Record Temperatures, First Fruits, and Interference

Those who have been following the weather in the western United States during this past month (June, 2021) will be aware of many record high temperatures, long lasting high pressure systems, and dangerous wildfire conditions.

Here locally, there were several record highs in the 98-101°F range. Those were official. But my thermometers, one of which was place in direct sun (not shade as official thermometers must be) recorded these extremes:

June 11, 2021, low temperature just before heat wave
Highest temperature 117° F on June 23, 2021 at end of heat wave

Note that, for some reason, this system does not record humidity levels below 20%, though for many days, humidity was actually in the 5-10% range. Lower left temperatures were indoor recordings (no A/C here). This heat was accompanied by two large wildfires in the area: Bear (12,174+ acres), Bennion Creek; plus two smaller: Horsecone, Sego.

Smoke was heavy for several days, to the point of almost shrouding the nearby mountains, which are part of the Roan Cliffs.

Smoke from wildfires, Roan Cliffs, June 10, 2021

Fortunately, the heat subsided and has been followed by several days of intermittent rain – the first significant moisture in about three months.

Rainbow, 6-24-2021

Temperatures have been 15-20° cooler, with some rain every couple of days. Wouldn’t it be nice if this weather pattern could stay through the end of August! This part of Utah is under severe drought conditions. The rain has actually soaked down into the top 2″ of soil! Still bone dry below that.

Once again, I’m off to a very late start with getting my plants in the ground. Or, rather, plants into pots and growbags – I just don’t have the time, resources, or energy (see “Interference” below” to do it right. “Right” meaning removal of the giant tree stump and other garbage; leveling and plowing the ground; removal of thousands of rocks and boulders; turning dirt into soil; installing a 40′ X 100′ high tunnel; setting up a drip irrigation system; installing a deer-proof fence around the perimeter; etc.

First, we start with fall cleanup on June 4-10th:

Next, transplanting the first few more critical tomato varieties (Domingo, a few giants, those for which I’m running out of seeds) into the larger pots, adding Sustane 4-6-4 organic slow-release fertilizer and Azomite in the planting holes; then applying 2″ of compost (Nutri-Mulch) to the surface after transplanting.

First Bout of Transplanting, June 05, 2021

Then the second round of transplanting, much delayed because of interference (see below), with some great help from my cousin who drove 8 hours 1-way from Arizona, and some good help from neighbors. This batch was transplanted into the rest of the growbags set up last year inside the deer exclosure.

Second Bout of Transplanting, June 12-14, 2021

As of June 14, many of these seedlings were quite overgrown in their 3-1/2″ pots, but roots have grown through the bottoms of the pots, where extra watering has allowed them to grow to 2′ tall or more.

Unfortunately, at this point I’ve only transplanted, alphabetically, through the letter D for new varieties; and very few of the varieties for seed replenishment. In other words, at least 650 more tomato seedlings “must” me transplanted a month ago. Plus peppers, cucurbits, etc.

The very late planting of tomato seeds on May 27-28 has been very successful for the most part. They were kept indoors until germination, taken outdoors when temperatures were in the 75-90° range, brought back indoors at night and on very hot days, potted up on June 16th (20-21 days from sowing), kept on wire racks under artificial lighting for four days, then move outdoors for good after some letup from the 100° heat.

Late planted (June 6th) cucurbits had excellent germination rates on heat mats set to 98° for 3 days, then reduced to 90°. Even watermelon seeds germinate as fast as tomato seeds (4-8 days) with this method. First cucurbits were ready to be transplanted by June 18th, but first few not transplanted until June 30th (interference…). Some of these were planted by seed indoors on April 27th, so they are looking rather haggard.

Other plants of interest include:
Dwarf Pomegranate ready to bloom 143 days from seed sowing
TPS (True Potato Seed), variety Blue Velvet growing well
Ground cherries and tomatillos producing fruit
Cauliflower (variety Pusa Gulabi) putting out flowering heads while still in small pots
Garlic producing many delicious scapes; though garlic project as a whole looks like a 70% bust — not watered enough, deer browsing, not enough compost, too many weeds, interference…

Hundreds of pepper seedlings need to find a place in the garden (such as it is…) as well. They have done well under shade cloth, despite being potted up from plug trays 3-4 weeks behind schedule.

First ripe (or mostly ripe) tomatoes harvested on June 21st, 98 days from seed sowing. Tomato varieties that have produced ripe tomatoes by the end of June (98-103 days from seed sowing) include:

Sweet Cheriette
Minsk Early
Moravsky Div

It looks like Carbon will be the first variety to produce a medium-sized fruit.

MEGABLOOMS! At least a few:
Letnyi Sidr
With some luck (from the weather and pests) and TLC, this Domingo looks like it could go 3 lbs. plus!

Ok, has there been enough foreshadowing: INTERFERENCE !?!

This could get long but I’ll keep it brief, since it’s very personal and only relevant to a blog like this because I need a functioning body to do physical labor. This body feels like it has aged 30 years since mid-May.

Massive inflammation of major joints (shoulders, knees, hips), along with extreme muscle fatigue, has lead to very poor sleep (can’t sleep more than 2 hours at a time because of pain buildup), near paralysis of major joints (mobility reduced by 90% or more). At times even picking up a shovel has been an impossible task, let alone using it. You really don’t want to know the gruesome details…

NSAID pain killers, doctor visit (first time in 21 years), blood tests, started some physical therapy, and some hypothesizing. Monocyte and other white blood cell counts high, indicative of a large immune response. Thyroid Stimulating Hormone levels very high, indicating possible hypothyroidism.

Guessing: I’m one of those people with an adverse response to COVID-19 vaccine (Moderna). The pain started in my left shoulder and spread from there over the course of several weeks following second dose. Symptoms are just starting to decline after 6 weeks of misery.

At this point, I cannot rule out an autoimmune disease, rapid-onset arthritis, or even cancer. Hopefully I’ll get some strength and energy back soon, because I’m hundreds of hours behind with outdoor work.

I just don’t have the ability to pound in t-posts for constructing another deer exclosure. So I’ve had to close the low tunnel every evening and open it again every morning – just waiting for flexibility, strength, and energy to return.

Unfinished work – INTERFERENCE