Sydney’s summer-taunted springtime is playing havoc with the veggie patch. Parsley, which typically provides a steady supply throughout summer, is already growing like a weed and most of it has bolted; spring onions, which usually grow slowly skywards for weeks, are shooting fast and quickly going to seed; small, tender salad leaves have sudden growth spurts then turn bitter and bossy — crowding out all else around them; and seed trays — planted with a plethora of precious jewels — are relinquishing the fight to the heat and dryness and yielding nothing but the occasional weed. Seedlings that do survive are petulant and thirsty and, frankly, downright hard work.
Facing a one-day weekend (i’m working Sunday and my partner is away) on the tail-end of a tumultuous (and occasionally torturous) week, and confronting a difficult decision for which i don’t have an answer, i contemplated giving the morning the eye mask, ear plug, and head under the pillow treatment, rising only when I felt fit and fully rested. But with a cat and a couple of loads of laundry demanding attention i roused myself relatively early and got on with lonely one-day weekend life. It was the best thing i could have done: in fact, the most therapeutic.
As i pegged washing in my pyjamas — the grass, as dry as paper underfoot and a cat snoring gently on the porch — i considered my options for the day. Should i go clothes shopping, back to bed, tackle housework, begin a feature for work? My eyes caught a seed tray planted out a few weeks earlier, the soil dry and barren of life. Nearby were large swirls of curled, dry leaves dumped by spiteful blustery winds of previous days. The morning was already hot and heavy with smoke haze from bushfire and back burning activity around Hawkesbury and the Blue Mountains. Rejecting the idea of being stifled up in the house, I threw on shorts and a singlet and — barefooted — got to work.
I swept up brittle leaves and fed them to the compost, then foraged in the shed for potting supplies and jars of harvested seeds. I replenished seed trays with lettuce, spinach, green ‘scud’ chillies, long red chillies, Thai basil, everyday basil, parsley (there will be a dearth of it soon, since it bolted early), and leeks. I watered them in, then gave them a good talking to. They have to at least try, and not give up to spring’s hot breath. And i have to be more attentive, less distracted by the trials of life. Let’s see if we survive.
By the end of my morning’s work, i was already seeing positives in our hot, dry spring. Tomato seedlings have doubled in height in less than a fortnight and are already flowering bright yellow — they should fruit their cherry-sized loot soon. Spring onions may have gone to seed early, but they’re still perfectly edible and the pretty white flowering heads will soon relinquish black seeds that i can use to replenish the early crop. Basil, companion-planted purposefully under the tomatoes, is growing strong and enjoying the shade of taller plants. Rogue tomato plants are sprouting in the beds from the compost enriched soil. Our kitchen scraps must have included tomatoes at some stage, the seeds of which have dried in the compost bin and germinated wildly at first chance. These unknown varieties might bolster our summer tomato medley.
As dusk descends I’ll boot up my bare feet and go and put the chooks to bed. I’ll stop by fruit shop for watermelon that will help them rehydrate after another hot, dry day. There might be eggs and an omelette for breakfast before work tomorrow, or for dinner when my partner returns from his weekend away. Sunday is a new day.