Sunday, May 31, 2015

Daily Doin's, Last Week Of May, 2015


Robins.  I don't know if this is the family of the same Mama Robin who lost her babies some weeks ago.  All I know is that this nest was occupied by a Grackle earlier, and was vacated at about the same time that Mama Robin's babies turned up missing.  I was watching a documentary on Sage Grouses several days ago, and it was about a female Grouse who had her nest robbed of her eggs.  She went back to the place where she had mated, found the male she had chosen to mate with the first time, who, along with some other males, was waiting for "stragglers", if you will, and mated with him again.  They explained that, because she lost her first clutch, her egg-laying process would be accelerated by Nature.  Now, isn't THAT cool??  She did manage to raise half the second clutch.  Some of them were picked off by predators.   But that made me wonder about Mama Robin and whether the second clutch acceleration is true of all birds.  There are four in this nest, and it's up high enough to be safer.  They really fill up that nest. Of course we have lots of Robins and there is really no way of knowing if this is the same one.   But, could be.....

What with all the weather-related devastation that has happened all over the globe at what seems like an accelerated rate lately, plus the alarming increase in the rate of lives lost to disease and senseless killings, I sometimes mention to Hubs that we humans are beginning to be an "endangered species".  Of course we are too many in number right now but I wonder if the time will come when our birth rate doesn't exceed the death toll.  Frankly, if I were of child-bearing age, I doubt I'd be brave enough to even have children.  I remember a lot of young couples were thinking along the same lines in the 1960's and things are ever so much worse now than we ever thought it would get back then.

I imagine there's not one person in central US that will be unhappy to see May over with.  We have had more rain this month than we've ever had during ANY one month in all recorded history.  I woke up in the middle of the night to the sickening sound of water dripping in the house.  I got Hubs up, and we started looking for the source.  It was trickling down the vent pipe for the bathrooms.  It took three days to get the roofer over to look at it, and when he did come over, all the did was caulk.  In the meantime Hubs had rigged up a bucket to catch the water.  It went down inside the walls, we never did see where it came out at.  I'm keeping on the lookout for mold.  We have had problems with rain water coming down in the inside of the fireplace, had the fireplace sealed and that took care of that.  But we check it nearly every time it rains hard now.  I was thinking, you know, stuff like this can happen and it isn't always very often to notice.  By the time we knew the vent pipe was leaking, our insulation was wet.  So I think, when it's raining good and hard, that's the time to go up into the attic, listen, and look around.  Also check around the ground floor and see if water's coming in anywhere.  What's that my Grammy used to say?  "A stitch in time saves nine". 

We have a new wild critter visitor on RockWhisperer Hill.  We have not seen it but the clues are unmistakeably clear.  It is probably an Armadillo, migrated here from Texas.  It has only been during the last couple of decades that we have actually seen Armadillo Road Kill in this part of Oklahoma, and that, of course, is your first clue as to what kind of wildlife you have.  They dig for grubworms and I think they eat ants, too.  That would be a good thing, if they weren't so verrrrry destructive in the process.  They run a close second to the opossum for being the ugliest dang critter there is.  I just Googled them and apparently they like fruit and lettuce, too.  Yet another reason I'm glad the garden is securely fenced.  I wouldn't think they are able to climb trees but if they eat the fruit that falls to the ground, that could be another good thing.  So now we've figured out the silver lining in the cloud, haven't we?  I think this critter has even been in our yard, at least once.  Last week the rabbits showed us a gaping hole in the bottom of one of the gates that I would've sworn wasn't there before, and I remember seeing a spot out by the sheds where it looked like the ground was roughed up, and thinking, "Hmmmmmmmm".  Hubs has repaired that spot, but the fence that's around the yard is old, and poorly installed to begin with, so an Armadillo could bust right through almost anywhere.  The new fence installation will have that horizontal wire that runs along the ground, through the bottom point of each row of the chain link, and that is how the garden fence was done.  Joe's black lab, Beau, actually killed an Armadillo last winter and it layed out by the road, stinkin' to high heaven, till Joe disposed of it.  Beau would climb their 4' chain link fence and then he would hunt all night.  But this spring he went to live with the daughter after she bought a house and moved, so we have lost our best wildlife hunter. 

Hubs and I did go out to the garden on Monday and we planted all those onions.  I updated the onion post (previous to this one) with a picture at the end rather than put it here, because I want it to all be in one place.  He planted most of the Ailsa Craig onions, as I wasn't able to bend over.  I stood there with the tray and handed him an onion at a time.  Hubs at that point announced he doesn't like to garden and if I wasn't here to plan, grow seedlings, and plant, all he'd have in the garden would be tomatoes.  Yeah, and he'd be buying all hybrid plants, tilling, adding chemical fertilizers and chemical bug and disease killers.  Really not much of a step up from just buying tomatoes at the grocery store.  He tells everybody that he stays out of our garden unless I specifically ask him to do something in it, and that's true  -- unless it has to do with the weed-wacker.  And then, it just seems like I can't keep him out of the garden with THAT.  Of course he doesn't mention that part, and they tend to think he's afraid of getting in trouble with me by going into the garden without permission.  Like I'd beat him up or something.  Puh!  It's his choice.  I don't know why people are so prone to believe that, if we had one of those doormats that says, "One Nice Person And One Old Grouch Lives Here", the Grouch would be me.  It's not like he never gets hacked off.  He just doesn't write about it on a blog.  I'm not saying I'm not an "Old Grouch" sometimes.  I'm saying the doormat should say, "TWO Old Grouches Live Here".  Just so ya know....

By afternoon, I was feeling some better so I went to the garden and planted all the New Dawn onions and about twenty small Ailsa Craigs that we ran out of room for in the row.  I just carefully got down on the ground and crawled along, dragging the tray of onions as I went.  We have the walkway covered in wood chips so it was reasonably dry there.  It had not yet rained that day.  Pretty muddy in the garden otherwise.

On Tuesday, Hubs mowed.  It was really too wet, but he can't stand tall grass.  There were several places where his zero-turn riding lawn mower tires left ruts, something he gets real irritated about if somebody else does it.  The iris are all done blooming now so I went around with my hand pruner and nipped off all the flower stalks.  I found that bringing along a bucket that I could turn upside-down and sit on helped get the job done without killin' my back.  I looked around in the garden till I found a spot for about half a row and got those sprouted Provider bush beans out of the refrigerator and into the ground.  I'm not crazy about bush beans because they're such a pain to pick, but these are supposed to be Pinetree's most popular bean seed so I thought I'd give them a try.  If my Fortex do well and if I can get seed from them, I might eventually plant all Fortex.  The main thrust right now is just to get something that's worth canning for the winter.

Here the Fortex are shown planted on both sides of both sides of one arched trellis at the south end of the garden.  Pardon my weeds and garlic.  The garlic will be pulled before very much longer.  All I can say about the weeds is, "Well, I'll try."  I had some seed that was marked as Fortex last year but they ended up being bush beans.  So I don't know if they were mis-marked, or if they had been grown from Fortex beans and crossed with something else.  Mis-marked seeds happen occasionally from the big seed vendors, so I can see how easy it would happen in smaller plots, but it is a step backwards to spend a season growing something and find out it's inferior to what I thought I was growing.  I think those people who sell small packets of seed on Amazon and eBay are reselling seed they've bought in bulk, rather than seed they grew themselves.  I'm all for encouraging small businesses, but without QC and a real concern for their reputation, there's always the chance they're going to send you old, mis-marked, or mis-identified seed.   I was pretty sold on Lazy Housewife for several years, but seems like since we moved here, they've occasionally been stringy.  I've saved seed every year and maybe they have crossed with something else somewhere along the way.  Last year I ordered a little packet of Lazy Housewife beans and the beans weren't even the right shape.  I grew them out, far removed from the rest of the garden, and the pods were short, not very prolific, and went dry very quickly.  I shelled the beans and used them in the next pot of beans I made, pulled up the plants and disposed of them.  I've only got onions planted in that bed now so if any beans fell to the ground, I'll know what they are and pull them up if they germinate.  If the Fortex vines don't do well, such that I have to order seed, I think I'll try Emerite.  Pinetree has started selling them and they have gotten verrrrry good reviews.

I have been picking Nanking cherries every day.  Saved them in the refrigerator till after my eye appointment on Thursday. They are a real pain to pit, being small and mostly skin, pit and some juice.  I'll go ahead and soldier on with them this year, but next year I might just put them in the apple press or the Squeeze-O and just save the juice.  All of that depends on whether we like the jam that will be made from this year's pitted cherries well enough make this tedious, messy job worth it.  I'm kind of thinking ahead to a spoonful of cherry jam in my unflavored yogurt, with maybe some slivered almonds.  Or I might start making low-fat granola.  Mmmmmmm.  I'm not sure if the Hansens Black Cherry bushes will do any good this year.  The bushes were loaded with green fruit, and some of it has turned red, meaning that they will be ripening into black very soon, but none of it is plump like it was last year.  Where they are planted is a good place when the weather is dry but they have stood in water for most of this month. 

I got one of those mass-generated e-mails from Marjorie Wildcraft the other day and her topic was Eating Insects.  Yecccchhhhh!  But, my curiosity got the better of me and so I watched her presentation and then did a little research and it seems they expect insect-eating to be the next trendy thing in expensive restaurants since sushi.  I could never stand the thought of eating raw fish so I'm 'way behind the Trendy Wagon, I guess it won't hurt me to get a little further back.  But I think I'd be more likely to try a cooked insect than I would be to try raw fish.  The World Health Organization is now making an effort to encourage more people to eat insects as a way to end world hunger.  Apparently everyone but Americans and Brits already do.   And I know that military personnel have had insect-eating experiences as part of their survival training.  Apparently certain insects can be quite tasty, although there are others that are 'way down on the other end of the scale.  They say insects are high quality protein and good fats.  All this aside, you DO know that we have all eaten insects before, right?  IF we have eaten processed foods.  And from my research I did find a guy who had a good tip for how to stun grasshoppers so you can catch them more easily, which I wish I'd seen when I was wanting to give grasshoppers to my chickens.  You simply cut a good-sized leafy tree branch, walk out into the grass till the grasshoppers start to jump out ahead of you, and then you smack the ground in front of you with the branch, run forward and pick up the grasshoppers before they start hopping around again.  Demonstration HERE.  Something else for me to do for the amusement of my neighbors.  Seems like, though, a lot of energy has to be expended to catch insects.  You might burn more calories than you end up getting and starve to death, anyway. And then it's not really safe to eat them unless you cook them in hot coals or boiling water.  That means, gotta find firewood, build a fire, etc., etc.

I saw this on Thursday:
Rainbows are supposed to mean it's done raining, right?  Well, it's just a pale one.  Maybe it's just a test pattern.

Food Pyramid is having a sale through June 2 on chicken leg quarters, a ten pound bag for $4.60.  That's the drumstick and part of the thigh.  They cut creatively and get part of the ribcage in there too but that's ok because that'll go into the stockpot.  They also had pork tenderloin for $1.49 a pound, and they will cut and wrap to order.  Hubs dropped by on his way home from the workout center on Friday and got some of each.  I told him to ask them to cut the pork loin into 1" slices and make four packages out of the loin.  This is some good, lean meat.  We each had a slice, rolled in flour, salt and pepper and then fried for supper that night.  We had fried okra from the freezer.  Hubs had left-over potato salad and I had some sweet potatoes from the freezer.

I have dinked around on this post a little bit each day and now it's Sunday and the last day of the month, so I will publish today.  We finally had a day with no rain on Saturday, and Mesonet forecasts that we will have no rain for at least the next seven days.  I have started handing lettuce out to whatever neighbors will accept it.

On Saturday we hit a few garage sales.  I didn't find much.  A woven throw rug for $1, four regular-mouth canning quarts for a dime each, a pitcher that looks like it was hand-blown but probably was mass-produced just to look that way, for $1. 
I had a young woman try really hard to sell me an "antique" metal bed frame that was king size.   I was polite and didn't laugh when she insisted it was very old and very rare because there "just weren't many king-sized bed frames made back then".  Oh, my dear, it's not old, it's just made to look like it is....  But it had a certain charm and I might've bought it if it was for a queen-sized bed.  The price was too high for me to buy it for the garden.  At the estate sale, I bought four cookbooks.  The small ones were a quarter, and 50 cents for the bigger one. 

I really like the Jell-O cookbook, copyrighted in 1963, a Blast From The Past.  That was right about when Dream Whip was the newest form of "whipped cream".  Dream Whip was powder in a package that you mixed with milk and whipped it up with your mixer.  They hadn't invented fake whipped cream in plastic tubs yet.  So anyway, a lot of the recipes call for a package of Dream Whip, prepared according to package directions, and in some places, the recipe specified "OR 1 cup of whipping cream, whipped".  So there you have your conversion clue.  After we left the farm and Mom didn't have fresh cream from our cow anymore, she absolutely refused to buy cream.  Instead, she bought cans of Milnot.  Milnot was displayed on the grocery store shelves with evaporated milk.  It was cheaper because it was a soy product made to taste like evaporated milk, and if it's chilled, it can be whipped like cream, just as evaporated milk can.  Of course those of us who have actually sampled evaporated milk know there is a certain un-cream taste to it.  I had a brother-in-law who actually preferred it in his coffee, but mostly if people had the choice between evaporated milk and cream, they'd take cream, hands down.  Still, for Jell-O concoctions, the "evaporated milk taste" would meld with the Jell-O taste, which is also fake flavorings and colorings, and we did so love our fake flavorings and colorings back in those days.   All this to say that this little Jell-O cookbook, with an index that fills seven pages, is still usable today, whether you want to still use Dream Whip (I think it's still sold in grocery stores), or Cool-Whip (which is what most Jell-O recipes call for now), or evaporated milk, or cream.  There's a recipe for Milnot Cheesecake on THIS blog, I guess somewhere along the way people believed Milnot will whip and evaporated milk will not but that is just not true.  I've used them interchangeably for years. 

I was, though, kind of disappointed in the cookbook said to be "Favorites From Capper's Weekly".  Some of you won't be familiar with Capper's Weekly.  It was a newspaper that they were still mailing out to people once a week when I was a girl during the 1960's.  I think it was published in Iowa.  Now it's morphed into a magazine, I think Ogden Publications bought them out, but not sure.  It's not anything like the homey little black-and-white newspaper it once was.  It had farm news on the front pages and within the pages inside were recipes, letters and household tips from Midwestern readers, advertising for Kate Marchbank sewing patterns that you could order, and my mom did order a lot of those.  Even some wood-working patterns as well.  I think the rocking horse that I had as a child was made from a Capper's pattern. 
No, my feet weren't nearly that big.  I've got my older sister, Judy's, majorette boots on for the picture. 

The recipes offered within its pages were tried and true, made from ingredients most farm women already had on hand, and in fact there was a section where people would write in and say they were looking for a certain recipe that they had and lost, or they'd describe something they remembered eating when they were growing up, and so on.  I've saved many of those.  But had I put together this little cookbook I probably would've chosen different recipes and in fact it just feels like one of the many cookbooks you can find anywhere, where certain groups compile a cookbook from offerings from their members as a fund-raising activity.  

We stopped at Aldi's and at WMT on the way home.  Even though it was not raining, I was still in "Lazy Slug Mode" and didn't do much.  I picked two more quarts of Nanking Cherries.  When pitted they will probably yield about a pint less.  I think I have about two gallons of them in the freezer now.  I had started packing them away in the freezer in smaller containers and then I thought about how dumb that was, if I'm going to make jam with them anyway.  I'm forever finding one lost container of frozen fruit in the freezer after I've made all the rest of it into jam.  So after that I dumped a couple of the frozen ones out of their containers into this gallon ice-cream container and filled in the spaces as I got more of the cherries pitted.  I probably have enough smaller containers to fill another gallon, still in the freezer.

Freezing turns them very bright red.  Hmmmm.  Might make good pie.   Cherry is Hubs' favorite kind of pie.  If you've priced pie filling lately at the store, you know it can be as high as around $3 a can.  It takes one can to make an 8" two-crust pie.  But then, check the price of a frozen pie.  Yipes!  Canned pie filling can be bought for less at Aldi, by the way.  But you may have noticed, as I have, that canned pie filling is mostly cornstarch-thickened juice and darn little actual fruit.

I was a week post-op from cataract surgery on my left eye last Wednesday.  Had my second post-op appointment at Grisham's and Dr. Jeff was very, very pleased.  So was I.  The left eye is my "best" eye and I have 20/20 vision in that eye now.  Haven't had any trouble or discomfort at all like I had with the other eye.  I don't notice "tasting the eyedrops" like I did with the other eye and so I'm not having a sore throat or any acid reflux problems.  Even though I do have some epi-retinal macular degeneration in this eye like I did the other one, I don't believe it needs surgery.  But Dr. Jeff and I will talk that over when I go for my one-month checkup. 

Well, my dears, this day has begun and there is much to be done today, so I will get this published and get on with it.  Till next time,

Rock on.  Hugs xoxoxo

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Onion Challenged: Growing Heirloom Onions From Seed

I think it's already been announced that I am "Onion Challenged".  It doesn't help that the stores in my region put onion plants out for sale when it's too early.  So I have been trying to grow onions from seed.  Last year was a total failure.

I have observed that Dixondale and some of the other onion producers sell their onion plants in tight little bundles that look like they've been dug up, just as they grew, with roots tightly interwoven, some plants are little, some are bigger, but all require untangling from each other before they can be planted.  And I thought how that might really help when growing from seed, as they would shade each other and help support each other.  So I went out to the shed and found a bowl-shaped plastic flower pot, like Lowe's sells as hanging baskets.  That was all posted on January 7 and January 23. 

Now, I know that I'm off-schedule in this process.  The seed should've been planted outside, in the fall, or maybe started in the house in July or August, and then carefully transferred into a bowl-shaped hole in the garden in, say, September, without disturbing the roots at all.  They could then stay there in the garden until late April or early May of the next year, and then be separated and transplanted individually into the garden.   It's not so much that onions can't take the cold of winter, because they can.  It's that when we plant them too early in the spring they do not have a chance to establish their roots before a late freeze comes along.  Without a healthy root system, they die easily.  I wonder why onion plants are not sold in the fall??  That seems, to me, to be the best time.  But I guess there are so many people looking for onion plants in the spring because they didn't think to get them in the ground the previous fall, that merchants don't find it profitable to try to sell them in the fall.

The good thing about having your little seedlings in the ground in a bunch through the winter is the same as why it's good when they're first planted.  They support each other.  And if you want to put a winter cover on them, a frost blanket or whatever, you've got them all in one spot rather than strung out all over the garden.

This spring I had three kinds of onion seed:  Borretta Cipollini, Clear Dawn, and Ailsa Craig Exhibition.  The first two were only partial packs, as I'd tried to grow them the spring before.

Sadly, there were fewer seed in the Borretta Cipollini pack, and though they germinated, they dwindled in number and the few that were left did not survive the move into the garden.  Clear Dawn, however, has given me 39 plants.

I dug the bundle up today, rinsed off the rootball in a bucket of water, and separated them.


Ailsa Craig was my new seed packet and I had more seed.
There were 91 plants.
Some were small and some were about green onion size.  There was more mud that stayed in this clump after rinsing because it was just so dang big.  These metal cafeteria trays are about 14" x 24".  There was a handful of roots left over.  I don't think this will hurt anything.

So now what should I do?  Set them back out into the garden, separately?  Trim the roots first, or not?  Let them dry out some first, or not?  Inquiring minds want to know.....

I wasn't really expecting to get anything edible from these this year.  But some of them are big enough, maybe they would go ahead and bulb up, do you think?  I'm only a month late.  And of those big ones, if I don't pull them by the end of the year I'm thinking they'll probably go ahead and go to seed next spring.  I want seed, as these are heirloom onions.  The small ones should go ahead and winter over, and make onions big enough to eat next spring.  I'm feelin' my way along here, because this is the most successful I've ever gotten, growing onions from seed, and like I said earlier, my timing is off.

I'm hoping to collect some usable seed from the Walla Walla that wintered over last year, from plants that didn't get big enough to make anything last year, even though I started WITH PLANTS.  But the rain and wind has broken a lot of the seedheads off.  Bummer.  If I get seeds from the ones that are still unbroken, I will go ahead and plant them and they will be started at the right time. 

This is about all I know, so far, about successfully growing onions from seed.
PS: This is next day, and I have thrown my back out, so this is going to be a challenge, indeed, especially since I found THIS very well written article in Vegetable Gardener Magazine archives that doesn't sound like my timing was all that much off and maybe I should try to get the onions planted separately right away.  Hubs will have to help me as I can't bend over now.   Our longest day is on June 21, and apparently it is day length that prompts the onion to bulb up.  So it looks like they have a month to grow.  Maybe it will work out.  Today I will go out to the garden with my cane and determine a good location in which to plant.  Spots have filled up quickly so that will be a challenge of its own.  I have also seen, on a Houzz garden forum where someone has said that growers trim the roots to make the onions go dormant for better shipping.  So guess I won't trim the roots.  I'll let you know how it works out.

PPS:
New Dawn on the right side of the walkway, Ailsa Craig on the left.  Fingers crossed....

Hugs xoxoxo

Dear God, Could We Have A Week Without Rain?





*Sigh*.

At least this has made Hubs decide to put a gutter and downspout at the east end of the patio cover.  Those buckets that are upside-down are covering a couple of new transplants that are pretty close to being beaten right down to the ground.

There is not a whole lot going on in the garden right now.  I got the Adzuki, Garbanzo and Provider beans planted last week.  They were pre-sprouted, but not to the point of cotyldons, because beans get kind of stinky in the paper towel and sometimes they rot.  The Adzuki are up, and I'm seeing a few of the Garbanzo.  After I planted, it turned off cold.  May has been unusually cold this year.  The Fortex beans I planted earlier emerged during a period of two or three straight days of warmish weather.  I didn't pre-sprout them as it was raining, the soil was wet, and there was rain in the forecast for the next several days.  I figured that was plenty.  Fortex beans are said to be slow to form beans in the pod.  This is a good thing and it's a bad thing.  It means the bean pod can be left hanging on the vine till it's quite long, and it will still be tender enough to eat.  Of course this increases your yield.  And, oh, Fortex beans are really good.  But if you save seed, it means that might be kind of difficult to let the pods hang there till seed is developed.  The Japanese Beetles will be coming in July and they love beans.  They drill holes in the pod and eat the seed.

I planted the Beauregard sweet potato cuttings I had rooted in water but they are not looking very good at all.  At least they are still alive.  I have more that grew from little rootlets I threw into a bucket when I harvested last fall.  Just put a shovel full of soil from the bed on the top and stored the whole she-bang in the garage.  Watered when I thought about it, but that wasn't real often during the winter. 

I also have a couple of Carolina Ruby sweet potatoes in a flower pot, half-covered with soil, that have sent up some healthy-looking greenery.  I'm going to have to split off the one on the right, as the potato itself is rotting.

And then the Carolina Rubies I just put in an ice-cream bucket and left in the light of an average interior room have started to sprout, too. 

I used to always worry about whether I'd be able to get sprouts early enough to plant, but I worried for nothing.  I've walked into the pantry where I store the potatoes and have found them covered in sprouts.  Now I store them in a folded-up paper bag to keep out the light.  The pantry has no windows so the only light that happens in there is if we leave the door open, or when we come in and turn on the light while we look for something.  Sweet potatoes only need 100 days to mature, and so for zone 6, that leaves plenty of time.  Even if I don't get them into the ground till June 15, I've still got at least 120 days from then to First Average Frost Date.  

I'm picking potato beetles off the potato plants.  There are only a few.  If we had a sunny day there would be more up on top of the leaves, sunning themselves.  As it is, every time I go out in the garden I swing around by them and pick off what I see.  They go into soapy water and that's the end of them.

We are chasing Jack-rabbits out of the yard daily.  Sometimes they show us where they're getting in by going out that way, but usually they just run us around the yard till we're tired enough to open a gate for them.  Sheesh.  Still waiting on the fence guys.  Jeff said when they come to mark where our electric and telephone lines are buried (our water line is in the front and we do not have gas lines out here), then we know they're going to be showing up to work on the fence.  I imagine all this rain has set them back awhile.  We're ready, anytime, and I hope that will be before it snows.  I will be so glad to be able to keep the rabbits out of the yard.

The pea trellis that I made from some three-piece sections of concrete reinforcement wire (shown in previous posts) has been having a lot of trouble staying standing up.  The ground is wet and the wind blows them right over.  Luckily, they've been blowing over toward the side where the peas are planted and not away from it, and that happens to be the side that's close to the fence so they haven't been able to fall all the way over.  Hubs put down a couple of posts to wire them to on Thursday.  I thought about planting peas on both sides of the trellis, and if I had, maybe that would've anchored the trellis.  Or they could've gotten uprooted, it could've gone either way.  I've planted cucumbers on the other side but they are not big enough to climb yet.  When the peas are finished making peas, I'll leave them on their side of the trellis, just to anchor that side.  The cucumber plants will be over the trellis and all the way down on the other side in pretty short order, once the weather warms and they get going good.

Today I noticed there are a few peas that are ready to pick.  The first time I ever picked peas, it was back in the 1970's when I and my best friend Patty went to one of the You-Pick places near Hobart, Indiana.  We'd picked cabbages and beets and were just hitting our stride when we decided to pick peas.  Got them home and found most of the pods practically empty.  This is one thing you have to learn about peas.  Just because the pod is fat doesn't mean it's full.  You have to feel the pod.  It will begin to be bumpy.  And it will feel heavier in your hand than the pods that aren't filled out. If the pod has begun to show "veins" or has started losing color, the peas inside will be too mature for good eating.  Leave it on the vine to finish maturing, and use the peas in those pods for seed.  If you take a permanent marker out to the garden with you, you can mark an "X" or something on these pods so you'll know they're "seed peas".  You don't want to leave them on the vine forever, because that will signal the plant that it's done and it'll quit making peas.  But let them get to the point where the pod has thinned out and the peas inside rattle when you shake the pod.  Some people put these into a paper bag and keep them in a warm, dry place till they finish drying.  I would think that would encourage mold.  My mother used to thread a needle with string, and she would run the needle through the end of each pea pod, and then when the string was filled with pea pods, would hang the string horizontally along finishing nails she had running along the wall, close to the ceiling.  She would do this with other things that grew in a pod, too, like string beans and okra.  The finishing nails were not obvious when they were not being used, and she wouldn't have cared if they were.  Mom's garden took precedence over home decoration.  Usually I shell the peas and let them dry on a tray lined with newspaper.  But they say it's better to dry them in their pods.  I don't know which is best.  You pick.


I have four quarts of pitted Nanking cherries in the freezer and am still picking.  I don't think the Mockingbirds have noticed the fruit yet.  It may be because they are so busy building nests and raising babies.  When they're feeding babies, they need protein, so they hunt bugs and worms, and that's alright by me.  The cherries grow along the main branches under the leaves and aren't very visible from a distance, which probably helps a lot, too.  I try to keep any fruit that falls to the ground picked up, as I don't want the birds to be down there looking up.

Margaret Roach says the way to invite lots of birds into your garden (for bug patrol) is to have a lot of bugs.  No problem here....

The peach tree is loaded. 

The nectarine tree had quite a bit of fruit on it, considering this is only its second spring here, but the fruits got infested with something that made them ooze from little holes and then they fell off the tree.  I will do better by my fruit trees next year, I promise.

I have always had fruit trees in my yard and I have never had as much trouble with insects before as I have had here.  The apple trees that I bought from ArborDay several years ago did not set on very much fruit, and it's time that they should be.  But they are not the variety of apple that they were supposed to be.  Several people warned me about ArborDay, and said I wouldn't be getting very big trees.  I didn't really mind that, as trees are always sent bare root and I figured they'd adapt better if they were younger, anyway.  But I really wasn't prepared for the trees to be something other than what I paid for.  One tree was supposed to be Red Delicious and the other was supposed to be a yellow, and in that way they would be good pollinators for each other.  Well, I've had apples from both trees, and the apples are red, and they are kind of like Rome apples, except that Rome apple trees are supposed to be self-pollinating and I don't think these are, or they'd have more apples on them by now.  To say I'm disappointed in these trees is an understatement.  I got a BraeStar from Stark's last year and I'm confident it will be what they say it is, but it is still too young to bear.  Maybe, though, it will help to pollinate the other two trees.  There are lots of pears on both the Asian pear tree that I've had for six years, and the Bartlett that I've had for four. 

Both have fruited for the past two years.  It's a shame that more people don't like pears, because pear trees are so disease resistant that you really don't have to do much to get something from them.  This is the first year that the Moorpark apricot tree has made fruit, although they are mostly falling to the ground.  The fruits look like they're supposed to so maybe ArborDay sent me the correct one in this instance.  It's supposed to be disease resistant and self-pollinating so maybe I'll get SOME fruit. 

That's rain on the fruit.

There's been a lot of buzz about whether we should go out and thin out the fruit on our trees, and Oklahoma Gardening (the OSU program on Saturday's educational station) had a good segment yesterday where they addressed that very thing.  They said that there is a natural thing called "Fruit Drop" that happens in June.  You wait till after that happens.  Then you go through your tree and pick off fruit so that there are about six inches of space, along the branch, between fruits.  They stressed that you choose the fruits that are smaller than the others to pick off, as they'll probably fall off anyway, and any that are joined together.  If you'll do this, the fruit will be bigger, and there will be less stress on the tree branches.  I've had peach trees break under the weight and just one good harvest comes at a high price if the tree is broken.  Lots of people put supports under fruit-laden branches and I do that, too, but you have to be careful where you put your supports and they have to be secure enough not to fall over in the wind.  Also not such that they rub the bark off the branch where the two touch.  That's a pretty tall order sometimes.

There has been too much rain for grapevines and they have started looking sick again.  I will go out and spray with some Neem Oil if it'll just quit raining long enough to let them dry out some.  There are lots of cherries on the Hansen's black cherry bushes and lots of wild plums.  They'll ripen in a couple of weeks, if everything goes OK.  The blackberries are blooming.  I have managed to propagate three new plants from the one raspberry plant that I bought at Tractor Supply this spring.  They are little but maybe they will yield something next year if they make it through this one. 

The big worry now is disease caused by too much rain, or just out-and-out rotting in the ground.  But the good thing is that seeds are sprouting better and I've had some things come up out in the garden that I haven't seen in a couple of years.  The Kiss Me Over The Garden Gate, for instance.

And so we will persist, like we all must, coping with the ups and downs, the shortages and excesses, of this world.  I praise God every day that what we are dealing with is so much less serious than what some are faced with, and my prayers go out to them.  Hubs and I count our blessings every day, and they are many.  The message today is, "Look At The Big Picture".  If the garden fails, we have at least had another year of experience and opportunities to enrich our soil.  If the fruit trees fail, they can be replaced, and we chalk it up to "Education Expense".  And so it goes.  My Arkansas-raised Grammy Britt used to say, "Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining", meaning that no matter what happens to you, there will always be something good that will come out of it.  Sometimes I see it and sometimes I don't.  Sometimes we (Hubs and me and all of you) have to be the ones to make the good come out of the bad things that happen.  I see that a lot.  So rock on, my dears, rock on.  Hugs xoxoxo

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Daily Doin's, Third Week of May, 2015

We had a helluva storm last Saturday night.  The weather radio went off and said, "Take cover NOW!" but it was high wind and rain outside so Hubs and I just cowered in the hallway downstairs with all the surrounding doors closed, rather than trek outside to the cellar.  It was past us in pretty quick order but neither of us had a good night's sleep.  If sleep loss and a leaning pea trellis is all we have to show for the night, I reckon we got of easy. 

Paula's been off for two weeks, recovering from surgery, and it has rained nearly every day of her time off.  In my imagination, I have idly wondered, when she arrived back at her desk on Monday, if Gil got out his guitar and sang "Ain't No Sunshine When You're Gone".  HERE

The cabbage plants are growing right along.  I didn't grow very many so I'm going to let them stay in the garden till they get a little bigger.  With more rain coming, that shouldn't be very long, and they will be very sweet and juicy.
I grew cabbages during one of those drought years and it was so dry, the sauerkraut I made from it was just horrible.  Those are potatoes on the left.  They haven't bloomed yet and you're not supposed to dig them till after that.  I'm so curious about how they will yield, since I planted the potatoes without cutting them up this time.  I hope we get to harvest time before they rot from all this rain. 

I did finally settle on a recipe for "Freezer Coleslaw", though.  This recipe calls for a lot less sugar.  OMG, TWO WHOLE CUPS of sugar to a medium-sized head in most of the other recipes?  Just hand your family a box of candy and save yourself the trouble of growing cabbage and making coleslaw, is all I'm sayin'.  The recipe I'm going to use is HERE.

The first tree fruit to ripen are the Nanking Cherries.  Small, tart.



These in the picture are being refrigerated till after cataract surgery and the follow-up appointment for the next day are over.  The juice stains my fingernails and cuticles and makes my hands look just filthy.  I won't go in for cataract surgery looking any grungier than I normally am.  At least they're used to that.  I can pit them afterwards, it'll give me something to do.  I won't go out in the garden for a few days after cataract surgery.  I have restrictions about not picking up heavy things and not bending over for a little while, but Hubs is over-protective to cap that all off, and what the hell, I'll humor him. 

Last year there weren't many cherries and so Hubs just ate 'em as he saw 'em.  Didn't share with me.  But that's ok 'cause I ate almost all the strawberries.  Heh.  The year before, I mixed the cherries into some homemade fruit cocktail and they just fell apart in the cooking and turned everything else red.  I think they actually would make better jam than anything so that's what I'm going to do with them this year.  But I'll just pit them and freeze.  So much better to make jam as we are ready tor it in the winter, when the heat from the cooking helps to warm and perfume the house.

I just love to walk into a house in the winter and smell something good cooking, don't you?

On Monday we took a little day-trip and went to visit our friend, Carole.  Carole and I had never met face-to-face.  We met on GardenWeb, and have e-mailed back and forth for a couple of years.  She's only an hour and a half from us, just across the line in Missour-uh.  There are several people that I've met over the years, through the blog or on this forum or that, that I'd love to go visit with in person, but usually the miles between us are more than they are between Carole and us, and I kinda hate to invite myself and impose on them unless I know they'd like me to.  Anyway, we had a great time.  We worked out a plant swap beforehand and that was fun.  There were several places in her vicinity that she knew we'd enjoy going to and we did that, too.  We stopped at a 1960's style hamburger joint and had lunch together.  It was like stepping back in time.
We went to a hardware store that had all kinds of hard-to-find things.  Hubs found this honkin' hose reel for about $40 less than it is in OUR town.  That made HIS day.
I think it's going to be a pain in the _ _ _ .  I hope I'm wrong.  I bought a rat trap for Joe, some little solar lights and a few other little things.

We headed back home in plenty of time to be back before dark, we hadn't been home very long when we saw Joe get home.  We went over to give him his rat trap.  He was very glad to get it and said he was glad we got back home safely.  Joe and Cathy keep track of us.  They notice if our light is on every morning and call and tell us when we forget to close our garage door.  So whenever we're going to be gone, I make sure that I tell Joe.  He is our go-to guy whenever we need help or advice with something.  It's nice to be able to do something for him since usually anything we can do for him is such small payback for the things he does for us.

Our rat count is now at 100 since the start of spring.  We've seen something in the garden, but have been unable to trap it, it eats the bait but seems to be too small to trip the trap.  I put out some D-Con and then it rained.  And rained.  And rained.  Today Hubs saw a bigger rat in the yard so the trap has been baited with peanut butter and left between two of the sheds. 

The AT&T repairman came and said the problem is in the house.  The hum on the phone was not as loud by then and I told him I'd rather not have him fix anything in the house because I don't want to pay that high price.  It's $100 to step in the door and $45 for each ten minutes beyond that.  Wowsers.   The repairman was nice about it, said he wanted to look at the box on the outside of our house and would do so without charging me.  He disconnected the connection to the phone in the office and the humming went away.  But of course, now the phones don't work in the office and garage.  We still have working phones in the kitchen and bedroom.  Then a day later the rain started again and the hum came back.  Every time something like this happens it just overwhelms me and makes me feel depressed because I'm trapped in an annoying situation.  Obviously, AT&T doesn't care if people give up their land lines.  They, afterall, have a big presence in the cellphone market.  But I talked to Joe and he said, "I bet I can fix ya up".  Bless his heart.  I remember when life was so much simpler.  Appliances were a forever investment.  There were repair shops for all kinds of things from toasters to shoes, and it didn't cost more for the repair than buying a new one would cost.  And we never had trouble with our phone.  Now we live in a disposable society and there is something that's not working right at every turn.  *Sigh*.

Could not get any inspiration for supper last night.  So I dug around in the refrigerator freezer, where I stow away bits and tads of things: an extra chicken breast we didn't eat, vegetable broth, small amounts of side dishes, that sort of thing.  What I came up with was the last of a sliced beef roast and four corn muffins.  I cooked about a cup of chopped winter onions, from a bag in the freezer, four good-sized carrots and four medium potatoes, chopped, in a quart of vegetable broth, from the freezer, until the vegetables were done.  Then added the pieces of roast at the end and simmered till all were hot.  I also found about a quart of sugar-pod peas, which Hubs won't eat because he thinks the pods are not food.  I guess I didn't change his opinion very much as I didn't get them picked till after they'd started forming peas and that was probably too late.  So I simmered those in some water and after it cooled, discarded the pods.  The "baby peas" and some of the water they cooked in were added to replenish the broth in with the roast, which by then had cooked down and needed it.

Heated up the muffins in the oven, after putting a little real butter on the top of each one.  I don't know, microwaving bread just seems to make it unappetizing.  So a full meal for Hubs and me with left-overs for tonight.  One quart-sized freezer container and three ziplock bags of stuff removed from the freezer.  Stuff that somebody else might have just thrown away or let lay in the bottom of the refrigerator till it was fuzzy.  Botta Bing.

I might mention here that I have finally used up a full pound of ground beef that I had made into Sloppy Joes some time ago and got a little heavy-handed with the spices such that Hubs said he couldn't eat it.  Rather than throw it out, I poured it into a muffin tin and froze it.  After that, every time I made something that called for ground beef with some of those same ingredients in it, I'd stir in one or two little frozen Sloppy Joe "muffins" while it was cooking, and not add spices.  I am also working on using up some pork roast which I had ground to make sausage with and was too enthusiastic where the garlic was concerned.  I made those into patties and froze them, and then when I cooked the first two and discovered how garlickey they were I just left the rest in the freezer.  Every time I make meatloaf, I use up some of it and just don't add spices.  There are two patties left now.  I absolutely WILL NOT waste meat.  It's so expensive.  I usually deglaze the pan after I have cooked hamburgers.  There is plenty of beef flavor in that skillet.  As soon as I remove the meat, I just pour on about a cup of hot water and stir it around.  Pour that into a bowl or a cup and, after it's cool, put it in the refrigerator.  The fats will come to the top and can be discarded or saved to make soap with, but it'll have to be cleaned.  Of course you know that.  Then freeze the liquid.  If I want to be fancy, I might deglaze with wine.  Depends on how I think I'll use it. 

Cataract surgery on my left eye was done this morning and I'm just fine.  They run their surgical center at Grisham's like a well-oiled machine, and you're in and out before you even know what happened to you.  Dr. Jeff does not tolerate mistakes and he has a lot of long-term nurses and nurse-techs who have been doing their jobs flawlessly for years.  I'm glad I'm getting this done now, as they are beginning to retire, and I don't trust that people have the work ethic now that they had in the generation that I and people near my age have.  I really love those Grisham Girls, I was once one myself.  I was their transcriptionist, computer tech and forms generator for four years.  I tell 'em I love 'em whenever I see 'em and I hope they know I mean it.  I dread the day when I'll go in there for my annual exam and there's not anybody left that I worked with.  Becky and Janice are now deceased.  Jeannie, Renee and Donna have already retired and Linda retires this year. 

Well, that's about all I have for you this time.  Till next time,

Rock on.  Hugs xoxoxo

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Daily Doin's, Second Week Of May, 2015

How would you like to go out to your garden and be greeted by this?


Looks even worse if you dig it up.
This is Mutinus elegans, aka Elegant Stinkhorn, Dog Stinkhorn, or Devil's Dipstick.  It's a fungus that grows on woody debris or leaf litter, in Japan, Europe and EASTERN North America.  Not supposed to grow in the Midwest.  It first appeared in my garden last year about this time.  I discovered the white egg-looking things first, and I thought they were the eggs of maybe turtles or lizards.  Nope.

We have other weird-looking fungus here, one type that looks like somebody hurled.

Just so ya know, in case you see this on the ground, George Bush has not paid you a visit.  Heh.

Wednesday, May 6
Started raining in the night, an inch of rain accumulated by 4am.  More rain throughout the day.  The cistern was almost full and I had to reroute the drain from the rain gutters to out on the ground because the bullet tank at the side of the garage was just about to overflow.  I went out to the garden between rains and planted Cucuzzi, Parisian Carrot, Fortex Pole Bean, Pink Banana Squash.  And yes, I WILL USE SEVIN DUST if I see squash bugs, but just on the squash.  Would prefer not to, but it's the only way I'm able to grow squash, it seems.  Having to pull out Field Pea, Hairy Vetch and Bindweed everywhere before I can plant anything.

Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) is terrible this year.  It lays down a carpet and sends down roots about every foot or so, if it gets the chance.  I've seen many sources that say its presence will stunt the growth of the garden because its roots give off poisons into the earth.  I've seen that about Bermuda grass, too, something else that is the bane of my garden's existence.  However, it seems to me that the biggest threat from bindweed is that it'll shade everything out.  While I was weeding Tuesday I found three potato plants under an overgrowth.  They apparently had wintered over from last year.  I dug one out and it yielded two thumb-sized new potatoes.  And the plant hadn't even bloomed yet.  I left the others there, pulling the Bindweed out, as much as I could get.  I will never be able to totally eradicate Bindweed.  RoundUp, a product that I have only used in dire emergencies, doesn't even work on Bindweed.  The roots go "all the way to China", as we used to say, and they are brittle so they break off when the plant is pulled or dug.  "Natural" weed killer recipes include salt and vinegar and I'm not so sure I want all that salt in the soil, either.  I think the reason Bermuda kills other plants is because it's roots grow so thickly, with sharp barbs that probably penetrate the roots of more delicate things.  It's almost worth having Bindweed, because it seems to shade out the Bermuda.  And heavy shade is about the ONLY thing that will successfully hold Bermuda at bay.  If it wasn't for the root system giving off poisons, which I don't know for sure whether it really does, Bindweed would probably qualify as a host for beneficial soil bacteria.  People who follow permaculture practices say that plants that send their roots deeply into the soil, and which live throughout the winter months actually "show" the roots of other plants where the path to nutrients and water is, and they give off sugars and such that feed the "good bacteria", which fights off the "bad bacteria", all year long.  It's all getting so complicated, isn't it?  You really don't know who to believe....  weeds are bad, weeds are good.  Tilling is good, tilling is bad.  Fertilizers and additives are good, ....bad.  Somehow I think if, somewhere along the path, someone didn't profit from people following their advice, there'd be better, more consistent advice.  Or maybe, if there was no profit it it, there wouldn't be any advice at all.  Hmmmmm.  More and more, with my garden, I'm just feeling "jerked around".  So I add my leaves and my aged wood chips, and I follow mulching practices to a point, then pull up what weeds survive the mulch.  I don't buy chemical fertilizers except for Miracle Gro or Shultz's liquid fertilizer for my little seedlings while growing in the house, but lots of birds hang out in the garden and they're poopin' somewhere..... I have lots of earthworms and they're poopin'.  Maybe that's all the poop I need, I don't know, but it's all the garden is going to get, because I don't have a source and even if I did, it's so much work to haul in and spread, and then there's e.Coli to worry about.  During times when I HAVE been able to get and use composted horse, chicken or cattle manure, I didn't really notice that big of a change, unless it was too fresh or I put on too much, in which case, the change went in the wrong direction.  Though I must say that the Privet bushes that are in the back of the chicken house are taller than the others that grow along the fence. 

I planted cuke seed on Tuesday after digging out the Aunt Molly tomatilloes that I absent-mindedly planted where I had planned to put the cukes.  Sheesh.  It used up most of Tuesday afternoon because I had to dig out rock before I could plant the tomatillo into its new spot.  After I buried the kitchen scraps that had the seed bundles of two cantaloupe from Aldi in it, I marked the spot.  Sure enough, I've got lots of little cantaloupe plants now.

My little apple tree experiment is booming right along.  I've had 98% germination in the paper towel, and only have two that didn't emerge in the Styrofoam cup after they began to break through their seedcoat.  After that I just started waiting till the first cotyldons emerged, then planted the seedling in the cup with the cotyldons above the soil.  Haven't lost any of those.  It's best to tease that seed coat off the cotyldons before planting the seedling into soil, if it doesn't fall off by itself, while it's still damp from being in the paper towel.  You want to be at the point where you can actually SEE some parts of the cotyldons, though, so you know they're formed.  The seed coat can dry up with a death grip over the cotyldons and will kill the plant.  They call this "Helmet Head" and say it happens sometimes with less-than-perfect growing conditions.  Pish!  WHEN are growing conditions EVER perfect?  Not here, anyway.

The celery and onions that grew from planting the root ends that were left from grocery store items are still growing.
I had about 75% success rate with these.  Looks like the onions are going to make seed.

Hmmmmm.  This should be interesting.  They were yellow Spanish onions, or at least billed as such at the grocery store.  Will I get good seed?  I'm convinced growing the tops of carrots from the grocery store is a waste of time and effort, though.  All you get are greens, and they aren't tasty, but if you're feeding a gerbil, they might be good for that.  I don't think they'll bolt to seed because there's just not enough carrot left to feed it.  But if you were really desperate for carrot seed I guess you could try planting the whole carrot and see what happened.  Not worth the effort to me.  Recently I saw where some people were putting their iceburg lettuce stump in water and growing new lettuce.  I can see how that works because often with my homegrown head- and romaine-type lettuces I just peel off the outside leaves for use, rather than cutting off the whole head.  Eventually it gets so I have to harvest the whole head, but I get early harvests by taking off outside leaves.  Some people say they grow potatoes from their potato peelings, but I haven't ever had that happen.  Maybe they peel their potatoes more thickly than I do.  I have used a "sword-shaped" potato peeler since I saw my older sister use one when I, as a teenager, was visiting at her house.  My sisters were always showing off "new" things.  According to Cooksinfo.com, this style is known in the UK as a "Yorkshire" or "Lancashire" peeler. They say it was invented sometime in the 1800s by a blacksmith named Thomas Williams.  So I guess in 1964 it was only "new" to my family.  My mom was a whiz with her little paring knife and never got the hang of the peeler, and I'm the other way 'round.  It makes quick work of peeling a potato or carrot or cucumber and there is less waste.  I've heard that most of the vitamins and minerals lie just under the skin but I don't know if that's true.  I use the point on the end to pit cherries.  Go through the spot where the stem was.
I hold mine like this so as to have more control over the swivel.

Paula tells me she has a lot of trouble posting comments to my blog.  She says she clicks on "Preview" and the box comes back all emptied out.  I've had this happen to me on GardenWeb, and the "Preview" button is the only choice the first time around.  So maybe this is what is happening to Paula.  Using the "Back" button doesn't bring it back up, either.  So I've taken to highlighting what I've written, then right-clicking and choosing "copy" in the drop-down box that appears, before I click on the Preview button.  Then I paste what I copied back into the box and by this time there is a "Preview" button AND a "Publish" button, so I just click on "Publish" and it goes ahead and publishes what I wrote.  I wonder if anyone else has problems like this on my blog and they just think I've got them blocked out or something.  I delete posts from people who are trying to publish their advertising or spam links in the comments of my blog and I have a lot more trouble with this if I allow anon comments.  So if you're trying to comment and there is a "Publish" button that you can use from the git-go, just go ahead and use it and skip the use of the "Preview" entirely.  I think that's where the problem lies.   

Thursday, May 7:
Hubs has accumulated some stuff at the back of the fence, over the years, that will be in the way when the fence is replaced, so he moved most of it to the back of his workshop.  There were two old railroad ties out there that Spike had brought out a long time ago, and I've been wanting to make the soil a little deeper in the flower bed around the cellar so we used them to make the "retaining wall" a little taller, and to replace a "wall" of sorts we'd made with a pile of rock at the front corner.  That meant we had to pull out the pile of rock, and Hubs hauled them out to The Rock Wall.  It wasn't working very well, anyway, the Bermuda was all tangled in it and it was a mess.  This looks better.  I'll need to tell Spike we could use some more, in case he sees any that need a home.  Spike does lawn mowing as a second job so he sees stuff like this all the time.

You can see here that the brown porch paint I put on the cellar did not wear very well.  I guess the only way I'm going to get this a color that will blend better into the surroundings is to buy concrete stain.  I might do that someday but right now it's pretty low on my priorities.

I heard that someone drowned when their storm shelter filled with water during those tornadoes around Oklahoma City and Norman last night.  OMG.....  These storm shelters are guaranteed not to leak for ten years but I don't know if the risk is high for after that.  Scarey.  I wouldn't want to try to cover my storm cellar completely with earth as some people do, or have the whole thing below grade.  The bottom half of the "clamshell" is meant to be in the ground and the top half is supposed to be above ground.  They are joined together on-site and caulked, but I wouldn't want to put soil above that caulk line.  Seems to me like, if it's going to leak anywhere, it would be there.  It's true that, "When your number's up, it's up", though.  You can get buried in these storm shelters and die in them just as easily as if you huddled in your bathroom or stood out in the middle of a field, even.  Something can close off the ventilation and you can suffocate.  We thought about getting one of those safe rooms put inside the house and I kinda wish we had, instead of the cellar, but I'd heard stories about those coming loose from their moorings during a tornado and the thought of being inside a metal and concrete rocket during a tornado was also kind of scarey.  Life's a crapshoot, so live each day as if it's your last.  One of these days, it will be. 

I went to the garden to decide where to cast my saved zinnia seeds and got sidetracked pulling weeds.  I did get the zinnia seed broadcast but not till late in the day.  Another color of iris appeared in the front iris bed and it's a strange color that I didn't remember having before.  It's kind of maroon but almost brown, with a spot of blue-purple on the falls, just below the gold-colored beard.  I spent quite a bit of time on the Historic Iris Preservation Society's gallery trying to identify it, found it, and as soon as I saw the name "Grand Canyon", it clicked.  It was one of the ones I'd gotten from my little old lady friends.  I don't think it bloomed at the Ponca House before the back-hoe incident, and certainly this is the first time since then.  So I updated the Iris post to include it and also included the link for the HIPS gallery.  They have documented hundreds of historic iris, including pictures and year of introduction.  When it has been 30 years or more since an iris was introduced, it is considered "historic". 
So the message here today is, if you have lost a variety of iris over the years, don't give up hope.  It may reappear one day after you've forgotten you had it.

I have onions doing strange things in the garden.  I think these are some of last year's Walla Walla's.  They were putting on seed heads until the wind blew a tomato cage on top of them and broke several of the stalks.
That's them, bottom left in the picture above.  

Not only are they making seed heads.  They're dividing into two and sometimes three.  Each bulb is about as big as a large Delicious apple from the grocery store.  I dug the two that were broken and brought them in, thinking I'd use them in the kitchen, but when I cut them up, I found nothing usable except five or six layers on the outside of a tough core.  Well, I guess if I were making soup, I might be able to boil all this in broth for the onion flavor, and then remove the pieces and throw them out.  Most of this onion would be impossible to chew. 
I expected them to just make seed and not be any good for using, but I wasn't expecting the dividing thing going on.  They look like Walking Onions on steroids.  I'll leave those that remain to do their thing, maybe they will make seed but it looks like they're going to make bulblets.  It will be interesting to see what happens.

Friday, May 8:
I'm concerned about bird flu and I sure hope we don't end up in a world without birds.  I love our wild birds and mostly I like having habitat for them.  But not so much the House Sparrows, who want their nests close to the house, and when the baby birds start to poop, it collects and hangs on the edges of the nest and then the excess starts dropping and makes a horrible mess where people need to walk.  We try to take their nests down if they're in a bad place, before they start laying eggs, and sometimes we just have to put a wad of chicken wire in the spot because they are persistent and will rebuild many times before giving up.  We didn't notice this nest till too late.  I just can't tear down a nest with eggs in it.
Also the Mockingbirds, who are loud, tear up the nests of some of the other birds, are partial to fruit no matter how much water is available to them, and dive bomb anything that gets near their nest.  It's not so much the dive-bombing as the peck that they deliver on contact.  I've actually seen cats with bloody wounds on their backs from Mockingbirds repeatedly dive-bombing them and pecking them on the same spot every time.  This morning I was awakened at 2am by a Mockingbird hollering every song it knows from the Alabama Crimson honeysuckle.  I swear if it has built a nest in there, I will cut that honeysuckle 'way back and tear the nest out, eggs or no eggs.  I came downstairs and turned on the outside light that is mounted there at the corner of the house and it either flew off or went to sleep.  At least Hubs got to sleep later.  He makes so much of his own noise, snoring, that he doesn't hear stuff like this until it's gone on for awhile.  I hear everything.  What can I say?  I'm a mother.  Mothers are hardwired to hear everything.  But I guess Mockingbirds at least help eat bugs.  There is one that likes to sit on top of the post where the electric transformer is mounted.  It'll sing a song and then leap up into the air and catch something, and then sing again.  This may go on for quite awhile.   It seems like we get visits from birds that we haven't seen hanging around before, every year.  One year, the Swallowtails showed up.  Another year, it was House Wrens (not the same as House Sparrows).  Another, it was Goldfinches.  Another, it was Bluebirds.  This year, we've seen Orioles for the first time here.  Our basic population is composed of (in addition to the House Sparrows and Mockingbirds) Robins, Killdeer, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Grackles, Purple Martins, Doves, Cardinals, Barn Swallows, and, of course, Hummingbirds.  Then there are the bigger birds of prey we see hunting over Charlie's field that is past our back yard fence. 

It's time to start putting netting around berry plants.  Starting with the strawberries, then the black cherry bushes and blackberries.  Eventually the grape arbor.  By the end of this day the strawberry bed was netted and I used four PVC pipe tomato cages to make a frame of sorts over the black cherry bushes and Hubs helped me attach the netting.  They are loaded again this year.  Maybe I will get more than the Mockingbird does this time.

I was thinking about trying some pinwheels in some areas and Lowe's has instructions, a pattern, and a supply list HERE.  They recommend buying white vinyl flashing material for the pinwheel itself and that's $26.68 for a 10" x 50' roll -- and they recommend painting it.  Why would anybody want to order 50' just to make pinwheels with??  I don't know why you couldn't buy something else, like aluminum flashing, which is shiny and you wouldn't have to paint, and it comes in shorter lengths.  If I make some I might try cutting up some vinyl file folders.  They come in bright colors.  I don't use them for anything and in fact they're in with the garage sale stuff right now.  Maybe Hobby Lobby would have something that'd work as well.  It goes without saying that if you have to spend a lot of money to make pinwheels, you might as well just save yourself some time and buy them already made at The Dollar Store.  I have a few I've picked up at garage sales, I'll probably use them to see if they work, and if they don't, I will have no need for more of them.

People use all kinds of different things to try to keep the birds off their fruit.  Carole uses pieces of metallic gift-wrap ribbon that blow in the wind.  I overheard a berry grower tell someone at a farmer's market how they managed to keep the birds from eating their berries with flags.  In trees, some people recommend hanging old CD's, or something small and red, which they say attracts the birds and then disappoints, and so after awhile they'll stop coming to that tree.  Or they collect little rocks and paint them to look like strawberries and put them in their strawberry bed.  I've been collecting the red lids that are on plastic milk jugs all winter, and I'm going to hang some in some of my fruit trees this year.  There are fake owls and snakes but it is true that the Mockingbirds get so they don't even pay any attention to those.  I saw on a garden show where they recommended going out and buying a piece of fruit, smearing Tanglefoot on the sides but not on the top and bottom, then hanging that on the tree right as the fruits on the tree start to ripen.  I think this is more for catching bugs, rather than deterring birds, though.

Saturday, May 9:
We are under a Flash Flood Watch till May 11.  It rained and thundered most of the night but we didn't get the hail they'd forecast, and our weather radio didn't report any danger of tornadoes.  I had gathered lettuce and the greens Monday night just in case we would have hail damage.  And I have to say, I won't grow Tyfon (Holland Greens) again.  I processed some for the freezer and, regardless of what the vendors say about them, they taste a little too "turnip-ey" to me.  I don't even wonder what Hubs' reaction would be.  He won't even eat spinach.  And I noticed that the spinach has started bolting to seed.  So much for the "Long Standing" part of the Bloomsdale name.   I have a few Nobel spinach plants, from seed Carole sent me.  They are also supposed to be slow to bolt.  They don't seem to like to be transplanted very well, so I don't know if they will even survive to bolting stage. 

While I was in the garden I saw a rat.  DANG IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  So I called Joe, and told him to go ahead and keep our rat trap for the weekend but I'll need it back by Monday morning.  We just can't afford to let the rat population explode over here again. 

We are situated on a high spot, which is why I sometimes call our place "RockWhisperer's Hill", and that is a good thing when we're under a flood watch.  Getting a lot of rain in May and June used to be quite normal for us.  In fact, we moved here in early July of 2010 and it rained practically every day while we were moving.  I went to The Ponca House by myself one day and then couldn't get home because the highway was under water and blocked off only a mile away from home.  It's possible we'll get isolated again before all this is over but it'll be over soon and won't be a big deal unless we leave home and can't get back.

Suffice it to say there we did not go to any garage or estate sales.  Hubs and I have decided not to waste our time going to estate sales that are run by one particular business.  Their prices have gone through the roof for the first day and they absolutely won't make any deals.  Then on the second day, they go half price, but even THAT is very often more than I will pay.  The thing is, the man is an auctioneer.  I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they buy what's left from the estate "for one money", as they say, and then put all of it in their next auction.  They get a percentage of what they take in at the estate sale, so considering "full price day", "half price day" and then the auction, this is a good way to squeeze every penny out of someone's estate.  That's good for the business and the estate, and certainly it's a lot of work, but it's just a waste of time for people like us.  We'll be better off skipping these and go instead where the prices are better.  I don't like auctions because I don't like to compete with others for my junk.  Sometimes I suspect there are people at auctions who are employed by the auctioneer to bid against some of the bidders and "run them up".   Just like everything else, it's all about the money.  Some people say they get some really good prices at auctions.  But if I see something I want, it"s something everybody else wants, too.  At least at a garage sale, it's possible to see it before the others do.

Rainy days mean there are a lot of things you can't do out in the garden.  If you pull weeds, they come out of the soil with all the soil still on them, and that's messy.  Some things will come out of the ground a lot easier if the ground is saturated, like Bermuda grass roots, though.  If you have something ready to pick, it's not so good for the plants to do so.  It IS a good time to broadcast seed.  Also a good time to turn over the stuff in the compost bin.  I just have leaves in one bin.  In the other two is where I pile pulled weeds.  The compost that results from pulled weeds is often so full of weed seed that it's only good for using in the mix that I start seeds in, and that's because I bake the soil to kill seeds and insect eggs.  Rainy days are good for transplanting, if the ground is not TOO muddy.  Do it carefully if the soil is already wet.  Keep the hole about the same size as the plant's root bundle, try not to disturb the roots when you put it in the hole, just a little water to fill in the air spaces, and then gently close up the hole around it.  You don't want to compact the soil any more than is necessary.

Today I decided to dig up the Crape Myrtle that was growing in front of the bullet-shaped water collection tank.
I've cut the plant back, in this picture, so you can barely see it sticking up out of the ground, just a little left of the center of the picture.  These bushes are ugly for so long.  I got a good price on them from ArborDay.org, several years ago.  They were supposed to bloom pink and they do.  But not the pretty pink that ArborDay showed in their pictures.  This pink is just pink enough not to be white.  It's what Mom used to call "Garden Variety", which meant, to her, "ordinary".  Like all the other colors, they die completely back to the ground, but they are the latest of all to "come out of it".  Ya know, if something's gonna wait extra long before it shows me something pretty, it darn well better knock my socks off when it does.  And these don't.  For the front yard, and especially in this spot in front of a rain-water collection tank, I really need something that stays green for the whole year.  And maybe be softer and not try to poke you in the eye every time you have to walk there.  Crape Myrtle (and yes, that's the correct spelling) is nice for the garden because it's a host for beneficial insects.  Carole told me that her dad used to use the old wood from them as stakes in the garden because they were always so straight.  So it's better that they go nearer the garden, in an out-of-the-way place.

The one in front of the bullet tank had a flat rock under it about a foot under the ground.  I wonder why I didn't notice THAT when I planted it??  It was helpful, actually, as I was able to get the pry-bar under the rock and, once the side roots were all located and cut (that's the hard part, anyway...), the bush came out of the ground easily.  I dug out a rock-filled hole on the outside of the north garden fence, and planted it there.  I made the Executive Decision that the vacated space will be a perfect spot for these Euonymus "Manhattan" bush cuttings that have FINALLY rooted. 

By then it was lunch time.  Full of confidence, I decided to move the Crape Myrtle that grows in the front flower bed, too, after lunch.

Maybe it was that I should've had a "Power Lunch".  Maybe it was that it would've been better if there had been a rock under it, too.  You pick.  Because I'm too tired to care now.  I'm not muddy, just plenty dirty.  But I got the bulk of the rootball and it's been moved to a spot on the north side of the garden fence, about ten feet east of the one I planted during the morning.  The day is overcast and the chances are high for more rain this afternoon and tonight.  So I didn't water the bushes in.  I'll let Nature take care of that.  The ground is damp but not muddy.  They can grow as much or as little as they want out there.  Fine with me.

The last light pink one is growing on the south side of the house.  When I planted it there, I thought it would help hide that PVC pipe that delivers rain water from the downspout on that side of the house to the cistern.  Another poor choice.  I'll dig it up, too.
But not today.

We watched Growing A Greener World on the educational station today.  This time it was about integrating bird habitat into the garden and Joe Lampl interviewed Margaret Roach.  She has a good YouTube presentation about underplanting HERE, too.  Joe also talked to the people at Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  It was a good show, with lots of good information.  HERE is the link to that segment.

Towards evening, I set out some Mrs. Burns Lemon Basil plants along the border of the front flower bed.  Since they start blooming so soon, and will rebloom after being cut back, I think they'll be just as pretty there as Sweet Alyssum, which I cannot seem to grow very well.  The last of the Mexican Tarragon plants were settled into the herb garden.  I cast some Rox Orange Broom Corn seed on the ground in the northeast corner of the garden.  It was raining by then. 

Sunday, May 10:
Mostly I just dinked around.  Planted some Euonymus Manhattan in the empty spot in front of the bullet-shaped water tank, as planned.  Potted up a couple of plants that were growing in a winter-sowing jug, which became a "flat" when I cut off the top.  I thought I had a bunch of Pearlbush seedlings but as they grow I'm more apt to think they're Black Cherry Bush seedlings.  And that's OK, too, as they are nice prolific bushes and the cherries are very good.  A couple of plants finally came up in the container where I winter-sowed Pearlbush seeds and marked it as such, and the two sets of seedlings don't look like each other.  I hate it when I don't mark things.  I always think, "Oh, well, I can remember that....", and then later on I don't have a clue. 

After the last rainy spell I went out to the garden and took all the bags of leaves from between the tomato plants.  They served their purpose, keeping the plants warm when the weather was chilly, and protecting the plants from strong winds when they were not strong enough to withstand it on their own.   Now, leaving the bags there to cut off the movement of air between the plants will encourage disease, since we're getting all this rain.

I set some Garbanzo beans (Cicer arietinum) to germinate in a damp paper towel.  Before I wrap it up for the day, I'll do some Adzuki beans (Vigna angularis), as well.  Both are bush type.  The Adzuki can be eaten as a green bean or left to dry on the plant and used as a dry bean or a sprouting bean.  I can grow them near Fortex pole bean because it's Phaseolus vulgaris and the three won't cross-pollinate.  I decided not to grow Lazy Housewife this year.  I have Provider to plant as a bush bean.  It is my understanding that, while bush beans and pole beans CAN cross, it isn't as common as it would be if two kinds of pole beans or two kinds of bush beans were grown at the same time.

Monday, May 11:
Joe brought the trap back Sunday afternoon.  We caught two rats between then and bedtime.

I got up early this morning and while I was drinking my first cup of coffee, I heard Sam growling at the patio door.  Turned on the patio light and there stood a striped tabby cat.  It froze and locked eyes with Sam.  Seemed alarmed.  So did Sam.  She freezes when she sees a full-grown rabbit, too.  I just turned off the patio light.  Maybe that cat will eat some rats.  If it eats over here, that's the menu.  Not adopting another cat.  NOT!

I found an interesting You-Tube on making a root cellar clamp out of bags of leaves HERE.  Right up my alley, if there's one thing I can always get plenty of, it's bagged leaves.   The author of this particular selection is Herrick Kimball, the "Whiz-Bang" guy.  I found his blog a long time ago and in fact, bought one of his wheel tillers.

I noticed an amber-colored gelatinous mess coming out of the base of my little purple peach tree, which has been looking a little the worse for wear lately.  Did a little research and discovered it is Peach Borer larvae, which, if allowed to become adults, can spread to every fruit tree I have.  Oh, wurra, wurra.  It was loose in the hole and not hard to remove.  Hubs cut the damaged part of the stump into pieces and put it in the burn barrel along with some dead wood and twigs we've accumulated.  I killed as many of the larvae as I saw when I scraped all the gelatinous stuff out.  Then I put all that in the burn barrel, too.   It's too windy to burn today.  Maybe early tomorrow.  I can start the fire with our burnable household trash.  "The Holistic Orchard" by Michael Phillips, recommends painting fruit tree trunks with paint that has plaster of paris added to it, and the application of a 2" collar of wood ashes in the earth around the base of the trunk.  Also I'm going to apply some Pure Neem Oil, as it's often recommended in this book to maintain the general health of the tree.  This is a wonderful, information-packed book if you have fruit trees.  Well worth the cost.

Tuesday, May 12:
I needed to do laundry today.  While I was in the middle of that, Hubs decided to vacuum.  Vacuuming is one of the household tasks Hubs doesn't mind doing.  He doesn't wash dishes, only unloads the dishwasher occasionally, never wipes off a counter or a table or does any dusting, doesn't cook, even when I'm recovering from surgery, doesn't mop floors, and the list goes on.  But he will vacuum, fold the laundry after it's clean and dry, and make the bed.  I guess this is true of a lot of men.  The vacuum, afterall, has a MOTOR, and men like noisy things.  And most men don't mind making the bed because it was something they learned to do in the military.  Most men don't mind folding laundry because it smells good by then and they get to handle women's underwear without being accused of being A Dirty Old Man.  But the vacuuming thing gripes me because he never tells me when he's going to do it and usually starts in, without a word of warning, when I'm right in the middle of something else.  So I have to drop everything I'm doing in order to go around and pick up the throw rugs and throw them outside.  Because he vacuums AROUND rugs.  And then if I don't want to be asking him where my shoes are, I have to pick them up.  If I want him to vacuum in the office, I've got to pick up seed packets and things I've been sorting off the floor.  That includes the laundry.  I have to remind him to get the edges and corners and under things, every time.  I have to ask him to get the cat hair off the cat's favorite chair every time.  I tell you, it's all I can do not to start channeling Aunt Viv.  It's as if telling me what he's going to do is akin to asking my permission to do it and OMG, it's like men lose their manhood if they have to ask a woman if it's convenient for HER for them to do something at a certain time.  They think they're doing their woman a BIG FAVOR by doing stuff like this and they don't like her finding fault with how they do it because she's just LUCKY they do it at all.  In fact, they get a little disgruntled if they're not thanked for doing it every time.  But they live here, right?  They eat here, right?  Their dirty laundry and bathrooms are HORRIBLE, right?  At least SOME of that mess they're vacuuming up is THEIRS, right?  And when WE do something, like prepare their meals day in and day out whether we feel up to it or not, or wipe up their mess off the counters, or wash the clothes or mop the floors or keep the bathrooms clean, do THEY every thank US????

.... Oh, hello there, Aunt Viv .....

The laundry is now done and brought in from the clothesline.  I spent the rest of the morning treating tree trunks with Neem Oil (diluted of course).  After that dried, they were painted with some blue house paint I had left from The Ponca House, mixed with plaster and enough water to make it easy to paint on the trunks.  Both plum trees, the Hale Haven Peach, the Apricot and the Nectarine trees are also oozing amber gelatinous stuff.  Just not as bad.  I scraped out all the gel and I didn't see any worms except one fell out of a hole, gagging (sorta) from one of the plum trees after I sprayed on the Neem.  Came in, had a rest, a cuppa coffee and a bite of lunch, then after the paint was dry, put on another coat of Neem.  Some people say it smells terrible.  Just smells like turpentine to me.  Tomorrow morning maybe I'll put on another coat of paint and Neem on after it dries.  Or maybe I'll wait till after the next rainy spell.  There are chances of rain again, from Wednesday through Sunday night. 

I guess I'll go ahead and get this thing published.  We have a trip scheduled to Tulsa, my last follow up at the retinal specialist for the work that was done on my right eye.  I don't know why he needs to see me, I'm doing just fine, seems like two follow-ups after surgery ought to be enough.  We have had a couple of clear days but there's more rain coming.  When they called to remind me of my appointment I told them if it was storming we wouldn't be there.  I have cataract surgery coming up soon on the left eye here in town and if I have to reschedule with the retinal specialist I'm going to want it to be after I've recovered.

We'll just try to get through all this coming rain, what with the ground being close to the saturation point, the cistern full and all the little ponds and lakes around us brimming.  This is more rain than we've had in about four years and we have needed it, just not all at once is what I'm sayin'.  And our land line phone is acting up, it always does when it rains.  AT&T has tried to fix it remotely but Joe thinks it's at the hub that's down on the corner.  Something shorts out when it gets wet and makes the phones all have a loud hum that is hard to hear over.  Of course we're having to wait three days for AT&T to come out, and they have told me repeatedly, via my first call and their two follow-ups by phone, that if the problem is within our house they'll charge us $100 for coming out.  The hum is not as loud now but it's still there.  If Joe thought the problem was within our house, he would fix us for free.  At my age and having experienced the things I've experienced, I don't trust AT&T not to lie about it.  Hubs thinks we can refuse to let the repairman in and we'll avoid their repair charges, if that's the case.  We'll see how that goes.  Since we're going to have another week of rain it'll probably be all to do over again, anyway.

So.....  Till next time, Rock on, and we will do the same, counting our blessings that we are not flooded or blown away.  Hugs xoxoxo