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Previously in Patti's Garden

Patti on the farmJuly 5, 2008

Happy High Summer!

I spied the first red raspberry and I know if I don't write this today, I may not get it written 'til raspberry season is over in mid-August.......

Beautiful, vigorous transplants of tomatoes and peppers, herbs and flowers went in right on time around old Memorial Day, May 30. The planting challenge this year was that the tractor stopped steering just as it was needed to deliver compost to the beds and turn it in prior to planting. Ralph tinkered and toiled with the hydraulics, then remedied the situation with a hammer.

We got everything planted, well watered in, and mulched as temperatures soared into the 90's for nearly a week. The transplants took well. Peaches, pears and plums lost a fair amount of fruit in the unlikely heat, though I suspect part of that was natural thinning.

I was bowled over by an avalanche of strawberries that hit me when my back was turned in early June and I'm still recovering. I knew they'd be somewhat early because we had never given them a winter blanket of straw mulch because snow had come early in December and stayed all winter long. That, coupled with the early June heat wave, must have accelerated the fruits' ripening even though we grow varieties that typically come at season's end. Lucky too - we'd taken off more than 250 pounds of lovely berries when hail struck on June 24.

It was between pea and dime-sized, and lasted a good ten minutes. We had just come in from picking both strawberry beds so we fortunately didn't lose any ripe berries. It did pound the unripe ones though. The hail tore through pepper leaves, snapped tomatoes and flowers and chopped cucumbers. Whole clusters of blueberries fell and half of the blackberries in some sections. Surprisingly, peaches and plums didn't fall off in huge numbers, though they may still. Raspberries also look OK - they were still quite underripe and that might save them. They are also on the edge of the gardens and more protected by trees than the blackberries and blueberries which are in the heart of the gardens.

As bad as it sounds, I feel pretty optimistic that we'll recover. Certainly the peppers and tomatoes will come back - they just need some time. We removed the broken stems and damaged fruit right away and they look better already. The blackberries had set an overwhelming amount of fruit to begin with so losing some is OK. Blueberries will probably be lighter than I'd like.

The currants were under bird netting when the hail struck and I think it helped them somewhat. I've picked the first of the black currants which are just starting to come in. The red currants are turning a lovely shade of rose and I think I'll be picking them within the week.

The elders are in full flower. The planting by the pond is so full of blossoms that it looks like a wedding gown down there. When the hail struck the blossoms hadn't set fruit, so I'm not sure what degree of damage might have occurred, but I think there will be plenty of elderberries for preserves as well as for experiments with elderberry syrup. I'm also intrigued with the elderflowers and experimenting with their use in cordials and fritters.

In the Kitchen

I've been catching up on vinegars and now have the first of the French Tarragon ready. We picked the garlic scapes this week and I've put them up into our Green Garlic Vinegar which will be ready by July 18. The basils and other herbs are all in good shape (leaves were torn by the hail but new growth is already apparent) and I'll be making vinegars throughout July and August and should have some of everything ready by mid August.

Our animal family is all well. Barley the retriever is cool with his summer 'do which unfortunately revealed a chunkiness he had hoped to hide. Rosie the hound is miffed that our walks are shorter since I've been so preoccupied with strawberries, but otherwise happy. The chipmunks, bunnies and squirrels keep them quite busy and Rosie gets a lot of exercise barking when visitors come or the rare cyclist or walker passes by. They're both glad that all the rain has kept water in the streams and very happy that Ralph has been grilling over wood fires a lot lately. Auggie, the family cat, is really the one in charge of everything, of course.

Ralph's been busy helping our friend Bob install a solar system that should provide most of our electricity and hot water needs. Yippee! The solar panel is set down from the herb slope where the land is too steep to grow much of anything. Joe dug a trench for the connection to the house and Bob's putting on the finishing touches now!

July 6 Update

What a day! Finally, no rain, and I picked raspberries, currants and even some lovely strawberries! Yippee!
The solar electricity is connected! Yippee!

Happy Independence Day!

Love,

Patti (and Ralph!)

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