Gardening humor

That’s all I have to say because I actually pre-scheduled this post because I knew I would be outdoors.

(Sorry Stanley, I couldn’t find a way to link to the image on your FB page, so I copied it.)

I wet my plants




Identifying Types of Pumpkins, Winter Squash and Gourds

*****NOTE: I have updated the published date to get renewed attention and some help. Given the number of hits this article regularly gets, I’ve been aggressively working on a longer article with pictures for as many open-pollinated/heirloom types as I can find. My only problem is that I don’t know how to manage an article of that length/magnitude in a BLOG (it is over 30 pages, and I reduced the font to 10 pt!). SEEKING SUGGESTIONS/IDEAS!

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There are many beautiful varieties of pumpkins and winter squash, but it is hard to keep them all straight. I own some little guidebooks that identify trees and ferns by a series of questions about their features, eventually identifying those plants with considerable accuracy, but there isn’t anything similar for pumpkins and winter squash. You would think that what constitutes a pumpkin or a winter squash would be clearly understood and defined, especially by those who make a living growing and selling them, but that is usually not the case,  and I have found out that information on the web is rife with errors (especially the pictures!). According to The World of Gourds (an extremely informative and accurate site):

Sorting out all the varieties of edible cucurbits with their correct species identification is very difficult, although it is nicely summarized in Hortus Third by L.H. Bailey and E.Z. Bailey, 1976. A more updated summary is given in Cucurbits (Crop Production Science in Horticulture 6) by R.W. Robinson and D.S. Decker-Walters (1997).

For the benefit of those interested in identifying and growing the different species (particularly if you want a variety with seeds suitable for toasting ), More

Gardens and Grasshoppers or “A plague on those locusts!”

I was reading a post at Town and Country Gardening about drought and grasshoppers ( He lives in Oklahoma and has my sympathy because the Great Plains have traditionally been a challenging place to garden/farm.

Oklahoma Dust Bowl – 1930’s

Some suggested “climate change” but I am a bit of a history geek, and the Dust Bowl of the 30′s is something most of us actually know very little about, but if you talk to some very old people they will tell you it  was pretty bad. Here are some places to start (all links are safe and secure – I went there myself and checked):

Observed precipitation in the great plains region of North America 30ªN to 50ªN, 95ªW to 105ªW (boxed area on maps) compared with precipitation calculated from an atmospheric general circulation model forced by observed sea-surface temperature data. The calculated precipitation has been smoothed to remove fluctuations with periods shorter than six years. The thin black lines are 14 different simulations. The variation shows some of the uncertainty of the calculated precipitation. The green line is the average of the 14 simulations. The maps show the anomaly of precipitation averaged from 1932 to 1938.

That being said, here are some helpful suggestions I gleaned from Garden’s Alive! (“Getting a Grip on Grasshoppers!”) about natural grasshoppers controls: Yes, it is a commercial site, but they have “environmentally responsible products that work,”  to use their own words. Here are a few suggestions with a few brief quotes from the page:

  1. Nosema locustae, “a microscopic protozoan parasite of grasshoppers. Often just called ‘Nosema’, it is currently available under a variety of brand names, including ‘Nolo Bait’ and ‘Semaspore.’ It’s a living organism with a relatively short shelf life, so it’s best to buy it just before you use it—which would be in the Spring, when you see the first baby hoppers in their “nymph” stage; a half-inch or smaller. (It doesn’t have much of an effect on adults). Your local county extension agent should be able to identify the right time for your specific region.”
  2. Fowl: Domestic – Guinea fowl (very effective!) and chickens. Native – attract them (specific suggestions in article).
  3. Spun polyester row covers. ‘Nuff said.
  4. Tilling: “Tilling your soil early in the Fall and again in Spring will expose many of those eggs to predators and desiccation.”
  5. Heavy mulch: Grasshoppers lay next year’s eggs later in summer and heavy mulch (at least 2 inches of old hay, straw, wood chips, shredded leaves, etc.) applied over the winter will prevent many of next year’s young from being able to emerge from the soil (I leave mine on year-round).
  6. Molasses is a favorite folk cure that may help right now. Back when I was editor of ORGANIC GARDENING, a Canadian reader reported great success from spraying the perimeter of her garden with a dilute mixture of molasses; apparently, it clogged the pores of hoppers hit by the spray and ones who ate the sprayed plants. Several other readers recommended molasses traps: Mix one part blackstrap molasses with ten parts water, fill wide-mouth jars and buckets a third of the way with this mix and place around the infested area; the hoppers hop in but they can’t hop out.”
  7. Neem – “Spraying those plants with neem—a natural pesticide made from the seed of a tropical tree—is virtually certain to protect them. In fact, our good buddy Bill Quarles, director of the BIRC—the Bio-Integral Resource Center in Berkeley, California—tells us that neem’s pesticidal properties were first investigated because neem trees were the only plants spared during locust attacks. Bill says that ‘grasshoppers would rather starve to death than eat a plant that’s been sprayed with neem.’ ”

A fistful of locusts – or lunch?

BTW, a little know fact: According to the Bible (Leviticus 11: 20-23), locusts are the only insect that may be eaten: “Every flying insect that uses four legs for walking shall be avoided by you. The only flying insects with four walking legs you may eat are those with knees extending above their feet, [using these longer legs] to hop on the ground. Among these you may only eat members of the red locust family, the yellow locust family, the spotted gray locust family and the white locust family. All other flying insects with four feet [for walking] must be avoided by you.”

Perhaps it was God’s way of giving the people something to eat (in addition to a little culinary vengeance) any time locusts ate their crops.

Anyone ever tried them and have any comments or recipes?

Mulch Garden Diary – Not much rain, but…

It’s been dry all over and most gardeners (and farmers) are concerned and watering regularly. Western New York has also been dry, although we have had a few days when small fronts have come in from Canada over the lakes bringing scattered pop-up showers which, although welcome, have only been a drop in the proverbial bucket.

I began gardening late this year – I do every year, but I have finally made my peace with it. As long as we homeschool, the ideal planting time of late April/early May falls close to the end of the school year with co-op lessons, end-of-the-year mandatory testing (NY…), reports and other required NY paperwork (blah, blah, blah…).

Anyhow, my usual routine depends on “volunteer” plants, select nurseries for specific plants, and seeds of some vegetables that don’t mind (or even prefer) starting later. So I thinned out and/or moved some volunteers, purchased and put in a few vegetables and dibbled a few holes for late-purchased seeds (Baker Creek). The mechanism is simple: I pull back mulch and plant, wait until the plants are large enough, then push it back. Because I was late, and it’s been hot and not raining my husband has been spot watering in the morning, but when I first started and pulled back the mulch the soil was still moist, and the worms were just at the surface of the soil under the mulch happily turning straw and hay into soil gold. On the other hand, own lawn doesn’t look as good as my neighbor’s lawn (you can see it in the back) because he waters his, but we haven’t watered ours.

Today I wandered about in the garden in my bare feet (I love the feel of the top layer of dry mulch). I pushed it back up to most plants, dropped some spare mulch on some thinner places and did some random checks in the open places between plants, causing worms to flee. All good. Other than my husband using a watering can to water of certain places and one good watering of the strawberry bed in the middle (it got quite thin there and was drier and I couldn’t re-mulch until the berries were done), the rest is fine. I pulled about 5 little weed upstarts and took some more pictures.

This is just the main vegetable garden as of today, I have five other narrow ones around the yard. This one has tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, corn, scarlet runner beans, eggplant, broccoli, collards, cilantro, Russian purple fingerling potatoes, bush zucchini, bush buttercup squash, cucumbers and okra (I also put in some asparagus seeds but don’t expect anything this soon). The “volunteers” in this garden are the strawberries, collards, cilantro and potatoes. In my other beds I have leeks (volunteer), garlic, basil, parsley, peppermint (volunteer), cilantro (volunteer), black raspberries (volunteer), dill, walking onions (volunteer), chives, more okra and strawberries (volunteer) and sunflowers.

I will try to post other pictures as it progresses, for I know it will fill in surprisingly.

Mulch Garden Diary – general musing

Although I started late, my plants and seedlings are making good progress. When I have a free moment (mwuuahahaha! That’s rich!) I de-stress by wandering barefoot in my garden, pulling the odd weed or determining if it might be edible and should I let it get larger. I enjoy the sound and feel of the gentle crunching of the layer of dry hay/straw on top, and I can also do this after a rain and there is no mud. Last fall I got a large load of old/rotten hay and laid it down thickly, then left it alone, and that was pretty much the sum of my hard work. There is still enough left, plus 2 bales I left in place for such a time as this (filling in any thinner spots).

The soil underneath is moist and friable although this year has vacillated between unseasonably hot, then cool, then dumping buckets. The worms are happily eating my mulch and enriching my soil. Slugs and snails infest the neighborhood and, yes, my rather shady garden is yet another one they like to visit. I used to bait with beer, but I find that slug bait sprinkled around the base of at-risk plants and along the edge of the garden where they come from keeps them in check easily. Chickens would be helpful, but that’s not currently possible.

A HUMOROUS OBSERVATION: In my personal experience, it seems that it is women who are most inclined to try mulch gardening (me; a friend; and Ruth Stout, who is my mulch hero and model, etc.) and men seem to want to: till, weed, swear, weed, plastic mulch, weed, , swear, spray, weed, and so on. Not all, mind you, but many. I believe it is because God told Adam “Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you, and you shall eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, until you return to the ground…” Well, God said that to Adam, not Eve, so we don’t feel it necessary to do it the hard way if we can find an easier one (is not the pain of childbirth enough?).

My male gardening neighbors, my husband, and my friend’s husband all pooh-poohed the idea and often asked me when I was going to “till it under” (Answer: “Never.”), but I must tell you, I HAVE BEEN DOING THIS FOR FIFTEEN YEARS and the ONLY time I have had to battle weeds is the year I didn‘t get my mulch, and my plants are healthy and huge, bugs and disease are rarely serious problems, and I never spray or fertilize.  If God made a covering for them then I shall cover the ground. No naked earth!

Why Scarlet Runner Beans are such a versatile plant/vegetable

  1. They tolerate (even thrive in) our cooler weather in Rochester, NY, producing right up to frost (and are perennial in warmer climates).
  2. Squirrels won’t eat my beans – the uncooked seeds are toxic to them too!
  3. They (mine anyway) seem to be resistant to many insects and diseases.
  4. Tall attractive vines are great for trellises, bean wigwams, fences.
  5. Flowers are popular with butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees.
  6. Deliciously edible as snap beans (mine are stringless).
  7. Deliciously edible as fresh shelled beans.
  8. Deliciously edible as dried beans.
  9. The cooked bean seeds are large, firm and excellent for soups, chili, and with meat.
  10. The large dried beans are shiny and sensuously smooth to the touch (like beads), making them an excellent craft/decorative supply item.

Nutmeg – Everything you never knew

Here in American we usually know very little about our spices. Consider nutmeg. Did you know that, according to, it grows on:

“…a tropical evergreen tree that reaches about 65 feet tall. The nutmeg fruit is similar in appearance to an apricot. When fully mature it splits in two, exposing a crimson-colored edible pulp surrounding a single seed, the nutmeg. The nutmegs are dried gradually in the sun and turned twice daily over a period of six to eight weeks. During this time the nutmeg shrinks away from its hard seed coat. The shell is then broken and the nutmegs picked out.”

The flowers are unprepossessing – small and pale yellow.

On the left are the fruit and what they look like when they split open. Then on the right you can see the red webbing around the nutmeg that becomes the spice we call mace (yep, that white powder we use in baking).

According to

Nutmeg is not a nut, but the kernel of an apricot-like fruit. Mace is an arillus, a thin leathery tissue between the stone and the pulp; it is bright red to purple when harvested, but after drying changes to amber.”

In the nutmeg trade, broken nutmegs infested by pests are referred to as BWP grade (broken, wormy and punky). BWP grade nutmegs must be used only for distillation of oil of nutmeg and extraction of nutmeg oleoresin. Occasionally, however, they are ground and sold illegally. For the very real danger of molds producing aflatoxins on BWP nuts, consumers should buy their nutmegs as a whole, and grind for themselves. Whole nutmegs will also keep their flavor longer.  “Nutmeg quickly loses its fragrance when ground; therefore, the necessary amount should be grated from a whole nut immediately before usage.”

It surprised me to learn that nutmeg is ONLY safe to ingest in the usual culinary small doses. Amounts of 1/2 to 1 nut are dangerous to ingest, which may cause very unpleasant side-effects which include prolonged extreme nausea, hallucinations, and long-term hyper­sensitivity to nutmeg. Wow…perhaps my own body’s sensitivity is why I have never been overly fond of nutmeg. Good thing, it seems!

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