3 Jun 2012
Obsessed with vegetables
Even though this past summer was not my most successful in the vegie garden - I had as many failed crops as I did fruitful ones - I am now experiencing a deep, sad sense of separation from it.
There is now very little to do; I am only cutting silverbeet and curly kale; there is nothing else ready. Even the chilli plant is slowing down; there are long green chillis hanging down mournfully, as if to say, 'it is too dark and cold for us to ripen'.
Worse than the lack of productivity is the fact that I now only see my garden at the weekends.
This is a complete turnaround from the summer - a summer that was the most gorgeous one I can recall since moving to Tasmania. This summer I was outside after work every evening I could be, tending the different rows of climbing peas and dwarf beans, watering the silverbeet that would wilt in the heat, mulching and feeding, nurturing the survivors and mourning the deaths - and just revelling in being out there, getting my hands dirty, using a different part of my brain, relaxing and re-charging my batteries by gardening.
Now it is too dark and cold when I come home from work to go outside except if I need silverbeet, and even then it is a rush to get back inside to the warmth. So this weekend - where the skies have been grey all day and the air still and cold - I forced myself outside: to breathe in the fresh air, apply a little liquid feed to the cabbages, rake up the autumn leaves from my nearly-bare blossom tree. A little pruning, moving some pots - not proper tasks, just an excuse to do something in my garden. To say hello.
I cooked a risotto this morning, creamy, starchy carbs perfect for the upcoming cold week. Made with completely bought vegetables. Beautiful ones, and admittedly ones I wouldn't or couldn't grow - sweet potato, onions, brussels sprouts, red capsicum - but the fact that I bought them all was a little depressing. They were not properly mine.
I am in love with vegetables at the moment, obsessed by vegetables. Not just eating them or growing them, but reading or watching other people grow and harvest and cook them on the television. The River Cottage TV shows with Hugh F-W are so beautiful to watch, a rose-tinted escape to a very rewarding English countryside.
And I am wallowing in the gentle pleasures of Nigel Slater's 'Tender', how he transformed his London backyard into a beautiful, productive garden; how he fights the snow and the foxes, but enjoys the asparagus and tomatoes and peas. This quote hits the right note for me:
There is no possible way I could be self-sufficient in vegetables and fruit with a garden this size. ... That is not the point. I grow simply for the pleasure of growing; for the joy of watching seeds turn into plants and seeing them - sometimes - come to fruition.
This is, so far, much better than Stephanie Alexander's 'Kitchen Garden Companion' - wrong time of year for me to read this, as every page was filled with summer harvests. In the mood I am in, it just depressed me more, reminding me of what I could not enjoy.