Monday, June 27, 2016

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Garden Harvest During A Crap Year

This is what the Oklahoma sun does to tomatoes when it gets close to 100ºF.  I had these covered with sheets, but the Oklahoma wind blew the sheets off.  

So all these tomatoes were picked several days ago, whether they're anywhere near ripe or not.
 Sorry about the poor lighting.


The garlic was ready to pull, but everything's small.

Onions just didn't bulb up, because it got hot too soon.  Some of these were Candy Onions.  What a waste, after growing these onions from seed.  The onions from the "sets" that I bought did even worse.  Most of them hardened from the root up and made a seed head.  The ones that didn't go to seed were not any better.  At least the Candy onions got all floppy-necked and gave me a little something of an onion for all my effort.
 

When their necks flop over, they're done growing.  Anyway, that's what I was told.  So what do you do when the crop doesn't turn out like you expected?    Well, you process the parts that are edible, that's what you do.  And the rest, you give a decent burial somewhere in one of the garden beds.  Earth to Earth, Onion to Onion.  Or something like that.

 
These are the safety glasses that I wear while I'm processing onions or garlic.  I can stink up the whole house and still not cry.  I think they came from Lowe's, and they were not expensive.


 
When I chop vegetables, I usually put my smallest cutting board in the middle of a big cookie sheet.  I guess some people call these "jelly roll pans".  But I use them for all kinds of things.  This particular one measures 12" X 18".  I have some of those old cafeteria trays that are 18" X 24" and when I have a lot of chopping to do, I clear off a bigger work area and use one of those and a bigger cutting board.  The pan catches all the drippy stuff and the pieces that fall off the edge of the cutting board don't go rolling off the counter onto the floor.
 

I always chop the onion greens, too.  I use them in soups and casseroles.  These have gone into the freezer, and I will add to them because there are more in the garden ready to be pulled.

This is my second summer trying to grow Pineapple Tomatillos.  Last spring, this variety all died after the transplant.  Better luck this time, got my first taste.  Meh.......  Sweet, with tart notes.  I wouldn't say it tasted like pineapple, though....  The nice thing about tomatillo is that it will tolerate quite a bit of heat and dry.

 
Gotta love those Crunchy Muncher Cucumbers, AKA WI-5207.  And I do.  I'm bringing them in at about 8", about two a day now, because I'm trying to keep the stress off the vines.  So far the vines are doing fine with a good watering every-other day.

This variety will fruit without pollination, which is why often there will be no seeds inside the cucumber at all.  And that's one of the reasons why they are so good.  They never get bitter and at this size, I don't even remove the outer skin.  If you're going to juice them, however, you might want to as there is a slight aftertaste in the juice.  If you're going to try to save seed, you want to let the cucumber hang on the vine till it is quite large, after you have either pollinated the flower yourself, or waited till the vines are going gangbusters and you are seeing pollinators flying around.  When allowed to get bigger, the green color fades out into white and there is a yellow-gold "blush".  There will be seeds at this size, regardless, but if it hasn't been pollinated, the seeds will dry flat like a little teardrop-shaped envelope and they will not germinate.  When I bring these big cukes into the house, I can never resist holding one up to show Hubs and announcing, "Happy Housewife!".  I know Hubs probably gets tired of me doing this but he always laughs, anyway.

Cushaw pumpkin.  S'posed to be squash bug resistant.  I dunno, I saw a couple on these plants a little over a week ago.  Applied Sevin, on the ground where they walk around under the canopy, hopefully to allow the lives of the pollinators that come to the flowers to be spared.  But I've lost two of these plants since then and so far none of the other varieties (Shhhhh....  Don't say that out loud.) 


Lazy Housewife pole bean, the few that germinated, being grown for seed.  So far, I'm not happy with what has set on.  Might not be very good seed, even if I end up with some.

That's Black Futsu pumpkin to the left of the cucumber hoop (top of the picture).  I have Glenda's Long Island Cheese in another part of the garden.  Both these varieties have not yet set on any fruit.

Doyle thornless blackberries.  They ripen later than native blackberries.  Seems like by the time they're at this stage, it's hot and dry, and hard to keep them wet enough to go ahead and fill out.


Cucumbers
Sweet potatoes - mostly Beauregards - in the square bed.  They're wilted from the heat of the day, should be ok when it's cooler.  I didn't water it today.  If you don't want to be depressed, don't come out here and go through the garden at high noon, that's all I'm sayin'.....  No, there's nothing in the trap.  We're not dealing with any rats right now so I just sprung the trap to keep the birds away.  Ought to put it away but I don't want to jinx it. 

Bush beans.  I had my potatoes between the two bean rows.  Might plant my fava beans there.  I've started some in newspaper pots, they've started germinating but haven't got cotyledons yet.  Maybe if I time it right I might be able to pop each little pot into the ground right after a good rain, whatever THAT is.

Fennel, starting to put on umbels now.  I think that big root (below) could be pulled and eaten, but I need to find out for sure....


 Tendergreen Bush beans.

 Red Noodle bean.  They haven't put anything on yet.

 This is the tomatillo.  And a Hopi Red Dye amaranth.  That's a sunflower in the back center.

Moon and Stars leaves, among the grass.  I haven't had time to get to this, and kind of scared that, at this point, I might uproot the plant with the weeds.  Been there, done that.

 Cowhorn okra, the plants are still very small, but trying to bloom. 

Rhubarb, still alive in the herb garden.  It's about to get into the afternoon shade and not a moment too soon, either.  Showing the stress already of too much sun, but I've seen it looking much worse.

 
Ginger.  Those bitty leaves are Garden Huckleberry seeds that I put in the pot to germinate where I can keep an eye on it, as I didn't get them planted till late.  When they get some size, I'll dig them out, separate, and transplant into their "Forever Home".  Well, barring July or August Death, that is.

I have some more onions pulled, so I'd better get them cleaned and packed away in the freezer.  Tonight we're having pork tenderloin slices, grilled.  Fried green tomatoes and I'll slice, dredge in flour, and fry that one immature Cushaw that was on one of the vines that died, as well.  I've been making my whole-wheat bread into hamburger-style buns, they slice better for sandwiches and toast than a loaf of bread does.  Maybe we'll just put everything inside a bun.  Wha-la.  I oughta make a potato salad or a cold macaroni-tomato-chopped green pepper-onion-mayo salad but I'm not in the mood.  Oh, what the hell, I'll do it.....  Cold macaroni salad sounds sooooo good.  If I make it now, there's time for it to cool......

And I'm probably inside for the rest of the day, anyway.  We are under a Heat Advisory AGAIN.  30% chance of rain after 4pm.  60% chance of rain tonight after 1am.  50% chance of rain Monday, might get as much as half an inch, they say.  Each day's forecast seems to change at the drop of a hat, so we "never know what we goan git", actually. 

I saw a girl wearing a T-shirt that said, "I'm a freaking ray of sunshine" the other day.  I told her I liked her shirt.  I know just how she feels. 

Rock on, anyway.....  xoxoxo

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Ticks And Chiggers And A Trip

This is a bad year for ticks here, the worst I've seen in awhile.  Hubs has already removed a tick from me about 5 or 6 times, and I've taken a couple off him, too.  I'm outside more than he is.  And when he's outside, he's usually on the riding mower.  The only time he's at risk is probably when he uses the weed-wacker. 

I remember ticks as being soft and round, with lots of legs.  But the ticks we find on ourselves lately look a little like a small ant.  I think they're what are called "Deer Ticks", and I understand they're more likely to carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever than the fat round ones, although the risk is less if you get them off before 24 hours pass.  Nonetheless, they dig themselves in, and the best thing I know of to remove one is a tick spoon, available on Amazon for $3 or so.  That said, I have found some information relating to the use of horticultural sulphur on Mother Earth News HERE and HERE.  Apparently a dusting of the powder on your legs repels ticks and as a bonus, prevents all those chigger bites that can be so itchy and annoying.  I've been getting a lot of those this summer, too. 

They even give a recipe for taking sulphur internally.  IMPORTANT NOTE:  If you are sensitive to sulfa drugs, do not use sulphur, either internally or externally.

I'm not sure putting sulphur on your legs (or, as one article suggested, putting your socks in a jar with 2 Tbsp of sulphur powder and shaking well) is going to be 100% effective for tick repellant, the reason being that, in woody areas the dang things can drop on you from the trees.  But yeah, if you're not under trees, then the only way they can get on you is to crawl up your legs.  I hope everyone has enough sense not to sit down on the ground in tick season.  Sometimes you can feel the tick crawling on you and that's the best time to get them off.  Once you are inside for the rest of the day, a quick shower is helpful for washing off ticks and chiggers that haven't bitten in yet. 

Sulfur is also a fungicide, so having it on your socks might be a good thing if you ever have trouble with Athlete's Foot.  Bear in mind, though, sulphur smells like rotten eggs.  I have read that the active substance is the same as what's in garlic, onions, and the cabbage family.  People who eat a lot of garlic actually smell like it.  Some say the odor comes through their pores.  So would this mean that if you were one of those people, you wouldn't get bitten by ticks and chiggers??  Not sure I want THAT smell emitting from my pores.

Chiggers are very, very tiny and are hard to see without magnification.  They are less effectively repelled by tucking your pants legs into your socks and all those other things people recommend for keeping ticks from getting under your clothing.  They can work their way onto your skin through the knit of your socks or the weave of the material of your clothes.  Once you have chigger bites, there are things you can do to relieve the itch, one of which is to mix a little sulphur with water and dab it on the bites.  Another is to use a product called "ChiggerRid".  I've even had relief by painting a little clear nail polish over each bite, but the acetone in the nail polish stings and probably isn't the best thing to use, especially if you've been scratching it already.  I think the only reason why ChiggerRid and nail polish works is because it keeps your clothes from rubbing across the bite and waking up the itch.  We used to think that the chigger burrows under the skin but that's not true.  The chigger just bites you and your skin reacts to the bite as an allergen.  In that case I wonder if you could rub Benadryl ointment on it.  I've seen where other people recommend Tea Tree Oil, or vinegar, or witch hazel.  Also Emu oil, Peppermint oil, or bathing with Fels Naptha soap.  I haven't yet tried any of these, but years ago, someone recommended Fels Naptha to Hubs when he had poison ivy so bad.  It seemed to help dry it up at first, but didn't help much with the itch and wasn't as effective for subsequent afflictions.  I was happier when I thought the chigger was good for only one bite but obviously, it can live to bite you several times.  In fact, the chigger larvae can live on you for FOUR DAYS.  Of course you're showering long before that.  But are you like me and coming in to rest periodically?  Then maybe they're migrating from your body to your chair, where you also sit in your clean clothes, or even in your jammies, and if you get chiggers in your jammies, you can transfer them into your bed where they can nibble on you all night.  I think this is what is happening to me.  Or are you wearing the same garden clothes for more than one day?  Bad idea, because they can remain in your clothes and wait.  If you must wear your gardening clothes for several days, hang them on the line in the hot sun after you've come in and showered.  Or keep two gardening outfits going, hanging the previous day's clothing in the sun for a day before putting them on again.  Are you washing your clothes in cold water?  Bad idea, because chiggers can live through a cold water wash.  Although I imagine they'd be killed in the dryer....  If you're pulling weeds, it might be they're crawling from the weeds onto your hands and going up your arms.  Oh, Goody.  One of my neighbors complains that the chiggers are on her as soon as she steps outside.  Her husband is really good about keeping the grass mowed and they don't have a garden, so I'm thinking I probably have five bites to her ONE, but sometimes he sprays some pretty potent insecticide on their grass, stuff that you can't GET, just anywhere, and that kills the beneficials, too, so I really hate to see him do that.  You don't want to eradicate chiggers and their nymphs, (if that's possible)because it turns out they eat mosquito eggs and larvae.  But we want them to eat the mosquitoes and NOT US.  Chigger bites do not cause disease, but if you scratch the bites and get them bleeding, you can get an infection.  Possibly a fungal infection, depending on what you are exposed to, which is dangerous.

You can get chiggers on you from your pet, too, if your pet goes outside.  There are instructions for mixing sulphur with talcum and dusting your dog's fur with it, in one of those articles.  Bear in mind, you probably shouldn't do this to a cat because they clean themselves by licking and that might be a health risk for the cat. 

There are also some little mite-critters called Oak Mites that live on oak leaves.  When they bite you, they make little water-filled blister-looking things.  I usually break the blister with a needle so the water will drain, and they itch less that way.  I've done that once on Hubs and once on me within the last couple of weeks.  They can fall from the leaves when you're under a tree, or, I'm told, can be blown around in the wind.  Again, Oh, Goody.

It occurs to me how much we under-appreciate our skin when it's healthy.

Plodding along here.  Nearby Ponca City got 4-6" of rain yesterday in the wee hours of the morning.  Then it went north of us.  We went to Joplin for the day, after I watered the garden.  We needed a road trip and it doesn't take long to get to Joplin.  It's a nice journey and not too shabby as a destination, either.  Visited Carole, went shopping.  They had rain there.  Back home by early evening, still dry and hot as the bejeezers here. 

Carole took this pic while we were there.


This is one of those short posts I mentioned earlier.  Let me know if you like them better. 

Rock on, Peoples, stay safe and well, wherever you are.  Hugs xoxoxo

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Catching Up

I have not posted all month and things have gotten away from me.  I don't know if I can sort all this out but I will try. 

Personal stuff:

We haven't gone garagin' all month.  It's just been too hot.

We met a new neighbor, at least the guy-half of the couple who bought the house on the county road, just a little past our turn-off, early this month.  I bought a big round bale of hay from the man who used to live there.  Tried once to get his wife to let me pick the apples from their apple tree but she wasn't very friendly and said they always left them there for the deer to eat.  Well, allrightie then.  That apple tree had just been ignored, all the apples were probably wormy anyway, and they were small.  Word around the neighborhood is that they ended up getting a divorce and both went their separate ways.  I don't remember how long ago it was that we started hearing a rooster crowing and Hubs said it was coming from there, that the house had sold and new people had moved in.  I wanted to find out if they'd be selling eggs.  Well, turns out they hadn't planned to, but he said they might if they ended up having more than they could use.  And then he gave us a dozen eggs.  That's OK, he'll get paid when (if) I have extra stuff from the garden.  If I don't, I'll make them a pie or something.  He put our phone number in his phone and I meant to get his number.  But I'll get it next time.  And I meant to ask him if he thought his chickens would like some freshly-caught Junebugs when they're "in season".  I haven't caught any lately but I would make the effort, no problem.  My chickens used to go crazy over Junebugs.   I was up late last night and noticed there were lightning bugs flying around.  I don't think they are very tasty to a chicken, though.

We've been enjoying visiting with several of our neighbors.  We are so fortunate to have such nice people in our neighborhood. 

Both of the new houses going up in our neighborhood are coming right along.  The one on Bob's property is late getting finished, Bob's son had planned to move in on the 15th.  All the work on it is happening on the inside these days.  The house just north of our North Fourth got it's roof frame up last week, and it's so tall.  It feels odd to look across there now, we got so used to that lot being empty.  Now it feels like that house is right in our side yard.  But trust me, there's about an acre between our houses.  It's just something to get used to.  Most of the people in our neighborhood feel like having a policeman right next door will be a good thing.


I wanted to share THIS post from Terrior Seed (Underwood Gardens) that came to me through a link in an e-mail.  I found some new-to-me information in this post.  Sometimes I wonder if people really know what they're talking about when they explain how things work.  This explanation of "auxins" and how, when they germinate, they retard the germination of other seeds for so long seems a little 'over the top' to me.  I'm just An Old Redneck Woman and there's a lot I just don't understand, but seriously.  I personally have never witnessed weed seed having any problems whatsoever germinating amongst seedlings of other weeds.  They show using what they call a "widger" to scatter small seeds out of while planting.  I'm thinking just a plain ol' spoon would work, too.  I've used some of those gadgets you can buy to plant small seed with and they all end up in the bottom of a drawer somewhere because they just don't work any better than a pinch of seed from between my fingers.  Plus I always know where my fingers are.  At least so far.  Heh.

Hubs and I are still trying to get the garage put back together after having a leak during all the rain early this month.  The wooden base for the canning stove and the wooden frame of the cabinets that had been placed along that wall wicked up the moisture and then developed a bad case of mildew.  The smell was pretty strong.  You just can't let that sort of thing get away from you.  It can be dangerous.  And moreso when you're a couple of Old Duffs like Hubs and I are.  Well, it was quite a time, because Hubs wanted to believe there was no problem.  He did this when the rats got into the garage and thanks to his resistance we lost our freezer that was out there.  Plus there was a horrible mess.  That can be bad for the health of Two Old Duffs, too.  I decided right then and there, I would never tolerate this sort of thing from Hubs again, even if I had to "channel Mom".  Oh, I hate to do it, so I don't take it all the way.  I didn't insult him, or yell at him, or try to guilt him.  I didn't get in his face.  I didn't stay at him without letting him have breaks.  And a few times, I let him think we might be trying HIS way, which I was sure wouldn't have worked, and he came to that realization all by himself once the pressure was off.  It meant we bought some stuff at Lowe's that we can't use.  But it was all returned, without any problems.  Hubs is really bad about saying to me, "It Won't Work", when I have an idea.  It really hacks me off to have him just reject the idea without even considering it.  Remember, Paula, when he said that about what we could do with the doorway between the dining room and the little space between it and the kitchen.  And he patronized me some, too, which hacked me off and we had a little bit of a fight right in front of Paula.  Ah, she's a good girl.  She understands, we ARE what we ARE, and loves us anyway.  We are blessed with such wonderful, caring, understanding friends.  But I argued my case (for days and DAYS, after Paula's visit was over), he finally found that my idea worked and he didn't even say "I'm sorry", or even "I was wrong".  Red Green says there are three little words that men find hardest to say and that is, "I don't know".  Yeah, that's a challenge for Hubs, too.  But he has more trouble with "I was wrong" and also "I am lost".

Don't think this situation is not a lot of work to get past before we can start doing what we need to do.  It's a delay, it's annoying, it's frustrating, and it just flat-out overwhelms me sometimes.  This garage mold issue was a drain, physically and emotionally.  So you can imagine how relieved I was the morning that he greeted me with all smiles and said he had it figured out.  And he did have.  His plan involved a symbiotic blend of a few of my ideas, and a few of his.  Praise be to God.

Once we get past resistance, Hubs and I can be a pretty good team.  He has the knowledge of materials that are available and how they can be used.  And I bring to the table the ability to think outside the box.  We both have lots of Do-It-Yourself skills from years of having to deal with situations because we couldn't afford to pay someone to do these things for us.  Sometimes I think his shenanigans are just a delaying technique when he just doesn't want to do anything, and hopes I'll give up and hire someone to do it.  That ain't happenin', Folks.  Other times I think he gets a certain amount of pleasure in seeing just how frustrated he can get me.  Dang passive-aggressive man...... 

I did the Cloroxing and the wiping down and the applying of Varathane to the wooden cabinets.  We did away with the platform that the canning stove was sitting on, and Hubs made a "shelf" that fastened on the wall behind the stovetop, which will keep things from falling down behind the stove.  There is a concrete ledge, about 6" high and wide, all along that east wall where the wall meets the floor, and that is what keeps the canning stove from being pushed back all the way against the wall.  Hubs says it's part of the office floor, but they didn't build the office wall out far enough to cover all of it, for some reason or other.




Hubs bought some flanges and attached them to the underside of the cabinets, so that a short piece of PVC pipe will fit into the flange.  This puts a little space between the wood and the concrete so that, whether it's condensation or a leak (and that discussion was never solved but what the hell), the moisture will not wick up into the wood.  It looks a little crooked in the picture but it's the angle that I had the camera.  You can see in the picture above this one that it isn't splaying out like it looks like.  There's the same thing on the back, just shorter, because it rests on that ledge. 

Before he got all that put together I painted the walls that had been left unpainted in the northeast corner where the canning stove and the work-counter are supposed to be.  I don't have any of that dirty-beige-color paint, and I think it's an ugly color so I'm for sure not going to go buy any.  I got as close to the color as I could with what I had and painted it over an application of primer with a bit of a "screw-it" attitude.  If the color on the rest of the walls starts bothering me, I can always paint them this winter, when I'm looking for a project to keep my brain out of The Black Hole.  The extra height caused by the flanges and PVC pipe meant that the drawers across the top would make the counter space 'way too high.  So we just left the drawers off.  They were old waterbed drawers and were kind of a Redneck addition, anyway.  I've had those waterbed drawers in lots of places.  Had them under a platform that we put a regular mattress and box springs on top of, in JR's and JC's bedrooms.  I bought them at a garage sale just for this purpose, because the boys needed more storage.  Then, when we moved here, they were in the pantry for awhile.  Hubs is tired of messing with them and so OK, next they're going to go in the trash before I have a chance to get another idea.  Every time I look thoughtful and say to Hubs, "You know, I was JUST THINKIN', he rolls his eyes and says, "Oh, NOOOOOO".  

When we thought we were going to get the post taken out of the garage, we stacked all my canning jars in the office so the shelves Hubs made for them could be easily moved out of the way to give the men room to work.  Now that it isn't going to happen quite that way, everything can go back like it was.  Sorta.  Some of my boxes are old and are falling apart and some of the quart jars don't have decent boxes because I've bought them at garage sales.  So I noticed that the boxes that are sold for file storage are just the right size for a dozen quart jars.  Caught them on close-out at Staples, I was surprised at how expensive they are.  We used to be able to get old records boxes at the Phillips Petroleum surplus.  I haven't been there in a long time and not even sure if it's still there.  Just don't get too used to being able to find something useful for cheap (or free) because lots of times the opportunity doesn't stay around very long.  Photocopy paper boxes are my second choice, they're too tall and a little too long by about half a jar, but they can be trimmed pretty easily. 

I have to cut the storage boxes 3" shallower, all around the top of the box, using a ruler, pencil, and box-cutter.  It's not a lot of trouble and this way the jars fit snugly, vertically and horizontally.  Wasted space in a box is not too much of a problem if it's just one box.  If it's a bunch of boxes, it really adds up, and not as many will fit into the space intended for them.  Not to mention how the weight of box on top of box will sag in the lids if the jars don't fill them up all the way.


Things are not so great out in the garden.  We had a cold spring, and then it just rained, and rained, and rained.  As soon as the rains stopped, the heat and the humidity moved in, and it is so much hotter than normal for June.  It's more like July and August, and by this time, dry as a bone.  Spinach and onions bolted to seed in a hurry.  The onions didn't even size up.  There are blackberries on the vine and I water them hoping they won't just harden and fall off before they get ripe.  I had that happen one year.  I've had four or five decent sized cucumbers, which I ate with gusto and Ranch Dressing.  There were lots of tomatoes but I lost a lot of them to sunscald.  There was a little voice that reminded me to cover the plants with sheets but I got busy with something else and didn't get it done.  So today, with another Heat Advisory starting tomorrow and still no rain, I went out and picked off all the tomatoes and pruned the growing tips off the plants.  A couple of summers ago we had drought (for several summers) and the seeds from the tomatoes that grew that year were not even viable.  I am really tired of saying "Next year will be different".  It's not that it ISN'T, it's just that it isn't BETTER.  I go out in the early morning, right after dawn, and either I weed or water.  There isn't time to do enough of both to make a difference before the day has gotten dangerously hot.  I'm mulching everything that I can.

Well, *Sigh*, even though it's been a crappy garden year so far, we have been able to produce more than if we hadn't even tried at all. 

We got first fruits off the two plum trees and the Moorpark apricot tree that I ordered, back several years ago, from ArborDay.com.  And guess what.  The fruit from all three trees look the same.  ALL PLUMS.  NO APRICOTS.  I was bummed out. 

Both of the trees that were supposed to be plums were not supposed to be the same variety, but they are.  The plums were good, eaten out of hand, but the ones I cooked tasted very similar to Santa Rosa, like I had at The Ponca House, and ended up cutting the tree down.  Santa Rosa plums are so sour when cooked that there's not much you can make out of them if you don't want to have to add a WHOLE LOT of sugar.  This is just the last straw for me as far as ArborDay is concerned.  These were not free trees.  They were priced lower than what I'd have had to pay locally, but if you don't get what you think you're getting, and you have to wait five years till they bear fruit to find that out, you've wasted your money AND your time.  Of course if you've been reading my blog all along, you already know my two "Delicious" apple trees are something else.  One was supposed to be yellow and one was supposed to be red.  They are both red and the apples are more "mealy" than "crisp".  Reminds me of some Rome apples I bought at the grocery store a few years ago when they were out of the variety I really wanted.  I have since planted a Stark's BraeStar and at least the ArborDay apple trees must've done the necessary cross-pollination because BraeStar has first fruit this year.  This is the only reason I have not cut them down.  The Bartlett pear tree, and maybe the Hale Haven peach, are the only trees from ArborDay that turned out to be what they were supposed to be.  And even at that, I did not realize Hale Haven was not close enough to Red Haven to a) ripen in early July, b) be freestone, and c) be easy to peel.  I planted a Red Haven from Lowe's last year, and I got five "first fruits" off the tree just yesterday.  Now that we don't have a dog, we have squirrels, so I picked the fruit when they started to show red on their skin, and they finished ripening in the house.  I gave Hubs the one that was perfect and I ate the ones that had to have the bad parts cut out of them.  None of them were very big.  That's what happens when the weather's too hot.  When (or IF) it gets into full production I think I'll cut that dang Hale Haven down.  In this part of the country, there are too many things that can happen to a peach when it has to hang on the tree clear till September.  Last spring it and the grape vines developed Black Spot.  The grapes look bad again this year, too.  I'm seriously considering ripping them out.  So far the Hale Haven peaches look OK but we'll just have to wait and see how things go.

The wild plums on the Chickasaw plum trees ripened.  These are round, sweet, yellow.  About the size of a cherry tomato.  I was thinking this year I might can some in a light sugar syrup instead of making jam.  I remember my mom used to buy canned blue plums that still had the pits in them.  But that became one less thing I had to do when some of the little yellow Chickasaw plums split from all the rain and all the others were riddled with worm holes.  And there weren't very many on the trees because we'd had a lot of wind.  There are oval fruits on the Sandplum trees, they will be red and they are sour.  I guess I'll have to make jam out of them again this year, if I get any that are fit to do anything with. 

Thanks again, Mother Nature.....

Spring pea season has come and gone now.  They didn't come up very well but I ended up with about four pounds of peas to put in the freezer, plus enough seed for planting the next crop.  After I tore out the vines, I planted the rest of the Red Noodle bean seeds in the empty spaces that resulted.  I got this Red Noodle seed in a seed trade over five years ago, and I wanted to get it out of my seed stash.  So even if none of them had come up, it wouldn't have been a lost cause.  Now I'll have fresh seed, if they flourish, and if not, I won't buy any to replace it.  I finally finished digging potatoes.  The experiment of planting just the potato sprouts (from last year's potatoes) failed.  I think it was that last frost that happened after they broke through the ground.  I had bought a 5# bag of red seed potatoes and I think I have ended up with about 20# of potatoes from that. 

I also transplanted most of the extra tomato and pepper plants into the garden.  These were ones I grew to give to someone, and they apparently weren't interested enough in having them to be bothered with coming and getting them.  It's easier to give away food than it is to give away plants, and who knows, the way things are looking now I might need all the extra plants I have. 

Some of the Crimson Watermelon and the Moon and Stars Watermelon seeds that I cast, willy-nilly, during spring, have come up.  The Crimson comes up volunteer every year, and if anybody's lucky to be given one of them, they just rave on and on about how sweet it is.  Bowling-ball size and shape and every bit as heavy, bright red inside, and sweet.  The Moon and Stars, I have not grown since we were at The Ponca House, and I remember that year what a bad infestation of Roly-Poly bugs I had.  I was lucky, that year, to get anything to maturity.  They were worst in the bed where the winter squash was.  It was recommended to me that I buy "Slug-Go", which I did, but it had a problem in that if it got wet, it was deactivated. And how, I ask you, can you keep it from getting wet?  It rains.  If it doesn't rain, the dew falls.  Or you have to water.

I love the way the outsides of the Moon and Stars melons look.  There are even blotches and spots on the leaves.  It reminds me of that song,
"I see the moon and the moon sees me,
Under the shade of the old oak tree,
God bless the moon and God bless me,
And God bless the ones I love."

The beet seeds that I soaked and then planted before the last rain came up, along with a gazillion weeds.  So much for "Auxins".  The Tendergreen bush beans are up, and they are looking like they want to be pole beans, not bush.  We'll see how it turns out, if they live past THIS stage.  The Whippoorwill southern peas are up, but not very thickly.  All I had was one packet and usually the seed houses don't put enough seeds in those packets to grow much the first year except seeds for the next year. 

I guess all gardeners develop their favorites as the years pass, and I'm no different.  I'm starting to rethink my favorite beans, Lazy Housewife, though.  I've had trouble getting them to germinate for the last couple of years.  This year, I will be lucky to get enough out of what germinated to make seed.  So if the TenderGreen beans don't do it for me this year, I've bought some Jade bush bean seed.  Failing that, I'll have to make out an order to Baker Creek for more Lazy Housewife seed, because I've used all I had saved, re-planting.  It doesn't matter HOW good the bean is if it doesn't germinate well. 

The yield from the Black Cherry bushes was damaged by too much rain.  But there were some that made it through OK and so there are about two quarts of pitted black cherries in the freezer now. 


Fiona wrote about Broad Windsor fava beans on her last blogpost and got me curious.  I was quite amazed to find what great nitrogen-fixers fava beans are.  I mean, they are regular legumes ON STEROIDS.  So I ordered some for next spring.  I might even plant some for the fall garden.  I'm wondering whether all that nitrogen will retard the growth of bindweed, or if it will enhance it.  Yikes.  I sincerely hope THAT won't be the case.   They also pack a lot of protein and so I'll be picking those beans and processing them.  Been watching YouTubes and looking for information online about how people use them.  Everybody, and I mean Everybody, that I mention fava beans to, mentions Hannibal Lector and a statement made in The Silence Of The Lambs.  The statement meant nothing to me, as I never watched that horrible movie.  Life is scarey enough as it is, without inventing things that are scarey. 

I e-mailed Fiona and she replied that she blanches and freezes them for winter eating.  I bet they'd be good in pasta salad.  I've seen where some people mash them up and season them and use them as dips for chips and spreads for crackers.  Looking forward to trying them.  Fiona also sent a warning that some people are sensitive to Fava beans and they can have some pretty serious allergic-like reactions.  She says Ralph thinks those are mostly people with Mediterranean backgrounds, which is not in Hubs' or my genealogy.  Even so, it will be necessary to proceed with caution, just in case.

Hubs and I decided to take a short road trip to Chouteau earlier this month.  We needed an outing.  We'd done our morning's work and the day was heating up so that we would be better off being out of the sun for the afternoon.  I didn't know about Hubs, but I wasn't in the mood to do inside stuff.  I've been in Amish Envy (is this sacrilegious??) (a conflict in terms?) (Well, just consider the source and we'll go on....) towards Crazed Cattlewoman Fiona, because they get such great stuff at such good prices, living there amongst the Amish, and I'd shared that with Hubs.  We do have some Mennonite communities in Kansas -- Yoder and Garnet, for instance, and there is one at Jamesport, MO that we used to love to take a roadtrip to, when we were younger, but then it was just to go through the antique shops and to eat.  Those Mennonite and Amish women are some of the best cooks in the whole world.  At least according to MY palate.  Most recently, we'd been talking about Chouteau, OK, about an hour and a half's drive.  We used to run up there sometimes and eat at The Dutch Pantry, but we have never looked around to find out what kind of shopping experience one can have in Chouteau.  I went online and found THIS.  We did go to Creekside Sales, where I bought some really FULL packages of seed for a dollar a package.
I am confident that any vegetable variety that is a favorite amongst the Amish or Mennonite community will be a favorite of mine, as well.  I looked up the Jade beans when I got home, as I was not familiar with the variety.  It's a bush bean and I'm not too excited about that, but otherwise the reviews were pretty good, so I'm glad I bought

The man behind the counter looked decidedly like those pictures of my Mennonite male ancestors, with the scraggly beard and the plain clothing.  Pants with buttons and no zippers, Hubs said.  I didn't look.  We've been to some Amish communities where they don't even allow buttons and the women keep the fronts of their solid-color shirtwaist dresses closed with straight pins, worked in and out and in and out where each button would ordinarily be.  Most Mennonite women don't wear prints, but they use a lot of wild and crazy colors and prints in their beautiful quilts.  I don't like to be observed closely examining how the pants are fastened on Amish men, but at a distance, I could tell the Amish men at Jamesport, MO wore pants that fastened at both sides, over the pockets.  Of course the Amish (and Mennonite) in the Midwest do not drive cars, it's tractors.  And horse-drawn buggies for church and social gatherings.  We were surprised to learn about the use of the tractor for transportation when we first discovered this custom on a visit to Garnet, quite a few years ago, and saw one pull up at a restaurant we had just come out of.  It was towing a trailer.  The old, bearded man drove the tractor and had a heavy tarp-like cover that snapped around his neck and went on out over the engine of the tractor and hung down on the sides, like a tablecloth.  It was a cold day, and this was a standard, older-model tractor that was not closed in where the driver sat, so I imagine this is how he kept warm.  We watched as he extricated himself from this contraption and then we noticed feet on the ground at the back of the trailer he had towed.  It was like a horse trailer but square.  Sort of like those closed-in trailers that construction guys tow around behind their trucks, which holds all their equipment and basic supplies.  These feet had white sneakers on them and after a short wait, which seemed longer because we were kinda standing there with our mouths hanging open, trying to wrap our brains around what we were witnessing, here came the man's wife, in her wool coat and head-scarf.  She joined her husband, who was by then off the tractor, took his arm and they walked into the restaurant.  We related this story to the Mennonite pastor's wife at nearby Mont Ida, where my Hufferd ancestors had lived, and she said, yes, indeed, they do use their tractors as transportation, often will get an air-conditioned one.  Cars and electricity are not generally allowed, so boys coming of driving age ask for a tractor rather than a car, and in the heat of the summer afternoon, sometimes whole families are seen in the cab of an air-conditioned tractor while it sits in the yard, motor running.  This just blew my mind, and I suppose I sounded too amused when I wrote about it online later, whereupon I was roundly admonished by some folks.  No, I'm not ridiculing anyone.  I imagine a lot of things The English do seem strange, too, when looked at it through that particular filter.  That's all I'm sayin'. 

Creekside Sales also had Wheat Montana wheat berries, broken down into five-pound bags and priced at $5.99.  I didn't buy any because I had other sources to check out.  And I do still have some wheat from last year's purchase.  I have to clean it before I can use it, and that's a pain.  I made the mistake of not asking to see some of it before I bought it, just trusting it was the same stuff I bought last time.  But Wayne was not there and we were waited on by someone else.  And I didn't get out of the truck because my knee was pretty new at the time.  I really liked the wheat I got at Holman's the year before and it made better, lighter bread than the wheat I'd bought at Cattle Tracks through the Oklahoma Food Co-Op.  It was very clean, reasonably priced, and Wayne told me he had a lot of folks who bought it every fall to make their bread with all through the year.  So I thought I was all set till I got this last batch.  Rather than winnow the wheat berries, I've been giving them a quick rinse.  This cleans off any dirt and the hulls (or whatever they're called) float to the top and pour off with the water.  Then I spread them on a cookie sheet and stick them in the oven with just the oven light on and they dry out enough in a couple days well enough to grind in my flour mill.  But if I can buy a better product without having to pay huge shipping costs, or drive all the way to Marienthal, KS, I will not buy wheat at Holman's again.  I've since been told that when wheat is sold as seed, sometimes they spray it with a chemical to speed drying in the silo.  Yikes.  It's still probably no worse than eating store bread, but I want better than that.  I've been told there's a woman who lives in Skiatook who will order Wheat Montana wheat berries every fall, in bulk, and you pay shipping costs but it's nothing like it would be if you had a fifty-pound bag mailed to your home address, because it comes to her in a big truckload and you go pick yours up at her place.  This woman's website is on my Blogroll, as "Paula's Bread". 

This last Saturday we went to The Farmer's Market that is held each Saturday in the summer months, in downtown Bartlesville.  We had gone the weekend before so I could meet and visit with Kim Weyhrich of Jubilee Acres in Coffeyville, KS.  Our local newspaper had an article about them and another new vendor at The Farmer's Market, and it seems they grow wheat and sell flour.  So I e-mailed Kim with a couple of questions and she got back to me with answers.  Their wheat is an old variety originally from The Ukraine called Turkey Red.  Oh, yeah.  I'm interested.  I was glad I'd brought the newspaper article the first time around, because she hadn't seen it, and I just gave it to her.  She had asked me if I had any buckets that any of my previously-purchased wheat berries had come in and as it happened, I did.  So this time I took some wheat buckets to her so she could put my wheat in them when it's ready.  They clean it and then they send it to a place that dries it.  I realized when I got the buckets out how small they were and Kim said they probably only hold twenty pounds.  Well, I want about 100 pounds so it will be enough to get us to the next harvest.  So I emailed her and asked if my getting a couple of buckets more would run them short and she said no, that'd be fine.  This wheat is not inexpensive, but it's reasonable, and she and I are on the same wave-length about how important good food products are.  She showed me an article she'd printed out about how wheat in America has been tinkered with, through the selection process, until it's not the same thing that it was when our ancestors came over here on ships with the seeds sewn into the hems of the women's dresses.  That's when I knew I'd found my source, because I'd read that same article, several months ago.  We had a nice visit in between sales, last Saturday.  I brought her some Cowhorn Okra seed and she mentioned that she had grown a variety that's so fat no one will buy it because they think it'll be tough.  That got me curious, and a quick search resulted in Baker Creek's "Beck's Big Buck Horn Okra" HERE.  I am going to keep that in mind for next year's garden.  I have Cowhorn planted for this year and so far it's been my favorite.  A big plant, makes long pods that are still tender, and because of that, is a good producer.  Baker Creek sells something they call "Fife Cow Horn" and I don't know if it's the same thing I grow, as I got my original seed from a GardenWeb seed trade many years ago.  This year, even the okra is struggling.  And that's saying something.

Before we left The Farmer's Market, we found Tim Tucker of "Tuckerbees" and I bought my customary gallon of Kansas honey.  The price has gone up to $55 this year.  I was smart this time.  I poured the honey out of the gallon jug and into four wide-mouth quart canning jars.  In storage, sometimes the honey "goes to sugar" and it is difficult to get out of the jug.  I've had to set jugs out on the patio on a warm day to get it to smooth out again so I can pour it, and that's something I'll avoid having to do with this jug.  The jug comes with a nice screw-on plastic lid with a pop-open top that I keep for use on some of the gallon glass jugs I've accumulated for cider storage.  I'll use the plastic jug in the garden. 

HERE is an interesting YouTube done by Herrick Kimball about growing carrots.  I was thinking, as I watched it, that I had ready-made materials on hand to make little seed-starting covers which would work for carrot seed and lots of other kinds of seed, as well.  What are they?  Folgers coffee tub lids!  Poke a stick into the ground, make a round hole in the center of the lid, fasten the lid onto the stick and secure with a clothespin clipped onto the stick, just under the lid.  These lids are normally black, which might absorb too much heat if used in the heat of summer, but this could be an advantage in springtime.  One side could be spray-painted white or even covered in aluminum foil to get past this problem.  I cut off the bottoms of Folgers cans, as many of you will remember from previous posts, and use the tubs as "collars" for wind protection for early transplants.  A regular tomato cage set down over the tubs does a good job of keeping them in place.  That leaves me lots of lids on hand that serve no purpose other than acting as covers for the coffee tubs if we're going to have a frosty night.  They could still be used for that, the hole in the middle shouldn't be a problem.  Anyway, watch this video, Herrick is a very inventive guy, he has had a book published called "The Idea Book For Gardeners" on Amazon HERE that's gotten lots of good reviews.  He uses Contractor woven plastic sheeting to cover his garden beds.  I haven't checked Lowe's yet, but found it at Home Depot when we were in Tulsa last time.  It's about the same price as THIS, which might be better because it can be ordered and delivered, and I thought the woven plastic looked a little porous.  Bermuda grass and bindweed could see those little spaces and grow right through it.  Since people in the Comments said they used it for a home-made Slip-n-Slide, I'm thinking this stuff is smooth.  I don't know if the woven stuff lasts any longer than the smooth plastic does, but I do know that heavy-duty leaf bags, made of the smooth stuff, breaks apart after exposure to just Winter and Spring.  That'd be my concern, how long this stuff lasts.  Someone asked the question, and the only answer they got was that it hadn't been tested for that.  When you already know the answer, but don't want to have to say it, that's what you say.

I also ran across some glowing recommendations for "Strike" snap beans.  Might try them next, if TenderGreen or Jade don't work out.  They're up, TenderGreen is a bigger plant right now because it was planted earlier than Jade.  Both seem to be tolerating the heat, so far.

I really think the only option left to me at this point is to do a fall garden.  But I don't know right now if I have the oomph.  Or the desire.  Oh, yeah, I know.  I get this "Don't Give A Damn" attitude every year.  The problem with fall gardens is that those seeds have to germinate in the heat, and tolerate arid conditions when they are bitty.  They have to not stall out so they can be big enough to produce a crop before the first fall freeze.  One year I had cabbage and Romaine that passed all those challenges.  We didn't get a freeze till December. 

Other news is that, on April 10, I received a puncture wound from a Sandplum tree and that night my finger swelled up and throbbed.  My knee surgeon's nurse called in a prescription for an antibiotic but when it was gone a week later, my finger was still the same.  Research on the internet made me suspect I had Plant Thorn Synovitis.  My finger looked like the picture, and the symptoms were right.  So I got an appointment with my family doctor, who sent me for an x-ray, which didn't see any foreign body and so she said maybe I should go to an orthopedist who treats hands.  There was one in the same offices as my knee guy, and after a month's wait for an appointment, I got in to see him.  He said he thought it was a slow-growing bacterial infection, and referred me to an Infectious Diseases guy.  I couldn't get an appointment with him for 45 days.  I felt like it was very gradually getting better by then, and said so when I finally got in his office, and he told me he didn't think I had a bacterial infection.  I told him I didn't think so either because I was pretty sure if it had been, I'd've been dead by the appointment date.  He sent me to give a blood sample, just to be sure.  I'm not afraid to die but I just didn't really want to be dying like THIS, you know?  But I guess considering that God let His only begotten son die nailed to a cross, there's always a worse way to die, no matter what you die from.  My finger is almost back to normal now but for Pete's sake, people, be careful around thorny things!  He said thorns have toxins on them that inflame the tissue when you get punctured by one.  Just today I saw on the news where a man went into the water at a beach, with his kids / grandkids, and some time later ended up with Flesh-Eating bacteria.  They amputated his foot.  And they might have to take off more in order to save his life, if they can even do that.  That is some pretty powerful bacteria. 

Well, friends, I know this isn't a very good post, and I know I've made you wait a long time for it, and I apologize for both.  I'm considering doing a bunch of very short posts or maybe mostly pictures for these months in which I'm so busy there's no time to write.  I've said this so often lately, "We'll see how it goes."  But Hubs and I are well and, as Lorraine says, "Putting one foot in front of the other".  

Rock on, Y'all....       Hugs xoxoxoxo