“He who postpones wrestles with ruin.”
Hesiod, Works and Days

One of the profound aspects of our relationship with the earth, and with one another, is timing. There are natural rhythms, to which we need to learn to conform ourselves. Isn’t one of the hardest things with children to teach them that in so many things timing must be right? (“Dessert is after dinner; playtime is after work time; Mama will be available a little later; you will get presents on your birthday; say “Thank you” right away…)

Right timing doesn’t always feel like right timing: in any case, to the untrained eye. For instance, there are certain things that need to be done in one season, in preparation for another season. And certain things should be done in summer in preparation for fall. One of those things is planting cool loving crops.

It doesn’t seem like it right now. How can you plant cool-loving greens right now? In fact, they will sprout and grow in the summer heat and then be ready to mature in late September and early October. Glorious October! Can’t you feel the cool now, as you plant the spinach?

(Apologies to readers in Australia; are you sledding right now? Or what about Minnesota, I hope you won’t be sledding in October already?)

In any case most everyone can at least plant a few radishes, which are perfect for young children. They virtually leap out of the ground, coming to maturity in one month. And they are so pleasing to the eye, even if not your favorite garnish in a salad.

For those willing to try a little more, or who already have something of a garden, now is the time for a second start. Did your spring planting not amount to much? No problem, clear a little space, and fall is calling. In the heat, you might need to sprinkle water on your fall patch for a few days to get the seeds germinated. Particularly recommended: lettuce, spinach, kale, chard, and beets. You can even try peas again, if they are a faster growing variety. Learn the average first fall frost and plan accordingly, though the vegetables just mentioned will not be killed by the first frost. For most of us, the last chance is now.

No one is going to hold it against us if our timing is a little off, as long as we are trying to learn. We might just be surprised by joy, and the beneficence of the natural order.

~ ~ ~

Hesiod (8th century B.C.) was a Greek contemporary of Homer, and likewise an epic poet. His Works and Days sketches the year-round work on a homestead.

Image: a couple of beets from my spring planting

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