Saturday, November 28, 2009

Doing it the old-fashioned way…

I was talking to a friend in a flurry of email messages the other evening, and of course, the state of our economy and our country came up. She is a city girl, and lives in an apartment, but she has a little rooftop vegetable garden. We don't have a lot of acreage here, but we do have enough to have a nice little vegetable garden.

I have been thinking that perhaps I should be growing heirloom varieties, so that I could save those seeds with assurance that we could eat what we produced with them. Some of those hybrids produce produce that isn't very tasty. Anyway, I remember my Mother and Dad talking about the Great Depression, and how they were actually hungry. At least, if you garden, you should be able to stave off starvation.

In my research about heirloom varieties of vegetables and flowers, I was surprised to find that many of the seeds we buy on the seed racks are heirloom varieties. According to the heirloom seed companies, a variety is an heirloom if it was developed before 1940 and is open pollinated. It will reproduce itself.

This is a few of the varieties I have found so far.

Beans- Kentucky Wonder pole, Asparagus beans (yard long beans), Scarlet Runner Beans.
Tomatoes- Beefsteak, Roma, Rutgers, Brandywine
Lettuce- Black Seeded Simpson, Parris Island Cos (Romaine)
Okra-Clemson Spineless, Emerald
Squash- Early Prolific Straight neck
Zucchini-Black Beauty, Gray
Swiss chard- Bright Lights (who knew?!)

I was surprised by these, but relieved too. Glad to know they are easily found, and of course, there are dozens of others. These are just a few that I have found.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Plants for a Beautiful Rain Garden!

Several have asked for information about which plants are suitable for a rain garden. I am in zone 9a, very hot and humid in summer, quite mild in winter. (I say that, but you just watch us have a record-breaking cold winter this year!)
This is our Native Plant Garden with the rain garden when it was very new. It has grown so much, and the rain garden is about full of plants now.

This is the list of plants that are in our garden. Bear in mind that ours is a garden of natives.
Plants in our
Native Plant / Rain Garden
(common names)
buffalo grass, bald cypress tree
redbud tree, Texas mountain laurel
agave, agarita
heartleaf hibiscus, blackfoot daisy
blackeyed susan, butterfly weed
Mexican hats, sunflower
esperanza, Indian blanket
fairy duster, Turk's cap
verbena, Texas sage
coral bean, coral berry
Barbados cherry, buttonwood
purple coneflower, Gregg's mist
salvia Greggii, salvia coccinea
cross vine, Texas clematis
equisetum, spider lily
lantana, pickerel weed
Joe Pye weed, yaupon
hairy wedelia, rock rose
coral honeysuckle, flame acanthus

Were we not bound by the confines of using plants that are native to Texas, we could use a lot of other plants, like some species lilies and roses. These would be used on the perimeter, and not in the rain garden proper, but that is o.k. You will want pretties in the whole garden.

Now, for those of you who live in different parts of the country, I myself do not know all that you can grow that I cannot. But somebody knows all about you. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden has a site that has a lot of information about plants for rain gardens. Check this out.

Also, the North Carolina Extension service has a good list too, and they explain the difference in planting in the rain garden, as opposed to planting around the rain garden. This is their site;

I hope this will help you. Play around with it. You can always Google 'plants for a rain garden' and come up with a lot of information.

This is the garden now.
The red bloom in the right corner is a coral bean.It is absolutely gorgeous! AND, it will grow to tree proportions. We won't let it get that big, but we could. The equisetum (horsetail) escapes it's boundaries, and that Texas sage is on the verge of blooming. It is called the 'Barometer plant', because it always signals rain. I love when it blooms.

Look, Noelle, we don't chop our Texas Sage into cupcakes!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Assessing the damage

We live in zone 9a, and have very mild winters. Winter is usually 3 days, not consecutive. Just 3 days total.

It fools you sometimes, and really does get cold. It is the nastiest, wettest, coldest cold when it is cold here; it just goes right through you. But it doesn't last long. The next day, it will be back up in the 60s or 70s, with a bright sun in the sky. We garden year 'round.

The killing weather for us is our hot, HOT summers. August in South Texas can be brutal. We lose more plants in summer than we do in winter.

My husband starts to talk about turning the AC on in April. I resist, usually until about July. Nights are pleasant with a fan, and sleep is comfortable. When it gets too hot at night for tomatoes to set fruit, I relent and turn the AC on. He has never understood this.

So, last April, I told him, "When we turn the AC on, I won't go out to work anymore." And when we turned the AC on in June, I didn’t go out anymore.

This summer was really brutal, because we had a drought. No rain for about 5 months, it was awful! I would go out to pull hoses, or turn the water off or on, but I didn’t spend much time out there weeding, grooming, or anything else. Even with us watering, we lost some things. Many trees are down, due to the drought, and some of them are big trees.
We didn’t lose any trees, but my favorite salvia (seen above) bit the dust. I was very sad to lose this. It is called Bog Salvia, blue and white likes wet feet. I had a swath of it about 15' long x 3' wide. It was soooo pretty. I will have to find some more. The big leaves behind it are 'root beer plant' or 'spice plant'. It is a thug. It is healthy, of course.

I lost my ‘lycoris radiata’, and a prized blood lily. The blood lily, here, was put
in the ground 3 years ago. It was wonderful seeing it come back every year, and put up more and more of those blooms. I will have to find
another. I was very worried about the yellow spiders, but they seem to be fine. No blooms, but there is always next year.

I also lost crocosmia, and I was very
surprised about that. I had these
planted in several places, I will have
to check around to see if
there are some left for next year.
I love them.

Things that did well in the drought included all the natives. Esperanza was especially drought hardy. The ornamental grasses did well, and although we didn't see as many wildflowers, they did not die. They sprang back to life as soon as the first sprinkle hit the ground.

I am sure there are other things that I lost that I don't know about yet. I am just thankful that it isn't worse.

We were out pulling weeds last weekend. My Darling was helping me, (like it isn't his garden, too), and he was just amazed at how I had neglected my duties in the summer.

"We are NEVER turning the AC back on!" he announced. I have been giggling over that for days now.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Gardener's Guide to Life

I have had this for many years, framed and hanging in my kitchen. I think these are good thoughts to remember as I live my life. I don't know who wrote it, but if anyone knows, will you please share with us?


You get to choose how you welcome each day. If you choose to approach each day with an “I can’t wait to go outside to see the garden” instead of “I have to pull weeds again” attitude, your life will be a lot happier.

Sometimes, in order to create something beautiful, you have to get dirty. The best things in life come with a fair share of dirt.

The grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence. It’s greener where you water it most. So instead of wanting what others have, make what you have better.

A garden has plants that provide beauty, as well as those that provide sustenance. It is the same in life. Not everyone or everything has to do it all. That includes you.

A plant that grows best in the sun won’t thrive in the shade. This is true, no matter how much water or fertilizer you give it. It is the same with people. Focus on your true talents, and don’t think you have to be something you are not.

Sometimes what makes a garden grow can smell pretty awful. It is important to remember that we all get our nourishment in different ways. What helps one person grow and bloom may not work for another.

A garden needs extra care in times of stress. The same is true in life. When the world around you is difficult, take care to nurture your relationships with everyone, including yourself.

Gardening requires sharp tools and a big heart. Make sure your sharpest tool is your mind, and cultivate your life and garden with your heart.

Things in nature can’t be forced. If you plant a seed before the ground is ready, it will shrivel and die. The same is true in life. Plant happy seeds when the time is right, and allow them to grow at their own pace.

When looking at your garden, focus on what needs to be straightened or trimmed or pulled. Just as often, you need to step back and see the garden as a whole, appreciating the beauty and ignoring the imperfections. Allow the beauty to make you happy.

Things in life almost never turn out as you planned. It is a waste of time to be angry at the squirrel for planting a pecan tree in the rose bed. Instead, look forward to seeing life’s little surprises.

A garden is for sharing. Let the birds, the bees and your neighbors enjoy it. When you keep it all for yourself, you lose out on the joy that comes from sharing.

Admire other people’s gardens, but don’t love yours any less. What you have is special in it’s own way and admired by someone else as well.

Weed or flower? It’s in the eye of the beholder. So, before you yank another weed from your garden or your life, be sure it doesn’t have something to offer that you might have overlooked.

Gardening and life are both more fun when shared with others. The extra bonus is that you can always learn something new, and you can share your knowledge.

You have to prune away the old growth to make room for the new. So it is with ideas too. Let go of whatever is holding you back, and you can find yourself blooming in ways you never thought possible.

Remember that some friends are annual; they pop into your life and give it a quick burst of color. Others are perennial; they come back year after year, and you can always count on them. There’s room in your life for both.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Building a Rain Garden the right way!

It sounds like a bit of a rant.

Well it is. Not being mean, and trying to not be rude, but I feel that I need to do this.

I saw a post about building a rain garden. Someone used a magazine article, which actually was a good article, and they did attribute and thank the magazine for letting them use their info and picture. But they inserted their words into the article, and gave advice that was incorrect, IMHO.

I am a Certified Rain Water Harvesting Specialist in Texas, having had training that is available above and beyond normal training through the Master Gardener program. Rainwater harvesting is a big deal down here, especially with the droughts we have experienced lately.

It may well be that you can do this and this and that, and install all sorts of extra rocks, gravel, soil, and whatever else. But it certainly isn't necessary, nor even desirable. Common sense is common sense.

The purpose of a Rain Garden is to manage storm water that rushes off impervious surfaces; the roof of your house, sheds, or even the road or a sidewalk. The water rushes to the storm drains, into streams, rivers and lakes, and carries many pollutants and chemicals with it, AND our precious water is gone too! What the Rain Garden does is trap the water and allow it to seep through the soil, cleansing the water and allowing it to percolate back to the aqua systems.

The Rain Garden is NOT a treatment for the wet spot in your yard! To put it there defeats the purpose of the Rain Garden; If the area doesn't drain well, it isn't going to do a bit better just because you planted a garden there. It doesn't drain for a reason; clay soil comes to mind, or heavy equipment could have been stored or parked there for a long time. Building a rain garden is work, and there are much simpler fixes for that wet spot than putting in a rain garden. Fix that low spot, either by filling or by installing drains! A Rain Garden installed in that 'wet spot' in your yard could easily become a fantastic breeding ground for mosquitoes.

A Rain Garden is a man made depression in the ground. We have clay soil here, so this rain garden is pretty shallow. The garden is 10' wide x 52' long x 12" deep. But that size and that depth, creates a garden that handles the water off this building and drains in 24 hours. If we had sandy soil that drained faster, we would have dug it out to at least 18", but not ever much deeper.You can get a good idea of the layout of our rain garden. The garden should be at least 10' away from the building. That is important. The water comes off the building very fast, down the downspouts (2 of them), and runs the 'river'. That's what the kids call it. We didn't use anything except some landscape fabric to keep our rocks and gravel from disappearing into the soil in the river bed, and we didn't dig the river bed out. We did build embankments of a few inches and really pounded them solid, so they wouldn't wash away. Lay the fabric and the rocks and gravel. The water runs under the little bridge. We dug out under the bridge so that water would fall fast enough to not be dammed at the bridge. The garden basin is dug to 12", and the soil taken from the basin is used to build a berm on the outside edge. This berm will help to hold the water, so it can trickle through the ground below. Pile soil around the basin, and whack it with the back of a shovel, then stomp it until it is very solid. You want it really compacted.
We mulched the rain garden with hardwood mulch, and planted many of the plants that grow wild in our ditches and pastures. We planted buffalo grass on our berm, but you don't have to. You can use that area to plant flowers, ornamental grass and small shrubs and trees. We are now removing patches of grass to plant flowers; drifts of black eyed Susan, coneflowers, Blackfoot daisy, native clematis, rock rose.....

A word about mulch; Do use hardwood mulch, so it won't float away, and it won't deteriorate quickly. Don't use pine, you will just wind up with a mess.

We set out to put in a Native Plant Garden, and were confronted with this rain water, rushing from the downspouts, and eroding the ground at the building; thus the Rain Garden was incorporated. This garden has grown a LOT! Kids are always in here, they love that bridge. We have birds and butterflies galore. We had so many butterflies last year that a woman was seen 'stealing' our caterpillars! Grrrrr.....

A Rain Garden doesn't have to be this size or shape, and you don't have to plant natives in it. You can plant anything you want, just be sure that what you do plant doesn't mind having wet feet every once in awhile.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Choosing veggies, for newbies....

LeSan of BlueGate Gardens said in response to my vegetable post. "I don't grow veggies on purpose. The birds have planted a few pumpkins, which I enjoyed very much. A neighbor gave me a truck load of tomato plants that got blight and turned to black mush. I do buy ornamental cabbages every winter for the splash of color, but have to keep them on the porch, or they end up like the tomatoes."

Well, I thought about that. She didn't say she didn't like to grow veggies, just that they didn't fare well in her garden for some reason. So, I thought, there is always a remedy. For every problem, there is a solution.

One of the secrets to successfully growing vegetables is variety selection. All those little letters behind the name of the tomato mean something. They indicate that the variety is resistant to blight, or wilt, or whatever. The more letters, the more resistant. This applies to all vegetables, but we will use tomatoes as an example.

For instance, "Celebrity" tomatoes, while not my favorite tomato plant, makes a very good crop of tomatoes, AND it is resistant to almost all diseases that affect tomatoes. You would see these letters behind the name.

This from Totally Tomatoes (where I buy a lot of seeds!)

00175 - Celebrity Hybrid Tomato

(VFFNTASt) This AAS Award Winner established a new standard for main-crop hybrids requiring multiple disease resistance. Highly adaptable from Canada to the South. Medium sized, globe-shaped fruits are crack-resistant and average 7 oz. Semi-determinate. Maturity is 70 days.

This what the letters mean.
V- Verticillium Wilt
F- Fusarium Wilt*
N- Nematodes
T- Tobacco Mosaic Virus
A- Alternaria Stem Canker
St- Stemphylium Gray Leaf Spot
TSWV- Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus
(The FF in the letters behind the Celebrity name indicate that it is resistant to F- Race 1&2. If it said FFF, it would mean F-Race 1,2& 3.)

This will give you everything you need to know about the plant and the fruit. Semi-determinate means that they don't produce all their fruit at once, but will not go on forever, producing tomatoes as they go. Indeterminate vines will produce until the night temperatures get too warm, (actually, 'warm' is HOT!) then they will not set fruit any longer.

Another thing to consider, especially if you are a novice vegetable grower; Don't make your whole crop heirloom varieties. The heirlooms have wonderful fruit characteristics, but almost no resistance to disease. (You could graft them, but that is another post; later on that.) Choose hybrids along with heirlooms, if you must have heirloom plants.

So, at least in the beginning, pick the hybrids that have the letters behind the name, and pay attention to the days to maturity. If you have a short growing season, don't pick a variety that takes a long time to produce fruit.

AND, if you live where it doesn't get to be 90 degrees all night long, your indeterminate tomatoes may last until frost. I never thought of that before, but I would say it could definitely be a contributing factor.....

May I suggest to some of you that "Champion" tomatoes are the best, most fantastic tomatoes that I have ever grown. These indeterminate vines have been known to produce 72lbs of fruit per plant!

Have I bored you to tears yet? Sorry, my soapbox. LOL

Friday, November 13, 2009

LUV those vegetables!

I am back in the vegetable garden! I love to grow vegetables! So much so, that I took a 2 day specialist class with the Master Gardeners on growing vegetables back in August.

They put these classes on, and a MG can sign up to take them, with consent of his/her Extension Agent. I have a year to get in 12 hours of volunteer service, teaching about growing vegetables. I have taken several specialists classes by now.

I planted 18 more cabbages yesterday , and 12 broccoli plants. The broccoli is replacement, as the first dozen I planted didn't do very well. I pulled them out and started over. I planted 6 'Green Magic', and 6 'Packman', and they are all for my husband. I would never eat broccoli! Not in a million years, not even raw. YUK. But, I do love to see it grow.

The cabbages.....

I already have cabbages growing. I don't know what the varieties are, 'Early' something, is one. Six of the cabbages planted yesterday are red cabbages. We will not eat all this cabbage. I will not make sauerkraut. I like to make stuffed cabbage for New Year celebration, and steam some, stir fry some. And, of course, I like it raw, in slaw.

Most of my cabbage I give away. I give it to my kids, friends, family, neighbors, and finally, I give it to the cook at our county jail. I don't think it an odd choice of beneficiaries, the jail, as many of those incarcerated are trustees who help the Master Gardeners with the hard physical labor of our projects. Some of them are there for menial infractions, but because they have no money, they have to stay in jail...I am not a bleeding heart, I just think they should have good things to eat too.

Those are not weeds in this bed, They are onions.

I love to grow Swiss chard, too. Not because I am going to eat it, but because it is sooooo beautiful! I grow 'Bright Lights', and how can anyone resist all those beautiful red, pink, yellow, orange, lime green, and white stalks?

I planted dill, onions, petunias, lobelia, garlic, radishes, lettuce, lettuce, lettuce, peas, and Asian vegetables. Also, parsley, both the curley and the flat leaf.

This, I have to show you. I have started some seeds of this plant anew, as I would like to grow it again this year. It is cardoon, a relative of artichoke.

This was 12' across! We called it dinosaur food! It was just gorgeous when it was only foliage, but when it put on purple thistle looking flowers, it was spectacular! (That in the next bed was artichokes, and the tall plant being RED hollyhocks. They were over 10' tall, and looked like a Christmas tree!)
We still have tomatoes and peppers, and beans. Herbs are beginning to pick up, with the cooler weather. And, the Laura Bush petunias are up. I always grow flowers with my veggies. It makes the veggies want to be more beautiful. Competition is a good thing.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Honor the Veteran......

Today is Veterans Day for us in the USA. It is a time for somber reflection for me, and a time of joyous remembrance, too.

My family has been soldiers since forever, I guess. We have Grandfathers of some Greatness buried in the Confederate Soldier Cemetary in Austin, Texas, and we have Grandfathers who fought in the Texas Revolution. They came from Tennessee and Georgia to Texas.......

This is something I posted for Memorial Day, 2008. I would love for more people to read it, so I am posting it here again, in hopes that it will interest you.

~ ~ ~

Remembering Mama and Daddy.....

This is Mama and Daddy, holding me and my sister, Debbie. This picture was taken in/about spring, 1947. I am the cute chubby one in Daddy's arms.

My Dad was a military man, which is what made me think to post this today. He spent 12 years in the U.S. Army, then switched over and stayed 14 more years in the Air Force. Daddy retired from the military at the ripe old age of 42, and spent the next 33 years as a fishing guide on the Texas coast. He fished the bays, as opposed to the Gulf. He loved to fish.

We lived all over the world. My brother was born in the Philippine Islands. The 'Baby' of the family talked with a British accent for a full year after we returned from England. Today, we are thankful for the experience.

My Mama was as military as Daddy was. She was the perfect wife for him; dutifully packing up the household and dragging her brood across country or national borders. It was all the same to her. We loved it, thrived on it, and missed it when the moving was done. Life wasn't always easy- I believe this picture was taken during the 'chicken house' period. Mama said that for awhile, housing was so scarce, they lived in a chicken coop.

That must have been tough.

Of course, we were never completely sure of the truthfulness of some of these stories. Daddy told us once that he was flat-footed because a tank had run over his feet during the war. We believed him, and told that story all over school, then found out in our adult years that he was just funnin' us. LOL

I remember when we went to England, we rode to New York City on the Greyhound bus. It took us 3 days on that bus. There was a lady riding most of the way with us who was going to Washington DC, and she had big briefcases full of papers with her. The Supreme Court had agreed to hear a case that she had brought before it, and she was going for the hearing. Today, I would love to know what case it was, and what the resolution was.

I remember Daddy today, and am humbled by his service to our country. He did not lose his life in battle, but laid his life on the line for us anyway. He got to Europe on D-Day, and walked to Germany. He said the most scared he ever was during the war was when the radio operator made an error and directed their own air support back on them. Daddy didn't talk about the wars much, until his last days.

Only if he would be ill and run a fever did he ever talk about the war. Then, he would rave. I never understood why that was so, just that it was. During the last few months before he died, he would tell stories about the war and about his family to my sister- the one Mama is holding in the picture. She was the 'Keeper of the Stories'. I was relegated to doing his manicures and cutting his hair. He seldom trusted me to give him a shave tho. LOL

Daddy served in Korea as well. I remember the morning he came home like it was yesterday. Shortly after his return, he went TDY to Matagorda Island, home of a Radar Bombing Squadron. He was in Heaven there, for Matagorda Island, 12 miles off the Texas coast, was a fishing/hunting paradise for VIPs, both in the military and in politics. The RBS squadron was not as important as the fishing/hunting. They called it "Special Services", and that was Daddy's job; Special Services was code for fishing.

We learned at an early age that 'loose lips sink ships', and we did not talk about what Daddy 'did'. I remember one time, he was gone for several days. Only after it was all said and done did we learn that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had been meeting on the Island. That was a very big deal.

We tried to get his records once, because we wanted to find out more about his life when he was stationed at Fort Sam Houston. He was in the Cavalry there, and worked with the mules. He always told us that he had caught dandruff from those mules, and that was why he lost his hair. We were scared to go close to a mule for years, lest we get the same dandruff!

If we had his records, we could have found out where he worked, what barracks he lived in, and things like that. But because of his security clearance, his records were sealed. We will be long gone before they are available.

Daddy died in 1991, followed by Mama in 1992. They are buried in the little cemetery at his beloved Port O'Connor, Texas. Mama used to fuss that she didn't want to be buried there. She said that when a storm came, that cemetery would be under 20 feet of water, and so it would. But when Daddy died, she could not bring herself to bury him anywhere else, even knowing that she would be right there with him, if/when a 'big one' comes in.

I salute all those veterans who have served to protect our freedoms; Those of the past, those of the present, and those of the future. I am thankful for Them.

~ ~ ~

Today, our Sons and Daughters have joined the ranks of the Veterans. Our Grandsons, Granddaughters, nephews and nieces, and the children of friends and neighbors are the soldiers. I am thankful for them, and very, very proud of them!

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Hoop House....

We are recycling people. So much of what we do starts with parts and pieces of other things.

The hoop house is no exception.

My Husband built this marvelous hoop house for me. Unfortunatly, I can't get a better picture of it for you, as we have disassembled it now, and given it to a friend to use at her house. We needed the room for the expansion of the SHOP (more about that later)....
This hoop house started very modestly as two (2) junked trampolines. Bobby took them apart, and cut the legs off each section. He put two arcs together to form a main rib of the house.

The two trampolines provided 4 main ribs. We used inexpensive PVC that is used for sprinkler systems for the additional ribs. The whole thing is held together with long (21') pipe that is actually the top rail of a chain link fence. They come in various lengths. Bolt it all together with carriage bolts, and use lengths of treated wood at the bottom. Also, we used some pieces of rebar to secure the bottom of the hoop and keep it from blowing away. I think he drilled holes in the trampoline frame, then hammered the rebar through at an angle and into the ground.

The hoop house is 22'L x 18'W x 11' in height.

A purchased shade cloth for summer, or greenhouse grade plastic in winter, this hoop house is wonderful for propagation or storing plants. It saved many plants from the summer sun, and from the harm of freezing in winter.

AND..... it kept those trampolines out of the landfill, and it was cheap to do.

Cheap can be real good.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I've been honored with the Honest Scrap Award again.....

Twice! I hope that vrtlarica at Moj Vert and Wendy at Greenish Thumb will both forgive my tardiness in attending to this. You have all read the Honest Scrap Awards. I love to read them. I learn something good about someone, every time they start telling things about themselves. Most really make me chuckle at how alike we all are. It is that little ornery streak in everybody that keeps us interesting. How interesting would we be if we were all puritanical and perfect?

The rules are;

1. Praise the Honest Scrap Award.
2. Name some others as winners of the Award.
3. Tell 10 true things about yourself.

O.K. so lets see if I know 10 honest things about me. I've done this before already; there may not be a whole lot left!

1. I love to buy shoes. No, I mean, I LOVE SHOES! I bet I have over 100 pair, stuck back in odd places, where they are not too obivious. I am always giving shoes away. I wear a size 71/2, so if you or anyone else needs shoes, please contact me. Also, I need counseling on this, so if you know the magic words to make me stop buying shoes, I would appreciate hearing them!

2. I have only been to Starbucks once, back in May, when we went to Conference in Marshall, Texas. The guy waiting on us talked a foreign language, I could not understand all that 'mocalattahalflite' whatever, so I just ordered a cup of regular coffee. Big mistake! I got some of the strongest, really nasty tasting coffee! I meant like Folgers, you know? REGULAR coffee!

3. My husband is really proud of me. Right now, he is proud of me for going to Weight Watchers. (I need to lose weight, I want to lose weight, it is just hard to ignore good food. Back to what I was thinking about...) A couple of weeks ago, I was shopping and dropped him off at the Eagles Lodge so he could visit with all those birds, and enjoy a Lite Beer from Miller while I shopped. When I came to pick him up, I made a little side trip to the powder room and some woman followed me. "I just wanted to tell you that I am so proud of you for going to Weight Watchers!" she said. I don't even know this woman. WHAT the hell has he TOLD all these people I am wondering! My friend Linda, who is whatever a girl Eagle is called, told me he is just proud of me, is all. LOLlol. He is such a sweetie.

4. I am having the greatest time watching my kids raise their children. I always have to stiffle a snicker, try to keep it from becoming a full blown GUFFAW, when they bemoan something their children have done. My daughter looked at me with such a look of suspicion the other day as I was trying to NOT giggle over her tale of the younger daughter showing such 'dis-respect'. I remember it like it was yesterday, she doesn't have to tell me! Kids are always going to be kids.

5. I love office supplies, (much the same way that I love shoes...hummm.) I seldom shop that I don't bring home some pens, or notebooks, folders, hanging files, reams of paper, reams of colored paper, calendars, a new stapler, hole puncher, rulers, scissors.......I just LOVE OFFICE SUPPLIES! I could spend hours in an office supply store! Some of my best friends are clerks in office supply stores!

6. I was out of high school for 17 years before I went to college. It was a good thing I waited. By the time I went, my mind was made up about just about everything. I was primed to learn.

7. I have never suffered a broken bone- yet. Not saying it couldn't happen, and for that I pray for protection, but hasn't happened yet. Also, I have never had the mumps, nor chickenpox. Knocking on wood, here,

8. I have been privileged to live all over the world. Daddy was a soldier, and we got to go with him. It was a great life for us, but I was always the 'outsider'. I still am, having lived here only 11 years, but it is o.k. I have learned that sometimes, it is advantageous to be an outsider. Nobody asks you to take sides, if you are an outsider. LOL

9. I have a greenhouse, and I love to putter around in there. We built it of windows from an old church school. It has no heater, but it does have an exhaust fan and a chandelier. I had another, a hoop house, but we took it down and gave it to my friend Pat, so she can putter around too. Click on Pat, to see a picture of her explaining to us just how she injured her knee doing the YYYY-Mc-AAA dance!

10. I don't think I have a favorite plant, but I am very drawn to cacti, succulents, desert plants, and native plants. I have a big blue agave that has the most beautiful markings. I am not sure it is normal to be so enthralled with markings on the agave plant, as most people (I have noticed) don't pay the slightest bit of attention to them. Why do they have such a profound effect on me?

The last thing I am supposed to do is name people to write their own truths. I would like to invite some of our new Blotanist to join in here, and tell us about yourselves. We would love to hear from you and about you.

This a pretty friendly group of folks. Don't be a-scared, as my grandson used to say.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

It makes me dizzy....

Did you notice? I have changed my blog. Not all of my blog, it will still be the same blog it was when it had a cream colored background. I just wanted to spiffy it up a bit, so it would look the best it could, but I am not always certain what looks best, so I got out a colorwheel. First, I tried using this one. It turned out to be pretty complicated, so I got out another.
This one is complicated too, and I wasn't exactly sure what to do with it. So I tried again.
And again, and again.

Each colorwheel offered a n new set of choices, and each got more complicated than the last.

How would I use this?
These would seem to be pretty straightforward, but they are really more complicated than I can handle. Simple!
I need simple!

Not this, although it is very pretty...
And not this one, WHAT does that one mean, anyway?
And I am not sure what Pearl, Hot, and Ultra are supposed to do for me either.
I finally gave up on color wheel charts, after I found this one, and I couldn't use it. This one is the Aggie Color Wheel Chart, and it should be easy. Is it me, or is it the color wheels?
So, after all this, I just went to clicking on buttons, changing this and that color, until I came up with what you see. I may leave it awhile, but don't be surprised if you come back and it has a cream colored background again.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Gardener's Blessing

May the bunnies never nibble on your young and tender shoots.
May your transplants settle in and put down hardy roots.

May your weeds come out real easy and your lawn be fungus free;
May you never put your back out, or inhale a bumblebee.

May your roses never stab you, or your hoses spring a leak, and
may everyone come calling when your garden's at it's peak.

May you never grow too weary as you toil for hours and hours, and
may you never be too busy to stop and smell the flowers.
--author unknown

Wishing the Blessings of a garden for everyone

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A basic guide for a herb garden....

I am going through my seeds, preparing to plant in the herb garden. I am not an herbalist, I just like to grow and use herbs. I mostly just cook with them, but there are a couple of herbs that are good for other things. I digress.....

I got to thinking about which herbs are the easiest to grow, and the most practical to have on hand. Lots of people think you have to buy the plant to have the plant, but in most cases this is not true. Herbs can be grown from seed very easily. The trick is to have patience; Herbs generally take longer to germinate.

This is a pretty basic list of herbs to grow for culinary use. I am going to list in number of plants, since most people will not grow from seed. In mild climates, this plan can be used now, for those of you with winter, you might want to refer to it in spring.

Chives, 3-4 plants. They don't take much room, and they multiply. Garlic chives are also wonderful, good to chop and sprinkle on fish or baked potatoes.

Bay- 1 plant. This is a must have. Also, this is a tree. It is very aromatic, bring it in the house for the winter if you have harsh winters.

Dill- 4-6 plants. You can do succession planting with dill, so that you have seeds when you need them and foliage when called for. Also, it will reseed fabulously!

Thyme, 4 plants. You can use English thyme, or common thyme. There is also lemon thyme, but it is not as practical as the common.

Fennel, 2 plants. One plant for you, one plant for the butterflies.

Tarragon, 4 plants. Be sure it is French Tarragon. Russian Tarragon has little flavor or aroma.
And if you are in Texas, well, Texas Tarragon isn't the same thing.

Oregano, Greek, 2 plants. This will spread nicely. You will use it for everything.

Mint, 2 plants. One good Spearmint, one good Peppermint. Grow them in pots, to keep them from taking your garden for their own.

Parsley, 4-6 plants or more. Curly variety and flat parsley. You will use a lot, and the butterflies will eat you out of parsley.

Rosemary, 1 0r 2 plants. If you live where Rosemary is not hardy, grow it as an annual.

Sage, 2 plants. Any variety is good.
Winter Savory, 2 or 3 plants. Very good in Italian cooking.

All of these will grow through our winters. They like it cool, and many will disappear when it gets hot.

There are a few other things you might like to add to your herb garden.
Garlic. You can plant garlic, it will grow and multiply. There are many varieties of garlic, and it is all good.

Onion. Multiplying, bunching, or green onions. A bucket full of multiplying onions planted in the herb garden is a wonderful asset. These are especially fun for children to grow.
Cilantro, a pack of seeds. Depending on how you cook, cilantro can be very valuable in the herb garden. It is especially used in Mexican cuisine. Another name associated with cilantro is corriander. The seeds of cilantro are known as comino, a necessity in preparing carne guisada. Cilantro is the plant with the little white flowers in my picture. It reseeds nicely.

In summer, I grow Basil. Lots of basil, from seed. It germinates very easily and quickly.

These next two are not for culinary use.

Comfry, you will only need one. This plant will multiply, and grow a large clump. It is used to make a poultice by pounding a few leaves, wrapping them in cheesecloth or such, and applying it to scrapes, scratches, cuts, and bruises. It is a very, very excellent aid in the garden, if you are clumsy like I am.

Also, I love lemon verbena in my herb garden too, but I don't know that it has any culinary uses. I use it when I am to teach a class or speak at a seminar. I get very nervous, and I cut a few leaves to keep in my pocket. Bruise a leaf and take a big whiff of the aroma. It smells delicious, and it is very calming, for some reason.

The last thing I favor in the herb garden is flowers. Calendula, snapdragons, and nasturtiums, as well as Laura Bush petunia are favorites of mine.


Dixie and the sticky trap.....

Everybody knows we have a boxer dog. Her name is Dixie. We are crazy about Dixie, and sometimes crazy because of Dixie.....

Dixie is a very unique animal. We got her as a kind of rescue; her owner's husband didn't like her and was going to do something really mean to her, so we took her. She had lived in a pen with a 6'wooden fence around it for at least 2 years. Nobody to talk to, nobody to play with. She was kind of neurotic.

Nobody was even home when I went and picked her up. I just walked in and put a leash on her and walked her to my truck. She sat on the seat so quiet, watching all the scenes passing by as we drove the 30+ miles home. When we got home, she wouldn't come in the house, she was afraid. But our dogs always live in the house so Bobby picked her up and set her up on the bed with him. He petted her and talked to her, and she had really acclimated herself to sleeping on my side of the bed by the time he quit talking. The dog had figured it out! These people were pushovers!

And we are.

Life with Dixie is......different. I am not sure if it is just the breed, as Bobby says that 'Boxers are like that', or if it has to do with her unfortunate life, but she is a challenge. She is ALWAYS into something, so life with Dixie is never boring!

One day, while I was at my desk paying bills, a mouse came out to check that I was doing it right. After all the EEEKKKing and squealing, I realized that my Darling didn't take it as serious as I did. So, I went and purchased one of those sticky board traps for mice, the ones that smell like peanut butter.

For those who are upset now about the poor mouse, let me assure you that no mouse was harmed, or even trapped.

I was careful about setting this thing out. I chose a space where the mouse had been, up high, where nothing was there to interfere with it, and where I would not set my coffee cup on it.

Dixie must have watched me put it there, because as I was cooking supper, that Dixie stealth-ed up on my chair, on to the desk, and snatched that sticky trap! She took off with it, straight to where Bobby was watching TV in the bedroom! How she managed to carry it without getting it stuck to all her parts is beyond me, but she did. Did I mention that Dixie loves peanut butter?

So, she snuggled up on the bed with her prize, having her back to Bobby, of course. She must have known instinctively that the sticky part was bad news for boxer dogs, so she flipped it over. On the sheet. About that time, Bob realized she had something and started an investigation, so she stepped on it.

So, now it is stuck to the sheet. Old Bob is in a panic, she has done this right under his nose, so he roars into the kitchen, and starts to beller about did I have a sticky thing that Dixie could have gotten?.........Yeah, on the top shelf of my desk, I used to have one.

Why I had to pull it off the sheet, I have no idea. Part of my frugal nature, I suppose, that refuses to allow me to throw away a perfectly good sheet! I soon learned the folly of THAT!

I wound up with that sticky stuff on my hands. I am trying to finish cooking supper at the same time I am trying to get this stuff off my hands......Where is Bob? Watching TV in the bedroom, of course!

Just let me tell you, I learned that the damned sheet is not important, once it has sticky mouse trap stuff on it. It is never going to come out. I threw it away.

Also, I learned ice does help. Then use baby oil, cold cream, cooking oil, salt, soap, lemon juice, and when all that fails, get a butter knife and a piece of fresh ice. Harden the sticky stuff as much as it will harden with the ice, and scrape it off with the butter knife. Somebody told me that WD40 could take it off.....

Life's lessons are hard. Now I know how the mouse feels. He should stay out of my house.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I got mail!

A good friend sent this bumper sticker to me in the mail.
It makes us sound very hardy, and I was once, but don't believe it now! If it is a very small and very venomous snake, I could whack it with a shovel, maybe. I would usually run screaming for help. I am a sissy about snakes. DH has had to dispatch some Cotton-mouth water moccasins, as they are very poisonous and aggressive, and they get in the pond, but we usually leave the snakes alone.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Where are YOU planted?

I participated in a blog-a-rama type thing once, and someone asked where in the world was everybody. We were to post about where we live, and link back to the original poster so everybody could read what everybody had to say.

I enjoyed it very much, and I was thinking that since we are such a global community, and everybody is so unique, it might be a good thing for us to do. It has not been done since I have been here, I know, so.....I will go first. Here goes.
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Just a bit of Texas history.....

TEXANA, TEXAS. In 1832 Dr. Francis F. Wells and his sister-in-law, Pamelia McNutt Porter, founded a community in south central Jackson County that later developed into Texana. The village was originally named Santa Anna after Antonio López de Santa Anna, at the time a popular Mexican liberal, soldier, and politician. In 1835, however, after Santa Anna had proven himself an enemy of republican government, the residents of the settlement changed the name to Texana. During the Texas Revolution of 1835-36, Texana served as a port of entry and training camp for many volunteers from the United States. Dr. Jack Shackelford's company of Alabama Red Rovers camped around Texana for about two weeks before joining James W. Fannin's command at Goliad. In the spring of 1836 the citizens of Texana joined the Runaway Scrape. "Uncle" Jeff Parson, a slave during the Runaway Scrape, told how the "old town of Texana was abandoned, not an individual was left on Jackson County soil, all were in flight-where they were going no one knew."
After the battle of San Jacinto, when republic officials organized the surrounding area into Jackson County, Texana-one of the oldest American settlements-served as county seat. In the summer of 1836 the Army of the Republic of Texas established Camp Independence on acreage belonging to Sylvanus Hatch about four or five miles from Texana. The next year Camp Independence was the site of the famous duel between Felix Huston and Albert Sidney Johnston. That year also saw a public sale of town lots that encouraged set
tlement. In 1840 Texana incorporated as a municipality. By 1880 the town had acquired regular steamboat service, mail and stage routes, a booming business section, and its own newspaper, the Clarion. As late as 1882 Texana was a thriving port with as many as twenty ships docking each week. In 1883, however, the New York, Texas and Mexican Railway bypassed the settlement, precipitating a sharp decline. Shortly thereafter county voters elected to make Edna the county seat, and by 1884 Texana was a virtual ghost town.

From "Handbook of Texas Online- Texana, TX"

Actually, what happened is that the town of Texana refused to allow the railroad a depot in town, so the railroad established a town of their own. It is called Edna, Texas, and survives as our County Seat today.

And now, they built a lake over Texana, and called it Lake Texana. I thought that bit of our history interesting.

These are my ideas about where we live, and the place we now call home.

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Where in the world am I?

Why, I'm in Texas! The only place for me!

We are in Jackson County, Texas, with Edna being the County Seat, and a hub of activity. We are in the Gulf Coast area, about 90 miles north of Corpus Christi, 100 miles south of Houston, and we can't go much farther east. We are in zone 9a, about 35 miles from Victoria, Texas. This is "Texas Revolution country", and Jackson County was one of the original 23 counties formed in Texas. On this map, we are between Refugio and Palacios, at that spot where the bay nips into land the farthest.Refugio is pronounced Re-fure-e-o, by the way.

We garden year 'round. I am growing veggies right now- cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, onions... even tomatoes and peppers still.....Brussels sprouts.....(I hate eating these vegetables, if they are cooked, but I love to watch them grow). I have lots of flower seedlings; Poppy, snapdragon, calendula, sweet peas, viola, pansy, and dianthus are all starting to peek out of the ground. Things are still leafed out, as our foliage usually falls around Thanksgiving. My confederate roses are in full bloom, and they are just gorgeous. Hibiscus are also blooming, as are my roses, and lots of other flowers.

We have nasty black gumbo for soil, but we can grow anything in it. It is among the most fertile of soils, just doesn't have much air in it. Slick when it is wet. Hard like a brick when it is dry. I figure I am going to use some of it to throw some bowls one of these days. Our primary problem with our soil is that it is very alkaline. That is hard to fix.

I have been a Texas Master Gardener for about 11 years. We have a fairly active group, and I have served as secretary, vice president, and president. Now, I am resting. There is always some project or another going on. We put in a nice Native Plant garden, with a Rain garden incorporated into it, in partnership with the 4-H kids. It was fun, planting this, and I am very proud of it.

This is a very rural environment. Even in town, it is 'country'. We don't live in Edna, but in a small community about 10 miles away, if you take the back roads. We do have a post office, where we live, but no mail delivery. We have to go to the post office to collect our mail. It is o.k.

In Edna, we have a WalMart, an HEB grocery store, several florist, Mexican restaurants, Pizza Hut, Chinese restaurant, LOTS of attorneys, about 5 banks, and goodness knows how many churches! Maybe 8 churches? or more. We have a hospital and 3 nursing homes in the county, I think. A lot of doctors (Specialists) come in on a regular basis from Victoria or Houston, or wherever. Beauty shops and barbers, furniture stores, jewelers and dentists. We have it all.

Important to me, we have a good hardware/lumber yard that will usually give the big BOX stores a run for their money. I love to buy lumber, and hardware, paint, glue, whatever......

We are actually almost on the bay, but the way things are laid out, we have to go around about 17 miles to get to the salt water to fish or whatever. That is fine with me. We also have hurricanes around here, too, sometimes, and we keep an eye on the sky and an ear to the weather report during storm season. I have a list of everything to pack up, and it gets updated, even in the winter.

Lots of ranching, and farming here, so we have good feed stores. Most of the kids do 4-H and/or FFA, and most raise an animal for the fair.

We have lots of cows, rodeos and real cowboys, and country music dances on Saturday night.

Our county is very generous to us gardeners. They maintain a brush site, where we can haul all kinds of refuse from the garden, and they grind it up for mulch, which eventually turns into compost that they will load for us, free of charge. We also have a cotton gin close to where I live, (a few blocks) where I can get all the cotton gin trash that my little heart desires. It has been composting there for years, and is BEE-ut-i-ful!

This is a good place to live. I invite y'all to visit, when you can.


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I hope you have enjoyed reading about where I live, and I hope you will share with us your thoughts about where you live. Maybe name it in a similar manner, so we know you are participating. I am looking forward to learning more about everybody.