Summer House: Ch. 10


In the Tuesday morning drizzle, Sonya and I headed to the Farmers’ Market. Elise and Bernard stayed behind with a game of gin rummy, a Harry Potter video, and a plate of chocolate chip cookies, fresh from the oven.

“My kids will be so spoiled,” Sonya said as we bundled into our rain coats and slogged down the puddled road.

“It’s good for them,” I said, remembering my summer days with cousins. “Kids need vacations!”

“I suppose,” she sighed.

We stepped up the pace and as our breath puffed, the conversation fell silent. I always like it best when I can be quiet with someone.

In spite of the clouds, the market was packed. Cars right off the morning ferry lined the gravel road leading to the center park, where the tourists’ bright rain coats and umbrellas spun through the square in a kaleidoscope.

I got us coffees from the booth that serves the best light roast organic while Sonya wandered through the stalls.

“We could do this!” she said when I caught up with her at a table loaded with jars full of sunflowers, zinnias, and Shasta daisies.

“We don’t have flowers,” I said.

“No, not at home, but in the meadows! The wild flowers! Queen Anne’s lace! And blackberries. We could sell blackberries. And what about that abandoned orchard through the woods?”

“Smith’s orchard?” The Smith house had burned one winter, twenty years ago, but the orchard was unmarred, and the wild, twisted trees still bore a good crop, ready to harvest at the end of summer.

“We could make a lot of money,” Sonya said, watching the tourists shell out five dollars for every box of blueberries, seven-fifty for each bunch of garden-fresh flowers.

I filled my shopping bags with fresh greens, a jar of honey, cucumbers, green beans, and zucchini.

The drizzle stopped, the umbrellas were folded, the sun cracked through to sparkle the puddles.

Sonya took a bag from me, and we turned back towards home.

The earth smelled fresh. We balanced along the rims of puddles that filled the narrow muddy roads.

“I’ve never had a garden here,” I confessed.

“But you’re a gardener!” Sonya said.

“Sure, a winter gardener.”

“I’ve seen the lavender,” Sonya said, “at the edge of the meadow. Somebody gardened there.”

My grandfather had a summer garden. He planted it in the late spring, before our family arrived, and harvested it after we left in the fall. The lavender lined the herb garden. For years, parsley self-seeded through the meadow, and the black swallowtails drawn to it seemed like memory-gifts from him. But a cold winter thinned them out. How the lavender survived, I had no idea.

“We could garden again,” Sonya said. “The soil’s good. I’ve checked.”

“It’s awfully late in the season for planting, isn’t it? What would grow in time for you to harvest before Labor Day?”

“Micro-greens,” Sonya said. “If we planted this week, we could harvest in four. We could charge a fortune. I’d do all the work. I’d plant. I use the French-intensive method, so we wouldn’t have to waste time weeding. I’d mulch, so it won’t waste water. I’d harvest. I’ll take the crops to the market and sell them. And I’d split the profits with you. All I’d need is for you pay for the seed. It’s a reasonable deal, isn’t it?”

When we got home, after the unbounded greetings from the anachronisms, the unenthusiastic welcome from the kids, and the unpacking of the produce, we wandered out to where my grandfather’s old garden used to stand.

I dug my hand into the wet soil and smelled it. It was sweet and crumbling, full of humus.

“See?” Sonya said. “It’s fertile. It’s a shame to let it set fallow any longer. It’ll be like digging butter.”

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