Using milk to grow pumpkins. Thanks Laura Ingalls Wilder!

You are reading the second version of this post. The first was very wordy. I wrote about Goodreads (which I do recommend for the book people out there), Reading Challenges, trips home, the bookcase,  yada yada yada.

The short story  is that I am currently reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, and am really enjoying it. Yes it’s considered children’s reading, but its great. I’ve traced the families movement on Google Maps and I love that there’s an accidental (or maybe not?) history to it. In the 3rd book, “Farmer Boy”, there are several nuggets of wisdom as they introduce Almanzo (who Laura will grow up to marry) and his life on a farm in New York.  It’s neat to learn that some of the practices they used on the farm were familiar to my dad, and were still employed on the small farm where he grew up.

One example is how the family saves the corn crop from frost by pouring cold water over the plants before the sun hits them. Dad taught me that years ago, but I’d never actually seen it in print before, so it was noteworthy to me.

The other example is the process the family used to growing a huge pumpkin to enter into a festival. This is the section shown in the main blog image. They find the best plant and strip it down to the best leader vine and the best pumpkin. Under the leader, they dig a rut and place a bowl of milk. Then they run a wick from the milk to the leader, where they have made a small cut just big enough for the wick. This way the plant feeds on the milk and by trimming the plant it can focus all of its energy on producing that one pumpkin.

HOW COOL IS THAT?

little house pic2

So of course I called dad.  When I asked if that sounded familiar he said “Oh yeah.”, like its common knowledge, and maybe it is for some. He said that he heard of people putting an entire leader vine into a gallon that they kept full of milk, and that it didn’t take long to soak up the entire gallon and they grew like crazy.

After doing more research, its fairly common to  follow this process, but I still think its neat and I’m excited to try it out next year. Little did I know that I would end up with another experiment after reading “Farmer Boy”, but there it is. I guess you never know when a great idea will find you!

The folks over at Gardening Know How have more information on the process if you’d like to check it out.

Wilder, Laura Ingalls, and Garth Williams. Farmer Boy. Harper & Row, 1971.(Thanks easybib.com)

 

Laura Ingalls post

Advertisements

Fertilizing the pea garden with banana tea.

The yard and garden are giving hints that Fall is getting closer. The poke berries are gone and the leaves are wilting. Tomato plants and potatoes are drying up and I couldn’t be happier. I get excited about pumpkin flavored things and freak out when the first leaves start to drop.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the vegetable garden. It looks horrible right now. Part is covered with weeds, part is starting to die off, but part of the garden is ready for fall plants.  This week, we are planting more Nantes carrots, which did really well last year, and peas.

Back in the spring I planted peas and failed them. Somehow I planted them then moved on to other parts of the garden, completely forgetting about them. They grew quickly, but with no supports to climb, they knotted up into wads about 6″ high. I tried to correct the issues by building a half-assed trellis and carefully tried to untangle the plants,  but it was too late.

So, with this planting I am working on the soil and adding a permanent support for them them to climb.  Peas are new to me this year. I read that they like phosphorus and potassium, which made me think of the 3 bananas I found in the back of the fridge. After some research I learned that it’s actually pretty common to put banana peels (organic is best) in the garden for the nutrients. Most sites call for chopping up and dropping the banana on the ground to decay, or burying them near the plants.  Our dogs have been known to break into the garden to investigate new smells (resulting in them eating every squash plant after they were sprayed with fish emulsion).

For that reason, I went with a banana tea recipe. Hopefully once it dries, and the ground is turned over there will be little trace of the banana. Wishful thinking anyway.

FullSizeRender(6)

For this experiment,  I took the 3 very very ripe bananas, removed the stickers,  and chopped them up into chucks small enough to fit in the blender. The skins and the fruit can be used here – they both have beneficial nutrients. The stems were very dry and hard, so I removed them.  These bananas looked bad, but had no rot – I would have trashed the rotten pieces. I blended them with a little water and added them to the biggest metal container I could find. About 12 cups of  hot water were then added to the pot and it was allowed to steep overnight. This is not a pretty process (thus no pic of the finished product), but it smelled like banana bread, so it wasn’t that bad.

FullSizeRender(7)

The next day I took the mixture and poured all over the area that will soon be the pea bed and trellis. Next steps are to add a bit of better soil to the spot and turn the dirt just to mix it all a bit.

Keep in mind this is an experiment and I will follow up with results. It sounds like it should be beneficial, right? Here is another resource if you are curious about the other ways of using bananas in your garden.

We will see!

 

Quick steps:

  1. Remove stickers, any rotten sections, hard peel (or anything that wont blend well)
  2. Cut into chunks appropriate for your blender or food processor.
  3. Blend like a madman.
  4. Pour mixture into large pot capable of holding hot liquids that is also easy to carry.
  5. Add hot water and allow to steep. (Above I used 12 cups of water and 3 bananas. I based the amount of water on the amount of garden area I wanted to cover.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

A sweet gift – honey from Grandpas farm.

Can you believe the color in this thirty-year old jar of honey?

Dad came to visit last week and brought two jars of honey that grandpa jarred for the family.  They are still beautiful.  It’s probable that they are the last from grandpas bee gums.  He’s been gone many years and I assumed all the honey was eaten long gone also. Sometimes I want to open the honey and eat it a dozen ways, and other times I feel like I should put it on a shelf and keep it forever.

Maybe eat one and save one?

honeyclose

Bye bye, bluebirds.

Over the last week the young bluebirds have been much more curious about what lies outside of the birdhouse.  Even as we sat on the deck, within 6 or so feet of the box, they would hang their heads out of the box to check us out. Today they seemed more interested in the cardinals, catbirds, and other birds eating suet nearby, and before long one was standing in the entrance, thinking about flying off.

All three ended up leaving within a few hours. The first two I watched, but the last one was shy (leading to the nickname Shy-a la Bird,  which is probably not funny to anyone other than me), so I set up the camera and left him alone.

The video quality impressed me as it was zoomed to the max and resting against a dirty window about 8′ from the bird house.

Good luck blue birds!

 

Old tools: What’s a corn shucking peg?

Today’s post is about an old wooden corn peg that my dad gave me a few years back. His good friend, an old man in Abraham, WV gave him to him before he passed away. He used the peg to shuck corn from the field next to his house. Grandpa Collins also had a cornfield. As a kid I remember seeing his truck parked next to busy roads selling bushels of corn to people driving by. The peg has become one of my favorites because it connect memories of dad, grandpa and the old man in Abraham. (The gentleman in Abraham had a name, but I honestly don’t remember it – I only remember hearing him referred to as “the old man”.)

Back to the corn peg, the peg is basically a pointed piece of wood with a strap on it that would go around your middle finger. The sharp end would be used to pierce the husk on a ripe ear of corn, allowing you to more easily pull the corn from the stalk. While researching, I came across this article on Catherine’s Corner website that was interesting.  Once of the family stories is of the harvest and using corn pegs.

Another new development for this post – VIDEO!  This is my first video, so don’t judge too harshly. You can tell I haven’t shucked corn since moving to Georgia, but you get the point. Hope you all enjoy.

 

 

Where have all the summer squash leaves gone?

Today I bravely fought the mosquitoes and got a few things done in the backyard. Twice I watered the newly planted grass, a mixture of Kentucky Fescue and Rye, that was sown in the bald patches the yard has developed. I’ll admit that I don’t care for growing or mowing grass, and as long as the yard is green I couldn’t care less if its fescue or dandelions. The problem is that the yard has developed bald spots, which led me to reseed the entire yard.

FullSizeRender (7)

The vegetable garden is starting to produce  – tomorrow swiss chard, jalapeño peppers and banana peppers will be picked. The peppers will go to the freezer, the chard into salads and soup. (Can you freeze chard? I need to research this…)

FullSizeRender (6)

While mulching and checking on the garlic, i noticed an issue with the squash plants that were put in the ground a few weeks ago. Every leaf is gone. Well, that’s a slight exaggeration – there is one leaf left.  My first thought is that worms ate the leaves, but with no remains its hard to judge that. There is another pest that lays eggs inside the stem, which leads to the leaves drying and falling up, but the stems look fine. I looked for signs of rot, but found none. The plants look great other than the leaves are gone. This leads me to think that a critter ate them (mice, possums, squirrels, chipmunks and raccoons are common) but no other plants were touched. There are loads of green tomatoes, strawberries and beans within feet of the squash. Why would they pass those up?

I’ll continue to research, but at this point I think it was an insect that left and quickly as it came, or my dog, who is adorable, but who ran directly to the squash this morning when I opened the gate. Why would she eat the squash leaves? No clue, but I have caught her chewing on nails and a lightbulb before I’ll admit its possible.

FullSizeRender (5)

 

Spring Garden – halfway full.

Atlanta’s average last frost is around tax day, but since the weather has been so nice its probably safe to start planting the spring garden. Last fall the garden was enlarged, more than doubling the size. We also added a drainage ditch that cuts across the garden in roughly the spot where the “old” garden ended.  The layout above isn’t pretty, but it worked in helping me prioritize what I want to grow.

So far we have planted:

Nantes Carrots

Swish Chard

Chard (can’t remember the type)

Strawberries

Garlic

Red Onions

White Onions

Potatoes – 1 hill of red and kennebec (i think)

Brussells Sprouts

No beans yet, but I’ve set up the bamboo supports.  Most of the remaining section will be filled with tomatoes and peppers.