Despite flood, hail, drought, high winds, plant diseases, weeds, bugs, deteriorating muscles, coons, deer, squirrels, moles, stock market crashes, grain market inflation, skyrocketing land prices, root rot, robins, rabbits, and radio talk shows, once more the annual great miracle has occurred. We are (literally after the last downpour) swimming in homegrown food. The August Glut is upon us, and we dance among the corn stalks in sheer delight.
If farming teaches anything, it is how precarious life is. We live daily on the edge of a precipice overlooking possible starvation and not just in Somalia. No one is safe. Texas is drying up, the Mississippi Valley is washing away. The Midwest has been too hot for crops so we were told, and the Northwest too cold. Fungal diseases threaten the corn, leaf hoppers chew on the beans and Japanese beetles attack everything except the fence posts. Monsanto threatens organic farming; organic farming threatens Monsanto. The USDA increases the national debt by spending gobs of money to tell us about the Latest Bad Bug, which we don’t want to hear about. We haven’t figured out what to do with yesterday’s Bad Bugs yet or in fact can’t even deal with the Bad Bugs Of The Last Century. Just when my son and I finally have some really great pasture in August because of all the rain, black clouds of horseflies descend on the livestock, driving them back into the darkness of the barn. They’d rather go hungry than brave that biting pestilence.
We can’t win. We moan and bitch that all is lost. We sit around the coffee shop, staring at each other, trying to alleviate our anxiety by cursing politicians. We entertain despair. Why did we ever do anything so insane as to try farming?
And now, in August, a sort of paradise regained rises out of the earth’s crust. Despite all the odds, I am slurping down four ears of corn every evening, not to mention a steady diet of muskmelons, tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, peas, beans, onions, lettuce, and blackberries. It is sheer gluttony. Oh how I love being a sinner.
The champion of this year’s garden is the cucumber. We grow Straight 8, an open pollinated variety which I am surprised King Monsanto hasn’t tried to confiscate with a patent yet. I am sure glad that we did not grow one of the new super-duper hybrids because if we had, it might have smothered us, house and all, by now. I planted four hills in soil too wet to be even walking on. I dug little holes and filled them with drier compost and stuck the seeds in. In three days they were up and running. Never have I seen cucumber plants burgeon out like these have, trying to strangle stray dogs and lurking along the road ditch waiting for an unwary, slow-moving hiker. From four hills, we’ve harvested and mostly thrown away three or four wheelbarrow loads, and the ground under the vines continues to pile up with more, from football size down to pickle size. It is downright scary. What made them grow so giddily this year? Did I accidently plant in the right sign of the moon? Or the right triple Scorpio time of the zodiac? There were no cucumber beetles so far this year so that helped. (They must have drowned or died of heat stroke.)
Our son and daughter- in- law planted one cucumber hill in their 25 ft. square kitchen garden. It overflowed the entire space, swarming over the other vegetables and finally climbing up the bean poles. You go into that little garden at your own risk because you can get lost there in the cucumber jungle. It is eerie to pick pole beans in this situation. All of a sudden, you are face to face with a cucumber the size of the boa constrictor staring out at you.
I wonder if ethanol can be distilled out of cucumbers. If so, this year we could run the Middle East out of the oil business.