Thursday, August 11, 2011

Been Hot So Long It Seems Like Cool To Me

With humblest apologies to the late Richard Fariña, the title of this post has been running through my mind since the temperature dropped from 108 a few days ago to the balmy 103 of yesterday. The 1980 record will be tied on Friday if the weather holds, and even the smidgin of a possibility of rain (if the front along the Red River pushes south at all) probably won't affect that.

But this morning I went out to check the wreckage of the potager, and to get some photos for this post, and amazingly enough it was cloudy! Even though the clouds have now moved off, the temperature's only 84 (forecast is for 100 later) and it practically feels like spring. I may well be able to haul myself out of doors for a bit of exam-grading on a lawn chair when I'm finished here.

Unfortunately, the entire garden could qualify for disaster relief. I've learned an enormous lesson about soil and mulch, and next year's efforts will be focused on deepening and enriching the planting areas. My big mistake this year was to pretty much dump the chippings from the old woodpile onto the garden as mulch, without realizing that the bits might cement themselves together and form an impenetrable barrier. I've since busted up the mats and mixed soil in, but I've got a lot of compost-management (mostly occasional watering to keep the bins active; right now they're just sitting there desiccating) and enrichment to do before next spring.

Dead beans, dead tomatoes

The woody herbs are holding up pretty well, but basils, pepper plants (which have stopped setting fruit altogether), and eggplant are looking limp and sad. The tomato plants are going into the compost this weekend, and since heirloom varieties from local farms are readily available now, I'm giving up for the rest of the year.

What's left of the herb/veggie garden

My lettuce/strawberry pot, which has afforded me few nice snacks and pretty salads, is all but dead. The froggy rain gauge I stuck in there has been empty for weeks, but it helps me measure the water I add to what's left of the lawn once a week. The pecan trees overhead, which sported a promising number of baby nuts before the heat came, are dropping stunted little pods all over the place. Even the tree rats are discouraged. I've started putting critter food out for them and the neighborhood possum and raccoon so they don't start digging up the herbs to look for goodies underneath.

The strawberry/lettuce pot

But walking through the house in the afternoon, I've noticed that the heat is less oppressive, in part due to the fact that I haven't opened the curtains for a week, so the few degrees or relief are actually making a difference. The humidity dips as the day goes on (from 60% in the morning to 29% at 5 pm), which makes it possible to sit under a tree with a cold beer or a nice glass of vinho verde in the evening.

I'm actually thinking of hitting the Large Mart for an on-sale kiddie pool to soak in--although filling even a small one would probably cost a day's salary. Water prices are rising (with good reason; the drought gets worse by the minute and all the rain is falling in Oklahoma), and neighboring cities have finally put restrictions in place. McKinney ("Unique By Nature") keeps them in effect all year, which makes us feel pretty smug.

I just wish it didn't take impending disaster or serious price hikes to get people to conserve both water and electricity. But the folks who insist on keeping their central A/C at 75 degrees are seeing power bills between $400 (for an apartment) and $700 (for a 2500 square-foot house) a month, so the thermostats are probably being adjusted as I type.

Since I started writing about the heat I've noticed that my tolerance for it is rising; the only time I'm really uncomfortable is when I have to face the furnace-blast upon exiting my decidedly over-cooled workplace. Several of my students wore sweaters while they took their exams this week, but as they left the building there was a veritable strip-tease show going on as jumpers and hoodies came off to reveal the skimpiest of tank tops.

In a blink--only a month and a half from now--it should all be over. The autumnal equinox will be especially welcome this year, even though it marks a transition to what may turn out to be a winter like the last, with its abnormal snowfall and lower temperatures than usual. And then we'll all be grousing about how cold it is, and what the ice storms are doing to our gardens.

It may actually be enough to convince Texans that climate change is actually happening, but it'll take more than a few hot summers and cold winters to make them believe that they have anything to do with it. The real test of lessons learned will come next summer, when we see how many folk have installed geothermal heat pumps.

Happy Skywatch Friday to all, and think cool thoughts.

Post Script: About an hour after I finished this post, I went to peg out the wash and was met by looming clouds sneaking down from the north and west. The temperature has dropped 6 degrees (it's now only 90, at 2 pm) and were it not for the dead baby pecans raining from the trees in the wind, I'd be out frolicking. This shot was taken at about the same place (with less magnification) as the opening photo.

Advancing storm?

I'm not particularly optimistic about rain, however; I left the laundry on the line.


clairz said...

Sad, sad, sad. I'm afraid to take pictures of my poor tomato plants, and I've spent time, just as you have, thinking about soil. I'm going to move the poor languishing roses to a newer, deeper dug bed. Soon. On cool(er) days like this one, it seems possible that I might want to dig again.

I'm glad, however, that I had a chance to garden here last year with great success, or else I would think I was a failure as a gardener.

clairz said...

P.S. I always loved the title of that Brautigan novel. Can't remember if I read it, but will never forget the title.

Martha Z said...

This year it is your turn to bare the brunt of climate change, next year the burden may fall elsewhere.
We have had a relatively mild summer in California and my garden is the most productive ever while yours withers in the heat.
Since one of the hallmarks of climate change is the wild swings in weather, I suspect that many of those who are suffering in the heat this year, and who might begin to believe, will soon change their mind if next year they have a mild summer and the west coast suffers heat and drought.

Owlfarmer said...

I had to laugh, Clair because I, too, thought it was Brautigan's novel (I'd been reading both Farina and Brautigan at about the same time); it was only when I tried to look online to see if it was available that I discovered my mistake. Joan Baez wrote a song about Farina (her sister Mimi was married to him), "Sweet Sir Galahad." Mimi herself died of cancer in 2001.

clairz said...

Oh, dear, I did say Brautigan, didn't I? In this hot weather (which can conveniently be blamed for whatever is wrong with me) everything in my memory banks begins to merge with Trout Fishing in America.

jabblog said...

I'm reading Margaret Atwood's 'The Year of the Flood' at present and it all chimes uncomfortably with current trends.
I hope the hot spell breaks - but not disastrously.
There's something wrong when people are dressed in warm clothes indoors and have to strip down to basics outdoors. What are we thinking - or are we thinking??

Owlfarmer said...

Atwood's book is one that comes to mind frequently when I long for rain and lament the heat--as does Stephen Baxter's Ark and Sherri Tepper's The Waters Rising and Kim Stanley Robinson's trilogy about global warming. One reason I like SF so much is that it provides a ground for playing with possibilities--and yet leaves some room for hope that they never occur.

Arti said...

Sorry about your plants, so sad to see them wilt!!! I loved your blog, the pics are fascinating...
And its raining heavily here in Mumbai after a hot hot summer of 40 degrees of sweltering heat!!!
Have a glorious weekend:)

gtyyup said...

I feel for you folks where it's been so hot and dry. Hope the clouds produced some rain...or at least a cooling off spell.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Oh wow. And I thought we were dry here in New Mexico. Our monsoon season started off well, but we've had no rain for a week and all the little tidbits of grass are turning brown and some strange purple weed is sprouting up everywhere in the pastures. sigh.
That Texas heat would surely do me in, though. We are above 7,000 ft in the Central Mountains of New Mexico, so our temps are much cooler than most areas of the state.
I sure hope that sky delivers some rain to you there, but it looks rather indecisive.

Hang in there,
Tijeras, NM

joco said...

'Only' 90, she says.
I can barely cope with 70 :-)
Don't know how all of you manage.
So sad to see you dried veggies.