Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A late August update

August is drawing to a close, and once again garden stock-taking is at hand. As last year, this year the deer made an incursion into the garden by the old store, even though this year beans, which most attract them, were not growing there. The tomatoes attracted a doe to jump over the 7-foot fence and browse, around the 10th of August. Soon after discovering the damage, I covered the tomatoes and cucumbers with agribon, and after that the deer left the garden alone. They will not push the agribon aside to get at the growth underneath. This would have caused a problem with mildew had the weather been damp and rainy, but for most of the past few weeks it has been dry, very dry, to the point that once again I have to be careful with the water in the well. The tomatoes, planted late, have been harvested for a couple of weeks now, chiefly the Jetstar variety. The late blight on the tomatoes has been exacerbated by the dampness under the agribon, for although it has rained little, this remains a humid environment especially at night--the humidity is around 85% even when the days are dry. Later this week I intend to harvest and process the first batch of paste tomatoes--all Roma this year. The summer squash have been in for a few weeks now, and are still going strong; the deer left them alone. Lettuce and other greens have gone by, cabbage has headed up and I've started lettuce for a fall harvest and for wintering over once again, under the agribon, where it sits under the snow cover and then revives and grows in early spring for an early harvest in April and May. The cucumbers, also under the agribon, are suffering some from the mildew and, of course, the lack of rain. The apple crop is below average but if the usual September rains come, enough will size up for eating, if not cider wine. Half of last fall's cider wine is aging in an oak barrel now, while the other half will go in when that comes out to be bottled, in early October. Because of a full fall schedule this year, and the small apple crop, I doubt that I'll do a pressing; but if my friends in Brooklin want to harvest the apples here for their cider-wine making enterprise, as they've done in the past, they'll be welcome to do it in mid-October. 

Skunk cabbage spadix in decay, August 2012
The birds have begun their fall migrations, and during the next six weeks or so most of those species who visit here in the spring and summer will be off for warmer lands. The skunk cabbage leaves have at last decayed, leaving the stalks and exposing the spadices. This is a time of browning in the fields, as the grass falls over, and is a bed for the deer who forage for apples that have dropped to the ground. As usual, I have seen only does and fawns, never bucks. And yet the fawns multiply; the bucks do not show themselves, while the fawns and calves evidently forage with their mothers and each other. For the most part, they come out shortly after dawn and at dusk; but I have seen them foraging in the fields at any time during the day, and I've heard them snort and stamp in their movements at night. They seem to know that they are safe in this season, while in late October through November they retreat, as that is hunting season. In some parts of the state of Maine deer are scarce, I'm told--the central and western parts--but here they are abundant and, for the gardener, troublesome. I've seen them come right up to the house here to eat fruits and leaves off bushes. 

A few weeks ago I saw another young hawk perch in the hawthorn tree in exactly the same spot as two years ago when I took a photo of it and posted it to this blog. The cries of ospreys and the chick-a-dee-dee of chickadees are the chief noises from birds at this time of year, while the clucking of the red squirrels is a constant whenever they are disturbed or excited. I have heard the pileated woodpecker a few times in the last few weeks. No owls yet--they don't seem to hoot until the cold weather. Listening to the recordings made in Maine by Donald Borror, I've come to realize that one of the warblers I've heard often but seldom seen here is the parula warbler--but have not heard one for several weeks now.

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