Home Island Life Life Lessons From the Month of July

Life Lessons From the Month of July

Life Lessons From the Month of July
The Olympic Mountain seen from Vashon Island north ferry dock.
frontfield flowers
July: a bloomin’ good time!

As an admirer of Joseph Campbell, I’ve always loved an axiom he shared in one of his early essays, “Why would you fish for a minnow, when you stand on whale?” Ah Mr. Campbell, so true, so true; and that is why I try to look for wisdom underfoot and in the everyday. Here are few lessons from last month, at least when I was paying attention.

1. Morning has its own rewards.

Sunrise peeks through a curtain of fir
Sunrise peeks through a verdant silhouette.

2. “Names are not always what they seem.”  –Mark Twain

Strawberry pot planted with succulents and flowers
Strawberry pot planted with succulents and flowers

Though named a strawberry pot, this vessel is a cruel container for the diminutive berry plant. The high-rise pot dries out quickly and provides a hostile environment for a plant that likes to spread its runners, stake its claim and push its boundaries. Succulents and drought tolerant plants make a better choice for this classic clay pot.

3. Sometimes you just have to spell it out for people.

fresh peaches ripening
A ripe peach is worth the wait.

My houseguests were a well-behaved group, but I knew if I didn’t  spell it out, that my perfectly ripe peaches would disappear and pie would be off the table. (Related: The Best Way to Ripen Peach, My Favorite Peach Pie recipe)

 4. When life hands you figs, make jam.

very ripe figs, dessert king figs
Very ripe Desert King figs, ready for the preserving pan.

My friends Linda, Ron and Karen shared some of their figs. After several minutes of gushing, swooning and kneeling before them, I accepted the generous gift, grabbed a big pan, tripped the pilot light, and set out to simmer up some superior jam. (Related: Fig and Ginger Jam recipe, Fig archives


 5. It’s true; everybody does love a parade.

Vashon Island Strawberry Festival parade, march to a different beat.
Vashon Island Strawberry Festival parade: marching to a different drum.

Vashon Island kicks off its Strawberry Festival with a homegrown parade, where islanders cha-cha, skip and ride their way down the main drag and into the hearts of onlookers.  (Related: Vashon Strawberry Festival: What’s not to love?)

 6. Scorn the thorns, but relish the pie.

blackberry pie with lattice top
Blackberry pie: my crust rewards!

Eleven months out of the year I grouse about blackberry brambles with a gusto and disdain usually reserved for Disney villains. The thorny green snakes slither their way in, out and about my acreage like serpent space aliens bent on taking over the planet. And for the most part, they do. But then in late July, the prickly thick canes produce the best pie berries in the state. And so I surrender for one month, picking as many of the shiny gems as possible and freezing up the surplus for winter pies. So my little blackberry land grabbers, I forgive you, well, at least through August. The loppers come out in September. (Related: Best way to freeze blackberries, Blackberry-Apple pie recipe)


7. Summer dress-up is a colorful (and clean) t-shirt.

No, my hand is not covering up BBQ sauce. Jam blob, yes; BBQ sauce, no.

My sartorial standby, the Hanes V-neck tee, stays down on the farm when I head into town. Presto, change-o, I’m a new man in seconds courtesy of a colorful, clean, word-free tee.  I’ve decided it’s the least I could do when seen in public, and besides I’m too young to become the town character just yet (Related: Shockingly simple solutions to Plumber’s ButtRocking the Filson, Vashon Style)


 8. Sometimes missing the boat is not such a bad thing.

The Olympic Mountain seen from Vashon Island north ferry dock.
The Olympic Mountains seen from Vashon Island north-end ferry dock.

In the summer, the ferry fills up quickly, and on this Sunday evening, I found myself six cars shy of making the 8:50 p.m. ferry. One can whine about it or sit back and enjoy an other-worldly view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. And should the driver exit the car, an impromptu dock party will likely ensue between old friends, visitors and motley mutts. Yes, sometimes missing the boat is gaining the party. (Related: Missing the boat, but catching the show)

Thanks for visiting Tall Clover Farm, hopefully my search for beauty, truth, wisdom and good pies will enrich your day or appetite as the case may be. Here’s to the wonder of summer, the gift of sunshine, and the time and good sense to enjoy it all.


  1. Now those are great lessons.
    (I’m an EARLY bird–I’ve never missed a sunrise EVER. And hopefully won’t until, well, time’s up! )

  2. Ah Tom, you are such a wonderful writer. Learning to enjoy all of Nature’s beauty and bounty is a great thing. Hope you write a book about Tall Clover someday. Have another beautiful day in Paradise!

  3. Vashon Island (and Tom’s place)… such a beautiful place to learn life’s lessons! (and what I would give for a slice of that pie with my morning cappuccino!)

    • Eileen, not to worry Eileen, one day you will find yourself in the Pacific Northwest, figuring out a ferry schedule for our visit. And I will be pondering the baked good to serve.

  4. Love your photographs Tom. Beautiful garden. I’m also not sure that Joseph’s Campbell’s remark is an axiom. I think some would be happier with the minnows….
    Thanks again for inspiration!

  5. Hey Tom!

    I imagine you have a couple of Galeux d/Eysines vines going this summer. Are they by any chance way ahead of where they normally are in mid-August? Mine look like they are done. I don’t think they can get any bigger and the warts are fully developed. What do you think? Do I go on watering the plants or just let them die back and allow the fruit to cure? Same story with my Mr. Fugly pumpkins . . . they are already way bigger than last years’, and I don’t think they need to grow any more, but I HATE to stop watering when there is all this gorgeous sun!
    [Say, have you started roasting the seeds yet?]

    • Hi Rick, I am growing some Galeux d’eysines, but they aren’t fully ripe like yours. I planted them late. If the pumpkins are full color and size I’d let them sit on the vines a little longer to make sure the skin is hard and mature, which will add to the longevity during storage months. Maybe give them a week or two more and water sparingly. When you pick them, leave the stem on, but cut the top about an inch away from the vine. I usually wipe my pumpkins off with a clean damp cloth (Some folks use soapy water or diluted bleach, I do not.) Really be sure to dry the pumpkin well and let it sit in a shady or coolish place for a week or two before storing it away. Do not refrigerate, winter squash like warm temps, like those found in the living area of your house. I usually don’t harvest mine until at least the first or second week of September, and that too is an option. I haven’t roasted seeds yet, but I do that in small batches when I use the pumpkin. Here’s to a great gardening summer and your early crop, Rick. Cheers, Tom


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