Saturday, August 29, 2015

Waiting for Erika

Erika took her sweet time to come across the ocean to play havoc in the Carribean Islands only to loose strength as she climbed the Hispaniola mountains.  She was disorganized and busy trying to get herself together before she hit Florida.  Now, it looks like we are going to experience a lot of wind and rain.

Years ago, I made an emergency package in case we would have to evacuate.  In a large zippered bag, I had packed sheets, blankets, pillows and towels along with toiletries and some kitchen wares. I had to repack it to find out what I did have and this time I made a note of the content.

Yesterday, we went to our regular grocery store and stocked up on canned vegetables, tuna fish, pasta and soups.  We added peanut butter, cereal, dry milk, tea, and hot chocolate.  This is also in case that we have to evacuate or for staying at home but losing water and electricity.  It will see us through a few days.

This picture shows how far a water surge will reach during a Hurricane 1 and so on. Not a comforting pole to look at, but helpful.  During a Hurricane 2, we are evacuating.

Then there is the water:  we stocked up on small bottles and large bottles of water.  In addition, I plan to fill my pitchers and food grade buckets with water for cooking and cleaning.  I also plan to fill up the bath tub with water for flushing the toilet.  It is more than possible that the city water will be contaminated and some say to turn it off immediately should that be the case.  FEMA recommends two quarts of day per person for drinking water but about one gallon per person per day is more likely.

It is important that pets are taken care of at a time of evacuation and to make sure shelters are taking them in along with you.  Pets should be in a comfortable cage large enough for the pet to turn around in.

We use a carrier for our cat when we travel and stay in motels and that is served as her safe house and she is doing very well with her shelter.  We also have a picture of her and her updated vaccination records tucked away in an airtight bag tucked away in her carrier.

When we returned to Florida about ten years ago, we were concerned (and still are) about severe storms so my husband and I cut out plywood to cover our windows.  We needed special screws and bolts to fasten the plywood to the bricks.  The home improvement centers were most helpful.

We put up all the plywood to cover our windows to make sure that the plywood fit and that we were able to do it.

I must confess that I am not ready for a major disaster.  A most important factor for insurance purposes is to make an inventory listing of your possessions--to document everything that you own, no matter how inexpensive the items.  The ideal thing would be to make a video, to go from room to room and make a sweep of what you have.

At the time of this writing, Erika has diminished.  It is no longer a tropical storm or hurricane, but there may be others to follow.

Stay safe.
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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Umbrella Tree Revisited

There has been much interest in the Umbrella Tree or Bush.  Maybe it is because of the somewhat unusual and intriguing name.  The Umbrella Tree is also known as Schefflera.

This plant is often seen in a doctor's office or a dentist's office.  You may have seen this large and glossy plant in office buildings.  It does fill out empty spaces providing attractive greenery.

The only reason I figure the name "umbrella" is the whorl of slender leaves, the cluster that is formed like an umbrella.

Some of the Scheffleras grow rather tall with thick and shiny clusters, umbrellas, while others have rather delicate leaves.

The Schefflera does well outside in the summer time.  It is pest resistant and it is also draught resistant.

The Schefflera is fast growing and if you don't like its shape:  cut it.  I use the cut greenery in simple flower arrangements and it may even take root.

To root the Schefflera and other woody plants, I would make a snip on the selected piece, still attached to the plant, wrap it in plastic that holds moist moss and carefully tie off the ends including the stem of the host plant.

Another method would be to take a "branch" near the ground when the plant is outside, lay it on the top of the soil and cover it up with more soil. It is still attached to the host plant.  Hopefully, it will root at some point.  Do you have any suggestions?

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Gardening in August

Colossus Peas
It is tempting to get out there, turn the soil, and start gardening.  If you live in North Florida or where the weather is hot and humid, wait a little longer and do your garden a favor and let it rest until the end of the month, at least.

I am anxious to start the fall garden and I have cleared off one garden plot, a 12 x 12 sq ft area.  I pulled up the rambling tomato vines as well as the egg plants but left the peppers standing.  I turned the soil but did not add any compost or other nutrients.

I know it's somewhat late to plant a cover crop but I sowed Black Eyed Peas in the newly tilled plot.  My intention is to use the peas as a cover crop and to fix nitrogen.  The peas germinates in 6 days and matures in 60 - 70 days.

When the time comes to plant the fall crop, I will mow down the rows of beans and use as a green mature.  If the peas are mature, then that will be a bonus.

Black Eyed Pea Seeds

My mathematician on the Back Forty informed me that the other garden plot is 204 sq ft.  The Sieva Pole Beans have their fixed place, still producing, near the fence.

My granddaughter sowed a row of Colossus Peas as a cover crop and every seed germinated and they are making nice greenery.  They are next to the butter beans.

The Colossus Peas are a legume much closer associated with beans.  Consider their germination 6 - 7 days and they mature in 55 - 75 days.  The peas are ready for harvesting when the pods turn brown and show sign of splitting.  Chuck 'em and store 'em.

Colossus Pea Seeds
In addition to the peas, I plan to clear off the weeds in the large plot and sow a row of Bush Straight Neck Squash, germination 6 days and 60 - 70 days to maturity.

Finally, at the end of the month when more space is cleared off, I plan to sow another row of Contender Snap Beans, germination 6 days and 60 -  70 days to maturity.

The green beans are a true and tried crop with excellent results and we are once again ready to eat snap beans.

Earlier this summer, the Plant Ranch gave me a book Home Grown Food by Milo Shammas also known as Dr. Earth and he writes that "gardening gives you more than the activity and the harvest.  You become a steward of the earth."

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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Saving Tomato Seeds

It is rather easy to save your own tomato seeds for the next growing season; however, it is strongly recommended that only heirloom (not hybrid) tomatoes are used.  They are proven good producers and naturally resistant against pests and diseases.  .

The other morning, my husband came into the kitchen and he wanted to know what was smelling so badly.  I told him that it was tomatoes fermenting.  What?

A few days earlier, I had halved red cherry tomatoes and yellow sweet million cherry tomatoes and put them in separate glass jars with enough water to cover them.  I put a lid on the jars, not too tight, and set them in the darkest corner of the drain board and forgot about them.

The tomatoes fermented for a few days a scummy goo was formed on top of the water.  Oh, boy!

It was kind of smelly when the jars were fully opened but I persevered and removed the goo and gently washed the tomatoes in a sieve under running water making sure none of the seeds fell down the drain.

I squeezed out the seeds onto a paper towel and put them away making sure I labeled the seeds that should be dried within the week.  Then I'll put them in a small container, label, and store in the cup board for next spring.

Seeds from large heirloom tomatoes may also be saved in a similar method.  I cut one tomato in half through the middle, equator, and carefully scooped out the seeds, washed off the membrane, and put the seeds on a porcelain plate to prevent the seeds from sticking.  I skipped the fermentation phase. The seeds are still drying.

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Friday, August 7, 2015

Peach and Carrot Bread

I cannot resist colorful and ripe freestone peaches from South Carolina so I bought another box at the Farmer's Market. I couldn't wait to take large savoring bites of a large peach and yet another peach only to finally wipe the juice off my chin with a huge paper towel.

This is the end of the season for peaches and the end of the summer is near as well.

But I want to taste the peaches later on the season, so I peeled them and cut them up and put them in the last few jars available, poured a sugar/water solution over them, added some spice, and gave them a water bath.

I still had peaches left over and I checked out some recipes on line and this is one for a Carrot and Peach Bread using 1 and 1/2 cup peeled and chopped peaches, 3/4 chopped pecans, and 3/4 cups grated carrots.

Mix the dry ingredients together:
2 and 1/2 cups flour (and more, maybe)
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Slightly beat 2 or 3 eggs together (use 3 if the eggs are small)
Add 1 cup sugar, 2/3 cup canola oil, and 1/2 cup low fat milk

Stir it all together and pour into two greased glass oven proof glass containers and bake for, at least, 1 hour at 350 F degrees.  Let cool, cover with a towel, and enjoy for breakfast the following morning.  I served a generous slice of bread with cream cheese and my husband nodded his approval.

This is the best bread I've made.  It seems like a lot of ingredients but  I happened to have them available.

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