Sunday, April 5, 2015

A Little Bit Of Everything

When I was a little girl, and I was asked what I wanted on my plate at a family gathering, I'd always say, "I'll just take a little bit of everything!"  It became a family catch-phrase, along with my brother's comment, "If I was a cat I couldn't stand this...", which he always said whenever Aunt Viv hugged him up.  And sister Susie's "Where's my sucker?!?" which she said after Doc Vestle burst an abscess that had formed in her throat.  These are old stories, started back before I was born and I'm 68.  So, there ya go.

But I digress.  Where I was going with "Little Bit of Everything" is that, that's what this post is.  Disjointed and Attention Deficit, here we come.

I've been keeping track this time, and we have trapped, drowned, and disposed of 45 rats in the last 13 days.  Plus one that I killed "on the run" and two mice from D-Con.  A packet of D-Con, dropped yesterday evening behind the storage cabinet on the back patio, and one tossed under a garden cart on the front driveway, are both gone today.  The burning around us continues.  Surely at some point it will abate, and then maybe the critters that ran to escape the fire will go back from whence they came.  Those that manage to avoid meeting up with death at our place, that is.

We haven't been doing much to write about.  Hubs finished the floor in the living room  Furniture is still not in.  The weatherstrip for the sliding door came in and Hubs says it's the wrong stuff.  *Sigh.*

I'm getting asparagus now, and small pickings of lettuce, chard.  The lilacs are in bloom.

I haven't seen any hint of poppy emergence, except for some that were red and/or orange and they seem to be perennials.  That's pretty eye-popping, since they are in bloom about the same time that the purple Dame's Rocket is in that spot.

I have finally got Dame's Rocket so that it blooms every year.  Being a biennial, you have to plant seed for both the first two years, or else you only have flowers every other year.  Now that that's accomplished, they self-seed each year.  Dame's Rocket is easy to grow, not too particular about it's environment, drought tolerant, and the flowers look and smell like lilacs.

This is it in it's first year.  The Ugly Duckling.  Easy to think it's a weed and tear out.  Been there, done that.

This is the same plant the next year.

It was really encouraging to see the Pink Champagne Gooseberry bush leafing out.

I can't tell you how close I came to just yanking it out of there.  Last year, a Mockingbird yanked off almost all the berries, left me only a few to sample, and, in true gooseberry fashion, they were very tart.  Would be good paired with strawberries in a jam, I don't like the seeds, though.  Then the plant just lost all its leaves and looked dead for the remainder of the year and I assumed the mockingbird's rough attack loosened the roots.  I was happy I'd saved seed from the ones I sampled and they were wintersown this winter.  Then I looked at "the mother plant" a few days ago and saw leaves!  Leaf bags are around it to protect from the rabbits till something better can be put there, or till it can be moved into the fenced area.

The rabbits have been really hard on my Doyle blackberry plants.  They bit off every bud node on most of the canes.  It's going to take awhile for recovery from that damage, but part of the plants are still alive.  Now that the garden is free of rabbits maybe they have a chance.

Beet seed has been planted but isn't up yet.  On Saturday I planted most of my onion sets.

I have completely given up on buying onion plant bundles because our merchants get them so early and they don't keep well, not in the store and not here at home.  I don't get good results with planting onions out that early, and if everybody else does, then they must know some secret that I don't, is all I can say.  So I thought the onion sets might fare better, and they did, for the most part.  I kept them in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator.  But some have sprouted and a few in each packet have disintegrated inside the papery skin.  So it's not a perfect solution.   This year I bought one package of red, three of yellow, and three of white sweet.  There were 80 bulbs in the packages of red and yellow and only 40 in the sweet.  If all goes well, I should have plenty of onions.

Some headway in growing onions from seed is being made.  This time I scattered the seed rather thickly in a pot of soil, covered them with a thin layer of potting soil, and they germinated in the house, in December.  Then the pots went out into the cold frame in March where they grew greens to about 4" and then I made a hole in the soil of the garden the same size as the pot, tipped the pot-shaped block of soi out of the pot into my hand and then tipped it, in one piece, into the soil.  And there they are, nice little circles of onions.  I will leave them alone until all danger of frost is past, and then hopefully they will be big enough to separate and transplant.  They will become part of next year's onion crop.  They are open-pollinated varieties, so I'll let some go to seed in 2016 and then I think I'll try letting them self-sow and see if I can get the ball rolling.  Just like the Dame's Rocket, they're a biennial, so I'll have to plant seed a second time.  I think I'll buy more onion seed this spring and direct sow it in a protected area this fall. 
This is Ailsa Craig.
This is Clear Dawn.  Boretta Cipolini died out.  Or at least that's how it looks.

I mentioned on the last post about Henbit and how it was growing everywhere.  I had been on a blog where they said it was edible, in fact, people in the comment section seemed to agree except for one or two who said, "Yuk," and then others said, "Then it's probably not Henbit you're eating".  That made me curious and I went out and looked closer at what I have growing all over and I find I have two different weeds.  There's Henbit, which has scalloped leaves, and Dead Nettle, which has triangular leaves.  They grow all mixed in with each other and they look so much alike on casual observation, that it's easy to miss.  But if you look closely, you can tell.

Henbit on the left, Dead Nettle on the right.  In my opinion?  Neither of them taste very good.  Maybe you have to get them before they bloom, or something, I don't know...

On Saturday morning, temperatures got down to 28º here.  I mean, all our fruit trees and bushes are in bloom!  But everything seems to have made it ok.  I thought at first I'd lost a couple of things I set out, to the frost, but of course the plant would be laying there, blackened and soft, and it wasn't there at all!  So it was eaten instead. 

Knowing that frost "sweetens up" kale, I went to the garden and picked the leaves off the new kale plants.  I collected enough to fill a one-gallon zip-lock bag tightly.  I ate a leaf and there is no bitterness at all.  So for supper on Saturday night we had "Beans And Greens" -- more specifically, "Purple Hull Southern Peas And Kale".

"Beans And Greens" can be made with any combination and is a great one-pot meal.  I had a couple of pieces of pork tenderloin left over from a previous meal that I put into the pan when the dish was almost ready, because Hubs thinks he has to have meat.  I was not even sure he would eat this.  But he did, and said, with a bit of surprise in his voice, that it was "Very Good".  Well!  I started the dish by cooking a chopped onion in bacon drippings then added water and the Purple Hull Peas.  Some recipes specify chicken stock but I think the dish doesn't need it.  They don't have to cook as long as beans do, but they were simmered until they were almost tender.  Then I added about half the bag of chopped, raw kale and simmered until the kale and the peas were tender.  Some people would serve this over rice, but again, I just didn't feel like the extra starch was necessary.  This dish is also very good with spinach instead of kale, but so far the vermin have not allowed me to have any of the spinach I've planted.

Looks like the drought in California is going to be affecting us all very soon.  I would urge everyone to grow as much of your own food as you can.  I know most of us have been growing our own veggies and fruit so as to avoid all that fertilizer and pesticide and so on that commercial growers add.  Not to mention the e.Coli that is sometimes found in it.  This year, I think, it will make a big difference in dollars as well.  As my long-time readers already know, Hubs and I have spent considerable time and effort in building up our garden soil so that it will retain moisture better.  We have Kylie to thank for the wood chips he delivers to us periodically, and all those bags of leaves we collect in the fall are a big help as well.  Of course this is not without it's down side, as often, when I move a bag of leaves, a rat will run out from its hiding place under the bag.  *Sigh.* 

If my fruit trees are able to produce this year, I will be one busy canner this summer and fall.  I've told Leroy I'll take his green apples again this year, if he has any.   

We had a guy out the other day to start the process in getting our yard chain-link fence replaced.  As it stands now, the yard fence is only 4' tall, it's bent up in places and the chain link material is not moored to the ground like it should be.  So there are still a few places that the rabbits can get in, although we've been going around and trying to close those places up.  Hubs had to cut a mulberry tree out of the fence a couple of years ago and we have a hackberry that will be having to come down this year because previous owners let them grow into the fence.  Last year the Hackberry dropped all its leaves early and I'm not even sure it's going to leaf out at all this year.  But anyway, the yard fence is in sad and sorry shape and since we have fruit trees in the yard, it's just an open invitation to the voracious appetite of local deer.  It wouldn't be so bad if you could shoot a deer without having to wait for fall.  I used to know a fellow who said anything that got into his garden, ended up in his freezer and really I think that's a fair outcome.  He didn't say if any deer got in there and I didn't ask.

But anyway, we had a nice conversation with the new owner of Peper Fence, Jeff Fesler.  And yes, he's Dr. Fesler's son and he grew up just a mile east of us.  He told us he's kept the same employees and that we can be assured of the same good quality Peper Fence is known for.   I told him I wanted to do it as economically as we can, and therefore I hoped there would be some way we could go off the original posts and not have to dig them up and end up having to jackhammer new holes for new posts.  He thought if they tore out the old posts to put new in, it would make too big a hole and therefore use up twice the amount of concrete and take longer to dry and yada, yada, yada.  My thinking was to drop a post a little larger over each existing post, which would also be taller.  He didn't know if he could get the material that would work for that.  So Hubs mentioned a local radiator shop that has a machine that will bend one end of the pipe so that it will fit down into a pipe the same size, with some extra sticking up to make the pipe taller, and Jeff agreed that might be the way to go.  Apparently the corner posts are very important to the structure of the fence but the posts in between are less so.  So Jeff is off looking at the options and there's an estimate being prepared.  He is seven weeks out in scheduling and said he'd enter the day he was first out as our first day, so the clock is ticking, at least.  I don't expect it to be as expensive as the garden fence, as there are only two sides and just a little bit of a third.  And Hubs said he'd make the gates.   We'll have the fence that runs between the garden and the yard removed.  That will make getting to the garden so much quicker, and consequently getting the garden hose into it.  Whatever it costs, it will be worth it in convenience alone. If it protects our fruit crop from the deer, it will pay for itself.  And yes, I know deer can jump a 6' fence.  They do not, however, like to jump a fence if there's not clear ground in front or behind the fence, and I have raised beds or bushes along the fence in lots of places.  Eventually I hope to have things growing all along the fence.  But Rome wasn't built in a day.   I was reading a blog the other day where a fellow kept the deer out of his fence by laying fencing material on the ground about 4' out, all along the outside of his fence.  He said the deer don't like to step in that.  Hubs says that would be a Pain In The A$$ at mowing time, because you'd have to pick up the fence each time.  And you'd have to keep it elevated a little so the grass wouldn't grow up into it and make it become one with the earth.  If I was going to do that, I think I'd have gravel hauled in and make a grass-free border.  But I'd rather do it with rose bushes, elderberry shrubs and so on.

I think it was on the last post, or the one before, that I mentioned planting a row of cabbage that extended into a new part of the garden, and of course we had to dig out more rock.  Hubs used the riding mower and a trailer to bring the bigger pieces into the yard for me so that I could incorporate them into the rock walk that I'm working on outside the office door.  Fitting big rock into place is quite a task.  So that I won't have to move them around so much to get them to fit, I make a newspaper template. 

It's a lot easier to see where something's going to fit with a piece of paper than it is to wrangle the big rock around.  I found places where I could replace several small pieces with one big one and Hubs helped me dig out under so they would lie flat and not teeter when stepped on.  

I have to tell you about this hose I've started using.

We found two of these at the Recycling Center, back when we could still go on the weekends and look through what people dumped off.  People put all sorts of things that were not recyclable in the bins and I didn't look at it as "stealing", it was stuff that was going to have to be discarded, anyway.  To some people "plastic" means everything from, well, garden hoses to floppy disks.  Plastic toys with metal parts.  Plastic lawn furniture.   Dirty flower pots.  You name it.  They don't bother to read the sign that says "Plastic Bottles ONLY".  But anyway, I knew these hoses weren't recyclable so I brought them home.  Finally dragged one out of the shed the other day and it's so handy in tight spaces like I have.  It doesn't leak except at the connections.  Hubs says he'll solve that problem with some new washers.   I thought I'd see a reduction in pressure but that doesn't seem to be noticeable.  I noticed WMT has these, they're about $20 and they have a hand-held spray "gun" attached to the end.  I think I need to hunt one of ours up instead of using the wand,   I haven't even thought of getting one of those hoses that expands and contracts with the water pressure, like they advertise on TV, because it'd have to go over so many sharp edges here, it'd be torn up in no time at all.   

Following out a reader tip (thank you Glenda!) , I did find Barkeeper's Friend at WMT and it was only $1 a can.  I also found the product "Clean Shower" that Glenda recommended for use after each shower.  I used the Barkeeper's Friend on my tub and it seems to have helped a lot.  Even when cleaning that tub with other products, it seemed like there was always a greasy film left that accumulated enough oils and dirt during the next bath to put it right back where it was before.  I'd get tired of scrubbing it after every bath and I'd think, "Hell, it's only me that uses this tub," and then I'd let things slide.  Literally.  I think a quick once-over with this stuff after every bath will be sufficient and won't make hard scrubbing necessary.  I know there are chemically things like Scrubbing Bubbles and all, but I feel kinda squeamish about putting that stuff into my septic tank.  I gave Hubs his own can of Barkeeper's Friend for his shower and the "Clean Shower" stuff.  He said it worked pretty well, but I haven't looked.  I noticed it smelled better in there, though.  Men and bathrooms.  Deadly combination.

At a garage sale last weekend, I bought a recent model flat-screen computer monitor for $20.  If you've ever had to replace one, you know they cost quite a bit more than that.  You're always taking a chance when you buy electronics at a garage sale.  But this one turned out ok.  The man said, "If it doesn't work, just bring it back and I'll give your money back!"  Well, allrightie then....    I set up my old XP and yep, works fine.  Now Hubs can go on it and play Hearts and FreeCell and Solitaire.  I think playing games where he'll need to engage his brain is better for him than watching TV, where he falls asleep.  And it's not in the same room as the TV.  Botta Bing. 

Oh, my, the Bridal Wreath spiraea are looking sooooo pretty!
You can tell the difference easily between single and double Bridal Wreath.  Here's single.  Pretty in it's own right.  Dainty.
Here's the double.  Some of these are from Mom's bushes.  Nice little fat button flowers.  
What would we do without pretty growing things and skies full of clouds, I ask you?  I'd just curl up and die, I think....

After having read so much about how there should be companion plants growing under fruit trees, I've been thinking about what I might use.  I have Comfrey under some of them, and as long as there is adequate moisture, it has done pretty well, filled in the space, and shaded out the Bermuda grass, and yes, even the Bindweed.  I have planted a small plant that makes red gooseberries under one tree, but that is more for its protection than for the fruit tree.  And under the peach tree, I planted some iris and some purple clover that is a perennial.  Until the perennials fill in, I have a need for some annual that will do the job.  Last year was the first time I have been successful in growing Nasturtiums in the herb garden.  They weren't a good choice for the herb garden because they grew so big and crowded even the oregano.  They really ate that afternoon shade UP!  I had some perennial Baby's Breath planted there that I bought at the garden club sale last spring and I thought it had been crowded to death till it came back this spring.  Of course, then the vermin munched it right down to the ground, so now I have to cover it at night to give it a chance to grow back.  But anyway, it occurs to me that a good spot for a nasturtium plant would be under a fruit tree.  Maybe several, if nothing else is growing under the tree.  And that'd be kind of pretty, don't you think?
I don't seem to have a good picture of the nasturtiums, they're the plants with the round leaves in the lower right corner of this picture.  OH!  And that red stuff?  That's Bergamot, aka Bee Balm, Monarda, Mormon Tea, etc., etc.  My original plant came from the Garden Club sale.  It had a tough time, every time it put on a flower, the wind came along and blew it down to the ground.  As you can see here, there's safety in numbers, even from our wind.  This spring, it has come back vigorously, and it's spreading like mint does.
I took a shovel full of these and moved them to a spot near the garden.  Talk about yer bee magnet.....  The flowers dry well for dried arrangements and wreaths, and they maintain a pungent odor that's nice in potpourri.  The scent of the leaves will remind you of English Breakfast tea.  And yes, the leaves can be dried for tea.  I love Bergamot flowers but leaves as tea, not so much.  They do have some medicinal uses, though.

My tomato plants are getting too big and I'm having trouble keeping them adequately watered and cared for.  They need daily watering now, sometimes twice, and you know what that means: they're pot-bound.  Kylie and I had a conversation about that.  He doesn't like to put his tomatoes in the ground until May.  He says they are less stressed and therefore not as bothered by bugs and viruses.  I, on the other hand, have been using April 15 or thereafter as my planting date.  I've even been lulled into a false sense of security by great summer-like weather and put them in the ground earlier than that, but I've always paid the price for that.  Never had a problem with the July 15 date until last year, when we got early morning frost IN MAY.  So you understand why I'm hesitant to just go put these tomatoes in the ground starting tomorrow, even though the forecast for the next ten days shows some purty-durn warm weather and no nights or early mornings of lower than 40º -- mostly in the 50's and 60's. 

Kylie said he didn't see why I couldn't just top them off, and I told him about how I actually re-rooted, in water, a tomato plant that fell over because of damping off.  I've been mulling over whether or not to top off these tomato plants and put the tops into water to make roots.  Then I could plant the bottom part of each tomato plant and if I lost it to frost, I might have the rooted tops by then to put into the ground in their place.

But, as I research the matter, I find the topping-off of tomato plants, while recommended to make a bushier, more prolific pepper plant, isn't recommended for tomato plants.  Instead, they are taking the suckers from the plant and rooting THEM to make new plants for use as a fall garden.  And I think that's a good idea. 

The problem with that is, my plants have not made suckers yet.  Some of them have little tiny leaf rosettes there in the bend of the "elbow" (or back of the "knee", whatever....), but nothing that I could cut off and root right now.   According to my research, cutting off the top, or the side branches, will reduce  the yield. 

I know I probably started my tomato plants too early.  But last year I didn't, and something happened, and I barely had time to start more to take their place.  I was out there putting tomato plants into the ground that were barely more than a seedling, and a lot of them didn't make the transplant.  There were no early tomatoes.  The only thing that saved me was that we had a summer with hardly any days over 100º, and so my plants made fruit all summer long.  If only all Oklahoma summers could be like that!!  Normally there's only so much time before the weather gets so hot the plant won't set fruit.  Those that are already on the vine have to be picked while green before they start to boil and rot.  Sometimes the plant dies before fall comes with some relief from the heat.  I do like to get my tomatoes into the ground as early as I can because of this.  If the plant can make it till fall, it will set on a good flush of tomatoes that sometimes, not always, will be able to grow big enough to turn red before the first frost.  But you can see, can't you, that late planting might easily leave me with no tomato crop for the whole summer..  Annnnnnnd, last summer I tried starting new plants for fall, but at the very time that I had to harden them off, it was so hot that all growth stopped, and they weren't big enough to make anything before frost arrived.  Which was early that year.  Ah, Mother Nature. ....

Wurra, wurra, what to do?

I suppose I could just do nothing, keep watering the plants every day and try to keep them alive.  But every day they become more rootbound, and that's probably as much stress as if I'd gone ahead and planted them.  I do not want to repot, at this point.  They are already in 32-oz soft-drink cups and I don't have anything deeper.  At least, being planted in the ground, the roots can stretch out and get to where they can find their own water before the rains stop.

I suppose I could plant these plants in the garden now, maybe in the time that passes between now and a possible late frost not yet on the 15-day forecast, they'll make suckers long enough to cut for rooting.  I've never removed suckers on a tomato vine.  Have you?  My reasoning is that when the sun bears down hot, they need all the shade their leaves can give them.  Maybe this is erroneous thinking and the suckers are actually draining the plant of moisture and nutrients, thus weakening the plant.  I hadn't thought along those lines before.

I suppose I could sacrifice one plant of each variety, put the top and each side branch into a jar of water to root and then go ahead and plant everything else.  For sure, I'm going to try rooting some of the suckers this summer for the fall garden.  Sounds like a lot less trouble than germinating seed, and will result in a bigger plant come transplant time.

Guess this is something I'll have to chew on for awhile.  If you have an opinion, I'd like to hear it!

I guess that's about all I have for now.  I've made some personal pan pizzas with things I wanted to use up from the freezer: a 24-oz cottage cheese container of tomato puree from last year's tomatoes for the sauce, with fennel, home-grown basil, garlic and oregano, the last of the dehydrated onion.  Some cooked and crumbled sausage, chopped red and yellow peppers from last year's garden, preserved in the freezer.  Some shredded parmesan cheese that I wanted to use up.  All the pizzas but two went to the freezer for some time when I need a hurry-up meal, with two saved for tonight's supper.  And it's getting about that time.

I hope everyone had a nice Easter.  Remember, please, the reason for the season: He is risen!  Enjoy this rendition of "He's Alive!" by Dolly Parton.  It's one of my favorites, always brings a lump to my throat.  The hair on the back of my neck stands up when the choir comes in.  Go HERE

Hugs xoxoxo


  1. Great newsy post Ilene! You are busy, gardens are growing and blooming. I'd love some of that wonderful Bergamot. It looks great! Don't know if it would grow here though. Need to check into that.

    I am using Barkeeper's Friend and love it. I'll see if I can get the A&H Clean Shower when I do my errands.

    Have a wonderful spring ~ FlowerLady

  2. Here's a suggestion on the tomatoes for the future. If you get anxious just start a couple for early tomatoes.....then delay the planting of the main crop seeds. I hate when the plants start getting leggy and I have to dig a trough to plant them in. I don't know how many plants you have but here is a thought. Find a protected outside location and just heel them in a very small row or area so that they could be covered completely if frost occurs. That way the plants could expand their roots and draw moisture and nutrients from the soil before being moved to their permanent location. Maybe just do a few this way to see if it works.

    I called Max in to read to him the number of rats. We were both astounded! I would invest in some outdoor cats. I will be interested in seeing the finished fence project. Good luck.

    Peas and kale.....hmmmm. I may give that a try. I am not a fan of kale. I didn't buy any seeds this year.

    Don't work yourself to the bone this week in the warm weather!

    1. Glenda, I really like the idea of heeling the tomato plants in. I hadn't thought of that. Thanks!

      If you don't have kale you can use any kind of greens you like, even dandelion greens, though if they've started blooming the greens will be bitter. But spinach, chard, bok choy, beet greens, collard greens, turnip greens.... whatever you like.


I appreciate your comments! Comment Moderation is back on. Spam comments, and those containing links to advertising will be deleted.