Wednesday, October 29, 2014 • 6:31 PM Comments ()

On growing peppers

posted by Caleb Rounds

My garden and yard are now in full fall regalia. Leaves are scattered over an unevenly mown lawn; sticks blown down by storms and toys tossed aside by children accent the disarray. I’ve moved perhaps half of the compost to the garden but only spread a few beds; it looks like a mole on meth has been working in there. This weekend, spurred on by my neighbors’ work ethic I raked, about half the lawn. It does look neater raked, but I’m not sure I want neat.

There are still plants growing in the garden, though they’re growing much more slowly than in the long days and warm temperatures of summer. A few carrots hang on and I have copious chard, New Zealand Spinach and, though it has mostly bolted, regular spinach. The Brussels sprouts haven’t yet produced any good sprouts yet, but I’m still hoping.

Hot peppers have always done well. This year I’ve made over a half gallon of my version of Sriracha. It’s not the same consistency as the store bought stuff, but it tastes great. I think next year I need to grow a hotter variety. I’m just not that impressed by the pain inflicted.

This year for the first time I’m getting enough ripe sweet peppers. I grew two varieties, an Italian style called Carmen and a standard Bell called Ace. They take a long time to ripen and in the past they haven’t before frost. This year I seeded them even before the tomatoes -- back in April. I also caged them for the first time, which kept them from falling over and rotting.

The frost has held off and the deep red peppers look like a bit of lush summer hanging on in the fall’s chaos.

When I write “fall chaos,” I don’t mean to suggest that there isn’t chaos in my life at other times of the year. There is. Fall chaos has a different flavor. In my world at least, fall’s chaos is marked both by new things (a school year) and wild life (plant and animal) going into dormancy. Two forces going in opposite directions. In spring I get the opposite chaos: the school year winding down and the wild world waking up.

In this maelstrom I manage, usually, to keep the yard and garden at least approximating controlled, but I don’t even approach the ideal American yard. As I fussed about with the mower this last weekend I listened to Parker Posey reading Joan Didion’s “On Keeping a Notebook.” I read the essay first in college and it didn’t connect, now I do. I think I’d like Joan Didion, and though I don’t keep a notebook, maybe I ought to.

It struck me that a neat yard says little about the people in the house, except perhaps they don’t spend much time there. They probably don’t keep notebooks. A messy yard can say lots of different things. It could tell you that the person starts a lot of projects but doesn’t finish them (Hi, my name’s Caleb). Or it could be someone who just doesn’t give a damn what other people think and likes to see the disarray. I suppose I’m probably more interested in meeting that person. So I stopped mowing, sat down, and ate a pepper.

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