Category Archives: weather

On summer’s end

Green tree frogs (Hyla versicolor and H. chrysocelis) live in the liner of our pool

It felt great putting on a light sweater to go milk the goats this morning.  Am I a bad person for wishing for summer’s end?  Or maybe just a bad gardener?  This summer, however, was for the record books.  And I don’t like to live my life by making records.  (Let the whining begin!)

The small person is big on little frogs

Normal years have us hitting ninety maybe three days a year.  This year topped 13.  Yes:  I shouldn’t complain, as Michigan doesn’t get hurricanes or Texas-sized droughts…we’re not even prime for earthquakes, and we live too close to Lake Michigan for tornadoes to hit us.  Somehow that doesn’t matter when there’s enough personal drama that even record rains and heat don’t register.  But sayonara, Summer.  I’ve had it with your drama, weather and otherwise.

Gotcha!

(The pool is the concession I made to my husband years ago when I told him we can’t use the a/c any longer.  It is pleasant, and it helps maintain marital peace.)

It’s usually the second week of August where most newbie gardeners give up the ghost and leave their gardens to the weeds.  I may be no newbie, but it’s been a tough year in the epic weed/bug battle and it’s left me a bit frustrated.  I have the CSA folks to grow for now too and can I say that my fifth planting of summer squash might bear fruit this year?  Yes.  The rest of you might be swimming in zucchini…and I am officially jealous.

The budding herpetologist.

So I am thankful for my determinate tomatoes, the Bellstar Paste:  you gotta love a plant that doesn’t sprawl, is the first to set fruit and is also over and done by the third week of August.  Oh, how happy I am when I pull those plants!  Others come out too and I find myself in a flurry again, adding compost, reseeding, pulling out nonperfomers:  if summer was a wash for some things, then it stands to reason that autumn will be wonderful.  Gardeners are nothing if they’re not hopeful.

And I’ve got hope, lots of hope.

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On losing time

Ground cloth/weed blocker makes a good shade cloth for tender lettuces

Ping/bang/scrape, buzzz….ping/bang/scrape…buzz:  it’s got to be summer, I can no longer deny it.  The June bugs hit the screen of our bedroom window as I sit reading every night in the light of the nightstand lamp.  June, already?  Yes.

I have learned to ignore or at least tune out the clanging gong of the seasonal imperatives this late spring/early summer.  How can I not?  With everything clamoring to be The First Priority, isn’t it easier to stay in bed, or maybe go to the beach?

15’x60′ addition is at least fenced and tilled:  garden beds need to be installed and filled and, well, planted

Yes, I am trying hard to take my own advice:  it’s a marathon, not a sprint.  Winter’s late stay, spring’s sodden unhappiness…these things do affect what comes out of the ground, including what should be going into it, and when.  So indeed the garden expansion is two months behind.  So be it!  Corn in September, not August; beans in August, not July.

Besides:  wouldn’t you just rather be a kid, and play?  Or at least sit down and watch one do so?  Eleven day old baby Ivy with mama Cricket, out to pasture

On seasonal shifts

Nothing like a little April SNOW shower

Winter danced in and out before it settled in, and spring apparently feels the need to do the same.  That’s fine.  I find I am still behind, gardenwork-wise, so a late start to the season is to my advantage.

Not that I am wishing a late season on the rest of you, of course!

On pea-planting season

I often feel like a poultry Pied Piper

There is a small window of time between melting snow and garden season when the chickens are allowed to run around unpenned.  They wander fairly widely, mostly in pursuit of the newly-sprouting grass, but mainly they all make a beeline for the gardens.  Deeply mulched beds need to be deeply scratched to find those worms within, you see, and then there’s the magic of The Compost Pile.  Oh the delectable wonders to be found in that monstrous pile of stank (if you’re a chicken, that is).I have set the compost bucket down to open the gate.  They have found it.

And then that window closes.  Slams shut, if you ask them: whaddya mean, we need to stay in here all day?  Their protestations are mighty.   Squabbles break out.  Feathers fly.  They are now confined until Happy Hour, usually around 6pm-dusk.  And they can tell time, so…at 6 you better be prepared to spring them loose.

The reason for their confinement?  The garden has been planted!  Yes, St. Patrick’s day, traditional pea- and potat0-planting day, was wonderfully warm and even sunny, so I locked up the birds and began the season.  These wily critters easily can fly over the 5′ fence encircling the gardens, and once they do, inevitably they will scratch up things that they should not.

Queen Ruby asks “but can’t I stay?  I won’t scratch things as much as the chickens,” to which I reply, no, m’dear.  She loves sprouts even more than worms.  (and notice the greenhouse roll-up side is up!  this is the earliest ever that I have had to do that.)

On blizzards, and groundhogs, and greenhouses

Stuck in the normally shoveled driveway (the 24″ side is the correct depth)

Wednesday was a snow day.  Boringly, that blizzard that hit everywhere hit here too…how could it not?  We’re quite used to snow here (we usually get 80″ per year) and Feb. 2nd’s storm was different mainly because it was paired with a bit of wind, too.  (shrugs) What can you do?

The girl was home from school, and so she and I had lots of time to discuss the meaning of the day, Groundhog Day.  “Gimme some other names for groundhogs,” I said.  “Whistle pigs and woodchucks”  she said, ever reaching for a gold star.  We discussed the older traditions of Imbolc and St. Brigid’s day, especially the notion of winter’s continuance, and how having a sunny day on this day means more winter.  “So the old lady was the Irish woodchuck,” she said.  “I wonder what it was before it was the old lady?”  Ah!  Perceptive child.  All traditions, religious or otherwise, are usually just pauses in the undertow of time. Something will overtake the whistle pig, eventually.

Keep in mind these things are between 9′ and 10′ tall

Recently, however, I have received a ton of questions about my greenhouses.  So I thought I would show you what’s going on in them despite the white stuff outside.  Here’s a bit of a photo journal, taken on Thursday at lunchtime.

Little teensy wrist, huh?  And a waist-high drift standing between me and dinner!

Here:  I have made it in:  and it’s quite toasty inside.  (23* is the worst it’s been indoors all winter.)

But turning around, this is what’s climbing up one side!  It’s quite okay to have snow 5′ or more up the sides, but up and over the top is kinda unusual.

I’ve knocked some of the snow off from the inside, but yeah, I might have to tackle some of it out here too.  Maybe some other day.

But other than the fact that I’ve clipped these lettuces into mere bonsai of their former head-y selves, I haven’t made a dent in the mache.  This is a typical bed.  Dinner!

On wishing for a snow day

The lake, yesterday

We spent part of a snowy Sunday afternoon attending a school event.  I discovered in that funny way one has of thinking “I am the only person to think this way” that indeed, it isn’t just students who hope for snow days.  Parents do a fair amount of wishing too.

“Spoon under your pillow tonight,” said one.  “Oh no:  wear your underwear inside-out,” said another.  “Do both,” said a third.

Well, school is in session today, but we’re at home.  And I am glad.

It is pretty miserable outside right now.  I won’t get into the tit-for-tat description but let’s just say going about in the dark to do the milking and then animal chores was not its usual pleasant undertaking.  But all the animals are warm, fed, watered and happy, and have adjusted themselves to this colder world.  They move around a lot less, eat a bit more.  Just like we humans, come to think of it.

Does anyone else have a hard time adjusting to winter?  I don’t mean, necessarily, adjusting to the cold, for that will happen with a bit of time.  I mean simply that I have a hard time managing all this free time I seem suddenly to have once the snow comes to stay.  My weekends are filled instead with…laundry!  housecleaning!  ugh.

I much prefer getting dirty to getting clean, I guess.

May all your snow days be warm and toasty, with plenty of snow shoeing, sledding, hot cocoa and keeping warm.

On changing seasons

Every year I go through incredible seasonal denial when the earth tips away from the sun.  I need actual physical events like the first threat of frost to jolt me back to reality.  Frost!  Crap! In the first week of October?

Chilly broccoli

So yes, frost.  Brr. I guess it’s no longer summer.

Patchy frost too.  “Killing frost” as many Floridians know is a magical number: anything below 28* for something like 4 hours of time will severely damage tender vegetation, citrus trees, etc.  But “patchy frost” here means there’s frost in the lowest-lying areas only, and perhaps the thermometer didn’t dip down quite so much as to outright kill all vegetables still standing out in MY garden.

All buttoned up.  I wonder if those tomatoes on the bench will ever ripen…

I thought ahead, though.  This weekend I put the plastic back up on the end walls of the greenhouse.  People of Southwest Michigan should thank me:  my precaution all but guarantees we’ll have a scorcher of an Indian summer.

But inside the house this weekend?  Spring!

GO SEE THIS VIDEO: http://player.vimeo.com/video/15532431

The school’s egg incubator came home with us on Friday.  (I kind of insisted:  they were due to hatch today (Monday) and I…had a feeling they’d hatch before then.)  We excitedly heard the peeppeeppeep from the first eggs Saturday night, and I was up helping the first one hatch at 3:30 a.m.  Another followed on Sunday night.  They’re back at school now, with more eggs hatching.  The house is almost too quiet now.

Nomnomnom

If that’s not adorable enough, we also have baby bunnies.  That says “spring” to me too.

Five, or make that six, or even seven, funny bunnies