Sunday, June 22, 2014

Remember Who's Boss

I don’t know if it was really wise for me to grow a garden again this year. Last year’s garden was an unmitigated disaster. The feral burros ate my sunflowers just when I thought they had no interest. My tomatoes never set flowers because we had a miserable heat wave for weeks on end and I didn’t get the sunshade up in time to help them. I never thought it would be that hot that long. The lettuce wilted in that same heat wave. I got a few measly cucumbers. Everything took a long, long time to get out of teeny weeny size. You see, my well water is super alkaline. Binds calcium in the soil and plants don’t thrive. Remember the movies when they reeled back in horror at the watering hole? Don’t let the horses drink that alkali water! It’ll kill them and you! My water isn’t that bad but nearly so! Needless to say we have bottled water to drink in the house.
My neighbor Jackie (9 miles away) turned out to be my vegetable supplier for last summer. Yes, out here a person 9 miles away is considered a neighbor. She had eggplant and tomatoes, watermelon and peppers among other things. I was SO jealous. I just feel fortunate that she was there and was doing well so we could have some fresh organic produce that didn’t cost extra like it does at the store.
Yet I also enjoy gardening so last year my gardening craving was not in the least way satisfying. So I learned from my mistakes. But can you call it a mistake when it’s Mother Nature not pulling any punches? I don’t know but I put my sunshade up right away and I had saved as much rainwater as I could to use as long as it lasted.

The light tan background is dried out grass that used to be green for about a month.
Now I’m out of the rainwater but things are much, much better than last year. I have sunflowers and onions and sweet basil. The cucumbers are coming along slowly but nicely. The cherry tomatoes are doing well. Only my heat tolerant slicing tomatoes are not doing well. They have blossom end rot. I guess it’s the alkaline soil again. Sigh. Salts build up in the soil from watering with alkali water. Maybe the tomato variety I chose is prone to blossom end rot. I did a soil test and sure enough it’s that old high pH result. Durn! I guess next year I’m saving even more rain water and adding calcium to the soil. But look at the gigantic Walla Walla sweet onions I got. So all is not lost.

Note the quarter for scale.
So far our water supply has not petered out. We think it’s because when the late winter/early spring rains came we managed the water well. Therefore, because we maximized the lake level which in turn maximized the ditch level which in turn maximized the pond level we’ve got the seepage we need to keep our ground water high enough to pump and replenish the household water tank. It's staying full to our great relief. We also think that because the lake level stayed higher longer because we kept water flowing into it that we have seepage to the creek that we pump water out of for the livestock. It’s still running well enough half way through June. This is all to the good because having water now means we aren't depleting water that we will need in the next few months when there will absolutely be NO rain. And we, of course, don't know when the rains will start.

It has to be a container garden out here. The soil is too hard to dig in.
This brings me to Mother Nature. Out here one can’t pretend Mother Nature does not exist. Mother Nature rules with an iron fist out here and we as peons must do as she dictates. To survive we must respond to what she offers and deal with however she arranges things. I think this past spring we were smart and worked with Mother Nature about as well as anybody could and that is why we’re doing a whole lot better than a lot of folks around here. It’s not their fault. Maybe they don’t have a lake and a creek to manage to help them through. Still and all it’s a lesson in humility.  Out here you have to remember to bring your brains to class. Don’t get smug. Don’t get arrogant. Out here you have to remember who’s boss.

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