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!