A summer sunset over a white barn painted by our inhouse artist, Donnel Barnum.
A summer sunset over a white barn painted by our inhouse artist, Donnel Barnum.

We’re in the brief window of time when everything that grows is at its peak. Gardens are overflowing. In the span of a single day, veggies go from too small and unripe to overgrown and overripe. 

Every morning before we get going with our day we go outside and step softly into the vegetable patch, careful to avoid squashing anything edible and watchful for creatures that have their own designs on the fruit of our labor. The earth is moist with dew and a bit cool, which is welcome before we’re in the heat of the day.

This is when Mother Nature tells us what’s for dinner—the tomatoes and basil would be wonderful in a caprese salad with some fresh mozzarella from the farmers’ market, cucumbers are cool and refreshing served with salt, pepper, and vinegar, and green beans are best lightly roasted with fresh thyme and Vermont butter. It’s different every day, and you’ve never tasted anything better! 

This early morning harvest is often collected haphazardly in our arms, which hold about as much as we need that day. Later, we’ll return, to pick more thoroughly, ensuring nothing goes to waste. What we don’t devour fresh will be canned or frozen and eaten months from now.  This simple morning ritual takes us back to summers helping our grandmother, Mildred, in her garden. As boys, we held little patience for gardening. On a good day, we would spend a short time picking, then go off to summertime mischief-making. Now, we can understand and appreciate the parallels between growing a garden and the arc of our own lives. Just like life, gardens are hard work and must be tended regularly. Sometimes things don’t work out, despite your efforts. But when they do, there is no better satisfaction, and the rewards are savored.

Gardner, Cabot, Eliot & Lyman Orton, Proprietors of The Vermont Country Store