23 July 2010

23 July

Today I brought in our first figs. Which seems quite late, to me, although I only really have one season to go by. Seems to me the fig harvest had come and gone by this time last year, but I can't remember. Regardless of how early or late they are, the trees are full, and we should have fresh figs for a couple of weeks now. I never much cared for Fig Newtons or similar things, but a fresh fig and a dried one are about as similar as a grape and a raisin. Fresh off the tree, they're tender, sweet, and oddly cool in the middle, and as they don't keep well fresh off the tree is the best way to eat them.

It's a particularly hot and relatively dry summer so far, and although the beginning of next week now looks to have some chance for rain, showers have skirted us just about every chance they've had. In July we've received not quite half an inch of rain; combined with daily highs that have never been below 92 and often near 100, everything on the farm is dry. The "lawn" such as it is is quite brown; the vegetable beds get watered every day (way too often, frankly) so they don't dry out, but even at that our cucumbers and melons are showing the signs of water stress--fat on one end, misshapen and lumpy on the other. The cukes make fine pickles whatever they look like, but it would be nice to get consistent rain. Something about rain manages to keep everything watered and happy so much better than water from the hose.

Unfortunately with the heat and drought (a very localised drought; the airport up the road and the high school in town both have received over two inches of rain this month) the young trees are suffering, too. We lost the magnolia this month, and the Halesia (I can't recall what the common name is anymore, silverbell or snowbell or something) has died back to the ground--although it still has two live shoots at ground level so I'm holding out hope. I've built little earthen dams around the trees that are out of range of the hose (baldcypress and red maple), and both seem fine for now. The dogwood up by the driveway has been showing serious signs of stress but I water it most days now and it's looking better. To my great joy the two weeping cherries I put in for Smittywife both look happy.

A larger problem is the orchard. I can reach every tree in the orchard with the hose and water them every other day, which is acceptable but in the long run (that is to say, after this season) I need irrigation. Irrigation is expensive, and I'll have to do the work myself. I just need someone to donate some pvc pipe and maybe a well pump. I'd apply for a USDA grant... if I could figure out whether they even offer such things. Their website is a total nightmare. Perhaps I should just call the local office, if there is one. Or perhaps I should just stay out of the USDA's way; last thing I need is someone tramping by to look over the chicken coop and decree my eggs not clean enough to sell. (Good thing we give them away.)

Now it's off to cut back the flower garden (the cosmos have mostly flowered and died, leaving a forest of four foot tall sticks amid a riot of crabgrass) and try to find a long enough piece of 2x4 to finish the railing on the back stoop. Late shift tonight at work.