Week 13: Blood, Sweat and Tears…Actually Just Sweat, Lots of it

The summer solstice marked the turning point of the our climate. Like the flick of a switch, the temperature and humidity have both been in the 90’s and each day is reminiscent of those early sauna sessions in April.


Monday morning was, you guessed it, hot. Our previous week of relaxation transformed into a nightmare. David always says, “We’ll take a day off when the plants take a day off.” Plants in this case was weeds, and the only reason we weren’t working was because of the steady showers throughout the week. I started by weeding one of the final rows of grape vines and then hacked my way through the secret garden that was the herb patch. The Galinsoga – the Amish call it quickweed, gardeners call it the Gallant Soldier – had taken over every square inch of disturbed soil. Some plants were eight inches tall and even though it had only been a week or so since we had weeded that back patch, it looked like it hadn’t been weeded in years. Muddy, sweaty and, well sweaty, I took a break for lunch. The house and the outdoors were equally hot so I did my best to just sit as still as possible, hoping to catch whatever breeze decided to sweep through the valley. After lunch David and I took a trip to the hospital where I planted chard – the last of the first round of crops – and then watered them in. We went to a few stores in town to pick up some groceries and returned home to prepare for dinner. We had plans to host Gus and Rye, two students from town for dinner. I threw together a quick pasta primavera, greens salad with snow peas, freshly harvested broccoli, and cole slaw, left from the wedding. Those two lads tore through the food like they hadn’t eaten in a week. Both were runners, but I was still impressed by the sheer amount of food consumed by two kids five years younger than me. (Honestly it was fantastic because we wanted to get rid of that coleslaw.) Gus spent the night with plans to help us work the next day. We did an early breakfast, the usual of eggs, mixed vegetables from the garden – I believe squash, blossoms and peas – with some fresh feta and bacon. David wanted to catch up with Gus so he marked me with a day off. My notes for the week are blank here, I slept, ate and read. Wish it was more interesting, but alas tis not.

Wednesday started early in the garden with one of my favorite pastimes, shoveling manure. Gus, a kid who couldn’t have weighed 140 pounds, wet, had managed to move 1000 pounds of manure during my day off. David and I were tasked with the easy part, turning it in to compost piles for the next year. We spent a few hours alternating between hauling wheelbarrows of manure and garden refuse that was then layered in piles. This was an awesome experience; in Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan talks about the term holon, this was a perfect example. Pepperfield was a multifaceted holon; We collected our waste – mostly food scraps, egg shells and not useable organic matter – animal waste from the chickens, goats and dead carcasses the dog would occasionally drag in, and garden waste – weeds, sticks, aborted fruits and vegetables – and turned what would normally be deemed trash, into rich organic fertilizer, compost. David and I took a quick break for lunch before moving up to the upper vineyard. I mowed the rows while David trained the vines. As we were coming down the hill back to the house, my uncle, Don, pulled into the driveway. I prepared a quick chili with some venison and we spent the following hours catching up and conversing about existential stuff until the sun went down. The next day I spent my morning planning menus and meals for our upcoming events. Mark this on your calendars: our two ethnic dinners are going to be a Palestinian meal on September 1st and a Central American and Southern Mexican meal on September 22nd. (I know Iowa is quite a distance from where some of you are, but if you want to see what I have been up to, I mean truly see it, and get a real farm to table experience I highly recommend it! We have 30 seats available for each and tickets can be purchased online through EventBrite. We haven’t setup the sales as of this moment but if you feel inclined I can reserve you a spot. Please send me an email if you are interested. That info can be found on the Contact Page.) I then transitioned outside and did some hand weeding in the garden, the war with the Gallant Soldier was slowly being lost. I piled the weeds high near our their final resting place and went with David to clean the chicken coop. Once we had our ingredients in order, we made the large compost pile that would supply the garden with most of the fertilizer for next year. We repeated the same process as the day before, layering plant matter and manure creating a mound about 30 feet long and 4 feet wide and high. The two piles we made would amount to about two tons of fertilizer for next year, and even then the garden could have used more. I was pretty exhausted from that day so I threw together some leftovers and sauteed peas and amaranth for dinner. David had expressed an interest in seeing the new Jurassic World Movie so Ellis and I went to town with him to catch the early evening show.

Friday we had made plans to go to town but David had a few chores to get done so I spent my morning cleaning up some weeds in the backyard. Our trip to the town was to check up on the hospital garden and while David watered plants I tied up tomatoes. We went to the store to check out some prices for some of our upcoming events and then went to Waukon to pick up a whole lamb that we were going to use for these meals as well. I spent the afternoon butchering the lamb into primals and then sub primals to make it easier to store. It took me about an hour but thanks to Youtube it was quick. Meat was on the mind so David gave me a beef roast to cook for dinner. I prepared a quick succotash of summer squash, zucchini, corn and peas and we enjoyed the hot evening feasting. The following day I started my morning by cleaning around the house. I had been pretty lazy on my domestic chores so I cleaned the kitchen with Ellis and then went out to the garden to do some weeding. Afterwards I thinned the red amaranth patch; this involved cutting out the plants that were smaller and to close to the central plant. It was a sweaty, arduous task and took most of my morning. It was actually the hottest day of the week so we spent the afternoon trying to dodge the heat. I spent my time reading the in the basement which was about 70 degrees. But the evening cooled off rapidly as a massive storm rolled through the valley. We had gusts of 60 miles per hour and a fair amount of rain. The storm subsided briefly so David checked the garden. It had sustained a fair amount of damage giving us a great deal of work to get done. The storm picked back up and continued through the night taking out the power around 9.

Sunday we spent picking up the sticks. The corn received the most damage so our day was spent tying up all the of the stalks. This was a lengthy process that involved collating the rows before picking them up and tying them with posts and twine. We had a reprieve in weather so it wasn’t too hot making it enjoyable. I made a minestrone soup for a late lunch and we spent the afternoon each doing miscellaneous tasks cleaning up the mess. We decided to visit a wood fire pizza place in Twin Springs and enjoyed a three hour dining experience where Ellis, David and I, laughed, ate and enjoyed each other’s company. It was a great end to a hard week.

Check out what you may have missed this week here!

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