Autumn Here

I’m recovering from a nasty cold I picked up in Paris. I am so over city living. I know my happy life here depends in large part on the efforts of city dwellers and to them I am grateful but still, it is no longer for me.

Anyway, as I say, I am feeling better. Jacques, noticing stirrings of life from me, just the faintest signs, decided it was time to try a doggie kiss of life. His preferred method is to walk on my tummy and chest, so there’s a bit of shiatsu thrown in, then stand there for a while, staring intently, maybe to check if I’m still breathing. Then he plops, as hard as a little dog can, and starts licking my face. The nose and eye lick will get me moving every time. Maybe that’s why he does it.

The weather has changed since I last paid attention. I spent much of my summer saving my newly planted Japanese maples from full sun during a heat wave. Trees are planted that will, one day, give them dappled shade, but not yet. Now we have 100% humidity but no rain. It sounds like I’m living in an aquarium but no. It is seriously overcast and seriously damp. They love it, as do I and, I think, most everything out there. The photo above is of the sumac I’ve been trying to eradicate. Days like this make me rethink the plan.

My expectations are still set by coastal California weather. All this dampness is welcome, but not at all what I’m used to. I’m finding every kind of thing going on out there. The tomatoes are putting out the last of their summer produce. They look a bit desperate, as if they know it’s just about their last chance. The squashes are coming into their own, even as their vines are shrinking snd their leaves are rotting. so, ripening, rotting and recovering from a brutal summer, all at once. it’s a fascinating time of year.

Vacation While You Can

So many things to say. If you use a period-tracking app and you live in the wrong state, you might want to delete it. It could be used in evidence against you. And if you are in that demographic, maybe get a VPN. Plan C is fine, if no one can trace it to you. When my grandmother went for her abortion — it would be a full century ago, or near enough — she was raped by her doctor and of course didn’t dare report him. We’re headed right back there again, folks, and doesn’t a story like that make pills sound good. If you have kids with birth certificates and you think they too have a right to life, maybe get them them a kevlar vest — in school colors, why not. If you live in a state with coal-fired power plants, you might want to move; it’s about to get pretty smoky in your neighborhood. And if you can vote in the States, do so. It really is a big deal.

Let’s talk about something else. Jacques loves his new toy. It is less fun to watch him, now that he has figured out how to grasp his shark by the tail but it still squeaks and bounces in a satisfactorily erratic manner.

My new trees are doing well. We have had a long period of slow, soaking rain, for which they and I are grateful. I am already harvesting produce from my garden. And unlike Mitch McConnell, the olla is your friend. An olla is this terra cotta pot that you bury in the ground near the roots of, say, your tomato plants. From time to time you fill it up. The water oozes out into your plant roots. And hey presto, your olla-watered plants will be half again as big and bushy as your drip-watered plants. I think it uses no more water, as I refill it only when I am running the drip system. I’m a convert. I’m hoping for a big sale at the end of the season.

The season itself promises to be busy. I’m headed to a knitting retreat, of all things. The news being what it is, I can use the calming effects of a week of knitting. It will save me from overindulging in the CBD gummies. I’m looking forward to a parade of visiting friends and am making friends with people who actually live here. Kieron says he might just maybe finish my summer kitchen. I have been invited to give a presentation at an exhibition opening in August; more about that later. Maybe life isn’t so good right now but for the next few months, it’s going to seem just fine.

Farm Report

There is work going on in my front garden. I was going to post when it is all done. But it is dragging out, as work does. So let me tell you about everything else.

As you can see, the roses are doing great. I have no idea how or why, but I am grateful that they are so happy. I see a summer of deadheading in my future, but I’ll be standing in the midst of a dozen David Austin rose bushes. The scent will be wonderful. I’ll be fine.

Fruit. We have flowers and fruit. Julien and I went to buy plants for my soon to be reconstituted Wild Wood. It was cold and they had citrus trees flowering in the sales room. Of course I got one, a Meyer lemon, just for the flowers and the scent. But look at this. I am actually going to get some lemons out of the deal. There must be half a dozen or more on this little tree. I’ll send them home with Julien, whose wife is an actual chef, in hopes of getting a lemon tart in return. Or maybe I can get my friend Roger to cook up something, then photograph it.

My little tree will grow. In a few years I will need an orangerie. I’d better start saving up because I think I want some more of these.

My sad little shot of baby lemons will have to stand in for the rest of the orchard. We had a late frost that nearly killed the pomegranate and fig trees. Fortunately they are recovering. The cherries and apples are coming through, though. Maybe the birds will save some for me. It will have to do for the kitchen garden as well, which right now just looks like rotting straw. But no need for despair. Potatoes are in the ground. The radishes are sprouting. Tomatoes and the rest are off in Julien’s polytunnel, doing whatever they need to do to get big and strong and duke it out with the mice and slugs. Summer is on its way.

Harvest Report

We haven’t actually had much in the way of summer weather. It looks like spring is going to morph right into fall, with only the length of day to cause anything to grow. Well, plus all the rain. It has rained pretty much every night and quite a few days, too.

It’s a pattern that has favored smaller fruit and vegetables. You can see that the San Marzanos are doing great, as are the cherry tomatoes and this smaller variety that I hope sticks around. The big guys are a sick yellow, still, and splitting from all the water. I put a reflective mat under the vines, to encourage early growth. I think the bees were drawn to the warmth as well, because the germination rate was huge. The neighbors hardly have tomatoes at all. Heh heh heh.

This butternut squash is actually bigger than it looks, close to being as big as Jacques’ head. I have two or three that size, thanks to all the rain. I guess I can roast and freeze it.

I won’t be showing you an overall shot of the potager. The potato leaves are yellowing and the weeds are everywhere. Julien and I weed enough that he takes a truckload of green waste in every couple of weeks and still, it’s bad. So, a bumper crop of dandelions for all you winemakers out there. My liitle kitchen garden looks pretty ratty, but it’s producing like crazy. I’ll keep it going until the Brussels sprouts are finished.

You also won’t see the berries because I keep eating them. Content yourself with my first tiny crop of grapes. I had to look a while to find a bunch that hadn’t been taste-tested into oblivion. They really are excellent, seedless and better tasting than the ones I buy at the market. These are trained against a wall across from the terrace. Looking at them, you might almost imagine that it’s warm outside.

The peaches are small, but getting there. And this apple tree is almost doing too well. I’d like to start picking them, but I don’t know when a Reine de Reinette is ripe. Maybe that one at the upper left?

Last one, I promise. Rose hips. Julien stuck some rugosa rose cuttings into the ground intending to transplant them. Then he didn’t. Apparently the spread by their roots because they are taking over, and fast. They, along with the sumac and raspberry roots, are likely Julien’s full-employment program. I guess the rose hips are for me.

It’s tea time. See you!

Jacques Report

Yes, Jacques has been digging. It’s okay: the mice have found the kitchen garden. This is war!

In general the garden is doing pretty well. We are eating all the tomatoes we can stand and reducing the rest to sauce, which we are freezing for winter.
Sometimes things grow where I wish they wouldn’t. You see morning glories burying my nonblooming jasmine. I hope when it clears out I will find the anemones I planted this spring.
To get back to my little wild man, I was prowling the potager, wishing Julien had taken maybe twice as many tomatoes home with him when, underneath the plastic sheeting, I could hear the pitter patter of little feet. I had noticed that something was actually eating a tomato — not a bird or a worm or snail, no, actually eating it. And now here, on the opposite side of the garden, was an actual culprit. No no no: I’ll share, but this was getting out of control. I had no choice but to say the magic words: “Jacques, come here!”

Now, Jacques comes when he figures there is something in it for him. The rest of the time, forget it. Maybe he heard the scratching too. He was there in a flash, pouncing on the little moving bump. Yes!, though I think the bump got away. Since then Jacques has been on permanent mouse patrol. He actually goes through the plants, nudging leaves aside so he can sniff and peer through the foliage.

Sometimes he digs. Yesterday I decided to harvest some potatoes. The tomatoes and squash are fighting for space and the potatoes were looking a little peaked anyway, so why not pull them out. It turns out those little shit rodents were eating the potatoes, too, but only from one plant. Go figure. So of the half dozen plants I pulled out, with a little canine assistance, only that one hole held any real interest for him. I’d pull up a plant, he’d sniff, then look at me. “So why are we here?” Then he’d return to this spot, where he spent a good hour, pretty much the way you see him.

I think he wore himself out. He’s been pretty sedentary for the last 12 hours or so. But I’ll head back out there this afternoon, it being tomato time. I’m sure he’ll be right there with me.