Friday, May 21, 2021

May? The Farm Report 05-21-2021


The Farm Report

May? Why is it called 'May?' Well, I heard somebody say the other day, that this month is famous for being unpredictable. It 'may' be cold, or it 'may' be hot. It may be wet, or it may be dry. You may need a coat, or you may need your bikini. You may run the air conditioner, or you may run the furnace. You may do all this on the same day in May. And ain't it the truth! So far this month, we've had 28F for lows, and it has been above 90F. I have run the air a couple of nights, and I thought I had turned off the wood boiler for the season. I still needed it. But time goes on, and so must we.

My sister showed up at Oakdale Farm the other day with this beautiful hibiscus in her trunk. 

According to the label, it is called 'Fiesta.' It had a spare branch or two sticking out at the base of the plant, so what would a good cheapskate Iowa Master Gardener do? Of course, try to propagate it and get free plant babies! (I did check, and the Plant Patent has long since expired. No Jail Food For Me Tonight.)

Look at that tag closely: It is from Earl MAY!

I'll give you a surgery tutorial sometime, but here's the basics: We clipped the little branches off, then we pruned them. All the leaves were removed except the top ones. Those were cut back with a razor sharp blade (my pocket knife - which is razor sharp! Remember, I was a furniture maker in my 'real life' and I like my tools SHARP!) We dipped the stem bottom tips - which were cut just below a leaf node - into a little rooting hormone powder and stuck them into ordinary potting soil. I have fallen in love with wicking pots, and that is what you're seeing here. The bottom cup is full of water, and there is a wick going from the top cup down into the water. Constantly moist, no flooding.

Then we covered the whole shebang with tin foil to protect it from too many radio waves from outer space, and also to keep it from drying out.

Well, OK. You do want a few radio waves to get to the little babies, just not too many. (Light from the sun is part of the electromagnetic spectrum. So are the radio waves we use to hear TV and send text messages.) I'm joking about the radio waves and the tin hat, of course. Really though, you want to keep things dark enough so no algae grows, and let in just enough light to keep the plant going - but not too much. They are babies! Next, we cross our fingers and wait.

Dutch Bucket Update. These were started off in March.

The other morning when I looked in, there was a big yellow blossom!

Bang! A little paint brush to make like a bee, and we have Zuccinnies on the way.

May has been so cold I didn't get the spuds in when I usually do. I did get Henry Ford out and let him make a couple of spud rows for me. 

After last year's disaster with seed potatoes, I learned my lesson and bought a big sack of Kennebecks this year. When I checked the cellar, these left overs were wanting to sprout, too. Not a waster, in the trench they went. I can already taste the steamed 'new' potatoes.

I know I'm getting older. I hope I'm getting smarter, too. I changed my little one row cultivator around so Henry Ford can lay out my rows - and hopefully cultivate them for me later on. Never walk where you can ride!

See that green? That is the nurse crop for my carrots. I like to plant oat seeds right along with my carrot seeds. The oats spring up fast and make a cover or nurse crop to protect the little carrot seedlings. After the carrots make a good showing, I'll kill out the oats. How? Count the ways. Oats are easy to kill. They don't like the weed whip one bit. Carrots? They don't mind a hair cut at all. That's probably how I'll do it. There are chemical ways, too. But a little weedie work, and I'll have pretty carrots to show. That is my first row of potatoes you're seeing just to the left. We're gonna have spuds!

And just for people keeping score: This is the last bag of carrots I put in the shop fridge last fall. They're still good to go, and so much more flavorful than the store bought ones. Easy Peasy.

My Gal Friday, Deb, showed up with a truck full of left over lillies a couple of weeks ago. She actually wanted to just dump them in a terrace ditch. 'Oh no!' said I. So we loaded them up into Annie Oakley's Ranger, and headed out to the back garden. Annie doesn't need a herd of cattle to push around when she's got her Ranger and me to lead. Sometimes I get tired of being treated like a teenager. She thinks she knows everything. "Pick up the pace buddy. We need to get these out to the field."

So, out we went. Lillies will grow if you even say 'dirt.' I made a trench with Henry Ford, and literally justs plopped the lillies down into it. No TLC whatever. I used a common rake to push a little soil back into the trench on both sides, and called it a job well done. Annie, as you can see, was immediately ready to move on to the next job. Thank god she doesn't have thumbs, or she'd be driving for me!

The soil has been so slow to warm up. I'm just now getting tomatoes and peppers out into the tarp garden.

To keep the record straight, not everything at Oakdale Farm is a winning success. This was supposed to be my beautiful Hybrid Tea Rose Garden. The Japanese Beetles had other plans. I have another plan, too. So stay tuned. Never give up, never ever ever give up!

Staying on that theme, plastic mulches are not always Nirvana either. Especially when the mower gets a little closer over them than it should. Another event requiring a razor sharp blade, and some select vocabulary not often used on Jeopardy, and we're back in the mowing business. OOOOOPs. 

Foreman Annie again - or would that be foremistress? If you're looking for a dog that will lay at your side contentedly and be your ever caring and constantly understanding companion, don't get a Texas Heeler. Annie is a driver! "Hey Tim, buddy. Are you gonna just sit in that darned chair all morning when we've got outdoor work to do? Come on, let's get at it! You're burnin' daylight, Pilgrim."

She seemed to know that we got a shipment of sweet potato slips from Tator Man. This year, it is Georgia Jets (which grow well and fast) along with some Vardamans (which I think are the tastiest). Sweet potato plants don't like cold one darned bit. I usually put them out around Father's Day. Annie hasn't passed her Master Gardener's exam yet, so she doesn't quite understand the benefits of patient waiting for warmth. Actually, that would be two things she doesn't get: Patience, and Waiting.

"What are you waiting for, Tim?! We have outdoor stuff we can do! Get up off your lazy butt and MOVE IT, MOVE IT, MOVE IT." Yes, Annie.

Welcome to my life with a Texas Heeler. At least O.J. lets me sleep in once in awhile - unless it is 2:00 in the morning and HE wants to go play. Short nights, long days, fun all the time.

All is well at Oakdale Farm.


  1. Several times you elicited a chuckle. Why do you have to cut the LEAVES on the hibiscus shoots? You obviously have much more knowledge about propagating than me; looks like quite a science. Poppy isn't an "ever caring and constantly understanding companion" either, but isn't a pushy driver, either. Terriers want a HUNTING job, and are just fine doing that solo. One of Rick's clients has a rat problem in their barn so we might take her there; she's never faced a rat before but I think she'll do just.

    1. Cut most of the leaf surface away so the plant can't 'exhale' so much moisture. It doesn't have a root system yet to resupply itself. That is also a reason to keep a lid on. We're hoping the plant can grow roots before the rest of it gives up and dies. It is a balancing act.

      Animal instincts fascinate me. I'd love to see Poppy go into action with a rat run! Heelers are naturally driving dogs. They like to push a herd around. My old Scotch Collie, Lucky, was a 'gathering' dog. He liked to get everybody together and then lay down with them and watch over them. All instinct. Cheers!

  2. I had no idea you could give newly growing carrots a hair cut, they wouldn't mind it and keep on growing! I'm also down to my last bag of those yummy orange roots that have been in our spare refridge since last fall. You can't fool me. Annie MUST have thumbs in order to help with all you do. Otherwise, you'd never get everything accomplished that you do. You two are a good team.

    1. I learn a lot by just dumb luck, and circumstances. One summer the garden got away from me (meaning it turned into one giant weed patch). I decided 'to heck with it' and got out the mower. I butched the whole thing. Surprisingly, the carrots just shook themselves off and grew right back - and made a great harvest. Lesson learned! I said. I also read a little. I learned that in Michigan, they plant oats to make a nurse crop for their onion fields. Hence.... After the carrots look good, and before the oats head out, I'll give them a haircut.

      The carrots keep so well, and they are soooo good, it is worth the bother.

      And yes, Annie is fun - mostly....

  3. Hi Tim, I will be in Tabor soon. Would love to see you and all of your plants. I will call you when I am there. Livvy is getting married. My girls will be there for the wedding. Cheryle

  4. What?! Livvy is still in grade school isn't she???? When did this happen????? Yes, please get in touch when you're back. I'd love to trade stories.

    1. She is 23. Amazing. Clara is 21. Preston owns a house. Is 25

    2. I am watching Shane Schaaf’s son run at state track. So far he has 2 golds and a silver

    3. I know, I know! My 'logical' brain agrees with you and can process all this. My 'emotional' brain wants to deny it completely! That side of me still sees the kids as - well, kids.... Life goes on.

    4. I dont feel 72 inside but my body reminds me


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