Updated: Jun 17, 2019
Pounds of Potatoes
We harvested an entire bed of potatoes this week. Despite the long battle with beetles, the plants yielded almost 40 pounds of red and blue potatoes. We decided to leave the yellow potatoes for another week to let them finish growing.
Pulling a potato-laden plant from the ground is extremely satisfying. The potatoes grow at the ends of thick roots. The plant brings most of them up from the soil when it gets pulled, but a few stay hidden in the earth. Once we had found all of the wayward spuds, we raked the soil back into place and tucked the bed under a thick blanket of hay.
Leaving the Nest
Because the days have become so hot and dry, we have to do some of our tasks in the early morning and late evenings. Chicken handling is one of those things, because birds are extremely susceptible to heat stress. So when we moved the two chicken yards, we did it as dark fell.
Moving chicken takes a long time, because the food, water, yard roosts, and other things have to be carried from one location to another. A new path has to mowed for the electric fence. And the chickens, of course, have to be moved, too. Luckily, another benefit of evening is that the chickens roost as the sun sets. That allowed us to transfer the young flock directly from their old coop into their brand new home, without having to herd them around outside.
We drove the newest coop to the land from our house. Hunter constructed external nesting boxes for this coop. The chickens can access them from the inside, and we can access them from the outside. This gives the girls more room inside to roost, and makes collecting easier for us.
Out with the Old
As the long 90-degree days roast the springtime plants, we remove them and fill the bed with seedlings. The lettuce and spinach beds are now filled with baby peppers. We've left a few plants that serve purpose outside of food harvests. The cilantro bolted into white flower heads that pollinators love, and the peas have rapidly-drying pods that will start next years crop.
In with the New
The summertime plants, on the other hand, are loving the long, sunny days. I trimmed and trained the tomatoes again, this time being careful not to dislodge any un-ripe fruit. We harvested a few turnips because their leaves had been almost completely eaten by bugs. The roots were pretty but small due to the damage above ground. The blueberries are faring far better; their loads of berries are blushing pink, with a few already brushed with dusky blue.
The drying grass is burnishing the land dull yellow. Swallowtail butterflies and skippers flutter from flower to flower. In the Queen Anne's Lace, I found the next generation of Black Swallowtail, a chubby little parsley caterpillar. In the evenings, geese pass honking overhead, gliding down into a nearby cattle pond for the night.
In the shade of a young pine, I found a fawn. She was tucked away, awaiting the return of her mother. Fawns' instinct is to stay completely still and let their camouflage coat keep them concealed. It's a startlingly effective strategy; I almost walked right on top of her before she moved and revealed herself. I quickly retreated and gave her space. She stayed put, half-poised to run, until I was gone. Hopefully she settled back down in her spot of shade.
The fragrant and charismatic milkweeds began blooming this week. Milkweeds are vital host plants to Monarch butterflies, though bumble bees and other pollinators also love the flowers. In states like Pennsylvania, Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) grows in massive banks along the roadsides. But around here, Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) seems to be the more common milkweed. Striking orange patches of butterfly weed can be spotted out the car window in ditches and fields that the hay harvest passed over.
Some new members of the Asteraceae family have arrived to replace the daisies and bachelor buttons. I'm not sure what species the raggedy white flower is, but the common name for similar-looking flowers is fleabane.
The wild onions have begun blooming, too, pushing lavender flowers out of the bulbous heads on atop their stems. Onions, garlic, and leeks are all in a single genus, Allium. They share their pungent odor and their bulb base. They also seem to be on similar blooming schedules, because the leek in our backyard has sent up a pom-pom bloom which butterflies adore.
Since it apparently doesn't rain anymore, watering is a daily task. This week we dragged the hose down to the orchard guilds to water the peaches, cherries, and figs. Somehow these little trees have found enough water to build tiny figs.
The garden changes every day. After we harvested the potatoes, we re-planted half of the bed with hot peppers. Seed starting has continued at home, with various stages of seedling waiting their turns. Hunter built a compost cylinder for the green waste from the garden, like the old potato plants and the weeds. Concetta checked in on the bees, who definitely know more about the changing flowers than I do.
Evenings with the Flowers
We cut the bouquet flowers in the evenings to minimize water loss and keep them from wilting. Besides, sunsets are a fitting backdrop for the blooms.
Our flowers are changing with the weather. The original bachelor buttons are getting crispy, but a second generation of buttons is just opening blue and purple blooms. Black-eyed Susans are unveiling bold, black-and-yellow petals from dense nests of leaves. Snapdragons, too, are hitting their stride, raising towers of yellow, cream, and pink. I always loved Snapdragons as a kid because if you squeeze the flower sideways, it opens like the snout of a tiny, floral dragon.