“Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.” William Jennings Bryan

Monday, July 26, 2010

July 26, 2001

Yesterday afternoon it finally came…

The western sky changed from a haze shaded blue to a rolling black. The lightning began to spark in the sky and electrocute the air. The volleys of thunder shook the ground. A wall of wind driven rain came sideways, unleashing its pent up anger on all it found. Trees were flung over by gusts of wind. The afternoon had become a furious fury of swirling grey.

Where I stood, in a store entrance way, groups of persons gathered seeking shelter. There was talk of a tornado, of still stronger storms on their way. There was some fear among this fugitive group, but there was also a lifting of spirits. No matter how bad the storm was, its wrath had taken the afternoon temperature from 101 degrees to 76 degrees – a 25 degree loss. A swelling spirit of relief and happiness began to outweigh any sense of fear or foreboding.

And just as suddenly as it came, it was all passed! The area was left with some damage, a lot of clean up, and power outages, but the heat was gone! And that seemed to be the only thing at all that mattered…

(We arrived back at the farm to find a bit of “damage “. There were downed branches strewn around the yard and fields, my jeep had an inch of water on the floor boards and the inside was soaked because I had left the windows open, and our upstairs bedroom was soaked because the rain had been driven in through an open window. Many tomato plants had been blown down – although I had them caged and staked, the wind and rain was too much and toppled them over. All was repairable, so we counted our blessings and began the clean-up!)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

July 21, 2010

I really wish that I had more to say this time around…but the heat has quieted the summer to the point that everything around here is in what I describe as a heat induced hibernation. The sun has ground the farm down to still life…

For the most part we have not had a break from the 90 degree plus heat for almost two weeks now. We have had over 30 days above 90 degrees since June.

Basically, all the animals are laying low – keeping inactive and staying in the shade as much as they can. We have fans running in the stables, and ever since Louie got overheated a few years ago, we give him a “blue” Gatorade every day (spoiled Lou doesn’t like the “red” flavor”). When the heats been really tough on the horses, we hose them down to cool them off…same goes for Snoopy. The chickens find shade, and keep their wings slightly lifted to ventilate their bodies. Egg laying has dropped off to say the least. (no, you cant hose off chickens…at least not easily enough to make it worth either mine or the chicken’s effort)

Even the bees are having a time of it. In the evening about half the colony comes out to rest on the outside of the hive, draping down like a black curtain. A thousand or so others perch at the hive entrance with their wings going a mile a minute, fanning cool air into the hive. It’s a hard life. Bees never really stop working. Ever.

I was able to dig onions of late, and have them hanging up to cure. The tomatoes are coming on, as are the sweet and hot peppers. The potatoes are beginning to die back. I have pulled away at the straw in places to find a few good sized tubers forming – so I am hopeful that my first try at potatoes might at least yield as many potatoes as I used for seed. Anymore potatoes than that would be a success! The soybeans like the heat and are about a foot tall with light purple flowers, which will bear edemame pods in a few more weeks. The acorn squashes are pushing out vines to everywhere, and the butternut squash has gone crazy. There is going to be a lot of butternut!

The most exciting crop this year is the Dutch heirloom Dragon Tongue bean. These beans date way, way back to long ago. They have a yellow background colour, with purple streaking the length of the bean. The Dragon Tongue is juicy, crisp and sweet and has been bearing prolifically. It has become the CSA favorite.

Earlier in the year when I made the decision to plant heirloom seed instead of hybrids, a local gardener gave me a funny look and said sarcastically “good luck with that!” as if to say I was nuts. I keep thinking of him – it’s been my best cropping year ever… I am not looking back! I still wonder why he thought it wasn’t such a good idea.

Tomorrow they are forecasting the high to be 95 degrees, and temperatures in the 100’s by the weekend. It’s just been unbelievable and I don’t see any change to the long term forecast. We will all have to just do our best to hang in there.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

July 11, 2010

I guess it was a few weeks ago that the vet was out to take a look at Patrick’s teeth. He had begun to have troubles chewing (grinding) his hay because his back teeth had become worn and uneven. This is pretty typical for horses, as they take in sand and other abrasives from hay and grasses that over time naturally, and eventually, cause their teeth to wear unevenly.

So Dr. Beth came out to “float his teeth”, or in other words, use a specially made rasp to even out the irregularities and make Patrick’s back teeth flat again.

Although it looks a bit masochistic, its not so bad on the horse. Patrick got a sedative that put him in “la- la land”. Dr. Beth fitted him with a jaw brace to keep his mouth open, and quickly went to work flushing and cleaning his teeth, feeling for the uneven areas, and finally, rasping, or floating his teeth until they were smooth once more. In all, it took a half hour or so. When Patrick came out of his happy daze, he had a perfect smile again!

The ironic part of this whole story is that Dr. Beth, after repairing his teeth so that he could eat again, put him on a weight loss program, which means that even though she restored him to be an efficient eating machine, he wasn’t going to be allowed to be one!

Patrick needed to lose about 200 lbs! If you ever tried to lose even 5 lbs, you can easily appreciate the challenge Patrick was given!

So Kath has put Patrick on a diet and exercise program – cutting back his intake, and putting him to work each evening in the paddock. Its working – Patrick is adjusting to the light menu and beginning to enjoy the extra time with Kath, running this way and that, and being ridden more often. Although we haven’t measured him yet, he has begun losing weight and seems to feel a lot better!

The whole series of events reminds me of the times I have gone to the doctor with some typical complaint, yet he finds a much bigger problem in me that I had no idea was there! And so it is with Patrick, and for the best! It’s always nice to know that someone is looking out for you in the long run…and I think that poor ‘ol Patrick understands that, even when his stomach is growling! At least he can smile about it.

Monday, July 5, 2010

July 5, 2010

Yesterday evening I took a walk around the garden and the yard with my camera. It had been another hot day. In the past thirty days we have had sixteen days with temperatures reaching ninety and higher. Today and tomorrow are forecast to be ninety eight. I had spent most of the day hand watering almost every plant with an open ended hose, and also some rows with drip hoses laid on the ground–the sprinkler is useless because it breaks water into droplets that easily evaporate in this heat and low humidity, so even though it throws out plenty of water, very little gets to the plant. The air gets the water instead.

Well anyway, back to my camera….the following are pictures that I took at the end of the day when things began to cool off, and I want to share them with you.

Honey bees need water too! I keep a saucer of water(with a few "landing rocks")for the bees. Usually I need to fill it twice a day. Bees will get water from dew, pools, etc. At times, I have seen them crawl up the garden hose to get water that lines the inside! This gives em a break, especially in this heat.

This is buckwheat in flower. I throw seeds around in the spring and let it go. Buckwheat is a great cover crop, and also an attractant for beneficial insects, which is the reason I plant it around the garden.

Yellow chard...chard is a beautiful plant, and one of my favorite greens.

This is a tomato, or tobacco, hornworm, which can devour a tomato plant in days! Every evening Kath and I walk through the tomatoes and pull them off. This one though has a problem - the white pods on its back are cocoons of a parasitic wasp that lays eggs inside the worm. The larvae feed on the worm, then make cocoons and mature into adults that will seek out more of these worms. This worm is no longer feeding - its hours are numbered. Nature has its own way of controlling the bad bugs!

This is garlic that I dug over the past few days and hung to dry. This was planted last October, and has been in the garden nine months.I will save enough bulbs from this harvest to seed this fall for next years crop.

This is a flower from the apple gourd plant. Gourds flower in the evening, last through the night, and shrivel in the new daylight.I think that they are the most attractive flowers in the garden.

I like walking around and seeing these things - its part of farming that makes it all the better!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

July 1, 2010

I just finished a dish of chopped zucchini and garlic, sautéed in olive oil, and topped with parmesan cheese. It was the first zucchini of the season from my garden and I picked it yesterday. The zucchini is a heirloom variety named “black beauty” and I am growing about 10 plants that I started from seed. Looking at the forming fruit on the plants, I can see that they are all a bit different in color due to the nature of an open pollinated plant. Some are very dark, and others are light green, while a few have an almost black striping along their length. Variety within a variety – it can’t get any better than that.

It amazes me too, how these plants are feeding me, but at the same time, feeding my honey bees and the countless bumble bees. Every squash and cucumber flower is visited by one or the other and sometimes both. When I walk over to the nearest bee hive, I can see honey bees landing on the bottom board with their leg sacks bursting with the bright yellow pollen from these plants. I am taken aback that the three of us – plant, bee, and I – are connected. And that’s only the tip of an iceberg that I see. There are probably infinite other connections that are happening beyond my vision and limited comprehension, all because I planted a small zucchini seed.