The long hot days of Summer are here in the Fall Zone. Bindweed grows at least a foot while my back is turned. The birds are quiet now, except for young mocking birds and an occasional wren, storing up food for the Winter. Starlings and house sparrows walk around with open mouths, their form of air conditioning. Spring sounds are replaced by weed wackers and the locust’s crescendoing rattle celebrates Lucinda William’s big red sun bearing down on my garden with no remorse. The occasional promising dark cloud covers the sun, but only for a moment before changing course to luckier parts, like Baltimore. This is that critical time when crops are put to the test by heat, drought, storms, disease and pests and the fruits of a farmer’s labor lie uncertain.
My own crops have done remarkably well considering the soil is very low in phosphorus. Compaction and a crusty surface indicate a lack of organic matter limiting the soil’s ability to absorb water and nutrients. Despite these shortcomings, I’ve harvested garlic, huge heads of lettuce, beets, peppers, asparagus, strawberries, spinach, green beans, swiss chard, potatoes and for the first time, cucumbers and a handful of raspberries. My winter squash is off to the races with only a few short months before frost. There are plenty of ripening tomatoes and the plants look healthy for the most part.
After discovering my raspberries were disappearing, I wrestled with bird netting for about an hour to cover them only to wrestle it back off because two cat birds got stuck in it. Now one of them follows me around like Mary’s lamb. The rabbits hop around the yard nibbling on clover and relax in the shade under the tomatoes along with the cat who is just too lethargic to care. On the surface, it’s a peaceable kingdom, but beneath the facade of serenity a battle rages on.