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PostPosted: Mon Nov 15, 2010 6:21 pm 
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Identification is always good! I didn't know what the ants were, they certainly weren't acting like typical
fire ants, but they were that size. I didn't get close enough to the ants/termites, whatever to ID them, they
just caught my eye. They came out of an area in the yard where I had previously had a big stack of old
stockade fencing, but it had been away from there for probably a year. I wonder if they had been in the soil
all of that time even without the wood present any more? (And I assume "waste" is actually "waist" - spell
check does nothing for syntax!)

I got the hornworm parasites - those were really an amazing thing to find. One felt sorry for that poor hornworm,
with all of those nasties emerging through the epidermis!

I've never seen those native lizards drop their tails, but the house geckos will do it if you look at them cross-eyed.

I'll have to go back and look at my own photos, and see what else I can add this year. It was a busy summer, and
I haven't been in the garden as much (though to day I picked several pounds of tomatoes, several varieties of peppers, and okra).

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 16, 2010 9:06 am 
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Enjoy this video...nature continues to astound me! (you may have to cut and paste the URL)

http://www.wimp.com/rollingsalamanders/

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 16, 2010 9:21 am 
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Interesting! Those may be real salamanders and caterpillars, but the BBC certainly
found an artificial and strange way to portray their skills, mixed in with the hazard
of rolling tires!

The caterpillars I've been seeing in the yard are like the ones Howard described a few
weeks ago. The woolly ones that don't have the stripes this year, they're just black. I
think he views that as a weather predicting skill. (Don't know if they rock 'n roll also!)

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 27, 2010 12:34 am 
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I've been slow to get back to this thread, but the new computer is set up and I've moved my files over to work with.

Here's a view of my tomatoes from a couple of weeks ago. Usually 2 or 3 times a week I check these boxes and pick out the tomatoes
that are pink, red, or have the beginning blush of ripening. When ripe, they go into the freezer and will become juice or sauce.
A few go bad and are composted, and some get a little dry, but if they're going into the freezer and then becoming sauce, that isn't a big problem.

Image

These were all fairly small this year - they got a late start after a dismal summer of literally no production. Last year was
a bumper crop of tomatoes. Though the scale isn't apparent in the upper photo, those are much smaller fruits than last
year. And I hate to tell you how many ended up in the compost last fall.



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PostPosted: Mon Dec 27, 2010 9:47 pm 
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I found and sized down some photos from using the steam juicer in 2009. My friend Dean Crabtree has one he loans me for those occasions during the summer and fall when I have grapes or tomatoes to juice. The good grinder is also his, and to buy these new you're probably looking at something in the range of $200 up.

The steam juicer is a triple decker pan, colander, and juice collector. The second level is where the juice is decanted out of the pan, via the silicone hose (the clamp on the end is for both holding and closing the hose when necessary.) The jars with light colored liquid are the tomato juice as it comes out of the juicer. Commercial tomato juice has pulp added back to give it the red color. I like the tomato juice this way, but when I took some to work for a group meal a couple of friends complained that it looks like someone left a specimen jar out. (I guess they don't drink apple or white grape juice, either!) Add a dollop of sauce back into the jar if you want it to look like the store stuff.

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This started out as loaded with tomatoes to near the top of the colander. After steaming for probably 45 minutes to an hour, all of the juice has been cooked out and the remaining solids are then ground and separated to get the sauce from the pulp, and the skin and seeds (that I dry then grind and use to season many things. There is a lot of nutrition in this part of the fruit.)

With large fruits like these, cut them in half and place them cut side down. When I steam the smaller fruit I load it in without cutting. If you have frozen fruit, Dean says it actually gives up the juice better because the cells of the fruit have burst with the freezing. It's not necessary to freeze the fruit, but it doesn't hurt the quality of the juice and sauce, either.

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The grinding apparatus has several cone-shaped sieves with different sized holes, depending on what is being processed. The cooked fruit is spooned into the top and a pusher keeps it moving into the grinder as you turn the handle.

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The sieve is enclosed by the white collar that directs the sauce into a bowl while the skin and seeds are expelled out the end of the device through the clear cuff into a pan.

Image

From here you can make a seasoned sauce and can it, can the sauce plain as it is, or freeze it. I also can and freeze the juice. If you can the juice it tastes a little more like store-bought because you add salt and lemon juice to equalize the acid level. If you freeze juice, be sure to leave enough head room in jars, and let it cool completely before you put them in the freezer, or you'll crack your jars. (Ask me why I know about that!)

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 15, 2011 8:04 pm 
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I've never grown potatoes before, so I planted just a few this year. I never expect to get
much the first year, so if there is a crop I'm pleasantly surprised. This is when I get to learn
about conditions, pests, watering, size of plants, harvest, etc.

Also planted some yellow and white onions. It was a remarkably nice day for digging in the yard,
not so cold that a couple of layers were just enough for the slow-moving exercise of digging
and planting.

Lots of bird activity in the yard this winter. Here's a guy hoping to get lucky at the bird feeders:

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 20, 2011 1:46 pm 
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Getting ready to plant a Laurus nobilis (Bay) that I picked up at the Arlington Redenta's (on Arkansas Lane, just east of
Green Oaks) last week. I've had to look around to find one, and wanted to be sure I was being offered the right kind of
bay (one of those common names that applies to more than one plant species).

My yard is full of edible, aromatic herbs and shrubs. The rosemary that was planted liberally front and back is large, and
when I trim I leave a box at the curb labeled "organic rosemary" and someone always picks it up quickly. I have a hedge of
basil every year, and oregano ground cover. There is a small patch of thyme, and then there is all of the regular garden
stuff. The bay will be a welcome addition, not just for cooking and repelling bugs, but because it will be an attractive
evergreen shrub.

Here is a link back to one of Howard's photos of his attractive tree:
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 08, 2011 10:58 pm 
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My bay tree will take a long time to reach the height of the tree in Howard's yard, but it is in the ground. The folks at Redenta's pruned it (apparently) so it is brushy
now, but I'll see if I can't let one stem lead the way and let it become the tree it wants to be.

As you can see, I soaked it for a while to loosen the dirt in the pot, and it took me quite a while to unweave the heavily wrapped and girdling roots.
I staked them out carefully when I returned the soil to the hole where I planted it. And it isn't too deep in the ground!

Image

I've been digging garden beds - by hand seems the only way to at least get a jump on the Blankety-blank Bermuda grass. I pulled out lots of
rhizomes as I worked. I've expanded the bed from last year by several feet (last Sunday's rain helped - the soil was perfect to dig in this week). Photos
to follow later.

This spring again I am enjoing one of the fruits (so to speak) of some of my earliest explorations of the woods across the road from my
house. I dug up a giant spiderwort the first year, and it kept coming back, but only as a solitary plant. A couple of years ago I found another one or
two plants and I hope to have a few more of these showy beautiful flowers in the future. I have lots of the little lawn-weed spiderwort, but these grow to be a
couple of feet tall. You could do the classic plant physiognomy from these pretty and simple flowers. Petals, sepals, pistil, stamen.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 12:05 pm 
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I posted a new blog today:

http://lilybarthes.wordpress.com/2011/04/10/dogs-compost/

Composting is an adventure when the dogs won't leave it alone.

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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 12:55 pm 
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Another blog post up today, more composting (I had to go in and edit when I realized I'd covered
much of the same stuff from last time. I guess composting is on my mind a lot!).

A Woman of Many Parts entry for May 8, 2011.

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PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2011 9:30 am 
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Putting my travelling Park Ranger hat on again for this post. I used to work in Arizona at Organ Pipe Cactus National
Monument, and travelled a lot across the U.S. in the years I worked as a "professional seasonal" for the National Park
Service and several other federal agencies. Long drives are simply never boring when you know what you're looking at
and are always on the hunt for interesting examples of wildlife and plants along the way. There's no "are we there yet"
in my pickup truck!

This week I drove to Tucson, AZ to pick up my son after his freshman year at the University of Arizona. As a kid born
and raised in Texas, I wanted him to be acquainted with the Arizona environment and stay safe (drink lots of water,
carry a comb to knock off cactus pieces, wear a hat). I took him to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum last year, and
much of what he saw had relatives here in the Texas prairie. He has a good eye, so as we drove into the sand dunes at
Monahans Sandhills State Park in West Texas, it didn't take him long to spot an inhabitant hiding in plain sight, a stick
bug:

Image

These bugs are well adapted to blend into the sparse vegetation in this environment. The mantis relatives in my
yard in Edgecliff are big beefy bugs that don't need to match the stick-like vegetation of the desert.

I did my own wildlife spotting, but as is the classic park scenario, I just pulled into the parking lot when this beautiful
little guy ran in front of me. I pulled out my little handbag camera with the splendid 15x lens and slowly advanced on
this Horned Toad. It was a beautiful cool day and, we were the only vehicle at the Visitor Center. The park ranger
had spotted me pull out my camera, and when I went in to pay the entrance fee I commented on the lizard. He pointed
at a photo they have posted on the wall, remarking that they're becoming scarce out there also. I pulled up one of my
shots on the digital screen and was rewarded with a happy smile. Last thing he said was that he was going to take his
own camera out and check out the rock garden for this little guy:

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Here's another view:

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 01, 2011 7:29 pm 
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I built a wall in my front yard, and wrote a blog entry about it.

http://lilybarthes.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/little-rocks/

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2011 4:02 am 
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Great pic of the skinny horned toad, I remember them well in Texas but have to go back years. I also have fond memories of Organ Pipe from many years ago. I'm told that the park was a major crossing from Mexico and they have installed rr track fences, etc, to deter traffic. I need to get back to the Sonora Museum, one of my favorites. My most recent trip was birding in SE Arizona. Saw 11 species of hummingbirds, the total numbers were in the hundreds.
Thanks for sharing
Tony M


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 12, 2011 2:02 pm 
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The cicada killer wasps are slowing in their hovering and digging activity. A few deceased bugs are turning up,
possibly the bug equivalent of salmon spawning - once the eggs are discharged and spawned, the fish die.
Perhaps the same with these wasps? There are a few excavations turning up still, but most of them are now
probably stuffed with a cicada and wasp eggs. They certainly did a job of conditioning the soil, but they also
made weeding just risky enough that I wasn't in some parts of the garden as often as I would have liked. I'll
revisit this thread next year to report back if the population has leveled out or if we continue along the line
of exponential growth. I'm going to try putting down newspaper and mulch in some areas to see if I can
dissuade some of the activity.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2011 2:04 pm 
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Wow! I just thought I did good on toms this year. And here you are with box upon box. Nice!

What's your fave tom for this area?


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