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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.


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