27 July 2013

What is going on at Heart's Ease Cottage

This summer has been an unusual one. We have been deluged with rain. We had rain every day for almost 30 days. Not just a little rain... constant rain, heavy rain, more rain than we usually see in a a whole year! One of my four 25 foot beds of tomatoes drowned, many other crops fared poorly as well. We lost the cabbages to an onslaught of slugs that used the rain to cloak their activities, the kale and chard rotted from all the moisture... sigh. But the constant rain seems to have passed, and the ground has dried out a bit, so there is hope for what is left in the garden.

I am harvesting blueberries and tomatoes regularly. As I sit here writing I can smell the tomatoes in the dehydrator, they smell wonderful!  I dehydrate all of our veggies at 115 degrees, so that they remain "raw", with all their enzymes and nutrients intact. I will vacuum seal them as soon as they come out of the dehydrator to protect them from moisture. These tomatoes will be used in many of our meals during the colder months when fresh tomatoes are not available.

The blueberries have been plentiful on the bush but sadly, we lost a lot of them during all the rain. Many of the ripe berries were knocked to the ground by the rains before I could get them picked. Even though we lost a lot of the berries, I still have picked 25 lbs. of berries and have probably that many more still ripening on the bushes. We should have plenty for the table, some for the freezer and some for sharing with friends and neighbors. Even if it is not as many as we usually have it will be enough.

The flowers and herbs have survived the wet conditions and I have been making lovely bouquets for us to enjoy, (yes, I used herbs in my flower bouquets!). I have been cutting the parsley every couple of days for adding to our juicing and as soon as the Sabbath is over I will pick basil to make pesto. The tarragon has pretty much taken over one end of the bed it is planted in, while waiting for it's permanent home to be available, (we are doing some long needed foundation work on the east side of the house where the herb garden resides, so some of the plants had to be temporarily relocated, more on that project later in this post).

The kitchen herb garden is in full bloom with the Rudbekia taking center stage. This garden has been a little hard to access since we have dug out a fair chunk of the walkway access and have supports and plastic sheeting up to protect our 3 foot deep trench from filling with water from all the rain. But I have still managed to keep it weeded, and snip and pick herbs for eating, even with all the construction mess in the way. The comfrey that I planted this year seems to be happy and I have harvested our first batch of stevia. It is in tincture and will be ready for use in a couple of weeks.

The butterflies have shown up in force this year. They spend their days sailing over the gardens, snacking on nectar from the zinnias and buddleia. They look like floating flowers from my vantage point on the deck.

As I was cutting parsley the other day to be juiced with the carrots and other veggies, I noticed this little fella munching away on my parsley. It is a Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar. They show up every year to help keep my parsley and dill well pruned. With their voracious appetite they can make quick work of a patch of parsley, so I always try to plant double the amount I will use, to make sure that we both have all the parsley we can eat!
 If you gently stroke the caterpillar on the back while he is munching, it will give off the scent of chamomile and little orange antlers will appear out of the top of its head and wave a warning at you. I am not sure what the scent and antlers do to deter predators, but I think they are adorable! I love to provoke them, (just a little....) so that they will "threaten" me!

We have been trying to get some foundation work done since January. Actually we have been trying to get it done since the reconstruction after Hugo in 1989, but there was so much to do back then and afterwards life took over and there was no time for such a project until recently. So Da began digging out the area in January, got the footer form built to pour the cement and shortly after was hit with a huge project at work. This project waylaid his efforts until yesterday. Yesterday there was no rain in the forecast so we jumped at the chance to mix, pour and level out sixteen 80 lb. bags of cement.
 Da calculated that he lifted about a ton and a half  yesterday, between the toting bags in and out of the car and to the work area. I wore the skin off both knees and elbows crawling around in tight spaces, moving , tamping and leveling cement. It was hot, hard work, but it is finally done and so the project can move forward.

  Sunday we will knock the wooden footer form apart and back fill with dirt. After that comes the easy part... paying someone to lay the block and finish off that section of the foundation! That will bring to conclusion a major repair that has needed to be done for a long time. As I am writing I hear thunder, so we must be going to get some more rain. I am very glad we seized the opportunity yesterday and got the cement work done. Who knows when we will have another dry day!

I have a special indoor project that I have been working on, as well as the regular "projects" that take up my days during the summer... weeding, harvesting and preserving goodies from our garden. This is a project I am very excited about, but I will save that story for a blog post of its own!

I hope that you are all well and enjoying a beautiful day! Until next time, Shalom!

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