Debbie Croft: Remembering a busy, fun summer

September 14, 2012 

DEBBIE CROFT

My three-month respite from the school year is officially over now, with a daughter in high school, a husband in education and my volunteer teaching occupying our time.

But when the calendar page is flipped back to June, marking the beginning of summer, our family enjoyed a slower pace.

In between sleepovers, barbecues, swimming, camping, hiking, blending smoothies, borrowing stacks of books and movies from the library, and chauffeuring our teen to and from her first summer job, we did manage to get a few things accomplished.

Gardening and the never-ending home improvement projects filled the hours. My husband stops at the local hardware store so often, he's been mistaken for an employee.

The oversized T-shirts swiped from my husband's side of the closet are covered with paint splotches in sage green, creamy yellow and shades of ivory and antique white.

But alas, to my English-garden, soft-and-shabby, romantic-vintage décor, I've added fuschia, bright green and bold zebra stripes to the mix. Our sweet teen's bedroom needs only a few more touches to be complete.

Interestingly, while painting, my subconscious kept whispering, "In a few short years when she's grown and gone, you can repaint the room a nice, soothing beige." But don't tell her I said that.

I have to admit, though, it turned out better than expected. And with her paychecks footing most of the expense, redecorating was a great way to bring order to her room and a semi-permanent smile to her face.

Summer mornings are best spent in a garden. A friend gave me two pairs of garden gloves, perfect for picking tomatoes without staining my hands. We enjoyed freshly picked salads all summer long.

Did you know white eggplant tastes sweeter than purple eggplant? Did you also know that purchased "sun-dried" tomatoes are not dried naturally?

I spent hours slicing tomatoes and spacing them just so on trays of borrowed dehydrators, preserving them for future pasta dinners and healthy snacking.

Some foothills residents wonder if the native blue oak trees are dying. But Kristine Randal, Mariposa County master gardener coordinator, says the trees are going through a natural process in response to drought conditions.

"Early defoliation prevents these majestic trees from continuing to lose moisture through their leaves," she explains. "They're extremely drought tolerant."

Part of this survival mechanism also allows the trees to shed their leaves early. Once the rain comes, replenishing the soil and root systems with needed moisture, the oaks will bud with new, green foliage in the spring.

If you have questions or comments, the master gardener phone hot line is (209) 966-7078 for the Mariposa area, and (209) 852-9711 for the north side of Mariposa County.

A brief rain shower cooled us one afternoon last month.

While working in the garden I heard noises coming from the roof of the shed. I looked up and felt raindrops. After running inside to tell the family, just in case anything valuable had been left outside, I returned to the back porch to sit, watch and breathe.

After about five minutes, all was clear for me to continue working. Soon I heard another sound -- the "swoo-oop, swoo-oop" of hawk's wings flying just overhead.

Bentonite clay works wonders on wasp stings and poison oak rashes. We learned that firsthand. Add a small amount of water to make a paste; it keeps indefinitely in the refrigerator.

For trapping mice, I was told by a friend who's lived in the country a lot longer than I have, they can't resist dried apricots, stale bread and peanut butter. To fill their holes use steel wool. It's impervious.

Of course, summertime is bug season, too. Instead of my traditional bug's tale, though, I'd like to know why the outside of CalFire buildings are free of cobwebs, but my house is not?

Do firefighters really spend their spare time doing housework? I wonder if they have any time to share. Then I could catch up on my project list, instead of wishing summer would last another three months.

Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at composed@tds.net.

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