Summer is officially upon us. The days are as long as they will be now. Days that seem nearly endless. Days that leave a person exhausted but with the sense that work should still be getting accomplished because the sun is still up. Or, upon awakening, startled at the amount of light in the sky and jumping up, finding that the time is just in the early five o’clock hour. Whew. (And after going to bed well after dark, and that dark is coming at about 9:00pm… you do the math. Not much sleep. Oh, well, there’s always the short days of winter in which to catch up on all of that missed sleep!)
Ripe tomatoes are summer’s beacon for us, heralding in the season with flags of shining red (and orange and yellow and purple and green!), but none are to be had yet this season (but oh so close!). So, no ripe tomatoes yet, which is a little later than normal for us… but there’s peaches! Yes, peaches! And blueberries. And peaches and blueberries together. What a dream. It makes me giddy with excitement. It makes Opal giddy, too. In fact, yesterday afternoon she asked permission to walk with her friend up to the garden… “for a surprise”. And after our supper (of popcorn, oh my! But, really, breakfast and lunch were far more elaborate than that. I promise!), Opal got everyone a small bowl and presented her specially prepared “surprise”… blueberry and peach fruit salad. It couldn’t have been more perfect and refreshing. Oh, the tastes that only summer provides!
Summer also brings heat. And sweat. And grubby dirty sweaty stinky farmers and their grubby dirty itchy scratchy bug bite covered children. That’s where the creek comes in especially handy and is greatly appreciated by all. Daily, we make the short walk down to the swimming hole for a little refresher. It’s like the perfect air-conditioning unit that our house’s tiny solar system could only dream of powering. Some summers of note, that swimming hole is the only way we ever made it through. Seriously. A trek to the creek morning, noon, and night provided enough replenishing energy to keep us moving along… to muster up the gumption to get back to the hoe, or the weeds, or whatever needed doing. Evaporative cooling at it’s best!
And right around the summer solstice each and every year, we harvest our garlic crop. Today was the big day for this year. And with Eric and myself, and Jesse and Hannah, we did it all in one day. It was an extremely hot day to boot (an added bonus) and we were all woozy and dripping with sweat… which really helps all of the dirt find many more places on our clothes and bodies to stick. At one point, in my heat-induced delirium, I tried desperately to convince the others that I was certain I heard the tinkling bells of the ice-cream truck on our driveway. But given our very remote location and a driveway that practically requires four-wheel drive, nobody believed me. It was still a nice fantasy. Anyway, hours later, with sore backs, sunburned necks, filthy sweat-saturated clothes, and aching hands, we completed the task by hauling the many fragrant baskets of garlic up into the loft of the barn for curing… we even took the time to sort out next year’s seed garlic. The act of saving our own garlic seed year after year is a summertime ritual that puts faith and hope into our future and the promise of many more abundant summers. And the smell is even better than my ice-cream truck fantasy.
The fruits of summer are beyond comparison: peaches, tomatoes, berries of all kinds, cucumbers, sweet corn, beans, melons, onions, garlic, basil, sweet red peppers, hot peppers, eggplant… and still the list goes on. But the work is beyond comparison as well. Somewhere hiding in between the fruits and the labor is balance. Beautiful balance that seldom falters. I suppose that is where the common phrase ” the fruits of our labors” strikes a chord with folks around the globe. You get what you give. You reap what you sow. If it weren’t for all of the delectable fruits of summer, the work would likely go undone. Honestly, I’ll work happily all day long for a slice of perfectly ripe melon. It’s worth it.