Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Year Without Flowers?

We've noticed something strange this season, the wettest summer I can recall: the land is as green as Ireland was in 2011, my last visit to that side of the Atlantic.  It's lovely in August, but it has also meant we are coping without forage for our bees.

In short, the clover is not blooming and the wildflowers are absent. I don't know if others have had this issue, but we'll be feeding the hives sugar-water all Fall now, since a "nectar flow" looks as unlikely as it would be in a year of drought.

The last of our harvest is coming in, and fall greens are in the ground, even as I cut grass as steadily as I would in early June.  I can only guess what Winter might bring: something seasonably cold and snowy, I hope.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

That Change in the Air

Every year, when the annual cicadas start up their late-July chorus, I begin to grumble that 1) school is about to start and 2) the good weather for working outdoors will be coming, just as I get busy with my day job.

But in 2013, it's been a strange season. I cannot recall a summer when it was actually fun to be painting a metal roof, as I'm now doing in this crisp weather. Soon enough, an old wreck of a building used for painting cars will be reborn as a barn-red paneled gem with a dark green roof.  Getting that building done is worth a summer of labor, but what a summer we have had.

I should have known that an odd summer was coming. It was heralded by the seventeen-year cicadas who emerged with the first really hot weather. While no swarm came closer than a quarter mile from our farm, so we heard only a strange echo of their trilling in the distance, but just five miles west it was deafening, their song that of a squadron of UFOs landing.

Those insects have burrowed down into the earth again, and I'll get to hear them, most likely, once more before I join them underground. Yet their appearance was just the start of the strangeness. For the past several summers, I can't recall letting the garden water itself from the sky or leaving the house windows open nights after, say, mid June.  And yet, in a cool wet summer, punctuated by spells of tropical humidity and heat, the rain barrels went un-tapped and the windows have been left up repeatedly.

What IS this late-September night-breeze, coming through my kitchen window in mid-August?

So we count what good fortune we have. I sold a science-fiction story, my second sale in the past three years. That was magic enough, but then our hilltop garden, a curse in a dry year, is abundant. The tomatoes in Fort Tomato are only now showing signs of excess rainfall: some are splitting, but we've probably gotten out a bushel and a half from a dozen plants.  That means more pots of sauce for winter. I usually can at least two gallons, and I'm almost there with more fruit on the vine.

If I do have to give 3 or so hours weekly to run the tractor to mow the grass in the fields around the garden and in front of the house, it's small payment for such an abundant harvest.  If next summer brings drought and disaster, I'll think back to that cool breeze and the vines  heavy with fruit from 2013.