These Last Days of Summer

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I never can quite believe it when August rolls in.

To go from desperately yearning for summer to facing it’s waning days always hits me like an unexpected piece of bad news.  It’s over almost as soon as it began, and though lovely, this month will pass mostly in the kitchen putting by all the bounty that the farm and garden have given us.

The tidy rows and well-groomed plots are gone, the plants are wild now and drunk on their own fertility.  The weeds grow as tall as the corn, pushing their blooms skyward toward the phalanx of honeybees that are constantly overhead, also gathering what they can for winter.  We pull and mow as often as we’re able to, but the weeds redouble their efforts and, defeated, we finally surrender and let them grow.

Like the weeds, the fruits and vegetables are increasing their output.  My buckets and baskets are full every time we go.  We’ve gathered gallons and gallons full of Italian plums so ripe that the merest touch of my fingers on their purple-black skin cause them to split open and spill their sticky-sweet juice down my hands and arms;  the first of the red and yellow plums that we turned into the most delicious jam last year; pounds of lemony-yellow wax beans destined for pickling, freezing and fresh summer dinners; and the last of the green garden peas until fall, when the freshly planted crop is ready.  The pioneer apple trees (probably planted at the turn of the 20th century and still going strong) are so weighted down with ripening apples that I fear disaster for their old branches.  Corn is filling in so fast and abundantly that I can’t quite imagine what we’ll do with it all.  Cucumbers ready to be picked every two days.  Squash.  Tomatoes.  Beans.  Peas.  Potatoes.  They’re all growing with a palpably desperate need; their lives only as long as these last golden summer days.

And so, sticky and hot, I pick the fruit, and wander the rows, and stop to watch the bees hard at work.  I stay up late into the night, pickling and blanching and canning over the hot stove, and get up early to go out and pick some more.  Because even though in my head I can’t quite believe that it’s August already, in my heart I know.  The abundance will not last.  The leaves will fall and the crops will brown.  Even the weeds, supernaturally strong and growing faster than any mere mortal thing possibly could, will die.  The winter will come, and we’ll all be yearning for summer once again.

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