Thursday, July 28, 2011

Around The House And Gardens

Brown Turkey Figs
Yes, We don't mind sharing with birds.
Lady Margaret passion flower
Branches sagging with pears
Gulf fritillary caterpillars love passion vine
...but it's hard to get a pic of the butterfly...they never slow down!
The chickens love large overripe watermelons!
...they also love the shade of the mulberry tree...they love mulberries in the spring too!
...Our dominant rooster struts around all day making sure every one's behaving....
...the compost is ready!
...gorgeous!...This is Seleste's hand...she always has the most beautiful hair and nails!
..eeks...more rain.  It's rained and rained and rained around here.  Drought to Flood...sigh...I love Louisiana!
...the rain has brought mushrooms.  They're magical...
...well not really...they just have a magical feel!  Maybe there are little fairies hiding in there.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Sewing project!  I know it doesn't look that difficult...but the panel in the front and the neck facing   ..@*#$%()*(not really)...I learned new skills anyway!  And it actually fits right.  I want to sew several light cotton slip over caftans for working in the garden when it is so hot.  This one is from knit material (actually not recommended for the pattern), but I like the way it turned out.  I dressed it up with a little crocheted embellishment I made myself.
Not so good close up of the embellishment.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Around The House And Gardens

It is so humid and hot outside.  Just working in the garden for a minutes leaves me dripping with sweat.  Then any dust, mud or particles stick straight to my skin leaving me looking like some sort of prehistoric person lacking the means of personal hygiene doing the gathering part of hunting and gathering.....Regardless....the garden is beautiful and abundant.  The permaculture aspects of my garden are really becoming more and more evident as I learn more and more.

One important aspect of permaculture is to use nitrogen fixing plants and trees to enrich the soil with nitrogen.  Geoff Lawton refers to them as "legume" trees List of Leguminous Plants.  Ummm...I had never heard of I began to research.  Then I realized that I have several nitrogen fixing trees already in my garden and this is one of them.  It's a very beautiful plant and if it dies down from a freeze it returns from the roots.  I've heard of it growing well as far north as Georgia.
Cassia bicapsularis pronounced KASSee-uh bye-kap-soo-LAIR-iss  From what I have read, Leguminous Plants produce pods that contain it's seeds. 
My "Pride of Barbados" plant also makes pods containing it's seeds.  It's in the "pea" family so it too is a nitrogen fixer.  Also the "trash tree" as some people call it, Mimosa is also a nitrogen fixer.  Mimosa has earned it's name as a plant that rushes in when the soil is empty an begins to grow.  It really deserves the name of "healer" since it protects the soil from being swept away, drops it's flowers and leaves to nourish the soil with organic material, and it's roots grab nitrogen from the air and fixes it in the soil making it available to other plants.  I have so much to learn.
My newest pear trees are drooping with fruit even though over half of the fruit was removed to keep it from taxing the small branches.
The side garden is doing well.  I have more work to do such as putting down more mulch.  I think it has all of the trees it can support.  Some lower growing plants need to be planted once the majority of the grass and weeds are suppressed using mulch.  Maybe sweet potatoes, squash, melons, and herbs.  There are banana, pomegranate, 3 types of fig, loquat, and bay trees in this small garden along with many perennials such as crinum, Louisiana phlox, amaryllis, cannas, angel trumpet tree, pineapple sage, four o'clocks, agapanthus, iris, Mexican sage, guara, and crybaby tree.  I may have even missed some!
Here is the view looking back at the house in the front garden.  Everything is so large and beautiful.  My swamp sunflowers (name I gave it!) that volunteered a few years ago reliably comes back larger and more beautiful each year.  I really need to identify it exactly!  Any ideas?  The boxes in the front have been collected to use as mulch.  Pine straw will be placed on top to hide them.  This works really well for me.
The windmill palm in the front garden is far surpassing the other three that are planted around the yard without the benefit of companion planting and mulching.
Here is a view of the front garden looking toward the raised bed garden.  The Aztec grass really pops in front of the weedy look of the guara.  Guara is prettiest in the morning when it's blossoms have freshly bloomed.  By mid afternoon the flowers have wilted and all the busy bees have finished harvesting it's nectar and are busy elsewhere.  In the morning guara vibrates and hums with industrious bees mining it's gold.  The guara in this part of the garden volunteered from some guara that I planted near the door.
The veggie garden is a bit overgrown and weedy.  That's not unusual for this time of year.  The heat and humidity causes every seed that  can to germinate.  A blessing and a curse.  Even in it's current stressed state it's still quite abundant!
The chickens have been getting most of their nutrition from foraging lately.  They clean up dropped fruit (that's what this chicken was doing under the pear tree), eat insects, scratch the soil, and fertilize with their droppings as well as giving eggs and meat.  According to all permaculture authorities, the perfect permaculture animal.
My persimmon tree has two persimmons on it.  The very first for my tree!
I love my little sitting area under the pergola.  I've lit the tiki torches and spent many evenings enjoying the purple martins and bats that dart around catching insects.  Sometimes the mosquitoes drive us in.  Maybe I could rig up some netting?  It's the perfect place to drink a glass of iced tea while taking a break from planting or pulling.
Muscadines!  The vines are slowly covering the trellis in their second year.  Next year I expect them the completely cover it and need to be trimmed severely!
Around six or seven brown turkey figs ripen each day.  They are so huge that this is just right for my family.  There will be so many to share once the tree grows larger.
Fiery Zinnia
Delicate Zinnia
This banana tree was obtained at half price at a local nursery because of it's shabby appearance due to a hail storm.  It's sprouting new leaves and doing just fine.  It is called Musa "ice cream" it is supposed to grow up to 15 feet and have delicious edible fruit.  We'll see!
Some of the satsumas are already showing a little bit or orange!
The navels are getting plump!
And ....Oh yes, I've harvested quite a few perfectly ripe watermelons!  Success at last!  Yummm!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tree Self Education

On the fourth, Byron and I spent the day scoping out our new piece of property and trying to find all of the boundary posts the surveyor established.  There is a total of 21 acres and most of it is densely forested.  Animal trails criss cross the property, and the old logging road that cuts it's way diagonally across it is dotted with their tracks.
In an effort to really get the feel of the land, I spent the day just observing the lay and aspects of the land without making any immediate decisions like,  "Oh, here is where we'll put the cabin!", or "There is a perfect place for a small pasture."   This is more difficult than it seems.  But....the first order of business in establishing a permaculture garden (which I plan to do here since I will not be here that often) is to learn what nature is already doing here.  How does the water flow?  What plants are here?  What animals are here?   How are the hills situated?  What areas aren't easily accessible?  What areas naturally hold water?  etc...

But one thing I really wanted to do was identify the trees that are on the property.  Identifying trees is not one of my strong points....So I set about yesterday with the following book to identify as many trees as possible.  Quite a few of them proved elusive, but many others I've pinpointed with shaky certainty.  If I've made any mistakes please point it out and why.

Here is the book I used.  Needles and leaves were sticking out at all angles by the end of the day!  I find that this book was the most useful one I could find.  It has a really good introduction that explains exactly what to look for when identifying a tree.  It also gave a lot of additional useful information.  Each tree entry has a picture of the mature tree, it's leaves and stem, any flowers or berries as well as it's bark.  The description also includes any particularities of the tree such as branch shape, thorns, smells, etc...  It also has a map showing where they naturally grow in the United States.

We have long leaf pine....betcha don't know how I knew that was a long leaf pine....
Short leaf pine...
Spruce pine....
Laural Oak (not certain on this one)...
Post Oak (used for making fence posts, railroad ties etc...)...
Blackjack Oak  (this is an oak that grows in poor sandy soils.  It's not surprising that they are growing here since the land was clear cut about 8 years ago.  Let the healing begin!)...
Southern Red Oak (the underside of this oak leaf is a rusty color)...
American Crab apple...
Aren't the little apples so cute?!
Looks like a maple leaf...but it's not!  It's a sweet gum.  Ammunition for the kids (they make a very prickly ball seed pod that's great fun to throw at people but not so fun to run across barefoot!)  I've also heard that it's sap is sweet and edible...I'll have to check that to be sure....
Parsley leaf hawthorn...such a frilly and delicate looking tree...
Southern Red Oak...
Red Maple....
Sweet Bay Magnolia....This smells so nice when the leaves are a bay tree...The underside of the leaf is a blue grey.  A regular magnolia has a furry brown underside....
Winged sumac....
I also identified flowering pic....there are so many more plants there to identify.  This just scratches the surface!  O.K. so did I make any mistakes?  Hope not!