Monday, August 30, 2010

Fall Has Begun

And whew is it going to be a busy season. Anthony is moving up in preschool since he is finally showing real potty training progress. He is also scheduled for surgery to remove his tonsils since they have become a real problem. He is also getting his frenulum clipped during the tonsilectomy, which should help with his speech issues. Then there is my birthday...and it all snowballs from there into winter.

I transferred all of my seedlings to their peat pots yesterday. I started them in a sunny, eastern facing window (which also happens to be Pixel the cat's favorite napping spot) and she is delighted that they have graduated to the front porch. I am currently debating about starting some rhubarb seeds. I would like to run a trial on them since I am pretty seed-rich. I think I will start 5 of them and keep two on the porch in a semi-shady area. However, I want to wait until the weather is just a bit cooler. The Gulf Coast got a hint of fall and it was so nice this weekend that you could almost be fooled that its here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sweet Success!

Did you know...
That sweet potatoes are one of the best and easiest vegetables you can grow? It only takes some time and dedication. Then you have one of the best self sustaining crops in the world. Sweet potatoes can reproduce themselves with little or no trouble after a long period of time. And, in the proper conditions, sweet potatoes store amazingly well. Believe it or not, I had one sitting on the counter for several months before I got around to doing anything with it. When I cut it open after getting all the slips I wanted, it still looked just fine.

Sweet potatoes are also great sources of vitamin C, beta carotene, and vitamin A. Here's the breakdown for one medium sweet potato:

Calories: 130
Calories from fat: 0.39 g
Protein: 2.15 g
Carbohydrate: 31.56 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.9 g
Sodium: 16.9 mg
Potassium: 265.2 mg
Calcium: 28.6 mg
Folate: 18.2 mcg
Vitamin C: 29.51 mg
Vitamin A: 26081.9 IU
Source: National Agricultural Library (NAL), part of the Agricultural Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture.

Looks like a pretty good deal, right? Add yourself some beans or high protein grain and you have a nutritionally complete meal straight out of the garden.

For 1 square foot of gardening space (in my case, a 5 gallon bucket), I should get 2-3 lbs of food, based on the checking I did yesterday. Pretty good, right? It gets better.

For the cost of 1 sweet potato ($0.89) at the grocery store, I got seven plants. I could have had more, but ran out of space. I had potting soil and hay on-hand. The buckets were a gift from a friend, but can easily be obtained for free from restaurants.

When you do the math, for $0.89, some time, energy, and water, I will be getting approximately 14 lbs of food and have assured myself of as many slips of sweet potatoes as I need for as long as I can keep a potato or two hanging around.

Plus, sweet potatoes are easy to prepare (boil 'em, microwave them, bake them, etc.) and delicious to eat. With news reports of tainted foods and food prices going sky high, can you afford not to grow them?

For instructions on how to propagate sweet potatoes, check out this post:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fall Gardening

It's here. The subtle change in the air. The way the shadows are casting. The not quite so oppressive heat. And the almost imperceptable changes in the colors of the leaves. It was with all these thoughts in mind that I got busy and started making the fall plans. Fall means cole crops in Southeast Texas. Cabbages, broccoli, greens...Yum! And because it would be zero fun to be a gardener without some experimentation....rhubarb and quinoa.

This past Saturday, I started:
Quinoa (from seed obtained at the HEB bulk grains aisle)
Romaine Lettuce
Black Seeded Simpson lettuce
Red Cabbage
Green Cabbage
Bush Beans

I got all of these started early so that I could have optimum growth by the time the really cold weather hit. I didn't do well with these last year because I got them in far too late and we had a cold winter hit very quickly. They never really did amount to much. So just like all gardeners, I have promised that this year will be different.

My okra is still not producing very well and I am not happy with the Clemson Spineless variety. I don't miss getting my hands prickered up from the other variety, but by this time last year, I was sticking okra in people's pockets in an attempt to get rid of it. I think I'll be switching back. I am looking forward to fall tomatoes. I nursed my current plants through the worst of the summer and am hoping to be paid back for the water and time I put into them. As long as the dreaded horn worms don't attack...but that's more for another post.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Revamping a Flower Bed

Like every other gardener, I've had my share of successes and failures. I am always very attentive to my vegetable beds, but I tend to expect my flowers to survive on my own. I have been spoiled by my lantana in my front beds which, now established, needs little extra water, blooms during the hottest weather, and thrives on neglect. These plants live in the front flower beds so if they look distressed, I pay attention to them.

The back flowerbed, however, has been a challenge since I built it. I originally built a bed there because the area was low, always wet, and shady from both the house and the trees. I have tried wildflowers in the bed, which never really grew. Then I tried plumbago from a friend's garden, which failed to establish itself before the first freeze hit. After those died over the winter, I didn't know what to do with the bed. It got hot, rained, and the weeds grew. I quit wanting to deal with it.

Then when I got home from vacation, I looked at it with fresh eyes. I could see exactly what to do with it.

So I got down to business....

I pulled all the weeds.

Anthony's tricycle is for scale.

Then I put down landscape fabric to control future weeds and placed my new plumbago plants. Finally, I added a mailbox as part of the garden art in the bed. I'll also add a Purex laundry bottle from the 1940s in there.

Not sure why the color is odd. My house is actually a dusty green color.

My next step is to plant the newly purchased plumbago and add mulch. Then finally, in the space where the landscape fabric is missing, I will be planting spinach.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Montana/North Dakota Trip Part III

Sorry its taken me so long to post again. I had a major snafu with my pictures and wound up having to get copies. I've got them now and can continue posting.

The first thing we did at the ranch was go 4-wheeling. I figured that Anthony could use some fun after being cooped up in the motorhome for 3.5 days. So off he went with his Papa. For the next week and a half, anytime that anyone said the word 4- wheeler, Anthony felt it was his duty to get a ride. They took the trash to the pit, we took it down to go swimming, we took it to go work on the ranch. And everywhere we went on it, he was there too with his hat and glasses, waiting for a ride.

Anthony also considered himself an integral part of the workings of the ranch.

He helped work on the truck.

Acted as a safety supervisor.

Worked as the foreman.

Made sure that in light of the fun being had, that we all knew it was serious work.

He even pitched in to help with the new gun range we built.

Hard work for a little guy, huh?

To be continued...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Montana/North Dakota Trip-Part II

Back to our regularly scheduled post...

We spent the next morning playing at my uncle's house. And by we, I mean, Anthony was playing, and I was taking pictures of Anthony playing...and other things.

Like the barn...

Anthony playing with Tommy

Anthony was playing so intently with the truck that he didn't notice me sneaking up behind him.

Anthony chasing the butterflies.

After we were done playing, we loaded up into the motorhome and went on our merry way up to the ranch. We stopped to restock our supplies before leaving civilization. And after a quick lunch at Painted Canyon in the Southern Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, we were off onto the backroads to the ranch.

Anthony at Painted Canyon

After an hour on the roads, we were finally there. We stepped out of the motorhome to birds chirping, the breeze blowing, and no other sounds but the greetings of my (other)aunt and uncle.

Ahhh, serenity at last.

To be continued...

Garden Update

I'm taking time out from the trip photos (which I swear I was going to write about again last night...however, a husband, a bum laptop, two episodes of Drop Dead Diva, and several fridge pickles got in the way) to post a garden update.

While I was gone, it rained for a week solid, and then temperatures shot up sky high. Needless to say, the garden is in a little bit of distress. The cukes have pretty well fizzled out, the carrots are a memory, my biennial herbs are a fried memory, and the tomatoes are struggling. The corn, the squash, and the pole beans are history.

However, the two million Thai basil plants that seeded themselves all over the garden are trucking along. My pepper plants are hanging in there and the sweet potatoes are coming along. They should be ready next month. I also finally harvested my first okra of the season and am looking forward to fresh fried okra.

I am also starting to get ready for the fall planting season. Out with the old, weeds, and yuckiness. In with the fresh and new! I am going to start a bunch of brascissas this weekend to get a jump on the growing season. Now to figure out where to put it all!

Monday, August 9, 2010

ND/MT Trip-The First Leg

On a bright Saturday morning, my parents, my son, and I loaded everything that we would need into a rented motorhome and left Houston on a two week road trip to see our family in Montana and visit the family ranch in North Dakota. We packed food, clothing, and essential survival gear (otherwise known as a tv with dvd player and a million kid videos. It would take three days to drive to North Dakota. Our first night, we made it to the middle of Oklahoma. We rolled in late, put down the beds, and crashed for the night. Here is the RV on the first cedar scented morning of the trip.

We had breakfast, loaded up, and went on down the highway. Our next night's stop was in Grand Island, NE. I took a picture of Anthony at the KOA Kampground which in between two cornfields. Which is, by the way, most of the scenery from Guthrie, OK to Grand Island, NE.

Anthony was half the size of the corn there.

And the clouds and corn were just to pretty to miss. Did I mention I like photography too?

We were especially careful to stop and let Anthony play whenever it seemed like he was getting antsy.

One of our city park stops in small town Nebraska:

Please ignore the puffiness. Bum ankle, remember? Photo taken by RLB, the original photographer in the family

And finally, late on the third day, we trundled into my uncle's house in southern North Dakota. And met these characters:

Buttons, who loves to lick

Dusty, who is 1/4 bobcat and sweet as pie

Lightning, my aunt's horse

Tommy the Barn Cat (You'll see more of him)

There were many other four footed friends there too that I didn't manage to capture on film. We stayed at my aunt and uncle's house where we had great food, fun conversation, and where my aunt completely spoiled my son.

To Be Continued...

She's Baaacccckkkk!

After two weeks of refreshment in the heartland of America, I come back enlightened, relaxed, and with a new perspective on life. The one I had beforehand was getting a little jaded. I now know exactly what I want to do/achieve and how to get there. Some intervention from God and a little luck will help it along the way and I'll do the rest. I will write about our adventures in North Dakota tonight and over the next few days, but for now I'll leave you with this...

Crested wheat growing on the family ranch in North Dakota.