Independence Days Update: When the Rain Comes

Sharon August 24th, 2010

I worry about rain a lot here, but not usually this way. Most years, we get more than 60 inches of rain, including reliable, regular summer rain.  Last summer we had more than 45 inches of rain *between May and September alone.*  The previous year the summer was more moderate, but included at least two storms with more than six inches in under 2 hours, and the expected flooding that accompanies this.  I worry about rain - but not about too little rain.

Except this summer. I woke up the day before yesterday to a day of steady rain, and I literally couldn’t remember the last time I’d awakened to rain, or we’d had a real rainy day.  This summer has been very hot and very dry - we’ve had less than 10 inches of rain from May to August, which is very unusual. I know for many of you that would be ample, but remember, our vegetation isn’t designed for that little.

To give you a sense of how little I usually worry about rain, let me note that in the 7 years my main garden has been in the front, we’ve never bought hose enough to reach the back half of it - that is, I’ve never, ever watered that part of the garden, except the occasional sprinkle on new seedlings.   This year, we got hose.  After all, I had just planted the back end of the garden with wetland medicinals and native plants to take advantage of the dampness - a dampness now completely imperceptible.  My direct seeded fall crops mostly either didn’t germinate or withered in the heat and dry weather, despite regular waterings.

But mercifully, starting Sunday, the rain came and it rained more or less nonstop for two days.  It is cool here now, and moist, and more like what we expect here in summer. 

The good news about the heat and drought is that we are having the best year we have ever had for peppers, eggplant, tomatoes and okra, which means your blogiste is spending much of her time over a canning kettle and laying things out in the dehydrator.  The good news about the rain is that now we’re not having heat and drought anymore ;-)

The kids see the rain primarily in terms of their creek and its wildlife - the waterbound portions of which were dying off pretty rapidly.  The boys were thrilled that the rain would fill up their creek and save the remaining crayfish and minnows - they are there right now getting filthy, examining the life in the creek, and probably annoying the heck out of  our great blue heron who considers that new life his private preserve.

Me, I’m grateful for the sake of everything - and looking forward to weeding in the coolth and canning in the same.  It is amazing what a difference a rainy day or two makes.

Jessie kidded in the wee hours of the morning on Monday - a single buckling, which was pretty amazing given her size.  It wasn’t even that large a baby.   I admit, I was a little disappointed, since I particularly wanted one of Jessie’s daughters this year, but this is one of those “win-some, lose-some” things that goes with agriculture.  I have explained to Jessie how she can do better next year - twins and does and not making us wait, and I’m sure she listened carefully and will take my comments under advisement ;-) .  Her baby has her adorable snub nosed face, and I’ll put up some pictures soon.

We are now officially done with kidding for the year (woohoo!) with a final count of 10 babies from 6 does (Tekky, who may or may not be pregnant, or may or may not be infertile or may or may not have been pregnant early and aborted is a big old question mark, but in any case, not having anything anytime soon, and is living with the boys), five does and five bucks.  We’ll be keeping one wether and one buck, and selling the other three wethers, so I’ll put info up about the boys ASAP if anyone wants adorable, friendly pets, lawnmowers, horse companions and brush clearers.  We’re retaining all the does, as we build up and improve our herd, but will have milkers and babies for sale in the spring.

Things are busy here otherwise - lots of preserving and late season garden work to do.  Eli is on vacation, which is not his favorite thing, so that takes up time too.  We’re getting our firewood and hay in this week - once a year we borrow a pickup truck from my friend Elaine who owneth the sheep, and use it to haul all the things we need a truck for.  Putting 200 bales of hay (some of which is for bedding, other for fodder) into the hay barn is a project in and of itself - good exercise, kind of fun, but a project.  Although before we do that we also have to clean out the hay barn, replace some of the broken pallets the hay rests on, and figure out where the rabbits are going to go (they are getting a corner of the hay barn this year, instead of living in the main barn because Phil-the-housemate is allergic to them - he can stand coming in for a few minutes to feed and water them when we’re away, but can’t do all the chores in the main barn if the buns are there.)

Mom and Sue came to visit last week, and as usual, Sue went around fixing things and making them work - she built a hinged cover for the hay feeder to keep the hens from nesting in the goat’s hay.  Whenever Sue is visiting we get proof of what slackers we are.  We had this enormous board on top of the hay feeder which was incredibly heavy and awkward and a huge pain to move for umm…two years.  And although we occasionally thought “maybe there’s a better way” it wasn’t until just recently that it actually occurred to us that we didn’t have to lift that enormous thing every single time we needed to put in hay.  It was just what we did ;-)

I’m convinced that there are two kinds of people in the world - the kind of person who says “that window is broken, I can’t stand that, I must fix it today” and the kind of person (both Eric and me) that says “Oh, bugger all, that window is open, ok, we’ll just open the other one.”)  I think our failure to be the first kind of person explains a lot about the flaws in our lives ;-) .  I’m just grateful to know the other sort!

Plant something:  Lettuce, bok choy and arugula.

Harvest something: Tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, onions, carrots, beets, okra, potatoes, green beans, kale, chard, collards, cabbage, parsley, cucumbers, peaches, raspberries, milk and eggs.

Preserve something: Made tomato sauce, tomato puree, canned whole tomatoes and salsa.  Dried sweet corn.  Made the last of the rhubarb sauce.  Dried sweet peppers, made hot sauce, made salt-herb mix.

Waste Not: Composting, feeding of things to other things, picked up scraps for chickens from friends while we were passing by, scavenged my first bag of leaves from the roadside.

Want Not: Bought new farm notebooks for record keeping when the kids got their school supplies - Simon the cartoonist keeps stealing mine and drawing in them. 

Eat the Food: Stewed okra and tomatoes, lemon garlic pickled onions, stuffed tomatoes with pesto orzo…love this time of year.

Build Community Food Systems: Working on a new project - more soon!

How about you?


16 Responses to “Independence Days Update: When the Rain Comes”

  1. michelle says:

    Over here in western NY state we’ve had the same 2 day rain. It made nice yard puddles for ducks, but kept me from doing laundry. I’m trying to catch up on that today & the clotheslines are full.

    I am surprised that your area has had drought this summer. We’ve had a nice balance of rain & heat here & have not had to water our gardens from the rain barrels or well.

    Congratulations on all of your new kids! Looking forward to seeing them in pics.

    Lucky you to have a handy Sue. I need a helper here & thinking about housing someone in the camper for a few months this fall. I have been praying for the right person.

    Besides laundry, it’s raspberry picking today.

  2. Claire says:

    We had much-needed rain last week (I’d had to water the veggies once before the rain), but the new-normal deluge of 2.0″ in a few hours. So far this summer we’ve had almost 18″ of rain compared to the usual roughly 11″. It was pretty warm most of last week, but night temps stayed around 70F so we avoided AC. Last couple days have been gorgeous, lows in the mid 60s and high around 90 (feels great after the much hotter and more humid weather earlier!).

    Plant: nothing, still too warm at night.

    Harvest: tomatoes, peppers, collards, green onions, arugula, lambsquarters, and finally finished digging all the potatoes!! (digging potatoes coincided with the worst heat this summer so it took a loooong time)

    Preserve: dried some tomatoes, pureed others and froze the puree. Drying the serrano peppers.

    Waste not: the usual.

    Want not: nothing special.

    Community food systems: nothing, haven’t been doing much along these lines this year.

    Eat the food: tomato-onion salad. A salad with arugula as the base plus tomatoes, onions, and sweet peppers … yum! More potatoes in about everything. I had potato pancakes at a restaurant recently, had forgotten how much I like them, want to make some soon.

  3. Lynne says:

    Being north of the border, at this time of year gardeners are wishing for hot and dry so we actually get crops of tomatoes, peppers and squash - a cool Aug/September and there won’t be enough to put up! And that’s despite quite warm summers here. Just the difference in light, I guess, and speed of ripening.

    I love love late summer. I think it deserves it’s own season. The meadows are golden, but the tree leaves are still green, days are warm, but the evenings are a little cooler. Things are dry and crinkly and the forests smell so good….

    Plant: just fall clover cover crop

    Harvest: beans, onions, garlic, more spinach seed, peppers, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, carrots, broccoli, basil, eggs

    Preserve: dried small amounts of tomatoes, peppers; froze and pickled beans, put up garlic and onions to dry and store, will be doing some more this week

    Waste not: usual

    Want not: Just looking into some tools and so far making a list; my husband has finished the new wood shed - oh and he got a chimney for our wood cookstove the other week

    Community: joined a fun edible garden tour

    Eat: quesadillas stuffed with garden veggies, potato salad, sliced veggies, corn on the cob - heaven -, steamed veggies, etc

  4. Carys of the 13 and a half cats says:

    Hi Sharon,

    I love this essay, and I’m loving reading backwards; I just followed a link the other day from Laureen Hudson to your blog, thinking “that name sounds so familiar”…

    Homesteading list!

    It’s delightful to “see” you again; I was never very active on the list because I’ve been too disabled to keep up, but I’m still subscribed (I think I used my nickname “Cats” for a long time on it).

    Anyway, hello again, and Happy Rain!!


  5. NM says:

    for week of 8/15
    We had a lesson in scything (husband already knew how; I didn’t) and have been busy viewing videos of scything, doing research, etc., since. Very excited. Also viewed a couple more farms, and heard back from one farmer who informed he’s busy and I should go take a class if I want to know about farming.
    Plant: nothing
    Harvest: Tomatoes! Yippee! Have been worried this would be the year of no tomatoes, so when a local farmstead offered a 22 pound box of paste tomatoes for $22, I snatched it up and raced home, and stayed up most of the night to process them. Still hoping for the u-pick ones to ripen, so I can can sauce, at a better price, but at least I know we’ll have tomatoes this winter. Pickling cukes, blackberries, peaches, herbs, local eggs, CSA vegetables.
    Preserve: 15 pints of canned crushed tomatoes! Plum jam, low sugar strawberry jam (very pleased with this), a quart of refrigerator cornichons.
    Want not: Found three good linen blouses at the local thrift store, and two cotton ones, total $30.
    Waste not: Gave a cappucino maker we weren’t using to a friend from work. Set aside the tomato blanching/cooling water, skins, etc., to make tomato broth, but as it was 2 in the morning and I was out of energy (and had to be at work next day), stuck them in the fridge to await another day.
    Community food systems: Admired a friend’s first canning projects; two beautiful batches of jam.
    Eat the food: Peach and rum cake, potato salad, pizza with sauteed chard, vegetable soup.

  6. KC says:

    Yes, its raining here in Virginia, too. Hope the blackbeans will survive (not sprout or mold before harvest)! During the long, dry spell in July, we were able to keep watering with water from the rainbarrels. We used water from the well once or twice. Still, it was a challenge to start the fall crops. Next year, I hope to have shade cloth or create a protected nursery bed to get the fall seedlings started. I’ve been thinking about what I would do different next year. I might start all of my squash and cucumber seedlings in 4-packs (or pots) and then transplant out - to give them a headstart against squash bugs. I would also cover them with row cover until they start to bloom. I also might grow a more resistant variety (like butternut). I am getting a better idea of quantities to grow. I’d like to grow at least 2 beds of potatoes and 2 beds of sweet potatoes, 2 beds of crowder peas, 2 beds of October beans, 2 beds of garlic, 2 beds of onions, 12 plants of okra, 12 plants of peppers - for starters. I guess this means I need to expand the garden … somehow.

    plant something: I don’t think I planted anything this week

    Harvest something: Tomatoes, peppers, okra, basil, flowers, chard, green beans, cowpeas, cucumbers, spaghetti squash, delicata squash, a handful of arugula, and we harvested our first ear of corn (magenta parch corn - supposedly you can dry the kernals and chew on a few at a time for a snack - see Carol Deppe’s writings on this)

    Preserve something: canned tomatoes and grape juice. dehydrated: okra, tomatoes, peppers, green beans

    Waste Not: the neighbors gave us a lot of grapes. It’s been keeping me pretty busy.

    Want Not: stocking up on salt

    Eat the Food: tomato/okra/beans/peppers in everything. today a mexican quiche made with tortilla crust and all of the above with eggs, blackbeans and cheese. And of course spaghetti dishes made with all local ingredients including spaghetti squash.

    Build Community Food Systems: played music for a dinner with Joel Saladin ( and only a 5 minute drive from my home!) Played music for the local orchard and they gave us apples and peaches to take home. Shared garden vegetables with friends.

  7. Ann says:

    I have been gardening for too many years (25? 30?), and gave up mostly this year. I’m keeping the 10k sq ft garden area going with cover crop, growing just a few things, and buying veggies from a wonderful farm market 2 towns over. They were open on Saturdays last winter for 5 weeks with beautiful fall and winter veggies, and plan to do more this winter. It was a pilgrimage for us last winter. It was heaven for my husband. So I am learning other things this year while my garden soil keeps healthy and usable. I have also planted lots of perennial greens because we enjoy them and we want an emergency store of veggies in case it all goes to hell. We have had almost no rain anyway, and we have to water by hand because our well hasn’t got the volume for a sprinkler. Too much watering causes grit in the faucets. It is so nice to be able to stop and do something else this year. At this stage in the peak everything I am dropping some things I know how to do and learning new things.

    Harvest - plenty of greens. I just ate a field corn-on-the-cob, and it was very good, though not sweet. I brought in some “wild quinoa” aka “lambsquarters/pigweed” to test for green grain. We have been using various herbs and onions. We have a potato crop going and some drying beans and winter squash. Not much else this year. Oh, duck eggs. Always lots of duck eggs.

    Preserve - This is this year. I am drying this year (the freezer is still full). I buy 12 ears of corn at a time, cook it, eat what we can that night, and cut off the rest to reheat during the week or to dry. Dried cooked sweet corn is delicious. I have made tomato sauce, put it into the oven at very low temperature overnight, and made little patties of dried tomato paste leather in the drier. I made some kosher dill pickles for the first time this year, using Sandor Katz methods (_Wild Fermentation_), Snells cukes, and our own garlic and dill. They are delicious, and my husband is almost not afraid of them. He worries that my wild fermentation may kill someone - like him, for instance. But he tried the pickles and ate several chunks quite happily. I am having so much fun with the end products of a garden, which I never had time and energy for before. This is so much fun. I miss the big garden only slightly this year. I doubt I will be away from it too long. But it has been a long time since I have had so much fun with food. It had become a burden.

    Eat - I am enjoying the luxury of someone else’s labor and expertise. Tomatos, peppers, eggplant, melon, corn, beets, carrots. And our own herbs and greens. Also, finishing up the hard cider that I made last year and cleaning up the shelves in the garage for this years. I love wild fermenting. I love Sandor Katz aka Sandorkraut. His book is the best food book I own.

  8. Brandie says:

    Plant something: Built raised bed, planted Egyptian walking onions and moved perennial herbs and strawberries into it.
    Harvest something: Tomatoes, peppers, the last of the chickens (kind of sad, but we can’t keep roosters here).
    Preserve something: Fermenting sour beets, sauerkraut.
    Waste Not: Finally started a compost pile, now that we don’t have chickens to feed everything to. Brought home a bunch of horse manure.
    Want Not: Bought a mini-tiller, our first tiller, a compromise to our lack of time and abundance of space currently growing nothing but weeds. Ordered clover seed and potato onions.
    Eat the Food: Made sourdough starter, whole wheat bread, chicken organs with tomatoes, peppers & potatoes, chicken soup; found fermented/pickled red peppers in the fridge from last year that are still good. My goat cheese share this month included a caraway-seeded jack cheese and now caraway is my new favorite spice.
    Build Community Food Systems: Gave a bunch of perennial onion sets to two other people.

  9. Margaret says:

    Just a word about the word “drought”. Twenty years ago my husband and I spent 6 months in India. We met some people who had gone to a previously drought stricken area. When they heard about this they told their hosts “Oh, we had a drought in Derbyshire last year”. The hosts were very sympathetic. “Oh, I’m so sorry. How many people died?” It nwas a bit embarrassing to say that in the UK a drought means you can’t water your lawn or wash your car.

  10. Brad K. says:

    I read in a SF novel, that there are two kinds of people: The kind that divide people into two groups, and those that don’t.

    I doubt there is a significant creative difference between imagining, and constructing, a hinged cover for the hay feeder, and envisioning and constructing new raised beds for planned garden projects. What differs, I think, is the perspective of the moment - what you see.

    Sometimes someone helps us to turn around and “see” what we have been looking at. We should thank more of such people.

    Blessed be!

  11. Leigh says:

    Brad K, that’s great! LOL

    We had “gardener’s lament” rainfall until this month. IOW the rain skirted around us leaving us too dry during July! Now it just dribbles almost daily, making it difficult to work in the garden.

    Our project problem is that there are so many of them, I become blind to a lot of them. Then when I’m trying to think what to do next, they are completely out of mind!

    Anyway, here’s my most recent IDC update -

  12. risa b says:

    Hi, gang. Sorry, did not keep up here this year, but here is our end-of-summer recap.

  13. Tammy and Parker says:

    We’re dehydrating and freezing and canning like crazy here!

    I am LOVING the dehydrating. My kids who will turn their nose up at certain fruits while fresh, will devour them dehydrated.

    Go figure.

    Went to a Pick Your Own Raspberry place here locally where we picked raspberries for $2.00 a pound. They aren’t certified organic, however they do practice organic methods.

    Canned 21 quarts of salsa this weekend. About 40 to go.

    Froze 10 pounds of peaches, dehydrated the rest!

    Stocked up on sugar, brown rice, and added another 45 pounds of wheat to our shelves.

    Tammy and Parker

  14. Anisa says:

    My update is here:

    And I think I’m the kind of person that vacillates between the fix-it-now type and the other type. Maybe at heart, I’m the second, but I wish i was the first. ;)

  15. Rob says:

    1. Plant something: nada, however am planning fall garden
    2. Harvest something: Kohl Rabi, Dill weed, bay leaves, carrots, lemon cucumbers
    3. Preserve something: Pickled Kohl Rabi, pickled lemon cucumbers
    4. Waste Not: Got a different seat for my bike - a little more plush for the tush. Saved the old one in case some one needs a seat.
    5: Want not: Got a different seat for my bike - a little more plush for the tush.
    6. Preparation and Storage: pricing storage sheds VS building one from scratch
    7. Build Community Food Systems: nope
    8. Eat the food (cook something new): Pickled Kohl Rabi- using Kohl Rabi, carrots, dill weed and bay leaves from my garden; reefer pickles out of lemon cucumbers and dill weed from the garden as well

  16. Mary says:

    I did my first canning! Forty pints of tomatoes, 14 pts of peaches, and 10 pts of peach jam. Will do more tomatoes this weekend. I figure I can cut the work in half by not peeling them. Anyone who complains will be drafted for this task.

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