Friday, February 16, 2018

TIMBEEEEEERRRRRR!


The above picture was taken by Roofer Reese when he was up on top of our house repairing the damaged shingles a few months ago.  The leafless tree on the right is a Bodark / Hedge Apple / Osage Orange, Maclara pomifera that has been on the "to-do" list for a while now.  It is entwined with a Hackberry tree on the other side of the fence in the field close to the drive where we park our cars.  Over time, it has grown large enough to drop hedge apples and thorny branches in the driveway plus it could possibly damage a car if toppled during a storm.  Both needed to go.

We call it a "Hedge Apple" because the female trees produce large round inedible fruit.  Squirrels love to eat them and have spread seeds everywhere.  I don't have a picture of any of the fruit that fell last Fall because they are rotted.

The branches are covered with sharp, dangerous thorns. They easily puncture lawnmower tires, soft soled shoes, and the thorny branches are always dropping onto the ground.


Before barb wire was invented, they were planted close together and trimmed into hedges to keep livestock fenced in. Nothing wanted to crawl through the sharp thorns. This one is on the back side our property.  A few years ago Bill cut it down right above the fence top thinking it would kill the tree; instead, it sprouted into many smaller thorny branches. 


I have two more growing in my flower bed area which is why I must always wear shoes when walking in my garden.  Forget running barefoot through the grass.  Both trees are on the "mile-long, someday in the future, to-do list."

In the front area of my flowerbed.
The second one is in the back of my flower bed close to a power line.  We can't fell it because it might hit the telephone pole, so we made the best of a bad situation and put an orange target on its back.

The orange spot is the target.
Bill likes to sit on the porch in a rocking chair and shoot at the spinning target on the tree. The other side gives me the creeps whenever I walk past.  It glares angerly at me as I work in the yard.



We were once told a country legend that chainsaws will shoot sparks when cutting the wood because it is so hard.  We laughed at the teller of the tall tale - we don't laugh anymore. The grain of the wood is uneven, almost like a crooked spiral so it won't split apart and an ax will bounce off.


Timbeeeeeerrrrrrr!





 One down, a zillion more to go.

My Hero, Lumberjack Bill
Cutting them down was the right decision because the area where the two trees were touching did not look healthy at all.

Hedge Apple Tree

Hackberry Tree
Cutting it down was the easy part. The Hackberry tree will be used in the woodburning stove next year, but not the Hedge Apple.  When you burn Hedge Apple wood, it produces a black, smelly smoke; not something we want to burn inside. It will take at least a year to dry enough to burn and will become even harder to cut...if such a thing is possible.  Each section must be small enough to be tossed in a bonfire.  The fire will be on the stump and that should, hopefully, kill it.

A new chore has been added to the list - mend the smashed fence so Scooter can't get out.

Good riddance
"Woe is me." moaned Scooter.  "Everyone was outside watching Dad cut down the tree but I was locked inside the house.  I could only peer helplessly through the window.  Pack Leader was afraid I would get hit by the falling tree.  Mom was worried I might get chilled since it was cloudy and I have a new haircut.  She made me wear my new sweater, wrapped me up in a blanket and left me in the warm, cozy house all by myself.  I was neglected, lonely and had to watch the sunset alone."

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

First Blooms of the Year!


Just a few minutes ago I came in from a walk and had to share.  These are my first blooms of the year!  They were spotted through a window in the house a few days ago but it has been too rainy and cold to go outside.  


This is proof Spring will come!


I am linking up with  Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for February to share my blooms with others around the world.  It has felt like I would never have anything bloom again.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Growing Peanuts


The summer garden is long gone but we are still enjoying the bountiful harvest.  Many readers were interested in growing peanuts so I promised more information on my process.  The first time, I used non-roasted in the shell peanuts grabbed on impulse from off a grocery shelf.  I didn't know if they would grow but I enjoyed experimenting. 

They need about 120 to 160 days to mature.  If you live in a cooler climate, it is possible to start them indoors or choose an early variety like "Early Spanish."  Do shell before planting or it will take forever to sprout.  If roasted, they won't sprout.  Peanuts grow well, harvest easily, store a long time and are more flavorful than store-bought. We still have plenty of peanuts from last summer's garden even though we seem to be constantly munching them.    

Over the years I have tried different kinds (there are hundreds of varieties) but have settled on these two types. Both varieties are bunch-type, not runner-type.  Runner-types require more space due to their vining nature so I have never grown them.  Below on the left is jumbo Valencia which I use to make peanut butter.  The nuts are larger so it takes me less time to shell - I am lazy.  My favorite is the black peanuts because the flavor is the best I have tasted.  They were given to me years ago by a person who was trying to keep them from becoming extinct - I never knew their name.  They are delicious as peanut butter but the color becomes a horrible, unappetizing shade of gray.  

Jumbo Valencia on left, Unnamed Black Variety on right.

MAY - This is the peanut rows when first planted last Spring.  They love warm weather and will not germinate if the ground is cold. It takes them about ten days to appear above the soil if there has been a good rain.  Quite a few squirrels lived in the woods and were watching me as I worked.  When my back was turned, they ate breakfast.  A new cat appeared at my neighbor's house and the squirrels soon disappeared.

JUNE - The plants are all different sizes but those planted later were able to catch up and still produce.  I continued to plant seeds in the empty spots.  This is the time other gardeners hoe dirt up around the stem to form a mound.  It will help each plant to produce a larger harvest since more blooms can reach the ground.  I don't bother since I hate to hoe in the heat of summer.  Enough are produced without the extra work to please me.

JULYBy July everything was up and spreading.  There were still empty spots in the rows but they were planted with other vegetables. 

Around forty days after sprouting, small yellow blooms appear.  The petals drop off after pollination and a "peg" forms.  It grows downward on a stem and buries itself in the dirt.  It will form the peanut.  If there has been a hard rain followed by drought, my soil will crust over.  The pegs can't penetrate so it becomes necessary to hand hoe around the base of the plant. 

AUGUST - Peanuts thrive in the miserable heat and choke out weeds. One of the empty spots caused by the naughty squirrels was planted with a yellow summer squash.  It is in the lower right corner of the picture.

Small peanuts are beginning to form.  The leaves are sensitive to light and will close after dark.  Don't panic like me, think they are dying and rush to spend the night watering. 

SEPTEMBER - The plants continue to spread but the majority of growth is underground.  Most of the energy is being directed to the peanuts.  Since the days are becoming shorter, it is making as many peanuts as possible.  One plant can produce about 40 peanuts.

OCTOBER - The weather begins to cool down. Light frosts hit around the middle of the month; however, peanuts cannot handle cold weather.  It damages the leaves, but the peanuts underground are not bothered.  Brown leaves are a sign the plants are almost finished.  Many farmers begin to harvest now but I like to wait until the last second so they can produce as many as possible.  Also, this is a busy month in the garden - so many things need attention.  Peanuts can wait so they are one of the last things I harvest.



NOVEMBER - Now it is time to turn our attention to the peanuts. We choose to pull them up after a good rain.  My garden is heavy clay soil.  If the soil is dry, the plants break apart and the peanuts will be stuck in the ground.  When researching information on growing peanuts, everthing stated they must be grown in sandy soil but never explained why.  I hesitated to grow them for years.  We discovered if we harvest when it is muddy, they will pull up easily and stay attached to the plant.  Digging them is backbreaking so we prefer to pull them which is easier if the ground is soggy, but it is very messy.

The day we pull them up is not the day we wash them. They are soggy so we let them dry first before washing the mud away.  They can become moldy if allowed to stay wet too long and if the weather turns warm, they may sprout.




It will take a week or two, depending on the weather before they are dry enough for us to handle.  In past years it was necessary to stack them up close to the house to deter squirrels from eating them.  This year they were gone so we left the plants beside the garden.  We have also learned to put them in a circle with the peanuts on the inside and the plants on the outside.  Scooter has been known to walk past and leave his mark.  


Pulling the peanuts off of the plants is a dirty, tedious job which is best done on a pleasant Fall day.  


It isn't boring because Scooter keeps us entertained.  He loves to eat peanuts; however, he only wants them if they are pulled off the vine and handed to him.  Dirt only adds to the delicious flavor.


The other way he wants them is if Pack Leader tosses them into his mouth.  He has gotten good at catching them.

MORE, GIVE ME MORE!
The few that Scooter doesn't eat, are spread out on the front porch to continue drying.  He won't eat them because they are not being handed to him.  We eventually wash away the dirt then spread them back out to dry again before bringing them in the house for the winter.  They will store a year or longer in a cardboard box placed in a cool dark place.


Roasting is easy.  Place the shelled peanuts in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.  Listen for a popping sound which indicates they are ready.  A little butter and salt are all that is needed.  If they are to be blended into peanut butter, I rub them between my fingers and their skins fall off.   It is my personal preference, not a necessity to remove the skins.  They can be quickly blended with a few spoonfuls of oil and a little salt.


This is the Valencia peanuts blended into peanut butter.  Since it has no added chemicals to extend the shelf life, I store it in my refrigerator.  It has never gone rancid because it disappears too rapidly for that to happen.  It disappears very, very rapidly.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

January's Garden (2018)


Cold and miserable, that has been the weather this month.  I rush out to the garden, raise the side of a hoop house, pick everything I can reach, and then rush back inside before my fingers freeze. There has been no work accomplished in the garden other than picking greens for dinner.  Almost all the vegetables are gone.  I wish I had planted more but we are not running low on food.  The preserved food from the summer garden is now being enjoyed.


I am pleased how the hoop houses are holding up.  This is the second year using the fabric.  There are some rips and tears, but not enough to make a difference.


Putting the wire hoops closer together but not running a twine as extra support allowed the roof to sag under the weight of the snow.  It was not enough to do any damage but next year I will use the twine again.  If we have a heavier snow next month, it might be a problem.


These are the hoop houses close to the back fence.


The few remaining vegetables underneath are not impressive.  I harvested the larger outer leaves and left the smaller ones to grow. However, nothing is growing since they are dormant. I have no qualms about stripping most of the leaves.  I love the flavor of winter salads.


The collard greens are almost all gone also.



This is the bed beside the garden shed on the (east) yard side.  Even though it only gets morning sun, it has survived as well as the others.



Scooter has enjoyed the snow.  He loves running around in circles. When he has had enough fun, he runs to the porch and stares at the front door waiting for it to magically open.

Let me in.
Poor Scooter.  The icy snow sticks to the long fur on his feet.  They are so cold.  Bless his heart. If only he had some nice warm booties to wear when he plays outside.


"NANA!" snapped Scooter.  "Do not listen to Mom.  She is dropping hints so you will buy me some booties.  DON'T DO IT! When my feet are caked with ice, snow, and mud all I need to do is run across the carpet and hop up on Mom's fancy, plush, thick comforter on her bed. The ice and mud quickly melts away while I snooze.  IGNORE MOM.  I am doing just fine."

NO BOOTIES!