Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Daily Doin's, Last Week Of March, 2016

This is Saturday, the day started out very overcast and coolish.  It didn't freeze this morning.  That happened yesterday morning, and it was colder yet than the last three freezing mornings have been. 

Are we going backwards? 

We had brought everything in for that night.  Last night we just brought the carts of tomato plants in, and put the shower doors on top of the cold frame where everything else is.  It was in the lower 40's this morning, but I think a little warmer in the cold frame.  Nonetheless, I worried a little about those pepper plants, since I don't know how cold is TOO cold.  Obviously, there is a point at which it can't be missed, because the plants will be dead.  But I've gotten pepper plants through freezing weather (I planted too early one year), only to stunt the plants and make them resistant to fruiting for all the rest of their lives.  So, what's the magic number, I wonder?  You know, not cold enough to kill but cold enough to stunt?  A quick search on the Internet indicated that nobody else knows for sure, either, though I did find some tables for temperatures at which production will suffer if the plants are already in bloom.  So if anyone out there knows, let me know.  I sure hope I haven't messed 'em up for this year, as some I am only growing because I want new seed. 

Those Grow Network folks did not send me an invite to their last symposium but they've been sending me reminders since it ended as if I had attended.  And that's disappointing since I probably would have if I'd known about it.  Sheesh.  I mean, truly, it's a sales pitch.  Actually, several.  But there's a lot of good information that can be gleaned.  One of the emails they sent had a link on it to something I was interested in, and I went there, and then followed another link on THAT, and....  well, I had to dink around a little bit to reconstruct it because I wanted to share the links on it with Carole, so I'll share it HERE , for you all as well, while I still know how to get to it.  I swear, getting old is just the pits most of the time. 

But anyway. 

This is an information-packed post on fruit tree pruning, and it showed the difference between a branch with fruit spurs on it and one without, which was very helpful. There are six video links (to YouTubes done by Bill Merrill) that cleared up a lot of confusion I'd been experiencing about how to go about pruning my fruit trees, or whether I should, even.  Over the years, I haven't pruned except to cut off dead branches and maybe remove a branch that's crossing another.  But I never knew whether I was doing it right, and lots of times the tree responded in strange ways.  I never understood the principles involved and how, while it does reduce the number of pieces of fruit you end up having dangling from your tree, those that are on the tree are bigger and healthier.  I don't know if you remember this, but last year my Hale Haven (a cling-style peach that ripens in the fall, unlike Red Haven, which is what I thought I was getting when I bought it) was absolutely loaded with little peaches.  We had so much rain in the spring that the grape arbor nearby came down with a bad case of fungus, and it spread to that peach tree, blackened and dried up every single solitary piece of fruit on that tree!!  That would've been my first real harvest from that tree, although I had a small "first harvest" a couple of years before.  I sprayed it and the grape arbor with a copper fungicide (Liqui-Cop) but of course it was too late to save the fruit.  The tree seems to have recovered and looks good.  But the grapevines have not budded up yet and still look bare and raggedy, so not sure what'll happen.  Hubs told me I ALWAYS worry about why that grape arbor is not greening up.  I remember worrying about the Crape Myrtles, but I don't remember worrying about the grapes.  But oh well.

Bill Merrill's YouTube ID is greengardenguy1, and if you go to his Channel List HERE, you'll find he has a lot to offer, and I think he knows his stuff.  Plus he plays a really bangin' guitar.  If you doubt, go HERE.  This instrumental has significant meaning for Hubs and me.  He had a li'l green car when he was a teenager -- it was his first car, in fact.  Green Onions was popular then, and that's what he stenciled on the side of his car.  Click on the list and have a listen with me.

Oh, yeah....

Since pruning reduces the number of fruits on the tree, I wonder, then, if that will eliminate the need to go out after the peaches have formed and break off all but one fruit per spur, as some people have recommended.  It kills me to do this, because lots of things can still happen to that fruit.  There might be a bird that pecks a big, ragged hole in the fruit.  Or bug / larvae damage.  It'd be nice to be able to pick a damaged fruit off and still have a Plan B. 

My experiment with the in-situ rooting of a branch while still on the plum tree failed, and the branch died.  So today I went out and, knowing what branches should be taken out in order to "open up" the tree, took some cuttings.  I can hardly believe this, because the plum trees seem to be the most easily damaged by frost of all the trees in my back yard, but there are already bitty green plums hanging on that tree, and they are STUCK on there, really tight!  How about THEM apples?  ---er---- plums?  We are still not out of the woods yet, however, as Mesonet says there's another frost coming on Monday morning.  And then of course we have the barrage of insects and diseases.  Fruit growing is a crapshoot, even moreso than gardening, because you can't even replant.  Somebody told me the other day that you weren't gardening in Oklahoma if you haven't replanted, at least once.

We had "a chance" of rain today and we got about five minutes of sprinkles under the overcast sky.  That was it.  Better chances for tonight and Mesonet advises accumulation of a quarter of an inch to an inch.  I took the hose out to the garden yesterday and watered the little pea plants that are emerging because they were wilted pretty badly.  Not coming up very thickly yet.  These were pre-sprouted and then planted, and that very night there was an abrupt change in the forecast and we got an unexpected frost, which stalled the peas out.  I wasn't even sure they survived as they are kind of delicate when they are in the early sprouting stages.  And some of them may not have.  There are lots of blank spaces between seedlings.  I watered the strawberry bed too.  Oh, so many plants in the bed by last fall, and hardly any there now. 

This is now Sunday.  Easter Sunday, in fact.  Our neighbors up the road had an egg hunt in their field that's just south of us so it was kind of a noisy afternoon.  And then, after dark, somebody shot off fireworks on the hill south and east of us.  Fireworks aren't usually part of The Easter Experience, so I don't know exactly what was going on.

We got some rain this morning and it seemed awfully cold.  I took the temperature gun out and it was in the upper 30's.  Holy Cow!  Inside the cold frame, under the shower doors, it was almost 10 degrees warmer.  So I left everything alone, and since we have a freeze warning out for tomorrow morning, we'll be bringing all that inside, early this evening. 

This morning's newspaper announced the dates of the two spring plant sales that I always go to.  The one run by the various Garden Clubs in our area is on April 16 at Eastland Center, its usual venue, starting at 8:30.  I don't usually buy much from this sale, unless I find something unusual, because they price their stuff almost as high as the stores do.  The one I always wait for with baited breath is the one that the Master Gardeners group has, and that's going to be on April 30.  This year the venue has been changed to the Washington County Extension Service office parking lot in Dewey.  I always find something interesting there and they don't charge an arm and a leg for it.  So it's a win-win.

I found an interesting YouTube about peppers this morning, HERE.  This fellow's name is Ray Browning and he has a lot of videos under his YouTube ID of Praxxus55712.  I initially went to it because I want to prune my peppers this year and see if I think that increases production, and it seemed like everybody that had a video on that referenced someone else so I just kept following the chain because I wanted to get this information from the source, and I ended up with Ray Browning. 

I have, during the last couple of years, watched a lot of YouTubes done by John Kohler (Growing Your Greens), and I put up with what amounted to the occasional "plug", that he was probably paid for, in order to learn how he does what he does.  I realize John has to earn a living but it doesn't take long to start wondering where his "been there done that" advice ends and paid advertising begins.  I also got a lot of information from Gary Pilarchik (The Rusted Garden), in fact, HERE is a good demonstration about using Iron Phosphate to kill garden slugs and snails. But here again, I've used Slug-Go before, and the instructions said not to let it get wet.  Well, how the hell is THAT done??  So if I need this remedy again I think I'll look for the Natria brand, which Gary says on his video is not adversely affected by moisture.  I'll read that label first, though, just to be sure.  Gary also said it's not a good idea to use Diatomaceous Earth, because it'll also kill the beneficial insects.  *Sigh*.

When people post YouTube videos they get paid a little something every time it's viewed, and I don't mind their making money off me in this way.  I don't even mind if they recommend a product to buy now and then.  But if that happens often, and they aren't sharing any knowledge on how to do things with stuff you already have or that don't cost much, then I start to get suspicious as to how much of this stuff they actually DO.  After awhile I don't know whether to trust their advice at all. 

Boy, did I ever wander off topic.  Backtracking now....

I wanted to do pepper pruning last year but I didn't.  Things got kind of complicated last year.  So I want to give this a try this year.  When you're learning a new "practice", don't be like me and do it to every single plant you have.  I've had Total Crop Failure by doing something somebody said was an incredible thing to do, because it, for some reason, didn't work for me.  There's a lot of "parroting" on The Internet, done by people who have never actually tried what they recommend.  If, indeed, they ever do any gardening at all.

During this particular video Ray addresses the advice that literally everybody will give you about peppers, and that is, "Don't plant peppers deeper than their original soil line".  I've planted peppers deeper than they have grown in their Starter Pot, and I never paid that much attention to it, because I didn't know, for many years, that I was doing anything wrong.  I can't say that they did worse or better because I didn't have a Control Plant or anything.  But Ray shows clearly where his pepper plants actually have made more roots up the stem when planted deeply, just like tomato plants will do.  One thing I did notice, and maybe this is just me, but when I planted my peppers in containers, the roots grew mostly in the top 6" of the soil.  They went all the way to the sides of the pot they were in, which was about 14" across, and then stopped.  So they didn't do as well or get as big as the peppers that I planted in the ground, where they could grow out as far as they wanted to.  And it seemed like I was having to water nearly every day.  I found this to be true of sunflowers, too, when I put a bottomless coffee can into the ground around it, so that I could water and get that water right to the roots.  The sunflowers didn't grow as strong as usual, and when one fell over in the wind, I found it had filled the coffee can full of roots and not grown very many roots underneath.  So what I'm saying is, listen to what other people say, try it if you want, but be observant and see if it truly works for you.  Don't just accept it as gospel because "everybody" says you should do it that way. 

Ray Browning has a few other interesting ideas when it comes to tomato plants.  He plants three tomato plants together in the same space, HERE, and he grows without caging, HERE, by keeping the tops lopped off.  I'm going to try both these, for sure, this year, because those damned cages just drive me NUTS!  The best ones I've ever had were made from a roll of reinforcement wire.  They're supposed to be made from the flat panels but I can't get those here, and because I had to use wire from a roll, they were bent out of shape more and more the further I got into the roll.  Some of my cages will never really be straight. I like how cages made of this stuff fold flat for storage and I like the stuff is wide enough that I can cut off the bottom horizontal piece and have about 6" of the vertical wires that will then poke down into the ground and therefore stay put better.  HERE is the post I wrote telling how we made those.  And I should add that those "hooks" on the open side CATCH on EVERYTHING!!  Mine didn't line up very well, either.  So I would cut off those sticky-outy pieces along the edges of that open side, you know, the ones that are bent into the hooks, and the cages, when opened and set around the plant, can just be tied or wired together where the two sides meet. 

Ray spoke of his uncaged tomato plants not being bothered by 35mph winds, and he is a-singin' my song.  He also debunks the oft-repeated advice to prune your tomato plants by removing the sucker branches.  Don't THAT beat all!  I don't remove my tomatoes' sucker branches, anyway, because this is Oklahoma and the tomatoes that are on the vine need all the shade they can get.

Before you leave Ray Browning, watch THIS video about how to make compost tea easily.  And HERE is about how to make compost easily along with a debunk about brown/green and an explanation about the difference between "brewed" compost tea and "steeped" compost tea.  HERE is another of his videos worth watching.  Something about this guy I've noticed is, if you don't pay close attention, you're liable to miss something that he just throws in there as an aside that turns out to be something you can really use.  For instance, y'all know I have trouble with Bindweed and Bermuda grass, right?  Guess what the cure just might be?  CLOVER.  Right now, I have both Dutch White and Red growing "here and there".  The Dutch White is growing at the end of my patio.  It grows close to the ground and the leaves are small.  We've been walking on it and it doesn't seem to be suffering any.  If we had a bunch of kids running in and out, that might be a different story, not sure.  Red Clover grows about a foot tall and so when I find a clump, I transplant it into one of the guilds that I'm building under my fruit trees.  A couple of interesting things about clover: 1) it holds it's own with Bindweed and Bermuda, and 2) it fixes nitrogen in the soil.  Did you see, in one of the above videos, where Ray had clover growing in all his garden paths?  I might transplant some clover under each tomato plant.  Tomato plants are BIG nitrogen feeders.  If that's not a symbiotic relationship, I don't know what is.  I might even be able to plant my tomato plants in the same place every year if I have clover there.  Seeds for another experiment, here.  You know my wheels are always turnin'. 

This is now Monday, I went out this morning at 6:45 and aimed my temperature gun at the plum tree.  23º.  My temperature gun is a Mastercool Infrared Thermometer and I like it a lot.  I use it to locate drafty spots in the house, and yesterday I started using it to check the temperature outside.  When I worked at Grisham Eye, the nurses were always complaining to the Administrator that they were too cold, or too warm, and he would just pull one of these out of his desk drawer and aim it at the vents when the HVAC was running to see if there was adequate cold or hot air coming from them.  If it hadn't been for my being witness to that, I would've never known such a thing existed.  I imagine it could also be used to check the soil temperature, just dig a hole and aim the little red beam into the center.  But I've not actually done that yet.

I think I've said before that I don't get paid anything by ANY of these people or other resources that I mention in my blog.  I purposely do not allow advertising on my blog, as it annoys me.  I do my blogging for creative outlet and fun, as a way to help me organize my jumbled thoughts, and to eliminate the need for lonnnnng letters sent to friends.  So if I recommend something, I really mean it.  If I say I'm "trying" something, I'm doing just that, and usually afterwards I'll say whether it worked for me or not.  Just because it didn't work for me doesn't mean that it won't work for you.  There are lots of other factors involved, like climate and soil differences.  And sometimes I get lazy and careless, at which time, the garden is pretty much on it's own.  But if I think a product is a waste of money, I want to be able to say that rather than lie about it because of money involved.  And I don't mind at all if people comment and say they got different results.  But seriously, I put on a post some time ago about all the trouble we had laying down SwiftLock flooring from Lowe's when we did the floor in our living room.  Daily, that is STILL my most popular post, so that tells me there are a LOT of people searching for help on this subject.  If their installation was going OK, they wouldn't be searching for help, you know?

Every now and then I get a comment from someone saying they had no trouble at all, and that's just fine with me, unless they're hateful about it.  Hubs and I have been DIY-ing for nearly 50 years.  This is not to say we don't make mistakes or run into unexpected stuff, but when we do, I do what everybody else does.  I research it till I find a solution.  We successfully put down laminate flooring in three rooms at The Ponca House, where we lived between 1999 and 2009, with no trouble at all.  Two of the rooms had a concrete floor, like our floors are here.  And we put this same stuff down in the kitchen and dining room here in 2011 without having as much trouble.  The only thing I can think is that we must've gotten part of a bad batch.  One of the comments I received on this post was deleted because I won't encourage rude behavior.  And that's all I'm going to say about THAT.

This is now Tuesday, the 29th.

There was smoke in the sky to our north yesterday evening.  I went to bed and didn't worry for us because the wind was out of the south.  I have heard there is a bill being pushed by local ranchers (many of which are doctors and lawyers) that will allow them to do "prescribed burns" on their own land, during a burn ban.  Oh, man!  Fire travels really fast when it's windy and dry.  So, what happens when their fire jumps off their land and burns my house down?  Some of these guys will set fire to their land and then not even stay with it.  I suppose I shouldn't even mention the acrid smell of smoke in the air that, anywhere else, would be considered "air pollution".  And that's all I'm going to say about THAT.

I got an e-mail from Paula telling me about their Easter Egg Hunt.  Paula has a couple of adolescent grandchildren and one toddler grandchild so she has to do stuff that appeals to both ages.  Brilliant idea, she hid plastic eggs for the hunt, some had candy in them, some had Nerf bullets.  After the hunt she brought out the Nerf guns and I could well imagine the pandemonium that followed. 

This is now Wednesday and I'll try to post today.

I went out to the peach tree to see if there was anything I could do right now.  And oh, yeah. 

Lots of the new growth had died, probably as a result of the fungus that the tree had last year.  I took all that off, and some older dead branches.  Identified the "middle" trunk that I will cut off at about four or five feet, but I won't do that now.  The tree has lots of tiny peaches on it and many of them are on that middle trunk, 'way up high.  I'll go ahead and let it try to get peaches to maturity, if we don't get a freeze that kills them all off before then, and I'll wait till the tree has gone dormant to take the top of that middle trunk out and shorten the length of all those side branches.  I can see my error in letting those side branches grow too long.  I will have to do some serious scaffolding under the tree if peaches get to any size at all this year as none of those branches have enough size to support fruit.  I wish I'd watched those pruning videos earlier, but maybe it's best to see how the trees have leafed out and where the fruit is.  I also saw a web with worms in it, getting started up high in the tree.  I have read that the best thing to use on webworms is oil.  We needed a few things at Aldi and so I got a can of pan-coating spray while I was there.  I had opened the web and smashed as many of the worms as I could, so by the time we got home, I couldn't find where the web had been.  If my past experience counts for anything, they'll be back.  I checked the plum tree that I found worms in last year, and found a small nest, so I opened it up with a stick and sprayed into it.  That was about half an hour ago.  This is what it looks like now.

Kinda gross looking, but I don't see any worms.

After coming in, I watched THIS video about how to sharpen your tools, and mine seem to have gotten pretty dull. 

We also stopped at Green Thumb Nursery on the way home.  Wednesdays are Senior Citizen Day, and we get a 10% discount.  I picked out a Golden Lemon Thyme and a Pineapple Sage.  The thyme is a perennial, in fact, Glenda sent me some one year, but it didn't like where it was planted.  I'll try a new spot this time.  The sage is an annual in my zone 6a, but Dave's Plant Files says it roots easily.  I hope I can remember to take cuttings this fall.  The girl who orders things showed me her list of things she is ordering today and asked me if anything struck my fancy.  Well, yes, several things did, in fact.  Orange Mint, for one.  And Lime Mint.  I'll get those NEXT week!

Well, we are being treated to rolling thunder and sprinkles. I had planned to do some more weed and grass digging in the eastern-most raised bed, under the stock-panel arch where I will plant Lazy Housewife beans this summer.  We need the rain, so I will be grateful for it and change my plans accordingly.

Rock on, y'all......  Hugs xoxoxo

Friday, March 25, 2016

Garden Roller-Coaster and Internet Education: The Countdown To April

I start this on Tuesday.  We've had three mornings of below-freezing weather.  All the fruit trees and bushes were already in bloom except for a couple of young cherry trees. 

The first morning, I went out and sprayed the trees down with water.  But I had trouble with the hose kinking and freezing.  By the time I was done, no more water would come out of the hose nozzle, and it had backed up on me a couple of times and gotten me wet.  The next morning was less cold and I didn't go out, except to see if the grass was frozen and crunchy underfoot, and it wasn't.  And the third morning was worse than the first, so I knew the hose wasn't going to work.  I didn't feel well, my shoulder was acting up, and so I just rolled my eyes and stayed in the house.  "Oh, well", I thought. 

But, it looks like several things have made it through.  The Jonquils are still blooming madly.  I can see the oldest peach tree out my kitchen window, and its flowers are still there and look ok.  This morning it was in the mid-fifties.  Another cold morning predicted for Friday morning, but so far Mesonet does not show that it will be lower than 32.  We are not out of the woods yet.  One year, we had a solid week of below-freezing weather, all night and all day, IN APRIL.  And by that time all the tiny fruit, which was hanging on the trees like little pendants, froze solid, then turned soft and fell off when they thawed out.  Suffice it to say there was no fruit that summer. 

When I do get fruit, I do not let any of it go to waste because I may not get anything for the next two or three years.  Small windfalls become jam or jelly.  Large windfalls become juice.  And bad spots go in the compost. 

Porter, Oklahoma, which is just on the other side of Tulsa from us, is "The Peach Capital of Oklahoma", and they have a big peach festival in the middle of July.  HERE is Livesay Orchards' website.   Hubs used to drive his mother there, some summers, and she'd buy a couple of bushels of peaches to put up.  You could buy them already picked and that's what she did.  They cost a little more that way but it was better than risking falling off the ladder.  Plus it was a lot quicker, just grab the goods, pay for it, and go.  No having to be taken out to where the trees were, and so on.  She always wanted those raggedy cling peaches because she thought the flavor was better.  Me, I want Red Haven.  Easy to peel, none of that prying out the pit, and I think the flavor is every bit as good as any other variety.  But that was Hubs' Mom for you.  She was "set in her ways" and far be it from me, her youngest daughter-in-law, to try to tell her any different.  She didn't seem to have a very high opinion of me, mostly because I went and married her youngest son (whatta lotta nerve!!) and she would put up with no truck from me.

The folks at Livesay's go to great lengths to ensure that they'll have a peach crop every year.  They set up big fans and smudge pots for those times when there are late freezes.  Some years they pay people to hover over the orchard in helicopters in order to stir up the air enough to keep the frost from affecting the crop.  It's always on the news when they do that. 

People say if it rains while it's below freezing, or if the wind is blowing, your crop won't be affected.  But usually when there's frost, it's as quiet as a tomb out there.

I just tell myself, if God wants me to have fruit to put up, He'll let me have it.  Otherwise, so be it.  Welcome to Oklahoma, aka Bi-Polarland.

Today, it's as windy as the bejeezers and we've got a Red Flag fire warning on us. 
I clipped this kerchief on the clothesline just to give you some idea of the wind.  It'll be twirled over the line in a knot in no time at all. 

This is the first day of hardening off for the peppers, and they're in the cold frame with the shower doors over them.  Otherwise the wind would beat them to death.

The tomato plants have been coming out every day.  You might say "This ain't their first rodeo".  Heh.  But they will get tired of "waving around" after awhile and I'll have to take them in before the day's over.  They have developed good sturdy "trunks". 

Under this shower door are some of the Wintersown things.  The wind's blown my new little rhubarb plants around so much, one of the leaves was broken off, so I heaped up some wood chips around them.  It's a cloudy day today, but if the sun was out bright and there was no wind, everything would die under those shower doors.  There's a lot of babysitting this time of year.  The wind was too much for my little Nasturtiums, so I've already had to bring them in, give them a good watering, and put them back under the lights. 

The Sweet Shrub (Calycanthus) aka Carolina Allspice, has bloomed.  I bought it last spring at Tractor Supply.  Now I'm reading that it will sucker and take over so the herb garden is probably not a good place to keep it.  It's there now because it was small and I wanted to watch it.  I barricaded it with some hardware cloth because I was afraid the rats and rabbits would eat it down to the ground, but I guess I didn't need to.  What I didn't barricade was the little apple trees I grew from seed, so the rabbits topped those off, instead.  *Sigh*.  There are about four survivors out of the eight, that are leafing out.  We apparently have finally been able to close up all the places where the rabbits were coming in because, daily, they hang out along the outside of the fence, apparently hoping for an opening to magically appear. 

HERE is what Dave's Plant Files have to say about Calycanthus.  The scent of the flowers is familiar to me but I can't put my finger on it at the moment.  I want to say similar to the smell of Hedge Apples, but no, not that.  Kind of turpentine-ish...  Gosh, I wish Paula or Carole were here, I bet among the three of us, one of us could hit the nail on the head as to where I've smelled that smell before. 

While I was researching something else, I saw a YouTube where this man was making "plant juice" for fertilizer, that's HERE.  He says to look for what is a prolific weed or plant that is growing on your land, because it's thriving on your land because it's able to make enzymes and hormones that is missing in the soil.  Well, my first thought was (say it WITH me...), BINDWEED.  And so I began doing searches on the Internet to see whether it has any beneficial stuff in it and OMG, they're using Bindweed leaves to cure cancerHERE is something about that.  But WebMD says "Greater Bindweed" (it doesn't give the botanical name so I don't know if we're talking about the same thing here) (and frankly, I don't think it's all that "great".  Heh.)  is a strong laxative and can interact with a lot of drugs so just so you know, I'm not recommending it for internal use.  But to say the least, I was surprised to learn that Bindweed was beneficial in ANY WAY. 

There is a YouTube that comes up right after the first "plant juice" video is finished, where a man is also making "plant juice" for fertilizer, but he's using Kudzu vine because that's what grows madly where he lives.  Just as my Grammy used to say, "Every cloud has a silver lining".  Heh.  It does remind me that I heard, or read, somewhere that when you have a problem in the garden, there is almost always the "cure" in close proximity.  We just don't recognize it as such because we are not trained to do so.

This is now Thursday.  Our grandson, JC (not the one with the twins, that's JR) called late last night and woke us up, saying there was fire out here.  I got up and called Joe, as it looked like they were still up over there.  He said he thought there might be fire across the highway, but the wind was out of the northwest, so it would be blown away from us rather than toward us.  So I then went back to bed and was able to sleep the rest of the night.  This morning we got up and found out the fire had been at Bar-Dew (an area between Bartlesville and Dewey), in which case it might have come in our direction and that's why there was so much smoke in the air out here.  But in order to get here it would have to burn a lot of densly populated areas before it got to us.  Not saying that couldn't happen, just that there would be a lot more effort towards putting the fire out than there is when it's just burning fields. 

It's cool-ish today, with only a high of 59º expected and tomorrow morning we are still expecting that low of 30º.  Then another freezing opportunity on Monday morning. 

Today I was viewing a You-Tube on Weeds And What They Tell You, and at the end the man said to Google "Dynamic Accumulators".  Well, I did (actually I used "Bing"), and that opened up enough sources to keep me busy for the rest of the day. 

From Permies: A nice list of Dynamic Accumulators and the minerals they accumulate.
From Seaberry / Sea Buckthorn: The Silver Lining Of Weeds.
From Practical Plants: Know The Spot, But Not The Plant?
From Crow's Daughter's Herbal Wisdom blog: Dandelion Root Nourishing Herbal Vinegar
From Learning Herbs:  Recipe for Dandelion Fritters.
From The Survival Gardener: Lots of cool things to look at.  Scroll down and check out the video of how to make a Smilax omelet.
From Eat The Weeds: How to identify Smilax aka Green Briar.
From University of Florida: a PDF on Identifying the various varieties of Smilax, including Sarsaparilla.
The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable by Juliette deBairacli Levy can be found for sale on Amazon, and it has been reviewed favorably.  I tried to find a free e-book, as it's an old book and probably available somewhere for free, and found a link, but it took me to a display of women's crotches.  All I will say about that is that SOME women just have NO pride.  No link provided.  You're on your own with this one.
From YouTube: Eat The Weeds' video list.  If you can't eradicate them off your land, eat 'em.  And I did not know that the flowers and young pods from Redbud trees are edible. Hmmmm.

With all my garden seedlings/plants outside most of the time now, my mind has turned to the warmer season crops.  I have Long Island Cheese pumpkin seed waiting to germinate in a damp coffee filter, and last night I soaked and then set to germinating some Burpless Muncher (aka WI5207) cucumber seed. 
I wasn't expecting the seed to germinate very well because some of them didn't feel filled out, and the ones I direct-seeded last summer didn't come up at all.  But there were only three seed that didn't germinate, and overnight, no less.

It is so hard for me to waste a germinated seed.  Don't ask me why, because I do not know!  So I planted these, two to a newspaper cup, topped each off with a tablespoon of worm castings, and watered well.  Ended up with 24 cups.  This is 'way more than I'm going to need but maybe I can find homes for them. 

I will forever be grateful to Paula for sharing with me the method of germinating seeds in damp coffee filters because often I've direct-seeded something and have had it not come up.  Our yard and garden is routinely worked over by the birds, and I like that because they bring in free fertilizer and often they "plant" an interesting seed.  I enjoyed the red cockscomb they brought me last year.  But they will also eat the seed that's been planted.  Sometimes seed doesn't come up because it turned cold right after sowing and that tends to interrupt germinating and stall the seed out.  Maybe after that, the soil became too dry right at the crucial moment and the seed died.  Or maybe I forgot I planted them there and stepped on them or dug into them to plant something else.  That's more likely to happen with seeds that take a long time to germinate.  Germination in a coffee filter lets me see how my stored seeds are faring.  Are they getting too old?  If I direct-sow them and they don't come up, I don't know which of all the possible conditions have come into play, and I might be wasting my time and other resources, planting seeds that are no longer viable.

Burpless Muncher is the ONLY cucumber I will grow as it satisfies EVERY requirement I have of cucumbers.  When young, the cucumbers make wonderful sweet pickles.

They can be used for garlic dills or cut into chunks for Bread and Butter pickles at medium size.  I don't make these dills anymore because I don't care for dills and Hubs prefers ANY purchased dill pickles to the ones I make.  Canning and pickling is a lot of work.  It's his mother's recipe.  Go figure.  This is an old picture, taken in 2013.  Unfortunately, all these dill pickles ended up being dumped out because Hubs would not eat them.  Where are Andy Taylor and Opie when you need them?  See the story about Aunt Bea's pickles HERE.  But anyway.

Once they have grown to the point where the skin begins to turn white and/or yellow, they can be peeled and used for relish.

Or refrigerated till they're cold, peeled and sliced into long spears and dipped into Ranch dressing while you're sitting on the patio at the end of a long, hot day.  They are never bitter.  EVER.

Cucumbers contain a natural diuretic, as do watermelon.  In fact, one year I juiced cucumbers and froze the liquid, and when thawed, the juice tasted like watermelon.  I think it's probably also one of the "vegetable juices" included in that fruit-flavored V8. 

Burpless Muncher will produce cucumbers whether the flowers have been pollinated or not. 

If you want to save seed, which I do, you have to leave a cucumber on the vine FOREVER.  Sometimes, even though the cucumber is huge and looks like it should contain plenty of viable seeds, I'll open the cucumber up and the seeds will be little thin papery-looking things.  This tells me that the flowers weren't pollinated.  If you have concerns about this, you could choose a flower that will become the cucumber you will save seed from.  Tag it by tying a piece of brightly colored yarn loosely on the stem, right below the flower.  And then pollinate that flower, using an artist's paintbrush, first into a male flower, and then into the female.  Hubs does not pick anything from the garden unless I'm with him.  On the rare times that he has, invariably he has missed the fact that there is a red piece of yarn on the stem, or, as with okra, that there is a clothespin.  *Sigh*. 

Male and female flowers are easy to tell apart.  Just remember that the flower that's fancy inside is the female. 
This is the female.

This is the male.  Usually you will see lots of these at first and no female.  This is nature's way.  The pollinators won't start coming to the squash blossoms for awhile, so there is no point in wasting a female blossom.

This is what the female flower looks like from another angle.  Female flowers ALWAYS are sitting on a tiny version of the fruit they will produce.  If the flower doesn't get pollinated, the flower AND the little fruit will drop off the stem soon after the flower fades.  This one has been pollinated, and the flower is getting ready to drop off and leave the fruit on the stem.

This is the same for cucumbers, melons, pumpkins and squash.  Other things, too, but not everything.  Tomato flowers, for instance, are self-fertile.  Which means, each flower has both male and female parts.  So they all look alike.  All they really need is a little air movement to get things going.  On days when there is no wind, I will just go out there and shake the tomato cage a little.

I mentioned okra a few paragraphs ago, and I have a favorite variety of that, too.  It's Cowhorn okra.  It stays tender even when the pods are larger than normal, which means you can get bigger yields from less plants.  I do clip a clothespin on the stem of two or three pods, so I will know not to pick it.  It takes what seems like forever for Cowhorn okra pods to make seed, and the pod needs to dry out while still on the plant. 

You'll know when the seed is ready because the pod will lose its green color and begin to crack.  If you leave it on the plant after it's done that, at some point the pod will fall apart and it'll fling its seed all on the ground.  Maybe the flung seed would winter over and come up the following year.  Not sure because I've never allowed them to do that.  Mature okra seed look like round black beads.  If they're still white, they just shrivel up.

The okra seedlings are still doing ok, but they really are needing to be set out and it's not quite warm enough for that.  I haven't grown okra since 2013 and I want to give seed to Kylie.  I did a germination test to make sure they were still good.  Every one of those little boogers germinated and I just couldn't throw them in the trash.

Hubs and I stopped at Evans' Nursery yesterday morning on our way home from The Fitness Center.  I did buy a 4cf bag of Vermiculite.  My seedling mix is equal parts Vermiculite, peat, and home-made compost, but I'm thinking about reducing the peat by about half next year.

They had worm castings cheaper than what I paid for them at WMT.  Also they had coir.  They had Dixondale Candy Onion plants for $2.50 a bundle and I was pleased to see that they looked pretty good.  Because by this time in the spring, Lowe's and Atwoods have been selling these plants for about a month, which is 'way too early, and any they have left have been laying around so long that they're At Death's Door.  I raised my onions from seed Wintersown in January.  But if I'm ever unable to do that, now I know where to buy my onion plants.  They had kelp meal. 

I've been reading a lot about Azomite (an acronym for "A to Z Of Minerals Including Trace Elements") and Mycorrhizal innoculants.  Amazon has Azomite, 20# for $22.95 and free shipping, but not Mycorrhizae. Kelp4Less sells it for $88 a pound.  Ouch!  Maybe this is the "gold" that they said was in "them thar hills".  Heh.  I think, from what I saw on YouTube, that I could start with just a few ounces of Mycorrhizae and use it to make more or maybe even make my own from other things.  There are lots of YouTube videos that show how to do that HERE.  I asked at the nursery about both products.  They didn't know what Azomite is and they thought Mycorrhizal inoculant is rooting compound.  Not sure but I don't think it is.  The nursery still made higher marks than Lowe's and Atwoods.  I may not try to do all these things at once, anyway.  Baby steps, you know....

This is now Friday morning and I will try to publish this post today.  It is a little after 4am and Mesonet says the temperature was at 27º when they updated at 3:53am.  Not looking good.  And another freezing morning expected on Monday morning.  It's almost like there's No End In Sight of these freezes about every three or four days, with wind, Red Flag warnings and chances of rain in between.  The garden soil seems to be retaining moisture pretty well, but it would be nice to actually get some of that rain Mesonet forecasts. 

Hubs helped me bring in all the pepper plants that I had in the cold frame last night before we went to bed.  Normally I just put the shower doors all the way across for the night, but if it's going to frost, I will not risk letting the pepper plants get that cold.  Of course we wheeled in the carts of tomato plants, as we do every evening, because I don't want the wind coming up in the night and blowing them around.  Soon, though, I'll be leaving them out all night.  They have to get used to that in order to adapt well into the garden.  Today we'll take everything out again after it warms up some.  And then we'll have it all to do over again on Sunday night.  This is what I call The RockWhisperer Exercise Plan.  Heh.

It is during these times that I think of our pioneer ancestors and I marvel at how they managed to survive.  Large families huddled in a dugout, or a small cabin, totally dependent on the coming crops for their very lives, no heat except for a fireplace and a cookstove.  But they made it through.  They are what I'm made of, and the fact that I'm even HERE is proof of their strength and persistence against all odds.  And the same for many of you, reading here.  Now, if our garden doesn't do well, we can buy what others have grown.  So it seems childish to worry about what, if anything, I will get from the fruit trees and bushes.  It seems like "borrowing trouble" to worry about what kind of garden year I will have.  So I won't.  Whatever will be, will be.

Rock on.  Hugs xoxoxo

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Po-TAY-to, Po-TAH-to...

Ah, potatoes.  Oprah says she loves bread.  Well, so do I.  But I also love potatoes.

They're high on the list of what people tell you to avoid if you're trying to lose weight.  But they're chock-full of nutrients.  Especially sweet potatoes.  HERE is what Whole Foods has to say about sweet potatoes.  Well worth eating.  Well worth growing.  And no, a sweet potato is not a Yam, but I grew up around people that used the terms interchangeably.  As long as I know what I mean, and so do you, does it matter?  Yam is fun to say.  "I Yam what I Yam and that's ALL I Yam," is what Popeye The Sailor-Man used to say.  Heh.

Potatoes are GOOD for you.  It's all that crap we put ON them that makes them bad.

It kind of hacks me off that it seems like every recipe I find that contains sweet potatoes also contains a lot of sugar.  I'm actually quite fond of them when they're baked, with just a little butter, salt and pepper added.  The little ones can be scrubbed and boiled, still in their skins, and then the skins will peel right off after the boiling's over.  I usually do all of the little ones right after the curing process, peel and slice and stow away in the freezer.  They will be the first ones to shrivel in storage, otherwise.  I'll peel the big ones with my potato-peeler as I need them and make sweet potato fries in the oven.  Or cut them into cubes, then pan-fry with onion and sweet peppers.  Even Hubs will eat sweet potatoes in these two forms.  But he will not TOUCH those sweet potato dishes that are covered in brown sugar syrup and marshmallows, which surprises me, because he has such a "sweet tooth".  He doesn't like pumpkin pie so he wouldn't care for sweet-potato pie, either.  He doesn't like chunks of summer squash in soup and so he wouldn't like chunks of sweet potato in it, either.  Oh, cooking for a persnickety man.  It sure takes the fun out of it sometimes. 

I like sweet potatoes pan-fried in butter, and then a little brown sugar sprinkled on one side and caramelized.  But I don't eat much sugar anymore, so I'd rather have what little sugar I DO have as honey in my tea, or homemade jam in my plain yogurt.  But it's still less sugar than all those gooey concoctions you find on the table on Thanksgiving. 

My first crop of Beauregards were grown from some grocery store potatoes that I bought around Thanksgiving, didn't use, and they sprouted by the time spring rolled around.  Since then, I've kept them going every year.  Some years, I get some really big ones out of the garden.

This one looks like a critter of some kind, doesn't it?  LOL  And no, this sweet potato was not fibrous at all.  It took a long time to cook all the way through in the microwave, though, and I ended up having to cut it in half, lengthwise.  I just put both halves "cut-side down", and used the "turntable" as a "plate", washing it after the potato was cooked.

In 2014, the rats invaded us and damaged my crop so badly that I barely got enough to start the next year's plants.  That was because I waited until the day before an expected "first frost".  Then I found out (thanks to Glenda) all you really need for sweet potatoes is 100 growing days.  Our first killing frost usually happens in mid-October.  That's 60 days more than the sweet potatoes really need, though they'll keep on growing unless the rats find them first.

So in 2015, Hubs and I dug the potatoes out of the ground in early September.  I was hobbling around on a new knee by then, but I sat on the sides of the bed (it's up high) and dug with my hands and Hubs put the fork into the soil when I told him where and when.  He only damaged one potato this time.  Men.  They go at it full force, like it's a contest of strength or something.  You have to hold them back or they'll have every potato speared on a tine. 

Since I usually get my "slips" in the ground in early May, this means the 100 day growing period has been met in mid- to late August.  This makes more sense, really, because they need to "cure" in a warm place so they can develop their sugar content.  What better month to cure potatoes than late August, early September? 

Also in 2014, I grew a new variety of sweet potato.  Well, new to ME.  It was "Carolina Ruby".  I was really disappointed in the puny little slips that arrived in the mail from Arkansas, an eBay purchase, and a rather expensive one, at that.  $19.95 for 24 slips, all wilted and bound together with a rubber band, and then crammed into the smallest  size box available for the U.S. Postal Service "Priority Mail".  Most of the slips died.  So between having so few survive shipment and then having some die after planting, and then the rat damage on top of that, I didn't get very many.  I saved what I had to start the next year's crop.  And in 2015, I grew them again, this time from slips I grew myself. 

And you know what?  I STILL didn't get a very good harvest from the Carolina Ruby plants, and they didn't grow very big.  I did get enough to taste, and maybe my palate's not as discriminating as some are, but I just couldn't tell much difference in taste or texture between them and my big ol' honkin' Beauregards. 

That one tray on the right?  That's ALL the Carolina Rubies.  The other two trays are Beauregards.  And see those shriveled ones?  Carolina Rubies. 

I will try ONE. MORE. TIME.  And if the Carolina Rubies are AGAIN poor yielders, next year I'm either going to try a different variety, or I'm going back to all Beauregards.  Paula told me she bought some slips from Duck Creek Farms, which is in Mounds, just the other side of Tulsa from us.  But that's even complicated because you can't come to their farm anymore.  I just don't want to buy sweet potato slips that have to be shipped and I'm not sure I'm all that crazy about paying almost a dollar apiece for what amounts to just a cutting.  SUCH a deal for the seller!  I ought to get into THAT!!  I just received an answer to an e-mail I sent them, and they say they will accept online orders and then they can be picked up at the Cherry Street Farmer's Market in Tulsa, by prior arrangement.  But still, the price is a turn-off, PLUS we'll have to drive 50 miles to get them. 

One year, Homeland offered several different varieties of sweet potato for sale around Thanksgiving time, and I bought some O'Henry, and a couple of others, but for some reason none of them worked out, I don't remember for sure but they either didn't make slips in time or they failed after planting.  I'd kinda like to try one of the purple varieties, because I hear the darker the color, the more anti-oxidants they have.

But here is something that kind of confuses me.  We plant regular potatoes by putting a potato, or part of one, that has several eyes, in the ground.  But people don't do it that way with sweet potatoes.  I've planted pieces of sweet potato in the ground and gotten a good crop, before I knew any better.  Hubs said that's how his mom and dad used to plant sweet potatoes, too.

A few posts ago, I showed you how I planted the sprouts from my Yukon Golds with just a little bit of the potato attached, and how well rooted they were after only a week in a tub with a little dirt.  Those potato plants are up in the garden and they look like any normal potato plant would.  I'm assuming they're going to make potatoes, and if they do, it's a "Go Figure Moment".  The only reason I did it this way, however, was because I wanted to process the better part of the potato into something we could eat.  The best of both worlds, if you will.

So it seems to me that potatoes AND sweet potatoes will do ok planted either way.  When I think about my earliest method of planting a piece of the sweet potato, it has pretty routinely given me a stronger plant and a bigger and better harvest. So I'm going back to that method and y'all can do it however you want.  It's a LOT easier for me not to have to make the "slips". 

In fact, I think I'm just going to let them lounge around in the pantry, where the Yukon Golds were when they sprouted, and see what they do.
They already have a good start.  This guy looks like a fish, doesn't he?

They've been folded up in brown grocery sacks since immediately after they were cured, only one layer thick in each sack and then the sacks were stacked away from the light.

But if you're a sweet potato, I guess you know when it's time to sprout.

Even if you're bundled up in a sack.

HERE are some recipes I found, some of them don't appear to be drowning in brown sugar syrup.  I might try that Sweet Potato Slaw and maybe the Snappy Sweet Potato Crackers.  Yes, I know.  Hubs will give them The Old Fish-Eye and I'll have to eat them by myself.  But hey, if they're good, More For Me.

We have had a couple of mornings below freezing.  I went out to the garden on Saturday and covered all the Yukon Gold potato plants, that have emerged, with wood chips.  Hopefully, that'll be enough protection.  There's one more freeze warning for Monday morning.  Then none again till Friday morning.  That's far enough off that the forecast might change by the time we get there.  Yesterday morning I went out and hosed down all the fruit trees when temps got below freezing.  This morning, we didn't think temps got low enough to where I'd need to, and I, frankly, wasn't in the mood.  I don't like being cold and I got wet and cold the day before.  This morning I had a headache and my shoulder was bothering me.  (Whine.)  I guess you might say this was one of those mornings that Hubs could've said, "Sometimes I wake up Grumpy and sometimes I just let her sleep in...." 

And THAT, my friends, is where I'm at with potatoes.  Rock On.  Hugs xoxoxo

Friday, March 18, 2016

Garden Post (Mostly), Third Week of March, 2016

Now that some of you are sufficiently tired of me talking about God, here is a post mostly about the stuff that grows out here.  I won't apologize, mind you, I'm just saying what I know and feel in my heart.  If you don't know and feel the same in yours, I don't mean to be tiresome about it.  It's just part of who I am, if you know what I mean.

Soooooo, all that said, here we go. 

This is the quince tree.  Cydonia oblonga.  Not to be mistaken for the flowering quince bush, Chaenomeles speciosa.  The seed for this tree was sent to me by a woman in Tennessee, who said her husband loved to go out under the tree with a salt shaker when the fruit was ripening and eat several right off the tree.  The fruit are pear-like in shape but unusual in taste, like a tart rose-scented apple, as near as I can describe it.  This is the first year I've had flowers on this tree, but I had a Quince bush growing at The Osage House that made fruit sometimes and I assume the taste of bush quinces and tree quinces are very similar.  Many quince bushes never make fruit.  Mostly they are grown for their flowers. 

Information on The Internet is that the fruit is "analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, astringent and digestive. A decoction is used internally in the treatment of nausea, joint pains, cholera and associated cramps."
These are Nasturtiums.  They take awhile to germinate.  The three pots in the front have just recently sprouted in the paper towel and were only planted in soil yesterday morning.  One is just now beginning to emerge.  The four in the back were the first to germinate and they've been up for probably a week now.  Nasturtiums don't come up very well for me when direct-planted.  At some point they always seem to get too dry, and then the seed just dies.  So I do it this way, and plant them in paper cups.  They have a long taproot that is easily injured so they do not transplant well.  Being in a paper cup solves this problem because they can be planted cup and all while the taproot is not paying attention.  Heh.

I intend to plant these under my fruit trees, as part of the "Fruit Tree Guild".  I have gradually been laying down big rocks and interplanting perennial plants into the spaces between them -- Comfrey, Iris, Red Clover, Tansy, Yarrow, etc.  The rocks help hold back the bindweed and Bermuda grass and slow the evaporation of moisture.  Things planted in between the rocks are partners in the weed control process and they can send their roots under the rocks to benefit from the moisture and the shade from the sun.  And I like how the rocks and plants look under the trees.  I grow the Nasturtiums there every year, or try to, because they remind me of my dad.  I wish you all could've known Dad.  Dad didn't have a very happy life.  But he loved his garden, and found peace in it.  He had some good memories from his childhood having to do with his grandmother, too.  So every time he discovered something that fell into one or both of those categories, he would go into what I call "Quiet Delight", and it was always a joy for me to watch.  He experienced it when he discovered the potatoes in my potato bowl in the kitchen were sprouting, and asked if he could have them for his garden.  Of course I said, "You sure can, Dad".  He stood there and examined each potato with such care.  I walked up beside him and hugged him and said, "You can have them ALL if you can use that many," and then he grinned at me and started carefully loading them all into the paper bag I handed him.  He loved going for drives when it was persimmon or wild plum season.  He watched his little Paw Paw tree closely every year and ate the one or two fruits that made it to maturity with his pocket knife and a great deal of gusto.  And when he found Nasturtiums growing along one side of my house, many years ago, he nearly had a Quiet Cow.  Took out his pocket knife and began cutting off leaves to take home and put on his sandwiches in the days that followed.  I have been the grateful listener of his memories of his beloved grandmother, "Lizzie" Hufferd Dalton Stimpson, and it strikes me that his relationship with her was very much like my relationship with my grandsons.  As the grandmother, you fill in the gaps that your single-mother daughter cannot or will not fill, and you build a bond with your grandchildren that blesses them, and you, with memories that color who you are for the rest of your life.  Hubs and I gave our grandsons the best years of our lives, and I have never been sorry.  Ever.

This is Horseradish.  I bought a small crown at the Garden Club Plant Sale a couple of springs ago.  I was lucky to get it as it was the only one there.  Our ancestral grandmothers had this plant in their herb gardens, and they processed it the hard way: by grating.  Worse than onions, eye-irritation-wise, I'm tellin' ya.  HERE is how to process it using today's methods.  There's a tip in the comments about storing the tightly-closed jar in the refrigerator upside-down to make it keep longer.  I wonder if it was pressure sealed with the FoodSaver and kept in the refrigerator, might it keep longer?  HERE, from the same source, is how to make it into a sauce.  Horseradish is an acquired taste and I kinda think you might have to have a little German heritage to actually like it. 

Remember that year that I took cuttings from some bushes that were growing on an empty lot, after I'd gone and bought Spiraea japonica at WMT and was disappointed on finding out that japonica was not the tall, arching variety I remembered from my childhood??  (You need Spiraea prunifolia for that) So now I have an "assortment" of Spiraea bushes.  The japonicas are not blooming yet so this picture is just of the prunifolias.  The first cuttings I started had single flowers.  The starts I got from a woman whose garage sale I visited later on that same summer are the double.  The doubles are closer to the camera in this picture.  I got some starts of my mother's bushes that whomever bulldozed the house I grew up in just ran over, willy-nilly.  They were also double and now I don't know which are which, but the starts I got from the woman at the garage sale were dug up with some root attached, and the ones at my childhood home were in pretty sorry shape and might not even have survived. 

These are the double flowers.

These are the singles.  Both pretty in their own way.

Forsythia.  "Free gifts" from  They can be invasive and I really didn't want them, but I think out here around the Hackberry trees they can do whatever they want to do. 

This is the first year that my Redbud trees have bloomed.  Some were free plants from ArborDay.  Others were volunteers I found in the garden, some of my neighbors have Redbuds, which accounts for the volunteers.

This is the first year my Crabapple has bloomed.  I got it mixed up with a flowering bush that makes red berries in the fall that are not edible except by the birds.  So when I saw those red berries, I was really disappointed because I had thought they were going to be the Crabapples.  I didn't realize that was not even the right plant until this spring when the REAL Crabapple tree bloomed.  So it's all good.

They look a lot alike, but as you can tell, the bush that makes berries, a piece of which is in my hand in this picture, held up against the CrabApple flowers has smaller flowers and leaves that are more glossy but otherwise pretty similar. 

This is the bush.

This is the tree.

The Sole Survivor of all those pine trees we planted.  Wait.  I think there's one more somewhere.

Bartlett Pear.  I canned several quarts of pears from this tree last fall, and we have really enjoyed them. 

Wild plums.  The tall tree is a maple and it's too tall and too close to the carport.  Every time we get a lot of wind, some of it breaks.  We'll be removing it this summer.

I was glad to see this show up.  I think it's the perennial red poppy from some seed Glenda sent me.  There are Dame's Rocket plants in that spot, as well, and the two bloom about the same time.  The red and purple look really pretty together. 

All three little bitty pieces of rhubarb roots came up.  I hope I can keep them going long enough for them to become perennial here.  This year I put them in the herb garden near the office door, where they'll get afternoon shade, and where I can watch them.  They don't seem to like the heat of our summers here.



Onions, from seed wintersown.  Also some wintersown Yarrow and Feverfew.  When they are big enough to separate, they will be transplanted.

Nanking cherry.

I had kind of an unsettling call yesterday.  The fellow on the other end of the line said that he was from the Internet Service Provider that I originally was using out here, except that about a year later they got bought out by another company.  So not the same name, and he had the old one.  That was the first thing that seemed strange. 

Then he said that he understood I had some questions about how to stop Windows10 from installing and said he could send me an e-mail telling me how or, if I wanted to, I could give him remote access and he'd do it for me.  This didn't really match, either, because I'd just talked to my ISP the day before and they said there wasn't anything that could be done.  I told him I wasn't at my computer at the moment but said it would be ok if he wanted to send me an e-mail, or just tell me his name and I'd call back and ask for him when the time was better.  He kind of changed the subject and rattled off a phone number really quickly that I didn't catch, but I thanked him and hung up.  So I called my ISP and asked them if this could be a phishing call and yep, they thought so.  The question that begs to be answered is what data did this guy have if he said he was calling from the company that was bought out three or four years ago?  He had my phone number but didn't seem to have my e-mail address.  And I didn't give it or any other information to him.  Would he know I'd been wanting to know how to stop Windows10 because he was guessing or had he read my blog?  And if so, how did he get my phone number?  It's an unlisted land-line and I don't think I've ever entered it anywhere on the internet.  Although I've sent it to friends via e-mail.  It's creepy.  The only other person I've talked to about this is a tech where I bought the computer, and why wouldn't he identify himself as being from there?  I'm grateful that he didn't, because I might've bitten on that one, except that I might see a red flag because it'd just make more sense to bring my tower in.  What else is creepy is that both guys I called the other day gave me to understand they didn't think Windows10 was a bad thing.  But when I told this guy I guessed I'd just let the upgrade go ahead and happen, he got kind of excited and said, "Oh, no, you don't want it to do that.  We've let it do that to some of our computers and it's messed them up so bad we can't even USE them!  What the problem is, is that though the Start button is back, it brings up a touch screen menu, and if you don't have a touch screen monitor, you can't use your computer."  Later on, when I told the guy from my ISP that, he said, "No!  None of that is true!"  Then he said he was using a desktop computer at that very moment that had Windows10 on it and that most of their computers had been successfully upgraded.  Without touch screens.

I've had people call me before saying they're from "Windows" but they have accents that sound like they're from India.  THOSE I'm wise to.  And I haven't heard from any of them in a long time since I started praying for God to help them find jobs that will allow them to respect themselves, while they're with me on the phone, long and loud, while they're saying, "Ma'am?  .....Ma'am?"  Heh.  If these are the same people, they've become more sophisticated and have adopted middle-America geek-style accents. 

I've been dinking around the Internet, and I've watched several tutorials.  Seems like the biggest issue is not so much incompatibility as it is the prospect of being out-and-out spied on by Microsoft.  Of course, when are we NOT spied on, that's what I want to know.  I blog because I like to.  I don't do anything that's any big secret and if I did, I wouldn't put it out there on the Internet anywhere, regardless of WHAT operating system I was using.  Like I've said before, I have made a few Internet friends I'd miss terribly if I didn't have Internet access.  But if this gets to be too big a hassle I'll just get off the Internet.  I think I can keep the upgrade from happening if I uninstall the little program that opens it and gets the ball rolling.  That's KB3035583.  Microsoft re-installs it every time, but if I keep my computer off the Internet, they couldn't do that anymore.  Then those people for whom I have snail mail addresses might get a letter --- remember those? --- from me now and then.  Some people have said that Microsoft needs you to check a box saying you accept their terms and if you say "no", they won't install the upgrade.  But by then, have they already destroyed your current operating system?  Not sure I want to find out. 

I'm just getting grumpy about this whole thing.  Getting so I don't even really want to blog anymore.  I don't feel capable to do something totally foreign to me, like install Linux, and I lost my computer guy when he took a regular job somewhere and quit doing computer tech work.  I have a neighbor, though, that would probably be a good one to talk to.  Maybe he can steer me in the right direction. 

Comment Moderation will remain "on" for the time being, just in case. 

I wanted to share this with you, having to do with food waste. 

Somebody had a big sale on boneless pork loin some time ago and Hubs stopped by and bought some on a day that I was not with him.  He had them slice the loin and put only four to five slices per package.  I bet they just hate to do that and I'm surprised they still will.  But anyway.  They wrapped these in white butcher paper and when I unwrapped one of the packages, my gosh, WHAT a lot of fat! 
So after I pan-fried the slices, I trimmed off the fat and chopped it, then put it back into the skillet with some water and simmered it for several hours.  I actually should've processed the fat in the pressure cooker, it would've taken only about an hour.   As you can see, this yielded a full cup of clean lard and a cup of pork-flavored broth that I can use next time I cook beans or whatever.
This is now Friday and I'll post today.  We are experiencing a cold front and there will be several early mornings that will be below freezing, starting with Saturday morning.  It's VERRRRY windy now and out of the north, but overcast and about 50º expected for the high.  There's a 70% chance of "showers", which is a good thing when freezing temps are expected.  Today I'll dump some more wood chips on top of the potatoes that have emerged from the ground, bring in the rest the tomato plants I've been hardening off, and cover the little onion and herb seedlings that are in the ground.  The fruit trees are on their own.  Generally a cold spell will thin out the fruit yield but not eliminate it, and that's not always a bad thing.  But if we get to 26º or below, we may lose the whole crop.  And such is fruit tree growing in northern Oklahoma.  You just have to expect it.  If you get a good harvest from your tree only once, at least you've paid for your tree and for the dormant spraying that you have to do to protect it from the insects and disease.  Usually, I get a harvest one year out of three or four.
The asparagus is up and ready to pick.  I don't usually get very big crops but Hubs hates it and it doesn't freeze well, so by the time it's done, I'm satisfied.  Now's also the time to start digging Walking Onions.  (Zone 6) I've left some with several neighbors and have a couple more batches to dig and deliver before I'm through.  They need thinning out, anyway.  Jerusalem artichokes will probably be next but I don't usually share them because people don't know what they are.  Sometimes I'll give away small batches and tell them how to cook them but I don't know that they don't just end up in the trash.
This is about all I have to talk about this time, so I'll sign off here.  Till next time, Rock On....  xoxoxo