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.




T. Roger Thomas said...

" Last summer we worked seven hours splitting wood for the winter. "

That's manly right there- I pat myself on the back for doing 45 minutes of cardio. Seven hours of swinging an ax sounds like hard work!

Gavrillo said...

We used a 35 ton hydraulic gas powered log splitter. Still, lifting those logs is a bitch. Anyone who tells you that wood heats you twice-when you work it and then when you burn it, is a sentimentalist who never cut, split and loaded 4 cords.