Monday, October 31, 2016

October's Garden (2016)

This is a month of transition for my vegetable garden. The heat-loving plants have been hit with a few light touches of frost and are beginning to wane; the winter plants have been energized by the cooler nights and have exploded in growth. I grow a large amount of the food we eat. My focus is on: favorites that I cannot get in the grocery, foods that taste best fresh and avoiding pesticide-laden GMO varieties.

When I walk into a grocery store I am saddened by the selection of fresh food. Even when I go to “the big cities” it is still limited. One year I grew red, yellow, orange, and white watermelons.  My plan was to make a fruit salad with all colors. Alas, I failed; they all ripened at different times.

The difference between a homegrown vine-ripened tomato and the rock hard, cardboard ones you get from the stores in January is unbelievable. This applies to many other vegetables. The aroma of a shredded carrot freshly dug will fill the kitchen. Hot peppers on the same plant can have varying degrees of heat. I have walked down a row of kale to perform a taste test and discovered plants of the same variety had different flavors, plus some even changed according to the size of the leaf. Kale in the grocery store is what I think battery acid would taste like. Handpicked in the cold of winter, it is almost sweet.

My garden has poor soil and I have stripped it of many of its nutrients over the years. We were able to purchase this farm because the soil was inferior so the price was affordable. Compost has been added by the truckloads but it is never enough. We are a few miles from a limestone rock quarry and there are huge boulders in my yard.  It is a struggle to get anything to grow due to the soil, bugs, viruses, and varmints. Everyone wants a bite of my garden without doing any of the work.

To Adam he said, “...Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil, you will eat food from it all the days of your life. Genesis 3:17

Some days it just feels that way. 

Tired Tomatoes
The tomatoes are slowing their growth.  I keep a close eye on the weather report.  One day soon we will have a hard frost that will kill the plants.  The temperature at which this can happen varies. It is a combination of the temperature of the ground, how hard the wind is blowing and how long the air stays cold.  If the ground is warm and the night air is only cold for an hour or two, the plant will not be harmed.

Each day I delay picking is another day of growth.  As soon as the killing frost hits, I will collect all of the remaining green tomatoes, wrap them in newspapers and store them in a cardboard box.  Slowly, they will ripen.

Peppers - They hate cold weather and thrive only in the heat.  Right now they are covered in all colors and sizes.  Their flavor is stronger than anything you could buy in a store.

The morning after we have the killing frost I will pick them all and put them in the refrigerator.  They will keep longer than store bought ones because they are so fresh.

The okra began to get tough a few weeks ago and are now beyond eating. There is enough in the freezer or dehydrated to last me until next year. By now we are tired of eating them so it is not hard to ignore them. It is easy to let them just go to seed. The leaves have fallen off and they look fatigued. I will be harvesting the seeds to eat in a few days but for right now, they can grow a little more.

The long bean is a yard-long green bean and to the left of it is a large Lima bean also going to seed.  They both have vines that will grow about twenty feet long so I put them together on this tall arch.  The few light touches of frost we have had caused them to drop most of their leaves making it easy to find the beans.

I have recently planted winter pea seeds at the base of the arch. When one plant finishes, I usually turn over the soil and start another. However, it is hard work putting up the metal arches so I leave them up for two years then move them all to another place in the garden.  I know it is against the "rule" to grow something in the same place twice.  This is not something I would do with a plant that is a heavy feeder but with beans, it has worked.  I just poke a hole in the dirt trying not to disturb the roots of the growing plant.  Both grow together for a few weeks then the hot weather plant dies and it makes way for the cool weather plant.

The strawberries are thriving!  They are an everbearing variety so they will continue to produce until after a couple of killing frosts.  During the summer they struggled with the heat and I would only get about one handful a week.  It would be just enough to throw in the freezer to save to make winter pies.  The flavor was not as good then but if you add enough sugar, anything is good.

The cold weather plants are bursting with growth due to the cooler temperatures.  I can see an increase in their size every time I walk past them.  In this picture, there is an assortment of plants from my saved seeds.  

This is the best time of the year in the garden in my opinion.  The heat has finally left, the bugs are slowing dying and the weeds are growing at a rate I can almost manage.  It is a pleasure to watch everything change.  It makes winter so much more bearable when you can go out and pick something fresh to eat.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Its Fall Ya'll



Being all giddy about starting my first blog, I decided to show it to my youngest son Reese so he could also be excited.  It did not happen.

He said, "It has too many words and not enough pictures.  People don't want to read, they want pictures."

"What?" I said, "I like words."  Feeling confused, as I often do when dealing with a male, I decided to do a post with the minimum amount of words.

Reese, this one is for you.  Pictures and no words.

Love you,

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Local Ladies' Garden Club

Mine...I am learning.
I am a member of a garden club even though I live far out in the country.  All my friends snickered when I told them I had joined, but I love it.  It is a group of REAL Southern Ladies who have been meeting for decades.  No, we don't wear big hats, white gloves and sip mint juleps on the veranda, but I wish we did. I like big hats and the gloves would hide my broken fingernails caked with garden dirt. Anyway, the goal is to share about our gardens and be challenged to learn new skills.

Today's challenge was to make an arrangement with what we had on hand, easier said than done. We are in the middle of a drought and have not had any rain in forever. Also, we have had a few light touches of frost which killed what few flowers were left.

The ladies rose to the occasion and produced arrangements worthy of a national flower show.

Although we did have one desperate member use the cursed Johnson grass in her arrangement and another used a bit of Baby's Breath from a previous store-bought arrangement. When caught red-handed she replied we were to use “what we had on hand” so technically she was right. She did have it “on hand” Since there was not an unbiased flower show judge available to decide the matter, we all agreed to overlook the indiscretions. It is a drought after all.

A Miserable Birthday

Yikes! Today is October 27th, within two days I will be 59 years old. Oh, how old that sounds. Last week Joshua my oldest turned 28 on his birthday on Wednesday, October 19th. What a miserable day he experienced. He is presently living with Nana (my mom) at her home while he is working a new job in that city. Mom happened to be out of town visiting my sister and was not there to observe the catastrophe. Joshua returned home at 3:00 a.m. after working the evening shift to notice through the window there was fog inside the den. When he opened the door, it was like walking into a sauna and the carpet on the floor sloshed with each step. The hot water heater was spewing steaming water into the room. He quickly called us (it was a 3:00 a.m. phone call every parent dreads) to ask what to do. I handed the phone over to his Dad and he took over:

First, switch off the electric power fuse for the room before you step into the water (too late).
Second, make sure the electric power to the hot water is also turned off.
Third, look for the knob that stops the water flow to the heater - there was four…. At this point, I lost track of the instructions because I knew it was going to be solved. I could relax.

He turned the water off, found Nana's steam cleaner and began removing the water. It was a mess. He worked tirelessly into the early hours of the morning trying to pull out as much as possible.

On Saturday my husband and I spent the day helping with the cleanup. The water had only covered half of the floor so we moved everything to the other side of the room. Joshua and my husband worked on getting the water up while I worked on cleaning everything else.

You can see the water line here as it begins to dry.

This is the dry half of the room where we stacked everything.

Late in the afternoon a plumber (from a well-known reputable company) arrived and installed a new water heater. It was not a simple install since there were old galvanized pipes which involved welding, not just a simple unplug and hookup. It was not something Bill, my husband or Joshua could have done. Bill had just installed a new water heater for us about two weeks ago and was familiar with the process. He recognized the heater the plumber brought as one he had seen for sale on the internet at a price of $400. They ended up charging her a total of $1490!!!!!!!! Good grief! They charged $1000 to install it. Oh, my. Oh, my. The price took our breath away. Was she gouged? Yes and No. No, because she was paying for a well-known reliable company, known for their good service. The plumber was professional, respectful and trustworthy, somethings that are important when you are allowing a stranger into your home. Also, she received the convenience being able to call and say, “Do it all for me.” She is an elderly lady and her options are limited. Yes, she was gouged because she lives in Nashville and they are experiencing an economic housing boom; any type of contractor is in short supply so their prices are high.

It really makes me appreciate all the work Bill did to replace ours. At first, he was irritated because it was such a pain to install and he thought he was only saving about $250.  That is the labor charge we expected. Since we haven't needed construction work done for a while, we were unaware how labor prices have increased. After getting Nana's bill, we realized we saved about $1,000. That was a good pay for one day's work.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

And So It Begins...

Today, I decided my mind is lost and I need to start a blog to write everything down before it is forgotten - that includes my car keys, wherever they may be.

No, seriously. I was wishing I could talk to my past relatives and learn about family history. When I look at a nephew, I can see a cousin's face in his expressions, a man he will never meet. One of my sons stands and props his arm on his hip just like my brother.  Another son has inherited his personality (Lord help me). Thank goodness they have been able to know him and often laugh together at the similarities. I, on the other hand, as a child years ago in the summer discovered my toes look just like my Uncle Johnny's! My feet were bare and his wife said, “Goodness look at your feet. They look just like his!” He removed his big, heavy work boots and inside were large copies of my toes. That felt strange, so much so that I can still recall the moment fifty years later. I can't do much about the past but I can do something about the future.

This blog will be written about the everyday events of my family, lessons learned and battles fought. It will probably be boring to many; but, hopefully, it will be fascinating to those who are a long way off.

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