Tuesday, July 21, 2015

I Could Do Without July!

Vines have rampaged along the fences.

High summer has never been a favorite time.  I have lived in three quite distinct areas in terms of climate--in all three, July weather is too hot.
The greater part of my life was spent in Vermont's Champlain Valley, with the Green Mountains rimming the eastern horizon, the dark and rugged thrust of the Adirondacks looming on the New York side of the lake, visible as one drove to the far end of the township.
June--early summer there--brought pleasantly warm days; in my girlhood, June meant  freedom from school, hours to roam in the burgeoning green meadows and woods of my Grampa Mac's farm. My sisters and I rode our bikes with the neighbor girls--also three sisters. If we got too warm, we ditched the bikes, flopped down in the grass, faces turned up to the endless blue of the sky.
Our mothers mixed endless  pitchers of kool aid--sugary sweet, garishly colored in 
faux-fruit flavors.

July segued in with long sultry days--nights too heavy with trapped heat and humidity for sleep. 
Pedaling along the back roads or  hiking up the pasture left one limp, head throbbing, out of sorts.
Yet, as children, so little was expected of us. We were free to spread a blanket in the shade of the silver maple and retreat there with a glass of lemonade and a library book.
Grampa Mac's farmhouse next door offered a relatively cool living room and his old rocking chair by the radio.
Adulthood, and a family of my own, brought a reality check: summer was no longer a time to play or lounge about trying to beat the heat.
July meant garden rows to weed, produce to be harvested, crawling along the ranks of green beans while sweat streamed down my back.  July ushered in hours of canning--steam belching from kettles and heat leaching from the crowded kitchen, seeping into rooms with curtains drawn against the scorching sun.

Weeds have flourished in the area where I attempted to make a rough flower garden.

Before 'retiring' to Kentucky in 2010, we spent 12 years in Wyoming.
July in Wyoming is hot and dusty, with heat that is unrelieved by shade trees. 
Afternoon temperatures soar into three digits--Fahrenheit. 
The sun blazes down, brassy, relentless.
Each afternoon rough wind skirls down from the mountains, picking up grit and sand as it scours across the high arid plains. Grasshoppers bounce in the coarse browned grass.
Summer twilight lingers in Wyoming; sunsets are tinged with the smoke of forest fires.
The saving grace of July in Wyoming is the usual drop in night time temperatures. 
As darkness deepens, cooler air flows down from the mountains. By the wee hours we reached to pull up the quilt folded at the foot of the bed. 
Jim rose at daybreak to work before the sun rose to searing heights.
I wore a sweatshirt while sitting on the porch to sip my morning mug of hot tea or coffee.
Relief from July heat was to be found camping on weekends in the mountains where a heavy sleeping bag was needed to withstand temperatures that could plummet to nearly freezing by midnight.

Willis sulks in a tray of lavender seedlings on the porch.

July in south-central Kentucky is all about heat and intense humidity.
We have learned to garden early in the morning, then to retreat inside, close the windows, draw the curtains, turn on fans or A/C. 
To step outside is to feel that one has been swathed and smothered in a hot steaming blanket.
July this year has been about rain--drenching rain, pounding rain, so much rain that the ground does not dry out before another deluge moves in.
The garden has succumbed to weeds and blight.
I need my wellies to walk down the path into the woods to the spot where I dump used cat litter.
A towel used once remains damp on the towel bar;  I round up towels and clothing each day for laundry, unwilling to leave anything to develop a sour musty odor. I have used the electric dryer more often in July than in January!
Last week I discovered a  slight film of mold creeping along the crevices of furniture.

Jim works doggedly at the renovation of the lower farmhouse, returning every few hours with his shirt plastered to his chest and back.
I paint a wall or two, then sag with exhaustion, hot and cranky.
We revive ourselves with iced tea, lemonade clinking with ice, fruit smoothies.

July, 2015, is nearly over.  August looms.
It is still hot in August
 August is also a month of transition, weather changes that are at first subtle, then more noticeable as the earth turns toward autumn.
There are cool mornings, afternoons when we can open the windows to a refreshing breeze.
I can deal with August, the month of waning summer.
July--I could do without  July!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Left-Behind Flowers

The rugosas by the front porch are past their spring flowering and developing clusters of large and colorful rosehips.

I still yearn for certain elements of the gardens I have left behind--my Vermont garden was 18 years in the making and tending.
The fate of my Gradyville garden--bulldozed for a parking area--still troubles me.
Continued rain is hampering my efforts to create gardens here at the farm, but I am discovering a legacy of plants which the Amish ladies of the two houses tended.

Rose of Sharon, aka althea or Chinese hibiscus, is apparently beloved of Amish gardeners.
This one stands at the end of the porch.

In full glory nearly a week ago.

Each blossom lasts only a day,

Silky petals, laden with raindrops this morning.

Last week I trudged through the backyard of the lower house, squeezed through the gap at the gate and out onto the road--a round-about route to the mailbox.
I was surprised to see this profusion of flowers growing along the end wall of the long building which once housed the Miller's harness making enterprise.
I suspected it was 'balsam', although I had never grown it.
Photos online and in several plant catalogs confirmed the identity.

Most of the plants have a scarlet blossom, a few are more magenta in color.

Rounding the corner of the shop I found these.
Plants originally confined in a white-painted tire had spilled over the edges and begotten a host of offspring.  Identification of these was more difficult.

Comparing photos, doing some reading, I learned that four o'clocks over-winter in our climate, spreading and forming tuberous roots.

I learned that one plant can produce several variations of bloom color.

I went down later in the day and discovered that in spite of the rain some of the blossoms were more fully opened.  
I think [if it stops raining and I can garden] I will eventually move some of the smaller plants here.

This rose was planted in the raised bed that skirts the side of the porch.  It was tucked in the corner beneath the roof overhang.  It was very slow to break dormancy and I feared that it might be a variety which couldn't survive the harsh cold of February.

Finally I saw signs of life--a few leaf buds at the base of the plant.
I moved it to the corner of the terraced garden, clipping back the dead wood.
The photo doesn't do it justice.

Apparently Anna Miller grew cleome.
I grew cleome in the front garden at the Bedford stone house.
It self-sowed with rude abandon.
I brought a few seedlings over to transplant and then discovered that cleome were popping up by the dozens. I have had to pull out a few, along with random petunias and a host of cockscomb.

Monday evening, working til darkness fell, I tackled the weeds in the gravely strip which borders the cement steps.
Last autumn I tucked in several varieties of thyme, a few lavenders and a clump of daylilies in the upper part, then divided clumps of dianthus and stuck them in hoping they will eventually spread down the slope.
I decided to leave a few of the invading cockscomb, but ruthlessly pulled up those which were over-shadowing the thyme.

I've learned that several of the Miller women have kept their gardens at this farm home.
The lower house, where Mose and Anna raised their family was constructed nearly 25 years ago.
Several roses line the south wall of the house.
Our house was  built in 2006 for the Miller's older daughter who was widowed at age 29.
Typically the family rallied to provide a home for her and seven children.
She later remarried and the house was turned over to one of the newly married younger sons.
When he relocated a year ago, Mose and Anna yielded the big house to yet another married son and moved up the lane with their youngest child, Mary.
She was wed a few weeks before we acquired the place.

I don't know which of the women selected the plants I am now enjoying.
I'm intrigued that Amish women, who must paint the walls of their homes in the traditional shades of gloss blue, must dress lifelong in sober hues of blue or dark green, grey or black, can  give brilliant colors a dominant place in their choice of garden flowers.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Working Through The Wet

Bursts of rain continued through the weekend.
On Friday morning, hearing the rain pound on the metal roof as I did upstairs chores, I fetched my camera and took photos through the windows. 
Several didn't come out well as the pattern of the window screens made too heavy a grid overlaying the images of the misty landscape. 
This one, taken from the middle bedroom on the north side of the house, looks over the roof of the back entry which the Amish owners used as a wash house and summer kitchen.
Beyond, the woods lie dripping and dark.

The corner room on the north east side of the house looks directly into a tulip poplar. 
The ground slopes down from the house, so there is the sense from the second story of being in 
a tree house.
We slept in this bedroom for the first weeks here.  The tree was bare of leaves then and I enjoyed the view from my pillow each morning, looking through the uncurtained window into the branches.

Although today [Monday] was predicted to be clear, there was heavy fog early on.
At 7 A.M. the lower house and barns were nearly invisible.
Morning fog has been present for the past two weeks.

I shifted pots of seedlings around on the edge of the porch while Willis and Charlie kept watch for anything suspicious that might appear out of the mist.

The day did clear late in the morning, blessing us with the most sunshine we have seen in days.
Jim announced that he needed a few light fixtures from Lowes, which meant I could be dropped at Krogers next door to buy groceries.
We brought along a thermal cooler for the perishables, as Jim intended returning 
by way of the Cane Valley property.
While he mowed the yard there, I removed the latest collection of small branches shed by the silver maples [called 'water maples' locally] weeded the flower strip along the front entry, and dug up two clumps of Stella d'Oro daylilies which grow along the back patio. We found them there, overtaken by grass and weeds, when we began renovating the property in May, 2014.
Jim kept forgetting they were there and mowing over them.
Today as he bore down on me with the mower, I wrenched roots from the ground, bundled them into a cardboard box.  I have replanted them in the gravely edge of the garden plot near the workshop, backed against the railroad ties that support the low end of the area.

Friday's gardening efforts between showers.
I noticed the unmistakable signs that a hornworm had been devouring tomato plants.
Although I found damage on three plants and the tell-tale piles of beady 'poops' beneath the plants my search turned up only one worm--which I promptly smashed.
Squelching about, with rain dripping down my neck, I picked a colander full of mud-splattered 
green beans.
The half-drowned bean bushes are looking stressed.
Several small cucumbers , trying to grow in the wet, were covered in white mold.

I often wonder why we gardeners, against all reason, pit our labors against the weeds and the weather, season after season.
I had hoped the ground would dry out and Jim could use the small tiller--not yet, as merely walking between the rows leaves soggy depressions to fill with yet more rainwater.

 I hacked out some coarse weeds along the fence below the garden--with assistance from Charlie-cat.
I scraped a shallow trench and flung in saved seed--miniature sunflowers, zinnias, a few cosmos.
It is late for planting, the rocky ground may be inhospitable--but then again, perhaps a few will germinate and flower late in the summer to brighten that rather dull area.

This is not a flattering view of the patch of ground part way down the drive.
It was obvious that the Miller family had grown something there in previous years.
Jim tilled it this spring and I diligently picked rocks--and more rocks.
We decided not to plant vegetables there, and when Gina gifted me in May with an armload of iris roots I poked them into a straggling row.
The tiger lilies brought from the edge of the Cane Valley lot went in there also.
It began to rain soon after I planted them and weeds grew voraciously.
Due to the moisture and lack of blazing sun, the roots settled in with little wilting.
I whacked away with Jim's favorite triangular hoe, grubbing out a bit of breathing room.
With a 'what can I lose?' attitude, I threw in more of my saved seed.
I considered getting down on my creaky knees to weed--at least the weeds easily give up their roots in such weather--but by then was thoroughly damp, achy and cross.
Thoughts of a shower, dry clothes and a session of baking lured me inside.

I went out again late in the afternoon, stepping gingerly along the muddy path into the 
edge of the woods.
Water has streamed down the sides of the ridges, reactivating the little brook which ran here in 
early spring.

Water pools near the brush pile.

Along the west edge of the path, yellow mushrooms have proliferated.

They look like brilliant blossoms against the wet black earth.
This is our 6th summer in Kentucky.
Each season has been different--- early spring, cold late spring, summers of intense heat, July droughts, blazing August days, now this summer of rain.
We were warned this weekend by a friend who is a Kentucky native, that within a week of the rain ceasing we will be noting that the ground is too dry and the crops need more rain!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Thank You!

I enjoyed the many kind comments and good wishes for the bride and groom.
Thank you for being interested and sharing our happiness!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Waiting for the Rain to Go Away

Surely there must have been an entire 24 hour span recently when it didn't rain [?]
Looking back on the week and a half since we returned from the wedding, I can't pinpoint a whole day or night without heavy bursts of intermittent deluge.
A few mid-morning hours of blue sky and puffy white clouds promising a clear day, give way to darkness and the sudden pounding of rain on the roof.

The rugosas and the rose of Sharon at the side edge of the porch have bowed under the force of rain.

The woods beyond the upper drive are wrapped in mist and moisture.

Weeds have grown apace and the garden is too soggy for proper weeding or tilling. 
Jim used the weed whacker to trim back weeds and let air circulate around plants.

The few perennials I have planted were being splattered with wet soil with each shower, while the bags of mulch purchased days ago lay in a lumpish pile on the porch of the workshop.
I decided during a break of steamy sunshine to work from the lower edge of the perennial strip, standing on the clipped area below the terraced bed to fling handfuls of  shredded bark mulch around the plants. I tucked in a few seedlings--signet marigolds and coneflowers hoping that the shade and moisture of the current weather will give them a chance to settle in.

This end of the enclosed area is still rough with weeds. I've hacked away with a sturdy 3-prong 'digger' attempting to loosen the soil so that I can tweek out the persistent turnip seedlings that are a legacy of the 'cover crop' that apparently came in with the topsoil.

I've had several sessions of transplanting--mostly lavender and foxgloves.  I planted a white variety and the deep rose perennial variety from my saved seeds.
It would seem that every miniscule seed germinated. 
Foxglove seem to be slow growers, but at my former location the seedlings established well from an early autumn move to the garden.

My presence on the porch, fussing about with buckets of soil mix, trays and pots usually inspires at least one cat to offer assistance.
Bobby Mac has positioned himself where he can keep me company and also observe the hummingbird feeder.

Indoors, I have at least made a beginning on curtains for the living room which has four windows.
I finished three panels, but when I spread the roll of fabric to measure and cut for more, I attracted a helpful crew.

I didn't settle well to this project.  By the time I had collected my sewing tools, scrubbed garden soil from under my fingernails, it was time to prepare supper.
I removed the cats, re-rolled the fabric and retreated to my rocking chair with a book while another dose of rain slatted against the windows.

On Sunday afternoon, moving gingerly along the rows, heels sinking into soggy soil, I picked the first of the green beans. 
Here they are in a bath of cold water--many  had been splashed with mud.
One can do nothing but endure unfavorable weather.
Sheets and towels optimistically pegged on the line, must be brought inside to the tumble dryer; windows opened to let in a fresh breeze must be hastily slammed shut as thunder rumbles and a fresh onslaught of rain comes down.
The forecast calls for rain to continue in spurts through the weekend!
The little brook which borders the lane, dry and quiet since late spring, now gurgles with an infilling of water; the landscape is green--eerily green through mid-day darkness--and I view the tangle of lank growth--weeds, vines, wildflowers--with the sense that we must rush out during moments of sunshine to hack away lest we be smothered in unwanted foliage.

Jim charges about with the bush hog behind the tractor or on the riding mower attempting to keep the verges of the lane clipped and the small pasture from being over run.
The wire fences have become trellises supporting honeysuckle and a rampaging vine for which I have no name.