Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Mid-August: Journal

A quiet evening, the air heavy and damp from late afternoon rain, darkness moving in early. Showers throughout the month have kept the landscape green, so different from other years when August has brought drought.
The tulip poplars that line the grassed-over lane drop yellow leaves with each burst of wind and rain.
At the bend of the drive as it joins the common lane to the main road, unripe black walnuts have dropped to the ground.
The sunflower hedge has taken a beating, some stalks broken with the weight of blooms. The shorter varieties remain upright but the blossoms are tattered. Goldfinches dart in to perch on the flower heads and nibble at the seeds.

Tattered sunflowers, dark against the sky.

Shabby beauties.

Bumble bees love the sunflowers.

There are a few buds still to open.

In the rather neglected plot at the north end of the house, coneflowers are past their best. 
I leave them in hopes of gathering seeds when drier weather prevails--and because the birds and butterflies love them.

The robust butterfly bush is thronged with swallowtail butterflies. Spent flower heads need to be pruned yet again.

Blackberry lilies raised last year from seed, the swelling pods laid low with rain.

The pink rose was labeled as a groundcover variety.  I think it would prefer to be a gentle climber.

Zinnias will hold their color until hard frost. 

Sunset colors after rain.

There was more coral and mauve in the western sky than my simple camera can record.

Matt and Gina attended the local Mennonite/Amish produce auction last week and scored a bounty of good canning tomatoes which they shared with us. [Sadly, our own garden tomatoes, though fussed over, have not been of superior quality.]  I have canned the tomatoes in increments as they fully ripened--with considerable help--the last 12 quarts were processed today.

I began the day with a burst of housecleaning--floors on the main level vacuumed, woodwork wiped down, furniture throws laundered and replaced with clean ones.
Howard's dogs arrived and approved of my efforts.

Mudgie is not a good fit for the shabby loveseat.

During the hot weather of July and August I have spent hours downstairs in the large sunlit room where I have set up both of my sewing machines. I've been challenging myself to take out projects which have languished through several years of frequent moves. 
I started the Ohio Star blocks when we were living in our Amish farmhouse; I brought them with me into the 5th wheel camper that was our abode during the building of this house, but there wasn't room to set up a sewing machine.
I began by cutting and stitching the blocks re the directions in the magazine pattern, but wasn't happy with the fiddly method which yielded too many difficult bias edges. 
I made more of the stars via the grid method which serves me well for accuracy. 
All of the printed fabrics feature pansies. Another set of these will make a second quilt with a different setting. 
I think I've found a local quilter who can finish these economically. I consider these 'utility quilts'--to be used, frequently laundered.

This quilt is special, created for a dear sister-in-law. I began work on this in March just before being side-lined for weeks with a DVT. The fabrics in the star centers were made from 'fat quarters' gifted to me several years ago--the star points are hand-dyed coordinates. I sent the quilt to Vermont to be machine quilted by a woman who lives a scant two miles from my old home there.

The batik cat fabric was from my 'stash' and made a delightful border.

Marion used a silvery thread for the quilting design.

More of the pattern swirls on the back of the quilt.
Hand stitching the binding in place to the quilt back required several sessions. As I did this I enjoyed the colors in the quilt, the closeup of Marion's work and my own--a satisfying labor of love.

The cats enjoy my sewing room--there's usually one on the sewing table--others sprawled on blanket covered chairs or sofa. I frequently need to discourage one from 'helping' when I have fabric spread out to cut or pin. 
Sewing projects are on-going--it doesn't appear that I will run short of fabric!

I close this rambling journal entry with a photo of signet marigolds raised from seed saved last year. 
Other plants in my container garden have languished in the hot weather, leaving "Lemon Gem' as the colorful doorstep greeter.
Today I can record the encouraging results of the ultra-sound done yesterday on my left leg: no sign of the blood clot remains.
Somehow, I don't think this signals a return to crawling about for hours on my knees in the garden. The past few months have been a lesson in 'moderation!'


Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Journal: Early August

It has been by all comparisons a mild summer; sufficient rain for gardening, temperatures hovering in the mid 80's--that is until the final week of July. Those days and nights reminded us of the punishing effects of heat and humidity. 
T-storms moved noisily through in the earliest hours of the 30th bringing rain that refreshed with moisture if not with coolness.

August has arrived in a mellow mood. The shortening of daylight  hours is noticeable, and evenings when I go out to water the container plants and the new raised bed have a sleepy quiet marred only by the chirring of cicadas.

Above you see the green bean trellis, an innocent appearing tangle of vines. I was side-lined at garden planting time so Jim took that over using a wheeled contraption fitted with disks slotted for different sizes of seeds. We are concluding that in most cases the seeds are spun into the row too thickly.

Thus with the green beans [Blue Lake Pole variety.] The seeds were slow in germination, then climbed the trellis and wound downward through the mesh, tangling and inter-weaving. A few beans appeared and I picked them, noting that they weren't of best quality. 
Mid-morning on Sunday I decided that I couldn't ignore the need to paw through the welter of leaves and stems to salvage a harvest.
I set about the task clothed in jeans, wellies and a long-sleeved denim shirt. I had to rummage for beans amidst the vines, lifting up the ones that had cascaded back toward ground level. 

Indoors again I shed the denim shirt and sat down for a minute with a glass of iced tea.
A strange slight tickling sensation on my right wrist caught my attention and close scrutiny revealed several moving things no larger than the dot at the end of a sentence. Suspecting some sort of spider mites had hitched a ride on my clothing I hastily showered and washed my hair.
Sadly, by Monday morning I was in misery from myriad insect bites and more have since popped out. 
Chiggers? Spider mites? 
A google search gives the helpful information that while all chiggers are mites not all mites are chiggers.

Several showers and shampoos later liberal applications of calamine lotion, benedryl gel, rubbing alcohol, have not lessened the discomfort. 
Like all such pests these travel to waistbands, collars, armpits, anywhere flesh is soft and warm.
I will spare you photos of lotion-daubed welts on aging skin!

The most violent itching and stinging is said to subside after three days, although the scabby bites will continue to be an irritation for about two weeks.
If you've not personally experienced the misery of chiggers, pray that you do not!
They are the sort of plague to be uncharitably wished upon someone you intensely dislike.

For whatever reason, Jim, after asking if there was any way to save the bean vines, 
backed a diesel tractor aimed at  the trellis and allowed it to sit there bellowing fumes.
I doubt it will banish the mites, but neither of us intends to touch the tangled mess of vines again.
Also on Sunday I planted a row of bush beans for a fall crop. 
A pox on vines and insect pests!

On a pleasant note, the zinneas are in bloom. I always plant a row for the blaze of outrageous color at the season when prettier more delicate blooms have succumbed to the heat.

Gaudy and cheerful!

The wild colors should clash, but somehow they mingle agreeably.

Zinneas are beloved of butterflies.

The sunflowers are slightly past their prime, but still standing, a boundary at the edge of the garden 'L.'

A slight second flowering of foxglove along the west retaining wall.

The butterfly bush was labeled 'dwarf' but has been inspired by the purchased soil in the raised bed.

This Monday morning was cool, 66 F at 7 a.m. and the noon temperature has swelled to 80. There is a slight breeze--a fine day for pegging out the laundry.

I have been tweaking the arrangement of the big room downstairs, setting up two sewing machines, bringing out quilting projects that have been neglected for some time. 
It is a pleasant space, a retreat from some of the annoyances of the day.

I am headed there now with a glass of fresh iced tea and a tube of benedryl gel. 
I hope sewing will help divert my attention from all the bites I shouldn't scratch.