Summer in north Vermont is a fast season. People and pets try to stay outside constantly, and even the plants seem to sense summer’s brevity, growing in rampant bursts. Now, in early August, we enjoy summer’s apex: afternoons just hot enough to swim and nights sometimes brisk enough for a second blanket. Around my house, everything is growing and blooming.
Goldenrod and purple coneflower in my yard (above), and hosta and daisies by the porch (below).
This year’s big surprise has been the peaches. Last year the trees were infected with a fungus (the so-called ‘leaf-curl fungus’) that destroys the leaves. I sprayed with fungicide during the fall and early spring, and now the trees are growing beautifully without a trace of infection. They produced a large crop (even after I thinned approx 40% of the fruit in the spring).
The peach above could be used by the Georgia tourist bureau, yet it’s here in my yard, on a tree I planted two years ago. It’s somewhat amazing that peaches grow well in Vermont. (I planted the Reliance peach, a cold-hardy tree developed in New Hampshire.) The peaches are juicy and delicious. They’re all ripening at once, and for the last three days I’ve eaten peaches at every meal.
My apple trees, meanwhile, have done only ok. They also suffered from fungus last year (so-called ‘apple scab’), which I’ve partially controlled this year. Perhaps because they had such a hard time last year, there’s very little fruit now. The exception is the Macintosh (above and below), which was planted this spring. Macintosh is by far my favorite apple, and these should ripen in another month.
I purchased three new chickens to begin rebuilding the flock after a springtime massacre which claimed four of the five birds. The rooster and two hens shown below are old English game birds. I’ll pick up another couple birds at the up-coming Champlain Valley Exposition, a large agricultural fair.
The new chickens are small (bantams) and lay tiny eggs (shown above, in comparison to a normal egg and some cherries). They are the most skittish birds I’ve owned, disappearing into the brush all day and fleeing if I try to get anywhere near. The eggs taste great. There truly is a difference between fresh eggs (from chickens eating grass and bugs in my yard) and supermarket eggs (from birds eating grain and corn feed).
The cranberry bog is also growing well (below). As I mentioned in a prior post, it was almost completely eaten by deer over the winter. As a result, there are no berries this year. Assuming I can protect it this winter, there should be a large harvest next year. I plan to cover it with wire mesh, to keep out deer but let in snow.
Finally, I transplanted all the blueberry bushes. These were the first things I had planted (in the spring of 2010), and I selected a completely inappropriate spot (soggy clay soil). After they languished for three years, I build a raised bed this spring and moved them. They haven’t produce many berries, but they put on lots of new growth, which should indicate a good harvest next year. (The picture didn’t come out well, but there are fifteen blueberries in the raised bed, which measures sixteen by six feet.)
In my house, I have a small map of Vermont, dated 1908, with a caption that reads “THE STATE where they raise good men & women, the best horses, the finest butter & the sweetest maple sugar, and have the whitest snow in winter and the greenest hills in summer.” My little yard is doing its part to uphold this motto. And although I have no horses, I do own a high-spirited beagle.