Elegant solution

Summer = stress


Summer {

  • 12 workshops May-Sept.
  • New Preserving Traditions mail system
  • 1500 sf of garden
  • ~30 pints of jam
  • ~24 pint of salsa
  • ~12 pints of tomatoes
  • ~12 quarts of pickles
  • Grange Community service book
  • Grange Ad for contest
  • And oh, my usual 9-5 job with basically no vacation days
  • And the beastly heat
  • And the mosquitoes, up my nose and in my eyes and welts all over, just from venturing out to pick a cucumber or two


I know other people do all this, and have kids, and cook 3 meals a day, and take it all in stride, but I just can’t do that. Either they are stronger people than I, or I am more demanding about my general stress and sanity levels. Or both. But you know, it doesn’t do anyone any good to beat yourself up with “But it just seems like SHE can do so much MORE than I can!”

So…what parts of summer do I hate?

  • The heat and mosquitoes, which make everything else less bearable.
  • Vegetables of Obligation: things that ripen in bucketfuls and must be processed right now. Tomatoes. Cucumbers. I don’t do zucchini, for that reason.
  • Plants I tend because I just want a handful of something: peppers, eggplant.
  • Working my butt off in the garden, and teaching, and then having to think of something to have for dinner (which is also my lunch for the next day) and oh by the way it better use some of the X that’s currently ripe or it’ll go to waste…guh.

Well. That’s depressing. It almost sounds like I hate gardening and fresh vegetables.

What do I love about the summer?

  • Teaching. Love love love it. Y’all give me more energy than I put into classes, I swear.
  • Green beans and sweet corn.
  • Vegetables no one else seems to grow – like baby winter squash.
  • Not having to bundle up against the cold.
  • It’ll soon turn into fall, and the return of cool-weather gardening, which I like so much. Kale, peas, digging up the potatoes and tucking the hard squash away for the winter…yum.

Ok, look around…what resources do you see that can move you more to the “love” side of the equation?

  • About a bazillion farm markets and produce stands. All the tomatoes I can possibly want, conveniently all ripe the very weekend I have scheduled to make salsa! And the handful of peppers and such I need to make the salsa, too. And the two eggplant I seem to crave each year. And the corn I can’t keep out of the raccoons’ paws. And the cabbage I can’t seem to grow to save my soul.
  • Mary Wessel Walker’s Harvest Kitchen. The summer share of this CSA takes a share from the Community Farm CSA in Ann Arbor and then – joy of joys, magic beyond belief – Mary and her crew cook it for you. I’ve decided I’m going to treat myself to a half share, and Harvest Kitchen will cook me lunch all next summer, leaving me free to teach. And also not do a traditional summer garden, except the things like hard squash and dry beans that will just grow until cool weather.

And let me amend that. I don’t think this is “treating myself.” I think this is more like appropriate self-care, so I can do the things that really are important for me to do: my job and my teaching, and staying calm and healthy so I’ve still got some me to share with my sweetie and my friends and family.

Yeah. That’s the ticket.



  1. Mary Wessel Walker said,

    September 24, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    Cheers–thanks for the shout out! We’ll look forward to cooking for you next summer (in the mean time, we’ll also cook for anyone this winter–check out the site for details on our all-local-all-winter shares! We put up 800 qts of tomatoes so someone had better eat them!(Vegetarian AND Omnivore shares are happening this winter)

    Also, hooray for the mathematical proof. 🙂

  2. Suzie said,

    September 24, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    I think this sounds like a great plan!

    I myself am totally loving having an actual manageable amount of work – and a health-food grocery store within walking distance. It has made our own lunch-dinner problem a LOT better.

    (Also, that’s too bad you don’t have as many vacation days in your new position, because I know you liked to take Fridays off when your vacation balance allowed it — or are they just eaten up by vacation “commitments” this year?)

  3. Momster said,

    September 24, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    You always figure it out!

  4. varmentrout said,

    September 25, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    Yes, I hear you. Recent quote to husband: “This is drudgery”.

    Part is a stubborn commitment to moving the peg to a different place. It is a different way of defining life.

    Yet – shouldn’t make it too much of a punishment. We all need to give ourselves permission to take a break when it gets too hard.

    Now if I could only find a good source of Chinese carryout on the west side of town.

    But I’ll love myself in the winter. We ate from the freezer until April last year.

    Thanks for all you have done to move our collective peg. Making a difference is important in life; hope you agree.

  5. Cynthia said,

    September 26, 2010 at 6:25 am

    I know how you feel, except it isn’t summer but the school year that gets me. It has helped me to remember to enlist help and to just notice when other women are doing something well, instead of comparing myself against them and feeling bad.

  6. September 26, 2010 at 9:13 am

    I think that’s not only appropriate self-care, but also supporting a local, sustainable business, plus promoting your community’s food resilience. I don’t have as many time commitments as you do, and even I’d consider that cooked food share if it were available near me.

  7. Emily said,

    September 26, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Thanks, everybody. It’s nice to have verification outside my own brain (and my sweetie’s) that this is a good move. 🙂

  8. EdgeWiseInAnnArbor said,

    September 27, 2010 at 11:18 am

    1500 sq ft garden? Yowza. I have an 800 sq ft garden and everyone thinks we’re nuts. I use soaker hoses on timers and and landscape fabric, and even with no weeding or watering, we can barely keep up. Even my wife’s polish immigrant great grandmother (quote: “Grass. Feh. Useless crop.”) only had 1500 sq ft back in the day.

    I really appreciated what you wrote. This weekend, we had to waste a couple basil plants because we were just too burnt out to make any more pesto, and we can’t even harvest the garden fast enough to donate it to food gatherers. (Anybody want some eggplants or red peppers? Like a couple bushels?)

    We’re expecting our third child in the spring, and my wife has floated the idea of skipping a garden next year after this year’s burn out. The idea of going without fresh basil and tomatoes makes us cringe though. We’re thinking of a half share of the harvest kitchen too.

    I sometimes wish there were harvest helpers we could call. Like when we declared Zucchini reverse bankruptcy and just donated all the stuff in the fridge and garden. Sometimes I have time to process the food or to harvest it, but not both.

    Good luck!

    • Emily said,

      September 27, 2010 at 11:24 am

      I seriously think there’s a niche for landless gardeners to pair up with overburdened landed gardeners. You come out and help with the harvest, and you get to take a bunch of it home. I wonder if Cultivating Community or other student/urban gardening orgs would be interested in facilitating something like that?

    • Emily said,

      September 27, 2010 at 11:27 am

      Also, I think we gardeners forget that there’s an easy solution to a lot of this…the farmers’ markets, not to mention the CSAs. We’re blessed with a bunch of really good ones in this area and buying from them meets a lot of the needs we have for gardening. Though I can’t imagine not gardening at all…for all it can be overwhelming, it’s also an endless source of inspiration and delightful productivity.

  9. Cynthia said,

    September 28, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Emily, the great local produce is the reason I grow only herbs now. I have too much wildlife that like to eat my stuff, plus we like to go camping a lot and I am gone lots of weekends.

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