Senescence

Lughnasa                                                    Waxing Honey Extraction Moon

Walked in the garden alone.  Yep, it’s an old time spiritual, much loved in the churches of my youth.  It also describes my morning turn among our vegetables and in our orchard.

The garlic has come out already.  The potatoes have a while yet to go.  The beans have gone from green bean material to soup beans, waiting now for the pods to dry on the vine.  A few onions remain, as for the tomatoes, there are a lot of possibilities, but as the weather cools, will they ripen?  In the orchard we’ve had more productivity than any year so far, a few cherries, lots of currants, many dropped plums, but a few now maturing on the tree.  The apples, in their plastic sandwich bags, have begun to swell on the honeycrisp tree, but on the other, a green apple, they’re not a lot bigger than when the bags went on in July.  Our blueberries came and disappeared into the mouths of birds.

The wild grape harvest looks like it will be a big one this year.  These vines are everywhere on our property, but the ones that produce the most fruit hang in dense layers over the northern fence that fronts our orchard.  Picking the wild grapes usually marks the end of the gardening year here at Artemis Hives and Gardens, at least the food gardening.

The fall flowers of course begin to bloom then, the asters, the mums, the monkshod, the clematis.  It’s also the time to plant bulbs, tulips and daffodils, lilies and croci. It is, too, the time that the garlic bulbs harvested in July, yield up cloves from the largest bulbs for planting.  I like planting the garlic in late August, early September.  Garlic is a counter culture crop, sown in the fall and harvested mid-summer.

Senescence has fascinated me for a long time.  Earlier in my life the process of degradation that rotted wood, turned leaves into humus and prepared more soil got my attention.  An early interest, I suppose, in the great chain of being (note the lower case here, less Scholastic, more Great Wheel).   Now I’ve noticed another key aspect of senescence; it is the time of harvest.  Yes, in the plant world, the dying of the plant’s above earth body follows or is in step with the giving of its fruit.  That is, aging produces

This is also the time when gardening begins to wane in interest for me.  My energies now turn to novels, research for tours at the MIA, preparing for the fall issue selection process at the Sierra Club and the upcoming legislative session.

Now, too, the cruise, which begins in October, looms closer and the loose ends for it need to be tidied.  The Brazilian visa.  New luggage.  Check the clothes.  Rent a tux. (yes.  I’m gonna do it.  3 formal nights a week on the cruise.  i’ll pretend it’s halloween every one of those nights.  i’ll be some seriously weird expatriate Muscovite on the run from Putin’s secret police.  something like that.)

Love Is Not Only For the Animal World

Mid-Summer                                                           Waxing Honey Flow Moon

Kate’s put up ten jars of red currant jam and put together six honey supers.  She’s a great ally in estate management with her skills.  She keeps saying, “I’m surprised how much major surgery slows me down.”  Oh?

When I ate dinner at the Java yesterday, the waitress said, “That was quite a storm last night.”  “Yes,” I said, not remembering much.  “It blew a big tree down, right at my house.  It stopped less than a foot from my roof.”  “Wow.”  “Did you hire someone to cut it down?”  “Yes. I’m going to miss that tree.  It turned red in the fall.  I knew I should take it down.”

Love is not only for the animal world.

The MCAD class has moved into Graphic Design history with an emphasis on posters, especially in the 19th and early 20th century.  Some very striking pieces.

Pick and Plan Eating

Mid-Summer                                                        Waxing Honey Flow Moon

Kate and I have decided on a pick and plan eating method.  That is, we’ll pick fresh vegetables, then build a meal around what we have.  I picked this morning, for example, green beans, beets, golden and bull’s blood, lettuce, dill, and 7 garlic bulbs.  We still have onions from an earlier harvest, so there’s the basics for our lunch or dinner tonight.  In addition Mark has picked hundreds, maybe thousands of currants and Kate spent yesterday starting the preservation work.  She’s test drying some, making jams and jellies.  We’re well into the first significant harvest period though we have had strawberries, lettuce, kale, spinach and onions already.

The tomatoes I started inside, which looked puny early in the season have grown tall and begun to bloom.  That means we’ll get heirloom tomatoes in addition to the two store bought plants.  Through integrated pest management I’ve beaten back the yucky scourge Colorado beetles on the potatoes .  Boy are they gross.  Little fat jabba the hut creatures until they get their wings. The leeks have begun to thicken, not much, but some.  The potatoes have blooms and that signals the beginning of tuber growth underground.  Lots of onions getting bigger, carrots, too.

Big-Stone Mini-Golf deserves its own entry and I’ll get to that either later today or tomorrow.

Changing Seasons

Spring                                               New (Bee Hiving) Moon

We are now over three months away from the Winter Solstice.  The spring equinox has come and gone, yet our yard still has snow, maybe 5 0r six inches, more in spots where the snow plow moved our many snow falls to the side of the driveway.  In the orchard the snow has begun to melt around the apple, pear, cherry and plum trees.  The currants have no snow around them at all and the huchera is free of snow, too.  Those gooseberry plants I didn’t move last fall are still in the orchard, but their destination is the sunny slope of our 650-orchard-late-summer-2010_0175third garden tier.

I have a sizable number of trees with broken branches, many large ones.  They will have to be cut down and moved.  The chain saw!

As soon as the soil becomes workable, I’ll get the cold weather crops in the ground, something I’ve not done so well in the last three years.  The bees will move into their new homes in the orchard where I hope the protection of the garage on their north/northwest side and the sunny aspect of the southern exposure will help them in the winter.  They will be closer to the house, which may prove to be a problem.  If so, they’ll have to go elsewhere next year.

In the spring this man’s heart turns to the garden, the bees, the trees.  I’ve been preparing my body for spring, but I’m a bit 650-raspberries-late-summer-2010_0199further behind than I thought I’d be.  The resistance work has taken a while to work its way into my exercise cycle, but it’s there now.

Learning the language of plants, flowers and vegetables, is a life-long pursuit.  Another school year begins in just a few weeks.

Weed

Summer                                            Waning Strawberry Moon

Nice weather for weeding so I took the opportunity and finally got into the second and third tiers of our back perennial garden.  Out go the raspberry canes.  Out go the stinging nettles.  Out go the dogwood suckers.  Out go the switch grass and and other weedy plants.  In stays the poison ivy (one small plant) because I kill them.  Out goes the slumped daffodil stems.  I’m not finished, but it already looks a hell of a lot better.

Kate planted marigolds this morning in the kitchen garden and in long narrow window boxes.  This all nourished by last nights meal from the garden and the currant jam this morning.

Paul Douglas had a big happy sun on the forecast for today, but so far all I’ve seen is  clouds.  I’m glad.  It kept the air cool enough for a good session outside.

Another Northern Summer Day

Summer                             Full Strawberry Moon

The full strawberry moon, evocative.  Our strawberries have wound down  for this season, but we enjoyed them while they ripened.  I had blueberries on cereal this morning, blueberries from our patch.  Finished the  planting for a third harvest:  beans, spinach, swiss chard, beets:  golden and detroit red and carrots.

Kate has been picking  currants like a woman possessed.  She has I don’t know how many and won’t rest until all five bushes are clean.  That’s a lot of currants.  Last year I couldn’t even spell currant and now I have more than I know what to do with.

The whole garden, including the bees, has proved a bit much this year.  The longer season didn’t help, it got stuff off to an early start, ahead of me.  Plugging away though.  I’ll probably get back to even about time to put the sucker to bed for the winter.

Hilo helped me plant, each hour with her more precious now that we know her days will wink out in the not too distant future.

A Garden Morning

Beltane                                   New Moon (Hungry Ghost)

The potatoes have mounds around the growing plants and the hilled up earth from their trenches has leveled out.  The bush beans I planted there last week 06-05-10_garden_herb-spiral-670have begun to germinate and I plan to plant more bush beans tomorrow if the weather is ok.

While checking fruit on our trees, I ended up weeding the blueberries, too.  The clover is exuberant, mostly a happy addition to our orchard, but overwhelming in the blueberry patch.  We do have apples and cherries and currants, but I could find no pears.  Our production will at least double this year, maybe more.  I counted six apples and several, say 8, cherries.  The currants have experienced substantial predation, by birds, I think.

I mounded earth around the growing leeks, too, to blanch the stems.   The garlic, which grows near the leeks, looked ready to harvest, but when I pulled a few out of the ground, they looked like they had a ways to go.  I hung the five I dug from a bamboo pole in the honey house.

Kate’s begun weeding and that helps a lot.  Keeping the bees, the vegetables, the orchard and the flowers in good shape requires attending to the plants we have, doing things like mounding the potatoes and the leeks, checking the garlic, watching for disease and insects, taking action if a plant seems to be in distress, replanting if, as in the instance of the carrots, germination is low.  Though weeding is an important, very important maintenance action, it doesn’t involve direct plant care which is what I enjoy.  I’m glad to have Kate back at the weeding.  She’s also our pruner and she has begun to recover our front sidewalk.

Then it rained.