Environment Kitchen Garden Writing

Summer Hump, August Heat

Mixing bowl with summer coleslaw made of local produce and my fermented apple cider vinegar.

Six weeks into summer 2019 we are over a hump, if not the halfway point.

I visited Paris in August 1974. It was hard to find a business open. Eschewing air conditioning we Americans find ubiquitous, Parisians fled the heat of August for the Mediterranean Coast and other breezy spots.

We could learn from that society.

My spouse visited her sister for the month of July. While she was gone I set the thermostat at 84 degrees compared to doing what we wanted in July 2018. The average monthly ambient temperature increased from 75 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Between running the air conditioner less and only one person active in the house, our electricity usage dropped by 37 percent in terms of kWh used. I appreciate the savings but I’d like her to return home more.

Summer in Big Grove Township has been reasonably nice with plenty of warm, sunny days, not enough rain, and an abundance from the garden. Friday the ditch had dried out enough I could mow the tall grass and get it looking more normal. The rabbit that lived there this year is likely frowning as rabbits do.

The yard grasses are in transition and need mowing, but not that much. I thought to do it yesterday and rolled up the garden hose near the house after watering in the morning. Not yet. Maybe today after my shift at the orchard. Maybe not as it is a low priority.

We planted our first garden in 1982 and grew or harvested something from our yard in the five places we lived since then. I’m getting better at it.


We produced more cucumbers this year than we could eat and preserve. I determined a process using four varieties of seeds: two pickling, a Japanese-style cucumber and the utilitarian Marketmore. I made a gallon of fermented dill pickles as dill came in from my barter arrangement with Farmer Kate. The key to good pickles is the cucumber size. Once cucumbers get an inch in diameter they are too large for pickle making. Just don’t do it.

I made dishes of sliced cucumbers for potluck dinners, gave them away, and ate them as much as I could stand sliced raw, in mixed salads, and with lettuce greens when they were in season. There were plenty for sweet pickles but I overdid it last year and have more than a dozen leftover jars. I struck balance between the desire to use every bit of produce in the garden and how we eat them in season.


As I posted a couple days ago, we are waiting for tomatoes. The cherries are coming in Jasper, Taxi, Matt’s Wild, Grape, White Cherry and Clementine. The White Cherry, Jasper and Matt’s Wild are surprisingly sweet and delicious. The single Early Girl and Black Krim plants produced fruit. I’ve had a couple Speckled Roma which I found to have tough skin.

This year as last, I planted the rows too close together. I crawled under the seven-foot indeterminate vines and inspected. A lot of good sized fruit waits to ripen under the foliage.

The plants have less blight this year than last. I don’t know why but two things are different. We had extremely cold weather last winter. Perhaps the cold killed some of it off. I also applied diatomaceous earth to the ground after tilling to keep down the crawling bugs that love tomatoes. Perhaps it had an effect on the blight. So far, so good and if all continues to go well, we will have plenty of tomatoes for fresh eating, canning and gifts to friends.

Green Beans

By now we’ve usually had green beans but there are hardly any on the plants. The foliage looks great. There are flowers. No beans. Other area gardeners are experiencing the same thing with a reduction in yield. I picked exactly two beans from a 15-foot row.


After nearly perfect pollination and fruit setting the invasion of Japanese beetles has the apple trees looking like dirty brown lace. I wait for the fruit’s background color to get right and have been tasting them every other day. The first of two varieties is getting close. Fingers crossed.

A friend sprayed his apple tree with Sevin to kill a Japanese Beetle infestation. The pesticide works although it contains carbaryl, a known carcinogen banned in some European countries. “Aren’t you worried about eating the fruit?” I asked. “Nah!” he said. I continue to refrain from using insecticides, which offer a temporary abatement to the detriment of the environment and apple eaters.

It’s a race to ripeness with popilla japonica. If bugs eat too many tree leaves, inadequate sugar is produced for fruit to ripen. If fruit gets ripe on the tree and they can penetrate the skin, they will mass on it and eat it. There appears to be enough green leaf left to absorb sunlight adequately to ripen the apples. I plan to pick them the minute I find them ripe and ferment the juice to make apple cider vinegar. The second variety, Red Delicious, is for eating out of hand, and everything else apple-related.

The Joni Mitchell song comes to mind, “Give me spots on my apples but leave me the birds and the bees.” In our garden there are plenty of apples and an abundance of birds and bees with whom I enjoy co-existing.

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