kemtucky home journal: august

Dear Family and Friends,

It is Labor Day. Rain has been pouring down for over 24 hours, courtesy tropical depression Lee. Thank God. Over the weekend temperatures reached the 100 degree-mark. There has been no measureable rain during the month of August.

At first we were glad to have things dry out a little. As the days went on and the sun stayed so hot we began looking for rain in the forecast. Fall greens had to be set. Scattered thundershowers, a ten minute downpour, was the most relief we got. Fortunately, mid-month, the temperatures dropped dramatically, some nights into the upper 50’s, daytimes in the 80’s. Very pleasant for work and sleep but no rain. By the third week the temperatures started edging toward upper 80’s, night-time toward upper 60’s, even 70’s. Soil was turning to dust. On stressed plants, insects flourished. All that previous rain was doing no good except as irrigation. I guess the thing I keep learning over and over is timing. Water is essential at different stages in plant development. Doesn’t matter how much comes earlier or later, water needs to be there at the proper moment.

The hot sun brought most of our flowers to blossom all at the same time. I harvest Friday for the Saturday markets, then deadhead on Mondays so there will be
fresh blooms by Friday. As the drought wore on, I was deadheading on Tuesdays. By the third week I noticed that the flowers I harvested on Friday morning
were developing to slightly over-ripe bloom by the same afternoon. Lovely golden sunflowers with large brown centers, dripping yellow pollen; petals falling off.
We left most of them at home. I felt so bad for Paul. We had all these rows of magnificent sunflowers, some of the plants 10 ft high, just covered in blooms, but we could not get them to market in saleable condition. Thinking that the drought was accelerating their push to fruition we decided to deadhead on Tuesday and harvest on Thursday. Catching the blooms at an earlier stage and making sure the stems stayed in a couple of inches of treated water overnight really seemed to help. They actually looked better on Friday morning than they had on Thursday. I was so relieved. Last week we had beautiful bouquets of sunflowers, zinnias,cockscomb, and red millet. Now we have this beautiful rain. When I took a walk earlier today I noticed that the row of okra next to the sunflowers seems to have jumped up more than a foot. (?) There are lots of gorgeous blooms to be deadheaded tomorrow…

Despite the heat and the drought, farm work went on. Robin once more got to canning tomatoes. With Will needing her periodic attention she had to be quite strategic in planning the project. Sasha and Madeline were pressed into service. (All Will’s fault according to Madeline). I was amazed that Robin even tried to go ahead but she did and they now have the winter’s tomatoes ready in the cupboard.

Paul and Sasha and George and Andy were pressed into service by our neighbor Ricky. His tobacco was ready to harvest and the crew he was expecting did not show up. He came by late one Friday afternoon saying he was literally begging for help. Sasha and Andy and George were able to help over the weekend. Then the following week Paul joined them and Ricky’s family: wife, children, parents, to try to get the crop in. When payday came we were all so proud to learn that Sasha had the highest count, and therefore, the highest pay. At .20 per stick, he managed to earn $285 for the week. He worked long, hot hours for those dollars.

It is apple-picking season as well. Each Thursday afternoon our crew drove to our neighbor’s Highland Orchard to pick apples and press cider for the market. A special treat in the first weeks was pear cider. We keep it frozen until market day. Sasha has made a couple of apple crisps with his own recipe for the “crumbs”. Quite delicious.

Madeline and I did make a couple of peach pies to end that season. Sasha made his special crumb recipe for one of the pies. So we each had to have one slice of the lattice pie and one of the crumb pie. Double treat. This year the peaches seemed to be particularly juicy and sweet. At our market Jackson’s was usually out of peaches by 10 am. Some people never were able to get there on time. Fortunately Jackson’s is in Glasgow at other locations during the week.

Sasha came over one morning to demonstrate his version of hash-brown potatoes. I had to get my big iron frying pan down from the attic for him. Starting with our potatoes he shredded, then fried them, to produce a magnificent breakfast of hash-brown yukon-gold and red-viking potatoes and just-right scrambled eggs. I told him it was the best breakfast I’d had in a long time. Thank heavens for the good eggs I can buy at our market. Our poor little flock is down to two roosters and
three hens. Our nearest neighbor has offered to trade vegetables for eggs. So the farm family can take a break from the complexities of raising chickens. I will miss them.

Our wildflowers produced yet another delightful surprise last month. I was looking forward to the usual display of royal purple ironweed with contrasting yellow goldenrod. But the goldenrod is just now beginning to appear. What did blossom in amazing profusion is golden tickseed sunflower (bidens aristosa) and tall coreopsis. Some fields are literally golden with the massed blooms. I know I’ve seen these in other years but never in such abundance. I wonder if this too is a gift of the unusually heavy rainfall in the spring and early summer.

I trust each of you is enjoying the abundance of harvest season. Love, Louise

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