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From the Farm

July 5, 2012 by Uta Brown filed under Columns No Comments
From the Farm

When the heat index reaches 110 degrees, as it has been doing recently, I try to keep in the shade, or stay indoors. But my lavender, about halfway from full bloom, seems to thrive in it. Hot and dry, I walk by the lavender patch and smell the pungent odor. (I can smell the fennel also, but its more subtle.)

If you love lavender we will be cutting the long stems and tying bunches up during pick-your-own. I will never forget the wonderful lavender-rhubarb tea that Judith Thieman made me years ago. Although I grow both lavender and rhubarb, I haven’t a clue as to how she made it.

Rhubarb is one of those odd crops that no one ever grows because no one thinks it sells. Only, as soon as you start to grow it, it becomes a desired commodity and you find you never have enough of it. I am growing Glaskins Perpetual, a British variety (or so I’ve been told) and hope it will make it through the summer heat. My father-in-law grew green rhubarb for decades in a patch near the house, and never had a problem with the heat. Now that the weather is warming, it is becoming more difficult to grow rhubarb in full day sun, and impossible to grow any of the red varieties, even in the shade. (If you have found a red variety that survives this heat, please let me know.)

The beans and the tomatoes are thriving. However, excessive heat while the plants are blooming can hurt the bean set and lower the quality of the beans themselves; heat increases the toughness of the flesh and hurries seed formation. I put shade cloth over the varieties that are blooming the most, give them water, and hope for the best. Beans grow fine in half day sun. Trellising is a great way to save space by growing pole beans, which are very comparable to the bush beans. I’m growing pole limas as well. The water in my pond is very shallow but it is growing dozens of cattails, sweet flag and water orchids. There are other grasses and broad-leaved plants springing up in the water that I am not familiar with. This breaking out of water plant diversity makes me appreciate the background “seed bank” that is available everywhere but only expresses itself when the right conditions allow it to. Every day, as I pass the pond to get to my tomatoes, I see the dragonflies swirling over it. Two of them land for seconds on the long blades of sweet flag but never together. They zip back and forth, dramatic and noticeable in black and white coloring, while the third is a muted brown. The brown one likes to dip into the water again and again until it takes off suddenly and disappears. There are some hundred or two of tadpoles. As I approach the bank I see them rippling the surface of the water, and letting me know they are still there, and still healthy. One day they might disappear, the lunch of some passing bird. Usually, a few are left to grow. I add water from time to time in dry periods. This small but already complex ecosystem sprung out of the rains earlier in the season when water collected at the bottom of the pond I had never completed. Now it must see the season out, and I will enjoy it for the rest of the year. Which is the most graceful way I can get out of dealing with the pond for now.

Uta and her husband Sam operate Crooked Run Orchard. See www.CrookedRunOrchard.com for the farm’s pick-your-own schedule.

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