Today, three days after waking up to major hail damage in my garden, I have a strange combination of Spring’s renewal and Fall’s decay in my little plot of earth.
Wednesday night I stood on our covered patio watching the hail come down.
It was fascinating, exhilarating, and extraordinary. Every sense was engaged. The sound was deafening. It was hard to process the pile of ice forming under the drain spout from the gutter. My skin was prickly with electricity, cold, and moisture. I could almost taste the cold and the dirt being kicked up into the air. But the smell was probably the thing that took me the longest to process. I smelled fresh herbs, cut grass, tomato leaves, and cucumbers.
When a copperhead snake feels threatened they release a hormone that smells for all the world like cucumbers. You might think cucumbers don’t have a smell until you are standing in tall grass nowhere near cucumbers and you smell it distinctively. I love the smell of cucumbers in my kitchen, or when I’m eating a big pile of cucumber salad, but out of context that smell tells me danger is around.
Well, we don’t have copperheads here in the desert southwest, or much tall grass for that matter, but the smell still signaled unfortunate circumstances. I was tempted to go out into the garden and see after the storm was over, but I went to bed. It continued to rain through the night and in the morning I woke up and decided to document my first look at the scene.
It can be difficult to see because on the video between my “unsteady cam” filming and the difficulty of differentiating the green from the green. (Trust me, there is plenty more brown now.) Here’s a few closer shots that might help, as well as a shot of our chicken coop, which will need a new roof now.
After the documenting the scene and my own reaction I commenced salvage operations. That’s when I found myself crawling around lifting up tomato branches and feeling for fallen tomatoes. The feeling was oddly familiar and I found myself gripped with nostalgia. That’s when it occurred to me that I was engaged in the worst Easter Egg hunt ever. Along with tomatoes that had been damaged or knocked off the vine I also found okra that had been split straight down the middle, groundfall peppers, holey chiles full of rainwater, dented eggplants looking like bruised swollen golf balls, and exploded cucumbers. I filled my big basket three times.
The miracle of the day was that my single ripe Black Krim tomato was unharmed. There are several green Krims still on the vine, but they ripen so slowly. I think it would have been devastating to me to lose this one precious piece of fruit.
I’m still picking damaged peppers, but the okra and cucumbers have started flowering again. The tomatoes still on the vine are ripening, but I’m not seeing flowers or new fruit. The beans are also a question. I’m sure the squash and the greens will recover. I’ve got a LOT of canning to do this weekend to make sure all the salvage fruit goes to good use.
Meanwhile it is time to plant peas for fall and in a month it will be time to plant garlic. We’ve essentially got two to three more months of growing season left ahead, so anything could happen. The wheel turns, shit happens, gardens are resilient, and there is great abundance.