What?! A Vacation?! Now?! Really?! But...

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Ultimate Digging Machine at Capitola
It's a gardener's lament. It's called vacation. It's like the one we took this past weekend to the coast -- where the Ultimate Digging Machine (aka, Bandi, Funny, Steak) saw her fondest dreams come true: miles upon miles of precious, sandy, Capitola coastline where she could dig to her heart's content.

If only those stupid waves would stop getting in the way and filling up every hole she tried to dig.

Vacations and gardening are not easy to mix. A vacation you say? NOW? When everything is coming ripe in the garden? This is the worst possible time to leave! Something is always coming ripe in the Backyard of Bird. Whether it's the generous plantings of heirloom tomatoes, corn, nectarines, grapes, squash, or any other item of garden produce, it just doesn't matter.

Something is about to get ripe. And that grey zucchini that was just about perfect when you left? It's grown to the size of the Battleship Missouri by the time you return. That perfectly shaped Marianna's Peace? It's now soft, plus some critter has bitten into it. Where did those weeds come from and how did they get so big?

Russ and Laurie Maurice
That's just the way it works when it comes to the world of gardening. There simply is no good time to leave. There was, however, a good reason. Long-time friends Russ Maurice and Laurie Williams finally celebrated a long-overdue wedding. Yours truly was honored to be a part of the wedding party. It is the only time I've been chosen to be a groomsman, and will probably the only time I am selected for an honor such as this.

How can one pass up an honor like that? Short answer? You can't. You make the best of it. You load the wife that is Venus and the Ultimate Digging Machine into the family car, celebrate a happy and joyous day among friends and family and most of all: have a good time.

The view from the Hollins House at Pasatiempo
I'm proud to report that we did just that. The Hollins House at Pasatiempo overlooks all of Santa Cruz and mile after mile of blue Pacific Ocean, dotted with bright white sailing vessels of all makes and manners. Not only is it the most picturesque of places to tie the knot, it also features a fine bar with all sorts of fine liquors.

These things are important.

This trip -- and yet another that is still to come -- does happen to come at peak gardening and harvest times for backyard gardening efforts. Bill and Venus Bird are celebrating a whopper of a gardening season. From tomatoes to eggplant and bell peppers to corn -- you can't ask for more. Sure -- there's been a touch of Blossom End Rot with some of the heirloom selections. That's to be expected.

Squash, eggplant, peppers and tomatoes from the garden
But in terms of outright production? You simply cannot ask for more. We've been blessed -- so far -- for what appears to be one whopper of a year. We'll know more when canning efforts swing into high gear later this month, but the garden is now set up and ready for super production over the next two to three months.

You get that special sense that everything is coming up roses when the garden begins to churn out entire dinners, which was the case just before we left. The Grey, Green and Yellow Straightneck Zucchini planted in one corner of the vast backyard are now just beginning to produce in abundance. They join a multitude of peppers and white and purple eggplant that started producing some weeks ago.

Slow roasted vegetables with Beef hotlinks
When you combine all three squash offerings with bell peppers, eggplant and other garden produce, you come up with a special meal that can only be offered a few months out of the year: fresh garden vegetables on skewers slow roasted over an open flame on the backyard barbeque.

My friends, there is nothing quite like the mouth-watering selection of fresh garden vegetables ripened by warm Sacramento summer sunshine and heat. Squash doesn't taste like squash. It tastes like candy. Peppers don't taste like bell peppers. They taste like candy. And there's nothing quite like the tastebud zip of a vine-ripened heirloom tomato that has been lightly toasted and roasted over an open flame.

Heirloom Tomato Appetizers
Candy you say? No -- better.

It is one of those special meals that Venus and I will get to enjoy for many days to come, plus share our bounty with family and friends.

That list does include the newest of married couples: Russ and Laurie. Russ has never been much of a vegetable man -- but neither was I before I met my beautiful bride.

It's amazing how wives can mold a husband. There's hope for Russ yet.

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