late september

by underswansea

It has been a spectacular September. Today I picked a bag of yellow pan squash and a few zucchinis. I have never had squash this late. It is unheard of. There have been a few frosts in September, but it has been in the morning just before the sun rises.

The tomatoes and squash have had it easy. Even the harvest moon did not bring frost. Two weeks ago I picked most of my tomatoes. They have been ripening in the dark of the basement. We have been eating what we can and freezing the rest. Today I noticed many more ripe tomatoes in the garden. Tomorrow I will pick the rest. This weather can’t last.

My neighbor, Larry, in an effort to further lengthen the gardening season, has brought his plants inside. He is a container gardener par excellence, who loves his plants almost too much. He gardens with a style opposite to my own; he pampers his plants where I prefer to let them suffer. I have not had a sprinkler on during September. Amazingly the carrots and onions and potatoes haven’t seemed to mind.

Larry, on the other hand, waters like clockwork, trims regularly and even turns the pots when the stems are bending towards the sun.

In the spring, I gave Larry some tomatoes and pepper plants that I started from seed. Shortly after most of my plants were killed by a late frost. Larry vowed to nurture his surviving plants, as if they were the last of a dyeing race. Whenever I went over to his house he would show me the plants, as if to say, see they are still all right. He calls the plants I gave him, ‘evil’. Which I have learned is a good thing.

One of the plants I gave him was a black cherry tomato. It is one of my favorites and a variety that is not grown at the local nurseries. When I gave it to him I told him how good they are. I raved about them.

Today he saw me out in the yard and called me over. He gave me a container that once held candy. In it were two layers of black cherry tomatoes separated by a sheet of newsprint. He has been giving them to me every week all September. He says the same thing each time, “I know you lost yours in a frost and I know how much you like them.”

Larry and I have a pact. It was his rule originally; money must never exchange hands between us.

Later, I brought him a head of purple cabbage.

Over the years we have traded just about everything; including meat, firewood, wine, song, beer, smoke, plants, pills and secrets.

About an hour ago I received two text messages from Larry. The first one said, “That evil cabbage, like some beheaded Macbeth, is starting to talk shit”.

The second said, “Do you like cabbage rolls?”