Thursday, April 30, 2015

Black Crows

From time to time, I have written about various birds, large and small, that come to visit the Back Forty and they have all been welcome and interesting to me.  The Back Forty is my sanctuary and it is also a sanctuary for birds and animals.

In the last few weeks, noisy black crows have visited; no, actually they have made my yard and neighborhood their sanctuary as well as their hunting ground.

They start crowing early in the morning and crow about until dusk.  They stand watch high in the tree tops and on lamp posts.  They watch me going to the garden and they don't mind loudly voicing their opinions as if to tell me to stay away from their territory.  What is so scary about the crows is that they are so smart and they will remember you especially if you have tried to chase them away.

Crows are monogamous and they stay together with their offspring and extended family for a long time.  I admire them for being such a close knit family.

But I don't like finding them in my garden.  Are they picking up the seeds that I just sowed?  Are they pulling up the tender plants that are just beginning to emerge?  Shoo!  Shoo!

The crows apparently will eat just about anything that come their way or what they will find foraging, dead or alive.  It may be seeds and plants, vegetables, fruit and berries as well as worms and insects, small rodents and snakes.  One of their favorite food supply is a garbage bag to be picked up sanitation workers.

Crows figure prominently in lores and legends in many cultures.  Once my husband and I visited Sweden with our young children and we were told to put out something shiny, such as a coin, for the the crows and if they accepted, they would leave us alone.

I found an interesting article on the Internet titled :Crow Symbolism and Crow Meanings--What's your sign? It gave me chills the read it.

Lessons Learned:  I claim that the Back Forty is my sanctuary and it is also a sanctuary for the birds.  I can't very well discriminate against the birds that do visit and I can't discriminate against the different kinds of people that I meet in my life.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Saving the Contender Bean Seeds

At this time, I am still harvesting the Contender Bush Snap Beans and I am contemplating expanding my horizon to include planting other type/kind of snap beans.  Maybe.  In the meantime, I am going to save the Contender seeds, if for no other reason but to see what will happen with such a project.

The helpful lady at Standard Feed told me some time ago that their bulk seeds were non-hybrid unless otherwise marked.  She also told me that beans were self-pollinating; meaning that I didn't have to worry about cross pollination and mixing strains.

This morning, I went out to the garden to pick some of the largest and fattest snap beans that I am going to use as seed savers.

On a pretty kitchen towel covering a baking sheet, I spread out the beans in a single layer and making sure they did not touch.  The plan is to let them dry on the dining room table for the next four months, patience prevailing.  I will check for moldy beans and throw them out if I find them.

When the four months are up and the beans are shriveled u[ and dry, I will shell the beans, and if I can't penetrate the skin with my thumb nail, the beans are ready for storage in a labeled glass jar. (Plastic containers or bags, and envelopes will also do fine.)

The beans are now ready for sowing. It is recommended that the seeds be soaked over night in water before sowing.  It speeds up the germination, supposedly.

Happy Gardening!
Thank you for visiting my blog.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Hummingbirds for Earth Day 2015

Today is a special day as all days should be because we should honor and take care of every patch of earth that we have available to us.  We should make it as green as possible and our goal and aim should be to do no harm to the environment.

On my patch that I call the Back Forty, we do not use herbicide or pesticide as a rule and it has paid off handsomely.  Lo' knows, we don't have a manicured lawn, but it's green.  The dollar weeds glisten as polished emeralds in the sunshine after a rain shower and the rain drops glisten as diamonds in the branches of the cedar trees.

A few weeks ago as the weather was finally getting warmer, I was sitting out on the porch having a glass of Zinfandel.  I was looking at the empty hummingbird feeder when a ruby-throated hummingbird came to check it out.  I have only seen hummingbirds twice in the Back Forty in ten years.

My husband cleaned the feeder, refilled it, and hang it back out again on a Crepe Myrtle branch.  Will we ever see a hummingbird again?

Finally, after a few weeks not only one but two hummingbirds came to check out the feeder.  They were so small and their wings fluttered furiously.  We were visited by special birds on this special Earth Day.

I am still waiting for them to return but in the meantime, I'll enjoy the Cardinals.

Celebrate Earth Day.
Thank you for visiting my blog.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Pickled Snap Beans

April is such a busy month for a gardener.  It is the time to get the seeds into the ground and set out the plants bought at the garden centers or the ones that sprouted in pots created back in February.  In addition, trees and bushes need to be trimmed and the grass needs the first cutting.  Furthermore, the weeds need to be pulled and eventually the garden and the yard look presentable, at least for a short while, and it is to be enjoyed.

I go out of town for a few days and the snap beans were ready for the harvesting when I came back. Believe me, the beans were calling out to me. There is but so much I can do with snap beans:  I can't serve them with every meal, can I?  Nah. I decided to pickle the beans.

First thing was to wash the beans and snap the ends off.  I wanted to put the beans longways into a 1 pint jar because it makes it most attractive.  I also had beans that were snapped into smaller pieces.  I had about two very large handfuls of snap beans altogether that I put into 2 jars, rinsed in hot water.

The brine:  For 6 cups of brine, combine 5 cups vinegar (white or apple cider, doesn't matter) with 1 cup of water, add 1 tbs sea salt (not iodine).  Bring to a boil, reduce, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Or use 4 parts of white vinegar, 2 parts of water, 1 tbs sea salt, and a pinch of sugar.  Bring to boil, reduce, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Spice:  I love dill and I picked a few sprigs from my garden.  To spice it up, I added about 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes, and I could not resist adding some coriander seeds into the jars.  Use what you have and what you like.

Water bath:  Cap the jars, but don't screw them on too tight.  I added water to my huge pot, put a towel down at the bottom, and added the jars with the water reaching about an inch above the jars.  I let it come to a boil, no hurry--I didn't want the jars to crack (my fear).  I reduced the boil and let it simmer for 10 minutes and let the jars cool down in the pot.

Check point:  When you press down on the caps and they don't budge, the jars are sealed, tighten the caps, store, and enjoy for later.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Friday, April 17, 2015

An Osprey in the Pine Tree

The other day, I was enjoying my hazelnut coffee out on the porch after much work in the Back Forty.  It was a delightful afternoon breeze, making the wind chimes play soothingly to still my restless mind.  It was a moment of quietness and stillness in my backyard, my sanctuary.  Suddenly a movement in the pine tree caught my attention.

I grabbed my camera to go and investigate.  Something had landed on a limb and a sort of a large forked tail was flapping.  What is making it flap and what is it?

It was a new bird visiting the Back Forty.  It was an osprey.  The coloration was sharp, black and white.  Usually ospreys are brown speckled.  But this was an adult female and their colors are darker.

Ospreys are noisy birds but this one was quiet.  Of course, it was quiet:  it was feasting on a very large fish.  It was ripping it apart with its powerful beak while holding it steady with its talons.  Ospreys are mostly, if not exclusively, fish eaters.  They catch the fish with its talons while diving.  They are also called "fish eagles."

The osprey may have found a secluded place for its dinner but she soon had company.  The large blue heron joined her.  Oh, boy!  We are going to have a fight.  Guess who left?  The osprey moved its feast elsewhere and the blue heron also took off.

I am happy that birds of all sizes and small animals feel safe enough to visit the Back Forty.  It is my sanctuary and it is their sanctuary too.

Have a Happy Weekend!
Thank you for visiting my blog.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Plants to Plant in April

When visiting the garden centers, I am quite surprised to find so many plants available for planting.  What surprised me the most was finding garden peas plants.  There are cucumber and squash plants available along with cantaloupes and watermelons.  Take your pick!  Grow what you like and, if nothing else, see what happens.

Here at the Back Forty Garden, we have planted tomatoes and peppers.  There is something peculiar about tomatoes:  I have volunteer plants that are sprouting up all over and I've transplanted some of them.  I am guessing and hoping that they are the non-hybrid.

Now, if you adhere to sage gardeners, we are supposed to rotate the crop.  They say not to plant eggplants, tomatoes, and potatoes in the same spot year after year.  I have just pulled up or dug up red potatoes and white potatoes and in their places, I have sowed zucchini.

The above mentioned vegetables plants are heavy feeders and they do deplete the soil of valuable nutrients.  But we do the best that we can and I realize that some gardeners have limited space.  Our garden plots keep expanding and I am finding other spots to put down some plants or sow some seeds.

Eggplants:  I prefer the Black Beauty.  It's a non-hybrid and has been true and tried.  The fruit is rather large, plump, and solid with a shiny dark purple, almost black color.  It will take a good 120 - 130 days for this warm weather vegetable to mature.

Sweet Potatoes:  One year I planted this kind of a potato from small plants, shoots, or root (whatever you would like to call 'em).  They have come up here and there, spontaneously, ever since.  The potato, we didn't like the taste of, but the vines make attractive ground cover.  You may also plant them whole or cut up making sure that there are "eyes."  It will take about 180 days for a plant/seedling to mature.

Caring for new seedlings:  It does not make me happy to go out into the garden to find that the tender leaves have been eaten by some bugs or insects.  To combat this, I "dust" the plants with all- purpose flower.  I've a duster/sifter and I pump out the flour in skirts all over the plant.  It does not harm the plants and it is environmentally sound (except to the bugs).

Happy Gardening!
Thank you for visiting my blog.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

April Seed Plantings

It is definitely time to seriously start sowing the hardy vegetable seeds when the daffodils are blooming.  The threat of frost is gone and the temperatures are milder and the days are filled with rain and sunshine.  Daffodils don't grow in Florida but a bouquet may be found during a short time in the Spring.

From Seeds

Beans, including snap, pole, and lima or butter beans.  Most beans will germinate in 6 days and mature in 50 -70 days.  We prefer the Contender snap beans and the Sieva pole butter beans.  The snap beans may also be sown in late summer.

The Sieva pole beans have been absent from the market, but I believe they are back in time for this season.  Otherwise, Mezcla is a popular alternative with same great flavor, size, and texture.  Butter beans are also available as bush--no staking is necessary.

Silver Queen Corn is a hybrid that will germinate in 8 days and mature in about 80 - 90 days.  Stalks will grow to 7 to 8 feet tall with dark green husk and flag.  It is advisable to plant in block as opposed to, say, long rows.  It makes for easier pollination.

Plant 3 or 4 seeds in hills about a foot apart and the rows should be spaced about 3 feet apart.  The seedlings should be thinned out and when they are knee high, side dress with Nitrate of Soda and again when tassels appear.  Corn is a heavy feeder and may require lots of common garden fertilizer such as 8-8-8 or 10-10-10.

A Note about Nitrate of Soda:  "Nitrogen stimulates early spring growth, deep green color, and stem and leaf growth.  Deficiencies of Nitrogen can result in stunted plant growth."  For best results, follow direction on the package and wash off any plant food which accidentally gets on foliage.  --From Bonide Nitrate of Soda.

I called the folks at Standard Feed to ask if I used Nitrate of Soda; did I also need regular fertilizer.  The answer came back in no uncertain terms:  No! No! No!

Clemson Spineless Okra is a warm weather season crop belonging to the Hibiscus family that prefers sandy loam, a high quality garden fertilizer, and to be side dressed twice with Nitrate of Soda when plants are about a foot tall and again 4 - 4 weeks later.  It germinates in 10 days and matures in 50 - 60 day.  It is great stir fried and cooked in gumbos.

These are the most important vegetables from seeds that we sow here at the Back Forty Garden.  We have been busy preparing the soil and getting the seeds in the ground.  We still have plants to plant.

Source:  Me and Wyat-Quarles Seed Catalog

Happy Gardening!
Thank you for visiting my blog.
The Fine Print:  I use my blog as a journal to record what is going on in my Back Forty Garden and Park.  It is not my intention to tell you how you should grow your garden, grow your fruit and berries, vegetables and herbs, or take take of yourself.  The content is my own ramblings and so are the pictures unless otherwise stated.  I hope, however, that I have sparked some interest in gardening and related subjects but it is imperative that you do your own research and do what makes sense to you.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Front Twenty Park

In all the years we have lived here in northeast Florida, we have seldom spent any time in the front yard.  We cut the grass, trim the hedge that hides a wooden fence, and tend to a few bushes around the house.  We have no idea what goes on in the circle where we live.  Our house is rather insulated so most of the time we don't even hear the sanitation workers who come and pick up our debris.

Now that we had to take down our large cedar trees, we have a large empty area in the front.  We put up the flag pole and the flag is flying every day.  We bought a solar light so that we could fly the flag at night too and it seems to be working out fine.

We moved a park bench out to the front yard and placed it near the flag pole.  We were a little uncomfortable sitting on the bench and looking out over our neighborhood.  But a flag pole and a bench was not enough.

We went to one of the garden centers and bought two pink roses to plant on either side of the bench.  At least my granddaughter likes pink and I do too.  Furthermore, we moved a small table out from the back and placed it in front of the bench.  Now, we have somewhere to place our coffee cups.

The other morning, a neighbor made a special trip to the circle to tell us that it was nice to see us sitting on a bench in our front yard.  Our neighbors seldom see us out front.  Thank you, we said.

In time for Easter, we moved a potted plant to the front and hung some plastic eggs on it and it looks nice from a distance.