Sunday, September 27, 2015

Elderberry Workshop

Yesterday, we attended another workshop at the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture.  This is the second one we've been to at the Kerr Center this year.  The other one was on attracting native pollinators.  Here is the blog I wrote about that one.

The workshop we attended yesterday focused on growing elderberries.  I was aware of elderberries and knew you could make jelly and wine from them, but I had never eaten one or even seen one in "real life" before yesterday.  Here's the agenda for the workshop and a brochure about elderberries they gave us.

As it turns out, elderberries grow wild all over the U.S. and there are many native varieties right here in Oklahoma.  As shown on the brochure above, elderberries, grow in bunches and they are not very large, only a little larger than BBs.  I was surprised that they are not all that sweet.  However, they contain tons of antioxidants, over 3 times as much as blueberries!  It is for this reason that interest in them has skyrocket in recent years.

Another interesting thing is, until recently, all the domesticated varieties of elderberries available in the U.S. came from New York or Nova Scotia.  As you can imagine, these varieties may not do well here in the Midwest.  So, research is now being done, most notably at the University of Missouri, to develop varieties adapted for this part of the country.  To date, several varieties have been developed. Bob Gordon, Wildewood 1 and 2, and Ranch are some of the varieties now available.  Ranch is a variety developed in Oklahoma.  Below is a map showing the varieties the Kerr Center has planted in their test plot.  Adams is one of the New York varieties that was included for comparison.

At the end of the day, we went on a tour of the elderberry test plots at the Kerr Center.  Here's a picture of the actual planting that corresponds to the map above.

Believe it or not, the plants above were started this past spring from cuttings that were only about 4 inches long!  These are fast growing plants! 

There was ample opportunity to visit and ask questions.

The great thing about this workshop was there were several speakers who already grew elderberries commercially and we got to hear their stories of how they got started in the business, things they did right and things they did wrong when starting out.

I don't expect us to get into growing elderberries on a large commercial scale.  However, we do plan to plant 6 to 8 bushes.  Just enough to have some to sell at our farmers' market with some left over for me to make jelly from and maybe try my hand at making elderberry wine.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Chicken Story

This story is about our newest chickens.  These are the ones we got this past March.  The link below is a blog entry that contains pictures of them when they were just baby chicks.

Here they are now.  Can you believe these are the same chickens as the little black fuzz balls in the link above?  They sure are beauties!  

The ring-leader of the bunch is the solid black chicken on the left.  Her name is Blackie.  She is also the smallest of the four, but she makes up for that with her pioneering spirit and her passion for exploring new things.  Here's a close-up of her.

Next is Goldie.  She has the most gold feathers.

The other two look almost the same. In fact, I can barely tell them apart unless they are standing next to each other.  This one is Sprite.

And this one is Stubby.  Stubby's tail is not quite as "full" and upright as Sprite's tail. 

Now for the story.  As I said before, Blackie is the most inquisitive and willing to explore new things.  Earlier this week, Tom found her in our hoop-house.  That's the big plastic-covered structure where we grow winter greens for the farmers' market.  In warm weather, we keep the door open to help with ventilation and that is how Blackie got in.  Tom has some beautiful bell peppers in there.

Blackie discovered them and decided they were good to eat!

Tom shooed her out of the hoop-house, only to come back a while later to find ALL of them in there joyfully chomping away!  Who says chickens are dumb and can't communicate?  Obviously, Blackie went back to the gang and told them about the treasure trove of peppers in the hoop-house.  Shooing them out was not going to work for long.   So, now we have taken action and barricaded the door to keep them out.

Just hoping Blackie doesn't figure out a way around it.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Moon Flowers and Wasp Stings

While on our recent trip to New Mexico, we went to a park where the landscaping was made up of native plants.  I fell in love with the Moon Flower bushes we saw there.  I forgot to take a picture of them, but here is a picture of what they look like.

This picture is from a website that has more pictures and information about them.

I had to have some of these for my garden and made a mental note to buy some seed next spring.  However, as these thoughts were going through my mind, I noticed a seed pod down inside one of the bushes.  What luck!  Here was an easy way to obtain seed for free.  So, into the bush I reached to pick the pod.  The seed pods were covered with bristles and, when my thumb began to hurt, I thought one of them had jabbed me.  However, it was quite painful and the bristles didn't really look that sharp to me.  When I pulled my hand out of the bush, I found a wasp on my thumb!  OUCH

Over the course of the next few minutes, my thumb started swelling and after an hour the back of my hand was swollen, as well.

Here's what my hand is supposed to look like.

It hurt a lot and I got a cold water bottle out of our cooler to hold on the sting.  This helped to relieve the pain and, after a while, it quit hurting so much and just felt stiff and numb.  The next day the swelling was gone, but it itched a lot.

The moral of this story is "Nothing is free!"  I paid the price for these seeds.  All 18 of them!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Garlic Baskets

We just got home from a much needed vacation.  This summer has been hot and humid and we are a year older.  The hot weather and farm work was taking its toll on us.  So, we decided to let the garden go and take a road trip.  Weeds have taken over a lot of the garden and about all we had left were tomatoes and peppers which were suffering from the hot weather as well.  So, it was not that hard of a decision to make.

Years ago, we went to Santa Fe and decided we'd like to go back. We had in mind to go through the Georgia O'Keefe art museum and spend some time in that area of the country.  While we were there, we saw a sign about the Santa Fe Farmers' Market.  It is held on Saturday and Tuesday mornings. The Tuesday market worked into our schedule perfectly.  

It is held at the railway terminal, hence the rails in the foreground. There were lots of booths with all kinds of beautiful produce.

Tom spent a lot of time checking out the tomatoes.

And, it was all I could do to keep from buying some of these heirloom tomatoes.

This being New Mexico, of course they had all kinds of peppers.  In one booth, they were roasting them and selling bags of them.  I couldn't resist and bought a bag to put in our cooler to bring home.

There were even decorations made with peppers.

And, there was garlic.  Here is a booth that specialized in it.  

They had hard-necked garlic tied up in bundles.  Almost too pretty to eat!

They had several varieties that we have never grown.  So, Tom picked out a few nice heads and bought them.....not for us to eat, but to grow this fall.

And, I bought some pretty baskets to put it in next summer at our farmers' market.