Hints of Summer

     We’ve had some early, intense heat this week, giving us a hint of the summer weather that is just around the corner.  We had two days of temperatures over the 100° mark over the weekend, but our wonderful, natural valley air conditioning – the cool breeze that makes its way in from the Pacific Ocean through the Delta and then up through our valley – started a couple of days ago.  The days are still quite warm, but the evening breeze is cool enough to require a sweater if we venture outside. 

     The towels and swim trunks drying over the back porch rail will be a regular feature from now through September.  I love having them there!  I take a moment as I pass by to straighten the towels and trunks out, from the more haphazard flinging that the boys employ.  It’s a form of home making that appeals to me, tidying the bits of real life that happen in a busy household.  The pool is open.  The boys are enjoying their afternoon and evening swims, even though the water is still too cold to tempt anyone else.

     The bird net and scare tape are protecting this year’s cherry harvest from the birds.  I taste tested a cherry this morning, and they are almost ready.  One more day, maybe two, and they’ll be ready.  Our cherry tree is about four years old.  A second tree was planted just this past January during bare root planting season.  Once the cherries are harvested, we’ll move the bird netting to our plum tree. 

    Dani made the first batches of homemade ice cream of the season this morning.  Yep, I said batches, as in more than one.  Our electric ice cream freezer churned a batch of strawberry ice cream, using the Pleasant View Schoolhouse vanilla recipe for the base.   Dani added some of our fresh picked strawberries to the ingredients that are blended.  We are harvesting a basket or more of strawberries every other day and our plants have just started to produce.  They are so juicy and sweet and good.  We don’t lose too many to the birds, but we do lose a few.  Some bird scare tape should help that. 

     Aaron manned the old fashioned ice cream freezer to churn up a big batch of my mother-in-love’s best ever vanilla ice cream.  Dani adds a bit more homemade vanilla than the recipe calls for, and it’s incredibly delicious.  The last time I mentioned homemade vanilla, several of you asked for the recipe.  Dani graciously agreed to prepare the instructions for you and present them on her own blog.  This is how we make homemade vanilla extract.   
     Aaron churned the ice cream while he ate his lunch.


     He churned while he listened to his tunes on his MP3 player. 


     He churned while he sang Last Train To Clarksville with me.  May I mention how fun it is to have him discovering the Monkees?  I know, I know, fessing up to loving the Monkees will definitely tell my age, but I’ve never been shy about that at all, now have I?  My friends all loved Davy Jones, of course, but I was a Peter Tork fan!  It sure was fun to sing, loud and strong since we live in the country and can only disturb a couple of neighbors rather than dozens, enjoying old songs from my youth with my son.  Sing with your kids.  The sillier the song the better! 
     Late spring, almost summer, weather brings an increase in wild critter activity, too.  We smell skunks most mornings.  There are all sorts of interesting tracks in the soft, wet earth in our garden – turkey, racoon and something quite big and canine looking that we assume is a coyote.  A large hawk was pestering my chickens last evening as I was taking the day’s wash off the clothes line.  The feathers were flying and the chickens were hollering, but the hawk seems to have left empty handed.  I’m sure it had nothing to do with the rather large, grey headed woman who was yelling and waving her arms about as she left her back yard and ran into the chicken yard. 

     Our orchard has been the scene of an almost daily battle against gophers.  There is one, quite large area, that looks like this in every direction.  We like to take a live and let live approach with must of the critters out here.  We’ve lost chickens to fox and racoon attacks.  Though it’s bothered me to lose the layers, I know that we are living in the country and that chickens who are not wise enough to sleep where they should take their chances.  So do chicken owners who fail to close up the hen house at night.  We’ve allowed the wild turkey to munch on our grapes last year and I even let them have all of the Indian corn I planted to use for fall decorating.  Gophers, though, are another matter.  They will kill trees and young plants by eating the roots.  Last summer entire tomato and pepper plants vanished down gopher holes.  This year we are well armed for the task, thanks entirely to our farmer friend.  This year, our orchard seems to have a rather large gopher population.  My husband and Aaron have been faithful to sleuth out the newest tunnels every morning and evening and take action. 

     The sight of water running is a common scene here these days.  Soaker hoses dripping on the strawberry patch or asparagus bed.  Sprinklers watering grassy areas and flower beds.  Hand held hoses watering the garden.  Drip irrigation watering orchards, vineyards and citrus.  We enlarged the garden area, planted 50% more strawberries and added the asparagus bed and cutting garden this year.  That has added extra time to the watering schedule; but we are all excited about the extra food that we’ll have from these areas.

     The watering takes a lot of time, but it’s also a good opportunity for me to keep an eye on these areas.  It’s an opportunity to watch for pest damage in time to control it.  It’s a time to evaluate whether an area is getting enough water, or too much.  It’s a time to keep watch over crops as they develop and mature.  Most especially, it’s a time to marvel at the wonder of God’s creation as I hear the birds singing, the hawk crying to her mate, and this year’s plenteous lady bugs!   Keeping watch over our gardens, fruit trees and berry patches is just another way of looking well to the ways of our households.  Yes, some days it is really hot, sweaty work, but it’s that heat that ripens the tomatoes and peppers in the garden.  God’s creation really is marvelous, but you’ll need to open your eyes and your ears a bit to appreciate it fully. 

     I used to trudge around, dragging hoses and detesting the timer ringing telling me it was time to go out and do it again, but not anymore.  The Lord has so graciously given me eyes and ears and heart to watch and listen and love the wonders that He has created that are in my path each and every time I venture outside.  I even spotted the so-ugly-it’s-cute baby woodpecker peeking at me from his snug little nest, created by his parents in one of our weeping willow trees.  Several weeks ago we heard the incredible sound of the woodpecker’s rapid pecking at the tree to create the nest.  Copper was startled one day as the mama woodpecker flew out of the nest right in front of him.  And now there is at least one baby bird there, peeking out at the world, and ducking safely back down again when he senses danger. 

     Our days are incredibly full and we are blessed with work from the moment we rise until the sun sets and sometimes even after dark.  Most evenings find us weeding and hoeing the garden, using the cool and shade of the evening to best advantage.  Homeschooling continues throughout the summer, and the normal routines of cooking, cleaning and laundry continue, too.  As summer approaches, the days continue to lengthen, not only giving us more daylight to tend to the extra work we are blessed to have outside, but also to enjoy the delights of swimming, throwing a ball in the front yard for the dog, or playing hide and seek after dark.

      Oh, and the ice cream…..the longer, warmer days mean plenty of homemade ice cream!  

God bless you as you look well to the ways of your household!
Proverbs 31:27

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8 comments to Hints of Summer

  • It all sounds wonderful. My garden is nowhere near as far along as your is. Being in the American Rocky Mountain region…well, things just aren’t warmed up quite enough yet. But I do so enjoy seeing yours!!

  • I loved the Monkees, I think my favorite song was Daydream Believer.  🙂

    We’ve had a terrible problem with moles.  Our neighbors have had professionals try to get rid of them and they are persistent little creatures.

    I guess it comes with living in the country but we’re still going to try to get rid of them.

  • Hi Cheryl,

    Homemade Ice Cream sounds wonderful. Time for me to get the Ice Cream Maker out. Thanks for the recipes.



  • We plan on making our first batch of homemade ice cream this weekend for company. My ice cream maker broke so I’ll be hunting for a new one. I kept the other ‘buckets’ from the old ice cream makers so I can make several batches one right after another. Have fun!

  • Wonderful post Cheryl. I really enjoyed reading about your country lifestyle. I loved the Monkees too. They used to have a tv program on Saturday mornings. I never missed it. LOL So I am guessing we are close to the same age. LOL  We have trouble with moles/gophers. Our dog digs them up, then we have holes all over the yard, but at least he gets rid of the varmits.  Winona

  • Gonna buy me a dog   Down boy, down.  Gonna buy me a dog That’s right!  Gonna buy me a dog, dog, dog, dog…

  • Always enjoy your posts about your home and garden. and you’re right it is a blessing to have work to do. Such a lovely account. I would love to know more about your every 2 weeks shopping trips. I really want to try this as I find the more I am home, the more I get done. How do you deal with need for perishables?

    Blessings to you as you continue to look well to the ways of your household!

  • I’m always refreshed by your posts…Your garden is coming along so well.  What a blessing!