possibly cram all of this into my little garden? So many beautiful plants for me to plant!

The first round of seeds is now in little planting cups staying warm in my kitchen. Spring had better be here by the time they’re ready to go in the ground!