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Cucumber Dilemmas . . .

     For once in my life, I’m experiencing firsthand that ol’ cliché that warns us to be careful of what we wish for. Well, my long-held wish for a halfway-decent garden has finally come true this year. For the past three weeks, the vegetable crop has kept me picking, washing, snapping, poking, blanching, sweating, freezing or canning from dawn ‘til dark. God has been good. My garden runneth over.
    One day early last month I surveyed my single row of corn and prayed that—maybe this year—the stalks would actually reach “knee high by the Fourth of July.” Now, in mid-August, I’m seriously concerned about the airport people coming over and ordering me to whack the tassels so they don’t distract overhead planes. As I write, the stalks are stretching to at least 10 feet tall. And, who knows how high in the sky they’ll reach by the time you read this!
    I’ve been freezing green beans for three weeks now. With 28 Ziploc quart packages in the freezer and at least another four offered up to the Rev. Dr. Nancy in exchange for her Presbyterian prayers answered, I’ve warned my mother to get her freezer ready. Bean blossoms are promising plenty more, except for a few overloaded bushes that have thrown in the towel early. “Enough is enough,” one plant seemed to shriek while severing itself from the main stem right before my very eyes.
    I’m hoping to take a prize zucchini to the county fair—if I can lift it off the ground. Out there in that green jungle, I’ve actually lost my chives because of an invasion of fast-spreading cucumber vines which, like THE BLOB, threaten to envelop and choke off every plant along their respective routes. So far, the vines have attacked my giant squash, green beans, the parsley and even the sweet potatoes by curling themselves tightly in strategic spots. They’re moving onward toward the zinnias, but thankfully they’ll have to fight off the giant corn first.
    Speaking of cucumbers and zucchini, we all know how quickly you can clear a room when you mention having some extra squash to give away. I got so desperate one year with my zucchini, I offered various sizes and shapes of the stuff as prizes for the county fair talent show. Hardly any recipients showed up to claim their awards.
    Because of garden abundance this year, I’ve discovered a new phenomenon. Even whisper that you have a fine crop of cucumbers, and a person suddenly becomes your new best friend. Actually, the Perlinger’s have been friends for several years. But, when Mark Perlinger heard I might have some extra cukes while watching me purchase my pickling jars at Yoke’s check-out stand, his face lit up and his lips instantly delivered his telephone number—just in case I might need to give a few away. I hadn’t quite escaped from the grocery store parking lot when I heard his eager voice once more.
    “Ya want some dill?” he asked.  I knew better than to fall for that offer. His motive of attempting to seal the cuke deal from the Love garden was much too transparent.
    “Naw,” I answered. “I already got some last week from Stewart Gutenberger’s garden. Thanks anyway . . . I’ll call you if I’ve have extras.”  The pressure was on. The word was out. The Perlinger’s were now coveting my cukes. I felt flattered, but I also wondered what would happen if they learned about those 2,000 tomatoes waiting to ripen within my scatter-garden flower patch.
    Thanks to Love-garden prosperity, we’ve also experienced mistaken-identity problems among the refrigerator greens. The cucumbers came on about the same time as the long, green squash. One day last week, after returning from a hot day’s work in the woods, my forester husband Bill asked, “Were you missing a zucchini?”
    Puzzled, by the mere thought of anyone MISSING a zucchini, I said “no” and asked, “Why are you concerned?”
    “Well, I thought I had a cucumber in my lunch today,” he explained.
    “Bet that was a tasty surprise,” I quipped.
    Barring an early freeze, it’s looking as if I’ll remain a slave to my garden for the next few weeks. Don’t get me wrong. This challenge is a welcome problem for a bush-league green thumb who couldn’t even make the first cut at a Master Gardener audition. I plan to enjoy every sweaty moment, bent over plucking the fruits of my labors and storing them away for the long winter ahead. I’ll also see that Mark Perlinger gets his cucumbers. From now on, I’ll label the refrigerator zucchini for the sake of Bill’s lunches.
    I’ll also give thanks for my veggie blessings by amending a line from Shakespeare uttered during the famous funeral oration in 44 B.C. when Antony spoke of Caesar’s monumental greatness (Didn’t he invent the salad?). This fall—several centuries later in a land far from Rome—I shall stand over my vegetable patch remains and proudly proclaim,  “This was a Garden! When comes such another??”
    Epilogue: For the historical record, a multiple delivery occurred at Bonner General Hospital on Aug. 17, 2004, where Mark Perlinger works in the lab. He was proud to accept the bundle—weighing approximately 40 pounds. He took it to his home where 81 freshly-picked cucumbers from Marianne’s garden would serve as pickles or salad accessories for his family.

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Author info

Marianne Love Marianne Love is a freelance writer and former English teacher who enjoys telling the stories of her community. She has authored several books, the latest of which is "Lessons With Love."

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gardening, gardens

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