Pumpkin Harvest


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These two pumpkins have been orange for several weeks now. I had done some reading about when to harvest pumpkins earlier this summer when I knew that the vines were setting fruit but I had to take a dive back into my reading to verify myself about the proper time to harvest. Being as this was my first experience successfully growing pumpkins, I wanted to be sure. So, I took Forest to the garden with me and we cut the pumpkins off the vines—me with my garden clippers, Forest with his Handy Manny saw.

Now that I’ve had some pumpkin success, not without a scare from Harvey’s flood waters, I’m tempted to try another variety or two next summer. I had to dig back into my archives to remember when I sowed the vines, but it looks like early June was when things happened this year. I think I’ll try that time period once again next year as *crossing fingers* the squash vine borers seemed to have been less problematic later in the summer than they are in the spring. Or maybe it was that the Seminole pumpkin vine was just good at standing up to the bugs!

On the agenda this weekend is to make a batch of pumpkin butter with these two pumpkins. All of my research says that home canning pumpkin butter is a no-go so I found that freezer recipe from Ball. I made pumpkin butter maybe two or three—was it four???—years ago. I can’t remember if Forest was around yet or not. I remember it molding pretty fast in the fridge, mostly because I had too much in a jar and couldn’t get through it fast enough. This time around I’ll do half-pint jars and only keep a small amount in the fridge at a time.

This weekend I plan on trying to catch up on some photos I’ve taken over the last few weeks and maybe getting some posts written up for later this week. I write in my head all of the time I just never have the energy or time (hello, bedtime stalling from a certain preschooler) in the evenings to get much done.

Happy Saturday!

The September Garden


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A view of the side yard garden from the front

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Stapelia gigantea

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Senna corymbosa

Did it seem like September sped by with nary a time to take a breathe? It did for me. Harvey seemed to push us straight into September and the week+ off of work made it feel even more odd to start September. Chris was out of town for Forest’s birthday and Forest turned three and honestly, I’m not quite sure where the weeks went between that and Chris’ birthday which was just this last weekend.

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Lycoris radiata

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Gaillardia aestivalis var. winkleri

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Brugmansia

The tug to do just a little bit less in the garden is great but the weeds are telling me not to get to cozy inside just yet. I’d like to get everything really cleaned up weed-wise and some more mulch put down in the edible and flower gardens in addition to more decomposed granite on the flower garden paths. I’m more than annoyed with whatever is digging up our flower garden mulch that I had put down back in August. Was that August? I can’t even remember now. Maybe it was September. That’s beside the point—something is rooting around and driving me insane!

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Blackberry lilies

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Musella lasiocarpa

For about two months or so I had noticed a hole being dug underneath our front porch adjacent to the stairs by our walkway approaching the house. I thought maybe it was the work of raccoons but my dad happened to see a opossum scurrying down the hole one night when he went to walk Daisy, my parent’s dog. Ok, probably a good clue as to what is digging around the garden, especially because it tends to only dig the bed directly in front of the house.

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Monarch caterpillar

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Pink banana

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Love bugs, Plecia nearctica

The rest of the flower garden is slowly senescing, well, the plants that will do that this time of year. Some are in full blooming glory like the brugmansias, daturas, flowering senna, and just now coming into bloom, the pineapple salvia. I think this year I will dry some of it to use in teas. It also might be an interesting addition to kombucha.

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Senna corymbosa in the side yard

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Brugmansia

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More of the side yard

I started a variety of seeds for the flower garden on the potting bench last week in hopes I could grow some out over winter and get them into the ground in the spring. I was hoping to get a head start on some of them because many of them I have trouble getting big enough to avoid the deer nibbling on them—the deer just nibble the entire plant down to nothing, so my plan is that maybe I can get some big enough that the deer won’t destroy in one bite. Yes, this is wishful thinking but I’m going to do it anyway.

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Seminole pumpkin ripening

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Future Seminole pumpkin!

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Cowpea jungle

In the edible garden I sowed a lot of seeds about a week and a half ago. Most have germinated but some have not—I suspect they are waiting for cooler soil temperatures. I’ll give them a few weeks and might have to resow. So far the ones doing well are the bok choy, Florida broadleaf mustard, and kale, but plenty of others are coming up too.

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Future cowpeas!

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Tiny Sumter cucumber

The okra are waning and I will take them down next week. I didn’t grow a bunch this year because I still had some frozen from last year and know that next season I will plant more than the few little rows I did. The cowspeas really decided to start flowering over the last two weeks and I thought I was about to have a good harvest but the peas stopped forming and shriveled up mid-way through. No pollination? Not sure what happened there. I am getting cucumbers in now, which is a perk for my salads. I can’t wait to get carrots harvested, too, but that’s a month or so away.

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Okra

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A small bean harvest

It’s monarch city around here with eggs, caterpillars, and adults galore! In addition, the gulf frits are here, too. BUT, I’m super stoked about this, I finally saw something using my false nettle! I suspect it is the red admirals but I couldn’t get any caterpillar interested in escaping its leaf tent. I even tried in the evening to see if any were out and about, but nope. I was pretty ecstatic to see leaves rolled up finally!

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A bok choy and squash blossom harvest.

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Leeks

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Bok choy seedling

Garden goals for October: Weed all the things, start planning what we want to plant in an area we’re going to move some irises out of, get some trees planted that we have sitting on the potting bench, and resow a few seeds out in the edible garden.

September Lepidopterans


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The lepidopteran show here at Tadpole Hollow is full swing. I thought I had a bunch of monarchs back in August but nope, the migration is really in full swing now. I have caterpillars and eggs out my ears and I’m doing my best to raise what I can though most are doing their own thing out there on the milkweed.

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Raising the monarchs are been educational and rewarding but also a little heartbreaking at times. Smaller caterpillars just up and disappear, probably chomped on by their larger counterparts because they don’t know any better, and I had my first case of OE that showed up in a chrysalis just as it was turning to start to eclose. I talked with my friend who has been raising them for awhile and she said to go ahead and remove it because it would never emerge and would just start smelling. I put it in the trash, which felt a little sacrilegious but I didn’t want to spread disease. I suppose I could have just buried it. And this evening I found a deflated caterpillar in the garden hanging from a leaf. Upon closer inspection it looks like it may have been parasitized. I plucked the leaf it was on off the milkweed plant and tossed it all over the fence. Not only that, but it looks like I might have my first failure-to-pupate in the tent tonight. The caterpillar is still alive, I think, but it doesn’t look good. For that, I am a little bummed. It looks like there could be various causes so it isn’t like I will have some kind of miracle answer.

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The best part of the monarchs recently has been being able to show my parents and niece and nephew the emerging butterflies and releasing them while they were here for a visit recently!

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In other caterpillar news, I was inspecting some of the milkweed on the potting bench over the weekend and found my first milkweed tussock moth caterpillar! I’m very excited about this! I moved it over to the main garden milkweed so it wouldn’t eat up all of my container milkweed and later I found a second one! Since they pupate underground I won’t be trying to keep them but finding this caterpillar heartened me that our garden is hosting an array of caterpillars. Now, if I could just entice those red admirals to feast on my false nettle! The question mark and commas also use this plant but I have never seen one in my yard—doesn’t mean they aren’t here, just that I’ve never seen one. I have seen red admirals.

Joining in the butterfly bonanza lately but without photos have been various sulphurs, gulf fritilaries, and painted ladies. The gulf frits are just now really coming in heavily and I have noticed them laying eggs on the passifloras, too. At lunch today I saw an adult flying and remembered to go and check one of the Passiflora lutea vines where I saw a female laying eggs over the weekend and sure enough, there was a caterpillar!

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And finally, this little butterfly, a Carolina satyr. But I’m not 100%, kind of how I was back in July 2016, but I’m using Forest’s new handy-dandy laminated fold out butterfly guide and I feel pretty confident this time around.

I will try to get some more garden updates soon! I seem to been in a cycle of write a bunch of posts-take several weeks off so maybe I can get into the first part of that cycle once again!

Life Lately | September 2017


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+In My Head

It rained earlier this week, the first time since Harvey. I think all of Houston twitched for a little bit. A few people I am friends with or follow online, one of them had their house flooded for over a week, weren’t so happy about the rain. I actually hadn’t driven beyond Tomball down to the south of us in these last several weeks so I hadn’t seen anything flood related other than what was around here and it was minimal compared to what happened in Harris county. I drove to Baytown last week to do some field work and saw several piles of trash that were clearly from being flooded out. My work was in an area along Galveston Bay in the marsh so one section required meandering around piles of debris that had washed up. It was pretty gross to see and to think of what was in the water (bacterial and pollution-wise), too. You could still see the sediment line from the storm surge/flooding, which was over my head. I’m really trying to wrap my head around the poor Caribbean and its damages right now and it pains me to think about what everyone is going through over there.

One a separate note, I know last week I mentioned some podcasts with Hillary but this episode of Call Your Girlfriend with Aminatou doing the interview takes the cake! Best one I’ve heard!

+Watching
I’ve been taking a deep dive into Charmed on Netflix. I watched the series when it originally aired back in the late 90s and early 2000s but I know I missed some of the later episodes. I am a fan of Shannon Doherty so I wasn’t thrilled when they killed her off originally but I got over it when they brought in Rose McGowan to play Paige. What I love about watching this show again is not only the blast back into the 90s but how there are no smart phones and the internet was still in its beginnings. Web 2.0 hadn’t happened yet. Heck, the first few seasons are pre 9/11 so it is even a little more surreal in that aspect. No one has their heads in their phones, the girls still read the newspaper with their breakfast, and overall it is still a very analog life. Sure, they have cell phones but people just call them on it and sometimes they, you know, actually can’t get a hold of who they are calling. And no one freaks out.

Outlander is back on and I am having a love/hate relationship with it. Mostly because we’re still on Frank—go away Frank!—but that will fade out as the season goes on. I’m ready for some sailing! Also: we need more Fergus.

Last weekend I watched Passengers with my parents. It was very compelling and actually I woke up a lot that night thinking about the movie. The premise is there are now multiple planets that are being colonized by humans but of course they take many, many years to travel to. A company has figured out how to transport people there by putting them to sleep for 120 years, and when they are a few months from the new planet they wake up and live on this cruise ship style space ship until they get to the new planet. Of course one of the passengers wakes up on accident 90 years early and cannot get back to hibernation mode. Lots of calamities ensue, of course. Good movie, I thought!

+Outside My Window

I felt like fall was coming on a little early back in August but then it seemed to get put on hold, and certain plants I thought were about to just burst into their autumn bloom, didn’t. But finally the leaves are changing more, the plants are blooming, and hopefully soon we will cool off. The cool down after Harvey went away and we’ve been back into the low 90s with high humidity for the last several weeks.

+Making

This used to be titled In The Art Studio but since I practically never get over there I am renaming it Making instead. Right now the urge to crochet is on full throttle so I’m brainstorming and flagging projects on Ravelry. I finished up a second cocoon cardi like this one I made last October. This was for my mom. Two more I need to make. The other project I just started is a scarf using a new stitch, slant stitch, which you can see above. I’m liking it so far!

Still have plans on rearranging my studio and finishing up a scrapbook but I’m not forseeing that really happening until the time change or when it is dark by 7. I’ll spend more time in there, hopefully, when I can’t be outside after dinner. We shall see.

+In The Garden

The flower garden needs to be weeded again and mulch put down on the last couple of beds. I put down mulch on 2.5-ish beds a few weekends ago and sometime I need to get the others. I also need to get mulch for the vegetable garden paths. The edible garden is doing well and we’re getting seeds sown for fall. Most of what I sowed has germinated though I think a few things might be waiting on a little bit cooler soil. We’ll see—if nothing comes up in a few space I’ll try again in October sometime. We are waiting for October already on a couple of items like lettuce, cauliflower, and kohlrabi. I’m really looking forward to salad season! The pumpkin vine that took a hit with the floods from Harvey has bounced back. Two fruit are turning a pale orange and it is setting more fruit, so that will make up for the four I lost to rot. I’m already dreaming of making some pumpkin butter!

I’m still raising monarchs! In this latest round I mostly gathered caterpillars I found in the garden, though I did find a couple of eggs. We’re camping soon so I didn’t want to get a bunch of eggs and have to deal with them not being in chrysalis when we were out of town and most of these will be in chrysalis and pupating. There are more eggs out there—I’ve seen monarchs laying them this week, and I accidentally pulled about six off on a few leaves I was getting to feed the caterpillars—so I know I’ll have more to raise when we get back from camping. I’m going to hatch out the eggs I accidentally pulled and put them on the milkweed while we are gone. Hopefully they will survive the birds and wasps and I can get them back when we return. I don’t have enough plants to support rotating in a bunch of plants for 10+ caterpillars but I have enough that I could raise one or two in the tent while I’m away. Right now I’m picking single leaves off the plants in the garden a couple of times a way to feed them. They are so voracious right now that they will eat them in a few hours.

Late edit: I just found a milkweed tussock moth caterpillar on the milkweed! Very cool!

+Reading

Ilsa by Madeleine L’Engle. I have never read her books before and with A Wrinkle in Time being turned into a movie I might have to dip into that soon. This was on my flagged books that I thought were interesting on Hoopla Digital and it sounded worth picking up. From what I understand it was out of print for like 60 years or so before they started printing it again. The digital copy I’m reading has some typos here and there so I’m not sure what that’s about. The book is part coming of age, part “just life”, and my best guess is it takes place somewhere near Jacksonville, Florida or maybe Saint Augustine. I’m basing this on habitat descriptions and the references of being too far south to be considered the south, talking about Miami and Fernandina—the latter I’m guessing is Fernandina Beach which is north of Jacksonville near the Georgia border.

I’m also reading Garden Design magazine. I subscribed back in the spring after oogling over it for a year. Chris likes to complain about it because it is an expensive magazine–and it is compared to mainstream magazines–but there are no ads and every issue is super thick and full of rich stories and information. I’ve noticed that some of the more quality magazines have started going to subscriber supported instead of relying on ads, which of course means you only get a few issues a year instead of monthly, but I’d rather have substance than lots of ads. I was disappointed when Organic Gardening switched to Organic Life and ditched gardening for a lifestyle magazine instead. Honestly, there are very few good gardening magazines out there right now.

The other magazine I’m reading is Heirloom Gardener. This was originally put out by Baker Creek Seed Company and from what I can tell it was sold to Ogden Publications sometime in 2016. This is the same company that puts out Mother Earth News. While the magazine still has a similar theme and feel, there’s definitely a slightly diminished quality since it has moved to a mainstream publisher—more ads for one. But the magazine always has some interesting content for unique edibles to grow!

+Loving

I am trying a reset with coffee these last two weeks and instead have been trying to drink hot tea instead of coffee. I am letting myself have some coffee on the weekend but limiting it to one or two cups and I did try a Pumpkin Spice K-cup at work yesterday because it was the first day of fall. I definitely notice a difference in how I’m feeling—I was drinking too much caffeine. I’ve been drinking the Chai Green Tea from Stash, which of course has some caffeine, but then I’ve been following it up with Chai Spice decaf also from Stash or the Spice Dragon Red Chai from Stash as well. In addition, I’ve been favoring Wild Berry Zinger from Celestial Seasonings in the afternoons. I’m thinking this might be a new trend for me, at least for a few months. I was feeling a little out of sorts with the coffee.

What’s up with you?

Friday Five | 10


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It’s been awhile since I’ve done any of these but here are some things I’ve loved this week!

  1. Pod Save America’s interview with Hillary Clinton. I’m on the list to borrow her book at the library and I can’t wait to read it but this was a very satisfying show to tide me over. I just wanted to reach through the computer and hug her and it dragged up a lot of feelings I had from the day after the election. She would have been an excellent president.
  2. The latest two episodes of the With Her podcast. Yep, more interviews with Hillary. So good!
  3. This adorable, make-you-cry video from Serena Williams on her pregnancy journey. *sniff sniff*
  4. Very thankful that my friend Chel made it through Irma while riding it out with her family on Marco Island. They didn’t leave the island due to some health issues that prevented long travel and being in a shelter wasn’t going to work for them either. While her parent’s condo had some window damage when they shattered during the eye wall passing over, her house was thankfully spared much damage and the storm surge didn’t affect her house either. Unfortunately it looks like Everglades City and Chokoloskee and the Lower Keys, not so much. My friend Eliana over in Miami had a lot of damage to the yard as well as some issues with water leaking through the walls. From thinking this storm was going to do to Florida what it did to the Caribbean islands, this could have been much worse. Can we have another long period without major storms?
  5. Fall seed sowing season! I’ve spent the week prepping beds, going through seeds, and getting them sown. Maybe I’ll get around to an update next week. Can’t wait for greens season again!

Have a great weekend!

Oh, Florida.


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This isn’t Craig Pittman’s Oh, Florida! This is I have no words for what is likely to happen to my favorite state, our friends, our former coworkers, our favorite places and spaces, and everything we love in Florida. Harvey was literally in my backyard and yet this feels so much more personal. It doesn’t help to see pictures coming out of the BVI of what Irma did there. I went to Tortola and Virgin Gorda with my parents and brother in 1996 for my parent’s 20th anniversary so those places have memories for me as well.

I didn’t—couldn’t—watch the tv coverage from Harvey. I suspect I won’t be able to do anything but watch tv this weekend. And text my friend Eliana who lives in the Kendall area of Miami.

Irma, you are welcome to wipe out as many pythons, Brazilian peppers, melaleuca trees, and giant apple snails as you can. Please spare the Key deer, liguus tree snails, Miami blue butterfly, Cape sable seaside sparrow, and snail kites, though.

August 2017 Book Report


I read five books in August! That’s what happens when I have an hour to read each night when I’m getting Forest to bed.

Completed

  • Deep Summer by Gwen Bristow: I was searching for historical fiction on Hoopla Digital and this sounded great. It wasn’t until I was a few chapters in that I had to stop and look up the book a bit because I was a little confused by the blatant use of the n-word and some other racial issues, as well as some awkward language/wording at the beginning. This book was written in the late 1930s and book covers have been updated which is why I didn’t catch it to begin with. As much as I had trouble with the slurs and racial issues at the beginning, the book got better and I realized it was all there for a reason. However, I still had a lot of uncomfortable feelings towards the main character in regards to how she treated a slave that was the son of her husband and her former personal slave. Yes, there was all sorts of moments in the book that had me upset but I had to step back and realize that #*$# actually happened. Anyway, the premise of the story is a family is coming down the Mississippi River pre-Revolutionary war, just a few years before, and they meet up with a man who is transporting slaves and other items as he’s part pirate, part trying to become a legit businessman. They are all headed for Louisiana territory/West Florida. It took me a few chapters as the author/characters explained where they were going for me to figure out where they were located because as I said, this is 1700s Louisiana and the area is switching between French and Spanish jurisdiction and this is before it becomes part of the US. The girl, Judith, who is all of like 15 or 16 at the time falls for the guy and they end up eloping once they all settle onto their land grants. I thought the most fascinating part of the discussion was the talk about how the forests were turned into plantations (lots of logging using slave labor) and their houses were built with moss—I had to look that last bit up because I was really confused, it is bousillage, a clay and Spanish moss mixture. There were a ton of tidbits like that throughout the novel of some historical and regional references I didn’t know. Anyway, the book takes you through the Judith’s life up until her 50s or so. The next two novels continue dealing with their lineage, one set in the Civil War era and another around WWI. I will probably read them eventually.
  • The Humane Gardener by Nancy Lawson: The author also has a blog. I read this one after I spent the summer getting upset about one sided thinking when it comes to pollinators and insects in the garden. This was an easy read and one to check out if you are interested in branching out in creating habitats for a variety of wildlife. The book also made me think a little bit more on garden cleanup in the spring in regards to native ground nesting bees. I really enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it for any gardener on any level.
  • Bringing Nature Home by Dr. Doug Tallamy: This has been on my to-read list for years and after reading Humane Gardener I knew I had to read this one. I’ve listened to Tallamy on several podcasts and he’s always great to hear speak. This book is the next level to the The Humane Gardener in that he gets more specific about the insects in the garden and what plants they use. He’s much more about talking about insects in reference to how they utilize plants for reproduction and feeding as well as how they play a role in the food web, particularly as fodder for birds. Tallamy is also a proponent of creating better habitat for wildlife as a gardener in order to create larger scale wildlife areas instead of the checkerboard habitats we have now with parks on varying scales. This is a must read for all gardeners!
  • Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend: This was a surprising little book and I’m glad I found it. Another historical fiction, the book begins in the late 1800s and is loosely based on the life of Frances Conway. A good chunk of the book takes place on the Galapagos Islands, which as someone who got to spend a week there in 1998 this really piqued my interest in reading the book. I definitely recommend reading this one! A few uncomfortable parts dealing with the exploitation of a young girl as well as some murder, otherwise an interesting read.
  • Unlatched: The Evolution of Breastfeeding and the Making of a Controversy by Jennifer Grayson: I had been reading this one on and off for awhile but finally finished it up last week during our hurricane days at home. My friend Lisa had sent me her Advanced Reader Copy to read late last year and I was glad to wrap up reading the book. Because it was an ARC I was annoyed a bit with the amount of parentheticals. I love a good parenthesis but there were far too many and I hope they got cut or just added as a sentence. Overall this was a great book talking about breastfeeding on a wide range of topics, from how the Industrial Revolution jacked with women being able to appropriately nurse their babies—can’t take a baby to a mill floor!—and how formula and other concoctions came from that, to how the French in the 1700s sent their children to the country to be nursed by families there. It was a great book from my perspective but I can see how it would upset someone who chose to bottle feed. I don’t feel like the author tried to guilt anyone other than perhaps culture itself but I doubt some people would see it that way. Add this book as a to-read if you are having a baby soon.

    Currently Reading

  • Weedless Gardening by Lee Reich: I’ve heard Lee on a few podcasts before but he’s been on a couple of others more recently so I’m finally checking this book out. He also says it is also pronounced more like Weed Less Gardening. I’m not far into it and based on what I’ve heard him say and what I’ve read the big gist is: Stop tilling and turning your soil all the time. Lee’s website
  • The Orphan Mother by Robert Hicks: I read Hicks’ The Widow of the South about 8 or 9 years ago and this is a sort of followup novel to it. I had thought I remembered a lot about TWOTS but there are some things that are mentioned that make me realize I need to re-read it sometime.

What are you reading?

Forest is THREE!


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Forest and I are making the best out of a weekend that just couldn’t come together like we wanted. First, Harvey wrecked Rockport and then Chris had to go out of town since he didn’t get to leave last weekend, and then plans to go to DFW (and into OK to meet Chris) were messed up with the gas panic throughout the state. We’re eating cake, opening presents (the ones we have—half are at my parents that were sent there thinking I’d be there, the other half are hopefully coming in the mail today but mail isn’t quite back to normal here yet), and trying to make the day the best we can!

He’s the sweetest little boy and I’m grateful to have him!

Happy September!


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Let’s pretend this is a pretty fall vignette of Seminole pumpkins that I harvested freshly from the garden. In reality this is still a rather pretty fall vignette but all three of these pumpkins are rotting thanks to the floodwaters from Harvey. Instead of enjoying these fruits later this fall and winter I now have plenty of seeds to grow more vines next summer! The bright side, I guess?? There are still three pumpkins out there that looked like they might make it through but only time will tell. On Tuesday I thought many things might pull through but by Wednesday it was clear that was laughable and I ripped out the squash bed, the green bean vines, and parsley—which had rotted at the crown. I also took down several tomatoes that croaked thanks to the water and am praying maybe one or two plants make it through. I’m really aggravated at that because my fall tomato goals were going to happen and now those goals are gone for the most part. I’m going to let the garden dry out over the next few days and then go through my seeds and check out what I can sow now and later in the month for fall crops. There’s quite a bit, actually, with more to sow in October.

Hope your September starts off more smoothly than how August went out!

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