Rye diary: The final days

As a diarist, I would never make it. Hat’s off to you, Mr. Pepys.

This post has been a long time coming. Earlier, I picked all the rye that looked ripe.

rye seed heads harvested

I set it in the shed, the way I should set my poems in a drawer. A few weeks later, I rolled out the seeds, and over the next few days tried to clean all the bristles out. I haven’t cooked the rye yet, because I can’t tell whether I got the husk off. Ah, novices.

I still had the stiff stalks and a vigorous crop of weeds growing up between them.

dead rye stalks

And I still wanted to plant a new crop of winter rye—one that, this time, I would dig under in spring.

The problem? Yellow jackets. Early on in the summer, I noticed a constant activity of flying, stinging insects, and I realized that yellow jackets had an underground nest at the edge of the rye patch. One website said that yellow jackets are ferocious and will kill you and should be exterminated immediately. Another website said that if you could leave them alone, they would leave you alone. But how big is that nest, and is it under my rye patch? Digging no longer seemed like a good idea.

Finally, with a pair of grass clippers, I cut down the stalks. Along the way, I pulled some verbena–seeds from a plant pulled years ago, seeds that had stayed dormant during the years of the rampant roses and now, with the ground cleared, are cropping up everywhere. I tried to avoid the random parsley, the come-back sage, and second-generation strawberries. And when I pulled one feathery plant, thinking it might be angelica, I found a tiny carrot!

carrot on the table

Then I gently, timidly, raked the soil, spread some more seeds, raked again to get them under a little dirt, and covered the patch with the old straw.

Now, while the rest of the garden goes to shambles, the rye patch revives.

new rye coming up

All the while, I’ve been thinking about those yellow jackets, the verbena, the carrot, and writing. I want those stinging neighbors to stay underground—but in writing, I want to excavate the whirr and barbs. It’s also scary. I’m still learning how to be brave. In writing, I want the dormant stories and feelings to surface like that verbena. And yes, I’m hoping to renew and grow greenly, hoping to pull up a carrot.