Friday, July 29, 2011

Spooky Froggy Morning

Psycho cat is lying on his back under the bench by the north upstairs window.  I pry open the mini blind to check on my anti-'coon system by the corn patch.  Two clip lights with yellow bug bulbs illuminate the west side of the patch.  Yesterday's jungle humidity and early morning thunder boomers transform the morning landscape into an ethereal fogginess.Everything appears as if you're seeing it through cheap muslin.  I walk into the futon bedroom and the dog is still asleep.  She stretches, yawns and snorts three times.
I awaken after dreaming about pounding the ground, cussing and shouting about stupid f-ing politicians, especially the Republicans.  What really gets me out of bed is a quasi nightmare about being lonely.  I am driving across country, by myself.  It's a Kerouac dream without the notebook, wine or companions.Hitting the road watching strip malls, car dealerships and fast food places endlessly wind past like one of those crayon drawings you wound on a roll and cranked through a cardboard box theater screen when you were a kid. (I'm old enough to remember nickle Popsicles.)

Extremes in the weather plague us at Black Crow Farm.  I feel like the guy at Cooking For Assholes out in Portland, I believe. If you want to read his last post to get an idea, follow the link.

Over two inches of rain relieve the pressure of a previous drought.  The problem is that the rain comes in the form of micro-bursts late at night and early the next morning.  The result:

This is a shot after the late night thunderstorm.  Early in the morning after Dawn leaves for work, sheets of rain flood lowland areas and knock the rest of my corn to the ground.  The good news?  Now, a day later, the corn is making a vailant effort to resurrect itself.  It'll never be straight and tall, but the stalks are bending skyward and many who weren't smothered by neighbors are off the ground.  We may not ne able to sell the corn, but I'm hoping for some in the freezer.

I'm selling new potatoes at a brisk pace.  Noontime, I use my julienne machine to cut spuds into shoestrings.  I'll deep fry a mountain of the crispy taters.  The far patch of potatoes is an overflow for leftover seed potatoes and every meal of potatoes is a surprise when I grab a spud out of the bin and it turns out to be a delicious Yukon Gold. When the muddy field dries a bit, I'll be digging red potatoes.  I've got a Chicago order for new potatoes.

Last evening Dawn and I put up 17 jars of dill pickles.  Except for the garlic (California) and spices, the ingredients are homegrown.  Future pickles will be brined the old way in a crock from recipes in an outstanding book called The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich.

Cat's outside waiting to be fed.  Dog went back to bed and will appreciate breakfast.  I'm thinking hash browns would be a good start for the day.  I've got some tofu in the meat bin.  Fresh cilantro chopped fine and cooked with tofu and eggs should stretch me into lunch and some steamed kale, perhapsa juicy hamburger.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

What's On Your French Fry

Russets On Parade

Notwithstanding a life long habit of playing with my food( making dough balls with white bread,using potatoes for crude ink prints) this is serious.

In a good year  we harvested 500 to 700 pounds of potatoes.  They went into storage in an addition to the garage we call the "summer kitchen".  It's not really a kitchen but a holding area for appliances, freezers and for storing onions and potatoes.  With a cheap milk house electric heater, I can maintain a constant just above freezing temperature.  Onions and potatoes store well up to March when the light and temperatures outside increase and the natural urge to sprout takes over.

500 pounds of spuds is approximately 10 cardboard boxes weighing 50 pounds each.  I'd give 100 pounds to my neighbor for all his help over the year.  Friends at the library got some too.  If you stop by I'll give you ten pounds.  My spuds are totally organic save for the certification.  The local certifying agency charges a bundle for organic certification. Since I wasn't selling them, I didn't need the moniker.I saw lots of abuse by certified organic growers circumventing the rules.

A change in organic rules, according to my organic fertilizer supplier, said I could use the term "organically grown" if I kept records of my fertilizer purchases. This year I bought over 1000 pounds of organic composted poultry manure.  That and the cost of seed, gasoline for machines and an organic garden dust for the potatoes in the early months of siege by Colorado potato beetles brought my costs beyond that of hobby farming".  I toss in 10 hours of labor daily in peak times for free.  It's what I like to do.

 This year I made some decisions.  One, use my own seed potatoes. Two, increase production. Three, sell to the public.The last one is the kicker.  Brace yourself for nose picks driving over our mail box, stopping by late on a Sunday night asking "Are you open?" and cheap-skates.

Our area is second to lowest in the state of per capita income.  People are strapped for cash.  Except for the organic folks in the area, many of the locals are addicted to high fat, high sugar and salt diets. When we moved from Arizona, we were appalled by the obesity we observed in the local population.  When the Kwik Stop has an anniversary celebration, their 25 cent hot dogs cause lines out the front door.  The electric utility throws customer appreciation picnics with free hot dogs, beans and burgers.  The attendance is well over 300 people.  I believe there are 256 persons on the tax rolls for our township.

I did some research yesterday to add to what I know about potatoes.  The object: to be able to speak with some knowledge when selling my potatoes.

When I Googled pesticide use on potatoes, I found many references to McDonald's and a campaign by corporate to reduce the pesticide content of their french fries. I also found an article from www. listing 37 pesticide residues found on potatoes. I had a problem with the link, but here goes again.   . 

Seven of the chemicals are known carcinogens.  Then, I found an article presented to the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society dated 1/18/1997 by Charles M. Benbrook.  The title of the article Steering Clear Of The Pesticide Treadmill. I read it thoroughly while eating breakfast. The presentation was prompted by "possible impacts of pest management and pesticide use of the major new AVIKO USA french fry processing plant in Jamestown" (ND).

A slight detour before I highlight some of Benbrook remarks.

I walk into the library Friday afternoon waving the two articles on potatoes.  The librarian and a volunteer listen to my spiel.   After a minute the librarian's eyes glaze over and she starts to mumble about them darn Republicans. She earned the right to mumble. She's 80+ years old. The volunteer, cutting to the chase, asks me what I'm charging for my spuds and if I'm going to set up a stand somewhere.   Disregard the fact that sitting under a canopy by the US highway outside of Readstown does not allow for work on the farm.  I know no one who I could trust who'd want to sit in 95+ degree heat waiting for that special person to say, as they do to my Amish friends, "You know I can get this cheaper at Wal-Mart."

If you want to know about pesticide use in North Dakota( 6.24 lbs/acre), Minnesota (6), Washington State (124) in 1993, Google Benbrook's article.  You too will glaze over when he goes on to chronicle insecticide and fungicide use.  You don't have to be a farmer to want to know what's on your food.  Potatoes in the form of french fries and potato chips get them on a list of ten foods to avoid( salt and fat).  Another list of 30 foods to avoid ranks potatoes at the top. 

What's the classic image of punishment in the army. Peeling potatoes. Why?  You don't want to eat that peel. Tell people to buy my potatoes.  You can eat the peel, the whole spud and if you don't slather it with high fat sour cream or tons of salted butter it's really good for you.  When I'm 90 I'll be around to say, "Nah, nah, I told ya so!"  Unless I get run over by a customer wanting to buy potatoes.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Comets Over Kickapoo Center

OK, before you get all snarky about my skills as a photographer, just listen up.

I put the dog in the basement last night.  After the second wake-up whine around two in the morning, I'd had enough.  Thanks to the white witch of weather, I couldn't leave her outside because there are flashes of lightning in the south. Mandy is afraid of thunderstorms.  When I first let her out, she streaked out to the front field chasing some varmint. Then she ran in the back yard pen as if there is a raccoon. in the live trap near the old 16 foot radar dish/TV antenna. The barking would surely keep me awake, if not, upset the neighbors.

I get up at five when I hear a low rumble.  The dog is pacing the back hall and super cat wants to go outside and do ten rounds with a striped furry animal twice his size. It starts to rain.  A cloud show of amazing proportions begins.  Orange, purple, gray puffy cumulus abound.  "I'll give my Canon one last try," I decide.  The auto focus is whacked.  If I twiddle with the settings, I might be able to get a decent shot of the sunrise to show Dawn that I'm not surfin' girlie sites on the net at first light.

No such luck. I get a decent shot of the side of the garage. The sky looks like I feel. But wait!   In this picture,  a comet appears to have streaked through the sky as I clicked the shutter button.  Wow, freaky.

Dawn has a new camera I bought her at Christmas.  I'm too lazy and pressed for time to download the software needed to get pictures up on my blog.  My new printer took longer than it should have to set up, because they forgot the installation guide.  I had to work from memory.  On the floor next to a file cabinet is the old printer which was perfectly good ( until Dawn tried to clear a paper jam) including two expensive ink cartridges almost brand new.  On the other side of the desk is our old DVD player.It cost three times as much as the new replacement. In the closet I have two printers that should be tossed.  One piece of crap a friend mailed to me from Arizona because he didn't want to go through the hassle of recycling it. In the basement are two microwaves and the IMAC Dawn used until it got a case of arteriosclerosis. Add a compact tape recorder( compact if you call the size of a loaf of bread "compact") a voice activated mini-recorder, a fax machine that uses old onion skin type paper with a defective paper cutter, a credit card machine I stupidly purchased when we were in business instead of renting one,  two remote control racing cars,  and a partridge in a pear tree.

I'm not opposed to technology . Once it was expensive and new and now it it's cheaper than cheap. It creates more hassle with recycling and detoxifying the plastic detritus. I'm a life long collector of junk. Quality junk.For example, I have an old wooden cheese box ( even I don't remember when cheese came in a wooden box) where I keep metal springs of every size and shape. "One day this will come in handy" is my motto.  Two weeks after I threw it away, it did come in handy.

"I know I had a rubber tip for a wooden cane," I bemoan after I remember tossing the ribbed,white rubber tip in the trash.  I know I'll never say, "Now where did I put that eight track tape player? I could use that right now as a door stop for the lawn shed."   

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Washing My Calculator

Mandy Mae in the garden last winter.Click to enlarge.
Bunches of unrelated stuff. 

I'll organize this later after I put away the laundry, mow the back yard, make some carrot juice, surf my favorite blogs, see if there are any snow peas left on the pea vines, dig some new russet potatoes, fondle my just-about-ready sweet corn and think about fixing the muffler on Ted, the riding mower.

The AC died in my car.  Huge humidity and soaring temps mean the dog and I both ride with our heads out the windows and tongues lolling.Whenever the offer comes by, I hitch a ride with Jorge in his air conditioned limo.  Then I have to put up with Jorge aphorisms. He says out loud, "I wonder how Mountain Man Johann's doing in this heat?"  I quickly reply , "Johann's got solar AC."

"Solar AC ?" Jorge asks with a skeptical voice.  "You know my ex-mother-in-law once said, You don't have to think to lie. "Solar AC? You're kidding me."

Mountain Man Johann is off the grid, using solar and wind power. He gets his water from a spring down the road.  We run into his tree trimmer business partner in the co-op.  He tells us they've been swimming in local ponds in the evening.  "Found one with a cold,deep hole,"  Andy says with a fond grin.

I washed my pocket calculator yesterday.  I didn't realize it until I pulled the still damp laundry off the line at 5:30 pm. I hung it at noon.  Feeling the pocket flap pocket on the leg of my  cargo pants I utter an "Oh shit".  The calculator is a dual powered one with a solar panel and battery.  I flip the cover and hit the "on" button. Gee whiz.  The 0 numeral comes on bright and clear.  The LED panel is a bit cloudy and some detritus got under the solar cell, but, wow, it still works.

A young couple drives down the road in the afternoon. "At last," I muse, someone not 85 years old wanting tomatoes like the last duffer.  "Tomatoes?"  I repeat.  Are you from around here?"  "On May 26th the evening forecast called for 34 degrees and lowland frost, " I tell him.  He leaves his car idling while his wife watches from the passenger seat. "  If I planted the tomatoes on January first we might have a few by now."

An attractive red head gets out of the Toyota and says, " Can I have a few minutes of your time?"

Oh no.  they're selling ariel photos of our place or are in the area doing some paving and have leftover asphalt. At least she's not dressed in gray skirt, white blouse and asking me if I've taken Jesus as my personal savior.

"We're from The American For a Friendlier America," she says.  ( I made up the name of the group).  I interrupt before she can continue.  "Is that one of those outsider groups the local Republicans have hired to influence the upcoming recall elections?"   "Uh, But..."she sputters. " What exactly is AMFFA about?" I ask, again interrupting.  "It's just the AMFFA," she says.  "Well you're in trouble if you don't know anything about the organization you represent, "I tell her. 

"I'll just go on my way," she says.  "Thank you for your time."  Then she says, " If you're a Kapanke supporter, we won't try to change your mind.  "Wait," I tell her.  Didn't you see those Shilling signs on the hill by the highway.  I'm not voting for that Republican scoundrel Kapanke. She asks me to sign a card reminding people to vote in the upcoming election.  The self addressed card I fill out will be mailed back to me before the election as a reminder in case I'm memory challenged.

I'm distressed to learn that she's from Chicago.  She asks about rural fire numbers which seem to be out of synch.  Obviously, she's been hired to canvas at a per contact pay rate.  It seems the Democrat is using the same tactics the Republicans are using, hiring out-of-state lobbying groups with no public scrutiny of where and how  their funds originate.

I've decided that cats are smarter than dogs.  Pooch, the cat heads for the basement after a morning romp.  It's a cool 67 degrees because of the deep, poured-concrete foundation for the old school house. I figured out that putting a box fan set on  low instead of a dehumidifier saves a few $ on our soaring electric bill and doesn't add additional heat from the humidifier. He's got a soft afghan on a low table to stretch out on and empty wine boxes to  prop his feet against.  The dog follows me everywhere, sitting in the scorching sun so she can keep me in sight.

I guess it doesn't make me sound like a rocket scientist working in sweltering weather, but I do try to get most of the bull work done before 9 am.  Digging potatoes for my library angel the other day at mid-day, I quit after bagging 5 pounds.  It was all I could do to drag myself back in the house and dry off before dog and I headed to town. The far plot of onions and potatoes is the least fertile of all the garden plots since it is very close to an artificial berm created to keep the river from flooding our front field. All the other garden plots are some of the sandiest, most fertile loam I have ever worked in my 30 years of growing vegetables.  "Out of sight, out of mind" figures into the equation also, as this 30X40 plot is far enough away from the house that one year a woodchuck took up residence in the middle of the pumpkin patch we grew there.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Onions For Sale

Onion Harvest A Few Years Ago

I'm not into S&M.  All that leather gets damp and smelly in this heat and humidity.  I'm taking a few minutes off from working with my friend Manuel Labor because I tripped on a wooden garden stake yesterday with an armload of onions. I put my hands out in front of me to break my fall.  I didn't break a wrist, but my left one is sore and swollen. I will hit the fields today for another session of self abuse. A wrist brace will help along with doses of Tylenol.  I've got a few blogs under my belt, feeling like I connected with the saner parts of the world. 

We finally got the cover up over the canopy.  For two days the thing sat there empty.  Then I parked my car under it so Mandy and I would have a nice, cool car to jump into when we went to the KwikStop.  My chalkboard advertising Kickapoo Center Onions, "NO CHEMICALS, ORGANIC FERTILIZER, was  propped up in the garage.  There were bunches of washed onions on a work table next to the sign.  At the bottom of the chalkboard, I wrote 75 cents/bunch. Then I went in the house to collapse.  It is 5:30 pm and I've just harvested one of our onions plots, laid them out in 30 foot rows in the grass next to the plot, weed whacked the pigweed with my Stihl, and brought out the Troy-Bilt horse to till the dirt. "Ain't that pretty", I said to myself when I went inside.In my head, I visualize the money I'll make.

A half hour later I go back to the open  garage and all but one bunch of washed onions are gone.  "We been robbed," I rush into the house and tell Dawn.  She hurries out with me to view the crime scene.  Curiously, the thief ignored two Stihl chain saws, two weed eaters and various tools like my Dewalt portable drill.  Under the old fashioned kitchen scale I use to weigh bunched onions are three one dollar bills.  Dawn reminds me that this is the way people do business in the area.  They'll put out an assortment of whatever-firewood, pumpkins, bakery-veggies next to a collection box.  People take what they want and leave money.  It's called the honor system.  Jorge says the system is slowly disappearing.  In the fifteen years he's lived here, he's noticed a decline of collection boxes. Sigh.

Sigh. The main reason I went to the computer is to check the NWS forecast. Should I irrigate the crops?  Yesterday I hung laundry, watered the corn and left the car windows open.  It rained seventeen drops on our way to buy cat treats and chicken leg quarters.  Today, after an amazing dawn sky spectacular of red and orange and gray cumulus clouds, I went back to bed to dream of cutting onion tops. The kids were left outside to guard the place.  It's dirty sheet gray right now.  The weather forecast office in LAX ( Lacrosse) says slight chance of rain.  The cukes will still be shaded by the trees at the east fence line.  I will begin the watering process, which because of the next week's forecast is mandatory.  They ran out of colors for warnings on the weather map. Starting on Sunday, the high temps will range from 93 to 95 degrees for the period Sunday through Thursday. Shoot. There goes my fun.

Like a mother hen, I worry about extremes.  I worry about the grass snake that's living in the now defunct broccoli patch.  Yesterday I harvest two-four pound cabbages to take to town for a special order and my friend the snake comes out from under leafy broccoli and stares at me. He's the reason we haven't had much trouble with cabbage loopers.  Under one cabbage leaf at ground level, I find a complete empty snakeskin with yawning jaws.  I know he'll find shelter under the wild pumpkin vines on the compost pile.  I'm hoping he'll head for the potatoes for shelter.

So, unless it rains, I'm offline for a week.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Free For All

It rained yesterday morning, as I mentioned in my last post, sending Mandy Mae into trembling, panting fits.  After I pulled the plug to the phone jack, I realized that there was a gallon bowl of sugar snap and snow peas waiting for me to clean and process for the freezer.  During a brief respite in the thunderstorm, I walked to the broccoli patch and discovered than the remaining four heads were ready to burst into tiny yellow flowers if I didn't do something with George H.W. Bush's favorite food.  The ensuing processing-soaking the hulking heads in a tub of water to drown earwigs, cutting off stems the size of logs and separating the crowns from the rest of the plant( we have so much broccoli I toss everything but the dark green crowns) took me up to noon.

The cumulus clouds are pushed back a bit to send the temperature to the high eighties.  The humidity is  100%. If you look at the concrete garage floor where the dog is stretched on her side, you can see her breath condenses into a pool of moisture next to her snout. Standing is a sweat inducing activity.  Dawn disappears to her air conditioned upstairs sewing room which doubles as the dog's bedroom and guest bedroom. During the day the futon is converted into a couch.  When one of the kids visits, we wash the cover, vacuum the mattress and turn it into a queen-size bed.

Dawn finds the nylon screen material stored in plastic totes in the basement. In years past, I not only lived in a tent during the summer, when as a teacher I had two months of freedom and no paycheck, but camped frequently in wilderness areas in northern Minnesota where my Step Dad was born. She's making an elastic screen cover for our straw  hats.  No more black flies and gnats up the nose.

corn/potato patch and new canopy frame
After lunch, Dawn and I go out to raise the cover on the new 10X20' canopy.  The theory is that we'll put fresh bunch onions and potatoes on tables under the canopy.  We'll use tables from the shed for display purposes and scatter a few other furniture pieces around in the hopes that we can sell some of the barn full of furniture and left over inventory from our trading post in the city. Theory never liked practical purposes.  Dawn can barely reach the eaves of the framework. I have to grab a seven foot step ladder to pull the cover over the frame.  Add 90 stifling degrees, tropical humidity and no breeze under the canopy and you have the formula for a murder/suicide.

older, modified canopy for drying onions
The canopy in this picture was modified by removing one section of leg uprights.  We have to bend over inside at the eaves when setting out onions, but slashing rain doesn't wash in from the sides.  The green tarp helps to keep a fine mist off our Stuttgart's since the canopy is well past middle age.  The lower profile also keeps the canopy from ending up in front of the garage in high winds like it did in 2006.

The second 80X10 potato patch, a similar size onion garden (one of four) edamame/horse radish/ pole bean and the fourth cabbage/broccoli/peas plot round out the picture.  If I used a larger format picture it would take me hours of downloading, but you'd see a better picture.

long shot of the rest of the plots

Lest you think I'm bragging, in actuality I'm attempting to put yourself in my shoes( pee yew) and understand why summers get so crazy.  Mandy Mae is in the habit of waking me up in the middle of the night lately to let her out to pee. I think she just wants to get out and chase critters.  I rationalize that deer, raccoon, possum and all other nocturnal visitors get the idea that's it's not safe to dine in Mr.McGregor's garden(Peter Rabbit)  when she barks her loud warnings at varmints at 2:30 am.

Last night I sat next to Mandy on her futon trying to figure out a way to comfort her fears as lightning flashes and thunder rumbles off the hills in our valley.  I softly tell her she'll be all right and the storm will be over soon.  My stroking and petting don't seem to matter, but the consoling words quell some of her shuddering. The humidity  soars again today. I don't have to water. I'll check the rain gauge later to learn the details. I feel fortunate that I can check other blogger's posts, delete bacon from my e-mail and go online to learn how to care for Tall Utah celery. If that doesn''t work, I'll drive over to the Amish farm and speak with the Matriarch. She knows everything. I'm amazed that it is a week before I learn of the former town chairman's death. The Amish give me all the detail of severe headache, followed by a fatal stroke, the wake, burial and the widow's trip to California with the kids. Who needs a computer?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Taking a chance that lightning won't strike the telephone line, again, I'm taking advantage of a thunderstorm to reconnect. I truly miss reading about online adventures of people I follow, but, I believe it was Joseph Stalin who said, " No work, no eat."

The storm brings some amazing effects with my defective auto focus, but for now I must leave before I'm struck dead.  I'll be back.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Early Morning July Fog
In my last post, I mentioned over five inches of rain. The post date was June 24th. Until yesterday afternoon-July 5th-and a surprise shower, we've experienced a severe drought.  Temperature yesterday reached 94 by mid afternoon on the north face of the house.   The memory of previous highs, some a smidgen below 100 degrees, are hazy because of the fumes of insect repellent (mosquitoes), Bounce fabric softener sheets(deer flies & blackflies) and 70 SPF sunscreen.With Arizona-like weather, I spend long hours keeping the gardens healthy.  I used to like the smell of Coppertone. It reminded me of summer time, Bradford Beach on lake Michigan, babes, hot dogs from the concession stand and hours of tennis on the courts near the high school.

To feed my obsession of having the best produce, the nicest garden and to have a showpiece truck garden, days start between 5 and 5:30 am.  Pooch the cat announces daybreak with a loud meow. Mandy does her monkey grunt, jumps on the bed and licks every exposed part of my body.  Yuk, ick. I know where that tongue has been.  That ugly brown bone you buried under the bush in the backyard and slurp on like a slowpoke sucker is the image in my mind when you give me kisses. 

My son and I hurry out to his car. He's carrying a box of our home made canned goods and bulk items like three pounds of homemade Amish egg noodles.I carry the fresh broccoli, Amish eggs and other perishables in a cold sack.  We hug briefly in the heavy rain and he scoots off for a three hour drive back to the city.His one day in the country is cut short to escort a TV crew through the downtown area. He's part of the combined efforts of business leaders and government in a  public service campaign to assist travelers, tourists and city workers in their day to day commerce in the area we call "downtown" in Milwaukee.

It's nice having an assistant. Last summer we worked seven hours splitting wood for the winter.  Refraining from the temptation to spend the day on bull work, we bounce around the place burying compost, installing drying tables for the onions under the canopy erected in the field near the highway and watering.  At first light the fog is actually a light mist that covers everything in heavy dew.  It's the only source of moisture for the plants without irrigation.  I notice the tops of yellow bean plants start to wither.  The pea harvest is reduced considerably.  Areas I mulched with cardboard and kraft paper feed sacks are doing well with lower soil temperatures and increased water retention. The heavy vine cover of the potato plots shade the soil helping to reduce the harmful effects of the heat and drought.  The onions aren't so lucky.  The 12X80 foot patches look like the desert fields driving back roads from Sedona to Cottonwood-totally devoid of greenery.  My onions react to the heat by lying flat on the soil. In usual weather, as the onions grow and mature, the weight of the tops and a signal from the great unkown tell them that life is ending as they know it.  When 75% of the tops of the onions have fallen over, I'll pull the onions, lay them on the dirt for a day in the sun, haul them in wheel barrow loads to the drying shelter and remove the tops.  Some people twist the tops togther and hang the onions in a barn or shed.  We find it works better for us to top them and put them on mesh wire tables under cover until first frost.

By nine am, I turn off both 100 foot sections of garden hose.  Combining spot watering and four different oscillating sprinklers, I can keep the plants lush and green.  It's a good thing we spent big dollars two years ago installing new well components.  The 40 year behemoth pump in a cement cave under the breezeway could have given up at any time leaving us not so high and very dry. One advantage of dry weather is that weeds are controllable. Using a variety of tools including a new hand held device Dawn ordered on Amazon called the Cobra(made in Wisconsin), we slice and dice the intruders at their feet leaving them to wither and die in the summer heat. By late afternoon, the grass is dry and I can enjoy the luxury of mowing specific areas of the five acres of my leisure.

Cutbacks in government services have created a serious problem in our rural location.  While the town still mows the fringe of the road on side town roads, the county hasn't mowed the major roads and highways. A noxious weed called false parsnip has invaded the ditches,culverts and roadside.  Looking like a lacy version of Queen Anne's Lace with yellow flower tops, it is highly toxic. Right now it's in full bloom along with pastel blue chicory plants. Take the blistering, weeping effects of poison ivy and multiply it by four.  The county and various privately funded groups promote tourism of the area in the form of fishing, hiking and canoeing yet they ignore a serious health hazard to an unsuspecting city dweller walking through a patch of the poisonous plants to get at a hidden trout stream.