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Enjoying the summer season’s harvest

Gardening season is winding down, and I don’t know whether to be disappointed or relived.

Sure, most days are still quite warm and leaves all around remain green. But there’s a bit of a rusty brown appearing atop many roadside plants, and many vegetables have begun to expire.

We certainly had a successful year with our garden. My husband, Mike, and I planted three rows of tomato plants started by my brother, Larry Compston, from seed. Those vines yielded hundreds of red fruits, though they did seem to ripen a bit late in the season.

We weren’t quite sure what to do with all that produce, since neither Mike nor I has ever canned anything or made sauce from scratch. So, we ate tomatoes in salads and sliced on bagles with cheese. We used them to accent a wide variety of dishes on a daily basis. Still we had enough left over that we diced, sealed and froze many, many packages of tomatoes to use in soups, on roasts and in other dishes throughout the winter.

We collected our last large batch of them last weekend, since some were actually starting to rot on the vines. we carried in two more large bowls full of those fruits, then we uprooted any plants that seemed to be spent. We left fewer than a half dozen vines in the garden — only those that still looked healthy and had green tomatoes or new blossoms on them.

But tomatoes are not all we got from our garden this year. We pulled all of our radishes and our first crop of onions several weeks ago, laying the onions out to dry for storage.

Last weekend we pulled — and ate — the last of our beets, which were quite delicious. The same is true of our carrots, although those seeds didn’t produce the volume of veggies we had hoped for. One evening this week we polished those carrots off, baking them with butter and a little brown sugar and cinnamon.

We didn’t have to battle too many invaders this year, but we did have one persistent visitor. A groundhog that has many little hiding places in the neighborhood gnawed a couple of holes in the bottom of our fence and made his way through, feasting to his heart’s content. Fortunately, he seems to have been attracted mainly to out lettuce plants, so he didn’t create widespread damage. We trued growing romaine lettuce for the first time this year, and we harvested small, young leaves frequently rather than waiting for the entire head to mature. This allowed the plants the chance to recover and keep growing. Since it was fairly late in the summer before our furry neighbor found his way in, the lettuce was just about ready to bolt and flower. So, we also removed all of those plants from our little plot.

Even though the season is nearing its end, our garden still has plenty of potential. We planted a few things late, so out yellow squash, zucchini and cucumber plants are still producing. We planted a second round of onions — white this time instead of yellow — and can enjoy those straight from the soil or dried and saved for later in the autumn.

Our peppers — also started by my brother — are still growing like mad as well. We have green bell peppers, Serrano hot peppers and Hatch peppers growing and ripening every day. I also planted one banana pepper plant and one of a variety called roasted red. All are delicious, though the Serranos have a bit too much heat for our tastes. We will have to use them in moderation.

All in all, we’ve had great luck gardening this year. It has been much harder, though, to maintain our plants and to keep those pesky weeds at bay than it was last summer. After all, COVID-19 restrictions kept me working remotely for much of the summer of 2020, meaning I was right here at home and could easily step outside and perform a quick chore or two when I needed a break from my computer.

Of course, I could continue to try and coax more food from the soil. I could plant some greens and root vegetables and winter squash that likely would produce a nice yield by the time truly cold weather rolls around. I’m just not sure I have the gumption to do that.

Either way, we will have plenty of frozen tomatoes, peppers and other veggies as well as dried onions to enjoy for months to come. That’s what I call success!

∫ ∫ ∫

Speaking of the harvest, some of the biggest and most impressive produce from our region is about to be on display in Barnesville.

The official Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off from 6-9 p.m. Wednesday will crown the king that will reign over the 57th annual Barnesville Pumpkin Festival. The event begins Thursday, with and official ribbon-cutting at 5 p.m. It continues through Sept. 26 and is expected to draw large crowds to the village streets as it always does.

From the Eyes of Freedom traveling military tribute on display at Barnesville Middle School to the Giant Pumpkin Parade on Saturday and the food vendors, carnival rides, craft and cars shows, the festival is bound to have something for everyone.

I sincerely hope that the thousands of people who will visit the village enjoy the experience. But I also hope all will remember that COVID-19 has not gone away. While most of the attractions take place outdoors, which means they are safer to attend, there will still be plenty of opportunities for exposure.

So, I urge you all to go have some fun but to do so safely. Wear a mask, even outdoors, when you are in a crowd. Carry and use hand sanitizer. Talk to old friends, but keep your distance. That way, the festival can remain a celebration.

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