Monday, July 14, 2008

Midsummer Day's Dream


We’ve kind of reached that point in summer where the hard work is really over and the rest is just trying to keep everything balanced. The greenhouse is empty and down with plants either plunked into empty places in the gardens or tossed into Plant Heaven at the edge of the yard. I’ve been staking tomatoes and tying up vines and of course weeding, weeding, weeding.

Right now, my biggest problem is varmints! Something, probably raccoons, has been raiding the compost pile. We’ve been eating a lot of those cute little seedless watermelons, and the rinds have been irresistible to critters. I’ve tried burying the pile in tons of hay and straw. I put wire over the top. Nothing works. The wire is always peeled back or the little guys just drag stuff out right through the wire! I’m going to have to raid the scrap lumber from the goat shed to make a sturdier, non peeling-back cap for the pile. I’m a bad builder, but I’m going to have to get over that, because the old particle board closet that was left behind here that I moved into the basement and have been using as a storage cupboard is on its way out. The damp down there has finally gotten to it, and it is bowing out, and the shelves have started to drop.

Speaking of critters, I have finally taken care of a bad muskrat hole in the walkway on top of the dam on the pond. Muskrats will dig in at the water level and then build a big den uphill from the entrance. A lot of times, this will cave in, and that’s what happened here. It was getting treacherous to go over the top of the dam with the lawnmower, so I was working on getting some better drainage around the garage by chopping down the sod and regrading the yard off the cement pad there and ended up with a couple three hundred pounds of dirt and sod. I wasn’t aware that the hole was so big, but almost all that dirt and sod went into making the walkway flat again and building up the side of the pond. I always keep a good amount of grass seed and cover crop on hand to use when I do my yard repairs. It is easier than running into town every time I throw some dirt around, and they don’t always have grass seed at the feed mill. I refuse to pay what they charge for grass seed at Tractor Supply. My A-Number-One money saving tip for saving money is never buy anything there. Don’t even set foot in the store to look. Everything is overpriced, and everything is made in China.

The last thing I bought at Tractor Supply was a hose nozzle, and it was too expensive and didn’t work. How can a hose nozzle not work? Then, when I was looking for an exchange for it, I found the exact same thing in the sale bin for five dollars less except for the one that I was returning was tied to a card and the cheaper one just had a sticker on it. Same manufacturer. Same weight and features. I just returned it and went someplace to purchase a reasonably priced, made in America hose nozzle. I know they cheat people by charging too much for stuff you can get at real farm supply places, but this was a little too far, and I haven’t been there since.

Anyway, I’m lucky that the muskrats seem to have abandoned the pond. The only way to get rid of them, really is to off them, and I’m not quite ready to do that. Though, I might shoot some bunnies here very soon! They are really doing a number on my lower garden away from the house, and I really like beans. The rabbits are cute, though. They play little jumping games on the yard in the mornings, and maybe a cat will eat them and I won’t have to try and actually hit anything with my gun, though I bet I could get my sister’s husband to do it. She had a raccoon in her garbage right in town the other evening, and it was all she could do to keep him from shooting it. He really wanted to. It would have been perfectly safe. He’s a firearms instructor and a good shot, but it would have been just too hard to explain if they had actually got in trouble for shooting in the city

My uncle who was born in Kansas in the ‘40’s said that they used to catch rabbits in sacks in the summer when they mowed hay. They would mow in a square and the rabbits wouldn’t run out of the long grass, so they could just pick them right up and pop them into feed sacks. They ate rabbit all summer to the point where they couldn’t even look at rabbit, but a lot of times, that was all they had for meat in summer.

We have stray cats out the ears right now. Two mother cats brought their kittens ot the garage. Three of the kittens are really gentle and nice, and the four from the other litter are wild. We’re going ot have to figure out what to do about all those cats, but I’m hoping they keep down the mouse problem. Last year, I was on the verge of getting a few cats from the farm where I buy milk. They have really pretty cats. A lot of calicoes. However, I have ten garage cats right now and one house cat. My cousins named the older little all weird names from comic books, but the nice cats are Boots, Smokey, and Billi. Billi used to be named Whitey, because he has more white than any of the other cats, but we decided he needed a less culturally fraught name, and so I called him Billi which is Whitey in Ukrainian. My grandmother always has grey cats and they are always named Sivvi, which means “grey”. She’s on about Sivvi IV or V by now!

That’s about everything going on here! I’m going to start fall crops of broccoli and cabbage very soon and the lettuces are about over until it cools down a little, too. I paid a visit to my other uncle’s garden the other day, and I may change my mind about using black plastic , since the cool weather has really slowed down my melons and peppers and he says the plastic keeps the soil warm as well as cuts down on weeding. I’ve done two batches of strawberry jam and two batches of currant jelly, and my kitchen is starting to fill up with jars. hopefully, the bunnies will leave me some pickling cukes because I’d like to try that this year.

I need to go and hang out a load of wash which is another great way to keep the electric bill low over the summer. I even hang out clothes in the basement over the winter next to the wood stove. In Ontario, they have actually made it illegal for planned housing communities to write bylaws that don’t allow people to hang out wash in an effort to keep down the drain on the grid. My sister runs central air in her very large house all summer but hangs out her clothes, and her bills are the same in summer as they are in winter! That dryer costs a lot to run! Interestingly enough, the yearly report from the power company says the peak draw for our area in 2007 was actually in February when the weather was so cold. My cousins from down south can’t believe how few people in PA have AC in their houses. We actually have an air conditioner. It’s one of those ones that hang out the window, and it’s still in the box it came in. Up on the hill, it is consistently 10 to 15 degrees cooler than it is in town, and there is always a breeze. We bought the air conditioner for my brother who was too lazy to install it even though he was living in my aunt’s upstairs apartment which was melting hot, and it’s just been passed around between different family members, none of which have actually used it!

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