A Taste of Summer

A cool summer evening breeze sighed through the pine trees behind me. I stopped weeding for a moment to sniff the air. It smelled green; from mown grass that dried in the sun, of the freshly pulled weeds at my side, of nearby moist field grasses growing on top of last year’s mulch. Now in shade, the garden soil beneath me felt smooth and silky, still warm from the day’s heat.

At first glance, I had judged my self-imposed assignment of weeding the carrots as a thankless one. Then I saw how healthy the little orange ‘fingerlings’ were. With more room, they would become fat and sweet. Carefully lifting out the offensive space-grabbing weeds, I gave the baby roots what they needed. Enthusiasm for my job mounted as I imagined digging up a bumper crop of huge, flame-orange vegetables in October.

Across the yard our back door slammed shut. I looked over my shoulder and saw Tammie headed my way. One moment later I heard my daughter say, “Mmmmm! The peas have fat pods, Mom. Do you mind if I pick some to eat?”

In the top of a pine tree that grew beside our garden, a cardinal pleaded for attention. Ruefully grinning I said, “I thought you came out here to keep me company. It turns out you were only hungry!”

“Oh, Mom! I AM here to keep you company, I just thought…”

“That’s OK!” I laughed. “I just had to give you a hard time. Go ahead and eat all the peas you want. My garden is here for our enjoyment. After that, whatever we don’t eat fresh gets canned or frozen.” Somewhere in the nearby field, a bird sang a beautiful, liquid aria.

Tammie hunkered down in the soft soil nearby and began splitting open the fat pods. More than once she exclaimed, “Mmm! These taste so GOOD!” Her fingers were stained green when she stood up and looked around. She pointed out, “The beans need to be picked.”

I sighed into my bed of carrots, “I know. When I’m finished here, that’s what I’m planning to do. We’ll have fresh buttered beans for supper. While you’re looking around, take a look at the raspberry patch, the cucumbers, kohlrabi, onions, tomatoes and zucchini!”

Eating fat, red, sweet raspberries off the canes that hung over my tilled garden, Tammie said, “We have such good stuff to eat, Mom, and so much of it! I love summer!” The sudden movement of a small furry animal in a clump of berry plants made my daughter jump back in alarm. Then, realizing that it was only Oskar, a.k.a. The-Beautiful-Feline catching a mouse, she laughed. “Oh-my-gosh! She scared me.”

In the silence that followed, Tammie ate more berries. We listened to a symphony of birdcalls. The trill of goldfinch song offset the metallic-sounding call of a blue jay. Before long, Blossom, our good-natured kitty that has ‘fluff’ for brains padded over to where Tammie stood. Dropping down onto the dusty garden soil, the cat stretched out, obviously hoping to get her tummy scratched.

From within the raspberry foliage, Oskar peeked out, spying on her sister.  All I could see were white kitty cheeks and the intent look in her green eyes. Mischief was brewing. Without warning she pounced out into the open and onto her littermate. The two rolled around in a mock-savage battle.

From behind the wood shed, we heard another bird that I couldn’t identify. This one didn’t sound nice. It had the grating sound of a spoiled child having a tantrum. It sounded like, “Aaaagh!” Tammie straightened up and said, “That sound is so annoying! Yesterday, when I was reading out on the deck, it kept doing that! Blossom, go find that bird and EAT it!”

I admonished her, “Don’t encourage the cats, Tammie. You know I don’t want them killing birds!”

Thoughtfully, Tammie wondered, “Do you suppose birds taste like chicken to the cats?”

Smiling playfully I suggested, “Maybe cardinals taste like cherry salt-water taffy, goldfinch like lemon pudding, and blue jays like iced blue berries!”

Catching onto the idea Tammie said, “Black birds would taste like liquorice! But how would a robin taste?”

“Mmmm!” I said thinking hard, “They probably taste like chocolate covered orange-fluff bon-bons!” After a moment of silence I reverted back to my sensible, adult persona. I ordered, “Take the cats into the house and fill their food dish. If they’re well fed, hopefully they’ll be too fat and sleepy to bother the birds.”

Fresh fruits and vegetables bathed in rain and warmed by sunshine is the taste of summer for my family. Unfortunately, an unsuspecting bird is often the taste of summer for cats.

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