Garden and Vacations

biradarcm(7b)August 13, 2012

Dear Folks,

I hope all is well (?). We were on family vacation with "three generations" and drove over 4000 miles, it was great and stress free trip. Overall trip was great, weather was much better at each destinations. I was envy to see lush green gardens and fields in the NE US region. I was getting up to date news from Oklahoma about the burning heat from friends. It was heart breaking to hear temp, fires, heat stress faced by folks.

One of our staff members, George Davis, and his grandparents lost everything in the Noble fires last week. The our department is collecting furniture, household items, and garage sale items for that family. I am sure many folks are in same boat, I hope generous nature of Oklahoman will help bring family to back to normal.

When we are back to Norman and rushed to see garden, it was another heart breaking scenes. Almost all plants burned out, roasted or toasted. I lost all potted perennial flowing plants including 27 years old jasmine tree gifted by one of elderly couples lives in Oklahoma. Almost all vegetables are gone expect some Okra, cluster beans, Chillies. But biggest surprise was all gourd family (ridge sponge, bitter etc) are thriving and flashing with lush green leaves and flowers. My second surprise was asparagus shooting new spears in this conditions! I am still wonder what made it to produce new spears. One of the my friend is so generous in watering the plants, she tried her best water as much as she can, but it seems heat might have killed plants.

I lost all plants of 2010-12 planted blue berries, black berries, young trees... I am thinking not to plant any more now onwards, as I am spending too much on them and then straggling hard to keep them live in this never diminishing drought of Oklahoma, finally they will die.

I have no plans for fall garden until we get enough rain to fill the cracks to earth's core.

regards -Chandra

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So sorry to hear about your fried garden, Chandra. Especially the blueberries. Despite watering deeply 3 days a week and (belatedly) rigging sheets up to shade them during the hottest part of the day, we lost 3 of our blueberries. The grasshoppers totally stripped another. My hardy kiwi was also stripped and appears to be dead. DH is watering the fruit trees deeply once a week. We are picking the Fuji and Black Twig apples as the birds peck them and putting them in the freezer. They aren't quite ripe, but close enough for cooking with. And I think they will be sweet enough for an apple-raisen-nut salad with honey/yogurt dressing. We have given up on watering annual veggies except for Black Cherry and Sungold tomatoes. We are using the water to keep the perrenials alive.

My maiden name was Davis and it is a very common name, but I always wonder when I hear of a Davis in this part of the country if there is a relationship. My ancestors were John Davis and Catherine Elkins Davis and Thomas Jefferson Davis and Nancy Ann Caughman Davis. John and Catherine settled near Blackburn Arkansas in the 1840s. Thomas J. Davis lived there all his life. He was my greatgrandfather. Thomas J had a son named George who disappeared from the family back in the 1930s I think. My grandfather, his younger brother, spoke wistfully of wishing he knew where he was.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 2:32PM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

Chandra, I was on vacation about the same time. I lost all perennials that had been planted this year. I have three more established hydrangeas that completely crisped up, but I am hoping the roots are still alive. It was heart breaking to step foot outside my car and I immediately started hoses before I even started unloading my car.

The gardens are limping along, but I need to seriously considering cutting back.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 3:38PM
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Chandra I'm so sorry to hear about your losses. My garden also looked very bad when we got home from being away 24 days, but after cutting things back and a few days of watering, most well established perennials began to put on new growth. Even some roses that lost every leaf have begun to come back, and they were just a year old. I wouldn't be surprised if some of those berries come back. The jasmine is really too bad!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 4:07PM
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Ditto with a lot of my blueberries. I have only 12 healthy plants left. Those 12 are in great shape so i should still get a good crop for myself next year, but all the other are likely gone, and with them the $300-$500 in income they have given me each year. At least they paid for themselves in the last few years.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 6:36PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Your family trip sounds like it was wonderful and I am glad all three generations were able to enjoy such a wonderful trip across the country.

I am sorry to hear about George Davis and his grandparents losing everything in the Noble fire. Our fire department sent people, including my DH and DS, to help with those fires on the second day after they started and the firefighters spoke quite regretfully of all the homes that could not be saved. I am sure your department's efforts to help Mr. Davis and his family are greatly appreciated by them. I know if there was any way that the homes could have been saved, they would have been because the firefighters fought those fires as hard as they could.

I am dreadfully sorry to hear about your garden. I've never seen heat and drought in Oklahoma before that has been as bad as it was this year and last year. Last year I thought that the summer drought was as bad as it ever could be, and could not believe we have had similar conditions this year.

The heat and drought here, as well as my alkaline clay soil and alkaline water, are why I don't even attempt blueberries in this climate, though I'd dearly love to grow them. I have a hard time even keeping blackberries alive in drought years. This year, even the native blackberries have died back to the ground and I don't know if they'll come back. They did the same thing last year and did come back this year, but since it has happened two years in a row, I don't know if they'll come back next year.

The decorative gourds I grow were doing well until I stopped watering. Now they are all dead. Maybe I'll have better luck with them next year.

Like you, I don't have a lot of fall garden plans unless rain starts falling. I did plant beans and peas, but they are struggling in the heat and drought. I have tomato and pepper plants still alive in pots, but the grasshoppers and blister beetles are attacking them aggressively. If I cannot get the grasshopper population under control, then it is useless to plant for fall because even if I water, the grasshoppers still will be here eating everything.

The odd thing about Oklahoma is that often these very hot, very dry years are followed by beautiful, milder weather and a wet year that promptly makes us forget about the dry year that preceded the wet year. We'll see if 2013 is mild enough and wet enough to make us forget the disastrous drought years of 2011-2012. These two years have not been the typical summer drought--they have been much worse in an epic sort of way. Maybe the worst is behind us now and next year will be better.


    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 7:00PM
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I just figured it out why asparagus and gourds are so happy!!! I found that one of the tap that connects soaker hose them was not closed properly, it continuously soaked the beds, then checked city of Norman water bill, it was shocking $171. My highest water bill in the last five year was 82 last summer. we got double impact- lost all plants and then got huge bill. Lets see 2013 will bring good luck or another bad 13...

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 8:13PM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

Ouch!! I am so sorry. I had a pipe leaking under my house for quite a few months. I had no clue. My dad is the only one willing to crawl underneath my house. He found it and fixed it. Unfortunately, I think all the wet soil underneath the house led to my carpenter ant invasion this summer.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 9:54PM
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I am also sorry you lost so much. I farmed my potted plants (not many) out to friends and neighbors, and they fared well.

I mostly plant in the ground, and I had an extensive soaker hose set up.

My water bill is high, but almost everything survived while I was gone multiple times this summer.

I was truly amazed, that I even had tomatoes to can.


    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 10:08AM
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Chandra, I am sorry you lost so much. I seldom take a vacation, and if I do it is only for a few days. My spring and early summer was bad and I all but lost my tomatoes, but we started getting rains in early July which greatly reduced my irrigation needs.


    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 5:22PM
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Sorry to hear about your garden and water bill, Chandra. We too just returned from a two week vacation up to Minnesota and Iowa to visit family. I asked my neighbor to water the perennials for me, which I felt bad about because I felt like it was a lot to ask of her. They would all surely be dead without her, though. I need to think of something to give her as a thank you.

I haven't had a chance to thoroughly inspect everything yet, but my two oldest trees (planted in '06 and '07) and the blueberry all look very crispy, even more so than the younger perennials I planted last year. I haven't checked the garden at all yet, but I'm sure the strawberries struggled even with shade cloth over them. I hope the blister beetles didn't ravage them like they did last year.

This graphic from the Oklahoma Mesonet is pretty telling of how bad it is here. Norman is the site that has gone more than 60 days without at least 0.10" of rain, and I think they might have even received more than we have in Blanchard. The rain appears to have missed us again tonight, too. :(

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 10:11PM
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Mia - bribe your neighbor with a jar of Habenero Gold Jelly! I have only ONE extra if you need. And that is thanks to Dawn and the fact that DH is diabetic and can't partake of it's wonderfulness.

Chandra - so sorry about all the loss and the water bill expense!!! Yikes! Our losses weren't as large...and we are blessed with well water...but we have to pay for the electic to run the well. So good. We are on "flat-rate" billing.


    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 11:07PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Heather, I hope your trees are only dormant and not dead. The easiest way I know to tell the difference is that if they're going dormant prematurely in an effort to save their own lives, they'll drop the crispy brown leaves. If they're dying, the leaves usually stay on the plant. I won't say this is 100% accurate for me, but it generally is pretty darn accurate.

I have been watering the trees and shrubs a lot, and still have leaf scorch and drought damage on some plants anyway. It is hard to water enough, especially with as hot as it has been.

The map showing Norman going 68 days with less than 0.10" of rainfall looks terribly familiar. In 2011, we went either 77 or 78 days with less than 0.10", and when the break finally came we got about 7/10s of an inch in one afternoon/evening. The way we all rejoiced here, you would have thought 7" of rain fell....and in the middle of the rain, our firefighters were running to Texas to help put out fires started by lightning.

I hope y'all get some rain relief in the next few days. It is raining here now, and except for one house at the western end of the county being struck by lightning and a few trees brought down by wind, it has been a pretty nice little rain shower.

As a thank you gift for your neighbor, I suggest anything cool and wet. That is, if you can find anything cool and wet. Or, how about a plant if they are gardeners?

Paula, It is too bad we can't find a way to make the jelly without sugar, isn't it? To me, it is the fruitiness of the Apricots and the sweetness of all that sugar that makes it possible to bear that hot burning sensation from the habanero peppers.

I know people like summer vacations, but when we go someplace, it usually is in the fall. We have too many plants and animals to leave during the worst season of the year. Of course, one reason to go on a summer vacation would be to escape the heat and go someplace cooler.


    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 11:42PM
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Dawn, the plants are still alive as far as I can tell. They just have a lot of leaf scorch. I expected a lot of scorch on the dogwood and the blueberry, but this is the first time I've ever seen the crabapple scorch even with watering. It's usually a pretty heat/drought tolerant tree.

Last year I gave her a bottle of sangria and a plate of brownies. I wish I knew what she likes to drink. I should probably ask at some point! She did just build a new chicken coop and a few chickens this year, so does anyone know of anything I could buy for them to keep them cool?

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 12:10AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

I'm glad the trees are only scorched.

Our chickens have a box fan in their coop. A fan would be a neat gift if the coop has electrical power.

Outside, if there is a fenced chicken run, a small misting system to put up in/on/around the chicken run would be nice. You can get the type that is attached to an overhang, like a porch overhang or patio cover, or they have portable ones that sit on the ground and spray a mist outward. I've seen them at places like Home Depot, but they may be sold out this summer. Our Tractor Supply Company store had misting systems on the sale table last week or the week before, but they are gone now.

Or, if there's a TSC or other feed store nearby, you could look and see what they have on their chicken aisle. I consider our chickens to be farm animals and don't name them or carry them around like pets, but some people do. For spoiled chickens belonging to people like that, TSC and some other farm stores carry Chicken Treats (I am not making this up!). My chickens get treats from the garden....things like grub worma and grasshoppers, but apparently some people buy treats for their chickens.

I'll link a website that I know has chicken stuff, just in case you want to look at it. They carry many items I don't see locally, and I bet they have chicken treats too.

OK, I had to come back and add this comment after linking that page: who knew that they make chicken toys? Y'all don't tell my chickens about the treats or the toys or they will go on strike and stop laying eggs until I buy them toys and treats.


Here is a link that might be useful: Mypetchicken's Treat and TOY Page

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 12:49AM
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That website is hysterical! I can't believe people would put diapers on chickens, but if that site sells them then someone must do it!

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 12:55AM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

Heather, I usually bring stuff back from my trip for my waterer, the neighbor who gets mail and friends. Since we generally are in the north, that includes locally made maple syrup usually. This year I bought them in the fancy leaf bottle. We were in an area famed for its cherries this year, so I also brought back cherry butter and cherry coffee. Sometimes I take my waterer to dinner or include a gift card. Anyone who takes on my watering duties has a huge job. I always feel bad about leaving it with them.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 9:53AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Heather, I thought you'd get a kick out of that website. With regards to the chicken diapers, if people insist on keeping chickens inside their homes (and some do) as pets, then I guess diapers are their best option with regards to, um, collecting the chicken output for the compost pile. It is a better option than having them dropping stuff on the carpet and flooring. I cannot imagine trying to put a diaper on a chicken.

I can't help wondering what my grandparents, who were born in the 1890s and who were farmers, would think of chickens in diapers as house pets.

Lisa, Oooh, we've had friends bring us back locally-made maple syrup in the decorative leaf bottle and it was a beautiful gift, as well as a tasty one. I've never made cherry butter, but a couple of years ago I made maraschino cherry, cherry jam, cherry jelly, cherry syrup, chocolate cherry ice cream sauce and Cherry Explosion, which is a Cherry-Habanero Jelly. Next time I have cherries, I'll have to make some cherry butter. Thanks for the idea.


    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 10:46AM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

Dawn, I took your jelly on my vacation with my family. It was a huge hit with my sis. I let her take home the opened jar. (I saved the unopened one for me ;) )

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 11:56AM
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I am so sorry about your garden, but I am glad you had such a great vacation!

I lost a lot with the heat as well. I just could not keep up with the watering. It was way too much.

I am shooting for a fall garden, keeping the faith I guess.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 11:42AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I'm glad the jelly was a hit.

I cannot take credit for it. It is a Benardin recipe that has been around forever, and also appears in the Ball big canning recipe book, not the blue one...the bigger one. So, if a person can follow a simple recipe, they can make this incredible jelly which has been a hit every time I've given it as a gift.

It doesn't matter how many jars I make a year, we run out before it is habanero harvest time again. My friends are not ashamed to openly campaign for another jar, by boldly announcing "we ate all the jelly and now we have none..." or something similar.


    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 12:08PM
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