Thursday, August 15, 2019

Lazy Days of Summer: The Farm Report 08-16-2019

Lazy Days of Summer

The Farm Report 08-16-2019

Mid-August has never been my favorite time of the year. In Iowa, where I live, it is always hot, humid, muggy and well, just miserable. No breezes - unless from storms, and then we'll call it a 'breeze' by heck! - and way too much hot sunlight for me. I get tired of it being so bright and light until after bedtime. I get tired of being hot and sweaty all the time too.  But there is a silver lining in the hanging clinging clammy air: things are beginning to ripen. These are poor little crab apples. They are growing on more of a bush than a tree. The deer kept whipping and raking the tree around so much I gave up. The tree just said, "OK, no trunk!" and made itself into a bush. They make great jelly.

The light is changing - which means the seasons will be changing too. August is still green, but it begins to look worn out. As if to say, 'Enough is enough. Let's move on.' 

Annie doesn't care. She has discovered chickens! I like to let my 4 hens and 1 rooster outside the coop in the afternoons. They like to run around and eat bugs and grass - and eventually I will get some eggs that will be all the better for it. As far as Annie is concerned, these birds were put here for her to HERD! Look at the arch in her back and the turgor in her tail. She has 'em spotted, and knows they will soon be needing her guidance. She's a natural.

She doesn't try to chase them, or run them down. She just knows instinctively that they need her to help keep them all together and push them where she thinks they should go. The rooster, 2d from the right, sometimes disagrees. I think it is a territorial thing, and he thinks it is HIS territory. Annie has learned to respect his point of view..... ahem.

Kids and pups. Big kids, little kids; young pups and old uns. My good neighbor who is really the reason I have Annie is a natural with animals. He is holding his old guy chihuahua, 'Chuck,' so Annie can get to know him. Annie is eager, Chuck is - not so much. For such a little guy, Chuck sounded loud and vicious.

Kids and puppies need each other, and what is more fun on a hot summer's day. Chuck finally gave in and settled down. Ron's foot is pointing at my backyard lily pond. That is important to know for the next picture. 

Annie decided to go swimming. She has webbed feet all the way out to her toenails on all four, and loves to play in the water. Up until now, she hadn't gone in full bore. Up until now. 

"I just slipped." Like heck. She ran back, took off on a full gallop, and 'tried' to stop at water's edge. Sorta. Plop!

Even when you're trying to be 92, you're still a kid at heart when you've got a puppy like Annie. My mother and Annie hit it off instantly. They actually met when Mom was on the gurney in the ambulance getting ready for an emergency ride to the hospital. That's a story for another time. All turned out well and you can see they're best buds. 

Stanley plums. The Japanese Beetles played heck with them, but some made it. They are all very small this year. Too much rain. Saturated soil can't feed the fruit right. 

I call these 'Iowa Blueberries.' Other people call them Elderberries. Whatever you call them, they make delicious jelly, juice, etc. The plants grow in the roadside ditches here like weeds. Free for the taking, but almost nobody takes 'em. The juice is supposed to have terrific anti-viral qualities. Elderberry wine is supposed to be good too.

Another 'weed' here is the common Black Walnut, juglans nigra. They will grow up out of building foundations and in fence rows wherever you don't want them. Not too long from now, those green balls will fall and turn yucky brown. (That's the source of historically correct furniture stain to me! Remember, back in the day and in another world, I'm a listed furniture conservator.) We'll hull them and crack the nut shells for the meats inside. Christmas cookies, muffins, fudge, mmmmmmmm. For you budding cabinetmakers out there, Yes, this tree is the source of the famous black walnut lumber.

Not too big a harvest here, but at least I got a taste. I think the total production was 5 plums. These are Santa Rosa plums. Delicious and Super Sweet! Thank you Luther Burbank for your plant breeding work back in 1906.

Annie thinks it is for her...not. 

This wasn't supposed to happen either. This is a 'Hale Haven' peach. We had a week of -22F type temps last winter. That's real -22F, not the baloney 'wind chill' stuff- it was cold! Peaches aren't supposed to fruit after about -10F. Colder won't kill the tree, but it will kill the fruit buds. Apparently Hale Haven forgot to read the manual. AND, the Japanese Beetles forgot to look here, too. Total crop: 3 peaches.

I always know summer is coming to an end when these hosta lilies begin to shoot up flower stems. Carola came to our house in Lake Mills, Wisconsin, from Germany, one fall when these were beginning to flower. That's why I remember. We brought a start from our home in Wisconsin, when we moved to Oakdale Farm, and have them everywhere now. Prolific. They are beginning to look tired of summer, too. But for fun, if you look along the base of the house, you'll see a little green bump that doesn't have a stem.

It looks just like 'Kermit!' Now, he's imitating the Hosta flower stem heads. Last time I took his picture, he was white/grey imitating the paint he was stuck to. How do they know? Somehow, soon he'll know it is time to go back underground for the winter, too. And so it goes. All is well at Oakdale Farm.


  1. Thanks again Tim!! Brings back great memories. Love Iowa. Just like California better in the winter. Have a good fall. Cheryle

  2. I've always said the Good Lord wants the entire earth populated. My assignment is to the colder parts. Thanks for following along!

  3. Black walnuts. Lots of memories of picking them up in fall. They took a lot of work to get to that delicious nuggets.

    I enjoyed the tour of your farm, Tim. I am heading to Illinois for our 50th H.S. reunion, and will see a little of your farm there.

    1. Glad you're enjoying the Farm Report. I went to my 50th H.S. reunion 2 years ago. It was my first H.S. reunion. I'm not much of a party animal. I was class president for both my Jr. and Sr. years, but maybe that's because nobody else would do it??

  4. Seriously coveting Annie! We're having an uneven fruit harvest here. Sparse cherries, apples and prunes, but for my little Braeburn tree. No pears, but we rarely get more than a handful. At least the strawberries bore well!

    1. I'm having fun with Annie, but remember: as with raising both teenage boys and dogs - I'm only telling you the 'good' stuff....

    2. No doubt. I should probably email you for advice since you're on the other side and your wife was a teacher – right?

    3. Yes, Joyce was a teacher - a 'natural' teacher through and through. She ran the ship, I was the 'Ozzie Nelson' cast member. So, the doctor is always in for advice, but beware of what you get. As for raising boys: Be patient, don't panic, hang on tight, don't steal their struggle from them as they grow up, observe but don't 'expect' and remember that all fledglings crash land a time or two when they fly from the nest. And at some point in time, our job of parenting comes to an end. Let them fly and hope they make it. How's that for sage advice this early in the morning?

    4. I'd say it's worth the price of admission! Seriously, I've just had worship, my guys are still asleep, and I'm (kinda sorta) well rested from the emotional battles of yesterday – it's the perfect time to tuck this advice in my heart, take a deep breath, and keep going. Thanks!

  5. One thing I make annually is Elderflower Champagne. So simple, and the kids all love it (as do I). I never do anything with the fruit; maybe I should. Annie is looking good; my late Bok used to round up the hens too.

    1. I have some Elderflower blossoms in my freezer for a try at the E. Champagne. Do try the berry juice if you can. It is very good.


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