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Gopher Gulch: Fall memories of exertions of yesteryear

Fall is so much easier now than it was when I was younger. I’m putting the finishing touches on the summer’s work, pruning back the tendrils of jungle so they don't throttle the guys when they mow.

I remember the hard years of market gardening and canning. Years like the one when the grandchildren, the peaches and the tuna arrived simultaneously just as the beans were coming on faster than I could pick them.

Early in September I’d be canning everything edible, planting buckwheat in a lettuce bed, beets where the peas had been and garlic everywhere. Garlic is a wonderful deterrent for many diseases and pests, and individual cloves can be poked among and around everything, especially roses. Garlic is one of those underrated plants like potatoes and tomatoes.

Some folks think all potatoes are like the tasteless Russets from the store, all tomatoes are bland and watery and all garlic is hot. Gardeners know better. I do miss wiggling my hand in the cool soil under foliage just starting to wilt and withdrawing a fistful of buttery Yukon Gold.

But I don’t miss spending foggy mornings “harvesting” slugs and snails. If God had intended me to reach the ground hundreds of times before breakfast, She’d have made my arms longer.

I don’t miss working so hard I’d fight back tears of exhaustion and self-pity while canning tuna near midnight. The whole world reeked and every step made a velcro sound since that jar of peach jam broke. I smelled like week-old fish, the clatter of the petcock made my head ring and there was no space left on the counter for the hot jars.

Frankly, it’s a huge relief to have given away my pressure cooker and most of the jars. I saved the water-bath kettle and a couple dozen small jars, just in case I’m struck stupid by the desire to make jam. It’s sort of like saving that last maternity top. Sure as I gave up the last of the canning stuff, I’d be sorry.

I confess that instead of canning or gardening, I’ve been teaching the frogs synchronized swimming. It’s easy. Simply find where they hang out on a rock or a log, move your hand rapidly as a signal to start, and they’re off!

I watch Black Phoebe hunt from an elderberry branch above the frog pond. She leaps joyfully into the air to snatch avian fast food and then returns to her perch. Dragonflies soar over the yard, cottonwood leaves rustle in the breeze, the sun warms my face and I’m wrapped in the pungent, complex scent of ocean.

For those of you in middle years that worry about the future, I’ve gotta tell you that for me, and for virtually everyone I talk to, aging is awesome! No one expects you to be terribly productive physically, so you can hang out by the frog pond and experience the world in the middle of the day.

Reach Inez Castor, a longtime Triplicate columnist, at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

 


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