Monday, August 8, 2022

Gully-Washers!


Today, Monday, as of 6 P.M., has been a day without rain! The sky darkened for a bit just after noon, but the possibility of another storm seems to have passed by.

We woke on Friday to a T-storm and a hard sluicing  rain. 
Saturday afternoon I sat reading on the east porch, aware of clouds moving across the sun. The wind began to pick up and within moments tree branches lashed about and a deluge hit. Water poured from the barn eaves, splashing onto the ground below; rain slanted against the windows, thunder rattled. 
The house cats dashed for their favorite hiding places.


The storm was over in less than an hour; twilight moved in quietly with a pale blue sky laden with fast moving clouds in shades of pearl grey. When I picked my way cautiously down the wet front steps at 9:30 p.m. [calling a cat, of course] the half moon hung bright above the trees that line the south ravine.


Sunday morning I pulled on my battered wellies, went out to pick the expected fresh crop of Roma beans. I knew there would be mud--the kind that quickly enlarges one's boots to gummy clodhoppers.
I wasn't thinking ahead to damaged sunflowers. 

I plant them each spring in a slightly different place in the garden--usually commandeering a row that won't interfere with J.'s gardening scheme. This year the sunflowers occupy nearly half a row behind the Roma beans, leaving them susceptible to wind that drives from the south-west. 
Two stalks had been battered nearly horizontal. 
I fetched a shovel and struggled to hold the tall plants upright while attempting to stabilize the roots with a packing of wet soil. J. came to assist, but we had no success. Shallow-rooted, heavy-headed, already beginning to wilt in the morning heat, the two most battered plants were doomed. I laid them out on the grass verge of the garden and brought out my clippers to save as many blooms as still had some freshness.


You can see the upheaval of soil where the plants were toppled. Others along the row are rather perilously canted. 
I dumped down my red harvesting buckets and trudged round back of the house to see how other plants had fared.
I consoled myself by leaning against the west wall and plucking small weeds from around the pinks, tweaked out grass that was invading the clumps of thyme planted around the trellis.
Reluctant to go back to the muddy veg garden, I waded into the daylilies that border the lawn beyond the east wall, began heaving out handfuls of witch grass and smart weed [polygonum] recklessly hurling the stalks behind me onto the lawn. 
By the time I reminded myself that my real remit was to pick the beans, I was aching, sweaty, impatient.
The beans filled two of the gallon buckets which we save after buying them filled with strawberries. 
I was picking from the last few plants in the row when Jim bellowed out the door, 'Come eat!'
He had fried potatoes with bits of onion and green pepper, added rounds of beef summer sausage, fried eggs. 
My much-needed shower had to wait--one doesn't disappoint the chef.


Sunflowers fascinate me. Perhaps in part this is because the large blooms allow one to plainly admire the various parts of the flower, to appreciate them from tight bud to the last petals clinging to the huge seed heads.
This morning there is a golden dusting of pollen on the oak table top. 
[I think J. was slightly offended to find it so near his plate.]


My simple camera doesn't do justice to the intricacy  of the blooms.
It was well that my gardening chores were finished by early afternoon. 
In the evening there was a repeat performance of crashing thunder and pelting rain. 
This morning I realized, gazing at empty hummingbird feeders, the wind had swung both feeders back and forth, sloshing syrup onto the ground below.

I know well that as I grumble about toppled flowers, muddy boots, a sodden garden, we have been spared the dreadful devastation of the floods in eastern Kentucky. 
We are such creatures of our familiar places. To have 'home' swept away, the landscape altered, possessions--and lives of humans and animals--tragically lost--has to be over-whelming. 



An extra bit of beauty to cheer us.
Rosie was very taken with the vase of sunflowers which she helped to arrange.


Rosie has lately considered that the dining table is a suitable place to sit or sprawl.


Cats shouldn't be 'allowed' on the table [should they?]
But she is Rosie and knows she is 'special!'

 

Monday, August 1, 2022

The End of {Another} July


Mornings have been dark during this prolonged spell of almost daily rain. Although still humid, last night's weather included a cool breeze. I left the connecting doors open to the sunroom and east porch [the cats enjoy prowling through the extra space] and raised the bedroom window. 
In the predawn gloom a chilly damp wind stirred the curtains, blew across my bed. 

In the first weeks after the summer solstice there seems little change in the daylight. The glow of sunset lingers well after 9 p.m. This past week I've suddenly noticed the diminishing hours of light. 

I picked one and a half gallons of Roma beans yesterday forenoon, gathered glossy green peppers, hurrying into the house barely ahead of yet another downpour.
The beans have been snipped and cut, tucked into the downstairs fridge to wait for the next picking --likely sometime on Tuesday--to have enough to justify using the pressure canner.

J. made several trips from the garden this morning with produce which he arranged on the table and requested that the peppers and beans be brought out to ad to his photo session.


Potatoes not quite as large as some harvests, likely due to the June drought, but the tops are down and with the ground staying soaked they need to be lifted.


Roma beans, rinsed under the outdoor spigot, ready to cut.


Sunflowers against a grey and foggy sky.


Mexican torch flower.
Included in my spring 2020 seed order from Select Seeds was a free packet of torch flowers. They were unfamiliar, but I started several plants in the greenhouse. Only two made it to transplantable size. I positioned one near the west wall in the wildflower garden under construction. It became a giant thing, leaning out of the raised bed, and in the fall it showered the surrounding area with seeds. I expected to have a raft of torch flower 'babies' appear in 2021. There was not one!
Scrabbling about during mid-June I noted that two plants had appeared amidst a jungle of lemon balm upstarts. I wonder at that dormancy of a year.


Several attempts to capture the dainty prairie sage didn't result in a clear photo. The blue is more intense and the flowers have the typical shape of those in the labiatae family. The leaves have an almost acrid scent.


The "Jane" magnolias in the front yard have been inspired by the recent rains. 
The resident hummingbirds find them attractive momentary perches during their hectic zooming flights. 


"One Drive" evidently pulls photos from my online storage and presents some daily.
These are some of the Mule Deer who were regular visitors at our last Wyoming property. It was not unusual to open the living room curtains in the morning and find a deer standing just outside the window.
You can see the pond in the background. 
The deer were quite fearless, even coming onto the front porch and eating the struggling plants I had set out in tubs.


A handsome creature.


I was also presented with this bed full of dear, now departed cats.
From left to right below the pillows: Raisin, Oscar, Mrs. Beasley. 
Snuggled together are Eggnog and Zelda with the short-lived Homer curled by himself. 
Raisin and Eggnog lived to move to Kentucky with us.

I spent half an hour today trolling through several years of my archived blog posts. Nothing changes greatly. Some years the drought has come in June as it has this summer; at other times June is a time of rain with the drought occurring through July and August. Seldom are we blessed with a season when rainfall is pleasantly moderated encouraging optimum growth in the garden. 

I noted that we have often been frustrated in raising beets; last year we had beets in abundance, this year several successive plantings haven't germinated. 
As to flowers, I usually have several large pots overflowing with nasturtiums. This year, a few early blooms from seeds that had over-wintered. Successive plantings this year have given me only a few frail seedlings, none of which have bloomed.
 
A dozen years of gardening in Kentucky [this is our 13th summer] have proven that the tomatoes are always going to succumb to blight during July. 
We soldier on through drought and deluge, either too stubborn or too optimistic to quit gardening.

 

August 1, 1941, Wedding

The Brandon Union, Brandon, Vermont
Friday, 08 August, 1941

McKenzie Lewis announces the marriage of his daughter,
Miss Beulah Eliza Lewis to Lawrence Gilbert Desjadon,
son of Mrs. S. D. Desjadon at Orwell, August 1.

Grampa Mac's entry in his diary for August 1, 1941 noted in his usual spare style: 
"August 1, 1941: " nice clear day, Beulah and Lawrence married, gone north. Finished north haying. "


[Thus was the mention of my parents' wedding and honeymoon trip to Ausable Chasm in upstate New York noted along with the weather of the day and the fact that the hay crop from the north meadow was in.]

The marriage of my parents wasn't a grand occasion; she was deeply involved from girlhood in the village Congregational Church, he was a Catholic of French Canadian lineage. Their vows were pledged at the Catholic Rectory and they came home from their brief wedding trip to set up housekeeping in three rooms of the farmhouse. In September Beulah returned to teaching in a local school.

The following weekend Beulah [Mother] was an attendant at the double wedding of her cousins Dortha and Lucille Hayes who married two brothers.
She wore a floor length gown of pink net with a square neckline embellished with grosgrain ribbon. Somewhere in my trove of vintage photos I have one of the wedding party--posed across the lawn of Hazycrest, a grand gathering of Hayes and Lamos families. My Dad, Larry, isn't in the picture--perhaps he was asked to record the event with a small Kodak Brownie camera.

Weddings of the day were often fairly quiet affairs taking place in the home of the bride, at the 'parsonage' or in the case of a still not so common union between Catholic and Protestant, in the Catholic rectory.
There is no indication from the brief announcement in the local paper who attended the young couple, what the bride wore, what flowers she might have carried or worn as a corsage.
I don't recall that I ever asked Mother for details. Although Beulah and Larry had been a courting couple for some time, the marriage may not have best pleased the families involved. 
Mother had a stunning navy blue crepe dress that she wore for 'best' for many years.  I suspect it may have been purchased with her quiet wedding in mind; a high round neck which would have shown off her double string of cultured pearls, a soft bodice and a folded cummerbund waistband, a swirling bias cut skirt. A small veiled hat, gloves, pumps, would have completed the outfit.


The 'north' destination for the honeymoon was a cabin near Ausable Caverns in upstate New York. Beulah took the photo of Larry posing on the rustic porch and another as he leaned casually against the car. Surely he would have taken a photo of his bride, but I've never seen it. The photo of her sitting on the bumper of the car is of the same vintage.



In 1991 family and friends gathered to honor Larry and Beulah on their  50th wedding anniversary. While Daddy appears to be enjoying the occasion Mother's face conveys her usual disinclination to pose for a photo.
Beulah died a few weeks past their 66th anniversary; Larry's death followed hers two years and a day later.


[An error was made in the newspaper report: Larry's mother was Mrs. S.J. Desjadon.]

 

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

July Heat


More rain in bursts throughout the day; during a lull this evening I stepped out into air so steamy that the lens of my camera fogged and had to be wiped between each photo.
79 F. at 8:30 p.m.--which is 20 degrees less than most evenings last week.


My hedge of sunflowers has held up well to frequent rain. The earliest blooms have set seeds and the goldfinches are beginning to find them.


A close-up taken during an hour of sunshine. Sunflowers charm me in every stage of their development: from tight buds through unfolding petals, then the ragged fringe around the ripening seed heads.






Rain has inspired the hybrid Jane magnolias to fresh bloom. Their spring blossoms were devastated by a late frost and snow. 


Up close only a few of the flowers are at their fresh best. 


The front door planters became stressed and shabby in spite of nightly watering during June. Several of them have perked up with the frequent rains. 
The dainty signet marigolds were languishing in the green house until I potted them on and brought them outside last week.


Our first planting of green beans was a flop--only three plants germinated and grew in a long row.
I've now picked twice from the second planting of Roma beans. Rosie offers to help with snipping and cutting. 
My cats have always attacked fresh green beans, snatching them from baskets or buckets, gnawing on them, skittering them around the room. 


During the second week of July there was a run of days in the mid 70's F. 
I was able to work on the back wildflower garden, digging above this area to create space for transplanting volunteer seedlings. I moved some coneflowers, a few of the blackberry lilies before the weather heated up again.
I discovered several struggling plants of white phlox in the rough strip along the drive and moved them to the large raised container that serves as a nursery area. 
When temperatures climb into the 90's F. I can't stay outside. Weeds have burgeoned in the recent heat and humidity.

Blight has overtaken the early tomatoes, but the second planting of cucumbers has produced long smooth-skinned cukes lacking the bitter taste of the ones that ripened earlier in dry weather. 
We suddenly had a small glut of green peppers which have been diced and frozen. 
Peaches from the Carolinas available through our Beachy Amish neighbors, along with their fresh sweet corn. Jim has dug several buckets of red potatoes to share with the family. I boil a kettle full of them, skins on. We eat them hot, then use the leftovers to make home fries for a late breakfast on the next few mornings. 
I spend many hours reading when heat and humidity keep me indoors.
I've reread a favorite series of old books after acquiring three that continued the saga, though written years after the first six were published. 
Last night I finished reading a memoir of life on an island off the Maine coast during the early decades of the 1900's. 

Nostalgia has overtaken me at times this month. A lovely home where I spent much time as a girl--a mile to the west of my own home--has gone on the market after a decade of empty neglect. The listing photos show ceilings damaged by a leaking roof, familiar antique furniture shoved out of place, barns empty, paint peeling. It was a grand place in its day, made warm and welcoming by the family who lived and worked there. It was a family, who as Grampa Mac would say, 'died out,' the son a casualty of WWII. 
A good friend of my girlhood is in our mutual hometown on family matters; as she travels about she shares photos of the back roads, the old houses, places once so familiar.

The first house we built and lived in during our Wyoming years has recently changed hands. My 
SIL sent the listing link. The interim owners didn't change my paint scheme, the kitchen is the same. I recall how I loved the living room alcove with the double windows looking toward the Wind River Mountains.  The look of a room, a dooryard, a landscape, bringing a rush of recollections--scenes that shift like the particles of colored glass in a kaleidoscope, captioned collages of time and emotion.

Changes come--of course they must! We absorb them with our heads--not so quickly with our hearts!






 

Friday, July 8, 2022

Rain Came Down


After weeks of being teased with the promise of showers which never arrived it was almost startling to hear rain beginning to drum on the roof late on Thursday afternoon.  It was not a gentle rainfall. Wind rushed in from the southwest, driving the rain in sheets, lashing leaves from trees, 


The front steps glistened with wet; The porch roof provided little shelter when I stepped out with my camera. Horizontal rain!
The dishes alongside the white planter, used nightly to feed stray cats and raccoons, were quickly filled to overflowing.
Thunder rattled sending the house cats to hide in the rooms on the lower level.
The internet went out.
At the height of the storm I spent a few minutes on the screened east porch.
Hummingbird feeders hang under the wide eaves. As I stood there listening to the din of rain on the roof, two hummingbirds appeared. They hovered just beyond the sluicing sheets of rainwater, moving forward, then backing off, approaching the feeders again and again, only to be daunted by the pelting rain.

When the first heavy deluge was over, showers fell intermittently through the night.


I awoke at 6 a.m. this morning to dense fog. My bedroom window was open and the essence of the fog, grey and chilly, seemed to have seeped into my bones. The east porch was damp and unwelcoming, but the hummingbirds were making their usual whirring dives at the feeders.


I pulled on my wellies, rolling the cuffs of my jeans high, and went out, camera in hand to see what the wind and rain had left.
Coneflowers have seeded randomly in the east wall border; I've left them where they sprang up, including this clump too near the edge of the wall, toppled by the wind.


These coneflowers have been flattened across the nepeta.


In the west garden wildflower strips the delicate spindles of cosmos have been dashed to the ground.


  Double Knock-out roses have put out tentative new shoots since my severe pruning last month. Every leaf and thorn was spangled with raindrops; A dainty spiders web clung in tatters to the outermost branch.


Coneflowers and Monarda in the west wall garden.
The rain will give great encouragement to the weeds which have overtaken the stone-flagged path.
I took out my heavy-tined garden fork and made a few stabs at the earth behind the coneflowers where I plan to add more plants.
There is now depth of moisture to allow digging, but 10 minutes of prodding about while wrapped in a wet blanket of humid air convinced me that this was not a gardening kind of morning.

There have been rain showers moving through, distant thunder, riffles of wind. Sheets and towels pegged on the lines in the ground level covered porch had to be brought in still damp and stuffed in the dryer.
Tonight cooler air has plunged temperatures into the low 70's F. 
The veg garden is an expanse of sodden mud,; my sunflowers cant at unstable angles.
At dusk I dug several hills of Yukon Gold potatoes, rinsed off the clinging earth at the spigot by the greenhouse. 
If the soil dries enough to work by the first of the week, more beets and green beans will be planted in the hope of a late summer harvest.
July--high summer--heat--humidity. 
Sometimes, as now, a few hours when the air is freshly clean, offering revival of plant growth, bringing encouragement after the long drought. 
I shall try not to think of the burgeoning weeds.

 

Saturday, July 2, 2022

We Pray For Rain!


Our last rainfall, noted on my calendar, was an afternoon shower on 10th June. Heavy rain on 26th and 27th May shattered roses and foxglove, splattered muddy soil onto tomato plants.
For more than two weeks Jim has watered the garden each evening. I carry water to planters near the front steps; rosemarys  summering on the east porch are watered each morning.


Nearly every afternoon the sky is overlaid with grey clouds, a hot restless wind stirs the trees that rim the north and south ravines. The weather ribbon that runs across the bottom of my PC screen declares "Rain Coming"--but it doesn't. 
There was a brief moment last week when the wind carried a scent of rain--an elusive promise never fulfilled. By mid-afternoon the sun strikes the back porch, beating in hotly from the south-west. Laundry pegged out earlier stiffens in the heat.


The west wall garden has to survive on its own without supplemental moisture once plants are established. The soil is shallow there; in the right foreground of the photo you can see that the blue prairie sage , not yet in bloom, is starting to wilt at the tips.


During lunch today I glanced through the little window at the top of the front door--and noted a flash of color in the sunflower row.


The back of a sunflower is nearly as intriguing as its face.
Some of my sunflowers are from saved seed; last August goldfinches descended on the flower heads as soon as seed began to ripen and there was only a little left for me to glean.
I picked up several packets of novelty sunflowers from an inexpensive line of seeds; each season I try for a few that are a bit different hoping that I can salvage seed for another summer.


New England asters started from seed last year. This color surprised me. If you look closely you can spot the more conventional purple behind them. I suspect that our hot dry weather has forced them into bloom ahead of time.


This front bed needs to be over hauled. The asters and other prairie wildflowers are too tall and lanky for this shallow raised bed--they flop forward and overwhelm plants at the edge. 
My plans for extending the west garden as well as moving plants from this space are on hold until cooler weather and the end of the drought. 


A flock of eight guineas appeared late in January. I first heard their distinctive chatter and saw them near the pond at the end of the lane. They became regular visitors, usually strolling through as a group, sometimes with a few straggling behind.
Often on my way back from the mailbox I saw them trundling across a neighboring field.
In early May I realized they had gone away. I know that guinea fowl refuse to 'stay home' and are prone to disappearing, still I missed them and hoped they hadn't become a meal for foxes or coyotes.


Two weeks ago I heard guineas chattering in a gulley below the pond, but until last week we hadn't seen them. Walking up the lane past the neighbor's cow pasture I noticed a heap of white feathers lying out in the rough grass. Prudently, I didn't climb the gate and prowl amongst the cattle to verify that one of the two white guineas had likely met with disaster.

All this past week three speckled and one white guinea have made their rounds through the dooryard. Today another speckled bird was with the group.
Do we consider that only the five remain of the original eight? 
Jim is watching to make sure they don't show an interest in the ripe tomatoes!



Daylilies and bee balm hold their own against invasive weeds and rough grass in the strip along the drive. Many hours of strenuous digging, many bags of bark mulch, have not deterred hardy native weeds. A few roots of gooseneck loosestrife hastily poked in with the first transplants proved to be a mistake. I regularly yank it out from around the peonies and the three shrub roses, but it thrives on abuse. I moved a clump of dwarf monarda before it was completely engulfed and rescued two phlox. A white coneflower bloomed in the tangle last week and will be somehow tagged so that it can be moved. 

I can no longer garden in day-long marathons, but I can doggedly salvage and tend a few plants at a time--if only we have rain.