Saturday, April 30, 2016

Daily Doin's, Last Few Days Of April, 2016

I was up early this morning, as usual.  Decided to sit out on the patio, as it was no longer raining, and the temperature was comfortable.  I hadn't been out there very long when I was under siege by June Bugs. 

Who doesn't have childhood memories involving June Bugs?  I remember, in particular, going to Aunt Viv's for supper.  Aunt Viv was my dad's only sister.  Dad was the oldest, then Uncle "Fike", then Viv, then Uncle Chuck.  Aunt Viv and Uncle John had a bunch of boys.  And they were onery and wild as all get-out.  On the other hand, my dad had mostly girls, and I, for one, was kind of scared of those boys.  But after supper, we'd all be shoo'd out into the front yard to play while the adults sat on the porch and visited.  If it was June Bug Season, the June Bugs would start coming out when the porch light went on, and it was chaos.   The bugs would dive-bomb us, all on their own.  But that wasn't enough for those boys.  They'd pick them up, wherever they landed, throw them at us girls, put them in our hair, down our backs, you get the picture.  And we'd scream.  Aunt Viv would stand up and yell, "All right, now, Gawdammit, you boys cut that out!", and there'd be a short calm.  But when the visiting would resume, so would the bug play.  My mom wasn't in approval of the way Aunt Viv parented, but she almost never would say anything.  The one time that I remember that she did, it was at our house and because of something one of the boys did to me.  There was a big argument, punctuated by Aunt Viv getting up and flouncing off, with Uncle John and all the boys in tow.  They didn't speak for a long time, and then Uncle John got sick and dad, who thought a lot of Uncle John, wanted to go see him.  So my mom put her pride aside, which was a rare thing, and apologized to Aunt Viv, which was another rare thing.

But anyway.

Two or three years ago (has it been that long?) when I had chickens, I started picking up June Bugs while I was on the patio early in the morning.  I'd drop them in an empty 2-liter plastic pop bottle, they seem not to be able to find their way out of that, and then I'd give them to the chickens later on in the day.  Oh, my!  Talk about pandemonium!  Chickens are so hilarious, anyway.  One of them will catch something, it doesn't matter what it is, and if they were smart they'd just quietly gobble it down.  But a chicken with a bug is like a gossip with a secret.  So the chase would be on, the one that had the bug would be dashing around in front with every other chicken in hot pursuit, trying to get the bug.  If one did, then she would start running in the other direction, with all the chickens in confusion at first, and then turning around and chasing HER.  And this could go on until one of the chickens would finally swallow the bug.  I've heard this referred to as "chicken football".  One of the things I miss about having chickens is all the laughs we got from watching the things they did.   It's interesting to see how other species deal with food.  Wild birds share what they catch with their family.  Not just flying into the nest with it to feed to babies.  Hubs and I have witnessed the male flying up to wherever the female is perched, perching there beside her, and turning his beak with his catch to her.  Whereupon she takes it and eats it.  Always makes me go, "Awwwww".  Birds do other things in that category.  We had a Cardinal's nest at a window once, where we could look out the window and watch the progress.  One night there was a terrible driving storm.  I worried about the babies that were in that nest, so I went to the window to look.  There was Mama Cardinal, completely covering that nest with her wings draped over the sides.  She saw me and gave me a look that said, "I could kill you".  There are many situations when, if you get too close to a nest that has babies in it, the male bird will come from nowhere, will make a lot of noise and throw itself to the ground, acting like it has a broken wing.  Then there are those Mockingbirds, who will actually attack you. 

When it's nest-building time, the female is the one that makes the nest.  The male sits nearby.  On high-alert guard.  Singing loudly so as to draw attention away from the female, who is occupied getting the latest piece of grass or whatever all patted down, just so. 



This time of year we watch the Wild Geese leading their little goslings across the road, going from Jay's Lake to Charlie's Pond.  Mama is in front, then goslings in single file, then Daddy holding up the rear, ever watchful, ready to strike.  It's not a good idea to get too close to this little family excursion, and you'll know that because the male Goose will give you that same look Mama Cardinal does, except that he's bigger, and he'll start honking at you and flapping his wings if you ignore his silent warning.  You just really don't want to go that far.  But if you have, that's the second-best time to back away. 

I had my cup of green tea with me (I haven't had a cup of coffee in a week and so far haven't missed it) and I had just planned to sit out there in the Adirondack chair and enjoy the morning.  But I decided, enough was enough, and I started picking those June Bugs up.  Now I have the bottom of a cleaned-out milk jug covered with these little buggers.  What to do now?  I don't have anything to feed them to.  I think they're too big for the birds.  I can't get close enough to the wild geese to deliver them without spooking them and/or risking an attack.  I won't turn them loose.  They mate while they're out flying around (well I don't know if it's WHILE they fly, I just mean.....  well..... YOU know what I mean).  And then the female digs herself back into the ground where she came from and lays a gazillion eggs.  Yikes!  The eggs become larvae (aka grubworms), which eat the roots of grass and other plants, and which are the reason why moles dig up your yard (not mine though, too much rock). 

They'll make holes in sweet potatoes, too, just so you know.  I put down some Milky Spore powder, but it hasn't seemed to have been as effective here as it was on my lawn in town.  The birds love grubworms (and so did my chickens), so when I dig in the garden and find some, I always pick them up and put them in something they can't climb out of, then leave it out under one of the birdbaths.  Before long, they're all gone, and seems like it increases the numbers of birds that come to our place with every year.  This year, for the first time, we have Bluebirds.  And lately we've been seeing Orioles.  It's been several years now that we've been seeing Scissortails and Goldfinches.  When we moved here, mostly we just had Sparrows.  Then we started seeing an occasional Cardinal and some House Finches and Mourning Doves.  There are Killdeer that run around on The North Fourth.  A couple of years ago, we had our first House Wrens making nests in the gourdhouses.  And Robins.  Oh, so many big, beautiful Robins.  Mustn't leave out the Hummingbirds that come to the feeders and that feed on whatever flowers are in bloom.  Every fall, we have so many Hummingbirds that they get into fights with each other.  It's kind of hazardous to be sitting out on the patio during their fights.  They move so fast.  Once, one zoomed past Hubs' face and almost hit his ear.  Joe and Cathy have Barnswallows that try to make nests under their patio cover.  Cathy was all warm and fuzzy about that until she experienced how messy fledglings in the nest can be.  Now Joe tries to tear out the nests before they get eggs in them.  Early in the mornings, I hear an owl hooting.  And of course we see hawks, buzzards and cranes, and very occasionally, an eagle, in the sky over Charlie's field.  Some are hunting.  Some are on the way to visit Charlie's Pond.  These days, it's a varied Sunrise Seranade.  At night, we hear bullfrogs, treetoads and other amphibian noises.  Sometimes coyote yips and howls, which makes every dog in our neighborhood bark and howl too.   It's a regular menagerie out here.

Nevertheless, bird poop is some high-quality fertilizer, and sometimes they bring you some interesting "encapsulated seed".  I have Sweet Annie (Artemesia) growing in the garden that I never planted.  Last year I had a beautiful red Cockscomb that I never planted.  Of course, they bring you some weed seed, too, but around here, there are already so many weeds, a few more don't make much difference. 

This is now a little later in the day.  Hubs and I went to the Master Gardener's Plant Sale, and there was another smaller sale being held elsewhere so we went to that as well.  Stopped at the grocery store and got a few sale items.  Hit a few garage sales but didn't find anything.  There is a place near the grocery store called Jo Allyn Lowe Park, where people have gone for years to feed the ducks and geese.  They have a website HERE.  The ducks and geese are not afraid of people, in fact sometimes they're kinda aggressive because they are used to getting handouts from people.  So I had brought my jug of Junebugs and they came running when they saw me coming.  One time I took my sister there and we ran out of bread to feed them.  They tried to bite us and ended up accompanying us to the car.  So if you go to feed the ducks and geese, either throw the bread a distance away and get ready to run, or get close to your car BEFORE you run out.  Heh.  They acted like they didn't know what Junebugs were.  Some of them looked at me as if to say, "Hey, WAAAIIIIIIT a minute!  What's THIS stuff s'posed to be???!!!"  But a few of them started to nibble and before I knew it, somebody must've given a signal because they started coming from everywhere and one was honking really loud.  I dumped out all the contents of my jug and they were busy enough I didn't have to try to run.  Yikes!  But, at least it was a good use for the bugs.  I hate to waste them.  Some people actually roast them in the hot coals of a campfire and say they taste like molasses.  I don't care, I'm not hungry enough to try them.  Hope I never am. 

At the plant sales, I bought:
Crocosmia Lucifer, $2
Rosemary, $2.50
Liatris (2), $2.00
Shreiner's Silverado Iris, $7.50
White Daylily, $5
Verbena Sun Purple, $2.00

I have a mental list of things I would really love to have but I didn't find any of those things there.  Sometimes I get lucky and find some really unusual things.  Other times not.  This time they were concentrating on butterfly hosts and attractors, and I already have most of those.  I was glad to find the Rosemary, because my plant that I usually kept at the kitchen window died last year, and the Liatris, because I've been trying to get that started from seed and just haven't had any success for several years now.   

I have most of the plants that I raised from seed beginning in December, in the ground now.  At least as many as I want.  We had a sweet friend over the other day and she took several of the Cherokee Purple tomato plants and two each of the red and the yellow Cheese Pepper plants.  She's just bought a house out in the country and wants to have a garden but needs to start small because there's all that moving and settling in to do this year.  She wants to learn how to do canning.  I might end up with an "apprentice", and I kind of hope so, as I think we'd have fun.  I always dreamed of doing things like this with my own daughter but sadly, it just didn't work out.  I couldn't be what she wanted, and she couldn't be what I wanted, and we just couldn't get along with each other.  The thing about life is, sometimes you just have to go on.  Make friends where family is lacking, and make them your family.  Several of you, you know who you are, feel like family to me. 

I usually give hot pepper plants to our woodchip guy but he hasn't shown up lately so I don't know if I can keep things alive till he does, and am wondering if it is that he doesn't really want them but doesn't want to say.  So I'm thinking I might tuck some more of them into the garden.  It's easier to give away food, at least in my immediate area.  I could have a garage sale and probably sell them right away, that usually happens at my garage sales, but I just haven't had the stamina to put in garden and have a garage sale, too. 

The herb garden is in full swing now.

Yesterday I cut oregano and spearmint for drying.

I have a plant that's doing quite well in the garden, it was wintersown last year and has really come to it's own this spring.  But I'm not really sure exactly what it is.  I started both Angelica AND Lovage.  Does anyone know which this is?

The flowers smell just heavenly, similar to lilacs.  Each little flower is white and tubular, with three little yellow sepals sticking out of the center hole. 

The plant is about 4' tall and the stems are hollow.  The leaves are elongated and narrow, wide-spaced teeth on the edges, and dark green.  I've eaten one, I don't detect a celery-like flavor, but it is delicate - maybe just a tiny bit sweet - not an unpleasant taste, either. 

I've looked at pictures, trying to decide which it is, and I just can't.  I'm really hoping it's Lovage, as I have tried to grow it for several years without success.  But if it's Angelica, I won't be devastated, I like it, too.  Both have hollow stems and are edible.  I even went to Botanical.com HERE and HERE

We had spaghetti for supper last night and I slipped in a little kale that I had in the freezer. 

There is still some kale in the garden that could be picked but I was pressed for time.  Hubs wasn't all that crazy about it and I think what I should've done was whir the kale around in the blender before adding it.  I enjoyedd some again today for lunch.  Supper tonight will be a beef potroast.  No, I don't know if the beef is grass-fed, probably isn't since it doesn't say.  All it says is "Angus", which doesn't cut any ice with me.  And most likely not locally grown.  I have never been a very big meat-eater, and Hubs eats less meat than he used to.  I guess maybe that's the take-home, at least for now.  I used to worry because he would eat so much meat and think nothing of it.  The ground beef in the spaghetti was locally grown.  I had been buying Hunt's Traditional spaghetti sauce because I liked their blend of spices and last time I looked, it didn't contain sugar or corn syrup.  Well, lookit here....

As it happened, I have two quart jars of home-canned whole tomatoes from 2014 that I need to use up.  So I took the lid off the jar, put the Oster blender base and blade onto the jar, set it on the motor and punched a button.  Voila, smooth enough to pour through a mesh strainer to get the seeds out and actually thick enough for tomato sauce.  Added a small handful of dried oregano and a small handful of dried basil, rubbed fine between both hands, about three good-sized garlic cloves that I've been using on all winter, after running through the garlic press, about a teaspoon of powdered fennel.  It was, if I say so myself, yummy.  No sugar, no excitotoxins, no pesticides.  And eat my shorts, ConAgra.  All the additives came out of my garden except for the fennel, and that came from Penzey's.  Don't let people tell you that you can't dry your garden basil and have it keep its flavor.  You most certainly can.  Just don't dry it with heat, and once it's dry, pour it into a jar and keep the jar in the freezer.  I don't use heat to dry any of my herbs.  Culinary herbs are best picked before they bloom, as a general rule.  Medicinal herbs, I understand, are best picked while in bloom because they are stronger then. 

Well, I guess that's all I have for this time, will get this posted to finish off the month. 

Rock on, Y'all....  Hugs xoxoxo

8 comments:

  1. Interesting post Ilene. I love your white flowering mystery plant. Your herb garden looks fantastic. It looks like you got a nice haul of plants at the sale too.

    Happy gardening and Happy May 1st ~ FlowerLady

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    1. And to you, as well, dear Lorraine. Hugs xoxoxo

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  2. June bugs sound horrible (I had to Google) and your cousins sound like typical boys of that age. Yuk to both! We have "house martins" in Scotland and they seem to be similar to your barn swallows. Dad loved birds and although they nested in the corners of our upstairs windows every year and made a terrible mess (and prevented said window from being opened), we loved watching them. When a chick fell out of a nest and died on impact, we were all very upset. I don't often hear an owl hooting, but sometimes I hear a night-time "victory screech" when one has had a successful hunt. The noise freaked Adrian out until I told him what it was. I managed to identify the call of a bird we have heard (but never seen) and called "the Ooeeooeeooee Bird" - now we know it's a Great Tit. The call is very unusual! We regularly see buzzards circling and sparrowhawks sitting on telegraph poles at the side of the road. The usual pheasants, of course, and once, a couple of wet-looking peacocks sitting on next-door's fence, looking bedraggled. They must have been escapees from somewhere local. Your garden is looking very promising - mine is still needing the winter tidy-up that it didn't get before the snow started dumping on us last year. That will involve a lot of cutting back of tall dried stems and some thinning out. I'm hoping that our recent snow hasn't wrecked the flower buds which had formed on my white lilac. Fingers crossed... Happy May! It is here, just :-D

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    1. It's interesting to hear about the wildlife you have in Scotland. I wonder if you have Bermuda grass. I swear, I think that stuff could crawl along the ocean floor till it got to the next continent.

      Happy May to you, too! Hugs xoxoxo

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  3. If you notice the name on the jar...Conagra..they are right up there with Cargill and ADM as big food,meat processing companies and they are in league with Monsanto.
    Your herb garden looks so nice. We have a TSM dehydrator and I use it a lot. I dry celery, carrots and onions then mix the dried stuff together to add when I cook. We vaccucan the dried goods in pint jars. Here is a post Ralph did about the Vaccucanner
    http://crazedcattlewoman.blogspot.com/2015/11/play-toys-and-work.html
    I do not keep the dried herbs in the fridge but we are blessed with a cool dark basement.

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    1. My dehydrator is an American Harvester. I don't use it much now, because I have a larger setup in the walk-in attic where I can dry a lot more at a time, and it uses the heat that's already there, no KWH. I just let herbs lay on a tray away from the sunlight, and whenever I pass by, I run my hands through them to mix them up some. They dry just fine that way. We have a FoodSaver vacuum sealer and jar attachments for both sizes of jar lids so that's how I pack my herbs. I'm going to go look at your setup as soon as I answer Glenda's comment. I have not had time to read very many of your posts but what I have seen are very well done and very interesting. It's wonderful when we can share information with each other! Hugs xoxoxo

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  4. Really enjoyed this one! Before I get side tracked,check out garden heliotrope valerian. I have one plant left and I hope to save seeds for it. I absolutely love to smell it. Did I send you seeds or a plant? The leaf is exactly like mine.

    Love the herb bed near the back door. That is where mine is taking shape. Good buy on the rosemary. I just paid $3.49 for one at a nursery.

    I am getting to where I don't like the taste of any of the jarred sauces. I buy the tomatoes, sauce and paste and season my own. I do hope I can grow enough tomatoes this year.

    Wish I were closer and I would take some of those cheese peppers....my seed was almost a failure. I ended up with two red ones. That should work with all the other peppers I just bought.

    June bugs seem early. I don't get them here until the blackberries are ripe. Hmmm! I will be watching.

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    1. OMG, I looked up "Garden Heliotrope Valerian" and got lots of pictures, and yes, the leaves match perfectly! I'm sure that's what it is. Thanks so much for helping me with this!! Also, I saw where it is also called "All Heal" and I think I had seeds for that at some point that I wintersowed last year and it stayed small all year. I wasn't much impressed at the time. But WOW! I didn't remember where I got the seed but maybe they did come from you... If so, gosh, thanks again! There are at least three big plants of it. I'll be glad to save you some seed. Oh, LOL, I looked up medicinal properties and it's used to treat nervous ailments and hysteria! It's a sleep aid, too. Go to Friendsofthewildflowergarden.org and do a search on garden heliotrope. It's botanical name is Valeriana officinalis.

      I will be saving seed from the cheese peppers, all three colors, so I will mail you some after they've dried. They are my favorite variety. I don't keep my pepper seed in the freezer as those I've frozen before seem to be AWFUL slow to germinate. These, I germinated in a damp coffee filter and didn't put them in their little cup of soil till they had roots sticking out. I don't know if it's the variety that makes them so slow to germinate or what. This year I had fresh seed that was not frozen and they did seem to wake up sooner. This year I also planted Poblano, Jalapeno and an unknown big New Mexico variety that a friend saved from peppers she bought that came from the Hatch Valley in NM. Let me know if you want seed from any of these, if they "live long and prosper", I should have plenty.

      Herb gardens really should be at the back door, don't you think? This little keyhole garden is accessible from the patio, also, so it's very handy. I use it for new plants and things I want to be sure to keep an eye on for awhile, too, as I'm in and out both those doors a gazillion times a day.

      Yes, when I don't have tomatoes canned, I often buy tomato paste. Aldi's Happy Harvest brand lists ingredients as, "Tomato pulp, citric acid".

      When the blackberries are ripe, I get Japanese beetles. June bugs were early last year too, maybe they always have been and I have just not taken notice.

      I wish we were neighbors, Glenda! We could help each other out a lot, and I'd buy half interest in Jewel! I bet Hubs and Max would get along well together.

      Hugs xoxoxo

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