What happened to spring? What happened to early summer? What happened to best intentions and organized schedules and having time for everything? What happened to remembering a tryst in Paris? What happened to recording the inspirations found in a walled garden in Burgundy? What happened to writing about the nest of large turkey eggs, finally abandoned? What happened to the story of our first garden party the day after a storm? What happened to documenting the flora I find in the vineyard—the English plantain, the Bishop’s Weed, the wild primrose? What happened to a photograph of the first chicken-of-the-woods? Or the the photograph of the day we planted so many new vines? What happened to the daily record of the Riesling, or the Blaufrankisch—The French Blue–growing so fast it’s as if they move toward the sun in front of your own eyes? What happened to the firecrackers on the 4th of July? What happened to the length of the day? What happened to Time?
Nature happened. Work happened. Setting out china and glassware on a table happened. Cooking two, three, four dishes for six hundred and forty guests happened. Exhaustion happened. To be followed again by Nature, Work, and China and Glassware, Cooking.
Today, on July 14, Bastille Day in France, is the first day here in Vermont that I am sitting in my office at the end of the garden path , an office constructed out of an old potting shed, that once housed lambs to keep them from the coyotes, the building and livestock the last remnants of a subsistence farm that had long ago retired. The day has been thick with humidity, steamy even, and the afternoon brought torrential rains forcing Eliza, our apprentice at the restaurant and here on the farm, to run in from her work in the vineyard and Caleb and me from cleaning out the office and preparing it to act as a second guestroom for a string of house guests coming at the end of July and through-out August. The rain has finally stopped, and so I have I, to sit for a minute and collect my thoughts from over the last sixty days.
We are well into the season. The small cherry tomatoes have already started to come in as have the raspberries. We have been rich with red radishes and the white are growing steadily all the time. The lettuces, radicchio, escarole, chicory have produced non-stop, and our native chamomile has just flowered. The poppies who have been their bright, oriental selves, are now a bit faded in the heat more towards paper-thin orange, yet they still are blooming. Almost every day, there is a new tisane to concoct with which to spray the vines to keep them safe from mites, mildews, fungus, insects. Chamomile. Yarrow. Stinging nettle. Horse Tail. The leaves look beautiful and glossy, though as surely as they did last year, and the year before, and the year before that, the Japanese beetles arrived again on the 4th of July, slowly replicating their number. They have always brought out my mean-spiritedness, and I drown them warm soapy water only to plan a collection of them to burn with wood, then sprinkle the perimeters of the rose garden and vineyard in hope that the old witches’ tale will prove true, and no creature will cross the boundaries of it’s own effigy….
Does this slightly cooler, and mercurial evening, sun in—sun out—clouds now wisping across the sky—herald a more temperate pace to the clock? Will the second act of this summer elongate itself allowing a moment of respite, a drink of tea, a gaze outward? For there will be more birthday parties, and wine tasting celebrations, summer house guests, and dinner invitations. There will be more wild mushrooms to cook, and the zucchini will start their inexorable march to the dinner table. There will be a new rose garden to plant, a fence to build, autumn seeds to sew. The three young swallows in the barn have just begun to fly, and the two black cats stalk around the edges of the garden. Chipping sparrows bathe in the remains of rain, a dog barks in the distance. The cicadas, or locusts—I am never sure which– have started to buzz and smoke from the neighbor’s fire floats on the foggy tendrils of air. I step out of the old lamb house, weeding claw and bucket in hand to make my way to the vineyard for a few more hours of work before then end of the day. The flock of mourning doves residing among the vines light into the air, cooing and flapping.
Deirdre Heekin, along with her husband Caleb Barber, is the author of Libation, A Bitter Alchemy; and In Late Winter We Ate Pears, A Year of Hunger and Love. Both are available in our bookstore.