Has it really been since last July?

sb158 | March 1, 2011


So much has changed in my life since then, it’s no wonder I haven’t blogged. I see that the last I wrote, Alex was threatening. Fortunately, He went south, but did dump a bunch of rain west of us. Mexico and parts of the Valley got badly flooded. We got some rain, and then more rain from assorted other storm systems, but it really hasn’t rained much at all since then. We need some, but I’m afraid if I did the rain dance, we’d end up with a hurricane (or a blizzard), as crazy as the weather has been. I did plant a fall garden, though not much of one. We’d been house-hunting, and I didn’t know if we’d be moving, so took it easy.

As it turns out, that was a good thing. My daughter in Colorado had been having serious car issues, and in October, her 12 year old Passport just totally died. We started looking for a used vehicle down here, as Hubby wanted to be sure she got something safe. My son, who worked briefly at a car dealership a few years ago, came with us to prevent rip-offs. He saved us at least 10 grand; we ended up buying a new Chevy Silverado and giving the Dodge to my daughter. This meant, of course, that someone (yea, that’d be me) had to drive it all the way from south TX to Colorado, so off I went to stay until just after Thanksgiving.

Things didn’t quite work out that way. My other daughter decided she’d had enough after her son and husband nearly came to blows. I flew home to rearrange my house to fit 3 extra people – no easy task in a mobile home, let me tell you! Hubby and son went to FL the weekend before Thanksgiving, loaded the truck, and turned right around and drove all the way back to TX that same weekend. Then we had to cram a bunch more stuff in an already jam-packed house.

We immediately started looking for a bigger place, but ended up just moving to a bigger mobile home in the same park in mid-December. We’re still house-hunting; this place is better, but still way too small. The kitchen drives me to distraction, and occasionally to drink…

In between moving and rediscovering the “joys” of teenagers – 2 grandsons – all over again, I did a bunch of garden reading. Paul James, the used-to-be Gardener Guy on HGTV (before they went all “landscaping” and “curb appeal”) mentioned a book called “The One Straw Revolution” written more than 50 years ago by a Japanese farmer named Masanobu Fukuoka. Paul said it changed his perspective completely; he might even go so far as to call the book life-changing. Of course I had to read the book after a recommendation like that! And he was right; it did change my perspective completely, and set me off on a research binge that has been most enlightening, and maybe even life-changing.

I read a gazillion web articles, watched Youtube videos, and Googled any number of gardening things. The most useful book I found is called “Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture (Second Edition)“, written by Toby Hemenway. Found it as a pdf on the web, and was so impressed I spent the money to buy it from Amazon. IMHO, every gardener should read this book. In fact, it ought to be required reading in every high school biology class. Also found Rosalind Creasy’s “Edible Landscaping (Second Edition)” to be very helpful. I’m going to be adding pages about these books, and the garden ideas that result, as I have time.

After we were more-or-less settled and Christmas was gone, it was time to translate all the new garden ideas from abstract to stuff we can eat! Though my plans keep changing (a gardener’s prerogative, of course), I started a ton of seeds and started making garden beds. Had a bit of a setback when we had a 3-day freeze, and even some (very little, actually) snow, but Hubby’s brilliant idea saved all my container plants. He told me to move them all to the picnic table, then he hung two big high-intensity work lights in the roof. Wrapped it all up in a big ole tarp and turned on the lights. Even when the power went out, it was warm enough in there (though NOT so much in the house) to keep the plants all above freezing. After it finally warmed back up, we unwrapped it all, only to have to wrap them all back up again a week later when we had yet another deep freeze. Never in the almost 40 yrs. since I first heard of the Valley have I ever heard of weather like that down here.

So, to make a very long story much shorter, I’ve got some garden beds started, more in the planning stages, and a gazillion baby plants growing bigger every day while they wait for me to get my tush in gear and make them a home…

I’m about out of steam for tonight, so I’ll quit for now and continue this novel another day.

More Blue & White, Watering, and Shopping

sb158 | April 10, 2010


Uh oh. Knew I shouldn’t have done it. But I had to. Needed to buy a dog chain that the puppy couldn’t break if tormented by evil cats, and it was just there. Couldn’t help it. It’s an addiction…

I bet you know what comes next. The garden dept at Lowe’s. Yup. Almost as bad as a book store. I needed stuff to make Al’s container mix, and a little batch of gritty mix for the herbs. When all was said and done, I spent about $80.00, cuz I needed seed-starting mix, vermiculite, perlite, orchid bark mix and on and on. Then of course there was the new hose nozzle – old one died – and, oh yea, the creeping lemon thyme, Provence lavender, marjoram, and rosemary I just had to have. And the garden magazine. And the seeds. Only 3 packs, I swear…SIGH…

To make things even worse, I had to lug all that potting soil, etc, to the truck cuz the helper lady was helping a lady even older than me. So I’m trying to manhandle that cart thing in the vague direction of my truck, and I wandered off without the bag with the dog chain in it. The whole reason (so I told myself) I went in the first place. Naturally I didn’t remember until I was pulling in the driveway, so I had to turn right around and go back after it. Was still there, no problem, but…

Oh well. Once I got home, I made a small batch of gritty mix and planted the herbs. I put the marjoram, lemon thyme, and creeping thyme I already had in one of the ceramic pots Hubby got me on clearance last fall, but I also took a little piece off each to try another experiment. Hubby bought one of those cheap little charcoal grills for something or other, but I think he only used it once. The top (pretty red) was just taking up space in the laundry room, so I took off the handles and grill supports, lined it with a piece of coco fiber mat to keep the soil marginally cooler, and filled that with gritty mix, too. I put the little pieces from the other herbs in it, and will plant the common thyme seeds I bought today, maybe tomorrow. We’ll see how that goes.

Once I got done with all that, it was getting dark, and I was starving. Forgot to eat lunch today, and breakfast was a long time ago. Called it quits for today, and made a left-over roasted chicken sandwich.

I know it ‘s way late, but one little corner of my raised bed is close enough to the house that it gets some shade even in summer. I had a foot or so of space once I pulled out the borage, so I decided to take a chance and plant some lettuce and spinach. Between the house and the swiss chard next to it, the spot may get enough shade to let them grow, at least for a while. Some of it’s already sprouting – so far, so good. Also planted some carrots. May not do well, but all it cost to try was a few seeds.

Just a couple flowers:

Tired and gotta get up early to ride to McAllen and have breakfast with Hubby’s nephew and his wife. That’s all she wrote, for now…

Evil Cats, Wandering Puppies, and Grandma’s Recipe

sb158 | April 7, 2010


Dang, I hate those evil cats that hang around the dumpster by our place. Went out to water earlier, and one jumped right out of my side-of-the-stairs garden. It apparently parked itself in the big pot with a nicely-growing baby cosmos; needless to say, gotta replant now…
On top of that, it decided to torment the dog so much that she broke her brand-new tie-out line. We found her out on the highway dodging cars. Thankfully before she was road pizza!

I have a cookbook that used to belong to my mom’s mom; was printed in 1920-something. It’s got a lot of old-fashioned recipes, and sometimes I find just what I’m looking for. Wanted to use some navy beans and leftover ham tonight, so went recipe hunting. Finally looked in Grandma’s cookbook. Imagine my surprise when I found a baked bean recipe that had been quantity-adjusted in Grandma’s handwriting. Made me tear up a minute, then I smiled. And used the recipe…

Had to go hunting for a good cornbread recipe to go with the beans; none of the ones I have turned out especially good. Found one on About.com that sounded good. It has to be the best cornbread I have ever made. I used 2 Tablespoons of honey, and it was still very sweet. If you don’t like sweet cornbread, adjust the amount, or leave it out altogether. But it came out moist and light; not at all dry or heavy like cornbread can be.

The beans were good, too; least, I thought so…

Honey Buttermilk Cornbread

Cook Time: 30 minutes

* 2 cups stone ground cornmeal
* 1 cup all-purpose flour
* 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 3/4 teaspoon salt
* 2 large eggs
* 3/4 cup buttermilk
* 3/4 cup milk
* 3 tablespoons honey
* 1/4 cup melted butter, cooled

Heat oven to 400?. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan or spray with nonstick baking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, soda, and salt.

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, milk, honey, and melted butter.

Stir the liquid mixture into the dry mixture until blended. Spread in the prepared baking pan.

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

In garden news, yesterday the beans I planted with the repotted mums weren’t sprouting yet. Today they are starting to sprout. Got dill and cilantro sprouting, too. Probably already to hot to get much out of either, but the flowers will attract beneficials, so it’s all good. All the cukes and watermelons still looking good, so I really have to thin pretty soon.

Not much else new in the garden; just trying to keep up with the watering due to the hot wind…as usual…Supposed to get a cool front some time tonight with possible showers. Surely do hope so.

Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

sb158 | April 2, 2010


Been a frustrating couple of days, not as much accomplished in the garden as I’d hoped. Yesterday I managed a few little odds & ends, but it really had to be a housework (YUK) day. So I got a good start, and was just getting into the zone, when Hubby decided to come home and mess up the kitchen I’d just cleaned to make lunch. Never understand why lunch always requires grease spatters, chopped veggies all over the counter, and lots of dishes. What’s wrong with a simple, non-messy sandwich?

So I cleaned up his mess, then went to sit down a minute. When I woke up, it was pretty much time to start dinner. Didn’t sleep well the night before, I guess…*sigh*.

Today I actually did get some stuff done. When I pulled out all the going-to-seed lettuce, broccoli, etc., I just threw it all in my amazing-laundry-hamper-composter. I knew I needed to dump it out, chop it some, and remake the pile properly. Since it was cooler today, I decided to do that first.

I needed to get some SWC’s ready, so mixed the dirt for and filled 4 of them. Noticed that the cosmos seed I planted a few days ago is sprouting, as are the mini-morning glories I put in the top tipsy pot. Lots of teensy-tiny baby chamomile, too! Oh, and the dwarf Unwin’s Dahlia are sprouting.

But last night was the first new Bones show in a couple months, as well as some of my other shows coming back after re-runs…hence the wasted night…

On the up-side, one of the bachelor buttons bloomed today, a pretty pink one. I was hoping for blue (I like blue), but you take what you get in the mixes. It’s still pretty.

Oh yeah, planted some zinnia seeds in one container, and globeflower in another. So, some progress, but not as much as I’d hoped…

Mouseover to see bigger pic.

Purty, huh?.

Later, guys…

Not Much New…

sb158 | August 14, 2009


It’s still too hot; Hubby’s weather gizmo says 111 today. Much as I hated to, I had to go out there and spray the aphids off my peppers again; gotta keep up with it, as the little buggers multiple faster than tribbles(Trekkie reference, y’all). I got myself soaked in the process, which was a good thing. Cooled me off in that awful heat; probably kept me from dying of heatstroke.

Got all my SWC’s cleaned out and mixed some new dirt, getting ready for Round 2, which should commence shortly. Got tomatoes, peppers, and some broccoli, among other things, big enough to harden off. I put them on Hubby’s picnic table, in the shade, but am slowly exposing them to a bit more sun every day. Really gotta watch ‘em, though; this wind and heat will fry the poor little babies faster than I can blink.

Got some seeds sprouting to fill a couple off my new containers, and just got an idea for another one last nite while I should have been sleeping. I’ll start the seeds in a bit.

A couple weird things, though. I was about to pull my cukes, as they just aren’t fruiting, and are infested with whiteflies, among other things. All of a sudden they have just started growing like gangbusters, so now I’m debating. The watermelons in the SWC’s are doing the same thing. For a while it’s looked like they were barely hanging on, so I was babying them along hoping the melons would ripen before they expired. Now they’ve started growing new vines and blossoms, too. We’ll see what happens.


Been A While, so…

sb158 | July 24, 2009


Not really much going on in my garden, other than the fact that it’s being slowly baked to death by 111 degree temperatures. Not every day, but it has hit at least 109 for the past several days. Yesterday it was 110. I had a few minor things to do out there, and by the time I came in, I had sweat pouring off me. Didn’t stop for the next hour. Felt all woozy, too. Had to come in and sit in front of the AC for a while just to keep from dying. Would have taken a shower, but had a load of laundry going. Can’t do both at the same time around here…LOL.

By the time Garden Blog Death Day rolls around, I’ll have plenty to share. All the Roma tomatoes have ripened, not that there were all that many. The plants are just hanging around until I pull them out. Got some replacement stuff growing now, but it’ll be a few weeks until it’s ready to plant. I let the sickly zucchini expire, too, so that’ll be in the Death Day post.

The Heatwave tomato plants look awful, too, but they at least have a bunch of tomatoes ripening, if I can get them before the mockingbirds decide they’re ready to eat. The only thing that doesn’t seem bothered at all by the heat is the Lablab bean I planted. It just keeps growing taller, and has finally reached the top of the arbor thingy. Getting some side shoots now too, so maybe the arbor will finally start serving it’s intended purpose by the time I plant Round Two in early September.

The biggest thing I’ve accomplished is finishing the Excel seed-starting chart I got at I Wet My Plants.com. It was fine for Canada, but, boy, did it need a lot of work for South TX. Took me quite some time, and lots of tedium, to enter all my seeds, correlate the planting dates to the Texas Gardener magazine Planning Calender, and get it all set up for my area. Now, however, it is tailored to my garden, and it is really cool. Just print and plant…eliminates alot of the mind-breaking co-ordination two (well, really, 3) garden seasons requires.

That’s about it for now. Got dinner cooking and gotta get back to it…

I REALLY hate those little

sb158 | July 12, 2009


(insert vile epithet of choice)______________. Fire ants, I mean. Bungled into two separate nests of the little _______ yesterday, with very unpleasant consequences. I’ve mentioned before that the french filet pole beans weren’t doing well, but I don’t think I mentioned the sick zucchini. It’s in one of the containers by the arbor thingy, and it’s only grown a few leaves and two male blossoms since I planted it before I went to Colorado. Whoever heard of a zucchini NOT growing, at least before the squash vine borers get it? So I decided to pull out the french failures and try some scarlet runner beans. I started to move the mulch away to plant the seeds, and was viciously attacked. Got away with only two bites that time; not so bad. I read somewhere that ants don’t like molasses, so I poured about a cup of molasses into a gallon of water and drenched the container with it. I also dumped a bit of Amdro in there. The ants might explain the sickly zucchini and failing beans, at least in part.

Trying to Keep It Alive

sb158 | April 30, 2009


This Valley is gonna look like the icon here pretty quick if the heat doesn’t break and we don’t get some rain.

With temps in the 90′s and the wind blowing from the south at 20+ mph (more…)

Got An Answer! Thanks, Jim.

sb158 | April 27, 2009


A very kind blog visitor identified my Mystery Shrub as Ruttya fruticosa. Found some cultural information here and here.

Apparently it’s easy to propagate by seeds or cuttings, so I may try that down the road some time. Got too much other stuff going on right now to deal with it.

Yesterday we went to brunch with my brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and his son and wife. (more…)

What’s Your Name? Etc…

sb158 | April 22, 2009


I’ve mentioned that I bought a night-blooming jasmine and another shrub before. Been looking all over the net trying to find the origin and care for the second one, with no success. The nursery guy said it was called Rutaya, and was new. It must be really new, to be so conspicuously absent from the Net.
I’m posting a couple pics, in the hope someone knows what it is and how to take care of it. (more…)