Friday, August 9:
The cool weather has given way to more of the summer sauna. Standing at the kitchen sink doing dishes we feel the sweat running down inside our shirts. This is good weather for ripening the tomatoes, but we note with something only a little shy of depression that many of the plants are browning out from the bottom up, a sign that fungal blight is getting the ascendancy. Eliot Coleman (sigh) reminds us that if our soil was all that garden soil ought to be, our plants would be immune, by and large, to insect and disease pests. That’s like telling the ugly stepsister that if only she were pretty she could be Cinderella – not especially comforting. Yet, we remind ourselves, the year seldom passes when we don’t get enough tomatoes for five or six dozen quarts each of salsa and pizza sauce. There is yet hope.
One of the great qualities of this life is its transient nature. Some things, of course, are non-elective. Failing to milk the cows, for example, is simply not on the cards. But inside that parameter there are many which change from day to day, as, for example, the path we will walk taking the cows to and from their paddock. Since early in July, the lactating cows have been grazing clover and orchard grass in the meadows from which we took hay at the end of May. Starting at the north end of the meadow, they have gradually moved up the hill until this morning we put them on the last paddock to the south. At the beginning of the month we had only to walk about sixty yards to bring the cows up to the barn; this morning the cows’ paddock was three football fields away.
This not insubstantial increase made a real difference in the time it takes to do the morning milking; the bell for morning office, which should see us putting the buckets and milk can in the farm car, now catches us while we are unreeling the line for the new paddock. Makes for a big hurry when we get home, and like as not means one of us is going to miss his shower. But tomorrow, oh, the blessedness, the cows will move down to the silo end of the hermitage pasture, just across the lane from the barn, where the clover is tall and red-topped and the cows have not been since early June. Often this is the way; just when you are thinking things are getting a little out of hand, the thing that is annoying you, whatever it is, changes.
Children are like that, too.
We note, for application next summer, if we can figure out how to put the information to good use, that where the cows passed in mid-June, there is very little of iron weed or Queen Anne’s lace. Presumable this would be by reason of the cows’ willingness to graze these things at a certain point in their growth, but not earlier – perhaps they were not yet up? – or later, when they are more mature. All these little things keep us thinking we are learning something, which prevents ennui.
Two supers of honey are packed away in coolers in the summer kitchen until one dark night – in daytime we would be mobbed by hunting bees who could get in through cracks around the door – when we feel motivated to extract it. It is lovely stuff, liquid amber, not dark like some years produce