We’ve made the transition from breakup to summer with a mere nod to spring. Here in the Interior, we go from bleak to blossoms suddenly as the light increases every day. Today I noticed purple wildflowers blooming along the road where there was nothing—not even a hint of green–yesterday. On the bank behind the house, something yellow and lavish that I planted three years ago is blooming among the rocks. By the horse barn, I saw the first bluebells, purple in the bud, then a sweet far-sky blue as they bloom. The leaves are almost fully out and flashing in the sun.
And there are other signs of summer. Mosquitoes buzz the horses during the night, sometimes annoying them so much that they begin to gallop around the corral. I’ve taken to putting their mosquito mesh blankets on them at night. And with the mosquitoes come those mosquito-eaters, yellowjackets. Now the heavy queens hover in the willows, along the bank, in the eaves of the greenhouse, looking for a nesting place. Now is the time to trap them and prevent the colonies to come, but the queens don’t seem interested in our elaborately baited traps, going, instead, for tomato plants, the manure pile, or the leaves of willows. We will need to find the nests as they’re built and spray them down in the early morning or at night when it’s cool. Except we no longer have real night until about 1AM, for an hour or two. A few years ago, we had the worst infestation ever. People all across the Interior were getting stung and having allergic reactions. I hope that we don’t go through this again. A late frost or a week of heavy rain would knock them back, but those are things not to be desired.
Meanwhile, the greenhouse is filling with tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, squash. I’ve started my cutting lettuce and zukes and crookneck squash, too, and the purple broccoli, which I’m a sucker for the idea of, though I’ve not yet gotten it through the growing season.
Sam and Mattie are sleek and glossy. Mattie always looks like she’s made of polished metal at this point in the season. Her coat is still nearly black and it shines. Later in summer she will bleach out to dark bay with a few dark dapples along her sides. She also has begun to get more flecks of gray, so that she may become a dark roan at some point.
I’m much tireder this year than last, coming off an intense school year feeling so behind in my gardening and having the sense already that summer could slip right through my fingers. I have an ambitious riding schedule set for me and Mattie and Sam (with Trish or Casey, this year). I hope we can do it all.
I have to admit, though, that events in the world shadow my joy at summer. As I plan to trailer my horses around town in my clunker truck, I carry the image in my mind of oil gushing into the Gulf waters, unstoppable, all the beaches and bayous I spent time in during my years in Mississippi gunked up with oil. I want to be responsible for my little corner, to not add to the troubles of the world, but in the troubles resulting from oil, we are all implicated. And face compromises. To have the horse manure that nourishes the gardens of many of my “green” friends, I have to drive to the hay field, pick up the hay that has been tended by a tractor, and drive it back. Something as earth-bound as riding a horse is also implicated in the consequences we all face as a result of using oil. The yellowjackets, warm, dry-weather-loving, may also be a consequence of a warming planet—or they could just be in a cycle.
I don’t know the answer to this, though I know scientists at the university who throw all their mental energy into finding out. For me, adding composted manure to last year’s greenhouse dirt, transplanting tomatoes, turning manure into the raised garden beds, and planting the seeds that can grow directly in the ground is how I deal with it. It’s all a symbiotic system—living things: horses, plants, people—support and benefit each other. Each time I enter that system with all its beauties, I feel renewed, a small counter to the ugliness of what’s happening in the Gulf and elsewhere.
As I finish this, I hear rain on the metal roof. I just came in from the deck, where I moved the deck chairs under the overhang of the roof. Off to the east, there’s already a rose color in the high clouds, and the sky to the south is slatey blue. I could see out across the river to the flats beyond, rich with green and darker green. The air smells sharp with new rain. A robin sings, perhaps one of the pair that has nested on the beam above our window. The sound of the rain is soothing, even though I don’t yet have the garden planted—we’re still a week from the last frost date here. I’m glad to be in the Interior in summer, yellowjackets notwithstanding.