Category: In The Garden

Bull Snakes Allowed

I live in a part of the country where bull snakes thrive. The prairies are prime habitat and so are the towns that dot them. So, from time to time one decides to take up residence in our yard.

We lost a seasoned bull snake last year when it became entangled in some deer fencing. That one was one of the largest bull snakes I ever came in contact with. Over six feet long and as thick as my fist. Our newest inhabitant is much younger.

Identification

Young adult bull snake taking a defensive position.
The round eyes help identify the type of snake.

While not a fan of snakes in general, I understand the importance of snakes such as bull snakes in the ecosystem. So, identification is important. Bull snakes closely resemble rattlesnakes. As long as rattlers stay away from my yard, they are free to be. But venomous snakes are too dangerous to co-exist in close proximity.

As a young child I was taught to stay clear of certain snakes. The first I learned to identify was the coral snake followed by Eastern Diamondback and Timber rattlesnakes. On the High Plains of North America, I mostly encounter prairie rattlers although massasauga rattlesnakes can also be found. The latter snakes tend to be smaller. Both are venomous.

Markings of bull snakes and rattlesnakes are similar. The heads are both triangular although the rattlesnake is more so and narrows at the neck. As a defense mechanism, the bull snake can flatten its’ head making this factor unreliable. The eyes differ as well, but I wouldn’t want to get that close. So, the default is the tail. Beware of rattles.

Sophie and Bull Snakes

Striped cat atop a cat seatSophie the cat is quite the hunter. From time to time, she has competition from the bull snakes. She stays clear of the larger ones but sometimes challenges and even conquers the smaller ones. She was challenging the latest bull snake this week.

When bull snakes are confronted, they take on the characteristics of a rattlesnake. They coil as if they will strike, puff up and hiss. Sometimes they will mimic a rattle with their tails by shaking it against dry leaves. In the case of our latest visitor, only green grass was nearby.

However, we wanted to make sure. In the photo above, the eye is rounded as for a bull. But I did not get close enough to see in real life. It was the striped tail without a rattle that saved this particular reptile.

Water and Bull Snakes Don’t Mix

As you can see in the following videos, this bull snake did not want to get wet. After determining the snake was not a rattler, we wanted to discourage it from hanging around the patio. Spraying water in front of it was a surefire way to change its’ direction.

I believe this snake has been around for about six weeks. The grasshoppers that had ravaged my herb garden suddenly disappeared about that time. Additionally, I have heard rustling sounds lately on trips out to the compost pile. And a snake-sized hole appeared burrowing into one of the raised beds in the same area.

Since this is not a baby bull snake, my hope is Sophie will leave it alone. Then, I will have two hunters of mice. Bull snakes certainly have a place in my garden. I just wish they didn’t startle me so much.

Not a fan of water

Maybe in the 3-foot range

Progressing Through the Season

Fall 2022- Progressing Through the Season

I am progressing through the season. The fall season is just a few weeks old but I think I have canned the last of the cucumbers. Today, I mixed Bavarian and Kosher Dill spices. It will be interesting to discover the taste in a month or two once the pickles are ready.

The tomatoes are still going full strength. New blooms continue, plenty of green tomatoes and a steady ripening of both paste and slicers. So, the garden is also progressing through the season.

Cans of Bavarian Pickles
Tomato Blooms

Asparagus Bed

The new asparagus bed is showing signs of fall. Just one of the two dozen plants is a female as determined by the red berries she is now producing. To be honest, I can’t remember if the package of roots claimed to be all males. But the bed dominated by males should guard against overcrowding while producing plenty of spears in the coming years. The new plants are nicely progressing through the season with fronds turning yellow.

This year I mixed a few tomatoes into the asparagus bed. However, harvesting was difficult since I did not want to harm the new asparagus. So, I will not repeat that experiment. Next year, I will harvest about a third of the spears to allow the plants to firmly root in.

Fall asparagus bed full of fronds
Asparagus fronds beginning to turn yellow.
Female asparagus plant with red berries
Red Berries on female plant

Progressing Through the Season

Green leaves turning to yellow and orange.
Newly planted peach tree.

My fall clean-up will extend outside as well as in the basement. Beds will be prepared for winter. To guard against erosion, plants will not be pulled from the ground. Instead, I will clip the stalks at or just above ground level. Hopefully, this will prevent the strong winter winds from blowing away the soil. I lost my entire garlic crop last year due to winds over 100 m.p.h. (That is equal to Category 2 Hurricane winds.)

Next, I will add some compost and a covering of straw. This will enrich the soil and keep the temperature just a bit warmer. Cool spring soil temperature can delay transplanting into the garden.

Additional tasks will include trimming of branches, disconnecting hoses and of course raking of leaves…once they start falling. The trees are late to turn color this year. So, it is quite possible we will not have our first frost until November. Quite a change from 2020 when we experienced a Labor Day Freeze.

Mid-summer Tomato Plant Chores

Pruning Suckers

Mid-Summer Tomato Plant Chores

A mid-summer tomato plant needs attention even though the tomatoes are still green. Suckers like to grow out between the main stem and branches at a 45-degree angle, so they are easy to spot. Suckers will not harm the plant, but they can make the tomato get too big for the space.

Therefore, I try to check for suckers on a weekly basis. It is best to pinch back the suckers when they are relatively short. Sometimes the suckers escape my notice. So, a mid-summer task is to spend one entire morning trimming back the tomatoes, both suckers and lower branches where leaves are fading.

Any suckers that have escaped my notice and are longer than an inch or two are carefully evaluated. If they already show signs of budding flowers they are left alone. Otherwise, I use clippers. The longer suckers don’t pinch easily and thus clipping causes less damage to the plant. Attempting to pinch a long sucker often strips the stem.

Small suckers are perfect for pinching.
Mid-summer tomato plant suckers at a 45-degree angle.
Suckers grow at a 45-degree angle.
Small suckers can be pinched by hand.

Recycling in the Garden

This year I have been focused on organization and decluttering. During my purging of unneeded items re: Lose the Clutter Lose the Weight, I discovered some bendable hair curlers in the girls’ bathroom. Instead of trashing them, I put them with the garden supplies.

Now they are part of the mid-summer tomato plant patch. Branching stems need to be tied to the supports to keep the tomato plant upright. This keeps air circulating around the plant deterring diseases and attracting beneficial insects. Furthermore, gardeners in a hurry don’t step (or trip) on ripening fruit.

Curlers.
Using recycled hair curlers in the garden.
Bendable curler training branch to a support.
New use is perfect for recycling objects that would otherwise be tossed.

Mid-Summer Tomato Plant Chores

After tying the plants and pinching or clipping suckers, it is time to add a little compost at the base of each tomato plant. I use either homemade compost or a commercial mushroom compost mid-summer on my heavy feeders. Tomatoes qualify as a heavy feeder. I just spread a fistful about two inches away from the plant base and water in.

Clippings without signs of disease can be added back into the compost. The whole process takes me the better part of a morning. It is quite satisfying restoring order to the tomato row.

Mid-summer tomato plant out of control.
Mid-summer tomato plant out of control.

Freeze Fresh Book Review

Preserving Fruits and Vegetables

Freeze Fresh: The Ultimate Guide to Preserving 55 Fruits and Vegetables by Crystal Schmidt stood out on the new release rack at the public library. Almost two hundred pages of tips for freezing fresh produce. And recipes for the frozen products.

I love learning new things and Freeze Fresh provides a multitude. Did you know avocados can be frozen? Or that flash freezing keeps smoothie ingredients from forming hard to handle frozen blocks? But the idea I already put into play involves the freezer itself.

An Organized Freezer

Interior page in the book Freeze Fresh showing an organized chest freezer utilizing heavy duty boxes.Home organization has been a key in 2022. But I overlooked my chest freezer. Schmidt recommends using heavy duty cardboard boxes like the ones copy paper comes in as organizers. Since I don’t have any boxes of that type, I substituted a banker’s box and a heavy-duty smaller box formerly housing my new modem.

The smaller box holds various types of nuts. I buy walnuts, pecans and almonds in quantity when they go on sale during the holidays and use then throughout the year. The larger box contains meats from the locker. In rural America, small independent butchers still operate and give grocery stores some competition.

After organizing my freezer in this fashion, I gained unrealized space, much needed since it is harvest time for peaches. So, I tried the flash freeze process.

Freeze Fresh Peaches

The flash freezing technique works great on my freshly picked peaches. And it is so simple! Parchment paper and a lipped baking sheet which fits into the freezer is all that is needed. The slices freeze fresh and remain separate once they are moved to a freezer bag. From now on, all the smoothie ingredients will be flash frozen.

Recipes

The author offers two types of recipes. First are recipes for freezing. Think pesto cubes and B-B-Q sauces. The avocado falls into this category as well, although I have not tried this one myself. Along these lines are pie fillings and marinara type sauces. Schmidt’s suggestion of using stackable containers has much merit. My experience with spaghetti sauce frozen in baggies has been messy at times.

Freeze Fresh also contains recipes for the frozen produce once it has been thawed out. These recipes follow each section of the 55 fruits and vegetables. They are categorized as “For the Table.” So, if you are thawing out blueberries look in the section on blueberries for a few recipes.

Recommendation

I love Freeze Fresh so much that I have ordered a copy for myself. Crystal Schmidt also has a YouTube channel you might be interested in. Click on this tab for the link. If you have a big garden this year, consider freezing some of the produce and find a copy of Freeze Fresh to guide you.

Internet Rumors

Internet Rumors: How did the Latest Begin?

Horehound in bloom
Horehound

Internet Rumors abound. The latest one suggests the country of Australia is proposing a ban on home gardening. So, I am including this link to actual parliament testimony for those of you interested in reading the propositions. I could see no outright ban on growing your own vegetables. But I admit I just performed a brief scan of the document.

However, I did see enough to understand how an Internet rumor could begin. Testimony included discussion of invasive species of both flora and fauna. Since I live in a rural agriculture area in the United States, such discussion was not novel. However, one of the species mentioned, horehound, thrives in my garden. I consider it less a problem than either oregano or mint. All three are groundcovers that spread.

The other plants mentioned in the testimony were blackberries, lantana and pampas grass. All are spreaders. Plants that grow where they are not wanted can be considered weeds. So even though blackberries are delicious, residents of the Pacific Northwest might find them as noxious as I do bindweed.

Controlling Nature

The testimony also discussed the problem of Asian Honey Bees and Fire Ants. I am not a fan of fire ants, but as long as they stay away from the house, I leave them alone. They are very beneficial in the garden eating many pests. The key is for nature to stay in balance. I would not like to have fire ants everywhere.

Asian Honey Bees are dominators. They eliminate other types of bees from their territory. Many governments restrict their import. But like other living things, such as viruses, the spread is difficult to control.

Two Opinions

Several years ago an acquaintance voiced an opinion which greatly differed from mine. The belief is that growing food in the garden took away jobs for others. The impact goes beyond the farm owner and worker. The middle producers and the grocery store employees also depend on people needing food.

My argument is that I cannot produce enough to eliminate those jobs. My garden supplements but does not replace. And I have a big garden. Truly, I think most individuals do not realize the work it would take to be self-sustaining. For those, I suggest they find a copy of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. Division of labor has led to both more productivity and longer lives.

The biggest reason I prefer to grow my own is the taste. Many vegetables bought at the grocery store are picked prior to a ripe stage so they can be shipped without damage. The result is the food is not at peak ripeness. When I pick from my own garden, I pick for that day. Only farm markets come close!

More Internet Rumors: Taxing and Permits

Other Internet rumors suggest various governments will tax home grown foods. Or prohibit them altogether. This is widely circulated without the details. As the saying goes the devil is in the details. Most of these incidents involve local governments or HOA’s. (Home Owner Associations) Restrictions may include no vegetable gardens in alley ways or front yards. Plus any seed packets are usually taxed. As are plants from the nurseries or the Big Box stores.

At the moment, I have had no push back for my big garden which is in my side yard. But I am proactive. A fence now separates the garden and the street. Furthermore, a new flower bed is in front of the fence. The garden house/green house is on hold because of permits and building costs. Our small town charges fees for almost everything. I will need to pay the city a minimum of a thousand dollars if I move a small building onto my property. The fee increases if it is built from the ground up.

Impact of War and Covid-19

The invasion of Ukraine and the pandemic are still impacting the supply chain. Supplementing my supper table with home grown vegetables makes sense to me. Since I live in a town on a small lot, goats and cows are out of the question. Furthermore, I am on the edge of town so coyotes can be a problem. Thus I will not attempt chickens. But I do look forward to tasting the first tomatoes of the year.

In my opinion Internet Rumors try to sow dissension and disharmony. I prefer sowing seeds. Both flowers and vegetables. Between the wars and pandemic there is enough strife. This summer plant some beauty and nutrition instead.

Hobby Farm Book Review

Book Cover-Hobby FarmHobby Farm-Living Your Rural Dream for Pleasure and Profit by Carol Ekarius is one of the most extensive “How-To” books I have found on rural agrarian living. This book is a library check-out. Somehow, I missed seeing this for almost twenty years. Yet, the information is impactful,  So much, I plan to buy a copy.

Rural Life

The city-to-farm exodus accelerated during the Covid-19 pandemic. This is evident in rural areas with rocketing home prices and a squeeze on housing availability. But life in the country is still a bargain. Many newcomers can benefit by the wisdom proffered by Ekarius. Because, outsiders need time to become insiders.

Ten chapters cover everything from agricultural history in the United States to developing business plans to worker safety. The approach is well thought out and the information flows logically. Hobby Farm stresses the different lifestyle found in rural living. So, for anyone truly interested in leaving traffic jams and shopping malls  behind, the book is a must read. Since life can be difficult away from the convenience of city living.

Crops and Critters

The heart of the book begins with a chapter combining farm safety and the troublemakers farmers face. Here, Ekarius stresses the importance of disaster preparedness.  For example, advanced planning is needed for fires, floods, blizzards and drought. And livestock operations make this critical. Barn animals cannot escape a fire on their own.

Farms and ranches face other threats. Raccoons can decimate a crop as well as a chicken coop. Coyotes target many types of livestock. The author utilizes a chart to identify the predators. And she presents the best ways to thwart attacks.

Personally, the most enjoyable chapters focused on gardening. Again, Ekarius includes helpful guides listing everything from companion planting to soil temperature for germination. Additionally, special topics receive highlighted sections. For example, information on seed saving is presented in this format.

Chapters on livestock receive similar treatment. Details from breeding to processing provide valuable information for the novice. Furthermore, Ekarius addresses the many government regulations involved in producing meat for consumption.

Hobby Farm Ultimate Guidebook

Small towns in rural areas are a microcosm of community living. Doctors, teachers and bankers live and work alongside farmers and ranchers. Many small farms are supplemented by the second earner both in income and health insurance. A hobby farm can be lucrative. But that is not always the case. Ekarius discusses the good and the bad.

The final chapter on agripreneurship is a winner. Marketing is a key component and is well presented. And the information on creating a business plan is thorough. Furthermore, the author offers up various types of agribusinesses and how to make each successful. An appendix of resources completes the book.

Recommendation

Hobby Farm is a fantastic resource. Carol Ekarius is knowledgeable and her writing is easy to understand. The subject material is vast. But not overwhelming. And the photos are beautiful. The book includes many charts. Also, the definitions are clear and helpful. Furthermore, recipes are an added bonus.

Anyone thinking of joining the city-to-farm movement will benefit from reading Hobby Farm. But, individuals who have never lived in a rural area are the target audience. Life hours away from a metropolitan area takes an adjustment in attitude. But, it can be done. I am living proof.

Guide Page giving info on livestock
Second half of livestock guide
Pages from Hobby Farm by Carol Ekarius depicting cattle on a sloped farm on one page and a fall mountain ladscape on the othet.
Fruits and Vegetable chart in Farm Hobby by Carol Ekarius
Full color photo of cabbage and beans from Hobby Farm by Carol Ekarius

Gearing Up for the Spring 2022 Garden

Spring 2022 starts in a few days. So even though I woke up to a single digit temperature I am making plans. Changes to the hardscape of the garden are a key component. But, I don’t intend to try many new crops this year. There were too many failures last year. Therefore, any additions plant wise will be extensions of successfully grown veggies.

New Fence

The great wind storm last winter took multiple sections of fence down. Since the cost of wood is sky high, we will try to salvage as much as possible. But we will convert to metal poles to anchor the fence sections. We still need to wait a few weeks for the ground to thaw.

The time to put a more permanent fence around the Big Garden is here. Unfortunately, inflation is rampant. So, I have decided the most economical method will involve T-posts and wind fence. I had thought of landscape pavestones, but the price has tripled since last spring. And I still need to find a suitable gate for the entry point. The wire one I cobbled together is just about worn out. Its current state is more of a danger than just about anything. Fence blown down by wind

New Asparagus Bed

I am very excited about adding a long narrow asparagus bed. Last year, the area for the bed was covered by some black landscape fabric and topped with grass clippings. This should give me a head start on eliminating weeds.

A rototiller will be used and then the bed will be enriched with compost and minerals to give the crowns a good start. I plan to put in two dozen new crowns. So, the bed will need to be thirty-six feet in length to space the plants eighteen inches apart.

My current bed is nearing twenty-five years. Production was off last year, so my actions are proactive. It takes three years at a minimum to establish a good bed of asparagus. This is my main planting task of the Spring 2022 garden.

Spring 2022 Starts

Spring 2022 starts of lettuces and pak choi
Spring starts under the grow lights.

Even though snow covers the ground outside, young starts have sprouted under the grow lights. Pak Choi and a variety of lettuces have a head start on the peanuts which are always slow to germinate. Once again the spinaches are also slow. I may need to change the soil type as the seed is new.

In an attempt to outsmart the flea beetles, I am only planting the larger brassicas in late July for a fall crop. However, potatoes will go in the ground sometime next week. I am going to try to start my own sweet potato slips, but will order a few just as a back-up.

Saving seeds and tubers for the following year works best with heirloom varieties. Other seeds will germinate, but the produce may turn into an interesting shape, if it even germinates and gives output. If any of the garlic planted last fall survived the wind, I will immediately re-plant a few as I know my harvest this spring 2022 will be poor.

Spring Notes

My calendar notes from 2021 have aided my planning for 2022. Weather patterns change but other observations can help. For example, last year was an early end frost date. April 13th was the last freeze. So plants went in early, but some still were leggy before planting. So, I am delaying the start of the tomatoes since it would be very unusual not to have a freeze in May two years in a row.

Spring is a season of renewal. I plan to offset the heartbreaking photos of war in Ukraine with flowers as well as veggies. Vibrant blooms always lift my spirit. Intercropping the flowers with the vegetables will attract pollinators. So, my soul will feast on flowers while we grow plenty of food for our summer table. I encourage everyone to plant a garden this year.

 

Spring 2022 notes aided by earlier year planners

Planning the 2022 Garden

A cold wintry January day is perfect for staying inside and planning the 2022 garden. My planning involves reviewing the diagrams from last year showing what was planted where. Then, buying seeds is another key component. But, looking back on my notes is the most important of all.

Diagrams of the Garden

I began drawing out plant placements of my garden the second year I lived here. Because, I couldn’t quite remember what was planted where. And I wanted to rotate my crops. Crop rotation is necessary to not deplete the soil.

Before I can create a new plan, I check last year’s and then I research. There are so many facets of crop rotation that I can’t remember them all so I check and re-check with my resources both in print an online. Since I am new to growing brassicas, I need to experiment a bit with them. This year I plan to plant one section from last year with potatoes. The other area will see a repeat of legumes following the brassicas.

Last year I planted quite a few flowers in the big garden to attract pollinators. I will expand on that this season. So many people use/overuse pesticides and bees are not as abundant as in the past.

The squash were decimated by squash bugs last year so I am undecided as to where they should go or if I should skip a season. It is a fact that I need to be more diligent next summer in examining the vines. Not sure if both virus and bug repellant seeds are on the market.

Buying Seeds and Planning the 2022 Garden

Seed Packets
Need to organize the Seeds

In addition to the seeds I save from the garden, I also scour seed catalogues during the winter months. I am almost done with the winter purchase of seeds. However, they still need to be organized. Starting seeds indoors is just around the corner.

Reviewing notes is a key part of seed buying. Varieties that worked are bought again. One of my favorite slicing tomatoes was discontinued a few years ago. I still have an unopened seed packet for this year. The plant is a hybrid so saving seed from the produce does not guarantee successful reproduction. Alas, once these seeds are gone…..

I love looking at the new varieties featured in the catalogues. Experimenting with new types makes the garden fun. And if I don’t like the outcome, an easy solution for the following year is to try something else. This will be the case with cucumbers in planning the 2022 garden.

Just a few recent arrivals

Reviewing Notes in Planning the 2022 Garden

For each of the past four years I have kept notes in my yearly planners. The notes encompass weather, bug attacks and crop yields. Notations are also made on the health of the crops. The year over year comparisons are insightful.

Garden Planners from 2018 to Present

Adjustments on starting seeds as well as outdoor plantings are made from these notes. These changes are not infallible as weather changes year to year. Climate change is also making an impact over a longer time period. (Most farmers I know recognize climate change regardless of their respective political beliefs.) Bumper crops one year can turn into failed crops the next. But the overall trend in my part of the world is drier and hotter. I need to adjust for this reality as well.

Looking Forward

As the snowflakes drift down outside, I am warm and cozy inside and dreaming of the mornings where I am up with the sun poking through the garden rows. I feel such incredible joy watching the little plants grow and then produce wonderful veggies for the dinner table. There is a satisfaction hard to match and I swear the food tastes better. Winter is here for a few more months, but planning for the 2022 garden is a productive diversion from the dreary cold.

Results in the 2021 Garden

Crop output

Results in the 2021 garden varied by crop. Pretty typical to be honest. Weather varies year to year. So do outcomes. But there were still some surprising results in the 2021 garden. The early spring rains made an impact.

Fall Flowers arranged in a ceramic pumpkin
Flowers from the 2021 Garden

Legumes

I am still having trouble with my pea plants and their output. Plenty of rain this year and an early last frost date in the spring couldn’t alter the production. However, green beans of various kinds more than made up for this. I had plenty to put up and plenty to let mature to dried status.

Those reading in the spring know I had trouble with my peanut starts. The few that were transplanted did well.

Furthermore, peanuts planted straight into the ground had some success as well. I attribute this to a longer growing season than usual here. Since I can’t expect that to happen twice in a row, I hope for better success with the peanut starts next year. Soaking the seed prior to planting in seed pot is a must.

Tomato Results in the 2021 Garden

The tomatoes were a bit of a disappointment. My goal is to raise enough paste tomatoes to keep the family provided with salsa and spaghetti sauce. If I have enough left over, I even make ketchup. The results in the 2021 garden were abysmal. One batch of salsa. A few pots of spaghetti sauce were consumed immediately. Never enough to put up.

The one success was a slicing tomato. The Cherokee Purple Heirloom tomatoes which grew so erratically in 2020 were perfect in 2021. Perhaps the rains played a part. They were plentiful for the first half of the season.

Biggest Successes

Potatoes and sweet potatoes were among the biggest success stories this past summer. Both crops provided enough to store into the early winter. The root crops netted good size specimens without too many weird shapes.

Herbs also brought good results in the 2021 garden. Dill and basil provided enough to use fresh and to dry for the winter months. The lemon balm escaped the freeze in one location and is still being harvested.  One pot of mint is also thriving. The basil in the Big Garden was nipped by temperatures right at the freezing mark a few days before the hard freeze.

The cucumbers were a success when measured by number. However, I planted a new variety that I just wasn’t happy with. The Parisian cucumbers were very spiny and were only conducive to pickling. And pickling whole for the most part.

So next year, I plan to go back to some tried and true.

Biggest Failures

Mother Nature deals out hardships from time to time. Add on top failure by this farmer to act quickly and you have some poor results in the 2021 garden. I am sure glad I don’t depend on what I can grow to be my sole source of food. After this summer, I have an even greater appreciation for modern conveniences such as the local grocery store.

One watermelon, three cantaloupe, three acorn squash, one very small pie pumpkin. Eggplant that never reached normal size. Beets that germinated at about a one in ten rate. The list goes on and on. I am still scratching my head on why I had such uneven production this past year.

My biggest failure was not spotting the squash bugs on the white pumpkins. The two vines were loaded with pumpkins. Squash bugs not only destroyed the vines but also the fruit. I may need to skip growing any squash next year. This devastation occurred when I was gone for a week. Unbelievably quick.

2022 Season

Next year is just around the corner. I have about a third of my garlic planted. Some of the smaller potatoes were put into a container. They have sprouted and I am trying to grow them indoors. Still no greenhouse in sight. I am making some adjustments on when I will start my seed to see if that will change any of the outcomes. There is always hope for next year.

Large single cabbage head in the garden
A cabbage head survived the cabbage worms.
Cantaloupe vine in garden with two fruit
Small yield on the cantaloupe vine.
Puny watermelon with one small melon
One tiny watermelon.

Summertime Hail Storm

Zero Chance of Rain

A summertime hail storm struck this past weekend even though the chance of rain was nil. Thunder and lightning broke the quiet evening and lit up the skies to the north. I checked the forecast and the radar-zero chance of the storm coming south.  So, the bedtime ritual complete, I turned in for the night. Or so I thought.

An hour later pounding overhead woke me up. Immediately, I left the comfort of my bed and checked the backdoor to see if the racket was heavy rain or dreaded hail. At that point, it was hard to tell. So, I opened the front door. Tiny balls were bouncing off the driveway.

Next I checked the radar. A red cell was directly overhead. Not moving. And the pounding increased. Another peek outback and large peas were dotting the grass. Then the peas turned to small marbles. Perfectly round with the exception of one odd shaped ice cube. This hail stone was almost clear while the rest were opaque. Much like a perfectly formed snow balls. Just miniaturized.

The storm lasted thirty minutes.

Damage to the Big Garden

Naturally, my first thought upon awakening the next morning was the garden. The Big Garden was checked first. The lettuce row was shredded. The single potato in the middle of the root row was damaged as well. But the potatoes and sweet potatoes in the metal rings both inside and outside of the fencing fared better.

The tomatoes had whiplash, but most of the stems were intact and the flowers still open. However, the mallow was denuded of its beautiful purple blooms. Carrots and beets are still too small to show much damage.

Anything with a support was barely touched. This includes the peas which are bearing pods. Likewise, smaller leafed plants did ok. Unfortunately, the squash with its broad leaves show damage.

Raised Boxes

The raised boxes at the back of the property bore the most damage. The tomatoes there were not on supports. Now they resemble little trees sliced down by a tornado. The summertime hail storm showed no mercy.

The clusters on the Concord and Niagara grapes are so small and hard, I am hoping they escape the damage so readily seen on the leaves. On each side of the boxes are asparagus patches. One looked downtrodden and the other as if nothing but rain had occurred.  Such is the nature of hail.

Summertime Hail Storm and the Side Garden

The side garden should have sustained the most damage. But it didn’t and I am not sure why. I have the slicing tomatoes planted here. They have supports. The damage was greater than the Big Garden paste tomatoes but not nearly as devastating as the boxes.

The side garden is half produce and half flower.  (I plant flowers everywhere to entice the bees, but usually the ratio is much more lopsided.) The roses are budding out and show some damage. The peonies were protected-but still no flowers. This is year three since transplant. The peach trees shredded many leaves. The hail could not damage the fruit since the hard freeze took care of that first.

Container Plants

In hopes of a greenhouse, I increased the number of tropical plants in planters. While my potted flowers did well, the various tropicals did not. Severe damage was noted to the banana, turmeric, and artichoke. Minor damage to the avocado. The lime tree was somewhat sheltered by the house and showed no damage.

The zero chance of rain played into the mix here. All these planters could and would have been pulled onto one of the porches if I felt they were in danger.

High Plains Summertime Hail Storms

This part of the country experiences many hail storms. The last major storm was just four years ago. You can read about it by clicking here. The storms are hit and miss. Furthermore, they are unpredictable. This particular storm came from the north, but farmer friends less than five miles north of us had the rain without the hail.

Crop insurance plays a big part in farming operations. And Mother Nature still rules. Fields side-by-side can vary in how a storm affects them. Sometimes the change is within a field with corn stripped on one side but not the other.

Home owners also need coverage. Between the length of the storm and the tiny black specks under the roofline, there is a chance our roof sustained damage. An inspector will travel out from the Front Range next week.

My appointment is scheduled for first thing in the morning. I asked if he knew how far and he replied he hadn’t been out here in a long time. But he had used Google maps. He will either start out at 0’ Dark Thirty, or possibly come out the night before. Such is life out on the plains.

Summertime Hail Storm

Summer Hail Storm 5 Star Lettuce

Springtime in the Garden: A 2021 Update

The Big Garden

A Raised Row Garden
The rows run North to South

Spring 2021

Springtime in the garden varies from year to year. Some springs are over in the blink of an eye. Freezing temperatures give way to triple digits in a fortnight. But Spring 2021 is more like a story tale. Cool evenings are followed by warm afternoons. Rains have been gentle and frequent. This is a delightful change.

Early Harvests

Green onions and lettuces lead the harvest production. But the asparagus crop is not far behind. I plant onion bulbs early and often. Two to three green onions are consumed per day in our household. To be honest, leaving enough in the ground to develop into winter storage bulbs is a challenge.

Early herbs include Italian Parsley, chives and oregano. The first pesto of the season is made from a combination of these three. In addition to adding these herbs to our evening dishes, they add color to the spring garden.

Early blooming herbs include chives, horehound and sage. Of these three, the sage is the showiest. The sage buds are full and I expect them to be in full bloom by Memorial Day. In contrast, the horehound has small white flowers that are easy to overlook. I include all in small flower arrangements.

Successes This Springtime in the Garden

For the first time, I have successfully transplanted strawberries. Instead of small pots, I bought some bare roots from a local greenhouse. They have rooted in well-perhaps because of the good moisture.

Other garden additions include a beautiful Pink Lady apple, a plum and an apricot. The apricot arrived just two week ago and has not leafed out yet. One of the new blueberry bushes is also thriving. Unfortunately, the other was mowed down. Accidents happen in the garden.

My seed starts from this winter are just recently transplanted. Most look good. The tomatoes have doubled in size and the peppers and eggplant have added new leaves. The peanuts are holding their own and probably will not take off until temperatures turn hot.

Plants from direct seeding include beets, cucumbers, beans and carrots. All but the latter have poked their heads out of the soil. The raised beds have kept the growing area from being mired in mud. I truly believe in the raised row concept posited by Jim and Mary Competti. Read a review of there book by clicking here or visit there website here.

A Failure or Two…at Least

Winter kill was expected after the negative 28 F temperature recorded during the Arctic Freeze this past winter. This extraordinary cold took a toll on my figs and my almond. Neither has leafed out. Another mixed result came from relocating a small cherry tree. Only half the tree flowered.

I also failed in my attempt to grow sweet potato starts. Early leaves and roots failed to thrive. So, I will research more and try again next winter.

Springtime in the Garden: Wonderful Rains

The High Plains of America can be dry and windy. Much of the area was part of the Dust Bowl of the thirties and indeed, the past decade has had at least three years with less than ten inches of moisture for the entire year. But so far 2021 is different.

A minimum of three inches of snow fell in both January and February. Then the moisture really kicked up in March. Mid-month a three day rain event dropped 2.65 inches from the sky. Just over a week later, five to six inches of heavy wet snow fell.

April brought wind and a few small showers. I was worried that the faucet in the sky might shut off. The night temperatures stayed above the freezing mark from mid-month. This is very unusual.

Fortunately, the rains picked up again in May. Less than three weeks in and 3.3 inches of rain have fallen. The end result of all this moisture is a good base for the 2021 Springtime in the Garden.

St. Patrick’s Day and other Mid-March Musings

St. Patrick’s Day anchors this jam packed middle week in March. March 14 or 3/14 or 3.14 is Pi(E) day. Many colleges have fundraisers celebrating this day. Before giving up sugar during Lent, I loved eating pie on Pi Day. Of course, the Ides of March immediately follows Pi day. So, two days in a row of significance. Then, both are easily surpassed 48 hours later by St. Patrick’s Day.

Perhaps the first two days only appeal to math geeks and historians. Or, maybe St. Patrick’s Day looms large because so many remember elementary school days of being pinched if you didn’t wear green. But the middle of March brings about other practices as well.

Mid-March in the Garden

Even though the last spring frost is over a month away, gardening is in high gear. Potatoes are traditionally planted on or before St. Patrick’s Day in my part of the world. Seedlings are started and happy under the grow lights. And two new fruit trees have been planted along with a raspberry bush.

Firsts for me include starting peppers. One type of sweet pepper was purchased, the other saved from a delicious giant yellow pepper bought last fall at the grocery store. So far only the seeds I saved have germinated. I am anxious to see if they stay true to type.

Another first is using grow lights. My Christmas present this year was a double stand of lights. This has made my life so much easier than the old days of juggling starts around a south window or atop stacked boxes on the kitchen island. I am very pleased so far.

Indoor Starts

Double grow lights with seedlings

St. Patrick’s Day Blood Draw and other Mid-March Medical Events

The hospital in our little town is proactive. For many years Health Fairs have been offered each spring. This year my turn fell on St. Patrick’s Day. Truthfully, Covid-19 has scaled back on the event. Today was a simple blood draw. I look forward to the future when a full schedule of screenings can once again take place. Although, I don’t miss the height measurement—I seem to be shrinking.

However, this week will be a bellwether one for me. I am finally eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine. There are two available in our town; the Janssen (J&J) and the Moderna. I researched both quite extensively. The former is old-school medicine. The latter new technology. I am not an early adopter. However, after much research and consulting with my physician, I am slated to receive the Moderna on Friday.

I am apprehensive. New things scare me. But, I know first-hand the dangers of the virus. For anyone looking for a good source of honest information I recommend this post from the University of Michigan: https://healthblog.uofmhealth.org/wellness-prevention/not-sure-about-covid-19-vaccine-get-facts-then-decide

Daylight Savings Time

The final sign of the spring season is the switch to Daylight Savings Time. I have written about this often. My body struggles with the change, much like a toddler without a concept of time. I am off kilter. I like to wake to the sun, and I like many hours of darkness before bedtime. But I am sure the adjustment will be made just like all previous years.

Spring brings many changes. Weather and hobbies as well as eating and sleeping habits are in a state of flux. Personally, embracing new technology within months instead of years is a change. I will keep you all posted on my vaccine experience.

December 2020 Wrap-Up

Today is the last of December 2020 and the end of a very long year. 2020 was unique and not necessarily in a good way. Yet the year will be long remembered, and that is historically positive. Therefore, this wrap-up will extend beyond a monthly account and provide glimpses of what the entire year felt like here on the High Plains.

Change can be difficult. Self-discipline even more difficult and 2020 required both. Our household is inching closer and closer to the Over-The-Hill category. One of us has multiple “co-morbidities” and we both have thyroid issues. A year ago I would have said we both had another fifteen to twenty years on our lifespan. Now, who knows? So we are and will continue to be cautious with respect to Covid-19.

December 2020

Our month started out with the dreaded news that multiple family members had contracted the virus. Not all at the same time. The earliest was an octogenarian uncle who contracted the disease just prior to Thanksgiving. He died in early December. He had many co-morbidities. So his death was not unexpected. We were able to watch the graveside service via a livestream video. It was hard not being there in person.

Norman was a special man. A farmer by trade, he could have easily been a minister. His Thanksgiving 2001 grace still registers with my offspring. The prayer was both spiritual and patriotic. Perfect for those trying times. I will never forget the support he gave me in the early 90s after one of our little ones was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. The sporadic phone calls always seemed to occur when I most needed them. Rest in peace Uncle Norman.

A Low Key Christmas

A few days later, my spouse brought home a Norfolk Pine from the grocery store and we decided to use it as a Christmas tree. The live plant stands about three feet high and we placed lights upon the branches and packages underneath. Low key, yet the cheery tree greeted us each time we opened the front door.

Lights were hung on the front porch and the Christmas dishes were used throughout the month. Determined to keep with the spirit of the season, I made multiple batches of cookies to distribute to neighbors and family. We enjoyed our fair share as well.

I brined a turkey for the first time, and I will never roast one again without brining first. First of all, I really did not know what I was doing. However, I tossed some fresh garden herbs into the boiling salted water along with turmeric. The result was fantastic. I added little in the way of spices for the leftover dish Turkey Tetrazzini, yet it was one of the most flavorful dishes I have ever made. Brining the turkey is a new requirement in this household.

Peanut Butter Cookies
Chocolate Cship
Chocolate chocolate chip cookies
Pecan Pie Bars
Chocolate Fudge shortcake Pan cookies
Tumeric flavored brine

Celestial Delights for December 2020

Perhaps due to the brilliant clear skies we have in this part of the world, we are avid stargazers. December 2020 brought us several opportunities to embrace the cold nights by gazing at the above sky. The Geminid meteor shower is one of my favorites. One evening we spotted ten meteors in about thirty minutes.

But the highlight of the month was the appearance of the “Christmas Star.” The great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn is one I will remember. I place it with the Total Eclipse of 2017 as a treasured event. Truly, some things only occur once in a lifetime.

Other December 2020 Highlights

I continue to post my top list of books for the year. Click here for the 2020 list. My reading has fallen off a bit the last few weeks, but I am currently reading a Christmas gift, American Nations by Colin Woodard. Look for the review in January of 2021.

I also began another garden experiment. The remainder of my sweet potato crop was too small to cook. The root vegetables were less than an inch across and only numbered three. So two were tossed in the compost and the third was placed in a glass jar to hopefully spout. All through December 2020 I changed the water and watched roots slowly form. I was delighted to find sprouting stems and leaves on the 29th. I hope to grow slips from this plant as ordered slips often arrive in poor condition and weeks after the earliest planting time.

My quilting by hand continues. Christmas movies are great to have on while the tiny stitches are made. Many a cold December afternoon was spent in this way. However, I will need to begin cutting and piecing another baby quilt in January. My second grandchild is due late February.

Sweet Potato start in glass jar just beginning to sprout
Two quilts in hops for hand quilting

The Year of the Pandemic

It will be interesting to see how 2020 is treated by historians. While some countries have kept the numbers low, others have not. We are still in the middle of the pandemic and many countries are seen as having failed. My country is included among the failures. However as I wrote in my Successes and Failures post last January, we just need to keep trying. The Spanish Flu (which you can read a review of a good account by clicking here) came to an end and so will Covid-19.

My 2020 resolutions flew out the door rather quickly. In fact I had to look them up for this account. However, I was quite pleased that I managed to keep the third without trying. If there was ever a year for negativity, 2020 comes to mind. For the most part I stayed positive. A pandemic is something beyond my control. No need to be glum when something is out of your hands.

Gardening in 2020

Two items shine when I reflect on 2020. The first is my garden. I continue to advocate for the Raised Row technique first discussed in this March 2018 book review. The yields are great and the weeds are sparse. We are still enjoying the fruits (and vegetables) of my labor each time we open a jar of home produce.

Furthermore, I really enjoy the multiple experiments. I wrote numerous times about last spring’s peanut experiment which yielded a fair amount. I will use some of this year’s harvest to start next year’s plants. The legumes are great for the soil in addition to our eating enjoyment. As mentioned above, I am excited about my new sweet potato experiment. 2021 looks to be another good year in the garden.

Econogal 2020

Perhaps my greatest success has been my writing. Econogal readership is expanding, although not exponentially as viruses do. My favorite posts include Striking a Balance in May, Vail Valley Escape in July, Patience with a Side of Self-Discipline in November, Rainy Day Fund and Brave New World.

November was a key month with the number of hits on the blog almost tripling that of October. Perhaps people were just bored or stuck at home. However, I do appreciate the comments and the new followers. The community of bloggers is a solid one of support.

Superstitions

For the most part I am not a superstitious person. A key exception revolves around sports. Horse racing in particular evokes various superstitions. But I am a bit superstitious this New Year’s Eve. Last year I was full of expectations of 2020. This year I have absolutely NONE regarding 2021.

Furthermore, as you can see in the picture below, my planner for 2021 is not the artsy one of 2020 (that I had been so thrilled to find and purchase) but one much closer to the earlier years. I use planners extensively to keep track of my writing, the garden activities, and the weather. We have so little moisture on the High Plains, rain and snow measurements are key. Hopefully, a return to a plain, unexceptional planner will yield a less intense 2021. Happy New Year Everyone!

Planning calendars

Fall is Finally Here

Fall is finally here on the high plains. Simple signs tell me without looking at the calendar. These signs are so clear, I understand how the inhabitants from long ago knew winter was nigh. Birds migrating, trees turning color, plants yielding less and less, and night approaching faster and growing cooler.

Fall Migration Path

The geese are honking as they fly overhead. Their flight path on a straight North-South directional, an internal compass to envy. Each group numbers in the dozens and they are a familiar sight. And a sign fall is finally here.

The blue jays are also flying south, although they sometimes stay a day or two. Starlings which overstay their welcome in the spring return briefly as well. We have also been a stopover to Bullock’s oriole and western kingbird and a variety of warblers and finches. Some are return visitors. But many are new. The expansive fires of the West Coast and newer fires in the Rocky Mountains are pushing many birds east.

Mysterious Visitors

Among the plethora of visiting birds in the past few days were this pair of talkers. I captured them on this video. Unfortunately, the wind masks the unique call. My guess is they belong to the woodpecker family. If anyone can identify them please share in the comment section.

The area we live in is along a river-although many would question that designation with the low water flow this time of year. Indeed just a hundred miles to the east the water dries out from time to time before resurrecting itself another hundred miles or so to the east of that location. We truly live in the Dust Bowl.

But the river is dammed just to the west and along with a handful of natural lakes that haven’t all dried up, the water provides a good stop along the migration route. In addition to that, this East Coast gal planted trees by the dozens a quarter of a century ago. Plus, pyracantha and Russian sage which also attract the wildlife.

The fruit trees; peaches and cherries and the non-bearing pear, along with the chokecherry bushes provide a splash of color. A squirrel has wandered up from the nearby town park to harvest the acorns from the oak tree. The evergreens will provide protection for the small birds who winter here-they have yet to arrive. Red buds and shademaster honeylocusts have dropped their pods and show signs of turning golden. Leaf raking is also in the future.

Fall Gardening Chores

Much of this week focused on fall chores in the garden. Peanuts were dug as were the second beds of potatoes and sweet potatoes. Yields from the big garden were satisfactory but just and the outside boxes a little less. The rains have been few and far between. The last recorded rain was two tenths of an inch on September 11. So over a month ago and no rain is in the forecast.

However, we have a chance of a frost on each of the next three nights. So, I was tasked with harvesting tomatoes. These plants are still flowering like crazy. Thus the added chore of gathering ripe, not so ripe, and green tomatoes commenced.

The smallest of the green tomatoes were gifted to my niece’s chickens. I will process the larger green tomatoes, both Romas and heirloom slicers into chow chow. Batches of salsa and spaghetti sauce continue on a regular basis but now that fall is finally here the days of fresh sauce are behind us. Fortunately we will have canned goods to enjoy this winter.

Only a few eggplant were ready to harvest. But the plants were full of purple blossoms. They are the tenderest plants, so they were removed from the garden into the compost. The cucumber vines and bush beans were also removed from their place in the garden. Several weeks have gone by since the cukes have bloomed. The pole beans remain for another day.

Carrots, beets, rutabagas and the brassicas remain. I did place a hoop covering over the artichoke. Perhaps it will overwinter with a blanket of straw underneath the canvas. A rosemary plant and some Swiss chard share space under the hoop.

The wires are from a bought covering from a season ago. But the material tore in the high winds of last spring. I am using canvas on one end and a synthetic tarp on the other end. The experiments never stop!

Fall is Finally Here

The most enjoyable part of the last few weeks have been the many evening meals indulged on the back porch. On the occasions without wind we even turned on the fireplace above the waterfall fountain. In these times of external strife it is important to balance life with small pleasures.

Fall is finally here. Fireplace at dusk

 

 

 

 

September 2020 Wrap-Up

September 2020

The September 2020 Wrap-Up will get a bit political due to the first of the 2020 Presidential Debates. If you can call last night’s debacle a debate. But in loyalty to the many followers across the globe, I will save my observations on national politics until the end. After all, this post is a wrap-up of the entire month not just the next to last day.

Travel Returns

September 2020 included two out of town trips. Both via automobile. The first was a trip to Kentucky. This journey included an overnight stay in suburban St. Louis, close to my high school home.

The hotel practiced Covid-19 precautions with a seal at each door which indicated if entry had been made after cleaning. I managed to forget my hanging bag and needed to buy some replacement clothes. Fortunately, the mall I haunted as a teenager was located at the same Interstate interchange. Unfortunately, the mall was all but abandoned.

The one store open was a Macy’s. I arrived 40 minutes before closing. Thanks to the wonderful customer service-all with Covid-19 consciousness- I was able to replace the outfits needed for the following two days. The only time I have ever encountered an equally outstanding service has been at a Nordstrom’s. Kudo’s to Macy’s for filling a need. The successful shopping trip helped mitigate the sadness of seeing a once vibrant shopping mall in such dire straits. 

We then enjoyed an outdoor dinner at an Italian restaurant in a nearby strip mall. The tables were well spaced and the food was excellent. The weather which can be quite muggy in St. Louis was perfect. The following day we continued on to Kentucky.

Kentucky

In a normal year, I make a minimum of two trips a year to Kentucky. Because of the pandemic, my spring trip was cancelled. Things are still not normal, but business can only be put off for so long. So, I am mitigating the risk factors as much as possible.

First, I do wear masks, especially indoors. On this trip, we packed a cooler with snacks and drinks. We never entered a fast-food restaurant. All sit down meals were outside-or in one case in a large tent with open sides. Bathroom breaks while travelling were made at highway rest stops. Finally, we washed hands and utilized hand sanitizer frequently.

One highlight of the trip was revisiting the Kentucky Champion Oak Tree first discussed in the May 2019 Wrap-Up. This trip I took the following video in hopes of giving readers a better idea of how grand this tree is. Please enjoy the YouTube video at the end of the post.

Another highlight was finding a wonderful specimen of an Ohio buckeye tree at an equally wonderful Indiana rest stop. America has many fantastic places within her shores.

Buckeye Tree September 2020
Buckeye Tree From Indiana Rest Stop

Our return entailed a fifteen hour drive on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. Almost a full month later, no signs of illness. Again, we were as cautious as could be without practicing total isolation.

Wyoming

Just this past weekend, I attended a conference in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Again, I mitigated risk as much as possible. Time again will tell if I was successful or not. But my true concern from that trip were the wildfires spreading across the Western States.

The pictures in the slide show below are from that trip. The air quality was horrific. The index AQI on Saturday was 184. I have never been in this situation before. It was horrible. Our climate is suffering.

September 2020 In the Garden

Twice, my garden escaped the threat of frost. So production continues. Although some plants show signs of running there course. Half of the potatoes and half the sweet potatoes have been harvested. The Roma tomatoes continue to flower but the heirloom tomatoes are just maturing what is on the vine. The peanuts need another week before digging.

Fall crops are thriving. Rutabaga, broccoli, and cabbage are now established. Hoops are in place around the artichoke and rosemary. The canvas covering goes atop on the evenings before the threatened frost. Once the freeze begins, the canvas will remain even during the day.

September 2020 In the Kitchen

Of course a robust garden calls for much canning and freezing. In addition to the traditional jelly, pickles, salsa and spaghetti sauce, I made ketchup for the very first time. The taste is wonderful. But the process was quite time consuming. Over 11 hours from start to finish!

I realize it is much easier to by what I can from the store. But the satisfaction I derive from canning is priceless. Furthermore, I firmly believe my preserved goods are healthier. I control the inputs. All my recipes are reduced in both sugar and salt. 

I am closing the traditional part of the end of the month Wrap-Up with a slide show highlighting the various events of September 2020. The political discussion follows the multi-faceted slide show. I have placed the You Tube video at the end-in hopes of neutralizing my diatribe with the calming effect of nature.

 

American Politics

Those of you who wish to tune out here, I will hold no grudge. I absolutely hate politics as I am a bit blunt and haven’t quite figured out the art of persuasion. Or perhaps, I just feel everyone is entitled to their own opinion so why bother to force mine on others. However, I do feel the need to comment on the first of the Presidential debates.

Last night was disgusting. It was not a debate. Instead, three-yes, three- old white men failed America. Old in attitude more than with age. I say that because I am friends with a 98 year old that shows up to work daily at her retail clothing store. But, I digress.

Neither of the candidates nor the moderator fulfilled my expectations last night. They were horrific, each in their own way. My comments on each are below. These are my opinions.

President Trump

Quite simply, the President forgot to be presidential. He lost the respect of many voters last night. Maybe not his key supporters, but the many swing voters that awarded him the election in 2016. Not only did he fail to engage in a meaningful debate, he lost at least one voter when he declared the elections would be rigged if he lost.

This strikes at the heart of the matter for me. Either you believe in the system or you don’t. Our system is a good system, not perfect but good. As such I believe in it. If I did not, there would be absolutely no reason to vote! Our election will not be rigged. My county has used mail ballots for years. The system works. President Trump you should not insinuate a system is rigged if you lose. But, not if you win?!?

Former Vice-President Biden

While I was a big supporter of the former Vice-President when he ran for election in 1988, an election he had to bow out of due to health issues, I was not satisfied with his responses last night. (Although his demeanor was stellar in comparison to the other two.) He refused to directly address the questions about the civil unrest we are currently experiencing in this country on at least two occasions. This concerns me.

Furthermore, Mr. Biden, you have not allayed my fears that the far left controls you. I will not vote for socialism. You stated you were opposed to the New Green Deal, but you failed to explain The Biden Plan. Our national debt is out of control. Raising taxes is not an answer in itself. Spending cuts need to be made as well. We are running out of time before the tipping point is reached. The Debt Clock is ticking.

Chris Wallace and Fox News

The biggest failure of the night belonged to the third man, Chris Wallace. The role of a moderator is not an easy one. I know this from personal experience. But, Mr. Wallace totally failed in his effort last night. Many steps could have made the outcome better. First, a reviewing of the rules of the debate at the start, along with a statement of consequences for breaking those rules.

Second, wording of the questions in a manner not trying to create a division. Furthermore, stating the questions in a straight forward manner, not alluding to whether a candidate would be pleased by the topic. Also, making sure the candidates stay on topic. Many, many times the questions were ignored in favor of a talking point.

Finally, the presenters of the debate have the technology to mute microphones. I know this is possible at a small rural facility where I moderated a contested school board election. Why did Chris Wallace and Fox News FAIL to use this option? My disgust is greatest for their failure to bring the American public a legitimate platform to evaluate the candidates.

Jo Jorgensen

The winner in last night’s debate? Perhaps Jo Jorgensen, the Libertarian candidate on the ballot in all fifty states. If you try to go to her website jo20.com you may need to be patient. The demand has been so great to find an alternative to the two men above that the server is a bit slow processing.

While I have voted third party in the past, I had not contemplated voting that way in 2020. Until last night. I tend to be a fence sitter. We actually have a great amount of power. Year after year we decide the outcome of elections.

This year I may sit on the fence until Election Day. In the meantime, I am researching Jorgensen. Perhaps she will win my vote. For those who say it will be wasted, that may be true, but at this time I would feel tremendous angst voting for either of the men representing the ruling parties. Perhaps the leadership in both the Democrat and Republican parties need to take note. Elections are won, one vote at a time.

I do plan to watch next week’s debate between the Vice-Presidential candidates. I doubt they will get out of hand, but in the end it is the Presidential candidate that will end up as the leader of the United States of America. Not the Vice-President.

A big thanks for all who made it to the end of this long opinionated post.  September 2020 was certainly full even in the midst of a pandemic. To all American readers, please vote your conscience. We are indeed at a pivotal point in history.

From Summer to Winter-Changing Seasons on the High Plains

Two days ago it was 105 degrees Fahrenheit, or 40 degrees Celsius and now the chill feels cooler than the 41 degree Fahrenheit (5 Celsius) and we have gone from Summer to Winter in 48 hours. This temperature swing is not unusual for the High Plains. But the timing is a bit earlier than usual. Since I moved to this part of the world, the earliest snow, a mere dusting, occurred back in 1995 the third week in September. The latest seasonal switch occurred about a half dozen years later on the Monday before Thanksgiving.

Two days ago the forecast was calling for snow and a frost. So many, many hours were spent in the garden harvesting everything ripe, or close. Now the forecast has backed off a wee bit. A slight chance of sleet but the temperatures should stay above freezing. The work is not wasted, and the delay-if it happens- will allow the melons to ripen.

The harvest was focused on tender plants. Those that freeze as soon as the thermometer registers 32. So a plethora of tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant and peppers were plucked from the garden. Batches of salsa, spaghetti sauce and Lemon Basil Eggplant Caponata filled the house. Jars cluttered the counter tops. And the smell reminded me of all the Sunday Italian meals I enjoyed during college.

Summer to Winter Chores

Not all the crops were harvested. The melons are a risk, but they need another three weeks to ripen. The sweet potatoes are still growing like gangbusters and also benefit if the temperatures remain above freezing. Likewise with the potatoes and the peanuts.

The beans are at a variety of stages. A small amount were picked from the bush beans ahead of this summer to winter action. But the pole beans I left unpicked. Both the Cherokee Purple and the Blue Lake Pole are heirlooms. They are setting seed now. This year’s Cherokee Purple plants were grown from seed saved off last year’s plants. They are a mainstay in my garden.

I mounded straw around the artichoke, just to be on the safe side. Plus, that area of the garden is slated to have the frost hoop. Hopefully, the double coverage will protect a few key plants from this first wild summer to winter swing. While the Rosemary can handle temperatures down into the teens, the basil will not last the night if the temperature wobbles around the freezing point.

These next two nights are critical for the garden. I am hoping for a near miss. But if the freeze happens I will begin getting the garden cleaned up for the colder months.Harvested Peppers Summer into Winter

 

 

Eggplant-This Week’s Meal of the Week Star

This week, eggplant was the main ingredient of our star meal of the week. Pre-Covid-19 we only ate out once or twice a week so the Stay-at-Home aspect did not really impact our meal time. However we have kicked things up a notch to paraphrase a favorite chef. The Big Garden is beginning to produce more than just greens and we are really enjoying the fresh produce,

Eggplant-This Week’s Meal of the Week Star

The Big Garden has only two eggplant plants, reducing our supply from last year. So as of this week I have yet to can any. But we are reaping enough eggplant to want to mix up the preparation a bit.

Today I looked up eggplant recipes online. Easily catching my eye was a Bon Appetit article citing 57 recipes.

So I found one that I could make without a trip to the grocery store. Most of the ingredients came straight from the garden. I did make a few tweaks. A key component in the original recipe is Labneh- which is a strained yogurt/cheese concoction. I only had ½ cup yogurt so I blended that with sour cream and added some Savory Spice Mt. Olympus Greek Style Seasoning and called it good.

Econogal Fails as a Cooking Blogger (Again)

Of course this dish was so good there were no leftovers. And no pictures. But I am sharing my version of the recipe anyway. The pictures would be similar to those in the above website. We did make a few adjustments. The older I get, the less I worry about making recipes exactly as called for. (The exceptions are all related to baking.)

Need a Name

This dish really needs a good name. Even Bon Appetit just used a description to name the dish. Maybe a reader can help. Naming kids and animals is tough, naming meals is nigh impossible. The key ingredient is the eggplant but the grilled lemon just about stole the show. For now I will just name it No Leftover Eggplant! We ate every last morsel.

No Leftover Eggplant

2-3 Eggplants- Cut into ½ inch slices

Small Red Onion- thinly sliced

Whole Lemon-sliced approx. 1/4 inch thickness

1 Cup Mint-chopped

1 TBS White wine vinegar

2-3 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Tsp  Savory Spice Mt. Olympus Greek Style Seasoning

1 Small garlic clove minced

½ Cup yogurt

½ Cup sour cream

 

 

Directions:

Lightly oil grill. Coat eggplant and lemon with Exra Virgin Olive Oil, grill eggplant for 5-8 minutes and lemon for 3-5 minutes. While the eggplant is grilling, thinly slice the red onion, chop the mint and combine with one tablespoon each of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil and white wine vinegar. Add the Savory Spice Mt. Olympus Greek Style Seasoning and the minced garlic.

 

Mix yogurt, sour cream and arrange on plate. Layer the  eggplant on the yogurt mixture. Cut the lemon slices in half and stir into onion and mint topping, tossing well. Pour atop the eggplant. This served two hungry adults as a main dish. Enjoy!

 

 

Seed Saving Tips and Tricks

I began seed saving just a few years ago and I still have a lot to learn. But I have had quite a few successes and thought I would share some tips and tricks. If you have additional information feel free to comment below.

Why Save Seed?

While some may practice seed saving to cut down on expenses, my primary reason is the fact seed producers like fashion designers change-up their production lines. While I like trying new varieties (or buying new shoes) I don’t always want to let go of my favorites.

Both my Five Star Lettuce and my Genuine Heirloom Marriage Tomatoes fall into this category. Locally, the plants are no longer sold. In fact, I can no longer find the seed for the tomatoes available on line. So seed saving allows me to keep planting and eating my favorite produce.

Seed Saving Experimentation

For me, a key to success in sowing saved seeds comes from experimentation. The Peanut Experiment from this past spring is one example. Peanut seeds do not need to be soaked prior to planting. In fact, my findings showed they germinated better when they were not soaked.

I have made a note of this in my gardening log just in case I forget this fact over the winter. Other experimentation with seed saving is also remembered and used. My Potato Experiment using a bag to grow the spuds was a bust. The potatoes do much better in the ground or in large boxes.

Self-seeding Crops

Of course, I also have areas of the garden where annuals are allowed to self-sow. The most notable is the Italian parsley patch. In addition to the plants dropping seed at the end of the season, I occasionally give the parsley and similar plants such as marigolds a hand by dragging my hand along the seed head and sprinkling the seed in the bed.

Tips and Tricks

  1. Make sure seed is ready to be picked and saved. The seeds need to have progressed beyond the green stage. Letting the seed dry on the plant is best.
  2. Store the seed in a cool, dry, dark place. Do your research. While a refrigerator drawer may seem ideal, better places exist. Seed Potatoes should not be stored below 50 degrees F., so this eliminates the fridge.
  3. Make sure the seed is clean. This does NOT mean washing. But brush extra dirt off and remove excess vegetation.
  4. Label your seeds.
  5. Do not keep damaged seed.
  6. If keeping garlic cloves for seeding, choose the biggest cloves.
  7. Store small seeds in envelopes.
  8. Larger seed can be stored in burlap or in the case of beans, plastic containers with room for air flow.

Pictures

I am still learning about saving seed. This means taking chances. For example, beet seed and Swiss chard seed can easily cross. Commercial growers do not have their production close. I have saved seed from two types of beets, Chioggia and Detroit Red. I also saved red and white stemmed Swiss chard. We will see what happens with my saved seed from these family crops next spring.

Enjoy the pictures.

Seed heads of lettuce
This dandelion effect on the lettuce indicates the seed is ready to harvest. The small black seeds are at the base of the puff bloom.
Close up of lettuce seed
The black seeds are easy to spot at the base of the puff ball.
Lettuce seed and seed head
Leaf lettuce. The seeds form at the base of the flower. The chaff can be separated much like wheat or it can stay mixed with the seed until planting.
Two types of beets
The differing beet varieties are easy to spot by contrasting colors. But the seed looks identical.
Beet stalks with seed.
Beet seeds, Chioggia on left and Detroit Red in the middle. A beet wintered over, hence the ability to save seed.
Beet root
A look at the beet root. I did not try to eat this wintered over beet.
Green beet seed
This beet seed is still green and not ready to harvest.
Immature seed heads
These seed heads are still green. No seed can be collected at this stage.

Econogal versus The Flea Beetles

Battle of the Flea Beetles

I am losing the ongoing battle with the flea beetles. They conquered my broccoli patch overnight. Their march through both the big garden and the side garden is disturbing. I can see why commercial farms use non-organic solutions. But I still prefer organic grown produce.

Home-Made Deterrents

I had switched to a garlic based solution instead of the oil base mixture I wrote about here. The garlic solution is a good deterrent but not a natural pesticide. Yet, it worked on the first army of flea beetles encountered last month. Or at least I thought it did.

This second invasion has been particularly large. I think many tiny eggs must have been laid by the first group. I did not see them and I looked. However, the larvae can live underground. The small off-white colored worm-like babies can eat seeds and roots before maturing into the beetle stage. The life cycle is less than a month.

Prime conditions for the flea beetles exist. The days are quite warm and no rain of any significance. My big garden is quite vulnerable because it is watered by a drip system. Yet hosing off the plants in the side garden and then spraying with the garlic mixture apparently needed to occur twice a day.

Surrendering to the Flea Beetle

At this point I plan to surrender to the flea beetle. I have pulled the broccoli, disturbed the ground to remove or expose the larvae, and planted a different crop. My plan is too start new brassicas at the end of this month. Then I will plant them in August for a fall crop. The small hoop covering that allowed the Swiss Chard to winter over should allow a fall or early winter harvest.

Crop rotation did not work this spring. The side garden was not a previous home to any brassicas. So I think my strategy going forward will be two-fold. First, I will optimize companion planting. I had a lot of luck last year with the garlic and cabbage combination. Research will be needed to find out what plants have a natural protection from flea beetles.

Second, I will start using the brassicas as a fall crop instead of a spring crop. The flea beetles disappear around the 4th of July. Life cycles are key to this plan. If you can nip things in the bud, infestations are lessened.

Further Information on The Flea Beetle

For sources on the flea beetle, I found this article on the internet helpful:  https://www.planetnatural.com/pest-problem-solver/garden-pests/flea-beetle-control/

I also consulted several books in my garden library. These include the Ortho publication Controlling Lawn and Garden Insects, Rodale’s All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. Also, Andy Tomolonis wrote Organic Hobby Farming which I highly recommend.

If you have additional ideas to help me in futures battles with the flea beetles, please leave a comment. Growing seedlings only to lose them to an invading army of insects is disheartening. The pictures below show the damage from as well as the size of the flea beetles.

Broccoli plant damaged by flea beetles
Decimated Broccoli

Review of Herb Books

Three Herb Books Reviewed

I love cooking with herbs. But I do not own a single culinary herb book. Most of my gardening books have a section on herbs or information on individual herbs. Additionally, I have four herb books mostly based on medicinal uses. They are all quite interesting to read but I have yet to fully utilize their information. I am going to talk about three of the herb books today.

Ortho’s All About Herbs

Maggie Oster is the author of Ortho’s All About Herbs. I own the 1999 edition and find it a compact reference guide. Even though it is condensed, only six pages devoted to culinary use of herbs and a similar number for medicinal use, the guide is chalk full of information. Not much white space is left on the page.

What I like best about this herb book is the table of Common Herbs and Their Uses on pages 8-11. A close second is the detailed index. Since it is a how-to book there are plenty of pages devoted to educating a novice. About half the book is devoted to individual plants. While Basil earns an entire page, most of the described herbs share space. Much like in a garden.

National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs

National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs: The World’s Most Effective Healing Plants was co-authored by Rebecca L. Johnson, Steven Foster, Tieraona Low Dog, M.D. and David Kiefer, M.D. This book is impressive. Gorgeous photography and beautiful illustrations accompany eight chapters of herbal information.

Since this herb book focuses on medicinal use, the plants are grouped by which part of the body they aid. For example, Chapter Four covers herbs useful for digestive ailments. However, each herb is only covered under one section. But the authors do indicate alternative therapeutic uses.

Readers may find it interesting to discover the inclusion of plants not considered herbs. Perhaps the inclusion of edibles such as tomatoes and various berries is the reasoning behind the long title. Whether herb or non-herb, the information contained is extensive.

Medicinal Plants At Home

The third book I want to share comes to us via Spain. Marìa Trànsito Lòpez Luengo and Carlota Màñez Arisò are the co-authors of the informative herb book Medicinal Plants at Home. I like how the authors organized the book.

First, there is an overall introduction. Then, the herbs are broken into groupings for subgroups of individuals, travelers, children, the elderly, etc. There is a short section on using herbs throughout the house and then the herbs are typed by how they affect the body. The authors discuss if the herbs are used for relaxation, anti-inflammatory purposes or as an immuno-stimulant.

Each herb is discussed and photographed. The authors indicate uses and include precautions and if/when the herb is contraindicated. Further, the plant is described and natural habitat disclosed. A recipe for each is included under the remedies section.

Herb Books for the Herb Garden

I am still expanding my herb garden. Currently, my herbs have more culinary applications than medicinal. While I have added both rose hips and lavender to my bath water, I have yet to make any teas or poultices. My horehound is a wonderful ground cover but I do not know how to turn it into a cough drop.

A fourth herb book is quite different and I am still reading it. Therefore The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Healing Remedies will be reviewed at a later date.

Modern medicine has replaced herbal medicine at the household level. I truly do not personally know anyone who mixes their own concoctions. My comfort level at this point in time is quite low with respect to preparing my own medicinal therapies. But, I am interested in adding herbal teas to my repertoire.

Enjoy the slide show.

 

 

 

 

 

Update on The Peanut Experiment

Back in early February I began the Peanut Experiment. Since I am not engaged in a science fair project, my notes and observations have not been detailed. But I do want to share highlights from the experiment. Since it is now almost two months later I feel an update on the experiment is in order.

Update on Peanut Plants

The original plantings included six non-soaked seeds and twelve soaked seeds. The soaked seeds were divided between good and bad quality. I fully expected the soaked seeks to do the best. After all we eat the seeds of the peanut plant and they do have a crunch.

Boy was I wrong! This update shares just how wrong I was. The initial phase of the experiment began February 11. Click here to view the blog post. My February 2020 Wrap-Up shared photos of the first sprouts. At that time it looked like the soaked peanut seeds had the advantage.

Success Rate

However, only one soaked seed ever sprouted. One out of twelve is not a good success rate, just 8 %. But on March 5th a second of the non-soaked seeds popped through the seed starter mixture followed by another on March 8th. By the 21st of March, no other peanuts had sprouted. So, I planted non-soaked seeds in the cells without growth.

As you can see from the photo update, the peanut seed pushes up through the soil surface. The first of these new seeds pushed through the soil a week ago. A few days ago, I gently tugged at the non-sprouted seed. Roots firmly held in place, so I decided to wait a little longer before writing an  update.

The wait proved warranted. Three new sprouts have sprung . Two more cells have indications that soil is being pushed up. The surface of the crust is breaking.  Each peanut seed is planted at a depth of 1 ½ inches. Thus, basically towards the bottom of the cell. Yet the seeds surface before the green sprout appears. The roots are quite strong. Since peanuts are legumes, this makes sense to me.

Tray with small sedlings
Green growth emerging from peanut seed
Tops of seeds pushing through soil

Transplant Update in a Month

Peanuts need warm air to thrive and are damaged by even a light frost. So, I will not transplant these peanuts until after Mother’s Day. (We have had snow on the ground to usher in Mother’s Day.) However, once I do pop these into my raised row garden, I will post another update. I am quite excited about possibly transplanting as many as ten peanut plants started by seed into my legume row. Rotating crops is a gardening priority. Soon these peanut seeds will follow the peas and precede the beans into the legime row.

March 2020 Wrap-Up

Flowering Pear Tree March 2020 has been a long month. Covid-19 is a pandemic and has caused widespread damage. Both lives and economies will be impacted in the near future. I cannot foresee the long term consequences, but there will naturally be repercussions. So, I spend a small amount of time daily looking to the future.

Socio-economic Impact of Black Swan Events

If you have not read The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, I highly recommend finding a copy. Even though the book was published over a decade ago, I think you will find it relevant. In simple terms a Black Swan event is one that is highly improbable.

Back in January, I took notice when the city of Wuhan was placed on lock-down. Even though the mortality numbers were not necessarily statistically significant, the sheer fact that a city of millions lost the freedom to move about created a concern in my mind. The few I discussed this with did not see such an event happening in a democratic country. New York City was often cited as a comparison. Even I had trouble picturing a quarantine covering the five boroughs. But, I did not rule it out. Unfortunately that has come to pass not only in New York City but in other cities I love such as Milan, Italy. Or in cities and countries I yearn to visit.

Now I have two immediate goals. The first is to stay healthy. Since I no longer work outside the home, I am somewhat hopeful. However, I live with someone working in an essential business. We are mitigating danger as much as possible.

Online Learning

The second goal is to analyze how society will change in response to Covid-19. Across the world students spent much if not all of March 2020 away from campuses and schoolrooms. I know this will have a long-term impact.  But I am not sure what that effect will be. So here are some possibilities.

I think at the college level and possibly at the high school level there will be a trend toward hybrid and online courses. Personally, I find hybrid learning an excellent method for adult learning. I have taught and taken courses using a hybrid method and find it preferable to a course totally online. However, I think a case for the merits of online learning will be presented by the educational response to Covid-19.

It is unknown how younger students will respond and that response is one I intend to study. One of my offspring works for Denver Public Schools (DPS) and has shared how they are handling the stay at home order. With a great effort, the school district scrambled and procured a Chrome book for each student.

Lesson plans revolve around established content. Classroom teachers have regular “office hours” so that students (and parents) can reach out to them. The individual teachers have leeway to expand on existing lessons. In addition to DPS curriculum, information on supplementary online learning resources is provided. I hope this is a success.

Self-regulating and Sick days

I am also interested in how sick days are handled going forward. Not all workers get sick days. I know as an adjunct instructor I had to make up any days missed due to illness. Most of the time the make-up days were poorly attended by the students. And students often came to class sick worried about getting behind. I taught adults. Sick kids are even more complex because of sick care issues.

In the case of Covid-19, there is a possibility that individuals may be asymptomatic and still spread the disease. Perhaps this is in part why voluntary social distancing is a failure in my part of the world. But there is danger in the inability to self-regulate. I fear the lack of self-control will increase big government. I prefer local control.

March 2020 Mental Relief

I found relief from the mental stresses of March 2020 in a number of ways. Since I am a reader I spent a lot of time with cozy mysteries and romances. I thoroughly enjoyed all five books in the Ivy Malone series by Lorena McCourtney. Other books enjoyed were penned by Nora Roberts, Iris Johansen and Janet Evanovich.

On the most depressing of days I turned to sitcom and old reruns. The Big Bang Theory almost always makes me laugh out loud. My husband and I also enjoy watching Magnum P.I., both the old and the new versions. So, even if Covid-19 continues a filming hiatus, I will have ample options.

March 2020 In the Garden

From time to time we have a very warm March followed by colder temperatures in April and May. This is one of those years. Both the pear and peach trees are already blooming. We will still have below freezing temperature nights and so the fruit production will be impacted.

Early season greens have made an appearance in the garden. We have enjoyed Swiss chard in our lunchtime smoothies. The lettuces are not far behind nor are the radishes and spinach. Additionally, I have started a variety of seeds indoors. Everything from artichokes to tomatoes are growing in pots throughout the house. I am still concerned that the pandemic will affect supply chains on a variety of levels. Starting the plants by seed will act as a back-up if I cannot buy bedding plants next month.

Quilting in March 2020

I am working on the final border of a Train Quilt. To be honest I am stuck. The current train cars will vary from the original pattern. I plan to make the train a circus train. However, I am having trouble blending the fabrics. Specifically, the clowns. They are primary colors and the overall design is more pastel. Also, the elephant and giraffe come from a baby fabric with a blue background versus the mauves and greens I am using. It will be interesting to see how I tie everything together.

Covid-19 Reports

I have readers across the globe. Please share any experiences you may have with this pandemic in the comment section. While I have personally met individuals battling this novel corona virus, no close friends or relatives have contracted Covid-19 so far. I sincerely hope this continues. Take care everyone and pay attention to your health!

Finally, those with interest in economics may find the following interesting:

https://www.permanentequity.com/writings/viral-prohibition-eminent-domain-and-the-path-ahead?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=prohibition_eminentd

Jerry Baker’s Fast, Easy Vegetable Garden Book Review

I checked out Jerry Baker’s Fast, Easy Vegetable Garden from the library late last week when we were in between cold fronts. The book was published in 1985 and has nary a photo as you might expect from an older publication. But the illustrations more than make up for a lack of photography.Page with emoji of gardener

For starters, Baker was way ahead of the curve when it came to personalizing the text. Thanks to the photo on the cover page, it was easy to see the resemblance of the gardener illustrated within. Thirty years before emoji’s became popular, Jerry Baker’s Fast Easy Vegetable Garden is strewn with these humorous illustrations. Furthermore, emoji’s for vegetables and garden critters also dot the pages.

Charts and Diagrams

On a more serious note, the gardening manual provides great charts throughout. In addition to the often found last and first freeze charts, Jerry Baker’s Fast Easy Vegetable Garden also has tables breaking down by percentage the amount of primary and secondary elements in the different types of manures, tankages, rock powders and vegetable waste.

Primary elements are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potash- Potassium (K) while the secondary elements are magnesium (MG), manganese (MN), and copper (CU).  There is also a short discussion on minor elements. In addition to the percentages found, Baker includes a discussion on the specific fertilizers.

Other charts differentiate between fast and slow growing plants and types of pests as well as beneficial insects. Baker includes a chart with vitamin content and calories of each type of vegetable. A few simple diagrams explain the importance of spacing and location of the vegetable garden.

Jerry Baker’s Top Tips

I do not consider myself a novice gardener nor a master gardener. Since I am somewhere in the middle there is still plenty to learn. Jerry Baker’s guide may be 35 year’s old, but I found it a valuable resource. In addition to the jargon glossary and the wonderful charts discussed above, the tips for starting seeds are great. Until just recently, I either planted seeds directly into the ground or bought plants.

Last year, I had some success growing from seed a type of tomato that the nurseries were no longer distributing. This year I plan to branch out as discussed in The Peanut Experiment. Jerry Baker’s Fast, Easy Vegetable Garden will be consulted frequently.

The book has a good question and answer section as well as a few recipes. The section on herbs is extensive. Also the one on container planting is quite thorough. This just over two hundred page book is so well written I read it in an afternoon. If your library does not have a copy, do a quick Internet search. There are plenty of used copies available for sale. This book is a winner.

Jerry Baker's Pages illustrating types of garden bugs

The Peanut Experiment

There was a smattering of snow on the ground this morning. Just enough to know moisture fell overnight. But my peanut experiment was already started. So I will just carry on.

Why Peanuts?

The High Plains is known more for grains. Legumes planted in the area tend to be soy or pinto. Peanuts are not grown commercially in this area. But they can be grown in the home garden.

I first planted peanuts in 2018. A nursery in a nearby city of 30,000 had some peanut plants for sale. Impulse buying struck and a four pack of peanuts made it into the cart. They survived in the raised bed but only a handful of peanuts were harvested.

peanut in raised bed
2018 Peanut Plant

Last year, I returned to the nursery specifically looking for the plants. After finding them, I doubled the purchase amount. The plants joined the garden on Mother’s Day. A late frost a few days after nipped the garden and delayed the growth.

However, the end result was a positive one. The peanut harvest yielded over a pound of peanuts. Not bad for about six feet in a raised row. So this year, I am hoping for another successful season.

The Peanut Experiment

Peanuts need warm soil and a long growing season. Starting the seeds indoors should help me get a step up on the planting. Plus, I will know before May if my starts are viable. If I fail, I can always make the two hour trip to the nursery for the professionally grown bedding plants. (Yes, a two hour drive gets you to a “nearby” city.)

After last year’s harvest, the peanuts were hung to dry in the garage much like the garlic. I then sorted through the crop before storing in a recycled flour bag. Pods that looked iffy were pulled aside. My thought was to use those for seed.

The Method

Last night after extracting the peanuts from the culled shells, I questioned the viability of the seed. So, I pulled some of the good pods from storage. As you can see from the pictures, they look much better before soaking.

I then decided to create the peanut experiment. I divided the nice looking peanuts into two groups. One half was soaked overnight and one left dry. Further, all the poor looking peanuts were also soaked overnight. I was amazed at how much they plumped from the soaking.

I picked the best six from each group for planting. Each type is in a separate container and the containers are clearly labeled. Small pebbles were placed over the drainage holes. This keeps the soil from escaping during watering but allows for drainage.

The same seed starting soil is in each of the containers. The soil was moistened before the seeds were place about 1 ½ inches deep. Additional soil was scattered over the seed. It should be noted that I did not use an inoculant. I want a baseline to measure by. Inoculants can be beneficial, but that is another post!

During the day, the growing pots will be kept near a South facing window because I do not have “grow” lights. Last year, my started seeds were placed on boxes and the boxes stood beneath the LED light above the cook top overnight. Once seeds have sprouted, I may repeat this if the stems seem spindly. However, the larger seed pod makes me think this will not be needed.

Legumes and Soil Enrichment

In addition to enjoying the peanuts as a snack, growing legumes is good in the garden. To be honest, the harvested peanuts are secondary to using the plants as nitrogen fixers. Peas are also good for the soil, but they seldom last past late June as the heat becomes too much.

However, the peanuts thrive in the heat. Their pretty yellow flowers attract pollinating insects. Last but not least, they remind me of the Deep South.

Enjoy the slide show.

  • Peanuts in shell
    Culled Peanuts set aside for seed.
  • Shell peanuts for eating
    Peanuts originally saved to eat
  • Bag of Peanuts
    Bag of Peanuts
  • Shelled peanuts poor quality
    Shelled peanuts from culled group.
  • Peanuts soaking in measuring cup
    Peanuts soaking overnight
  • Shelled peanuts
    Shelled peanuts from edible group
  • non-soaked peanuts
    Non-soaked peanuts
  • Soaked peanuts
    Soaked peanuts from culled group
  • Edible soaked peanuts
    Soaked peanuts from edible group
  • Three groups of seed
    Comparison of soaked and non-soaked seeds
  • Pots Labled
    Pots Labled
  • Small rocks plugging holes in bottom of pots
    Rocks plugging holes in pots
  • Pots and rocks
    Getting ready to plant
  • Seed Starter Soil in Pots
    Adding Seed Starter Soil

October 2019 Wrap-Up

The October 2019 Wrap-Up showcases a roller coaster month with many highs and lows. But that seems to be the status quo for me. In fact a long time ago, a wise man told me that life had to have a few low points in order to enjoy the good times. Perhaps living on the High Plains offers the steadiness I crave in response to the path my life takes.

October 2019 In the Garden

The big garden is only partially ready for winter. Unexpected trips back East made it difficult to complete all the chores before the snows began to arrive. Garlic was not planted nor were the onion seeds I like to put out in order to have an early spring crop. However, I think there will be some self-sowed plants popping up next March.

I am quite worried about the trees and bushes in the yard, especially the old peach tree. The late September freeze was harmful. Extreme temperature swings have happened before and it never bodes well for the vegetation. The yard is stressed when a high of 92 degrees Fahrenheit is followed by a low of 14 degrees just 36 hours later. The last time this happened there was a lot of winter kill.

Bumpiest Ride Ever

Both spring and fall are accompanied by severe weather here in the United States. In the fall months, one often experiences the cold fronts sweeping down from the Arctic. Toward the end of the month on the way to Kentucky, my flight encountered turbulence. The type where you definitely needed a seat belt on.

Catching up on my Twitter feed a few days later, confirmed that the bumpy ride was not unique to the plane I was on. Bumpiest flight ever was posted on multiple accounts. I am very grateful the plane landed safely and amazed at the skills needed to operate these flying machines. But, I can definitely see the appeal for a better connected train system.

October 2019 Hobbies

Acrylic Painting from a Mountainside down to the Plains
A New Perspective

Just a few years ago, I began dabbling in acrylic paints. I was at a conference with my husband and the wives had a break-out wine and paint session. I loved how relaxing it was, and not because of the wine. So, I set-up a small work space in the front room of my house.

The latest painting is finished. It is the first that I have a name for-View of the Plains. Since I usually paint the mountains in the background, I thought I would reverse the scene. It was quite difficult. I have a long way to go in my development and really need to focus on the correct techniques. But I find the painting a wonderful avenue for expression. I just wish I had the talent of my great-great grandmother.

Waiting is the Hardest

We are still awaiting the final lab report from my Dad’s surgery. Unfortunately, the early test confirms the presence of cancer cells in the breast. Now we wait to see how advanced the disease is.

Serendipitous is the word that comes to mind regarding the timing of events. October 2019 saw many groups getting out the message concerning the early detection of breast cancer. Furthermore, support for those afflicted is everywhere.

Pink is everywhere. I am not sure when the colored ribbons for various cancers began, but the pink color has been adopted by sports players to T.V. announcers to paramedics and businesses. Many media outlets ran stories concerning this disease. I am particularly appreciative to CBS, my Dad’s go-to source of information. Their highlighting of male breast cancer was very helpful. Now we just wait.