Archive for October, 2010

Pumpkin Seeds

Posted in Seeds with tags , , on October 22, 2010 by PickMeYard
Pumpkin seeds ready to be scooped out.

Are you carving a pumpkin this year?  We just carved ours last night.  In years past, I always made it harder than it needs to be.  This year, I just grabbed my knife and started carving.  I didn’t have a plan.  My kids told me what to carve as I went along.  “Make it a vampire… give it a funny nose…”  It was easy and fun. 

I scooped out all the pumpkin seeds and rinsed them off in a colander.  I dabbed them with a paper towel to dry them a little and I spread them out on parchment paper on top of a cookie sheet. 

Washed pumpkin seeds.

I drizzled maple syrup of them and then sprinkled them with some Jamaican all-purpose seasoning (Grace brand).  It’s a mixture of paprika, black pepper, garlic, onion, cumin, coriander, ginger, Jamaican pimento, celery, thyme, oregano, salt and sugar.  Yum!

Pumpkin seeds ready to go into the oven.

I cooked them at 325 degrees for about 45 minutes.  I wanted to take them off the cookie sheet and put them in a pretty bowl to make them photo-worthy, but everybody started grabbing them.  I can’t blame them… they were unbelievably crunchy and delicious!  Sweet and salty.  I was one of the grabbers.

The cooked pumpkin seeds.

If you’re going to carve a Jack-o-lantern, don’t throw your pumpkin seeds away.  They’re just too easy to cook and they’re so yummy.  They can be saved in the refrigerator to sprinkle on salads or to take with you as a snack when you go out to do errands.  That’s what I was going to do with ours, but they didn’t last long enough.  No problem… I’m into this pumpkin carving thing now and we’re going to make more Jack-o-lanterns.  I plan on cooking enough seeds to actually save some.  Click here for 10 reasons to eat pumpkin seeds.

Happy Halloween!

Come grow with us!

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Sweet Pea’s a Mom

Posted in Chickens with tags , on October 21, 2010 by PickMeYard

Our little banty chicken is broody.  She tried incubating a couple of duck eggs, but they ended up not being fertile.  We switched out the duck eggs for 4 fertile chicken eggs.  Chicken eggs take 21 days to hatch. 

Sweet Pea incubating her clutch.

Early this afternoon I heard a strange noise when I walked by Sweet Pea.  She had an unmistakable wide-eyed, confused expression.  I probably wouldn’t have stopped what I was doing if I hadn’t noticed her behavior.  When I tried to get under her to get a look at the hatched chick, Sweet Pea went into protective mom mode.  I know that mode well so I decided to give her a little time.  I went back to her with a glove on one hand and a camera in the other.  I was able to get my picture but she knew which hand to peck…  and it wasn’t the hand with the glove.  This time she had an expression that said, “OMG… I’m a mom”!  She’s so happy and content.  This chicken has been broody for so long and I just know she was praying for some babies to lead around.  How do I know this?  Her box is right next to our most-used door, on a gardening bench.  We talk to her a lot.

Not only is she broody, but she’s bossy too.  She used to be the leader of her flock until she found a new priority.  She’s a tiny little chicken that is the boss lady of all our animals.  This chicken has personality… she’ll make a great mom.  Click here  for some great photos of a chick hatching.

First photo of Sweet Pea's little chick. Can you see it under there? She was attacking me while I took the photo.

The chick keeps peeking out from under her.

I called my friend right after the chick hatched.  I never thought about what to do when they actually hatched.  She said that Sweet Pea knew what to do and to give them a quiet, safe place.  So I did.

I made them a tent on our screened-in porch. I was worried about snakes, but really, I feel sorry for any snake that gets near that bird.

There are three more eggs to hatch.  We can hardly wait!

 
Come grow with us!

Beautiful Buff Orpingtons

Posted in Chickens with tags , , , , , , , on October 20, 2010 by PickMeYard

We received our baby buff orpington’s in the mail on August 30, 2010… eight of them.  They were only 2 days old when we picked them up from our local post office.  OMG, they were so cute and still are.   One of them perished just a couple of days after we received them, but the other seven survived and have flourished. 

We purchased them online from mypetchicken.com.  I highly recommend this company if you decide to delve into the world of backyard chickens.  You can read the descriptions of all the different chicken breeds and then pick the ones that have the characteristics you’re looking for.  (The heritage breed, banty chickens are adorable.)  You can choose to purchase only hens (no roosters) and can order as few as three chicks.  Some online chicken hatcheries have a minimum number of chickens that must be ordered.  Some as high as twenty-five chicks.

Baby buff orphington chicks from mypetchicken.com.

I wrote in an earlier post that we were content with our 8 hens and we wouldn’t be getting anymore.  Let me just say that is very tough to do.  Chickens make such wonderful pets and they provide us with delicious eggs!  We decided it was time to add some youth into our flock.  It’s a win-win situation. 

One of our older girls fell over dead for reasons unknown to us (no signs) and our little banty chicken is broody.   She doesn’t lay eggs anymore and only gets up to eat and drink.  The rest of her time is spent sitting on eggs that came from somewhere else.  She was sitting on 2 duck eggs, but they didn’t hatch.  Now she’s laying on some fertile chicken eggs that a friend gave us.  I really hope they hatch because it will make her so happy.

It’s important to always quarantine new chickens that are brought into your yard.  We had some cuckoo maran chicks that we were so excited about.  They came from a friend’s backyard flock.  We kept them quarantined from our yard and other chickens and we are so glad that we did.  They ended up getting really sick with a contagious virus  they came to us with and they didn’t survive.  We would have been even more devastated if they had spread it to our other girls.   Click here for a list of poultry ailments from the University of Florida IFAS website. 

Our baby buff orphington’s are growing up.

Our buff orpington’s are just beautiful.  They’re so soft, fluffy and incredibly sweet-natured.  They always come running up to us and they love to be picked up.  I don’t know if they will like to be picked up when they’re older, but they sure like it now.  They’re super docile.  We let them forage by themselves outside in the yard all day and they get put back in their cage early in the evening.  They’re almost ready to be put in their own coop.  My husband’s building them a new chicken tractor.  This one’s going to be very portable.

Come grow with us!

Our Seedy Start in Zone 9b

Posted in Seeds with tags , , , , , , on October 18, 2010 by PickMeYard

We enjoy growing plants from seeds.  It has become priceless family time for us.  Our 3-year-old did most of the actual seed planting because she is obsessed with it this year.  It was really heart-warming to see her expression when she noticed her seeds had popped through the soil.  She was absolutely elated.

Our seedlings are growing on tables inside our screened-in porch.

Seedlings growing in different kinds of containers.

We used several kinds of containers to start our plants in this year.  The short, clear containers are individual applesauce containers.  They work, but they’re a little shallow.  The larger, colorful containers are sippy cups that out-lived their tops.  They made great containers because they give the roots plenty of space.  We planted our bean seeds in those.   My favorite seedling containers are empty eggshells.  They make the seedlings easy to transplant and provide extra calcium.  

Seedlings for a Florida vegetable garden.

It’s important that the container be able to drain out the bottom.  My kids helped me to drill holes in ours.  It’s also important that the seedling containers be absolutely clean.  It’s best to disinfect them if possible.  I bought a huge box of popsicle sticks at the craft store and we labeled every single plant. 

One of my all-time favorite gardening books is called Grow Great Grub, by Gayla Trail.  Her blog is called You Grow GirlShe has so many clever and free ways to garden.  I love her idea to reuse the big lettuce containers that we sometimes purchase lettuce in from the grocery store.  We’re using one of those containers to grow more lettuce in (and the top as a tray underneath it).  Easy, convenient and free.  Love it!  I’ll post a photo of it when the lettuce sprouts.

Another fabulous book on gardening is Garden Anywhere, by Alys Fowler.  It’s my other favorite. She has even more ingenious ideas and fantastic information.  These two books explain so much and show you how to grow your food in an urban setting.  Did you know that hybrid plants resist insects and diseases but their seeds are sterile?  This doesn’t work for me because I like to save the seeds from a tomato that knocks my socks off.  I want to be able to eat that tomato again the following year.

Last year we planted all our seeds in containers outside on a big table in a nice shady spot.  Everything was labeled and we were so proud.  We forgot about the chickens.  They ransacked all our hard work in seconds.  Even our pet pigeons helped.  Then it rained.  The rain washed out the surviving seedlings.  Lesson learned.  That’s why our seedlings are safe inside our screened-in porch this year.  We still decided to lock up our chickens for the gardening season though.  They’re just too destructive to a newly planted garden.

Our chicken tractor is temporarily attached to our trampoline. The girls have a fresh place to forage.

We didn’t leave our seedlings in their containers for long this year.  They’ve been moved into the garden beds already.  The proper way to do this is called hardening off.  Since I don’t always follow the rules and we don’t have cold weather, I planted our babies right into our big garden beds.  I covered them with wire fencing and shaded them with palm fronds to protect them from the sun and rain.  They’re doing great.

An heirloom tomato seedling under wire fencing and palm fronds for protection from the sun & stray chickens.

Can you see the tiny seedling under there? It's next to the popsicle stick.

We placed pin wheels all over our garden to deter birds. So far, so good.

Come grow with us!

A Doctor’s Garden

Posted in Inspiration with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 11, 2010 by PickMeYard

Dr. Udayashree Nune is a family practitioner in Clewiston, Florida.  She’s originally from South India and comes from a family of doctors.  She speaks fluent Arabic, English and  the Indian dialect, Telugu.  She is a doctor of internal medicine, an OB/Gyn who has delivered thousands of babies in India, Libya and the U.S. …. and she’s a gardener

Her family history is absolutely intriguing.  Udaya’s life story is one that I will never forget.  As a little girl growing up in India, she had a series of events happen to her that sounds like the script of a movie.  When she told her mother that she didn’t want to live on a dirt floor anymore and asked what she needed to do, her mother replied that she should become a doctor.  So she did.  Her career started that very moment. 

It was a long, difficult road for her that  had many obstacles.  She sacrificed eating lunch and dinner so that she could use the money for transportation to school instead.  Transportation consisted of  many hours and many buses to get where she needed to go.  Udaya overcame so many trials and tribulations…  most people would have given up.  She didn’t and she still doesn’t.   

Dr. Nune comes from a culture that is so different from mine.  She knows how to maximize her resources and appreciates the little things that I tend to take for granted  (like water always coming out of the faucet.)  She always shows me something new that I’ve never heard of before.  So far, she’s turned me onto Indian yogurt, curry leaves, soap nuts, neem, gongura, drumstick soup,   seagrape leaf dinnerware  and numerous other cool things.

So what does a doctor grow in her garden?

She grows fresh curry leaves and makes delicious meals with them.

Aloe.

Cucumber/zucchini looking vegetable called tindora fry.

Tindora fry (Dondakaya kura).

I know what you're thinking... and it's not what you're thinking. It's gongura.

Lots of eggplant.

Moringa tree. It's called a drumstick tree in India.

Baby neem trees peeking out from under a potted eucalyptus.

Some of Dr. Nune's backyard.

She germinates her seeds under a large patch of banana trees.

Dr. Nune is growing Florida peaches, apples, papaya, bananas, figs, citrus, tamarind, curry, moringa and many other edibles… all on just over a quarter acre lot.  I’ll have to do another post on all the wonderful things she has introduced into my life.  The drumstick soup,  tindora fry,  soap nuts, neem and gongura are a few of my favorites.  When she told me the stories about washing with soap nuts as a little girl in India, I had to find out all about them.  We both ordered some online and we’re using them  successfully.

Gongura is new to me.  My kids and I just love the freshly picked leaves. Dr. Nune likes to stir-fry, pickle and steam them.  When she steams them she puts two green chilis into the water.  If Dr. Nune  ever opened restaurant, there’d be a line around the block to get in.  She makes everything taste delicious!

Her back yard is filled with fruit trees, vegetables and many varieties of pepper plants peeking out from under the trees.  But… her front yard is  filled with flowers.  She is clearly a woman who appreciates the beauty of flowers, from roses to impatiens and everything in between.

Dancing lady orchids.

Ixoras.

She has a large collection of hibiscus.

Her garden art. Were you expecting a flamingo?

Just a few of her flowers.

Dr. Nune next to her gongura plant. I should have asked her to flip her hair over her shoulder... it's down to her waist!

Dr. Nune is one of the most intuitive and open-minded persons I have ever met.  She is also one of the strongest, hardest working women I’ve ever met… next to my mother. 

She never gives up and loves a challenge.  Her personality is infectious and we all love and adore her.  

Come grow with us!

Garden Boots

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 7, 2010 by PickMeYard

We’ve been outside enjoying our beautiful weather all week… just in case you noticed that my blog posts have been lacking.  It’s time for Florida vegetable gardeners to get seeds in the ground, so that’s what we’ve been up to.

I planted some succulents in my husband’s retired, Red Wing boots about 9 years ago.  I put them in an out-of-the-way spot and pretty much abandoned them.  They’ve been moved a couple of times, but always forgotten about again.  I just moved them to a new spot where I can see them every time I walk out my door.  After 9 years of zero attention, I can’t even believe how great they look. 

My husband's retired boots.

Garden Boots.

I’ve got another pair of retired boots that my husband just gave me.   

Grayson's next container for his succulent garden.

Come grow with us!

African Basil, Our Favorite Summertime Herb

Posted in Herbs with tags , , , , on October 1, 2010 by PickMeYard

We’ve  decided in my family that African Basil  (Ocimum sp. Hybrid) is our new favorite summertime herb.  It not only survived the heat, it thrived.  Most of our other herbs perished.  The other varieties of basil, some thyme, Cuban oregano and the rosemary were the other survivors.

We watered our African basil to get it established when it was first planted.  After it grew to a point where it  didn’t need any more help from us, we just let it be.  It has flowered profusely ever since.  I keep waiting for it to be done flowering, but it’s never done.  The extreme heat and humidity of our Florida summer hasn’t phased it one bit.  It still looks great.

African basil after a two-week drought and months of extreme heat and humidity.

The African basil always has honeybees all over it.  They bump into each other.  We have our African basil growing next to some concrete pavers and we just sit there and watch the honeybees work.  The kids love the “honeybee T.V.”.  That’s our reality television.  Are you wondering if we’re worried about getting stung?  Absolutely not.  The honeybees are doing their job of collecting pollen.  Sometimes a worker bee will get a little annoyed when I stick my nose up next to her so I can really study what she’s doing.  She will usually just jump to another flower if I’m bothering her.  It’s highly unlikely that a worker bee would sting when she’s out collecting pollen.

That's pollen on her legs that she's been collecting. She'll use it to make honey.

Female honeybees are the worker bees. The male honeybee's only job is to procreate.

Our African basil plants are providing the honeybees with lots of pollen for them to make food with.

We want to plant a whole lot more of this African basil.  It’s super easy to care for.  It’s not really a culinary basil though and we’re growing ours in a separate area from our herb garden.  When we first acquired the plant, we didn’t realize it was mostly for ornamental use.  However, it’s a shining star in our garden because it feeds our bees. 

This herb grows from  stem cuttings of an existing plant, not from seed like other basil.  African basil is a hybrid and has only been around since 1982 according to the UF/IFAS Extension Office

Basil is a warm-weather herb, but we manage to grow our African basil throughout the winter in our zone 9b.  It seems to be somewhat more tolerant of freezing temperatures than the other varieties of  basil.  I will make several stem cuttings of our African basil just in case.

Grayson has collected seeds from some very cool varieties of basil to plant in his basil garden.  He’s got it all planned out in his garden notebook.  He will wait until after winter to plant his basil garden though. Our absolute favorite herb catalog is Horizon Herbs, Seeds of Medicine.  We have to practice self-control when we open the catalog because we find so many seeds that we think we need.  It has great illustrations and tons of  information.  Love it!

Come grow with us!