End of summer harvest

A friend just posted on her Facebook page, “Finish this sentence: If I wasn’t afraid, I’d…” In her comment box, I finished the sentence with “write what I really think.” So I am going to write what I’m really thinking right now.

I resent our garden.

I know it sounds crazy, especially when I love the idea of growing our own food, letting our children experience the process of planting seeds and watching them flourish into colorful, healthy vegetables that we then cook into wholesome, tasty meals. But the truth is, gardening is a shitload of work and I don’t like cooking.

Up until this month I haven’t minded the work. April was fun because I love planning, and that is what one does in Vermont while waiting for the thaw. We mapped out garden beds, organized seed packets, and tidied up the yard and barn for the upcoming change of season. May and June were enjoyable too. I like the work of turning over the soil, weeding out the dandelions and crabgrass, and pruning trees and bushes. The combination of physical exhaustion, fresh air, and a final result of tidiness brought me great satisfaction. In July, the produce began. At first it was fun. Raspberries! Blueberries! Kale! We had salads with dinner and cobbler for dessert. The kids spent their days snacking on snap peas while I carefully weeded in between the delicate plants.

But now, the harvest overload. We have hundreds, maybe even thousands, of beans: long, slender green, yellow, and purple beans, bush beans and pole beans. They are fresh and crunchy, and far more flavorful than any bean I have ever bought from the store.

The zucchini and yellow squash are also piling up. We were fortunate to make it through the beetle infestation, and now we are enjoying freshly grilled squash and sweet zucchini muffins. Broccoli, garlic, carrots, scallions, beets, lettuce, chard, basil, parsley, and finally, tomatoes; I haven’t walked through the produce section of the grocery store in weeks.

Our first year of gardening was a success. I should be filled with gratitude for the good weather and rich soil. After all, this garden was not a hobby, but a necessity in order to cut down on grocery bills over the entire year. We’re depending on this garden to justify other expenses in our lives.

But despite the wonders and good fortune of home grown food, I resent that the garden is driving me into the kitchen on the most beautiful days of the waning summer. I want to spend these splendid weekend days hiking and biking, going for late afternoon swims at the pond, and exploring new trails in the woods behind our house. But I can’t because the hundreds, maybe even thousands, of beans have to be blanched and frozen, or pickled into dilly beans. The zucchini and carrots need to be shredded for soups and breads. Lasagnas, tomato sauces, pesto, broths… the to-do list pertaining to vegetables is overwhelming, exacerbated by the fact that I do not enjoy cooking.

I happily spend hours baking - provided it involves chocolate, but as soon as the task is cooking, it feels like a chore. The mere sight of squash and dirt-covered beets taking over my counter triggers a list of a dozen activities I’d rather be doing. The thought of sacrificing a warm, sunny afternoon to be slaving away over a steamy pot in the kitchen makes me grumpy. I’m even less enthusiastic about giving up my evening time – the only few hours of the week that I can enjoy the quiet of sitting alone at my desk. I love sitting at my desk. I do not love standing in the kitchen.

But we do it anyway, my husband and I. He takes one night and I take the next – so we can both still have some evening time to ourselves. Sometimes we’ll cook together. Our chest freezer is slowly but surely filling up with soups and breads that we’ll enjoy all winter.

I’m hoping that the experience of lower grocery bills and garden-fresh meals in February will make this August-September phase of the gardening cycle more gratifying next year.

In the meantime, I am sneaking in as many chocolate chip zucchini bread and red velvet cake recipes as I can.