Tuesday, October 31, 2017

October's Garden (2017)

This is the month of transition when the summer vegetables die and the winter vegetables move to center stage.  All remaining summer vegetables and herbs must be picked or they will be lost.  

A heavy frost hit two nights ago and so the garden has changed. The okra in the row to the far left has been frozen and the next two rows of Lima beans are almost dead. We have begun pulling up the plants as we harvest the last few beans.  The row on the right is the miscellaneous area.  Some things are dead, others are thriving.

In the center of the garden is the strawberry bed which has come back to life now that the weather has cooled.  The net is still off because birds are not bothering them.  We think our neighbor's cat is keeping the bird and squirrel population under control.

The peanuts have been harvested and so their area is empty. The tomatoes which were tied to the stakes are now dead due to the frost.  The green tomatoes were harvested and brought inside in hopes they will ripen.  On the right side are the sweet potatoes which are almost completely black from frost damage.  The potatoes will be fine underground for a short while.

For a few days after a hard frost, the garden is a strange mix of live and dead plants.  The summer plants are dying while the winter plants continue to grow.

Basil (left) lettuce (right)
Swiss Chard (left) Amaranth (right)

It was a productive month with many successes. The Tahitian Butternut squash which sprouted in the compost pile then grew down the fence and out into the field, died early. The vines in the field were doing fine because they rooted as they spread, but those hanging on the fence suffered.  We went a month without rain. It was too dry deep under the compost pile and so the roots could not support the large plant. I suppose I should have watered the huge compost pile but it would have required a large volume of water. 

We waded out into the tall grass in the field and followed the vines to find the squash.  I think we have enough to last us through the winter.

"Help me I am squashed!"
Only one of the banana melons ripened because they were planted so late in the season.  I threw a few seeds in an empty spot and did not expect anything.  It was not a disappointment since we got one.  The gamble paid off.

"Smells yellow."

It ripened while Dustin was home for Fall break so of course, I shared. The flavor was like a mild, creamy cantaloupe but it was stronger and sweeter since it was allowed to ripen on the vine.

A big job was harvesting the peanuts.  We waited until after a heavy rain and gently pulled them out of the mud.

They will need a few weeks to dry in the sunshine so we spread them on the grass in a circle with the peanuts inside and the leaves outside. This prevents Scooter from "watering" the peanuts as he walks past. We have not pulled the peanuts off the vines yet, nor washed them either.  It will be a chore for a pleasant Fall day.  During previous years we put them close to the house to discourage squirrels from helping themselves. This year they are not a problem.

The biggest job will be digging up the sweet potatoes. This year the vines exceeded all expectations.  They grew through the tomato plants, up the stakes and out in the walking path.  Bill kept them from taking over the backyard by mowing the outer edge.

Now the vines are dying and we will be harvesting them soon.  I hope the vines are an indication we have a great crop under the soil. We shall see.

The winter garden is growing but would look better if I stopped harvesting everything. Sometime soon, depending on the weather, I will be putting up the hoop houses.

The collard greens love the cool weather and are growing fast. They will be saved until deep in the winter when all the other vegetables are gone.  When it is freezing cold and I yearn for something fresh, then I will bundle up and brave the winter to pick something delicious.

One season has ended and another has begun.


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Scooter Picks Lima Beans

"SCOOTER, SCOOTER!!!" yelled Mom.  "I need your help picking Lima beans.  The weather has turned cold, it is about to frost and if I don't get the beans picked today, we will lose them. I need your help."

"Seriously?  I can't believe you want me to pick horrible, disgusting, nasty Lima beans.  I hate Lima beans!" replied an offended Scooter.

"Sorry.  Can't help.  Don't see them." 

"You are sitting on them.  Just look down."

"Nope.  Still don't see them."

"Look HARDER!" snapped a hurried, panicked, frazzled Mom.

"I am trying but everything looks green."

"Found one. Ppfffttt!!! Tastes terrible!  I HATE LIMA BEANS!" Scooter spits.

 "Methinks I see an escape."

"Shhhhh. Mom will never find me." 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

And So It Continues...

Today marks the one-year anniversary of my first post and it is hard to believe my blog is only one year old. What started as a personal journal for posterity has become an important part of my life. It has morphed into something I never imagined. I am humbled how people from around the world read my posts. It is an honor and yet I can't understand why anyone anywhere would want to read anything written by a nobody from Tennessee, USA. The surprises have been amazing.

Shocking! You think THAT is interesting?
My family has been supportive and interested, well at least each in their own way. Bill wants me to read every post aloud to him before it is uploaded. He often catches mistakes and helps me clarify my statements. My middle son Dustin, who is away at college, reads them when he is homesick. He hasn't said so, but I know he does. My youngest son Reese works a job far away, reads them because he wants to see if I have said something about him. He doesn't trust me, none of them trust me. Joshua, my oldest son considers them mind-numbingly boring and has said so; however, he encourages me by offering technical advice and marketing strategies. Marketing strategies? He thinks my blog will make me rich and famous someday. My biggest fan is my Mom. She lives for new posts, enjoys each comment and nags me for more pictures of Scooter. Since Joshua works in her city, he stays with her and she keeps him informed of each post whether he wants to hear it or not. He can tolerate the abbreviated versions. And of course Scooter, he has learned to cooperate when I take his picture. At first, he was terrified and tried to hide. I think the camera makes a high pitched sound that people can't hear because he turns and looks whenever it is switched on. He no longer runs but endures knowing the photo-op won't last long.

I am guarding the door so I will be the first inside.
This blog has been extremely enjoyable and has taught me so much.  My writing and photography skills have improved, they both needed to.  (Is it still bad grammar to end a sentence with to?)  I also view life differently.  What I consider normal, is often unusual for others around the world. The friends I have met through comments and email have been amazing and heartwarming.

There are no great, lofty plans for the future except to continue to share the mundane with Mom and throw in a picture of Scooter.  That is it, but everyone is welcome to join me and we will see where it goes....

I don't know where we are going, but it will be fun.
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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

I Hate These Flowers

I hate these Celosia, Cockscomb flowers, really hate them.  Swore I would never grow them and yet they have multiplied all over my flowerbed.  Every time I look at them I remember my brother, Jim as an infant with a waist-high cast covering his broken leg and my grandmother lying in her casket.  Last night the temperature dropped to 36 degrees and I am celebrating their soon demise in this month's Wildflower Wednesday linkup.  Although I am unsure if they are considered to be a "wildflower" because I think they are "weeds."

Not to be judgemental, there are people who like to grow them for pleasure.  I am not one of those types.  If you love them, (what a horrible thought) and decide to water and fertilize them, some varieties can grow large. Some people might even say they are lovely.  

From a neighbor's garden.

I promised myself I would never grow them and then years ago I was given a packet of seeds by an unsuspecting friend.  It was a gift, I had to plant them, not to would be rude.  So I threw them out in the garden one frozen, snowy day feeling sure that was the end. Wrong. They sprouted in the early Spring, spread all over the garden and have returned every year despite not being watered or fertilized, ever.

When I was eight years old, my father's mother, "Granny" suddenly died.  Her life's passion was to feed anyone who might be hungry.  Her husband, Papa had a life's passion also.  He liked to attend funerals.  All funerals. Anyone's funeral.  Stranger's funerals. Didn't matter if he knew you or not, if there was a funeral announced in the newspaper, he was there.  Even as a young child I thought it was odd; so one day I asked him why he liked to attend funerals?  He replied he wanted to make the crowd look bigger.  

A few weeks before Granny died, my infant brother Jim, accidentally fell out of a swing and broke his leg.  Due to the type of break at his young age, he was put in a cast up to his waist.  On the day of the funeral, everyone for miles around was at the funeral home.  Granny had fed everyone at some time in their life and Papa had attended a funeral of someone in everyone's family.  It was a big crowd.  We had no idea who all of the people were but the place was standing room only.

My mother and I arrived early to receive visitors while my father stayed home to attend to Jim.  When Dad arrived, he carried my little baby brother who was grasping a smashed and withered Cockscomb bloom from the flowerbed beside our back door.  The room became hushed and all eyes watched as Dad (Granny's dearest son) approached the casket. Without being prompted, Jim carefully bent over and gently laid the smashed bloom beside Granny.

EVERYBODY GASPED AND BEGAN SOBBING! The whole room fell apart.  Strangers, friends, family, everyone was crying. It was heartbreaking. This pitiful, tiny boy in a half-body cast was giving his Granny a flower he had picked for her one last time. No one could stop blubbering.  They buried the flower with her.

I still cry even to this day when I remember it and I remember it whenever I look at Cockscomb blooms.  I blame my brother for this major childhood trauma and for causing all my dysfunctional problems.  It is all his fault.  I will never forgive him even though he doesn't remember anything.

As I sat in my flowers today holding my camera, taking pictures and mournfully reminiscing, Scooter walked over beside me, backed up to my flowerbed full of Celosias and POOPED!  

I think he read my mind, sensed my feelings, and understood how I felt.