Sunday, August 31, 2008

What a Mess

Things have gotten out of hand. The Monkeys have been allowed to run amok and their stuff is everywhere. My front porch was a disgrace.
Skateboards, roller blades, and socks were everywhere. That's right, I said socks. Someone took their socks off on the front porch and left them there. One of my containers was knocked over and broken. The plants looked pitiful. There was a table I found on the side of the road and brought home. Don't know why it was upside down.
Now isn't that better. A little paint, a broom, and a few more plants from the back deck and the front porch looks a lot like a gardener might live here.
Please ignore the black paint. I don't know what they were painting and pretty sure I don't want to.

Maybe this is too much of a good thing. Our good neighbors really filled this compost up. The bunnies are getting nervous. I am going to create a dry shade garden behind our back fence. I will take some of those grass clippings and use them to start the new beds. A four to six inch layer of them should make a nice mulch. When the time comes to plant, the soil should be perfect.
Tomorrow, I take on the deck. Believe it or not, it is worse. Anybody else have a mess they need to clean up? Please share, it will make me feel better.
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Friday, August 29, 2008

160 Degree Compost - I Finally Succeeded

It happened. The thermometer in the compost pile reads 160 degrees. The grass clippings and coffee grounds did it.

This should not matter to me. Organic matter does not need to heat up in a giant pile in order to become compost. I know this. I have had a compost pile since I was 12 years old. Compost happens without too much effort from us other than piling up the stuff, getting it wet, and waiting. Unfortunately, a couple of years ago I took a master composter class. They taught us about bacteria, yeast , and fungi. We were schooled in the importance of carbon to nitrogen ratios. We learned how important oxygen is to a composting system. Lectures were given to us on the need to reduce waste in our landfills. We made a compost pile, watched it heat up, turned once a week for three weeks, and it made compost. We were then sent out into the big wide world to teach others about compost.

What I came away with was a competitive need to have my compost pile get hot. It became and obsession. I tried and failed. I had a faulty thermometer. The compost pile got sort of hot at 140 degrees. Today, I have finally succeeded. This is my hottest compost ever.

Pineapple Salsa

I went shopping with my mom and sisters today. We visited one of those fancy pants gourmet shops. They had all kinds of samples. I tried a pineapple habanero salsa that was wonderful. It was too hot for anyone else, so I did not buy it. Instead, I came home and made up a batch of my own with a lot less heat.

20 ounces of crushed pineapple
1 Large red onion.
1 Bell pepper
3-5 Serrano or jalapeno peppers
1/4 Cup cilantro
1 Teaspoon lemon juice

Throw everything in the food processor - Done. This stuff is really tasty with tortilla chips. I also saw a recipe that suggested serving it with salmon.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Morning Glories and Angels' Trumpets

Nice things happen in my garden in the morning and nice things happen in my garden at night. The Grandpa Ott’s morning glory along with the volunteer pink morning glory bloom very prettily every morning. Humming birds love to nectar on the morning glory blooms. After dark my Angel’ trumpet opens up beautiful white blooms that smells very sweet. These blooms attract a large grey moth. By midmorning all the pretty blooms are wilted and sad. I feel just like that during the heat of the day; all wilted.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Uses for Coffee in the Garden

We had our calender committee meeting at a Starbucks last night. I walked away with about 20 lbs of coffee grounds. Usually I just dump them in the compost pile and give a little to the worms. I did a little research and here is what I came up with.

1. Coffee grounds have an NPK of 2.-.36-.67
2. Coffee grounds are acidic. My soil is alkaline so this is perfect.
3. Coffee ground repel slugs and snails. Maybe, I should sprinkle some on the deck. Earlier this summer, I walked out on our deck and stepped on a slug. Horrible, the stuff of nightmares.
4. Worms like coffee grounds.
5. Coffee absorbs odor. My mom had a horrible smell in her house. We never did figure out what it was. Anyway, we put out bowls of coffee and it really helped.
6. Coffee has a 20:1 nitrogen to carbon ratio. This is about the same as grass clipping so it should help heat up a compost pile.
7. Taking the coffee grounds from a coffee bar or restaurant keeps them out of the landfill and helps reduce production of the greenhouse gas methane. Methane is 25 times worse for the environment than carbon dioxide.

Go get yourself some coffee grounds. It makes your compost smell good.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pumpkin Update

Looks like our little pumpkin is growing up. He is beginning to turn orange. He measures 10 inches stem to blossom end and 24 inches around the middle. I did double check that measurement. Being more than twice as big around as long doesn't seem right, but it is. We won't be carving this into a jack-o-lantern for Halloween. Don't worry, I have a friend who is really good with paint and will give him a great face. That way it will not rot in a week. I've put way too much effort and angst into that little pumpkin. He is sticking around until Thanksgiving. I feel like it is time for us to give the little guy a name. Any suggestions?
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Monday, August 25, 2008

The First Day of School

They are off back to books and teachers. The new haircuts don't want to lie down. The house is clean and quiet.

The garden must know it is a special day. These will be blooming this afternoon or early evening. Stay tuned, I will post the picture.

My rose of Sharon bloomed. This little tree takes so much abuse. It is on a dry, hot, south facing wall and unfortunately gets too much shade from a peach tree. Poor thing never gets water. The recent rains must have given it what it needs.
The bromiliad a neighbor gave me made a pup. I need to go out and transplant it.

Here is my favorite coffee cup given to me by a sister. I think it says it all.
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Sunday, August 24, 2008

I am Aunt Debbi & I Want Your Trash

Okay, my neighbors think I am crazy. I have been stealing their bags of leaves for years. I have requested their tea bags, eggshells, fruit and vegetable peels, and such. My mom saves all her compostables (not a word, but it should be) in the freezer for me. I pick them up ever few weeks when we are over for a visit.
The back door neighbors gave me their bags of leaves last fall. These nice folks just lined them up along my back fence. It has been raining a lot the last week or two so all the neighborhood lawns are overgrown. My nice neighbors who give me leaves offered their grass clippings. I took them all. He was going to bag them for me. No need, just dump them straight over the fence into the pile. See how the compost pile is overflowing. Those grass clippings are getting nice and hot. I wonder how many other neighbors I can talk out of their trash.
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Shopping in My Own Backyard

The other night I made jambalaya. I had the shrimp, chicken, good sausage, rice, and stewed tomatoes bought from the store. Of course I used my homemade hot sauce. For the veggies, I was able to pick peppers, parsley, garlic, and Swiss chard right out of the garden. It felt a little like a natural shopping trip. Everything was awesome, fresh and tasted wonderful.

Shhh...Don't tell about them Swiss chard. I sneak it into spaghetti sauce, jambalaya, and chili. No one has ever caught me. We grow this plant year round and it is really nutritious. It has vitamins A, C, E, and K as well as a lot of minerals. It is also a cut and come again crop. We just cut off the leaves we need for that days meals and the plant grows back. Remember how big they got last spring?

About the onions. My bulb onions are long gone. I harvest them in mid spring. I have not been able to grow enough to last more than a few months. I will try to grow more this year. Anyway, the onions I use right now are oriental bunching onions. They grow in clumps and you just pull up what you need to use for the day. Another cut and come again plant. The tops are excellent as green onions. The bulbs are rather small, but there are so many of them it does not matter.

I usually only plant half of the garden for fall. Not this year. This year the whole garden will be in onions, broccoli, cabbages, beets, collards, lettuce, and carrots. Not going to waste a single inch. We should be shopping in the backyard all winter.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Peaceful Easy Weeding

It is the end of the summer. School starts on Monday. Like many parents, I am ready for the boys to go back to school. I spent the last week buying supplies, meeting teachers, buying shoes, picking up schedules, taking monkeys to get haircuts, and answering about a million cell phone calls from one monkey or the other wanting something or to go somewhere. Parenting has become quite irritating for me and Manly Man. We are all ready for a change. Today everyone was aggravated. I tried to smooth things over and make happy, but no dice. I finally gave up, grabbed a cold drink, and went out in the garden. It has rained almost every day for the last week. So this evening was the perfect time to pull up my little stool and start weeding. The temperature was cool and the weeds came up easy. The ground was moist, but not muddy. It smelled good. There were crickets chirping and birds calling. No one came outside to talk to me. We all need a little time apart. As it got to dark to tell the weeds from the plants, I came inside. I found everyone nice and quiet watching movies or reading. Everything changes on Monday. I think we are ready.

Friday, August 22, 2008

How I made a Mosquito Habitat and Another Use for Monkeys

I put an umbrella sedge in a large low bucket of water to get it ready to plant in the bog garden. It has rained a lot lately and there is standing water in the bucket. I took a look at it today and the water was full of mosquito larvae. I have mosquitofish (Gambusia Affinis) in my little water garden. I started with three and now have too many. So I stand over the little water garden with a cup trying to catch a few mosquitofish to put into the other container.
Middle Monkey asks, "What are you doing?".
Me, "Trying to catch a mosquitofish."
Him, "Move over I can do it for you."
Me, "Have you done this before?"
Him,"Yep, whenever you're not looking."
So he caught me a couple of mosquitofish and put them in the other container. They went right to work eating the mosquito larvae. These little fish should not be set free in streams or ponds, as they will out compete native fish. They breed fast. For my little water garden, they do a great job. They are supposed to be able to survive low oxygen saturation and high salinity. Pretty interesting critter.
If you ever need a critter caught, get a 10-year-old boy. They have amazing patience.
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We Have a Real Survivor

Nature seems to be able to recover from anything.
This is a picture of my first ox blood lily (Rhodophiala bifida).

A few weeks ago, our neighbors had an old alleyway between our homes cleaned out. It had to be done. I allowed them to start halfway down my fence line beyond my passion vine. There were dead hack berry trees, one of which had fallen on the next door neighbors' fence. There are wild figs, which were saved. The entire length of the alleyway was covered in junk saplings and poison ivy.
The landscape crew cleaned it all out and then sprayed everything with Roundup. What is left is scorched earth. It will take a long time for this area to recover, yet the little oxblood lilies are coming right up as if nothing happened. Nature is amazing.
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The Saddest Thing I've Ever Seen

I am a bad gardener, very very bad. I dug up this plant from a fellow gardeners plot and planted it up in a container. I thought it was a coleus. It seemed to hate the sun so I moved it to the shade.
It turned yellow and became infested with mealy bugs.
Today, I was at the Xeric Garden in Forney and there was my plant, three and a half feet tall and a beautiful purple. It is a Parilla. It needs to be in full sun and is absolutely too big to be grown in the container I put it in. Why in the world didn't I just ask what the heck it was and learn how to take care of it. My friend had gotten her plant when it reseeded itself at the Xeric Garden. Right now my poor little plant is sitting in the sink. I had to give it a shower to get rid of the mealy bugs. It is going in the ground in the front flowerbed this evening. It will get full on sun until about 2:oo pm and then afternoon shade.
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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Murphy's Law for Gardeners

Over the last year I have had a few encounters with Murphy's law. Here are just a few.
1. No matter how much stuff you put in the compost pile, there will never be enough compost.
2. Spring weather will be warm and sunny and then temperature will drop into the 40's the week you put out your tomato seedlings
3. As soon as you make the perfect, nice, fluffy garden plot, the dog will decide it is a perfect doggie bed.
4. It will rain on the days you take off work to get the garden started in the spring.
5. Your puppy will think your veggie garden is a perfect place to jump up and down.
6. Your cat will believe the garden is a litter box and butterflies are toys.
7. The minute you set up your new rain barrel, the rain will stop.
8. Your non-gardening spouse will give erroneous gardening advice to the neighbors
9. You will try to grow a plant that has died on you year after year because 'This will be the year." Then you will be surprised when it dies yet again.
10. You will have a surprise encounter with a slug, toad, or some other critter that makes you run and scream.
Do y'all have any Murphy's law observations?
Here is a flower bed I had to fix after the clients dog decided to use it for a bed. I really like the little black fence.
This is a pretty bed, but all the roses are sick because of yo-yo rain and drought.
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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Another Way to Cook Zucchini

I know a lot of vegetable gardeners end up with too much zucchini or have family members who won't eat it. My boys will eat it stir fried with carrots and sprinkled with season salt. The whole family will eat coated in spicy cornmeal and fried. That is about the extent of their zucchini love.

Tonight I baked some pork chops with mushrooms, onions, olive oil, a little beef broth, and pepper. I had one good sized rhonde de nice zucchini. I sliced it really thin and added it to the pork chop bake for the last ten minutes in the oven. It was wonderful. I could make a meal of just the mushrooms and zucchini.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Monkey Haircut

They won't let him go to school looking like this. I cannot imagine why.
He looks a little worried.
Awww...look at that face.
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Monday, August 18, 2008

Rainy Day Projects

It is raining and the forecast says we will have rain for several more days. We need this rain bad so I am happy, but housebound. Rain makes me sleepy and I want to take a nap. I don't want to waste the whole day though.

I should work on the quilt for Christann. The wedding is a month from today. Yikes!!! I better get moving. There is only one row finished. Maybe Mamala will help me when the boys go back to school next week.
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Sunday, August 17, 2008


I thought it might be time for a few updates
The carpenter finished the bridge over the bog garden. Isn't it pretty? Ignore the Monkey.
The pink containers are recycled cattle feed buckets. Some of the plants I want to use on this project can be invasive and we are hoping the containers will provide a barrier as well as holding more water around the plants roots.
I found a way to increase my rainwater harvesting capacity. It looks pretty redneck, but it works. This is another way to recycle those cattle feed buckets.
Remember our cute little pumpkin. Well, look at her now. There are a few spots that are beginning to turn orange. I don't think it will get really big, but I don't care. This is my first pumpkin success. I did not have to cull any of the other baby pumpkins. They shriveled up and turned yellow without any help from me.
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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Stupid Garden Center

Remember this morning when I was all excited about planning my fall garden. I even got out my handy dandy KCMG horticultural calendar and looked up what should be planted this month. The list included broccoli and cabbage among other things. I already have seeds for most of my fall plants. I also thought that this would be a good time to start some snap dragons and violas. With my nice list in hand, I go to the local nursery. I found no seeds and no vegetable bedding plants. All he had were mums and crotons. So here I go across the road to, horror of all horrors, a big box store. Not only had they gotten rid of all the seeds and had no veggies, but the rest of the plants were being allowed to die a slow horrible death without water. Why do some plant retailers think there is only one season of gardening? Our master gardener group spends hours sharing knowledge about gardening in our county only to have the poor gardeners go out and find not a single fall plant available when it is time to plant, or worse things that are not suitable for our zone. Fall is really the easiest time to garden here in north Texas. The weather is warm but not blistering or cool but not freezing. There is generally enough rain and if supplemental water has to be added it does not evaporate within minutes. The pest problems are minimal and the weather is much more comfortable for the gardener. I can even overwinter somethings like carrots, garlic, and onions. What gives with the retailers? Stupid garden centers.

Planning My Fall Garden

It is early Saturday morning and my family is asleep. I am all alone. This never happens. Shhh....don't wake them. I am not used to being alone and it turns out I am bored.

Boredom combined with nice cool weather has led me to begin planning my fall garden. A quick look at the seed stash revealed sugar snap peas, Swiss chard, lettuce, scarlet Nantes carrots, edamame, collards, pole beans, and broccoli raab. I will need to buy broccoli and cabbage plants. Hopefully, the nurseries have them already. I know I am really bored and I know I am going to regret this, but I am going to plant a sweet potato. I have just enough time to get it in the ground and maybe get some tubers. The morning glories are going crazy so certainly now would be a good time to plant their relative. Maybe I should put it in a container?

Oops, they woke up. Gotta go.

Friday, August 15, 2008

GBBD August 2008

Blooms are hard to find in my garden in August. It is too hot and there has been very little rain. All I really have blooming are zinnias. They reseed themselves every year. I used to have hot pink, light pink, green Envy, yellow, white, and orange. Now I have pink, white, and...... little lonely yellow. I think I need to increase my zinnia gene pool.

I found a May pop. This is the fruit of the passion vine. I wonder what I can do with it?
Here is a rainbow just because I thought you might like it. Look really close and you can see the faint glow of the double arch. These always make me feel special.
Thanks again to Carol of May Dreams Garden for hosting Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Weee're Baaack

We took the Monkeys to Oklahoma for a few days. They played in the water at Turner Falls and at Chickasaw National Park.

Here they are in the falls.
They fed a bunch of animals at a wild life park. BTW Giraffes have very long slimy tongues, just saying.
We hiked and saw some beautiful country. We all came back happy and tired. I can barely walk. If I had not started taking aerobics a month ago, I probably would not be able to walk right now.

I came home thinking maybe I need one of these.
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Monday, August 11, 2008


Going to spend a few days letting the monkeys play in a river. Be back soon.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Golden Hay Bale

The hay bale knew it was destined for greater things than being eaten by bovines. So on the way to the farm, he jumped off of the truck and made a mad dash for freedom. But that left him stuck in the ditch. How would he get to the other side, the greener side? He thought he could hitch hike, but discovered he had no thumbs.

Night came and he began to fear the arrival of thieving gardeners who would come pull him apart to fulfill their evil dreams of free mulch and compost.

He saw flickering lights that grew larger and larger. The hay fairies had shown up to transform him into a golden carriage for Cinderella. They had saved him from the fate of cow chow and mulch.

Thanks to everyone who played in the comments. This is your story, not mine.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

What the Hay?

This bale of hay has been sitting in the ditch on our street for a week. Any thoughts on how and why it got there?
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