My Farm on Burnett in Ames

2012 Photographs

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July 27: Bummer this evening to walk in the garden. Yes, we got a half inch of rain today. Yes, the temperature was in the 80s. Yes, the weather felt delightful. But as I emerged from a deep nap in low spirits, then walked the garden, thinking my spirits might lift, I was impressed not by delight but disappointment. So much work on the garden this year. So much dragging nearly 150 of water hose and a watering wand around the .35 acre lot to water perennial beds, new gooseberry and service berry bushes, and the vegetables.

photo July 26

Perhaps there is hope. But the raspberry leaves are drying out, and the few berries are hard and sour even if red. I have found two cucumbers and lots of flowers, but those vines are drying outsome completely dissipated. The wind two nights ago blew over what appears to be a prolific Carmen pepper plant. I picked one of the peppers that had started to turn red and tasted pure and refreshing. Wow, that lifted my spirits. It is a sweet, long pepper from Johnny's Seeds. The healthiest looking Sneeze Weed plants (natives) are starting to blossom.
One of them fell over in the wind, too. I will need to do some staking. Other perennials, especially the ones that I planted just last year, are drying out drastically. Usually these natives flourish even when garden plants don't. It seems too soon after the half inch rain this week to water thoroughly again.

The thought crossed my mind to simply plow the garden plants under. But there is hope for some of them. SueAnn gardens a 10x20-foot plot at my place, and she has a tomato vine and eggplants that are thriving. So maybe, I will focus my attention during this cooler weather on putting things away. After all, with the heat spell, I had no ambition to put a hoe, rake, roll of chicken wire, steel post driver, leather gloves, garden staples, garden stakes, or similar items away in the shed or other proper places. But since I am one who doesn't like living in a mess or having a mess in the yard, I might really enjoy the satisfaction that comes from getting the place more orderly again. Of course, a person can not make life or nature orderly.

Neither life nor nature are machines. They are not like computer programs where a person can hit a button to execute a series of actions, and voila, the place is cleaned up. And when a person reads Margaret Wheatley's books on organizational leadership and the new sciences, one learns that wonderful things can emerge from chaos. Perhaps insteador in addition--some yoga or other spiritual activity would be helpful to detach from my perceived need to make the place more orderly. Maybe I need to relax about and learn from nature.

The Butternut squash vines will make large, golden flowers if they wish. Some or many of the vines will wilt whether I want them to or not. Some may bear golden, oblong, winter squash. Regardless of how they fare, there will come a time this fall to pull up all the vines--whether squash, tomato, cucumber, or beans. And then start planning for next year. The question is whether I want to go through a gardening cycle again or simplify and buy a share in a CSA and go to the farmers markets.

Well, the taste of that freshly picked pepper is still on my tongue. Time to live in the moment and not worry about tomorrow, this fall, or the next garden season. Time to be grateful for the ways in which life is good and nature has gifted me. And it is time also to wait and see how the Bolero carrot seed that I planted today will turn out. It's only a small bed where there were beets earlier this season. Yes, I know that planting root crops following root crops is not a great idea, but I believe there were squash vines in that area last year. So one year of root crops in succession should not hurt. Always a failure here in the past. I could just as easily buy from Gary Guthrie of Growing Harmony Farm near Nevada, who is the Carrot King of Iowaat least in the estimation of many people. So perhaps deep inside me, there is more hope than I had thought when I emerged from my nap. And thankfully, Bolero carrots are what Gary recommended planting when the weather cooled but before the end of July.


July 25: The thermometer in the shade of the porch said 108 this afternoon. The hottest weather I recall experiencing in Iowa. It simply is not comfortable being outside even for short spells of feeding the chickens or hanging laundry on the line. This evening, I cooked a skillet of vegetables that included the first peppers from my garden (Apple variety from Johnny's Seeds) and that would eventually include collards, kale, purslane, oregano, and eggs from my place.
BTW, the potatoes are from Red Granite Farm at the North Grand Farmers Market in Ames. Mother of my three other cats, Micah, slept atop the refrigerator behind me. I also cooked three ears of sweet corn from DeMoss Farm from the NGFM. The corn was done first, so it was the first course of my meal. Fortunately, I had eaten it before Micah took an interest in it. The food was great. So was the company. Note: Micah did not get to eat at the table.

Before I could start the second course, meaning the skillet food, the sky clouded over and wind picked up. I went outside and made sure the chickens were in their hotel, and Shimmer, my most timid cat, had come inside. I prayed the wind would not blow the hotel or my house over. Soon the lights went out. So I lit some votive candles that a friend recently gave me, found my really strong bicycle headlight to use as a flashlight, put my plate of food, a cup of GingerAid tea, a glass of water, salt and pepper, a fork, and a calico napkin on a wooden tray and carried it to the basement where I ate supper. It felt good to be slowed down and think of the basics and to realize that without utilities, my fine house really isn't all that useful. I was happy to be in the cool basement.

I found a corded phone and called one of my farm tenants who had just finished a day of combining wheat before the rain hit. She said they (in NW Iowa) had 60-mile per hour winds that buffeted the fields of corn, but she believed the wind-rowed and raked wheat, lying flat atop stubble, would be fine.

I suspect the wind here was of a similar intensity. Due to the power outage, I could not obsess with house-cleaning, which had been on my to-do list. I could simply be here. It was neat to hear the winds subside and go outside, walking barefoot, to the end of the lane and to visit with my neighbor who was just heading out in his car to assess the damage in the area. Little if any damage here. Yes, twigs strewn around from the large tree next door, and one tomato cage that listed. Total rainfall was only a half inch, but I was grateful to get it. Yippee, no dragging the hose around the yard today to water.

July 23: The Des Moines Register confirmed what I already thought, saying in an article today that this weather is dangerous. Both yesterday and today, I photographed the thermometer on my porch on the east side of the house in the mid-afternoon. Both times 106 degrees. Yesterday, I rode my bicycle from the west side of the ISU campus back to my home in NE Ames. Today, I have stayed close to home with only outdoor errands: tend to the chickens, take garbage to the garbage can, and hang clothes on the line.
July 23: Standing just outside my porch, I photographed the west gate of my large garden and chicken pasture with a bed of native perennials in the foreground.


July 23: On the inside of the garden and chicken pasture with chicken hotel on the left.
July 23: There are still some cabbages in the ground, but with this hot weather, I am feeling the need to pick them as soon as they fill out.
July 23: It seems a little miracle of nature how the cucumber plants reach out and send tender tendrils to support their climbing onto fixtures such as this tower of Remesh.
If I had a caption for the photo, it would be something like, "knowing when to appreciate that a little [of something] means a whole lot to the spirit." I had a pittance of a harvest from my June bearing raspberries. And even though I have been getting a berry or two from the fall-bearing patches for several weeks, and far ahead of normal, the prospects of a good fall crop have not looked good even though I have been watering the plots.
Normally, these plots bear from the last week of July through the first week of October. Will see what happens this year. The small patch that I have not watered is drying/dying out. If this weather were more conducive to outdoor work, I certainly would not be at the computer so much. Seems like I am starting to obsess with Facebook. Not a good sign. BTW, no delayed gratification with the raspberries. I gave one to a woman who stopped by to pick up a Freecyle item. Later, I gobbled up the rest.
July 23: In spite of the heat wave, my five hens continue to produce eggs. The hens don't leave them in the nesting box on the first floor of their hotel. Instead, they leave them in a nest they have made in the straw on ground level where it is cooler. And sometimes, one of them gets carried away and leaves an egg under the likes of a gooseberry bush or on the bare ground.
July 23: I worry about Addy, Cora, DeElda, Muffet, and Rosa. They love being under the largest of my cherry trees. But all they have is shade and no air-conditioning. I keep them supplied with water and feed in the shade. I also throw kale and collards to them. The hens love the greens. Also, I tilled the soil and poured water over the area. The hens don't roll in mud quite like hogs, but they do like dirt baths. And they seem to like the wet patches of ground I prepared for them
July 23: And finally, I nearly forgot that yesterday, I picked many bouquets of dill seed. I doubt if they will need to dry inside the house much after being on the plant so long in the heat wave. I am glad that I harvested them before we got a strong wind, which could blow the seed away. BTW, all my dill this year is volunteer. A lot along fence lines and woven in with the native perennial beds.

July 21: Sometimes I am envious of folks with solar water heating, solar electricity, solar ovens, and wind generators. That said, I love my clothesline. It utilizes solar and wind power and offers a sense of spiritual wholeness when I hang clothes or gather them. It also adds a great aesthetic to my backyard, and the clothes smell great. I don't know why I don't see more of them in use in Ames. What is it with basic technology such as a clothesline, with so much going for it, that it is not more popular?
July 21: I recall not liking rutabagas that Grandma grew and cooked. However, I have learned to make pasties and decided to plant rutabaga seed this year for the first time. Not all germinated. But enough did. This bed has been weeded, mulched, and watered with a fence around it to keep out rabbits and chickens. I hope to have enough rutabagas to make pasties this fall or winter for personal use and a church dinner.
July 21: Purslane growing voluntarily and rigorously in my garden. It is a great vegetable. See below.
July 21: My cucumber vines are finally showing some hope in the middle of this drought season. Lots of blossoms and miniature fruit is developing on this vine. Sure have had to do a lot of watering to keep the plants healthy. I hope I have a good crop so I can make my annual stash of bread and butter pickles to take to church dinners and give as gifts.

July 21: I am doing an experiment with two beds of Christmas Lima beans planted 10 days apart. The coordinator of research at Practical Farmers of Iowa told me what data to keep. One is the dates when each bed begins to blossom. Wish I were better at keeping track of details. This blossom is in the first Christmas Lima bed. But I am a little confused. I think there should be some red color in the blossoms. Maybe not. Maybe it is a plain, green Lima bean that I planted nearby. Ooops.

July 21: The leaves of my onions started to fade this week. While at the North Grand Farmers Market in Ames today, I asked a farmer if it was time to harvest. She said, "Yes." So I came home and pulled mine from the ground.

July 21: My first onion harvest this year is bigger than what I have gotten in past years. And I have another bed that needs to grow a lot more. It seems I never plant enough onions and have to end up buying some at the farmers market. Well, I will take advantage of what I have from my own stash and pray there will be plenty to buy when I get into the heart of canning pickles in August and making soups, bierrocks, and pasties this winter.

July 19: Today, the neighbor boy came to help weed my garden. Mainly, he pulled purslane, a similar-looking plant, and grass from near the beans and cucumbers. Purslane, which seems like a ubiquitous weed in some of our yards, is actually a vegetable. It is higher in Omega 3 fatty acids than any other vegetable. It would seem wise for the state of Iowa to invest in researching the plant as one of our state's potentially great resources—a treasure underneath our feet. Why not learn to harvest and market it or harvest and preserve it? Well, part of the reason is that no big-time corporate entity would reap great benefits from something us commoners could market, use, or preserve. And since research these days is only done on projects where there is a [likely corporate] incentive called profit, the research isn't going to be done. Wouldn't it be cool to take samples from my yard and have Iowa State University nutrition or cover crop researchers tell me about the nutritional and other qualities of that specific backyard variety? Wouldn't it be neat if ISU researchers could tell us more about preserving and using the plant? Or provide recipes that use the plant? Or promote the vegetable in the likes of school lunches? Well, let's not count on that. But let's take advantage of this year's prolific purslane crop and spread the word about it. more about purslane

July 17: I harvested three more heads of cabbage today, and in spite of the drought conditions, the cabbages were near perfect. Having access to city water in addition to five rain barrels helps. I blanched and froze two of the cabbages, gave some cabbage wedges to friends, and have enough left to make coleslaw for myself tomorrow. I love growing cabbages. For sure, they seem an icon of earth-based spirituality.

July 14: Sunflower and lima bean plants on left with Cora, Muffet, Addy, and Rosa on right.

July 14: Onion, cabbage, pepper, purslane, and squash plants.

July 14: Cabbage.

July 14: Charlotte's squash patch with peppers in background.

July 14: Cucumber and rutabaga plants with DeElda, the hen named after my grandmother.

July 14: Volunteer squash and tomato plants grow along compost bins.

July 4: Purslane, cabbage, and onion.
July 4: Cole slaw.

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