August Glut


Despite flood, hail, drought, high winds, plant diseases, weeds, bugs, deteriorating muscles, coons, deer, squirrels, moles, stock market crashes, grain market inflation, skyrocketing land prices, root rot, robins, rabbits, and radio talk shows, once more the annual great miracle has occurred. We are (literally after the last downpour) swimming in homegrown food. The August Glut is upon us, and we dance among the corn stalks in sheer delight.

If farming teaches anything, it is how precarious life is. We live daily on the edge of a precipice overlooking possible starvation and not just in Somalia. No one is safe. Texas is drying up, the Mississippi Valley is washing away. The Midwest has been too hot for crops so we were told, and the Northwest too cold. Fungal diseases threaten the corn, leaf hoppers chew on the beans and Japanese beetles attack everything except the fence posts. Monsanto threatens organic farming; organic farming threatens Monsanto. The USDA increases the national debt by spending gobs of money to tell us about the Latest Bad Bug, which we don’t want to hear about. We haven’t figured out what to do with yesterday’s Bad Bugs yet or in fact can’t even deal with the Bad Bugs Of The Last Century. Just when my son and I finally have some really great pasture in August because of all the rain, black clouds of horseflies descend on the livestock, driving them back into the darkness of the barn. They’d rather go hungry than brave that biting pestilence.

We can’t win. We moan and bitch that all is lost. We sit around the coffee shop, staring at each other, trying to alleviate our anxiety by cursing politicians. We entertain despair. Why did we ever do anything so insane as to try farming?

And now, in August, a sort of paradise regained rises out of the earth’s crust. Despite all the odds, I am slurping down four ears of corn every evening, not to mention a steady diet of muskmelons, tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, peas, beans, onions, lettuce, and blackberries. It is sheer gluttony. Oh how I love being a sinner.

The champion of this year’s garden is the cucumber. We grow Straight 8, an open pollinated variety which I am surprised King Monsanto hasn’t tried to confiscate with a patent yet. I am sure glad that we did not grow one of the new super-duper hybrids because if we had, it might have smothered us, house and all, by now. I planted four hills in soil too wet to be even walking on. I dug little holes and filled them with drier compost and stuck the seeds in.  In three days they were up and running. Never have I seen cucumber plants burgeon out like these have, trying to strangle stray dogs and lurking along the road ditch waiting for an unwary, slow-moving hiker. From four hills, we’ve harvested and mostly thrown away three or four wheelbarrow loads, and the ground under the vines continues to pile up with more, from football size down to pickle size. It is downright scary. What made them grow so giddily this year? Did I accidently plant in the right sign of the moon? Or the right triple Scorpio time of the zodiac? There were no cucumber beetles so far this year so that helped. (They must have drowned or died of heat stroke.)

Our son and daughter- in- law planted one cucumber hill in their 25 ft. square kitchen garden. It overflowed the entire space, swarming over the other vegetables and finally climbing up the bean poles. You go into that little garden at your own risk because you can get lost there in the cucumber jungle. It is eerie to pick pole beans in this situation. All of a sudden, you are face to face with a cucumber the size of the boa constrictor staring out at you.

I wonder if ethanol can be distilled out of cucumbers. If so, this year we could run the Middle East out of the oil business.


No worries Russ. You are welcome to visit anytime – don’t wait for the bridge, inevitably they would have a toll booth every 100 miles or so to prop up both Govts flagging budgets.

Keep on growing.

PS Thanks for your kind words earlier John. As soon as they get the New Zealand bridge finished, I’d like to come see your place. )

We had a September surprise follow-up to the August glut yesterday. Beth went down to the big garden to get more tomatoes and peppers for canning. For whatever reason she happened to look at the green bean plants that were last picked at the end of July. We usually get 2 good pickings and sometimes 3 before they get “buggy” and quit bearing, after which we eventually pull the plants and feed to the hogs or chickens or mulch back onto the garden with the lawn mower. This year we got only 2 fair pickings what with the daily monsoon through May and the unbearably hot dry July and hadn’t got around to pulling or mowing the plants yet.. We have been fortunate to get some timely thunderstorm rains in August but we are still pretty dry. Anyway Beth noticed some nice looking beans hanging on some plants, got a bucket and started picking one of the 60 ft rows ( there are 3 of them ) and got about 4 gallons of the nicest beans we’ve had all summer. Now we’ve got 2 more rows to pick. That’s a new one for us. By the way – we do straw mulch the beans after they get started which coupled with the dry weather has kept them pretty clean and had a lot to do with why we hadn’t got in a big rush to take the plants off.

Yeah, i like to add a little landscaping in there too: Sago palms on either side of the driveway, Irises around the spigot where it’s always wet, banana trees. Why not make the place look pleasing to the eye? It does not add much work and most of the time the non-utilitarian stuff can grown where food can’t. They provide some benefits too.

Those surprises are wonderful. The flip side of what you describe is how farming can help you hope. All I have is a little 1/4 acre vacant lot in the city but I can relate.

I’m on the edge of the bad Texas Drought (Southwest Louisiana), we had a new baby (and all the sleepless nights, hormones etc that come with that), and my doctor told me there was too much iron in my blood and made me give a pint of blood a week for about four months (that wears you out, let me tell you), and my day job had me working a lot of overtime. I was discouraged to the point of dispair. People already shake thier heads and laugh at how I bust my butt while they just go to the store. What are they going to say when I fall on my face with this?

But my chickens ducks and rabbits, the deep mulch, the worms and other critters underground, and the sun in the sky never quit working for me. In spite of all of the above, this is my best year so far. In full disclosure I’ve only been at it four years now, so I guess this isn’t saying much. I’m trying to learn to work less, spend less and produce more in the garden every year. This year the “work less” part came of necessity.

Best year ever for cukes! (I actually planted the Muncher as illustrated, but the Russian Pickler beat them by far.)

I pulled my cucumbers up early this year because I had enough pickles to last us several years. Is there anything harder than pulling up a vegetable that’s still producing boatloads of produce?? Only the thought of conversing the precious nutrients in our sandy soil give me the courage to pull them up!

One observation on picking cucumbers- I pick them small (1-2 inches) for baby dills, but no matter how clean I think I picked the plants, the next time out, I always find a monster that was missed! I’m sure our military only dreams of such effective camouflage. Somehow, I doubt “cucumber camo” will ever catch on…

Russ, it is just that inclusive, caring and sharing attitude that makes this blog (meaning Gene, Dave and all the contributors and readers) such a worthwhile and important media and vehicle for today’s existence. Amidst the doom and gloom in global economies, riots in previously stable parts of the world, famine in much of the tropics and devastating weather bombs affecting all regions of the globe we find nuggets of hope and, dare I say it, salvation in this dedicated, small bunch of realists who are prepared to ‘walk the talk’ and are not afraid to share it with anyone who is genuinely interested. I was starting to think that I was the only oddball out there and it is hugely comforting to know that I am not alone and haven’t (yet!) gone off the tracks.

We all know that there is immense enjoyment and pleasure to be taken from the natural world we inhabit but it is a quantum leap for most of those in the developed (?) world to grasp the concept that it can and does also provide us all we need to live comfortably and in harmony with our environment.

To Eric and Russ – I used to tell my wife that the only plants and livestock to grow were the ones that provided an immediate and obvious benefit (veges, orchards, cattle, etc) however as I have ‘matured’ (?) and am almost grown up now at 62 I realise that the power and beauty of all plants and animals has a part in our lives and subsequently I almost ritually plant out heaps of sunflowers – I adore their huge, chirpy/cheeky and wonderfully symetrical flowers, the way they attract every pollinating insect in creation and, of course the uses of the seeds for oil, food, etc. Don’t stop planting them. Keep it up guys. Best of luck to your wife Eric.

Thanks to you all. Please do not stop adding to this wonderful site.

And the stir fry, sauces and salsas of the August glut are made even more palatable by the fresh garlic dug up in July. A lot of which will be available at Jandy’s Garlic Festival near Rushylvania OH this Sunday with lots of good live folk/bluegrass music and best of all – some face time with the Contrary Farmer as he signs books under a shade tree amid the beautiful gardens. I look forward to seeing you Gene as well as the lovely Mrs. Logsdon. I’ll figure out some way to get you a free garlic sausage sandwich.

Hey Roof – don’t forget to tell the big ugly guy serving the sandwiches that you want the roof special. I’ll make sure he knows what to do.

Eric – prayers and best to you and your wife as you battle the cancer together. Good choice on the sunflowers!

Checking in from southeast Nebraska:

Squash plants–all gone due to vine borer for the first time ever
Tomatoes–pitiful lack of fruits (never had such a bad year)
Melons–lots, thank goodness, because they are so expensive in the stores
Peaches–most ever, delicious
Apples–nothing like last year’s bumper crop, but enough because I still have some in the freezer
Peppers–plenty, but no tomatoes for salsa or sauce

And cukes? Oh. My. I went on vacation for two weeks and secretly hoped they’d be dead when I came back. We had untypical weather while away (it rained over four inches) and I still have more than I can give away. I’ve seen exactly one cucumber beetle this year. Crazy.

The sunflowers that I planted for my wife have all bloomed (breast cancer diagnosis this year and sunflowers are her favorite) and are now feeding the local birds. It was glorious for a short while! Now, I’m waiting on them to dry up so I can cut them out…

Glad to hear that everyone else has had a good time with some of their crops this year!

This year I was actually glad to get a few zukes since all of our plants bit the bullet from the dreaded vine borer — always prolific around here — but I can usually out plant them — not this year,

Jeff Hamons
Synergistic Acres – Kansas City Natural Farm

Gene, how I envy you the corn! That’s one thing we didn’t plant this year because we’re having to move our garden site. But the green onions and broccoli and cabbage did great, and the summer squash get bigger by the minute. Tomatoes haven’t started to color yet, as we had a cold wet spring and they were planted a month late. Blackberries are ripe and boy, are they luscious. Not many plums this year but we’ve got lots of apples ripening. Jeff, you can eat pigweed when it’s young and green–it’s in the same family as that amaranth fancy restaurants serve. Treat it the way you do any tender green like spinach, except I don’t think it’s good raw, better boiled until tender in a little water and then doused with butter, olive oil or good raw cream. I understand you can harvest the seeds as a grain, too, but I’ve never tried it.

In our little valley you roll up the windows and lock your car when visiting the Post Office to avoid coming out to a backseat full of surplus zucchini. Don’t even think of driving your truck. The abundance of August is a time for vigorous exercise of your table muscle in between frantic canning sessions. Enjoy!!

Between the heat and the drought and the deer, our garden was a mess this year, but we still got cucumbers. (Straight 8s, of course. I haven’t found anything that’s more reliable or tastes better.) Something always gives us a glut and something else fails completely, but I can never predict what it’s going to be.

I’m glad I’m not the only one dealing with Japanese beetles and raccoons. But I chuckled all the way through your article because it reminded me that no matter how miserable a day I have at work (like today) when I go home there will be so many tomatoes in so many sizes and colours that I will have a whole new – and much more desireable – set of problems. Thanks!

I know- we went out and picked 20 pounds of raspberries. Excellent! The corn was great this year too, and we had so many beans we couldn’t pick them fast enough.

Here in southern Ohio it has been a cucumber year as well. Many are heaped up at the end of the garden because we couldn’t give them away. Its a blessing since the past 2 seasons have been a disaster for cukes and summer squash.
This years big loser is the tomato. I’ve doubled the plants this year but still have about the same, or less, than last year.
Corn would have been good but we lost over 90% to the coons (90% is a low ball guess)
Beans have been fantastic as well as the red-rooted pigweed, but I think every year is a good year for pigweed.
I hear you can eat pigweed but I haven’t the courage to try. We do harvest and freeze several mess’ of lambs quarter every year. Greens and beans always warm you in January.

Apparently the cucumber beetles were too busy eating my cucumbers to bother with yours. I’ll be nice and won’t give them directions.

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