The Garden Game

I love playing board games, especially ones that involve a good combination of strategy and luck. Chess has never appealed to me. This is probably partly because I don’t like the idea of losing repeatedly until I get the hang of it. It is also because I enjoy talking and laughing while playing games, and chess tends to be played more intensely. But I suspect that the biggest reason is that there is little to no luck involved in chess. Success hangs entirely upon the strength of your thinking. This is too much pressure for me.

This weekend we were reminded that gardening is much more like a good game of Settlers of Catan than a game of chess. We planned our strategy well. We seeded everything multiple times. We push-cultivated and weeded as frequently as the rains would allow. Our gardens were lush and beautiful – the best I’ve seen in my six years here. And then it hailed. Overnight the gardens were transformed from a work of art into a devastated mass of wind-deformed plants and tattered leaves. Luck was not with us.


And yet, just like in the aftermath of that dreadful roll of the dice that has the ill-timed robber causing you to return half your resources in Catan, the game is not over. We have the opportunity to rebuild. And in this case, the effort is not even primarily ours. The plants are showing themselves to have a remarkable ability to heal themselves. On Sunday afternoon, I attempted to right a row of windblown kale. No can do. The stems were firmly set in their new position. But by Monday morning, they had begun to straighten themselves, reorienting their leaves to face the sun. Wow.

Of course, there are still adjustments to be made. We don’t have as many edible pod peas to send as many are simply too damaged to be palatable. The shelling peas can take a bit more of a beating, as the pods are thicker and we don’t eat them anyways. The lettuce we were planning on sending this week and next is in tatters. But the next seeding is coming up nicely. The kale and Swiss chard planted in our north garden are torn and twisted. We may be best to cut them back and allow them to re-grow. But the greens in the south garden were barely touched. Same goes for the beets.


There are also mental adjustments to be made. I have to admit that I’m finding my motivation zapped by the current state of the gardens. I don’t quite know where to focus my energies. What would have been finishing touches on a beautiful garden – pulling the few stray weeds out of the carrot patch, removing some damaged leaves from the kale, thinning the onions – feel rather futile. I know they will still be beneficial, but they just don’t feel as significant as they did a few days ago.

Maybe that is a good thing because a great deal of my time goes to harvesting vegetables, and there are still plenty of vegetables to harvest. Some may be easier to harvest (such as the growing cucumbers whose protective leaves have been pulverized) and others more difficult (such as the snap peas which now require sorting by level of damage, as well as by maturity). And the reality is that even as I mourn what has been lost, we still have more than enough delicious garden-fresh vegetables to fill our bellies and those of our members. And to top it off, some say that produce from stressed plants gains extra nutrition from the plant’s efforts to restore itself to health.

So this week’s vegetables include shelling peas and a reduced number of edible pod peas, along with a pail of mixed beans (wax, green, and purple). There are zucchini, beets (amazingly, with the greens still on), celery, and various types of onions. The broad beans need a little more time to mature, but they will be back next week. For herbs, you have parsley, summer savory, basil, purple basil (the delicate basil plants were protected by the cherry trees and emerged virtually untouched!), and mint. The dill and coriander are on hiatus as we await the growth of the next seeding. Greens this week include mustard greens, kale, perpetual spinach, Swiss chard, and the last of the Bloomsdale spinach. We will have to wait awhile for lettuce … and if we’re lucky may even have some spinach again for the fall. The bags are somewhat less full than the past couple of weeks, but that may be for the best as we are finding that families with a full share to themselves (which is who we aim to size the full shares for) have been somewhat overwhelmed of late. Always a balancing act.

I find that this season’s variety of vegetables lends itself beautifully to stir-fries and bechamel sauce. For the latter, I melt a couple Tablespoons of butter, add a couple Tablespoons of flour, whisk until bubbly, then gradually whisk in 2 cups of milk. I heat until boiling and thickened, then add a mixture of vegetables and serve over potatoes, pasta, or, yesterday, my “spiralized” zucchini attempted without a spiralizer. Yum! (Though if anyone has a sprializer they would recommend — or lend me for a week so that I could try it out, that would be wonderful.)

Let the game go on.

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