Summer Winding Down

It's been a busy week with the kids starting back to school, and me starting back to work. The garden has taken a back seat.

Today I harvested corn and jalapeños for a roasted corn and tomato salad, but then it got too hot outside to finish the other stuff on my to-do list. I need to pull out the beans and the collapsed trellis, and pull out the corn stalks. I need to collect potatoes, as all the vines have died off, and that's a good sign that they're ready for harvest.

Unfortunately I need to pull out the sweet potatoes.  For weeks, they grew and looked amazing, and then the deer found them and ate every single leaf. They grew back, and the deer ate them again. I have no idea if any fruit was formed; I doubt it, as I never saw a single flower. It's so disappointing! The deer have eaten most of the acorn and butternut squash leaves, though I do have some fruit maturing. They have eaten a lot of tomatoes and most of the leaves off the sweet pepper plants. Their timing in the flower garden is uncanny: I see a bud and think to myself, tomorrow there will be a flower! And that night the deer come eat the buds. The hungry and thirsty deer have found my little buffet, and have no intentions of leaving it alone. I don't mind if they eat a little, but they have eaten a LOT, and every morning there is more evidence of their destruction.

I suppose I need to design some sort of deer fence. I'm unhappy about this, because I find deer fences difficult to navigate around and within. They are also ugly, at least if they are slapdash, and slapdash is all I can afford. I suppose I need to experiment more with companion planting. For instance, the deer stay entirely away from the pumpkins, because they are prickly (I'm guessing). And they've stayed away from my herb spiral, presumably because it's smelly. So interplanting could help me a lot.

Ah well, at this point in the summer, the garden is actually slowing down here, though I know in most of the country, this is prime harvest time. My stuff is nearly played out, anyway. I'm looking ahead to a winter garden and have ordered seeds both from Renee's and High Mowing. I'm planning on kale, chard, spinach, lettuce; shelling and snap peas; broccoli and kohlrabi; and beets. I also ordered two cover crops; buckwheat and crimson clover. I'm going to put the buckwheat in now, for a quick crop before the frost comes. We have two hot months ahead of us here in Northern California, in fact September and October can be our hottest and driest months, and buckwheat can withstand that. It will add nutrition to the soil, and produce small white flowers from which the bees can collect nectar. Then in the winter, I will plant the clover, hoping it will flower in the warmish days and therefore provide forage for the bees during the cooler months. The trick with cover crops, and yes I'm nervous about it, is cutting them down and tilling them in before they go to seed.

In the bee hive, the bees have started converting yet another brood comb to honey production, so the queen is definitely laying fewer eggs. I'm very happy that there are a few combs of honey; hopefully I won't have to feed the bees all winter long. A neighbor of mine has many blooming cacti in his yard and I think those are single-handedly keeping the bees fed. That along with the pumpkins in that same yard and in my yard. Most of my neighbors have reported an increase in bee activity in their flower and vegetable beds, which makes me happy, and provides more beauty and food for the humans!

Also last weekend we saw the queen for the first time!

The queen is in the center of this picture, to the right and down a little. You can see that she is darker in color than the worker bees, and longer, with a thinner bottom. You can see some capped brood around her, as well as some nectar at the top of the picture.

On my hikes, I also notice that summer is winding down, even though the heat fools us into thinking otherwise. In early August, I became aware that acorns were falling from the oaks. That's very early, and in my opinion, is likely a sign of the deep drought we are in. The acorns litter the ground wherever I hike, now.

The valley and interior oaks are also already losing a lot of leaves, another sign of the dry conditions. It looks like fall, in the hills.

The fact that those two hot and dry months are coming up makes me worry about fire.

On a happier note, a friend offered me the rabbit poop from her hutch. She brought over a good-sized bucket, and I decided to add it to my compost bin, even though you can put this stuff directly on your garden. I thought it might speed up the stuff in my bin, and make it ready more quickly.

I've also sent out several emails to local farms asking about the availability of aged manure. I don't know how I will transport it, but I'd love to spread a couple inches over all the veg and flower beds, as well as under the fruit trees and bushes. The asparagus also needs several inches.

Another item on my autumn to-do list: rent a jackhammer and take out our front path, which we have always hated, and replace it with pavers. Then, dig the dry creek bed in the front yard (which we sheet mulched last spring), and plant 30-50 native plants around it. Just a *little* project. I'm hoping that as the fall routine of school and work gets easier, and the weather gets cooler, we'll have more time and energy to put in to this project.

My heart and mind were nervous this week with my special-needs daughter starting middle school. And then, while cleaning in her room, I spotted this gem on her desk:

And suddenly, I wasn't nervous any more.

Happy Labor Day to everyone, and on we go to September!