Summer Harvest 2018

Well...this summer has been defined by "No Rain"!  It has been "hot, hot like the sun...the loneliest one...still everything beautiful."

Backyard Garden - Kristen ShannaWe have definitely managed some surprises in the garden, for sure. (Right Matt? 😉)   It is growing more and more productive.  The blackberries are getting established.  The raspberries even produced.  Tiny and scant, but production all the same.  The grapes are really starting to thrive, and even the apple trees gave us a few first fruits.

The chickens will not shut up.  This is the loudest flock...I am NOT kidding...I've ever had,  If they hear me blow my nose in the kitchen, they are at it...definitely a demanding little group.  But they are productive.  So, I tolerate them.

Of course, I am their sole keeper.  Matt has washed his hands of this filthy business.  I can't blame him.  I had no idea what I was signing up for when I promised to maintain full responsibility if only we could have four instead of two.  Oh, the bane of impulsive commitments.  I have decided to name them, collectively, Eileen, because at that moment, I tell you the truth, they meant EVERYTHING.

My apology milkweed is thriving, despite the heat.  Oh man, you should have seen that trick!

I don't even remember what I did.  Probably something stupid, selfish or insensitive - typical me kind of things.  But...he has wanted milkweed at this new house for three years now.  He mentions it.  He does that.  He mentions things, here and there.  And then doesn't do much about it.  Just mentions it.  It doesn't seem to bother him.  Now, for mention of something and I am like - we got to get this done!  So, I have been strategically on the hunt for milkweed for three years.  I hunt it.  I target it.  I find it. I keep my eye on blooming plants.  I snatch the pods when they are ripe for harvest.  I give him the seeds.  Year after year.  Nothing.  I grow frustrated.  What am I doing wrong?!

Monarch Food - Kristen Shanna
So, I am driving my little fiesta through the backroads (coming home from another little work tour), and we are having a fiesta, for and my car.  The gravel is undisturbed before me. The sky is a blue canvas.  Fertile green blooms, promisingly endless, around me.  Jim Morrison tells me he is not afraid, and I never really suspected he was.   I am happy.

Then, I spot it.  The milkweed.  Prevalent and wild on the side of the road.  There are no seed pods.  It is too early in the summer.  But I screech to a halt and hit the reverse.  I'ma take my baby home the whole stinking plant.  This will convince him of my love and dedication and sincere regret for my stupidity.

I hit the hazards and hop out in my work dress.  I hack my way through the brush to the object of my desire.  I am hungry like a wolf.  I will not take no for an answer.  He will have this treasure!  I grab the tall stem about a foot from the ground and twirl in large circular motions.  I am stirring the pot.  When I am satisfied I have loosened it, I grab it close to the ground and pull like a barbarian.  Another foot of root comes up with the plant, and I am enthralled.  I take it's sister, too, for good measure.  I dip the roots in my watered-down coke and resume my journey - until bugs start crawling around the car, and I pull over again.  The milkweed, my apology flowers, continue our journey in the trunk.  I contend with a lightning bug the remainder of the drive.

And I am bitterly sore for the next three days (I have never been accused of not putting in enough effort), but it is worth it., over a month later, next year's monarch butterfly garden portends to bloom outside our door.  Hope in the midst of drought.

Even my hydrangea has bloomed this year.  Now, that's a story for another day, but suffice it to say, the hydrangea has followed us for the last three houses.  It was a sweet sympathy gift for one of my many miscarriages, and it means sooooo much to me, and it has bloomed.  Granted, the cutting I tried to take for a friend, did not survive the incessant heat...the mother plant did.  This is the first time it has bloomed in many years.

Our tomatoes were typical this year.  The plants look pathetic, and I think we will never get anything from this disappointing crop.  And then one day they start coming, and they don't stop, and we have more tomatoes than we could ever eat.

My favorites from the garden this year are (always number one) my basil.  I made pesto for the first time!  I also dried a good batch for the winter.  I love basil!

We have a consistent crop of chives and mint.  Oh my goodness, do you know how prolific is mint?! I dried some for tea, and I added some echinacea (coneflower, good for immunity) from the flower bed to our tea batch, as well. And our anise hyssop has established itself.  It smells like black licorice, and while I am not a fan of black licorice, I am still fascinated by the hyssop.

Another favorite this year was my neighbor's corn, because I don't care what anyone thinks about it...I LOVE CORN.  So...I took it upon myself to freeze some up, and I think I did a PDG (pretty darn good) job, if I do say so myself.  PLUS!  I got the "bad" ears from Dee to give to my chickens, which means...I saved some corn from waste (I HATE WASTE!) AND I got to give my chickens a treat (I LOVE GIVING MY CHICKENS TREATS!).  I am one contented ( the best of MY ability) gardener.  I feel like I can walk into the fall with peace.

Also...we tried chard for the first time, and it did remarkably well! It is definitely on the list for next year's planting (and maybe some in the fall.  It makes a great salad...easier than lettuce, if you ask me.)

Ohhhh...and one more make lemonade out of lemons.  The heat and drought caused our yard to go dormant, and while it is not the prettiest yard on the block this year - we refused to water - neither of us spent very much time mowing.  Since I am finishing my final Master's classes, less mowing meant more time.  And more time, also, makes me VERY happy.