Last Monday was a mad dash. I raced home from work after hearing the warnings. I grabbed my gathering basket and tossed a pair of pruning shears inside. I threw on an extra sweatshirt and a puffy down vest. I shoved my hands into thick gloves. And I marched outside, Westie in tow, for the final harvest.
The frost was coming.
It’s always a gamble here in the Upper Midwest. And as I handle most inevitable chores in life, I push the limits. Always waiting until the very last minute. Reminding myself as the nights get longer and the days get cooler that I really should get out there and bring in those squash, peppers, beans and berries. But then, as if my garden was a college term paper or a high-intensity workout class, I convince myself that there’s a little more time. Tomorrow will be the perfect day to harvest. Write the paper. Hit the gym.
My terrible habit of procrastination has led to quite a few mad dashes throughout my life.
But the final harvest is a life or death situation. Literally. And I use the word literally literally. If I don’t get out there and clip, snip or pick my food, it will die. Killed by the frigid first frost. Wasted.
That thought spurs me along.
And so I keep my cold fingers moving and sniffle a bit as the biting first winds of winter make this harvest a heck of a lot less fun than the first one of the season.
Yet once again, the rewards make up for the struggle. The final, somewhat faded tomatoes.
Gorgeously striped delicata squash thriving among their dried out vines.
Vividly hued Rouge Vif d’Etampes pumpkins that grew like crazy this summer, prompting all the neighbors to inquire about the enormous squash.
Herbs for drying and blitzing into pesto.
The final pile of sweet and spicy peppers plucked from their plants.
Handfuls of pole bean pods ready to be shelled.
And as I free my last butternut squash from the cage it’s grown itself into, I can’t help but wonder what could have been if there were just a little more time. A bit of extra sunshine.
Because I know these little guys won’t make it through the frost.
Then, there’s the very real and bittersweet goodbye to summer. Those final raspberries. Sweet. And tart. And cool this time of year. Knowing this is it until next year. Knowing the winters are long here in Minnesota.
Still it’s not all wistfulness and mourning around here. There’s one saving grace in the garden. And it has nothing to do with the fact that it’s the trendiest vegetable around these days.
It’s the kale.
The kale loves the cold. The plants double in size, stand up straight and dare winter to challenge them.
The mad dash is over. The final harvest is hauled into the house. And at least I still have kale. And piles of squash in the basement.