Friday, July 29, 2011

My Herd

I  may not have a herd of cattle. Nor do I have a herd of goats, or a gaggle of geese, I do however have a cat. Don't ask me what that has to do with this post. It doesn't.
I have a herd in miniature. I herd of beneficial insects. I am Oh so grateful for them. It seems they keep some of the other insects in check, but the mature insects that are the same size as they are or larger tend to go either unnoticed or simply cannot be overpowered. Then again, even though I can overpower an adult stink bug I sure as heck wouldn't eat it. So maybe it's a choice thing.
I just wanted to share a few pictures of different assassin bug babies in my lima patch yesterday. They are everywhere I look. Some are shy and ditch under the leaves as soon as they see me like this:
Others are more interested in seeking out playmates.

Some are carefree and just enjoy basking in the sun....

In this particular patch of beans the only sign of damage from any other insects is rather obvious. Grasshoppers have been in here. That is far too large an insect for these adolescents to take on. Otherwise this section is pretty clean of bad insects and since it is such I have no intention of disturbing this herd and losing ground to aphids, thrips, beetles, moths, and other not so nice bugs.
Beyond the occasional leaf miner my limas are obviously very happy with the care they are providing. I was so happy to see all those blooms I baked them a plate of cookies....

And then because they don't eat cookies I ate SIX of them myself. :-D
And brought the rest to work where they were devoured before lunch by the herd here. LOL.

I do need to lodge a complaint however.

Are you ready?
Really ready?

You sure?

OK here goes....

They eat ladybugs, too. :-(

I almost cried.
Apparently they are indiscriminate feeders. Any insect small enough to catch will do. I've noticed a decline in lady bugs in the garden. I mean it's really hot and about time for them to move on, but I'm pretty sure these critters aren't helping anything. *pout*

Think they make non-ladybug collars for them? Perhaps training methods to get them TO eat stink bugs and moth caterpillars? Humph. Too bad.

'Till next time!

Well, CHIT!

Didn't really think that you had heard enough did you?

I know Jody had asked about chitting and I'm sure there are others out there that may come across my blog, or some other blogs and want to know more.  Chitting was originally the word used for pre-sprouting or green sprouted potatoes. Like this:
It helps to ensure that if you are planting in wet or colder climates the potato won't rot before the plant itself has a good start. The roots tap into the potato for food, and the little tiny buds will eventually become the bushy foliage we all know and love. Without chitting most potatoes would rot long before the plant has the opportunity to get large enough to grow on it's own. The potato is a bit of an anomaly as most root vegetable do NOT like to be transplanted after they have started to  grow. Things like carrots, parsnips, turnips they will grow forked and deformed if not handled extremely carefully once the radicle or main tap root has been formed.

It's a practice that can be extended into most of the non-root vegetables. And here in the Deep South where the humidity and monsoonal rains can easily take out most seedlings, chitting helps immensely. You'll also see your young seedlings much stronger because they grow slightly differently when started this way.

Here is a picture of one of my tomato seeds after a few days in a moist and warm environment.

Now let's talk SCIENCE!
The radicle is clearly visible and if you look closely you can see the end of it is getting slightly hairy. Each of those hairs will become a (lateral) root to feed the growing plant. The embryo remains inside the seed coat still at 3 days old but after only another day it will begin to push out. In less than a week the Cotyledon leaves will emerge at which point this little baby will need to have already been put into it's first pot for the best start.
Seedlings grow both up and down when in the ground, but by forcing the seedling in this way or 'chitting' the root emerges prior to the plumule or what will be the stem. In effect making the root stronger. It also means that the embryo gets an extra couple of days before it has to truly begin putting forth effort to produce the energy that is required to get out of the seed coat.

Did I lose you? OK - it means that the seed can use less energy to get going - thereby hopefully making a stronger seedling in the long run.
What seeds are best to do this with? Well here in lovely super duper buggy and moldy Florida beans, corn, peppers and tomatoes are absolutes for me. Sure they can be planted without this step but fewer of the plants make it to maturity then.
For peppers and tomatoes I do what you can see in this picture and what I see most people across the good old US of web do - put them in a moist paper towel, in an open ziploc and stick them somewhere warm.
For corn and beans? Aw, now that's too easy. A nice warm bath in a bowl of water for a day will do. Amazingly after only one or two days I can usually already see the little radicles peeking out! It's helpful with the larger seeds like this not to wait too long because they are far more fragile and those little bitty roots will pop right off if you aren't careful. So soaking for just overnight or 24 hour is usually plenty for these types.

What's that? You do this? You just didn't realize it was called that? Ah, well - No Chit!?
Aw, C'mon don't think any less of me now. I have 3 kids at home, remember? They think (especially the twelve year old) this type of humor is just OH so punny...
Stay tuned - I'll be back in a little bit with bug pics!

Oh and something back in the garden after a slight reprieve...
My how I've missed my little cuke friends. Enough that I already ate half this before I took the picture. LOL Welcome back, friend!

'Till next time!


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I chit too much.

No, seriously. There should be a program for this.

Right now I have chitting:
Rutgers 5ea
Tomande 2ea
Cherokee Purple 3ea
Homestead 2ea
Mountain Magic 2ea
Roma 4ea
Better Bush 2ea
Stupice 2ea
Matina 2ea
Black 2ea

And that is just the FIRST set of tomatoes for the fall. Me thinks me has an addiction. If any of the determinants that I planted 2 of don't grow well I'll be starting 2 more each. They are the trials for this fall. 24 tomato plants just to start? There must surely be something wrong with me! I only have room for that many. Guess I'll be looking for some more pots soon for the second set of plants. :-) So far the tomatoes in the pots are doing the best out of all so this could be good.

The bad news is that now that I've chitted, I'm in a chittin' mood.... (I like the word what can I say) I have a hankering to put in some  more beans or some corn. I'll have to rip something out in order to put something in so it's time to start thinking about what I want where because whatever I plant now will affect my cold crops latter. Believe it or not I'm only about 6 weeks away from starting some of my wonderful winter veggies! That's odd considering I can still start melons and beans, and mater, too - but SOOOO nice.  I can't wait to get some broccoli and carrots and lettuce in again. Don't even get me started on the spinach. MMMMmmmmm....

'Till next time!


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

19 Days and counting...

Only 19 days...
YIKES! There are still school supplies to be bought, and a whole lot of organizing to do. Mostly with my schedule.  I have to figure something out so that being gone form the house for 12 hours a day and still getting dinner/bath/homework/cleaning done each day is manageable. I just don't know how I CAN.
I know that now it seems insurmountable, but in a few short weeks it will all fall in to place. Right? S~U~R~E...
So I'm obsessing just a tad bit and trying to rearrange my mind. In doing so I've come to the conclusion that the only way to start the school year is to CLEAN and organize the house first. I mean, after all a clean and organized schedule can only go so far, huh? :-) So first to be tackled will be well, school uniforms but after that will be the playroom. Then the loft, then the office, right down the list of places that collect clutter like magnets.
My goal for this? Is to make the toys disappear. Or seemingly at least. No more dollhouses downs stairs, no more barns. All the little stuff needs to be upstairs so if Heaven forbid someone rings my doorbell I can let them in without gasping and hiding my head in shame at the junk all over the floor that is inevitably, toys. They can keep coloring books, and chalkboard and such downstairs, but the other stuff needs to go. We won't be spending enough time down there during to week to warrant having them down there, and it's time to do a purge of the outgrown toys anyway.
Not only is it time to organize for back to school, but it's only a few short months until some little twinkers turn 5, and I am quite sure that my little purging of their outgrown toys will not yield the same amount of things that will be put into the playroom between birthday and Christmas time. ;-)
So, I have lots of projects filling up my head for the next few weeks and one friend who decided to swoop in and scoop me away for a nice sunset on the beach this Saturday night.
I'm looking forward to one of these crisp Florida sunsets and the night off sans kiddos even though I think I have too much to do to leave even for an hour I know I need the break. Hopefully I'll come back refreshed, renewed and ready to tackle those last things on my organize for school list!

I'm always ears for great ways to run a household schedule during this hectic time.

Till next time!


Monday, July 25, 2011

Harvest Monday?

Nah! Not today. The only thing we harvested this weekend was 6 quarters, some sunshine, and a new weed whacker!
That isn't to say I didn't bring in a handful of basil for my pizza and some Evergalde's tomatoes for salads but for the most part the garden was not producing this week. We put in some peanuts, and pulled some strawberries, yanked out the old yin/yang beans and put in some black eyed peas, but for the most part the garden was satus quo. I didn't go out much and it didn't really warrant it, either. It will be a few more weeks before it needs much attention from me again.

Here is my newest toy. Since Rich can no longer do the lawn work and I need to make things easier for ME to take care of this little toy is just for me it weighs in at 7lbs miraculously and the hardest part about using it? Is keeping the trigger squeezed. LOL. I guess that hand strength will come with time. It's battery operated so for now at least until we get caught back up with the yard work the battery is only good enough for the front yard before needing recharged to complete the back. I'm OK with that - my hand and arms can only hold it for that long, and that make me feel like a real WIMP.
Then again Rich complains about harvesting beans after 5 minutes and I could do it for an hour or two before I'm uncomfortable. I suppose we teach our bodies to get used to those things we do often.
Here is a picture of her, I think I'll call her Sally. (Ride, Sally Ride)

photo courtesy of Sears. :-) This Jobey is awesome. Plain and simple, and for someone with a smaller sized yard the battery would  probably be a fine size. I just wish more of my front yard was in my back yard! Then I could turn it into more garden. Of course at this rate I'll need to turn it all into rocks and pay for ROUND UP to come treat my yard just to try to keep up. I really don't know how I can do it by myself much longer. So far my only help has been that the garden is mostly in hibernation. Oh, and school is out - but it's only 20 days until the kids go back. YIKES! Then schedules will get even crazier again. Not to mention me. HAHAH! (I'll get even crazier then!) Somewhere between being gone from the house from 7am-7pm and coming home, dealing with dinner, homework, baths, lunches for the next day, laundry, and getting kids to bed I'll still need to find time to get out to do basic things like weeding, bug patrol, normal upkeep, watering and lets not forget cleaning the house........ Oh my - I'm feeling overwhelmed suddenly. Maybe I should look into more fruit trees, and less needy types of fruits and veggies. Is there such a thing? Something that will do well enough only tended to a couple times a week? I may also have to consider going non-organic in order to control things better less frequently. I suppose with things like dry beans and such it is one thing, but tomatoes, green beans and the like I don't know if I can compromise. (Not that I have a choice if I have to buy from a farmers market or grocers here)
Much to think about.

'Till next time!


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Crop failure!

Well, the one thing I think I was the most excited for this summer turned out to be - a crop failure!
Left in it's wake is a slightly weedy, very much nonproductive almost nonliving practically just stems
 piece of garden. LOL. This was supposed to be Yin Yang. I was SOOOOOOO looking forward to it beans. I couldn't wait to show them to my little girls. To hear the giggles as they talked about how they looked like little Shamu's. And, to top it off we had plans to back up the bean harvest with a trip to Seaworld. I guess that is just not gonna happen now. The irony here is that right beside these beans, only separated by about 6" (to the left) are THESE BEANS:
 A little different, No? Yes. Indubitably so. The beans were all planted at the same time. Treated the same way. Have the same soil. In the same part of the garden. Now, this could be as simple as the Yin Yang is not as well cut out for our Florida summers - that could be the case, true. I hate to go off ordering another $5 packet of seeds to find out though. I'd like to try them again in the fall though. Just look how robust these rice beans are... and they are flowering already, too.

While I'm doing an update of sorts. Remember that I said the assassin bugs love my tomatillo plant? Well apparently they've been throwing some pretty good parties in there...

The great big all red one is a new one for me. Never had one like that before. Don't know if it is just a new morph or a different type of bug altogether. There are several life stages here so - Any entomologists out there? There are a lot of firsts for my garden this year. Not only is it a first for assassins, but this red bug is new, the cucumber beetle (certainly not happy about that) is new and so is a white 'eyed' bug as well. That thing was wild. It made me run around squealing like... well, like a GIRL when it flew up at me. I may be of the female persuasion, but 'girl' is not exactly what most people refer to me as. After all. When the man of the house next door had a snake in his closet it wasn't my husband that ran to save him.

The Yin Yang was replaced with Black Eyed Peas, and the crew of assassins were left to be - though I'm thinking there IS to much of a good thing going on there.

'Till next time!


Monday, July 18, 2011

Harvest Monday 7.18.11

Did ya miss me?
I forgot to bring my totals with me but I didn't want to miss another week. So I'm linking into the party over at Daphne's Dandelions to show off harvest from all over the world.
This weeks harvest is really to celebrate the end of the 'Spring' tomato harvest. The fall tomato plants are chitting and I'm sure that their harvest will be abundant as well. I have a few green tomatoes still out on the vine but not many.
*sigh* It's bittersweet. I still have tomatillos coming in so it's not the end of the world, but it's going to be a rough 2 months until I get another round of slicers like this one. Thank goodness I still have Tom's Everglades and 2 other vines still hanging in to try to get me by.
Hot peppers are still coming in and this coming week I should a have a couple of bells to show off as well. Nothing huge, but heck - bells in this heat are something worth talking about! I just have to keep she-devil away from them!
Also in this week was the worlds smallest cantalope, butternut squash and watermelon. I think the 6+ inches of rain we got just set them to ripen much sooner than anyone had anticipated. I didn't take pictures of any of them because they were down right embarrassing. The butternut squash was the size of - a business card! Yes, about 3" long...and YES it was fully mature. and yummy, just TINY.  The watermelon weighed a whopping .75 pound and the cantaloupe fragrant as can be, sweet beyond my wildest dreams - was the size of a tennis ball. Yup. seriously. And the vine died from the excessive rain combined with 'the incident' so there will be no more of them. Well, no more for now. I'll start more vines. Maybe in the fall I'll get a few more to share. I've got another teeny watermelon growing on the vine and it hasn't taken on any more size in the last 10 days so I think it's time I said good by to it. If the next melon does the same I'm going to rip out all the vines, get some manure to dig in and start over. I don't know what gives, but something went wrong in the vine patch!

Till next time!


Friday, July 15, 2011

Puppy Chow make over (chex mix PButter/Chocolate snack!)

Came across this and I can't wait to try this recipe. This is always a stand by for the kickoff of fall around our house -but now that the recipe is not only lightened up, but also added fiber maybe we'll try this sooner. After all - this might make an OK side of grab it ang go snack for back to school - All three of mine go back in less than a month now!

So much better for you than Puppy chow!

Calories- 100 Total Carbs- 18 Fat -2g Fiber-5g Protein- 2
Makes 4 Servings
  • 2 Cups Fiber one Honey Squares
  • 4 Tablespoons “I can’t believe it’s not butter”
  • 2 Tablespoons Creamy All Natural Peanut Butter
  • 2 Servings Truvia all Natural Sweetener.
  • 1 Package of Fat Free Sugar Free Vanilla Pudding Mix
  • 2 Squares of Reduced Fat Chocolate Almond Bark
  1. In a large mixing bowl melt butter, chocolate almond bark and  peanut butter. (I used the microwave)
  2. After melted pour cereal into mixture. Stir gently
  3. Let the mixture cool for a good 20 minutes.
  4. After mixture has hardened pour the mix into a large zip lock bag, add the box of pudding mix and shake gently until coated

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Stiches, and little bits.

Right now everything is in little bits.

Like this:
Little bits of handfuls. Little handfuls of grapes. YUMMM

Little handfuls of Everglades tomatoes...Usually in my little bits hands. The girls eat these like candy. They are technically a wild tomato possibly more closely related to a currant. And, I like them so much better than most other cherry tomatoes. Those and Grannies Sungolds - the rest of the cherries will be pulled from the garden this week I just don't like the others flavors.
Little handfuls of parsley, basil for daily doses of cooking, dill, and green onions, and mulberries, too.
But what is coming in by the bushel? Rosemary! I wish I'd have taken a picture. AFTER taking off the wood I harvested 9 OUNCES of the stuff. Some people at work asked for some and I really wanted to get some back in my cupboard as well. This is one thing that grows with a vengeance in my garden and NO BUGS care to even look twice at it. I should have planted it at the end of the row rather than the middle - but that being the worst of my sins it could be moved if I really wanted to.
I haven't abandoned my blog, nor my garden. I've just been busy. Hubby went to the Spinal Institute of Florida this week and Thank GOD - no surgery. At least not yet. There are other options to explore first and so far he seems to be recuperating fairly well. THat is to say beyond the emotional scars that competitive tennis may not be in his future quite the way it has been in the past, and he may have to come up with a new hobby, sport and stress reliever. Tennis will have to be only for fun now. Poor guy. It's like taking oxygen out of the air for him. But, in time he'll adjust I'm sure.
The other thing I'm experiencing a little bit of is whiskers. It seems my son has grown some -

3 stitches. *sigh* When it rains it pours. And speaking of pouring - we've gotten over 6 inches of rain the last weak. It was great for some things in the garden, and not so great for others. It did finish wiping out what was week - and strengthened the things that needed that so all in all it was a good thing. I just don't have the heart to rip out some of my favorite things when there is a chance they could turn the corner and come back. This helped make my decisions easier. And with that another 30 gallon trash bag full of the suffering plants from 'the incident' have gone out of the garden. The turn around is nearly complete now and hopefully by the weekend the garden will be completely back to planted again.
Meanwhile I have no cucumbers producing which is a major shock to my system. It's very odd for us not to have some cukes in the garden at any given time that there hasn't been a frost. I'm trying to console myself with barely dilled pickles, but it's not working well. I may have to resort to the box store just for faster turn around. The rain dampened off all my seedlings I had started a couple weeks ago.
And, it's time for starting my fall tomatoes! My list for this seasons plants are (3 each):
 Stupice, Mountain Magic, Black, Matina, Tomande, and Chocolate cherry to trial
and my stand bys:  Roma, Cherokee Purple 
I'm running into problems with my HOA so I'm trialing the semi-determinate and determinates (and the cherry) to see if I can deal with the flavor/texture/maturation rates and sizes this fall. In the spring if all goes well I'll have a few of these determinates as well as some of my favorites again. So this weekend I will be planting up my first set of tomatoes for fall. I'm starting to worry about space for all of them, but I'm sure that my schedule will hold and they will go in the ground just like planned. Some day the second part of the garden will get done. At least part of it anyway.

'Till next time!


Friday, July 8, 2011

Cutting back.

Since it seems my big strong husband has been somewhat incapacitated recently with his back I've taken to really cutting back in the garden. Literally. I'm trying to keep the summer mess from getting out of control. Not to forget the mess that I am still cleaning up from the unauthorized use of my sprayer. *AHEM* but we won't talk about who was responsible for that.

We've also had a really nasty wind storm recently that knocked out my tomatoes, again. All but the ones in the orange trees suffered some damage. I lost around 30 immature fruit that would never ripen and are too small to make fried green tomatoes out of. My poor Key Lime tree (potted) got knocked all over the yard and even the pepper plants were banged up and are missing a few limbs and fruit now too. So the 'cutting back' theme is really being taken to heart right now.

The last 2 days I have spent limbing up any tomato branches that had snapped and while I was doing that I decided to go ahead and take any non producing ones out, too. It's much tidier in the garden now. In Florida most tomatoes will not set during our summers and so it is prudent to restart our plants for fall to get the best harvests. I did find that I still have 3 plants that are still setting fruit nicely. So now it is decision time and I must decide what would be best for the garden and for my family. We of course would LIKE to continue to have the tomatoes out there growing. However, they all have septoria and since the typical summer rains (monsoons each afternoon) and extreme humidity have now set in, it's likely they will all succumb to one type of disease or another given enough time. There is also the idea that while the new baby 'mater plants are growing inside the house and the patio that space in the garden will be open for other uses. A quick maturing crop obviously - but something could go there.

I also trimmed up the tomatillo plant. I say plant. It's really plants. I plant 2 together. Otherwise I would have to wait FAR longer than my patience can hold out for mature fruit. I whacked at that sucker until I got 2 trash bags filled with trimmings. It's still a good 3' tall and 3' in each direction. But it isn't 6 feet in each direction any more. And unlike the tomato plants I didn't lose very much unripe fruit. I cut loads of blossoms off - potential fruit, but not set fruit. This should allow the fruit that has set to mature faster, and the beans that the tomatillo was encroaching on to grow a little better as well. It will also hopefully discourage the stupid stink bugs from having a feast in there. BLECH!

This weekend it is supposed to keep to the monsoon pattern so not very likely that much will get done out there, but I am hoping to get the strawberry bed cleared, get in a  late patch of peanuts and continue to work on the blueberry shrub area. If I can manage just those things I'd be a happy camper, but my list of "TO DO" is getting much longer these days and my time is getting shorter. I think it might be time to bribe the children.

'Till next time!


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Independence Day~!

I hope that everyone had a safe and happy Independence Day!
We celebrated as only a set of 4 year olds and a 12 year old can.... with lots of JELLO. :-)

I;ll be back so with the recap of the garden. Things in life are just kind of taking over at the moment. I'll need to do a post on that next week, I suppose.  Meanwhile I will try to remember to get outside to take some more pictures as some things are recuperating from our little 'episode' a few weeks ago.
Have I mentioned here how much I love the rice pea bean bushes? They are so strong and lush. I wish that string bean bushes were like that, I bet they'd produce a whole lot more beans then. Anyway I'm looking forward to seeing the first beans forming soon on those plants and the Limas are flowering now along with the kidney beans, too. 

'Till next time!