“Can I give this to you?” I grunt as I hang myself on the ladder with one hand.
“I can’t reach her,” says my beloved wife Marsha, reaching over the top rail of our deck.
“Okay,” I say, put half a dozen cherry tomatoes in my shirt pocket and immediately regret it when one of them bursts open.
“There are two good ones over here,” says Marsha, pointing to 4 feet to the left of my ladder.
I don’t like ladders. I don’t like standing on a ladder and reaching aside while tomato juice runs into my shirt. It’s even worse when the rung I’m standing on is the little narrow one where the brackets that hold the extension ladder come together. There’s only room for one of my size 14 shoes and my extra foot is in the air.
Somehow I manage to get hold of the two tomatoes she pointed to. I pick up the rest of my harvest and add the juice in my shirt pocket.
“I should have worn a red shirt,” I say, trying to reach the last ripe tomato.
“Yeah, you should have that,” says Marsha.
“Here’s a cucumber that is ready to harvest,” I say, reaching for the prickly cylinder.
“DON’T SELECT THAT YET!” Says Marscha. “We already have three in the fridge.”
“If I don’t pick them now, I’ll have to climb that flowering ladder again in a day or two,” I moan.
“By then there will be more tomatoes and peppers. You’re going to have to do it anyway, ”she says.
I leave the cucumber and climb down. I walk around and climb the stairs to the deck. This is all new to us.
Our vegetable gardens were always on the ground, but we moved to a house in the woods where the deer and antelopes roam. Wherever a disheartening word is heard about planting a garden in a raised bed planter and a bunch of pots 8 feet above the yard. Where earth dries in sun-drenched, non-cloudy pots, where hoses are not there to live, where deer do not climb.
“Stop complaining,” says Marsha. “These tomatoes are delicious. And there are no antelopes. ”
“Sorry,” I say. “I didn’t know I was thinking out loud.”
“It wasn’t you, but I know you,” she says.
Our deck looks like a nature reserve. Planters, pots, birdhouses, baffles to keep the squirrels away from the bird feeders, the railing draped with overhanging vegetables, peppers growing between the balusters, all crushed and almost impossible to extract.
Ailments aside, our vegetables are doing great and we are enjoying the work and the products. We have been gardening since the year of our wedding. We dug 1 square meter of sod behind the house we lived in and planted a cucumber plant and a sugar corn seed. Our yield this year was three cukes and one sterile corn stalk.
Our next garden was way too big, and after six consecutive nights of cutting and freezing more green beans than we could ever eat by 1 a.m., I sprayed the entire garden with herbicide and planted grass seeds. We learned.
We enjoy the daily parade of deer, squirrels, woodchucks, possums, raccoons, rabbits, turkeys and other living things in our garden, along with the birds that visit our feeding grounds. Of course we also enjoy the fresh products.
I just wish I had insisted on my original plan to include in our marriage vows that no husband should climb a pull-out ladder. Ever. Not for scraping or sanding or painting or fastening clapboards and certainly not for picking tomatoes.
Jim Whitehouse lives in Albion.