Sunday, July 31, 2011


Let's cool things down a bit.
Just checked the weather forecast and the National Weather Service predicts a high of 106F on Tuesday.
I went out the other afternoon and even the okra was drooping. When the okra is unhappy, it is too hot and too dry.
If I can just hang on, Saturday's predicted high is "only" 91.
The 40 and 50 percent chance of rain predicted during the last few days only brought one tenth of an inch in a surprise storm Thursday morning. Perhaps the 20 percent chance predicted later this week will amount to something. Until we get a good rain, I will keep draining the tanks that catch rainwater from our roof.
Tomorrow I must take some of that water in a small tank (275 gallons) down to the apple trees that are only two years in the ground and give them a drink. They have waited long enough while I hoped for rain.
I am not as big of a fan of winter and snow as someone else I know, but the pictures above and below are rather refreshing right now.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Moon Morning

A thin, pale Moon sits in the morning sky,
Pulling a veil, a shroud of clouds
Over Her fading face.
In two days, She will be but a 
Shadow, as She renews herself
Within the Darkness, becoming "New."

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Still Hot

Melon vines spill over the side of the raised garden bed.
Nine-thirty in the morning and it is already 87 degrees. But I keep looking for positive things in the oppressive heat.
Pretty Prairie Petunias growing in the grass.

The red raspberries are trying to make a come back after getting some water.

Pale pink cockscomb celosia in the garden.

And okra blossoms mean... okra! Last year, okra and long beans were the two things that kept producing during the hot dry days of late July and August. That means some lovely okra curries. Mmm.

Bouquets from the garden in the bathrooms and kitchen. Granddaughter helping grandpa make buckwheat pancakes. Heading out to see other granddaughters in the evening. A 40 percent chance of rain tomorrow. It's all good.

Friday, July 22, 2011

It's Hot

Zinnias. One pleasant thing still happening in this heat.
It's hot. That's all there is to say about it.
I went out this morning before breakfast to start watering things, and to pick elderberries and cucumbers. All was done by 8. Yes, I get up early. It was very pleasant out at 6:30 a.m.

Butterfly milkweed. A lovely native wildflower that insists
on coming up in my vegetable garden.
The digital readout says 85 F now, at 9:06 a.m. That sounds like a lovely temperature to me, but in the sun and humidity it makes me sweat... a lot. I am headed back out soon to do some more watering, to pick tomatoes and check on the melons and peppers.

Cup plant, another native wildflower. But
this one is in my wildflower garden.

I am usually pretty hardy about the heat, but this extended period of 100-degree days is not usual and it is wearing me down. It's just not as fun anymore to go out and work in the garden. The heat wears me out, even though I usually am not out during the hottest part of the day. A 20 percent chance of rain today, Sunday and the middle of next week is the only hope we've got right now. I am really wishing for some puddles (and not any from water line breaks or leaks, please).

If you must be out in the heat, please take care of yourself. wear a hat with a good brim. Drink lots of water before you head out. Take frequent breaks (every 20 minutes to half hour) to drink and rest in the shade or air conditioning. Heat stroke sneaks up on you. And once you get it, your heat tolerance diminishes. And heat kills.
Take care of yourself.
It is hot.

I do live in the Sunflower State, after all.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bean Counting... Not!

Elderberries! Not beans.
The beans have pretty much quit. With highs near 100 degrees every day for most of the month, I can't blame them for wanting to save their energy. If I water them and just keep them alive, maybe they will start producing again once the temperature ratchets down.

I do have green beans stashed in the freezer now, more than I got in all of last year. But last year's stash was pitiful.

The red raspberries and blackberries that should be producing through to frost also have nearly ceased production in the heat. The cucumbers are doing fine, however, and I have started making pickles (with vinegar). To get us through until the canned pickles are ready to eat, I've been using the extra slicing cukes to make Skillet Pickles, which are a quick pickle for eating right away.
Salt and Pepper Pickling Cucumbers

Pretty, pale pickles
I improved my pickles last year simply by using pickling cucumbers, which are varieties that are denser and more uniform in size and shape than slicers. The Salt and Pepper picklers are giving me a lot of little cukes. They have a greenish white skin that makes lovely pale pickles. The Homemade Pickles variety isn't making much yet, but I remember them being a little slow to start last year. I also am trying another variety, Picklebush, but they are only tiny seedlings yet.

Can't wait for this big boy to ripen!

The melons, which are closely related to cucumbers, are doing well. The Prescott fond Blanc melon (cantalope type) has several melons on it. One is quite huge, bigger than any I have gotten before. If only nothing happens to it before it ripens. When fully ripe, these melons are fantastically fragrant and sweet. Melons usually give me trouble, but this variety has been a reliable one for me.

While I was out watering today, I saw that the Kansas melon also has at least two fair-size fruits on it. I couldn't resist buying seed of a variety named after my home state. It was developed here, so it must grow well here... right?

Kansas melon.
The elderberries (our native Sambucus canadensis) are ripening now, as well. This evening I plucked 6 pounds of berries from their stem thingies. And I've noticed that many that were not ripe when I was out picking this morning are now deep black. The berries will rest in the freezer until I feel like making jam, or run out of freezer space. Unfortunately, elderberries must be cooked because the seeds contain a toxin that is destroyed by cooking. A small amount raw does no harm, but larger amounts can make you quite uncomfortable.
Elder blossoms open in June.

Yet the elderberries are quite wholesome and good for you. So I want lots of jam. And I am now on my last jar from 2010. I also am anxiously awaiting elderberry wine some acquaintances have made from berries they picked here last year after I was tired of making jam. Well made elderberry wine is quite excellent. And if they do as good of a job on the elderberry wine as they did on the fig and dandelion wines, we are in for a treat.
And the tomatoes are turning. These are Black Krim, almost ready.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Full Moon, takes one and two

I like that you can see details of the moon's face, but everything else around
it is lost in the darkness, which was not complete at the time. I set the F-stop,
shutter speed and ISO manually, but cannot remember what they were. I
should have recorded them before deleting the photos from the camera.
I am still learning how to use my camera. I finally have read the manual and discovered that I can do some things that I was wishing I could do. I also now better understand things like "aperture." Even though I spent nearly 20 years taking photos for a small town newspaper, I never quite got the hang of some of that stuff. I was a writer first, photographer second and always used the automatic settings.

These two moon shots were taken on different evenings, using different settings. Would like to put the best aspects of the two into one photo. That will take more experimenting.
You can see clouds and trees in this photo, but the face of the moon is
merely bright white. This was taken with the camera's night scene
setting, with the flash off.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Baby Pictures

Our apple trees are not yet big enough to give us a crop of apples, but one of them does have a crop of something... baby birds. This nest is perfectly nestled in the crotch of a Freedom apple tree that looks to have been made just for that purpose. Above, you can see all five of them, mouths gaping for yummy worms.

Below is a close up of two. I don't know what got in the way, but you can see them pretty well.

And one final photo. Aren't they precious? I don't know what kind of bird they are, as mom and dad stayed away while I was in the area.

And finally, the tree they call home.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


The four o'clocks are in bloom. Their name comes from their habit of opening their bright blossoms in later afternoon (when the temperature starts to drop). But I discovered them in bloom at 6 A.M. They had opened the evening before and simply stayed open all night.
The common garden variety, Mirabilis jalapa, is but one of 350 species of Mirabilis (which is Latin for "wonderful"). This one apparently came from tropical Peru, while another species is native to the prairies of the Dakotas in North America.
Anyway, I have never grown -- nor to my knowledge, seen -- four o'clocks, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. The seed packet said they reach 2 to 3 feet in height, so I am not sure why I planted them at the front of the flower bed. They are not more than 1 foot tall, yet. And maybe since they are tropical perennials that die at the first frost, they won't get bigger than they are. If I dig the tubers once the top growth dies, maybe I can store them and get them to come back even bigger next year, reaching their shrubby potential.
Or maybe I'll just plant more seed next year.
The flowers are quite brightly colored, except for the white ones, and vary a good deal in coloration. The four o'clock was used in early experiments on genetic inheritance, sometime around 1900. So I unwittingly planted a significant flower.
Below are other flowers in bloom right now.

A dew covered balloon flower,

Royal Catchfly, Silena regia. Tiny hairs at the base of the
flower are sticky and catch tiny gnats.

Celosia, aka cockscomb.
Other things in bloom include zinnias, tansy, speedwell, snapdragons, coneflowers, fading yarrow, butterfly weed (Asclepius), monarda, and others.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Waiting for Rain

Summer is here with a vengeance. Hot and dry, but with chances of thunderstorms and rain increasing over the next 36 hours. I am hoping for a good, long soak, as I have had to work at keeping things watered.
The cucumbers, squash and melons look terribly thirsty, drooping in the heat of the day. The tomatoes, however, are handling the conditions well. The above photo of an Abraham Lincoln tomato was actually taken about three weeks ago. The plant is much taller now and the little tomatoes are bigger, but still green. Abraham Lincoln is an heirloom variety I am growing for the first time. My SunGold cherry tomatoes are the first to ripen and have become part of my daily salads.

LETTUCE REPORT: Lettuce doesn't care much for heat, even less so when it's dry, so I have been watering it. The long row of lettuce that a few weeks ago made me wonder if I had overplanted has barely been able to provide us with salads each day. Along with the heat and dry weather, it has been munched on by little green caterpillars. Some of the small Merlot lettuce plants were nothing but skeletons. Sprayed some Bt, watered and fed with fish emulsion. They're looking better, but even the fantastic Super Jericho Romaine is on the small side. I fail to marvel at the Mervaille de Quatre Saisons (Marvel of the Four Seasons),  which sort of looks like a speckled romaine type.
Merlot lettuce before the heat began and before the worms.
Of course, these are not the best conditions in which to test a lettuce variety, but if it can perform at all now, it is a keeper. Red Sails and New Red Fire look like they are one variety with two names. They seem to be a good lettuce for hot summertime.
My bright idea about planting the lettuce in the shade of the tomatoes didn't quite work out, as I failed to take into acount the orientation of the bed, which is sort of east-west, but not quite. Some of the lettuces are in full sun in the hottest part of the day.
I started lettuce seed in little pots a week ago and have seedlings already. I will plant them in the garden, under shade cloth when they are large enough to take care of themselves.