Saturday, June 30, 2012

Gourds Running Rampant

So, we are growing gourds again this year.  I love gourds because they come in such a variety of sizes and shapes.  I even wrote a blog about them last year:

But, last year was a disastrous year all around because of the drought and the endless days of triple digit temperatures we had.  So, I don't think we had many, if any, gourds to show for it.  And, although we have had quite a few 100+ degree days already, this year is somewhat better and I think we may have some nice gourds to show for it.

Tom built a new raised bed on the east side of my herb garden and I planted gourds in this bed.  Now, as you probably know, gourds are vining plants and have vines that may be 20 feet long.  Here is a picture of our gourd vines on June 7.

And, here they are today.

They have reached our Mulberry tree and are beginning climb it!  In the lower left corner, notice the gourd.  Here is a better picture of it.

I've seen several others in that mass of vines as well and they are still blooming.  These are all "birdhouse" gourds.  And, although they make excellent birdhouses, they can also be painted and made into objects of art, too.  

So, if all goes well, Tom will have plenty of gourds to work on and keep him occupied this winter!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ground Cherry Harvest

On June 18, I wrote about the ground cherries that I planted this year.

I'm happy to report that I harvested my first handful of ground cherries this week.  Here is a picture of them.

Each ground cherry is enclosed in a papery husk.  On average, they are about the size of a marble and are ripe when they are a light yellow color, like the one on the right.  They tend to fall off the vine when the husk starts to dry and it appears that they continue to ripen even after that.  

They have a pleasantly sweet taste, but I wouldn't say they taste like cherries.  Their taste is quite unique.  However, I have discovered that they take a LOT of water and I'm not sure if I will be able to keep these alive long enough to harvest the amount needed for a recipe.  Our daytime high temperatures are climbing into the triple digits now and the ground cherries seem to be having a difficult time holding their own.   I suspect they are much more suited to a cooler, wetter climate.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Chicken Roost and Nest Boxes

We still do not have a decent fence built for the chickens, but Tom did build them some nest boxes.  Here is a picture of them.

The top is hinged on the inside so the eggs can be collected easily.  We found the plans for these on this website:  

I've referred to it before.  They have a lot of information about raising chickens here.

The chickens are almost fully grown now.  They no longer make peeping sounds.  Now, they actually cluck.  So, I am hoping we will start seeing some eggs soon.  I can't wait!

However, even as big as they are getting, they still huddle together in a group to sleep.  They have chosen a roosting site that is right above the door that goes from their pen to the outside.  Tom built a roosting bar up for them, but they refuse to use it.  Instead, they insist on roosting all together in a group, like this.

I've been making a point to catch and hold them a couple of times a week.  I've read that it is a good idea to do this occasionally so that if they ever need medical attention, then they will not struggle too much.   They squawk like crazy for a few seconds after I pick them up.  But they settle down pretty quickly.  They are definitely not afraid of us, they just don't like being caught.

So, that's the latest update on the chickens.  Stay tuned.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Ground Cherries

Every winter we look forward to the seed catalogs that start arriving in late December and early January.  We spend hours flipping through these catalogs, dreaming of spring and what we want to plant.  Every year I like to find something new to try.  This year this new thing was ground cherries.  I found them in the Seed Savers catalog.  Here is a link to their web site that has the description of "Aunt Molly's" ground cherries that first caught my interest.

Doesn't that sound interesting!  So, I ordered a package and planted them.  They didn't grow very well until the weather got pretty warm.  Then they really took off.  Here is a picture of what the plants look like.

Something has been eating holes in the leaves, but I never see any bugs on them and, whatever it is, it does not seem to hurt the plants.  So, I am not worrying about it.

As you can see the plants are big and bushy and have a sprawling habit.  If you look under the leaves, down inside the plants, you can see the flowers.  They are not very large, but are quite pretty.  Here is one of them.

The flowers form "husks".  The fruit of the plant, the ground cherries, grow inside these husks.  Here is a picture of one of these.

I've been wondering how to tell when they are ripe.  So, I did some reading tonight and found this good discussion of ground cherries on the Organic Gardening website.

I had to chuckle when I read this sentence from the above website:  "The distinctive, sweet-tart taste of ground cherries lends itself to wildly diverse recipes."  I'm not the sort of cook that tries "wildly diverse" recipes too often.  But, maybe when I get enough ripe ground cherries, I'll step out of my circle of comfort and try something a little more daring!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Chickens Like Tomatoes

One of the new varieties of tomatoes we are growing this year is called Orange Minsk.  These are large beefsteak-type tomatoes that ripen to a pale orange color. The Victory Seeds website,, says that the seed for this variety was sent to them by Andrey Baranovski of Minsk who got this Belorussian heirloom from an old woman at the Minsk Farmer's Market in 2006.  Very Interesting!

Here is a picture of one of our first Orange Minsk tomatoes.  It started out green, but I don't think it is completely ripe because it is not "orange".   However, you can pick tomatoes when they are beginning to turn and they will finish ripening after you pick them.   Notice how much bigger than the other tomatoes this Orange Minsk tomato is!

However, I was very sad when I picked this tomato to see that it had a large bad spot on the bottom that went up into the middle of the tomato.  So, I took it out to see if the chickens would eat it.  We are finding that they will eat almost anything!

They have learned that when we come out to the pen, we usually bring them something to eat.  Here they are eagerly watching me to see what I have brought them.  

Normally, when we put something in their pen (unless it is an insect or caterpillar which they pounce on and gobble up immediately), they will inspect it closely.  Then one of them will peck at it, like this.

But, before long they are all gathered around pecking at it.

If it is a food they are fond of, they will kill it off in no time.  As it turns out, they really really like tomatoes.  This tomato did not last very long!

Notice the corn cobs on the ground.  The chickens like corn on the cob too!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Mowing Fun

When you have 5 acres of land, mowing can take up a lot of time, not to mention gasoline for the mower.   So, we have a riding mower to help with the task.

There are large areas of the yard that we only mow once or twice year.  These areas have some pretty wildflowers and native grasses.  But, alas, they get to looking pretty bad at times when the grasses have gone to seed and the wildflowers are past their prime.  So, today I broke down and mowed the area to the west of our house.

It usually takes a couple of hours to mow this area and it gets boring.  Here is a picture of what it looked like when I was about 2/3 finished.  

To make the chore more interesting, I decided to mow some geometric designs.

And from the other direction.

It was kind of fun and I developed a new respect for the aliens or whoever it is that makes the "crop circles"!  However, in the end I had to buckle down and finish the job.  So here is the yard after I finished.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Back in February, I wrote an entry about the peach trees we set out last year.

Well, here is what the peach trees look like now.

And the closest one in the above picture has 2 peaches on it!  Here is one of them.

It is not very big yet and, really, I'm not sure how big it will get.  But, for the first year, I think this is just great!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Short Vacation

I am embarrassed that it has been 2 week since I last posted.  I try to post at least once a week, but I have excuses for this lapse!  I babysat my granddaughters for 3 days after my last post because they were out of school, but their mama wasn't.  Then, I had to pack for a trip to San Antonio to see our oldest son over the Memorial Day weekend.  I came back with a cold that has dragged on for over a week.  I finally went to the doctor yesterday.  After a shot and a prescription for antibiotics, I am supposed to be as good as new in a couple of days.  We'll see.

Anyway, enough of that!  The chickens did just fine while we were gone.  Our neighbor (bless his heart) came over and let them out of their coop every morning and made sure they had enough water and food.  Then, he came over again every night to put them to bed.  I'd say we owe him a few dozen eggs once they start laying!  We had an OSU Vet student that stayed at the house at night and took care of the dogs.  We also had a couple of FFA students come over to pick some of our produce and take it to the Farmers' Market while we were gone.  (Traveling gets complicated when you have a garden and animals at home to worry about in your absense.)

We were only gone 5 days, but things really grew a lot while we were gone.  Here is a picture of my basil the week before we left.

And here it is now. 

Please note that I clipped quite a bit of it for the market on Saturday.  So, it was bigger than this. 

I have herbs in some of these raised beds, but as you can probably tell, I have other things planted in them as well.  On the far side (past the white hoops) I planted some Trail of Tears beans.  They are starting to grow up the "teepees" that you see in the background.  These are green beans that were supposed to have been brought to Oklahoma in 1839 by the Cherokee Indians on the Trail of Tears when they were forced off their native lands to the east of the Mississippi River and marched on foot to Oklahoma.  Many of them died during this journey and, thus, it became known as the "Trail of Tears".  I find this very sad indeed and like to think that I am helping to remember these people in some small way by planting these beans.

The tomato plants also flourished while we were gone and are covered with hundreds of green tomatoes now.  Here are some that I have planted in a bed just to the right of the basil.

When I look at these and then realize that Tom has over a hundred just like these out in the field, I feel a little overwhelmed.  We may need help picking them!