Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Dog Days of Summer

It's almost the end of August and I cannot wait for the calendar to turn to September just for the psychological fresh start a new month brings. Yeah, the house will still need cleaning, the gardens will still be a mess, and my to-do list will be a mile long, but these will be "start of the month" things to deal with and therefore not so bad. As opposed to the rather depressing "things I didn't get around to doing the entire month" things they are right now.

After an uncomfortably hot July, the temperatures have become much more pleasant in August but it's still bone dry. Thunderstorms rise up and dance all around us before evaporating without any rain. Things are brown and crunchy, a dreary burnt landscape that makes you think more "nuclear holocaust" than "bountiful late summer." I'm about to yank out the struggling annuals and toss them all on the compost rather spend another moment hoping they might recover before cool night temperatures do them in for good. At least the compost pile would look good.

The last half of August has been more than a little stressful. Just in the past week we've dealt with an earthquake, a hurricane, a faulty sensor in the braking system of my car, and now my beloved dog has a suspicious growth on her muzzle. I'm off to the vet's office in just a few minutes to have it checked out. Most likely it's a benign growth and nothing to worry about, but this comes on top of having my house shake inexplicably, wondering if my parents will evacuate before the arrival of Hurricane Irene, and worrying if my car will actually stop when I try to brake down our monstrously steep driveway. I could use a pleasant change, a fresh start, a new month.

Come on, September.

Update, 9:40 am  Official diagnosis: Oscar has an old dog wart and a bad scrape on her head, probably from where she's been trying to extirpate the voles in the flower beds out front. Whew..I can live with that.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Nearly Wordless Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I have several plants of "Sweet Million" cherry tomato this year. One of them grew so tall and so full of fruit that it bent the 5 foot tall 1 x 2 inch wooden stake over at the base. The bent over plant was threatening to take out another cherry tomato beside it, so I chopped it down and salvaged the fruit regardless of whether it was red or green.
All of these tomatoes are from one plant.
I have four other "Sweet Million" plants in the garden.

The tomato plant I cut down was the smallest one in the row.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Details at Eleven

In an unprecedented move, the Department of Agriculture raided an unlicensed all-you-can-eat bean buffet in Christiansburg, VA, that had become popular with undocumented Mexican bean beetles over the summer. Citing concerns for food safety and the blatant disregard for the economic injury level, the Bean Czar authorized the removal and destruction of a dozen plants known as “Half Runners.” Each of the plants is thought to have supported a multitude of bean beetle families whose fate remains uncertain. Particularly cruel was the use of a small black and tan dog that routed the area after the removal of each plant. Survivors were heard moaning, "Yo quiero mi frijoles." Families of the victims have begun referring to the event as “The Gleaning” and are organizing a protest in response to the day’s event.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

End of Summer


It's that time of the year. We've crested over the summer hump and the heat has finally broken to where it even gets cool enough at night that we pull the quilt back up around midnight. The goldfinches are eating the seed heads of the coneflowers, chicory, and my scattered, mouse-planted sunflowers. We have a glut of tomatoes and there are baby pumpkins on the vines. School buses are back on the roads and over on campus there's the countdown towards the first football game. I'm ready for fall!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Compost Pile is Half Full

I see a big pile of stinky composting grass clippings cooking in the sun.
Oscar sees a thing of wonderous beauty.

Something to be savored and enjoyed to its fullest, all the way down to the dregs.

I see a dog who's overdue for a bath.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Hiking the Cascades, July 2011

We hiked up to the Cascades over the Fourth of July weekend this year. Ally was a little trooper and walked the whole 4 miles. It's a beautiful place to visit and a popular hiking trail.




The rhododendrons were still in bloom.


There are lots of ferns along the trail. I like the ones that take root and grow out of the big boulders and rocks.


Ferns usually look lush and green, but they're actually very tough plants with leathery fronds.


Nope, there's very little soft and gentle about a fern. They make an awful substitute for toilet paper and you should always go for the moss instead, but that's another story that I'm not going to discuss today.

Sometimes you can even find a rhody sapling growing in the cracks of the big rocks.


Luna moth. This picture is a little out of focus. I really should have taken the time to get up close and take several pictures of it. That'll teach me.


We also so several of these guys, which I think are caterpillars of the pipevine swallowtail.


The falls had plenty of water in early July.



The water is usually very cold, but there's a swimming hole in the front of the falls where people jump in to cool off. We were content with walking around in the shallower part of the Little Stony Creek, which has a surprisingly forceful flow as it's channeled through a rock slot below the falls.


We took the fire road back down to the parking lot. There's a big outcropping of rock along the way with an eroded cave underneath it. The cave is very shallow, but it's cool and wet under there.


Shallow cave.




Thursday, August 4, 2011

Milkweed Patch, July 2011

Milkweed is a beautiful plant. The flowers are pretty and smell wonderful, plus you never know what you might find among the blooms.


I'm always happy to see honeybees.


A honeybee covered with pollen and coming in for a landing.


Bright yellow oleander aphids.


Big, fat, hairy tachinid fly.


Milkweed longhorn beetle, one of my favorite critters.



They play dead when startled.


Oh my....excuse me!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Garden Update, July 2011

Since I'm in denial that it's already August, I thought I'd post an update on my garden circa two weeks ago.


The garden gates.


Sweet corn.




Green tomatoes.


Green tommy toes.


Ripening Tigerella tomatoes, a striped variety. You can see that I recycle strips of fabric and selvedge to tie up my tomatoes. 


That green twisty mess in the foreground? Those would be half runner beans. 

Funny thing about the beans...the description said that they would be mostly bushy so I thought "Perfect! Just what I need for my first attempt at growing beans!" And they are mostly bushy on the bottom. It's just that the half that's the runner part is trying to run clear over to Radford. (Note to self: You will fence the beans next year.)


One evening's harvest: patty pan squash, eight-ball zucchini, half runner beans, sungold tomatoes.


Young pumpkin vines in the pumpkin patch.


Young pumpkin vines yearning to escape the fence. (Steve took the fence down about a week after this picture was taken, and now the pumpkin vines are trying to join the bean vines over in Radford.)


The compost pile in all of its stinky, funky, ugly glory.


And now a reason to head indoors.