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The best of summer

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It's so hard finally deciding to call in that rototiller strike, like a drone attack, from the shed to clear the expanse. A generous, wormy, thriving raised bed, it's all still so green. But the spinach has bolted, and last year's parsley outlived this spring's wild potato plants, even though its alien tubers now spread, octopus-like, toward open space. Somewhere in California someone has figured out a new dish using all the parts of veggies and herbs well past their prime. That's the circle of life, I suppose, or at least some extrapolation of it.

Maybe that's why God created compost piles and chickens. They are not picky eaters, at least the first time new food is offered. Sure, later on, perhaps they'll complain that those stalks tasted like cardboard, but if it starts out green or red, they're in. I'm convinced they possess at least 14 words for "leftovers."

The start of June brought us volunteer dill, cherry tomato plants and an alarming number of geriatric tomato cages. Thanks to wire cutters, we now have the neighborhood's largest collection of mini-cages, good for basil and tomatoes of indeterminate origin. For the moment, they're so perfectly geometric; once natural chaos ensues, bringing the battle for mulch and water, they'll be covered with tenacious squash and sweet potato vines.

The gardening list that hangs over my desk reminds me to leave space for the final wave of tomatoes. My wife looks up from her New York Times crossword puzzle to remind me we need enough basil for our daily tomato-mozzarella salads come July. We'll soon retrieve the blueberry-picking ladder and our favorite "kerplink, kerplunk" buckets for that delightful purple harvest.

Even after all these years of the same-old, natural surprises remind us the land is always in flux. Rounding the tire-swing corner on the driveway, we nearly ran into a runaway donkey sashaying down the road, as happy and curious as he could be. Earlier in the week, we discovered a huge bird's nest in a tool bag by the back door and a complacent frog living under a water dish. I still haven't seen the year's egg-grabbing black snake, but I know it's out there. Our showdown approaches.

Tonight, as I collapse in my favorite rusty white metal chair at the edge of the garden, I'm waiting for the sun to set a little further and for the treasured northwest breezes to pick up. I'm waiting for a last burst of energy for the nurturing dirt. Until then, I contemplate life's greatest mysteries: Is it turtles or frogs that are terrorizing my baby green peppers? Why do I fill and refill hummingbird feeders? Is having an old cat guard the garden a good or bad thing? Is this fence tall enough to keep the deer out? And where do morning glory vines even come from?

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