Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Last Look at November

It seemed to go by so fast, November. An early hard freeze, a late Thanksgiving and it was over. I had a birthday. I got the rake I asked for and an orchid plant.

Oakleaf Hydrangea leaves maroon in the sun and backlit 
skeletal blooms, thin and papery.

Gulf Muhly Grass is wispier than it was early in the month. Crape myrtles 
behind it dropped  their leaves. 

Few trees in the distance hold any fall color. 
Pecan leaves hardly turned yellow before frost took them.

Dogwoods hold on to a few red leaves.

Dogwood berries persist. I picked a half cup to plant in likely places along woods and fences.

Cloudless Sulphur butterfly with folded wings, today.
The green is pernicious Florida Betony, bane of my winter.

I caught glimpses of what I think was a Red Admiral but he is too fast to get a camera ready before he's gone.

Sometimes December here is a mild month with foggy nights. It looks to be starting out that way.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Not Another Herb Circle?

There is another of those old green planter parts.
I dug it out of the ground when I made the plant patio.

The first Herb Wheel was so unsuccessful -- marigolds grow to giant size and overwhelmed their neighbors, thyme died and so on -- that I started another one on the other end of the cabbages and broccoli.

Frost left white blotches on some cabbage leaves but little heads are trying to form despite cold weather. Broccoli looks equally lackluster but they'll perk up when we get a warm spell.

Since I had excess bricks from the old house site where the bulldozer kicked up some bricks, plenty of newspapers and some pine straw raked in piles waiting to be hauled, it made sense to me to just make a second Herb Wheel on the other end of the cabbage row for balance.

I didn't make a photo when I was done. There little to see: a rough circle of bricks holding the edges of a pile of spread newspapers, covered in pine straw.

Remains of the overgrown marigolds were still lying where I pulled them, so I broke them into smaller pieces and dropped seed heads and all over wet newpapers before I put down the pine straw.

In theory, by spring, the grass underneath will be dead. Newspapers and marigold stalks will be compost. I don't expect that marigolds will volunteer but they could. I've had marigold seed heads provide nice seedlings when they were left over winter. Just in case, I have a container of saved marigold seeds indoors and my grand plan is to follow the cabbages with a giant bed of Marigolds.

I'll rake back the pine straw, divide the wheel and plant seedlings of -- oh, what?  More Parsley. Maybe I'll root some Rosemary. Oregano is plentiful elsewhere, I'll pull some rooted pieces where it spreads. Basil seeds can go in. Sage. Ciliantro. Dill. There is hardly an end to the list of desirable herbs.

What herbs do you grow?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

How to Whip a Rutabaga

About 25 years ago, the fancier restaurants in Atlanta commenced to feature Whipped Rutabaga on their Thanksgiving menus. Rutabagas have always been a favorite of mine.

When I was about 18, I went to visit my Aunt Lula around lunchtime. She was eating leftover Spaghetti with a side of Rutabagas. It was a delicious lunch.

My late sister-in-law told about her coworker's niece who called up and said, "Auntie, I boiled that booger for 3 hours and he still isn't tender."

Here's an excellent link to photos and info about Rutabagas:

All about Rutabagas from the University of District of Columbia

Whipping a Rutabaga

As the young lady learned, you can't cook a Rutabaga whole. The easiest way I've found to cut and peel one is to first buy 2 small turnips rather than one huge one.

Put a Rutabaga on a cutting board on a firm surface and cut it in half with the largest French chef's knife you own using a rocking/sawing motion.

Once it is halves or quarters, peel with a paring knife. Use the French chef knife again to cut it in 1-inch cubes -- you need not measure and they don't have to be perfect.

The secret to better tasting Rutabagas is to use a small white potato, cubed. Potato  takes away any bitterness.

In the old days we cooked Rutabagas with pork seasoning. Some cooks add some sugar. Potato cooked with Rutabaga takes away that bitter taste that called for sugar.

I season mine with Sazon Goya seasoning in the cooking water. Today I used Goya Ham Concentrate for a Smoky Rutabaga flavor.

A Rutabaga takes about an hour to cook. I think the recipes I read said 45 minutes. Maybe they like al dente Rutabaga.

When the Rutabaga is tender, drain and mash as for mashed potatoes. Use a food processor if you like that texture or whip with a hand mixer. I like mine just mashed with a potato masher. Season with butter to taste.

I buy my own seasonings. The Goya company does not know I promoted their products here.

Hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving and something Whipped: Potatoes, Rutabagas or both.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Wet and Raw

'Wet and Raw' was Ms. Armadeo's weather prediction for today on channel 10.
She was correct. The temperature crept down as the wind picked up.
Your weather may have been worse.

Yesterday between showers I planted onion sets between cabbages and in a section of my herb wheel that held marigolds in the summer --covered with straw at right. Herbs look bleak after two frosts; lemon grass died back to roots.

Vidalia-type onions went between Red Cabbages. That's 
an onion at upper center; the green at left is chickweed.


A green edging really improves a bed in winter, I think. The grass-like foliage is Lycoris radiata in its winter form. The vine-like plant is Trachelospermum jasminoides. The shrub is a Camellia.

I looked for flowers. There is usually something blooming in November. The best I could find was a droopy orange rose and Shrimp Plant in the upper garden.


White Camellia sasanqua blooms turned brown after the frost. More buds are starting to open now with some browning noted on many. I hope we'll have Camellia japonicas open before Christmas. 

Next week will be different. That's how winter here works. I still haven't planted all the seeds that should be in the ground in November.

Have a marvelous Thanksgiving. I look forward to whipped Rutabaga.

Monday, November 24, 2014

I'm Doing as Little as Possible

That was my answer to Carolyn when I ran into her at the Steak House last Thursday and she asked 'What are you doing since you retired?' "As little as possible," I said.

Today is no exception. We've had rain showers, nothing big since daylight.

Here's what I wrote to my nephew:
I don't remember if I told you there was a road killed deer between our mailbox and the entrance to field. Buzzards were having a picnic and traffic was having to slow so the birds could fly. It wasn't good enough for the carrion pickers that it was in the ditch, they pulled it up to the roadside where they would be really in the way. 
When the rain stopped this morning, Lane put the root rake on the tractor and carried hide, bones and what was left across the road and into the woods at the edge of our field. 
All that was left were piles of corn kernel flecked, rain soaked gut contents. I partially filled buckets of field dirt so wet dirt wouldn't be too heavy to lift and covered that to discourage flies, then covered with some peanut hay I scooped up in the field. I noticed no odor; I guess the buzzards take care of that, too. They leave an area clean except for hide and bones -- and poop. 
Not only flies, but Buffy the Dog headed that way when she hobbled out to be excused before the carcass was moved. She can run on 3 legs when there's motivation. I caught up with her and headed her back home. I know dogs; they love something nasty to wallow in.
I don't know how the long trek affected her hip; she was getting better before that. 
Before that I planted a dozen Vidalia-type onion sets that Farmer John sent me. The difference between Vidalia onions and the ones here is, they grow in different counties, loamy sand in both. I put these between my red cabbages. I have a bag of bunch onions, also from John to set among the green cabbages and broccoli. 
  Pond after Spring rains.

We had a thunderstorm before day that woke me when the windows rattled from the loudest clap of thunder I think I ever heard. Rainfall was 2.5 inches yesterday and 1.5 this morning. I want to go look at the farm pond to see if it is holding water.  
Oh, and I raked some pine straw that fell on the driveway but I left it to pick up when it dries. There is lots of pine straw yet to rake. If Lane gets it up with the mower the way he does leaves, there is nothing left but a little pile of chibbles. I need coarse mulch and this is fine fresh pine straw. I asked for a new sweeper/yard broom/ rake for my Birthday.

When I sit here, it doesn't feel as if I've done anything today except load the dishwasher and close the equipment barn before the last rain came. I've been in the greenhouse twice but did no work except to water a couple of bromeliads that Ike the Cat was complaining about being in his way before I moved them.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Coping with Winter

According to NOAA,
 Well below average temperatures will reach the Gulf Coast ... Tuesday and Wednesday.
I realize that readers in Canada and the Northeast and Midwest are not sympathetic to us when we complain about an expected low tonight of 23º and a high today of 'only' 46ºF but our blood is thin and we hardly expect to cope with cold for more than a day at a time.

Beverage Station: we used to just call this an electric teakettle and a coffee maker. Yesterday I announced that we were almost out of Cocoa Mix. He-Who-Mows laughed when I remembered that we have a whole canister of Cocoa powder, a gallon of milk and some sugar. I haven't forgotten how.

The low this morning was 31. When I looked outside, a half dozen Angel Trumpet blooms were still hanging. Tonight will finish them off.

I've only been outside to open the greenhouse doors when the temperature inside reached 87º despite a cold wind 'right from the North.' Heat builds in a hurry when the sun shines on an enclosed space. The cat was ecstatic to get get inside to loll on a warm bench.

Stone Gable Blog is having a giveaway:

related to Gingerbread
Spicy cardamom  •  Crystallized ginger  •  Golden amber  •  Fresh-ground cinnamon

and Frazier Fir
Crisp Siberian Fir needles  •  Heartening cedarwood  •  Relaxing sandalwood

-- both fragrances redolent of Christmases past.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

November Bloom Day not Unlike Last Year

In 2013 I wrote:
The expected freeze happened [the night before Bloom Day], just enough frost to blacken things like Brugmansias, Daturas and Periwinkles in open ground. I pulled many things like Melampodium in anticipation so I wouldn't have to see dead plants..

Hearty Camellia sasanqua is not affected that much, still heavy with white blossoms. Freezing temperatures were for a short time and only one night, so we bravely soldier on.
 Last night's freeze was about an hour of cold just enough to make tender leaves twist and blacken. Some protected areas still boast blooms.

Brugmansias on the south side of the house still have blooms. Those on the other side of the driveway have dropped all color.

White Shrimp

Salvia leucantha under pines frames a dry Hydrangea bloom.

Scattered rose blooms persist.

Gulf Muhly is not as spectacular as it was a week ago. Lantana montevidensis will persist until a really hard freeze. Melampodium was protected by the Duranta above it, also still blooming,  Melampodium in the open ground is blackened. 

Duranta persists

White Camellia Sasanqua

Camellias, our winter standby. C. sasanqua starts the season.

Visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens to link up and visit other Bloom Day blogs.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Finally, Fall Color

Orange we glad to see bright Autumn just as the freezes come this way?

Crape Myrtles in the Front Garden:

While we're in the front, some late Gulf Fritillaries and friends on one of the last Tithonia plants:
Most Tithonia is already pulled. Today I pulled the Periwinkles before a freeze  takes them within the week. I need to scatter seeds for spring blooms. I spent much of the day taking more cuttings. I even stuck boxwood cuttings in the Upper Garden, just to see. MIL used to take hardwood cuttings in November.

 Looking back to the front garden from the Upper Garden.

 A chartreuse Punica in its Fall Garb. I may move one of these to the front. The spring interest is pretty orange and white striped flowering pomegranate blooms. After blossoms it is pretty nondescript until this bit of fall color.
 Loropetalums in their winter dark leaves with some bright Crape Myrtles.

A look back at the Upper Garden.

Photos are from yesterday. Today is a grey day with a chance of rain. Winds from the North bring chill. If the wind changes we'll get moisture from the Gulf. Eventually there is an eventual freeze coming our way.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Do Squirrels Have Pierced Ears? More Tree Work

Squirrels are everywhere here, chattering, scolding, stealing pecans and leaving nut shells scattered.

I saw this one motionless on the highway where he'd failed to make it across in front of a truck. I scooped him up with the spading fork I was using to dig out errant centipede grass and that hateful Florida Betony in a bed where I later scattered seeds of spring annuals.

I thought his ear looked as if it were pierced. I gave him a deep burial at field's edge so Buffy won't dig him up.

The tree clean-up continues. Here, the tree is supported by the tractor so limbs that hold it off the ground were sawn.

After the brush was moved, it was rotated, pushing it to the ground.

 View from the opposite side.

Progress is slow, but we're getting there. I'm little help but there with a cell phone in case something goes wrong. 

On the way home I find interesting grasses and wild flowers with seed pods. I'm thinking of joining one of those citizen watches where various living things are noted and recorded along with changes in the weather.

I saw a Monarch floating along this morning, and the tiniest white butterfly I ever saw, less than a half inch across. Can you see him on the Lantana leaf below?

Wild Lantana has abundant seeds. This is why I leave it to a wild area. Ripe seeds are blue, brighter than the photo shows.  

Friday, November 7, 2014

Autumn Didn't Turn Out the Way I Thought It Should

We had colds and that set us back.

I failed to order bulbs and set Hyacinths to chill, so I bought a little bag and put them in the fridge in 3 azalea pots, potted up late.

The November seed scattering needs done but the light frost we had did not take out things that need pulling and Gulf Fritillaries and 3 kinds of Skippers are nectaring on Tithonia that I want to pull to make room. I commenced spading around the daffodil bed where I want to scatter some seeds. Work goes slowly.

 In the midst of everything else, this big tree fell. It split so there are two parts to deal with.

What used to take about a day takes many days now. We use more machinery and less brawn.

Hauling limbs is the easy part, all mechanical.

Getting ready to haul limbs takes an extra day.
Weights that weigh 100 pounds each have to come off the 
front before the loader goes on.

An adapted shop crane with an electric winch made moving 
the weights easier -- first we had to move the crane and battery.

It isn't a good idea that an elderly man goes off out of shouting distance with a chain saw, so I run back and forth when he doesn't need help. On the way I saw a beautiful grove of Shining Sumac.

Baccharis, totally useless plant but isn't it pretty?
Behind it is a Chinaberry tree, even more useless, and alien.

My next project is cataloging native grasses. I hate not knowing their names. 

We had a little less than one tenth of an inch of rain yesterday -- grateful for every drop. Today's high was 66 degrees, nights are in the 40s for the next couple of days with a slight chance of rain Saturday night.