The Peak of Performance, and the slow roll towards Autumn

Things are starting back up again around here. Library books are overdue, it’s high time my syllabus was finished, and I’m going to have to submit a “what I did with my summer research funding” report soon. I think I will have a proper amount to say in that report, but I always wish I had done more. More! More.

The summer always starts out so promising. You have this long stretch of time in which you think, “I can do anything! And everything! I’m going to the beach three times a week and write drafts of TWO you heard me TWO dissertation chapters and create a blog and post in it every day and make all my food from scratch and I’ll grow all of my own food because that’s possible in a concrete backyard, right?”

Maybe that’s just me. Inevitably, I do a couple of the items on my grocery list of ambition, but most of it is actually not possible. Granted, that rant was a bit of an exaggeration, but only a bit. I actually did think I was going to get drafts of two chapters under my belt. I actually did think I was going to get to the beach like once a week. I really wanted to grow some vegetables and cook as much of them as possible. And I did at least a fraction of all of these things. Let’s review, shall we?

Earlier this summer, I posted about my tiny backyard garden. I was so optimistic! All of the plants were doing great at the beginning of the summer, and I thought I was going to be smoothered in zucchini and cucumbers and herbs for the rest of my days. Well, at least for like a week. BUT, things took a turn.

The cucumbers faired the best. At the peak of their performance, the vines had trellised all the way up the porch railing and up onto the strings of lights hanging a few feet above them.

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See that? The plants actually grew more after this picture was taken – they started creeping to the right along the string of lights (I’m not sure if this was dangerous or not…I assume it’s alright).

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This picture from the back shows more of the creepage (and also more of the neighbor’s porch). They grew so much that they started taking over the herbs in the box above them!

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The green swirly fingers grabbed right on to both the thyme stems and the rosemary. (You can see a little baby cucumber hanging out in there too!)

I had hope from this much promising growth that the plants would produce a lot of healthy cucumbers, but there must not have been enough nutrients in the soil, or not enough sun reaching the back deck, because I didn’t get very many. Most of the little ones, like in the picture above, shriveled, and the ones that did grow didn’t entirely fill out. I would have one cucumber with a big butt and one with a tiny waist; none of them were actually cylindrical, and most curled up into a fat “C.” They actually tasted pretty good, but I had hoped to produce at least one fully formed cucumber.

Some of the other plants did alright for awhile. The dill has completely played out, but I think I could still recover the herbs from the cucumbers with a little effort. I may try to move them inside when it gets cool. The kale isn’t so bad either. I can harvest it soon – but it’s just one wee little plant. The leaves stayed small, but it could still provide a meal.

The zucchini didn’t get nearly as far. One day I went out to water the plants, and every zucchini plant had fallen flat over. The leaves weren’t green, and they looked pretty dead. I talked to my dad, and he mentioned that he had a few squash plants that did the same thing, and he told me a story about a moth. I wish I remembered that moth story, because I could tell you now. But let’s just say, I’m blaming the moth. I tried to rehabilitate the plants, and things were looking promising for awhile; the plants started to have new growth, with green green leaves! But then they stopped growing. I didn’t stop doing my part, but damn it if those plants didn’t quit on me.

It almost felt like the end of the desperate zucchini plants was some sort of signal for me to get back to work. I have actually worked a little bit on my dissertation, and feel okay about the thing right now (surprisingly). I am running a writing retreat for graduate students this very week, and hope to get some words on the page, by god.

When the semester starts, though, I worry that the tenor of this blog might change significantly. So far, it’s mostly been about vegetables with the occasional plant or rant thrown in, and a teeny bit about grad school life. I truly hope to keep it going – it’s so good for me to practice writing of any kind. I will still keep trying to grow some things, definitely cook as much as I can with my schedule, and I’ll be damned if I don’t make it to a beach one last time before the fall begins in earnest, but I also need to think about those dissertation chapters, and how I’m going to juggle three different jobs plus dissertation writing. Oh, did I mention I’m working 15-20 hours a week at the Women’s Center starting in the fall? I am beyond excited, and am so grateful to have this opportunity, but I also don’t see many more zucchini plants in my near future. Let’s just say I’m not aiming for garden + food blog celebrity status just yet 🙂

This is all speculation, of course. And anticipation. Anticipation is always a feeling I associate with fall – that crisp in the air makes you feel like things are about to happen. So here’s to counting down toward September: let me not mourn summer and the loss of my cucumbers too much, and instead get excited about opportunities that await me!

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