Great Expectations

As a gardener, we learn to set very low expectations especially after improperly planting out the garden (according to the tag, ahem, not the gardener’s fault). This year I resurrected the vegetable patch. Five years prior it was lush and full of bell peppers, tomatoes, basil, zucchinis and the like. I went away for a week’s vacation only to find that I had provided a gourmet buffet for the groundhogs, chipmunks, and very charming but voracious rabbits. The vegetable patch remained barren for years thereafter, weeds accumulating and looking like a Dr. Suess meeting with  the Lord of the Flies jungle. At one point I stole all of the beautiful rich composted soil from the patch and used it elsewhere in the garden – I didn’t know I could move that much earth in one summer!
Since then, the vegetable patch became the bunny run, during a crazy period when a gazillion rabbits roamed on my property (yes, I had something to do with it). We would place them in the 20×40 fenced in patch and they would roam freely for a couple of hours a day. Of course, my little girls would play with them for half an hour or so. We didn’t watch them for the entirerty of their free run, boys and girls romping in the grass, mind you. Soooo, not too many weeks later, more bunnies arrived. Sweet, charming and so adorable. Well, the great expectation of something so cute and adorable remaining at four ( yes, just four bunnies to begin) at one point became FIFTY cute and adorable bunnies. Each one seemed to want to have 7-9 babies at a time and then a couple of adults were donated to the “cause” and then the explosion happened. Yes, it was hilarious and overwhelming and eventually they all had to go. Two years of expectations greater than desired – ha!
Now, going back to the garden “issue”, my second harvest being noteworthy (by my accounts only, of course): 5 radishes (at 40 days instead of the 22 on the seed packet), a big handful of jalepeno peppers (guess I’ll make jalapeno jelly since nobody likes spicy food but me), one meyer lemon (hooray!), a couple of handfuls of baby mesclun and 4 cukes. I guess you know why I didn’t mention the first harvest. Granted I did plant out late and start some things from seed instead of the prestarted grower’s packs. But still, July 20th and only a handful of yummies?! What has gardening come to?!?!
There is a great overabundance of cilantro (already going to seed), extremely aromatic basil to fill plenty of plates of fresh mozzy and plump tomatoes (from the grocer or someone else’s garden). Pesto is great but the pasta seems to get in the way of enjoying it purely while staying away from those “danger, danger” carbs. We’ll puree the excess and freeze little cubes for great butter, garlic and olive oil blend over a nice light, white fish or a juicy chicken breast. I’ll take butter over carbs any day! Weeks to come will bring sugar snap peas, green beans, carrots, green onions, white and red radishes, fennell (mmmm, licorice!), sweet and hot peppers and spinach that still hasn’t made it above the soil surface. The once abundant blueberry bushes were a delight for the birds and chipmunks. At planting they were complete engulfed in berries and I thoroughly netted them. Those rascals!!! I guess I should pay more attentions to their sneaky ways of getting under the netting. The girls and I would watch from a distance and remark how odd it was that individual branches were moving quite rapidly yet there was no wind or large animal lurking around. Mr. McGregor, what did you do beside carry around your shotgun?
As I mentioned earlier, I learned to keep my expectations low – not because I don’t think I’m good at gardening but because of  what time and energy I was able to put into it this year as well as what Mother Nature is obviously asking me to contribute to my fellow friends out there. I am happy to oblige. Through it all, I’m actually quite thrilled at my tiny harvest. Each spicy radish gets its own memory, the jalapenos will make a beutiful batch of mildly spicy jelly to share with many and the 4 cukes will make a lovely salad for dinner tonight. The hundreds of tiny heirloom cherry tomatoes will be for another glorious summer evening.
Standards and expectations are part of what makes life interesting. What one believes another should have or want or how perfect a garden should be is really completely in the mind of the beholder. Other’s admiring from a distance really have no idea how ‘perfect’ the garden should be to the gardener – they are merely watching and learning and enjoying the process. The innocence of a young child and her admiration of mistakes is the joy I have in my life. I’ve set many “standards” of living for myself and my children, set really high expectations of them and have pushed them hard to strive for the best. Lately I have come to learn that just by my example, I need not say any more to them. Their smile is more than enough to please me and that is the greatest of all expectations.