July brought about Dean and I’s 4th wedding anniversary, and then the first wedding of three family weddings planned for this year. Many family memory-making moments with more to come with the changing seasons. There is a change in the air every year in late July or early August, which tells me autumn is soon to come. Monday evening while watering at the greenhouse I felt that change. Silly to be writing about autumn in July, but growers always watch the weather and plan ahead. What’s the Farmers’ Almanac all about? This last day of July is another unusually mild day as St. Louis stayed below 90 and the humidity is low. And I am loving it! Walks during my office breaks bring refreshment to my soul and clearing of the brain from work stuff. Last year at this time we had the sizzling days of summer, up into triple digits several days in a row. You know, those kind of days where you can fry an egg on the sidewalk. Not this summer, thus far anyway.
But we need rain. My green friends love rain water versus faucet water. Thank God, we have access to faucet water at Boone Hollow Farm where our greenhouse plants live. Otherwise, Dean and I would be hauling it in. Our herb bed built this spring is situated on the screenhouse side of our outbuilding and has been a productive home. Plans to build another bed on the greenhouse side this autumn is underway. I want to make it a cold frame to see if we can grow some vegetables through the winter. The plants will have double protection from the cold weather with the plastic liner of the greenhouse and then a storm door atop their bed. I love green experiments. My biology experiments in high school and college were fun and scary at the same time. Now there are possible delicious, nutrient-dense dinners involved here. So what veggies winter well in Missouri? I am to find out. I remember garlic and spinach from my EarthDance Farms days as an apprentice 3 years ago. And turnips grew in the fields at the Bates Family Farm in Franklin County to attract the deer during many deer seasons. Wonder what the Farmers’ Almanac is saying for this upcoming winter? Planning ahead …
We had crisp mornings and evenings during our Minnesota vacation, as usual for the end of July into August. It is like Missouri’s September into October season. Apparently, Missouri has experienced the change in the air while we traveled back from the north country last weekend. The signs of autumn are in the air. Others feel it too. Talk of the “f” word, “frost” was on the 550 AM Farmer Dave’s radio show this week, talking like it may come earlier this year. At the spice shoppe visitors are buying apple butter, mulling spices, teas, chili powder, and soup mixes like autumn is here. I am enjoying a cup of hot tea every morning, my newest sensation is Stash brand chai white tea. I think remnants of the north followed us home.
Our vacation antique finds include a couple boxes full of Mason jars to make non-electric lanterns. $5 for the whole load of them. Love those bargains at the annual Crazy Days Sale in Park Rapids, Minnesota. Dean will repurpose the jars and design into lanterns to use alternative energy, solar and/or battery-operated lights. We will market at the Lake Saint Louis and Chandler Hill Vineyard’s Farmers’ Markets starting in September along with some beautiful perennials baskets. I cannot wait to use these lanterns on our patio and at the greenhouse. I also found a set of four tea cups with tea snack platters in my favorite farm color, leaf green. Included in the price of the Mason jars! These will go to the greenhouse for my tea time while working at Boone Hollow Farm. Just the simple things in life to make my day artsy and colorful.
Our plants are loving the milder temperature, greening up nicely before going dormant in a few short weeks. We just put all the greenhouse plants in the screenhouse a month ago. And I have another crop of herbs to sow before harvest. Our gourd plants need some warmth and sunshine to produce their fruit. I hope they get big enough before frost blankets the Missouri earth. Local weathermen talk like St. Louis may not hit 100 degrees this summer. It would be the first time in many years. Plenty of rain now, with more coming everyday this week. If you remember my blog posts from last year at this time, it was so blazin’ hot and Missouri was in a severe drought. What a difference a year makes! But is summer over?
Our dill is daintily charming, and so fragrant. Yesterday evening we harvest our 1st crop, and will put in a 2nd crop after the 4th of July holiday. Wild sunflowers and sprigs of dill fill a green vase today. Our chef son-in-law will use this 1st crop of dill to make pickles with his homegrown cucumbers. Maybe a jar or two of Hannahway Farm sun pickles are on our way?! The patriarch spice shoppe owner says in Europe dill is used in just about every dish. I love it with my baked fish and potato salad dishes. The 3rd crop of dill will go in early autumn, with plans to take as show-n-tell farm products to the City of St. Charles preschool classrooms Farmer Dean and I visit in November. Our 1st crop of basil screams pesto! Served with veggies, chicken, bread, and pasta, I cannot wait!
This week’s other farm chores include straightening and cleaning the screenhouse, putting extra pots and trays together in somewhat orderly fashion, and throwing broken items in the recycle pile. One recycled dresser is filled with “tea room” stuff, as well as a recycled tile-top table put aside for our meal and snack times. Another recycled dresser holds pots of blooming geraniums. We are making space in the screenhouse in case we need to move our plants to this cooler side of the greenhouse structure. Last year at this time the heat wave and drought was well underway in Missouri. The extreme heat required us to water two times a day, early morning and early evening. Our plants were housed under the shelter of shade trees in our yard while the greenhouse reconstruction plans were being modified until autumn when the heat subsided. The lack of rain has not been an issue this spring and early summer, thank you God! The growing gourd plants will go into the ground this weekend.
Growers, what are you harvesting now? What are you putting in for an autumn crop?
This St. Patrick’s Day brought snow flurries, sleety rain, thunder, and later pouring rain. No rainbow with a pot of gold, though the soil still welcomes much moisture after the parched seasons of past. Hard to believe yesterday was a warm and partly sunny spring-like day. Yellow daffodils blooming on the country hillsides contrasting green while tree frogs croaked near the rain-filled creek beds. Midnight, our labrador retriever seemed to be in heaven sitting in the slushy cold rain, dreaming of ducks and geese landing on the water while Dean and I worked at the greenhouse. I, bundled in boots, snow pants, heavy winter coat, and hat kept warming water on the camp stove for hot tea. My Irish blessings came with an old hymn this morning at church …
An Old Irish Blessing
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
Saturday morning we awoke to rain! This is an occasion as we have been in a severe drought since last spring. The 14 inches of snow we received in the past 2 weeks, melted to 4 inches of liquid according to the rain barrel at the greenhouse. Now with this rainy weekend, we received another 2 inches. River barges started moving on the rivers again after sitting idle for 2 months. The melted snow running into the northern streams have made their way to the Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois Rivers. Creek beds have filled once again in Missouri. The 2 creeks on Boone Hollow Farm were running with a cold rush, a soothing sound to the ear. I walked the plank to get over the creek and up the hill to the greenhouse. We cleaned the barn while the rain watered our earth. Late morning the rain subsided, and finally the sun peeped out of the clouds. A chainsaw was used on old trees near the barn, trying to avoid storm damage to the outbuilding and roads. Working alongside the half-full creek bed, I lobbed small limbs. I hauled the twigs to the huge bush pile down the gravel road while the tree frogs croaked “its spring!” Honey bees and flies buzzed about the warm afternoon air. Nature’s critters tell us.
My brother wanted to bring my grandpa out for a visit. This was their first visit to Boone Hollow Farm, so a countryside adventure for both this fine Saturday afternoon. Cellular telephone service is hit or miss, so I hoped they heard my directions okay. I explained several times before, “we are between Chandler Hill Vineyards and the Daniel Boone Home off Highway F, look for the huge barn on the right side.” Our labrador, Midnight chewed on sticks and chased after two barn cats up the larger trees while I cleaned up the limbs. He would follow with such enthusiasm walking near the gravel path alongside the wheelbarrow. But when a white SUV pulled onto the gravel road off the highway, and he recognized the sound of the vehicle. It was my father’s old SUV, and in it was two of Midnight’s favorite persons, Grandpa Earl and my brother, Steve. Grandpa took care of Midnight as a young pup. This overgrown Christmas gift became my father’s hunting companion when Midnight was too much for my 97-year old grandfather to handle. Now Midnight is Steve’s duck and goose hunting companion. Midnight ran to greet his buddies, and stayed at their sides their entire visit. Grandpa could not make the walk up the hill to our greenhouse, and it was too muddy to get a vehicle up there. So that will have to be their next trip to Boone Hollow Farm. But the farmer chat while the elder sat on the farmer neighbor’s bushhog was so refreshing like that spring rain heard in the creek bed. It backed me up 45 years ago, when jaws jabbered during the farm visits in Franklin County, where my Grandpa and Uncle Lloyd made their father’s farm into a weekend get away for their families. That circle of life again, Dean and I making a weekend refuge for our family now. And Grandpa was able to enjoy it after the weekend rain.
I wanted to share some photos my daughter took of our tropical jungle. Our front and back yards have been lovely, especially since the extreme heat has subsided. The plants are lush green flourishing in the humidty. We had a rainy Labor Day weekend bringing much needed rain to our area. God’s provisions in the midst of the longest drought in years …
Above: Simply cuttings from our moses-in-the-cradle, swedish ivy, and sweet alyssum planted in a moss basket this spring … this planter loves our humid summer! Below: Patio plants are rearranged and changed up weekly, creating varied vignettes …
Above: A cart full of gernaniums sheltered under the shade of a huge maple tree. They need more sunlight to continue blooming. Philodrenrons, ferns, and peace lilies are scattered about the front yard landscaping. Below: A bird of paradise blooms in full color. Deanna Greens And Garden Art sold this beautiful plant at the Lake Saint Louis Farmers’ and Artist Market last Saturday during our Tropical Plant Sale.
This record breaking summer heat and drought is making for miserable working conditions for Missouri farmers. Dean & I are a part of the local agriculture scene, though we farm more for organic promotion, recreation, and creation purposes. For the farmer who is required to be outdoors all day and everyday, it is disheartening to see your crops dry up and wither in the sun. My friends at EarthDance Farms as well as all the local farmers cannot seed any more carrots, beets, and beans for a fall crop because the earth is rock hard, and the seeds cannot germinate without rain. I miss my favorites: purple haze carrot, candy cane beets, and tender bush green beans! Please pray for rains, several rains for Missouri and our neighboring midwest states. We need God’s divine intervention. Deanna Greens and Garden Art’s tropicals and houseplants such as bird of paradise, hibuscus, banana trees, spider plants, red leaf philodenrens, arrowheads, rabbit foot ferns, and asparagus ferns love this heat and humidty as long as they are under our shade trees during the day and have plenty of water. We water everything twice a day when it is over 100 degrees, which means almost everyday for the past 6 weeks! Our oldest daughter took care of the plants, cats, and house while we vacationed in cooler Minnesota. We were so thankful for a much needed break! Now onward to the Saturday markets and the rebuild of our greenhouse.