To get colors this intense in the August garden, annuals usually provide the strongest jolt. These summer brights were all found at Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison. Their gardens are looking gorgeous despite the drought.
My journalist niece reads a lot of serious books about politics, social issues and the environment and then posts her reviews on Good Reads. We share book titles and comments that way. This is what she said about "The Worst Hard Time:The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Dust Bowl" by Timothy Egan:
"I didn't really know anything about the Dust Bowl before reading this book. I basically thought it was just a drought that happened during the Great Depression.
The author paints a vivid picture of the misery that overtook a huge swath of the country during those years. Reading about the dust storms that often swept the land into people's homes and the thousands of deaths from "dust pneumonia" was especially horrifying. He also explains how the disaster was very much man-made, exacerbated by bad public policies, over-farming and over-grazing.
Unlike the most famous literary work about that era, "The Grapes of Wrath," this book focuses mostly on people who stayed on their land against all odds, rather than on folks who headed west.
Very well-written and informative."
A few days after reading what Kate had to say, I saw "The Worst Hard Time" on display at my local library. I took it home and couldn't put it down. Here's what I wrote back to Kate:
"I am emotionally exhausted after reading it. Going six weeks with no rain and temps in the 90s and 100s in Madison is enough to freak me out — and that's with air conditioning.
Then to read this book and, like you, realize these problems were not caused only by drought but man-made as it were. I could hardly believe that people stayed, even though I understood how limited their options were.
I was especially interested in the early ecology information since it mentioned Aldo Leopold, one of Wisconsin's famous sons. The essay the author refers to is one of the seminal works on the subject of ecology and our interconnectedness to the land and all living creature."
To continue: The stories of the people who lived in the Dust Bowl during the 1930s are compelling and make this a virtual page turner. It's especially worth reading for all of us who've been experiencing this summer's heat and drought to understand how our own short-term thinking and actions can be responsible for unforseen results in the long run.
In fact, I followed up the book with the movie — "The Plow that Broke the Prairie" — the government produced that is described in the book. It, too, came from my local library. So I got to see some of the actual people mentioned and get an even more shocking sense of the time and place!
The worst storm of the Dust Bowl era — Black Sunday in 1934 — carried blowing dust from the Great Plains eastward, dropping 12 million tons of dust on Chicago. NYC, Washington and even ships 300 miles off the Atlantic coast were blanketed with dust from the plains.
. . .
OTHER NOTEWORTHY TITLES FROM MY SUMMER READING:
"Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street" by John Nichols. Nichols at his best: a quick read with a wide-ranging historic approach that sets these events in a larger context, esp. as related to James Madison and the First Amendment and Tom Paine. (Nichols is a former co-worker and long-time friend).
"Voyagers of the Titanic: Passengers, Sailors, Shipbuilders, Aristocrats, and the Worlds They Came From" by Richard Davenport-Hines. I got this from the library thinking it was a photographic history. Wrong; a chunk of photos but not nearly enough for my taste. But an informative book and worth reading; though at times it felt like the anti-"A Night to Remember" by Walter Lord. Most of the people who came off well in Lord’s book suffered a different fate here. In fact, few of the 1st and 2nd glass passengers got much praise from D-H; and he seemed to especially dislike the Americans.
What was most interesting was the information about the ships of the era: their speed, capacity and competition; and his serious look at the third class passengers, their backgrounds, ship accommodations, numbers, and fate. He presents touching letters home mailed at the stops where the ship picked up passengers before it began the main trip; tidbits about the largest group of 2nd class men (all from Cornwall) and about the only black man on board as well as the only Japanese passenger. The descriptions of the crew members, especially those who kept the ship going in the furnace rooms, are memorable. And he publishes quite a bit about the survivors: stats, memories and their later lives. He also talks about the 337 bodies ultimately recovered from the ocean; the book has a photo of one — the only image of this I’ve ever seen.
"Will in the World: How Shakespeare became Shakespeare" by Stephen Greenblatt
Got this at the Quinn-Ribble garage sale for $3. I’d always wanted to read it, and it was so engrossing and beautifully written that I’m glad I got the hardcover as I am sure I will read it again. Greenblatt looks at all the known facts and documentation about Shakespeare, and operates on the premise that he is the sole author of the works attributed to him. A well-known English lit author and Shakespearian scholar, Greenblatt uses the plays and the history of the period to flesh out Shakespeare’s own story in ways that are sensible and sensitive, and always fascinating. For those who love the Elizabethan era, the book provides an excellent overview of the political and religious goings-on as well.
Best mystery book of the summer: "The Royal Wulff Murders" by Keith McCafferty. A Montana setting, lots of compelling characters and fly-fishing. What's not to like? My husband is a fly fisherman and ties his own flies so all of this background was easily understandable to me, without any actual fishing experience. One of the premier trout streams in our region is located just outside Madison so all the environmental sub-text of the story was of as much interest as the mystery. This is McCafferty's first novel and I can't wait for the next one.
Our long hot summer has tested cooks who are hungry but don't want to heat up the kitchen. I found this recipe for a refreshing green (cucumber) Gazpacho in The Summertime Anytime Cookbook by Dana Slatkin. It was quick and easy and held up well in the fridge for a few days. Slatkin's book is a great resource for lots of other delicious summer suppers.
Dana Slatkin's Cucumber Gazpacho
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
3 cups plain yogurt, preferably Greek-style or whole milk
5 medium English cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
1/2 bunch celery (about 4 long stalks), roughly chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded, cored, roughly chopped
3 green onions, white and green parts, roughly chopped
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves and stems
1/2 bunch fresh dill, leaves only, plus a few sprigs for garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Garnish: 2 medium pink radishes, grated
In a blender, puree yogurt, cucumbers, celery, bell peppers, green onions, cilantro and dill in batches until smooth. Season with salt, pepper and sugar to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
Serve soup in chilled bowls or salted glasses with dill sprigs and grated radish for garnish.
As you can see from the top picture, I served the soup in bowls garnished with snipped chives. But I think it would be excellent served the way Slatkins does — in glasses with salted rims just like a margarita. And what a summery way to start a meal!
Bottom photo and recipe reprinted from the Orange County Register.
The news in a nutshell from the State Climatology Office. And this doesn't even show yesterday's high of 105 degrees. Today is only supposed to be 102 degrees. For those of you not familiar with a Wisconsin map, Madison is just about dead center of the largest county in the chartreuse area of the bottom (precip) map.
"State Bulletin by Dr. John Young, Director & Dr. Edward Hopkins, Climatologist From: 2 July 2012
Seriously dry conditions have developed over southern Wisconsin during June. Several stations in the south central sections of the state reported the driest June on record. Madison received only 0.31 inches of rain, breaking a 117-year record. This amount was only 7 percent of normal June rainfall. Beaver Dam (0.33 in), Ft. Atkinson (0.42 in) and Watertown (0.50 in) also experienced their lowest June rainfall totals.
On June 26, the U.S. Drought Monitor classified the lowest ¼ of the state as under “abnormally dry” (D0) or “moderate drought” (D1) conditions. The abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions have been the result of spring rain deficits that became extreme in June, as well as with continuing abnormal warmth. The dryness is most pronounced in the upper soil layers of south central counties, where the short-time drought index ranks the dryness in the top 5% of occurrences. Deeper soil layers reflecting ground water have not reached abnormally dry levels.
Wisconsin has experienced 6 straight months of above normal temperatures that hastened soil drying by evaporation at many locations. However, the northwestern third of the state experienced June rains of twice the normal amounts. Additional drought information for the Midwest is found at Midwestern Regional Climate Center.
The outlooks for July from weather computer models and the NOAA Climate Prediction Centerindicate that southern Wisconsin would have a better than even chance of above average temperatures, while most of the Badger State could have close to average precipitation."
Still more images from Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison. This group concentrates on all the myriad ways the staff plant and display containers. They include subtle potted groups that reflect the surrounding landscape . . .
. . . planted pots set deep within the larger garden
. . . planted pots rising out of similarly colored floral areas
. . . same colors as above but using different plants for a completely different effect
. . . one plant per container for drama and emphasis
. . . these pots are a perfect way for those of us in cold climates to enjoy tropical plants in the garden but still easily bring them indoors in the fall
. . . a reminder that pots don't always need to be planted to have an effect in the garden
. . . a secret spot for a conversation with only a potted plant separating the speakers (note the sedge lawn instead of grass)
. . . and the pots de resistance at the garden entrance.
All gardens benefit from planning with the long view — meaning long term planning and design — in mind. But there is another kind of garden long view, one that most of us can only dream about. I mean, literally, the long views of allees, pergolas, reflecting pools and green walls that take the kind of space that most home gardeners don't have. The ability to experience and enjoy those long views are one of the reasons to visit public gardens like Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison where Mark took all these images. We've been members of Olbrich for probably close to twenty years and have watched the development of many of these gardens from their creation. Seeing them in all their glorious maturity is even more enjoyable since we remember them in their infancy and know how far they've come!
August is going out in a blaze of glory. I would've said the garden didn't have much color at the moment — other than shades of green — but I'd be wrong. There's the intense orangey gold of LIgularia 'Osiris Farnaisie,' the softer lemony gold of Kirengeshoma palmata Koreana group, the delicate rose-gold of Nymphae odorata 'Sulphurea,' the pitted green-gold of Macintosh apples and the reflective gold of one of our favorite garden rocks recently transformed with an application of gold leaf.
Woke to the sound of rain and a cool breeze blowing through the bedroom. So comfortable that I grabbed a blanket and slept in. Got up to sunshine and .72" of rain in the gauge; the garden and I both perked up. The rain is much needed. While we're not having a drought, it has been a very dry summer. Using the rain gauge in our garden, my records show that we only received 2.12" of rain in June, 2" in July and 1.55" so far in August.
It was still early enough that I made coffee and then headed over to the West Side Market. Came home with green beans, tomatoes, corn picked this morning, my favorite caraway rye from Madison Sourdough. Also got a gorgeous bouquet for a mere $5.00. And two end of season herb plants — basil and parsley — neither of which are doing well in the garden this year. I'm making Anna Thomas' cheese and onion pie for breakfast tomorrow so I also picked up Jarlsberg and gruyere cheese, butter and heavy cream. So Wisconsin!
As I was packing up the car, I heard someone exclaim at the "vanity" license plate of a nearby vehicle, so I had to walk over to see what it said. It was on a silver car sitting in full glaring sun and my phone couldn't get a good image. The license read:
"THNX WI 14"
A perfect footnote to what is clearly going to be a great day.
Forty years ago this summer, my friend Monte and I packed up a home-made tent/trailer and drove 7,000 miles (or was it 10,000?) on a massive cross-country trip. We were roommates as well as art teachers, so we left when school recessed for the summer and returned Labor Day weekend. It was a great trip, resulting in lots of adventures which I remember via the first journal I ever kept.
All of this came back to me during my recent visit to Atomic Interiors where I purchased the Dansk BLT plates. Among the wonderful mid-century treasures the store offers was a set of four Bennington Pottery plates and bowls. Potter's Yard in Bennington was one of our stops in July, 1971, and we fell in love with their delightful dishes. I fell prey to temptation and memory at Atomic again and bought the eight pieces of Morning Glory Blue spatterware. Again, at $9 for the dinner plates and $7 for the bowls, Atomic's prices can't be beat. The current prices on-line at Bennington are $24 for the plate and $26 for the rimmed soup/pasta bowl. The pieces I bought at Atomic were made in 1961/62 when I was a freshman in high school; the company's been making stoneware dishes since 1948.
Along with notes and bits and pieces glued into that first journal was the this recipe for salad dressing (below) that we enjoyed at Potter's Yard.
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly cracker white pepper
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepepr
1/4 tsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. finely chopped fresh garlic cloves
5 Tblspn. good tarragon vinegar
2 Tblspn. olive oil
10 Tblspn. vegetable oil
1 raw egg
1/2 cup light cream
Put all the ingredients in a jar and shake well to combine. Chill before serving.
Alas, I did not make any notes as to what kind of salad this might have dressed.