The American Persimmon Tree Is Blooming

>> Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The American persimmon tree is native to the Eastern United States.  The persimmon (the word persimmon comes from the Algonquian words for dried fruit—putchamin, pasimianan, or pessamin) was introduced to the early settlers in Jamestown.   Captain John Smith wrote about this unusual orange fruit,  “If it be not ripe it will drawe a mans mouth awrie with much torment; but when it is ripe, it is as delicious as an Apricock.”  Persimmons are known for their astringency, the dry, puckering mouthfeel caused by tannins found in the fruit.  Jokingly persimmons are said to be a cure for baldness—they don’t grow hair but they cause the sideburns to pucker up onto the top on ones head.

We have a persimmon tree along our driveway which has never borne any persimmons since we have been here.  As I was walking under it today I hear it buzzing.  There were numerous busy bees working the fragrant, pale yellow, four-parted, bellshaped flowers.  I discovered that these native persimmon trees are either male or female and are not self-pollinating.  Apparently, since both sexes bloom, our tree must be a male.

May    27th 002 The blooms are quite small, approximately only three-eighths of an inch long.  As one article stated, “the persimmon tree is great for bees and therefore for honey production.”  And, thanks to those busy bees I discovered our persimmon tree in bloom.


Potato Bugs

>> Tuesday, May 26, 2009

We hope to be able to produce enough potatoes this year to supply Darryl’s family and ourselves.  We planted some of the little potatoes Darryl had left from last years crop—13 rows about 45 feet long and 50# of seed potatoes that were purchased, another 9 rows.  I spent yesterday working through these potato plants, getting the weeds and grass out, cultivating the soil and then pulling dirt to the rows, making a ridge which gives the potatoes room to produce the tubers.  As I was working on this all-day job I found several adult potato bugs as well as several young larvae.

The potato bug, or Colorado potato beetle, is a common garden pest. (The scientific name is Leptinotarsa decemlineata.)  As far as beetles go the adult potato bug is a rather attractive dome-shaped fellow (or gal) nearly a half-inch long, yellow, with five black stripes on each wing cover.  The adults spend the winter hibernating in the soil and in the spring they emerge quite hungry.  They begin walking and/or flying about looking for potato plants or some other relative in the nightshade family, such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and tobacco.

cpb Once the potato bugs find the potato plants they begin snacking on them and also begin a family.  The female beetle lays clusters of 15-25 bright yellow-orange eggs on the undersides of the leaves.  From these eggs hatch the soft-bodied, hump-backed larvae.  They start out small but grow fast, molting four times into larger stages, or instars.  The last instars grow to be quite plump, and these are the guys that eat the most foliage.  They soon crawl into the soil and pupate.  From this resting stage a second generation will emerge by the end of the season, ready to eat again before hibernating through the winter and starting the process again come spring.

cpblarv According to all reports the Colorado potato beetle was first discovered by Thomas Nuttal in 1811 and was described in 1824 by Thomas Say from specimens collected in the Rocky Mountains on buffalo-bur, a tough weed that grows along the eastern foothills.  Then, about 150 years ago the little critters discovered a new food growing in the white man’s gardens.  It quickly adopted the cultivated potato as its favorite food, spread rapidly eastward and eventually to Europe after World War One.

Numerous methods have been used to try and control these beetles but they build a resistance to most chemical sprays.  One of the most effective method of dealing with the potato bug is hand-picking.  Although this may sound a bit grotesque to some with bug phobias it is truly one of the most efficient and least harmful ways to control the little guys.  And, this is where the grandkids enter the picture.  Darryl pays the kids a nickel for each adult and a penny for each of the larvae.  They also watch for and smash any eggs that are on the underside of the leaves.  Malchiah came by this evening and showed me the potato bugs he had found and put into a plastic bottle.

For more information on this interesting little critter please check out  You may even wish to check out the potato museum’s section on the Colorado potato beetle.


Plant Protectors

>> Tuesday, May 19, 2009

When I set out young plants into the garden I like to put some kind of protection around them. Young plants are quite tender and wind can break them off, cut worms can cut the tender stalks off, cold and frost can kill the plants. With protection around the plants all of the above things can be prevented.

My favorite plant protector has been a gallon milk (or water) jug with the bottom cut out and the cap removed. With this set over a young plant it is quite protected and has the benefit of a greenhouse.

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The photos above show a dozen young tomato plants covered with the plastic gallon jugs. Notice that the one plant is beginning to peek out of the top of the jug, an indication that the jug needs to be removed soon.

Although I haven’t use them, the clear 2 liter soda bottles can be used in the same way. Not as nice but workable is the 1/2 gallon cardboard milk cartons. Cut the bottom out, cut the four corners down on the top and put this over the plant upside-down. The “flaps” that have been created from cutting down the four corners are laid flat on the ground and dirt is raked onto each flap. This keeps the carton from blowing off.

When we used to buy canned goods at the supermarket I cut the bottoms out of the cans and placed them around plants. But, we seldom get cans now. However, I came up with a similar item. I use 3” PVC pipe cut into 5” to 6” lengths. These will last forever and the white color seems to help as well. Last Spring I set out tomato plants before Connie and I took a trip to Texas. I put the PVC protectors around several but didn’t have enough made to put around all of them. When we returned the ones with the protectors were growing out the top. The others had not grown, in fact some had died. It made a real believer out of me.

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Here you can see dozens of the PVC protectors which have been placed around chard, cabbage and tomato plants. In the photo on the right you can see the happy little tomato plant inside the protector.

I came across a small book put out by Rodale Press, Inc., copyright 1982, entitled “Secrets of Master Gardeners.” There is an interesting little section with the heading, “Cups save tomato crops.” They discuss a plant protection cup that was being manufactured by a company in South Carolina (I can not find the company on the internet or any of their products). They described the cups as looking like “16- or 20-ounce jumbo milkshake cups without bottoms.” Kind of like my PVC protectors!

They related a story that I found quite interesting. “February 1981 was mild in South Carolina, but March saw drops into the 20’s and 73-mph winds. Ninety to 100 percent of the tomato transplants were wiped out. Growers using the cups, however, lost less than 10 percent of their transplants.” They also stated that with these cups the plants matured faster and often resulted in higher yields.

If you have never used plant protectors of any kind I would encourage you to do so. The cost is virtually zero if you recycle your cans and jugs.


Connie’s Flowerbed

>> Friday, May 15, 2009

Connie enjoys flowers and shortly after moving here to the farm I dug up an area in front of our parking area for a flowerbed.  I remember that the soil was full of small rocks, I must have thrown out bushels of them.  She added compost and manure but it seems she continued to have some difficulties.  The soil dried out quickly and perhaps one of the biggest problems was that the ground sloped.  Flat land is hard to find here on the ridge.  I told her that I would put landscape timbers around the area and level things out.

I got that done last week.  I carried up 25 five gallon buckets of dirt from the side of the hill plus added 3 wheelbarrow loads of “dressing” from the stockyard.  I’m sure more soil will be needed as everything settles but she has been busy getting plants set out and some seeds planted.  Here are a few photos.  We will have to revisit after the plants have grown and are fully in bloom.

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The American Tulip Trees Are Blooming

>> Monday, May 11, 2009

Commonly known as the American tulip tree, tulip poplar, yellow poplar or tuliptree magnolia, Kentucky’s official state tree is now blooming. Locally they are most often called poplar trees or tulip poplars, although they truly are a member of the magnolia family. They are native to eastern North America from southern Ontario and Illinois eastward across southern New England and south to central Florida and Louisiana. They are a valuable hardwood tree that is fast-growing. The wood is white in color and in some areas the tree is given the name Whitewood. Native Americans used the tree for making their dugout canoes and early settlers west of the Appalachian Mountains called it Canoewood.

The resemblance of its flowers to tulips resulted in it being called the Tulip-tree. The flowers are pale green or yellow with an orange band. Below are photos of the tulip poplar just on the edge of our back yard with its many blooms.

May 10th 001 At a distance it is difficult to see the many blooms.
IMG_5135 Here is a view zoomed in. The blooms are much more obvious.
IMG_5133 Here the tulip shape of one of the blooms is quite apparent.
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I picked from another nearby tree a couple of leaves and a bud that has yet to open and placed them into a vase. I hope to see the bloom open up.



>> Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Growing up on a small farm in East-Central Illinois I often fell asleep in the summertime listening to the call of the whip-poor-will. If you have heard the repeated “whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will” call I’m sure you will never forget it.

When we first moved here to South-Central Kentucky we heard a nighttime call of a bird that some referred to as a whip-poor-will. But, it seemed to have forgotten it’s lines. The call was different. Connie said it sounded to her more like “weird will.” We finally found out that it was a larger cousin of the whip-poor-will called chuck-will’s- widow.

Listen to the difference. First the whip-poor-will. Now the chuck-will’s-widow.

We have heard the “real” whip-poor-will once or twice since we have been here but it doesn’t seem to be a permanent resident. The chuck-will’s-widow is heard almost every night, and sometimes it seems to be right outside our window. Since both are nocturnal we have never actually seen one. Perhaps someday.

whippoorwill01 Obviously since I haven’t seen one these photos were not taken by me, but borrowed from the internet. On the left is a whip-poor-will. It is about 9 3/4 inches long. Chuck-will’s-widow, below, is larger and redder. The chuck-will’s-widow is about 12 inches long.



Concrete Blocks

>> Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Early last week Darryl received delivery of a load of concrete blocks to be used for the walls of the root cellar he is building as part of his new house.  I helped him move 450 blocks down into the cellar that afternoon.  We commented on the weight of those blocks, which was about 36 pounds each, and I reflected on a concrete block that I have which weighs 56 pounds.  It is one of about 2000 to 2500 that my dad made back in the late 30’s and early 40’s.


In 1936 my dad and mother bought a 20 acre parcel in Illinois with an old house and a few old buildings.  They were all in need of repair or replacement.  Within  a few months my dad began to build new buildings.  His records show that he purchased 13 truck loads of gravel (at $1.00 a load) and a few days later a used “block machine” for $6.50.  Using this machine he made all of those 2000-2500 blocks.

I know it is not common today but in the early 1900’s these machines were sold through Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalogs as well as directly by the manufacturers.  I found by doing some research that in 1908 Sears, Roebuck and Co.  was selling the “Wizard Concrete Building Block Machine” for $42.50.  In their 1917 catalog they were offering a machine for about $60.00.  I have no idea how old the machine was that my dad purchased but it did the job making, I believe, 3 blocks at a time.

sears-sm This photo of a block making machine  was taken from the 1940 Sears catalog.  I’m fairly sure that this would have been similar to the one my dad used.

Garry's pictures 086 Here is a picture of the block that I have, one of the  2000 plus that my dad made.  As I mentioned, it weighs 56 pounds.  To make the number of blocks that my dad made he would have had to have used 56 to 70 tons of sand, gravel and cement.  And, that was all handled by hand, a shovelful at a time.  It makes my back tired to think of it.

To check out the work Darryl is doing on his house, on the cellar and to see pictures of his progress please check out his Cedar Ridge Farm blog.


Everything’s Green!

>> Monday, May 4, 2009

It seems that everything has become green within the last couple of weeks.  The grass has become green.  The trees have their leaves and are very green.  It doesn’t matter which way one looks, everything is green.  Here are a few photos I took a few minutes ago from around the yard.

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As you can see the trees all around us are very green, the grass is green, the strawberry plants are green, the lettuce is green BUT they aren’t all the same boring shade of green.  So many shades of green!  One would think that the Creator’s favorite color must be green.


More Trees in Bloom

>> Sunday, May 3, 2009

As I mentioned in an earlier post we have many kinds of trees that bloom throughout the Spring and early Summer here in  South-Central Kentucky.  One tree that is in bloom now is a tree that I was quite unfamiliar with when we moved here.  We saw quite a number of the trees in bloom throughout the area and it seemed that the people we asked didn’t know what they were either.  Darryl finally found them pictured and described on the internet.  They are the Royal Paulownia, named after Anna Paulownia the daughter of the Czar of Russia, also called the Royal Empress Tree or Princess Tree.  They are native of China and are known as the the world’s fastest growing tree, growing as much as 12 to 15 feet per year.

The wild trees are considered to be an “invasive exotic tree,” meaning they will spread and become a nuisance.  Some now being sold by garden supply companies claim to be “cloned” so that they do not produce fertile seeds.  The trees produce clusters of lavendar flowers.  We do not have any of the trees here on the farm and Darryl doesn’t want any due to their invasive proclivities.  There are a couple on the adjoining farm but I haven’t had the chance to photograph them.  The picture of a Royal Empress Tree in bloom, below, was taken from an internet site.

royal_empress_tree Another tree that is currently blooming here in the area is the locust.  I believe it is properly called a black locust.  Here are a couple of photos taken about a mile from here along the road.

IMG_7674 It is hard to tell in this picture but the blooms are very white.  Below is a close-up.

IMG_7679 Bees love these flowers and the black locust tree, which is a legume (a member of the pea family), is a  major  “honey” plant in many areas.  They are quite impressive when full of bloom as they are now.


We Have Some New Babies!

Early in April one of our Light Bramha hens became broody and I put nine eggs under her in a small enclosure I built some time ago.  She sat on those eggs diligently for three weeks.  Friday morning I heard peeping sounds coming from under the hen.  When I checked I found that we had 5 new babies.  One poor little chick never made it out of the shell and 3 eggs did not hatch for whatever reason.  The little ones seem to be doing quite well.

April     30th 003 The hen sitting on the eggs just a few days before the babies arrived.

April     30th 005 Here is the new momma and babies, photo taken this morning.


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