The dead tomato plants came out easy. Pulling up the weeds and unraveling the morning glory vines took more effort.
I wasn’t just putting my garden to bed as I have in years past, this year, like last, I was also planting garlic. Last year my friend Kat gave me the garlic bulbs. The garlic she and her husband had been growing for years.
Today I was planting cloves from two of the biggest garlic bulbs I harvested in July.
As I used my pitchfork to turn the soil it wasn’t only roots and rocks that came up but there was a small potato too. It surfaced as if the soil was a wave, the potato floating on top of it. I reached down and gently took it, an offering from the earth.
When it happened again, I got down on my hands and knees and using my fingers like a rake, plunged them into the earth. I gently wiggled my fingers, feeling for more potatoes.
And there were more. Lots more.
I got pretty good at being able to feel the difference between rocks and potatoes. What I didn’t expect was the round fuzzy black thing, slightly bigger than a golf ball, that landed in the palm of my hand.
Softer than a potato, the spines tickled and as I looked closer, I saw the deep red stripes.
Then it moved.
As I watched the red striped, black fuzzy ball expanded and contracted as if it was breathing. My first thought was that it was a sea urchin. I know that makes no sense, but that’s what it looked like to me.
I stared in wonder until I saw it wasn’t a ball at all, but a caterpillar curled into a spiral. It was the long black spines that made it look like a sphere.
I put the caterpillar back in earth where I found and hoped I hadn’t disturbed it too much. Later I would look it up and find out that it was a Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar. They hibernate over the winter and become Giant Leopard Moths. A white moth with black markings and 3″ wingspan.
Some of the potatoes were as big a marbles, a few the size and shape of the antique darning egg Jon gave me a few years ago. I lined them up on the cover of the composter.
I thought I had dug up all the potatoes I grew over the summer. I pulled out the plants months ago. But here were these unexpected gifts, these jewels, just waiting to be found.
There were two plants I didn’t pull out of my garden. The kale I planted in the spring has been growing all summer and now, with the colder weather is more tasty than ever. I also left the nasturtium in the ground. Those orange flowers are too pretty to pluck.
I put the garlic in the back of the garden this year. I covered it with donkey manure, then with straw from the chicken coop (more manure in the chicken poop) and topped it with leaves.
Working around the kale and nasturtiums I put manure and leaves in the rest of the garden then covered it with cardboard to keep the weeds down in the spring.
I also moved the composter which was right next to my garden.
The chipmunks that Zip has his eye on have done a wonderful job of emptying the composter of all the good food scraps.
But they also made a tunnel into my garden from the composter. They took over a couple of square feet in the corner of the garden, filling it with everything they weren’t interested in. Egg shells peach pits, avocado skins… as if it was their very own composter. They also ate all the onions I planted which were in that two foot square.
My vegetable garden is small and I don’t rely on it for food. What I do get always seems like a miracle to me.
I’m finding there are some things I enjoy growing and garlic and potatoes are two of them. We are fortunate enough to live in a place where fresh vegetable are abundant. So my vegetable garden is more about learning how to grow different vegetable and which do well for me ( garlic, zucchini, potatoes, cauliflower and greens) and which don’t (cucumbers and broccoli).
I’m thinking that next year I’ll plant some herbs for tea. Garlic will be a staple and even though we don’t eat a lot of potatoes, I do love growing them and digging them up.
This all may change by the time the spring comes. But that’s one of the joys of having gardens. When the fall comes and they are all dying it time to think about what I will do next year.