Sunday, August 14: Finally we have gotten some of what Joe Leaphorn would call a “female” rain, long, slow, soaking, and what we have been needing for weeks. Only an inch or so, but it does as much good as might a three-inch rain which roars down on us and goes right on roaring, down Jeddo’s run and the Beautiful river to the Mississippi. It is satisfying to see the creeks swell with brown, foamy water, coming over the banks and carrying flotsam and jetsam – too much jetsam, around here – but that sort of rain runs off very quickly, having no time on our steep pastures to percolate through our rather clayey, shaley soils. Rains of that kind tend to tear up the creek bank, without soaking to any great depth into the hillside.
Today’s rain was of the other sort, the kind that creeps up on you like a small child when you are reading, only noticed after some time by the quiet shushing of his breath. The pale sound of rainfall came and went, with periods of soggy sunshine making us wonder if that was all she wrote, then came again. We sat on the porch swing and read Eliot Coleman, while S-5 put together a ship model and the others played music in their den. Later when we went out to see some land, the sun was breaking through for real, and the light falling from behind us emphasized the verdant, generous beauty of the rolling hills and woods unfolding below us.
Sunday here is truly a day of rest, at least whatever degree of rest is consistent with the family’s need for regular meals, and with the animal care which varies not a jot in recognition of the Lord’s sabbath. Saturday, consequently, is usually a day of more than ususally earnest labor. Yesterday was the day appointed for the slaughter of the squash bugs, but as it was also the day the boys were commencing the siding of the south bay of the new barn, we could not fire the opening salvos until we had made the two hour round trip to Bergolz for the poplar siding wood. (Yes, we have a sawmill for our building lumber, but as the felling and milling of sufficient poplars for the barn siding might have taken us into October, it was deemed necessary to purchase our siding wood from the mill. Rough green barn siding is only thirty-five cents a board foot for poplar, and the time and labor saved means our barn will be closed before winter comes.)
It went very much against our desires to be pulling up our winter squash and pumpkins so early, when few if any of the fruits could hope to be sufficiently mature to be cured and stored. We were steeled to the task by the obviously moribund state of the plants, and furthermore by the sight of the waves of squash bugs moving ahead of us as we picked our way through the pumpkin patch. All the squash, even the smallest, were cut from the vines and laid on the garden path, and the vines were pulled with as little jarring as possible – not to dislodge the nasty grey and black beetles – and piled on a wood fire in the middle of the patch. The hay mulch, thick with bugs, was lifted with a pitchfork and placed on the fire as well. Wet green squash vines do not burn easily, but the fire had been started with scrap lumber, and the mulch was pretty dry, so the pile burned adequately, and smoked better. Any squash bugs we saw were stomped on, and we went around the patch with triple-strength pyrethrum/canola oil spray and saturated the neighboring vegetables and weeds. The remaining bugs, which were legion, seemed not to notice.
The green squash and withered pumpkins are piled on the front lawn as a border around the last of the blooming phlox. It is a sad comedown, but not a total loss, and whatever remains when we buy our three pigs in September will make good pig food. The men’s day was more satisfactory: before we left for a visit that evening, the west wall was on the feed room, and the floor all laid. I noticed when I went down to shut up the chickens that one of the long two-by-twelves that will support the loft stairs was in place, the first four or five notches already cut. It will be a beautiful barn.