Terra Cotta

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Lined up for battle
along concrete ridges
meant to entomb them
waiting for the emperor

they finally survey fields
shimmering with shards
bled by shattered brothers
broken in holy service
against weedy abandon

never suspecting that
this would be the end
exposed to their foes
of wind and water intent
on turning them back

into the clay they come from.

NaPoWriMo #2

*Over spring break my family visited a new arboretum that is landscaping the grounds of an old nursery with planting beds and greenhouse foundations resembling Pompeiian archaeological digs. Combining this view of the old ruins with a recent PBS special I watched about the Terra Cotta warriors seemed a natural alliance.

I’m writing a poem every day in April as part of NaPoWriMo’s celebration of National Poetry Month. Won’t you join me in poetry?

A Touch of Frost

Ol’ Jack Frost was late this year, but that didn’t make his chilling whack any less painful. The flaking stalks of once-proud tomato plants still haunt my patio, because I’ve been too busy to shuffle the funereal procession of exhausted potting soil to our compost pile or stuff the shameful bits I didn’t harvest into a gaping paper yard bag.

Instead, I’m holed up in the kitchen chopping and spinning and preserving all the goodies that kept on coming right up until the end.

For instance, a fairly substantial beefsteak tomato crop was roasted with some garlic, coarse salt, freshly ground pepper and a good drizzle of olive oil until cooked into submission. and whirled until it became a nice sauce for winter stews and pasta.

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Tender basil, of course, was picked well before the Hunter’s full moon and the first cold, cloudless night for my favorite pesto, a simple concoction of garlic, olive oil, salt and those pricey pine nuts. The parmesan cheese is added later.

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I tried something new this year with an abundance of arugula that carried on throughout the summer, much to my delight. I clipped all the leaves and ushered them into my food processor. A couple of quick spins and the green mulch was ready for an ice cube tray. Covered with a little water, and tucked in the freezer overnight, they happily popped out the following day, ready for their next voyage in some slow cooker soup when the cold breezes carry more than a little dusting of ice crystals in the morning.

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These days you’ll likely catch me hovering near my refrigerator, repeatedly cracking the freezer door open for a look at the pretty rows of red and green jars, while bags of frozen herbs rustle down below, captured summer waiting for a thaw.

Jack would be so proud.

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A Lazy Gardener’s Success Story

{{Yawn}} Well, that nap sure took longer than I anticipated. Like old Rip, I wake up to a yard full of leaves and a patio garden that won’t stop. This year I committed to total container growing, mostly in my dirt bags, as I like to call them.

Early in the summer, these babies shone like jewels in the potential sea of green. I tried to group them attractively, hues on a palette, rather than the dreaded single line-up.

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Plant-wise, I bought a couple of tomatoes (a Brandywine slicer and Sweet 100 cherry), two broccolis, two cucumbers of the pickling persuasion, two zucchinis, one sweet banana pepper, one miniature bell pepper that I’d never seen before, and heck, I even popped in a sugar snap vine at the last minute.

In the seed department there was the usual array of lettuces like the ever-popular Black-Seeded Simpson (I like the crispness of the name), and the mandatory arugula and basil crops. And I pushed my luck with a sowing of bush beans in a large grow bag intended for garlic planting. They seemed to like it:

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Don’t know about you, but the area where I live suffered from an unusually cold and wet June and July. (When are we going to stop talking about how strange the weather is every year and just admit that unusual is the new norm?) Despite identical containers and soil, my Brandywine shot up six feet into Little Shop of Horrors proportions while the cherry tomato waned like Tiny Tim. A bit of late starter, the cherry came into its own in good time, however.

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Gardens in the ground everywhere suffered from rot and blight. But not on the patio. My biggest problems were keeping up with the thirsty tomato monster, staking leaning towers of peppers and finding the cucumbers before they became obscene, never mind that they were a mere three feet from my backdoor. I swear cucumber leaves know how to hide their goods.

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Most everything flourished except for the zucchinis. It’s downright embarrassing that I didn’t have them coming out of my ears, but the darned vine borers get them just as they set fruit, every . . . single . . . year. I relished pulling off cabbage worms that feasted on my broccoli and then — you don’t want to know. The location made it easy to keep a close eye on nibbling varmints and slugs and the occasional marauding squirrel (now where DID I hide that nut???)

After a steady harvest the last few months thanks to some nifty watering spikes and stinky organic fertilizer, the vegetation is winding down on my patio farm. The tomatoes are just about done, peppers going for broke at the finish line, cucumbers finished thankfully (whew! we managed to eat all of them).

I’ve resewed some lettuce and swiss chard, and started fresh in the forlorn zucchini pot with an interplanting of nasturtium and beet greens. But let’s face it, I can’t bear to eat the flowers.

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Would I do it again? You betcha. After all, nothing beats nursing that gin and tonic on a fine summer evening while you casually reach over and pluck something for dinner, never breaking a sweat. Or getting out of your chair.

The August Break Begins

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Day One:  Mr. Bean

Still here, still slack-jawed over the most gorgeous summer weather in recent memory (perhaps a reward for surviving last year’s hellish fireball), I’m committing to another one of those daily challenges. First, a month of poems in April, now a month of photos worth a thousand, or in my lazy case, a dozen puzzling words. And maybe an enigmatic caption or two.

Joining Susannah Conway’s August Break 2013. Come, step outside with me and breathe deeply.

Yard Work Is Never Done

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In the mews of May as I long
to lay in some short grass of
an idle age, iris fall to ground
while fruit rots in rain and spinach
fails to come up when my garden’s
play grows too rough to tend.

I would take a bench’s reprieve
but there is nowhere to sit.