Watching the garden fade into memory is always sad for me; I'm a summer baby.
As (our northern hemisphere) August prepares to slide down the funnel into September, and the clouds gather for the first fall storm, everything goes into a frenzy of preparation. The runner beans have set a distinct second crop, the pumpkins are industriously turning orange, flocks of starlings are banding together into massive, fidgety swarms, the yellow jackets are getting cranky, the tomatoes and corn are finally getting serious, and Susannah and Sylvester come running, mouths open, flapping their wings and honking, every time we step outside, demanding extra rations. "What are you doing standing in the yard without a bucket full of sliced zucchini and corn silk for us? Are you trying to starve us? Don't you know winter is coming!?"
But we're dragging our feet.
A popular activity at Stony Run Farm these days is to pour a couple of glasses of local wine, sit in the garden together, and try to absorb all the sunlight and views of hummingbirds among the runner bean blossoms that we can. Glasses empty, we sit on and on and on, listening for that last rustle of growth among the potatoes hidden in the straw. At last someone says, "What a beautiful day." And someone replies, "Yes."
In the dusk a young buck, so close we can see how his mange is getting on, and the condition of the velvet on his very first antlers, stands by the outer fence, licking up blackberries. He scratches at his ear with a rear hoof, then looks us over insouciantly. When we rise to retire for the night, he flicks his ears at us, then concentrates on the blackberries again.
I'm trying to do firewooding, but hornets are nesting near the tree, a tall dying ash, that I most particularly want. I'll switch to working on the polytunnel, and try to figure out what to do with the hornets at night, when they've all gone in.
Can't get near them right now. They discovered me snipping at brush, almost fifteen feet from their great gorgeous grey nest, in an effort to clear around the base of the tree. They invited me to leave. I was so willing to comply that I apparently jumped straight up out of my shoes, which are still standing there by the fallen pair of loppers. I ran in my stocking feet into the house and stripped, and Beloved checked my ponytail for stragglers.
I only have five stings, which is remarkable given the size of the nest. A warning, was all that was. But hornets at this time of year are serious about their warnings, and I shook off the last one only as I came in the door, a run of about two hundred feet.
I went back half an hour later, with a pair of binoculars, and found and admired the nest from a nice safe distance. How did they build such a big thing so quickly? I mowed through that area all summer.
There's no getting closer, this morning, to pick up my shoes and loppers. When you have been stung by Bald-Faced Hornets, they know who you are for hours afterwards -- some kind of marker in the venom, a pheromone or something. You could send someone else, and they will be relatively safe.
But the loppers are fine right where they are for now!
Last Son was here yesterday, and he and I picked blackberries and worked up a batch of tomatoes for drying and apples as well. The tomatoes are in the dehydrator and the apples are in the potting shed/greenhouse.
As we picked apples, we remarked on how there are almost no wormy specimens, a departure from previous years. We don't know why there are so few, or whether they will be back. But it's nice to have clean organic apples. He says that I should prune more, and thin more aggressively after the June drop, so as to get larger apples, but I like them medium-sized.
To take the edge off the turnings of things from summery light toward the winter darkness, I have been roasting vegetables. I like to bring out the large, steaming baker's tray, covered with corn on the cob, diced zucchini, sliced tomatoes, green beans, snap peas, onions and bell peppers, a harvest-time harbinger of Thanksgiving, and set it among the empty plates next to a loaf of home-made bread. We can't have this during the week; it takes up to three hours. A Saturday kind of thing at present.
Pre-heat oven to 250F. Pick your vegetables same-day. Put your corn in. Now add the other veggies at intervals of ten to fifteen minutes, according to density. Tomatoes last, with fresh basil if you still have some. When it seems done, bring to the table. Everyone can season to taste if you provide butter, salt, Greek and Italian seasonings, or home-dried herbs.
The week in review: planted the last winter bok choi, beets, spinach, kale, lettuce. Will start putting the poly on the polytunnel.
Harvested corn, tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, apples, plums, blackberries, yellow zucchini, cabbage, green zucchini, turnips, turnip greens, beans, potatoes, strawberries, chicken eggs, duck eggs.
Dried tomatoes and made apple leathers. All this tomato drying has resulted in only a gallon of the finished product; it has an amazing taste, though.
Rescued a queen mattress from being dumpstered. Firewooding has been interrupted by the painful discovery of a large nest of Bald-Faced Hornets. I'm writing this to distract myself while the various swellings go down.
Selling chicken eggs again and giving away veggies and seed.
100 foot diet: from frozen: applesauce. From the land: corn, tomatoes, apples, plums, duck and chicken eggs, bok choi, potatoes, zucchini, leeks, blackberries, onions, green beans, strawberries, mint, basil, chives, onions, cucumbers, cabbage. Particularly enjoying roasted vegetables. 100 mile diet: wheat, oats, rye, spelt, sunflower seeds.