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Sunday, September 9, 2012

It's in the Air

The growing season winds down as the equinox approaches; the gardens look tired and we're making the last of the summer harvests. August brought our little farm more than seven inches of rain, and these first days of September a little more. But still there has been almost no runoff. The pond water level continues to drop with daily evaporation and many of the rivers hereabouts are mostly sandbars. By these measures the drought persists, but the grass is verdant and lush and we're behind in the mowing.

The little tractor carries a mowing deck between the front and rear tires, and the weld on a connection has failed. We acquired a welding machine at an auction a few weeks ago, but the classes Alan and I took are now long ago and we have not attempted the repair. Tomorrow, however, a friend who much more recently worked as a commercial welder will come out to give us a lesson and connect the broken parts.

Autumn is not yet here but there are hints of it in the air, now cooler and drier with trace scents of mould and wet soil. The tree leaves rustle more crisply and the insect orchestra drones a different movement of its seasonal symphony. The milkweed pods are bursting open to cast their downy seeds upon the breeze. Almost all the rabbits have vanished, as have the red-winged blackbirds and goldfinches and bluejays. The cardinals had gone but have now reappeared, and the robins are flocking together.

In the woods, the grasses and forbs are senescing and it is much easier to leave the groomed trails and to see longer distances beneath the canopy. Now revealed is a rather amazing network of game trails, many of them suitable as walking paths, and I'm getting to know even more of this diverse property. I thought this ancient shagbark hickory was looking especially stately a couple days ago.

I've been revisiting the giant puffball mushrooms and they are growing to astonishing sizes, some now 18-24 inches in diameter. The one that I harvested had a beautiful texture when sliced, like tofu or mozzarella cheese, and fried up very nicely, but none of us cared for the rather strong, sharp flavor – it is an acquired taste, I suppose.

We harvested the popcorn and though the yield was not great, it certainly looks good! It will dry on the cob indoors and we'll test several kernels every few days until it's popping well, then shell the ears for storage.

The peppers are still coming on profusely, ripening nicely, and developing some good heat. The yellow individual is the only habanero to show any color than green so far. I hope there will be enough degree-days in the season remaining to finish them.

Another sign of approaching autumn is the occurrence of brilliant pure blue skies, here being sailed by a turkey vulture.

From our east fence, across the neighbor's soybean field, an aspect of infinity:

Almost every time I come this way, the duck is laying on the ground, and I replace it on its pedestal. I would like to install a motion-detecting camera to find out what's going on.

Alan built this beautiful meditation bench at one of the highest-elevation points on the property.

This morning as I paused at the bench I watched this coyote in the neighbor's alfalfa as it hunted some small item of game, pounced successfully, and made a meal.

Wild turkeys roost in the woods, high up in the old growth, and it produces quite a startle when from silence they suddenly fly off directly overhead, making all sorts of noise and leaving feathers behind. It seems some violation of natural law that such large things are up that high at all, let alone supporting themselves on wings.

Donna has become a worm rancher, raising red wrigglers in a plastic tub in the basement, where they convert newspaper and coffee grounds and kitchen scraps to castings that are an excellent soil amendment. The worms multiply rapidly, and she periodically divides the population for release into the compost pile and gardens.

The worms are also good fish food. Here are Bubbles, a smallmouth bass, and Delilah the sunfish, which Donna caught in the pond and now live in the aquarium. They are voracious eaters and are growing rapidly, encouraging my plans to raise fish in cages in the pond next year.

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