Monday, August 21, 2017

Viewing the eclipse indirectly

Where we are located, the eclipse covered somewhere around 92% of the sun.  It was noticeably dark inside the house.  Outside, it seemed like an eerie haze.  Since I did not have eclipse glasses, I watched the eclipse indirectly so as not to damage my eyes.  Someone on the local news channel showed a colander just like the one I have, so I set that on a couple of stools above a white piece of paper on the sidewalk and looked at the points of light that came through the holes.
I was actually more impressed with the light shining through the tree leaves and the little crescents made that way.  The shadow of sycamore leaves on the sidewalk, the maple leaves on the car, and especially the shadow of the crepe myrtle leaves against the grill cover showed little crescents where the sunlight was being eclipsed by the moon.


The outlines seem to show best where there are only small points of light coming through (though I really don't understand that exactly).  I formed a small opening between my thumb and forefinger, and you can see a crescent shape there as well.
What fascinated me even more than that was just the shadow of my outstretched hand.  When I turned it a certain way, I could see a little shadow at the base of space between each finger. 
I like to think I held the experience in my hand.
Hope you had a good experience today or at least get to enjoy some of the awesome pictures that will be available on TV and internet.



Monday, August 14, 2017

Disease resistance

It doesn't take long gardening to encounter pests and disease.  One of the attributes plant breeders and gardeners take into account in selecting plants is disease resistance.  Now, I will note, resistance doesn't mean absolute immunity.  It does mean the plant is less likely to get that disease than a plant that is not resistant.  Specifically, in tomato plants, you will find abbreviations following the plant variety name; these abbreviations stand for what pests and diseases the tomato is resistant to.  My 'Early Girl' tomatoes have F and V which means they are resistant to fusarium and verticillium wilt.
Unfortunately, if the disease pressure is high enough, even resistant varieties can succumb to a disease.  That's what happened here.  I came out one day in mid-July and noticed a lot of leaves on the tomato plant that had turned yellow almost overnight.  This is what fusarium wilt looks like on a tomato plant. 
Fusarium wilt is caused by a fungus in the soil.  It is common and long lived.  The plus side is that we've enjoyed tomatoes for almost 2 months.  There are still some tomatoes on the other 2 vines, though those vines seem to be declining as well.  I've pulled up the first diseased vine and put it on the burn pile.  I hope to plant a few fall carrots where that tomato vine was.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Improvised dehydrator

In some situations, it makes sense to simply use what is available.  I don't do much dehydrating of fruits or veggies, so I don't own a dehydrator.  I could buy one new or look for one at a thrift store, but I could just use my car as a dehydrator.  I once read in a magazine that someone used their old pickup, with the windows rolled down a little, to dry apples.  I liked the idea and have used it for figs.  I did also put a little netting over the windows to keep out the insects.  I think this netting is probably some I've had for ages (as in leftover from my wedding veil).  I secured it with magnets that have collected on the fridge.
Here are three trays of figs as seen through the back window of the car.
 Here is the netting and a couple of magnets holding the netting over the partially open window.
Here is the final product, combined onto one tray.  (The trays are those little rattan paper plate holders that I had been given, and I used one sheet of paper towel over the rattan.) 
I will keep the dried figs in the freezer, so it is not crucial how much moisture is left.  If they were to be stored at room temperature, they would have to be dry enough not to mold.  I did test a few figs by eating them at various stages of the process.  It actually probably got too warm in the car, but a partially dried, partially cooked fig, still warm, is quite delicious!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Monarch on butterfly weed

The butterfly weed (milkweed family) was living up to its name today, and I caught a picture of a monarch and a pearl crescent butterfly on it.  I think it has had more blooms on the places I cut for a bouquet a month or so ago.

This has been a great year for this native perennial.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

French marigolds

It took about 80 days from the time I planted them to get a bloom, but the French marigolds that I planted back in late April are finally blooming.  These are from seeds I got from Mom.  She has probably been saving the seeds herself each year for a long time.  Now that they are finally blooming, they will probably provide carefree cheerful blooms right up until frost.
(Caleb's pic)

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Potato harvest

I dug the last of my potatoes this morning.  They could have been dug a week or two ago perhaps. 
Here is the Yukon Gold harvest.  (Caleb's pic.)
Here is the Kennebec harvest.

I have misplaced the receipt for the seed potatoes, but I think I bought about 2 lbs. of Yukon Gold and about 3 lbs. of Kennebec seed potatoes.  The harvest was about 8 lbs. Yukon Gold and about 24 lbs. Kennebec.  That's not precise on the Yukon Gold.  There are about 6 lbs. in the bucket, but I'm estimating the new potatoes I cooked on Memorial Day and the potato hill I dug for one night's supper might add a couple of pounds.  Of course, if I had let the new potatoes grow to full size, the harvest would have been a little bigger.
That was a good return on the Kennebec.
It was a lot of work, though, when you consider how cheaply one can buy potatoes at the grocery store.  On the other hand, these were grown without chemical pesticides and haven't been sprayed with sprout inhibitors.
Also, the garden bed is practically ready for a fall crop of kale or cauliflower or something.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Like a boss

Someone took some good pictures of darling son when he and darling husband played at the local coffee shop a couple of weeks ago.  As the saying goes, "it's a poor frog that won't brag on his own pond," so just let me say darling son plays the mandolin like a boss.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Have you ever seen a green butterfly?

I have a little patch of mountain mint that is in bloom.  The patch I have was started by a sprig given to me by the late Allen DeHart.  I'm always fascinated by how many different kinds of insects find their way to these blooms.  I've noticed a green butterfly enjoying the nectar.  I could never get my autofocus camera to focus on the green butterfly, so I imposed upon darling son to take a picture for me. 
Here is the juniper hairstreak butterfly. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Crinum lily

I have a crinum lily that was given to me.  It is in rather dry soil in my border, but in late spring or early summer it sends up scapes of blooms whenever we get a good rain.  This year it has been particularly prolific because of the ample rain we've had here.
One morning my husband and I were on the porch swing and I pointed out the lily to him.  At the distance from the porch, one cannot really see the detail of the bloom.  "That pale thing?" was my husband's question in asking which plant I was referring to.  I thought he should go by it sometime and get a closer look.  Here is a picture darling son took of it (taken in early June).

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Fourth of July at the ball stadium

We had the opportunity to take in a ball game on the 4th of July.  I end up doing a lot of people watching and sometimes miss parts of the ball game. 
There are other things to see as well.  (Thanks to Caleb for taking the pictures.) 
There was Old Glory waving in the nice evening breeze.
There was a rainbow in the clouds.

Along about the middle of the game, a T-Rex came out with the field crew to help smooth the baseline.  (Actually, that gray cloud behind the tree in the flag picture might be a T-Rex, too.)

The home team had been down 5 to 1 since about the second inning or so, and I thought things were getting just a little boring.  Then in the bottom of the eighth inning, there were some walks that loaded our bases.  There were 2 outs, and a pinch hitter at the plate with a full count.  I asked Caleb what he thought the pitcher would do.  He said, "He's going to throw it in the dirt, and the guy's going to swing anyway."  That is exactly what happened, and the golden opportunity was lost.  There were no runs in the ninth inning.
Then there was a great fireworks show.
All in all, a nice outing. 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Band at the lake

Last evening we had a chance to listen to the Rocky Cross Band play at Lake Royale.  We had a sandwich at Michael's Getaway, listened to the band, then watched the fireworks.  It was a nice evening.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Blueberry buckle

Blueberry buckle is basically a coffee cake made with blueberries and a streusel topping.  I've heard it described as so good it could make a bulldog climb a marble wall.
I made one this afternoon and darling husband wanted to know why it was called "buckle."  I said I didn't know--maybe because it was so good it would make your knees buckle.  He wasn't buying that, so I said maybe you would eat too much and have to loosen your belt buckle.  And while I was at my brilliant brainstorming, I said maybe it's from a German word.  (The recipe I used was supposedly from someone's grandmother in Pennsylvania...  Pennsylvania... Pennsylvania Dutch...  which is really German; okay that's how my mind works.)  The internet tells me it is because the topping has a buckled appearance.  I thought my etymologies were a little more interesting.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Bested by beetles

I took a look at my daily journal from a year ago.  It's the same as today: "picked off beetles."
Here's a look at the number I picked off this morning.  My neighbor's chickens liked them.
I picked off more this evening.  What a pest!  

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Yukon Gold potato

This evening I dug one hill of my Yukon Gold potatoes to cook for supper.  The yield was better than the Adirondack Blue.  The potatoes were tasty.  (I also picked a few squash for supper.)
You can't get any fresher than that.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A resilient glad

I remember Mama used to gather her gladiolus corms in the fall into a bushel basket and overwinter them in the cinder block well house.  I liked the way the brown corms looked, and the dark red glads, which were my favorites, had a darker corm.  They would be replanted in spring, and in summer there would be a row or two along the upper edge of the vegetable garden.  It seems I remember how we would look at the row as we were leaving for church on a Sunday morning to see which colors were blooming. 
Years ago, I got a few glads myself.  It's been so long I don't even remember where I got them, but I probably ordered them from a catalogue such as Henry Field's.  Only a white one still lives, but it survives the winter in the ground and comes back every year even though it is getting shaded out by the Japanese maple and crowded out by honeysuckle, poison ivy, and leriope that the birds "planted."  I remember once, ages ago, a neighborhood kid yanked the glad out of the ground just for meanness.  At the time, I cut the bloom off and put it in a vase; I replanted the corm, and it just kept going.  I'm amazed at how it has managed to survive.  I think there have been some years that it didn't bloom, but it did this year.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Great grey slug?

Just in the last few years, I've been encountering some giant slugs around here.  I view them as pests.  Here is one I found on the house siding this morning.  If this is a great grey slug, it is not a US native, but an accidental introduction.  Sometimes those introductions can have a dramatic impact on the ecology of an area.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Blue potatoes and color on the dinner plate

Eat your colors.
I guess it's a sign that I'm still a novice that I brag, "This was from OUR garden," but it might be a sign that I want credit for the hard work I put in.  Anyway, the cuke, tomato, blue potatoes, and squash were from our garden.  Classic summertime fare.  Darling husband was a little leery about the potatoes, but I love expanding an old man's horizons!
The cuke was the first one of the season in my garden.  Just a few days ago, I had glanced and only seen little 1 to 2 inch prickly nubbins, so I was startled to see this 6 inch cuke.  I had better check the vines more closely today.  (Those muffins are the second batch from my own blueberries.)
I wasn't terribly impressed with the blue potato harvest.  I had started out with 3 seed potatoes.  I had cut 2 of them in half at planting.  This is the harvest.
It's more than I started out with, but it's a poor yield.  I don't know if the rodent that was in the neighboring Yukon Gold potatoes got any, but there is no evidence of teeth marks on the potatoes here.  (There are some fork marks where I accidentally pierced them in digging.)  So if a rodent ate any, he ate the whole kit and caboodle.  Also, the potatoes I cooked had just a little slit or opening in the middle, a "hollow heart" in potato speak.  That is supposedly caused by environmental factors, but some varieties are more susceptible to it than others.  The flavor was good, but I've had better.  I may try to keep a couple of the potatoes for seed.  (They say the early ripening varieties don't keep as well, and this is considered "early midseason.")  If they rot over winter, I'll probably not buy any to plant next year.  Overall, a bust, but the novelty of it was worth at least a little. 
I hope you're enjoying a colorful plate this summer.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Daylily blooms

The ample rain we've had lately has been a boon to the daylilies.  Here are the first blooms on this lily that opened yesterday.
This one can have blooms as late as October.  It's a winner, in my book.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Blueberries, tomatoes, six confirmed kills of vine borers

I'll start out with 2 nice pictures, and then if you don't want to look at the vine borers, you don't have to scroll down.
The weather has been favorable for the blueberries--generally speaking, but of course I will proceed to the nuance of the specifics in a moment.
Here are some premium sized blueberries that I picked last night.
I had already made one batch of muffins from the berries I picked Monday or Tuesday. 
I have noticed that the birds are eating a lot of the blueberries.  There is no wild cherry crop this year, and when there are no wild cherries, which the birds love, there is more bird pressure on the blueberry crop.  Perhaps the cold snap back in the spring, which only did a little damage to the blueberries directly, hurt the wild cherry crop; indirectly that is affecting the blueberry crop.  Interesting connections, I say.
Birds in the berries, stink bugs on the tomatoes...  We ate our first tomato last night.  It had sustained some stink bug damage, and I had brought it indoors to finish ripening.  I picked a few more tomatoes last night to let them ripen indoors as well. 
We've been eating squash practically every night, but I don't know how long that will last with the pressure from the vine borers.  I killed 3 more borers this morning.  That makes 6 confirmed kills.  At first, when I would see a little of the "sawdust" oozing from the vine, I tried to stick my tiny knife in and hopefully kill the borer without opening the vine up, but I never knew if I was hitting the borer or not that way.  This morning, I did get enough of one part of a borer out to know I had killed it, plus I got 2 additional borers out entirely.  One was quite small, the other was large.


I'm still picking off some Japanese beetles and tossing them over to my neighbor's chickens, but there haven't been so many lately.  My neighbor put up a trap, he said, so that undoubtedly is helping.
In other news, we've gotten 2 3/4" of rain within the last week.  The rain that waters the vegetables also waters weeds (including those that we call our lawn).  Things are starting to look, to use the word Mama would use, rank.
That's the update on the garden "plot."

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

More hornworms, vine borers, and stink bugs

When I checked my tomato plants yesterday, I saw this on a leaf.
That alerted me  to this.
I found another one also and smashed them both with a brick.
This evening, I cut the third vine borer out of my squash vines.
The stink bugs are wreaking havoc on the tomatoes.  I'll be out to get them in the morning.
The bug battle rages.