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What's Happening? -- September 2021

Where did the summer go to! Here we are in October harvesting and storing potatoes, drying and storing shell beans, cleaning garlic bulbs for storage and planting. The end of this year’s fresh fruit is near. The second bloom of raspberries is still strong with the Anjou pears not far behind them. The tomatoes, peppers, kale and collards are still producing making for delicious salads. The cabbage, Brussels sprouts, leeks, beats and broccoli getting ready for harvest, carrots waiting for frosts to sweeten up. Fall planting in the hoop house is underway with cabbages and collards up and strong.

Listening to the sounds of the night under a full moon is always a delight. These sounds have changed now, but listening to the recordings during the winter months reminds of warmer times and things to come. Come back and visit this lovely chorus in January.

Click on image to hear the Sounds of Summer

The rain started on July first and did so for three months, ~30 inches of rain during the months of July, August and September. Twice the average rainfall for this period. Some plants thrived while others did not. This amount of rain not only affects the amount of oxygen in the soil, but also significant reduction the amount of sunlight available for photosynthesis. Our berries and grapes did not like all the water. On one wet afternoon I watched a slug dangle from the grape arbor by a strand of its own slime extending over a foot long. Fungi blooms were ubiquitous, great harvests of oyster mushrooms, lion’s mane, hen of the woods and chicken mushrooms for dinner side dishes. Surplus mushrooms have been put up in the freezer and dehydrated. Seeing the multiple blooms under fruit trees and other perennials reminds me of the symbiotic relations underground.

Hen of the Woods, Chicken of the Woods and Lion's Mane Mushrooms
Hen of the Woods, Chicken of the Woods and Lion's Mane Mushrooms

Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Lion’s Mane or Bear Tooth Mushroom

The frogs and toads have been ubiquitous jumping out of the way of the lawn mower when the opportunity to mow the lawn was offered up between the rains, species I have never seen before. While digging the holes for pavilion piers one large toad moved in under a rock in the pile of soil removed. It was interesting to watch its skin color change as it dried out during a morning visit.

A new frog friend on a raspberry leaf

Joan spied a squirrel traversing from the shag bark hickory tree with at least three nuts firmly grasped in its mouth. She called me to witness the scene. This squirrel hopped cautiously, as usual, across the back yard and around the house out of sight. “Where did it go?'' I exclaimed! “Around toward the south deck,” was her reply. I walked to the south side door and watched the squirrel climb the stairs of the deck and drop a cluster of three hickory nuts at the doorstep and then casually hop away across the lawn. Was this a gift?

The insect populations are still a mystery. Mosquitoes didn’t show up until sometime in August with very small numbers, now regulars at sunset in the shaded damp areas of the yard. The solitary bees disappeared entirely after a strong presence in late spring. The number and diversity of pollinators visiting the clusters of dense flowers seen regularly in past years only seen a few times this year. Where the insects have been scarce the rodents have thrived. The rabbit and vole populations exploded! The voles constructed a super highway with a major exit below one of my largest blueberry bushes, berries suspiciously missing from this usually heavy producing plant. I watched a chipmunk climb another bush, snag a perfectly ripe berry and scamper off with it before I had a chance to comment. The rabbits have been content eating the weeds around the edges of the lawn that I purposely leave for them in exchange for staying out of the garden. These small mammals provide tasty meals for the bob cat that lives in the neighborhood which was recently recorded strolling back to the woods with a plump squirrel in its mouth.

The blueberries were abundant and huge prior to the rain. Their sweetness dropped during the weeks of rain as well as the ripening period. Several gallons were put up, but not nearly what was expected.

The potatoes seemed to handle the rain well and exploded in size when it stopped, flowers on one of the varieties continued to bloom throughout. My early potatoes are harvested and in storage, the later plantings still in the ground. I did not get the yield numbers of past years from the early plants. The later plants are looking strong with many fruit seeds produced.

The tomatoes had just set their first set of flowers before the rain started, 12 per cluster. Expectations were large! The rain seemed to inhibit the transition from flower to fruit. Production has been lower than in the past, but we continue to have tomatoes on the table.

Venus is in the evening sky to the west, Jupiter and Saturn are in the east. Venus and Jupiter are easy to spot being so bright. Saturn to Jupiter’s right. All three are visible at sunset from the right vantage point. What a beautiful sight when the moon graces the same part of the sky. See how many of these heavenly bodies you can spot.

What a treat to find this praying mantis in the garden


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