Staying Cool

Hot hot hot! We've had upper 90s this week, hotter earlier than normal. And with rains every few days, we have the humidity that non-Ozarkers think we always have. While we humans hide out in the shade in mid day, it's just what the green living things need. Plants are amazing in how they take heat and sun. No sunscreens needed. The tomatoes are racing higher each day, although the heat has slowed the blossom set a bit.

Summertime arrived last week with a barrage of tourists to the Lake. Branson has long lines of traffic, the restaurants are crowded and Table Rock Lake is full of boats, skiers, and mega floating mansions being dodged by jet skis and an occasional sail boat.

I avoid the lake. Too much sun, dodging mega-mansions moving 30 miles an hour, noise, tourists who have little regard for a lake they don't live on, just doesn't sound like a good time to me. I'm more like the floating frog in the inner tube. Let me have a cool spot in the shade and I'm fine. I garden in early morning and late afternoon and avoid the heat of the day. Even this lightning bug naps during the day on the underneath side of the Constantine fig leaf.

Our friend, Ellen Spector Platt has a timely book from Stackpole Books, Lavender, How to Grow & Use This Fragrant Herb. She gives descriptions of many of the lavender varieties, includes information about growing it, lots of sources for plants, and the various ways it's used. And, like all really good books, it has recipes! Here's Ellen's recipe for Herbed Potato Salad:
3 pounds small potatoes
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 cups chopped lovage or celery with leaves
1/2 cup chopped chives
1 tablespoon fresh lavender flowers or 1/2 tablespoon dried
Salt & pepper to taste
2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
1/2 cup edible flowers for garnish (calendula, chive, dill, borage, etc.)

Boil unpeeled potatoes until soft but not mushy. Drain and cool. Slice with skin on. Mix the herbs and seasonings with the yogurt and gently stir into the potatoes. Garnish with the edible flowers. Refrigerate until serving time. Serves 6.

Our own lavender in the garden is blooming happily although the blooms and bloom spikes aren't as robust this season. Too much rain in May didn't make the plants happy. We grow Munstead and Hidcote, the two most reliable varieties here. I've trialed 'Grosso,' 'Lavender Lady,' 'Linda Ligon' and several others and none live more than a year in the garden, so I've gone back to the old standbys. I use ours in ice cream, in cookies, cakes and mix the flowers (fresh or dry) with lovage, scallions, garlic and a bit of orange or lemon zest when baking chicken.

Molly, our Jack Russell, is the guardian of the garden. She believes she is a 100 pound gorilla, when in reality she's just a mere 11 pounds. Two nights ago she tackled a medium sized raccoon. Now you may love raccoons, even feed them which if you've ever skipped a few feedings and had one or more raccoons tear down your patio door, you know better. On a farm, with chickens, sweet corn, feed and other things, raccoons aren't welcome. Molly patrols at night and if she discovers an intruder, either deals with it or calls for help. She had to have help with this one and was so beaten up that she slept for a day and night, had to have antibiotics and in the heat is still a bit subdued. But she's a brave hunter and protects our territory very well.

Josh was out in the garden early this morning, gathering comfrey for one of his sick goats. Comfrey has lots of healing properties, and often a sick goat will seek it out if it's within reach. The goat had a shot of antibiotics and a good handful of comfrey.

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