Monday, May 31, 2010

Chicken Tractor on the Move

I have moved the chicken tractor out from under the Oaks in early spring when we had the gnat invasion/infestation.   I moved it out in the open, which provided some breezes to help with the gnats, but now that the intense sun and heat of summer arriving, it was time to give them some relief from that.  Since the chicken tractor has no wheels yet, it is a drag and sweat operation.   By next spring's gnat season, I have to get busy with the wheels.  And be ready with some organic gnat-i-cide, too. 

Here is my Orpington Hen setting on a combination of 6 Orpington Eggs and 6 Mallard Duck Eggs.  The duck eggs are another future story.

Here is my Orpington Rooster.   My second hen did not feel like posing, haha.

The Dog Yard

Almost forgot to put up a finish shot of the dog yard.  There is a small doggie door behind the Avocado tree in the upper left of the yard.  It is next to the house, directly behind the recovering Silk Floss Tree.  The Silk Floss will be coming out soon.  Other than learning to stretch a chainlink fence, which was not bad after I bought the proper tools to do it, the only other issue was no section was level.  On the sides I went with the incline.  On the long side, I wanted the fence level with the wall, so I have to use some garden edge blocks to hold the built up soil on the inside of the yard.

Well, its technically not quite finished still.  I have to cut off the tops of those t-post I used for the intermediate post.   And I'll spray paint them to match the color of the green fencing of course, but those are minor details and will have to wait until after the height of the spring/early summer gardening season is past.

Note - Also in the picture is my Rio Red Grapefruit, towards the outside of the fence on the left side.  In the center is a clump of Canna native to South Florida along with a Washingtonia filibusta palm.  On the far right inside the fence, not really noticeable is a recovering Variegated Lemon.   Outside the fence on the far right is another Washingtonia filibusta and a Tung Oil tree.  At the outer right edge of the photo is a clump of Bordelon bananas and at their base you can see the small Mamou tree (Erythrina herbacea).

Grapes Grapes Grow Today, We'll Make Wine Another Day

These Champanelle Graps were given to me as cuttings.  They just get better every years as the trunks thicken and the vines get stronger.   Here are some shots of this years crop.

22 Tomatoes in These Photos Alone, and Some Olives, Too.

Well, Tomato production will now outpace our ability to eat them.  The kitchen counter is loaded, and this is just a section of two of the 19 plants.  I think it is safe to call this year's organic minimum till, heavy mulch effort a success.  I have not weeded these tomatoes since the day they were put in, nor do I expect to have to do so.

On the unusual front, it looks like our Arboquina Olive is gonna hold fruit this year, and a good bit of it as well.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

What a Difference a Week, and a Wee Bit of Rain Can Make

It finally rained a few days before we left town to head for the beach.  It rained again while we were gone.   And after the horrible winter the gardens were wrecked.  It didn't help that I had not the desire to get out and clean up the carnage.   It was just depressing all the way around, but with the moisture came the recovery.  Slow for sure, and some things are just truly dead, never to return.  But there were some surprises, and some hardy plants that just needed some rains to show.

Well, all of a sudden, things sprang to life, and everything is looking up.  These of course, were all expected to return.

I'll show you some other surprising recoveries later.


The tomatoes are coming in strong.  Here's to the organic methods.  Very little tilling and soil prep with organic fertilizing and a healthy mulch of oak leaves.   I must admit I am astounded at the health of the plants, the lack of pest issues, and the quality of the tomatoes.   Assuming that these beds will just get better, I can't wait for next year.   This is about a third of this weeks harvest.

A Little Petunia Never Hurt Anyone

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Winter Harvest is Done, Almost

The heat of summer is moving in early, again. I harvested the Irish potatoes and onions today. They are done and the beds retilled. Not sure what comes next in that spot. Maybe some melons. The tomatoes are in high gear finally. We harvested about 40 today, and the plants are overloaded with green tomatoes with well over 100 on the vines, and one monster, about 6 inches or more across.

And this is will beds with minimal soil prep, all organic, planted late, and with a healthy cover of Oak leaves.

So, what's left to harvest.  Remember those Yukon Blue Potatoes.  They are doing awesome.   After digging the first plant, I saw they were still producing, so I left the rest in.  I will easily have a 20 to 1 return on those.   The few beets I made are left, along with the Kale and Swiss Chard.  All look great.   I'll get to the beets next week.  Not sure about the rest.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Vacation 2010 - Not in Our Yard, but Maybe in the Future

It was beautiful in Pensacola.   Even with a horrible oil spill threatening destruction, there was no evidence here, other than the lack of people.   No doubt the economy was having its affect, but I am sure the oil spill and its threat to the coast seconded the effort.   In over 30 years of vacationing here, I have never seen the water so perfect, so crystal clear, and the area dead from a tourist perspective.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Frost Proof Gardenia Finally Show

Here is nature's other little perfurme. After struggling for a couple of years, it seem that they have hit there stride. And they smell wonderful.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Jamine - Nature's Sweetest Perfume

Not at its finest.   Hurricane Gustave blew its support down a couple of years ago.  Last year I put in a new support and cut it back hard so it would embrace its new support.  Then came the hard winter, but as you can see, it perfumed the garden for a month this spring.   Next year, look out.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mamou, Mamou

Can you say Mamou? Here is the first flower on my Mamou Plant (Erythrina herbacea)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dog Run Post Are Cemented In Place

Here is the right side.  Note the remains of a dead Cassia alata near the house.   And if you look close between the post you can see a Sabal etonia seedling.   In the left front you can see the Variegated Meyer Lemon returning from the freeze that almost did it in.

And above it the left side.  Towards to front is my nearly killed Silk Floss Tree.  And towards the rear is my Wilma Avocado.   It looks OK.  But the combo of the freeze and spring drought has taken its toll as well.  Next pictures will include the fence.

Its No Longer a Case of the Mayhaw May, The Mayhaw Did!

The Mayhaw is full of pretty red berries.   For the first three years, I thought it would never make it, but this year, sure enough it looks great, and it made a couple dozen berries.  It'll be another few years before I can make even one jar of Mayhaw jelly, but one year it will happen.  

Not for the Squeamish

Multiple live births. Don't enlarge if you are squeamish.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Finally a Place for the Dogs

The dog door was installed this morning.   Next is the dog yard. 

There is nothing more hilarious that trying to train dogs to use a new dog door.  So, far 4 of the 5 can make the trip out the door.   The trip back in is escaping them at the moment.  Rather than come in the always open doggy door, they run around the front, sit at the front door and bark to get let in.

Rain, Yes, Finally Real Rain

Light rains fell in the early evening hours and I feared that was it.   But in the middle of the night it came.  Lightening, thunder, and steady hard rains.   After nearly 3 months of drought, it could hardly rain too much.   There were cracks in our silty clay loam soil a half in wide and 12 inch deep.   I could leave the sprinkler on in the same place over night, and there would not even be a puddle.  But last night we got real rain, at least 2 inches, maybe more.   All but the large cracks are now close, but a few are left.   We need rain like that at least a couple more times to get the soil moisture level where it needs to be.  Regardless I am thankful for what we got.  I am sure the Tomatoes are as well.  It was the first real rain they have tasted since their birth.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Parrots and the Shrimp Have Arrived, with a Little Fire on the Side.

The cold winter and spring drought have left much destruction in their path, yet things do surprise me.  Well, the return of the Parrot Lilies was not a real surprise.  They are pretty tough and have taken advantage of the cold winter to expand into new areas.

The Shrimp Plants, on the other hand have surprised me.   Not only surviving, but also may ultimately thrive taken over space once occupied by more tropical natured species.  Now, admittedely, both are shadows of their former selves, but a warm summer, and some rains should do wonders.

And the Fire Spikes are back as well.  I am surprised to see them at all.

Other surprises are the return of the Carnation of India, the Variegated Pandora Vine, and even more surprising is the early return of my Jatropha.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

God Sent Me a Fleeting Little Present

I was watering a few things by hand the old fashion way, you know thumb over the end of the water hose making a spray.  While I was watering my Artichoke plant from about 10 feet away a Ruby Throated Hummingbird flew into the spray, playing.   Then lit on top one of the Artichoke leaves, where a tiny bit of water had pooled, like it was a little bathtub and proceeded to bathe.  It was a Ruby Throated Hummingbird, but I must say his throat was so bright fluffed in the water and full sun, it was surprising how bright it was.   We kept this up for about 5 minutes till he flew off.  The experience was a little magical, I must say.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Smoothie World Around Here Lately

I had a Strawberry, Banana, Honey smoothie tonight. Yesterday, it was Mulberry, Banana, Honey. I think the Mulberry was better than the Strawberry, which is good because I have to buy Strawberries, but I have a big old tree full of Mulberries.  

The tree was given to me as a cutting from Mr. Picard, my old neighbor.  I still remember him, with a plastic milk just with the top cut out and strung through his belt up in that Mulberry tree picking berries.   He also gave me my Champanelle grapes as cutting off of his vines, too.  Mr. Picard has passed, but if you are looking down on me, you must smile seeing me enjoy the fruits of your gifts every year, literally. 

Planting and Another Tomato

I planted two more rows of Dixie Lee Field Peas today, two more rows of Edamame, and a row of Perique Tobacco.  This fills in the left arm bed to create an intensive planting arrangement.

Oh, and we had a second ripe tomato too.  This one was the "Bush Goliath" plant.  It is so thick and healthy one can hardly see the tomatoes inside, and there are many.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Almost Forgot to Mention, First Tomato

The first ripe tomato came off the vine today.  It is, most appropriately a "Creole" tomato.  Cel and I will share it in the morning with some good home grown scrambled eggs.  If I had to choose between that and a 5 course meal at the finest restaurant in the country, the homegrown tomato and egg sandwich wins every time.

As a side note, we haven't had a real rain here in over 9 weeks.   My tomatoes have never known any water except what comes out of my sprinkler head.   All of the tomatoes are growing well, despite the drought, but totally due to my watering.  And the water that comes from my hose pales in comparison to the real thing.  If real rains would come, I have no doubt they would all double in size in just a few days, along with the flavor.

The Left Arm Bed Springs to Life

First up were the Dixie Lee Field Peas on Day 5, and today on Day 6 the Edamame are springing to life.   No sign of the Eggplant or Okra yet, but I am sure they are coming.  This is gonna be a fun bed to watch progress.

Next bed to transform is the head bed.  The Irish Potatoes need to be dug.  The spinach harvested and frozen.  The Onion are not ready, but thankfully are on the edges which will not interfere with a complete reworking of the center of the bed.   Dixie Lee Field Peas, Edamame, Perique Tobacco, and a few other things will be planted there.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, and More Tomatoes

When I ran out of garden space to plant tomatoes, but still had tomatoes varieties in seedling, I got creative.   First is an old Earthbox that's been around for years.   I mentioned it in an earlier post.  I pulled it out of mothballs.  The vinyl top was lost along the way, but as you can see, I cut a Miracle Grow Organic bag in half to make a nifty top.   Those tomatoes have been in the box only about 3 weeks and are really growing.  One is Razzleberry, the other is Red Currant.  Behind that you can see a very large nursery pot and an ornamental plant support.  I put two varieties in there.   I put 5 more on tower post.  

And I still have some left.  I'll stick them in the ground somewhere.  They came this far so they deserve a chance to make a tomato or two.

Oh, almost forgot.  The big leaved plant in the middle of the tomatoes is a Perique Tobacco Plant.

5 Days After Planting, The Dixie Lee Field Peas Have Awakened

And they're so cute.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Chickens Get a Repose - Final Chapter

It appears the gnat infestation is over.  There are still a few around, but that is normal.  The chickens are looking much better.  I have them on a corn heavy diet as a treat.  The girls are back to laying regularly again.  The rooster is back to crowing and waking my up in the morning.  Sad we lost one, but at least we had an extra.   Now, if those tomatoes would just hurry up.  I am ready for my first egg and tomato sandwich.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

My Bougainvilleas Have A Little Boogie Woogie in Them After All.

They were all presumed dead.  Two of them were left out, totally exposed to all frost, multiple nights below freezing, and 3 nights right at the 20 degree mark.  By all rights, non should have survived.   Oddest of all, is the one I did take a few steps to protect is the one that has not yet comeback.  But I still have faith.

Monday, May 3, 2010

They Showed Up Late, and Left Early This Year, But They Sure Were Pretty When They Were Here

Our Byzantine glads are a highlight of spring.   The hard winter caused them to flower late, and the spring drought caused them to fade early.   But for the short time we had them, they were beautiful.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Another Bed is Planted, No not-till On This One

This bed went unplanted this spring, well at least until today.   It was new ground, broken and amended.  My neighbor used his big tractor to break it earlier this spring, but I never got around to planting it.  I had amended it with compost and hay, and let's just say the hay was quite fertile.   I broke out the mantis last week and worked it over good.   Today, I planted it out with Dixie Lee Field Peas, Edamame, Aunt Heddie's Red Okra, and Ichiban Eggplant.   A drawing is attached. 

Its Raining Cats and Dogs, Out of the End of my Water Sprinkler, That Is.

I watched daily rain chances go from 60, 90, 30, go to 30,80,20, to nothing, nothing, and nothing.   No rain for me as we extend to nearly 8 weeks without rain.    Established plants have slowed to no growth, one/two year old plants are showing visible stress, and any new plantings must be watered every other day.