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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Abundant Bounty

3 07 2009

Lots of goodies coming from the garden and the Universe over the past couple of weeks.

The tomatoes are still on full bore. I’ve been picking an average of ten to fifteen per day.

Cherry-Tomatoes

Here are a couple of harvests. This is not nearly everything I gathered over the past two weeks, just two of the bigger days. I collected the muskmelons because the vine was mostly dead. They could have ripened a few more days, but they were OK. The middle melon is the one I did not protect with the pantyhose. In retrospect I don’t see the value of doing this. The skin was thin and split on the protected melons, and the netting did not develop normally.

Sunday's-Harvest

Friday's-Harvest

I made salsa for the first time. I didn’t realize how large the green onions were getting until I cut this one! These were store onions that I just stuck in the ground. They grow back each time I cut them. I also picked a puny red pepper and a smallish Poblano. The salsa is still a work in progress.

Onion Peppers

The past week has been very active for the eggplant. It grew…

Eggplant

and grew…

Eggplant2

and grew! Since I’m not familiar with what these are supposed to look like, I am not sure when to pick it. I’m thinking I’ll pick it this weekend, since the consequences of waiting too long seem to outweigh the risk of picking too soon.

Eggplant-big

Here is Super Eggplant’s sidekick. I don’t know why it looks so different, but I think a bug got ahold of it.

Eggplantnew

The second batch of bananas is looking good. First batch is also coming along nicely, too. They sure are taking a long time, though.

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This is the string lily AJ brought back from the river. We keep it in a container under the AC condensation drip. It is going great, and bloomed this week.

String-Lily

The blooms were short-lived, but very delicate and pretty. I can’t say my husband doesn’t bring me flowers! The kind he brings are much more interesting and thoughtful than those bought in a store.

String-Lily-Bloomed

Not only that, but he can smoke a mean pork tenderloin! Yum!

AJ-Cuts-Pork-Tenderloin

Yesterday was a special treat. We stopped in at John Roger’s to pick up some bamboo. John is a local horticultural guru and, as I’ve said before, one of the most knowledgeable and unassuming guys you could ever hope to meet.

Bamboo-John

Even though he was on his way to run errands he took the time to give us another tour of his property to show us some of the things he has growing, as well as some nice mounds of mulch and compost. Had you told me, a year ago, that I’d get a thrill from compost I would have looked at you askance!

Nor did I even know of heirloom and heritage varieties, about which I am now quite excited. John Rogers is a true steward of the land and cultivator of native and unique plant varieties.

As we headed to the compost heap we stopped to admire his massive watermelon and squash vines. He promptly plucked this little jewel and bequeathed it upon me. What’s the big deal? This is a renowned, historic gem of the squash persuasion: A Seminole Pumpkin Squash (Cucurbita moschata), to be exact.

At the recent Funky Chicken Farm seed swap, John Rogers encouraged me to get some Seminole Pumpkin Squash seeds. I had never heard of this variety, but have since learned that it is a true heirloom, indeed developed by the Seminole Indians. They planted these hardy, natives at the base of palm trees, and allowed the vines to grow up the trunk and fronds. Considering how robust the plants seem to be, I imagine that this was quite a sight! Wish I had brought my camera to John’s place!

Seminole-Pumpkin-Squash

I cooked the squash in the smoker, using my father’s recipe for acorn squash: A chunk of butter, a sprinkling of brown (raw) sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. It looked beautiful, and tasted much like sweet potatoes. AJ, didn’t take to it, since he is not much for sweet food. Strange for the guy who can devour ice cream and candy bars like they are going out of style, and who is currently drinking a Pina Colada! Oh well.

I’ve got some seeds and will be planting Seminole Pumpkin Squash this weekend.

Here they are in the smoker, which was still hot from the pork tenderloin.

Pump-Squash-Smoked

The original reason for going to John Roger’s (AKA Bamboo John) was to pick up a cutting of the lovely striped bamboo (Bambusa Vulgaris), which I managed to kill last time. I think we will get it right this go round , and hope to have a stand going soon. Thanks again, John!

Bambusa-Vulgaris

So far, a good two weeks. I will try to get the wrap-up posted on Sunday evening.

Have a Happy 4th of July!