The early part of summer is a time of great angst for gardeners. It is the foundation upon which the rest of the gardening season is built. Screw up then, and the garden is screwed up really good. If nothing is planted, nothing will grow. In middle and late summer if you don’t weed as much as you ought–well, things will survive.
Considering how poorly I did in the early part of this year, my gardening endeavors are going much, much, better than I deserve. The reason for this is the abundance of rain this summer. Rain covers over a multitude of gardening sins. On whole, this summer has been exceptionally wet and cool. This means that even though I didn’t get my cucumbers in until very late they probably will actually still produce. It also means that my corn is growing well (that corn I thought would never grow), my apples tree are bursting with life (even the one chomped by the evil deer) and my grape vines are growing with the vigor of a weed.
Standing at the beginning of August I am at a lull, a point of magnanimity toward all. Everything is growing. Everything is late, I won’t have any winter squash, but it looks like I’ll have a harvest from everything else, and considering the mistakes and hectic confusion of May, June, and July, I feel I’ve come off quite well.
My one source of ever-panging guilt is the blueberry bushes up on the hill. My Dad, with a bit of help from us oldest but then young boys, planted about fifty blueberry bushes. Not all of them have survived through the years, but many of them have. As Dad’s health has declined and Teman has gone off to get a respectable job, I have felt responsible for the blueberry bushes. Most years I’ve managed some kind of token care for them, but this year I’ve done absolutely nothing, and I feel terrible about it. They’ve had no mulch, not even a mowing! They are choked with tall grass, burdock, and sprouting saplings. They have been abused, neglected, and utterly mistreated. I am not worthy of them. (Woe is me!)
Yet, in some great irony, this year the blueberry bushes have produced in more abundance than they have before. Double, if not fourfold over last year’s harvest. The actual reason for this has several causes. While the harvest pleases me, it also gives me a bit of a feeling as if what I do doesn’t matter in the least.
The two main reasons why the blueberries have put out such a good harvest this year is because of the abundent rain and the fact that finally, after so many years, the bushes have reached full maturity. Neither of these things has anything to do with my past or present labor, so I also like to think the care and mulching they have received in previous years has helped contribute to the good harvest. Secretly, I can’t help but think if I took even better care of them the harvest would have been even larger. I seem incapable of being satisfied with what I have.
Somewhat related to the subject of the blueberry bushes, there was a paper wasp nest in the weeds at the base of one of the blueberry bushes. The little kids were in terror of them, and warned everyone to stay far away. Yesterday I went up to pick some berries, and I was stung twice.
With the little kids warning in mind I was keeping a half eye open for the nest, but that wasn’t enough. The wasp nest was hidden by the grass, and most of my attention was focused on the berries so when I heard the telltale buzzzzz I thought vaugely that there must be a lot of flies around. Then I felt the most walloping sting on the back of my hand and my first thought was that I was bit by a big deer fly. I gave a half-outraged, half-pained shout and looked at the back of my hand to see a black and mustard colored wasp stinging me for all he was worth. I was incensed that he was stinging me when I’d done no sort of assualt against him, and tried to brush him away without losing my handful of berries. Then I was stung again, and I decided I’d best forget the berries and get out of there before my body became a mass of stings.
I dropped the berries and made a quick escape. The middle and pointer fingers on my right hand had both been stung and for the first two minutes they hurt like crazy. Then the pain quickly faded to be replaced by throbbing. I went down to the house and plastered the stings with a baking soda and witch hazel mixture and ate a vitamin C. Baking soda and witch hazel work great for bee stings, but I’m not sure it does anything for wasp stings. Bee stings give me more of an itching bite while wasp stings give me more swelling. Both of my fingers swelled up for several hours, but by evening most of it had gone away. Today I have a bit of an itch, and only very minor swelling.
Yesterday evening Dad went up to pick some berries and he also was stung. His anger was such that he stomped on the nest once before fleeing. He went back later to stomp on it several more times, and I’ve been told the wasps won’t be bothering us any more.