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.