The State of the Garden

As we move in to the last half of August, the weather continues in a very strange pattern - one week, extremely hot; another week, cooler than average - and the garden shows the strain. Sometimes we need more water, sometimes less, it's hard to keep up. Things look a little limp and tired. But we're still harvesting some things daily, and looking forward to harvesting others soon.

I removed the last of the romaine lettuce; we'd used every bit of it up in salads, or for chicken feed. As I removed the root balls, I was very glad to see writhing masses of worms, just as if I had bought several pounds and put a mess of 'em at the base of each plant. I can only assume that the worms were attracted to the horse manure that I spread on the garden a couple of months ago, and traveled up through the clay to get in to the beds. Those worms are a sign that the soil is doing just great, no matter the erratic weather and water.

I decided to put a quick cover crop of buckwheat in where the romaine was; this should provide forage for the pollinators, as well as add a 'green manure' to the soil within just a couple of weeks. When I did this last year, I was amazed at the number of beneficial insects the buckwheat brought in, while improving the soil even more. I'll do this in each bed as I harvest a crop, and then in October and November, I'll start planting winter vegetables.

I also took out the remainder of the corn crop. We had a nice harvest this year, though small, probably due to the early haircut from the deer. I had a couple of half-grown cobs in there that I gave to the chickens, and then cleared the bed. I had planted the sweet potato slips under the corn months ago, and I was pleased to see that they were growing like mad under the corn. Now that the tall corn is cleared away, the sweet potatoes should start making a real push, and soon this bed will be covered with vines.

We're harvesting watermelons, green beans, cucumbers, collards, tomatoes (cherry, slicing, paste), peppers (both sweet and hot), basil, potatoes, and an occasional delicata squash.

The cantaloupe is progressing nicely...

Pumpkins are starting to bloom...

... and the Butternut squash is changing to a lovely orange.

This is a mini variety, so won't get much bigger than this, I don't think.

There's lots of flowers in the garden, and the bees are still very busy, though they beard the hive porch every night in the heat. We opened the hive recently and there are several bars filled with honey, which bodes well for the winter ahead. If the bees can just get through mite season, they'll be set for cold weather.

Tom made mozzarella today, and bottled 5 gallons of beer (his third batch).

And we've been having adventures as often as the heat permits us to. The kids got a chance to fly in a Cessna airplane out at Buchanan Field Airport as part of the Young Eagles program. We had to wait a long time for our turn, but it was worth it!

As you can see, it's been very smoky here, as firefighters battle wildfires to the North of us. The fire season is well underway, and it's horrible. No surprise there. Meanwhile people are still washing their cars and watering their lawns with that precious water. Argh. I know folks think it's ok to use well-water to do these things, but it's not. We must conserve!

The kids and I played tourist and headed up to Calistoga (north of Napa) to see a petrified wood forest and lava beds, as well as our local 'Old Faithful' geyser. Both fun.

The grapes were hanging full from the vines as we drove through wine country, and sure enough, an article in the paper today stated that the harvest is already happening, a month earlier than usual. So I'm not the only farmer with droopy crops.

Work starts back for me this week, as well as some volunteer opportunities. The kids start school next week. Hard to believe that vacation is nearly over!