Archives for posts with tag: weather anomalies

I’m very happy—and grateful—to say that we made it through Hurricane Sandy’s passing with very little impact.  The storm made landfall far enough to the south of us that we did not get much rain (and it was never heavy) and the winds were limited to no more than 45 miles per hour.  We’ve had summer thunderstorms that were worse.

A few trees fell, along with several large branches and many, many smaller ones.  Just as we were preparing for bed last night, a tree opposite the road from a neighbor’s house toppled onto the power lines and caught fire.  It was burning in three locations—the point of contact with the wire, at its base, and at mid-height where it was pressing against another tree—and with each gust of wind, showers of sparks went flying across the yard.  It was very dramatic (and not a little frightening).

Eventually, the trunk burned through where it was resting against the power line and the top of the tree dangled onto the road, blocking passage.  By then, an emergency responder had arrived to keep an eye on it.  It was not clear whether they did anything more than direct traffic (where were these people headed at the peak of the storm?) but by midnight, the tree had burned out and the responder had left.  Amazingly, we never lost power.

Of course, most of the State of New Jersey and New York City did not fare so well.  Millions of people are without power and any location near a shoreline was inundated.  I’m thankful that we made it through without any severe impacts and hope for a speedy and effective restoration of services—and normality—for those who were adversely affected.

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The early frost decisively ended the year for most of the vegetables in our garden.  And although it was not a violent weather event (such as last year’s hurricane) and did not last very long (unlike the snowstorm last October), the cold weather left behind a mess of frost-damaged vines and vegetables.  The sight of them is not very uplifting—it is the complete opposite of the promising appearance of spring growth—and it is time to clean up and start getting the planters ready for winter.

So we disentangled the string beans from their trellis and pulled up their roots, some of which extended completely across the planter.  The bedraggled tomatoes, mesclun, bell pepper, eggplant and basil received similar treatment.  I was impressed by their extensive and deep root systems, which was reassuring even if not all of the plants produced as much as I would have liked.

Likewise, we pulled up the stakes and cages, cleaned them off and stored them on the back porch, next to the firewood.  We left the trellis in place (it is a more elaborate construction) but will probably have to move it next spring (we’ll be rotating our crops).  Until then, we’ll enjoy its rectilinear orderliness (and maybe we’ll hang Christmas lights on it).

In final preparation for tonight’s potential freeze, we picked all of the tomatoes still hanging on the vines.  Most of them are green—we will have to decide whether to fry them up or pickle them or do something else—while one or two are showing a hint of pink.  They’ve been patiently waiting for the sun to ripen them but the days are now too short.

Next, we clear-cut the lettuces.  They have gotten slightly bitter with age but paired with citrus (Rachel’s trick for balancing the flavors) and the almost-ripe tomatoes, they will make a fine final salad of the year.  On the other hand, given the mesclun’s determination and perseverance, I will not be too surprised if they return for another round (I’m not holding my breath, either).

To complete our harvest, we started sifting through the French Filet (low) and Blue Lake (high) vines, looking for ripe string beans.  At first, I thought that we would not find very many—previous yields have been modest—but apparently I hadn’t been searching thoroughly enough.  After checking each vine top to bottom, left to right, we ended up with a large zip-top baggie full of beans.

Before heading back into the house, I pulled out a tarp to cover the radish sprouts.  If they can survive the freeze, they might still make it to maturity.  I used pieces of stone to hold the tarp in place (I never did get around to paving the perimeter of the planters) and will hope that it is sealed well enough to retain the heat of today’s solar radiation.

Oddly, Saturday’s cool temperatures are expected to be followed by unseasonable warmth on Sunday and Monday.  October can be a difficult month to predict, lodged as it is between September, a month more closely aligned with summer, and November, which often feels more like a winter month.

There is a freeze warning in effect for Saturday morning and if the forecast holds up, it will mean an abrupt end to the growing season for a lot of us in the northeast.  In some ways, I would prefer the decisive finality of a hard frost—nothing to do but clean up afterwards—but because we still have fruit on the vine, I hope that the mercury does not drop below freezing (or, if it does, it is not for very long).

Just in case, we will start harvesting whatever is ripe or nearly so.  We have one yellow bell pepper that is ready to go and two Trucker’s Favorite tomatoes that although not fully red are far enough along to make a nice addition to tonight’s salad (they will go nicely with watercress and radishes).

The most sensitive plant remaining in the garden is the basil.  To head off what would be a catastrophic loss, we clear-cut the entire patch, leaving behind an orderly grid of stubby stems that only Morticia could love.  It also left us with a big bowlful of basil leaves.  What to do with them?  What else?  We made pesto, our go-to recipe for basil.

Actually, I should say that Rachel made pesto; I pulled the leaves off the stems (and took pictures).  She prepared two types:  one with all green basil, parmesan cheese and walnuts; the other with a mix of green and Red Rubin (i.e., purple) basil, pecorino cheese and almonds.  The variations in the ingredients make for finished pestos (pestoes?  pesti?) of intriguingly different flavors, colors and textures.

Since we started to grow basil in quantity and with some success (it did wonderfully well this year), I have come to appreciate what a versatile and delicious food pesto is.  Besides its common use as a sauce for pasta (greatly improved by the addition of a small volume of pasta cooking water), pesto can be added to soups, spread on vegetables before (or after) grilling, used like mayonnaise on sandwiches and heaped on crostini or bruschetta.

Pesto is also good plain and by itself, eaten straight from the food processor.  This is not unlike snacking on spoonfuls of peanut butter taken directly from the jar (often, while standing in front of the open refrigerator).  Depending on its consistency (we like ours fairly tight), pesto doesn’t stick as badly to the roof of your mouth but it does leave little specks of green on your teeth.

The season is rapidly changing.  Unlike the garden, which changes slowly and gradually, the seasons seem to turn abruptly.  So far in September, we’ve had mostly summery days with one or two fall preview days thrown in for interest.  And then today, a switch was flipped and it is fall.

To celebrate the transition (which I heartily welcome), we made a visit to Stonecrop Gardens.  We haven’t been here since early summer (see June 2, 2012) and had meant to come last week (when the weather was much more summerlike) until our plans changed.  We thought we had missed the summer peak.

Well, it turns out that we missed nothing.  Everything was amazingly colorful and lush, much more so than we expected for mid-September.  The gardeners have clearly been busy the last three months and there were many blooming flowers on display.  The variety of plantings continues to impress me.

They have a particularly good collection of dahlias, for instance, and must have dozens of specimens in different sizes, colors and configurations.

Also of note were the groundcovers (I’m probably using that term imprecisely), the leafy plants that fill in the beds around the more showy flowers.  Some have large leaves, some small; a few have flowers of their own, of different sizes; and most are green but others are veiny and red or gray-blue.  There was very little bare earth to be seen.

And some of the plants had been confused by the cool nights we had earlier in the month:  clustered around a tree were scores of crocuses in full bloom.  They were very pretty but I do not envy them when they realize that winter still lies ahead.