Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

For the past, the present, and the future............

Thank You!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Moment In Time

For about an hour today my world disintegrated and I faced some of my nightmares.  My son went missing from a locked fenced back yard.  He is learning disabled and nonverbal.  In a fit of something he managed to force the double gates open.

Emergency response started looking as soon as I called them, within 15 minutes of him disappearing.  We had a time frame because I periodically check on him to make sure he's okay.  Within thirty minutes a whole collection of friends and acquaintances started showing up at the house to help us look on foot.  I was calling everyone on my phone list regardless of how I knew them although good friends were the first called.

Approximately 15 minutes later one of the helpers that was walking (pacing) with me along the road in front of the house looked up to see my son coming out of a neighbor's house.  For whatever reason, their front door had been open and unlocked while no one was home.  And for whatever other reason, my son decided to explore their house.  And that is, as far as we can determine, where he had been the entire time.  Curled up on a bed in one of the back rooms under the blankets.

The adrenaline is stilling crashing out of my system.  It will likely be doing so for another day or so.

That is an hour of my life that I would prefer avoid a recurrence of if it is at all possible.  Yet at the same time, my prayers were answered even while I panicked.  He was safe.  He was kept safe even though I did not know where he was.  He was safe even though he shut his service dog outside the house when he went in.  He was safe. 

Thank you seems like too little to say to his guardians who kept him safe until I could be with him again.  It seems like too little to say to the emergency workers who searched for 45 minutes or so for him.  It seems like too little to say to the friends and acquaintances that came running, as fast as they could, to help look for him.  But there are no other words to express the deep gratitude and relief that came not just from finding him, but from knowing that so many would come so fast to help.  So Thank You!

I am once again reminded what treasures my life holds in it.  I'll try not to need quite such a sledgehammer to the head again any time soon.

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Wonderful Garden Weeding Tool

Okay, before I get to the rest of this post - yesterday's harvest resulted in enough yummy fresh peas to make five servings.  If I hadn't munched some it probably would have been six.  This was from a very full 7' x 4' raised bed.  I'm not going to do the rant on a different part of gardening because I'm sure you can do the math yourself.

Now to the point of this post. 
I love this tool.  It's called a stirrup hoe. It turns what would be an hour of more of hand weeding into 15 to 20 minutes, if that.  Last year I had forgotten that I had this wonderful tool in the garden shed.  I remembered at the end of garden season.  Yup, another palm to forehead moment.  Especially when I realized how much it would have helped me when I was weeding Dad's gardens.  In particular, the extended rock garden.

Now I do a lot of things to keep weeds from popping up because I hate weeding.  The need to weed is part of any garden so I truly love any tool that makes that weeding go faster.  And this tool does that.  Note - I hate regular hoes.

This hoe goes below the surface and cut/digs out weed roots.  And it doesn't move the soil itself very much.  After I run it through the bed it's only a matter of minutes worth of effort to grab the weeds and toss them out of the garden bed.

There is one problem though.  I'm working in tight spaces.  When I use this hoe I'm standing up, which is wonderful for my back, but not so wonderful for my aim.  As a result, I only tend to use this hoe when the weeds have gotten really bad (which is how I forgot about it). 

So this weekend I'm going to look for another one while I'm at the flea market.  I got this one as part of a bulk buy at an auction in better times.  If I can find another one, I'm going to turn it into a hand tool.  Then I'll have the best of both worlds for handling the weeds.

Fingers crossed for finding another one I can afford.  I hope your weeding is at a minimum.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Fresh Peas II (and a seed bank rant...)

Okay the pea plants are starting to fade.  We've got less than a week until June so that's actually normal here.  And the weather went from Bi-Polar to Hot!  So I harvested today.  All told I got about three pounds of fresh peas to peel tonight.  Yummy! 

And I may get another two pounds when I cut the plants out in two weeks.  I'm cutting them out because I have garlic planted underneath them and I don't want to disturb it.  And I expect I'll harvest more then because I'm quite sure that I missed some that I will find when I'm not worried about not damaging the plant.  And then the plants will end up in the compost pile.

Now the rant.  Or more a "because I care" message.

There are a lot of folks out there that are selling "seed banks" for "disaster times".  And there are a lot of people buying them and setting them in a corner for those "disaster times".  And there are a lot of people who are going to get a really, really hard lesson in reality if they ever have to fall back on those seed banks.  I'm leaving out all the sections on the hard realities of gardening and just addressing seeds here.

This year I decided to clean out my seed box before buying any new seed.  I've had massive fail rates on those seeds.  I expected it but I wanted "to be sure" before I went buying new seed.  And even with the massive fail rates, I still got some plants and that meant that I could buy fewer plants/seeds.  But if I was solely dependent on what had been in my seed box for food - we would have starved.

Now at this point some of you are thinking "well it was old seed and she didn't store it correctly."  And you would be correct.  But then we hit the new seed. 

Now new seed bought in the last couple of months should have a really good germination rate.  Now this is the point where those of you who garden start thinking "but she didn't germinate them correctly" and want to teach me about sterile pots/soil/etc.  And you would only be partially right.  One tray of seeds didn't get babied.  The rest did. 

With new seed, being babied, on plants that almost always germinate regardless of most conditions (pumpkins and squashes), I'm getting a 0 - 25% germination rate.  And this is seed from the big companies not cheap seed packs.  Okay, granted this is seed purchased at big box stores, not from the better online companies.  But this is the seed that is in most of these seed banks.  And I got similar germination rates for direct sowed seeds in the garden beds.  New seed.  Folk, these are seriously bad germination rates for me.  I normally get at least 80% germination even if I goof off and forget to baby the seeds/seedlings.  High enough that I don't plant entire packets and I make plans to give away the extras when sprouting is done.

Now here is where I smack my own hand because I know better than to let so many years go by without using seed and saving my own seed fresh.  But you folks who are putting aside these seed banks don't know this.  And there are a lot of people who are just learning to garden that don't know this. 

So, if you absolutely must have a seed bank that you don't create from your own plants each year.  First, please view it as a yearly expense and replace your seed bank seeds every year.  Max - every two years.  Second, please get organic heirloom seeds.  Then you know you have the best seeds to give you every possible chance at success.  Third, store whatever seeds you get in a cool dark place in your house - even if they are sealed in a can or mylar.  Oh, and honestly, seal them up yourself.

Now, if you are as broke as I am replacing the seed every year is daunting.  Especially when you are talking about replacing it with organic heirloom seed.  But there are a couple of ways that you can do this without doing major damage if you can't grow a large garden from year to year. 

My first suggestion is to team up with someone you know who gardens regularly.  You can do this by offering one of two things.  First, offer them the seed bank in exchange for a matching amount of fresh seeds at the end of harvest time.  This is fair because while you paid for the seed, they will be putting in the time and effort to grow the crops and harvest them in a manner which provides seed for replanting.  They will get paid for this effort with the food that they raise and the seed that they can save for themselves.  But be honest with them about the age of the seed that you are providing.  And expect that there will be failures which you will get no seed for, but then they will get nothing either despite the work they put into it. Second, if you don't already have a seed bank.  Offer to buy them seed for the plants that you want seed for.  Buy it fresh that year.  Then the rest is the same agreement.  This can be a really beneficial relationship on so many levels. 

The second suggestion is for if you don't know someone who gardens, or you want to learn more about gardening yourself, you can bypass working with someone else.  Just grow one or two of each plant each year in a small plot or pots.  Then save the seed from those plants to work with the following year.  Don't toss the prior year's seed until you have harvest this year's seed.  That way if you end up with a problem you can try again.  Actually, I would save back a couple of years but then I'm super cautious.  Even if you have a low germination rate you should be able to get some seed.  There are problems with this idea in regards to pollination and genes but it's better than nothing.  And those problems are why I suggest keeping several years worth of seed.  If needed you can back up to prior years seeds, and while the germination rate will be lower, you can "undo" issues that may pop up.

Okay, that's enough rant.  I've got a mischief child who is giving me funny looks because I'm eating peas in the pod.  :-)  I'm going to go do some peeling and then head out to harvest a wild crop.  Hopefully some of you are getting some good harvests as well.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Fresh Peas

Okay, I messed up in planting peas and didn't realize it until I caught sight of the empty seed packets yesterday.  The oops?  I planted both edible pods and early peas.  Ah well.  I'm going to pick them all when they are plump enough and shell them.  Mischief child will only eat peas that are not in the pods.

And there are a lot of pods.  Much, much more than I got last year!

But I did sneak by the garden bed today and grab a handful of the edible pod peas.  Just to taste them.  I had to make sure they are good, you know.

And they are.  I might have to sneak a few more tomorrow.

Friday, May 17, 2013


I swear that it's not just Spring that's gone Bipolar.  Nowadays every day seems to have the swing from one extreme to another.  Fortunately for my sanity, the good is equal to or better than the bad.  It's nice.

The garden is still going strong.  The potato plants have exploded upwards.  Even two bags of potting soil wasn't enough to lift the soil level to the next board.  So next week I'll be getting four more bags.  And fingers crossed that we will get a lot of potatoes this year because we are definitely eating a lot of them.

The peas are seriously happy.  And even with pods on the vines they are growing even taller.  Next year I will have to double the trellis height.  Right now I'm looking forward to the yummy harvest.

The greens are doing fabulous.  And I've been teaching more than one person the basics of doing a "cut and come again" greens garden.  And we brainstormed on doing them in a variety of ways, including gutters and upright PVC pipes. 

None of the cucumbers came up, even though I used new seed with the old.  So I gave in and bought starter packs.  I will be putting up that trellis next week, and the one for the tomatoes.  Some of the tomatoes and peppers are already flowering.

I got the sweet potato slips, and got them in the ground.  Then I discovered I could start them myself at home.  It was one of those palm/head moments.  I remember reading something once that had convinced me that you shouldn't start them at home but I can't remember what it was for the life of me.  So starting next year I will be starting my own.  One less expense.

One of the ideas shared was doing strawberries in upright 8" pvc pipes.  I like the idea but I'm debating altering it slightly.  The original had them set up as a fence line with bracers between the pipes.  I'm thinking about making them the corners of the trellises for the garden beds.  My only conflict with this is that I move the trellises with the plants.  So if I do it, I may set them in place as permanent uprights at the corners and sides.  Then I can add the remainder of the trellis elements as needed for whatever is planted in the garden bed.  Of course there is an area that I could do them as fencing along, but it's rather deep in the shade during late spring and summer.  So it's probably not the best spot for strawberries.

It finally got warm enough that I could put the Ghost peppers out in the garden.  I was surprised at how small the root system was considering the size of the plants.  These are definitely going to have to be pampered through the dry months here unless that root system does some amazing things once it's in the ground.  But I'm looking forward to harvesting them and making stuff for my brother.  I'm also debating testing them in my Hab Gold recipe.  It should be interesting.

And now that I'm coming out of my shell more I'm finding more similar minded folks.  I've found a couple who are just as much into gardening and canning as I am.  And a couple more who want to be.  It's been absolutely wonderful to be able to freely talk about stuff and brainstorm things.

So the positives are outweighing the negatives right now which is definitely wonderful for us.  I hope the same can be said for you all.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day

Okay first off:

Happy Mothers' Day!

That is for all of us who are raising children in our lives right now.  And those who have raised their children.  And those who for some reason have lost their children.

But I also wish a Happy Mothers' Day to all of those women who would have been mothers.....except for some reason their baby's souls went home before the baby was born into this world. 

I have a dear friend who has been pregnant quite a few times in her life but for whatever reason, the pregnancies were never able to come to turn.  She didn't abort.  She did everything the doctors told her to.  But for whatever reason, all of her children came and left before it was time for them to become part of the outside world.  And she loved each child dearly while they were with her.

She nevers gets to hear folks tell her "Happy Mothers' Day", although she is a great aunt for the kids in her family.  A great "aunt" to my son.  Heck, to be truthful, a great "aunt" for any child whose parents will allow her to be.  When we lived close enough, she was my son's second mother.  And in my, and his heart, she still is.

So for her, and all the women out there like her, Happy Mothers' Day.