I’ve been away from the computer for a while (this is a busy season) but, now that things have calmed down, here’s an update.
Our gardens had a late start this year as most of June was wet and cool. Summer caught up with a vengeance, though, in July and August with blazing heat and a plague of grasshoppers.
We faced this pestilence last year and all of our research advised to spray early. Kill the babies, it said, before they can mature. Well, we took that advice to heart and John sprayed early and often. What we ended up with was a slew of dead grasshoppers, swarms of yellow jackets eating the dead grasshoppers and yet thousands more live grasshoppers cutting through the air in waves.
To add insult to injury, these fuckers fly around slapping you right in the face you as you walk through the yard. They truly are a plague.
In August, John took a trip to visit family, so I was here alone fighting the good fight. Coincidentally, it was the hottest week of the summer and I spent at least three hours each morning watering, swatting bees and getting slapped by grasshoppers. The rest of the day was spent in a sweltering kitchen, canning and dehydrating food from the garden.
Although the evenings were cooler, there was no escape from the damn bees (who were especially aggressive this year). Not to mention the smoke from nearby wildfires meant opening the windows made the entire house smell smokey.
When John got home, I was not in a good mood.
By the time John came home, I had been house-hunting online with a list of Zillow favorites saved and ready to view. I was done.
Of course, I realize most of my frustration came from doing this alone – even for that short time. I’m not averse to hard work and I’m pretty independent, but hard work requires some reward. Getting slapped by grasshoppers in the sweltering heat and smoke just feels wrong when there’s no one getting slapped beside you. A good partner can transform a supremely annoying situation into something you can both laugh about. So, of course, that factor played into my dissatisfaction.
And yet…. we spent an entire evening browsing Zillow together.
After a long discussion weighing all the pros and cons, pondering the thought of starting over, and realistically examining the challenges that other locations would also bring, we came up with a much simpler solution than moving: We’ll build a screened porch.
Despite the bees and grasshoppers and freakish Jerusalem Crickets, a screened porch would at least offer a respite – a small sanctuary where we can at least enjoy a glass of wine or cup of coffee outdoors without being “bugged”.
Sometimes, it’s the little niceties that save your sanity.
As is our way, we drew it out (passing it back and forth for revisions), and then got to work. Of course, we found rotten posts under the existing porch which made the project more complicated than we had hoped (that’s called scope creep in corporate speak), but isn’t that always the way?
I think John got bee stung at least five times during the project, not to mention the heat, but the end result is pretty darn cool and we’re enjoying it every day.
And I’m no longer browsing Zillow.
I made a little stained-glass window (my contribution) to add some sparkle above the door.
As I write this, it’s October, it’s raining and in the low 40’s. Things turned around in September, weather-wise, and the bees and grasshoppers subsided. Most days have been perfect: 70’s, sunny, slight breeze. Perfect.
We’ve harvested the greenhouses completely including hundreds of tomatoes, a few peppers, eggplants, basil, some strawberries, carrots and onions. As I mentioned, I’ve been canning, dehydrating, and making pesto since August. This week I finished the last of it.
Since we had a cool, wet June, everything took longer to mature. Some of our larger tomatoes never did ripen and the melons we were experimenting with didn’t make it. Oddly enough, our cucumbers did nothing… until September. They were late, but delicious.
We harvested our potatoes (Yukon Gold and German Butterball) this month from the garden and got over 200lbs. The corn also did pretty well, as did the pumpkins.
Spaghetti squash did alright, but the butternut was late and small. Not great. We grew broccoli for the first time and our impression is that it takes a whole lot of plant to grow a little bit of broccoli. A cost benefit analysis = no more broccoli. No more melons either.
Fortunately, the chickens are big fans of under-ripe melons, squashes, and tomatoes. And speaking of chickens, they’re giving us 7 eggs a day now.
Since we completed most of the invisible infrastructure projects, we’ve been beautifying the yard as best we can, when we can. Although spring is green and lush, things quickly turn brown in August and stay brown. It’s not pretty but I’m determined to make it pretty. Beauty uplifts the soul, after all.
Working with our climate, we decided to plant some medium to large drought-resistant trees in the yard since shady areas stay green longer and hold the water. We planted a maple, an ash, and two Japanese silk lilacs.
Although I have plans for some landscape islands in the yard that will feature drought tolerant sedum, yucca, and bulbs, that’ll have to wait for next spring.
Meanwhile, we built a firepit surrounded by 18′ of pea gravel. It’s the perfect spot to star-gaze. The skies out here are incredible! Especially in fall when a blanket of stars stretches from horizon to horizon.
Despite the smoke and heat of summer, we spend a great deal of the season preparing for winter. Generally, the snow starts in October/November and intensifies through February. There’s snow on the ground until late March, at least. This means we have a fire going in the woodstove for about 6 months. Chimney maintenance is vital. Good thing I married a maintenance man.
John cleans the chimney every year (the first year was a bear!). This year he built a cricket because water was seeping in around the chimney and into the house (into my fancy bathroom, no less!). A chimney cricket isn’t one of those things you buy every day – it’s not even something most people have heard of – so it took some research.
At first, John looked online to buy one. While the price was reasonable to have one built, the shipping cost was more than the cricket! Forget that. So, he built one himself.
You might notice that the top chimney block is cracked and the cap of the chimney is broken. Finding these parts has proven to be impossible. By happenstance, we came upon a chimney and stove shop in a neighboring town. The shop owner didn’t have the parts we needed, but he had an even better idea: he’d build us a cap and draft hood to slide over the top. Brilliant!
That about sums up our fall projects because fall is coming to a close. Most of the leaves have turned yellow and many of them are scattered on the ground. It’s hunting season and our hills are alive with the sounds of ATVs and the occasional gunshot. We’re still enjoying coffee on the screened porch in the mornings, but now we’ve got wool blankets over our pajamas.
Winter is coming and with it snowmobiles, lazy evenings by the fire, and time to read whole books. Hibernation. Bring it.