Monday, March 9, 2015

It's Finally Spring

We're grateful to finally see a warming trend in the weather here in Northeastern Oklahoma.

The cold-weather plants that had been under lights in the garage for many days went back into the cold frame for hardening-off, in preparation for setting out into the garden,

and I have begun the process of transplanting some of them.  On Saturday and Sunday, I filled half the sweet-potato raised bed with Tyfon, Bok Choy, and some of the Bloomsdale Spinach plants.  The sweet-potato bed is two cinder-blocks tall, so they should be safe from any little rabbits that get in through the fence.

Fifeen Copenhagen Market Cabbage were planted along the eastern edge of the western-most bed in the garden.  For now, bottomless Folger's coffee tubs are protecting them from the elements. 

The peas are pre-sprouted and some of them went into the ground on Sunday.

These are my fold-up triangular tomato cages that Hubs and I made out of concrete reinforcement wire a couple years ago.  They are set into the ground by a few inches of bottom wires, and arranged in a zig-zag pattern.  Something different I'm trying in an effort to be able to rotate my nitrogen-fixers into places where they'll do the most good.  This was my tomato bed last year, but I grew a few squash and my cucumbers in this bed also, in places where the tomato plants didn't survive the transplant.  My "get up and go" got up and went before I got them all planted, but that's how we roll here on RockWhisperer Hill.  We work till we're tired and then we quit.  Progress is progress, even if it's just a little.  Hubs is inclined to look at the whole job, get overwhelmed, and do nothing.  I guess we all have that temptation.  But I don't believe in giving in to that.  Even if you only do a little something, that little something adds up after several days.  Otherwise, the days go by and nothing gets done.  So I drive myself and Hubs, too.  You might say Hubs is 'wife-motivated'.  Heh.  Otherwise he would just sit in the LaZBoy and watch TV all day.

I'm hoping the warmish days will allow the peas to "take off" once they're placed in the soil.  I had a good crop of peas last year even though it turned bitter cold right after I put them into the ground.  We had several meals with "Creamed Peas And New Potatoes" as a side dish, I saved a bunch of them for seed, and some were blanched and put in the freezer for later.  Didn't have enough to last through the winter, though.  Several years ago, Diane and I worked out a seed trade and that's where I got my first Tall Telephone pea seed.  And I save some of those every year.  I also save seed from an unknown variety.  I call it "Farmer's Market" because my first seed came from peapods that were handed out as samples at Bartlesville's Heart Of Town farmer's market.  We were encouraged to eat them raw to see how sweet they were, but Hubs handed his to me and so did the daughter that was with us at the time, both of them horrified at eating peas RAW (Sheesh.), and so I decided to forego eating mine as well and saved them all for the garden.  Of course the first planting was just for the seed I could collect, but they have yielded well for me over the last several springs. 

The kale that I planted in the garden and the spinach I planted in the herb garden in early February lived through the cold but growth stalled out, which I expected.

Their vinegar-bottle cloches were removed so they can begin growing.  Just for a few hours on Thursday, as they needed a bit of hardening off, and we expected a freezing night that night.  They are accustomed to the cold because they've been out in the garden since before all this weather crap started.  Normally just with the vinegar bottles between them and the elements.  Kale is supposed to live all winter long, once its roots have become established, but I felt like, being new plants, they needed a bit of protection.  Since the spinach was just outside the back door, I would often throw an old blanket on top of the vinegar bottles if the night was going to be especially cold.  The other cold-weather plants were waiting under lights in the garage.  It gets cold in the garage, but it never freezes.

I just love having an attached garage.  This house has been a lot of "firsts" for me.  Never lived outside of the city limits, except when I was a small child.  Never lived on a concrete pad.  Never cooked and/or heated with electric.  Never had a brick home.  Some things, like homes that were all-electric or built on concrete, I avoided like the plague whenever we looked at homes to buy.  I only settled for these aspects with this house because the location, the neighbors and the space were so good.  But being on a concrete pad hasn't been all that bad.  And neither has cooking (and canning) on an electric stove.  I worried that heating with electric was going to be expensive, but actually our utility bills are less here than they were at The Ponca House.  Yes, of course there have been adjustments.  I had to modify some of my canning equipment but that has actually made canning easier than it has ever been for me.  I had never had any experience with canners that have a "rocker" valve rather than a gauge that you have to watch and keep adjusting the heat, hoping to find "the sweet spot".  OMG, the rocker gauge makes things so much easier!   I really love our 1.67 acres even if there is a lot of limestone under it.  No one seems to have ever had a garden out here (what a WASTE!), but we're finding our garden yield gets better with every year's amendments, even with the bugs, critters and vermin.  At least we don't have to deal with moles or voles.

But I digress......

The spinach is in the yard where the rabbits can get in, so until Hubs makes a few modifications to the gates and I build up the ground underneath them, it's imperative that there be some protection from rabbit-nibbling there.  Something ate my spinach seedlings right down to the ground last year.  Some of the seedlings came back up from the root and then Something ate those, too.  Most likely rabbits, but I s'pose it could've been a member of that huge infestation of rats we had on our property, I don't guess I'll ever know for sure.  There's plenty of other stuff these critters can eat, the Henbit grows like wildfire this time of year, for one thing.  No, I don't care that they favor spinach over all the wild things that grow here.  Henbit was always enjoyed with great relish by my chickens, when I had them, and so it's plenty good enough for the wild things.  The spinach is MINE, dammit, and I'm going to make a greater effort to have some FOR ME this spring.  The remedy is different depending on what the enemy is.  Rats are harder to keep out of things than rabbits are.  But they are easier to trap.  Well, usually.  Some of them are pretty adept at eating the bait without tripping the trap.

I can guarantee you I will be more vigilant about keeping the garden gates closed, but there is still the danger of rabbit babies getting in through the holes of the fence and then not being able to get out.

As if rabbits and rats are not problems enough, yesterday I saw four yearling-sized deer standing in a line along my back fence.  I've never seen them this close before.  I hope it's not an omen of things to come.   I opened the door and dog-barked at them and they looked right at me as if to say, "There it IS!  PROOF that humans can lose their minds...."  Then I clapped my hands several times and they took off.  Maybe they thought the sound was gunshots.  I wish shooting deer out of season was not a crime.  That might be incentive for me to learn how to shoot our shotgun.   Some of my neighbors have squirrels but our trees are not big enough to be attractive to them yet, so that kind of plague has not visited the garden, at least as far as I can tell.  My mother used to refer to squirrels as "rats with big tails".  She also referred to butterflies as "Worms with wings".  Lots of people adore squirrels and butterflies but when you're a gardener you see the down-side of having either.  I know some people who have raccoons and armadillos.  When the day comes that those begin to visit me, I'll probably just quit gardening entirely.  Or get myself a dog that likes to hunt and will stay outside all the time.  Our biggest mistake with our last dog was in letting him believe he belonged in the house.  Bought him a dog house and he would not even go in it. 

Getting the cold-weather plants either in the garden or the cold frame frees up the plant rack in the garage, and I have moved the tomato plants out there now.  I will transplant them into bigger containers as soon as I can.  They are needing more root space.  On Sunday I started splitting up seedlings that were mass planted in containers.  I had some Red and Orange Cheese peppers that were finally big enough to be separated, ten Mexican Tarragon and five Dahlia, and the Roman Chamomile was split up into five clumps.   This morning I transplanted Aunt Molly and Pineapple Tomatillo, they were in small coffee-cup sized styro cups and suffering.  Besides, I ran out of the little cups and needed them for the pepper plants. 

The "Spice Bush" plant I bought at Tractor Supply was put into the herb garden, near the mushroom-shaped water tank, and I see something has already pruned it now so I'll have to put a better barricade around it till it gets big enough to hold it's own.  I had Hubs bait the rat trap but so far we've not caught anything.  I thought for awhile I was getting paranoid about the rats, but I had some torn-up spinach lying on the ground this morning, the bait was gone from the trap but it wasn't sprung, and there were little rat-poops under the cage.  So there ya go.  Apparently it's getting in under the wire frame, or just crawling through the holes.  It's a cloudy day today so I just dug around in the shed and found some stuff I had made for wind-protectors for last year's garden, and used them.  I need the air to get to them during the day or I can't harden them off.  Vinegar bottles are great for night but the hole is too little ventilation for right now.
I ran out of them and had to use a couple of vinegar bottles in a couple of places where nothing is anymore.  I'm hoping they will come back up from the roots.  

And the trap?  Well, since the rat's getting so good about eating the bait without springing the trap, the last resort is a little D-Con for the entree.  Maybe there's something wrong with the trap, now, maybe the sliding mechanism needs to be polished up, or a little WD-40 sprayed on it or something.  I've been griping about it to Hubs for a couple of days now and he just puts in more bait.  I guess I'm going to have to get specific because we just can't put up with this when the local ranchers start burning off their pastures.  I'm sure Hubs KNOWS just how to fix it, he can fix most anything if he's motivated to do so.  But right now he just seems to be in Pa Kettle Mode.

We forgot and left the garage door open all day on Saturday, and I guess some little ratty got a good dose of D-Con on that day.  I keep a packet of it on the floor near the doorway in a Folger's coffee tub lid, just for insurance.  Checked it this morning and it was empty.  Maybe it ate and just left -- could I BE that lucky, I wonder? -- I haven't heard any suspicious noises.  *Sigh*.

It's too early for most of the perennials to be awakening, I've got jonquil greens up but no flower buds yet.  The garlic plants have endured and they are hangin' in there, holding their own with the Henbit.

And so that's about it for the garden.  We have a chance of rain today and tomorrow, but it's only 20%.  The garden has some good moisture still in it so I won't have to water if it doesn't rain, at least for awhile.

Otherwise, we are plugging along.  Been looking at french doors that open in, rather than slide, as our sliding patio doors are so drafty when the wind blows.  But looks like they don't make them the right size to fit the opening we have, and I won't go smaller.  I just won't.  We are making progress with the living room otherwise, doing a little bit each day.  I'm liking the changes very much and am looking forward to doing the reveal post but we still have some things to do and the furniture won't be here for a couple more weeks, maybe more.  Barbara told me the factory is not as fast getting their orders shipped as they used to be. 

We are rocking on.  Hope you are, too.  Till next time, xoxoxoxo


  1. Hurray ~ spring is happening for you and you are busy, busy, busy.

    Happy Spring ~ FlowerLady

  2. Happy Spring to you too, Lorraine, though you are a lucky girl and have warm weather almost all the time, aren't you?

    An idle mind is the devil's workshop, don't you think? So let's all keep them wheels a-turnin'! Heh.

  3. I am surprised at how much earlier you can garden than I can here. What an impressive start!

    Do you think the rats aren't heavy enough to spring the trap? I think I would liberally use the D-con.

    We are getting a light rain here this morning.

    1. Glenda, judging from the size of their poops, I'd say they were small. Where there are small rats, there's got to be a Mama, wouldn't you think? I just checked and the D-Con I baited the trap with is all gone. Trap still unsprung though. I hate to use the D-Con because then nothing can eat the dead rat. But on the other hand, if there are less rats to eat out in the fields, maybe the hawks will take more rabbits. No shortage of those here.

      I have to get things into the garden as quick as I can, or they are not producing before the infernal heat starts in. I've had tomatoes just boil under the skin when it gets above 100º. Lots of times I can't get much to grow in the garden during late July / early August unless it's okra, southern peas, or something like that. These things going in the garden now are cold-weather things though. Warm weather things can't go in till after April 15, and I don't put my onions into the ground until about then, too, as I've had problems with them bolting to seed if planted before the last frost. Last year we had an unprecedented late spring freeze IN MAY. What's up with THAT?

      We got about half an inch of rain between about 5pm Monday and 7am today -- Tuesday.


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