This time of year finds many vegetable gardeners leaning on a hoe — a rake will do in a pinch — for a satisfying moment of contemplation and reflection.
It is our annual rite of utter contentment. You can't do much hoe-leaning in the spring or early summer because there is too work to be done. Later in the fall too few garden chores await to warrant wielding a garden tool.
But everything now is near perfect: the September garden is bountiful, the sun a bit softer, the wind a gentle breeze, the workload minimal.
Leaning on that hoe in this Goldilocks moment, I tend to forget that the world beyond the garden fence seems to be going to hell in the proverbial hand basket. I lose all concern about what the Bickersons in Congress are fighting about this week. And I can ignore the nagging worry that newspapers are swirling around the drain.
Instead, I think of the little green universe Maureen and I have wrought from this earth with our bare hands. It's a good feeling, one that fills your soul like a plate of fresh tomato slices filling the dining room with an appetizing aroma.
Persnickety folks would find our garden this time of year a little unkempt, a bit rumpled. They would request pith helmets before venturing beyond our garden gate.
It is true the weeds are starting to spread. Some veggies are beginning to go to seed. A mole — could be a gopher — is pushing the soil around here and there.
But we find it as comfortable as an old shoe. In our summer's-end garden, we slip into total tranquility. No corns from this green shoe, by the way.
As we walk amongst the vegetables we greet them like old friends. We have hand-watered them, pampered them. We even pulled up a layer of straw mulch around them, a blanket against a late spring frost and the baking days of July.
Now we are leisurely enjoying the fruit of our labors.
Two dozen plants are busy producing sweet, mild and sizzling peppers. We bought a rich variety of pepper plants at the annual Southern Oregon Historical Society spring plant sale at Hanley Farm.
But that spice of life can cause you to snort smoke out your nostrils. We somehow lost most of the identifying tags for the peppers this year. Best to have an ice-cold drink handy when the suspected mild pepper turns out to be hotter than Hades.
Or you can pop a cool strawberry into your mouth. Our second berry crop is still producing nicely. The red berries poke shyly out of the forest of green leaves.
After a later start, the dozen tomato plants are finally coming around, albeit slowly. For the past month, they had stood like so many Bartlebys the Scriveners, preferring not to ripen.
Maureen even suggested in jest that we may have to make some green tomato pies. I countered that it is a little known fact the Geneva Convention strictly forbids threatening a POW with even a small wedge of green tomato pie.
Fortunately, there will be no hideous concoctions that remind me of boiled sweat socks. The tomatoes are beginning to turn as red as the apples on our fruit trees planted early in the previous century.
Near the tomatoes, the broccoli is past its prime but still a handsome plant. Having fed us for months, the plants will now be left to live out their lives as ornamentals.
We do need to dig the rest of the onions and potatoes to store them for winter, joining the garlic that is already drying. And there are still a few carrots here and there to pull.
But summer is slowly slipping away, its days dropping like leaves from an autumn maple.
Our garden will soon fade back into the ground, where it will lie fallow for six months. Winter rains will soak the ground. The ice of January will grip the rows where tomatoes once stood heavy with fruit.
And we gardeners will retreat indoors where we will start rooting through seed catalogues. Lush veggies will sprout up in our minds.
Come spring, we will be ready to roll up our sleeves to work the soil. Once again we will become garden masochists, eager to suffer sore backs and aching knees.
But for now we are content to lean on our hoes, savoring this precious period in time.
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or firstname.lastname@example.org.