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This is it. My official launch of my latest novel, Call Me Isabel. You can get it free today, tomorrow, and Thursday, July 18-20, 2017, here:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071HWGJNR

It’s different than all my past and probably all my future works. Not a romance, and on the serious side. Sort of a faith-based urban fantasy? Maybe sort of? With a bit of suspense and mystery.

If you’re not sure about it, well, you have nothing to lose for the next three days, because it’s FREE.

After you finish reading it, please oh please oh please leave a nice review. TIA! 🙂

 

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How Is My Kratky Experiment Going?

A few weeks ago, I made a major gardening decision. Two, actually. The first was to grow lettuce and spinach indoors using the Kratky method of hydroponics (click on the link above if you don’t know what that is). The second was that from now on, my outdoor vegetable and fruit annuals would be grown using the Kratky method. So, how’s it going?

The big disappointment

My HUGE disappointment is that I have no cucumber in the garden this summer. So easy to grow! And it’s not because of the trip to Minnesota. It’s because the few seeds of the two varieties I wanted to grow seem to have all become inviable. I might have tried the lemon cucumber, but I really don’t like that variety as much.

Right now, just to experiment, I’ve got the very last Yamato Extra Long cucumber seed and a melon seed in between moist paper towels in plastic bags just to see if they’ll even germinate. I soaked them overnight in a hydrogen peroxide solution, which is supposed to facilitate the germination process. If the melon seed germinates, we’ll get some fruit some time in October. Yes, very late for melons – at least in these here parts. But something is better than nothing.

The Kratky lettuce

Here’s a photo I took of the lettuce growing in net pots two or three weeks ago:

Supposedly, if you grow lettuce using the Kratky method, you have a full, mature head of lettuce after a month. Well, it’s been a month. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

I think the reason is twofold. First, there are too many plants per pot – there’s only supposed to be one, hello! Here’s the deal. I overplanted the seeds because they are ones that I had saved from a lettuce plant when we still lived in Plano, so I had no idea whether they would still be viable. Then I got the genius idea not to thin them out until they were big enough so that the trimmings could help make a salad.

Well, by that time the roots were already growing into the water…and I couldn’t tell which roots come from which plant! So I didn’t dare thin any of them.

Second, either the red and blue LED grow lights aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, or they are not close enough to the plants. They are growing, but it remains to be seen how long it will be before I dare begin to harvest the leaves.

The next two photos show you how the Kratky method works. First, a view of the lettuce growing from the net pot. Then, a photo of the roots. Notice how only the ends of the roots are actually in the water. They have followed the water and nutrients down. The rest of the roots are exposed to air, which is how the roots keep from drowning. Clever, eh? One of those things I wish I’d thought of first!

Spinach surprise!

Out of the first thirty-six spinach seeds I planted, none of them germinated. I dumped the whole lot and started over, this time with only twenty-four (two seeds in each of twelve pots). A little better result: four germinated.

*Sigh.* I did some digging, and found out that if you want to germinate spinach seeds indoors, you need to put them in a refrigerator (or in our case, cooler) for a few days because they don’t like germinating in warm soil.

Now you tell me! 😉

So I’m going to try one more time. In the meantime, the four that germinated are doing well and have their true leaves. Here are photos of one of the plants, and then the roots in the water.

Notice how dry the coir, or coconut fiber, is in the first photo. No matter – the roots are getting their moisture from the jar below, remember? I love this non-messy way of growing food!

Okay, one more plant.

Later ‘Mater

Talk about a late tomato! It’ll be interesting to see when this starts producing fruit. It’s still a baby plant in the middle of July.

Of the several tomato seeds I planted, this was the only one that germinated (and none of the peppers did – another seed type I need to test for viability). It was very leggy (long stem) when it first came up, so I carefully removed it from it’s net pot, then replaced it deep down inside and surrounded it with more moist coir. The first true leaves were just barely poking above the coconut fiber. Now look at it!

It’s even grown a new leaf since being transplanted, and it was probably only a week ago! Since it has its true leaves, I am now feeding it the hydroponic nutrient solution, and that seems to really be helping it grow. Probably in the next week I will get it outside in the five-gallon bucket of nutrient solution that I had prepared for the tomato cutting that failed (because I cut it from the wrong part of the plant, duh!).

There you go – the beginning of my Kratky gardening journey! Click the envelope icon in the right sidebar above to get instant updates in your inbox. 🙂

 

 

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Once upon a time, a couple and their little boy moved onto a beautiful five-acre property in rural southeast Oklahoma. As happens in rural areas, soon their mailman knew their names and their faces. Whenever he needed to drop off a package that wouldn’t fit in the mailbox, he would offer some small talk.

One day, not very long after the family began living in the country, the mailman, for no apparent reason, asked the lady of the house if she played the guitar. He was looking for somebody to jam with.

“Uh, yeah, sort of. But I’m just a beginner,” she said, feeling embarrassed. She had been a “beginner” for the past thirty or so years.

He let the matter drop, but a couple of times over the next two years, he asked about her guitar playing. Finally, the family’s fourth summer there, after the mailman delivered a large package he practically begged to hear the lady play.

The lady at first refused, then thought, “What the heck. I’ll do it and be done and he won’t ask again.”

So she went into the house to get her guitar, then sat outside and played the first verse of “Amazing Grace.” Sang, too.

And did a horrible job. She began shaking with nervousness from the first chord and had a hard time getting her voice to sound the way she knew it could. Full and beautiful.

All in all, it sucked. By the time she was finished, she wanted to whap the mailman over the head with the guitar.

She also developed a sudden empathy for her niece, who had been – about a month earlier – goaded by her mother to play the violin for the lady and her family when they were visiting the lady’s family.

Moral of the story: Please please please please PLEASE, if you have a kid who is learning an instrument, don’t demand that he or she perform for people other than the audiences he or she must perform for at recitals. It’s unnerving and embarrassing, and likely as not, your child won’t do anything close to his or her best.

Put yourself in their shoes. And remember that just because you’re the adult and they’re your kid doesn’t make it right to manipulate them.

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All right, y’all. I have more weird carrot photos for you. The one on the left isn’t really weird-weird, but it grew wide and short instead of long and narrow like your typical carrot. (Hint: when you grow your own carrots, they don’t always turn out typical!) But it’s all good; both carrots had about the same root quantity as does your typical store-bought medium-sized carrot.

Now, as I promised in this post, pictures of our almost-cleared out garden! Yes, we are crazy, doing this chore in the middle of the summer when it’s 90+ degrees and at least 85% humidity. But I wanted to get them up before they all went to seed.

Also, it’s a whole lot easier to picture what I want to grow where, when the space doesn’t look like a jungle.

Forgive me – as I’ve stated previously, I’m really bad about taking “before” photos. But that’s okay – it just means you get to exercise imagination for this post as I describe what each area looked like before the weeds were cleared out. 😉  We – that is, J – dumpster dives for carpet at the one carpet store in McAlester, the biggest town near us…an hour’s drive away.

Here’s the northwest corner of the garden, where the asparagus patch is. Picture tall hay-type grass with seed heads, a couple of blossoming horse nettle, and miscellaneous other weeds growing in this small space. Then, look at the photo below.

The rocks are to help prevent things from growing right next to the metal flashing, because there was just a tiny bit of space between the carpet and the flashing.

The area in the next photo, where you see cardboard being held down by rocks, had a lot of grass mixed in with a few other weeds. I put cardboard here because one day I plan to have more asparagus growing there, so I wanted something biodegradable that would help enrich the soil.

In the next photo, picture more hay grass – much of it gone to seed – filling up the space where this carpet is now. The southwest corner you see at the end was the worst. There was at least one dock plant as well as a thorny vine mixed in with a bunch of grass plus a few other weeds.

After I took the above photo, I decided to go ahead and get the vines back on the growing bed where they belonged. Many of them were trying to root into the carpet! So the next photo shows the whole length of the path, mostly cleared of the vines.

This next carpeted path used to be made of boards and cardboard (some of which you can see in the mulched bed to the right) – plenty of space in between for red malabar spinach, wood sorrel, and other several other kinds of weeds (some flowering). The rocks come from the reservoirs I had J make when I thought I was going to be container gardening (with soil!) next summer. They’re holding the carpet down while I find other uses for them.

Now, imagine the next space COMPLETELY OVERFLOWING with red malabar spinach vines. I mean, it was in the raised bed (in the right of the picture), going into the pot on the left, and maybe a foot high of tangled vines!

Zinnias will no longer allowed to grow in that space where they are in the photo, but I’m leaving them there for this summer.

You can see some of the dead pea vines in the next photo, broccoli in the foreground. The area between the kiwi trellis (shared with the peas) and the bed with the rebar arches used to be a mess of grass, dock, and various and sundry other weeds. Use that imagination!

Here’s the south-facing trellis. Until J weeded it (I needed help; there was a LOT of well-rooted grass), it was a mess of tall and short weeds and tall and short grass. There also used to be several more zinnia plants. I avoided walking through here because I just knew I was going to get chigger bites. That’s how thick the weeds were, all the way down to the east side.

You can see that there are flowers and weeds at the east end. That’s because every so often I’m leaving space for weeds and wildflowers to grow to provide habitat for the wildlife.

Onto the next photo. The old boards and sticks in the foreground are not going to live there forever. I just threw them there to get them off the paths. By next spring, J will have made more rebar arches down to the end of the bed (you can see it where the landscape fabric is sticking out in the foreground), and I will have put more chicken wire over the arches. The plan is to grow one cucumber at each end of the bed, and they will climb on the chicken wire.

Previously, I’ve trellised cucumber vines upward, but it’s really hard to train them that way. Also, when there’s a strong wind, cucumber vines growing vertically are liable to break. I’ve had it happen before when we lived in north Texas.

Anyway. Really stretch your imagination now. Just to the right of the foreground area where the sticks are, used to grow a rosemary plant that was at least three feet high and that much in diameter. Between it and the bed, two docks – which had gotten HUGE – decided to insinuate themselves. In the bed itself, at the end, were zinnias, a huge weed related to the dandelion, and several other large weeds.

Oh, and there were a bunch of lambsquarters – very tall – growing around the rosemary. I mean, this area was a colossal mess, especially consider the smallness of it.

The photo also gives you a longer view of the path next to the kiwi trellis. The path to the right of the arched bed had some grass and a few small weeds, but it wasn’t bad because I had put down a bunch of cardboard and wood last fall.

Ignore the scrap wood and cinder block in the next photo, and imagine a jungle of weeds overtaking this area that is now bare dirt.

No, no. You’re not imagining enough weeds. Imagine more. No, more. Three times as much as that!

Seriously, I dreaded getting to this area to weed, but it actually turned out to not be so bad because many of the weeds were the kind that don’t grow very deep roots. Of course, I weeded after we’d had three inches of rain over three days, so even the grass wasn’t that bad to pull out.

The yellow wildflowers will go as soon they’ve gone to seed (and therefore turn ugly), but I’m leaving them for now because Somebody whined to beat the band when I told him I was going to take them out.

(Lesson for today: yes, kids, whining does produce results.)

The last three photos are of the strawberries that are going to go bye-bye the next time J gets to town to get another load of carpet.

As in, I’m going to dig all of the plants out and compost them. Close your mouth before you catch a mosquito, and let me explain.

I have probably more than two hundred plants elsewhere (because strawberries propagate so darn quickly!), and from those other two strawberry patches I harvested most of the pitiful amount of berries that I got this summer (more on that later). The berries from the plants you’re about to look at? I maybe – maybe – got five berries.

Yes, five. From all those plants. And they probably produced a few hundred.

Three words: mice, birds, mold.

No, wait, one more word: opossum. Yep. I forgot to close the garden up for several nights, and it left a couple of packages to evidence its visit. Yes, they do eat strawberries.

So I’m going to grow strawberries in an area where critters can’t get them, and in a way that will reduce the risk of them getting moldy (like I said, more on that coming up). I’m going to clear this area on the northeast side of the garden, next to the blueberry bushes, to make room for something else. (I might end up clearing out the clover, too…we’ll see.)

The end of this very long garden update!

P.S. – This garden are is about 1600 square feet (almost three times bigger than our house!). Please donate to help me recover from all the work I did. Just click the “donate” button in the sidebar…NOT! 😉

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