One of the Joys of Maturity
Lazy Summer Days (Daze)
I'm sitting on the back porch enjoying a mix of traditional old time life and modern convenience. Sitting on a nice porch is one of those old fashion pleasures folks enjoyed before the days of TV and air conditioning. I'd worked hard all morning in the garden. The major job of the day was to renovate my soft bed that I'd harvested the onions, carrots, and beets from over the last few weeks.
It has been one of those hot, muggy summer days we get here in Indiana in August. The temperature was around 85o, with lots of humidity. Just coming inside and changing to a dry shirt felt like a Canada vacation!
Having completed the soft bed renovation and having turned and moved the compost pile, I was a nasty, sweaty mess. But as I took a last shot of the garden renovation, a light rain began to fall. Looking forward to enjoying one of the joys of a hot summer, I put away my tools, went inside and mixed a long island iced tea, grabbed my camera and laptop, and headed for the back porch to watch the storm come in.
There are few things in life nicer than when you're worn out, hot and sweaty, than sitting on a breezy porch with a view, enjoying the cool breeze of an approaching thunderstorm. Of course, the booze helps, but I chalk it up to replenishing liquids.
We have hummingbird feeders at both ends of our full length back porch. The idea of having two feeders this year was to cut the wear and tear on the birds jockeying for position and dominance at the feeder. Instead, we have around four times as many hummingbirds this summer...still fighting for a spot at the feeder. We actually had one instance last summer when you could hear one bird bonk another on the head with its beak while fighting for dominance over the feeder!
The hummingbirds sound like a big bumblebee when they get close. They're shy, but usually will put up with us on the porch for a quick drink of nectar. Like most folks, I started out a few years ago buying commercial hummingbird nectar, but another customer at Rural King told me to just mix sugar to water in a 1:4 ratio and the birds would love it. They do, although I've adjusted the ratio to 1:4.5. I tried adding agricultural vitamin and electrolyte solution to the mix, but the birds wouldn't touch it, so it's just sugar water for them. I guess that's better than the commercial stuff with its red dyes.
We also have a nest of barn swallows under the eve of the porch. The barn swallows are working hard feeding their second clutch of babies this summer and take little notice of us on the porch. We also have another barn swallow nest under the front porch where they are also feeding out their second clutch of babies this summer.
Realizing that the storm has scudded just south of us, taking its cool breeze with it, I give up and come inside for a quick ham and turkey sandwich featuring the first full sized tomato of the summer. Of course, I get too much meat and mayonnaise on the sandwich and the tomato squishes out on the first bite, but that's just a good excuse to grab a fork and enjoy the tomato slice by itself. Maybe someday I'll be more honest and practical and just have tomatoes with mayonnaise on them for lunch with a piece of bread on the side!
What put me on the porch (admittedly with a bit of a pleasant buzz) was the garden renovation. I'd already done some pretty serious work hoeing and mulching another planting of storage onions. The onion plants were left over from my spring planting. I hadn't had the heart to just throw them onto the compost heap, so I kept them alive (barely) on the back porch in flats. Last week, when space opened up in the garden, I transplanted some into a couple of rows. By today, they needed to be hoed and mulched.
After that chore, I assembled the needed tools and supplies at the section of garden to be renovated. This area of garden was double dug five or so years ago, so I didn't really need to work it deep, just get it renewed for the rest of this year and for next spring.
When I'd dug the carrots out of the section at right, I'd also turned the soil to a depth of 8-12" with a garden fork, so again, no deep work was really necessary. Supplies included some 12-12-12 fertilizer, lime, and sphagnum peat moss. I'm still trying to build the level of soil in this section since installing timbers this spring to make it a partially raised bed.
I spread the lime and fertilizer first (certainly doesn't have to be that way, though) and spread the peat moss over the area. While two 3.8 cubic foot bales of peat may seem like a lot for a space around 5'x16', it takes a lot of concentrated peat to make a dent in our heavy Indiana clay. Once spread it was just a matter of tilling the material into the soil. I made two or three passes to insure that I'd incorporated the expensive peat well into the soil structure.
Here's a quick before and after of the section. The photo at left was shot in late June when the crops were getting a good start. The one at right is from today...in August. I always find it a mixed pleasure when the crops come in. Harvest is one of the goals of gardening, but the shot at left gives me a lot of asthetic pleasure.
You may notice in the photo at right that my compost heap that had been to the rear of the section moved into the garden. I had a low spot just outside the garden and used it for a compost spot. It worked and the low spot is now full of fertile soil. I moved the rest of the material into the garden area, as it will get spread over this plot when it's done "cooking."
We've been blessed to have the time, health, and good weather to have an absolutely glorious garden this summer. Raising the garden bed with treated landscape timbers was one of the best things I've ever done to the garden. It was expensive, but will last for years (I hope:-).
Not all of our garden endeavors this year have gone so well. We didn't get any sweet corn planted, as the weather and a round of elbow surgery didn't cooperate with the timing for sweet corn. Our green beans never germinated right despite several replantings. I freeze my seed over the winter, but even with that, our seed was just plain bad this year, so we have parts of three rows of green beans that we'll pick later on this summer.
The beans were planted to an garden plot that I hope to retire next year. When we bought this property, the ground shown above was the previous owners' garden plot. It was low and pretty well spent. Despite laying out twice in the last 14 years and another year where we grew alfalfa on it to renovate it, it's not very good soil. A replacement tree will go into the right side of it, as our magnificent old silver maple near the house is dying after several lightning strikes. The left end of the plot will probably remain as a raised soft bed.
We used the plot for all sorts of things, but especially for space hogs such as melons and sweet corn. The image at right from our 2006 garden shows lots of vining crops. If you look carefully, you may notice the watermelon, cantaloupe, and butternut squash crowding out rows of green beans I foolishly seeded between the vining crops!
Since the folks who rent the fields around us stopped planting a one acre field to the east of us, we've been graciously allowed to use some of that ground for melons and sweet corn.
There's a lot a space available, but...it takes a bit of doing to make the farm soil productive. The plot above was heavily fertilized and limed and makes use of lots of grass clippings (and RoundUp) to hold back the weeds.
Thanks for sharing some of my lazy summer day. Hope you enjoyed it!
That's it for today from the at Senior Gardening.