Cold Nights Ahead

CeleBRAtion! Notice that rough pile of wood in teh background. You might recognize it from previous posts and know that is the blossoming Hugelkultur. Still needs a lot of dirt which we have not been able to acquire. We are rural, you would think dirt to be easier to come by. ALSO, said pile of tree trunks and branches has become home to Shi'itake our current resident snake. She is a Yellow Bellied Racer IF it's the same snake. I'm not so sure.

CeleBRAtion! Notice that rough pile of wood in the background. You might recognize it from previous posts and know that is the blossoming Hugelkultur. Still needs a lot of dirt which we have not been able to acquire. We are rural and you would think dirt to be easy to come by. ALSO, said pile of tree trunks and branches has become home to Shi’itake our current resident snake. She is a Yellow Bellied Racer IF it’s the same snake. I’m not so sure. Snake pic coming right up.

Apparently today was the tenth annual World Naked Gardening Day and I had never even heard of it before. Gene got pretty involved in the holiday merriment. It’s the first holiday I have seen him express any interest in since we started carrying on with each other three years ago. Naked to the bone in the garden pulling a few weeds. Etc.

As usual much going on. The big news is that after a full month of unseasonably warm weather, upper 70’s to mid and high 80’s with night-time temps in the 50’s, we are having 5 nights in a row in the 40’s. That’s chilly for tomato plants, peppers, okra, beans and squash.

I hot capped the eggplants and squash with plastic jugs, the okra with mason jars, and built a heat capture fence for the tomatoes and beans. Huh? We are not trying to keep things from freezing just trying to capture more daytime heat and hold it through part of the night.

People scoffed at my early plantings of summer heat loving nightshades and squash but they are doing quite well. Of course it is always a gamble and I think worthwhile in spite of this small setback of cool temps. It only took about thirty minutes to rig up the black plastic wall and cap a few things. So yea.

Heavy black plastic trash bags clothes pinned to the fenceline where the tomatoes are planted. Protection from wind and falling cold. This will also collect heat and warm the soil through the day keeping the whole mess warmer through the night. This would not keep plants from freezing but it will keep them warmer.

Heavy black plastic trash bags clothes pinned to the fenceline where the tomatoes are planted. Protection from wind and falling cold. This will also collect heat and warm the soil through the day keeping the whole mess warmer through the night. This would not keep plants from freezing but it will keep them warmer.

Okra capped with mason jars.

Okra capped with mason jars.

"the snake" from a few feet

“the snake” from a few feet

Now that I look closely at the detail on this snake I don't think it's the same one at all. Wondering just exactly how many snakes lurk around the house...

Now that I look closely at the detail on this snake I don’t think it’s the same one at all. Wondering just exactly how many snakes lurk around the house…

A bean plant unfurling from the earth.

A bean plant unfurling from the earth.

One of the little rows of pole beans - really filling out and about eight inches tall. They will soon send out tendrils to grab on with and start climbing.

One of the little rows of pole beans – really filling out and about eight inches tall. They will soon send out tendrils to grab on with and then start climbing.

I over wintered this jalapeno plant and transplanted it a couple of weeks ago. At the time of transplant it was covered with hundreds of flowers. Most of them fell off when we put it back in teh ground, as I expected. Apparently some of them had already started turning into peppers because there are abpit a dozen visible peppers growing on the plant. What a cool thing - peppers in May!

I over wintered this jalapeno plant and transplanted it a couple weeks ago. At the time of transplant it was covered with hundreds of flowers. Most of them fell off when we put it back in the ground, as I expected. Apparently some of them had already started turning into peppers because there are about a dozen visible peppers growing on the plant. What a cool thing – peppers in May!

Gene's turn for desert making got us a beautiful angel food cake. The best!

Gene’s turn for desert making got us a beautiful angel food cake. The best! From scratch.

Four pounds of green onions (planted last fall and over wintered), lettuce, a handful of snow peas and a few radishes for a salad.

Four pounds of green onions (planted last fall and over wintered), lettuce, a handful of snow peas and a few radishes for a salad. In case you don’t know I am still challenged by radish growing.

We went to Baker Creek Saturday for their annual Spring Planting Festival and had a great time. Stocked up on seeds for fall planting, had a marvelous lunch, bought a few plants, visited with some old friends here and there, heard some marvelous speakers and learned quite a bit of new stuff about gardening (more on this later after I’ve read a book heavy on soil science). I especially enjoyed Jim Long on “Growing & Using Rare & Unusual Herbs”, Ira Wallace of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange on  “Extending the Harvest: Creating a Four Season Garden”, and Gene heard Jeff Lowenfels on “No More Chemicals in the Garden”. We bought Jeff’s book Teaming With Microbes and it is packed with cutting edge soil science for the home gardener as well as commercial growers. Yes the average reader can comprehend this book.

It should be back in the eighty’s by the weekend and the high summer crops will perk back up.

What is happening in your garden world this week?

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Conquering Cilantro & Radish AND a Bunch of Miss Alanie

Many exciting things going on in the Moonmooring garden right now. Everything is about a month ahead of schedule with all the warm weather we have had. Of course we are also having unseasonable hot dry wind and a lack of rain. Where are those April showers? According to the weather folks we are in for a wild ride the next few days and in light of that I am holding off setting out some plants that are at the ready. Namely the peppers. Anticipating wind, rain, possible hail and tornadic activity over the next few days.

I do love watching peas and beans grow. They are so quick about it.

Last Thursday there was nothing showing. Friday morning the pole beans had popped their little heads through.

Last Thursday there was nothing showing. Friday morning the pole beans had popped their little heads through.

By this morning, Monday, they had grown this much! They will shoot right up that garden gate trellis in no time. Wishing I had rattlesnake pole beans this year but forgot to order the seed.

By this morning, Monday, they had grown this much! They will shoot right up that garden gate trellis in no time. Wishing I had rattlesnake pole beans this year but forgot to order the seed. I should pull that blade of grass…

There were a few good looking white icicle but the soil is still less than perfect for this batch. Making progress though.

There were a few good looking white icicle radishes but the soil was still less than perfect for this batch. Making progress though.

Today this bunch was ready just in time for lunch! I have been eating radishes almost every day now for a while and this is the best looking batch. Finally I have seed tape figured out. You can see how seed tape is made by watching any number of YouTube videos.

Today this bunch was ready just in time for lunch! I have been eating radishes almost every day now for a while and this is the best looking batch. Finally I have seed tape figured out. You can see how seed tape is made by watching any number of YouTube videos. I use TP and make it in about 2 1/2 foot sections. These are placed front to back in the raised beds or tucked in between something that is slower growing than the radish and picked well before that something shades them. I plant a 2 foot “row” just about every week and it has been keeping me in radishes. Gene is not fond of them. Tsk.

I'm starting to feel the same way about cilantro that I do about peas... can't seem to get enough of it especially now that I have it figured out. Today's cilantro cutting - half of this went in to lunch for me and Gene. Hello Gene! How was the taco salad?

I’m starting to feel the same way about cilantro that I do about peas… can’t seem to get enough of it especially now that I have it figured out. Today’s cilantro cutting – half of this went into lunch for me and Gene. Hello Gene! How was the taco salad?

These are the peppers that are really big enough to go in the real dirt but with this storm coming in the next couple days we have decided to keep them away from harsh weather one more time. Why not. You might also notice a couple pots of zucchini and yellow straight neck there. More about squash later. Even Cushaw this year!

These are the peppers that are really big enough to go in the real dirt but with this storm coming in the next couple days we have decided to keep them away from harsh weather one more time. Why not. You might also notice a couple pots of zucchini and yellow straight neck there. More about squash later. Even Cushaw this year! Yes that is one lone little seedling back there. I am hoping it is a tomatillo.

Chives freshly divided and doing well. I will likely dig half of them soon and transplant into the new herb bed.

Chives freshly divided and doing well. I will likely dig half of them soon and transplant into the new herb bed.

Planted from "onion butts" last fall some of these got really large and so sweet! I bought a bunch of organic green onions from the local grocery and cut off the bottoms to plant. Mulch and keep moist.

Planted from “onion butts” last fall some of these got really large and so sweet! I bought a bunch of organic green onions from the local grocery and cut off the bottoms to plant. Mulch and keep moist.

The onion butts from todays harvest. This is the third planting from the original bunch of green onions. Talk about recycling.

The onion butts from todays harvest. This is the third planting from the original bunch of green onions. Talk about recycling. Trim off at least half the hairy roots and plant.

I put this herb bed in this morning and will fill it soon. To the left will be a sawdust walkway and then another parallel herb bed.

I put this herb bed in this morning and will fill it soon. To the left will be a sawdust walkway and then another parallel herb bed.

What was once my sewing room and is the back door to the kitchen garden it has become a catch all for garden "stuff". You might notice I tidied up for the photo! Ha! Still messy.

What was once my sewing room and is the back door leading to the kitchen garden it has become a catch all for garden “stuff”. You might notice I tidied up for the photo! Ha! Still messy.

In case you’re curious this garden space is in the central area of Zone 7 in Arkansas. The zone maps have been updated because of changing weather and climate the past few decades. The Moonmooring Kitchen Garden is also in a protected space on the south side of the house and it holds a lot of heat which is great in the winter and spring. Not so great in the heat of summer. Work with what you have! It has 200 whole square feet of growing space and we eat a little something from it almost every day of the year. Our goal is to provide ourselves veggies for one meal per day. More often than not we exceed that goal. This year Gene wants corn so we have added the Cornfield garden space. It is 500 square feet overall with minimal walkways. The cornfield will have a central area to grow corn and the inside perimeter is planted with potatoes, tomatoes and still to come peppers and squash. I’m gonna be a busy Suzie homemaker this summer!

What’s your garden up to?

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Tomato Planting

IMG_0500aEverybody will tell you they know the very best way to plant tomatoes. Even me. The most important thing I think is to plant them deep and give them plenty of amendments. Do not confuse amendment with fertilizer also known as manure. There’s no need to burn up your new plants.

That said we did something totally new (to me anyway) and kind of weird. Gene decided to open up a new garden area so we can grow a little corn this year. Since it is getting on pretty far into spring  we were fairly rushed and short on energy for the kind of labor it takes when you don’t own a tractor or a tiller.

We threw up a cattle panel fence with a layer of cardboard under it to help cut down on weeds, put about a foot of shredded tree limb mulch in a three foot swath around the outside edge. A word about the shredded wood. It will attract termites. Termites will eat your entire house. Hopefully this garden patch is far enough away from the house to avoid this problem. This wood mulch should compost down in a couple years and be a weed free area that we can then plant in. It should be a great area for onions, garlic and herbs that the deer don’t like. Of course if the deer are really hungry they will eat even the shredded wood and the herbs.

We don’t till. We build raised beds. We have been waiting on a load of top soil and well rotted manure for six months. Yes. We have given up. So we dug out the walkways and threw the soil into the bed areas. We did a little sifting but not much. This was an old garden area about eight years ago and was totally over run with weeds. Hence the use of intense mulch.

We tarped the midsection to kill weeds. The now raised perimeter beds we covered with cardboard. Yes I know this is not organic. We all do the best we can with what we have. Gene used a spud bar to drive holes through the cardboard and into the soft soil below. I added a handful of Azomite, then dropped the tomato plant through the hole into the soil below. Filled in with my sifted soil and composted manure mix. Used three shovelfuls of soil to mound up around the plant and added a bit more Azomite. The row of tomatoes was then mulched heavily with one year old straw slabs. It was fast and relatively easy.

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I ran across this tomato planting guide earlier today and wow are they ever into serious amendments! Maybe I will try this next year. My tomatoes are in the ground and I ain’t planting any more this year! I will however post some photos later so you can see how they are doing.

This years tomato inventory; 8 Celebrity, 2 Japanese Black Trifele, 6 green zebra, 7 Black Krim.

How is your gardening going this year?

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It’s Been a Large Day

The day started soft with a gentle misty rain enough to dampen your shirt but not enough to provide opportunity  for staying inside with a hot cup of coffee. So out we both went to play in the garden. Except sometimes that garden play is grueling work. Sixty years of maturity makes a 32 inch garden bed reach seem near impossible. This provided me with  some missteps and even a few bad words when I tipped the tray of okra plants over dumping them right out of their little peat pots. It all worked out in the end though.

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You can see how overcast it is by the lack of shadows – the best kind of tomato planting day you can ask for. These green zebra tomatoes went in the ground today along with the half-dozen Black Krim. I will plant some Celebrity’s and a cool sounding new variety (for me anyway) Japanese Black Trifele. Additionally I started a six seed hill of Long Green burpless cucumbers (more hills as the season progresses), planted a trellis worth of Contender pole beans (rattlesnake were my first choice but I seemed to have forgotten to order the seed!), transplanted nine Clemson Spineless okra, started a pot of cilantro from tap roots. I have no idea if doing that with cilantro will work but we should know in a few days. Gave the leeks and Tokyo Longs (onions) a haircut, pulled a few radishes and ate a handful of snow peas from the vine. Weeded. Did I mention weeding? The day was looking up.

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Speaking of cilantro – I have never been good at growing this simple to grow herb and have never been able to get enough of it to eat. Until this past winter season. I have discovered that planting it thick, mulching lightly and forgetting about it over a season will get the best results. And winter growing in this protected kitchen garden spot seems to be beneficial also. I now have so much cilantro that I am pulling it out by the handful. That is how I came to realize it had a small but decided tap root. So I set a mess of it in a pot and topped it with potting soil.

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Continuing to speak of cilantro, lunch was a new favorite of mine and an old one of Gene’s – kao dtom – Thai rice soup. It calls for a lot of cilantro. I mistakenly refered to it as cow dung  soup and was sharply chastised. Kidding aside I am in love with this soup. I have no idea how authentic the recipe is. Gene acquired it while living in Thailand some years ago but we are certain it was Americanized to some degree.

This is what we did with the soup recipe.

Cook one cup rice in 1 quart chicken broth and one quart water until done leaving the lid off. Prepare vegetable as follows; chop one cup fresh cilantro, 1/2 cup tomato, 1/2 cup onion, 3 cloves garlic, a thumb of minced ginger, 1 cup mushrooms and 1/2 cup cooked chicken.

In a small skillet melt one tablespoon coconut oil and saute the onion for a couple of minutes. Then add the garlic, ginger, mushrooms and chicken. Add about 1 tablespoon fish sauce and a teaspoon red pepper flakes or some other Thai chili.

Combine all ingredients into the soup/rice pan. Add the cilantro and tomatoes. Heat through. Serve with fresh squeezed lime juice.

Delicious!

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So then the sun came out and it was a balmy 67 degrees but we were tired and full and needed a nap by then. BUT it was nearly three o’clock and we had errands to run. So off we went to Ka Lee Ko Rock (there is a joke here but I will not share it with you right now).

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Shopping with Joey, our local organic grower scored these beautiful delicate radishes – another thing I’ve been craving this spring. The radishes, a few herbs, Celebrity tomatoes and off we went to the next stop. At Harps we picked up marigolds which I refuse to start from seed. They just give me fits. My mother though can grow the heck out of marigolds. And ageratum! They had ageratum the very best thing to grow with marigolds. And one stray tomato – the organic Japanese Black Trifele from Peace Farm Organics. Who would have known!? I’m looking forward to this one for sure.

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The post office held a special gift from Gene, “Thai Food” by David Thompson. I have been bitten by the Thai cooking bug and this book was so highly recommended it almost seems the standard by which all others are judged. I am so eager to start trying a few of the  less difficult recipes soon. Maybe even a more authentic version of kao dtom.

So we had another easy meal for dinner. Quinoa salad with edamame, corn, celery, cilantro, onion, garlic, radishes, cranberry and pecans dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and some red pepper flakes. Feta would have worked. No phood fotos, sorry pholks.

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Except for this little strawberry peach galette dessert thing. Yum. Just make your favorite pie crust, mix together 3 tablespoons of sugar and one tablespoon of flour, stir the flour/sugar into about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of lightly chopped fruit. Let that sit until juice starts to run. Roll the dough out and place the round on a pizza pan. Spread the filling to within a couple inches of the edge. Fold the edge up all the way around. Bake at 375 for about twenty minutes. Viola! Easy dessert rustica!

And last but not least there was this amazing package on the doorstep when we arrived back from our errands. A brand new pressure cooker from my mother. THANK YOU MOM!!

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Canning just got a whole lot easier and safer too! It’s not even my birthday but it sure was a large day!

Bonnie appetite to you all!

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A Bouquet For Jean

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For Jean – a sweet woman I have never met – a woman I have a great deal of respect for and a huge “like”.  :) Enjoy the flowers.

Hey peeps! If you see an error in the flower names please let me know or if you know the name of any that I cannot remember right now! Thanks.

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A Small Teak Box

Friends come and friends go and some of them remain your friend no matter the direction life takes each of you.

I never had friends when growing up, except for cousins who were always present at Christmas.  We moved so often that making friends didn’t seem worth the effort. I didn’t learn how to make friends until well into adulthood and it is still a challenge.

At the end of seventh grade a classmate said to me “Hey let’s be friends”. I was stunned as no one had ever suggested that before and I didn’t know for sure what it meant. Through Lynda’s efforts alone with me just kind of going with the flow we did become friends and remain friends to this day in spite of the fact we have grown along different paths, the physical distance and the long spells of not hearing from each other.

Carved teak from India, it's showing some wear!

Carved teak from India, it’s showing some wear!

My friend Lynda gifted me sometime in the early 70’s with this little wooden box, a note and a penny. I don’t remember if it was a birthday, Christmas or graduation. I don’t even remember if I exchanged a gift back to her as that too was a foreign idea.

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I’ve hung on to that gift all these long years and somewhere along the way contributed a penny of my own to the box. Doubled our investment in the friendship.

Thank you Lynda for asking me to be your friend and continuing to be my friend. I look forward to the ongoing and rekindling friendship. And thank you to all the other people who claim me as friend and I you. I appreciate and love every single one of you and hope you each know who you are.

I turned sixty a few days ago and life is suddenly looking slightly different.

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Mini Greenhouses

bio picI try not to get too wrapped up in too many holidays but do recognize the importance of ritualized celebrations and the social benefits of bonding with family and community through structured celebrations. My favorite holidays are the ones that recognize and celebrate the physical world around us.

Today is Imbolc (you can do a Google search and read about it if you wish). In years past I have traditionally planted peas on Valentines day. Once even in the snow! They did well in case you are wondering. But the weather has made some subtle shifts and it has overall been a warmer fall and winter. The three month forecast for this area is warmer than normal temperatures. We could still get snow but seeds are relatively inexpensive.

So, as a gamble, as an honor to Imbolc, the Gaelic festival marking the beginning of spring, I planted those peas today as a way to embrace this warming of the planet. I say work with what you have! We seem to be given warmer sometimes even hotter temperatures and making some shifts in your gardening plan will be rewarded.

A few years ago I took a garden gamble and planted a patch of bush beans at the end of March and we did not have a freeze and we did have early green beans! That was fun.

So I silently celebrated Imbolc, the spring-like day, and planted my Valentine peas, Tokyo longs (onions), a package of cilantro, a tiny patch of radish, and a three row bed of pak choy. The choy,  went under a mini hot house of clear plastic tub set in the dirt and held down by a brick in case of strong wind. Clear glass baking pans make perfect really mini green houses for small herbs and radishes.

I imagine that by the end of this month I will be eating some of that choy along with the rest of those goodies.

WARNING; Teaser photo! A summer tomato plate, yum!

WARNING; Teaser photo! A summer tomato plate, yum!

Bonnie appetite ya’all!

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