28 July, Thursday
95 degrees F
Sunny, Light N winds
If I had to choose between winter and summer in this country, I do not know which I would take; for in the summer, besides the scorching heat and the frequent passing from extreme heat to extreme cold, and rarely having three fine days in succession, there are moreover so many Mosquitoes or gnats, that you cannot go out without being covered with them, and stung on all sides.
Letter from Father Gabriel Marest, Missionary of the Society of Jesus, to Father de Lamberville of the same Society, Procurator of the Mission of Canada,. 1707. The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, TRAVELS AND EXPLORATIONS OF THE JESUIT MISSIONARIES IN NEW FRANCE, 1610—1791
Mes amis, this accounting of the weather of North America early in the 1700s aptly describes temperature and insect extremes in the Illinois country. This summer at Fort de Chartres, with temperatures registering in the upper 90s to low 100s for most of the month of July, certainly curtailed activity in our jardin. Also, it is of little comfort, but interesting to note, the observations of Constantin-François Volney: In the summer of 1779, when the thermometer was at 90 degrees at Monticello, and 96 degrees at Williamsburg, it was 110 degrees at Kaskaskia.The onset of illness and reluctance to labor in the oppressive heat, rendered little progress by this gardener through most of July. As the month waned, and the season’s earlier downpours evaporated with the rising temperatures, it became imperative to begin watering and feeding the vegetable and melon beds.
It was also necessary to rescue the beds from the onslaught of unwanted invasive plants which only competed for the limited water resources at hand. With assistance from my friend Toni, we worked throughout the morning, harvesting the cucumbers, squashes, and melons ripening in their beds. We collected Noir de Carmes and Valencia melons, Georgia Rattlesnake, Missouri Heirloom And Red Seeded Citron watermelons, Yellow and White Scallop squashes, all heavily producing in the summer heat. Surprisingly, the French heirloom cucumbers were covered with blooms but had yet to bear fruit. The basil plants had grown into full shrubs over the past month in response to the warmth, holding their own against the entwining cucumber vines. Soaking the soil with water took the rest of the morning and into the early afternoon until the heat dictated an end to our work. As our efforts were completed for the day, we took a moment of rest in the shade of the bake oven. Contemplating the resilience of some plants to weather and, in some cases thrive, in the extreme temperatures of the Illinois Country, nature’s rules and order once again surprise and amaze. The work of clearing and preparing the beds for the fall planting must wait for another day and hopefully, cooler temperatures. Visit this site’s Recettes page for recipes featuring July’s garden bounty.