Saturday, July 27, 2013

In high summer

We think of late July as high summer. It's a bit more droughty this year than even last year, as we did expect, and we are having to pay a great deal of attention to the mulch and water.

The potatoes should be lifted soon, as they have attracted the attention of gophers. Tomatoes and beans have set fruit but are not ready to pick. The corn is tasseling out and the pumpkins are greenly growing on the vines.

Risa has been cutting up excess vegetation from around the place and adding it to the compost heaps. She's moving irrigation and deepening mulch. She's also hiding a lot. There have been fourteen days at 90F or higher in this garden in July.

Birds have been trying to talk to Risa whenever she hand waters, so she's built an impromptu bird bath for them.

Last Son and Daughter were here. Last Son chopped and removed a lot of foliage from the creek (dry wash in summer) and Risa is composting it; Daughter will ferry our excess eggs (both duck and chicken) to friends and family in the Big City. She also foraged in the garden for chard, kale, potatoes, beans, cauliflower, and cabbage, as well as in the pantry. This makes us very happy; it's what we're here for.

Outside cookery, given the weather, has been a must. Pickled beets, beans, bread, chicken (the rooster, if you must know), potatoes, pasta, tea ...

Once a day, it behooves us to go, basket in hand, on a voyage of discovery. One of the ducks is a bit off her head, makes nests as far away as possible, and invites all the other ducks to contribute to her nest. We find it, and she follows us all the way back to the gate, complaining. But, hey! No drakes, no ducklings.

The last raspberries have been picked and the first blackberries. Geese fly over, talking among themselves of gleaning and rivers.

Turnips dehydrating
Solar tea
Garlic hardening off by a spud tub

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Season of drought

It is so dry now, my desiccated friend
spits in the bowl of his pipe before applying
flame to its bitter balm, for some kind of balance.

We tread on rustling mulch to study rustling leaves,
folded in desperate prayer, of what will surely be,
still, next year, an orchard and a kitchen garden

if -- large if -- the well does not run dry.
Everywhere flit wasps, sipping at beetles'
abdomens, having small aphids for dessert.

The birds have capped their singing, panting in
small shade. "Ninety, ninety, ninety-three and ninety,
ninety-seven today, and ninety yet

for all the week ahead, with this drying wind.
Don't you think things are getting out of hand?"
I ask him. He blows a little rueful smoke

but makes no answer. I anyway know from long
acquaintance his position: "there is a law,
and you and I and all these aching things

can never break it." It's that second law
of course, the one that is the silence heard
after all laughter, after songs and tears.

Soon the moon will rise, grand but red,
dressed in soot from a dozen cackling fires.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

We need all the help we can get

Every few days, in summer and early fall, we cut some mint, bruise it, stuff it in a gallon jar, fill the jar with water, and set it in the sun all day. A pitcher of "solar" tea resides in the cooler, supplying a hot weather drink for, y'know, free. Sometimes we add a bit of variety: lavender, or oregano, or marjoram, or sage, or thyme, or rosemary. Beet greens. Spinach. Lettuce. Spring onions, dandelions, lamb's quarters. Perhaps a few Douglas fir needles. Add some homemade vinegar, ginger and stevia or honey, and you've got a great switchel.

I have pulled the garlic and it is resting near one of the spud tubs (we had too many seed potatoes for the spud bed, and even the chickens eventually tire of boiled Yukon Golds). Digging up sprouted elephant garlic and planting it in close ranks seems to have produced the desired effect, which is smaller cloves. We use these mostly in pasta and other cooking by pureeing a (small!) clove in the water or stock before adding the liquid to the recipe.

Tops are fading in the spud bed, so potatoes may need to be lifted soon so we can get a cover crop on. Beans, corn, pumpkins and tomatoes are coming on.

Gaps are appearing in the beds where the pea vines, garlic, and broadbeans have been cleared away. Old lettuce has also been removed and given mostly to the chickens and ducks. Good lettuce is still happening in the shade garden.

Repurpose broken resin chairs as shade blocks. These are protecting late-season hot-weather cucumber transplants.

There are a lot of ladybird beetles, spiders and wasps patrolling the vegs this year, for which we are grateful. I try to avoid knocking down webs and nests if they are not directly in my way. We need all the natural help we can get with aphids and flea beetles, and it looks like we are getting what we need.

The sun has been scorching even well-watered plants in what should be regarded as moderate weather. I have taken to affixing a sprayer attachment to the hose and offering the garden a tea made up of comfrey, plantain, herbs and garlic. The more we depend on producing our own food, the more we notice stress in the garden, and the more we try to offer assistance. Chemical companies have capitalized on this concern, but as I watch the garden predators return in ever greater numbers and re-balance our small eco-community, I realize what a swindle has been perpetrated, and am glad I have learned to do without them.

Monday, July 08, 2013

After the Fourth

Almost the entire family gathered this week, to spend the Fourth of July together and to carry out my parents' last wish, which was to have their ashes placed within view of the western side of a certain great mountain. The chosen site required a three hour drive and two-mile hike-in. The granddaughters, bless them, were up to this. Middle son carried my mom and dad; we ambled through dark woods along the north slope of a saddle and broke out into sun and view in the heat of the day ...

I have to admit I cried buckets on the way back, and oldest son stopped twice to give me long hugs. 

Having seen everyone off to their assorted Big Cities, I turned to in the neglected garden. 

The corn and pumpkins have gotten over their shyness and are engineering a takeover bid.

Green beans are filling out their trellis.

Runner beans are investigating theirs.

The last peas must be harvested, along with the last broadbeans and the garlic. And everything needs water desperately.

Life goes on, I guess.

Adding a structure

The day comes when you can't do it all by yourself, or as well as you used to. Beloved wanted to add storage space to be able to sort and repair stock equipment without aggrandizing the potting shed (which certainly sounded good to me) so I began to make suggestions: "I could ... " "No." "Well, I could ... "Nope, not that either." Alas.

What I could do was Google to find out who does these things that's close by. Kevin's Mini Barns is an operation run by a couple out of their home, less than a mile away. So we contracted with them. They set up their compressor in the chicken shed and their saw in the driveway on a cord from the garage, and went to work:

Kevin pre-framing the second wall.
Brenda running the nail-gun on the flooring.
Kevin prepares to cut in the door after spray painting the exterior.

Brenda paints the trim.
Done! ... in a little over eight hours.