Monday, February 24, 2014

Sixty Years with Elvis

There is a year long celebration of the 60th anniversary of Rock 'n' Roll going on at Graceland.  In early July 1954, Elvis Presley walked into Sun Studio in Memphis TN and recorded "It's All Right."  This mama is only shaking up some dirt and moving it around.  I am not shaking it up very much either.  After all the work on the Back Forty Garden and Park, I am to shook up to do any rock 'n' roll.

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Rutabaga Mash

In this country, the rutabaga is known as the Swedish turnip.  It grows best in a cold climate and this hearty and versatile root vegetable is an interesting change to pasta, rice, and even potatoes.  When grocery shopping the other day, I picked up a couple of round waxed Canadian rutabagas free of any signs of blemishes and rot.

Rutabaga is sown just as you would turnips.  Prepare the soil, add compost, and remove rocks and sticks to make a smooth surface.  I make a small trench to sow the seeds as directed on a package.  It is recommended that the sowing occur about a hundred days before the first frost in the fall.  You figure the weather.

A Swiss botanist noted in 1620 that the rutabaga grew wild in Sweden where it originated.  It is also said to have originated in Russia.  Anyway, here are a few suggestions on how to cook and serve the rutabaga.

I peeled my rutabaga and diced it finely to cut down on cooking time.  I opted to peel, dice, and cook potatoes in another pot because rutabaga requires a longer cooking time but they can certainly be cooked together (my preference).  If I have carrots available, I slice them up too and add to the mix.

Rutabaga by itself has a distinct taste and it may be toned down with potatoes.  Some people eat the rutabaga mash without additional roots.  The rutabaga mash is called rotmos in Swedish.

To mash the root vegetables together, I use an electric hand mixer.  I add some of the vegetable stock as needed.  To make this mash extra hearty, I add a pat or two of butter (margarine) and cream or whole milk.

If you have a lot of mash left over, make patties.  Mix about 1 and 1/2 cups rutabaga mash with 1 egg and add about about 3/4 cup of flour.  Make into patties and fry in canola oil on both sides until golden brown. Wonderful for breakfast served with a little syrup or lingonberries.

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Planting Azaleas

The recent cold and freeze changed the landscape on the Back Forty Garden and Park and it created a lot of work that I had not anticipated nor expected.  I waited as long as I could to see if there was any greenery springing forth but some of the plants were brown and dead and needed to be replaced.

My husband and I visited one of the home improvement centers and a cart with several tiers of azaleas caught my eye.  The sign read $3--a price I couldn't resist.  The cashier said that the small ones were $1.  Now, that's a bargain!  Maybe.  I wanted to know what was wrong with them.  "Nothing," she said.  "We've had them for a long time and we want to get rid of them before the new arrivals for spring." 

We loaded up a dozen azaleas into the car and when we got home we started to think about all the places we could plant them.  The azaleas that we already had were beginning to bloom and looked rather nice so we thought that we'd go back and get another dozen. After all, you can't beat that price, right?

We got a mix of "Fashion Azalea" and "Doc De Rohan Azalea (fancy name, eh?).  The Fashion Azalea is supposed to produce an abundance of salmon pink flowers and the Duc's flowers are yellowish pink.  The azaleas may not reach the promised size in my life time but they are supposed to be a healthy size at maturity.  A gardener must be an optimistic visionary.

I gave the azaleas a good soaking and when I removed them from the pot, I whacked some of soil off the root system that were tight and somewhat root bound.  Whack!  Whack!

To plant the azaleas, it was suggested that I dig a  hole twice the size of the pot that the plant came in and set the top of the root ball even with the ground.  I added commercial cow manure to the soil, filled the hole, tamped it down, and watered to eliminate air pockets in the soil. I have four more to go.

The azaleas like somewhat acid soil and do well around pine trees and like pine straw as mulch.  I am leaving fertilization until they have produced and dropped those wonderful pink blooms that I expect.

Also, it is recommended that no pruning take place until after the blooming period is completed.  I usually even up the plants but leave the azaleas pretty much in the shape they tend to go and also considering next year's blooms--no severe pruning for these bushes.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Russian Nesting Dolls

A few years ago, our granddaughter visited and we bought her a plastic wading pool.  It wasn't very big but large enough to splash around in and cool down on a hot summer day.  She used it once.

There are two boys her age who live across the scenic creek with their Russian parents.  The young boys fish in the creek just as my granddaughter's father did when he was a boy.  My son didn't catch any fish then but landed a black turtle.  He ran with the line through the Back Forty Garden and Park to enlist his brother's help of releasing the turtle.  I doubt that the Russian boys catch any fish but they may also land a turtle.  Who knows?

Anyway, we gave the pool to the kids and when we delivered the pool to the boys, their mother motioned us to wait while she went into the house only to come out with a bag with a few trinkets in it as a thank you for the pool.  As it turned out, the bag contained a set of authentic Russian Nesting Dolls.

As an aside to the Winter Olympics 2014 in Sochi, I learned that the nesting dolls are made in different families in different village in Russia during the cold winter months.  It is usually the head of the household who makes the cylindrical wooden dolls and the women in the family paint the dolls.  It is a tradition that is passed down to many generations and each set of the nesting dolls tell a story.

The Martryoshka Dolls as they are called are in decreasing size and placed inside each other.  There are at least five dolls in a set but can be more.  The word "matryoshka" means "little matron".  The first Russian nested doll set was carved in 1870.

I am extremely pleased to have a set of nesting dolls for my granddaughter and they tell a story.  She plays with them every time she comes to visit and loses the tiniest of the dolls.  I will keep them in her "treasure box" until she gets old enough to keep them in her own home.  What a treasure!

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Contender Green Snap Beans

I wanted to put some color in my early spring garden so I sowed a row of green Contender snap beans next to the yellow wax beans.  The Contender Bush Beans germinates in 6 - 8 days and matures in 55 days.  They are heavy producers.  The more you pick, the more you get.

If you like wax beans and snap beans, you could have a Bean Garden all summer long if you sowed every two weeks before expected frost.  Soak the beans overnight before planting to speed germination.

There are plenty of varieties of green beans or snap beans and I prefer the Contender because of their growth, size, and taste.  My husband's father used the Contender Bush Beans in his garden so you may say that it is traditional to continue to sow that type of beans on the Back Forty.

I add compost and turn the soil, make a shallow trench, sow the beans about 2 inches apart and 1 inch deep, cover and water.  I recommend fertilization after the plants are well on their way to maturity.

To cook green beans, I snip off the ends and to be fancy cut them in the Julienne style.  I let the slightly salted water come to a boil, toss the beans in and cook until as soft or crisp as desired.  To immediately stop the boiling, I cool the beans under running tap water.  Some cooks dunk the beans in ice water.

There are many ways to prepare a dish with somewhat crisp beans:  sauté them with bacon, sauté them with garlic and onions, and sauté them in a Chinese sauce.  Sometimes I like to boil the green beans with potatoes and carrots in one pot.  It makes for a colorful vegetable medley.  What do you like?

In the past, I have bought seeds in bulk but last year I wanted a lesser quantity so I tried Ferry Morse Contender Green Bush Beans and I was surprised because every single bean sprouted and produced.  This year I am planting Ferry Morse. 

Nah, I don't get beans for mention that seed company.  I just like their seed and the price of the packets; however, I do have their permission to use their information.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Red Robins are Here

Once upon a time, when we first started our gardening in Virginia, my husband and I had tilled the soil in preparation for an early spring garden.  A few red robins came to pick worms and whatever else was crawling.  They soon left except for one.   He wouldn't leave and he wouldn't move.

american robinHours went by and the red robin stayed at the same place in the garden.  Before we went to bed, we turned on the flood lights to see if he had left.  No, he was still there.  We talked about the robin that wouldn't leave and we couldn't go to sleep.

We finally got up and went out to see if he was hurt.  We got real close up.  Shoo!  Shoo!  He moved.  There was nothing wrong with the bird.

After moving to Florida, we made a road trip to Fernandina Beach in northern Florida where we came upon a flock of robins (?) pecking away under a large pine tree.  "Did you see all those robins?" my husband asked.  "What robins?" I wanted to know.  He told me about the robins under the pine tree.  "Oh, you are mistaken.  They were pine cones."  We are still arguing about what we saw that early spring day.

A few years ago, we had a flock of robins visiting the Back Forty Garden and Park.  The ground was full of robins; the trees were full of robins;  and so was the front yard.  They only stayed for a day or two and then left as quickly as they had come.

The same thing happened the following year.  We didn't mind the visitors.  They were harbinger of spring.  This year, we had only a few visiting.  What happened?  They must not like our garden and yard any more but spring is here, isn't it?

The picture is from

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Planting Mustard and Kale

The cool winter weather is lingering in northern Florida and the home improvement centers have plants that are more suited for fall than spring.  The shelves are loaded with collards, broccoli, and cabbage.  The down side of planting the cold weather plants now is that they will not be harvested in time to give way for the spring garden.  However, I ended up with a 9-pack each of mustard greens and kale.

Mustard Plants
If I were to sow mustard seeds, they would take about 9 days to germinate and 50 -70 days to maturity.  The mustard greens are ready to plant and if nothing else, I will let them bloom to attract the neighbor's bees that he got during the recent cold spell.

I should have named the Back Forty the Serendipitous Garden because I never know exactly what to plant.  It depends on what is available at the garden centers. 

On the spur of the moment, I picked up kale.  Why?  I heard that Dr. Oz talked about it on his TV program, celebrities use kale in their smoothies, and kale is served in salads in fancy restaurants.

I have often mixed kale, mustard, and turnips in the garden and used the greens for cooking  Sometimes I have put them in the freezer after blanching, draining, cooling under running water, and packing the greens in quart size bags and put them in the freezer.

So the other day, I set out nine plants each of mustard greens and kale after turning the soil and making holes large enough to hold the plants.  They looked pretty nice in two straight rows.  Is this for the winter garden or for the spring garden?

Tip of the Day:  To prevent slugs from crawling up the plants and breaking off the stems, remove top and bottom from a small can or cut the same shape from a plastic bottle and set it down in the soil around your plant.   I have yet to try this myself but I have had many plants broken off in the past.

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Monday, February 10, 2014

First Happy Anniversary

It's been a year ago since I started blogging about my garden,  yard, and "park".  It has been an interesting experience.  Some of my readers are in countries I never heard of and my blog has reached porn sites which really has surprised me. 

Initially, I just wanted to write or document what happened in my garden and back forty.  It was never my intention to tell you how to garden.  You are free to garden any way you want.  I wanted to keep a journal of what was going on in my back yard and sharing the information.

When I write my blog, I wobble between I and we.  I start out with I and all of a sudden there is the "we".  Who are the "we"?  It is my husband and I, he, and we do so much together; so the we is I and the I is we.  Now, I would worry when my "shadow" comes along too.

Evelyn Rose
Blogging has kept me busy and interested in researching gardening and so much that goes along with it.  I stated in my first blog that I was an avid gardener--I never said that I was a good gardener.

I do want to thank you for adding me to your circles.  I wish that I could add you to mine, but I really don't know how.  You do. 

As a token of my appreciation, please accept this very special rose.

Thank you for visiting my blog.  Do it again.

Thank you. 
Thank you. 
Thank you. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Hard Night's Day

My lover and I have been working like dogs in the garden all day long but when we go inside and we hold each other, everything is all right. We are working hard in the garden to put food on the table, to share vegetables and fruit with family and friends.

We work hard in the garden day after day, weather permitting.  We are fair weather gardeners you might say but when we stay inside on a cold winter's day and we hold each other, everything is all right.

We have dismantled the bed, who needs it?  We dismantled the raised bed in the garden.  I found myself wondering what the heck to plant in that box.  I felt restrained and boxed in.  The raised garden box limited my movements when turning the soil.  I don't like to feel boxed in; I want to move freely; roam; and plant my vegetables anywhere and everything will be all right.

After a hard day's work in the garden, my back aches but when my lover of many years hold me tight, I feel all right.  My dearest husband, my lover, and I work hard all day and all night.  We work hard for each other.  We take care of each other and everything will be all right.

Thank you for visiting my blog that today is based on Beatles' first visit to this country and appearing on Ed Sullivan's show.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Frozen Hibiscus

The hibiscus is a large deciduous shrub or small tree depending on how it is pruned.  The tree or bush with its dark shiny leaves may grow to 15 feet in frost free areas.  It likes full sun and well-drained soil.  Once established it requires  very little care.  The blooms are trumpet shaped and come in a variety of color and color combinations.

A Frozen Hibiscus
I had a beauty of a hibiscus at the corner of the porch and I often thought about pruning it but never did.  It grew into a tall bush.  Now I know that I could have pruned it into a single stemmed small tree but I let it grow any way it wanted and it turned into a nice shape with lots of huge red flowers that lasted for a long time.

I had hoped that this tropical bush was well protected near the house and under a large pine tree's branches but the temperature went below 30 degrees F for an extended time.  The hibiscus dropped its flowers and turned brown in a few days.  It was recommended that I leave it alone to give it a chance to recover.  Maybe it was still alive under all those brown leaves.  What to do now?

I have left it alone for several weeks and I have not seen any greenery.  It is recommended that the hibiscus be pruned in early spring under normal circumstances but this winter has been far from normal.  It is misting this morning so I will wait for a sunny day to do any pruning.  Then I will find out the extent of the freeze damage.  Hopefully, the roots are still alive and it will grow again.

I have signed up for the A to Z Blog Challenge for 2014, have you?
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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Cherokee Wax Beans

One of the easiest and earliest vegetables to plant is beans.  For my Bean Garden, I have chosen the Cherokee Wax Bean that germinates in 7 to 10 days and reaches maturity in 50 days.  I space the seeds about 2 inches apart and one packet of Ferry-Morse seeds fills a 10 foot row.  Soaking the beans overnight before planting will speed germination.

I added compost from my pile and turned he soil, smoothed it out with a hoe, and raked the area to remove sticks, clumps, and the ever present dollar weed.  With my rake handle, I made a small trench about an inch deep, planted the seeds, and covered them.  The soil was moist from an early morning shower and the weatherman predicted more showers.

The yellow Cherokee wax beans, about 5 to 6 inches long when mature, are supposed to be "stringless" and very productive.  Since I planted the beans rather early in the season, I learned that the beans can "withstand adverse weather condition."  They are also disease resistant. 

The beans are great for freezing (and canning).  I blanch them quickly, chill them under cool running tap water and let them drain.  I pack them in quart size bags and store them in the freezer for use later.

Ferry-Morse claims that the Cherokee Wax Beans "tastes great right out of the garden."  Does that mean that the beans are edible raw in the garden, that I can pick 'em and nibble on 'em? 

Cultivating the beans is minimal.  I have found that in my already established garden, weeding around the beans is hardly necessary.  The beans plants will crowd out the weeds. 

To fertilize, I side dress with a common garden fertilizer such as 6-6-6 or 8-8-8 when the beans have established themselves.  I put fertilizer down on each side avoiding getting it on the leaves that will cause "burns".

The yellow Cherokee Wax Beans are the first of the beans sowed in my Bean Garden and I am looking forward to the harvest.  It's been a long time since I planted wax beans

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Mustard Greens

The mustard green is a Southern favorite but I did not plant it last fall nor during the winter season; however, thanks to my compost pile, some of the mustard seeds survived and sprouted here and there and produced huge green leaves.  I left them alone thinking they were too bitter to eat. 

Mustard Greens
I couldn't resist picking some of the large leaves, cook them and eat them. To my surprise they were sweet and delicious. 

To my knowledge, the greens contain vitamins A and K, carotene, and are filled with cancer preventive and anti-inflammatory properties.

I was going to leave them alone and let them produce their bright yellow flowers that the bees and butterflies love. 

The flowers form an abundance of small pods filled with seeds that may be ground into powder and used as a base for mustard.

Checking my planting schedule for northeast Florida, I found that February is a good time to plant mustard seeds at 1/2 inch deep in rows 1 and 1/2 to 2 feet apart.  The mustard plants become rather large when side dressed with nitrogen rich fertilizer to stimulate the growth of lush green leaves.  The seeds germinate in about nine (9) days and mature in 50 - 70 days.

It also helps to mulch to keep the soil moist and to water only when necessary.  It is recommended to weed and thin the plants as soon as plants emerge.  Why fertilize weeds?

To harvest, start picking young leaves to use raw in salads (I'm not there yet).  I do like to cook my mustard greens and serve them with last summer's home made watermelon rind pickles.  Mustard greens, after removing the thick stems, will freeze well after blanching, cooled under running water, and packed in plastic quart size plastic bags, and stored in the freezer.

The mustard green is the first vegetable I plan to direct sow in my spring garden, harvest some, and let some go to seeds for the bees I hope will visit and help with my garden.

I have signed up for the A to Z Blog Challenge for 2014, have you?
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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Groundhog Day

If the sun shines in Pennsylvania tomorrow and the groundhog sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter and that is official.  So they say.  The weatherman said that we had twenty two cloudy days last month in northeast Florida which is still part of the Sunshine State.  What a miserable winter!  If the groundhog was here on the beach, he would not see his shadow. 

I broke out of my heavy coat and tossed my gloves and went out to survey the winter damage on the Back Forty.  The potatoes are busting through the pine straw and I hilled them up.  I cut away the dead branches from the Plumbago and noticed that it was putting out healthy greenery along the ground that will be good for transplanting.  The shefflera or the Umbrella plant is pretty much gone but I am not ready to start cutting and pulling it up yet.

First Azalea Bloom for this Spring
I weeded around the island where I had trimmed the Cassia and added more pine straw to hold the dirt in place.  I continued to make a shallow trench around the azaleas that were full of buds.  Spring is coming!

I found one, yes only one, single pink azalea bloom and that, my friends, is the official declaration that Spring is here.  It has arrived.  Time to go gardening.

I have singed up for the April 2014 A to Z Blog Challenge, have you?
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