Saturday, July 24, 2021

A Hot Dry Run: The Farm Report 07-25-2021

 A Hot Dry Run

The Farm Report

July summers in Iowa are not known to be cool and comfortable. This year for sure, Iowa has lived up to it's reputation, in spades! Meridith Wilson knew Iowans - after all, he WAS one - and as he knew and told us in song, We're so By-God Stubborn.... Well, at least that's my excuse for staying here when it is so miserable outside. What I lack being smart, I make up for being stubborn! Annie and I keep on gardening in spite of it. Cooler weather will come. I put up a little hill with Henry Ford the other day, and we planted it with whatever seeds popped up from the seed box. Mostly, it is birdhouse gourds and late squash. I think there might have been some musk melons in the mix, too. I just stuck the seed packs in my pocket and walked down the row dropping them in. No signs, no measure, no logic, no real expectations. Just something to watch grow - if it wants to.

And you know, things DO want to grow. I've already got some birdhouse gourds coming up. But oh my! Is it ever hot and dry this year?!

Here is what I see when it is Front Porch Coffee Time at Oakdale Farm. That is Annie out there on the lawn. You can't see him, but Annie is 'supervising' O.J. down the hill to your right. He is hunting breakfast down in the orchard. He really doesn't need a supervisor, but try telling that to Annie Oakley. Dogs fascinate me, and herding/shepherd dogs especially. Annie, like Lucky and Ben before her, is always perched where she can see me and her 'flock.' Instincts!

Well, we were all trying to just mind our own business and get ready for the day when...ZZZZZOOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!! Up from the valley came the flying tractor spraying the crops across the road. We use 'Air Tractors' out here more all the time it seems. GPS, onboard computer maps, and a guy in the seat who doesn't seem to worry one bit about ever collecting his Social Security money. Wow!

Here's a quick little video I made for you so you can have the same experience I had. If you REALLY want the same experience, turn your volume all the way up, and have somebody click this video for you when you aren't ready for it. If you compare the plane to the light pole you'll get a pretty good idea of how high off the ground he ISN'T. If you look carefully, you can see the corn tassels wiggle from the air flow. And, yes!, he was flying that low over my electric service wires. 

We have one tree down in the orchard that has always been my favorite summer apple. It is a Yellow Transparent - an old Russian variety that is a survivor. The ultimate for apple sauce, according to the orchard guides. It ripens right around my birthday, which probably has something to do with my liking it. These apples make the best pie you've ever had. Gotta pick 'em quick though - they go from tart sweet crisp to blahhhh mushy nothin' in a matter of days. You'll never see them in the stores for this very reason. 

I use my little cheapie 'refractometer' to check on the sugar level in the apples. You could just take a bite and spit, but I like tools and gadgets, and these are cheap, so....

All you have to do to use it is squeeze a little juice and drop it on the blue sight glass. Then you put the 'lid' on and look through the eye piece.

Not this. I had to get new glasses and they gave me this gizmo so I could tell how far apart my pupils are. Do beady eyed guys have to pay more or less for their specs? Anyway, you look into the instrument and it will tell you how much sugar is in the juice. 

It looks like this inside, and it works with a physics light trick. The line between the white and blue is the sugar reading. The higher up goes the blue, the sweeter the juice. Scientists figured this out. I trust 'em to know what they're doing but I don't need to know all the particulars. After all, I just want to know if my juice is getting sweeter or not - or if we have maxed out for these apples. Close counts.

Well, we decided that we had achieved maximum success with this year's crop. I've never made apple cider with these Yellow Transparents before. Why not? So we hauled out the gear and made a batch.

This little one-armed cider press is the go-to grinder for me. A five-gallon bucket of apples will make a good strong gallon or more of cider. The cider was good. Not the best we can expect from the fall apples - or from a MIX of different kinds of fall apples. Nevertheless, it was good juice.

Clean up is always Annie's favorite part. It involves water! You can tell by her tongue, it was a very hot day. We got 'er done and in the fridge though. 

I grow potatoes for the fun of it mostly. Mostly. I also grow them for the 'new' potatoes we get to eat. The row on your right is not quite ready. Annie seems to know. The row on the left has already begun to mature. That's where we'll start digging.

Bingo! New spuds. You can buy a bag of ordinary potatoes at Wally World for a couple of bucks all year round, but you can't buy these!

The 'big' ones are OK. It is those little ones that are the prize! According to my reading, the bigger and older the spud gets, the more the meat of the 'tater has begun to convert from sugar to starch. Those little 'uns is pretty much 'tater sugar. Mix 'em with some peas, or just steam them and put on a little butter - and maybe a shake of dill weed - and you're in heaven. I much prefer them steamed.

One thing about a dog, they never give up. One thing about a cat, they're amazed that the dog never gives up. Like Groundhog Day, it is the same story about every morning here at Oakdale Manor. Annie doesn't like Blue Ball, but she really really really would like to be friends with O.J.

You can tell by O.J.'s ears that he don't do friends very much. He tolerates Annie, but only to a certain point.

A quick strategic extension of Mr. Whoopper Paw, and Annie got the hint and moved back like a flash.

"I'll just be over here where it's safe, Tim," was Annie's reaction. She knows what was coming, after all. Another thing about a cat is how unbelievably smug they can be. "You stupid dog," was O.J.'s thought bubble.

The garden this year isn't a total loss, but it has been a learning experience - once again. The tarp garden is fantastic, and I'll probably never garden without one again. But this HOT DRY year, there has not been enough subsoil moisture to feed the 'maters and things on their own. I had - HAD - intended to put in a better drip irrigation system. HAD. Didn't get it done. So, second best is some five gallon buckets with drip tubes stuck into tight fitting holes near the bottom. I'm getting 4 drip lines per bucket here. I fill the buckets once each morning and once each evening. It is helping, but this year will not be a bumper tomato crop year.

See the little black drip lines? I've put in a floating piece of wood into each bucket now. The little honey bees were going in for water and not getting enough air lift to take off from the water and get up and out of the bottom of the buckets. The floating board will be their honey heli-port so they can have a dry lift-off.

Every morning while I'm shaving, Annie takes over my bed. I know, I know - I should make my bed when I get up. But really - who wants to make a bed when they can barely maneuver and have not had coffee yet. And, I know, I know - Joyce would be having a fit at my color coordination and selection of bedding materials. I sleep fine though. Annie would like to sleep there, too. Actually, by this time of the day, she is more interested - WAY! - more interested in a good old fashioned belly rub than a snooze.

This is a blurry pic, so don't adjust your set. It is the best one I could click that shows Annie's cheesy, "I know I'm not supposed to be up here, but could you give me a belly rub anyway, Tim. Pleeeeze. Pleeeeze with sugar on it."

"I'm ready whenever you are!" 

Well, this last pic will have to serve two purposes. One is to make you smile about Annie wanting her morning belly rub, and the other to let you know this is just how I feel in the hot Iowa summers. I'll be laying it out until the temps come down - and no, I don't have anybody to give me a belly rub. Sorry.

Other than that, all is well at Oakdale Farm.