Swing time

Is there truly anything more relaxing than a swing in a garden?

Life in the country teaches one that the really stimulating things are the quiet, natural things, and the really wearisome things are the noisy, unnatural things. It is more exciting to stand still than to dance. Silence is more eloquent than speech. Water is more stimulating than wine. Fresh air is more intoxicating than cigarette smoke. Sunlight is more subtle than

electric light. The scent of grass is more luxurious than the most expensive perfume. The slow, simple observations of the peasant are more wise than the most sparkling epigrams of the latest wit.

— Beverly Nichols

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I have come out to lie on my swing under the walnut tree. It is, after all, summertime and I don’t really want to spend another afternoon hiding inside from the heat.

The swing is opened flat into a bed and as I lie down I push off with my foot sending the swing into motion. I know now why babies are cuddled into cradles; there is nothing more soothing than being slowly rocked.

This endless summer has been utterly exhausting. It began for many with floods and then suddenly turned to fires. We were more fortunate up here on the hill.

For us it began far more joyfully with family coming to visit and in spite of the heat and smoke we rode bikes every morning and spent the afternoons in the lake.

I was afraid that due to the flooding we wouldn’t have a beach but on our first visit to Manitou Park I was very grateful to see the beach was just a little smaller but also softer underfoot as the usual rocky edge was still under water. It was a wonderful visit and I loved every minute with my family but it certainly was busy.

Then cherry season began which lasted into August and during that time there must have been 20 to 30 pickers spread out between the three camps on our road.

Their workday began at 4:30 and finished around three in the afternoon. In the evenings they partied or drove down to the beach and partied there before returning to camp. Added to that constant traffic were tractors, wine-tour vans, hikers and a few lost tourists. By mid-August the lake had returned to near normal levels and the tourists began to flood in. There were days when I wanted to cover my ears like The Grinch and cry, “ Noise, Noise, Noise! I find it so ironic that the hordes of tourists who flock to our little community come, not only for wine, but for the peaceful, quiet, village they think is so quaint and lovely, and by doing so in such numbers, destroy what they come in search of.

I must confess I have had very little energy for the garden this summer except for doing a bit of deadheading early in the morning.

After one particularly long, hot, sleepless night I actually wondered what point there was in having this garden at all. And then out of the blue the temperature dropped for two or three days in a row — just a few degrees but it was enough — and the wind changed direction clearing the valley of smoke.

On the first day I raced outside after a quick breakfast ready to get to work but discovered I had no idea where to start; it had been a long time since I’d communed with my garden. So I decided to take a leisurely get- reacquainted-meander from the upper gardens all the way down to the bottom of the potager. Then I went back up to the top again, knelt down in front of the yellow border and sunk my hands into the earth. It felt like coming home.

As I worked my way round the garden I took note of what had weathered well and what had not. Due to the high level of the lake we were able to water freely which made a significant difference. If the heat of this summer becomes the norm but without a wet spring or high snowpack, this garden will need to be completely redesigned.

For the moment the irrigation system, which delivers water directly to the roots of the plants, plus a thick mulching of grass clippings are proving to be enough to keep most of the plants happy. But oh my how everything, myself included, would dearly love a deep, soaking rain.

While I’ve been dozing in my swing the breeze has picked up and now I see that most of the smoke is gone. It’s also a little cooler than forecast, cool enough to go up onto the porch for a glass of iced-tea.

The pots here on the porch are looking decidedly weary. I have done some research and made a list of more heat-tolerant annuals to try next year, things like zinnias, portulaca, gaillardia and dahlias.

The geraniums have done well of course but the filler plants I used, diascia and laguna have died. However, considering the constant heat we have had this year, I really can’t complain. There are enough blossoms on the geraniums and petunias and on the other side of the railing the roses are giving a second bloom.

I noticed there were quite a few aphids on one of the climbing roses and made a mental note to give it a good spray with the hose but while I’ve been sitting here a little black-capped chickadee has flown in to have his lunch. He now has his feet wrapped around the very end of a long rose stem and as it slowly bounces up and down, the chickadee is eating all the aphids. He gives a joyful “dee-dee-dee” every time he finishes one stem and flits to another.

In a few moments I will go in and close up the house against the rising heat and then I think I’ll pop down to the lake for a swim. But first I want to gather the vegetables for our supper.

We are barbecuing lamb chops tonight and I am spoiled for choice between having green beans and carrots, grilled zucchini and peppers or beets and Swiss chard, plus steamed German Butterball potatoes. And there is a plum tart cooling on the counter for dessert.

Although our lettuce quickly bolted in the heat the tomatoes have just spread their leaves in gratitude and produced volumes of fruit, as have the peppers and cucumbers. And we have just devoured our very first home-grown cantaloupe! So while this hot endless summer was very challenging at times, there have also been many gifts that I will cherish.

Audrey Anderson is a gardener, painter and recurring columnist with The Herald who resides in Naramata. To contact the writer: audabba@hotmail.com

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