Archive for the 'summer' Category

Looking back on summer

By Tom Read

Basil is a summer staple of our kitchen garden, and Linda is particularly proud of this patch

It’s been a fine summer for us on Texada Island, for the most part. Mother Nature bestowed benign weather these last few months, so most of the wild plants and animals of the forest seem to be thriving. An exception: yellow jacket wasps, seldom seen this summer perhaps because of our island’s cool, wet spring. Meanwhile, our little kitchen garden grew well, even though often neglected by me due to other priorities. I’ll return to the garden in a moment, but first I want to mention a few thoughts about this just-passed summer:

First, I enjoyed my teenage nephew Lewis’ two-week visit. He lives in a suburb of New York City, and up to this summer’s visit with us at Slow Farm I believe he had no previous experience caring for farm animals, using basic construction tools, pulling weeds and generally engaging in sweaty manual labour for hours on end. He did well, and even got a bit of a tan — not something most visiting Americans might expect to obtain in Canada.

Texada’s 2010 Sandcastle Weekend recedes now into memory, but I recall a feeling of satisfaction in seeing so many happy people on the beach and along the parade route. Linda and I didn’t get to see the festival’s newly-introduced laser light show, but we heard lots of positive feedback about it.

Alas, the real estate business has taken it slow this summer on Texada, as in so many communities around the world this year. No surprise, really, since the market on Texada has been slow for the past few years.

But our days are brightened by our new puppy. We’ll introduce her somewhere down the line, since she needs more privacy to develop her manners before coming onto the world (wide web) stage.

Turning to our garden, we had a few surprises, both welcome and not. Take rhubarb, for example. This year it has already given us three abundant harvests, with one last cutting on the way. What’s different this year is that I decided to overhead hand-water our rhubarb for a few moments every morning, thinking that such a magnificent broadleaf plant must be designed for collecting rain.

In past years we used daily drip irrigation exclusively, knowing the soil to be on the sandy side and assuming that deep watering of this deep-rooted plant mattered most. This seemed logical at the time, but the results with drip irrigation were always disappointing. This year’s great crop stands as living proof that humble observation of actual plant design and behavior trumps over-intellectual “assumptions.”

The abundance of this year’s rhubarb stands in contrast to a downright disaster in the raspberry department. Despite great raspberry production last year and ample feedings of rotted manure in early spring, the berries came late and never quite seemed to mature to a sweet ripeness. Those relatively few that managed to ripen immediately became bird fodder. I vow to do better next year, a gardener’s rallying cry for all seasons.

The time of slowing down

By David Parkinson

Leaves turning as the days turn shorter and cooler

Leaves turning as the days turn shorter and cooler

Suddenly fall is upon us. Days are getting shorter quickly: the long luxurious evenings of the summertime are now cut short, and the sun which used to set over Harwood Island is now dropping down into Texada. Once below the horizon, the light does not linger as it used to. Night comes on fast. It’s harder to wake up early now that the sun is not banging at the windows at 5:00 AM. And more and more we have condensation in the mornings on our typically lousy west-coast single-glazed windows. Time to think of fires in the evening and space heaters by the bed. A meal of salad no longer fills the belly.

It’s a time of year which many people find mournful, since it spells the end of the riotous long hot oasis of summer, which is the time of year when everything seems possible if only because the days are long enough to fit any number of projects. The visible decline from sunshine to grey wet days is a tough one for many of us.

I like this time of year, though. There is something comforting, hidden underneath the distress at losing the warmth. It’s time to start contracting into projects centred on the home and time to start picking up the dropped threads of plans with other people who also have been too busy and outward-focused to think about developing common projects. Fall, for me, now means the beginning of the planning ahead to Seedy Saturday (March 13, 2010). And it looks as though a group of folks are going to keep talking and planning through the winter for the Exhibit Hall at the Fall Fair. And sometime during the winter I hope to start gathering together a gang of people to plan ahead for the 50-mile eat-local challenge and Edible Garden Tour (v2.0). I’m starting to remember some of the grandiose plans I had last winter, which somehow never came to fruition — a little like our cherry tree this summer. Maybe I’ll revive that idea of a cooperative… after all, I did convene a Working Group on Food-Security Cooperatives at the recent annual gathering of the BC Food Systems Network.

Another thing I look forward to is the return of the endless evenings spent reading. Summertime is such a whirl of activity that I struggle to find blocks of time wide enough in which to stretch out and get deeply immersed in good heavy books. Summer nourishes the body, but winter nourishes the mind. It’s much more difficult to feel guilty about lying around with a book when outside it’s pelting down cold drizzle, and has been doing so for days.

Who knows what plots hatched during this long wet winter will spring forth when the days begin to lengthen again?


Post facto

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