None of that was in the forecast. Yesterday in mid afternoon this little storm descended on us very quickly. The lightning was close, thunder loud and rain pounded down giving us 3 10ths of an inch in just about 10 minutes. And then just like that it stopped. A few minutes later I looked out the window and saw a big cloud of dark smoke which I mistook for dark clouds at first. Binoculars helped me see that it was beyond a hill so I drove to a vantage point and could get a better idea of where it was and see that it had missed a house that sits up on a hill, a house I thought the lightning might have hit. Firefighters were on the scene quickly and called in air strikes. I watched a helicopter descend to refill his large bucket (typically about 500 gallons) at the river in the valley below our hills. Evacuation notices were issued for residents in the area. Thankfully the fire was contained before anybody needed to leave. Damage reportedly was to pasture land.
I poked my soil thermometer into the compost pile. It registers up to 90 degrees. The needle went far beyond the lines, so I am guessing maybe 120. It paid to turn the pile a few days ago. I added some compostable materials to it this morning, burying them under several inches of decaying matter. They should disappear in just a few days, all except the avocado pit.
So far the packrat has not been trapped.
I bought a sticky wasp trap. It works! Just hang it up and forget it. Trapping them with my plate and can method was very successful last year and not successful at all this year. Why? No idea.
Empty 1 gallon milk jugs make pretty good anchors for things like sheets of plastic. Recently I had one that got tipped over and needed to be refilled. After filling it I noticed it leaked from a small slit in the side. So I parked it on it's side on the compost pile, leaky side down. Today I wanted to turn the pile so I moved the empty jug and discovered it had a lot of earwigs in it. Dead ones. Pretty easy to count. At least 50. So I filled the jug again and put it leaky side down near an apple tree to see if I have good luck trapping earwigs there. I wonder now if box elder bugs might be attracted as well.
I did turn the compost pile today. Most of what I have piled up there in the past 3 months is pretty well broken down and the volume of it is more than I expected by this stage of the decomposition. I am very pleased with that! This pile heated up initially but has become a cool, not quite finished pile because I have been too busy to turn it, but that has been ok anyway except that maybe it wasn't hot enough for long enough to kill all of the weed seeds. The piles wrapped in black plastic are next. I had planned to open the oldest one today but the wind came up so it would have been a chore to control the plastic which might have carried me off like Mary Poppins.
Yesterday we had a lightning storm that brought us 1 10th of an inch of rain, the most we have had in weeks! Unfortunately it also had strong wind that flattened a few of my cornstalks and even worse started a fire a few miles away that burned about 200 acres. Ground and air crews got it controlled and now apparently out. It was in sagebrush and grassland, not forest. People nearby were advised to be ready to evacuate and thankfully none of them needed to do so. No monetary loss except for feed for cattle on the range which can be significant in a drought year when ranchers will need to start feeding hay earlier than normal.
My garden is pretty much toast. I've given up on most of the tomatoes, all of the beans and most of the cabbages. Lost some squash but others are apparently ok except for the bug damage. The garlic in the shed is dry and most of it has been moved to the dry storage area. I have not done any sorting or cleaning, just got the dry tops off. The first thing I need to do is select enough big bulbs for next year's seed stock. After that we will start cleaning the medium size ones to sell, and will not bother with those that are too small for anything except my own kitchen use.
Yesterday morning I heard an unusual noise and went to look. I saw a packrat trying to work it's way between some old doors and windows we have leaned against a wall in a shed. I set a live catch trap for it, baited with some grain. No catch last night but maybe tonight. I am going to buy a smaller trap with smaller squares for capturing small critters tomorrow at the farm store. Tuesdays are senior discount days and I'll save enough to buy lunch!
We aren't moving but parts of my vegie garden might be. Deer don't bother garlic and so I can plant some in an area of a flower bed where there are no flowers due to my neglect. And in another bed I will have about 100 sq ft to use after I dig out and relocate a few iris. That area has a lot of weeds and so I could cover it with plastic or landscape cloth and plant winter squash there. Deer don't bother that much. Another adjustment will be made in the garden itself to avoid the rows that appear to be contaminated with herbicide: the rows for next year will be narrower and utilize the pathways between the wider rows. Since the supposedly contaminated compost went on the established planting rows and I have made the switch to no till gardening they should be fine. Hopefully in another year or two the contamination will have degraded to the level where I can use my rows again. When digging the garlic I noticed that some on the edges of the rows near the pathways looked better than those nearer the centers of the rows. That is what gave me the idea that I could use the paths for planting.
After I sort the garlic I might find that I don't have a lot of it worth planting this fall so that would free up a lot of space. All of this is in the thinking stages at this time.
I have decided (for now) that if I can't make enough compost I will have to buy organic certified compost. By the bag. Expensive. Chicken manure would be best. My chicken raising days are over. I always wanted to have a chicken house in the garden and use alternate sites for the chicken runs and planted areas every year. If we had built that in the first few years of living here I would have it now. Twenty nine years on this place and never a chicken! Before we moved here we had about 50 hens. We had all the eggs we needed and I sold eggs to neighbors and at a health food store and a couple of Mom and Pop groceries. We also raised about 25 Cornish cross chickens for meat every year. I wish we had built the proper facility to have chickens here. It wasn't a priority because we were busy with other building projects, getting a well, improving the irrigation system, etc. There are limits on time, energy and money.
Our corn has started to put up some tassels. Little ears won't be far behind! We haven't eaten any corn this year but I think the farmer's markets might be bringing some in from hotter areas soon. Supermarket corn is not anything I want, usually very old by the time it gets to the store.
Safflower seed wasn't a great substitute for sunflower seeds for our wild birds last winter. First, they are quite slick and a lot of them just slid out of the feeder onto the ground. Birds ate some of those but just pooped on the rest. Second, those wasted ones sprouted and grew into a thistle like plant that I don't want. I have just finished disposing of all I could find. Online information tells me they can be invasive in areas (like ours) with long, dry, hot summers. UGH! We have enough invasive plants!
Last week we found the fields of sunflowers! We drove to a city in our area for some shopping and along the way we saw two or three large fields of them. The plants are about 2 ft tall now and already have those big seed heads forming. The variety that has been grown in that general area in past years matures at about 5-6 feet tall with one giant flower on each plant. Since the farmers rotate their crops with other things like grains, sugar beets, field corn and hay, we have to keep watching what is growing where to find the sunflowers! Never the same two years in a row, or even in alternate years so we have to watch the fields and hope to find them.
It's bad but could have been worse.
I'm struggling to keep the vegies watered. Some are not looking good, others are just so-so. Bugs are crawling and eating holes in the leaves. Squash bugs have appeared and I am hand picking those stinky things and squashing them underfoot. So far I haven't seen many egg clusters or any nymphs. I do see nymphs of the box elder bugs and I squish every one I can. Thankfully they don't bother onions or garlic. Squash bugs do not like to be wet so I water the plants, wait for the bugs to crawl up and onto higher parts of the vines that are dry so they can dry out and I pick them off. They don't bite or sting, they just stink.
Speaking of stink, we are still smelling that skunk when the wind is from the northwest. That's most of the time as our prevailing wind is from that direction. I don't know if our little shed will ever be the same because apparently the critter sprayed under it so the wood is probably saturated.
This morning I saw the first cottontail bunny I have seen on our place in several years since we had an abnormally severe winter with near record snowfalls and low temperatures. That memorable winter was at least 5 years ago. Cottontails, jackrabbits and ground squirrels all pretty much disappeared and are making a slow comeback. Ground squirrels, also known as sage rats are a big problem in eastern Oregon. https://wonderingaroundoregon....
Our irrigation water is finished for the year. The snow in the mountains has melted and that is the source. Normally I have enough water from our spring to water most of the rhubarb and the grapes with a slow trickle. The slow trickle is pretty much down to drips so I am having to use well water for those things. We do have plenty of water in the well but I hate having to pump it.
Box elder bugs, squash bugs and grasshoppers are beginning to be a problem. My plants are looking rather ragged.
And then there are the wasps. Youngsters are starting to leave the nests already. Several nests have been spotted and sprayed but now I am out of spray and forgot to get more when we were in town. I set up a plate and can trap and baited it with a few grapes that I cut to expose the sugary flesh. They need to know it is there and get used to getting a treat there and then I can begin closing the trap and putting it in the deep freeze overnight as I did last year. I should have kept a tally of how many I caught that way because it was usually 15 to 25 every day for several weeks.
Monday, July 11
This morning one of our sons helped me trim and weigh rhubarb, and then both boys got busy on a small construction project. You might think we are going backward in time but we will soon have an old fashioned privy. This little edifice will eliminate a lot of the trips I make to the house when nature calls, and also will come in handy when we have a lot of family here because our one bathroom is very busy when there are about 20 people needing to use it. At times we feel like we need to take a number and stand in line. So, if anybody is desperate there will be a more civilized alternative to just using the bushes!
The pea vines were all pulled up this morning and added to the compost pile. I still need to remove the weeds from the area where they grew and I think I will plant the bush pea seeds there because they will have time to mature before we have a killing frost. What we don't eat fresh will be frozen for winter.
Garlic needs to be dug up and I am mentally preparing myself for the most disappointing harvest ever based on how bad the tops look. It takes a good strong top to grow a large bulb and this year some of them were only about half as tall as they should have been. Those were the good ones. Some didn't grow at all.
I'm working on cleaning another neglected flower bed and have a wheelbarrow piled high with weeds waiting for the next trip I make down the hill. My foot is feeling better but by late in the day it feels the stress. Healing takes a lot longer than hurting something does.
Friday, July 15
This morning I started digging garlic. It's a rather delicate job this year because the plants didn't grow well and the tops are now brown and dry. There will be no garlic hanging to dry in the shed this year because the tops are fragile and most of the bulbs would fall on the floor. So I am drying them in cardboard boxes and big buckets with the tops down and the roots up. It's still going to be messy but the bulbs will be in containers if they do separate from the tops. Many have come out of the ground without tops anyway. If I had sandy soil I might be able to just pull them up, however with clay I need to pry chunks of soil up and carefully retrieve the bulbs. It's a slow job and I should be finished by now. Would be finished if I had started digging about 2 weeks ago.