Sunday, November 22, 2020

You GOTTA' Grow This: Mouse Melons

OMG! Y'ALL! You NEED to grow these! Seriously!  They go by many names: Cucamelon, Mexican Sour Gherkin, Pepquinos, and my favorite Mouse Melons, but their botanical name is Melothria scabra, so as long as you get those, you're golden.

They're so cute that that alone is reason enough to grow them.  

But wait! There's more! They're tasty, too! Tart like pre-dilled cucumbers. Tangy and crispy and yummy. Bite sized even, right off the vine no slicing or dicing needed. I think they'll be great in a salad. Wonder if they'll last long enough for my mesclun that's just sprouting to join them. I'm going to leave a few in the fridge to see if they do, then make some 'frigerator pickles out of a some, then can the rest for later.

They've been growing out there all year and I didn't think they'd made anything, so never really looked. I did see a few on there a while back, picked a couple, and ate them. They were pretty great, better than regular cukes I thought, so I made a mental note to grow them again next year, starting earlier and paying more attention to them, then thought no more of it.

Last week's frost nipped the vines enough that I could see through them, and lo and behold, there was a shit load of the little buggers on there!  Five little plants that covered a 3' wide by 4' tall trellis made a half gallon or so fruit. Interestingly, they also sent out a couple or three vines across the ground, shooting out singly in different directions.  One was about eight or ten feet out, headed to the squash bed, and made little melons even right on the ground!  

I'm impressed with them since it was so hot and dry this year, plus they were in a shadier spot.  Next year they'll get much better accommodations.

Now I'm off to make pickles as the cold front rolls in.  Ahh, bliss...

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Cutting Back Tomatoes

If you haven't already, it's time to cut back your tomatoes.  By now they're likely
growing out the top of the cages and all the way back down to the ground again, making such a mess that you hardly know where one stops and another begins.  They stopped setting fruit over a month ago, you've picked all the ones set before that, and you're getting tired of looking at them.  Hornworms are more plentiful than fruit, especially the BIG ones that scream at you when you grab them, and you're probably noticing the beginnings of a spider mite infestation.  Wouldn't it be great to just wipe the slate clean and start over?

Well, go ahead then.  Just cut off the tops and there ya' go.  That's all there is to it.  Really.

Some people pull up their plants and replant this time of year, but I think that's such a waste.  You've spent months growing a big healthy rootball, so why pull all that up and replace it with a baby that will have to grow it all back?  Why not leave the rootball, and just get rid of the raggedy part?  That's what I do, and it works wonderfully.

Sometimes, they'll try to regrow from the base themselves, but those sprouts won't get very far if they're shaded by the old growth.  This time of year, the vines are so long and leggy that half of the plant's energy is taken up pushing water and nutrients through yards of stem just to get to the few leaves left on the ends.  It's like the plant knows that, so is trying to deal with it by regrowing from new.  Removing all the old top helps it do that.

If you want details, here they are: all you have to do is cut about a foot up from the ground, right above a node, preferably one with a little sprout already.  Remove all the foliage, throw down some more fertilizer, and top that with a bit of compost.  Watch the watering - without leaves, the plants won't need as much water now, so don't overwater.

That's all there is to it!  Really.  If you get it done now, they'll have plenty of time to regrow their tops in time to set more fruit when it cools off again.  So get out there and do it!  It looks so much better when you're done.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Now we have time to think.

This article in the link below really moved me. It put it's finger right on something that's been rattling around in my heart since this situation we're all in first started, and set the stage for me to sit here for the last hour and let it sink in. It explains what some might not have noticed: when the universe recently pushed the reset button, it gave us a chance to start our lives all over again, to rebuild them into something we always wished for but didn't have time to make.

It's given us time to think.

Caring about something takes time. Time to learn about it, to actively seek out more information. Time to think about how we feel about it. Time to figure out what we can do about it. Then Time to DO THAT.

The universe is offering us the clarity needed to declutter our lives of all the extraneous bullshit and make room for more meaningful things, and all we have to do is choose to grab it and run with it. We have time now to figure out which items on our overstuffed calendar are really worth having to turn a blind eye to so many objectionable things. IF we choose this, we can come out of this with enough time to do something about those objectionable things - not all, but at least one.

Can y'all imagine what that would look like? What our neighborhoods would be like if all seven billion of us figured out one thing to try to make better, then spent that hour a week we found that was previously filled with shopping or Netflix or whatever pablum we used to use to "find peace" when we were really only finding distraction - if we all used that one hour on making that thing we care about better instead?

We can have that. All we have to do is have the courage to see what this virus has laid bare, then CONTINUE to see it after the main threat is over. When the opium sellers come calling, trying to convince us it really wasn't that bad, we really didn't see the man behind the curtain, close our eyes and buy this thing or believe this other thing and it'll be okay just like it used to be... please, please, don't listen to them.

This chance - it won't come again. Please just think, and don't close your eyes.

Friday, April 17, 2020

No more mud in the garden

Hauled five tractor bucket loads of mulch from the pile in the pasture to the new garden today.  Got it spread in the pathways, too.  Now I can work out there without having so much mud stuck to my shoes that I'm two inches taller.  I even moved a little metal pen to one corner so I can enclose it and turn it into a duck house.  Yep, I'm going to get ducks.  DUUUUUCKS!!  Garden ducks!  I can't WAIT.  

Gonna' feel this tomorrow...  But tonight I'm a happy woman.


Thursday, April 2, 2020

Growing Your Own Sweet Potato Slips

As I'm writing this, we are still in the midst of the coronavirus lockdown.  Yesterday our governor issued a statewide stay-at-home order, so all non-essential businesses are closed, and this will likely continue for a month, if not more.  Seeds and some transplants were already being sold for a while before the lockdown, so you may think you have everything you need to plant your vegetable garden.  

But not sweet potatoes!  Most likely not anyway.  Sweet potatoes like really warm weather, so usually aren't sold 'til later in the year.  Mid April or so actually, and on into May.  Sweet potato slips are already hard to find in a normal year, so with all this, they're going to be even HARDER to find now.  So you may think you're out of luck for planting them this year.

Nope!  Just grow your own!

Roots coming off them are normal, and good.
You won't believe how easy it is.  Really.  You can grow them from any sweet potato you have already or can buy from the grocery store.  Grocery stores are still open, and I don't see them closing at all.  So there ya' go!  They may be out of some things when you go, but we're not talking toilet paper here, so just check back and I'm sure you'll find them restocked.

One caveat though: Since diseases that affect plants don't transfer to people (not that I've heard of anyway), supermarket produce meant to be eaten isn't tested for them, so if you do this it's possible that you can infect your soil with a disease that will live in your soil for years.  But it's really unlikely.  I don't know of any offhand.  Still, if it does happen, most of them you can kill by solarizing the soil, so at most you'll only lose a season or two of growing time.  Or just don't plant anything in the sweet potato family for a few years and starve it out.  (In case you didn't know, that's their cousins the morning glories.  I know, right?!)  

Seven sprouts!  Each is counted as one slip.
So, back to growing your own...  

All you have to do is plant that sweet potato and keep it in a sunny spot.  Really.  It's that simple.  Plant it in some potting soil, pointed end down, water it well, and sit it in a sunny window or on the porch.  

You can even suspend it in a glass of water with toothpicks if you want, sitting it in that same sunny window or out on that same porch.  Do you remember your mom or grandma doing that in the kitchen window, ending up with the longest and most gorgeous green vines growing up and over and around the window?  Yep, same thing.  

I put this one in water about a week ago.
Once you have your potato suspended in water or planted, it won't take that long for sprouts to appear.  Depending on how long the potato has been in cold storage, it could be a couple weeks, but some of mine take only a week.  But once they get going, they're going.  They usually sprout from multiple places on one end, as many as eight or more.  

When those sprouts get some size on them, say more than six inches or so, break them off and put them in a jar of water in that same sunny spot.  Don't worry if they don't have roots.  They'll form them over the next week or so.  

Keep breaking them off and putting them in your jar of water until you have enough.  Then simply plant them out in the garden a couple feet or so apart, keep well watered 'til the start to actively grow, and you're off to the races.  

I like to plant them under my okra to maximize the use of space.  Okra plants are upright while sweet potato vines sprawl over the ground, so there is room for both in the same spot.  Just remember you'll have to water and fertilize a bit more, but I think it's worth it.  And you will, too, come Thanksgiving when you're the only one with homemade pie from home grown 'taters. 

More sprouts will grow soon. You can see one at the top of that
beige-ish stem/growth point already.  See the tiny little green leaf?
Cute little thing.


Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Happy Birthday To Me

What a wonderful day I had today. I've been feeling guilty for being fine with and actually enjoying this forced quarantine when so many are hurting, so for one day, my birthday, I let myself jettison the guilt. I still know I am SO LUCKY in my situation, so much better off than so many, but today I reveled in the alone time and let myself be happy about it.

I started the new garden plot last year and lost steam when the feral hogs tore it up. Assholes. So this year, the first spring I've had off in ten years, I found the gumption to work on it again. I started Saturday, did a little more Sunday, took yesterday off, and got back on it today. Got over a thousand square feet of bed space now. Hips hurt like a hell (Climbing on and off the tractor is hard on an old fat broad.), hands and arms cut up a good bit, shoulders sore from shoveling, and even have poison ivy on one boob, but WORTH. IT.

This is funny: I misplaced my phone during all this, so as I was walking around trying to find it, I'd just finished saying, "Okay, Mom, help me find my phone, please." and the ringtone started up. I'd left it on the trunk of the Miata where I wouldn't have looked for an hour, and it was a dear DEAR friend calling to wish me happy birthday. I so enjoyed that conversation. She laughed when I thanked her for helping me find my phone.

The bath I had afterwards took care of most of the aches, and the NOMMY brownies my friend Rhonda baked and sent over with her hubby Phil will take care of the rest. If not, the bottle of wine she also sent will. 

Ahhhhhh.... What good friends I have. I'm going to finish that wine while reading the two dozen birthday wishes I got today again and making some birthday tamales. Or maybe I'll just have brownies for dinner.

Next project: hog trap. You eat my broccoflower, you assholes, I'm gonna' eat *you*. I need some bacon to go with all those beans I'm gonna' plant tomorrow, and a couple heads and butt roasts for more tamales this Christmas.  

Mmmmm... tamales.  Tamales in the crock pot.  Can't wait 'til they're done.

I love my tub on the porch.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Gardening in The Flupocalypse

Anyone want to do some Flupocalypse Gardening while we've all got so much time on our hands? I got skillz and would be glad to share, so if you have questions, lay 'em on me.  As I get more questions that help me think of more tips, I'll update this, so check back every now and again.  (And yes, I know this isn't the flu, but "Coronapocalypse" just didn't seem to have the same ring.)

Here are a few tips to get things started:

~ To find a spot that gets enough sun, take pictures throughout one day, every hour on the hour, then flip through them that night to count how many show sun on the spot - that's how many hours of sun that spot gets. Choose a spot that gets *at least* 6 hours of sun a day, preferably not all afternoon or evening sun. If you can, avoid the west side of your house or other building - things tend to fry there.

And you don't need a formal garden plot - just find any old patch of dirt with enough sun. If you have a flower garden out front, use that! Don't have any ground, but do have a balcony? Use old pots or empty coffee cans or used milk jugs or even straight in that bag of potting soil - just lay it flat and cut it open. Boom, done.
~ Need compost, but garden centers are closed? Look under bushes in your yard for all those leaves that have accumulated over the years and dig under them. See that black rotted stuff that doesn't look like leaves anymore? Rake it up, pick out bits of sticks and wood, and use that. It's called "leaf mold" and is fab stuff. Be sure not to use it if it's mostly un-rotted wood since if you mix that in, that will tie up nitrogen in your soil and starve your plants. Mulch on top of the ground = good. Mulch IN the ground = bad.

Also look in your garage for that half bag of potting soil, and round up those pots containing nothing but dirt and Ghosts of Springs Past. Most potting soils are made of things that will definitely lighten up the dirt in your new garden plot. Other things you can use: peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, and coco coir fiber if you have any of those.

Nice side effect of this exercise: your garage's garden corner will get cleaned out.

~ Don't think you have seeds to plant, and again garden centers are closed? Look in your pantry. The best and quickest thing you likely have are those pinto beans from HEB. Yep, they'll sprout. Yep, the ones for cooking. Yep, they really will. So will the black eyed peas, navy beans, limas, and garbanzos. The only ones that won't are anything "split" or "cracked", like lentils and green peas. If you have any whole grains that haven't been steamed or rolled or whathaveyou, those might, too. It'll take 'til fall to get anything from them, but what the heck! They're fun to grow.

~ Look in your fridge, too. All these things will sprout:
white potatoes, sweet potatoes, sprigs of basil and mint, ginger root, turmeric root, seeds from pumpkins and watermelons and spaghetti squash, carrot tops (though it's a bit late for them), and basal root plates from onions (especially scallions).

~ Once things get going, it helps to fertilize.  If you have any fertilizer in your garage, use it.  Even if it's not the "right" numbers on the bag, it'll help.  Even if it's a conventional "chemical" type, it'll be better than nothing - just DON'T use any kind of "weed and feed" since the "weed" part will kill all broad leaf plants, and your veggies are broad leaved plants.  And DON'T think, "A little is good, so more must be better!"  Nope, it's not.  Really.  If anything, give them less.

If you don't have any fertilizer, try to find alfalfa-anything at the feed store.  A bag of alfalfa pellets or range cubes will work.  Put 2 or so inches in the bottom of a five-gallon bucket, cover with water, let sit overnight, and water your plants with it.  Do this once or twice a week.  You can do this a couple-or-three times before you've gotten most of the goodies out of the pellets, then just spread the sludge out over the top of your veggie bed soil and do it again.

Also, put any kitchen scraps in a blender with some water, then spread that on the beds as well or dig a little shallow trench a foot from the base of your plants to pour it in, spreading it out fairly well, then cover it back up.  Blending it up will help it decompose faster so the plants can get those nutrients quicker.  Don't put it too thickly anywhere - spread it out to about 1/2" thick - so it breaks down quickly and doesn't get nasty-smelly-slimey as it breaks down.  If it does, it won't hurt anything, but isn't nice to work around while it rots.

So come on everybody! Send me your questions! Just post them right down there in the comments, and I'll answer them as soon as I see them.  Or if you'd rather, comment on my post on Facebook.  See you there!

Even the dogs are bored.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Toilet Paper Substitute

No, not leaves.  (Just in case you were thinking of doing that, this is poison ivy.)

No, I'm talking about cotton knit fabric.  If you're running out of toilet paper and can't find any anywhere, use a twelve-dollar bag of cotton painter's rags from Lowe's. If you can't make it out to the stores or are short on cash, cut up a couple old t-shirts. Those are about the exact same fabric and work just fine, too. 

I'd heard of this as an environmental thing, but never tried it because it sounded like so much trouble. Now that Flupocalypse is upon us and I can't find toilet paper ANYWHERE, I figured I'd better try it to at least conserve the last few rolls I have. 

Turns out it's a lot more comfortable than TP! Easy peasey to wash, too. And my rolls of tp are lasting me well over a week now.  Almost two.

I don't do the cotton fabric for Number Two. Even I, with my iron stomach and lack of squickedoutness about "nature", don't much like the idea of washing that. But for pee? Sure. Why not.

Contrary to popular belief, urine ISN'T sterile, but it's also not full of pathogens like feces. And so long as I keep them washed on the regular, there's no smell at all.  

All sorted.


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