Fall is in the Air

Solstice is next week already, and typical of Wisconsin, once September hits, the humidity drops and the weather cools a bit. I am still getting beans and zucchini, but I fear some of the tomatoes are not going to turn red fast enough. They will likely split too, because we are having some good rain today. I still may get a few more eggplant – there are one or two coming and lovely lavender flowers that may still fruit. The pale yellow broccoli flowers and bright red scarlet runners are enjoyed by bees. Things are winding down. I will have to think on whether I will clean up the garden (to the extent that I do) before or after I go to California. Probably after. I usually leave it a bit of a mess, I cut down the plants and chop them up as a sort of sheet compost, leaving the roots intact to hold the soil I leave the dill stalks and some buckwheat stalks, the echinacea heads. I cut down the beans and pull up my bean pole and tomato stakes. The bunny fence is used to corral the compost pile over winter. I will look for recipes for kale soup – someone told me that he used to go to a party every Halloween at which the kale soup was highly anticipated, and I have quite a bit of lovely kale – curious to see if it will overwinter again, some of it is seeded from the one that overwintered last winter. It would be great to make a nice pot of kale soup when I get back from California. I had some of the favorite kale salad last week, but when it starts to feel like fall, I start wanting soup, and looking forward to the best part of winter: Being able to store food in the garagerator.

Juggling

I have always been fascinated by people who have the eye-hand coordination required to juggle. Me, I mostly juggle my workload, and last week, I dropped one of the balls I had in the air. My current class for my master’s started last week, but I didn’t realize it until the discussion topic was past due! Doh! I had been reading the text for a while, to get ahead of the curve, but…

I made a post anyway, and responses to other people’s posts, completed the assignment and took the quiz. Then I plowed into this week’s topic, read the material, viewed the lectures, took notes and posted my response to this week’s discussion topic. Plan to work on this week’s assignment so I can stay ahead. The course is about industrial hygiene and I learned that Wisconsin had the very first state workers compensation program, back in 1911. Forward!

So far the class is interesting. We are discussing OSHA regulations, from a historical perspective and then will move on to general principles, chemical hazards, biological hazards, physical hazards, and best practices. OSHA regs have not been updated as well as one might hope, so there are no standards for many of the chemical hazards that exist. Only 14 carcinogens are regulated, and there are 13 other chemical standards. I have barely paid attention to OSHA in my career, because the bulk of my life has been in the lab, so we fall into the OSHA Lab Standard which deals with lab scale operations and relies on engineering controls when working with most hazardous chemicals. Still, some terrible lab accidents have occurred. Worldwide there have been approximately 45 documented deaths in the last 20 years in academic research settings https://www.labsafety.org/memorial-wall. If you look at the link, I counted people killed from 2000-2020, and I tried to avoid counting those who died in industrial labs, because my personal interest is academic labs, but I did a pretty quick run-through, so let’s call it 45 plus or minus 5 in case I miscounted.

Safety First!

Man Pants!

Ladies, we are being cheated! It is time we stood up for our rights to pockets. Real pockets! A pocket you can put your entire hand in! Pants made of fabric that is more than a couple molecules thick. I have been griping about the poor quality of women’s trousers for some time now and have decided to act. No more lady pants for me! I am buying man pants.

My first foray into the world of trousers with functional pockets came when I decided the have my husband’s old wool dress pants hemmed for my own use. They are lovely pants, and the pockets go on forever. roomy in the crotch too! They look smart and stylish, maybe a little KD Lang.

Recently I lost a pair of flimsy women’s Levis to a backside blowout. The fabric was flimsy from day one. They could not have been more than two years old. This week, I ordered myself a pair of men’s jeans. Levi’s 505’s. They cost less, are made of heavier fabric, and have real pockets. My cell phone fits entirely in the back pocket! I can put my keys in the front pocket!

No man would put up with the poor pockets we do: The faux pocket – looks like a pocket, but it is sewn shut and there is no pocket on the inside of the trousers. The demi pocket, that you can maybe get four fingers in, up to the second knuckle, the side pocket, meant to be hidden, but designed so that your stuff falls out, especially as you get in or out of the car.

Liberate yourself from pocket tyranny! Buy some man pants! I may never go back!

An excerpt on why women’s pockets are tiny:

Another cause for the lack of pockets in women’s clothing is derived from the thought that women’s garments needed to be slim. Also that pockets added unnecessary fabric and therefore taking away from the typical slim feminine silhouette expected…”

Thought by whom? Unnecessary for whom? Expected by whom? I look plenty slim in my man pants, and having pockets particularly in jeans is a no brainer! You can buy yourself lady pants if you like, but me? I am not going back unless they start to put more thought into the design of them.

Hummingbirds

I took them for granted in California, several species could be found, and they are fun to watch. Territorial, inquisitive, and sometimes even demanding! In WI, they should be generally ruby throated hummingbirds. I saw one last year visiting my scarlet runners, and this year, we got a feeder. We did not have it early in the season, and though I did see a hummer or two in the yard, I did not see anyone visiting the feeder. Except for ants. I ended up spraying a little neem oil on the pole and ensuring that nothing was touching the pole that could give the ants a bridge. After that, I saw hornets and wasps. A day or two ago, D said he thought he saw one at the feeder, and this afternoon, I saw one, a female. She sipped at the feeder, then visited the scarlet runners. I had been about to water and didn’t want to disturb. She perched on the tomato rings that I installed the other day to prop up the delicata vines that were trying to grow out over the lawn. D is a ruthless mower if my garden gets out of bounds, and I want those baby squash to reach delicious maturity! Mrs. Hummer flew away, but I suspect she will be back before she needs to migrate.

At my first real job, we had a second floor lunchroom with large windows that looked out through some eucalyptus trees. One year, a hummingbird built her nest and hatched her eggs just on the other side of the glass. So fun!

Saturday starts with a bang!

4:45 am. Huge crack of thunder, windows rattling, kitties snuggling in for comfort. Rain pattering on the roof and melodically running down the downspouts. Rain barrel full from yesterday. Lying in bed, listening to the rumble of thunder and the peaceful sound of rain. Not enough to nudge us out of moderate drought, but helpful. We are still roughly 10 inches behind, but the rain is welcome and my garden is happy. Rain barrel full, and in fact I need to fill a few more bottles for my winter houseplant store.

I eventually got up and had some coffee. I went out to check on things. The bees are enjoying the broccoli flowers, but I am still harvesting side shoots from a few plants. Beans are starting to get going again. I picked another lovely delicata and there are several more in various stages of development.

I did some minor cleanup, removing tattered leaves from broccoli, zucchini, tomato. Tied up some wayward tomato branches. Cut down some spent buckwheat, scattering the seed as I went and chopping stems and stalks into the compost. I found a lovely nasturtium – pale yellow with a hint of pale salmon pink! It is growing where the volunteer strawberries are, and I love it. I have saved a bunch of seeds – you never know what you will get with the nasties, I have had red, chinese red, oranges and bright yellows, pale pinkish red and now this! Too fun!

Later, I hopped in the car to go to the grocery. It takes about 8 minutes to get there. Four minutes out, huge downpour. From sun to I can’t see, trees bending in the wind downpour. I went home – I would have been soaked to the skin trying to go from car to store. By the time I got home, sunshine! My husband said what? You didn’t go to the store? I said no, it was pouring. It never was at my place, well, until maybe five minutes later. I had a nice cup of coffee and went later.

Big Tomatoes

Big Zack had two giant tomatoes – sadly both got badly cracked before they were ripe due to poorly timed rain. So glad for the rain, but wish it could have come more evenly over the season. I picked them so the plants can devote energy to the smaller guys. One was over 2 pounds, the other over 3! But too damaged for me to bother with. Next year: definitely in pots next to the house so I can control the water better!

I had a volunteer plant that put on a few tomatoes and I picked a lovely medium sized tomato today – I will definitely eat that one – looks like a picture. My eggplants are very productive and the kale put on a flush of new growth. Love my kale! I may have to make “Korean Spicy Kale”, essentially a stir fry of kale in gochujang. The Japanese beetles seem to be waning. Happy about that! There are four more delicata. I want to cook one soon – there is one that has not the best skin, so I doubt it will keep well, but should be fine now. I will be happy to get plenty of delicata. I think if there had been more rain, it would have been more productive. My first year, I had about 27 of them! This year I will be lucky to get dozen.

It is gonna be hot and sticky all weekend. Probably won’t spend much time in the garden. Not much blooming now – nasturtiums, calendula, scarlet runners, the broccoli I let go. Squash blossoms, late kale, arugula and buckwheat flowers. Still some clasping coneflower – hope it reseeds well. I loved how the bumblebees would sleep tucked up under the flowers, I got some orange butterfly weed seed from a plant I pass on my way to the bus. I want to scatter that near the yellow one so I will have a bicolor effect next year.

Now is a great time to collect wildflower seeds, or garden flower seeds. I have been saving nasturtium seeds – the calendula I just deadhead and let the seeds fall where they may, pull up the ones that come up in inconvenient locations. Flowers make me happy. I feel like I should have some asters of some sort to add color now that the echinacea have faded. The salvia and daisies are done, the agastache is blooming and the bees love it, but it is not very showy, so it would be nice to have something else there too. Maybe I will pick up a pot of asters and plant them, hmm, where? the one daisy plant does not look great, but if it has the aster yellows, and I plant asters there, it may not be a good idea. Well, getting sleepy, so I should get to bed!

The light is changing

Late summer – the sun is warm, the breeze is cool. It feels like change is in the air. We got a little rain yesterday, so there was much rejoicing. I harvested four delicata squash before the bunnies could start in on them. Another five eggplant, with four more small ones shining purple in the sun. Tomatoes – all I can eat! I see the huge ones in the back are finally starting to pink up. The zucchini have been playing tricks on me, hiding and then, when my back is turned, growing to the size of a corgi. Ah well. I am going to cook up a few that I managed to catch before the transformation. Tian de Courgettes for lunch next week. That and more ginger garlic marinated eggplant.

I don’t mind the drop in humidity, but wonder if our drought will end soon, or is just beginning. It is eerie to not hear the sump pump running. To think that is how I watered my baby trees last year! Not a drop from that source this year. It is all rain barrel or house water. At least I have most of what I need for my winter house plant watering, I hope.

Phymata In Love

I had not seen my ambush bug in a while. Assumed that it had gone through its life cycle and maybe I would see others next year. Today I saw one! It looked different, maybe greener than the one I had on my daisies earlier in the season. It was on an echinacea, and was eating a small greenish bug that I see visiting all my flowers. Ambush bug looked big, and maybe almost like it had something on it’s back. I took a few pictures and once I zoomed in, I saw indeed there was something on her back. She had found a mate, or it had found her, and in the same manner as the loathsome Japanese beetles, she eats while mating. I wonder if he needs to wait for her to be busy with food so he doesn’t get eaten himself.

So, I need to look into that, and also see where she lays her eggs. I had planned to rip out the echinacea due to aster yellows, but I like watching these critters, so I want to make sure the eggs are not accidentally destroyed!

Actually, I have mites! Not aster yellows. Disgusting. I am supposed to remove all the flower heads that are affected, which is a lot of them. Evil bastards. But what of Mr. and Mrs. Phymata? I only saw the mister today, not sure where the little missus went.

Butterflies

This year was tough on butterflies, at least on my area. I never saw a single Red Admiral. I never saw a swallowtail, Black or Eastern Tiger, though I did see a few black swallowtail caterpillars – afraid they got eaten before they got to the colorful stage. On the other hand, my neighbors planted some milkweed, and the monarchs were more plentiful. The other main visitor I had was the Banded Hairstreak. Lots of Cabbage Whites, of course, laying on my cole crops.

Summer Bounty

I seem to have staved off the squash bugs, and things look pretty good. The tomatoes are ripening, the broccoli is full of side shoots, zucchini is not as robust as some years, but that just means I am not looking for creative solutions to the zucchini glut. I have at least five good sized delicata ripening – not ready yet, because the bunnies have not started scratching on them yet. Got another nice handful of raspberries – it is like they never quit!

It looks like Mr. Camouflage Looper is still a pupa under his echinacea blossom (what’s left of it – the JBs and the storms did a number on all the echinacea). I hope he pupates and becomes a moth.

Miss Chloe, the neighbor cat was relaxing under my zukes – I thought it was a fat bunny, but no, just Chloe. She is lucky I didn’t water! I plan to water this evening, when the sun is low. The beans especially seem thirsty. I don’t want to give too much to the tomatoes. Gonna water the kale too. I have a nice crop of baby kale just beyond the compost, I hope it is relatively protected there and will come up in the spring! Maybe I should plant some chard as well…

Hope you are enjoying your bounty too!