Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Daily Doin's: Catching Up Since April 1

I start this on Monday, April 11.

My grandmother, Susie (Peabody) Britt, grew up in Arkansas, and she had a repertoire of tidbits of helpful folklore-type information.  She must've been typical of her time, because many people in my age group have memories of little things their mothers and grandmothers used to say.  Somewhere along the way, people began calling these little comments  "Homilies", but I looked up the definition and was surprised to learn that it's actually a synonym for "sermon".   I don't think anything my Grammy said to her children, and I know certainly not her beloved grandchildren, was ever delivered like it was a sermon, so I didn't really feel like the term was all that discriptive.  Someone else must've felt the same as I do, and so the word "Momilies" was created.  There's even an "Official Momilies Website", but they're just trying to sell a book and there's not much real information given away.  But we all know some of these, right?  I was thinking about some of the ones I grew up hearing my mother repeat because she'd heard them all her years growing up with Grammy, as relates to what we think about when the months change.  March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.  April showers bring May flowers.  You're as welcome as the flowers in May.  The closest I could come to something on The Internet that provided sayings like this was The Garden Digest HERE.  April begins with April Fool's Day and what better way to express it than the presidential candidate selection campaign.  And that's ALL I'm going to say about THAT.  But YOU KNOW WHAT I'M THINKING....

We have been having roller-coaster weather, typical for this part of Oklahoma at this time of year.  We've had tornadoes and fires in nearby communities but so far we have been blessed with safety.  Yesterday the wind was blowing with gusts at 40mph.  It's a struggle just walking in it.  And just forget trying to harden off any of your delicate little seedlings.  I watered a few things because it was 73ºF., also, and warmth plus wind equals dehydration.  The Bartlett pear tree will not be bearing any fruit this year due to late frosts, but the last morning frosts expected are coming up in the next couple of days and the jury's still out as to the full extent of damage of the other trees.  Of course, they still have to make it through the barrage of insects that will be coming up next. 

So I got to thinking about the kale that's out there in the garden.  The only variety that wintered over was the Russian Red kale.   I had a blue kale that I had a hard enough time getting the seed to germinate and then keeping it alive.  As it grew strong and stalky, I couldn't keep the rabbits and rats away from it, and then worms took it over.  I cut it back to the ground but it didn't come back this spring.  The Russian Red, however, grew HUGE, got top-heavy and fell over, and just kept on keepin' on.  Before winter, I cut several of them all the way down to the ground.  They are coming back up but are small, and not hardly enough to pick. 

The others, I just left laying where they fell over.  Opened up a bag of leaves and dumped them on top.  Several of them died.  One has lived, and it's beginning to make seed heads.

I picked from this huge plant so that I could pack some in the freezer.  After it has made seed, the plant will probably die.  I thought maybe the plants that I cut all the way to the ground might grow all summer and be good for eating after the first frost in fall.  But now they are making seed, too.  Kale needs nippy weather in order to taste it's best, so it's now or hope it's still alive by fall.  I hope there will be spinach and lettuce to eat out of the garden before too long, but I can't count on anything for sure, considering all.  Might as well take advantage of what I have, while I still have it.  So I put a board on top of the cinder blocks that form my raised beds and sat within reach of the biggest plant, since I can't get down on my new knee because of the tenderness of my scar.  I picked off leaves and tore out their center stems while I enjoyed communing with nature, dropping the torn-up leaves into a bucket. 

Then I ran cold water into the bucket to wash off any garden dirt or dust that has been "blowin' in the wind". 

I had about 3/4 of a five-gallon bucket by the time I was done.  This compressed tightly into my spaghetti cooker, which holds about a gallon, and filled it to overflowing.  I filled my Maslin pan about half full of water and brought it to a boil.  All the kale fit into the pot, with an occasional stir.  The recommended blanching time is 3 minutes.  I have frozen kale without blanching before and didn't notice much difference in texture or taste after it was thawed.  But I've read if you keep it for several months it isn't as good.  And it does take up more space in the freezer.

This "pot likker" was frozen and will be used as soup base, combined with other liquids from vegetable cooking / canning processes.  If I didn't do that, I'd probably just use it to water plants with.

I packed the blanched kale in zip-lock sandwich bags.

I might mention here that I do not bother with the ice-water bath for stuff like this.  I might shorten the blanching time to allow for the heat it will retain before it gets cool enough to handle, though. 

Yield was three 8-oz bags of drained, blanched greens.  Less than I expected, so I'll try to pick more before we stop getting cold nights.

I had never grown kale before last year so this was an interesting experiment.  Kale is a real powerhouse, as far as vitamins and minerals, and is easier on the digestion if it's cooked.  Also cooking destroys goitrogens and oxylates, which are a couple of undesirable qualities of kale in its raw form.  The thing is, you want to eat a varied diet, not the same thing all the time.  Many foods can have bad effects if you eat a lot of it.  As a matter of fact, I once knew someone whose skin turned orange from eating too many carrots.  I probably wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes.  She happened to be a person who was very careful with her appearance and this would've been funny if she hadn't been so very upset.  I've heard that some people that drink juices regularly use a lot of raw kale in their juice combinations.  According to LiveStrong, it's not advisable to juice kale daily because it's high in Vitamin K, Potassium and Iron.  Many things that are so good for you in small amounts can be really disruptive to your body, and sometimes even downright dangerous, if you're taking in too much.  Think about how much of any one thing it takes to make just a little bit of juice, and consider that there might be a very good reason why, that's all I'm sayin'.  We were meant to be hunter-gatherers and to chew things.  We weren't born with the instinct to juice.

I have held off planting things except for peas and spinach, a couple of perennial herbs I bought at Green Thumb Nursery, and nine tomato plants that were looking so bad in their containers that it made no difference whether they died in the ground because many more days in the container and they'd be dead, anyway.  This year I'm going to try Ray Browning's YouTube trick about how he plants his tomatoes.  I wrote about him about three posts back. 

I'll start pruning them after they get acclimated.  A couple more cold nights coming, I don't want to put any more stress on these than they've had already, or on me, because I'm the one that has to run out there and cover everything up.  I'll probably set out the rest after the next few days are over.

During the last week, I've caught a rat in the trap that I left at the end of the front driveway where the garage doors are.  It chewed the plastic off my sprinkler gun.  I guess this was the main course and the peanut butter in the trap was to be dessert.

Better that than under the hood of a vehicle though.  Then I caught a baby cotton-tail when I set the trap on the back patio.  I didn't have the heart to kill it, but I guess I should have.  I took it outside the fence and let it go.  And where, you ask, did it go?  It made a U-turn and headed back for the yard, throwing itself against the chain-link fence, which would've allowed it to make it through except for our chicken-wire panels that we put all along the bottom of the fence.  He stunned himself and I picked him up while he was sitting there blinking, and by this time I was hacked off, so I gave him a fling out into an open space, where he again made a U-turn and came back in my direction, but veered off south of Hubs' workshop. 

I moved some extra iris plants into one of the back beds of the garden last year.  When I find someone that wants them I can easily dig them up.  I didn't realize this before, but apparently rats like the leaves, so I take chewed-on leaves as a clue that there is a presence.  Early last week, I baited and set one of the Have-A-Heart traps out there.  Went out later, and there was a rat in the trap.  One ran away from the trap as I walked up to it and threw himself into a hole in the corner of the bed.  *Sigh*.  So I drowned the rat that was in the trap, reset it, and put it back in place.  As I carried the trap back to its location, another rat ran from under the pile of leaf bags and then darted into a crack between some cinderblock that's stacked near the sweet potato bed where I just planted spinach the day before.  So I set the other trap there.  A couple of hours later I heard the bait platform swinging and I had a rat in each trap.  It's lucky rats are not very smart.  I mean, there'll be a rat running loose around the trap that has a brother rat IN IT.  And still, after the trap's been rebaited and reset, that rat that saw his brother in the trap will run right in. 

Sometimes I think about how much stress my garden causes me -- hard winds interspersed with early morning frosts in spring, furnace-style blasts in July and August, and sometimes not much rain in between, and I wonder if it's even worth all the hard work that's involved.  It seems like I'm fighting the rabbits and the rats, off and on, all year long now, and I'm thinking the garden being here probably draws them.  My neighbors don't stay on top of their rat population, as they don't have gardens, and most of them don't pay much attention to what lurks out on their land.  They might perk up and pay attention when the rats eat all the insulation off the wiring under the hoods of their cars, but seems like cars have to sit idle for awhile for that to happen, and almost everybody makes at least one trip into town every day.  We are not TRUE country people out here.  We are probably better classed as SUBURBANITES. 

We got rain last night.  There was a lot of lightning and the weather radio went off several times, but it was a "Thunderstorm Warning" each time.  I don't see what point it is to get warnings for those.  I mean, it's not like we run to the cellar if it's just a thunderstorm.  I frankly wouldn't want to be in between the cellar and the house during a lightning strike, if you know what I mean.  And nobody is dumb enough to go outside when it's hailing.  A good lightning storm seems to charge the air and gives anything growing outside a boost.  Hubs and I have different attitudes about lightning.  He moans because it means he's probably going to have to cut the grass as soon as it dries out enough so he can.  I'm rejoicing, because I know my garden will love it.  Unless, of course, the lightning strikes the house.  This house was hit by lightning and everything burned but the bricks and concrete about twelve years ago.  It was rebuilt, rented for awhile, and then sold to the people who sold it to us.  It is not necessarily true that lightning doesn't strike the same place twice, even though that was something my Grammy used to say, too.  We are on a bit of a hill, and our house has an upstairs, so therefore we are the tallest structure on the hill.  Not good.

Rain makes other things happen that are not particularly good.  The first thing that happens is that we lose satellite reception, so we have to go upstairs and watch the TV that is connected to the antenna.  I think I've said before that I like antenna TV just fine, there are lots more channels than there were when I was a kid and that's ALL anyone HAD, and it's digital so reception is clear.  If it was up to ME, we'd say "Buh-bye" to Dish Network.  I usually lose Internet connectivity and for a couple of days after the rain is over, there is so much static on our land-line telephone that we cannot make ourselves understood by anyone that we call, which includes the automated electric-outage reporting system.  Yes, I've reported this problem to AT&T, and they are trying to get out of the land-line business, so although I have it on good authority that they know there's something wrong in the main control box, they won't fix it, and the repairman has to lie to you and tell you that it's probably something wrong on your end and that they will charge you $100 an hour if they work on that.  The price is so high because they don't want to do it.  I'm tempted just to pay their dang charges so they'll be forced to have to fix what's wrong in the control box.  I've already had Joe, our electrician neighbor, look at everything, and he tells me we're ok on our end.  I trust Joe, and he has a reputation for knowing his stuff. 

I generally go to Mesonet for my weather information, but last week I really needed something that would show me what the month looked like.  Of course, being as how we can't depend on Mesonet to be entirely correct, and it's only a 5-day forecast, I am well aware that a month's worth of weather prediction, no matter WHO does it, is probably even more iffy.  For all their fancy equipment, you'd think we could get more reliable weather forecasts, but I'm just An Old Redneck Woman, what do I know.  I dinked around a little bit and found AccuWeather.  You put your zipcode in the "location" box and it shows the whole month's forecasted highs and lows for each day.  Of course, the closer they get to the actual day, the more it's been revised.  For awhile it looked like the 8th would be our last freezing morning and now that that date has passed, there are some pretty low temps forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday morning, the 12th and 13th.  Our last average frost is April 15, but all it takes is one time that you lose your whole garden to make you more cautious about setting things out in April.  One year, while we still lived in The Ponca House, we had an entire week of freezing daytime temperatures and high winds, during the week that included April 15 and several days after.  That was MY year.  We had had many days of beautiful weather up to that point.  Ah, Mother Nature.....

And now the wind is blowing hard again, and out of the north.  Yesterday, I swear we must've been having 45mph wind gusts.  Today it's like Mother Nature's trying to blow out some gigantic imaginary birthday candle, even though Mesonet says "wind gusts to 25mph". 

I'm starting my warm-weather seedlings now.  Spaghetti Squash, Cushaw Pumpkin, Long Island Cheese Pumpkin, Burpless Cucumber, Vining Okra (aka Luffa).  I'm not going to direct-seed this time.  Some of this seed just takes too long to sprout and many things can happen to a seed before that happens.  Especially in MY garden.

This is celery, grown from the bottoms of celery bought at the grocery store.  It's wintered over, and is coming back up.  There are two big plants and one small one.  I just buried another celery bottom.  Sometimes they make it, sometimes they don't.  I don't know how long they'll live.  If I don't keep these two big ones cut back, they'll probably be trying to make seed.

Celery likes cooler weather and so it's not a good crop for Oklahoma.  I think people that grow them let them get a certain size and then they "bank them up" with soil or whatever, to make them not be so dark green or so strong in flavor.  But they need cooler temperatures than we can give them here.  So about all they are good for is a "cutting herb".  I chop mine and put them in a bag, keep them in the freezer till I'm making soup or chicken and noodles, then use them sparingly in cooking, because, like I said, the flavor is strong.  A little dab'll do ya. 

This is Angelica.  It grew well in the herb garden last year after being Wintersown, and has come back up after going dormant through the winter.  These have flower whorls in the center.

Angelica is a relative of parsley and celery.  It has some medicinal properties.

I also wintersowed Elecampane last year and this one is the sole survivor coming out of winter dormancy.  It is related to the sunflower, and the flowers are very interesting.  A perennial, and I've read it's hard to kill once established.  Well, allrightie, then!!!  I think the birds, bees and butterflies will enjoy the flowers.  It has medicinal properties.

I have had an infestation of white flies in my seedlings, so I have moved all the seedlings out to the cold frame where ladybugs and other natural predators can clean 'em up.  I bake my composted soil, and the only other two ingredients, peat and Vermiculite, are not normally things that harbor white flies.  Or ARE they?  It's worse this year than it's ever been.  I was beginning to wonder if the eggs are in the earthworm castings that I've been using, but every place I looked, there was advice to PUT earthworm castings on top of the soil to REPEL white flies.  My buddy Carole has a greenhouse, and she uses pieces of yellow sticky bug-trap stuff for this.  I got some, and it works, but not 100%.  Gary Pilarchik recommends pouring boiling water into your seedling soil before you plant, which probably would be about the same as baking the soil.  But, if the eggs are in the Vermiculite or the peat, that might do a better job, since I have only been baking the composted soil BEFORE mixing it with the peat and Vermiculite.  I am now trying pouring boiling water into each little pot of prepared potting soil and then, after allowing it to cool a little, adding the earthworm castings, as I'm not sure whether boiling water would destroy some of the beneficial stuff that's in them.  After they've had a few minutes to cool, I plant the seeds.

Some of the early iris have started to bloom.  Eleanor Roosevelt is always first.  I went out to take a picture and the rain has beaten them all down for now.  This is an old picture, It might be Eleanor or it might be Blue Rhythm.  I think Eleanor has darker "falls". 

The peas have come up sporadically and something's been eating on the spinach seedlings.  I've set the trap and nothing's been in it for the last several days other than occasionally a terrified bird.  This particular planting of spinach is in the sweet-potato bed, which is three cinder-blocks high.  That doesn't stop the rats, but I'd be getting them in the trap.  Could the birds be doing this damage? 
The air is almost always filled with smoke these days, but all my neighbors are out doing stuff around their yards without concern.  That's how accustomed we've all grown to it.  I don't think it'll make a bit of difference if they get that bill passed that will allow ranchers to burn off while there are burn bans in force.  I can't see that they pay attention to it, anyway.  If anybody lost their house to fire and tried to sue the person who started the fire, an attorney who would take the case might be hard to find, since many of our bigger ranch-owners are doctors and attorneys. 

I wintersowed some Nanking cherry seeds and there are a lot of seedlings up good and strong.  I planted some last week along the southeast fence.   When they start going good I might cut down the ones that are on the south edge of the patio.

Just plain wore myself out.  It's so hard to get down on the ground now.  And bending over at the waist is hard on my back.  I don't know how this gardening year is going to go.  Hubs is not much help with things like this.  He's not gentle enough with seedlings.  If there's weed-pulling to do, he pulls things that are not weeds.  Now I even have to load the wood chips from the pile into the buckets since he had some kind of allergy attack that he decided was brought on by breathing the mold in the woodchip pile.  At least he's still able to push the cart full of wood-chip buckets from the pile to wherever I'm wanting to use them. 

While I was planting the cherry trees, I happened to be under the plum tree that had worms in it so bad last year, and saw worms crawling up the trunk, several in a row.  I sprayed them all down with Pam but went out later and there were more out there.  So I threw in the towel.  Mixed up some Fruit Tree Insecticide, poured it on the soil around the tree and sloshed it all over the tree trunk and into the web that I had opened with a stick.  I did the aforementioned peach tree and the other plum tree, as well.  No worm activity at all since.  Sometimes you've just gotta bite the bullet.  Yesterday I found them in one of the Sand Plum trees that grow along the front driveway, though.  This time of year, you have to look your fruit trees over good every time you go out.  Those worms can strip all the leaves off your tree and they'll eat off the baby fruit, too. 

The grape arbor is finally leafing out.  I need to remember that it starts showing life about the same time as some of the Crape Myrtles do. 
It looks healthy so far, after nearly dying from Black Spot last year.  I hope that Liqui-Cop did it's job and the fungus will not come back this year.  That's the peach tree inside the fenced yard on the right, at the edge of this picture.  The fungus spread to it, and ruined what would've been a bumper crop of peaches.  So far the peach tree looks good, too, and has baby peaches on it. 

Hubs and I hit the garage sales last weekend.  I bought these things
This was $15.  It will become part of my canning kitchen in the garage.  Maybe one day I'll have a plumber install a cold water connection.  I think the water lines that serve the upstairs bathroom are in that back wall.  It doesn't freeze in the garage so that'd be ok.

This is for JR's little girl.  It was $10.  When they come to visit she can run it up and down our long driveway.  She'll be 4 this summer.  A dozen regular-mouth quart jars for $1.50.  A few other ordinary day-to-day stuff that I didn't take pictures of.  Hubs bought a drill-bit sharpener.

I've been watching those videos on The Truth About Cancer that are on YouTube and have signed up to get access to all nine episodes.  Apparently they email a link that's good for 24 hours or so.  I was relieved to know that because at first it sounded like I had to be online at what is 8pm Central time, and that's just not convenient for me.  I am a morning person and that's when my brain is more likely to be fully engaged.  So I can shut down Tuesday the same time I always do and the link for the first episode will be in my mailbox, available for viewing Wednesday until that evening.  It may be that the first episode is the same one I've viewed on YouTube, in which case I won't have anything new to watch till Thursday morning.  A couple of things I have found really interesting from watching the videos on YouTube, in addition to those mentioned on the post before this one, is the information about how simple sugars feed cancer cells like throwing gasoline on a fire.  And I'm kind of mad about how chemo and radiation are the go-to treatments when they are known carcinogens.  My mother had bladder cancer for about the last 20 years of her life.  Her chemo treatment involved filling her bladder with chemicals and closing it off so she couldn't pee.  She would cry all during the treatment.  My mother didn't often cry.  In the end, she didn't die of cancer.  She had a stroke.

This is now Tuesday, and I will post today.

Yesterday AccuWeather predicted temperatures in the mid-thirties this morning and tomorrow morning, but it's 46ºF. out there now and it looks like the forecast has been revised so that tomorrow morning will be in the 40's as well.  Nothing in the forecast in the 30's from here on.  So I will be busy getting tomatoes planted first, and then peppers, and so on. 

And yes, my friends, there will be fruit (barring other perils from now through ripening stage....  You know, drought and pestilence....)

But let's hope for the best, and Rock On.  Hugs xoxoxo


  1. I am happy to see the tiny fruit on your trees. I haven't dared to check mine yet.

    I hate it that the blasted rats are back. I might just throw in the towel if I had all your problems....but remember I still had the worst gardening season of my life last year! Hang in there.

    We may both have to curtail our gardening....I can bed from my waist easily but not sure I can kneel to get the strawberry plants in the ground....will be trying Thursday. Most larger seeds I can just bend a bit and drop and I use the hoe to cover and tamp.

    My Sis is trying to convince me I need raised beds.....may have to give in at some point.

    It is cold and windy here. We did get l.5 inches of much needed rain.

    1. We got about an inch here. We used to know an older man who planted all his seeds with a 4' length of 1" PVC pipe. He had a dowel rod about the same length to make the hole with and then he'd drop the seed into the 1" pipe to deliver it into the hole. Then cover it with the dowel. I asked him why he didn't just use the PVC for both functions and he said he had problems with the dirt clogging it. The dowel was small enough to fit into the PVC for storage and could also be used to unclog it if needed. I hate that I can't kneel, I did all my weeding that way.

      I lost most of my strawberry plants last winter. I think the drainage quit working in the wading pool they were in. I've built a cinderblock rectangular bed around the wading pool, will be working on getting the wading pool removed this summer. There are enough plants left to start over, I guess. They are Albion strawberries and I really like them.

      I hope you have fruit on your trees. You are a little further north than I am. Do you have more frosty mornings coming?

  2. You amaze me with all you do. As to fruit...we are holding our breath because the 3 old apple trees survived serious pruning and are starting to blossom beautifully......frost looms yet....

    1. Oh, Fiona, it just SOUNDS like we do a lot. Actually we are taking LOTS of "old geezer rest-breaks. We're slow getting started and we're inside for the day by mid-afternoon.

      "First Fruits", as I call them, are so exciting!! This is my first year to be pruning things and they say even though you won't have as MUCH fruit, it'll all be bigger. I don't know if you get a lot of wind where you are, but out here it's easy to get a loaded fruit tree severely damaged by the wind. Just one good harvest pays for your tree. I hope your apple blossoms survive and that your last frost date is coming up soon.


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