Monday, June 20, 2011


“Ciliege finite!” declares fruit expert Marcello, during our first summer here. I remember that that was his response to my whining about wanting to prolong the cherry season when it was clear to him that it had passed. “But look at all those way up high—they look even better than the tons we’ve already eaten. I need a taller ladder.”

Two summers later, I still don’t quite get it. The peas and favas planted on our behalf by Farmer G were delicious! Because peas have to be planted so early, at a time when I am scurrying around with no hope of getting my gardening act together, there have been no peas in any garden of mine in decades. And a fava? Never! I didn’t even know what to do with one until D popped one open and ate it in front of my fava-virgin eyes.

So what next? I have a wonderful time picking and eating them, and want to go on doing it. But for how long? How long is long enough?

Farmer G, who is on intimate terms with nature, tells me it’s time to pull up the peas and favas and plant something else. Well, due to our irrigation system having an Evil Demon that kept the watering going for 5 hours straight on a rainy day, there was WAY more water than even the thirstiest pea could absorb: “tutto bagnato!” shouts Farmer G, wagging his finger in disapproval. He also points out that even without the irrigation having run amok, this system designed to water all the new grass was not a good match for my vegetable garden. “Troppa acqua!” exclaims Farmer G, shaking his head. And that was BEFORE the Evil Demon-Takes-Over-the-Irrigation Incident.

Sure enough, the day after the one I had been planning to spend working and weeding the property, I found the aging peas covered in a powdery mildew. Slight digression: having recently developed a complex about my ability to grow healthy roses in this country where they thrive on neglect, I became un poco hysterical about the need for a fungicide to combat black spot and other imagined rose illnesses. But all poisons make me nervous, so I was making myself anxious about using my new prodotto, instead of baking soda. Anyway, recalling the “ciliege finite” declaration, I made the bold decision to pull up the newly contaminated peas and fava plants that Farmer G had already declared past their prime.

Progress? Well, of course, now I am worrying about contaminating EVERYTHING with fungus, so I wait before dumping the peas at the regular composting spot.

Not Dead, yet (side view)

Robust roses that require no fussing. Compare those pallid, pricy roses to this!

When Marcello returns to show the irrigation system who’s boss, I whiningly show him my “contaminated,” sad roses, and he points out that they are fine. According to him, they just need MORE water—only never on the leaves. He says it’s only the old leaves that look troubled, but that the new growth is good, and that the stuff he casually sprinkled on them recently would take care of what was, to his experienced eye, a vitamin deficiency. “But I took some leaves to the nursery lady and she said I needed this fungicide product.” He laughs, wags his finger, and says, “she just wants to sell you something.” OK, maybe so.

Then I lead him over to my piles of powdery mildew-covered peas, the incubus for an epidemic that would surely cover the 5 acres of our property. “No, no, no!” says Marcello, definitively. “This is not a disease. It’s “la fine del loro ciclo”—the natural end to their cycle. Time to move on and plant something else. And he reassures me that it’s fine to dump those old peas right into the compost. Hmm….

These incidents remind me of my lifelong problem with transitions and with letting go of anything. Growing up, I must have missed that lesson. Probably because it was never given. 

As children of the Depression and observers of the Holocaust, my parents conveyed the need to s-t-r-e-t-c-h out the lifespan of everything—including paper napkins: as a proud 4-yr-old with great fine-motor skills, I had the job of cutting them in half. Who needs a whole napkin, anyway?

And in the synagogue, kids were always ushered out of the Yizkor services that honor the dead. The “Remember Us” program that showed Nazi concentration camp footage was taboo. I totally missed the “cycle over” lesson.

But maybe it’s not too late?

No comments:

Post a Comment