kentucky home journal, july 2011

Dear Friends and Family,

My birthday week felt like summerfest. A gathering of family, including the two newest members, and (finally) summer abundance of peaches,
tomatoes, melons. Each meal a celebration of the marvelous gifts of summer: freshly made pesto from our wonderful basil, garden tomato sandwiches (bread disappearing by the loaf), local peach shortcake, mashed freshly dug potatoes, our own garlic, cucumbers, arugula, all kinds of lettuces, Paul’s fabulous homemade dressings. Grilled steak and pork chops from our own stock. Lots of iced coffee with Addie’s rich cream, lemon-raspberry iced tea, and gallons of water.

On the Friday, I had organized a “ladies luncheon” in Glasgow so my friends there could meet the Boston family. Our neighbor JoEllen sent her husband John to represent their family. He seemed a bit taken aback when he realized he was the only man- but soon recovered since he knew so many of my friends from our Glasgow market. One friend Martha had loaned a car seat and a PackandPlay for Ellie for the week. Jeanette brought handmade chocolates from Bowling Green. Of course there were lots of funny cards. Though I had asked for no presents I ended up with two gift certificates for my favorite masseuse. I was telling family that I hadn’t realized I talked so much about Diane. Madeline then informed me that when I get going on that subject there is no stopping me.

Phoebe, Robin and Madeline worked together to provide a most special and unexpected gift: a bound volume of my 2010 Journals, with photo illustrations.
I was thrilled just to see my work in print. Then I paged through the book and found the carefully selected photos of some of the events described there. What an amazing difference. I was and am truly amazed. And truly grateful.

Though he had been here earlier this summer we missed John and Denise as part of the party scene. He called on my birthday so we felt they had a part in the doings. They’ll be in Boston to meet Ellie later this summer. Denise’ brother and wife had a little girl this spring. So at some point they’ll meet Hannah in Atlanta.

All this wonderful abundance has come through the steadfast commitment and hard work of our farmers. The heat and humidity of the month of July were truly record-breaking. We had heat alerts that lasted almost a week at a time. Still the animals had to be cared for and the crops had to be cultivated and harvested. Farms also had to get crop planted for Fall harvest. We are fortunate not to be in the drought zone which is south of us. Kentucky had almost 90 percent of our annual rainfall by the end of June. So weeds have flourished. One vendor I visited for our market showed me rows of cabbage and green beans she’d lost to weeds. Even so Ida’s stand each week is full of beautiful produce. She also has a flourishing egg business and is beginning to harvest some honey from newly restored hives. I spent about an hour and a half walking her fields late morning. I could not wait to escape to my air-conditioned vehicle. I don’t know how she maintains that huge garden all by herself. She told me she likes to keep busy. That’s what so many of our farmers say. They like to keep busy. I think there is more to it than that. It seems to me it is more like a compulsion to do what needs doing once the season begins. I see this in Paul and Sasha. And it reminds me of the farmers I knew growing up in Pennsylvania dairy country. I am convinced that there must be such a thing as a vocation to the fruitfulness of the earth, a felt capacity to respond to an ancient invitation to participate in the cultivation of that fruitfulness, to partake of the goodness of creation. It is a total immersion commitment, a way of living. That must be why so many farm families have members that work off the farm in order to support that vital connection with the earth.

Meanwhile our flock of chickens has been decimated by an influx of racoons. With the deer and the groundhogs this is another of those seasons when growing vegetables requires sharpshooting skills. The crows continue to play hide-and-seek with Paul, sitting prominently on the posts of a field, then disappearing at the least sound of human presence. So Paul has learned to stalk them. All very time-consuming at a busy time.

The up-side to our tropical weather is the abundance of forage for the grass-eaters. One of our vendors was telling me on Saturday that they are putting their cattle on a field a second time this year for the first time in years. Saves on hay especially if they usually have to buy some to have enough for the winter.
The hay crop should be abundant as well. Sasha has been very busy mowing our pastures as the animals move off. The rotations have been longer this year because of the density of the forage. Local tobacco is looking wonderful with huge broad leaves. Some farmers are already harvesting theirs. And the wildflowers are just spectacular. Staghorn sumac has heads so large they almost look like green lilac blossoms. A pink-lavender flower, Carolina Wild Petunia (in some books Hairy Ruellia) is reaching 3 ft tall. I always thought it grew no more than a few inches even though the books have said otherwise. It is literally everywhere, along with bright yellow Partridge Pea, and white Queen Anne’s Lace, which is usually done by now. Bright purple ironweed (grown to over 6 feet) and golden rod is just beginning to appear.

Hopefully August will bring some cooler weather as well as the noticeably shorter days. Love, Louise

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