Thursday, September 25, 2014

Happy Autumn

The Autumn Equinox has passed and we are dipping deeper into the dark half of the year.

Roots dig, dig, dig as leaves shrivel.

We dig deep...


We dig...

Sweet Potatoes!

This is my harvest from a mere 13 plants in a 15x3.5-foot bed. I did nothing to the sweet potato plants all year except plant them and water them for a couple of weeks, and put bird netting over them to keep the deer and bunnies from nibbling their tender tops. After that... nothing until I dug them.

Oh, I did prune back the vines when they started to escape the bird netting.

Sweet potatoes require lean soil, so you don't have to fertilize them, and little water. Unless it's dry for a long time, they need nothing more than the rainfall. Few pests and diseases plague them. Only foliage nibbling critters. And most people do nothing to protect the batata vines.

All of my resources recommend curing the sweet potatoes at 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit. By this time of year, we are well past those temperatures. However, a local market grower told me he cures his at room temperature. Good enough for me. I am not going to -- as some sources suggest -- run a space heater in a room to cure the sweeties.

Curing is important because it converts starches to sugars, making the roots taste even better. It also helps seal those inevitable nicks from the digging fork, which are nearly impossible to avoid. To make the less likely, stick the fork in at least a foot from the center of the plant. But even that isn't a guarantee.

And don't forget to attend the nearest sweet potato festivities. October has been declared Sweet Potato Month here and several events are planned in Lawrence, Kansas (perhaps elsewhere, too, but I know nothing about them). The events include a community sweet potato potluck in early November. Visit the Celebrate Sweet Potatoes -- Lawrence, KS Facebook page to share and find sweet potato recipes and learn about events here. Then look for when the new Web site is complete and online to learn even more. Celebrate Autumn. Celebrate sweet potatoes.

Saturday, September 13, 2014


Things move quickly at this time of year.
Just 10 days ago I found this Monarch butterfly chrysalis hanging from a screen door on the front porch. I knew that is was a Monarch chrysalis (moths make cocoons) because just the day before I took this photo I had seen the caterpillar in its familiar striped suit hanging upside down from that same spot. Its head was slightly curled up as it waited for its skin to harden.

Nearby, some of its siblings or cousins were busily munching on the tropical milkweed, waiting for their own metamorphosis.

All of the information I found about Monarchs said that it would remain in chrysalis form for about two weeks, before emerging as a butterfly. Yet, only a week later I went to check on the chrysalis to find it open at the bottom and a new butterfly on the concrete floor below drying its wings. It fluttered to a nearby columbine leaf when I tried to manipulate it into a more picturesque position. You can see a tip of one wing (right) slightly curled from still being damp.

I am privileged to be able to witness this and the many other cycles occurring around me each day.

And now the cycle has turned to autumn. Garden production has slowed. Where I once was fretting about whether I'd get tired of watermelon and cantaloupe, I am now regretting that their season is almost at an end.

Such are the cycles of life.