Thursday, August 18, 2011

Garden update - it's in decline

There are signs of change everywhere. The predictable sequence of blooms and fruits are running their course once again. Wether more influenced by the suddenly cool of the mornings or the shortening of the days, the plant life here on the farm is signaling a seasonal change in wardrobe is soon to come.

The hydrangea continues to bloom, and the tiny butterflies continue their fluttery swarming as the blossoms are equally persistently emerge, now showing more pink and salmon, and with a fragrance that permeates the yard on a still evening.

The Broccoli is still alive and making a valiant effort. But not much yet. The Peppers show signs of blight, but are coming out of it a bit, and we will have some of all 5 kinds. Too bad they just don't seem to sell, but the daughters in law don't mind that. The eggplant is also coming around, and we have hopes of at least a few lasagnas.

The cucumbers have held up very well in this years heat, and have been our cash crop for sure. They have produced countless pounds of long green fruits, so we can't be critical of the yellow and brown spots that are beginning to dot their leaves, and even a few that have withered. The tomatoes, however, are pathetic. They are producing a few finally, but only a few, and the quality is poor at best. I have consoled myself with the facts that others have faced the same challenges of weather and blight, and willingly accepted the task of disposing of the less than perfect produce personally. The bacon is in the fridge.

The Green beans also failed this year. They seem to believe they are flowers - they bloom and bloom, but no beans. I replanted twice, and there is a bit of hope, but no promises.

The single row of zinnias stand guard in a cheery row as they have for many years. They even beat out most of the foxtail this year.

Oh - and the Ground Cherries. Our experiment of the season. The seed came as a bonus in our seed order. And the description was so promising - 'highly productive', 'drought tolerant', and 'papery skinned fruits with a strawberry flavor' made them sound like a sure market attraction. I always had heard of ground cherries, growing up in the sand hills, and had even thought those cute little lantern things that grew among the puncture vine at the cemetery could have been cherries, though I was told repeatedly to never eat them because they were poisonous. (and being a member of the nightshade family, who knows). We were told stories from those who should know about childhood memories of the wonderful fruits, and the pies and jam they produced. So we planted them along with the other seeds, and set them out when the frosts had past.

The plants, though slow growing, thrived. At least some of them. We carefully watched as the predicted blooms transformed into tiny green buds, which became papery covered fruits which looked much like their cousins tomatillos. And finally, they began to turn yellow. And we tried them. Too soon. Still green, they tasted more like really bad peas. So we watched and waited until at last they were papery dry, and pale tan. I carefully pealed back the delicate skin, and a golden yellow berry with a faint pink blush seemed promising...... and failed. I kept trying them, hoping as with many crops, the produce would improve. It didn't. Of all I sampled, (though most of the fruits were already inhabited with tiny worms - eeeew!) in only one did I detect a faint hint of strawberry. Don gave up sooner, declaring them a disgusting disappointment long before I. We took samples to our Farmers market vendor neighbors, who validated his judgment.

The papery 'lanterns' are cute all right. We finally realized that when they were truly ripe, they picked themselves, falling into neat little nests below the snakey vines. (Yes, the tangle of vines are striped in green, resembling a tangle of garter snakes. That took a little getting used to) And we sampled them again, just in case. Nope. Still nasty, but the worms seemed to love them even more. They will not be taking up garden space next year.

And so the season is beginning to show its age. Even the flowers color is bolder. The zinnias and Black eyed Susans herald the sunflowers and goldenrod and sumac soon to come into their own. The vibrant colors of fall emerge loudly, demanding their place in the sun be noticed in the fields of green fast fading to tan and brown. So goes the cycle. It's all good. And though with the passing of each year I find myself just a bit further along in the cycle myself, I have no regrets. The best of the harvest is yet to come.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunday afternoon

Its a beautiful day here. After the incessant heat and humidity of July, a cool pleasant start to August is almost too good to be true. A little unsettling even. But not to be pondered today. The highly productive plans have been set aside. The sunshine and gentle breeze are calling. So what to do? The fluttering outside the office window caught my attention. Time to check it out.

The bush happy resides at the corner of the house, in clear view from the window where I sit at the computer, the flower garden and patio just beyond. I have been noticing the movement, the dark fluttering, for several days. On closer inspection, I discovered it to be butterflies. Very small, dark butterflies cover the blossoms. Other insects share the sweet nectar. bumble bees, large flies, and a few larger orange and black butterflies stop for moments, and then are gone. But the tiny ones seems to stay, or at least only move short distances at a time. Their dark wings nearly the same size and the creamy pinkish petals, it appears as if the flower spikes themselves are exchanging grayish petals, from one column to another.

The sun is warm and glowing on petals and wings.

Then, camera in hand, Dolly and I went for a walk.

We went to visit the new girls. Four Romney ewe lambs are the latest addition to the Ewe And Us flock. Labeled 'cute' by the head flockmaster, they are indeed. Their wool is already 4 or 5 inches long, and although probably too coarse for my needle felting, I look forward to sampling their fleeces for spinning. They will be good company to the Coopworths in the spinning fleece production line.

Then we said 'hi' to the keeper pen. Well, I did. Dolly had gotten bored, and was of exploring. The girls here (oh - sorry - and 2 boys) were just hanging out, also enjoying the cooler weather.

As were the other lambs, in the generous shade of the Mulberry and Oak trees.

And we checked out the garden progress (and decline) The flowers are doing well. The rest of the garden I will leave for another post.

So now maybe its time to sit here in the garden with the butterflies. Yeah sure. There is still work to do.

Tomorrow maybe.