Thursday, November 30, 2017

Are you one of the 95%?

Do you know what the most popular garden vegetable grown in the US is? 

The tomato tops the list although it’s actually a fruit, not a vegetable.

About 95% of all gardeners’ attempt growing them.  And, believe it or not, the tomato seed catalogues are in the mail now.  I love to look at them.  And, at one time, grew my own little baby tomato plants from seeds.  Now, I know I’ve said that I’ve never been the farmer in the family and haven’t been overly successful growing food crops.  That doesn’t mean I don’t know or understand the whole planting process.  I think I don’t have that inner “farmer glow” recognized by food plants – the glow that encourages fruit and vegetable production.  Michael had it.

At one time, we had a huge garden.  And, to a point, it was a joint effort - he got the tiller out and tilled the veg garden area.  He also took the hoe and made rows (something my non-farmer mind thought were silly – nothing stayed in those neat little rows for heaven sakes).  I got to pull out the weeds, rocks, grass, roots and other non-essential things.  I also grew the starter plants and when the time was right, put them in the ground.  And, other than weeding, as necessary, I was pretty much done.  He did all the watering and bug eliminating.  His farmer soul spoke to all the plants and we had vegetables.

So, if you want to be one of the 95%, here are a few things to start thinking about now.  WHERE.  Tomatoes like at least 8 hours of sun.  And, that little seedling just might grow into a 5-foot tall bush, so, plan on enough space for however many plants you want.  This is a good time to do a first tilling and generally prepare the bed to winter over.  We planted our tomatoes directly in the ground, however my sister plants hers in raised beds.  Both methods are successful - it all depends on your location and soil.  So, pick your place and type, till, add soil, and cover the area with mulch.  Done for now.

Then, if you are going to grow from seed – decided Heirloom or Hybrid.  Even if you are going to start with commercially grown seedlings – Heirloom or Hybrid.

Heirloom tomatoes are varieties that have been reproduced for generations. They’re true to their type from their own seed. Some heirlooms have production histories spanning hundreds of years. A tomato variety is considered an heirloom if it has been cultivated for at least 3 generations.

Good/Bad:  Heirlooms produce lots of seeds (but you can save them for future planting).  They are very flavorful.  They usually have a long record of producing healthy fruit.  They are unique and come in many different shapes and colors (you’re not likely to get the big red tomatoes you see at the grocery store).  They take a little longer to mature and produce fruit.

Hybrid tomatoes are a cross between two genetically different tomato varieties. With a hybrid, you get the best qualities of both parents.  Commercial growers like them because they are predictable.

Good/Bad:  With hybrids, you’ll probably harvest more tomatoes.  They are likely to produce regardless of the weather.  Their tomatoes tend to be all similar in size and with fewer blemishes.  Harvested tomatoes last longer once picked.  However, they are not as flavorful as their counterpart. 

And by the way, if you have limited garden area, the tomato is a versatile plant that grows well in a container. Most tomato varieties will grow in a container, but dwarf or cherry plants are more suitable as they area smaller plant size. They still need up to eight hours of sun and will require frequent watering (roots dry out faster in a container). 

Mint Julep – Heirloom - Plant produces high yields of bi-colored chartreuse green plum/pear shaped tomatoes with bright yellow stripes. They have a pleasant tomato taste with a nice sweet overall flavor.

Black Sea Man - A Russian Heirloom tomato. Produces beautiful tomatoes that
are rich mahogany colored with olive green shoulders when mature. Inside of tomato is deep, reddish green and very flavorful. This is an outstanding tomato for sandwiches and salads. Black Sea Man heirloom tomato does well growing in mid-sized containers.

Big Boy hybrid tomato produces perfect, large red fruit. What's kept The fruits weigh in 10 oz. with many reaching 1 lb. or more. Produces all summer long.

Better Boy – A Guinness Book of World Records champion, yielding nearly 350 pounds of tomatoes from a single plant over one season. This is a disease-resistant, flavorful and easy-to-grow tomato.

Take care

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Oh, Christmas Tree

About this time of the year, I usually start a mental argument concerning putting up the Christmas Tree.  Do I really want to do this for just me??  And, then for the past six years, I’ve gone to Albuquerque for the holidays and stayed ten days or so.  Do I really want to go to all the trouble to put up the tree when I will only enjoy it for a couple of weeks???

I always put up the tree.  And, I am reminded of …. 

Ornaments from the Christmas trees of my childhood.
Mother never let us put these on the tree but we could
carry them to Dad so he could put them on.

Ornaments that my father (who loved Christmas)
gave me

Ornaments made by various children

Ornaments that were gifts from loving friends

Ornaments made by those I love and miss

Ornaments that I made or bought
(Michael and I always bought a new one every year
and I've kept the tradition)

and certainly, The Christmas Pickle
Around the 1880's, it was claimed that the Christmas Pickle was a very old German tradition and that the pickle was the last ornament hung on the Christmas tree and then the first child to find the pickle got an extra present.  Possibly a myth but all the children enjoyed it.
Put them all together, and this is what you get.

Take care

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Girls and Girl Scouts

I was, for eight years involved with Girl Scouts, on many levels – from leader to council delegate.  It was a fun and interesting learning experience for me and, I think, for the girls in both daughters’ troops.  I was troop leader for my youngest daughter and once a week, after school, a dozen or so first
grade brownies arrived at my house for an hour of crafts or games or singing or projects – sometimes a little bit of all.  Every meeting started with,

Girl Scout Promise

On my honor, I will try:
    To serve God and my country,
    To help people at all times,
    And to live by the Girl Scout Law.

One of the many things I learned – Brownies (at that time, first grade to third grade) – could do anything.  For instance – the girls decided we needed a troop flag or banner.  Each girl drew a picture of what she thought it should look like, my co-leader and I winnowed the stack down to 5 and the
girls voted.  Then THEY made it – they did it all.

Another time we decided to make Vagabond Stoves and Buddy Burners and then, treat their fathers to lunch cooked at the park.  The girls each made her own stove and burner while we supervised and helped with some of the more difficult aspects of turning a large tin can into a stove and a tuna can into a burner.  Then, each girl had to learn how to light the burner with a match (question: what do we do first?  Answer: we tie our hair back with a scarf).  Then, they had to decide what they were going to cook and we practiced that.  Picnic day arrived.  Fathers and Brownies met at my house and we hiked to the park with the girls carrying their stoves filled with the burner and whatever else was needed (spatula, salt, buns).  I brought a cooler with meat, drinks, etc.  The girls all pulled out scarves, tied back hair and cooked their father lunch.  I mean, impressed the pants off those fathers!

At fourth grade, during the Fly-Up Ceremony, Brownies became Junior Girl Scouts.  As Junior Scouts, they were eligible to go camping.  Now, I wasn’t a leader for my older daughter’s troop however, I was a full-time camp mom.  That meant – I got to go camping with two different troops of 4th-6th grade girls six times a year for 4 years.  And, may I say – it was a very involved process.  Everyone just didn’t jump in the car and off we went.  No-no.  Everything had to be planned from meals to activities and the girls were involved every step.  And, as much as the idea of sleeping in a tent in the woods alarmed me (the city person) back then, it was a great time.

We actually only had one seriously frightening event.  Ok, so first of all, back then – Girl Scouts slept in 4-person, floored tents.  The tent sides could be rolled up and, seems to me, the tents had wood roofs.  Each tent had four cots and the floor was raised two feet off the ground.  There was a common eating and cooking area (that is cooking over a fire – no stoves).  In 1978, Troop 2209 (my older daughters troop) was going for their first campout in tents.

Quick note here – in the summer of 1977, three Girl Scouts in Oklahoma, while camping, had been asleep and were dragged out of their tent and murdered.  It was a terrible thing.  And, we were very aware, for that first campout.

So, we got to camp, unpacked, set up, cooked, cleaned, explored, sang taps and went to bed.  Riiighhht – sleeping in a tent with the sides rolled up in the woods along with the lions, tigers and bears.  I had just laid down in my cot (yes, fully dressed and shod) thinking I might doze a bit when, all of a sudden, there was a scream.

No no stop stop

Each adult hit the ground running, checking on girls in the tents around us.  Come to find out, one of the girls had a nightmare and while her tentmates were awaken, none of the others were.  But, for me, that was the last time I even thought about sleeping in a tent during a campout.  I found that I could go from Friday afternoon until Sunday morning with no sleep.  Not a problem.

I learned a lot during those years and may share more, from time to time.

Take care.

Monday, November 27, 2017

A Day at the Beach

A couple of years ago, my youngest daughter, who lives in Katy, decided we should revive my mother’s thought about going to the beach for Thanksgiving.  So, we’ve picked one day during the long week-end and gone down to Matagorda.

I am almost reluctant to say this out loud (because I’d hate for Matagorda to turn into Galveston), but Matagorda is a hidden jewel.  Mostly it’s known for the fishing.  However,
1.       the beaches are lovely and not crowded even during the summer;
2.      there is a large covered pavilion with picnic tables and smaller, individual covered areas with tables;
3.     bathrooms and an outdoor shower;
4.     a designated birding area;
5.   a long, tall fishing pier with amazing views (and, I assume, good fishing);
6.      beaches covered with shells, driftwood, and other interesting things;
7.    camping, if that is interesting (camping as in a tent on the beach, on purpose);
7.     if you are so inclined, you can drive your car on the beach there; and,
8.      there is a lighthouse (something I think I just might need). 

All those things plus it’s only 40-odd miles away. 

We went on Black Friday, which was a much nicer option than going to any store where the teeming crowds were running down isles.

A beautiful, sunny day.


Shark-tooth hunting

I think I need this for my front yard.

This too - for the front yard.
Take care.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Part Three – The strange and unusual place

 The next day after the movers left, MHN and I went back to the beach house with a smallish Uhaul trailer to get the rest, clean up and be gone.  We worked ALL DAY LONG and there was still stuff left.  Went back again, convinced that we’d be finished – nope – again, worked all day long.  Went back yet again (and that’s when I started throwing things away), finally got everything packed, cleaned up, and us gone.

May I say, those were 5 of the most tiring days I think I’ve ever had.  After having to go up/down stairs all day long for 5 days, if I’d had to deal with any stairs at the new house, I think I’d run screaming down the street.

OK – we are here!!  Now it will get less stressful and hectic – right?


On Monday morning, the contractor arrived to start the work we wanted done.  The house was in total disarray and I couldn't unpack anything and I COULD NOT FIND ANYTHING. 

I hate to move.

Not only was everything lost in space, this was an OLDER house.  Being an older house, it has several good/bad things.  We thought we were aware of most of the bad things and had made plans to 

1.         There were, oh, 2 plugs per room (except in the tiny room, where there was one plug).  Two plugs per room is not very many especially when the plugs are nowhere near the place where something electric needs one to be.  For instance, the bedroom plugs were beside the door, one on each side – the bed, bedside tables, and lamps were across the room.
2.         The cable company assured me they could supply us with cable TV and DSL – no problem except, after they got to the house, lo and behold, they didn’t go as far as that house.  They were happy to supply us with cable and WE could stretch it across the street and barn to the house – hmmmm - NO. Next option?
3.         The telephone was supposed to be turned on between the 17-20th – nope no phone until finally at 5pm on the 22nd.  Then, the sellers neglected to tell me that they had a second line to one room so I could let the phone company know.  Found out when the SBC lady says, you have no service to that room (yes, that would be the room where lived the computer and my desk).  Fortunately, she was a very nice lady and did her magic and a dial tone appeared on the phone in question.
4.         There was a slump in the roof – something the inspector seemed to have overlooked, so the central AC/heat unit couldn’t go up in the attic.  This meant rethinking the kitchen remodel to make a place for it.
5.         The dishwasher did not work.  Neither did the reverse osmosis water system.  (Remember I told you we were on a well?  The well water here in Wharton tastes like sulphur.  Having the reverse osmosis system – a must.)  Water softener didn’t work. Nor the water heater.  In minutes, the hot water in the TUB ONLY, cooled down during a shower until there was no HOT water (nobody ever figured that one out – and no, it wasn’t the fixtures – we replaced those).  The sellers burned their name in the wood floor in the breeze-way entry area (that would be the door the world in general used) – kept that covered with a rug during all the showings.  The gas heaters (these were ugly huge wall heaters – only heat in the house and didn’t work in fact, weren’t even hooked up because at some time, they had caught fire and singed the attic plus there was no outside venting for those awful things) and one of the window units went out almost immediately (central air/heat installation became #1).  The barn, while huge, leaked like a sieve – almost as wet inside as out during a rain.

6.         And so forth and so on.

The good things –

The house was really well built and the 2 acres it sat on were 
beautiful.  The barn was huge and with careful planning and using no cardboard, great for storing things.  There were lots of mature pecan trees, oak trees, magnolia trees.  There were neighbors.  The house had nice wood floors and some really pretty antique light fixtures.  The exterior was stone – not brick veneer.  We had a well (which originally, I thought was a good thing but, no electricity – no water and during Hurricane Rita, we had no electricity for 10 days – TEN – the number after 9 – 10 days).

Every night, after a long day of finding yet another major problem that had not be found during (1) the inspection or (2) disclosed by the sellers, Michael had to reassure me – “Yes honey, this was a really good deal and the right move.”  

Take care.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

and, a happy Thanksgiving to you!

Thanksgiving is kind of a weird thing to me.  Never in my memory do I remember celebrating it, as a child, at my house with my family.  Our mother didn’t see the point of doing a big Thanksgiving dinner and then, have to repeat it a few weeks later for Christmas. 

Though, why it was a problem, I cannot say since by 1960, she did very little in the way of cooking for Christmas (and certainly there is no rule about HAVE TO have Turkey, dressing, et al for Christmas).  However, things are what they were so …

She used to say that Thanksgiving was her mother’s “thing”, so I assume as very small children we went to Ma’s house, though from 1960-ish on, we didn’t go anywhere.  Sometime after 1961, our parents bought property in Galveston and built a beach house.  Thereafter, we went to the beach during the Thanksgiving holiday and had chili.

After I was grown and married, we spent Thanksgiving with in-laws and much later with friends.  The times it was just Michael and I, we went out.

Today, my sister invited me to go with them into Houston and celebrate with her daughter and family.  I offered to bring pecan pie.  Also, am bringing an English (as in England, English) dessert – Sticky Toffee Pudding – which is actually a cake.  

I am thankful for my sister and brother; children and grandchildren; friends that are family. 


Take care

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Part Two - from one part of the known and loved universe to a strange, unusual place …

You know, I have decided people that say “moving is a good thing because you can clean out and throw stuff away”, are from a different portion of the universe than I’m from.  I don’t think that really happens until the very last minutes of the very last day, just before that very last box is full and you are desperate.  I found that, during 2 months of packing, I just couldn’t throw things away as I just might need whatever later and then I’d just have to go buy whatever again.  However, as those last minutes approached, throwing away got easier (and, truth be told, it wasn’t my stuff that I threw away anyhow).

Right up until THE morning, we didn’t know if we were going to be able to close as a hurricane, Ivan the Terrible, was in the Gulf and the insurance companies got all itchy.  Fortunately, our buyers had ordered their storm insurance early; unfortunately, it hadn’t been processed; fortunately, the powers-that-be determined all was covered and closing was a go. 

We had just about the same problem with the new house.  At the last minute our insurance agent hadn’t done his job and sent the binder (ordered a month previously).  He tried telling me, because of the storm, that we couldn’t get insurance until I pointed out to him that we were buying a house in Wharton county, not in one of the coastal counties.  We did close on both houses that day – the Galveston house in the AM and the Wharton house in the PM.  It was a long day but at the end I felt like things were going to be less hectic.

I was wrong.

On Wednesday, we rented the biggest Uhaul truck available and moved about 100 boxes, all my
plants, yard decorations, the pond, and the fish.  I had already brought down a goodly number of boxes but there were still umpty-dozen trips up/down the stairs bringing down more.  I’ve figured out that was the ultimate stair stepper exercise and I should have lost, oh, at least 5 pounds (nope – but I console myself with the thought that I gained muscle and that’s heavier that just plain old chubby fat).  Anyway, thank the gods for my sister and brother-in-law.  Without their help, we’d have never gotten it all done. 

The following day, the professionals (a term used lightly) were to get the rest.  This did not happen.  First of all, they didn’t even get to the house until almost 11:00AM.  Then, they did not bring a truck – instead, two not large enough trailers.  (Did you get that “trailer” word??  no truck – two trailers arrived.)  We still had the big Uhaul so there were three large truck/trailer packing areas.  They did get all the house packed into one trailer.  I had pointed out to them what downstairs went and what did not.  NOT THAT ANYONE LISTENED TO ME!!!  MHN and I went to lunch and stopped by a local appliance store (having a big scratch and dent sale) to take a look at a washer/dryer, since we were leaving ours in Galveston.  As it turned out, it was a terrific price and we bought washer, dryer and a refrig (nope, I didn’t need one – I didn’t want one as our sellers were leaving theirs – but it was that “honey, it’s too good a deal to pass up – we NEEEEEEEEED this.”).  And, here I have to inject a personal opinion.  Side by side refrigerators are TERRIBLE!  The fridgie side is small and difficult to use and the
freezer side is just plain useless.  By the time we got back, the movers had packed up all sorts of little things and left all the big heavy things (like the cement bench and the bird bath and the fountain).  Because SOMEBODY didn’t pack HIS workroom stuff into boxes, and the movers decided to pick up all that little crap, they just didn’t have room for the big stuff.

We got away from the beach house about 7-ish at night and got to the Wharton house about 9-ish at night.  Then, I ran back and forth showing the movers where to put the furniture.  A few pieces got damaged but, all-in-all, not too much.  Still, by the time they emptied all three vehicles, it was after 1AM. 

Do you see why I hate to move?

Tomorrow: Part Three

Take care.