11/30/2008

If you like chili with vegetables and a little spiciness, you might like this. One of the nice things about chili, soups and stews is that the recipes can be easily adjusted. Perfect if you want to use what's available. More or no meat, fewer beans and other vegetables can be used. Light red kidney beans, black beans or a mix would probably taste as good as the dark red kidney beans.

I used a container of the *sun gold *tomatoes I grew in my garden. I had cooked them with garlic, green peppers and a little basil, then froze them, so they had a lot of liquid. I drained this to add later if needed.

If you want to use leftover turkey from Thanksgiving, skip step 1 then saute the onion and garlic together briefly (just to soften the onion) with a little of the creole seasoning (1/2 tsp) in water or oil. Then go to step 2, adding bite-size pieces of the leftover turkey.

Ingredients:
Tony Cachere's Creole Seasoning (other brands may work, too)
1/2 pound ground turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 can (15 ounces) dark red kidney beans
1 1/2 cups frozen (or fresh) corn (off the cob, of course)
1 can (15 ounces) sliced okra
1 can (2.5 ounces) tomato paste
5 cups of sungold tomatoes cooked (see * above)

(1) Cook the ground turkey in a skillet or slow cooker. Sprinkle the creole seasoning on it, then break it apart. (I use a good tablespoon of the seasoning.) Drain any fat. Add the onion and garlic, then sautee a little longer to soften the onion. You may want to add just a little water to do so.

(2) Add all of the other ingredients to the onions and garlic, draining liquid off the canned items before adding. (I rinse the canned beans multiple times.) Don't drain all of the fluid from the crushed tomatoes; save this in case you need it in step 4.

(3) Simmer the mixture for 1/2 hour to 45 minutes; if using a slow cooker, adjust time accordingly. If the chili is not spicy enough for your taste, add more of the Creole seasoning until satisfied.

(4) If the tomato "broth" is too thick, add some of the reserved liquid from the canned tomatoes. Heat a little longer then serve. A salad and pieces of pepper jack or other cheese would be good accompaniments.

10/21/2008

H.O. SMITH BOTANIC GARDENS

I believe that quite a while ago, I mentioned in a blog entry about the botanical gardens being built at Penn State University. There's not a lot to see yet -- just dirt, construction equipment -- but there are some foundations being placed. They are visible in this shot from the webcam across Park Avenue.



According to the site http://www.arboretum.psu.edu/index.html, this is what is happening now:

• October, 2008 – Work will begin on stone and stucco for the garden walls, masonry and steel for the pavilion’s portico and two wings, and plumbing for the fountain.

• November, 2008 –The rose arbor, a major structure, will be built and the fountain will be completed. Work will commence on the irrigation system and on the roof of overlook facilities.


Here's an interesting feature about a historical "prairie" in Pennsylvania:
http://www.arboretum.psu.edu/research/prairiepatch.html

10/20/2008

"STAY-CATION"

This is one of my favorite places to vacation. Atlantic water is warm in September and October because the sun heats it all summer. I won't be going there this year, but it's nice to think about.


One of my sisters and her husband spent a week in Cancun. So, thanks for the pictures, Nancy!








Hibiscus -- a beautiful flower.







Another sister and her hubby spent roughly a week motorcycling from central Nebraska into the mountains of northern Arkansas with a bunch of fellow bikers. (I have no pictures.)


I haven't been to the beach or anywhere in a while for vacation. This year is no different. I'll have to enjoy my garden, back porch, fall foliage and maybe a little hiking or a drive. So, I may have more pictures in a few weeks. (If I'm not just recovering from dental work, that is. Oh joy.) Leaves are changing color. There are a lot of reds and striking orange trees.

Sometimes relaxing at home with the pets, taking a few naps, reading, and spending time with friends and family when not rushed is a good vacation.

10/15/2008

A FEW PESTS AND WELCOMED GUESTS


Something sees your garden from this point of view. A well-tended and productive garden is an invitation to bugs.


True to their name, cabbage moths seek out cabbage; they like other plants in the same family such as broccoli. The moths lay eggs on the underside of the leaves. When the eggs turn to larva (worms), they eat holes in the leaves. They have smoky white wings with a black dot (or multiple dots) that some think looks like an eye.

On the underside of potato plant leaves, orange eggs indicate potato beetle infestation. Adults are large enough to hand pick and crush as are the egg bunches.


Store onions properly and grow them in loose, well-drained soil in the hopes of avoiding this as much as possible: Maggots aren't repulsed by onion odor.


When it comes to these, you usually (if not always) want to leave them "bee". Many are pollinators, besides being attractive photo subjects. They're not always obvious. When I took this portulaca photo, I didn't realize a tiny bee had landed in the flower on the left.

Even wasps, despite their reputation for being nasty, can be good. Some prey on garden pests.

If you see either of these "guys", don't worry.


Dragonflies are nice to have around.



This little fellow wheeks when I bring greens from my garden. He's very nice to have around!!

10/06/2008

PLEASANT SURPRISES

My container plants surprised me this year.

In late September, the morning glories slowed and moonflowers appeared. I did not think the seeds I planted would germinate. There's no dialog on the second video, but you might want to turn the volume down because of the wind noise.


The first and third videos have a little dialog. Taken last week, the day was quite windy, so that overpowers my voice a little.

video


video


Keep in mind that the wind was blowing (you'll hear it). I was the camera person, narrator, and demonstrator. I'm not a professional broadcaster. No special tools to reduce wind noise or stop the plants from trembling in the gusts. If you don't like the sound, just mute it.

One of my medium-size (8-10 inches in diameter) Tera cotta pots contained pennyroyal last year. I attempted to nurse the herb indoors through winter and almost made it. By mid-February it had died down and apparently returned twice with a good soaking. In March, I thought it revived once more until I realized the leaves were not the right shape. I allowed it to grow.

'Even if it's a weed,' I thought, 'It may be a pretty flower.' My curiosity played a roll, too. In previous seasons, I've had corn seedlings in containers, courtesy of the birds who visit and sometimes nest on my back porch.

Shortly afterward, I moved it outside. In the sun, the seedlings grew several inches quickly and were easily recognizable as tomato plants. They seemed to be happy there, and I don't mind this kind of freebie. So, I watered them, then transplanted some to a larger pot to grow. This video shows them as of last week. video




Click on this to see more videos from my garden. It takes much less time to upload them there than on here.

If you would like to see still photos, click this.

9/30/2008

I get to play tag in my garden.

So I got tagged. Thank you R.W. Ley for the tag. Now it's my turn to share the fun. I'm IT!!!

Okay, these are the rules;
1. Link to the person who tagged you (I did that)
2. Post the rules on your blog (I'm doing that now)
3. Write six random thoughts about yourself (see below)
4. Tag six or so people at the end of your post (see below)
5. Let each person know he or she has been tagged (I will do that)
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is posted (I'll do that, too.)

Random Thoughts About Me:

1. My Cavalier looks like I live in it most of the time.

2. Despite all of the years I've lived in central Pa after graduating from Penn State, I never got into football. I do like the highly charged atmosphere of downtown State College when there's a home game.

3. I can't pick a favorite color. There are too many beautiful ones!

4. I know how to ride a horse, play the piano, belly dance, garden (of course), ride a bike, and swim.

5. I sleep best in complete darkness.

6. My knowledge of miscellaneous facts sometimes impresses people.

Now, for those I'm tagging; be careful out there because YOU'RE IT!!

http://www.mychurch.org/fumcallen

http://queenspalace.multiply.com/

http://coyotedreams.multiply.com/

http://www.mychurch.org/debnjim

http://yjustbreathe.multiply.com/

http://incrediblyrotten.multiply.com/


Enjoy the tag game and let's share the fun!

9/22/2008

HERBS

I love herbs. They smell wonderful, add an attractive feature to a garden spot or a container, and are a great healthy way for flavoring meals and cold beverages, making soothing teas and so on.

Just yesterday, I used rosemary, cherry tomatoes, potatoes, a leek and two yellow peppers I had grown. Prostrate rosemary, the kind in my porch container, does not grow like a tree, but instead along the ground as you might guess from the name.

I roasted a small chicken. Springs of rosemary and cloves of garlic can be placed under the skin of the breast, the wings, and the legs. Also, place several sprigs and garlic inside the chicken.

In appearance and aroma, rosemary reminds me a great deal of pine trees. In colder climates, it can survive winter if brought inside in a container. However, it needs light and some humidity. I haven't been able to carry it through the dry indoor heat of February and low light of my apartment.

At least two types of rosemary exist: bush type (similar to a small tree), and prostrate.

Dill has long been one of my favorite. I think of pickles that are made pleasantly tart and tasty with dill, mustard (seeds or powder) and black peppercorn. Here are a couple of dill pickle recipes

http://www.bigoven.com/10486-Quick-Fresh-Pack-Dill-Pickles-recipe.html

http://www.bigoven.com/10464-Quick-Dill-Pickles-in-a-Crock-recipe.html

9/15/2008

I'd like to direct you to an article on a very interesting urban Chicago gardener named Carl Walton. Read about him here.
SURPRISES ARE MANY


Much of the latter weeks of August into the first week of September was dry here. It looked as though my garden was finished. Amazing what a little rain -- well, we had a lot -- will do. Among the dry and dead plants, color appeared in spots I had given up on.

Bright fresh red raspberries welcomed me last week when I arrived at my plot.
(Thanks to Sharon and Mark for the plants!) I loved the Shasta daisies, too, when they bloomed. Are you surprised that I never got to my car with the berries? Sweet, fresh and ripe and rinsed just a little with the hose. A nice snack from the garden.

Daisy-like flowers of pink, blue and yellow appeared in the second bed. I don't remember planting them, but I was tickled. Perhaps they were from the unproductive seeds I planted last season.

More tomatoes, of course. I have pink medium-size tomatoes, and both red and orange cherry tomato plants.

9/11/2008

THE EXCESS AND ABUNDANCE OF HARVEST

Zucchini's reputation for proliferation is well-deserved. Even a bad year for the vegetable can provide enough to share with others. According to the book The Vegetable Gardener's Bible (Edward Smith, Storey Publishing), stories circulate in New England about gardeners so desperate to get rid of their excess "zukes" that neighbors find a zucchini-filled car when leaving the house to go to work in the morning.

It stands to reason that the vegetable has been incorporated into many meals and recipes. BigOven.com lists 250 results with a search for zucchini. Some recipes are really unbelievable -- Zucchini Oatmeal Cookies for instance.

Tomatoes are often equally prolific. Some years it seems like they'll never ripen, so recipes for green tomatoes pop up in women's magazines, cooking and gardening websites, and on morning TV shows.



My cherry tomatoes often become ripe in large numbers on the vine, split, and become fruit-fly food very quickly. Even if I discard these, the numbers still favor enough for tomatoes at every meal if I want.

I planned my garden for salsa this year. Some is in the freezer. I didn't plan well enough. My cilantro dried and "went to seed" before my tomatoes began to ripen. Cilantro seeds can be saved though if you want to start your own plants next year. The seeds from this plant, also known as coriander, are used in cooking.

Perhaps I should look into an earlier producer for tomatoes, and one that goes all season. Patchwork Farms used to sell Arkansas traveler, which is supposed to produce all season. Maybe I can find it or something similar.*

BigOven.com has some great ideas for storing tomatoes:

Store tomatoes away from sunlight and heat and at cool room temperatures.


Do not refrigerate tomatoes for any length of time (don’t buy them from refrigerated cases). Low temperatures destroy the flavor. One convenient method is this:

"Freeze tomatoes in slices, chunks, or even whole. These can be used for cooking. Double bag them and use within twelve months."

Onions did well this year. I grew a number of red and sweet white ones. Certain types are best-suited to storage, and conditions must be right. Sweet onions are more susceptible to damage when stored. All onions, in the ground and afterward, can be eaten by maggots, as I discovered. Thankfully, I only lost a few. It's not pleasant to cut through an onion that has rotted. Blah!



Here's another sample from my garden ... Sunflowers on the right. Lavender, oregano in flower (dried) and fresh basil from right to left.




An arrangement from earlier in the season. (above and below)

The miniature decorative pumpkins grew in my garden, too. Last year, I bought some at a farmer's roadside stand. I decided to cut some and scoop out the seeds. Then I spread them on layers of paper towels on a cookie sheet to dry. I stored them in a plastic baggie over the winter. One vine produced the same type of fruit as the parent seeds. The other vine had larger squash in different shapes. Perhaps this was from cross-pollination. One was green, and somewhat round, when I picked it. One my living room table it has been turning pumpkin orange. (Perhaps I will have a photo of it to share soon.)

Enjoy the abundance of tomatoes, onions, potatoes and anything else you get throughout the growing season. It's better, I say, to be blessed with too much than to be disappointed by your garden's production. I have fantasies about storing greater amounts through canning and drying since I have a small freezer; however, I have come to realize that I must take it a few steps at a time. I'm only one person and I work full-time. In anticipation, I'll keep learning in the hopes that those skills grow, too.



Zucchini oatmeal cookies


tomato storage


*Here's the story behind the tomato, including its name. Arkansas Traveler tomato.

A little bit about onions

Article on seed saving with links to others

8/25/2008

WHATEVER THE NAME, THIS FLOWER KEEPS DELIGHTING ME


In appreciation for my patronage and for recycling their paper bags and plastic seedling trays, I occasionally get free plants from a local nursery. I became acquainted with lisianthus this way.

I have planted them each season since then. They are easy to grow, rather drought-tolerant and lovely as cut flowers. Full sun makes them thrive. Its beauty and variety of colors makes an outstanding individual plant, but grouping it with others is even more eye candy.

It may be possible to over water these, so, it pays to put them in well-drained soil. This I have found to be true because in my area there are long wet spells. The plant requires little space, grows upright and doesn't spread. When I remove the dead plants from the soil, I don't find the root ball to be much bigger than when I transplanted the seedlings in early summer. The purple bloom in the above photo is from a plant growing next to basil, one leaf of which is visible in the picture.

In my zone (6 and near the border of 5), they are annuals. They are native to warm areas of the U.S., Mexico, parts of South America and probably the Caribbean. In these warmer climates, they can be perennials.

For cut flowers, the dwarf version presents a challenge. I have found that the stem could not be cut long enough to make a good solo cut flower. It branches only an inch or two from the same section as unopened buds. Still, I have had a bud or two open in a vase if I do not cut too soon. The unopened buds look pretty, too, alongside open flowers.

The dwarf and the full-size versions are both nice in a container. I can imagine a row or small grouping of it front of taller, spikier plants that compliment whatever color the flowers will be. The pink and white lisianthus below shares close quarters with several other plants and has thrived. So, spacing may not be a problem.

And color is what keeps delighting me about them. Lisianthus -- I should be calling it Eustoma -- comes is a wonderful color selection. I have white blooms with a hint of yellow in a container on my porch. That same window box has this on the other end:

To grow them, it seems to be best to get seedlings from a local nursery or mail order. They can be difficult to grow from seed. Burpee has seedlings in a variety of colors available early in the year. (burpee)

How to grow lisianthus

8/21/2008

A TRIP INTO FAIRYLAND

A while back I blogged about Leucocoprinus birnbaumii, a lovely yellow mushroom that will grow in houseplant soil. It's not harmful to the plant, but don't eat it or allow pets to nibble it.

On a hike in Shingletown Gap with some friends, I felt like I had entered a fairy world in part because I saw so many colors and forms of fungi. Don't worry. We didn't eat any magic mushrooms, so all of the forest's magical qualities reflected in my photos are real.

Had a wedding party passed through here before we arrived? The trail littered with and surrounded by beautiful white blooms was inspiring.





Extraordinary life forms were everywhere.

Perhaps these "seahorses" transported the bride and groom.


I can't put all of my photos in this blog, so if you want to see more, click this.

8/20/2008

UPDATE



My croton produced "offspring" earlier this year. It's doing well. The picture above was taken just before I watered it. They wilt quickly.

Mine is in a self-watering container, which has been sufficient for quite a while; however, recently it has been harder to keep it watered. As you can see in the photo, the leaves are hanging downward on the parent stem. I need to start watering it more frequently and move it to a brighter spot.

Crotons come in a variety of forms and they can be very colorful. Mine has not had a lot of sun, so it has a lot of green. They are easy to grow, often available in places that sell plants, and they're quite attractive.

Once or twice a week, I place it in the shower alongside other houseplants. I use a tepid water spray for several minutes. Besides giving it a good soaking, this rinses dust from the leaves and keeps them glossy. The plant also benefits from the humidity.

In dry air, such as indoors in the winter, croton is suceptible to spider mites. These are very small, red bugs that resemble spiders. Once they infest a plant, it's not easy to get rid of them. So, it's best to rinse or mist the plant several times a week, and to do it year-round.

A page with some quick facts about the plant:
how to care for a croton

This web page recommends trimming leaves to make the plant bushy.

8/01/2008

ANIMALS AND PLANTS

I haven't mentioned this before, but it's good for gardeners and anyone with houseplants to know how to protect pets. Why? Some plants are poisonous. The ASPCA has an article on the increasingly popular sago palm, which is sickening and in some cases killing, pets.

Sago palm

They also have a long list of non-toxic alternatives; a link to it is in the article above.

I don't have animals in my garden plot, save for a few young rabbits. At home though, I have to make sure that no house plant drapes over my guinea pigs' pens, so all of my plants are on the other side of the room. I know that dangling "baby" spider plants or leaves of my spathiphyllum would be more temptation than my furry friends could resist. It would be something to play with and perhaps to eat.

Certain plants may be toxic to one type of animal and not another. I know that no part of the potato plant should be fed to guinea pigs. Mostly my little ones get spinach, parsley, a little cucumber, leaf lettuce, dandelion greens, broccoli and chard: all fresh green veggies (no mustard greens). They also get apple chunks, and seedless orange or watermelon pieces (the fruit, not the leaves or vines).
Poisonous plants for cats and dogs

7/21/2008

“The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets all the publicity”

George Carlin (American stand-up Comedian, Actor, Author. 1937-2008)


I wonder if butter has anything to do with the common name for the lepidoptera. Many of them have noticeable yellow coloring. Perhaps this reminded observers of the color of butter. Whatever the reason, they are part of the wildlife that I would like to help thrive with what's planted in my garden.

Butterfly gardening is the practice of planting specifically to attract these delicate, fluttering insects. I don't have the space to create that kind of specialty garden, but that's not necessarily needed. This may be especially true for me since my plot is only one of about 45 in a community garden. Many other gardeners' plants attract them. It's nice to remind myself that the variety of plants growing there isn't strictly a smorgasbord for undesirable pests.

Along with the butterflies, I see hawks, robins, a young rabbit (I'm sure there's more than one), ladybugs, earthworms -- your basic soup to nuts of garden creatures. Last week, I got a kick out of seeing goldfinches darting from my sunflowers to a neighboring plot.

By reading P Allen Smith's article about his butterfly garden, I discovered that ideally you want to choose plants that allow the larva a place to grow and the adult a place to feed on nectar. I am growing both parsley and fennel, plants that a variety of the larva prefer. Sweeeeeet!


For the adults, it's ideal to have flowers blooming all summer. I live in Pennsylvania so I decided to seek more information, something that would help me know whether or not I'm choosing plants suitable for local varieties. The web page of Butterfly Haven is filled with information on butterfly gardening in Pennsylvania. It's located in New Ringold, which is not far from where I spent my childhood. Maybe I'll get to visit it; if I do, I'll be sure to share any pictures here.

Butterflies enjoy nasturtiums.










My final concern is that I must learn about what the most common local butterflies, both larvae and adults, look like. In removing pests by hand, I don't want to mistake beneficial or neutral insects.

So, check out those sites and do some more searching.

Side note: when it comes to pest control, my goal is to do as little as possible. Why?

1: less labor for me.

2: other plot owners spray, so part of the pest population is already eliminated.

3: once I get rid of my pests, they may move in from other plots because I've eliminated the competition.

4: chemicals, even organic, can harm beneficial insects. In his presentation to a group of us at the community garden, a Penn State entomologist recommended using a pesticide geared toward the specific bug that plagues your crops. Thus, you get rid of the bug you don't want and reduce the chances of poisoning desirable inhabitants.

5: I want minimum interruption of what "nature" already does. For example, there's some benefit to allowing pests to eat a little of your crop; it keeps their population going and thus provides food for good bugs that you want to prey on them. This feeds a natural cycle.

I don't have an equation for calculating how much damage to allow. My only guidelines are these:

--if the plants survive and produce enough fruit for my use, I don't think I'll spray.

--the pests must not foster or transmit plant diseases; ex., the bacteria that causes wilt may travel with cucumber beetles.

While enjoying summer's garden bounty, take a mental inventory of visitors to your garden. Maybe you can encourage some to take off the chrysalis and stay a while.

7/18/2008

FOOD "HYGIENE" IN THE GARDEN

There have been a lot of cases of food poisoning from fresh produce over the past few years. I've been glad that I grow my own vegetables in summer. In winter, I mostly use canned or frozen produce. I have always been concerned in winter about the greens I feed my guinea pigs; so far, none of us have been sick.

One can learn good gardening practices designed to avoid sickening yourself and anyone with whom you share your vegetables. This site has an article about what to do and not to do: garden food safety

7/16/2008

AGRARIAN POLAND

If you like classical music at all, especially Chopin, you might enjoy this video someone made for Chopin's Nocturne. Chopin was Polish. I think he'd have liked this visual poem accompanying his work. Late in the video, I believe that the slim hands shown picking up something from the ground is meant to be Chopin.

Besides the beauty, the video reminds me of some neighbors. When I was growing up, we had some neigbors, an older couple, who came from Poland. I don't know how long they had been in the states, but they still had accents that made it difficult for me to understand their speech.

Very nice couple, too. I never learned their first names because as a kid, I respectfully referred to them as Mr. and Mrs. Punda. When she gardened, Mrs. Punda looked just like those women in the video: large, in a long skirt, head scarf, bending over to pick cabbages or whatever. In contrast, Mr. Punda was quite skinny.

Sometimes they'd invite me into their house to give me some produce from their garden. So I'd take it back with me. They were nice people.

7/14/2008

HEALING FROM THE GARDEN

In my last post, I wrote about some potential irritants and dangers to your skin. For me, this same source has sometimes provided relief.

In June, I picked strawberries at a local farm in shorts and a tank top. I know I have an allergy to the plants (thankfully not to the delicious fruit), but I endure the cold months bundled up in bulky clothes. I have no desire to spend more time in long pants and sleeves than necessary. As the cliche goes, I threw caution to the wind.

Innocent-looking little berry plant, isn't it?


After picking berries, I suffered from a rash on my arms and legs. I compare my allergic rashes (eczema) to a break out from poison ivy. It itches. I shouldn't scratch, but it's very hard no to do so! Scratching can make the patch of irritated skin expand, bleed, and at worst, become infected.

I know people who wear gloves, long sleeves or some cover when eczema flares up simply to keep from scratching. This works for some. For me, even mild chafing of the clothing on the rash will irritate it, as will fabric softener used for laundering.

My dermatologist has prescribed creams, but these corticosteroid ointments can only be used in one thin layer in each application, and once a rash is inflamed I have not experienced much relief by using them. Over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams have little benefit, and in fact at times have worsened it.

Aveeno makes a product that contains 100% colloidal oatmeal, and that has helped me. It's available over the counter. You sprinkle the powder in bathwater and soak. I suppose one could add a little fresh lavender or mint for the nice aroma, not to mention the extra relief that both may supply.

I kept in mind that this was an allergic reaction and while oral anti-histamines can be beneficial, they would take a while to work. Moisturizer has little benefit. In fact, inflamed patches are often warm to hot; moisturizer, in my opinion **, seals in the heat, and adds to the problem. Cool water rinses help me. A cool compress will also slow the inflammatory reaction.


When my strawberry plant allergy occurred in June, I took antihistamine, then rinsed and scrubbed under cool water for a little relief that didn't inflame it. I followed this with a "tea" compress: paper towels soaked in a cooled tea of lavender and chamomile from my garden. The tea should be cooled to room temperature; it doesn't need to be chilled. In fact, a little warmth may add in the absorption by your skin of the relief-inducing substances. As it cooled on my skin, so did the rash.

If you have never done this before, keep the mix of lavender and chamomile at a weak concentration, just in case you are allergic to either one. In fact, you may want to test it first on an area that is not already irritated. Even better, test it before you need it.

When I used it, I felt a little sting in broken areas and on the welts. Healing soon followed. I also kept some of the lavender with me in my bag or purse; when the rash flared, I got immediate relief by rubbing the lavender on the area.

"That's my story," as some say, "and I'm stickin' to it!"

For more information that includes cures from the kitchen, click on this link:

how stuff works: itching


** Keep in mind, this is not a substitute for medical evaluation. I recommend a visit to a dermatologist for persistent skin problems. In fact, anyone who spends a lot of time in the sun, such as a gardener, would be wise to to have their skin examined by a dermatologist yearly.


What is eczema?
GET COMFORTABLE IN YOUR GARDEN, BUT PROTECT YOUR SKIN AND EYES

Unless a resourceful inventor develops revolutionary technology for skin replacement, we get one skin for life. Even though new cells are made in the deepest layers (where you can't see), the outer "dead" layers of skin cells play a significant role in protection. So keeping it healthy is important. This includes not letting it become dry, irritated or overexposed to the sun, very hot shower or bath water, extremely cold air, and so on.

Besides aging the skin and causing burns that range from irritating to painful, solar radiation can cause skin cancer. It may also contribute to cataract formation.


Gardening, even on a cloudy day, can produce a sunburn, especially when one is unprotected. Don't overlook the value of including a wide-brimmed hat for protection. When tolerable, long sleeves and pants are a good idea. Coolibar.com sells some good sun-protective clothing, so you can dress a little more up-to-date than a traditional Chinese rice-paddy worker to tend your garden. My reversible bucket hat, which I purchased during the late-summer of 2007 clearance sale, gets worn daily. Besides the skin protection, it shades my eyes -- a definite plus for this migraine-prone person.

A full ounce of sun protection creme is recommended for each application to provide adequate coverage. The old saying about an ounce of prevention seems to apply here.

Many lotions designed for sun protection do an excellent job of moisturizing my skin, so I tend to wear them year-round. On my face, I use something with less oil to avoid blemishes that still happen even though I'm 40-something.

In midwinter, the aroma of exotic ingredients (coconut, cocoa butter, and others) is a welcome reminder of summer. Sun protection, or more precisely UV radiation blockage, is beneficial year-round. This includes the use of sunglasses. If you've ever stepped out of the midwinter darkness indoors into a sunny, snow-covered outdoors without protection for your eyes, you probably experienced snow blindness. When the sun reflects off snow, it's beautiful, but can be hard on the eyes. * Imagine the temporary blindness from a camera flash, but with pain, longer-lasting, and from a source much brighter than a flash bulb.

I'm usually itching to get into the garden. Getting outdoors relieves that, but can also generate a physical itch. "Don't scratch," is easy to say if you don't have a persistent itch from "hives" (a rash), inadequately moisturized skin, sunburn or any number of reasons. Like me, if you find that your skin is highly sensitive to plant materials and other triggers, I recommend seeing a dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis. The doctor will probably (and should) provide recommendations on how to avoid aggravating your skin.




I choose not to give up gardening, hiking and other outdoor activities in the process of avoiding triggers of my eczema (skin rashes). Gloves, long sleeves and pants are a good barrier. Taking anti-histamine before exposure can help prevent the problem, although I only do this when conditions are really bad.

Gently washing any area that gets irritated as soon as possible after exposure helps. Sweating even irritates my skin if I don't shower or wipe it off soon enough.



http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/skin-care/SN00003


Eczema:


If you find that your skin develops something unusual, such as the rash in the photo, a raised area or mole, an area that won't heal or other change in appearance, don't hesitate to get to your doctor, or preferably a dermatologist.

Americanskincancer.org

* Snow blindness is not referring to the phenomenon of being lost in a snowstorm because all is white. That's called a whiteout.

7/04/2008

I'm sorry I haven't written an entry in a while. My plot in the community garden is going and so are the containers on my porch. Here's a tour in photos.

The rhubarb grew flower shoots. I removed them to redirect the plant's energy into the edible stems. It's best in cool weather.
The black speck in the middle is a gypsy moth caterpillar. The area was infested with them this spring. They prefer trees, but they will eat some other plants. They float on a thin web-like thread in air currents until they find a place to land. They have defoliated large areas of forest in the Northeast over the decades when their population is high. So, this year the borough did aerial spraying. Borough employees also wrapped burlap around tree trunks and folded it over to make a pocket, then secured it to the trunk. At night, the larvae crawl down the tree (I guess they feed on the leaves in the day and go into the ground at night). They are trapped in the burlap, which is removed each morning and the bugs are disposed of.



When the tulips were done, I captured what I take to be seeds on the plant. I had to hold the stem still because of the wind.


Portuluca: a groudcover with lovely, delicate flowers and a reputation for drought-tolerance; however, we have had a lot of rain, so they aren't growing really fast.


















My first year growing potatoes here. Vigorous plants. Potato beetles thought they were wonderful, so they feasted, mated and grew their eggs on the leaves. I constantly picked them off -- the orange eggs, larvae (which are slimy and red with black spots), and the yellow and black adult beetles. I couldn't help but laugh when I thought that my first harvest was bugs.




Containers in midspring:





I may become known as the weird neighbor lady who wraps her plants in tin foil, but I stopped loosing so many seedlings to slugs, snails and cutworms after wrapping these collars around the plant base.

Cutworms are the larvae (young) form of flying adult insects. The worms live in the top inch or two of the soil; at night, they come out and climb the plants to get a meal. They may be best-known for their tomato plant destruction. However, they like my morning glory seedlings very, very much. Without the foil, the long green container toward the top of the photo would be nothing but stems. They have eaten my basil, lobelia and spinach, but thankfully have left my lettuce and cabbage alone.

I think I've heard a worm burp in the middle of the night. ;) But I have the last laugh. Here are two of my morning glory containers now! Maybe the nieghbor lady isn't so weird. :)



This is a 5-gallon container, although from this angle you might think it's a plate of greens with dirt. The plants are much bigger now. It contains lettuce, cabbage and fennel.









The people who rented a plot next to mine last year grew strawberries. A few plants crept into my plot and I won't complain.




My lilies have established themselves well. I can't wait until the pods open. I did not plant any sunflowers this year, but they came up anyway from seeds shed by previous plants. They're all over my plot; I've had to pull some out because they were shading items that need sun, like my pepper plants.

The flowers will be medium size (about 8") with burgundy, rust and dark orange leaves if they are like the parent plants.

5/27/2008

DAFFODILS AND OTHER SPRING BULBS

When I'm tired of dreary days at the end of winter, and long sunny days are still on my wish list, it's wonderful to see the beautiful colors of spring bulbs break the soil surface and bloom. Daffodils are very popular. They're easy to grow and have a reputation for being easy to force; that is, you can grown them indoors sooner than they would bloom outside.

I am new to growing spring bulbs. An excellent fact sheet can be found at this link.


Other fact sheets can be chosen here.

Last fall I bought a bag of tulip bulbs and planted them. They produced quite a variety:


4/25/2008

A LITTLE "FUN"GI

Mushrooms are very cool organisms. In my opinion. They grow in places we find quite undesirable (like manure). They also look alien.

Never did I know of a beautiful mushroom outside of Alice in Wonderland. Sometimes, over the last couple of decades since I have had houseplants, I discovered Leucocoprinus birnbaumii, also called lepiota lutea growing in the soil of some of my plants. The beautiful bright yellow fungi are small, and never last long. I shamelessly pilfered this photo from Wikipedia; I have none of my own for this shroom.

It doesn't harm the plants, but don't eat it. It's unknown whether it's poisonous. Jut enjoy its beauty. Oh, the common name is yellow houseplant mushroom. Here are a couple of links with more information about it:

http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/feb2002.html

http://www.mushroomexpert.com/leucocoprinus_birnbaumii.html

4/24/2008

WHAT A FUNNY NAME FOR A VEGETABLE!

My great aunt Mary had a garden. As kids, my younger sister and I played nearby, but tried to avoid trampling anything. Rhubarb, a very attractive plant with crimson stalks similar in shape to celery, grew there. If you've seen one, you know its green leaves are prehistorically large and broad, giving the plant an appearance similar to squash. Young stalks remind me of bright lights swiss chard, too.

I call it an old-fashioned vegetable. Why? Mostly older people seem to know of it. Grocery stores seldom carry it, and it's unheard of to many people I've met. But, serve it with strawberries in a pie, and they'll probably never forget it!!


Until it has become established with a good root system, harvesting should be spare. The first year nothing should be harvested. At all times, only the stalks can be eaten. The leaves contain a high amount of oxalic acid, which makes them toxic (slightly to extremely toxic, depending on the information source). Oxalic acid can contribute to the creation of kidney and/or bladder stones. So, just dispose of the leaves. Whether or not they are safe for the compost pile also depends on who one asks.

When something like this grows on your rhubarb:
it will probably become a seed-bearing stem. This should be removed so that the plant's energy can go into producing the stalks for harvest.

Another important thing I have learned. Fertilze, fertilize. It's a heavy feeder. My dad, who grew up in a semi-rural area outside of St. Louis with a neighbor grew the plant, told me, "If you want good rhubarb, put horse manure around the bottom of the plant." Thanks dad.

According to this web site, "rhubarb is as hardy as a weed." However, regular shallow cultivation to remove weeds is needed, as well as watching for Rhubarb curculio, an invasive beetle. The same web site has great detail about growing, harvesting, nutrition and use of rhubarb, as well as many other vegetables and some fruits. Check it out.