As I write, the night air is rumbling with thunder and illuminated by flashes of heat lighting. Rain pours, not steadily, but in bursts, and we are grateful.
We’re all a little burned out right now. To be honest, we would just pack it in and go on vacation, if it wasn’t for the melons and tomatoes. Canada sounds real good right now, where it’s just a little cooler, with good fishing and an extended berry season. It’s nice to have dreams.
It happens every year, whether we’re too dry or not, when the tomatoes are at their thickest, and the days are still long and very hot, and there’s so much to do and not quite any place in a day to fully rest, because the never-ending list of chores draws us out again. Almost every year, I have looked up over a steaming five gallon pot of tomato sauce and wondered if life is usually this INTENSE in the summer time. And it is. We just forget. Once the fields are harvested and laid to rest, the food put by in jars and baskets, all is well and we forget. It’s only human.
And then if, and by ‘if’ I mean usually ‘when’, the rain stops, and the heat picks up, and we’re already skating that edge, we really get to test our mettle.
It’s been, by and large, an incredible growing season. The long, cool, damp spring gave way to luscious abundance. We’ve never had such a nice melon patch, the yellow crookneck squashes were the prettiest we’ve ever grown, and the tomatoes have been unusually fine, too. The first round of sweet corn had almost NO ear worms. Only our peppers have been slow, because it took us so long to clean out the galinsoga that was trying to smother them.
We’ve had worse droughts for sure. There is still water in the ground, but the signs of distress are evident. The dust from the road hangs behind the car and sticks to the windshield. The grass stopped growing – but it’s still green, sort of. The new brassicas in the ground are standing, but not making progress. The everlasting spring-fed creek branch that flows on the edge of our property is slow, and slower each day.
This is when we learn who burns out, and how to cope.
A couple weeks ago, I noticed that the Crimson Sweet watermelons were no longer making new fruit. They were blossoming, but the little fruits were shriveling on the vine. Then, last week, the vines died, leaving a decent crop of ripe watermelons sitting on a patch of mulch. Moon & Stars melons didn’t act like this at all. Those vines are beginning to invade the sweet potato patch. No end in sight.
Corn, so demanding in so may ways, has this amazing capacity to funnel whatever moisture it can gather down the stalk, concentrating right at the root. Each morning, there is a moist ring around each corn stalk. Beautiful. Plants with ancestry from Africa and South Asia seem relatively un-perturbed. Our trial planting of the medicinal herb teasel illustrated a very interesting adaptive plant anatomy. Each leaf joint forms a cup at the stem. The nearer to the ground, the larger the leaves, the larger the cups. Some near the very bottom were holding at least 1/2 cup of water each. Again, this plant has not been bothered by heat or dry ground.
With so many good examples around us, we had to keep going. Our chances of rain kept being pushed back, and back. There was no use in planting more Fall greens with no rain in sight, so my resourceful Fellow Man dis-assembled our tractor to fix that funky PTO. Now, as we wait for parts to come in, he has laid the floor of our storage-shed-to-be. Progress is sweet, even if it comes with a dusty after-taste.Everyone finds their way through the hot days. Levon has been giving himself dust baths, pouring handfuls of dry dirt onto his head and shaking out dustclouds in peals of laughter, thereby insuring that we will dip him, head-first, into the creek later. Lulah reads, book upon book, in the sheltering cool of the couch, resorting to vigorous play on the swings when the shade is thick. As for me, I am deeply engaged in tomatoes, roasted eggplant, peaches and cantaloupes. Then there are the watermelons – every afternoon – without fail. That sweet form of heat relief wets down the dust perfectly.
Now, there is rain falling. We will make it. The works of our days will shift and shake off the dust. We may be tired, but we will no longer be quite so burned out.