Reflecting on Summer

Texas had a very unusual drought and heat season in 2011.  This changed a lot of the outdoor activity.  Summer of 2010 there were birds nesting everywhere you look in my area.  This summer, not one nest.  Hardly saw any activity from the usual songbirds throughout the summer until the heat index dropped to the 80’s.  My above the ground garden did well, even through the drought.  Unlike the summer before, we did not see any little creatures coming in for a snack in the garden.  Summer of 2010 there was a baby cotton tail rabbit that snuck in under the fence and would be found sheltering under the flowing cucumber vines.  One morning I saw the little one backed up against the brick border around the garden looking at me with big eyes and surprise.   If I moved toward him, he would strike out  lightening fast and get under the neighbors fence.  Evidence he could jump over two feet was where I found tomatoes that were ripe and ready to eat just about his mouth level to the ground and he would eat just exactly half of a large red ripe tomatoe.  Funny thing, he didn’t bother the other end of the garden where I had planted carrots.  You’d think that would be top of his mind!  He also like cucumbers.  Well, the little darling went running across a busy street that goes behind the yard and didn’t make it back to our yard.   We sure missed the little one.  This summer I discovered that the frogs were loving it in the shade of my garden.  They had dug numerous holes in the soft composted soil and were getting watered twice daily and feasted on any number of bugs (good ones I suppose).    A garden teaches you so much about nature.   Even though I have only been growing a home garden the last 3 years, I can tell you the spiders that look like something to be feared and others that take up residence and eat your pests!  The garden spiders are large, long, flat and lightly beige and brown to yellow coloring.  The sit all day long and spin a wide web and appear never to move.  Ahh, but they do.  How else could they survive?   I am supposing we had a pair of frogs this summer back there.  Here is how I know.  I had left my blue bucket filled up with egg shells and water (getting ready to use as a type of fertilizer and mulch).  Just about when I was ready to use the egg shells, I looked in the bucket and there were about a hundred very small black tadpoles swimming around in and out of those shells.   So I put off my using it for fertilizer in hopes of seeing them grow and turn into frogs.  Well, should have found them a nice place to pond.  I left them in there too long and a lot of them died.  They lasted about 7 days.  I noticed some of them clumping up and sticking to the sides of the bucket.  I should have left them alone and they would have climbed out, but instead I swished the water.  Oh well, goodbye little tadpoles!  It was nice to watch you for a while.    I have been told that birds eat them if they see them in ponds and very few of them survive naturally.  So, next time you see a frog, appreciate him!  He’s been through a lot just to get that size!

We had over 3 months of constant 100 degree plus weather and it was totally dry.  Along with this came a chain of  unusual  events .  The appearance of some creatures that normally stay away  from  the house.   At our lake home, there were snakes coming up to the yard and hanging in trees near the house.  There were little pests that you’d rather never see like mice and rats near the house.  One morning we had two armadillos waiting patiently at the front door before dawn and they were taking turns running and playing in the sprinklers!  It might have been a great video!  Also, we spotted foxes running through the neighborhood near the lake.  I heard there was a fox family in someone’s backyard.   These creatures were seeking food and coolness under the trees and near the concrete.  One thing I did not see at the lake, frogs!  You know if there are snakes, you won’t see frogs because they eat them!  There was hardly much reason to go outside except to do what had to be done and quickly go inside.   All of Texas must have let out a huge sigh of relief when the temps changed below 100 around the 1st of September.  Now we are in November and still has been typically 80 degree weather, but is now cooling down and it looks like fall is beginning to take shape.

So looking back, we did pretty well with the garden considering Texas was fighting forest fires and having water restrictions all summer long.   I harvested July and August and continue to harvest two dwindling veges to this day.  Okra! My okra is standing about 7 feet tall and still budding!  I am now seeing the bees getting dormant in their flights.  My surprise little pepper plant has at least 15 peppers growing on it.  I have already been harvesting on the bell pepper plant the last month.  So, its a nice ending to a very hot season.   I will be preparing the garden bed for late winter to plant for the spring.  All of you out there that are gardeners at heart, start planning your garden now!  First read up on what grows well together and start with things that are grown commonly in your area with success.  If you have some favorites, just be sure that all of them go together.  Remember my earlier posts on companion planting.  Makes a huge difference.   You can just ruin your gardening if you plant the wrong things together.  Read the book “Carrots Love Tomatoes”.  Happy planning!

Nature Sunshine Herbs

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