PAT NEAL: The summertime blues

Summertime is garden time. Growing vegetables is a good way to confront the outrageous price of groceries. Until you figure out how much seed and fertilizer costs.

I’m happy to share my vast gardening experience with others. It can be summed up in two words: Give up.

It’s almost too late for what’s left of my garden anyway.

This year, I’m growing a special hybrid Arctic pygmy corn. It’s ankle high by the end of July.

There are onions the size of golf balls, cabbage the size of baseballs. There lurks the slug-infested, skeletal remains of what was once a potato patch.

The voles ate the roots from under the pea patch, causing the vines to collapse and turn brown. That’s after they ate the strawberries, plants and all.

The root maggots got the cauliflower and now I’ve got wormy turnips.

There’s nothing I’d like better than to plow the whole works under and start over. Like I need another chore.

It’s OK. Maybe it’s too late to plow the garden under. It’s way past time to get in a winter’s supply of wood.

Experts will tell you firewood should be seasoned a year in advance. But with all the rain, the firewood sprouted mushrooms. That’s what you get for listening to experts.

There’s almost no point in worrying about the firewood now that it’s tourist season. I know from hard experience that as soon as the tourists show up, they start wanting stuff.

More than anything, once city folks get this far out in the woods, they want to go to the bathroom.

When the tourists get out of the bathroom, it takes them about two minutes to piece together the grim realities of the wilderness experience.

The plumbing is clogged. Their cell phone won’t work. It’s raining on their vacation to the rainforest. That’s unacceptable.

As a gracious host, I am anxious to share the wonders of our vacation wonderland with the vacationing visitors. Often with a bit of tact and imagination it’s possible to salvage what’s left of a rainy vacation.

Tennis anyone? Maybe you think it’s raining and blowing too hard for tennis — toughen up. Rain and wind are perfect for slug tennis. The rules are simple. All you need is a tennis racket and slugs, and you’re in for hours of fun for the whole family. Go for distance!

Once the tennis rackets get clogged up, it might be time to shift gears for some real fun.

What tourist wouldn’t enjoy a good old fashioned firewood splitting contest?

Keep plenty of bandages on hand. Some of your city slickers would just as soon chop off their own thumbs as split a lick of kindling once the booze hits. Alcohol and axes don’t mix, but it’s your vacation.

Got the bleeding stopped, the tourists haven’t left yet and there’s still daylight to burn?

It might be time to gather the gang around for some automotive repairs. That always seems to make folks stop and realize there’s just so much to see, and do, somewhere else. They’ll make plans to go there as soon as possible.

I try to do my part to cheer up the soggy tourists as best I can.

Predicting the weather is a lot like predicting fishing. We generally get our best weather the week before tourists get here and the week after they leave.

What should I do? Tell the tourists the truth? I think we owe our visitors more than that. The tourists will figure out the truth soon enough on their own — that the sun always shines, next month.


Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via

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