Heating, Sweating, Wilting

The Northeast heat wave ended last week. Heat will return. This is summer. I'll take it, especially now that I have an air conditioner. The nice thing is that it is still early enough in the season for cool nights. In evening, turning off the AC and running fans in open windows cools well enough for a light blanket, and brings fresh air. In my mid-Atlantic home, middle to high 90s constitutes a heat wave. My younger sister currently lives in Hastings, Nebraska, with temperatures well over 100 degrees.

Becoming a gardener has made me appreciate cool weather, too. Broccoli and peas are two of my favorites, and both grow best in the cool seasons of spring and fall. Another favorite is beans. My black bean bushes are on schedule; at a little over 80s days since I planted the seeds, some of the pretty purple flowers have been replaced by long skinny pods! I can't wait until they fatten. The green pole beans have flowered, so I hope soon they will have pods.

A lot of the cucurbits seem to prefer heat. My yellow squash produced a prolific 13 fruits in the heat wave.

Both of my cucumber plants and one of my squash plants have wilted, most assuredly not from the heat. The ubiquitous cucumber beetles infested our community garden plants with bacterial wilt, which is common to cucurbits. A good site for photos and information, including a photo with the cucumber beetles, is:


Cucumber beetles can have spots or stripes. Flea beetles, another pest, are small, black and hop like fleas when disturbed; my eggplant plant is infested with them. Amazingly, it's trying to produce a fruit.

Fortunately, I've harvested a number of yellow squash already, but I won't have any cucumbers in my first year growing them. My organic approach has helped so far, though, to reduce the number of cucumber and flea beetles...just in time for the Japanese beetles' descent onto the gardens! What have I used? Safer brand insecticidal soap and Neem concentrate, both available from Lowes and other places. In addition, I handpick beetles.

In case you're wondering what cucurbits are, it's not what Noah used to build the ark. That was "cubits". Sorry, bad pun. (I'm thinking of one of Bill Cosby's stand-up routines from the 1970s where Noah, after receiving specific instructions on how to build the ark, asks God, "God? Um, what's a cubit?")

Cucurbits, whose scientific name is cucurbitaceae, includes plants such as: cucumbers, squash, gourd, melon, pumpkin, etc. Want to learn more? Well, believe it or not, there's a site...

www. cucurbit.org

...dedicated to this popular plant family with the funny name. Cool, eh? Or maybe I should say, "Phat and hot!"


Early Bookworm Days

Do you, reader, remember any books you read while growing up, books that really touched you? Perhaps a story stoked your imagination. Or a book on a certain subject fueled your knowledge that became a career or serious hobby.

I read adventures, mysteries, animal stories and science fiction novels. This was in addition to the books on dinosaurs, information I have mostly forgotten.

A small collection of Nancy Drew books that I read now sit on top of my livingroom bookshelf. Some actually were my mom's, then read by my older sisters before I got them.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell; of course I read this as a horse lover. In my teens, I actually got to take riding lessons, although never could afford a horse. Another genre classic for slightly older kids is The Black Stallion by Walter Farley. Francis Ford Coppola made a very good film from the book.

Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards (Sound of Music star) captured my imagination and heart. The book was a present from my mother. It is the story of a young girl who explores the grounds of her orphanage and discovers a small cottage. She cleans it, decorates it and starts a garden. I loved it. I particularly remember her excitement when gathering her change to buy seeds, then watching them grow into flowers. Even when she becomes sick, Mandy goes to the cottage, but passes out there. Little did she know that a concerned someone had been watching.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. It's science fiction. Children of missing scientists follow their parents' tracks. They discover what the author calls "tesseracting", a method of time travel, that leads them through some discoveries of their own while locating their parents.

In my late teens I read The Valley of Horses by Jean Auel, because it involved horses. I liked it so much that I read the preceding book The Clan of the Cave Bear. Ayla, a child orphaned by earthquake in pre-historic Europe, wanders until she is adopted by a clan of prehistoric humans: slanted forehead, copious body hair, hand signals instead of verbal communication, etc. She looks like contemporary humans from what I guess, and experiences rejection, but also a lot of love and learning from the clan's healer, Iza, and from its spiritual leader, Creb. I like the character of Ayla, a strong and intelligent female who must deal with a lot of difficulty.

I also read the other books, which don't carry the appeal of the first two. But it's escapist for some, although Auel uses too much repetition. The process, in detail, of flint-knapping, for instance, was written over and over and over. Ayla is also a little too great, too. This becomes obvious in the other books. She has no imperfections.

I also read War of the Worlds and The Time Machine as well as various short stories by H.G. Wells. Those don't really need an explanation. I liked The Time Machine best of the two novels.