I dug my potatoes last week: Yukon Gold and Reddale. It's not a large crop, measured by the potatoes I remember from my Illinois garden, but for the Texas Hill Country, it's pretty doggone good. The photo shows about half of what came out of the garden, sorted by size. We'll eat the largest and the smallest (yum!), and I'll save the smallish ones (1.5-2 oz) for seed.
The eating potatoes are in a box in a closet, where they can stay reasonably cool. I've put the seed potatoes in the fridge to encourage dormancy (both of these varieties need about 4 weeks). For the fall crop, I'll take them out the first of July to sprout them, then plant around Aug 1 and plan to dig the middle of November. At our house, we love potatoes, especially potatoes that are grown with no chemical inputs. And especially potatoes that we've grown ourselves.
The drought. We had a wonderful rain last week, almost three inches! (Happy jig here.) The garden loved it, but it was the pasture grass that benefitted the most. We moved the cows into a fresh pasture this morning--they're knee-deep in Johnson grass, too busy to lift their heads and say hi. But it was a drop in the bucket, since our county is in the "extreme drought" category. The creek has stopped running, our lake is a puddle, and the Hill Country lakes are dropping fast. A serious situation--not just here but across the southern tier of states. The US drought monitor tells the story. And it's not just here.This is an extreme-weather global drought that is already impacting food prices around the world.
Chickens on the way. We've had chickens here in past years, but when the book travel began to take so much time, I had to cut back somewhere. Now, I'm reducing the travel and looking forward to having chickens again. Bill (bless him) agreed to build a chicken coop. Here he is, with the project under construction. (Click on the image and get a larger view.)
The chicks will arrive and move into their new home the week of June 6: 25 Cornish roasters, meat birds. (If you're a vegetarian, you might skip the next couple of sentences.) They will live a happy, comfortable well-fed life until the first or second week of September, then retire to the freezer until they make their appearances at our table. As long as I can get fresh eggs from our up-the-road neighbor, I won't be raising laying chickens, just meat birds.
Writing report. Making good progress in The Darling Dahlias and the Confederate Rose, although I'll feel a little more comfortable when I understand the story better. This happens with every book, so I'm not especially worried. I'm about a third of the way through the book, planning to finish by the middle of July or before. The Cottage Tales series is finished (the final book comes out in September), so this will be the first year since 2002 that I've written only two books. Looking forward to some reading/thinking time this summer, before I start the next China Bayles.
Speaking of reading. On the stack for the weekend: This Last House, by Janis Stout, for Story Circle review and Eating History: 30 Turning Points in the Making of American Cuisine, by Andrew F. Smith (just arrived this morning). On the iPad: Exorbitant Privilege, by Barry Eichengreen. Plus Secretariat, by William Nack, on my MP3 player (I enjoyed Seabiscuit, by Laura Hillibrand). Love audio books: I listen while I'm out in the garden or walking the dogs. I sometimes imagine myself surfing across an endless ocean of words. I love them so much, love the rhythm of words, the music of sentences, the whispers, the shouts, the voices, the echoes of other voices. I confess: I'm an addict, addicted to words, to books, to reading. So be it. (But I love the garden too.)
Update, Monday, May 23. No tornado touchdown here on Saturday night, although I was inspired (by the radar images) to make two trips to Archie Bunker, our below-ground storm shelter. The sight of the real clouds (not the radar images) rotating (yes, truly rotating) right overhead was mesmerizing--as I watched, I kept thinking about the absolute power of nature and how small and vulnerable we humans are. No serious storm damage here, but I'm stunned by the tornado that flattened Joplin last night. I know you are too.
Reading note. Real reading, of course, is a kind of work. But it’s lovely work. To read well, you have to respond actively to what the writer’s saying. You can’t just lie there on the couch and let it pour over you. You may have to read with a pencil in hand and underline passages and write notes in the margins. The poet John Milton understood that the best readers are rare. He prayed to his muse that he might a “fit audience find, though few.”--Wendell Berry