Wednesday, July 20, 2011

this year and last. . . .

Last year - this time - we were all about cucumbers. This year, it's all tomatoes again. I spent a good five hours yesterday blanching, peeling, coring and seeding a pile of all-ripe-at-the-same-time tomatoes until I couldn't fit any more into my largest pot! And it's a very large pot.

There are still 20 left over. What to do with them? More marinara? I don't know. . . .

No, there are no pictures of the pile of tomatoes. Unlike our first year here, they aren't really that pretty this year. I think it has to do with the uneven water supply (drought - then flood - then drought again), but many of them have cracks along the tops. It makes no difference when you're cutting them up anyway, but they aren't exactly photogenic, like I said.

I also want to get away from just narrating a series of pictures for a while. (OK, I'll give you one picture, at least, but I'd like to get away from the photo essay side of things and back more to the essay. There. I've put one right up top.)

Having denuded the tomato plants of any tomato even remotely approaching ripeness, I turned my attention to the other plants in the garden this morning. The weather has been brutal. It's been almost 100 degrees, with a correspondingly high humidity factor. Possibly the plants like it, but I can't take it and won't venture outside past 10 a.m., when the sun finally breaks over the tree line and floods the front pasture with its light and heat. That doesn't leave me with a lot of time to water in the morning, and it's still unbearably hot and muggy when the sun goes down at night having spent the whole day scorching the earth! Thunderstorms are daily predicted, but continue to hold off. Accordingly, the garden is suffering from lack of rain if not the heat.

Last night, after watering till almost dark, I reapplied the cayenne. The deer unfailingly come calling during droughts. As I cayenned, I discovered that the beans had been busy. I picked them this morning, careful with the bees so they'd be assured that theirs were the blossoms. . . . (that way there will be more beans for us!)

Remembering the bumper crop of cucumbers last year, I also inspected the cucumber patch. For some reason, they're not a prolific this year. . . . They're also a good deal more circumspect! They're not easy to spot under the best of circumstances. Somehow they can blend right in, lying right out in the open, under the leaves. But this year, they've outdone themselves. One had hidden itself in a boxwood, about a foot off the ground. Another had climbed the wall, and was hiding among the leaves on top of the wall! One does not expect to see cucumbers that high up.

So today, just three cucumbers, and I don't really see that many others in the pipeline. I've got several in the crisper drawer, though, and there should be enough for some cucumber vichyssoise. We've also managed a cucumber salad just about every night, so there's been plenty. Certainly, I have nothing to complain about. So many of my friends are telling me about the disaster their garden has been this year! We are feasting, here. The tomatoes may not be pretty (and may be covered in cayenne dust) and cucumbers not as plentiful as what I remember, but I haven't had to buy produce from the store in weeks. That is not counting vidalia onions and mushrooms, that is, which we don't grow but which are staples here.

Meanwhile, I am aware that disaster looms ever-present. The rain holds off, the sun scorches, the deer invade. . . . Yesterday, the king and I pulled enough gorging caterpillars off St. George to fill a large red pint cup! (St. George is the weeping beech tree out front, opposite what was the Dragon weeping beech - but the Dragon died, and has been replaced with a beech we call the Phoenix. As George slays dragons, we deemed it ill-advisable to bring in another dragon.) Having vanquished the Dragon, however, George was engaged by dragon-spawn. . . . and had lost a good many leaves to the little devils!

Overnight, one can go from feast to famine.

Today, however, we still feast, for which I am grateful.

There are many tomatoes still on the vine, including some from the 'volunteers' - those mystery plants that just sprang up. The volunteers this year have been extraordinary.

OK, let me give you one more picture. This tomato volunteer must have been from our first growing season, as it's a Black Zebra. I did not buy any Black Zebras this year, nor did I sow any seeds. But there he is! I was wondering what kind it would turn out to be. Aren't they pretty? And just in case you didn't catch the cucumber hiding in the picture up top, here's a close-up. The cheek of the little sneak! I'm hiding inside. Outside, it's hot, muggy, and toying with threatening thunderstorms. In other words: it's the height of summer.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

the aviary

We put in a soft-sack thistle feeder to try and get a better look at the yellow finches we like to feed.

They were suspicious at first, but eventually started feeding there when we weren't looking. (based on the diminishing seed level)

Now, you pretty much have to walk right up before they'll fly off. Even then, they don't fly far.

We've seen as many as 3 couples at a time, feeding or waiting their turn.

Here's a close-up of one couple: