By Tom Read
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.