Monday, March 25, 2013

Almost Spring

*The Currants are blooming! Happy Easter~

Palm Sunday was one of the coldest in recent memory, with a coat-cutting North wind that chilled one to the bone. Outdoor activities were not conducted by the faint hearted and many of us simply stepped outside and then scurried back into the warmth of the house. There will be plenty of days without a howling wind to finish cleaning the garden.

I noticed the discount stores have a wide variety of blooming flowers available now for an ‘instant color’ garden. There are differences in the cold tolerance of many flower species and the Summer blooming varieties will not survive the inevitable temperature dips of an Oklahoma Spring. The Zinnias, Petunias, and Marigolds for sale have lived in the optimum conditions of a greenhouse and have been fertilized to produce their profuse and early blooms. They will not fare well if planted now and the flowers they have produced will soon fade. Before purchasing, remember to gently loosen and ease the plant out of its container to inspect the root growth. If there are abundant blooms and foliage yet spindly root growth, do not buy that flower. The root system is the life support of the plant, and few roots are indicative of poor health.

This early in the spring, money would be well spent on cool weather plants, vegetables, and herbs. On the next fine day one may plant early pansies, strawberries, cabbage, Rosemary, and Sage with the assurance all will settle in nicely regardless of the weather. This is also the time to plant summer lilies and if groupings are planted in succession for three or four weeks, a spectacular show during all of July is assured. As one fades another will begin to bloom, with flowers usually lasting two weeks. The Stargazer is an all time favorite that never disappoints.

Several people have asked about the difference between a Jonquil and a Daffodil. The difference is the length of the trumpet. Both have a trumpet which rises from their circle of six petals. The Daffodil has a long trumpet, the Jonquil a shorter one. The lovely Narcissus is in a family of her own and traces her lineage back to mythology. The legendary Greek youth Narcissus was so enthralled with his own beauty that he became fixated looking at his reflection in a pond. Over time he wasted away and a lovely Narcissus sprang up in his place. With her delicate sweet scented blooms, she is indeed magical.

Photo: The Currants are blooming~ Happy Easter!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Thoughts on Turning Sixty... A Repost


Turning sixty is most certainly a milestone in any life. In recognizing my age I am also able to recollect the events I have been able to witness and I am truly grateful for the opportunities I have had.
If I were not sixty, I would have missed:
The time when mothers were at home while fathers went to work. Childhood would not have included an extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins all gathering on Sunday to recount the week's events. Back then, neighborhoods were safe and watchful; people were polite and generous with a sense of purpose which involved caring for the young and the old with equal diligence. The term 'latch key' did not exist.
Pleasures were as simple as a walk in the park, fishing for crawdads, ice skating on a frozen pond, dancing in a community pavilion at the beach, occasionally going to the drive-in theater or having simple Sunday night dinners on with TV trays while the whole family watched Disney. I would have missed 'cruising' when gasoline was a quarter a gallon and everybody could go out on Saturday night knowing they would not be shot.

I would have missed:
The times of turbulence of the 1970's. I was in college at that singular time and it was incredibly exciting to be involved in the push to end the war, give women equal rights, and bring politicians to accountability. I burned my bra in a crowd of 300, lit candles when the National Guard gunned down innocent students at Kent State, gathered with thousands to protest Vietnam, heard Martin Luther King's speech live, sat up late at night over marijuana and strong coffee discussing strategies and writing intellectual and emotional essays to address the ills of our society. Entire intercity neighborhoods included old timers and hippie/students who put twinkle lights in the back yard and had cook outs while girls hand embroidered jeans, men hand tooled leather, and children danced about. Blue jeans became the universal uniform, sex was death free and rain wasn't acid. It was an outrageous and hopeful time full of unimagined collective energy. I am glad I was a young adult and not a child then... I would have missed it.

I am glad I didn't miss:
The 'Back to Earth' movement even if we didn't know it was a movement. The cities became so angry by 1975. Watergate, the assassinations of men of peace, the winding down of equal rights, the drugs which made their appearance were dangers that could not be escaped so we simply left. Many of us returned to our roots; to the places where our grandparents raised a family amid the simple pleasures of our own youth. The gift of a small town where the doors are never locked at night, where the car keys need not be removed, where you can call the pharmacist at home to meet you if the children became ill during the night... all this was too important to miss. I'm glad I didn't.

I am so happy I was able to experience:
Farm life before the disasters of the 1980's and closure of the family farm as a treasured institution. Family farming was over by the time John Cougar Mellencamp wrote the poignant song "The Auctioneer" and Willie Nelson began his battle to save them. Family farms were still on every section of land in 1975 so we became part of a close knit community of neighbors. I was able to go to quilting bees with little old ladies who had quilted together for forty years. My stitches are in their quilts and even though the ladies are all gone now, the quilts have been lovingly passed on. They took me under their wing and I learned short cuts to canning, how to milk a cow, plant a garden and the joy of fresh eggs. We attend family and community berry picking parties followed by homemade pies, guitar music, tall tales and ageless laughter. I was able to push back time a little and give my children an antique life style that has all but disappeared. I am happy I didn't miss it.

I am glad I was included:
In Native American cultures before casinos made their way there. In the 1990's the magic of the culture still existed. The elders were still living and tribal spirituality was an everyday way of life. The open generosity of Native Americans was to be envied. It included the belief that the measure of a person was not what you could amass personally, but rather what you could give to others. To admire a possession belonging to a Native American was for them to bestow it upon you. Condemnation was not in their vocabulary and laughter ran freely. I learned that Pow-Wow's were not a benefit where the promoters made money, but rather an event where they gave all that they could to each person attending asking only for collective prayers for the honoree. 
I would arrive at a camp with smoke drifting to the sky in the darkness above tepees, the drum beat as background music of another time, and my heart would leap. It called to me in an unimagined way and I felt at home there. To have been called to the grandstand to be honored and gifted by the Head Lady Dancer before a crowd of 5,000 Native Americans was truly one of the highlights of my life. The welcoming, the polite introductions, the respect and old fashioned manners reminded me of my childhood in its sense of propriety. It is gone now with the advent of drugs and the passing of the elders. I'm glad I didn't miss it.

I'm glad I joined:
The new age of cyberspace with MySpace in 2006. My last child was leaving home so in my moments of empty nest sadness, I found new friends. I met wonderful people from far reaching places and we shared thoughts, joys and successes. We discussed philosophy, religion, gardening and my women's group was supportive in a way I needed... with wisdom only dear friends provide. On MySpace we sent birthday cards, gifts, and even collective prayers for one another. We exchanged seeds and my garden contains living memories of friends I will forever cherish. MySpace is gone now... I'm so glad I didn't miss it.

I must say I have experienced a multitude of exciting and memorable events that I might have missed had I been born in another time...I'm happy to be sixty!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Unprecidented Cedar Pollen~ Timely Again!

Never Before Has Pollen Appeared in Such Abundance!
The Cedars are pollinating and if one merely brushes by one, a pale yellow mist will swirl about the hapless wanderer. The Cedar is a determined tree, and the product of evolved survival tactics. A Cedar will grow in impossible conditions and each one will selfishly take any and all available water, leaving less aggressive trees to perish. With the drought, determined to survive, they began an unprecidented production of pollen.
A close up of the pollen
Cedars are also famous for the effects they have upon the human race, causing much misery as their pollen drifts through the air this time of year. The Cedar pollen is microscopic and can travel hundreds of miles on the wind. It has arrived here and is the cause of much of our current allergy suffering. With this ammount of pollen, which is obviously 'off the charts' there is a new malady called "Cedar Fever" which causes a true and severe illness, including respitory distress.

The pictures below show clusters of the microscopic pollen... imagine how much may be tossed in the air!

The Tree below appears to be dead, however the yellowing seen is pollen!

Once fertilized, the female trees become covered with small blue berries; each one is an infant Cedar tree. The birds find the berries delicious and the baby Cedars are spread through the bodies of the birds. The birds gorge themselves, fly to rest in leafy trees, and drop a Cedar ‘package’ of unprocessed berries to grow at the base of the tree. The aggressive adolescent Cedars surround and literally choke or starve any other species of tree, taking all water and nutrients from the soil for themselves.

It is wise to make efforts to partially protect yourself from Cedar pollen based illnesses. Obviously the more time spent outdoors the more problems with allergies so do not invite pollen inside by opening doors and windows for fresh air on pretty days… there is no fresh air during Cedar season. Wash your hands after playing in the yard, wash hair before bed, and change your pillowcase daily. Take whatever medications necessary to relieve allergy symptoms and remember Cedar season does not last forever…. it just seems so.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Forcing Flowering Shrubs

Sunday was glorious with exception of our typical Oklahoma winds. The mild temperature helped us forget the blizzard last week even though snow still remains in shade that has received no sunshine. Last Sunday, as surely as March arrived on schedule, spring was in the air!

As one wanders the garden, small tips of leaves may be seen on the flowering shrubs and trees. Spring-flowering trees and shrubs set their flower buds last fall and once the buds have been exposed to cold for several months branches may be cut and forced to bloom indoors. The process of ‘forcing’ simply means tricking the branch into believing it is Spring by exposing it to the warmth of your home. The buds usually take several weeks to open, but watching them each day will help stave off boredom as we wait for full blown Spring. The easiest branches to force include Flowering Quince, Forsythia, Honeysuckle, Crabapple, Currant, and Redbud.

If you choose branches that should be pruned such as those from over lapping or crowded spots, you not only will have performed a necessary task, but the cut branches will bring you pleasure as they begin to flower. Take a bucket of water with you to the garden to hold your stems, look for branches with the most flower buds, and cut them from ten to fifteen inches long. With a sharp knife cut a slit at the bottom of each cut branch about an inch up to help them absorb water through the woody stem. Remove any foliage that will be submerged in water as it may cause bacteria which will easily transfer to your branches and remember to change the water every day or so.

When they are brought to the house, place them in a small amount of warm water which will surprise them and begin the trickery of forcing blooms. Move them to a vase of cool water after several hours and place them in a chilly part of the house for several days to help them ‘settle in‘. (Finding a cool place in this old farmhouse is relatively easy.) Once they have relaxed a bit place them in a high traffic area where you can see them during the day… watching for more and more blooms is part of the fun. The new leaves will begin bursting forth and the tiny buds will swell then flower to provide a joyous Spring show while the garden is still sleeping.