Mother Nature taketh and somehow giveth back

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It’s dang near October but I’ve finally achieved the unthinkable in this weird year of 2022 – there are actually plants (and produce) in my yard.

It was the morning of June 13 when I unfortunately (and haphazardly) said to someone, “I think my garden is the best it’s ever been! Everything looks so good and it’s coming along great!”

Well, that was the kiss of death — because it was during the night of June 14 that we all listened to thunderous hail destroy our fields, roofs, siding, windows, vehicles, yards and gardens. When we could hardly open our front door because of so much hail in front of it, I pretty much guessed my thriving garden was no more.

When the second round of hail came a little while later, that reality was completely affirmed. Flashes of lightning allowed me to see in the dark what was sure to be a nightmare in the morning.

When the sun started to come over the horizon, all I saw in my back yard were a lot of limbs and a bare piece of ground. It looked as if it hadn’t even been tilled yet.

Now, I can’t complain. I didn’t lose quarters of corn and soybeans like so many farmers did. We didn’t have a tornado come through like the folks over by Lushton and McCool had to deal with.

But I was still sad and quite frankly ticked off. For once, I had had plants that were growing like crazy, tomatoes on early and I’d been keeping up with the weeds and the tilling. In the blink of an eye and an ice attack from above, all of it was gone.

Early that morning, my young York News-Times weather team (Naomy, Christian and I) headed out with cameras to capture the damage, so I was busy. It wasn’t until later in the day when I had the time and courage to take a closer look at my own.

My giant rows of marigolds were reduced to literally nothing; all that remained of my champion tomato plants were mere sticks; and pretty much everything else had virtually vanished.

The first instinct was just to till the whole damn thing up and call it a year. But we found a few sick tomato plants leftover at a local store and two cucumber plants that held a little hope. So I stuck them in the ground and pronounced to the garden plot, “If anything out here tries, I’ll let you live.”

Amazingly, over the course of a few weeks, several volunteer vines popped out of the soil. I didn’t know what they were, but since they tried to exist, I fulfilled my promise and let them do whatever they wanted.

I started to see leaves sprout from the sticks and was in awe at their gutsy attempt to survive.

I pulled weeds around weird mutant plants and hoped for the best.

Somehow, Melanie’s Miracle Marigolds really fulfilled their title as they either started over or volunteers from the years before did their thing. Very slowly, the border around my garden plot started to fill in with tiny plants and I had hope I could at least have enough to harvest seeds for next year.

Mid-summer, I missed seeing my hordes of butterflies and bumblebees who annually buzz about my garden. It was weird not hanging out with them. But at that point, there really wasn’t much of a reason for them to vacation in the Wilkinson yard.

Fast forward to today, mid-September – I’m pleased to report the marigolds are about as tall as I am, they are blooming in full orange and yellow, and just yesterday I started to see the first of the bumblebees and butterflies they typically attract in early July.

I found a bell pepper plant in the middle of the volunteer gourd vines – I even picked three peppers last week.

Then came the discovery of an eggplant with two purple bulbs hanging from it, over in the corner with a cucumber vine and some volunteer carrots.

Somehow, one jalapeno plant has mustered its way back into the world and is loaded with little guys who might make their way to salsa if they can mature before the snow flies.

And most gloriously of all, I finally have tomatoes. I’ve watched the sticks grow into strange structures and those sick leftovers are now about five feet high and loaded with the good stuff. We’ve eaten BLTs and I’ve made my grandma’s “summer sauce macaroni.” When all the fruit turns red at once, I’ll probably be suddenly buried and canning like a crazy person.

Gardening this September is sort of like a scavenger hunt. It’s actually exciting to venture in, discover surprises that somehow rose from the ashes. And there’s a strange appreciation in getting a little from what was literally nothing.

Yes, on that June night, Mother Nature showed us she could take it away.


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