Sunday, April 15, 2018

Tomato Varieties for 2018




Windy Acres Tomato Varieties for 2018
$2 each at Farm, $3 each at Market

Homestead (Red)
Heirloom. 80 days. Open Pollinated. Produces good yields of 8 to 9 oz red tomatoes. They are very sweet, meaty, juicy, and flavorful. Good foliage that protects tomatoes from sun scald. Does extremely well in hot and humid regions. Known for its reliability to set fruit at high temperatures. Heat tolerant. Plant requires support, either staking or cages. Developed by the University of Florida in 1954.  Disease Resistant: F, A. Semi-Determinate.
Rutgers (Red)
Heirloom. 73 days. Open Pollinated. Early maturing.  Produces high yields of 6 to 12 oz bright red tomatoes. Sweet and flavorful. A cross between a J.T.D. (an old New Jersey variety from the Campbell Soup Company) and a Marglobe. Crack resistant. Heirloom variety developed in 1934 by the New Jersey Experimental Station, New Brunswick, New Jersey.   Disease Resistant: V, F, A, St.  Determinate.
Cherokee Purple (Purplish-pink)
Heirloom. 85 days. Open Pollinated. Plant produces high yields of 8 to 12 oz purplish-pink beefsteak tomatoes. Rich old-fashioned tomato flavor. Consistently ranks very high in taste tests.  One of the best tasting heirloom tomatoes. To maximize yield potential, either stake or use cages. Grown over 100 years ago by the Cherokee Indians. Indeterminate.
Arkansas Traveler (Pink)
Heirloom. 85 days. Open Pollinated. Produces good yields of 6 to 8 oz deep pink tomatoes.  Grows well everywhere. Rich old-fashioned tomato flavor and is considered to be one of the best tasting tomato around. Tolerant to heat and humidity. Crack resistant.  Heirloom variety dating back to the late 1800's from the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas.  Indeterminate.
Virginia Sweet (Bi-colored yellow/red)
Heirloom. 80 days.  Open Pollinated. Plant produces high yields of 1 to 2 lb bi-colored golden yellow beefsteak tomatoes with red stripes that turn into a ruby blush on top. It has the rich full tomato flavor. One of the best tasting, most beautiful, and best producing bi-colored tomatoes. Excellent choice for home gardens. Heirloom variety from Virginia. Indeterminate.
Black Krim (Dark mahogany, blackish-red)
Heirloom.  80 days. Open Pollinated. Produces high yields of 10 to 16 oz dark mahogany, blackish-red beefsteak tomatoes. Has rich old-fashioned tomato flavor. Very sweet, juicy, and flavorful. Heat tolerant. Suitable for containers and patio gardening. Heirloom from the Black Sea region of Russia. Indeterminate.
Kellogg Breakfast (Yellow/Orange)
Heirloom. 85 days. Open Pollinated.  Produces excellent yields of 1 to 2 lb bright orange beefsteak tomatoes. Very sweet, meaty, juicy, and flavorful. Heirloom variety from Darrell Kellogg and originating from West Virginia. Indeterminate.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Planting Strawberries

If you follow my blog, you know that last year I tried growing strawberries in some cattle supplement tubs we obtained from a friend.  They flourished in the tubs and this spring I thinned them rather drastically.  I wrote about that in my blog last month.  Today, I want to show you what I did with the plants I that I thinned.

In my raised bed garden, I had a empty bed in which I had grown cilantro last spring.  The cilantro went to seed and died during the summer.  And, I didn't get around to planting anything else in the bed.  I thought this would make a good bed for strawberries, so a couple of weeks ago I cleaned it out and worked the ground up.


I had quite a few strawberry plants from thinning the cattle tubs, more than I could plant in this one bed.


The important thing to remember when planting strawberries is to not plant the crown of the plant too deeply.  In the picture below, the part of the plant above my thumb should be above the soil level.  This is the crown of the plant.


It didn't take long to dig a few holes and get the plants in the ground.  I spaced the plants about 12-16 inches apart.  As they become established, they will send out runners which will root and make new plants.  So, you want to leave enough room for the runners.


I didn't remember until afterwards that I had to do something to keep the chickens from getting in the bed and digging the plants up!  It is funny, but they will be completely uninterested in a garden bed until they notice me digging in it.  This acts as a magnet for them and they can't resist scratching in a bed where they see the soil has been recently disturbed.  

See what I mean.  Fortunately, I found a cattle panel that fit over the bed just before this hen came to investigate.  The grid is too small for her to scratch much.  Plus, it is not evident from this picture, but the panel is raised about an inch off the ground.


That didn't stop her from walking across the bed trying to figure out how she could manage to scratch between those wires in that nice soil.



In the end, she lost interest and went elsewhere.  However, when these strawberries bloom and set fruit, I will have to come up with a better way to keep them out of the bed because this will definitely not keep them from eating those nice red berries.  







Saturday, March 17, 2018

Thinning Strawberries

Last year I planted some strawberries in three of the cattle supplement tubs that we got from a friend.  The following link contains a picture of one tub of strawberries in May of last year.


After that picture was taken, the strawberry plants in these containers went crazy, sending out runners which made lots of new plants.  I was actually quite surprised by this.  The tubs are black and collect a lot of heat during sunny summer days.  I thought they would be too hot for strawberries, but I was wrong.

Winter is almost over and we are beginning to have quite a few warm days and I decided it was time to clean out and thin my strawberries.  Here's one of the strawberry tubs before I started.


As you can see there are a lot of dead leaves, so I had to remove those before I could see where the strawberry plants were.  


Next, I selected certain plants that I dug up.  You have to practice "tough love" when thinning strawberries.  Sometimes that means getting pretty rough with them.  I removed the big clump in the middle.  It took some digging and hard pulling to get it out.


It consisted of several plants crowded close together.  I saved these to plant somewhere else.


I tried to leave plenty of room between the remaining plants in order for them to have room to grow. Here's the tub after I finished.


After I thinning all three tubs, I had almost a whole Walmart bag full of plants that I will give away or plant elsewhere.  

My work was made a lot easier by this garden bench.  It is just the right height to use with the tubs.  You can also turn it over and use it to kneel on.


So, one spring chore is completed, but I have a lot more to go.  Wish me luck!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Spring Planting

It's still rather early to plant summer yielding vegetables, but for cool season crops, like onions and potatoes, it is the perfect time.

Last week Tom planted onions.  He usually buys onion plants.  These come in bundles and can be obtained at many grocery stores, although he bought these from our local farm store.  He bought 5 bundles that included sweet onions and red onions.  He also bought 3 kinds of seed potatoes:  Kennebec, Yukon Gold and Red LaSota.  He spent an afternoon planting these.  They sure look tiny in the field, but they will grow big and round in our compost enhanced soil.


While I was down there taking pictures of the onions, I checked out the garlic we planted last fall.  In Oklahoma, you plant garlic in the fall and harvest it in June.  We mulch it with leaves for winter protection.  It's looking good.  


Tom had just finished planting potatoes when I was out there taking pictures.  Here he is mulching them with leaves.  Note the black trash bags full of leaves in the background.  These are some of the ones he rescued from the trash trucks in town last fall.  We use them for mulching the garden, as well as adding them to our compost piles.
 

Our chickens saw him out in the field and thought they would come see if they could help.  Actually, they were looking for bugs and whatever goodies they could find in the freshly tilled soil.
 

After they grew tired of that, they checked out the new compost pile and found that much more interesting.


The chicken in the foreground is scratching around in the remains of a pile of finished compost.  It was several feet tall before Tom spread most of it on the onion and potato patches.  There are still several buckets of compost here.  I plan to use that for some of my raised beds near the house.

We will not be doing as much gardening this year as we have in the past.  I am having some back problems and Tom is going to have to have eye surgery.  Getting older is NOT fun!  Never the less, I always see us having a small garden, if only to grow herbs and a few tomatoes.  

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Winter Wildlife

I seem to have gotten lazy this winter about writing my blog articles, but there just has not been a lot to report.  The winter has been much colder than last winter, so there have been very few days when we felt like going out in the cold to prepare for the coming season.  Plus, it has been a very dry winter and I am very concerned that we may be headed for a repeat of 2012. The U.S. Drought Monitor shows our part of Oklahoma at the "severe drought" level.  


If this weather pattern keeps up, I may dwell on this topic again in the coming months, but for now I want to share with you some of the wildlife we've captured on our wildlife cameras this winter.

First, we have lots of deer to report.  We have the nice fellow below.  Also, notice the raccoon over by the tree.  



These 2 guys seem to hang out together.  The one on the right has already lost one of his antlers.  The one on the left has only a spike.


The younger bucks sometimes practice butting heads.


Then, of course, there are lots of does and yearlings that come.  Many of them even come during daylight hours.


Tom built the feeders attached to the tree out of PVC pipe.  The deer don't mind having to stick their noses down into the opening to get at the corn.


Occasionally, we get a close-up view.  I wonder if he was trying for a "selfie".


Squirrels are ever-present and probably eat a good deal of the deer corn, but we don't mind.  They are hungry, too.  There are 4 in the picture below.  Can you find them all?


We've been delighted this winter to have a flock of wild turkeys frequenting our place.  They enjoy pecking around the deer feeder and are not shy about coming up close to the house where our bird feeders are located.  They clean up whatever seed falls out of the feeders.  One day a car startled them when they were in the large grassy field in front of the house.  They all took flight and flew right over the house.  I was amazed such large birds could fly so well.  They flew quite a ways, too, over to the neighbor's property where there are more trees and brush.


And, one of the most exciting animals we have seen has been a bobcat.  He strolled right down the driveway in front of the house.  We've lived here 9 years and have never seen one of these.



Monday, January 15, 2018

Homemade Soft Butter

In my last blog entry, I showed how I make my own strawberry cream cheese.  The stuff you buy at the store may contain all kinds of artificial ingredients, such as food coloring and thickening agents.  If you missed it, here it is again:


This week I'm sharing how to make your own soft butter.  Here's what I used to buy at the grocery story.  Unlike the strawberry cream cheese mentioned above, this only contains butter, canola oil and salt.  


I like to use this kind of butter for several reasons.  First, it spreads easier than plain butter and, second, half the butter fat is replaced by canola oil which is healthier.  It is rather expensive, though, and I wondered if I could make the same thing at home cheaper.  Searching the internet I found several recipes and, with a little experimentation, came up with what I think is just as good.  

You need one stick of butter and a half cup of canola oil.  You can double these amounts to make a larger quantity.  You can also use olive oil instead of canola oil


Soften the butter and chunk it up in a container of some sort.  


Add the oil and mix it up with a hand mixer or an immersion blender, like this.  


Scoop this into a small bowl, cover tightly and store in your refrigerator.  


When you initially finish mixing the butter and oil, you may think it is too thin, but trust me, it will thicken up after it has been in the frig for an hour or so.  Then you'll have a product that is every bit as good at the store-bought kind.  See how nicely it turns out.


I've refined my method since if took these pictures.  I realized that I could avoid messing up the mixing container by mixing the butter and oil in the container I planned to store it in.


The container just needs to be deep enough to avoid having your mixer splatter it all over the kitchen!  I haven't put a pencil to paper to calculate how much I am saving by making my own.  But, I believe I can make this for about half of what I can buy it for.  Plus, if you live in a small community that does not have recycling facilities, there is no store-bought container to send to the landfill.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Easy Strawberry Cream Cheese

I've been a label reader for years.  I normally check the ingredients on everything before I buy it.  I never worried about the strawberry cream cheese because all it should contain is cream cheese and strawberries, right?  Nope.  Silly me to trust multinational food conglomerates to have my best interests in mind. 



Notice all the extra ingredients in this store-bought brand..... Xanthan gum, guar cum, carob bean gum, whey protein concentrate, whey.  Then you also have color added and "natural" flavor.  Good Grief!

I checked a block of plain cream cheese.  Many fewer ingredients.  I think I can probably live with Carob Bean Gum.  


So, I asked myself.....Why not make my own strawberry cream cheese?  Here's how I did it.

Put 4-5 frozen strawberries in a food processor.


Give them a whirl.  You may want to let them thaw just a little bit.


Add a block of softened cream cheese that has been cut into 4 pieces.  You may also want to add 2-3 tablespoons of powdered sugar, depending on the sweetness of the strawberries.


Process it until it is the consistency you like.



Put it in an air-tight container and store in the frig.


This is so much better tasting than the store-bought kind.  One bag of frozen strawberries makes several batches.  Come to think about it, I have never checked the ingredients on frozen strawberries.  Surely they only contain strawberries?  Sigh.  I better go check.