Fiona grated and froze fifteen two cup packages of zucchini this morning. She did it in the food processor, neatly and without incident, until I started cleaning up and an orange light on the dishwasher told me to add more rinse aid. Since I had no clue what rinse aid was, and since Jim is out doing good somewhere, the orange light still shines, the dishes remain unwashed. I wish somebody could dream up a Century Saving Time, when people like me would have time to adjust to changes at a much slower rate. I wish I had had an opportunity to study up on plain electricity before the advent of electronics, the digital revolution, the many other developments devised and discovered in the past one hundred years.
It isn’t that I am a Luddite by nature and inclination; in fact it is quite the other way, a way that I see as easy and fun, turning on buttons, pulling down levers, watching the work of the world get done , while I eat the food, pick the flowers, drink the wine. I just don’t have the talent. My machines break down, make incomprehensible mistakes, my nerves start to go bad , until Jim asks me, for his sake, if I will just go back to the old days when I did jobs with spade and broom and a good knife.
There probably aren’t too many people who have any ability to function at that level anymore, because they lose old skills as they acquire new ones. Just a few short years after the end of WWII we rented a small house on the outskirts of Minneapolis. I don’t know if there was such a thing as an automatic washing machine at the time. I myself was accustomed to one with a ringer, but our little house could not even boast of that. What was I to do? A training in 19th century middle class cleanliness decided for me. I washed the sheets by hand, and I can’t imagine how I managed it. I can’t imagine how I swept and mopped the floor every day either. And then, every day, I took David into town and met family and old friends for lunch at Dayton’s or YoungQuinlan. Just now, looking out my back window I see Betsy mowing with our simple gas run machine. It’s pretty hard work, but back then after the war she would be using an old-fashioned hand mower no matter how big the lawn. Even if she had to do it now she wouldn’t. It would take too much time and she doesn’t have time to waste, because she is just back from a vacation in Italy and she has about 500 emails to respond to, not to mention her texting and skyping and her many i communicators.
Still, the war with nature goes on without regard for all the wonders of the internet, and the newest methods for growing plants are really the oldest. Organic gardening steers clear of chemical controls, while using the ancient methods of crop rotation, mulch and manure both animal and green. The tomatoes I ordered in March from White Flower Farms are proving to be almost too successful. I had determined earlier to plant them in the central bed, 3X4 in size and formerly home of German garlic, planning to dig it out and restore it with a new mix (see above). I ordered one berry tomato, tiny and sweet, and one shaped like one I used to recognize as Mortgage Lifter, but a much smaller fruit. In the bed next to these two plants I planted squash and cucumbers and broccoli raab. These seeds came from the gardens formerly operated by the teacher and self-help guide Rudolph Steiner.
The seeds germinated slowly and were no more than a couple inches high when I planted the tomatoes. Nor did the tomatoes grow despite their rich soil. I had grown winter rye in both beds during the spring and worried that the grass I turned over in the beds may have burned my seedlings and tomatoes. But now all I can think of was What was I thinking? Tomatoes and squash have blended together, intertwined; as have a few long yellow beans Priscilla gave me, seeds from White Flower Farm and the cucumbers I thought I was planting too late. On one night in early July a deer jumped the double fence on Tim’s side of the yard, and made off with most of the chard, cucumbers and all the tomatoes that were already ripening on the vine. I berated myself for not taking better care and stopped looking at all of this for a few days, but when I was ready to forgive myself I strolled over for a look and saw what a difference a few days can make. Yellow squash has put out long arms across the paths, zucchini grows tall, and the tomatoes! how to describe them? Of course I have been eating the little ones, although they are small in number; They are very good to eat also, but it is Mortgage Lifter who needs to be described. And it will be noticed that I said “who”. It is as if some human resided in the plant and had become eager to make his way out. I have raised several long arms over the edge of a huge trash bucket. These arms are heavy with a most stunning array of fruit. Only the most extravagant language can describe them. And yet they are still green. I know I’ll be able to ripen them in a bag if I need to, but I want them to ripen on the vine. And there is NO SIGN of tomato blight.
One thing I can say for sure; No false material went into the garden. No electricity touched that soil. I also know that it shared its goodness with a deer. Don’t laugh. I think the Luddite in me won this trophy.