Sunday, December 12, 2010

Natural Science Museum Photo Contest 2011

Happy December, y'all! It finally got cold here and killed the remainder of the summer veggie garden. There isn't much gardening to do this time of year, other than raking some leaves into the beds and piling some in the compost bins. I have lettuce and carrots going, but it usually rains enough that I just leave them alone until harvest time.

You may remember that last winter I entered the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science's photo contest, which takes photos in several categories taken on the museum grounds. Here is my post from last year. I ended up entering 2-3 photos based on your recommendations, and won 1st prize in the landscape division for the b&w photo of the cypress swamp.

Here are some photos I took at the museum back in late June that I am considering sending in this year. Please let me know your candid thoughts!

This is a photo of the skeleton of some leaves after bag worms (I don't know the scientific name) stripped the branch of everything green. I had it printed on glossy paper and it's not as crisp as it needs to be to win, but still kind of a cool concept. It was just too hard to focus with my non-DSLR, I think.

Above and below are two b&w photos of the creepy bag worms at work! I love how you can see the spines of the worms on the outside of the "bags." I had these printed on matte paper and they printed pretty true to what you see here. Do you like either, and if so, which one more?

Thanks for your input. Have a great rest of the weekend!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Late November Updates

Happy late Thanksgiving, everyone! Apparently my new MO is to post once a month... so here's the end-of-November update.
The yard looks pretty drab, but there are touches of fall/winter color, such as hollies, camellias, and pineapple sage (the latter will go dormant after our first bad frost):

The vegetable garden is a mix of old and new. Lettuce and carrots, recently planted from seed, will grow all winter here:

Remnants of the summer garden are still hanging on. All of the eggplant and hot pepper plants have TONS of blooms right now. I don't know if anything will make it to fruition this late, though.

I'm still getting a few bell peppers and sungold tomatoes - just enough for a couple of omelets a week.

Our first hard freeze last year was right around December 1. The weather here has been crazy lately. It was 70+ on Thanksgiving day and about 45 on the next!
54 more days until the baby gets here (if she comes on her due date!), so I probably won't be getting much more gardening done in the next few months. I planted some pansies and I'm going to keep sowing lettuce seeds every few weeks. There may not be much to show (or see), but I'll check in again soon. Have a great week!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fall flowers and pumpkin carving 2010

Butterfly weed is one of the few plants that bloomed straight through the summer heat (with occasional wilting) and is still going. Gotta love that! I've read that monarchs will chew this plant to the ground, but it hasn't been an issue for me. We don't see too many monarchs here.
Every summer, I wonder why I put up with this gigantic, floppy, green aster.... then it blooms! I remember when I started this from a 3" pot three years ago (and the mexican bush sage behind it and the purple coneflower to the right at the same time) - I sure wish everything I planted would flourish like this! Not sure if it's the plant, the proximity to a downspout, or just luck.
You may remember this post from last year about me and Scott's yearly pumpkin-carving festivities (usually involving my brother and/or my friend Katherine). Katherine is still in Iraq, but we got together with my brother a couple of days ago for the 2010 carving fest.
Here is my happy little monster, and Jeremy's creepy skull.

As usual/always, Scott's pumpkin is the most impressive!
I read that you could brush petroleum jelly or vegetable oil on the cut parts to make it last longer. Not wanting for petroleum products to end up in the compost pile, we used the oil. It appears to have worked pretty well to prevent the cut parts from drying out.
Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Summer vegetable garden winding down

Happy fall, y'all! It's finally cool here (70s), but it still hasn't really rained in about two months. Everything - even established trees - looks awful. I ripped up the brown tomato and cucumber vines today, plus woody bean remnants. Sad day for me, but happy day for the compost pile.

Last year it was almost two months from this time when the garden looked this empty. Most of the veggies just couldn't hang on with the extreme drought and the neglect they experienced this year.
I did manage to recover some (dried) pinkeye purple hull peas for planting next year...
These were so good fresh this summer and withstood the weather for a long time.
This ginger is from a grocery store knob that we accidentally left on top of the refrigerator in a plastic bag. It sprouted and I planted it in the raised bed a few months ago. Not sure what to do with it this winter (?).

Eggplants and bell peppers are still hanging on:

Omelet peppers. Mmmmm.

Did you know the inside of purple bell peppers is green?
Neglected serranos (from seed) turning rainbow colors:

A couple of sungold are the only tomato plants (of about 12) hanging on. These have been so easy and prolific. Definitely a keeper.

Thank you to all of you who've made comments or asked about the pregnancy. Everything is still going great, and little Clara is due in January! Her room is a very garden-fresh shade of green!
Have a great week :)

Monday, September 6, 2010

September Survivors

It's been a month since I posted.... not sure if I should blame that on the extreme heat of August, the pregnancy, or just being lazy. Anyway... my garden has been neglected just as much as the blog, so what you see here are plants that can truly grow in the deep south, and clay soil, with zero care.
First up, turks cap hibiscus:

I got this at a plant sale in March, and it was just a few inches tall. Plopped it in the ground with a little compost, watered it maybe twice - and now it's 2 feet tall, bushy and thriving.

I planted two beautyberries last fall and have never watered either of them. This one is in the partial shade of the backyard, and is absolutely huge. The other one is in the front sun and is smaller, with smaller leaves and smaller berries (it's alive, though!).

The only things still producing from the spring veggie garden are eggplants and peppers. Both take a long time to get moving (especially started from seed!), but will produce deep into the fall. I have a couple of varieties of eggplant growing:

They have not been watered since the day they were planted.
A good use for summer veggies like tomatoes and banana peppers is nachos! This is one of my favorite recipes and a recent dinner:

I accidentally let some banana peppers turn red on the plant, and Scott has been using those in omelets. They taste surprisingly like bell peppers at that stage.

Hope you all had a great holiday weekend!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

End of July Garden Updates

The forecast calls for it to be in the 100's here the next three days - just in time for the weekend, my only free time to work in the garden (very funny, Mother Nature). My garden has been suffering this year. I'm not sure if it's from the heat or what. Things that always bloom haven't (bearded iris, tiger lily), and my veggie garden has been ridiculously hit or miss (lots of green beans early, lots of cherry tomatoes and cowpeas later, a very few eggplant and larger tomatoes now, bell peppers just getting started, no cucumbers in sight, and some utter failures: corn, pole beans, butter beans, winter squash).
One weird thing about pregnancy is that your tastes change, so some things I planted in the garden the spring don't appeal to me now, namely eggplant.

This is the second year I've grown these asian eggplants from seed. The basil and black krim tomatoes were grown from seed, too (the red tomatoes are from a friend). Trying to figure out what to do with these eggplants that sounded remotely appetizing right now was a challenge, but then I found this recipe. I basically followed it except that before frying the eggplant pieces, I breaded them in flour with salt and pepper mixed in (and skipped the step about drying the eggplant pieces after rinsing them). It was so good!

The tiny fish pond is the only area of the yard that looks lush. I was thrilled to find this helvola dwarf water lily blooming! Word to the wise, even a dwarf lily will send out an incredible number of lily pads. I'm glad I didn't just get a small lily, because this is all our ~100 gallon pond can handle.

These naked ladies took a couple of years to bloom, but they were worth the wait. They are a shimmery pale pink and so pretty.

I love how they come up literally overnight on these long stems.

The heat has not put a damper on the critters. Check out this neat/creepy sphinx moth that was hanging out in our carport last weekend. It was huge! It reminded me of the stealth bomber.

Have a great weekend and stay cool!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Canoeing the Okatoma

I had July 5th off from work (thanks boss), so Scott and I drove about an hour south to canoe the Okatoma Creek, home of Mississippi's only "whitewater" (level 1) rapids (you'll see why whitewater is in quotes below). The Okatoma is so serene. Most of what you see is this:

Ignore my big mug and check out the "rapids" in the background. There are a few of these along the 8-mile trip, and they really are fun - just not in the North Carolina rapids kind-of-way (though, I don't know if people canoe those rapids)! You will notice that our boat is backwards in this picture - the swirl at the base of the rapids turned us around.

Another general scenery shot:

Scott, providing most of the effort required to move the canoe forward :)

Scott spotted this great blue heron in the woods. It was the biggest bird I have ever seen. We parked the canoe and I got as close as I could to get a shot. A long kelly green snake and I scared each other when I almost stepped on it (haven't been able to ID it) - but my muffled scream didn't scare off this bird. It was busy hunting and not at all worried about me.

We brought sandwiches and stopped on one of many sandbars for lunch.

The river was low, and in this picture you can easily see the rocky bottom. We had to get out and carry/push the canoe a couple of times.

It ended up raining torrentially (seriously) most of the second half of the trip. Here is the water in our boat between bouts of rain:

Needless to say, our towels were soaked! Next time we'll know to bring extras and leave them in the car.
I have one final bit of news before I let you go enjoy your weekend. We are expecting a baby in January! That is the reason for my neglect of the blogging world recently. I'm going to try to get back to posting once a week now. Thanks for sticking with me!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Back to the garden!

It's been a busy summer (more on that soon), but I didn't realize it had been nearly a month since my last post - yikes! If anyone is still reading, here is a snapshot of what's happening in our garden in hot, hot July:

Above: I bought this veronica last year because it was covered with bees at the nursery. Looks like that wasn't a fluke.
Below: orange "roadside" daylilies, pink double delight coneflowers, and shasta daisies brighten up the front yard.

The vegetable garden is mostly thriving, with the exception of the epic failure of corn. These sungold cherry tomatoes are delicious and prolific. A keeper for sure.

Dinner tonight included three crops from our garden: snap beans, potatoes and pinkeye purple hull peas. I cooked the beans and potatoes in homemade vegetable stock for 30 minutes (with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper). For the peas, I sauteed yellow onion and jalapeno in butter, then added hot water, shelled peas, and s&p. Cooked for about 30 minutes, then stirred in chopped tomato just before serving.

Our pond is doing surprisingly well in the midst of its first hot summer. We haven't had an algae problem yet, and the three original fish are still kicking. Here is the pond last August, right after we finished installing it:

And here it is now! A beautyberry, a turks cap hibiscus, and a confederate rose hibiscus frame the pond and help hide the fence. In the pond are a mini water lily (helvola), Louisiana irises dug out of my mom's lake, pickerel rush, and a variety of annual floating plants.

Thanks for sticking with me though my inadvertently long break! Happy 4th!