Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Cukes and Beans & Greens and Rice

The big test was yesterday. It was really hard, so I hope to god I passed. I'm SO TIRED OF STUDYING! When I walked in the door I told my partner that I felt like my brain needed to fart... Oh well, it's over and I don't want to think about it anymore.

As a celebration to myself I bought some cukes (pickling and slicing) and okra (unmarked) and zucchini (Eight Ball) and eggplant (Ichiban). During the last ice storm of doom (we went 9 days without power in December!) a tree in the neighbor's yard lost two enormous branches which opened up some sun in my yard. I decided to risk planting directly under the tree, which isn't typically good due to how much of the water and nutrients the tree sucks up, not to mention the root situation, but I thought it'd be an experiment. Besides, I have no where else to put this stuff as I have an excess of shade... I'm hoping that since I added enough amendments above ground I might have a chance.

So I cleared the grass and weeds, rifled up the dirt a bit with a spade, and then built a long mound or skinny hill. I decided to further this experiment by trying to maximize space. I planted the cukes on one side of the mound going toward the yard. Then I pushed in a bunch of beans and soy beans into the back of the mound which is flanked by a wire fence. If all goes as planned the cukes should grow out and the beans should grow up. I hope!

I also transplanted the okra into the back garden and trimmed the monster photina hedge and some low branches from one of the trees. That will be a priority for me in the next few weeks: two trees are casting inopportune shade onto my backyard veggie patch. I want to trim them back a bit but I'll need more than just my limb cutter. One of the branches is probably 3 inches across.

In other news, something ate the Sioux tomato. I have no idea what or why. It was in the middle of the front bed which is loaded with other tomatoes whom are all still there and untouched. I went out a few days ago and it was broken off at the stalk but there was still one leaf branch attached so I thought maybe it would make it. The next day I came out and that was gone, too! I guess something liked that particular tomato! In any case I replaced it with another Golden Queen which is doing well and as of yet uneaten. It's unfortunate, though, because Siouxs are bred to withstand hot weather which is coming. And coming soon! Maybe I can try it out next year or find one at the farm market...

I thinned the turnips over the weekend and made a yummy and cheap dish last night. I love greens and rice! It's something I've been making for the past few years after a happy kitchen accident resulted from being grad school poor. I make it differently every time, adding different cheeses or more garlic or no jalapeƱos, you get the idea. Here is an approximation of what I made last night - I don't typically use recipes and just sort of throw things in the pot, so use your best judgment:

Wash about 1 pound of turnip greens very thoroughly and chop into bite sized pieces. Heat 1 tbsp of oil over medium heat. Chop about a 1/4 cup of onion and one jalapeno roughly. Saute for two minutes. Add 2 pieces turkey bacon and one large minced clove of garlic. Saute another minute. Add 2 cups cooked rice or make it in the pan (more flavorful) by adding the proportionate amount of water and stirring occasionally until the rice is done. Add the greens and stir, let wilt down until a bright green, about 2 minutes. Stir in 2 tsps soy or tamari or Braggs and 2 tbsp mustard (I used 1 dijon and 1 yellow, just squirted it out without measuring). Season with salt and pepper and maybe a teaspoon of lemon juice (I was out).

Dish up and to each bowl add red pepper (optional, but MADE mine!) and 1 tbsp shredded cheese. Delish!

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Ack! I have cabbage loopers! It's not a full-scale invasion yet, but I've had to pull them off several cabbage and broccoli plants. Some of them have been pretty well chewed, but I think I've caught them early enough. I don't know if I'll have to go ahead and use a pepper spray this weekend - the big test is on Monday, after all, and I have bigger fish to fry - or if hand-picking will do it. I wiped out several small colonies of the tiny yellow eggs, too. They look like small yellow mites or oblong dots on the undersides of the leaves. Rolling your fingers under the leaves usually smooshes them up pretty well. I'm really not a fan of killing anything. I'll save up a bunch of cabbage worms or snails (my premier nemesis right now) and walk them over to a portion of the yard where not much is happening. The yard is big enough that this is probably like me dropping them off in Montana in snail terms. Or at least I hope so. Otherwise I might have to start killing them for real.

I know both diatomaceous earth and hot pepper spray should accomplish this. Diatomaceous earth is a fine white powder made of ground up diatoms, which according to this site are skeletal plant particles. It's technically qualified as an organic or natural material. The plant diatoms are mined and ground up super fine and the microscopic particles act like sharp razor blades on soft-bodied insects, although it's harmless to mammals and humans (some references even cite its use as a flea repellent for dogs and cats!). You have to be careful when distributing it, though, as breathing too much can be irritating. Wear a mask or tie a bandana around your mouth and nose if you're going to be putting down quite a bit (the bandana is good for giving the neighbors a jump, too). While diatomaceous earth isn't harmful to earthworms due to the earthworms digestive processes, it is harmful to fleas, aphids, snails, etc. This means the good bugs and the bad bugs, so I'm trying to use it in moderation. Organic gardens rely on a vibrant culture of good bugs (biodiversity, ahem!).

The pepper spray is allegedly effective, as well, although I've had mixed results with it. I'm not sure if that's because I didn't spray it frequently enough (really bad aphid infestation on my tomatoes a few years ago) or if it wasn't strong enough or if I had pepper-resistant aphids! It's all about practice, I guess. Each year you learn something and each year it's just a little bit different. This year...I conquer the cabbage worm!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

It's Earth Day: Do you know what your impact is?

Hello on this lovely earth day!

Last year I started observing Earth Day Lent. A few others joined me and it was a lot of fun. I gave up two vices - Diet Coke and meat - for 40 days. In the year following, moving back to OK and back in with my fiance-of-love has upped my meat consumption (I could eat it once or twice a month and be fine, but right now we're at 3 times a week or so plus our leftovers). Diet Coke is back in full force (1 can/day), although I could probably see myself ditching it after my upcoming licensure test and it's twin sister in brutality, an oral exam, in June.

This year I'm going to try walking or biking to work everyday, barring a downpour or tornadic weather. Other things could include:

  • Sign up for wind power
  • Buy or make eco-friendly cleaners
  • Convert all (or some) of your light bulbs to compact fluorescents
  • Start recycling if you don't already. See if you can recycle more.
  • Commit to carpool, walk, bike, etc.
  • Give up a nasty corporate habit (like Diet Coke! or fast food!)
  • Avoid packaging that can't be recycled
  • Take the 100 mile food challenge
  • Etc!
I'm linking to this post because it captures how I feel about the past few years in my life. And I freakin' love the picture of the green globe!

Have a great Earth Day!

And here's a link to calculate your ecological footprint!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

herbal fairs and transplants

Today I attended the Sand Springs' Herbal Affair and it was huge! Much, much larger than I imagined. I heard 25,000 people attended last year! I went around 10 a.m. and people were packed in there like it was opening day of some pro sport. Only most of the people milling around were women hauling wagons and caddies. The really old women were all leaving - loaded down with their green treasures - and I overheard a girl telling her friend that they'd been staking it out since 7:30 a.m. even though it didn't open until 9 a.m.! Typical old-folk subversive treachery. How I envy their decreased need for sleep!

And of course there were plenty of men, too. In fact it was fairly diverse, despite what I wrote above. There were couples, young and old people, families... There were the state fair type vendors selling funnel cakes and corndogs (a prerequisite for any Oklahoma outdoor event involving more than 12 people). There were also upscale vendors, natural soaps and herbal products, craft booths, and tons and tons of gorgeous plants! I highly recommend this event to anyone in the area wanting to find unusual plants. It was incredible!

And of course, I couldn't resist! I added to my collection by picking up a Green Zebra, Amish paste, Mexican Midget, and Sioux tomatoes, common sage, two blood-veined sorrels (rumex sanguineus, so pretty! Beautiful for edible landscaping!), and a Suyo Long (Chinese) cucumber. Woohoo! If I had more space I probably would have picked up some medicinal herbs, but I'm feeling pretty full right now, in terms of maintaining the projects I already have going. That can wait until next year (or this fall. Or next month.).

When I got home I transplanted twelve tomato plants and a bunch of sweet basil (they heart each other) into the front bed (the study avoidance bed, incidentally!). I used Rodale's method combining 1 tsp Epsom salt and 1 tsp bonemeal and two handfuls of sifted compost. We'll see how that goes. It was really sunny out so I covered up most of the transplants with some dried leaves laying around. I'll make sure to take them off by tomorrow - if they haven't blown off. I just didn't want to add to their enviro distress by letting them get sunburned. I also planted a bean teepee with Romano beans. I've wanted a bean teepee for years! Once things recover from transplant shock and the beans poke up I plan to cover the whole thing in hay.

I got two bales of hay - $7 a bale, which seemed high? - at a feed store in Turley. They were so friendly and for a moment it felt like I lived rurally again, even though I was on the far north side of Tulsa! Two big burly farm boys loaded it up for me. They seemed dumbfounded that I actually wanted them to put the bales into my little Sentra. But they complied - one in the back and one in the trunk. I've heard hay makes a good amendment for clay, so I'm giving that a try this year, too. I'll keep you posted. This is my first foray into clay gardening. Too bad I don't have a wheel and a kiln...

Then I studied for several hours and whined about studying. I've got to get back to it, now, too. Ergh. I'll be so relieved when I can just putter around to my heart's content and not have to study for anything!


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Where the wind comes sweeping down the plains!

We've had solid wind for day one now, and we're working on day two. You'd think there'd be more than two paltry wind farms in this state. However, given that Oklahoma's senior senator, Jim Inhofe, Environment and Public Works ranking committee member - and most conservative member of either house of congress - publicly espouses the Bible as proof that climate change does not exist...well, I'd say we're lucky to have two.

A propos:

Q: Why is Oklahoma so windy?
A: Because Texas sucks and Kansas blows!

Seriously, all college football rivalry aside, my little plants are outside testing their mettle today. Yesterday they did pretty well and I gave them a little cover so they don't snap. But they need to get used to the wind. It's a near constant until it gets raging hot.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Frost blankets and procrastination

It froze here last night! Hopefully the last of the season. This one was two weeks later than our usual latest frost, but the record is May 6 back in 1909.

I bought a DuPont frost blanket a few weeks back and it seemed to work pretty well. I had half of the veggies covered with the frost blanket, another third covered by a sheet, and the last fifth or so covered by an old salvaged window. All of the veggies are winter/spring crops and so were fine, even under the sheet. The difference showed up in some dwarf french marigolds that I'd already broadcast about. They're mostly in the two-true leaves stage and the ones under the frost blanket and window were fine, while the ones under the sheet showed slight frost damage. They were just slightly gray and curled up at the edges, but hopefully still alive.

Early Morning Score:
Window: 1 pt
Frost Blanket: 1 pt
Sheet: Goose egg

In other news...the licensure exam is two short weeks away from today and in a breath-taking show of study avoidance I dug a whole new tomato bed out front. Fifteen by Four. In three days. I added chopped up leaves, three grocery bags full of pine needles (our soil is very akaline), 160 pounds of mushroom compost, and 200 pounds of manure. I'd been thinking about growing a bean tee-pee up front because it gets more sun. When I started checking the row out back that I've prepped for summer veggies, I got a little worried about the amount of regular sun - we've got a photina hedge that is getting a little big for its britches (so pretty, though). In any case, now I'll be able to try out both and save the third spring bed for crop rotation next year (never plant tomatoes in the same place twice in four years! FortheBibletoldmeso!)

In terms of summer goods (yippee!) we've got Paul Robeson, Ananas, Sweet Million cherry, Opalka, and Golden Queen tomatoes at the ready. We've got a habanero (hot and mild), red bell, jalapeƱo, ancho, cayenne, lemon drop, and Hungarian wax peppers at the ready. We've got some orange eggplant and plenty of herbs, plus seeds for melons, bush, pole, and soybeans to go straight in the ground.

In other words: we're ready (note the usage of the royal we).

Licensure exam? Well, I suppose we're ready for that, too. (Look at me! I'm not studying right now! And, in my own defense, barrister, I've studied in excess of 100 hours at this point, anyway.) It's a lot of material but my excuse is that digging helps me integrate my left and right brain material, making more solid memories of what I'm learning. Or at least it's a good way to burn off excess cortisol!

Hypothetical score:
Licensure exam: 0 pts
Me: 100! (Okay, that's an exaggeration, but I will kick the damn thing's ass...)

Saturday, April 5, 2008


Intros all around!

I’m a northeastern Oklahoma gardener, zone 6B, who desired a space to collect her thoughts - primarily when it’s raining - and record information about her garden. Full disclosure: I’m taking a brutal licensure exam on April 28. Until that date, this will probably be a fairly low-key, bare-bones operation. That is unless blogging becomes the new preferred method of distraction from studying (currently the main contender is digging the and amending the beds out back…)

Story and Credentials

I am not a pro and am not trying to sell this blog in that way. I’m more of a semi-seasoned amateur. I’ve gardened off and on (grad school is a harsh mistress) for the last ten years. I started my green thumb life-space by working in a retail plant nursery in Oklahoma - one of four summer jobs to pay the apartment rent I so foolishly thought I could afford (Undergrad ignorance is delightful in some respects, no?)

This was followed by work in a landscape nursery after I moved to Florida for a brief stint. I worked for a German war bride who was 72 and still made me look like a chump in the three o’clock sun.. I supplemented my income by running the cashier for an awesome, crazy old Viking who ran a farm market stall. He had a red braid down to his butt and a red beard down to his belly. Great guy, the sort from whom you could rarely distinguish fact from fiction (he’d led one hell of a life) for the betterment of everything that came out of his mouth. I occasionally picked peas and lettuces and beans, etc., for a friend of his who swore he could grow anything, anytime, in sand. (And he probably could. THAT guy was a pro, but people like that don’t blog.)

Truth in Advertising

I definitely privilege vegetables over flowers. Preferably grown organically. If I’m going to work that hard, I want to be able to put it in my mouth. Maybe this is a Freudian thing.

I do plant flowers. They just come after everything else has been planned for and attended to. I’m especially partial to flowers that are low-fuss, seed themselves, or perennial. Local is even better. Given the difficult climate in Oklahoma, that’s actually sort of a life insurance policy for the “pretties” (flowers; food-plants fall into the “practicals” category). To be fair, plenty of flowers are needed for appropriate biodiversity and to support a healthy, organic crop. I know this. I’m integrating it. One old cottage garden flower at a time.

My first bona fide vegetable garden was sown in the spring of 2000 while living on a 10,000 acre research ranch. I had beginner’s luck, first-garden-placement luck, and Florida weather luck. I could grow tomatoes in December! I harvested big, beautiful cabbages, Swiss Chard by the ton (slight exaggeration), beautiful tomatoes, spicy peppers, sweet carrots, herbs galore, and all sorts of other beauties. I was hooked.

Time, destiny, and fate intervened moving me back to my home state of Oklahoma. Here the weather is blazin‘ hot (no g required) or freakin‘ cold (ditto). Our springs and falls are nominal, more of a passing joke, and regular high winds and occasional tornadoes keep us on our toes. Here it is a regular occurrence for everything to burn up in August. I am still impressed when fellow gardeners manage to nurture some things through the summer and into the fall. It can happen - you have to be choosy with the what (cherry tomatoes, okra, peppers) and careful with the how.

Le Jardin Today

Academic year 2006-2007 I spent on an internship in Salt Lake City, UT. I was apartment bound and couldn’t grow much beyond window sill herbs (not even a balcony!). Boy, did I get the dirt-joneses! But lo and behold! I finally graduated and moved “home,” with Oklahoma, in general, serving as the receptacle of that broad designation. In the fall of 2007 my honey and I, along with our two cats and a Siberian Husky, moved to our current abode, which boasts a large back yard.

Since December I’ve been slowly working on two long strips of ground. One is 20′ by 5′ and the other is 25′ by 5′. One is currently filled with spring practicals, like cabbage (Early Market Copenhagen), two types of broccoli (De Cicco and Early Purple Sprouting), two types of beets (Bull’s Blood and Golden), three types of onion (red, white, yellow!), turnips (purple top white globe), kohlrabi (Early Purple Vienna; my 87-year-old grandma farmed most of her adult life and planted kohlrabi in OK in the 50s. She pronounces it “coal-RHAHBBAY” and says it very fast, like she’s trying to speak Japanese. I find this hilarious), carrots (Dragon), radishes (French Breakfast), peas (Little Marvel), lettuce (Buttercrunch), spinach (Virofaly), and arugula (Sylvetta).

Lest you get jealous or get the wrong idea, almost everything is in the 2-true leaves stage. I transplanted a few cabbages and broccolis, and set the onions in from sets, so they’re a bit taller, but the garden still looks mostly like dirt with tiny seedlings. I could’ve gotten things off to a much earlier start with a cold-frame or greenhouse, but there’s that old thing about beggars and choosers, so there you go.

Inside under lights I’ve got tomatoes (Opalka, Golden Queen), peppers (Roberto’s Cuban, hot pepper mix, Lemon Drop), Sweet basil, Giant Mammoth dill, cilantro, and Turkish Orange Eggplant.

After the weather “stabilizes” (quotation marks indicate irony) I’ll plant Provider bush beans, Romano pole beans, edamame, a smallish cucumber, and Chartenais melons.


Biblical times: grasshoppers, blood.
Currently: snails, birds.

My precious little seedlings are being snipped at by soft-bodied, spiral-domed creatures and feathered flying machines! This aggression will not stand! Thus far interventions include home-made bird scarers (more on this in a future post), hair (human and dog), and diatomaceous earth for the snails.

Question: Why does diatomaceous earth kill snails and not earthworms? This is the subject of much current puzzlement and research.


Well, this is the inaugural blog. Hip! Hip!

I’m excited.