I've sort of been in mourning mode this last week. Rachel left a week ago Sunday night. She is the baby of our family of seven children and she is our caboose. She is five years younger than the next youngest child so she has been my sole buddy for a long time! She has been a fabulous daughter and a terrific partner! Gardening without her will be very different!
Fortunately for me, the garden keeps growing whether Rachel is here or not and the weeds seem to know that my best weeder is gone! Those pesky weeds have sprung up everywhere just like they know that Rachel is not here just waiting to pull them out by their roots and pitch them in the compost pile. I guess I'll have to do that now. There were other things that were solely Rachel's territory that I have had to do this week. She was the potato, zucchini, and broccoli harvester. Today I discovered that I don't like digging potatoes or picking the broccoli florets! I definitely have to work harder and faster now that Rachel is gone, but hey, it is keeping me busy!
Another thing keeping me busy is getting ready for the State Fair! I love the Fair! Every year when I see the rides going up I eget as excited as any kid! I love the animals in the barn, the crops exhibits, the quilts, the flower exhibits, the fabulous flower gardens and hanging baskets adorning the Fair grounds, the entertainment, the smells, the foods! I love the Fair so much that a year ago I became a member of the Fair Board! Every year for the past 23 years my kids have entered their livestock in the 4-H livestock shows and sold their market projects at the 4-H Market Livestock Auction. We have had so many different animals that I can't remember them all. We started with a couple of milk goats, added pigs, then sheep, calves, steers, milk cows, aplacas, pygmy goats, geese and even a couple of rabbits and chickens here and there! As the kids grew up and left home the livestock numbers has dwindled, but Rachel retained her share. This year one of Rachel's projects has been raising Chili. Chili is a big beautiful red 1200# Tarentaise steer. 4-H allows youth to finish their livestock projects their senior year even if they will be gone to college during the Fair. Rachel has managed to get a mileage ticket to come home for the auction weekend, September 5th, but it falls to me to take the steer into the Fair. Rachel has done a great job training him, so I'm not too worried (why worry about leading a 1200 lb animal of pure muscle by a half inch rope halter?) Tomorrow is the day I have to load him into the trailer and take him to the Fairgrounds. If I don't write for awhile (or ever again) you'll know something bad happened.
One of my favorite things at the Fair is the giant cabbage contest. Rachel has entered it for the last three years. This year I have been growing a cabbage. I am hoping that my cabbage will be bigger than any of hers has been. I think her record was 50 lbs and sixth place. I think I have a big one, but then again, it has been a good cabbage year so everyone will have big ones. I'll update you on how I do. The contest is September 4th. When Rachel reads this she will try to take the credit for planting my cabbage, but I am the one who faithfully watered it and what's more, I will be the one who has to figure out how to load the monster and get it to the Fair, so I will claim the glory if there is any to be had.
When the Fair starts I know that Fall is here. There are other signs that tell me it is inevitable. The last of my dahlias just barely opened, and that is a sign that it will soon frost. I rarely get to enjoy the last dahlia for more than a few days. Also, my rocket snap dragons are finally blooming. I planted them as a border for my lawn. That was a mistake because they have taken so long to bloom. Next year I am looking for something that blooms a whole lot earlier! The sweet peas are forcing out their last blooms! I will miss them when they are gone, they have been so lovely this year! It is more than time to cut down the dephiniums. Their empty spires really mar the beauty of the flower beds, but I rarely get to that chore until it is time to clean up the all the flower debris in after the frost takes everything.
One last thing. I just got an email from the Division of Ag announcing that this week is 'Eat Alaska Grown Week'. The challenge is to eat as much Alaska Grown food as you can. Isn't this fun! Of course, we find it quite easy to have all our own produce and we bought pork and beef from local producers last fall and still have plenty in our freezer along with halibut and salmon. I admit that I usually buy eggs at the store, but this week I am buying eggs from my neighbors. It is great to have our local Matanuska Creamery milk and ice cream. I have a limited amount of local honey for a sweetener, but my dilema is the grains. Wheat used to be grown and milled in Alaska, but that was years and years ago. Some farmers in Delta are experimenting with wheat this year, but not in time for this week. I guess I'll eat potatoes this week instead of breads. I am having fun planning this week's menu but it has been nice to discover that we don't have to change too many things to eat local. Isn't Alaska a great place to live and eat?!