3.28.2015

Amaryllis By Morning, Amaryllis From Where

A couple of years ago Peggy and I went over to Cape Canaveral to visit with her beloved Uncle Bill and Aunt Fran.
  At the time they were still "snowbirding" between Sanborn, NY (near Niagara Falls) and Florida.  Uncle Bill is a retired rocket scientist who worked for NASA during the "Right Stuff" era.  When he retired, they decided to spend winters down on the Florida coast where he could be closer to where all the 'space action' was located. Picture below is a view of Cape Canaveral near their home.
We had a wonderful time with them and they drove us around showing us the town and Atlantic seashore near their home. visiting the Cape.
Uncle Bill is a highly intelligent, very interesting man to visit with and Aunt Fran has a wonderful personality, with a quick wit and we enjoyed laughing with them both.  We had a ball visiting with them as they gave us the local tour.  
 While we were there, Peggy couldn't help but admire their Amaryllis blooms, which ya can see in the first picture just to the right of Uncle Bill.  Aunt Fran insisted we take some home with us and we are thrilled that this year they are doing great and blooming up a storm.
When I stepped out the door this morning, I couldn't help but think of the wonderful couple I have come to love, who live up in New York State. They gifted us these beautiful flowers from Cape Canaveral Florida, and we think they are out of this world. 
   These gorgeous flowers have been blooming for a week now and this is not the only batch; there are about four more in the flower bed. We are thoroughly enjoying them, as they remind us of Uncle Bill and Aunt Fran each time we look at them. They are every bit as bright and colorful as our favorite western NY couple. We don't know when these blooms will give up for the season, but for now we are enjoying Amaryllis morning by morning.

3.20.2015

A Gardening Note To Ourselves

After plotting and planning for a few days, last weekend Peggy and I headed to town to pick up some stuff from Lowes to stick in the ground.  Since the weather was nice for now, but a rainy week was forecasted,  it seemed like a good time to hurry and plant our garden.  It's a gamble to plant this early and our 'main weather prognosticator' (our 20 year old pecan tree) hadn't even began to bud. No matter how sunny and warm the Spring season here in South Louisiana, if the old pecan tree refuses to bud,  you can bet 'he' knows what he's 'talking' about; for sure another heavy frost is lurking around nearby.  It always happens. Last year, for instance. It had been warm for about a month and kept getting warmer as the days went on. 'Everybody else' in our yard was blooming and flowering. We ignored the old pecan tree's wisdom for a change and planted our gardens. Sure enough, a week or so later, along sneaked that very frost one night and wiped out our whole garden,  the baby plums hanging so plump and full of promise, and most of our citrus crops. This year we are kinda worried, because there he stands, arms folded, silently holding back his buds, with not even a hint of them. Still...it's getting late in the season, so with one eye on him, we figure this year maybe the odds are in our favor.  Sunday, when we walked outside it was 70 degrees and sunny.  The yard is full of clovers, and the birdies were singing and it was a great day to play outside.  The plum trees are dark green and loaded with little fruit.
Upon close inspection I noticed a few branches on the North side had been hit by a recent frost, but the majority of the tree was fine and the plums were looking good.


If all goes well, we will have a big crop and we cant wait to pick and can and share them.  Our big naval orange tree still has half a dozen or so oranges on it, and is covered with flower buds for this Fall's crop. Oh, and they were abundant and sweet-sweet-sweet.
The flowers on our lemon tree are beginning to open and when the breeze is right, the whole neighborhood can smell their amazing fragrance.  While Peg and I were 'playin' in the yard, an occasional breeze would carry the smell of Spring to us, over and over. We were hoping the ol' pecan tree would take a whiff.
 
One happy surprise was our little Yum Yum nectarine tree.  Overnight it got the big idea to that to start blooming. The contrast between its bright pink flowers and the dead banana fronds is somehow, in our minds, lovely.
Each year the train of frosts kill the tall, lush green banana palm leaves, so we trim them back and almost immediately, barring any other freezes, they quickly replace themselves with even more vigor. So, right now the 'nanners need some TLC, but we are waiting for a few weeks, then we plan to use the dried fronds for mulch around our trees, etc.
The only unusual thing about this picture of Peggy planting stuff in her new bed is that she had no four legged helpers. (Two of the kittens have never returned, but the two who remain, along with their Mama cat, are usually somewhere around, putting their little paws into the holes Peg digs to put in new plants, or they are doing cartwheels over the worms she unearths. Strange not to find them in any of these photos.) 
This last picture is the purpose of this post.  It's here to remind us that, for better or worse, we planted our small garden March the eighth.

Our beloved little 4' by 12' garden box is planted for the 14th year.  This Spring we put sweet peas and cucumbers on the ends by the trellises, and left to right bush beans, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.   Nearest us in the center front are 4 bell pepper plants partaking in our new "Great Epsom Salt Experiment".  (more about that later)
Having gotten our garden all planted, we pray for good returns for all our efforts.  We will post the results come what may, so now, the yearly gamble is ON,  and now we know exactly when it was we planted it, and all the while, across the yard, the wise old pecan tree looks on.

3.10.2015

Rotating Our Green Onions (...or the 'something-something of the Traveling Plants')

 Back in November, when we "worked" our main garden box, we decided to give it the winter off.  We 'worked the bed' by adding some compost and "triple 13 " from the Ag center, then covered it with straw and the only thing we put growing for the winter was some green onion bulbs. (the 'before' picture)
Well, the last week in February (a week or so ago)  we harvested these same green onions, below. (the 'after' picture)
I pulled them up and shook the dirt off as best I could.
Then I fixed the bed back so you would never know they were there.
I sat on the patio enjoying a warm sunny afternoon cleaning the onions, then separating them. I left out this bunch for replanting, after I cut off the nice greens, finely sliced them and stuck them in the freezer for any dish that figures they need a handful of nice onion greens.

We like to move our onion patch around to different locations every time we harvest them, so after separating and trimming, I stuck the ones I saved to replant, in Peggy's herb/salad bed. (The parsley and cilantro wouldn't get out of the way, so some of the onions kind of got planted away from their family, but not by a whole lot.)
The ones I didn't replant, I carried into the house and Peggy rinsed them all off in our big kitchen sink.

She separated the whites from the green parts and went to whacking on them, putting any odd parts into her beloved compost pail. 
By the time she sliced all the greens, her 'chopper' was tired, so I did the white parts.
For some reason I can't find the picture of the 3 fat bags of onion white parts, but they went in the freezer, too, and are wonderful additions to just about anything. 
    Our friend, Sam, gave us the original handful of these onions for us to plant, and we use the greens in almost every meal we make, like salads or our Cajun dishes, and we haven't had to buy green onions in years. This is what a few square feet of onion bulbs/roots/plants...whatever you wanna call them, results in when they are planted and replanted all year round, except for our South Louisiana heat of  Summer. 
  In a few more months, in June, when I pull them up again, after we harvest the main parts, their bottoms will spend the hottest months in a sack in our closet until September, when we'll put them back in another different spot to spend a happy winter in our yard.  

3.04.2015

Turning Heads in the South

  Well, as yall know, we have been enjoying a lot of cabbage this winter. These two beautiful specimens were what our friend Sam grew. Notice how they dwarf our large cutting knife. Sam said each of these cabbages weighed in at nine pounds!! We don't know how he grows them, but they are very dense and sweet. Perfect for anything you've got in mind to fix for supper.  
  We make a variety of slaws, or use the cabbage in soups and stews. We made a wonderful cabbage roll casserole, but didn't make them into rolls; just added all the ingredients and chopped the cabbage, then added it to the mix. We've smothered them and steamed them,...did I mention smothered and boiled etc. Cabbage is so good and so healthy. Almost forgot to mention that along with four huge cabbages, he sent along some packages of his Andouille and smoked turkey necks that either found, or will find their way into a dish that's loaded with the bounty of these wonderful cabbages. God has blest Sam with some really great talents and also a very giving nature. We are truly grateful for his friendship...and a lot of the time, it's around supper time that we are especially thankful. 
   The other day we were surprised to receive a bag of brussel sprouts, along with another 2 heads of cabbage from our neighbor, Jean aka "TurkeyNeck". 
I am not sure why, but I have never known anyone who has grown them and didn't even know we could grow them right here in our neighborhood.  It just aint a veggie that my Cajun family or friends, to my knowledge, ever grew.
   I like brussel sprouts and have on occasion bought them to cook here at home, or whenever I've found them in a cafeteria or buffet, I put them on my plate. I just honestly never thought about growing them. 
   When our young neighbor, Jean, dropped them off , I just hadda walk back with him, 'cause I had never seen them growing or had a clue what they looked like when they did.  Looking at his garden, I immediately knew that they would be a great addition to our small garden, since they grow straight up and don't need much room, and the ones he had were bearing like crazy.  He only had 4 plants, but they were each over 3 feet tall and covered with growing sprouts. 
 I barely got them in the door before Peggy started peeling them and getting them ready for the oven. (Ya gotta take off the tough outer layers or they'll be bitter...and she trims off more of the stem.)

As she processed them, she tossed them in a pan of olive oil.
She lightly salted them, sprinkled with some black pepper and granulated garlic powder, tossed them around in the pan 'til shiny (evenly coated) and ready for the oven. (Notice her compost bucket...more news about that later on another post.)
You may note the pan fresh from the oven looks a little sparse?? Not to worry; this will not happen to you.
That's because after smelling them cooking for about an hour at 350 degrees, as soon as they came out the oven we started snacking on them until we remembered the fracking camera; too late, AGAIN. So, like the adage about, when life hands you lemons...well, down here in Sunny South Louisiana, we've been handed huge heads of cabbage and tiny heads of cabbage. Ya think we are gonna make lemonade? Oh heck no!

2.23.2015

Gift Cabbage

The 'Cajun country boy trading network' is alive and well in our little town, and one example of the many things going back and forth between between friends and neighbors this winter is cabbage.  Our garden boxes are small, so we do not grow cabbage 'cause it takes a lot of room grow the wonderful stuff.  Not only that, but we have a good friend, primarily, Smokin' Sam, who does have plenty of room to grow a lot of everything, and he does it with a lot of success, and not only that, he's more than willing to share.    For the last couple months we have been getting 1 or 2 heads of cabbage from him.  He and his wife, Louise, have have been getting satsumas or oranges or grapefruit, or pickles or canned figs in return. (The sausage and Andouille Sam blesses us with makes whatever we are cooking, 'sing'.)    I have been patient through this whole process, allowing my salad head wife to slaw to her hearts content.  All winter along the only other thing we did with the cabbage was make a casserole in a black iron pot.  That was cause I was too lazy to make cabbage rolls and just layered the makings in the pot and threw it in the oven.  It was wonderful of course and appeased me for a while but when our neighbor dropped off what may be the last 2 cabbage heads of the season off I put my foot down and insisted we smother them.  Now do not misunderstand me I love slaw and Peggy is a wiz at it.  She makes several wonderful varieties, as any one who knows us will avow.   The Cajun country boy in me just likes them cooked down so far ya can barely tell they usta be cabbage.  When the neighbor dropped these off:
I just hadda drag out the black iron pot and go to wacking them up.  With a couple yellow onions and some left over chicken from the other night that I had lightly sauteed in the pot with 3 slices of bacon I began putting in wacked up cabbage.
Well it wasn't long before the pot was full and I still had almost 1 whole one left to add.
Not a problem, just put the lid on and come back in a few minutes.
Fill it up again and repeat.

One more time and its all in the pot.
after letting it cook down stirring occasionally I adjusted the seasoning with our home made Cajun spice.

Yes, this is the same pot that I filled 3 times and No I aint took none out......yet.
I actually like it cooked down even more till it is a darker nuttier brown color but to be honest this took a while and I got hungry.  We had it over rice and like usual I got busy eating and forgot to take a plated picture.  We had it over rice with a salad on the side and it was wonderful.  Sadly we are out now and for the first time in months bought a head of cabbage.  Now that I have had my fix Peggy got our the food processor and shredded some of it with carrots and made a slaw that was delicious but I sure enjoyed smothering a pot 3 times full, down to half full of Cajun style comfort food.


Peggy asked that I refer yall to this story she wrote way back some years ago here on ourblog about 'smothering' things. (for some reason it will only search with Google to find it)
 
http://cappyandpegody.blogspot.com/2005/09/smothered-squirrelsi-can-just-see-it.html

It's hard to  believe we been at it this long, blogging that is.  I been smothering things all my life. 

2.16.2015

Here We Grow Again

  In our world, the "F" in February has meant "Fertilizer". (Yeah, I can hear Peggy in the background, being an ex-Yankee, sayin' that there's another word for fertilizer that folks say up north in February when they get hit with another foot of snow...but this aint it). For us Southern gardeners, fertilizer is what it is...garden fertilizer. What I learned about when to do this, I can't rightly recall, but probably early on as a kid, when my first gardening experience was to have to do a li'l dreaded weeding, and thought, "oh sure, go ahead and fertilize...just the sort of encouragement these dollar weeds and Johnson grass needs".  But I know it to be true, and I know I've heard it all my life, this gardening fact, that the right time to fertilize is in February. 
   The old timers gardening experts, etc. all agree that it's the best time to fertilize down here in the soggy South.  I do remember the county agent stopping by when I first moved here and recommending 13-13-13 fertilizer as a good mix for my yard.  (We all simply call it "triple thirteen") That and the addition of zinc around the pecan trees is all that's needed for our soil. 
   Over 20 years ago I saw my "across the street neighbor," Jude, dragging a heavy metal pole around with a 5-gal. bucket and a sack of fertilizer. Well, I just had to go over and inquire; that's how we are in our neighborhood.  He told me that this homemade 'hole-puncher' was neighborhood community 
property  and used by almost everyone on our street, so, from that year on, every February, I have track down the "tool" and use it in our yard too. (Sometimes, one of the neighbors may have to come 'track it down' at our house.)
 Now that our trees are large, I fertilize our fruit and nut trees only.  They work hard giving to us so I figure it's only right to give back to them, and they always reward us with a good bounty, (unless the squirrels or other predators get to it before we do, but anymore, with cats on patrol in our yard, the harvest has been bountiful).
  Born from the axle of some long-forgotten farming equipment this "frankentool" has a cross-piece welded to it for a foot step.  It is used by jamming it down into the ground, all the way to the cross-piece and then "wallowing" the hole.  This makes the hole wider and allows the tool to be easily removed.  

After that, we pour in 1 lb. of fertilizer into the hole.  We learned years ago that a red Solo cupful to the top ring is 1 lb.

So it's: stick it in around the outer 'drip line' of the tree, wiggle it around, pull it out and repeat, while at each hole, Peg pours in the fertilizer.  We did this about 100 times altogether, in our whole yard, counting for all the fruit and nut trees.
   The big Plum trees and citrus trees each got 10 or so holes, while the smaller, newly planted trees only got 4.  I think the rule for most things is 1 lb. per year of growth.  
 After we add the cupful of fertilizer, we take 2 steps to the right and repeat all the way around the tree. We let the tree canopy 'tell us how much to put', since the outside of the canopy is our 'drip line'. 
    My helper dawggy, Beaux, insisted on helping, but tends to wander off around the neighborhood looking for a more exciting adventure than what we are up to, so I tied his leash to my overalls.  That worked pretty good 'til at one point the Brat got excited and ran around and around me and hog-tied my feet together.
After the first few holes our chubby ole dog decided he would rather spend his day chillin' on the porch swing.
When I was finally done, my beloved wife rewarded me by building a fire in the pit and bringing her sweaty ole hubby a cold beer.
I am pretty sure that for the last few years that hole-puncher has been getting heavier and heavier and harder to drag around the yard.  I am also sure that if that dang thing could talk it would prolly say, "Oh -----!('fertilizer'), blame the tool!"