Monday, November 7, 2011

Growing Old 2001:26

Yesterday was classic bright November--clearly THE day for harvesting loofah sponge gourds from the backyard pergola.  And it was Sunday, which suits a day in the garden.  An all-round micro-momentous day, Harvest of the  Loofah.  The vines had lavished leaves and shade and bright yellow flowers across their trellised perch all summer (cat litter = good fertilizer).  Pollinating insects had a thriving metropolis in the high-rise vines.  Now, clearing the remains of all that exuberant life said summer--and a good chunk of autumn--was gone. Long gone, with winter knocking at the door.
So with joy in the morning and sadness in the ending, I plunked my trusty green 6 ft. folding stepladder against the pergola crossbars, stepped lightly upward, and peered into the morass of withered vines to see what I could see.  Without the ladder, only 4 gourds had hung below the trellised roof and were visible.  I didn't know how many had fruited between the thicket of leaves overhead.  I had my hopes up.

I was not disappointed.  The elevated explosion of rope-tough vines had changed into a different kind of beautiful.  Green leaves full of sun every summer morning, and dozens of yellow blooms, hopeful of pollination, had changed.  They were now gray, dried-up, and draped around sinuous dark gourds: the loofah crop. The gourds ranged from an immature 4-inches to a whopping 18 inches long, with up to 6-inch diameters.  Lots of em. Wow.  Happy Day.  The universe was loving them up there in Pergola Heaven while they were loving the growing of themselves.  They had quite a party and were wonderful to watch all summer.  Now, they lay between the thin strips of the trellis, naked and ripe. Hm.

I snipped the vines of the nearby ones, and pulled on the vines of the far-away ones, moving the ladder around a few times.  Altogether I had about 20 salvageable gourds.  Neat!  Some had been too immature to survive last week's mild frosts and were going soft.  The discards went into the city mulch collection.  I left a few small ones lying on the garden patch surrounding the pergola.  The soil there can decompose a few small smooshy contributions.

The rest went into a cool, dry basement where they will evolve to their final form.  They will sweat out their moisture for a few months.  The moisture will collect on their outer rind, in the form of soft mold.  The mold will eventually dry out, around January, earlier or later depending on their girth. Then the gourds are ready to have their dried, crisp skins peeled off.  The peeling will reveal underlying, dried fiber structure which provides a reason for their propagation (besides fun and beauty): loofah sponges.  Excellent for scrubbing, lovely to look at and hold, and a good story of the intelligent design of nature.

Its obvious I love my garden.  It gives me a lot of joy, and things to think about.  Growing loofahs, growing old, mutability.  Process, joy, end, and purpose.  They grow, and then they grow some more, growing old.