Saturday, August 7, 2010
It's only the end of the first week in August, but the hot, humid weather has broken and it's now feeling very much like fall. We had another bout of high humidity this last week, during which the slightest exertion would have you sweating, but this morning it was 41 degrees outside here at 527 feet above sea level in Jackson, Maine, and I for one was very glad of it.
Noel Coward was right: Mad dogs and expatriot Englishmen do go out in the midday sun, even in sultry North American summers, and I certainly can't avoid being out in the midday sun with all the fieldwork and farming we do each summer, but 40 degrees at a dew point of 50 degrees still feels an awful lot better than 80 degrees at a dew point of 75 degrees.
The pigs have been using their mud hole to cool off. They sleep a good part of the day anyway, so they don't mind the heat so much. And they like the mud. They even went in the mud today, too, although the weather had cooled off.
We got our hay in finally, not very much of it because we still have a good deal of last year's up in the barn attic, and because hay is plentiful and cheap in Maine ths summer with the dry weather, and so I don't feel particularly pressured to fill the barn. It's always had to figure out how much hay you're going to use, and last year we certainly wasted money on buying more than we needed. I'd like to hit the estimate spot on and use up all our hay this winter and spring, so I can clear out the barn attic of old hay and get in all new hay next year. If I do miscalculate slightly I expect I'll be able to get more easily enough this spring because there is so much hay for sale around here.
This year we got hay from one of our areas recent Amish immigrants, not because Amish hay is special -- hay is hay whether put up with horses or tractors -- but because the quality was good and the price right. Here Penelope is tucking in. The chickens decided to explore it too. Getting the hay in also gave me an excuse to clean out the lower part of the barn.
Aimee has been shingling the house after my efforts with additional insulation last year. She decided to dip the shingles in preservative before hanging them so they'd last longer, and this is the ingenious drying rack she fabricated for the job.
There was a moment last week when an errant sheep knocked over her bucket of preservative -- quite toxic, according to the label -- just feet from our well, but I was able to shovel it and the top layer of dirt up and prevent any contamination. I did express a certain frustration in ancient Anglo-Saxon four letter word, however, especially since the accident occurred after dinner, when I'm usually not that keen on unexpected physical activity.
Wifey was of course inside watching TV without a clue while all this was going on.But the shingles look great, so I didn't complain.
Finally, tomatoes are coming. The first varieties are Sungolds, always the first and most prolific, and Juliets, a small Roma-type fruit. Juliets are good for canning whole, but this first batch wasn't enough to can so I made fresh salsa with our own onions and peppers. We only had two jalapenos so far, but they were super hot, so that was enough to heat up this batch of sauce properly. I made the mistake of using malt vinegar instead of white or apple cider, though, so it tasted a little funky on first taste. Not unpleasant, just different.
Update on that last: After leaving the salsa out for the flavors to "bloom", the vinegar taste is gone.