Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mustard Varieties and Flowers

This afternoon I took Sally out for her physical therapy (walk).  She had a ruptured disc in her back and had to have surgery.  So, now she needs to have limited exercise 3 times a day for 4 to 6 weeks.  Over the Thanksgiving holidays, I've been able to help with this.  After I go back to work, most of this will fall on Tom to do.  But, anyway, today she seemed to feel like walking farther than usual and we ended up walking all the way to the east end of our property.

While on this excursion, we past by Tom's "mustard experiment".  At last year's Horticulture Industry Show (HIS), he picked up a free packet of Mighty Mustard seed,  Mustard is a strong green, similar to turnip greens, that can be eaten raw or cooked.  We often add young mustard leaves to our spring salad mix that we sell at the farmers' market.  However, Mighty Mustard varieties have been developed to use as cover crops and contain glucosinolates that act as natural chemical agents to help control many soil borne pathogens and weeds, making them an effective, all-natural alternative to chemical pesticides and herbicides.

So, Tom planted his free packet of seed this fall.  There were 2 varieties of mustard in the packet, Pacific Gold and Ida Gold.  He planted them side by side.  When Sally and I walked past them a little while ago here is what they looked like.

Notice the variety on the left looks rather sick.  That is because it is not as cold-tolerant as the variety on the right and the frosts we have had thus far this fall have taken their toll on it.  Tom can't remember which variety is which and I guess it does not make any difference.  Neither variety is supposed to survive through the winter, but, none the less, they will add nutrients to the soil when Tom tills them in this spring. 

Another thing I was amazed to find, especially at this time of year, was the following flower.

It looks as if Mighty Mustard is determined to flower and try to produce seed until the weather finally gets cold enough to do it in.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Colors of Autumn

The trees have outdone themselves this year in showing off their fall colors.  I first noticed the pecan trees on the east end of our farm turning to yellow at the end of October.  See below.

Then I began to notice the sumac along the roadsides turning red.  They were spectacular this year!  There is one little sumac bush across the road from our mailbox.  Here it is as it was beginning to show its fall colors.

Finally, I about a week ago, as I was turning off the road into our driveway, the sun was getting low in the west and was shining on some cottonwood trees across the road from us.  It looked as though the heavens had picked these trees to spotlight at that moment.  I stopped the car and took this picture before I drove on to our house.

Today it is cloudy and supposed to rain later on, and I noticed these trees have lost all their leaves in preparation for their winter sleep.  It has been a hard year on the trees here in Oklahoma.  The hot, dry summer took its toll on them, I'm sure.  But, none the less, they have rewarded us with a beautiful display of color this fall and, now, they deserve to rest.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving and Meatloaf

We were planning to go to Texas to be with our kids and grandkids for Thanksgiving, but a couple of weeks ago our dog, Sally, had to have surgery.  She had a ruptured disc in her back and we ended up taking her to the Oklahoma State University veterinary teaching hospital to have emergency surgery.  It was her left hind leg that was most affected, but she is doing well and looks like she will regain most, if not all, use of it.  However, for the next 4 to 6 weeks,we have to keep her crated and quiet and take her out 3 to 4 times a day for 5 - 10 minutes for limited exercise.  Long story, short - we couldn't leave her in a boarding kennel and couldn't take her with us.  So, we stayed home.

With just Tom and myself here, I didn't want to do the whole turkey and dressing thing, so I did the next best thing.  I cooked meatloaf (Tom's favorite main dish).  I bought the ground beef for the meatloaf from a vendor at our local farmers' market.  I like to buy it from them because they raise their calves on pasture.  You see, almost all of the beef sold in grocery stores comes from a feed lot somewhere. 

A feed lot is a nasty place.  The cattle stand around in their own muck and are fed a grain-based diet (mostly corn).  Grain is not a natural food for cattle.  They have multi-chambered stomachs that evolved to digest grass.  The first chamber is the "rumen" and it is the primary site for microbial fermentation of ingested feed.  Grain-based diets cause acid buildup in the rumen which, in turn, causes abscesses through which bacteria can enter into the blood.  Antibiotics are routinely fed to cattle in feedlots to counteract these ailments.  This routine feeding of antibiotics helps to produce resistant strains of bacteria.  Not good for cattle or people.

Finally, grain-based diets can promote Escherichia coli (E. coli) within the digestive tract, and these E. coli are more likely to survive the acid in the human stomach and make us sick. It has been shown that cattle switched from grain-based diets to hay are less likely to shed harmful E. coli.

So, that's why I buy locally grown, grass-fed beef.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Corn, Crows and Squirrels

During the day, the crows and squirrels raid our deer feeder and have quite a feast.  I have erased thousands of pictures of crows and squirrels from our wildlife camera.  It is really interesting to see how they react with each other. Here are some pictures of them.


Sometimes a squirrel will try to chase a crow away from the feeder.  The crow will fly a few feet away and then slowly walk back toward the feeder.   But, they have no need to worry. Tom is faithful to keep plenty of corn on hand and sometimes refills the feeder twice a day.  So, there is plenty to go around!

Today, I noticed something a little bizarre about some of the corn kernels on the ground around the feeder.  In the picture below, notice the 3 kernels on the left.

They have the germ part eaten out of them.  I feel certain the squirrels are the ones responsible for this.  They are the only ones in my mind that would be able to hold the kernel of corn still enough to nibble the germ out of it.  I'm assuming that, to squirrels anyway, the germ of the corn kernel is the most desirable part, sort of like the icing on a cupcake.   And maybe it has certain nutrients that the squirrels need as winter approaches.

No matter the reason, this just pointed out to me that we can learn something everyday just by taking notice of the small things around us.  We only need to take time out of our busy lives to "smell the roses", or in this case, "notice the corn on the gound".

Friday, November 11, 2011

Good Dog, Bad Dog

Lizzy Dog has to be "supervised" when she is outside.  Otherwise, her beagle nose will lead her astray.  We wish we could let her run free, chase rabbits and squirrels and do all those other "hound" things that beagles are born to do.  But, we know there are people around here who will shoot stray dogs that wander onto their property.  (See the blog entry for April 19, 2010, "Dogs and Cats", the story of how we got our dog Sally.)  So, for Lizzy's own good, we make sure we watch her closely if we let her outside without being on a leash.

Tom will usually let her go out to refill the deer feeder with him.  She likes to sniff the ground around the feeder where the deer, rabbits, racoons and other wildlife have been the night before.  Here's a picture of her taken by our wildlife camera.

But, after she "reads" the ground around the feeder, she will usually follow her nose off to the next scent.  That is okay as long as she does not go under the fence and off into the big world beyond.  It is a barbed wire fence and, therefore, easy for her to go under. 

Tom says when she starts getting close to the fence, he will call to her to come back.  This works about half the time.  He says sometimes it seems as if she has a little devil on one shoulder telling her to go under the fence and a little angel on the other shoulder telling her to mind him.  On the day the above picture was taken, the little devil won and Tom had to go after her.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Walk with Me

My doctor tells me that I should get 30 minutes of exercise at least 3 times a week.  That doesn't sound like much, only an hour and a half out of a whole week.  But it sure is difficult for me to do.  I have a membership at the OSU Wellness Center and I try to go by there 3 times a week after work, but I rarely make it that often.  It seems like I always have errands to run or need to get home for some reason. 

When I go to the Wellness Center, I usually try to walk a mile and a half on the treadmill.  My pace is about 20 minutes per mile.  So, it takes me 30 minutes to walk 1.5 miles.  I decided  I'd see if I could map out a path around our farm that was roughly 1.5 miles.  Then, on days I didn't go to the Wellness Center, I could still get in my 30 minutes of exercise at home.

Tom drove the truck around the perimeter of our 5 acres and it is just about half a mile.  So, if I walk around the perimeter 3 times, then I will have walked 1.5 miles.  I thought it would be fun to take pictures as I went and share them with my blog friends.  So, here goes.

I start my walk just south of the house at our metal outbuilding.  This is where we store lawn mowers and various other pieces of equipment.

From there I walk east along the south fence line.  To the left you can see a pile of dirt.  Tom had it brought in to fill some holes around the yard and to put around one corner of the metal outbuilding where the dirt has washed away.
At the southeast corner is our pet cemetery.  This is where Kelsey Dog is buried.  (See A Tribute to Kelsey Dog - March 13, 2011).  She is buried there along with 3 other dogs and a cat.  I planted some irises and daffodils here which bloom in the spring. 

At this point I turn north and walk along the east fence line (above) to the northeast corner where Tom has an area plowed up and planted with a winter cover crop (below).

Then I turn west along the north fence line.  When I took the picture below, it was in the late afternoon and there is some glare on the camera lense from the sun. 
Along this stretch of my walk I pass a row of sand plum bushes that we planted last year.  Sand plums are native to Oklahoma and make the best jelly.  I'm hoping in a couple of years they will be mature enough to produce fruit.  Also along this stretch of our property, we have allowed the native grasses to grow and didn't mow it this past summer.  The picture below shows what it looks like.

At this point I turn south and walk along beside a field where our neighbor's sheep graze.  Here they are.
At this point, I have walked about 3/4 of the way around our property and I turn east again after passing the sheep.   In quick succession I then pass a bluebird house that Tom built and our deer feeding station.

A few more paces and I'm back where I started.  Now, I just need to do this 2 more times and I'll have walked my 1.5 miles.