So I've been absent from the blog for two weeks.
Jim has been on the mandatory two-week break GM insists on every July. It's not that he doesn't need the break--he does--it's that he can't take whatever two weeks he wants. (He has something like 5 weeks of vacation or so, so he isn't completely restricted to the GM-mandated time, fortunately.) And these two weeks always seem like the hottest of the summer.
We spent the first week working our butts off, getting ready to host his family reunion, which is always held the second Saturday in July. I'm not big on housework, so I had a lot to do to get the house ready, and then there were the gardens (always in need of weeding) and the yard.
Mid-week our daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids came to stay for a couple of days, thank the goddess; otherwise, the first week of his break would have been nothing but work, work, work. As it was, having some time with our daughter and family was an oasis of pleasure in a desert of drudgery.
The second week began with a couple of days spent recovering from all that hard work. We had as dinner guests a young couple who are natives of India, Sid (short for Siddhartha) and Reshma. Reshma is an artist and brought as a gift a wonderful painting, white on black, that she based on the art of the Warli tribe. It was interesting to talk of cultural differences and to get their views on the American way of life. I'll be posting the dinner menu and recipes soon on my other blog.
Otherwise, Jim caught up on some sleep when he wasn't pulling weeds, ridding veggies of pests, or getting in some quality tractor time.
Our gardens have been spotty in terms of quality. The sudden onset of hot weather back in early June meant that we got no spinach--it came up and bolted almost immediately--and our other veggies seem to be a bit late this year. I've been picking peas and we've had some salad greens, but other than that, harvesting hasn't yet begun. There are tomatoes coming on, though, and the beans are in blossom. The potatoes have blossomed, and I've pulled a few red onions. There are also baby cucumbers, baby melons, and baby eggplants. The corn is looking great and beginning to tassel, so that's comforting. Now we'll see if the fence keeps the wild beasts out ... I do fear that raccoons might get some of that tasty corn, but I'm pretty sure that before we had the fence up, it was the deer that ate our crop.
We bought a couple of flats of blueberries. I've used them fresh and made a batch of jam; I'm planning to make some blueberry pie filling and some strawberry-blueberry jam. We've been into sweet cherries, for some reason, and I'd like to make cherry jam if I can keep enough cherries around to do it! I've also made a couple of fruit desserts--look on my other blog for recipes (not posted as of this writing, but I'm hoping to get them up right away). I've also dried some berries and cherries, and there are strawberries in the freezer.
I read an amazing book called Broken for You, by Stephanie Kallos, and would very much like to see our book group read this one. It is an extraordinary work, unforgettable, powerful, and poetic in its use of a central metaphor. Do yourself a huge favor and read this one. I also read Year of Wonders, a novel about a year in a small English village where the plague wreaks its devastation in 1665. Despite the grim premise of the book, it is a gem of a novel.
Right now I'm nearly finished with The Great Influenza, which is about the flu pandemic of 1918. This was of particular interest to me in light of the growing threat of H5N1, the avian flu breaking out in Asia now. But equally interesting is the way John M. Barry places the epidemic and its mishandling by authorities in the context of the politics and propaganda of the time--a time of war, a time when the biggest crime was undermining morale.
And of course, yesterday my copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince arrived. I'm half through it and enjoying it tremendously--no surprise there, as I'm a big fan of the series. Learning the history of "the Dark Lord" is particularly fascinating, as is--in a completely different way, of course--watching the hormone outbreak among the main characters.
There are peas to freeze, jams to make, and weeds to pull, so I'd better get at it. Before you know it, I'll be making pickles and freezing beans. The most hectic part of the summer is about to begin.