Sunday, December 27, 2015

Freezing Rain and Tomato Decisions

Two days after Christmas and we are having our first big winter storm of the season.  We are sitting right on the freezing line in the state with the temperature hovering around 32 degrees.  To the west of us, they are having high winds, blizzard conditions and icy roads.  To the east of us, it is mostly just rain.  We are in the middle, where rain is mixed with sleet creating a slushy mixture on the ground.  If the temperature sinks into the 20s (as they are bound to do this evening), then everything will be covered with ice.  It is at times like this that I am so thankful that we have a warm house with electricity and running water in which to wait out the storm.  Here's the top of our greenhouse.

Days like today are good days to dig out the seed catalogs we have been getting in the mail for the last few weeks.

Today, Tom is trying to decide what varieties of tomatoes to grow next year.  Here's his list so far.

Well, he doesn't have the best handwriting, but as long as he can read it.....that's what counts!  Ha!

There are several favorites he picks every year, such as Bush Early Girl, Cherokee Purple and Sprite.  We lean heavily toward the heirloom tomatoes, though.

A short lesson on hybrid versus heirloom tomatoes.  Hybrids are a cross between two varieties of tomatoes and require human intervention to produce the seed.  If you save the seed of hybrids, whether it is tomatoes, peppers, beans or whatever, and plant them the next year, you will not get a plant that is like the hybrid plant.  This is because the seeds "segregate" out into plants that resemble the original two plants from which the cross was made.  Heirloom varieties, however, are not the result of crossing two other varieties.  They are pure lines that have been passed down for years and whose seed will produce plants exactly like the parent plants.  

Unfortunately, because our society has graduated away from the farm and most folks do not have home gardens from which to save seed, hundreds of these old heirloom tomatoes have been lost.  Even home gardeners tend to buy hybrid seed because they have been bred to produce better and to be resistant to common disease problems. Seed catalogs have to offer the seeds that their customers want, so they drop heirloom varieties and these are eventually lost to history.  

But, I digress, so back to my original train of thought.  It is very difficult to decide on which tomato varieties to grow because there are literally hundreds of them to choose from.  For example, in addition to your regular red tomatoes, there are white ones.

And there are black ones.

And bi-colored ones.

And orange ones.

See what I mean!  We even have a book on heirloom tomatoes.

Tom likes to try something new every year.  This year he is looking at this tomato.

I can't help but wonder how this tomato got its name.  Someone named Kellogg developed it and because Kellogg is a breakfast cereal brand, they decided to call it this?  Or is it because tomatoes are excellent accompaniments to eggs for breakfast?

Whatever the reason, writing this entry today has really made me hungry and it is almost lunch time.  So, I'm off to find something to eat.....preferably something containing tomatoes.  Chili sounds really good on this cold day and I have all those packages of tomatoes I froze last summer for use in soup and chili.  Yum!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

December Picture Tour

Only two more days until the first day of winter.  So far this fall the weather has been relatively mild and most days have been warm enough to allow for going outside with just a light jacket.  Today is overcast and it looks cold.  But, in reality, it is not that bad and I decided to head outside for a walk around the farm.

I walked past the hoophouse.  Tom put new plastic on it this year and has piled bags of leaves along the sides to keep wind from blowing in along the bottom and for a little extra insulation.  He has all kinds of nice cool-season greens growing inside.  By the way, we did not rake all these leaves ourselves, but have recycled them from curbside.  It's a win-win.  Keeps them out of the landfill while giving us material for our compost making and valuable mulch material.

We still have a bit of garden cleanup to do.  Below is the pepper patch.  We grew several kinds of bell peppers this year, along with pimento, jalapeno, cayenne and poblano peppers.

There are a few green and growing plants in the garden, though.  These are turnips.  They don't mind the cold weather.  Both the leaves and roots of turnips are edible and they are quite nutritious.

Tom always plants cover crops during the winter to help renew the soil and keep it from blowing away in the wind.  Here is a blog I wrote about cover crops a few years ago, Cover Crops, and below is a picture of one of the fields with Austrian winter peas planted as a cover crop.

The peach trees are dormant now.  But, they produced some really good peaches this year.  Peaches are my favorite fruit and I am already looking forward to peach season next year.  But, for now the trees need to rest and renew their strength.  We humans could take a lesson from them.

Sally Dog went with me on my walk.  She enjoyed checking out the compost pile.  Not sure what she found so interesting, but here she is.

There was no activity around the bee hives.  Our beekeeper says the bees will venture out on warm sunny days during the winter, but today they were snug inside their hives.

On that note, I'm getting a little chilled and think I will head on back to my hive and get warmed up!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

From Years Past

I'm sorry to announce that I have a case of writer's block and am having trouble finding something to share.  I think the primary reason for this is that I've just been so darn busy for the past month.  Plus, the weather has turned colder and it has rained several times, so it is wet and soggy outside.  Just not very conducive to spending time outside which is where I get most of my ideas for this blog.  Sigh.

To get some inspiration, I spent some time looking back at my entries from years past and decided just to share some of the articles from Decembers of previous years.

Last year, I wrote and article about Sumac Spice.  This is a lemony tasting spice made from the outer coating of sumac berries.  Sumac is a shrub that grows wild in Oklahoma.  I used the sumac spice in some sugar cookies I made.  They were delicious!

In December of 2013, we had snow.  It was not very deep, but the temperatures were very cold for several days.  I got cabin fever and finally bundled up in warm clothing and ventured out.  I wrote a blog about my walk in the snow that day:  Walk in the Snow

In 2012, Tom brought in a bouquet of flowers he picked in the garden for me.  What kind of flowers grow in December?  Read this to find out what they were:  Winter Bouquet

There were several articles in December of 2011 that I enjoyed reading again and it was hard to pick just one.  But, I ended up selecting one that showed pictures of an all-out war between deer and raccoon captured on our wildlife camera.  There must have been a raccoon family living living nearby and it appears in these pictures that they were in competition with the deer for the corn we put out.  In fact, in many cases the raccoon seem to be winning the battle.  Raccoon Wars

Finally, 2010 was the first year for this blog.  I started it in January of that year.  It is hard to believe I've been doing this for 6 years!  That year I wrote only 3 articles in December.  (If I don't get off my duff and get busy, this may be the only one for December this year!)  Anyway, I selected an article about the thornless cacti that we grow and sell.  The original plant was given to us by one of our sons who lives in Texas.  These are easy to propagate and have beautiful yellow flowers.  Thornless Cacti

So, that's it for now.  We are finished with most of our grandparent duties (attending dance recitals, band concerts, Christmas programs, etc.) for the month and things will slow down for a few days prior to Christmas.  Hopefully, I will have time to get inspired for another couple of articles this month.   Wish me luck!