Hey! It's Sunday, and here I am! I hadn't forgotten about all of you last week, but you see, there was this wee fire in our community that really got me pretty discombobulated. I first noticed the smoke just down canyon from me (Camptonville is on a ridge above Oregon Creek on the east and Bullards Bar, formerly the free-lowing North Yuba, on the west) about an hour into the fire at 5:30 on Friday, August 27th... a huge plume being fanned by the wind, it grew extremely fast into about 500 acres by dark. We were very lucky that the wind was at the front of some unseasonably cool weather, dropping down into the 50s and the fire was contained by early in the week. DH has been working steadily on the crew, this time in supply, but was able to get back to his regular High Country Ranger duties for most of the holiday weekend. I do promise there will be a Sustainable Sunday: Living in Fire Country post soon, and have also promised Ruinwin a short tutorial on making herbal preparations, since she lives on the opposite side of the country and couldn't drop everything and fly in for my class two weeks ago. The preparations we made as a group are almost ready, and some of my pupils will be meeting with me later in the week to strain, decant and otherwise finish up our project.
This week's post is a photo tour of late summer here in my region. I strained a muscle in my upper back this week, probably from over-use through knitting and the phone apps, and can't sit at the computer too long at once right now. I do feel lucky to live in an area that is wealthy in agricultural bounty this time of year, even with many people struggling for jobs. Unemployment in my county and the two on either side is amongst the highest in California, which still beats out most of the rest of the US. Sad. Hoping for brighter days, but grateful to be able to eat such good food and put some of it up for the winter.
First, the beautiful... because my gardening philosophy is that whatever you plant, make it beautiful! The garden occupies one of the most prominent places in my summer lifestyle each year, so by considering its appearance as well as its productivity, I am doubling the yield! Permaculture in action, LOL.
Last year I planted morning glories along one side of one of my biggest raised beds, and allowed them to grow up an old iron bedstead. They reseeded (thank you!) and this year, some climbed up into one of the three sunflowers at the back of that bed.
What a glorious sight this has been as I gaze out the window from my kitchen table over breakfast!
The sunflowers were leftovers that Paul offered up at a Sierra Permaculture Guild meeting back in May, and I have never had much success in my climate starting them outdoors from seed, so jumped at the chance. All three took off and have been a joy to me as well as a lure to the birds, keeping them from tearing up the leaves of other plants. One lunch this week, I spent the entire time watching birds light, check to see if the seeds were ready yet, and then peck away at the sunflower leaves... wonder if they taste enough like the seeds to be a treat to the birds?
Something for now.... and for later. Tomatoes were slow to ripen throughout the foothills this summer, partly because of cool spells in late spring.
They are coming on strong now, though, and it is time to think of many, many ways to use them. Ketchup-making will be one way that we preserve some for later.
Also for later... Royal Acorn squash. I don't usually plant a summer squash these days, since so many friends will gratefully give me all the zuccini and crookneck I might need, or I can pick them up for cheap at one of the farmers' markets. I use the space for winter squash, which we cure and keep and eat throughout the next six months. This year, we are trying a new variety, because late frosts killed ours and these plants were available at Rebel Ridge Organics, where Jessi had them protected in her large greenhouse. I took the photo last weekend, and am happy to report that by yesterday, several were starting to turn the darker green that indicates approaching ripeness! They need to be properly cured to keep well; we usually set them on cardboard boxes on the porch, up on shelves or chairs where there is good air circulation, and let the outer skins dry out before storing them.
The next picture is a rather messy raised bed, full of the mixture of items I like to see in one place... tomatoes, Thai basil, nasturtiums, sunflowers and morning glories, all sharing space and producing abundance. In another bed, I have an extra tomato plant vying for attention with one lemon cucumber plant that has been giving me multiple cukes each day...
It has been fun to watch what does well and then go to our town's Saturday Gardeners' Market and compare notes.
I haven't found much to buy, simply because we are all growing similar items. I did get some eggplants each of the past two weekends, which have joined tomatoes and squashes in my favorite summer dish, Ratatouille.
We are fortunate that this year, the Pelton Wheel Cafe has allowed the market to meet in their back lot, and people have been able to relax on their patio, either breakfasting on cafe foods or purchasing a crepe at the historical society's booth.
A few people bring along instruments and serenade us with live music. Life is so easy in summer!Sierra d' Oro blueberry balsamic vinegar (from a small, local olive oil farm, though they imported it from Modena, Italy) drizzled over the top. Truckee sourdough bread paired with California Olive Ranch fresh, green oil for dipping (they are only 40 miles from me and are "America's largest grower and processor of olive oil"!), and a Napa Valley red wine.