12/21/2023 preparing for solstice rain

The rain barrel on its now bare stand, with the tepary bean vine pile, a glass
Pyrex bowl of tepary bean pods, and a rolling stool on the driveway in front of it, on a cloudy day.
We have been slowly harvesting all the tepary beans dry off the vine. The vines made this rain barrel hard to use in summer, so we’ll stick to no vines on it next year. I moved some strawberries to under the rain barrel where I can let it drip on them in summer.
I’m holding a dormant ampelopsis plant. Its root has two side branches and the main root branch is torn.
I’ve had my eye on an Ampelosis near the woodpile all summer. It’s finally dormant but it turned out to be mostly under the edge of the patio. We shall see if it lives.
I point at four clumps of a divided sedge at the base of the red oak, among many fallen leaves.
A native sedge in the backyard sprouts up between the pavers periodically, so I’m slowly moving (and dividing them) out of the path. I like to move plants in the winter right before rains so I don’t have to water them.

10/30/2023 last peppers

The last peppers of the season piled on the gray ceramic kitchen table. There are long curly skinny yellow corbaci, big red bell, green bells, and brown-purple bells, and two little triangular apple peppers.
Before the hard freeze I cut down all the pepper plants (plus a few stray and unfortunately sized okra) and put them in the garage. The next day when I had time, I sorted and weighed them. we got a good last bunch of all our pepper varieties for this year! Paula notes of the sweet peppers, the apple peppers were sweetest when both red and green. The California wonder bell and chocolate bell were both more bitter when young/green. The Chef likes the thin and easy to cut corbaci peppers.

Weeds to pull or not

I have moved this content to a page as the sticky post was sort of annoying. Go to that page for future updates.

Things I keep thinking are human introduced but they’re actually native

To be added: Purslane, Mollugo, bedstraws, peppergrass, yellow oxalis, Euphorbia maculata, Euphorbia dentata (wild poinsettia), Melothris pendula, Cynanchum laeve (milkvine), little barley

Plants that are human introduced but not a big problem in undisturbed areas

Armeria serpyllifolia, thyme-leaved sandwort. Human introduced but not aggressive invader. This one was an accidental import from TX.

An Introduced geranium vs a native geranium. I’ve only seen these two in our yard so far but there are several other species in Oklahoma.

Maple that blows in from the neighbor’s yard. I am not sure of the species but there’s nothing locally native here in that genus (Acer).

To be added: chickweeds, henbit, deadnettle, dandelions, shepherds purse, white clover, yellow clover, crepe myrtle, Sherardia arvensis

Human-introduced species that can disrupt the local ecosystem aggressively

Fish mint. Weird one! Leaves almost violet like before blooming and now I can see they are less round and have touches of red. Plus it smells strongly when crushed. After finding some possible epazote in the backyard, I wonder if a few owners back at this house were into growing a lot of culinary fun!
Invasive dayflower. I wrote up how to distinguish it from the native perennial in another post. I am not sure how invasive it is outside disturbed areas, but it does seem to crowd out and overgrown things like white avens in my yard, so we’ve been actively removing it.

To be added: privet, Bermudagrass, King Ranch bluestem (aka KR grass), salsify, some brome grasses, some Poa grasses, some Palsalpum grasses, crabgrass, autumn clematis, that one aggressive sedge

Native species but no thanks

Stickers/sandburs/goatheads are native but they hurt.. They like sand. if we had a bigger land I would leave them alone outside our paths and main dog area as I’m sure something needs them. I’m not keeping them in our small space.

To be added: trumpet vine (as with the trees, I don’t have enough room), baby walnut trees, baby oak trees, sticky seed pod legumes, bidens (sometimes) and white avens (sometimes), poison ivy

Dayflower identification redux

Last summer I made an attempt at identifying the dayflowers (Commelina species) in our yard and the only ones I found were the invasive, human-introduced Commelina communis. However, Abby gave us some native Commelina erecta and this year we noticed some of the dayflowers had thinner leaves like on the ones she gave us. So I decided to take a look again.

It seems like for our yard, the broad vs narrow leaves are pretty indicative. So we’re going to continue pulling the broad leaved invasive ones. The Flora of North Central Texas indicates the native C. erecta has three varieties and one is narrow leaved, so the leaves probably don’t work in all regions. Once some of the dayflowers go to seed I will check to make sure they also have the smooth seeds that C. erecta has. I’m pleased to see we have more of the native species than I expected.

Even though the two species look very similar, the native species will have existing ecological and evolutionary relationships with the other plants and animals and microbes here. The human-introduced species may or may not have those. To be a good neighbor, I want to make sure our yard provides maximal food and shelter to local species, which means keeping more plants with those existing relationships.

01/24/2023 unauthorized entry

I was putting some books on my desk shelf this evening when in my peripheral vision I noticed more purple plant growing light visible than should be. I keep a towel over it to protect our eyes.
I examined the gap in the cover more closely and realized Shackleton was curled up contentedly on the heating pad, which is set to a cozy 85 degrees F. There’s even a bit of dust (spilled potting soil).
Shackleton napping peacefully with the last unsprouted pepper pot, bathed in a purple glow.
Busted, buddy. The nice thing about this tray is that I can slide it out to check on seedlings AND clever cats.
He did a big back arching stretch of casual innocence.
Shackleton emerges from his vacation tray, complete with unnecessary UV exposure. 🙄
Paula moved Shacks back to his actual cat heating pad on the couch. I put a bunch of empty pots in the tray with the one seedling pot and put more up in front of the towel-curtain, as well as a series of inconvenient containers. Hopefully this will persuade Shacks to stick to his heated bed or at least clogging up our amplifier with his hair.

01/18/2023 refried bean learning times and field violet transplants

It rained 0.31” in Norman in the night on 01/18. The night before I moved a bunch of seedlings of Viola bicolor, the wild annual field violets that volunteer in the yard. I want more of them as ground cover for early spring so I am moving many from existing locations in and near the raised beds. They seem to be doing well! When I’ve transplanted larger plants once they bloom, they don’t do nearly as well.
Paula prepared tepary beans for refrying. The pair of tiny ones at the bottom are wild type teparies.
Paula made a quesadilla with a layer of the refried tepary beans. Her diagnosis was that they worked fine and had a good taste, but that she should have added more lard and onions to make them less dry.

08/14/2022 straw bale potatoes

We lifted and sorted through our two straw bales of potatoes since the leaves were all eaten off by blister beetles. Upon moving the bales, we found eight bess beetles
One fast isopod
A second fast isopod
Three baby house mice
And one click beetle. This brings us to a total of 14 photographed animals plus a whole nest of ants and a small earwig that got away.
Compare this to our glorious harvest: ten potatoes from two bales. Paula is researching where we went wrong. I feel like maybe we should just go back to growing them in soil. (These experiments were my idea so I’m not blaming anyone else.). At least this year’s harvest is safer than last year’s crop of black widow spiders??

07/22/2022 our first and only apple

We looked at the William’s pride apple tree today and the apple was missing!! Concern. We found it on the ground.
Sadly, the bottom half was rotted. I forgot that William’s pride is an early variety, so we should have picked sooner before it fell.
However, we cut off the bad part and the rest was quite delicious! A nice texture and magnificent smell!!
Gram was less impressed than we were.

07/22/2022 new and complicated tomato

We realized we should think about when green vernissage tomatoes were ripe. They are supposed to have green flesh so this has turned out rather complicated. These ones are good. The green between the dark green stripes has a hint of yellow and translucency. They taste nice and the flesh isn’t mealy.
These ones are too soft. They are darker (I don’t think the picture shows well) and have some very soft spots. I tried one and it was bland with a mealy texture.
This tomato is too soft.
These green vernissage are all ripe except the very bright pale green one that has a thumbs down on it.
Bonus: Briar examines the topped up jar of bisbee gray cowpeas.

07/22/2022 more popcorn and the judgement of cats upon it

I think the latest glass gem popcorn (right) was harvested at a better time. The colors are brighter and the kernels are looser. The plant stalk was completely dry as well as the ear husk.
Tuqu wanted to rub her face on it.
Gram was only mildly intrigued.
Shackleton went under the bed to avoid responding to our survey.
Briar only had eyes for Shackleton.