Waves of moist heat enveloped me the minute I opened the back door of my house and stepped out onto the deck. Purring loudly, my two cats Louie and Jonah wove back and forth, rubbing themselves against my legs. Despite their heavy coats of fur, they appeared to love the sticky July weather.
A pair of barn swallows spotted the felines and began a series of low, kamikaze swoops over the carnivores. They had instinctively recognized the cats as evil, baby-eating predators. Despite the risk to themselves they repeated the attack over and over. The swift birds with gorgeous tail feathers that made me think of an arrow’s fletching, chattered and scolded as they dove. All Louie and Jonah would have had to do was raise a paw to catch one. Instead, they stretched out full length on the sun-heated deck planks. I said, “You two are sadists! You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” Louie lifted his head and gave me a happy, slow blink.
Knowing that the day was only going to get hotter, I hurried toward the greenhouse. I wanted to pick the cucumbers before the garden soil became too hot for my bare feet.
Like the cats, the plants in my greenhouse loved the hot July weather. Growing quickly, the vegetable plants competed against each other for room in the rows. Pushing and shoving as naughty children do, they encroached on each other’s personal space. Seed-heavy dill plants had already tipped over, shading the sweet potatoes. As if trying to get away from the unwelcome shade, the sweet potatoes sent long vines into the dahlias on the other side.
Five butternut squash plants had taken over not only the walk-ways on either side of them, but also invaded the blueberry and the white potato rows beyond them.
Bushing out in every direction, the tomatoes not only crowded each other, but also raced to see who could grow the tallest. I was glad that I had planted carrots next to them. Like good, well behaved children, they filled out but didn’t exceed the space they had been given.
The long arbor erected for the beans and cucumbers to climb stands in the center of the garden. As soon as the bean vines were long enough, most of them began to climb. There were a few tendrils that didn’t seem as smart as the others, but once I lifted them up and wove them into the arbor skeleton, they figured out what I wanted and went with the program.
Cucumbers on the other hand…are stupid. Despite having great climbing abilities, they are slow to recognize my arbor as the ideal place to grow. Everywhere I looked, new cucumber vines covered the ground.
Putting my harvest bucket down, I began to push the leading ends of cucumber vines through the arbor wires. Pulling yarn from my pocket, I tied several resistant vines to the wire where they drooped like executed criminals on gallows. Stepping back, I surveyed my work and felt discouraged with the result.
Persevering though, I picked up another cucumber vine off the ground. One climbing tendril was tightly wrapped around a sweet potato vine. I cruelly broke it off and asked, “Are you stupid or blind? Do you need a seeing-eye dog to help you find the fence to climb?” Glancing down, I noticed that one of the white potato plants in the next row had tipped over. Continuing my tirade, I scolded, “Potatoes have eyes. Let this seeing-eye spud guide you!”
By the time I had picked the cucumbers and returned to the house, I was dripping with sweat. To cool off, I sat down at the computer desk to read blogs. The first article I pulled up was about parents who punish misbehavior by making children publicly wear signs proclaiming their sins. One boy had a sign that stated, “Don’t trust me. I am a liar and a cheat.”
Shaming has become pervasive. People now shame their pets, too. The Internet is full of pictures of sad-eyed dogs wearing signs that say, “I eat the cat’s poop” or “I have a water bowl, but prefer the toilet’s blue water.”
That evening I said to my daughter, “I was reading about how popular shaming has become as a form of discipline. People put signs on their children and pets.”
My daughter Tammie said, “Children may feel shame, but a cat who shreds four rolls of toilet paper feels nothing but pride in having killed the great white beast.”
I laughed, “The signage is mostly for relieving frustration, I think. With that in mind, I want to start a new trend; vegetable shaming. I want to put up a sign in my garden next to the cucumbers that says, “I prefer to lay on the dusty ground and get stomped on even though Mom has given me a nice fence to climb and seeing-eye spuds to help me find it.”