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?

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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)

 

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Grandma was a little ornery.

Dad says of all of the family, I take after his mom the most. Though we were around each other often, it seems that we never really got to know each other. There were always so many things going on – people, projects, etc –  when we visited, so it’s understandable. I remember she was always cooking, showing off her flowers, and worrying about her ducks, and that sounds just like me so I assume Dad is right.

The photo above was in a stack of old photos that Dad brought down on his last trip to Georgia.  It’s just a neat photo, and reminds me of a story that dad told me about her years ago that cracks me up.

She lived right next to my aunt.  Her washing machine had died, so she was at the aunts house doing laundry. Judging by the tone in the rest of the story, she had been doing laundry there for a while. My aunt suggested that she buy a new washer, which Grandma apparently did not agree with. After much discussion (arguing?), my aunt reminded her that she can’t take her money with her when she dies, to which Grandma yelled “Well, I can’t take a washing machine with me either!”

 

2017 Eclipse – Atlanta’s View

Hello everyone! Yesterday a large strip of the country experienced a solar eclipse. Our suburb of Atlanta had about 97% totality – about 74 miles north was the edge of the 100% band. We played around with the new camera paired with the solar viewer purchased from a local museum and got a couple of good shots. The one above is my favorite. Heavy, dark clouds kept breaking the view, and this was taken just as the sun peaked from behind them. The sepia tone is due to the color of the viewer.  I’m pretty happy with the result and wanted to share. Thanks for checking it out.

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Building up the pollinator garden.

For 2017, we really tried to add more blooms to the garden and back yard for the pollinators.  It’s just never been a priority, but I’ll admit that I’ve enjoyed having them around and thought I’d share some photos I took on the Canon G7X that I was given for my birthday. It’s the best point and click camera I’ve ever owned. These pics are unedited, only resized. I’m no photographer, but the quality is pretty good for just pushing a button. The video of the baby bluebird leaving the nest for the first time was also made using the Canon.

 

The gaura, butterfly bush, and the orange flower (do you know what this is?)  on the bottom left had the most traffic.

Gaura – Petunia – Dahlia

Nasturtium – Rose (unsure of type) – Butterfly Bush

Unsure – Impatiens – Rose (unsure of type)

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.

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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.

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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.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Southern California, Coachella, and being *less* stubborn.

 

Sometimes it can take a while to think about a trip and fully understand your thoughts about it. What you returned home liking could be very different from what you expected to like, and this was the case with my recent trip to Southern California.

To start with, this was my first trip to California, which most people find shocking. The truth is that I never really cared to go. Well, of course I want to visit EVERYWHERE, but it was never at the top of my list.  Places like The Badlands of South Dakota, Bar Harbor, Maine and St. Joseph, Missouri top my list, so it’s clear that Los Angeles would be the outlier if included.

The entire trip was beyond my comfort zone. We were attending Coachella (the huge music festival) in the desert, with lots of people. Heat, sun and crowds are normally my kriptonite, but I knew I would appreciate the experience, especially since we would hopefully get to see wind farms and some neat 50’s architecture in Palm Springs.

There are so many things to post about this trip, so I’ll touch on a few of the high points for me – the unexpected things that made the trip memorable.

#1. Los Angeles.  Really I didn’t get to experience LA, so these are a few brief and superficial thoughts until I get to visit again.  Los Angeles really is very smoggy. Yes, I’ve heard this before, and expected it, but seeing it was another thing all together.   The  iconic Theme Building at LAX has been on my architecture bucket list for a while, so thankfully I was able to get some glimpses of it.  Overall, LAX chaos made me appreciate Atlanta’s Hartsfield orderly chaos a bit more.

#2. Chino Hills.  While we didn’t get to stop and spend any time here, I made note of how pretty the hills were in this area.  In the same way that marshy coastal Georgia fascinates me as the murky transition from ocean to land, this area seemed to reflect the transition from the greener coast to the east and the desert in the west. Literally one hill would be green and the next desert.  I would imagine there are some good hiking spots around there.

#3. Palm Springs.  My expectation for Palm Springs was completely off. I expected a late 50’s version of lifestyles of the rich and famous, but found some beautiful houses and “normal” people. Most of the people we met seemed to be from somewhere else and had moved there to pursue happiness. At the grocery store I came across a guy wearing a West Virginia tee-shirt! I excitedly asked him if he was from West Virginia (who else would be wearing a WV shirt?) and he excitedly asked “Is this West Virginia?!?” as he pointed to his shirt.  I quickly retreated from the situation as Vacation Day 1 was too early to give someone the stink eye.  Our rental in Palm Springs was one of the most beautiful homes I’ve stayed in.  It’s recent renovation that calls on the areas mid-century designs. Small, but open and well designed. We stayed in the casita by the pool, which was a welcome change from the craziness at Coachella.  Staying at this house and lounging by the pool warrants its own vacation.

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#4. Wind Farms. I love wind farms. Seriously, I love wind farms. The design most turbines is sculptural and beautiful. Green energy is wonderful. The uniform movement does something for me that I find hard to explain. Obsessed? Maybe. Then when you put them in formation with others it’s an even greater experience. The play on size and space and perspective as they stretch across the valley reminds me alot of the art of Christo and Jean-Claude (another obsession).  Did I mention that I love wind farms?

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#4. Coachella. Wow.  Just wow. Basically Coachella is about cramming as much art and music as possible into two weekends, and then braving the heat, sun and partying to see your favorite acts.  If you knew me better, you would be surprised to see me going to this event. It’s the opposite of everything I usually like, but it was awesome!  I’ll even go so far as to say that its one of the best times I’ve had in years. I loved it, and am so glad that I didn’t try to wiggle my way out of the trip, which did cross my mind.  Yes, I was exhausted, tired, and a good bit older than the others attending, but it seemed well-organized and the people were friendly. Everyone was mellow and were just happy to be there.

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In hindsight, this trip was about comfort zones and trying new things, but also open-mindedness and being able to admit being wrong and then embracing it. I could have  (and in the past have) made an excuse not to go, or could have (and in the past have) been too stubborn to enjoy myself since I didn’t expect to. But I didn’t do those things, and had a wonderful time.

Lesson learned.

Could this be a Native American trail tree?

Have you ever seen a Native American trail tree?  Native Americans would alter trees in order to mark trails to important locations. It’s fascinating that they still exist in the forest and can be found today.  According to this Mother News Network article, “these markers were used to designate trails, crossing points on streams, medicinal sites to find plants, and areas of significance like council circles.”

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A few weeks ago, dad and I went down to Lake Horton, Georgia to do some fishing. Just off the main road to the lake, at a prominent intersection, there was a tree that looks exactly like a trail tree! 

It’s not a large tree, so I wonder if it’s even old enough to be altered by Native Americans.  A few searches on the internet yielded no information, so if anyone knows how to further research this please let me know. Though I would love for this to be a trail tree, it’s not likely. Still, its fun to think that it could be.