Maxed Out 

The salad days at Smilin’ Dog Manner

By G.D. Maxwell

It’s hard to think

there will ever be,

a fruit as perfect

as the rasp-ber-rie.

It’s harvest time at Smilin’ Dog Manner. Push has come to shovel and we’re about to test the limits of friendship.

"Boy you guys sure wound up with a lot of lettuce."

"Why don’t you take a head or two?"

"No thanks. Still got most of what you gave me yesterday."

"Tough. Take some damn lettuce or else."

Looking at the bounty still in the ground, some might say my Perfect Partner and I were hard working, diligent gardeners. I like to think we were merely incredibly naive because the alternative is thinking we were downright foolish at best, stupid at worst. WHAT WERE WE THINKING?

The life-giving waters of Sulfuric Lake sit at 3,660 feet above sea level – think Olympic station. Even during the smokin’ hot days of the summer of ’02, nights were fresh – think cold. The first hard frost could come anytime in the next 15 days... or 15 minutes. There are, as I write, maybe 30 heads of romaine lettuce left in the ground, countless have been consumed, countless more have been given away. Two rows of chartreuse leaf lettuce we’ve been grazing on since the third week of June we’ve simply abandoned. They now look like brightly coloured hedges. I may never eat arugula again. Ditto beet greens.

I’ve eaten so much fresh spinach – raw, cooked, wrapped in phyllo, sauced in orzo – that tiny anchors are starting to appear on my swollen forearms. I have committed the sin of gluttony with fresh peas and sought repentance through acts of charity with my neighbours. Pods still hang on their vines like a Christmas tree overburdened with identical ornaments. My pee has turned green.

Enough potatoes remain in the ground to bring tears to the eyes of an aging Irishman. The potatoes have been both delicious and entertaining. One dug up the other day bore such a startling resemblance to Zippy the Dog it was saved from eating, named DogSpud, and given a place of honour on the counter. I’m hoping it grows sprouts where whiskers ought to be.

But the coup de grace must surely be this year’s raspberry crop. To describe it as bountiful does it an injustice. Scary comes closer. Arriving here last year about this time, there were ripe berries on the canes, a bonus considering no one had been resident to nurture them along for the previous year and a half. We gobbled them like desert nomads too long between oases. Not a single berry was left to preserve.

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