Happy New Year!

9 01 2010

What the Heck?! It’s almost mid-January, already?

Well, we made it through Christmas relatively unscathed, thanks to a couple of unexpected cash windfalls, including a bonus from the honorable “Mike, the Guy Who Pays Us”. Thanks Mike!

We were able to make it to Jacksonville for Christmas and Christmas Eve at Aunt Anne & Uncle Norman’s. Glad that we got up there, because a bunch of important things took place, including the Engagement of AJ’s mom, Karen Swinson and her darling Mark Werbil on Christmas Day. Congratulations!

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The next day we attended the wedding of AJ’s dad, Allan Ricketts to his new bride, Caroline. Congratulations to the two of you!

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We got to see Judith, although she was sick, and also enjoyed the Palmrose clan Christmas party at Uncle Pete’s and Aunt Melanie’s. Between the festivities, I was able to squeeze in a few moments with two of my dearest and best friends Christy and Kim. I missed a few people, but I’ll see ya’ next time (I promise).

After the whirlwind, we spent a quiet New Year’s Eve in bed before the ball dropped. Wish that I could have stayed there, as it has been cold and/or rainy ever since!

Cabin Fever

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It is cold outside and it’s drafty in here. We are both in our flannel jammies, with  warm socks. AJ is wrapped up in a wool blanket, and I have on my warm fuzzy slippers and house coat. At one point I even had on gloves and a stocking cap! No, I will not post pictures.

In South Florida, the Iguanas are losing their grip and falling from the trees. My favorite part was the one about the man who took the opportunity to cull them by picking up the stiff lizards and tossing them into the back of his station wagon. Unfortunately, the warmth brought them back around and he almost wrecked as they crawled on his back!

We are going stir-crazy in here! Especially AJ, whose projects all involve being outdoors. He and Llami appear to be competing for the restlessness award. Llami hates, hates, hates the cold. She curls up, trying to stay warm.

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She snuggles up, trying to stay warm,

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and stares at me as though demanding “Make it warm!”.

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She insists upon going out, only to turn right around and knock on the door.

I love them both dearly (AJ & Llami), but I can’t wait for the hot sun to return!

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The Fallout

I was already having difficulty in the gardening department. Thanks to the evil nematodes and various other inclement circumstances, the winter plantings have been a bit sketchy. The Marketmore 76 cucumber produced one, big fat specimen (which was quite tasty) right before the vine croaked. Most of the heirlooms do not seem to have any resistance to the nematodes, and were suffering, even before the cold spell.

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Ironically, the broccoli (which suffered attack by caterpillars all summer) is flourishing; and even though we have had some hard freezes, the plant looks as though it couldn’t be happier. The same goes for the collard greens and a few other hardy plants. The verdict won’t come in until it warms up and I take the covers off. What I do know is that the beautiful bananas and papayas are taking it pretty hard. I guess that I shouldn’t complain too much. At least it hasn’t snowed…fingers crossed. The garden did yield some interesting characters. I present to you…

Frankensquash!

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Earlier this year I attended a seed swap, where I was given seeds for a Seminole Pumpkin Squash.

At this seed swap I learned two valuable things:

  1. The native Seminole Indians were pretty good gardeners, who developed a hardy strain of squash that was perfectly suited to the sandy soil and numerous pests of Florida. The Seminoles were said to have trained the robust vines of this prized plant to grow up into palm and oak trees. Since they ripen in the winter, I like to picture the thought of the Native American’s version of a sub-tropical Christmas tree, drooping with golden globes of sustenance. As long as it didn’t go below freezing, they could leave the squash hanging on the vines and pluck them as needed.
  2. The second thing I learned is that when you plant seeds, the product can be drastically different from the parent. As if this weren’t confusing enough, there is a serious degree of myth and misunderstanding surrounding this fact. At the same meeting where I picked up the Seminole Pumpkin Squash seeds, I overheard the statement that plants of a similar nature could interbreed if allowed to cross-pollinate. “If you plant cucumbers and watermelons too close together you will get a normal looking fruit, but the seeds will produce a hybrid of the two, and you’ll end up with some nasty-tasting cucumber-melon.”

This idea fascinated and confounded me. Why had I never seen such a thing? Surely, someone would be growing them by accident, or for the sheer novelty? I couldn’t wait to get home so that I could get to the bottom of this. Sure enough, it was an old wives’ tale. Although Watermelon, Cucumbers, Squash, Gourds, Cantaloupe and Pumpkins all belong to the Cucurbitaceae family, they are different species, and cannot inter-breed. However, varieties of the same species can cross-pollinate. This means that salad cucumbers and pickling cucumbers will blend to create a seed stock that produces some mixture of the two. The frustrating part is that, in some cases, a plant over one mile away can contaminate yours. For the standard gardener this is not a problem, as it only applies to the product grown by the seed of the cross-pollinated fruit. However, it is a problem for collectors of heirloom seeds.

I planted the Seminole Pumpkin Squash seeds that I got from the seed swap. Not long afterward I visited John Roberts, “Bamboo John”, who gave me a gorgeous specimen from his own garden. I ate that squash and planted a seed from it, as well. All plants grew rapidly, and looked identical. It wasn’t until the squash appeared that it was demonstrated how easily an heirloom can get mixed up. I had researched the Seminole Pumpkin Squash online and had noticed that there are at least two distinct varieties of what is supposed to be the same plant. The fruit from the first seed were of the bell-shaped variety. They got very large and heavy (almost 5 lbs.) before I was forced to pick them due to a variety of circumstances. The plant from John’s squash produced a single specimen, which looked exactly like the smaller, round squash that he had given me. As both were blooming at the same time, it is quite possible that the seeds from these squash would produce something in-between. I plan to roast the seeds when I cook the squash, so I will not have to wonder what they would produce. Well…maybe I’ll save a couple.

Roasted pumpkin-squash seeds do seem like a fun cold-weather treat. Anyway…the verdict is still out on what exactly a Seminole Pumpkin Squash is. What I do know is that Llami might be part squash, herself, based upon this quick comparison.

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Yogurt

The only other (remotely) interesting thing that I have to share is about yogurt. Those of you closest to me know that I have been suffering from a serious bladder infection that was causing me undue pain and inconvenience. I went to the clinic (another blog post in itself) and got some antibiotics. They didn’t work. I know it is unpleasant to read about, but I was peeing what could easily be mistaken for curdled milk! (I exaggerate, but only slightly.) Doctors sometimes get offended when we go online to look for remedies; but my doctor can get indignant all he wants, because if I hadn’t gone searching I would still be suffering. The doctor did discover that I have glucose in my urine. This means that I either have undiagnosed diabetes (doesn’t show up on blood tests), or a congenital kidney disorder. The only other explanation is pregnancy (which I assure you does not apply). So, I got to thinking “Sugar feeds yeast. What if I have yeast in my bladder? What kills yeast? Acidophilus!” I got some plain yogurt, and within an hour my suffering was over!

What I don’t like about store yogurt is that although you can find all natural, plain yogurt, it is impossible to find anything but lowfat or nonfat in the regular store. Besides, it is not cheap. So, I found a blog post about how to make your own yogurt. It is incredibly simple. All you need is a crock pot, a towel, a gallon of milk and two tablespoons of yogurt for a starter. I didn’t add gelatin, so the yogurt I made is not as thick as the store brand. This is fine with me, as it is perfect over cereal. I bought a box of Paul Newman’s Own organic cereal (with no corn syrup) and have found my new breakfast treat. Yum! The bladder problems that plagued me for over one month have disappeared.

Well, I applaud anyone who made it this far through the rambling post. Hope that you all are staying warm and safe!

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Week in review – A reprieve from the rain

31 05 2009

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Everything is green. The yard is packed with baby grass, and the garden is growing fast.

If you read Things are a bit Spotty, you may recall that I was having a fungal issue with the tomatoes. I’m calling it Grey Leaf Spot until someone tells me otherwise. Last year this stuff completely ravaged my tomato plant to the point that I had very little yield.

Last week I treated the plant with Atomic Grow™ and trimmed off the terminal branches. I left a few of the branches with the initial stages of yellowing to see what would happen. One week later, the leaves are virtually unchanged and it appears that the fungal invasion has been stopped in its tracks. The new growth is green and healthy. I’m not going to go overboard with excitement, but things look promising!

Leaf-Spot-Halted

I know I said I would make my next Atomic Grow™ application yesterday. I reserve the right to change my mind, and so I have declared Sundays to be “Atomic Sunday”. I will make the application this afternoon and post some quick photos. There are some new guests in the garden (one for which I have planted a specific herb), and I will not be spraying that plant because I want to encourage the guests. Sorry for the vagueness, but I think I’ll let you watch them progress and see who can guess what they are. Their momma dropped them off on Friday, so stay tuned for some baby pictures this afternoon.

Here is the Oasis this weekend. Doesn’t everything look happy?

Oasis

A closer shot of some of the herbs. This is my first year with celery. I’m learning about self-blanching and how celery needs to be grouped together. I had thinned out the clump and moved some plants to outside areas. They are easily identified because they turned pale yellow. The central clump is still green. I guess we will wait and watch to see how they turn out.

Herbs

The cherry tomato plant has officially reached tree status in my book. It is upwards of 5′ tall and growing by leaps and bounds. If it didn’t make those yummy tomatoes I’d think it were a weed.

Cherry-Tomato-Tree

Time for a salad.

Cherry-Tomatoes

The succulent garden is doing great. Notice that green grass in front?

Succulents

Over the course of the week our banana flower has opened up and exposed the first hand of six bananas.

AJ explained to me that this is only the beginning. Each layer of the pod will open up in succession and reveal another hand. He estimates five or six more to come. This has been the highlight of my week.

Banana-Flower-Preopen

Banana-Flower-Opening

Banana-Flower-Opening-more

The poblano peppers got off to a rocky start, but now they are loaded with babies.

Baby-Poblano

Can I have more than one highlight? The Marketmore 76 cucumber has exploded in size.

Marketmore 76 Cucumber

And I found three new babies on a single branch. I’ve got to keep my eye out for those pickleworms. They are not allowed to eat our cucumbers.

Baby-Cucumbers

The muskmelon took a beating from the winds this week. The older leaves are fairly shredded, but there is so much new growth that it hardly matters. This plant is loaded with babies.

Muskmelon Vine

Dead frog walking. Yes, here is another Cuban Tree Frog. This one has set up housekeeping inside one of the bamboo stakes. The stake has filled with water, thus forcing froggie to poke out of the top in the daylight. These are nocturnal frogs, so you can see its determination to stay home. I was able to get extremely close and the frog didn’t budge. I’m still building the fortitude to round up and kill these invasives. I even bought some Benzocaine to put them gently to sleep before popping them into the freezer. AJ is promoting the idea of just stomping on them. Is he mean or what? Actually, it would probably be the most humane way. I just don’t think I could do it.

For now I am building a collection of photographs for their memorial. Eat up little froggie; your days are numbered!

Cuban Tree Frog in Bamboo

Mr. Fix It is still at it. This week the rains exposed another problem with the car: leaking tail lights, which allowed water to get into the trunk. AJ took them apart and found that they were both crazed and that one was cracked in various places. Here he is trying to salvage the blasted thing until we can afford a replacement part. Anybody want to buy a 1985 Mercedes 300D? 😉

Tail-light-repair

I’ll leave you with “Gravel Cat”, Jorgi.

Gravel-Cat

Check back later for a harvest update and some shots of the baby guests.