Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Roaring good news from Mother Nature

Although the beginning of the rainy season is still a good six weeks away, late last night we had an auspicious preview: A roaring wham-boom-bang of a thunder and lightning storm like I hadn't seen or heard for a long time, followed by about forty minutes of very heavy rain. Thunderstorms in the countryside are particularly showy because there's not much light or noise to distract you from the spectacle.

The crashes of thunder and flashes of lightning behind some hills a couple of kilometers from the bedroom window made it look a bit like an aerial bombardment. Shrapnel-like rain pelted the glass on the skylights and added to the dramatic effect. We got an especially good look at the storm as we went around the house opening doors and calling our cat Fifo, who'd gone for a bit of nighttime prowling. Bad idea that was—for Fifo.

Guaranteed: The best peas ever
If last night's show presages an early start to the rainy season, so much the better. Despite dire weather reports from elsewhere—extreme heat or cold, droughts or floods, caused by climate changes or just serendipity—the winter, spring and start-up of summer here have been nearly perfect. Temperatures never dipped below freezing during December and January and during the day they reliably climbed into the high seventies or eighties. Our summer so far hasn't been particularly hot.

The result is an almost astonishing bumper crop from our vegetable gardens. Except for a couple of laggards everything seems to be in overdrive: Two plants each from six different kinds of tomatoes, most already loaded with fruit; four or five types of chiles; onions, garlic and shallots (the latter not too enthusiastic) and squash. That plus the usual varieties of chard, kale, lettuce and other greens, and beets and radishes, which Félix has growing in almost perfect succession cycles—when one bunch is used up another one is ready to replace it.

Happy mix: Chard, lettuce, tomatoes plus
nasturtiums in the hanging basket. 
Especially pleasing were a crop of green peas and haricots verts, the thin green beans, which I planted on a lark. The peas materialized though I'd forgotten that someone actually has to sit and shell the pods to get at the peas. Who knew. That would be me. Still, it's worth it. Peas picked just a few hours before and sauteed in butter will give you a new perspective on peas.

Even a volunteer pomegranate plant that sprouted by the side of the garage is setting flower. I don't know where it came from, except two other pomegranates we planted on purpose have done nothing.

Part of the success must be attributed too to three years of composting and amendments that have turned our soil in the vegetable beds into the rich organic humus that TV gardening celebrities like to run through their fingers through while oohing and aahing. The drip irrigation system also has helped maintain the plants evenly humid.
Onions with the irrigation hose at their feet.

We've planted six rhubarb plants on the notion that I had rhubarb and strawberry pie during a visit to a monastery eons ago and remember it being very tasty. The little plantlets are doing well under protective cloches made from plastic two-liter water bottles I've collected.

There are a few duds but not many. The apricot tree flowered late but merrily but failed to produce any fruit. No one I've asked seems to know what the problem could be. Still, unless something happens we should have several dozen peaches ready to eat by the end of the summer. Cucumber plants are growing but so far no flowers. The three olive trees remain olive-less.

As for Fifo the cat, he's been sleeping for ten hours after he rushed inside this morning. Don't think he's going out tonight.


A row of garlic next to the asparagus. We harvested
 about ten asparagus spears this year but
 we should get many more next year. 
Against the odds, this volunteer pomegranate
 is getting ready to set fruit. 

After two bad years, a peachy future now.

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