Showing posts with label gardening. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gardening. Show all posts

Monday, April 19, 2021

Let's Play "That One Game"


I don't know. It may be the Cajun in me. Cajuns tend to be very nosey. Maybe in the swamp, they had to be nosey. "Is that a gator snout sticking out from under that car, or is that just the neighbor doing some engine repair?" "Are the kids playing with a soaker hose, or a water moccasin?" "Is that a shrimp or a crawfish? Never mind, pass me some hot sauce." 

Maybe because I'm always writing a portion of "a book" mentally, collecting the things I hear to throw into it, but I tend to remember passing remarks. While my short-term memory is usually shot, things like this get stuck in it, taking up valuable and scarce room.

At work, the school was established by a pair of sisters. They are still there, and work together as the administrators. Oh boy. Boy howdy. Howdy howdy howdy do. Big sis and little sis. Little Sis is as sweet as a bucket of syrup, and Big Sis is as sweet as a gallon of vinegar. About two feet behind me, they started up a conversation.

Little Sis: "Um, oh oh, um, ha ha, oh Dee-Dee, Dee-Dee, do you remember that funny game we used to play? That game?"

Big Sis: "WHAT? What game? What are you talking about? We need to be getting ready for the board meeting."

Little Sis: "Oh, that funny game. You know, the game? Oh, we loved to play it. That one. Oh gosh. Tee hee."

Big Sis: "WHAT? You're a lunatic. What game are you talking about? We didn't play any games. We played dolls."

Little Sis: "Uh-huh, yes we did. We did play games. Oh, I loved playing dolls. But that one. That one momma said, 'You stop playing that right now or you will get warts.'" 

Big Sis: "WHAT? Get warts?"

Little Sis: "Yes, she didn't want us to get warts, but we never got any, did we? We loved that game."


Little Sis: "That game, that one game, that toad game. Toad Catcher!" 

Big Sis: "Martha Ann, we played no such game. What are you even talking about? Toad Catcher."

Little Sis: "Yes we did! We did! We loved it! Toad Catcher! We would play with the toad, we would catch it, and then it would be the other one's turn! Yes we did! You loved it, we played it, you made it up!"

Big Sis: "I did not. I never heard of this in my life."

Little Sis: "Yes, yes yes yes you did! And if the toad peed on you, you lost, you had to hide your eyes! And the toad was the baby, it was the baby and we'd make it a house, too."

Big Sis: "You are crazy, Martha Ann. I never touched a toad in my life. I would never touch a toad. Never."

Little Sis: "Yes you did! We loved that game! You made it up! Yes, yes you did!"

This went on for quite some time. Now I'm left wondering, DID Dee-Dee make up the Toad Catcher game? Is Martha Ann right? How exactly was the game played? 

My husband and I went to check on our community garden plot today after a drive to take some photos of a wild shrub called Mexican Buckeye, that is finishing up blooming. You can spot last year's big pods and this year's immature ones on the same plant.

Mexican buckeye blooms and immature pods

Mexican buckeye new mexico

At the community garden, the wild morning glory (the kind that spreads on the ground, convovulvus) was just spreading and climbing up the sides of the plot, and I wanted to pull it back so that the boards were free of it and it couldn't clamber down into the bed itself. So, I started pulling weeds on my side, and my husband started pulling on his side.

Then, he said, "Whoa! A frog! A frog!" 

New Mexico Woodhouse Toad April 2021

Southwestern Woodhouse Toad

I went over there, and there was a big, maybe four-inch long disgruntled-looking toad sitting, now visible with the weeds pulled away from his little house. I was astounded! A big, clearly an aged, toad, in the desert!

I took a few quick photos and we hastily put the weeds back on top of him or her, and then loaded some pine straw on top of that. There are lots of weeds around some of the unclaimed plots, so I hope he will be all right. I hope he stays by my plot, though. I did an image search on Google and found out that he or she is definitely a Southwestern Woodhouse Toad. And I wonder, is this how the game of Toad Catcher started?

Friday, April 16, 2021

Just A Quick Hi and Thoughts About Veterans and Verbena

old wasp nest sand verbena and mesquite leaves

Oh, I wish the photos could do justice to how vivid the new leaves of mesquite trees are. They look "alien green" and against the very dark bark of a mesquite tree they are stunning! I had to pick a few from our tree, along with a sprig of sand verbena, to put on my shrine. But first I took a few photos of them on my "nature table," along with an empty wasps' nest I found.

purple sand verbena and green mesquite leaves leaflets

Both the mesquite and the sand verbena are very drought-tolerant. The sand verbena will bloom its head off with just a cup or so of water a week, but I like to give it more. It's that greediness for blooms again! More water means even more blooms. A single plant can spread about three feet square and have hundreds of blooms at once. The mesquite makes unremarkable small yellow flowers followed by loads of edible seed pods that are pretty messy on the ground, but really, anything that can live in the desert gets kudos from me. And bees just love the blooms.

The Virgin Mary at Fatima with sand verbena and mesquite

The students at school had a rare treat today, although they may not know this yet. A WWII veteran came by to speak of his years in the Navy during the war. Not only did he drive himself to school, at 100 years old, but he had all his wits and wisdom about him still. There are so few of these veterans left...he was in uniform, too, which billowed around him and tugged at my heart. Like my husband, he is all angles and sticks; his upper arm looked like it was about as big around as my wrist. You just don't see any overweight super-seniors. I unfortunately did not get to hear his talk, but did enjoy talking to him while he was waiting to speak to the students. He told me that our building used to be a kindergarten, long ago, and that his two children had attended it. Amazing!

And something else amazing: My husband has suddenly become very enthused about my community garden plot. But now I guess it's "our" plot or more realistically, HIS garden plot! He has timers and sprinklers and soaker hoses rigged up to water automatically, and he is pulling weeds (and yes, some seedlings, but hush!) and planting more seeds since I was worried my bush pumpkins hadn't appeared yet. He is fussing over the lemongrass clumps as if they were newborn pups! 

I hope your Friday is going well, and that the weekend will be a lovely one and a peaceful one. As always, I will light a Holy Candle for my blog friends when I visit the church after work. I love going into the dark church, lit only by the candles on the altar and in the votive banks. Thank'ee for stopping by!

Kind regards,

Olde Dame Holly

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Thirsty Clematis

Evidently the word "thirsty" means something else now. I can't keep up. Perhaps I don't want to keep up. I love words, yet I balk at many new definitions of words. They seem short-lived at best, and silly, almost always with some naughty or cheap connotation. I'll stick with the olde words, thank'ee. 

purple blue clematis

But back to my dear bargain clematis! Last year, alone on a table at Lowe's, looking pathetic, this poor plant, in a purple plastic pot, unchosen as a Mother's Day present, was a withered three inches of vine priced at $1.50. I had to rescue it. During the past year, it put out four small leaves, and didn't budge, baking in the desert sun. Then winter hit and it disappeared into the ground.

close up of purple blue clematis flower

But with the advent of spring, out it came, growing rapidly! It set five huge buds, and I waited for them to open. And waited. And waited. And then it hit me: It was thirsty. The small amounts of water dripped onto it by the irrigation system were only keeping it alive, not allowing it to flourish. So I "flood irrigated" the bed, and within minutes, the first flower unfurled! Within three hours, all were

I don't know why, but the blooms are a lot bluer in person, and bluer in the morning. 

I think I will do more flood irrigation now. I already flooded both sides of the courtyard again, and the brand new plants have set buds.

Ah, the courtyard. I am always talking about it. When it is revealed, you will be astounded. "Is that all? It's so small!" Yes, by the way I speak of it, you might be picturing something at Alhambra. It's more the size of a Master Bath. But when it's in full bloom, it is indeed pretty! I don't have it in me to have much in the way of landscaping anymore. Too old, too sore, too poor! But I enjoy my little courtyard garden.

I have been a bit exhausted by my new job, coming home, then doing the minimum, sometimes not even having the energy to eat dinner. Just straight to bed, no blogs, boo! I hope to catch up soon. I don't like to miss even one day of the blogging world! 

Friday, April 9, 2021

A Jug of Winecups, A Loaf of Bread, and Thou

I love the lyric poem known as The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, by the poet-astronomer of Persia. Edward Fitzgerald translated the most popular English version in 1859. I don't know how close it is to the original Persian thoughts, but his version is exceptionally beautiful. My title is a weak play on words; in one line of the poem (over 1,000 lines long!), the poet states, "A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou" to his love -- all that he needs.

Not only are my winecups blooming, but I bought another small pot of them and have them planted in my new fire-ring in the courtyard! Winecups are native perennials, very low-growing, but with the blooms held on wiry stems well above the dark, deeply lobed leaves. 

winecup wine cups perennials

The hollyhock roots are planted, too. And the new lemongrass! I skulked through all the pots (do you do this, too?) until I found two that each had two plants growing, instead of just a single plant. Chuckling to myself (yes, I'm THAT crazy lady you see at the plant nursery), I put them into the cardboard tray along with the hollyhock packages.

Grrr, the local nursery is a very lightweight nursery, not like the old one, back in the old days, before I was old. The old one -- gee, it was only 30 years ago -- had it ALL. This one, no. I asked if they had Dutchman's Breeches. I want to be able to point to them in my courtyard and casually ask, "Do these Dutchman's Breeches make my butt look fat?" FOILED AGAIN.

Now, when you go to the garden center, use my other trick, too. Always heft the packs of roots or bulbs that are opaque. The packages are opaque so that light doesn't prematurely trigger the plants to grow, but it prevents being able to see the size of the roots, bulbs, or tubers. So, go by weight. You want the heaviest ones! 

And speaking of that...'ear ye, 'ear the grocery store, choose your corn and your artichokes that way. BY THE HEFT. Get the heaviest ones. I guarantee, you will never be disappointed in the ears of corn again.

Now, add an extra step for the artichokes. Put it next to your ear, and give it a squeeze. It must squeak. No, I am not pulling your leg. Make sure it squeaks. Squeak = fresh. Get the heaviest, squeakiest ones. You are most welcome.

"Class, what are some facts we have learned from today's post?" 

"Olde Dame Holly, we have learned about choosing double-planted pots, and heavy corn-on-the-cob, and heavy squeaking artichokes. And we have been reminded about The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. And we have learned you're a little crazy, but we knew that, really."

Class dismissed! And as always, thank'ee for stopping by.

Kind regards,

Olde Dame Holly

Monday, March 29, 2021

The Flower of the Family

My father used to have a joke he liked to tell. He would say that I was "the flower of the family -- the bloomin' idiot."

My family was exceptionally intelligent, except the baby of the family -- me -- lagged far behind them. In my family, the intellect was the be-all, end-all. My siblings had extraordinary intelligence, as did my parents, especially in the areas of mathematics and music. I have no real talent for either one, although I tried very hard to do well in those subjects and please my loved ones. But I never pleased them!

I do feel I have a special gift, however: I am transported by beauty. Sometimes I feel like my heart will burst when I see certain flowers or hillsides or paintings; or the way the light goes through a vase at sundown or a leaf at sunrise, or through Champie the Chiweenie's ears anytime, making him look like a dog with bright pink petals growing from his head. Note to Champie: You are a handsome, handsome lad, my fat and faithful friend, and you wear those petals well.

Here are a few more "purloined pictures" (thank you, Joanne from Cup on the Bus) from the little park I "accidentally" found myself in after accidentally scaling a rock wall (at MY age!) and accidentally avoiding detection by sneaking about. I was NOT the only one to enter this off-limits park, however; a well-known ne'er-do-well character wearing a black mask (over its eyes, not its nose and mouth) was there before me! Yes, the paths were covered with paw prints of raccoons! 

Hope you enjoy. Three kinds of crabapples and some other pretty plants like quince and redbuds were also blooming. Some are not in sharp focus; I was too busy trying to sneak to concentrate.

Kind regards,

Olde Dame Holly

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Lilac-Violet Cactus Welcomes Spring in the Desert


chalkware chickens hen rooster vintage

Before showing off the "unicorn cactus" as I like to call it, here is my favorite kitchen decoration. These little chalkware chickens are always on display. The hen was painted by my son while I painted the rooster, when he was very little. I love children's artwork and handwork. Their creations are so open, so fresh! 

agave in spring cactus in las cruces nm

I had to mail some seeds that I sold, so I stopped by the landscaping at City Hall, which is downtown like the post office.
Spring arrived within a week: Trees that were bare last week are fuzzed with green this week.  Ice plants have dozens of blooms and have plumped up. The agaves (above) are stretching out. I think the center of the agave looks like a little dolphin face. And the prickly pears are barnacled with buds.

purple prickly pear santa rita cactus desert southwest

I am very partial to these
lilac-hued cactus, called Santa Rita prickly pears. They are a very unusual spot of pastel color in the landscape. In winter and early spring they are lilac and purple with aqua; by late spring and summer they will turn more a pastel blue gray.  In the landscape, they are striking. I wasn't the only one taking photos of them; in nearby Old Mesilla, tourists had phones in hand, taking photo after photo of the violet-hued prickly pears that line the famed La Posta restaurant's parking area.

lilac purple santa rita cactus

I know many of you are still awaiting spring to truly show herself! But when it is over 100 degrees here (37 C), you will be having the last laugh as everything dries up in the heat!

purple cactus santa rita prickly pear

Kind regards,

Olde Dame Holly

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Your Favorite Smell, Garden Surprises, Desert SNOW in March and Printable Spring Tags!

Well dearies, here we have some free digital speckled spring tags to download and print out. I was thinking of speckled eggs, and flowers, and decided to combine the two. As always, please use the link, because Blogger compresses and resizes images posted and then they don't print properly. TO GET A GOOD LOOK at the tags to see if you want to download them, RIGHT CLICK and choose "Open link in new tab" and that will make the little magnifier appear.

You can download from Google Drive (safe) from this LINK <-----

speckled egg spring tags florals free download printables penniwigs
Amazingly, it snowed today here in the desert -- on our mountaintops. It sprinkled some cold rain on the foothills and in our valley, the Mesilla Valley, where the Rio Grande is and where the chiles, onions, cotton, and pecans grow.

las cruces new mexico organ mountains snow in march 2021


The mountains are the Organ Mountains, so called because the tall granite outcroppings (locally called "the needles") looked like organ pipes to some, probably homesick settlers who had left such heavy instruments behind. I can't really imagine the grit that the people had who moved here, the ganas, as they say in Mexico. All these g-words, basically meaning the desert pioneers had guts.

Update on my community garden plot: Whoever had this plot before was a blue-ribbon gardener. I thought I was going to have to amend the soil and dig a lot to prepare the bed. But no! My very first shovelful of soil showed that not only was it already amended, but it was PLANTED! With strange bulbs, pushing up to the surface! And the bed has different mints including apple mint, big mounds of what turned out to be the best-smelling lemongrass ever, other herbs yet to be figured out, and I don't even know what-all. Some heirloom tomatoes, too.

I gingerly poked in a few seeds of sunflowers along the western side of the plot, for shade. And put in a few pumpkin seeds (bush pumpkins) and some Korean Melon seeds that were given to me by a fantastic gardener in a seed club we're in. But I didn't dare dig anything. I just made little holes with a stick.

Those with mint-phobia, don't worry. In the desert, mint cannot take over your beds. They are limited by the extreme dryness and easy to keep in bounds with watering methods.

I am most excited about the lemongrass. I haven't grown it before. I gave it a good haircut and the little blades are already coming up from the roots. I think it's one of my new favorite smells!

What is your favorite smell? Does it vary by season, as mine do? 

Kind regards,

Olde Dame Holly

Friday, March 5, 2021

Giveaway Winner and...Shy Violets Already

Nature is so amazing. Where there was ice-blasted grass and brown soil, there is now new green and a sprinkling of early violets. These are growing near a grotto on the grounds of a former convent. I lived here once, long ago. I think these are the only violets in Las Cruces, and they grow only near the Grotto. I think they grow for Mary, Queen of Heaven. Since I lived there, the statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe was removed from the Grotto. They can remove her statue, but the very earth remembers!

spring wild violets near a grotto in las cruces new mexico

And...we have a winner! I did this old-style, with bits of paper that we put in a bag, and my husband drawing the winner. 

Sheri at Red Rose Alley, a delightful blog, congratulations! If you email me your address, I will send off your giveaway items.

This was so fun for me, that I am wondering...any of you interested in a giveaway featuring seeds? I have so many, many unusual seeds, for all climates and all skill levels. Let me know in the comments if anyone is interested in a Spring Seed Giveaway, and please, if you have any thoughts or stories about gardening from seed, tell them in the comments or even in a blog post, as your time permits. I know weekends can be busy.

See you soon, on the blogs...

Kind regards,

The Merry Olde Dame, Holly


Thursday, February 11, 2021

Wild Strawberries and Passing Years

I finished my second Spring Bees counted cross stitch chart, "Bee and Bunny Frolic," and sewed it into a pinkeep yesterday, and have it out on the nature table. I have to watch my little "lamb" dog, Sophie: She is very smart and wants to get the pin keeps / pillow tucks down and play with them. 

When I first taught, I was very surprised that the students, without appearing to, watched my EVERY move. It came very much in handy: If I called out, "Where did I put my coffee?" all the kids would call out, point, even excitedly jump up and go immediately to wherever it was. No more lost keys, cups, grading, etc. Sophie is like that. She doesn't appear to be watching, but she is. Always! 

The new design has some little strawberries in it. The house where I was born had 3 acres around it, a small hill, and a beautiful clear creek. All along the slope of the hill down to the creek, wild strawberries grew by the hundreds, perhaps even thousands. The berries were so tiny, but the flavor was out of this world. Their bigger cousins cannot compare. Wild garlic also grew on that slope, in the sunnier areas, and the bulbs sent up tens of thousands of stems topped with delicate pale purple flowers. At first they had no scent, but within a few days, they reeked. I loved them. Tigerlilies and amaryllis grew wild there, too, with native plums, maypops (passionflower vines), and muscadine grapes all through the pine woods.

bee and bunny frolic etsy cross stitch spring

 I warned of this on my old blog: Do not go to Google Maps and look at the "street view" of long-ago places unless you can take a shock. I decided to go look at my old home after stitching the strawberries. All I can say is, 50 years is a long time to be gone from a place. Evidently the acreage was subdivided, and the hill razed, and the creek diverted or stopped somehow. There are houses encroaching on the house my father built, and the flora is gone. My mother's incredible gardens, gone. The house is still beautiful, but it is no longer sitting in splendor, surrounded by trees. Now untidy houses are right up to the setbacks. Have you ever gotten a shock from the changes the years have wrought on a favorite place?

I am now working on design #3 for the Spring Bees series. I think I will leave it at three. And I think this next pinkeep will be stuffed with lavender, and work as a sachet/pincushion.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Mint to Be

I know in other areas mint can be very invasive. Here, I can keep it in its place through watering. Where I do not water, it does not grow. I call it "water edging." Even with ample water, I must implore it to grow. This is my new mint. This one is called "Chocolate Mint," in honor of the famed peppermint patty confection. I think some dollar weed has emerged to keep it company. The juniper branches placed on the area to protect it did a good job, but the weeds, of course, saw their chance to grow, too.

mint growing in winter

The mint is disagreeing with the groundhog's assessment as to how long winter will last, and thinks it's safe to poke up its fragrant head and begin spring. It's clearly a foolhardy plant; brave, but unwise. It is the plant equivalent of a chihuahua. 

I brushed my hand across the sprigs to gather their scent, then picked up my rosary. Now, I have it on the nightstand, and I can smell it from here. 

The Superbowl is on in the other room, but I am watching another battle: Which will win, my newest cross stitch chart, or my ability to count properly? I have "frogged" so much it's like a rainforest in here. Usually, when I butt heads with a chart, I put that chart down and pick up another one for awhile, except when mulishness sets in. I want it done, and on display, starting tomorrow. This will be too long ago for most of you, but does anyone recall "Francis the Talking Mule?" Well, we have "Holly the Stitching Mule" now. But I am wanting a basket of spring-themed pinkeeps on my nature table, and I'm going to have it, by golly!

Monday, October 26, 2020

Urban Gleaning: Seed Saving Time

In my area, this is the time to be gleaning the urban landscape and saving seeds.

I love plants and always look for unusual or beautiful plantings as I go about my life. Beginning in September, I began stopping at various public plantings and noting any seed pods or seed heads. Now I use my notes to return to areas and gather seeds from the sidewalks and streets. 

I am extremely lucky to have access to a very rare fruit tree that had a bumper crop this year. It is a steady seller on Etsy for me. Piggybacking on that rare tree, I have been adding unusual desert plants to my seed bank, and they also are now selling. I expect a big burst of sales in spring, and by that time many traditional plant seeds I've gathered, such as wisteria, will have finished drying, and be ready to plant.

Today I gathered four kinds of seeds within steps of each other: Desert Willow and its orchid-like blooms, Mexican Bird of Paradise with bright red-and-yellow-catch-a-fellow blossoms, Golden Rain Tree (we also called it Golden Chain Tree) with its pink "paper lantern" seed pods, and another lucky find, the Desert Museum Palo Verde with its yellow five-petaled speckled flowers and edible pods.


urban gleaning showing three different seed plants palo verde, mexican bird of paradise, broom

Yes, the Palo Verde has delicious seeds in the pods, much like endame. When green, the pods can be blanched and the seeds eaten plain or salted. They can also be blanched, then roasted with spices. Due to the unusual bloom activity so late in the season, trees have blossoms, fully dried pods and new green pods at the same time right now. With snow flurries expected tomorrow, I think that will end soon!

I am grateful for the bounty these public plantings are providing me, and happy that more people now get to plant these seeds and enjoy the unique plants. I trade seeds in several seed-trading groups, too. Trading is a wonderful way to get seeds you've always wanted, usually for the price of a stamp or two.

    Kind regards,

    Olde Dame Holly Rose

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Using Early Snowfalls in the Garden

I feel we may have early snows this year. If your area gets a snowfall before the ground freezes, be sure to till in the snow in your vegetable patch, if you have a tiller. If you don't, drag a rake up and down the soil, trying to stir the soil and mix in the snow. Autumn snows tilled into soil are called "poor man's fertilizer," and will give you bountiful yields next year.

For your house plants, gather up clean snow and fill buckets with it. Put inside the house to melt, and pour into old water jugs, and cap. This snow-water will act as an elixir for your indoor plants. Dole it out like medicine. 

It's not fun, but try to keep your garden beds and under trees leaf-free so that you are ready to take advantage of a snowfall, and to take away the shelter for destructive insects. The good insects will find hiding places in your compost pile, along with the bad ones. The bad ones won't be right by their preferred food source any longer, which is very helpful come spring. 

If the snowfalls are heavy enough this autumn, heap up snow around bushes and trees. Knock it off the branches as much as you can by shaking them or hitting them with a fishing pole, but don't be afraid of the snow being heaped up around the plant. It will not freeze it "more;" it will actually insulate it and provide a very long "drink" for the plants as it melts. 

If you can, use good plain sand on your walks and stepping stones. The salts used to melt snow are not good for plants. But most of all, do what you need to in order to stay safe and not fall. Plants can be replaced; so can hips, but what a cost to health and pocketbook!

Here's hoping for one or two early snows for our garden darlings. 

    Kind regards,

    Olde Dame Holly Rose

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Colorful Antique-style Seed Saver Packets to Print

Well my dears, today we have a colorful version of the small printable seed packets posted on Monday.

These feature old images of pretty flowers and vegetables, so you can use one for flowers, one for food seeds.

I think these would make it extra-special if giving gifts of your collected seeds, especially if you are out of glassine envelopes or mylar pouches, and don't have time to get any. 

In these times, it is more important than ever to have an eye to the future, and future needs that may look more like pioneer days than we expect. If you can, have seeds on hand, and plant fruit trees and vines that can help you get vitamin C and other nutrients. 

If you live in an apartment or rental home, consider growing mint in a bright window. It is medicinal as well as delicious. I consider it a very important item to have growing in the home. It has vitamins C, K, and B-6 as well as E, and it has folate and manganese. It has magnesium, calsium, iron, potassium, and riboflavin (another type of B-vitamin). It can settle a stomach quickly, too. 

Sadly, many have forgotten that within the lifetimes of our eldest citizens, Victory Gardens were vital to the survival of individuals and the society. My widowed grandmother kept a "milch cow" in town, and chickens, and grew many unusual fruits and vegetables, during World War II.

My own father would have starved, had he not been adept at foraging for wild foods and hunting squirrels during the Depression. He hated shooting the squirrels, and after the war never picked up a gun again, but he hated the sight of his tiny siblings crying in hunger more. 

If you get a chance, read "Once Upon A Town: The Story of the North Platte Canteen." It will amaze you. The farmers and ranchers of North Platte, Nebraska, the very heart of the heartland, provided so much food to the troop trains during World War II. Day in, day out, blizzards or scorching summer days, every troop train was met with an abundance of baked goods, fruits, vegetables, and meals. Popcorn balls studded with peanuts, pink-iced cakes, cookies and rolls were served by the tens of thousands, too. And this was before high-tech agriculture and GMO. This was clever thought, hard work, generous and no-nonsense spirits. It was quite unusual, in that the women who ran the canteen ignored the segregation of the day and served everyone, with no differences. They didn't have time to be petty. The fate of the world was at stake, and their part was important, and they knew it.

So save those seeds, including flower seeds that "do nothing" -- except brighten hearts. Seeds provide us with the means to have food for the stomach and the soul. 

As always, DON'T save the image! Use the LINK provided, because only the link gives you access to a full-sized file that will print correctly.

LINK to Google Drive file HERE.

    Kind regards,

    Olde Dame Holly Rose


Monday, October 5, 2020

Seed Saving and Printable Seed Packet

All of ye know I like to recall the olde lore and use it in my life today. Much of the lore I know pertains to plants and planting.

I like to gather seeds and save them for next year. Keep seeds dry and safe in a gnaw-proof container in a dark, cool place during the winter months, unless you are growing a seed that likes to remain dormant, such as Texas Mountain Laurel. If you have such seeds, I suggest placing them on an old washcloth or pie plate with some leaves in it, and letting them ride out the winter on your porch or patio, or next to the trunk of an evergreen. 

In the spring, always plant during a waxing moon, unless you are growing something that develops underground, such as peanuts, beets, radishes, or carrots. Plant those during the waning phase.  

Because of hybridizing and cross-pollination, sometimes the seeds you gather won't be true to the parent plant. If you save zinnia seeds, you'll grow zinnias, but it might not be the same size, shade, or petal shape as the original. Some plants easily pollinate with other like kinds but some don't. In my Texas Mountain Laurel example, with no other laurels around usually, you are going to get seeds that are true to the parent, having been fertilized by another Mountain Laurel. But corn, many flowers, and many vegetables will not be true. It can be fun to see what comes up, however! And, it can be a huge disappointment.

Here are two links, one to a generic printable seed envelope, and another one just for pumpkins, since many a pumpkin is destined to be a Jack o'Lantern soon. Insofar as the pumpkins go, you may end up with the seed being "true," especially if the farmer who grew your Jack O'Lantern had only one type of pumpkin and there were no others pumpkins or squash being grown within half a mile or so, or you might end up with an interesting cross -- or in the case of undesirable results, a double-cross, so to speak.

Click the LINKS to save. Google reduces the size of images in blogs, and if you simply save the image, it will not print correctly.

Pumpkin Printable Seed Packet  

Plain Printable Seed Packet

Tomorrow, the news about whether it will be a hard or a mild winter, according to the signs and the signs this year are very strange. Of course: It's 2020.

    Kind regards,

    Olde Dame Holly Rose

Friday, October 2, 2020

The Rise of the Unusual Pumpkin

I can remember in the late 1960s and until perhaps 1995, when the main pumpkin for sale at Hallowe'en was the "Howden Pumpkin," the typical bright orange, sturdy pumpkin developed specifically to be carved into Jack O'Lanterns. There were pie pumpkins in with the produce in grocery stores, but the big piles and bins of pumpkins were Howdens, with some Connecticut Field pumpkins dating to before  Colonial times still being grown. 


Later, what I call "boutique" pumpkins began to make their appearances. First there were the white pumpkins, developed here in the U.S., and then many old European standbys, such as Rouge Vif D'Etampes, commonly called the "Cinderella" pumpkin. I can remember in the early 1970s seeing blue pumpkins -- Queensland Blue -- being offered at Bechnel Farms citrus groves near New Orleans, but few takers. I thought them dreadful, since the idea of a smooth, typical Howden pumpkin was firmly cemented in my mind. "Pumpkins should be round, or tallish, and orange," thought my child's mind. What I would give to have those blue pumpkins now, at an affordable price! They were developed in Australia way back in the 1930s. I wonder how the Becnels came to grow them.

Now, warty pumpkins, bi-colored pumpkins, and flat pumpkins are popular. The white pumpkins have been improved, with many appearing an impossible white. Martha Stewart has done much to popularize the strange pumpkins and the unusual pumpkins and winter squash. They almost always grace the pages of her magazine and website. (Ah, magazines. I think soon they will almost cease to be, other than in digital form.)

I have grown pumpkins since I graduated college many a year ago, almost always choosing to grow Rouge Vif D'Etampes. However, I think a seed of the newly popular "Long Island Cheese Pumpkin" must have been in the package, and that is what I recently grew. I am very happy with it! It is actually kin to the butternut squash, which means it will make fantastic "pumpkin" pie, just as butternuts do. It has a pale, tannish color, with just a hint of orange.

Do any readers here grow unusual pumpkins?

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Fall's Purple Gift: The Wild Aster



The fall of the year is when Wild Purple Asters, after hanging on all through the blazing summer days, suddenly bloom in profusion. 

In the desert, members of the aster family need no irrigation or watering to blossom, but bloom more heavily if watered. Along the roadsides and the Rio Grande, they form clumps of thousands of blooms, and busy bees and other pollinators feast on as much nectar as they can hold in preparation for the coming winter.

Every corner of the nation has its own wild purple asters. Some are edible, like the New York Aster, with blooms placed in salads, and leaves brewed into a tea.

Foraging for wild foods was something our ancestors did, and the knowledge was passed down from generation to generation. My mother knew a great deal of such lore, but I was taught only a fraction of her knowledge. Still, I learned about hundreds of plants. I know how and when to dig sassafrass roots, how to make ink out of beautyberries, and how to fold blades of Southern Cut Grass to make a whistle. While I know a lot about Southern wild plants, I have had to try to learn about the native plants in each area of the country I find myself in. In the desert of New Mexico, I have discovered jujube trees, "ditch asparagus" (asparagus that thrives in the irrigation ditches that branch out all along the Rio Grande), "tunas" (the fruit of the Prickly Pear), mesquite bean flour, and piƱon nuts, and now the beautiful asters, too. The desert seems very sparse compared to the other places I have lived, but sometimes we have to be happy with less, and look a bit harder for beauty.

I have also begun "gleaning," which is going to a picked field and finding overlooked or damaged fruits or vegetables, AFTER the harvest and AFTER the farmer has gleaned. On the NMSU campus, I found two bags of dried corn on the cob within twenty feet of perhaps eight rows. Dipped in wax that has lost its scent from my wax warmers, they make fantastic fire-starters, as do pinecones. The dogs also greatly enjoy carrying "their" corncobs around. The chiweenie picked one that is nearly as big as he is. I have found several onions that fell off the onion wagons, and cotton that is scattered like snow along the shoulder of the lanes after threshing.

Do you forage for any wild foods or decorative plants in your area? 

    Kind regards,

    Olde Dame Holly Rose

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Time to Gather and Save Those Seeds

Autumn is here, and it's time to start checking your flowers, trees, and bushes for seeds to trade, sell, or keep for next year's crop!


Of course, seeds are the result of the two parents, just like any offspring. If your pink zinnia was fertilized by the neighbor's variegated red and white zinnia, the offspring will probably not look exactly like either parent! In fact, with zinnias, the offspring of unlike colors is usually a light mauve-purple hue. It's pretty, but there isn't much variety. 

But some seeds are more likely to be "true" than others. They are more likely, in other words, to look like the plant that bore them. Around here, the red yucca is grown heavily, and is much more likely to be fertilized by another red yucca than the less-often-grown yellow yucca. So, you can gather red yucca seeds with confidence here.

I like to gather the seeds of the Texas Mountain Laurel especially. They're shown above. Not only are they gorgeous put into a jar or glass, but they will be true to the parent, due to the lack of other laurels growing in the area. They fertilize each other; no interlopers to change the strain! Native peoples once drilled these into beads and used their coral color to great effect in jewelry. The seeds are extremely hard and durable.

Make sure any seeds are completely dry before you store them. I suggest storing in paper or glassine envelopes. MANY folks who store seeds just hand-fold a little "envelope" and put the seeds in it. Then put the envelopes into a jar with one of those little silica gel packs that often comes with medicines or food, if you have one handy. If you don't have a gel dessicant handy, consider putting a handful of plain white rice (NOT COOKED RICE) and a tablespoon of salt into the jar, then a piece of paper towel, a coffee filter, or cupcake liner so that the salt is kept away from the seeds completely (or bundle the rice and salt in a coffee filter and secure). Place the little paper or glassine envelopes in and put the lid on.

Store in a cool, dry place, as they always say. Now you're ready for next year's planting!