Sunday, July 13, 2008

Growing things

A couple of years ago I was in San Diego visiting my dear friend Becky (love ya, Becky!). Her husband, Brett, is very proud of his yard plants, including a variety of cactus and succulents. Being from the midwest I found many of his plants exotic, and I admired them. Brett offered to send me home with some "starters" for my own plants. I said, OK, and he later presented me with 16 cuttings, none of which were more than a couple of inches high. We put them in a box, no soil, just the dry little cuttings, which I feared would never make it back to Illinois alive. I carefully packed them in my carry on luggage, to avoid the temperature extremes of the baggage hold on the plane, and off we went back to Southern Illinois.

When I returned home I bought some special potting soil for cactus and succulents and 16 little pots. I also invested in some grow lights, since I knew these plants would never survive outdoors in Illinois, and my sunny windowsill space is very limited. It took nearly an entire afternoon to set up my little "garden" on the north corner of my kitchen counter. I wish I had taken some "before" pictures then, but that was way before my blog existed, and who knew!!!! Keep in mind none of the cuttings was more than about 2 inches high.

These tall ones are succulents. I'm sure if they were outdoors they wouldn't be as "leggy" and would fill out more, but all things considered, they're doing fine.

We're now down from 16 plants to 6 of the originals from San Diego. The rest fell prey to curious cat paws (some cuttings were replanted several times before giving up the ghost), overwatering (my mistake), or whatever other maladies plants can succumb to. But the "San Diego Six", as I refer to them, are doing well! The original small pots are long gone, and truth be told, several of them need repotting now, but if I get bigger pots, they won't fit under the grow lights.

The plants that survived my cats and my clumsy efforts are now threatening to take over the entire north end of my kitchen! I keep thinking if I leave them in the current pots, they'll eventually stop getting taller, but so far they keep climbing.

I'm afraid I'm not totally impartial to all my plant "children". I have favorites. My very favorite is the little skinny cactus that started out about 2" high and is now having to be propped up against the light cord to avoid bending over. (He's the one in the blue pot.) The cats liked him too, and I had to rescue him from the floor and repot him at least three times before I finally persuaded the felines (with the aid of a squirt bottle) to leave the plants alone. He managed to survive all that and just kept growing. What a little trooper!

The plant in the red pot on the right is not one of the original California plants, but is growing from a leaf that got knocked off another plant of mine. I stuck the leaf in water and it rooted and here we are.

From inside plants we go to outside plants. The last week in May I finally felt well enough to drag myself to the local Rural King store to buy some tomato plants and potting soil. I hauled out the large pots from the shed and filled them with the potting soil, which has "Miracle Gro" fertilizer built in. I transplanted the tomatoes into the pots and took this picture about a week later, in the first week or so of June.

I took these pictures this afternoon, approximately 6 weeks later.

Gotta love that "Miracle Gro"!

As you can see, I have some nice size green tomatoes coming along. I can't wait until they're ready to pick, probably in another week or two.

This one is already starting to pinken up. Two of the plants are cherry tomatoes and the other is a mid-size variety, which will be just right for sandwiches.

When I was a kid my dad always planted a large garden. For many years there was a two-lot vacant lot next door to us and he got permission from the owner to put in all in a huge garden. No tiller or cultivator, just a spading fork, a hoe, and a lot of sweat. I loved to help him with the garden and he taught me how to recognize and pull weeds (instead of the tiny seedlings that were sprouting). I got a nickel a row for weeding and all summer I could make a dollar a week. (Hey, in the 50's that was big money to a 10 year old!) He grew all kinds of stuff, mostly for us to eat: lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, potatoes (Idaho and sweet), beans, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, rhubarb--boy, my mom could make a fantastic rhubarb pie!--strawberries, cantalope, squash, cucumbers, peppers, and watermelon. Each year he'd plant one row of something unusual, and in early fall I'd haul it off to school for show and tell. The ones I remember are peanuts and cotton. I guess my "green thumb" comes from Dad. He'd be proud of my tomatoes.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Blessed event

Early in June my daughter, who lives in northern Florida and has all kinds of animals, called me all excited.

"I just found out my horse is pregnant!"

She got her horse, an Appaloosa named Dusty, in November of last year. Horse gestation periods are 11 months, so the person she bought the horse from didn't realize Dusty was expecting either.

"I could see she was getting fatter," Kim told me, "but this morning when I went out and looked at her I could see all the 'fat' was in her belly and I could swear I saw a hoof poking up!"

As it happened the ferrier was due later in the day to trim Dusty's hooves and he confirmed she she was indeed a mother-to-be. "Not only that, it's going to be any day now," he told Kim.

The very next day she called me. "We've got a baby!!!!"

Baby's name is Penelope and she and her Mom are both doing well, I'm told. I'll be going down in August to see them, so I'll get to know the newest member of my family soon.

Isn't she adorable?????