Monday, August 8, 2005

The Dog Days of Summer

What a major contrast my gardens are this summer compared to the summer of 2004! Last year my gardens were all full of lush greenery and multi-colored flowers—this year my gardens are full of struggling twigs and leaves, very little fruit and no color, except for the growing brown of the lawn.

The dog days of summer have finally hit home and the heat and humidity that Kentucky is famous for is blazing forth in all her glory. Temperatures above 90 degrees, weeks and weeks without rain, and the sticky air that threatens for strangle the life from every living thing. I do not like heat. Just the least bit of heat is enough to raise my internal temperature to the boiling point. I like to be cool, or at least have some type of breeze to keep me comfortable. These days, I fell like someone is trying to smother me with a hot towel; my breath comes in labored gasps.

The problem with these types of days is the fact that even though the weather is unpleasant, gardening still has to go on. Gardens must be weeded, edges trimmed, flowers deadheaded, new transplants started—you name it; there are all types of gardening chores to be done. During very hot summers, gardening is not enjoyable for me because I don’t venture out until the sun goes down, and then I don’t have much time to do anything.

My precious Rabbit Hole garden is still full of green hostas, ferns and astilbe, but the plants aren’t as lush as they were last year. And the poor hydrangea—they are just like me, they wilt in the heat. I have tried to keep them watered, but they are normally a thirsty plant, so this summer is really hard on them. Many of the flowers that I enjoyed last summer have not even started to bloom this season.

One good thing about this dry weather is that I don’t have to mow as often; the grass is so brown and crinkly, I’m not sure it will ever revive. I have loads of English plantain flowers that I have been picking to dry—they will work well in dried arrangements this fall. I’ve also been cutting and drying several different grasses to experiment with this winter. I’m trying to determine which type of grass my birds like better, plus, the sunflowers are slow to start due to the heat, and I may have to use grass in my bird feeders this winter.

I am becoming more and more accustomed to working in the heat, trying to keep up with the mounting outdoor chores. I may not like working in the heat, but I have started to notice that I am able to tolerate the heat a little better this year. I guess my body has been working up its own endurance to help me over the rough spots. I’m also building muscle, which makes it easier to dig a hole or dig up a plant.

One thing I am so proud of this summer is that I have stop drinking so many Cokes every day. I have almost totally switched over to drinking flavored waters with an occasional Coke as a special treat. I have gone from drinking four to five Cokes daily and no water, to drinking nine to ten glasses of flavored water daily. My total fluid intake has improved and I’m starting to notice a slight change in the pressure my joints feel when I’m working outside. I think the water is helping to lubricate my joints better which is cutting down on my pain.

I have also been eating more salads this summer. There are so many different types of salads on the market today—not such the Iceberg lettuce of our past. The Farmer’s Market is full of many types of healthy lettuces along with all the vegetables you need to make a wonderful salad. Romaine, Bibb, Watercress, kale, spinach, and even dandelion leaves—these all make wonderful salad starters. Just add onions, carrots, tomatoes, squash, cucumber—whatever you have growing, or quick on hand—and sprinkle with your favorite dressing and you have the perfect “house” salad. Add that half piece of leftover chicken, or extra strip of bacon, or can of tuna or salmon and you turn the house salad into the main entrĂ©e; and it is so healthy for you.

© Bobbi Rightmyer, August 2005