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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Heat wave...

We're at around 90 in the afternoons at our place this week, with a killer drying wind, but the well is in good shape yet so I left the drip hoses going all night in the six beds in the lower garden, and gave everything else a dewing from the hand-watering hose as the sun went down and the long twilight set in. Beloved changed out all the pools for the ducks and geese, and the chicken water. We are at 44 degees north, and at this time of the year you have enough daylight for this kind of thing to last you till ten p.m.

The house is handling it well, better than ever before. The maple trees are finally tall enough to help some, there's more insulation, the south face of the roof now has a coat of white paint, beans are climbing the south wall, and there are awnings of burlap, and burlap shades, on the windows. I'm often seeing 65F on the inside thermometer when it's 85 outside, with no A.C. and no fans running. Usually we only have to start up the fans when it reaches 94 or more outside for three days running, which gives too much heat gain even for this house.

The grass seed growers, up the road, are baling their straw in gigantic bales that must weigh six hundred pounds each. The sunshine reflecting from the unbaled windrows defeats my sunglasses and I have to look away as I go by. There are mirages on the fields and pavements. It reminds me of my Georgia childhood.


From the report I left at One Green Generation (The Growing Challenge):

Lately there is a lull in planting. A few potatoes in gaps. We have peas, lettuce, bok choi, radishes, turnips, kale, cabbages (red and white), Jerusalem artichokes, 6 kinds of tomatoes, eggplants, zukes, delicatas, butternuts, punkins, garlic, elephant garlic, turnips, green beans, runner beans, favas, yellow corn, white corn, rhubarb, nasturtuims, white onions, red onions, Egyptian onions, leeks, red potatoes, golden potatoes, strawberries, white grapes, red seedless grapes, parsley, cilantro, basil mustard, broccoli, collards, rosemary, marjoram, spearmint, peppermint, chives. There will be apples on two of the six apple trees and a scattering of plums. Cherries did well this year, pears are ok; there will be a lot of blackberries judging by the blossoms. Most of the pears, cherries, nectarines, figs and quince are too young to bear yet.

What we harvested last week: Elephant garlic, onions, peas, chard, mustard, lettuce, spinach, strawberries, basil, chives. One rooster. A lot of Japanese knotweed for beanpoles and compost.

I chose one kale plant to go to seed, and oh, my, did it! It's hanging up now in a maple tree to dry the pods, and there are THOUSANDS of them. I've selected some of the favas to save, and will save some peas, French beans, runner beans, potatoes and tomato seeds. All of these we have done before, except the kale, and the favas, which are a learning experience. We're still working full time, so there is only so much we can try.

Favas come in an eating size and a green-manure size and we have a lot of the latter as that was what we were given. They are good to eat but hard to harvest. What I have learned: cut them from the stem with scissors, close to the first bean. Rest the pods in a basket for a day so the pods will deflate a little. Steam to blanch. Rinse to cool. Now when you squeeze the other end (like a toothpaste tube) the beans should slide out of each pod easily, ready to freeze, steam, fry, or what have you.

I've built a solar dryer and we have hundreds of canning jars but most of what we have put up so far this year has gone into the freezer -- some choice greens, peas, and, umm -- lots of chicken and chicken broth.

We rely a lot on things that self-replicate or are perennial. The Egyptian onions, elephant garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, nasturtiums, chives, parsley, rhubarb and blackberries pretty much take care of themselves. And the orchard just gets better every year. Also, a lot of our flowers are bulbs and can be divided, or seed themselves readily: daffodils, tulips, irises, flags, English bluebells, forget-me-nots, digitalis, poppies, sweet williams, lupine, sweet peas. And then there are the lilacs, which are so big they shade the house.

Ours is not the easiest site because rains are too heavy 3/4 of the year and entirely absent 1/4, nights are too cold, the season is short, there's too much wind, plenty of pests, incredible weeds, we only have a limited water supply when it's NEEDED, and we're a bit north-aspected, so the ground seems like it has some kind of permafrost thingy going on.

But we seem to do ok, as do many of our neighbors. The wind dies down a little after sunset, and we go sit with a glass of mint tea by the grape vines as the moon comes up, watching bats fluttering around the big oak tree.

There are worse ways of growing old.


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