Changes Abound

Have you noticed the traffic on the road lately? What’s everyone’s hurry? Don’t they know it’s dangerous out there?

I’m not talking about the four (or more) wheeled traffic. The traffic I’m noticing is visible only when there are two wheels or two legs. The roads are literally crawling (pun intended :-))with insects.

Each little crawler has its own style of movement. The fuzzy woolly worm seems to undulate over the road in a constant rhythm. Then you have roly polys who scuttle along. The road is most dangerous for them since they are exactly the same color as the blacktop. (I used to feel bad if I ran over one, but I’ve gotten over that since one of their family members ate on my biggest tomato.) Spiders are quick movers that seem to always be running at a diagonal. I suppose getting eight legs moving in the same directions is difficult. Beetles always seem to have a direct route planned out as they hustle down the road.

Lately the grasshoppers have made an appearance. As the weather turns slightly cooler they come out of the fields and on to the road. I think they like to play chicken with me. Just how close can I get before they leap. Sometimes they miss judge and hit the spokes of my wheel. Plink is the sound they create. I’m sure they are dazed after that encounter. Some have built up their leg muscles so they can leap over the front wheel. A few decide this game is no fun so they jump in the other direction. They drive me crazy as I pedal down the road trying to avoid a collision with them. However, some are not so lucky as the road is littered with grasshopper carcasses.

The increased traffic on the road is not the only change I’ve noticed since the shifting of the seasons has started. There are a few late blooming plants that have erupted in the fields.

This is a river of flowers flowing through the field.

This is a river of flowers flowing through the field.

Massive flocks of birds are gathering on the lines. They must be discussing the route to their winter nesting grounds. Last night I was able to catch theses photos of the birds as we drove up an off-ramp. There were so many more that I couldn’t catch with my phone. Of course everyone was screeching just a bit louder than the one next to him.

What's that you say? I can't hear you? Where are we going?

What’s that you say? I can’t hear you? Where are we going?

Don't they look proper sitting on the line?

Don’t they look proper sitting on the line?

This is also the time of year you must be cautious of where you walk. Webs appear overnight and catch you unaware. The strands that are disconnected float freely in the breeze looking for someone or something to drape themselves over.

This spider is outside the kitchen area. Fortunately it chose to build the web in a non-traffic area of the yard. Did you know this spider is afraid of water?

This spider is outside the kitchen area. Fortunately it chose to build the web in a non-traffic area of the yard. Did you know this spider is afraid of water?

Slowly the earth shifts and everyone living on this planet must make adjustments too. I just don’t know if I’m ready for the change, yet. Are you?

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

Last Saturday I made a beeline to our farmer’s market hoping that there was still one last weekend with fresh orchard peaches. Yes! The peaches were there, but sadly I was informed that this was the very last day for peaches at the market. I quickly bought my box before they all disappeared.

I wandered down the row of vendors but nothing jumped out at me. All the usual items were there in mass quantity. Peppers in every shade were piled high. Tomatoes covered tables along with lettuces, green beans, zucchini, cantaloupe, and a plethora of squashes and pumpkins. Just the same old, same old.

On a whim I decided to check out a new farmer’s market a couple of miles away. This market was started last spring, but I had never been to check it out.

Right away I knew this was different. The line of cars slowly snaked through the parking lot. It was like finding a parking spot at the mall during Christmas rush. If you spotted someone leaving, you followed them to snatch that spot. Live music grew louder the closer you got to the market. Food trucks were parked along the entrance way enticing you with all sorts of smells. Once you arrived at the pavilion, the music disappeared in the noise of people chatting. A carnival/craft show atmosphere surrounded me. Yes, there were the usual veggies, but so many more.

The booths were not just produce. There was some locally produced wine, flavored pizza crusts, bakery products, wool, spices, totes, clothing, candy, and much more.

I  made a pass through just to see all the choices. Then I went back to several booths intrigued by the produce. I bought a bunch of rainbow Swiss chard and Asian spinach (later I learned it is called Malabar). Both vendors assured me that I could cook it just  like spinach. We love sauteed spinach, so I thought I’d give it a try. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Once home I googled ways to prepare the chard. I chose a recipe and prepared it. Not a favorite in this house. Disappointed with the chard, but we did not despair, I still had the Malabar.

Hope is high for this new vegetable. It's such a pretty green!

Hope is high for this new vegetable. It’s such a pretty green!

Once again Google to the rescue, but now I am reading some things that concern me. If you cook it too long, it becomes slimy like okra. Ewww! That does not sound good.

Dinner was all ready, I just needed to saute the Malabar. It did not wilt like spinach. I worried that it would go into the slime stage. I decided to call it done. I think I am too late, I see strings of slime as I lift it onto our plates. I choked down several bites, but I cannot finish it. I don’t really taste anything. Another bust! I think I will stick to spinach.

I'm getting a bad vibe about this!

I’m getting a bad vibe about this!

On a happy note, the neighbors’ tomato plants are over producing and they are bringing the extras to me. I am a happy person! I see BLTs, Caprese salad, hamburgers with sliced tomatoes, and who knows what else in my future, but definitely no Malabar!

Two of these came from my garden. I bet you can figure out which ones.

Two of these came from my garden. I bet you can figure out which ones.

Failed

I am a failure. I have failed for the last two years. It wasn’t always like that.  In the beginning I was successful. Neighbors eagerly awaited my treasures.  I joyfully shared. However, for the last two years I have had great difficulty producing quality tomatoes.

Last year everyone said it was too dry. Tomatoes need lots of water. I watered. Puny tomatoes were all I got. This year they said it was too wet. Tomatoes need drier weather. I could not suck the water from the ground. Minuscule tomatoes were all I got.

It's hard to believe that this tomato is not much bigger than my cherry tomatoes.

It’s hard to believe that this tomato is not much bigger than my cherry tomatoes.

Summer is made for BLT sandwiches. They have the perfect combination of crunch, salty, and moisture. There is one element that makes or breaks a BLT – the tomato MUST be fresh from the garden. Hothouse tomatoes lack the pizzazz of a home-grown ripe tomato.

Every summer I purchase two tomato plants for my mini garden. I am always confused by all the varieties but I read the tags carefully. I am looking for a large, meaty, early ripening, tomato who will produce until the first frost. Is that asking for too much? I didn’t think so. This year I bought a Big Boy and a Red Beefsteak plus I added a cherry tomato plant.

Weekly I checked my plants. I staked them up when they grew. I watered, I fertilized with tomato plant food. I inspected them for the dreaded tomato worms. (Hmmm, what does it mean when tomato worms don’t invade your plants?) Slowly the blossoms turned into midget balls. The midget balls grew up to be ping pong ball size. This was not what I would call a Big Boy or a Beefsteak.

Finally a tomato of size appeared. I eagerly watched it get bigger and bigger. The color grew brighter and brighter. My excitement was mounting. My mouth was watering for that perfect BLT.

Isn't it lovely?

Isn’t it lovely?

The day had come to harvest this bit of delight. My hand reached down to test the firmness of the flesh when I saw it. A roly poly waddled out from an opening on the underside. Upon further inspection, there was evidence that a slug had chewed its way in and the gnats were enjoying a smorgasbord. Curses! My one tomato of size had been hijacked by nature.

My disappointment could be heard throughout the neighborhood when I discovered this.

My disappointment could be heard throughout the neighborhood when I discovered this.

Thankfully my neighbor is having better luck with his plants. He shared several tomatoes. BLT is back on the menu!

You should have no problem discerning which tomatoes I grew and which ones were gifted to me. :-)

You should have no problem discerning which tomatoes I grew and which ones were gifted to me. 🙂

Nick of Time

I needed to get going, the day was only going to get hotter. So with the sun shining brightly, I stepped outside and the humidity hit me like a wet wall. I had second thoughts about riding my bike, but I pedaled on.

Speed is never my goal as I ride and today was not a day to pick up the pace. As long as I was moving there was a breeze to counteract the heat and humidity.

My eyes scanned left and right to notice the new blossoms of the wildflowers. The cows in the pastures stopped their munching to gaze at me with quizzical eyes.

Almost half way through the ride, I noticed it’s not quite as hot. When I began the journey back I discovered why it had cooled slightly. The sky in the west was no longer bright blue, now it was a deep steel blue. It looked like rain was headed my way and I was six miles from home. I tried to pick up the pace. Pedaling was a priority now, coasting was a luxury I could not afford as the sky darkened.

Two miles from home, I turned south. That sky was lighter, however, my relief was short lived. Deep blue flooded the sky as far as the eye could see. The end of this ride had a couple of inclines, so now my legs burned from the constant pedaling.

Every breath wracked my chest as I huffed and puffed my way to the crest of the final hill. Was that thunder or trucks rumbling? Lightning flashed above my head as if responding to my mental question. I pedaled faster to reach the summit because it is all down hill from that point.

Scenery of that final mile blurred as I continued to pedal. Raindrops gave my shirt a polka-dot pattern. I flew down my street and up the driveway. The garage was open. My husband  raced the rain to finish mowing the yard.

I made it into the garage in the nick of time. The wind shook the trees. Thunder rumbled, as I safely watched the rain pour down from under cover of the patio. That was a close one!

One of the downspouts was plugged up, so we had a curtain of rain.

One of the downspouts was plugged up, so we had a curtain of rain.