07. August 2011 · Comments Off on Timmy’s Apple Tree · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

About a month ago, when our friends the Goldmans were visiting from North Carolina, Timmy and Johnny had apples as a snack.

“Um, okay…I guess that’s exciting…”

Wait, there’s more!  I promise!

Timmy typically makes one pass around an apple, taking off the skin and any flesh underneath that the first set of bites will cover.  Then he calls himself done.  He doesn’t eat any part of the apple that doesn’t have skin in the same bite.  Frustrating, but at least he’s eating apples.  He eats 3-4 per week, can’t complain about that….

Johnny, on the other hand, is very good about eating as much of the apple as he can, and he left a minimal core behind, complete with the seeds exposed.

Timmy had never noticed the seeds in the core before, and immediately wanted to plant the seeds from Johnny’s apple core.  Amidst all the chaos of our friends visiting, I made Timmy set the seeds aside and promised to plant them when things had calmed down some.  I needed time to prepare a place for the seeds to go and I didn’t want to do it yet.

We had a planter that the boys made at Lowe’s last year, complete with a window in the front to let you see the root action.  I had to clean out the dead carrot plant debris and refilled the container w/ fresh soil.  We planted the two seeds on July 13th.  I wasn’t optimistic.

On the 18th, the boys flew up to their grandparents’ house in New York.  So far, the container hadn’t done much, but on the 22nd, this is what we had:

Here it is on the 26th, just before I left for New York to pick up the kids:

And this morning:

Timmy’s so excited about this, and I’m glad I let him go forward with this experiment, against my better judgement.  Timmy’s already making plans about where to plant the apple “tree” when it’s big enough to plant outside.  He pointed to a corner of the backyard and declared “It needs to go HERE!”

Again, I’m not optimistic…apple trees don’t typically grow in this part of the country.  I have a large patio planter that we can use, if it comes to that.

02. July 2011 · 3 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,
This is what much of my drive up I-59 and I-81 looked like last month.

If you’re unfamiliar with the southeastern U.S., you might have never seen this.  Having lived in North Carolina for 3 years, there were areas where we came to expect it.

So…what is kudzu?  You can read the details, from the taxonomy to the history, on Wikipedia.  To summarize, kudzu is an Asian-native vine that was introduced to the United States in the late 1800s and was encouraged as a soil-erosion control near interstate highways.  Today, the vine is significantly invasive, covering complete mountainsides throughout the Appalachians.

I saw it all over the place on our drive up I-59 and I-81…and it was disturbingly fascinating seeing it in its prime after living in non-kudzu-infested Nebraska for 2 1/2 years.  The vines allegedly can grow one FOOT per day…and there are even legends of folks hearing the vine as it grows!  It covers hillsides, meadows, trees, buildings, power poles and even electrical lines like an enormous plush green blanket.

Kudzu is indeed edible, and on Alton Brown’s 2006 television special Feasting on Asphalt, Brown stopped in Cashiers, NC and demonstrated how you can cut the youngest leaves for salad.  Kudzu is also used to make jelly, soaps and lotions.  The Asians have claimed kudzu’s medicinal benefits.

There’s been recent research about letting cattle graze on kudzu, both as an attempt to control the plant, but also for the benefit of the cattle, since it would be cheap, nutritious feed.  Others have come up with ways to profit from kudzu.

This biking blogger offers some more history and perspective on the weed.  In particular like the map he cites showing the kudzu growth areas in the U.S.

07. June 2011 · Comments Off on Black Swallowtail Butterflies! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

On May 30th I saw a black swallowtail butterfly flitting around my herb garden.  A familiar sight, we’d seen many of them when we lived on the east coast of Florida, North Carolina, Nebraska and now again we’re greeted.

I knew what she was doing — laying eggs!  The next day I scoured the herbs for evidence of eggs, but I couldn’t find any.  Apparently I wasn’t looking hard enough.

Today, 7 days later, my dill and parsley are covered in the telltale bird-poop-looking caterpillars!  I counted at least 8 of them out there chowing down.  I don’t think they’ll last very long…I saw some caterpillars a few weeks ago and I’m guessing bluebirds got to them.  While they start out looking like bird poop to deceive predators, but at a certain point they molt out of the poop-skin and end up with more bold stripes.  This is usually when a bird or larger bug will swoop down and get them.

27. May 2011 · Comments Off on Blogger Problems, But Here’s a Pretty Gardenia · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

UPDATE: Whatever is going on is related to my Safari browser. So here I am using Firefox and everything seems fine. Phew!

Apparently my Blogger account (not Google account, just the Blogging part of it) is having some problems, so I will be attempting to do some blogging via e-mail, which is the only way I know how to get posts in at the moment.

This won’t look very good, and I don’t know how many pictures I can incorporate this way.
Until Blogger figures out which way is up…we’ll muddle along.

Coming soon…black-velvet slugs, garden updates and the CREPE MYRTLES are starting to bloom!
I’ll leave you with this pretty picture of a gardenia from my garden that I took last week just before I headed to Nebraska.

14. May 2011 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,
Isn’t he cute????

So here’s our first watermelon. There are two of them growing right now.

This thing is TINY! We’re talking about the size of my thumbnail…see how big the blades of grass look?

Our garden is doing well, although the lack of rain has made it a struggle. Yesterday afternoon and overnight last night we received our first rainfall here since April 4th. As the heat has really turned up, we are also seeing signs of heat stress on our pumpkins and cucumbers.

I’ll take more pictures of the garden this weekend before I head out to Nebraska for more AF Reserve work.

09. May 2011 · Comments Off on Kids’ Request: Pioneer Woman’s Homemade Restaurant-Style Salsa · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

Last night the boys asked to make homemade salsa.  We were coming home from a fun run last evening and I told the boys we could stop at Publix to pick up the things we need.  I whipped out my iPhone (“Pardon me while I whip this out….”) and Googled a salsa recipe.

I don’t know how she does it, but Pioneer Woman’s salsa recipes topped by Google search results.  I chose the “Restaurant Style Salsa“.

We have fresh jalapenos and cilantro in my garden (YUM!), and a big fat Vidalia onion and some garlic in my veggie drawer, so I picked up the other items I needed.

I didn’t take step-by-step instruction photos since PW takes care of that for us, but here’s our end product!  The boys were devouring it as soon as I opened the food processor lid.

That’s Timmy’s hand dipping in a chip to taste.

This recipe makes a TON of the salsa (that’s a 12-cup food processor there that’s 3/4 full) — I’m inclined to put some in jars and run it through the canner.

I’d put this salsa up against anything we’ve had in Mexican restaurants!  It’s pretty tasty, the kids enjoyed it (hooray for veggies!), and by some miracle after eating about 1/2 cup of the stuff with last night’s dinner, I didn’t get heartburn!  Whoo hoo!

29. April 2011 · Comments Off on Presenting Pumpkin #1!!! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

And here she is! About 3″ long so far. There’s another one on an adjacent vine that’s a little smaller, I’ll call that one #2!

26. April 2011 · 4 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

In 2009 I had tried hand-pollinating pumpkins for the first time.  (If you click the link, make sure to start at the bottom and work your way up, the posts are appearing in reverse chronological order).  After seeing award-winning pumpkins at the NC and NE State Fairs, I wanted to learn more about how one gets a 1000 lb. pumpkin…

I was surprised this weekend at all the buds that were appearing on my pumpkin plants and decided to give it a go again this year.  I had my first two female flowers open up this morning, and there are at least 4 more that will be opening up this week!

Two male flowers.  These guys are about 8″ across, attracting all sorts of bugs!
One of the female flowers.  Note the “stigma” in the center, looks different than the male flower above.
A view of the bulb behind the flower.  If pollination is successful, that bulb grows into a pumpkin.
To hand-pollinate, you select a male flower, remove the petals, and get the powdery stuff on the stamen in contact with the stigma on the female flower.  I didn’t photograph the actual pollination, but you can see a 2009 version here.
This bee might have been a step ahead of me, there was plenty of wildlife around to take care of things if I had missed those flowers opening.
20. April 2011 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

I was planning to be scarce from the blogosphere while Dave and I attend a “Squadron Commander’s Course” at the base all week. The kids were going to the before- and after-school child care. But on Tuesday, Jacob came home from school looking and feeling pretty poor, and had a 101F fever. I kept Jacob home from school today so he could recover, and here I am with an unexpected day at home. I was able to catch up on a bunch of household odds and ends, including taking some pictures of my veggie garden so far! I’m so excited about how well things are going. I’m also prepared for everything here to be all fried-to-heck by late June.

It’s been 5 1/2 weeks since we planted our seedlings. Let’s start with a before and after:

March 13, 2011.
April 20, 2011.

Enjoy some close up pictures of the garden’s progress.

Our first jalapeno pepper.
Our first bell peppers.
Grape tomatoes.
Yellow granex onions.  If they were growing in Vidalia County, GA, they’d be “Vidalia Onions”.
Our first female pumpkin flower…blog followers from 2009 remember my pumpkin pimping days here, here and here.
From my previous blog about the fauna on the Panhandle, you’ll know that when I see new friends in the backyard I’m ready to investigate.  {Running to search Google}  Okay, I’m back.  What we have here is a “Six-Lined Racerunner“.  He was hanging out near our garden.
Here are TWO green anoles sitting under my upside-down tomato planter.  The one at the bottom has his pink “dewlap” exposed, but since he’s head-on, you can’t see it too well.  This picture shows the dewlap a little better, but you can’t see the 2nd lizard as well, so I didn’t feature this pic.
One of my two upside-down tomato planters, dripping with young green plum tomatoes!
I can’t wait to make some “Grammy Vollmer Pasta Sauce” with these!
13. March 2011 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

…How does your garden grow?  In this location, with lots of containers!

The wooden frame around the small containers was left here by the homeowner.  He had made a sandbox, but never used it.  He said we could use it as a sandbox…um…that’s okay.  It’ll be more of a bench for our container garden.

Definitely one of the NON-perks of being a mobile military family: I have walked away from great gardens at 5 of my past 6 homes.  Didn’t do any gardening in Korea, I’m afraid.

One day I’ll have to do a summary of my past gardens, at least from Ohio till now.  Each time, it takes 1-2 seasons to get the hang of things, and by the time I have something spectacular, I’m offering the harvest to the movers as they’re loading my sofa onto the big orange truck!  Or in the case of Florida, I had this incredible full-life-cycle butterfly garden…I was incorporated into local homeschooling families’ lesson plans!

In past houses we’ve been able to dig up parts of our yard and make the garden happen.  When we owned our homes (in eastern FL and NC) it was a no brainer.  We could dig to our heart’s content.  In Nebraska, Dave talked to our landlord and got permission to dig up a really good-sized hunk of our backyard.

Here we decided to take advantage of our huge back patio and do some container gardening this time around.  There are many benefits to container gardening, starting with having total control over the soil!  What we’re starting with is MY concoction, free of critters, with plenty of compost and manure!

I took advantage of a free shipping promotion at my favorite garden shop, the Gardener’s Supply Company.  I picked up a couple of “Grow Bags” that fits my 64″ tall tomato cages and a 3′ x 6′ “Grow Bed”, all part of their portable raised bed line of products.  And as I do every year, I stocked up on their “Super Hot Compost Starter” for my compost bin.  (Another non-perk, having to empty and ship my awesome compost bin every 3 years!).

I’m hoping this “Grow Bed” will last me for several years.  It can be disassembled into six 3′ pieces and easily boxed up.  There’s also an inexpensive liner that I’m not sure will last beyond this assignment, but we’ll see how that goes.

Today we headed out to Lowe’s while J was at a birthday party.  We stocked up on 10 HUGE bags of potting mix, 2 bags of manure and 2 bags of mushroom compost.  Plus seedlings for my new herb garden, plus more seedlings for our salsa garden.  The boys actually asked for this.  I promised to try to stick to foods we’d actually eat — usually there’s something we don’t eat, like Chinese eggplant or gourds, and it was Jacob’s idea to make salsa and tomato sauce with what we grew.  Thanks to the 10% military discount, I was able to keep this purchase under $200!

Enjoy some pictures of today’s gardening…I know most of the readers here will be frothing at the mouth, still waiting for that last frost…

First, a commentary.  This product was at Walmart, not Lowe’s.  What made someone think that Lightning McQueen and Mater will help the Burpee Company sell cucumber growing kits?  I’m just sayin’…
Dave and I had to dig deep into our inner Tetris skills to make this all fit into the back of the truck.  One of the bags of dirt popped open and poured into the middle row of seats.  Fun fun fun!  Days like today, we miss our ’03 Odyssey.
We had a lot of work ahead of us here…Dave’s finishing assembling the Grow Bed frame while J’s admiring our seedling choices.  He wasn’t with us at Lowe’s, he was at a birthday party.
My oldest son was in charge of planting the tomato plants into our “grow bags”.
The young man in the middle is one of our neighbors, who’s J’s age.  He’s in J’s Cub Scout pack too, so we let his Mom know to give him Wolf Scout credit for all his help today.
For once, I’m in a picture.  
J’s very proud of his work!
T asks for carrots in the garden every year.  Those have to be planted as seeds, so he’s putting carrot seeds down here.
After we were done filling our existing containers, we ended up with one extra tomato plant.  We searched and searched for a container, and came up with the recycling bin we used in Nebraska.  Here we have “Hurlburt Field Recycles” bins, and that one has been just taking up space in our garage.  I poked a hole in the bottom and “recycled” it!
That tall piece is a Gardener’s Supply cucumber trellis.  I LOVE IT!  And I love more that it fits here!
I’m so excited for fresh herbs again!