It has rained these past few days, nearly three quarters of an inch by our gauge, in an alternating combination of drizzle, downpour, and steady, soaking rain.
There are many months in which measurable rainfall would not be anything of note here in Western Washington, but July and August are different. Our climate typically follows a wet winter/dry summer pattern, one that has seemed particularly exaggerated the past few years. (Cliff Mass, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington, notes that even with these recent rains, Seattle could still see its driest calendar summer on record.) After a summer of wildfires and smoke, the relief was palpable.
Alternating between long, wet months and a short, intensely sunny period with almost no rain to speak of can induce a sort of mania, particularly in combination with the wide range in day length between winter and summer.
Translation: Make hay while the sun shines.
And we do, scurrying around from the wee, well-lit hours of morning until darkness finally overcomes the lingering twilight, late in the evening. Early to mid summer is the season when action comes most easily, and so it’s when we tend to undertake longer, more complicated projects (say, ripping out the grass or installing bee hives). All of this activity takes its toll, and by late August everything–humans included–seems a bit faded. I’ve spent these past few weeks as I seem to do every year, mustering the energy to get out more because I know that winter is coming.
I am plagued, in this season of abundance, with the thought that I’m somehow not summering hard enough, that I won’t have the necessary stores of solar and vegetal and psychological wealth to see me through January, February, March.
August and early September pass in a daze of berrying, pickling, canning, and freezing, a frenetic pattern I see repeated in the increased willingness of our bees to sting in defense of their hives, the heightened aggression of yellow jackets in search of protein stores to see them through the winter, the foolhardiness of squirrels as they outrun cars for that one last nut.
My goal is not to end up like those squirrels.
And so even though my want-to-do list remains long, the break in the weather has offered a pause, a chance to regroup and reflect.
In addition to getting out and about as often as possible, here are some of the projects I’ve got in mind for this fall:
- Winterize the bee hives.
- Forage! Fall foraging means mushrooms, and the thought of tramping through the woods in search of edible delights has had me anxiously awaiting the first fall rains. I’m also starting a mushroom identification class tonight.
- Cook from the garden as much as possible, with the goal of including new dishes in the repertoire. For example:
- This grilled broccoli.
- Ways to preserve tomatoes (which I actually grew to ripeness this year!).
- Butternut squash pasta with sage and brown butter. OK, so I’ll be using the delicata squash I grew instead of butternut but the idea’s the same. Shout-out to GrowJourney for many of the seeds I’ve used this year–and information and support that give you the ability to use them!
- Tarragon soda. We’re obsessed with making various kinds of simple syrups (Douglas fir spring tips and rosemary being two regulars in our house) and I’m excited to give this a try. This cider and thyme tonic looks lovely (via this round-up from 101 Cookbooks).
- Mead, made with honey from our bees. I’m using a recipe from Pascal Baudar’s The New Wildcrafted Cuisine.
- Wild berry shrubs. I made a shrub with wild (invasive but tasty) Himalayan blackberries and am rounding up berries from Oregon grapes and salal to try a few more varieties. I used this recipe as my basis for experimentation.
- Clean up summer crops–zucchini, okra, tomato vines that never quite took off–to make room for fall cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli, and the like. Mulch and add a few more perennials where I can.
- Garden workshops, such as this one on cider making.
- Save seeds for next year. On the list so far: nasturtiums, buckwheat, kale, broccoli, columbine, fireweed, scabiosa, cilantro, beans.