Saturday, October 30, 2010

Official End of Summer

We had a frost this week that killed our tomatoes, peppers, climbing okra and basil.  Brace yourself.  What you are about to see is pretty gruesome.

Above is the climbing okra (actually a gourd that people cook like okra).  You can see one of the large ones that Tom is saving for seed in the lower left.  Below is a picture of some bell pepper plants.

To the left of the pepper plants is some arugula (a spicy green that can be used in salads).  Notice that it was not hurt at all by the frost and we took a lot of it to the market today. 

Most herbs, except for basil, are fairly cold tolerant, too, and will survive unscathed until it gets really cold.  Then they will go dormant for the winter, but will come out in the spring.  Here's a picture of some herbs that survived the frost.  This shows catnip, chives, sorrel and just a little oregano on the extreme left edge.

Even some flowering plants are fairly hardy.  Below is a picture of a Purple Basil plant next to some Lamb's Ear.  The Lamb's Ear survived the frost just great....the Purple Basil did not!

The first frost of the season brings a certain amount of see the vegetables and herbs that one has cultivated and nurtured through the hot, dry summer die overnight.  But, then by this time of year, we are also pretty tired and ready for a rest. 

By January, though, we'll be looking at seed catalogs and dreaming of what we are going to plant next year.....

Monday, October 25, 2010

Coyote and Other Wildlife

We got new batteries and put our wildlife camera back out a couple of weeks ago.  It is motion activated and uses infrared light to take pictures in the dark.  We bought it as a Christmas gift for ourselves last year in December and had it out until early this summer.   We totally enjoyed it last winter and caught pictures of lots of deer and some smaller animals, like racoons and birds. 

We attract the deer by putting out corn for them.  You may know that hunters lure deer close to their deer blinds by putting out corn for them.  We, of course, have NO intention of shooting them, except with a camera!

I was somewhat surprised (and disappointed) last year that we caught no pictures of coyotes on the camera because we hear them often at night and many times they sound very close by.  So, you can imagine my delight this afternoon when I brought the camera in and found we had captured a coyote on film (digital film that is).  Here he/she is:

There were 3 other pictures of a coyote, probably the same one, taken on different days and times.    We also had pictures of deer.
And finally, Sally, the dog, and Marmaduke, the cat, got in on the action.

I'm looking forward to seeing what other animals we catch this year.  It should be fun.  I'll keep you informed.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bodark Tree

We have a Bodark tree on our land.  It is known by a variety of other names, including Osage Orange, horseapple and hedgeapple.  It's a rather large tree and probably many years old.  Here is a picture of it from a distance.

And here is a picture of me standing beside it.

That's our beagle "Lizzy" with me. 

The word Bodark is a pronunciation derived from the French phrase "bois d'arc" meaning "wood of the bow".  French traders and explorers named it this because they found Native Americans using this tree's wood to make bows.  In addition to making excellent bows, it also resists rot so that it makes good fence posts which made its wood prized by early settlers.

The fruit of the Bodark tree looks like a green orange, thus the name Osage Orange.  Squirrels love them and will shred and scatter the pulp to get at the seeds.  Also, as the name "horseapple" implies, horses will eat them if there is a Bodark tree in their pasture.  Here is a picture of one of the fruit.

The tree can be a pain (literally) in that it has thorns.  This was, however, a desirable trait by early settlers before the invention of barbed wire.  One could create a "hedge row" of these trees by planting them close together so that their flexible lower branches could be interwoven creating an almost impenetrable barrier to large animals.  In fact, some historians credit the Bodark's thorns for inspiring the invention of barbed wire.  Here's a picture of some of the thorns.
The wood of the tree is yellow and a yellow dye can be made of the roots.  This fact found an industrial application for coloring the khakis worn by the "doughboys" of World War I.

Needless to say, I have gained a new respect for this tree after reading about its history.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Castor Beans

Last spring a friend who was cleaning out some of her flower beds invited me to come over and help myself to some of the clumps of daylilies and other things that needed thining.  Amoung the things I came back with were some castor bean plants. 

Tom was happy that I had brought these home because he said he had read where they helped to repel deer.  However, he cautioned me that the seeds were poisonous, so not to think we could eat them.  Well, I was not familiar with castor beans and really did not know what to expect of them.   But, this had peaked my curiousity and was I in for a surprise!

Tom took most of them out to the garden and planted them around at various places.  I'm not sure they helped much to repel deer.  (See my post of September 14 about the peppers that the deer grazed on.)  However, I saved one to plant near my herb garden. 

This thing grew into the most awesome plant.  It is taller than me (over 5' 4") and has huge leaves about the size of dinner plates that are dark purple when they are young and turn to a sort of greenish purple as they age.  It is a very striking plant and is quite pretty.  Here is a picture of it.

The flowers of the plant are very strange looking.  You can see a couple of flower stalks through the foliage of the plant.  But, here is one close up.

I didn't know what to expect the seeds to look like and, again, this plant surprised me.  The seeds grow inside marble-sized, spiny pods.  You can see some of these in the above picture.  These pods dry and become hard.  There are three seeds in each pod.  See below.

The seeds are grayish, streaked with black and shiny.  Although they look like beans, they are not even related to beans or the legume family and they are, in fact, deadly for one to eat.  This is why many people cut the flower stems off before they produce seed.

The Latin name for the castor plant is Ricinus communisCommunis means common in Latin and Ricinus is the Latin word for tick.  Apparently, it is so named because the seeds look somewhat like ticks, particularly large ticks engorged with blood.  Yuck!  I think that thought alone would keep me from eating them!

Anyway, castor plants purportedly repel moles.  And, there are a number of industrial applications for castor oil.  When dehydrated, castor oil is converted into a quick-drying oil used extensively in paints and varnishes.  In fact, one of the largest single uses for castor oil in the United States is in the paint and varnish industry.  Some experts say that dehydrated castor oil has qualities superior to linseed oil and tung oil.  Castor oil also has water resistant qualities that make it ideal for coating fabrics and for protective coverings, insulation, food containers, and guns.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Buy Fresh, Buy Local Food Guide

The market where Tom and I sell is located in Stillwater and  is run by the Payne County Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association of which we are members.  One of the rules of our market is that only produce grown in Payne or one of the surrounding counties can be sold there.   So, you won't find spinach from California or cantaloupe from Texas at our market.   You will only find produce that is "in season" in this area for sale at our market.  For example, you won't find corn in April or strawberries in August.

Customers who are new to the market sometimes find this frustrating.  But, after we explain that they can always be assured of the freshest produce that has not traveled hundreds (or thousands) of miles to get here, then they come to appreciate how unique our market is in this regard.  

A national movement called "Buy Fresh Buy Local" has been ongoing for the last few years, and a chapter was recently organized in Payne County.  The chapter has produced a 12 page food guide that lists the farmers markets in this area along with the farmers who participate in these markets.  It has different sections for vegetables, herbs, eggs, meat, etc.  So, you can easily find a local producer for just about anything you want to buy.

You can find a link to this food guide on the following web site: 

Click on "Payne County Region - Buy Fresh Buy Local Food Guide".  This may take a few minutes to download, but then you can print it off or save it to your computer so you can refer to it often.