My deck gets twenty-five hours of sunlight a day in the summer so because covid cancelled my spring trips, I decided to make use of a bunch of long planting containers that my neighbor put out on the street for trash and start a garden.
Gardening is easy. All you have to do is buy the seedlings, get the mulch, replant the seedlings in the mulch, water the newly planted seedlings, expose them to the sun, move them into the shade when they wilt, or water them again, or move them back into the sun, or feed them nitrogen, check on them an hour later to see if they have stopped wilting, shoo the squirrels away, put your finger up to test the wind, water them again, turn around three times, check on them again, and hope for the best. It’s a bit like having a pet that eats sunlight and drinks all day but doesn’t need to go out to pee or poop.
Apparently there’s some mysterious operation related to not letting things go to seed too.
I planted a bunch of herbs: mint, basil, cilantro and tarragon. The cilantro was a non-starter and the tarragon was a disappointment, but I now have abundant mint and basil, which I’ve been putting to good if not abundant use in rum and cokes and stir fries.
I put in two kinds of lettuce: butter and romaine, and because of the mystery about not letting things go to seed, they both grew tall stalks, rather than spreading out in the container like I thought they might. I have harvested a few leaves for a few sandwiches, but not so many as to compel me to do handsprings down the street. Given how tall they’ve grown, I hoped for more.
And I put in zucchini, as well as two kinds of squash: Butter Baby and Cupcake, which have both been growing big leaves and sprouting flowers all summer. For some reason, the Cupcake floundered at the beginning of September, perhaps while I was away being inattentive for the long weekend.
But then, a miracle: on September 9 at noon, I checked under the leaves of the Butter Baby plant and there before my eyes was a beautiful, plump, not-yet-ripe phenomenon of nature: a three-inch long baby squash.
Oh pride, oh joy, oh happiness. I grew a vegetable!
I paced around my deck the way I did when I got a piece of writing accepted. What a thing to happen! An actual vegetable, from the actual ground (or, in my case, ground-like conditions). I took a photo and The Boston Globe ran it with the headline: “Area Man Grows First Vegetable.” Local news rang me for interviews. My mother called me a farmer.
It was stupefying in its wonder.
And all too short-lived.
Two days later, with the phone still ringing off the hook for media interviews, I went out to marvel at my vegetable, but, alas, it was gone.
My one and only vegetable. The pride of my garden. The joy of my deck. Disappeared. Vanished. Gone.
No Butter Baby flambé. No Butter Baby fried with butter and fresh basil. No squash a la mode.
I suspect a squirrel – I have seen one digging in the mulch and he has practically admitted his misdeed when his eyes told me “I’ll be back” – and only wish I could have seen the little thief carrying away my prize.
No, maybe I didn’t actually want to see that. What I wanted was to admire my squash, to water it, fuss over it, watch it ripen. And finally to cook and eat it. With butter and fresh basil.
I’m not mad. Really. A lesson in nature being nature. I get it. But if anyone has any squirrel recipes I’ll soon need one. With basil.