The entire month of August has slipped by. It not as if we were sitting idly by, lazing away the hours, languishing in the Air Conditioning while the hot summer sun beat down. In reality, August was extremely pleasant. We never once hit 90 degrees, which is unbelievable here. Usually August is the most dreaded month. The nearly persistent, howling prairie winds suddenly stop, withholding any and all relief that it would bring to any other summer day. The air is so thick with humidity that you could slice it. Breathing the moisture laden air is difficult enough, but the stifling heat sets the air afire and sears not only the flesh, but the lungs. Early August is also haying season, adding dust and stirring up the pollen. Smoke from distant prairie fires pile on the atmospheric particle load. The rising moon in the evening glows shades of pink, orange, and salmon until it can rise high above the horizon.
This month the pollen and the smoke are present. The dust still rose high above the prairie fields, following the haying machines. The winds died, but the heat did not come. This year's wet pacific weather pattern held, and blessed us with days, even low humidity days, in the mid and upper 80s. It's been wonderful!
In comparison, the end of July, was BRUTAL. Temperatures were in the upper 90s and UP, and the humidity was off the charts. Of course this was the week of the Cornhusker Games. It's a state level friendly competition for ordinary citizens of the state. Think the people's Olympics. I was entered into 2 events, standard pistol and olympic rapid fire pistol. Doc and The Boy were entered into the rifle competition. I kid you not, it was HARD, made nearly impossible by the heat and unholy humidity. The day of my competition started at 6am, 78 degrees and FOGGY. By the time competition started it was in the 90s, and the heat index was over 115! Despite that I came in 4th in standard pistol shooting and 1st in rapid fire.
The following weekend was the boys turn. Of course on their day of competition it was sunny, DRY, and 78 degrees. Doc pulled in a 3rd place in open sight rifle, and The Boy came in first in his division, open sight rifle.
Back on the ranch, August came in cooler and dry, with regular rainfall. Most of my compatriots were tending their late summer gardens and putting up tomatoes, pickles, corn and peppers, I was standing, hands on hips, shaking my head at my container garden. Poorly, does not even begin to describe the level of success these specialty planters. From three self-watering planters, holding 5 banana and jalapeno pepper plants, 4 cherry tomato plants, and two full sized plants, we harvested two handfuls of cherry tomatoes (those went to the birds) and a handful of peppers. Nothing ripened quickly enough in any quantity to use for anything. A "chilly" night in early August that sent us to 58 degrees, told the tomatoes to just give up. And so they did.
I ripped out the plants and put in beets, carrots, and leaf lettuce in frustration.
It was looking like county fair season was going to have to rely on items canned last year after the fair was over, and I'd toss in some baked goods to top off the ribbon count. I decided after last year's fair, that I was switching counties. Here you are allowed entry into any county fair as long as your home county touches that county. The fair in my home county is just too long of a drive to keep up with. The downside is that you cannot win a grand champion rosette if you are not of the county, and only the rosette winners can represent the county at the state fair.
This year I entered several jars of pickles, apple butter, apple sauce, as well as a painting, a braided loaf of challah, and some Bavarian pretzels. The great thing about this county is that they actually open and taste everything! They even give comment cards with each item, which can be helpful, funny, or down right annoying- as you cannot defend your item to the judgement they make. You just have to roll with it. I wasn't at all happy with the pickles I entered. They were fabulous in taste and texture, but were at the end of their shelf life at fair time, so yes, they had lost their crispness. All of the pickles took 3rd place. Comments included - not crispy (I knew), not enough Alum (I don't use it), what's with the leaf? (I tried an old farm trick of placing a grape leaf in the jar to keep crunch- used to be well known trick.), use bottled water, not well water (I did.)
Cinnamon applesauce took 3rd place. Comment was- looks to have molded. (UM no, the area they called mold, was a final sprinkling of cinnamon on the top so I can tell it has cinnamon in it.)
Apple butter took 2nd place - comment - Not enough allspice and clove. (UM, you are correct. My family doesn't care for them. I can to suit my family, not your's, judge. So I'll live with the 2nd place ribbon.)
My painting took 1st place and a small rosette. YAY!
The challah took 1st place and a small rosette.
The Bavarian pretzels earned a 2nd place. Comment - not crunchy (not supposed to be), top is missing salt and is wet (Yup, you are right. I dropped them off in a vacuum sealed bag, looking golden and salt covered, with moisture absorbing pads in the bag under the plate. YOU opened the back and left them sit OPEN for two days before judging, where the hygroscopic salt sucked up every bit of moisture in the August air!)
A last minute entry of jalapeno peppers from the sad container garden earned a 3rd place. Although small they were beautiful. But sized must have been the determining factor here.
And last, but not least, a 2nd place win for my spicey and sweet kosher dill jalapeno pickle relish.
All in all a good year at the small fair. Next year, we'll switch counties again, and be more prepared.
The second week of August saw the boy's 18th birthday. OH MY, Oh MY....where did 18 years go?!
The entire summer seemed to fly by acting as taxi driver to our hard working computer intern. I feel as though I wore a rut in the road driving to and from the city.
No sooner was the internship over, then it was time to pack The Boy up and move him to the University. That was craziness in and of itself. We clearly remember our days of moving in, the uncertainty of being ready, too afraid to admit you are scared to death, holding your breath as family drives away. The incredible reality of growing up. So far, so good. He's getting along with his roommates, classes are going well, and oh ya, he's changing his major. What freshman doesn't?!
Apple picking season soon followed. I picked and tossed all the immature fruit from the young orchard early in June, or so I thought. I missed two apple trees and one pear tree. We let them go.
The apples on the Early Harvest yellow apple tree, never came of anything much. The 4 apples on the Liberty apple tree however, AMAZINGLY gorgeous and super tasty! They were both sweet and tart. A real keeper variety.
The kieffer pears were harvested a week later, and while small, look amazing and are finishing their ripening on the kitchen counter.
We were under the path of totality for the great eclipse, just barely. In an amazing turn for August, we were cool, and CLOUDY. Doesn't it just figure? Any other August we are frying under a blazing sun and couldn't beg, borrow or steal a cloud for shade. The one day we want a clear sky, nope. The clouds were thick enough to keep the temperatures down, but thin and high enough that the filtered glasses still allowed a clear view of the eclipse. Totality was too faint for the filters, and because of the clouds, could not be seen without them either. The chickens didn't care a whit about the dark. They just kept eating as if a storm was coming and passing. The clouds did offer us an amazing view of the approaching shadow. It rolled in from across the country to our west before it enveloped us, leaving us in the dark with sunrise views surrounding us. The clouds on the horizon to our north were far outside totality. and being on a hill we could see past the great shadow to our south. Once in a lifetime and we didn't have to go anywhere!
|The girls wanted nothing to do with this massive 40 foot python.|
August is also the time of the Great Molt here at the Station. As this is a family friendly site, I shall spare our readers the images of half naked chickens running around the acreage. Boy did they look sad. Well, funny and sad. Wykin and Nod are absolutely cockerels. While they have yet to find their cock a doodle doos, they are betrayed by their saddle feathers and enormous feet and log legs. Little Blykin is the most delicate and lovely Splash Ameraucana pullet. She runs with the big girls and torments her brothers. She reminds me of a little blonde sister, chasing after her big brothers- white dress and blue sash, pigtails flying.
|Eggs, Pears, and White Bread|
Now that we are into early September, the molt is mostly over. They are back to laying, and the egg supply is flowing again.
August also has meant Doc has had a month of rare vacation time to use. While he has had classes three days a week, it's left us a great deal of free time to catch up on the acreage work AND to take little day-cations here and there and around and about.
One journey took us across the great southern wind farms to an antique store featured on a local television show. A long and scenic journey to a shuttered shop and a yard filled with no trespassing signs. According to the village post office, the owner is hardly there, nor the shop hardly ever open. Wonderful. Upon leaving the village, we came across an amazing brickyard, where they not only make custom bricks for construction but carved brick art, and murals.
|State Fair One Man Band|
We have been to the state fair, where we saw giant cattle, had an incredible meal, walked for miles, and managed to stay away from the worst of the fried foods.
|Topographic elevation map of the State.|
|Everything on a Stick|
We wandered hither and yon, to and fro, just enjoying the day and visiting places and driving down roads we've never been down. It's been really fun.
|The old bee hive firing oven.|