Wife, writer, tinkerer, grower of food. I'm happiest outside our rambling farmhouse with a basket looped on my arm, picking dinner from the garden. That's joy right there. Please follow along; I'm so glad you're here!
How many cucumbers do you count, how many cucumbers do you count...
The garden is so good right now. The deer are staying out: I'm going to bed each night without feeling the need to cross my fingers, and that is a good thing. I've picked enough green beans to eat for dinner twice, and that is also a good thing. The tomatoes are taking the longest to recover, because the deer got all the lowest, closest-to-being-ready clusters, and all most plants have on them is teeny higher-up fruit that are going to take awhile to ripen. Sigh. But, meanwhile I am picking raspberries like my life depends on it. Meanwhile, I am getting cucumbers and broccoli and OH MY GOD the greens.
Sunday I roped a few friends into picking raspberries, (beware the friend with a large garden who offers you the "fun" chance to harvest their produce for them) and after they left, committed myself to picking the rest of the row (which hadn't been harvested since Friday; they were loaded) with my head to the phone, talking to my mom. Then out of nowhere popped one of my favorite youngsters in town, who's eleven, I think, stating that raspberries are here favoritest thing in the world and "may I have a berry?" A BERRY! CHILD! I gave her the bowl and she picked those bushes CLEAN. And then I sent her home with a quart. My goodness. Girl has perfect timing, doesn't she?
There are three gallons already in the freezer, and I do believe some jam-making will be necessary before the month is out.
Saturday, I had spent almost the whole day out there harvesting something else: the garlic. I had about 24 feet of row, which turned out to conceal 47 HUGE fat heads of fall-planted garlic, and another 65 heads of smaller but still very nice heads of spring-planted garlic. Andplusalso, 10 pounds of "volunteer" potatoes, leftovers from last year's incomplete harvest, apparently, which I had let grow amidst the garlic. Delightful. This is just the time of year when what my kitchen really needs is ten pounds of little, yeller German Butterball potatoes to make into a few batches of potato salad.
Other things I have done in the past week: made basil pesto, made arugula pesto, ground up half a pound of hot peppers with kosher salt to ferment into hot sauce, shredded and frozen zucchini, eaten the first-ever Strain Estate apple dipped in honey and granola.
It's a good, very very busy season. Meanwhile I am spending on average two hours per day painting the house. Meanwhile I am tiling the backsplash. Meanwhile I am also supposed to be earning a living doing something. OH LORDY. And on that note...
In some ways, it feels like our first real summer here, which just sounds crazy. Patrick has fewer gigs, which is one thing, but also, a real, bona fide social life is finally part of our Gilbertsville landscape.
It's not that simple really. The whole story is, our little potluck group that I pulled together last fall as a way to help us all survive the winter has turned out to contain fifteen or so of the BEST PEOPLE EVER, and the fact that the group is about itself, and not a bar, say, or necessarily shared interests (though there are plenty of those) is what makes it special. The people in the group are in it for each other, and for the town. And being in a town this small and isolated, and having a close-knit group of friends, getting together is so easy and casual. One little, "Hey, we're headed down to the bar now" posted on the group Facebook page turns into a whole tableful of us materializing at said bar, sitting on the porch listening to the live band and carousing.
Saturday night, there was an art opening at the one gallery in town. I've been to openings at that gallery before and been the only one there under 50. Suffice it to say this was a bit different, because the WHOLE GROUP of us showed up, like a convoy from Planet of the Young, or something, and I felt so ridiculously delighted to see everyone, but also proud, and also patriotic. Patriotic to the group.
This is what Wendell Berry talks about when he talks about "membership," (okay, maybe with a LITTLE less wine-drinking) and it's what I've always wanted to have in a place about the size and quality of Gilbertsville, and I'm so thrilled with how it's all shaping up.
And, because hanging out Friday and Saturday just weren't enough, on Sunday I messaged a few folks to convene a dog hike, and Del got to spend a few hours with his girlfriendChloe, and we got some much-needed exercise. And later we had a campfire.
We saw all our favorite people, we spent next to nothing, and this here introverted-writer-type gets to head into her work week feeling full of funny conversation and shared stories. A rarity, it must be said. But so good.
And on the seventh night, the deer came back, and ate my beans again.
So we finally sucked it up and spent $150 on another "tier" of 4-foot-high welded wire fencing, and it took us three hours, 7pm-10pm last night, to wrestle it up into place, and the stapler kept jamming, and both Patrick's and my fingers are shredded, our arms and back are killing us, we are battle scarred, but the DEER STAYED OUT last night. And honestly, unless they evolve into heli-deer, or subterrane-deer, or start using drones, there is no possible way they are going to get through THIS fence.
Why it took us me THREE WEEKS to finally come around to doing something FINAL, I don't know. At this point I've probably spent at least another $150 on wire, vinyl coated cable, piddly 36-inch stakes: stuff that didn't work. Stuff that wasn't enough. We should've gone big from the beginning, because the brutal truth is that once the deer know what's inside, there will be no stopping them. They broke stakes. They bit through wire, string. Jumped up and down on the diagonal pieces that support the perimeter wire, until the perimeter wire snapped and they could crawl in-- literally crawl-- over one line of defense and under another.
Sigh. Lesson learned. Another one to add to the heap, along with this year's other lesson of no longer letting the chickens free range. Free range= free lunch, so we have learned. And a might do the trick fence= a won't do the trick fence.
But anyway, enough about that. The trials are over, unless there are heli-deer.
Meanwhile, the flower beds are looking fiine. Meanwhile, one of our four apple trees (a golden transparent) has two apples on it that are ripening. And meanwhile, Pete has appointed himself Berry Guardian, making it his mission to lurk amongst the raspberry canes and launch himself at the birds who fly in to eat the berries.
And while I frown on bird-eating cats, if my grey furry mister keeps birds out the berry patch, well...
Alright, folks, it's been six nights since the deer. That is, six nights they've stayed out. And six nights seems to be about where their courage level is, because they stayed out six nights before and then, on the seventh, summoned the temerity to destroy my fence and come through. I have reinforced the fence since then, but still. Tonight is a bit of a high-stakes game.
I just harvested my first skinny handful of sweet little green beans last night-- the latest ever-- and am hoping oh, so hard that the regrowth the plants have put on in this reprieve between grazings isn't about to be undone.
Meanwhile, we are about to have cucumbers. Meanwhile, we are getting lots of zucchini, and my first winter squash blossom is about to open. I am picking raspberries every single day, and I swear they are ripening just as fast as I can pick them. Like, I work my way down the row with my picking bowl, and I turn around and some of the pale pink ones have made their way to red-purple in the blink of an eye. I am freezing them and eating them and letting Patrick graze them and Monday night I brought a few quarts out to my parents' house to serve with maple syrup, whipped cream, and granola, and that was just TO. DIE. FOR.
Meanwhile, the progress here continues. I am realizing we are going to need to replace our back door before work continues here, because taking the time to apply pretty new paint over the total hack job of a door frame that's there just doesn't make sense. The back corner of the house is where the work got rushed, or the bank account got thin, for the folks who did all these renovations before we came. It's also where the roof has been leaking, persistently, despite new flashing and sealant up above, for two years.
It's coming to me that persistent leaks and persistent deer are the two defining adversaries in my life. Ah well. What would life be without adversaries?
I love starting summer mornings with tea in the garden. Sometimes, I sit and pull weeds, butt-scooting down the row, a little at a time. A few crabgrass here, a few purslane there. Sometimes-- especially in July-- I pull Japanese beetles. And sometimes I just watch the pollinators. The honeybees in the corn poppies, the wasps and hoverflies in the dill and cilantro flowers. A few hopeful bumblebees working the last of the raspberry flowers. It's the best time.
Yesterday morning, one of the village churches held its service in the park across the street from our house, so I got to hear hymns while I puttered. (Praise earth from whom all blessings flow...)
Later, I dealt with the harvest, shredding zucchini, blanching broccoli, drafting plans for arugula pesto-making.
I am getting eggplants this year, which is thrilling. It's my first-ever time growing them-- a total experiment, I just bought a four-pack and plopped them in the ground-- and though the leaves look like swiss cheese from the flea beetles, the plants are producing! Last night we grilled a mess of zucchini and eggplant and plopped it on grilled flatbreads with tomato, parsley, lettuce, and a tahini sauce. THAT was a fine summer meal, lemme tell you.
After the garden was under control, we took a walk.
A long, lazy Sunday-kinda walk, which included fording a creek because one of the main road bridges is closed. Oh, excitement! And then we got back, set up the lawn chairs and the stereo on very very low in the garage, and got a bit tippled. The perfect Sunday.
Woo, Phish was fun. I always enjoy the quote-unquote "lot scene" more than the actual show, because to me, the people watching is the best part. The t-shirts with the Phishisms, the crazy piercings and tatoos, the inside jokes, the purple hair. It's not really my culture-- I like Phish, but I only know about seven songs-- but I appreciate how devoted the fan base is. Devoted and creative. Anyway, we made it back home safe and sound on Wednesday, and spent the balance of the afternoon and evening pimping my garden fence.
I've decided I'm the star of a new reality TV series called Pimp my Fence. Pimp my Fence, Extreme Edition. Just when everything was starting to regrow, they got in Sunday, Monday, Tuesday nights. Boom, back to ground zero. (Really, it's just the beans. But the beans are so important to us, such a major staple. And I planted a LOT of beans, and I was counting on them.) So, another $130 for wire, vinyl-covered cable, and 36 8-foot-tall furring strips. And another four hours spent drilling, stapling, winding, tensioning. OY. They stayed out Wednesday night, and they stayed out Thursday night, but I am not taking any chances. I have ordered a quart of Deer Stopper concentrate, even though I tried the stuff three years ago with only limited success. But that was pre-fence. I am hopinghopinghoping that fence + Deer Stopper = hallelujah.
And meanwhile, there is the house exterior. Something I can count on. Something that doesn't get eaten overnight. It doesn't bloom overnight either, like the garden does (where it isn't being eaten) but it is less vulnerable to setbacks than the garden. So it is getting me through. This week we had perfect clear cool mornings, and I made some definite tracks. Trim primer, siding primer, and trim paint all went up on the top quadrant there.
The part in the peak I just left primed because we're going to cover it over with fish scale, to make it match the front. See here?
The job is not easy-- especially tearing off the vinyl soffiting and starting that first stiff layer of aluminum a-peeling, and getting covered with the most awful gross brown dust comprised of rotting wood, wood pulp, squirrel poop, and dead bugs-- but oh, it is satisfying. And it's going a lot quicker this year, now that I know exactly how to plan each day's "attack."
So, that's where I'm at. Deer vigilance, house progress, fielding cubit-long zucchinis every evening (the deer don't touch squash). Having a yard sale this weekend for Community yard sale day, and hoping to start tiling the kitchen backsplash soon. Man. And a gin and tonic in a squishy chair would be awfully nice, too. Yeah. That will be the thing.
I had such a lovely weekend. Live music two nights, black raspberry frozen custard for lunch yesterday, walks with Del, serious weeding Saturday afternoon, pesto making Sunday afternoon. Deer that were staying out. Plants that were regrowing.
Patrick has a directive tonight to buy 215 feet of CHAIN, because something out there has to be unbreakable, unbiteable, right? I just can't believe they broke 18 gauge wire.
Sigh. It's always something, isn't it? Someday I am going to figure out a permanent solution, and then that will be that. I just can't believe that they stayed out all last year (and it was glorious!) and now somehow they're getting in. False hope is such a cruel thing.
But anyway. Tomorrow we are going to see Phish, in Canandaigua, and I just need to let it be. Let it be, let it be. There will be time for fixing fence when we get back, if somehow the chain doesn't work.