This week, things will be quiet in the Espenshade house as my kids have headed off to Tunkhannock for a week with the Shupp grandparents topped off with a weekend trip to the Pennsylvania State Grange Family Festival at the Centre County Grange Fairgrounds.
With the boys gone, I find myself in a strange situation – no babysitter runs, a house that stays clean and my beagle happy for a break.
Although the weather forecast predicts a heat wave for the rest of the week, I will be spending my spare time tackling the disaster that is called my garden.
Don’t get me wrong, I start out the year with the best of intensions. I promise myself that this year will be different. I will manage to grow great produce minus a great weed crop.
However, as travel demands eat away at my weekends, it seems my garden goes from tidy to weed infested in the blink of an eye, leaving me wishing for the creation of Roundup-Ready vegetable plants as I take on the overwhelming task of searching out my poor vegetables among the weeds.
My husband shakes his head at my gardening mission. For the past decade it has been the same – I tell him before he turns the garden with the disk, “This year is going to be different, the boys will be able to help me.”
And while he says nothing, I know he’s thinking that he will believe it when he sees it. Every once and a while he does ask why do I try every year, because honestly, finding the time to keep up with the garden is hard.
Yet, while my garden is not very nice-looking, the produce is pretty good. Peas were a success. Squashes and zucchinis have been coming off for the past week. And my youngest son uncovered the first round of cherry tomatoes last Wednesday. My peppers are looking good. And as for the watermelon and cantaloupes, that has yet to be decided.
Though my garden is not as nice as the produce farm next door, I figure it is not what it looks like, but how good the vegetables taste that really matters. Next year, I will work harder on weed control.
-- Charlene M. Shupp Espenshade, special sections editor
Editor’s note: This is a recipe I picked up from the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association. It’s a hit with the family and a great way to use zucchini and squash.
Easy Italian Pasta Bake
3 cups penne pasta, cooked, drained
1 jar (27 1/2 oz.) light tomato sauce
1 package (8 oz.) 2 percent milk shredded Mozzarella cheese
2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms (optional)
2 cups yellow squash, sliced and halved
2 cups zucchini, sliced and halved
In large bowl, mix pasta, sauce, 1 cup of cheese and vegetables. Spoon into 13 x 9-inch baking dish; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake at 375° F for 20 to 25 minutes or until thoroughly heated.