There are many reasons why I'm very happy not to have to go to work in the morning, but in June, one big reason is the strawberries. It's such a nice morning routine, to go out to the garden in my pajamas and look for strawberries. If I were a morning person (or, maybe, a person who had to go to work in the morning and still wanted her strawberries), I'm sure I could manage it--it just wouldn't have the leisurely quality it has now.
Every day for the past week or so, there have been more and more strawberries. Today, I picked almost a pint--more than I actually need for my breakfast. It's kind of a treasure hunt--the ripe strawberries are not always obvious. Next to the garden is a lovely Japanese maple tree, and so there are lots of red leaves that have taken residence in the strawberry patch. I can't just assume that any flash of red is a berry. Plus, the strawberries have spread, as they are wont to do, and so I find them on the other side of the raspberry canes, actually in the grass on the edge of the garden, in the cat mint, casually drifting across the herbs.
Sometimes I wish I were the kind of gardener who kept my strawberries in line, who moved the plants and was vigilant about not letting them spread. From reading my various gardening books, especially Barbara Damrosch's The Garden Primer, I know that I really should impose more discipline on the strawberries (not to mention the raspberries, which, this year suddenly seem to have expanded exponentially), but I can't help thinking that if I have more plants, then I'll have more berries. And it's not like the rest of my garden is so orderly to begin with.
The other thing, I've realized, with the strawberries, is that there's strategy involved. The birds like the strawberries too, and they especially like the ripe ones. Every morning, when I go out to collect what I can, I have to decide whether to pick a strawberry that could maybe use one more day out there, except that the moment it reaches its perfect state of ripeness, the birds might get it. Do I pick it when it's almost, but not quite, ready, or do I wait? There's a philosophical conundrum in there somewhere. Depending on the day, my mood, the berry, sometimes I pick and sometimes I wait. This year's berries seem especially good--bigger than I remember, and sweeter, even when picked a day early. I wonder if that blast of heat last week helped. Somehow, I don't even mind sharing the berries with the birds--at least they're somewhat discriminate. When things get eaten at the community garden (usually by the dreaded woodchuck), everything gets chomped on. I still remember, sadly, the row of carrots, of which every single one had been eaten at the top, as if the woodchuck had just eaten down them until his mouth got too dirty and then moved onto the next one. (I thought of that woodchuck when I read the article in the NY Times a few weeks ago called "Peter Rabbit Must Die.")
In other garden news, I also picked my first bouquet--I don't have enough flowers in either garden for even a little bouquet, but with some of each, it was enough:
As an experiment, I included some cat mint, to see whether the cats would notice.
I think maybe they noticed.