Calf Rope

elkwc(6b)September 12, 2012

That is what I used to say when I was young and was calling it quits. I'm very close to there now with 80% or more of my garden. The last two days of 98-99 degrees with 20-40 mph steady winds with gusts higher basically cooked alot of my new growth. Most of the tomato plants that looked so good Sunday night have all of the new growth and blooms fried. The same with the leaves on the cornfield pumpkin even. Some plants lying close to the ground like the sweet potatoes still look ok. Some of the bush beans. The pole beans were really starting to produce but it looks like they suffered greatly also. I'm to the point where I'm about tired of fighting. This has been the most demanding year I've ever had gardening with fewer returns. I will yank several more of the tomato plants this evening. Glad I hadn't moved the container plants out in the open more yet.

The good news is they are saying a 90% chance of moisture with an inch or more of rain very likely. And maybe the cooldown has finally arrived. I was at an institute yesterday and several were asking me about how my garden and especially my tomatoes had done this year. Most called it quits a month ago. Guess I'm too hard headed. I'm preparing the garlic bed. I'm going to see what our moisture situation is through the winter. I may plant a lot less next year if things don't improve. Jay

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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Good Morning, My Friend,

I was expecting a story about roping calves or something, Jay.

I am so very sorry to hear that this week's weather has fried so much of your new growth. I know how hard you work, not just in summer, but all the time to improve your soil, to select the varieties that produce best in your conditions, to raise your seedlings, transplant them, mulch, water, and care for them, and I know that you are strong and determined and just refuse to quit. I admire those qualities in you so much and it inspires me to keep going and not give up when the going gets tough here.

Even though I reached a point in July where I stopped watering the entire garden, I relented after about 3 weeks because I had a small amount of rainfall and some plants hanging in there despite the lack of irrigation, so I watered them once or twice to keep them alive until rain fell again. I am glad I did because they have rebounded nicely and some are producing. Sometimes it is hard to know when to quit, and even after making a decision to quit watering, clearly I changed my mind at a certain point and watered some thing. One reason I did so was that there was a voice in my head saying "if Jay isn't giving up in his umpteenth year of D-3/D-4 drought, then why am I giving up in less serious drought?" We were only in D-2 drought by then. I don't think I would have tried to fight D-3 any longer, but then rain fell and moved us back to D-2 and revived my fighting spirit. I wouldn't even be trying to have a fall garden if I was in D-4 drought like you are. There is just a point where the weather gets too brutal and for me it occurs at some point during D-3 drought, generally it is when m KBDI is around 600. (It is at 645 now, but had dropped to the 540s after that 3" of rain fell a few weeks ago. I can't quit now, though, because I have all those new fall plants going, so we're just hoping for rain this week or weekend and bracing ourselves for one more big water bill in September.

You've fought hard to keep your garden going, and if your heart and head tell you it is time to stop fighting, then it is. Do what feels right and have no regrets.

Now, if it rains this weekend and things perk up and you want to change your mind, then go ahead. I do it all the time.

Maybe though, if you can let the 80% go and keep the 20% going, you still can get some joy (and produce) from this year's plants. And, of course, maybe you can sow a little bit of cool-season greens or something in the cold-frame or greenhouse. It doesn't really matter to me what I have growing in winter, as long as I have something green. I just need to have some green plants around in the winter, even if it is just a few containers of pansies, chives and lettuce or spinach.

Maybe we finally will have the development of the El Nino weather pattern we've been waiting for, and it will drop some rain this fall and winter on your poor parched soil.

I confess to having lingering fears that we are in a long-term drought pattern similar to what this part of the country had in the 1930s and 1950s when drought continued year after year for about a decade, but I sure hope that we are not.

You know, there is wisdom in knowing when it is time to let Mother Nature win a round, and in your heart you know that. Let's be realistic. You're in your 4th or 5th consecutive year of drought. You've been in D-3 or D-4 for such a long time this summer and you've fought not just the horrendous weather conditions, but the pests and the diseases that always seem so much worse in drought years. This summer's hot roasting winds have been incredibly hard on plants, magnifying the effects of the drought by sucking moisture out of plants. How can you fight that? You cannot stop the wind. You have done all that you can do, but it is impossibly hard to fight those kinds of temperatures and winds combined, so why keep fighting it?

Frost approaches, likely before you'll want it to arrive, and the garlic needs to be planted and life goes on.

I have garlic and Gumbo onions that I intend to plant this weekend. I'm hoping that the cooler temperatures due to arrive here tomorrow, and the rain that might fall Thursday night or Friday along with the passage of that cold front, will mean it is a good time to plant garlic and multiplier onions, time to forget summer and focus on fall and prepare for winter.

Our wind has not been as bad as yours, but it has been strong enough to hurt my new fall plants. I am watering a lot more than I had intended, just trying to get them through another hot day in the hopes that the cool days are almost here. I'm hardheaded too. All my container plantings have been pulled up so close to the shady east side of the garage that they likely aren't getting as much sun as they want, and they've been there for three months now. They produce, but not as much as they would with more sun. I've been wanting to pull them further away from the building so they can get more sun for more hours, but haven't been able to because of the heat. So, believe me, I understand what you're saying about being glad you haven't moved your container plants out more into the open yet. I feel exactly the same way.

I hope the 20% of the garden you're going to keep going does well, and that you are able to enjoy planting the garlic and that the cooldown makes it feel so much nicer when you're working outside.

You can make a 2013 Grow List like the one I'm working on. I have a basic and pretty short list of what I'll plant if drought continues, and then I have a much longer list of varieties I can add to the grow list if significant moisture falls this autumn and winter. That was what I did last year, and it kind of worked least until July.

I confess that if El Nino fails to materialize at all and if we have a warm and dry winter, I will be bitterly disappointed. It has been so long now since we were really wet for a long time that I find it hard to remember what it was like. We had too much rain here in January through March and it rotted many of the cool-season root crops, but everything has roasted ever since then. I'd like to have a nice, normal year with no plants rotting from excess short-term moisture and no plants frying/roasting/broiling from too much heat and wind combined with too little moisture. It seems like all we get lately is the extremes with none of the 'middle' between the extremes.


    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 8:28AM
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Jay, I am so sorry that you are having such a hard gardening year. It is really discouraging when you work so hard and spend so much time and money with little to show for it. I have been discouraged this year also because our weather has been so dry, and we continue to be in drought. We have had a little moisture, but it has come at great costs, and mostly during severe storms.

I, like Dawn, have always looked up to you for your persistence and for doing so well in such a harsh climate.

I think if this weather trend continues, we will need to become Spring and Fall gardeners and grow undercover to lengthen out each of season, in addition to taking a long close look at the crops we are growing.

One of my problems is that I don't know which weather pattern to plan for. If I plant in the ground and mulch heavily, that works fine for a dry year, but shelters too many insects in a wet one and also lets things rot. If I use a lot of containers and raised beds and little mulch, and our weather is dry, then I can't keep enough water on it.

I'm not ready to yell 'calf-rope' yet, because I think there is still hope if I just change my ways a little. I would have planted more for fall, but it was just too hot. I am going to start a few things in soil blocks today and then cover them outside if the weather cools too much for them. If they don't produce, they will still make a few greens to feed the chickens.

Sometimes I get discouraged but then I look in my freezer or my pantry and know that it has all been worthwhile. Today for lunch we had Red Ripper peas cooked with a couple of slices of Wrights bacon. We had a baked sweet potato, and a stir fry of onions, squash, and red peppers, (from the garden) and a pan of corn bread made from popcorn that I ground fresh just before I put it in the oven. It was all delicious. I picked the squash and only cooked one third of it and the remainder went into the freezer.

My winter squash was pretty well a bust, and I have been concerned that my melons weren't going to make. I finally have 3 melons almost ripe and this morning I can see a lot of small ones on the vines, so I guess I will keep watering. In addition, I can see several small Seminole pumpkins on the vine. I had to write to Dawn to make sure that was what they really were because I have tried to grow them before and have had really hard luck with germination.

I hate to see that you are so discouraged, but I know that even if you have to let this one go, there will be another garden. You aren't the type to give up, so this is not a retreat, just time to reload, and wait for a better shot.

Just plant in your greenhouse and laugh at the winds as winter comes blowing by. You don't have to water much and there are almost no bugs. LOL

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 3:39PM
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So sorry to hear it Jay. But Carol is right. Before long, you can plant winter greens in the greenhouse and laugh at the wind and the grasshoppers. That's what I'm going to do. With less than 2" of rain in the last 3 months, our garden is long gone. I haven't even tried to plant much in the ground. Just 2 small 4x4 frames with screen wire over to keep the hoppers out. And on the front porch under lights, a few tomatoes and cucs and squash in qt pots that will be potted up tomorrow and begun to harden off outside here by the house--where I almost never see a hopper--dense shade under trees is the reason I guess.

And I just have to ask. What does the phrase "calf rope" mean?

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 9:17PM
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Dorothy, I know what it means but I have no idea of it's original. When you know you are busted and can't take any more you might cry "Uncle" or "calf-rope". Southern slang for "OK, OK, I give up, get off of me, before I yell for Mom@" LOL

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 9:29PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

I know the expression 'calf rope' or 'holler calf rope' or 'yell calf rope' is an old Texas/western expression that dates back at least to my dad's childhood in the 1920s. I always assumed it had to do with the way you use a piece of rope to tie up a calf's legs when you catch it to brand it. Once the legs are tied, the calf has essentially (unwillingly) surrendered. Nowadays, the way they do it in the rodeo is that the rider who is on a horse has to lasso the calf, jump off his horse, run to the calf and tie three of its legs together with a calf rope. That's the point where the rider has 'defeated' the calf, and that's the image I had in my head when I first saw 'calf rope' as the subject of Jay's original post. I thought maybe he was going to run off and join the rodeo.

When children played rough or fought or whatever, one child might keep beating on the other kid until he called 'calf rope'....just like we cried 'uncle' when I was a kid. I bet Jay grew up hearing and using that phrase his whole life because of his southwestern heritage.

This, at least, is an expression I understand. The things that kids say nowadays? Those are the ones I just don't get.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 10:13PM
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Ok, now I get it. I wasn't looking at it from the calf's perspective, but from the roper's so I didn't make the connection.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 12:43PM
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Dawn and Carol covered the definition real well. After I saw Dorothy's post I decided to do a little search to just see what definitions I could find. In that search I found the following quotation from a man in a TX newspaper. "I said I wasnt going to say anything about the rain, but at this point I am about ready to call calf-rope," said Kerens Grains Sonny Carpenter, using a term meaning, "I give up," similar to calling "uncle."

So at least I know I'm not alone in my feelings. Jay

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 10:48PM
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Back in rural Minnesota, when I was just a wee one (75+ years ago), any mention of a calf rope involved tethering the bugger.....usually a Brown the rope and in the grass in the road ditches because the calf pasture had major problems. Amazing how the same term means different things in different parts of the country!!

Hi. I used to post here when I first moved to OK from MT back in 2008....many miles and much turmoil after Minnesota. Got involved in the survival of the fittest thing, and dropped off. Now, am back, still trying to keep from starving to death, compliments of drought, too much/too hot sun, high cost of water from the water line people, and my own stupidity...(assuming that what worked in Montana would also work in Oklahoma.) Huh. Not even close.

Montana does not have BERMUDA GRASS. I personally feel that the jackass who developed that stuff should be hung from the highest tree and a three day festival held in celebration of his/her demise!!! If you're not a golf course owner, it is the worst pest in the world. With the help of old feed sacks, lasagna gardening, pastured chickens, and lots of Google searches, mine is finally this moment at least, being held at bay.

You Okie gardeners are a tough bunch. Never in my 4 states of gardening over almost 65 years have I had such spectacular failures as here. My hat is off to you.

I think 2013 will be a better year. I sure hope so. Your posts as to what works and what doesn't have helped immensely. Thank you. et

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 5:11PM
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With our springs heating up so quickly and our summers becoming so brutal, several of us are borrowing from the French market gardeners and resorting to row covers, cold frames, and greenhouses to beat the frost at both ends of the season. How else can we grow cool season or start warm season crops? Good luck and welcome back.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 1:20PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Jay, There's probably a lot more than two of you crying 'calf rope' too.

Hey ET, It is nice to see you here.

Ever since you moved here, we've had horrible summers almost every year. I think 2009 was pretty nice, but maybe it is just my memory that's failing. I also know that 2002, 2004 and 2007 were rainy and cooler, but since then, it has been pretty rough most summers.

The last two years have been so hard in terms of heat and drought. I've never worked as hard to keep our flock of chickens alive as I've had to work these last two summers. I keep telling myself that 2013 will be better, mostly because it has to be or we'll all go crazy.

I want another 2002. It was nice, stayed cool until mid- or late-June and we didn't have to water much at all. I remember it well because my father-in-law came down from Pennsylvania in late May for our son's high school graduation and the nights were still in the 40s. He was so disappointed because he'd been looking forward to hot weather, and we weren't having hot weather then. He said if he'd wanted cold and rainy weather, he'd have stayed at home. lol The next year he waited and came in July and we accommodated him by having drought(our county's worst drought year since we moved here was 2003 and we had less than 19" of rain that year) and hot weather.

Dorothy, When I first started using row covers and low tunnels, it was just to keep plants warm on an occasional late cold night so a freeze or frost wouldn't get them. I never dreamed that within a few years I'd be using them to try to garden both earlier and later in the season in order to make up for the hot middle of the season. I'm at the point where I'd rather work a lot harder in the early and late season, and mostly take off the month of August and maybe even July too. It has taken too much water to keep the plants going in July/August of the last two years, and I am just tired of the big water bills. Maybe we'll have a normal year in 2013, if any of us can remember what normal is.

The rain isn't falling much here, and the cracks in the ground are getting wider and wider. While the cooler temperatures are nice, I was hoping the September rains would bring some drought relief down here....but, believe me, I am thrilled for everyone who's had good rain during that last rainy spell.

Down here, the temps start heating back up beginning tomorrow and there's not much chance of rain, so it looks like I'll be watering more in September than I'd intended. At least it is cool enough to actually be out in the garden getting something done. I feel like I just abandoned my garden in August because it was too hot to be out working in it.


    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 5:23PM
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