Tuesday, May 31, 2011

13 Year Cicadas

We spent Memorial Day weekend in Southern Illinois, and these cicadas greeted us.  My cousin told me that these are 13 year periodic cicadas.  Further investigation found an article from Scientific American that also calls them the "Great Southern Brood" or brood XIX.  The article notes that you can eat them and compares them to asparagus.  My cousin's husband as well as my husband described them as buttery and creamy.  No thanks....I'll pass...
13 year periodic cicada near Marion, IL
Empty shells shed by the emerging cicadas were everywhere.
This one didn't quite make it out of his shell
A newly emerged cicada.  My husband woke me up at 6:30 am to take this picture.  He told me that there was one that was a better one, but they were scooby snacks for the dogs.  They ate every one that they were able to get a hold of.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

House pictures with my ever evolving flower bed.  I wanted to make sure and get pictures at different times of the year so that I can see how the flowers look at different periods.  Sometimes I think that blogging is the best thing for being able journal gardens and their progress. 
The vine that is crawling up my suet feeder is a Sweet Autumn Clematis.  I think that a bird deposited it there or an errant seed took root.  Either way, I was going to dig it up, but it has started to attach itself, and I am liking it.

Miscellaneous flower pictures.  Columbine that I started from seed years ago, irises in bloom, as well as Foxglove that I also started from seed.
My mailbox bed. Not one of my favorites. It is evolving also...as is anything that lands in my yard. That is what makes gardening so enjoyable for me...nothing is static, and I like it that way.

Soaking okra seed

I had received some Cowhorn okra from my aunt in Alabama a couple years ago that I have never gotten planted.  I love that this is the okra that my family in Alabama, including my Grandma, has grown this variety for more years than I have been alive....truly an heirloom.
She had told me that she keeps hers in the freezer and then soaks it in bleach to soften the seed coat.  That just seems not right to me...  I kept thinking straight BLEACH??  The organic in me couldn't wrap my arms around that.  I went online and found many different formulas for softening the seed coats with bleach.  Hmmm....there must be something to this?  I decided to go for it.  Especially with my older seed.  I need every bit of help I can get to get those seeds sprouting.  I decided not to use straight bleach.  Instead I used a mixture of a pint of warm water with a few tablespoons of bleach.  It is supposed to rain here for the rest of the week, so I may push it and try to get them planted tonight.  We'll see what happens.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Adventures in vinegar

I have decided to try my hand at making vinegars this year.  I am not a big user of vinegars per se, but I am intrigued with the possibilities.  I am thinking of some great salad dressings in the future.  I had also thought about making them for Christmas gifts, but one site that I looked at didn't give me the impression that they would last that long....freshness wise...not because I would necessarily love them so much that I would eat all of it.
My first try is chive blossom vinegar.  I have a bunch of chives that blooms every year, and the blooms just go to waste.  Other than looking pretty in the spring.  I picked all my blossoms off, washed the bugs out, dried them using my salad spinner (a tip from another website that worked very well), and added them to about 1 1/2 quarts of white vinegar.  Now that I am typing this, I am wondering if I should have boiled the vinegar first....thinking I read that also.  Oh well, too late now.  They are to sit in a cool, dark place for 14 days prior to straining off the blooms.  The jar has been put in my downstairs kitchen cabinet.  I can't wait to see how it turns out.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mid-May frost??

The forecast tonight is for clear skies and a low of 35* with patchy frost.  Our average last frost is usually the end of April and planting tomatoes after Mother's Day is generally safe.  Key words here....average, usually, and generally.  I cannot remember ever having to cover my tomato plants in all the years I have been gardening.  Today will be a first.  All of those milk jugs that I have saved and cut the bottoms out of and stacked...okay, so some weren't stacked so nicely....in my potting shed are being put to use.  I hope that it works!  I kind of wonder if it didn't get a bit chilly last night because the leaves on the tomatoes were a bit spotty today.  Almost as if they had been wind burned although they have been hardened off and out in the sun for awhile.  We have had some pretty fierce and chilly winds though....more like March.
 It rained steadily all weekend, so I wasn't able to plant my marigolds around my tomatoes.  The bunnies seem to find them tasty though.  It isn't very well seen in this picture, but my husband has brought out the fake owl.  I have some extra plants of the Roma tomatoes that I can replace with, but hate for them just to become an extra snack.  Cat hair and cayenne pepper are coming out soon...
 My other tomato beds.  These two raised beds are outside my main garden as well.  Anyone that feels insecure about posting pics with weeds?  Feel insecure no more...I have weeds for all!  We haven't gotten around to papering and strawing our pathways this year....and it shows.  Oh well, if I had a perfect garden, something else in my life would have to give.  It's all about balance, right?  :)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

MORE tomatoes.....

Well, I have created a record in our house for tomato planting.  I have successfully planted 48 tomato plants.  Yes, you read that right...48!  I am hoping for some great canned tomatoes, salsa, and sauces this fall.  I may be cursing myself for doing so by fall...forget may be, make that WILL be....but they will sure taste good this winter.
We are getting a nice steady shower today that will get them well watered in and off to a good start.
Bill bought some marigolds for me to plant around them.  I like to companion plant as much as possible, but the marigolds also lend some color to an otherwise green only color scheme as well as being a deterrent to nematodes and other pests.  I would also like to plant some basil in with them.  It reportedly improves the growth and flavor of the tomatoes.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tomato planting and miscellaneous

Getting ready to plant Roma tomatoes.  This bed was originally placed here for strawberries that we were going to transplant from our garden.  Needless to say, a virus killed our strawberries, and we haven't gotten around to planting strawberries here yet.  This year it will house my Roma tomatoes.  I love that part of my gardening is encroaching on my husband's "Man Cave".  The attached patio was my addition to it also when he built it.  I make sure that it gets flowered up well in the summer.  :)

Getting ready to plant...One tomato plant raised from seed.  They were in need of another "potting up", but it was close to planting time, that I chose to let it be.  When planting tomatoes, I always plant them deeper than where they were before.  Tomatoes grow roots from their stems when they come in contact with the dirt.

Here is the same plant on the left that I have removed the lower leaves from and placed deep in the ground.

The end result....a shorter looking version of the same plant that will be stronger in the end.
This baby bird just about met the end of his life from my shoe....I saw him open his beak wide just before I stepped on him.  I haven't seen him since. 

The end result.  Our beagle decided to run through the bed as I was planting, so I brought out the cages. 

Now a bit of miscellaneous around the yard and garden....

Rescued volunteer Johnny Jump Ups.  I had started some of these from seed last year and they have reseeded themselves into the yard.  Bill started seeing them and transplanting them into a container for me to use this year.  The picture on the right is yet another sprout in the yard waiting to be rescued.  I am all about free flowers!  :)
We have two apple trees, a Wolf River and a Honeycrisp.  The last two years we have gotten one apple on the Wolf River only.  This year we had lots of blooms and a closer look shows apples coming!  Now to read up on how to control pests without having to use pesticides....
Our peach trees were also full of blooms and starting to produce mini peaches complete with fuzz.
Yet another first...I bought this pink peony plant from a friend's plant sale last year.  Very small and no blooms last year.  This year it looks fantastic and lots of buds.  I can't wait to see it in full bloom.  The blooms are complete with ants.  :)
One of the many iris groups that I have that is getting ready to bloom.
I have no idea what these flowers are.  I am thinking some sort of a Narcissus.  When my grandma in Alabama passed away, my husband dug up some of them that seemed to almost be growing wild on her property.  I now call them "Mama Tate flowers".  I think of her every time that I see them. 
Our dwarf cherry tree is also producing well this year.  Lots of baby cherries.  I'm sure that the birds are just waiting for them to turn red so they can feast on them.  I hope to beat them this year.
My husband's favorite flowers....Lily of the Valley.  They are growing wild in a hosta bed that I have around one of our trees.  I cannot pull them up.
And last but not least....my trusty gardening gloves.  I have had many garden gloves through the years, but not of them could hold a candle to these.  My daughter's gave them to me as a gift...I think they came from Wal Mart.  They are great!  I pruned raspberries with them without a single thorn poke or scratch.  My arms and legs did not fare as well.  I have thrown them in the wash, and they come out ready for more.
Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

 Sometimes when I post many pictures, I have to wonder if there is a conspirator that is trying to keep me from doing so.  It took me literally days to maneuver these around where I wanted them, and even then one won't do what I want.  I gave up...
We have been blessed with a good morel mushroom season this year.  Last year was a total bust with not even one teaser to taste.  This year we have enjoyed many meals of these spring delicacies dipped in egg and cracker crumbs and fried in pure butter.  The area cardiologists are going to stay in business! 
On this day, we hiked appoximately 5 miles.  I wish that they were easier to spot, but they are often covered with leaf debris.  My husband has an unbelievable eye for them, spotting them when only a speck of the spongy part is visible.  Amazing!  He says it adds to the joy of finding them
My youngest daughter, Lauren, my husband, Bill and one of our dogs, Riley. 
See the toad?  He was the greenest toad that I had ever seen.  I am used to the gray variety that populate our yard.  The tree trunk was just interesting.  :)
The river is still pretty high.  It is slowly going down and will be ready for kayaking soon.
Lauren always likes to play in the water!

I seemed to have much better luck at finding inedible fungus.  Perhaps some of these are edible, but I don't know.  Therefore, they remain classified as inedibles to me.  I would sometime like to explore more wild mushrooms.  They make for interesting pictures anyway.  
We also found lots of ticks!  We are still picking them off of Riley.  They were more plentiful than the mushrooms!

Heading home with our bounty.  Riley at the heels of his best bud, Lauren.