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A Long Hiatus Ends

Two years have gone by and we've scarcely stuck a trowel into dirt.

I blame these fallow periods on California's lack of seasons. It's even worse with a four-year-old drought on. Planting time seems to begin earlier and earlier and there's always something else to grab our attention.

The oregano, thyme and mint that we moved away from the main vegetable plot are still going. There are brown paper bags hanging from my balcony with drying herbs. They should be ready to put into jars tomorrow. The biggest challenge is harvesting before they go to flower.



The mint died off and has now come back.  It's indestructible, it seems. It makes wonderful tea when added fresh to black tea.  We need to work harder on summer recipes that use mint with yogurt, quinoa or cucumbers.  Perhaps with the Fourth of July holiday coming up we can spotlight some dishes featuring mint.

All that's left in the main vegetable patch is a tenacious yellow chard. We cleared away the knitted trellis and put in storage for awhile. The bamboo stakes that make its framework were splintering and breaking.  The vivid colors of the construction twine have faded, but it's still functional.

Our big challenge in restarting the garden is water. There's some irrigation in the vegetable plot, but not enough. We've always used soaker hoses to good effect, but one has now sprung a leak and with the addition of the herb garden, we need to branch the hoses to hit different areas.

There's always the possibility of doing a drip system, but it takes some expertise in making sure you don't have backflow of water if something gets stopped up.  It's labor-intensive and is best done after you have a plan. That way you know where the drips should be.  We tend to be more impulsive gardeners.

Karen spent a lot of time digging, which means the plot is cleared of a lot of tree roots and we didn't have to resort to mechanically tilling, which disrupts the creatures big and small in the dirt.

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We worried about when to harvest the butternut squash. There's no greening, yellowing, reddening, deepening or other particular sign of ripeness once the squash grow to a certain size. Google Extension Service suggested harvesting before the first frost.  In California, that would be the day before Never.
In Nature's wisdom, the plants told us. The huge green vines that had sprung up on their own, just turned brown and shrank back on their own, leaving six heavy butternut squashes dangling from their red and yellow net bags. (We'd strung them up to keep them away from the wetness of the earth and the mouths of the snails.) We cut them down and divided the harvest.
My first butternut squash, I simply seeded, roasted and scraped the flesh from the shell. Butternut is bland, a lovely gold color, but -- yawn -- not much flavor.  But it was fresh and home grown. That imparts something wonderful to it, if you have the stillness and focus to be aware.