In 2010, I’d found a tiny black and white kitten while picking blackberries in Mount Vernon. We named it Suki, but from day one he was lethargic, and after a few weeks and many visits to the veterinarian, he was overtaken by feline infectious peritonitis.
We were devastated, many months later, we started noticing dead rodents and rabbits, strategically left in our front yard and by our vegetable garden. We also occasionally spied a young black and white cat dashing through our yard.
I was convinced it was Suki, reincarnated.
Slowly the cat became a regular visitor. Even though he was very feisty like a feral cat, he allowed up to pet him, and wasn’t opposed to coming into our house for food. Rich called him Mr. Mustache because of the white blob under his nose. I called him Suki.
At least a year passed, before we discovered Suki actually belonged to the person living in back of us. He was a barn cat from a farm in Burlington, Washington, and had been given the less-than-distinguished name of Kitty.
Much of the time he lived outdoors, honing his hunting skills. Our neighbor to the east was convinced he was catching and killing the gophers in her yard. When my mother lived in our house, and had a bird feeder, Suki evidentially caught quite a few birds (not so good). We continued to receive his gifts of dead rats, moles, and mice. I’m sure he also swept his owner’s yard for vermin.
Every Friday, we’d arrive in Mount Vernon, to find him waiting by our garage or on our deck. During the warm months, he’d assist with gardening, walking among the plants, rolling in the dirt, and running between our legs until we pet him.
In the cold month, he’d happily come inside for several hours, wandering through the house or finding a warm place to sleep. His owner said he usually slept during the day, and was outside during the night.
Suki also enjoyed spending time with Lila, even though she would chase him. She’s wait at the sliding glass door until he arrived, and then admire him from on top of a counter. When outside, they’d be within a few feet of each other, exchanging glances, coyly flirting.
Sometimes, he’d spend the night in our house. Most times, he’d eat and run, dashing outside, and then running back to the open door hissing and pawing at Rich or me before he’d turn and leave for the night.
When outside, he was fairly docile, but inside, he’d angrily bat out our feet, hiss, and if you lowered your hand to pet him or pick of his dish, he’d slap with his claws extended. His owner reported the same behavior. He could be a perfect gentlemen in the house, and then turn into a wild animal, hissing, batting, and biting.
But, we adored him. We looked forward to seeing him every week, whether assisting us outside, rolling in catnip, assaulting a cat toy or sitting in our front window.
A month ago, I felt like he was slowing down, even though he was probably only four or five years old. Last week, he didn’t show up, and hasn’t been seen this week.
Often his owner would open his slide glass door, and Suki would race out, hop over the fence between our yards, dash across the grass, and scamper up the stairs to our deck. Many times, I’d stand outside, shout his name, and he’s show up a few minutes later.
Today, I’ve seen our neighbor open his sliding glass door, but no Suki rushes out. I’m heartbroken because I know he’s dead. Something has happened to him. I’m afraid to ask his owner because I already know the truth.
Suki, little Suki, the reincarnation of our deathly ill kitten is gone.
Lila keeps looking outside, but Suki isn’t going to come any more.
It’s my nature. I look for the negative, minimizing the positive. This year, the positives significantly outweighed the negatives in our Mount Vernon garden. Nevertheless, hoping to harvest several bags of peas, like we’d done in previous years, I whined all summer, lamenting the spindly plants that emerged, most barely tall enough to reach the netting.
A handful grew, producing a smattering of delicate white flowers, which turned into bumpy, misshapen pods that struggled to produce edible peas.
The only explanation for this disappointment was planted the peas in second raised bed, which didn’t have the nutrients to support healthy pea growth. Rich felt they didn’t get enough sun, but they were relocated less than 20 feet away from where they were planted last year.
Meanwhile, our neighbor from across the street, who grows and sells berries and pumpkins, told me to thin out my strawberry plants, removing the runners, and keeping only the strong plants. I had my doubts, but was amazed by our copious crop of strawberries, which lasted for several weeks. Last week, I picked another burst of strawberries, courtesy of the warm weather.
When I lived in Sherwood, Oregon, I had a prolific raspberry bush. I’d brought cuttings to Texas, but they writhed in the heat. Fortunately, before I moved, I planted several canes at my mother’s house, which I later planted on our Anacortes lots (did horrible), Kirkland house (struggled), and finally in the front yard of our Mount Vernon houses.
For two years, these cuttings gingerly took off, spreading, but producing few berries. This year, they flourished, producing bowls of plump, raspberry gems we enjoyed with vanilla ice cream.
Now that the bush is healthy, and large, I’ll cut it back, removing some of the old canes.
When we had our Anacortes lot (happily sold last year), we made friends with a master gardener, who give us cutting from a thorn-less blackberry bush. Like my raspberries, it limped along but took hold this year, initially sprouting inch-long ruby red berries, which were tart. Disappointed, I left them on the bush, and nearly three weeks later, they turned dark purple and were delightful to eat.
This same master gardener dropped off several tomatoes, bell peppers, and sage bushes. How a vegetable plant, like child, is a determinate of its future success. In this case, we were given Ivy League tomato plants. They were tall (nearly 3-feet in height) and strong (the stems were as thick as white board markers) with root balls you’d expect on a large bush. Once planted, they got bigger, producing within weeks heirloom, Italian, and early girl tomatoes.
Plus, Rich purchased 6 different types of tomato from Fred Meyer’s, and we had tomatoes spouting up everywhere from last year’s fallen fruit. Every tomato that falls on the ground, and is left there has the potential to turn into an uninvited plant the following summer. We even had tomatoes sprouting in the grass!
We produced so many tomatoes that I dehydrate four batches, and made two large pots of sauce to freeze.
While peas were a disappointment, our pole bean production exceeded expectation. After weeks of gnawing on beans, nearly every night, I blanched and froze what was left. Bye-bye beans.
Planted by the pole beans were green bush string beans. I think they were intimidated by the pole beans because while the plants were healthy, and full of beans, we didn’t have a particularly large crop. Meanwhile, the purple string beans, planted in the raised beds in the backyard, were troopers, producing piles of beans at the beginning of the season, and then again last week! I’ve never had a double-crop before from these determined, consistent producers.
While radishes were a bust last year, we had radishes within weeks of planting. They were gorgeous. We immediately replanted, but subsequent radishes had lots of leaves and ill-formed radishes. Strange.
Carrots fit in the same category as radishes… great initial crop, and then nothing afterwards. Plus, I’m so enchanted by our carrots that I don’t want to eat them. After a few days in the refrigerator, they get soft, and then I have to toss them in the recycling bin. What a waste!
The pepper plants we got from the master gardener produced for months, and must have collaborated with the pepper plants we purchased from Fred Meyer’s because we picked numerous bell and chili peppers. This was the first year we had too many peppers, and I ended up dicing, and freezing them.
We were equally pleased with our cucumbers, especially the delicate lemon cucumbers. Unlike years past — when we ended up with behemoth squash — this year, we were very analytical and logical when planting zucchini, crock neck, patty pan, and piccolo. The analysis paid off (or maybe we did a better job of picking them when they were small) because we ended up with the “right amount” of squash and only had to give away a few.
Speaking of out-of-control squashes, an acquaintance mentioned on Facebook that she was given a large squash and was super excited about preparing it. Her friends offered recipes. A week later, she was flummoxed as to how she could possible use up the rest of the squash. A friend responded, “There are town where if you leave your car unlocked, you’ll find a zucchini left on the seat.”
Finally, with an early spring, we popped lettuce, kale, spinach, and arugula seeds in the ground. They grew like weeds, providing us with salad-fixing for most of the summer. We’ll keep the kale in the garden, since it can be harvested for the next few months, provided it doesn’t snow or there’s a hard freeze.