The Heritage Herb Gardens at the Ozark Folk Center grace the park with visual colors and textures, sweet and pungent aromas, and help us to interpret the history of the human use of plants.
“Hot enough for you?” Now it is hot enough for me. Gardeners working under the current high pressure ridge are challenged to keep their plants and themselves thriving.
“Having fun yet?” Yup, I am having fun, and I don’t mind sharing my methods. First and foremost, I take advantage of the cool part of the day. This means leaping out of bed at 3:30 a.m., first getting my coffee, then morning chores done, then swallowing a quart of cool water, and then being in the garden just after sunrise. Starting early makes all of the difference--as does drinking lots of water before I ever get thirsty. I drink water constantly throughout the day and enjoy a tall glass of iced coffee or tea for lunch. (The experts advise us to avoid caffeine during heat waves.)
Taking the powdered form of vitamin C in a glass of water along with a vitamin and mineral supplement keeps my energy level fairly constant. Shrub, a drink made by macerating berries in apple cider vinegar, straining out the fruit after a couple of weeks and then blending the fruited vinegar with an equal measure of honey, is easy to make and delicious in water. The vitamin C from the fruit, the potassium from the vinegar and the sugar from the honey really improves performance and state of mind when the 3 o’clock-in-the-afternoon slump threatens.
Tomato sandwiches, fresh, local garden produce prepared with fresh herbs, whole grain, toothsome breads, the occasional egg and hunk of real, good cheese are my staples in the summertime. I am not hungry for fried foods or any heavy meals.
My big straw hat, white cotton sweat towels, long-sleeved, cotton, light-colored shirt, and loose overalls complete a look that turns heads but keeps my personal air conditioning working. Most folks don’t see field workers any more. I have been one. After the first blistering sunburn received from wearing a pair of shorts and a halter top, I cover up out there in the heat of the day.
Nocturnal gardening is another favorite trick to pull out of the bag during the meanest part of summer. There is a fantastic night life in the Ozarks. Besides the joy of working in the cool, many plants emit fragrance and display an almost ethereal quality at night. I have a headlight that straps onto my head. It has colored lenses that improve night vision while being less visible to insects that are attracted to white light. Vision is focused in the illuminated area which provides an opportunity to see details that are often missed during the light of day—for instance, tomato hornworms. They are literally neon green at night, under light.
Most folks are happy to be conditioned to life indoors with cold air in summer and hot air in winter. These modern conveniences can be a blessing. The key for me is to avoid being spoiled to the indoor environment so that I can continue to enjoy the great out-of-doors. If I don’t see you in the future—I’ll see you in the pasture!