Friday, June 29, 2012

A Hot Spell

Technically, a "heat wave" must last at least three days hereabouts. The temperature must reach 90° each day. So far this season we've been at ninety or above fourteen times. This current run above ninety has been in fits and starts. But from June 16 through June 21, we were ninety and above every day that week.

 Then it cooled. On June 26 we managed to get down to 48° at night, a pleasant break indeed. Then yesterday we climbed to 102°.

 Throughout the day the temperature tickled one hundred. This is my Mail Pouch (replica) thermometer on the garage, nestled in the shade, beneath the overhang of the roof.

Likewise, the kitchen thermometer read the same. But when I took these pictures - as much to prove that I had three thermometers all registering the same reading - the day's high was still an hour or two away. Here's the actual graph of our June 28 temperatures:

 The high recorded by my digital weather station was 102.4 at 4:22 pm. That's the highest we've been since August 17, 1988 (it was 102° that day also).
 Just as impressive is that last night's official low as recorded by the National Weather Service was 80°. That's the highest low ever recorded in Dayton in 119 years of record-keeping. I, on the other hand, bottomed out at 75.3° owing to our open, rural location.

 Added to the concern of such heat is the lack of rainfall in this area. Though the Drought Monitor does not show the immediate Dayton area in a drought, we are classed "Abnormally Dry" and as near as Preble County, actual drought conditions exist.
 I suspect, if we don't get a rain this week, the next drought monitor will place us into a drought category. My measured rainfall this month is 1.50" and we have but a single day to go. Normal for June is 4.22". I water the garden most evenings but I worry about every drop. Living on a well, the source of the spigot is seventy feet below our feet and we have no one to depend on but ourselves.
 Hot and dry ... there is little more to say.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Horse's Radish

 Many years ago, we grew horseradish in our garden but took it out when it began to spread. I remember moving the plant to the north edge of the meadow where it thrived for many years. I also remember harvesting some of it there. I've not seen it since. I suppose I took too much of the root or perhaps the plant tired of competing with the weeds. In any case, it is gone.

 My cousin loves homemade horseradish so a few years ago we bought another start. What you get is a couple of tiny roots in a plastic bag; what you have to do is wait. A new start must be given three years before you begin taking the root.

 I dug the roots on the left on June 10, collecting them in this cardboard basket and bringing them to the porch to begin processing. The roots are heavy after several years and the dark, bark-like material on the outside must be removed. I just laid a newspaper down on the bench and went at it with a sharp knife.

 The pure white horseradish should be cut into small chunks, small enough to go through a blender and be reduced to a fairly fine condiment. I add some water to help the blending (the blender should actually be set to "grate"). Then, before continuing with the recipe, I pour the water off.

 You see the entire list of ingredients in the above picture: grated horseradish, salt and white vinegar. It's quite a potent mixture and one you should be careful working with. The fumes can irritate your eyes and nose. Never touch your eyes after working with horseradish!

 We bottle the finished sauce in whatever we have handy, making sure that the surface is covered with vinegar. After it's made, keep horseradish refrigerated at all times.  It keeps many months.

 Didn't Brylcreem use the slogam "a little dab'l do ya"? Well, that same motto holds for homemade horseradish. It's hot!

A Walk in the Park

 Even in the heat of summer, Mom and I try to walk each day. My day, if it isn't raining (and what is that, anyway?) begins with a lap in Sam's lane. It's just 0.6 miles round trip but it's enough to get my legs moving and my lungs expanding for another day.

 But late in the afternoon, say 3 pm, Mom and I head out to the park where we manage some semblance of another walk. Since her two hospitalizations in the spring (the most recent in May), Mom can't go very far. But she tries and that's enough for me.

 She also tries to remember her cane. When she doesn't, she has the smooth limb of a tree on the back floor of the car and uses that. The cane was used by Dad, all those years when his arthritis took him down and made him nearly unable to move. He'd take my arm with one hand, hold the cane in the other, and off we'd go. Mom does the same (though she insists on holding my left arm; Dad always chose my right).

 We walk beyond the first bend and have as a turn-around spot at gate in the fence that surrounds a baseball diamond. I can sense her watching for it. She slows, begins to tug back as we approach it, will not be taken beyond it. I suppose she worries whether she can get back to the car should we walk farther. Years ago, we made the entire circuit of the park (0.7 mile); now we do barely a quarter of that.

 When the wind is blowing she wears her pink slumber cap. And though it may be a 90° day with the sun burning our flesh, she won't walk without a sweater.

 Here she enjoys a short rest on a bench that sides the water.

 This picture somehow reminds me of my great-grandmother, Josephine Huesman, who died when I was a toddler of just three. And yet I remember her well. She often wore a cap similar to this and that's why the picture tugs at my memory.

 In the summer, we'll continue walking at the park as long as we can. In the winter we'll use the hallways of the New Lebanon Elementary School. But we'll keep moving, forever forward. As long as we can.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Threshing Time

 I always admire a field planted in winter wheat. I watch it throughout the winter for the promise it holds.As spring unfolds and the sun begins the warm the field, it first blushes with pale life, then rushes to grow waves of green and finally - now is the time - it ripens and turns a gold that rivals the sun. The tops swell as the grain matures.

 Today is that perfect day for photography. The sky is a deep blue, the cumulus clouds rise all around in puffs of white and the sun shines between those clouds with brilliant intensity. I grab my camera and imagine days a century ago when the threshing crews prepared to harvest.

 By July 4, if the harvest was on schedule, they'd begin making the rounds, farm to farm, gathering the wheat. The threshing machine itself, often steam-powered, sometimes animal-driven, was shared among the community. The people - men and boys - shared their labor as well. The women laid our wonderful meals.

 They couldn't stop until they were finished ... or until it rained.
 This field will surely be mechanically harvested, the grain separated with metal fingers, the stalks cut and baled with perfect precision. The great modern machines, diesel-driven, replace every man with mechanics. It has none of the romance of year's past.