Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Good, the Bad, and the Fruits (and Sweat) of Summer

 I. Hate. July.

Of all the months of the year, July is my official least favorite.

I hate being hot. I hate being sticky. I hate waking up when it's already near 80 degrees, and only going to get hotter. I hate having to stay inside so much because it's too hot to go out.

I hate this month. And I use the word hate deliberately. I really do hate it.

In winter, we can stoke up the fire and add more clothes if it's cold. Yes, we're stuck inside a lot, but we can bundle up and go out and be pretty comfortable.

In winter, we can enjoy being cozy by the fireplace while we watch the snow fly.

In summer, we sit inside, looking out at the beautiful green, the flowers and trees...and the simmering heat. If we go out, we sweat. A lot.

In winter there is no sweat, and no bugs or snakes.

In summer, we swat, dodge and curse the bugs and keep a wary eye out for any unexpected movement in unexpected places.

In winter, I look forward to spring, but dread the coming of summer. In summer I look forward to fall, and to the peace and rest of winter.

This week the temperatures will be in upper 80's to mid-90's where I live. Not terrible, but add in the high humidity and it's like breathing underwater. So outside work has to be done early, and even then the humidity causes us to sweat and feel a lot hotter than the thermometer says it is.

And of course, it's during this time that the gardens are really coming into their own. There have been storms almost every day so plants are growing like we're in the tropics. We have so much squash and zucchini I think we could feed a third-world country. Tomatoes are ripening and now the fight is on with blight. Potatoes are done, beans are hanging on the vines, cucumbers are trying to conquer the world as they vine up and over their trellis. The late flat Dutch cabbage is ready to be cut and made into kraut. Onions are drying on the porch, waiting to be put away.

This summer I have canned not one jar...yet. We have frozen berries and broccoli and cabbage and eaten lots of fresh vegetables. But no canning, because the cellar is still so full that it seems ridiculous to put up more. I must have over a hundred jars of jam out there, more than we will eat in two years. There are jars of pickles, beans, and who knows what else. So we have been concentrating on eating what we have, and not, for a change adding much to it. That will change soon, as the tomatoes (the one thing I do need more of) begin to really come in.

We planted only a short row of beans because I just don't need them, so this year they will be for fresh eating. Corn will be ready next week and that will be frozen. And I will use the corn, tomatoes, green beans, onions and so on to put up some vegetable soup, something we both love and eat a lot of.

It's been nice to have a break, I must admit. We planted a little late when we saw how my summer schedule would play out, so that the bulk of the veggies came ripe in late July/August when I would not be on the road. What a blessing! The pressure that usually comes from bushels of vegetables sitting while I am gone really made July even harder to deal with for me. But this year, I've been able to concentrate of the storytelling and a little booth work, and not have to worry about canning and preserving.

One thing we've come to realize: we just don't need that much food. If we plant for early eating gardens, and late gardens, we can cut back on how much food we put up by a large amount. If I freeze the summer's berry crops, I can make the jams and jellies in winter when the extra heat from the stove is welcome.

So we've been trying, these last few years, to plant smarter, and it's worked to some degree. Last summer the late drought meant the late garden failed. I am hoping this summer's late plantings have better luck. Right now, late corn and beans are sprouting, and the second crop of cucumbers is taking off. The broccoli is still producing and I hope we can nurture it along into fall. The third planting of lettuce is ready for picking right now, and we will be putting more seeds out as soon as we have room.

I really do hate July. But this year, since I haven't had to do any canning yet, I don't hate it quite as much.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Jenny said...

The last three summers have been cooler & wetter here than ever before in all the years we've lived here (since 1989). The heat index hasn't even reached 100 yet,let a lone the real temps which was unheard of June all those yrs before.

My husband has been moaning about the grass....it really could be mowed twice a week it is so very lush! I am praising God I don't have to water every single day.

Still....July & August both are hated months here. We never cool down before the middle of September.

Granny Sue said...

We've had such odd weather, it seems, over the years since the derecho. Too hot, too cold, too dry, or too wet and not much balance. Late spring, late winter...it's all the same weirdness. The only thing I've ever liked about July (aside from family birthdays) is that August is coming! While August is still hot, it stays cool longer in the mornings, and cools down earlier in the evenings. It's a welcome relief for this woman who should probably like somewhere like Vermont or England :)

Brig said...

As a rule I don't care for July, it is too hot here to do anything outside. This year hasn't been as hot as years past, but you still have to be out before the sun in order to get things done in the garden.
I put in a small garden the first year I moved up to take care of dad & mom. Since they didn't eat much, dad still doesn't eat much in the way of veggies, a lot of the produce was given away. Sure miss having a garden...

Steve Ferendo said...

I admire your industrious life style, energy, and writing ability. Thanks for your blog.

Nance said...

I like summer. I like spring and fall. But I like summer.

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