Sunday, July 10, 2016

Odds And Ends And Snippets

The mystery of what is going on "next door" has been solved.  All work ground to a halt after the Wednesday before the July 4th holiday.  Early in the following week, one man showed up.  He worked for a very short while, putting up a couple of lengths of Hardee siding and trying to tack down the tarpaper that was flapping in the breeze on the OSB sheets that are serving as roof decking.  We had rain several times and the tarpaper has not been very good protection.  This last Wednesday morning, he showed up again, and then one other man came.  They put up some more lengths of siding and there was some hammering noises coming from inside the house part of the time.  They also replaced the torn tarpaper with new pieces.  Then, around noon, they loaded their ladders onto a trailer that had been sitting there, hooked on to it, and left.  The Portapotty (whew!), a big red dumpster, a big orange hydraulic tractor of sorts that has a "cherry picker" on it and the trailer that it was brought out on, remained after they were gone.  Considering that this house had workers crawling all over it up till a week ago last Wednesday, and that it is standing there with no windows or doors and the birds were starting to fly into it, it seemed a strange thing.  Then, on Friday afternoon, an 18-wheeler pulled in, unloaded a forklift, and delivered shingles.  No workers that day.  None on Saturday.  But late in the day, when Hubs went to get the mail, our new neighbor-to-be showed up and they visited a bit.  He told Hubs he was coming over on Sunday to cut the grass and that they would start work on the shingles on Monday.  I guess, then, that everything's OK.  Apparently work ceased for the entire week because they had to wait to get the shingles but that seems like a delay that could've been prevented by better planning, to me.  Those shingle manufacturing companies must not make the shingles till someone orders them.  Thankfully, not my problem.  I'm so grateful when things are not my problem.

The title of this post pretty much describes the daily harvests in the garden. 

Every day, a few blackberries, maybe some pineapple tomatillos (aka ground cherries) or some tomatoes, mostly the little Brown Berry Cherry, one or two Cheese peppers, a few cukes.  On Friday, I noticed some of the round oriental pears were turning yellow.  Normally they are bigger when they're ripe, but it has been a strange year, and they are clustered three and four together.  Probably the ones that are left will grow bigger now that they have more room.  The birds have taken notice and have started taking "their share", then the wasps, and ants, and decay move in.

Starting to get a few okra.
I'm disappointed in them this year.  When they are big they are usually still tender.  Not this year.  And the plants are usually tree-sized by now.  Not sure what happened. 

These are Sandplums.  They are about the size of a cherry tomato.  Very tart.  The tree is native to Oklahoma and grows along country roads.  And yes, I was more than just casually careful when picking this time.  Dang thorns.  In a saucepan here, ready to be cooked with just a tiny bit of water.  After cooling, the mixture is drained from a colander.  What drains off gets packed into the freezer for jam making later.  Some people put this mixture in a jelly bag but I find this messy and wasteful.  Jam has more layers of flavor and texture than jelly, anyway.  There are two trees, many, many plums on one tree, not so many on the other.  But they will be more than enough for our needs.  As with the blackberries, slow to ripen, getting a few each day.   What's left in the colander will get buried in the garden, the seeds, having been cooked, will not germinate but will provide tilth to the soil.  Sandplum trees can easily become invasive when given better locations to grow in than they normally get in the wild. 

I promised Hubs a blackberry cobbler, the next time I have the oven on to bake bread.  I've accumulated enough in the freezer now, to make one. 

I watched a YouTube by Gary Pilarchik to find out if my spaghetti squash are ripe.  They are the right color, but they are only about half the size they should be. 

This might be owing to the cold May that we had, which jumped right into hot June.  I don't remember seeing anything quite like this weather, but we always get something weird every year.  Though the squashes are yellow and not green, the stem has not turned hard and brown.  So I will leave them there till that happens, or the plant dies, whichever happens first.  I have had better luck with squash this year.  I had some squash bugs on the cushaws and so I scattered some Sevin powder on the ground under the plants.  It quickly took care of those shield-shaped pesky squash bugs, but not before they managed to transmit their bacteria into two plants.  A third is turning yellow but I'm just watching it for now.  It has a big cushaw on it.  I started some Comfrey "Tea", which I thought might give the squash a boost, and set it in the sun to "simmer", then dumped it onto the ground where the vines are growing, the following morning. 

The water gets nearly black after it's brewed in the sun.  I also put some on the blackberries and some on the Jade bush beans, which have flowers and a few tiny beans on them now.  It might take awhile to see any improvement. 

I'd like to get some of that mushroom compost that can be bought from the mushroom growers in Miami, OK.  I heard a few years ago that it was free if you brought your own truck, but that isn't the case now, if it ever was.  They have a 2 cubic yard minimum, which weighs a ton.  I asked Hubs if the Silverado could haul a ton and he was unenthused.  Not that enthusiasm is in Hubs' nature, anyway, mind you.  It's $17.50 per cubic yard unless you buy 5 tons, which is ten cubic yards, and then it's $26 a ton.  Plus I'd have to pay somebody that has a dump truck to drive all the way to Miami and back, and they'd have to be there between 7:30 am and 4:30 pm weekdays or between 8 and noon on Saturday.  Even then, they won't reserve for you, so there is the risk of sending the dump truck there only to find out they don't have any.  Then I'd be hacked off about having to pay my driver for his time and mileage for nothing.  All this seems kind of cavalier to me.  Alternatives are buying from Lowe's for $3.95 for a bag of only 3/4 of a cubic FOOT.  There are 27 cubic feet in a cubic yard, by the way.  One cubic yard weighs 1000 pounds.  If you do the math, you will see there's a great difference in the price of the bulk versus the bagged stuff.  Hubs said he thinks Overlee's sells it, and I remember seeing a sign outside of a garden center along HWY75 saying "MUSHROOM COMPOST", so I will continue to research alternatives and maybe I will find a source that is priced somewhere in between the two sources.

Our neighbor, Bob, came over on Wednesday and brought us some more cardboard that had been used to protect the floors at his son's new house that's being built on the edge of Bob's property.  No, this is not the same house as the one mentioned at the beginning of this post.  We are all watching TWO new houses getting built.  They stained those concrete floors, rather than put down floor coverings and the contractor was getting ready to polish them.  I've not seen it yet.  It will be interesting.  I had filled the buckets that fit into the garden buggy with wood chips during the cool of the morning and so I was ready for the cardboard.  But it was too hot by then to work in the garden.  Bob reported to me that, though I told them to keep the half gallon of bread and butter pickles I gave them in the refrigerator for a week or two, to let them sweeten up, they haven't been any good at staying out of them, and they are almost all gone.  OMG.

I had a little of the brine left from making the two half-gallon jars of Bread and Butter pickles on Monday, and I got an idea.  I almost always use my Bread and Butters in potato salad, or in tuna or egg salad, and they have to be chopped, so I thought, "Why not just make them chopped, in the first place??"  There's usually so much brine left in the jar when the cucumbers have been cut into chunks like I normally do for this kind of pickle.  Since it's "used brine", you're not supposed to use it to make more, so you end up trying to think of ways to use it.  It makes a good base for a salad dressing, if you like it sweet.  Mom used to mix it into mayonnaise and serve it on salad.  I admit, since this is just for my purposes, and I was making a small amount that wouldn't be canned but would be kept in the refrigerator till it was used, I added some "used" brine that I had in the refrigerator for about half the recipe and the other half was the full-strength stuff.  It was enough to make about a quart and a half.

It needs to "marinate" for awhile, but a taste test reveals that it'll probably be just as good as the pickle chunks are.  More cucumber fits into the jar and therefore less brine to go to waste.  Mom never wasted pickle brine.  What she didn't sneak into our regular meals (and don't get me started on THAT), she drank.  {{{Shiver}}}

Crunchy Muncher cucumbers do not have to be pollinated in order to make good cukes.  In fact, they're even better because they don't make viable seed.  So I wait until I see the bees before I start thinking about saving seed.  Up till then I pick the cucumbers when they are about 8" long, and they are perfect for dipping into Ranch dressing, or cutting up into salads, unpeeled.  By the time I've had my fill of these, I don't mind leaving several on the vine to mature.  They get as much as a foot long sometimes, the skin toughens and turns white with bright yellow towards the blossom end.  Because I don't want to risk damaging the seed by cutting into it, I will usually score the cucumber where I would ordinarily slice it into 1 and 1/2" rounds.  Then I can "twist" the "slices" off the cucumber, remove the seed, and then I can still use the meat of each cucumber slice in pickles, or peel each slice and eat them.  Seed that will be viable is a little more yellow than those that won't be.  Otherwise, it's kind of hard to tell at this point.

I clean my cucumber seed the same way as tomato seed, by pouring them all in a glass with some clean water.  Each time I change the water and rinse them, which is two or three times within a few hours, I remove as much pulp as I can.  With cucumber seed, the "empty" seed floats on the top of the water with some of the cucumber pulp and the viable seed will lay on the bottom of the glass.  So it's easy to just pour off the floaters.  Before the day is out, I've got the bottom layer cleaned well enough that I can pour the whole thing into a wire mesh strainer, and then dump the seeds onto a coffee filter to dry.  You know you have good cucumber seed if, after they've dried, they are smooth and hard, not papery and flat. 

Even if you are having a garden year such that you don't get a lot out of it to eat, if you get seed, that is something you don't have to buy for next year's garden.  And that's nothing to sneeze at, considering what it costs these days to buy a package with a tiny little bit of seed lodged in the bottom fold of the packet.  Though keep in mind, if you're saving tomato seed and the tomato has literally "boiled on the vine", the seed will probably not be viable.  My parents bought fresh seed every year because they were brainwashed into thinking it was better, and any seed they had left over from the previous year, they just threw away, because they believed it wouldn't germinate.  Mom actually told me that if I saved seed from things I bought at the grocery store, it wouldn't germinate.  When I showed her the plants I grew from seed saved from a bell pepper I'd bought at the store, she told me it wouldn't make anything.  When I showed her the green peppers that grew on the plant, she told me I was "a trouble maker".  Heh.  But I do have to admit that the green peppers I got were not as big and beautiful as the peppers from the store.  Once I planted seeds I saved from grape tomatoes and the resulting plants just made cherry tomatoes.  There is much fear among gardeners that eventually we won't be able to buy seed that will grow things from which we can save viable seed.  We have known for awhile that the chemical corporations are buying up seed companies and many see it as a conspiracy to corner the market on seeds by patenting them, like they have been doing with soybeans for many years, so that they can sue us if we grow crops from seeds we have saved from plants that grew from seed we bought.  Now it's real hard to find soybeans or corn that isn't GMO unless you get it from a farmer, and sometimes it's GMO, too.  Now that the chemical companies own the seed companies, they are tinkering with producing seeds for plants that make sterile seed.  And of course most gardeners have changed their minds about hybrids, which either don't make seed, or the seed is sterile, or the plant grown from the seed is not true to the plant it came from.  I remember how impressed Mom was with hybrid tomato seed.  It was, as far as she was concerned, the best thing since sliced bread.  They have been falling out of favor during past years because they don't have the flavor the old varieties have, and because they make you dependent on the seed company for your seed.  So more gardeners are growing open-pollinated, heirloom plants, and more are going back to saving seed, as our ancestors did.

The Rugosa roses have finally made rose hips this year.

They are a lot larger than rose hips I've seen on wild rose bushes.  I picked a couple and now I can't find them.  (Getting old is the pits.)  By the time I find them, if, in fact, I haven't thrown them away, they might be moldy and ruined.  Sheeeeesh.

I have not had to plant Maypop vine for several years now.  They come up in some of the oddest places though, and you wouldn't think that'd happen since we have so much rock in the ground.  I like to grow Maypop because it is host to the Gulf Fritillary butterfly and they are beautiful with their shiny silver wing linings.  They are not very big and their worms are horribly ugly, they look like the worms that are inside those webs that we see on trees around here, mainly Redbud, Pecan and Persimmon.  Webworms are nasty and just gross me out.  The worms on the Maypop are black, and they gross me out, too, but I tolerate them because of the butterflies.  But I have torn apart several webworm "habitats", thrown large chunks of webs full of worms in the burn barrel, and Hubs has been cutting infested branches off the Redbuds and throwing them in, also.  I lit the burn barrel on Friday morning, early, because I didn't want the worms crawling out and reinfesting, if that's possible, or maturing into some flying thing and infecting something else.  HERE is an article from Growing A Greener World about them. 

There is a Monarch in the larval stage on my fennel. 

I grow plants with umbels in the garden specifically to attract the beneficials.  I've seen these on dill umbels and on my tomato plants before and have picked them off and thrown them on the ground, sometimes even squashing them (ick) not knowing what they are, other than, well, worms....  If you get your kids out into the garden, the garden holds many life lessons to teach.  The existence of worms in the garden can teach one to appreciate the unlovely and gross, for instance.  It also teaches that sometimes what seems like a bad thing can be a good thing (and vice-versa).  That's been true of so many things that have happened in my life that I can hardly begin to mention them all.  My Grammy used to say, "It's an ill wind that blows no good".  Some people don't understand the meaning of this "momily", but it is true that many bad things that happen to us turn out to open the door for a good thing that couldn't have happened without that door being opened. 

Here is something else that just seems to spring up every year.

I've tried saving the seed and actually sowing it somewhere, but it never grows where it's sown and seems to come up where it wants to.  They are called "Kiss Me Over The Garden Gate".  I read somewhere that the seeds of this plant were introduced into North America by Thomas Jefferson.  I used to have seeds for a variety with variegated leaves, which was quite pretty, but it wasn't as good at self-sowing as this variety is.  So one year I failed to save seed and that was that.

This little low-growing plant has been a really great bloomer and has cheered me up many times when everything around me was dry and wilted.  I bought it at the Garden Club plant sale this last spring.  It's supposed to be a Verbena, "Sun Purple", but it must've been mis-marked.  I like the red, though.....  Might be Peruvian Red or Estrella VooDoo Red or Aztec Red.  In my research to find what it's variety might be, I see that some say it's an annual, some say it's a perennial.  I hope it's a perennial. 

This is one of the Russian Red Kale plants that I cut down even with the ground after it was done going to seed.  Gosh, it had a trunk on it that was probably three inches across.  The bugs in my garden just love kale, and it's a little too bitter for me to eat, until it's had a frost.  Maybe they'll stay off the beans if they have bellies full of kale.  The grasshoppers won't show up until later this month or maybe into August.  Haven't seen any Japanese Beetles yet, but I've had them pretty thick in a couple of years past.  I put down Milky Spore in the garden beds and in places around the yard, but digging continues to unearth grubworms, which are the larval stage of at least several kinds of beetles, including Japanese Beetles and what we call "Junebugs".  Whenever I dig, I bring a container out with me and every grubworm I find goes into the can.  At the end of my digging session, I dump those grubworms into a flowerpot drip-dish, that I have sitting on top of an overturned flowerpot near the birdbath, and they are gone in no time.  Once in awhile I see a bird getting one out of the dish, but not always, so much so that I thought for awhile that they were crawling out and going back down into the ground.  But I have an awful lot of VERRRRRRY fat robins, so maybe not.

The ginger plants are growing, but slowly.
 

I planted Broad Windsor fava beans in newspaper cups.  Six of them emerged fairly quickly, and they were transplanted out into the garden.  Fava beans are not supposed to like being transplanted, but if they're in newspaper cups I don't think they can tell they have been.  Nonetheless, there are only three plants out there now.

Two coming up, finally, in their newspaper cups.  I don't think they like the heat.

Long Island Cheese are getting bigger.

My garden is such a jungle.  I feel like it's preferable to leave the tall grass in the garden, the kind that doesn't have very deep roots, unlike the Bermuda grass and the Bindweed.  If I leave it in place, it keeps Bermuda and Bindweed at bay and seems to help keep the soil from drying out so fast.  Of course, it gives the chiggers a place to hang out and wait for dinner to come along (me).  I've found that rubbing a little coconut oil that's had several drops of lavender essential oil added to it on my legs and ankles before I go out seems to help repel them.  And also seems to make the bites of the ones who do get past it to itch less.  Sometimes it just isn't practical to jump into the shower and then change clothes after every time I've been in the garden, since I go out at intervals, resting in between.  And of course, a shower does absolutely nothing towards making the bites itch less.  I've tried painting on ChiggerRid.  I've tried Benadryl cream.  Several other things.  So far lavender EO is better than anything else.  Plus I like the smell.

We have had several rains since the beginning of July.  Once, it was a good soaking rain that delivered two to three inches.  The rest of the time, it's been mostly surface moisture.  And it's been stinkin' hot and humid.  Some days I work in the garden for a few hours in the morning and some days I just don't give a rat's a$$.

Carole sent me a link to an interview with Craig Lehoullier on the A Way To Garden blog.  It's on my blogroll, actually, but I hadn't visited it yet.  It's about 'Epic Tomatoes' and I found it very interesting.  He calls himself the NYC Tomato Man.  We had a 'tomato man' in one of the communities in Tulsa, and that's where I got my first heirloom tomatoes.  His name was Darrell Merrill.  I saved seed and am still growing some of the same varieties.  Some were wonderful, some were disappointments, but all were interesting.  I went back the following spring to get some different varieties from what I had, but he was sick and stayed in the house while his daughter sold the plants for him.  After his death, his daughter continued to grow and sell heirloom tomato plants, under the name 'Tomato Man's Daughter', but I haven't gotten around to visiting her.  HERE is a Tulsa World article about her.  Anyway, since learning about heirloom tomatoes and that there is, indeed, a better tomato than "Better Boy" and "Early Girl", which is what my mother always grew, I've gotten seed from many sources:  trades on the GardenWeb seed-trading site, and from seed companies like Totally Tomatoes and of course Baker Creek's Rare Seeds.  If you go to YouTube and put 'Craig Lehouillier' in the search box, you will find he has several 'how to' videos up.  Oh, and I want some of those Egg Yolk cherry tomato seeds for next year, even though I'm pretty happy with Brown Berry. (Baker Creek has them, so does Sustainable Seeds.)

Now.  Have I given you enough to think about for a Sunday afternoon??  Hugs xoxoxo

4 comments:

  1. Very cool about the Fava's and what an interesting harvest mix. Ginger is slow and yours looks very good. The ducks found ours and ate it to the dirt...there are tiny sprouts showing up again so we will leave it. Below is the link t what I did with our tough Okra...after drying them.
    https://www.pinterest.com/pin/428545720763352995/

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  2. Another very interesting read.

    Don't you long for a perfect growing season? Just not gonna happen where we live!

    Japanese Beetles.....and now we are being invaded by the webworms. The hit the sapling persimmon tree first. I used to torch them but last year even the webs wouldn't burn. Things get stranger and stranger in our world. I suspect we are doing it to ourselves.

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  3. I don't remember gardening being this hard when my parents had their gardens, at their home in nearby Copan. Hubs says he doesn't remember that his parents ever watered their garden, but he does remember being sent out to hoe between the bean rows, which he hated.

    The squash bugs have managed to kill off my Cushaw pumpkin plants, all but one now, and today I saw those white nymphs, so I sprinkled a little Sevin powder under the plant, and on the dying one, as I know they'll be crawling all over under them. At least so far I've only seen them on the Cushaw, and I powder them down whenever I see them, but when those are gone, will they manage to start a new generation on my LI Cheese, or the Black Futsu, or the cukes, or the melons? **(^&&*%$*%##!!~#$%%Y)))) (cusswords)

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