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Pipi’s Pasture: Saying goodbye to the garden

Diane Prather/For Craig Press

Have you ever noticed that, each year, around the equinox, we usually get a storm, followed by the first cold weather of the season? That means it’s time to start covering the flowers and garden.

Some years ago, when our grandchildren were small, we planted a huge garden out here at Pipi’s Pasture. All of us, plus extended family, enjoyed the vegetables all summer. We usually had the potatoes dug, sacks and sacks of them, before a big weather change at the end of September. When the weather cleared and frost was forecast, we weren’t quite ready to give up the garden. So, that meant covering the plants to protect them during the night.

What a job! We gathered up several plastic tarps of different sizes, enough to cover the entire garden. The worst part of the job was securing the edges of the tarps so they wouldn’t blow up and expose plants to the cold. So, we gathered up pieces of wood, hoes, rakes, shovels, buckets and even grain pans from the corral — anything handy that would hold the tarps down. The garden was littered with stuff.

Then, after it warmed up the next morning, the wood, hoes, rakes, shovels, buckets and grain pans had to be removed so the tarps could be laid back, and the plants could get some sun. In the evenings, the tarps were pulled back over the garden and secured. This routine continued until it snowed or it finally got so cold the plants frosted, anyway. I don’t remember how much extra produce we got this way, but I do remember that the plants started to look pretty bedraggled.

We still have a garden here at Pipi’s Pasture (I’ve written about it from time to time), but our family is scattered around, so there isn’t as much need for vegetables. The garden has shrunken in size, but we still enjoy a crockpot full of green beans and potatoes, simmered with a ham bone and corn-on-the-cob and fried zucchini and … a lot more.

Mostly, I enjoy early summer mornings in the garden, where I weed and water while I watch the robins hunt for worms and listen to the corral cattle munch away at their feed. I like the feel of the garden soil as I pull weeds, and I get a thrill out of finding the first seedlings to come up in the newly-planted rows. How rewarding to discover the first little zucchinis or pumpkins.

So, this past week, when I heard that the night’s temperature would go down into the 30s, I hurried out to the garden and harvested the green beans, peppers and squash. I figured the cabbages and pumpkins would make it through the first frost, but I covered some of the pepper plants, the tomatoes and one zucchini plant. No tarps this time, though. I used gunnysacks that were easy to handle and weren’t likely to blow off.

Now, after a few really cold nights, the garden looks pretty sick. As I say goodbye, I’m looking forward to spring, when I’ll enjoy the smell of the soil as I plant a new garden. I’ll spend winter months checking out the seed catalogs that will arrive in the mail before I know it.


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