Saturday, June 22, 2019

Sweet Potato Pie: The Farm Report 06-22-2019

Sweet Potato Pie
The FarmReport 06-22-2019

OK, so this isn't exactly a sweet potato pie starter picture. It is the announcement of our 'Name That Dog' contest! Everybody is invited to enter. No limit on entries, no penalties for trying, no prize for winning.  This pic is a decoy. See last time's post for a real picture of our new pup. She is a cross between an Australian Shepherd and a Blue Heeler.

Now we'll get back to the subject at hand for this time. Sweet potatoes! If you've been watching, you'll remember seeing this milk jug/sweet potato slip factory. It has been perking along for a long time on a heated mat in the greenhouse. The original 'tater is just one from the grocery store. Given enough heat and time, they'll sprout.  Joyce made world famous 'pumpkin' pies. Actually, she almost never used pumpkin; it was almost always sweet potatoes in there that made 'em so good.

Out of the jug, and here's what we've got. See the roots on the new little slips!?

If you've never done this before, you just let the tater sprout, root and then break off the little slips from the mamma tater. 

I buy some slips each season, too. This is how they arrive. Sometimes they don't look too good. 

Every single one will usually grow though. Taters is tough. 

Another gardener's secret weapon. This is an especially good secret weapon for an old guy like me that doesn't like bending over so much. I'm not into 'nurturing' my plants that much. I just want 'em in the ground and growing. This tool makes that happen. 

The first order of business is to throw up a hill. I use Troybilt for that. Then I just lay the slips end to end on the crest of the hill. 

Here we go. Slips all laid out and ready to be happy. I usually buy my slips from 'Tater Man' and he says if you don't crowd your slips a little, they will not make taters; they'll make vines. I crowd 'em. 

Remember that stick? See the notch in the end. That is where the magic happens.  If you want one from me just like this one, let me know and I'll list it on Etsy for $89 for you. Otherwise, just cut a notch in the end of your broomstick and you'll have exactly the same tool. It's your choice.

Directions for use: Lay out slips. Put notch over root end of the slip about 1/3 of the way up. 

Push down. 

Presto! Job Done. The slip is planted and that's all there is to it. 


Sweet potatoes are easy to grow once they get started. I give mine a little drink and then go away. These plants will spread out at least 4 ft on each side. In a couple of months this area will be totally covered with vines - and taters underneath. 

'Sweet' is the operative term here. The deer think they are super sweet and will eat every single one if I don't protect them. In the past, I've always used electricity! This year, I'm having such great results with the flash/snake/scare tape I'm putting up some to start. If the deer come in, then they will learn the hard way that flashy tape breatheth fire! 

These are the white/Irish spuds. They have been hilled up for probably the last time now. 

Doesn't that look nice. They will make bigger and more potatoes now with all that earth mounded up around the plant stems. That little corner is where you'll be seeing my melons pretty soon. 

How do I do that? Me and Henry Ford team up with a tool I made. Officially, it is called a hilling disc. I bought the discs and made the rest. 

To use, Henry and I just putt down the rows and the hilling discs throw up the mound of earth around the plants. 

For those with a little black smithing blood in their veins, here are some closeups of the construction details.  

Reddy Bolt or 'all thread' rod is what I used to hold the brackets onto the tool bar. 

A couple of bolts act as the positioning clamp. 

Mowing mowing mowing is the order of the days here many days now. This is Joyce's Picnic Point where I split wood for the winters. 

This is the lane that goes into Picnic Point. That mud puddle is like a moat right now! 

Don't forget to give me your entry for the 'Name That Dog' contest. Add it to the comments below, email me, add a Facebook comment, or whatever. I already have a pretty good suggestion, but I'll with hold final judgement until later. No limit on entries, no prize for winning. The judge's decision is final. (FYI: These are just internet dog pictures, but my former Heeler, Ben, looked just like this one, right down to laying with his legs crossed. He was a great dog, too.) Until next time, all is well at Oakdale Farm. Fido? Pooch? Arnold - get creative.

Friday, June 14, 2019

June Is Bustin' Out All Over: The Farm Report 06-14-2019

June Is Bustin' Out All Over
The Farm Report 06-14-2019

Iowa Orchids. Other people know them as bearded iris, but to me, they are Iowa's best example of a prairie orchid. They are tough, pretty and usually fragrant.

Did I say tough? That baby greenhouse in the background is now my propagating house. I use it to root perennial shrubs, mostly. That's an old cold frame at the end of it, too. I use it as a 'Nearing Frame' which is just a ten dollar name for a trick cold frame with a light filtering inner cover. It is great for rhododendrons and azaleas, etc. But the real point is the row of neglected iris. Throughout all Joyce's treatments and illness, this was one of the things that had to live on its own. It did fine!

We like to call these 'Irene's Iris' after my great aunt Irene. No care or fuss for decades, and they're growing strong as ever. 

This is what June is for in Iowa. They're delicious. These are Earliglow. 

There's always sumthin' though. All our wet weather has tricked the plants into producing lots and lots of leaves and runners, but not so many berries. I'm not complaining. Think of what next year will be! 

I mentioned Monte Don from the BBC Gardener's World program a while back. Well between him and a guy before him named Harry Dodson, who did the Victorian Garden series back in the 1980's, I got the idea to try growing wine grapes in my greenhouse. This one is a Traminette. It is a hybrid cross between Gewurztraminer and Joannes Seyve. It is a delicate wine grape that shouldn't be growing where I live! But, thanks to Harry and Monte, who plant grapes inside their greenhouses - with the roots growing under the walls outside! - I'm giving it a try. Stay tuned. I'm starting the little grape off in a fabric bag which will be transplanted (sans bottom) inside the greenhouse soon. 

Out in the garden, I've put up the pickle fence. Before I say more about that though, look at the next picture. It was taken just 5 days after this first one. Five days! It is easy to see why gardeners sometimes get discouraged and say the heck with the whole idea and head to Aldi's for their fruit and veg. 

Just FIVE days later, FIVE days!, and the weeds and grass are threatening to take over the joint. 

On this side, is Carola's Deutcher Garden pickles. We're having a contest. 

Here is the name on the German seed packet she sent me from Hamburg. I have to just identify it as #3 on Carola's fine spreadsheet she sent me because I don't speak or read German. I like words better than numbers, and I can see the root of what I would call a 'Gherkin' pickle in that name somewhere. I think it is a pickle type cucumber. I hope so! 

On the other side (the right side) is the old reliable American pickle, National Pickling. They make great pickles. I don't like to bend over, and I do like having my cukes clean. So I train them to grow up onto a fence. Both problems solved; no bending, no dirty pickles. 

Don't they look good? Add some garlic and dill - and a little fizz time - and you've got pickles. 

So how do I clean up that weedy mess? This is one of my secret weapons. I've had this little tiller since about 1980. It is a Masport brand from New Zealand. They still make 'em. I call it my 'Bumble Bee' tiller since it doesn't look like it could till any more than a bumble bee looks like it could fly. It does though! I got the whole garden cleaned up in about an hour with it. 

Not everything goes to plan though. I did manage to lop off one of my prize Burpee Super Beefsteak tomato plants. I had more and I have replanted. Stuff happens. Remain calm.

Here's a gardening lesson from my Dad. He was always an advocate of waiting to plant until after the weather settled down. Here where I live, at least, the weather will lie to you bald faced and right in your eyes. I planted these green beans early - it was a nice warm day and we had been having nice warm days - in April. 

I planted these green beans - same kind, same soil, planted the same way - about a month later in May. You tell me which row looks better. Beans get chilled and they resent it for the rest of their lives. Wait 'till it is warm, and they'll happily reward you quickly. But a guy's gotta try.... 

The potato rows got weedy, too. I bring out progressively bigger guns as the situation requires. For these guys, I brought out my good old fashioned Troybilt tiller. 

Up and down the rows we go, and no more weeds. So let me just stop right here and address an issue about garden tillers. For one reason or another, there is currently an idea going around that garden tillers will kill your soil and ruin your garden. I have just one word to say about that: PHOOEY! If you don't have a way to get in there and control your weedy garden - and you can see from this Farm Report how fast a garden can get weedy - then you will very rapidly stop gardening and give up. Tillers are wonderful if used correctly. In my experience, they improve the soil and add a lot of pleasure to the process of being in the garden. From this cultivating session there might be one more time to go through with the tiller. Then that is it for the season. Mulching will do the rest of the weed control for the season. At the end of the season, the tiller will cut that mulch into the soil to 'compost in place' as Ruth Stout would have said, improving the soil. So there.

Look close. Those are little potato blooms in there! That usually means the plant is beginning to set little spuds down below. New potatoes and peas! That's what makes all the work worth it. I'll be 'hilling up' the potatoes now. Did you know a potato will never grow down? The spuds grow out from the stem, ABOVE the starter piece we planted back in the early spring. So hilling makes more potatoes. 

The carrot project is coming along. Those little plants down in there that look like grass are really carrots! Lots of 'em. 

Some have even begun to have the parsley like leaves we know as carrots. 

So, yesterday, I weed-whacked the oats and today you can already see they are turning yellow. Oats - and most cereal grains - do not like being mowed or cut. They're easy to kill out of the carrot patch. They have served their nurse crop purpose. Now, 'Come On Carrots!' 

Emmie and I flipped the big round bale. It is the most wonderful compost where it sat. The rest will rot very quickly now. June and July are almost never cold here! So rot away big bale. 

Dog Tease. I'll tell you more as time goes on. As I write this, we're looking at a 5 day old Texas Heeler pup. Ain't she cute? A Texas Heeler is a hybrid cross between an Australian Shepherd and a Blue Heeler (or Australian Cattle Dog). Am I crazy? Am I man enough to handle a Texas Heeler? I have no horse, no cattle, and I'm almost 70 years old. What am I thinking?! The chickens and O.J. may have other ideas, but I think this could be a lot of fun. I hope I can train her before she trains me.

If you were here at Oakdale Farm for an evening libation, this is the view you'd see from the Front Porch right now. Grant Wood, eat your heart out. I think Iowa is one of the most beautiful places on this celestial mud ball we call home.  The view is different every day, but I'm pretty much the same. All is well at Oakdale Farm.