Friday, June 20, 2008

Summer Solstice

Happy Solstice! Its great to have so much light around isn't it? Wake up early and stay up late, at least that seems to be whats been happening around our house. Seems like we are constantly eating dinner at 8:30 or 9 at night, just can't seem to stop and come inside before then.

Ah well. We celebrated today by getting up early and heading out to Jordan Lake for some time in the kayaks, I knew it had been way too long since we had paddled when I had to dust off the boat before I could get in.

It was lovely as always, we saw red-headed woodpeckers, prothonotary warblers, eastern kingbirds, bald eagles, osprey, a yellow-billed cuckoo and cliff swallows under the bridge- though not nearly as many as there were last year. As always dozens of great blue herons fished along the shores and croaked and honked as we scared them up into the air, flapping their wide gray wings to fly off to the next cove.

We saw tracks in the sand on the shore when we stopped to stretch our legs that David was sure were bear, but checking the book when I got home I think they were a big dog or maybe a coyote. We got excited about them anyway. Button Bush; cephalanthus occidentalis, was blooming all along the shore line. It is a small shrub with flowers that are the size of a golf ball, perfectly round and covered with white spiky flowers sticking out. The wildflower books' crazy description is "globose inflorescence...made up of many small flowers with exserted anthers" you can see a picture if you click above, I think they are really cool.

The lake was pretty skanky up towards the Morgan Creek arm as it often is, as soon as we pass back under the bridge it seems to clear up a bit, I guess the Fearrington Road bridge forms a bottle neck through which the waters are slow to pass. After all the horror stories I've heard about the water quality at Jordan Lake I've gotten to where I 'm afraid to go swimming which is too bad- it would have felt petty good about the time we got back to the boat ramp to jump in there, but we didn't.

What a marvelous break we've had from the terrible heat these past few days with cool nights in the 50's and low, low humidity. Summer's coming back now though and I feel that we might have to turn the AC back on. My latest Chapel Hill News column June Comes Blazing In is all about the bad heat we had early in the month and heading to the creek for comfort.

Last week we were in Kentucky up in the coal mining section of the mountains between Harlan and Hazard in a little town called Hindman at the forks of Troublesome Creek. We spent 6 days at the Hindman Settlement Schools'-Appalachian Family Folk Week; singing, dancing and playing traditional Appalachian music with old acquaintances and family and new friends too. It's an action packed week that fills me up with spirit in a way that I can't explain or describe, but the way I feel when I'm there is the closest thing to a religious experience I've probably ever had. It doesn't hurt that my brother Jon and his wife Candy, who are very near and dear to me, are there as well and we get to spend lots of quality time together at meals, walking the steep hillsides that surround the school, on the dance floor and at the after party that happens nightly at the wood shop.

Getting back home was made easier by the break in the hot weather. The garden is perking along despite the hot and dry, been watering the veggies and fruits regularly, the flowers just have to manage. If I'm thinking about it I capture gray water as I'm working in the kitchen and carry that around to things that look particularly parched. There is rain in the forecast for tomorrow so we've got our fingers crossed. I hope we aren't heading for another hot dry summer like what we had last year, it's too depressing to consider.

I've started picking squash and expect cukes and beans in another week or so, chard continues unfazed, dug a few taters the other day but they still need more time I think. The onions are filling out nicely and starting to fall over so we'll be harvesting them soon and I pulled about 50 heads of garlic and have those drying in the shed. I guess I'll braid them and the onions and hang them in the kitchen and hope they keep.

I've still got a ton of leeks in the fridge but planning a leek and carrot soup for this weekend to use a bunch of them up as they are not looking as good as they were three weeks ago when I harvested them! It will be a good thing to cook as I pulled 5 pounds of carrots the other day because they were starting to split under ground from being in too long, so everything needs to be cooked up into something yummy- as usual.

It's a good problem to have-too many veggies-as everyone is complaining about the price of gas and food as a result, I'm glad I planted a big garden this year and we are enjoying the fruits.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Too Hot for June

Well- Its too darn HOT. Not fair in my opinion for the first two weeks of June to be near 100 degrees, pure T criminal if you ask me.

I worked until 10 this morning and thought I would die, I was gasping for air it was so warm and humid. My clothes and hair were completely soaked. All I could ponder was finding some cool water to jump in somewhere, but the idea of actually getting myself to such a body of water was too overwhelming, the creek or the quarry would require a hike, it was easier to retreat to the AC where I stayed all afternoon.

The forecast is for this heat to last almost 2 weeks! Yikes. Good thing I picked almost all of the lettuce because it would be shooting up and going bitter for sure. The peas are brown and I need to pull them up and replace them with some pole beans on the fence. Some of the cabbage was trying to flower so I cut the largest heads. I begin to imagine having a back-up fridge to put all this stuff in, between the leeks, lettuce and cabbage there is no more room.

The okra and melons should take off now and join the cukes and squash in fast growing lushness. The blueberries are very fat and I await the first ripe one, D is afraid the squirrels will eat them all, and I'm afraid he could be right. It's that time of year when the varmints start to be a real nuisance. Saw the first groundhog of the season yesterday scamper off into the woods, so its only a matter of time before it figures out a way through the fence and starts to really piss us off to the point we borrow a gun and try to shoot it.

We had a bodacious party the other night with almost 50 friends and kids. Played croquet and bocce, ate phenomenal and fresh potluck dishes that people brought to share. The thunderstorms stayed to our North and did not rain on our parade and a good time was had by all. We even finished off the night with a small fire circle under the stars. Sweet.

Games on the lawn are for me the real sign that summer has arrived, especially when accompanied by a nice tall gin and tonic. If its going to be hot you have to take advantage of the long evenings that bring a small bit of relief from the heat of the day and give you a chance to get out in the air under the sky.

Hope you can find a way to keep cool over the next couple of weeks. I've been reading about places in the mountains with waterfalls....