Friday, August 31, 2012

A Garden Cat Named Basil

Deberah and I had talked about how we needed a garden cat to keep the critters out of the garden. Another solution to our critter problem, besides using cages, especially since we had something eating watermelons, as well as, tomatoes. So last Sunday, she called and let me know some of her friends had free kittens to give away. Well as you can see finding a cat is history, now its just growing this itsy, bitsy tom cat into a lean, mean garden cat machine that will rid unwanted critters from the garden and love to hang around the garden spot when needed.


The first thing we had to do was name the kitten, so Deberah, Jerry and I took him out to the garden, sat down on a bench under the pecan tree and began to think of names. We thought about Catnip, Green Bean, even Sweet Potato, but unanimously, we decided to call him "Basil."

The next thing for me to do was to introduce Basil to Tia and Todd then make sure they would all get along since he is still so small. But, I didn't have to worry because immediately Tia took on a mother role. The first night she didn't even eat or sleep, only laid by the pet carrier like seen above.

Everyday I take Basil out in the garden and let him roam around, smell and play. Above I placed him in the strawberries, but he runs around so fast it's hard to get a good picture without holding him.

As you can see Tia just loves Basil and only licks him or nudges him with her nose.

Here's basil in the herb bed, already learning about garden critters, playing on a cement frog.

Even Todd seems to get along with a new friend, but even though I don't think Tia or Todd would intentionally hurt Basil, we'll wait until he gets bigger to leave them alone outside.

Even though he's itsy, bitsy, Basil already loves the garden!

Next spring, Basil will be big enough and trained to do his job in the garden. Plus he'll probably have Tia and Todd trained to help him.

Until next time......

Happy Gardening 2012!

Posted by Wima Smith

Monday, August 27, 2012

Gone Fishin'

This past weekend a good friend and his family came fishing at my home and although, I should have been gardening or doing yard work, now and again, taking a break is good for the soul. Plus, I was intrigued with their Brazilian heritage and enjoyed the excellent company. As you'll see it was an interesting and informative day. Above is Iloane Brooks and she caught this bass soon after she arrived. She is a beautiful and sweet girl that started this school year in the seventh grade and it was quickly apparent also a good fisherman.

Mom, Estela Brooks, explained she and her children were from Brasilia, capital of Brazil. I had heard she used some very simple fishing equipment, often catching the biggest and most fish. Growing up I used cane poles and even milk jugs with attached hooks, but her method allows her to fish from the bank with a large drink bottle, fishing line, a hook and several sinkers for weight during casting.

The end of the bottle is cut off, she attaches the fishing line to the bottle then wraps it around the middle of the bottle just like a reel. Next she puts her hook on the end and adds a couple of large weights to give her distance when she casts the line. To cast she holds the end of the bottle, grasps
the line above the hook and weights, as seen above, winds the end in a circular motion five or six times then lets go. The fishing line pulls off smoothly and casts far out into the water like any fifty dollar rod and reel.

Afterwards, it's just waiting for the fish to bite. When a fish bites and takes the bait Estela lays the bottle down on the bank and pulls her catch onto the bank. Since Estela was so proficient bottle fishing, I asked her where she got  the idea. She said, "In Brazil they could not always afford fishing equipment."

Iloane enjoyed a picnic on a break from casting and I thought the plastic laid down first was a thoughtful touch to keep moisture and insects at bay.

Danilo Brooks is in the eleventh grade this year and I noticed he not only enjoyed a lot of fishing, but took a break to chat with me. Not only is he funny and cute he is also a gentleman.

As you can see above, dad Alex Brooks is also a good fisherman. He brought good news concerning his new book, "The Correctional Affair"  being published by "Amazon" in the near future. I met Alex several years ago when he came fishing with a dear friend, I had worked with for ten years. I was impressed then when he told me he had written a book. It is a great accomplishment to follow through with such a dream. Many would be authors have good intentions but never make their dreams a reality.  Alex explained his book is a fictional romance, love triangle based on personal experience with a first marriage, divorce and work as a juvenile correction officer. He also told me his novel has a cliff hanger ending and will make you want to read his second book! I am very proud of him and wish him much success. I'll let you know, as soon as, it's available.

Saturday was a beautiful day, the breeze felt good under the shade, the company was great and I needed to "Take Time to Enjoy the Simple Things in Life."

Think I'll make a sign that says "Gone Fishin'" to hang on my garden fence since it means the same thing!

Until next time..........

Happy Gardening 2012!

Posted by Wilma Smith

Tonight's August 27th Meeting, Garden Adornments

At tonight's meeting of the Crossroads Garden Club we will welcome Carlos Montano, a local artisan who specializes in making beautiful and exceptional garden adornments.

Montano worked for years as an apprentice artisan before he began to design and make his own line of garden statues, pots, benches and other adornments. He is a European-style artist and makes such beautiful designs that other cement statues and designs are a distant second in comparison.

Our meeting tonight at 3072 Highway 154, Newnan will begin promptly at 7:00pm and will begin with a greeting, then our speaker. A brief business meeting will follow with refreshments and a time for fellowship. Everyone is invited.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Critter Cages

As you saw in one of my garden updates, we were excited to grow what we thought would be a good crop of watermelons this year. However, soon after ten or twelve melons began producing on the vines something began eating large holes in the fruit shattering our hopes of a productive season.

After we lost around twenty five melons we tried a trap to no avail and never saw the critter that did the damage. Was it crows, squirrels, rabbits, or maybe field mice? We even considered a raccoon, but could not catch the critters who obviously came regularly for a sweet midnight snack.

After much discussion, Jerry and I put our heads together and came up with critter cages. Using materials we had available we made a simple cage from pieces of plastic fencing, sturdy string bamboo stakes and heavy wire.. The fencing was folded and the string secured the ends. The bamboo stakes were place in the cage for support then the wire was cut and one end shaped into a hook like make shift tent spikes. Next these wire spikes were placed in intervals around the bottom of the cage to keep the critters out. These cages let the sun, rain and needed bees in to do their jobs and hopefully solve the critter dilemma


But like any successful invention we still have kinks to work out of our cages. As you can see above these critters are just as determined as we are to enjoy the fruits of our watermelons. But often failure can make you smarter, so we'll upgrade next year and use a flexible wire instead of the plastic fencing.

Hope your garden hasn't had the critter problems we've experienced, so far this year.  Let me know if you have a better solution because three or more heads are better than two!

Until next time..........

Happy Gardening 2012!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Strawberries -- The Multipiler

Yesterday, Jerry and I worked in the garden. While Jerry did some tilling and hoeing, I worked on the strawberry plants, planted last April. Grass had taken over the plants and in between the walkways. But I found lots of new strawberry plants that had rooted from the original plant runners. These runners grow from an original plant, shoot out and amazingly, root then develop roots and leaves just like the mama and papa strawberry plants.

As seen above, a new plant grown from a runner, luckily kept in the row and didn't need to be transplanted. Most present day strawberries were first cultivated in Brittany, France by Amedee-Francois Frezier in 1714, as he used two plants,"Fragaria Virginiana", from Eastern North America and "Fragaria Chiloensis" from Chile to develop one of today's largest and sweetest strawberry varieties. 

The strawberry plants above are from the runners of six original strawberry plants we planted this past spring. I have already given twenty or so to my niece, and what's left should give us a full row when planted in the garden.

Strawberries should be planted in spring and late summer. In our climate, I think September is fine. This plant likes full sun or dappled sun and shade, also plant in loam, mixed with sandy soil. Although, strawberry plants multiply easily, removing runners will place energy into the fruit when bearing and may be needed, if you have a hard time bearing fruit. Don't forget to fertilize and water .

This fruit is cultivated all over the world and regardless of age is a favorite fruit that only has 45 calories per cup, plus an excellent source of vitamin C, flavonoids and is used in numerous drink, jellies, jams and dessert recipes, plus more.

I've never been great in math, but it appears strawberries have got me beat when it comes to multiplying.

Until next time......

Happy Gardening 2012!

Posted by Wilma Smith

Monday, August 13, 2012

Herbs -- Good for What Ails You

Herbs are easy to grow and for centuries have been used not only for culinary purposes in recipes, but first used in medicinal remedies. Presently, herbs are found in many antibiotics, antiseptics, medicines, aromatic properties, like candles, room fresheners, and perfumes, plus insect repellents used in sprays and candles.  After, a week's vacation to the North Carolina mountains, I noticed our herb beds needed some tender loving care and during weeding and enjoying the aromas, I decided to investigate the favorite herbs, Deberah and I are growing in our beds.

No doubt, Deberah is the better cook. She has used the herbs in her recipes and I get to taste them because she and Jerry ask me over for great meals. Yes! So, I researched more on the history and medicinal uses of herbs.

Seen above is a large rosemary plant in one raised herb bed. Rosemary is a fragrant evergreen, perennial herb with needle-like leaves. It's flowers range in colors from blue, pink, purple and white. This herb is native to the Mediterranean region. Latin name for "dew" and "sea", or "dew of the sea", because it is known to survive in this area with only moisture from sea spray.

Known for it's culinary treasures in stuffing's and meat dishes, rosemary has anti toxic properties best used for problems with "the brain" like Alzheimer's, strokes and certain types of cancer. Often, it was thought to be a "cure-all" for many ailments in "Old World" life in Europe and the new "America."

Chives as seen in the picture above is the smallest of the edible onion. Also, it's one of my favorite herbs. This herb is a perennial that originated in Europe, Asia and North America. American Indians used the bulbs like chives and onions as a poultice on cuts and animal bites when infection from such injuries caused fever. Poultices were placed directly on injuries when infection became evident.

Today, chemical properties of chives and onions are used in insect repellent for gardens, but best known for culinary uses in recipes like potatoes, fish, soups and stews.

Parsley, seen above, originated in Mediterranean countries like Italy, Algeria and Tunisia. A herbaceous biennial in most climates, it grows in two major types, curly and flat. Curly is mainly used as a garnish and flat as an a culinary addition to rice, potato, meat and vegetable stews dishes.

This bright green herb has diuretic properties often used in teas, soups and herbal juices to aid in urinary tract infections through increasing output and eliminating toxins in that system.

Mainly, I think of sage as the herb my mother used at Thanksgiving in our dressing giving it that little kick. But the name in Latin was "Salvere," meaning "to feel well and healthy." Sage like other popular herbs is a member of the mint family which has 700 to 900 species.

I think a quote by Winston Churchill, described sage best, "We are happier in many ages when we are old, than when we are young. The young sow wild oats, the old grow sage!" Obviously, he believed sage to be a wonderful and amazing herb with many benefits to the body like depression, bad breath, fever, antiseptic, sleep problems, flu and varicose veins. It's no wonder in Latin some translations mean "to save."

Medicinal uses include tea, rubbing across the teeth, baths, chewing leaves, compresses and using with other aromatic herbs to make a potpourri.

Mint is a perennial herb that can be invasive in a bed due to the root system that grows horizontal under or above ground depending on the variety. Blooms range from purple to white and include other aromatic cousins, such as, basil, rosemary, sage, oregano and catnip. All are members of the Lamiaceae family known as mint. Peppermint and spearmint are two of the most known varieties of common mint but many more flavors are available.

Because of mint's widespread cultivation in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and North America it's hard to pinpoint the exact origin. However like most popular herbs it was know to Greek mythology as the "herb of hospitality." One of the first known uses was as room deodorizer by stepping on the plant, the scent could be spread throughout a room.

Culinary and other uses include teas, beverages, jellies, syrups, candies, ice cream and alcoholic liqueurs like a southern favorite, the mint julep. Also menthol or mint oil a major component of this plant is used today in breath fresheners, mouthwashes, toothpaste, chewing gum, desserts and fragrant shampoos. And lets don't forget presently the use of menthol in insecticides as an environmentally friendly ingredient that kills wasps, hornets, ants and cockroaches.

Mint was used by more recent ancestors as a medicinal herb to treat stomachache, chest pains and as a mild decongestant associated with the common cold.

Above you see a sweet basil plant in our bed. Basil originated in India where it was cultivated for 5,000 years. The Greek word for basil was "king," where it was thought of as "the king of herbs."

Basil is a popular herb used in present day recipes like pesto made with other ingredients of olive oil, garlic and pine nuts, pureed into a paste or sauce. Regardless, it is best used by adding fresh at the last minute, as over cooking destroys the strong flavor. Chefs (as seen in popular TV cooking shows) use basil in Italian, as well as, other cuisine.

This herb has antitoxin, antiviral and antimicrobial properties, especially used in India to treat cancer, asthma, diabetes, stress and even pimples. We planted basil between plants such as tomatoes in our garden and I think it helped to repel unwanted insects, plus the flowers attracted beneficial insects like honey bees, bumble bees and butterflies.

The oregano herb in our bed, seen above is also a perennial best grown in a hot, dry climate and a native to Eurasia and the Mediterranean regions. Unlike most popular herbs it has more flavor when dried rather than fresh.

One bit of interesting trivia about oregano is that it became popular in the United States after World War II when soldiers serving in southern Italy brought it home to America and it soon became a favorite known as the "pizza herb," and quickly became an ingredient in other Italian American cuisine. But we have to give the credit to the Italians as it had been used there for hundreds, probably thousand of years where oregano was roasted, fried and grilled in vegetable, meat and fish dishes.

Since then evidence shows it is high in antitoxin properties due to phenolic acid and flavornoids. Hippocrates wrote about it's use for stomach and respiratory ailments and it is still used today in certain forms for sore throat.

Growing herbs is easy, especially in our subtropical climate in Georgia and you can plant a small windowsill or patio herb garden for around twenty dollars. Even though due to technology and scientific research we have dispelled our recent ancestors homeopathic remedies to common ailments doesn't mean we can't enjoy the flavors in our culinary endeavors while benefit from the healthy use of these amazing plants.

I've been on vacation for a week and missed some posts last week. I hope to share some of my adventures with you on the next couple of blogs.

Until next time............

Happy Gardening 2012!

Posted by Wilma Smith