Happy Solstice y’all!

Today for Solstice we got rain, a lovely gift because along with heat we’ve also been having a drought. The drought is so bad that the Mississippi River, the main source of water for the Twin Cities, is just a few inches above its lowest recorded level in 1976. The rain is not enough to replenish the soil and rivers. We need days of soaking rain and that is not going to happen. We might get a little rain on Thursday later in the week but the long term forecast continues dry with another heatwave looming on the horizon.

My garden is not irrigated. I have three rain barrels, the third added just this spring. I almost didn’t get that third barrel because for the past three summers it’s rained so regularly that I rarely needed to use the stored water. This year has been altogether different.

The barrels are empty and we have been using gray water from dishwashing and the shower and the basement dehumidifier as well as fresh water from the tap to preserve as much of the garden as we can. Tonight when James gets home from work, we will be setting up the air conditioner condenser draining tube that runs out into the basement laundry sink to drain into a 5 gallon bucket instead (just got that brilliant idea from someone on Facebook, social media is not 100% horrible).

My strawberry bed is fried and even the Jerusalem artichokes are toppling over. The fruits trees are letting go of their unripe fruit. The radishes have stopped growing altogether. The various beans are having a mixed go of it. The corn has been doing really well as is the tomato and ground cherry. The pumpkins are trying to make a go of it as is the zucchini but the big squash leaves need lots of water and in the heat of the afternoon they look dreadful.

We put out a dish of water on our deck because the squirrels keep climbing into the empty watering cans we leave there looking for a drink. And another rabbit I am going to dub Bunnicula, has found ki’s way into the garden and is taking out the cornstalks for their water content. Some internet searching found that people had good luck with fake snakes or even dark lengths of hose that look like snakes. 

belt snake
The dreaded belt snake

I added the reptiles throughout the garden yesterday. This morning I discovered Bunnicula had dug a hole under the fence right next to the one I had plugged up and took down two stalks of corn right by the belt snake. Clearly Bunnicula is a wascally wabbit! I plugged up the new hole in the fence. I moved the belt snake and relocated an alligator. Will this be enough? Time will tell.

In the meantime, I have been mulching the corn and beans and squash with straw. It took me ages to realize I should do this because when rain is profligate, straw mulch is a recipe for mold and slugs, so it is not something I generally do. I am also allowing the edible garden “weeds”—wood sorrel, purslane, some lambs quarters, and the feral rocket/arugula—to grow anywhere they want to to shade the soil and provide a living mulch that I can also eat. 

In this process I am also gaining a better understanding of the garden’s microclimates and I have definitely discovered where the hottest part of the garden is. The Jacob’s cattle and Akira beans are growing in part of it and they are not liking it one bit. Some of the poor plants have been scorched. The black-eyed peas are growing in another bit of the hottest part of the garden and they are absolutely loving it. 

The cabbage and kohlrabi turned out to be in a too warm bed. The cabbage is all fried and dead and there are a few stunted kohlrabi barely hanging on. The peas were in the perfect place but were taken out by rabbit number one who was vanquished with a barking James wielding a spray bottle of vinegar. Two of them have managed to make a comeback. But next year I will plant them in the same place and put cabbage in the bed along with them and see how that goes. Maybe I will get myself some better snakes—how can I convince some garter or corn snakes to move in?—to keep the rabbits out because I don’t have enough wherewithal to build cages around everything.

Trying to make the best of a bad situation. There is always something to learn.

I keep having dreams that at some point in the next couple of weeks the weather pattern will change and the rains will come and by mid to late July everything will be lush and green and happy instead of wilted and suffering. In the meantime, I move through the garden with a watering can offering the bare minimum of sustenance while whispering to my plant kin to please not give up, to hold on just a little bit longer, the rain will come, I had dreams. 

I hope the dreams come true.

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20 thoughts on “Happy Solstice!

    1. Yes indeed! Lambsquarters are very nutritious. Use the greens like you would spinach (it is actually a close relative of spinach and quinoa) and you can eat the seeds too like a grain (make flour or cook like porridge). The internet if filled with info if you want to know all the things, but here is a place to start https://chestnutherbs.com/lambs-quarter/

      1. Wow! I’ve just been mowing them down all this time, but this opens up a whole new world 🙂 We’ve had a long, hot, dry spell too, and everything looks dry as a bone except those lambsquarters, which seem completely oblivious and are flourishing! Hope you get some rain soon!!

  1. A belated Happy Solstice Stefanie! I hope you’ve gotten some rain. I wish we could get some as our rain barrels will soon be empty. I’m in awe of all the veggies you have in your garden. I really hope that your veggies make it!

    1. Thank you Iliana! This last weekend we have been blessed with rain and the garden is perking up. Here’s hoping it becomes a regular event!

  2. Same here! It’s been very dry these past few weeks, a drought brewing for some farmlands. And the temperatures, you wouldn’t believe it. Just checked my phone app on weather, next Wed. June 30, the forecast high is 38C that’s 100.4F!!

    1. Sorry to hear about how dry you’ve been too Arti! Have you noticed whether it is affecting the water level at your birding pond? I hope your heatwave doesn’t last long and you manage to keep comfortable!

  3. We are expecting a scorcher of a heat wave this weekend and I am babying my little cucumber and squash starts, but I don’t know how many of them will make it. I’m not very good at starting seedlings (practicing!) and a couple of them are looking very sad, but I’m trying to shade them and keep them watered. I hope you all get some rain soon! Your post inspired me to top up the two bird baths we keep, so the local critters can get a drink. The kale and tomatoes are doing well, and the basil is popping up and very happy, and the garlic is looking like it’s getting ready to harvest, so there’s that. The last of the peas that I didn’t get around to harvesting are getting all sunburnt, but the chickens will love them. I’m worried about this summer but trying to be at peace with whatever will be.

    1. I’ve heard about the heatwave out there Daphne! How are your cucumbers and squash doing? Sounds like the rest of your garden has been doing pretty well. None of my peas came back after the rabbit mowed them down the last time right before the start of the heatwave. I will have to start all over again on my pea “breeding” with a purchased packet next year. This makes me so sad. But, like you, I am trying to be at peace with whatever happens. It’s not easy!

  4. This is a great post. Is dishwater from hand-washing OK to use? (We eat fish and occasionally meat, but not too often.) We don’t have a dishwasher, and I think the dish soap wouldn’t hurt the plants – maybe even be good for them?

    1. We wash by hand Valorie and use 100% palm oil and scent-free castile bar soap and it does not get used on vegetables or herbs, only trees and shrubs and native perennials. Depending on what kind of soap you use, there is a risk of salt build up, but if you alternate where you water and use regular water in between to dilute salts you’ll be good.

  5. Happy Solstice! We’ve got our water dish out too, and use the previous day’s (rendered poor drinking by the racoon family that loves to wash their paws at night) to water different plants each time. We are not growing anything ourselves this year but the local farmers we buy from are all struggling (some irrigate, but not all). The local strawberries we had were wonderful, but their crop suffered and was very slim (and a loss for them because they had to credit some customers) and none of the other growers had more than the single week for selling them (usually about a month up here). It’s been a hard year so far for growers. We have had rain twice in the past week though, one good spell and one that might not add to much for farms (but sometimes, when they are closer to the lake, a small rain here is better there) but not necessarily going to be a trend. Of course, most people are not noticing any difference at all in their supermarkets, not until the shelves are empty, I guess.

    1. Sorry to hear you are having drought too BIP! It’s seems really widespread across north America, something that is unusual. I am hoping to get to the farmers market this weekend for some strawberries so I at least get to enjoy some this year since I only ever eat them in season. I just got my first CSA box of the season this week and my farmer has not said anything about trouble with drought so maybe he has at least some irrigation. You are right about most people not noticing anything in their supermarkets except maybe some higher prices. Oh the global food chain. No one will notice anything until the day it fails, and one day it will fail. Then we will be in big trouble.

    1. Does this mean you are getting rain then, Laila? I haven’t heard any farmers doing ok on that front this year…

      1. We have been getting some rain, but not a ton.
        I just looked on drought.gov and upper East TN (near KY/VA border) is considered abnormally dry but that’s the only part of TN classified on their scale at the moment.

    2. Thanks Laila! After Sunday’s rain I was hoping things might turn around but not yet. I hope your area manages to avoid being in drought!

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