I am quite possibly the world's worst gardener. I would like to blame my yard for this. It's full of shade, and the shade comes from walnut trees, which, as any gardener worth her salt can tell you, exude from their roots a substance called juglone, whose job it is to take out the competition by wilting the neighbors. So, my garden now has raised beds. These are supposed to help keep the tender roots of the garden plants away from the death-peddling juglone below. Of course, the problem of the shade remains. But I am a new gardener, and I am determined to keep at it. So far, I have grown impressive crops of mint, parsley, and lettuce. I once harvested enough peas to feed all four of us. One meal. As a small side dish.
I am upstaged in the gardening department by my own compost pile. All kinds of things take root in it. Two years ago, some member of the squash family -- possibly a cross-pollinated wild hybrid of some kind -- planted its seedling flag atop the steamy, south-facing slope and began to grow. Soon, its stickle-backed leaves were the size of placemats, and they were attached to a stem as thick as a child's wrist. When it started to climb the sides of the bin and spill over the top, blooming wildly with crepe-y orange flowers and shivering with bees, Elijah became so terrified that he bribed Faith into taking over his every-other-night compost-toting duty.
Elijah, you are scared of a squash vine?
It tried to grab me. I am NOT kidding. Please! You can have all my allowance.
When we came home from a camping trip, Elijah ran into the backyard to check on the compost predator.
Mom, come and look! It turned into a balloon tree!
And so it had. Grabbing hold of a tree trunk next to the bin, the vine had climbed a small maple and entirely covered it. Its flowers had become fruits -- deep green globes, each the size of a party balloon. And so we had squashes -- or something -- dangling above our heads. They tasted good. I sautéed them with garlic and basil, grated them up for soup stock, added them to muffins and pasta sauce, and, in one form or another, we ate them all winter.