Friday, August 31, 2007

Okra Bloom

The okra doesn't mind the heat. It's blooming and setting on fruit like crazy.

Thursday, 8/30/07

Rain: We got a piddling little rain shower around two o'clock and I certainly wish we hadn't. It isn't that we don't need the rain; we do. However, that little shower didn't provide enough mosture to help the situation. All it did was get the grass wet and dramatically increase the humidity right before Jo and I began working on getting the van loaded. It was like pouring water on the rocks in a sauna.

Load Van: Despite the humidity, we got the van loaded and are ready to head over to Fayetteville Friday morning. We've never done a show at the Walton Art Center before, but set up doesn't sound easy. From what we've heard, the loading dock and the show hall are on two different levels and involve the use of a freight elevator. That ought to be fun -- NOT!!! What's worse is that we cannot piddle around with sitting up our booths and merchandise. We've got to be ready to go for a patron preview party Friday evening. It will be a long day by the time the preview party is over and we get to go to the motel.

Hornworms: Only one found and squashed.

Weather: 94/71 ... partly to mostly cloudy skies ... light to moderate mostly north wind ... a trace of rain around 2 PM ... 71º at midnight.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Garden Pepper Plants

The peppers in our garden are doing well. Many are beginning to turn red.

Wednesday, 8/29/07

Garden Watering: Today it was my turn to leave a hose running all night. We use drip hoses and water the garden slowly. I usually start watering around noon. I water a bed for several hours, move the hose and water another bed. I move the hose to the final bed of the day just before we close up the garden in the evening. Then, I go out and turn off the water around midnight or so. Today I forgot to turn off the water. Our beans got plenty watered.

Packing Pots: Jo spent the majority of the day unloading the kiln and getting all of her pottery packed so we can load the van tomorrow.

Tile Problems: Jo had problems with the blue glaze on several of her tiles. It blistered. Some of the tiles may be able to be "fixed" with another firing, but we'll be heading over to Fayetteville this weekend with fewer tiles than she'd intended.

Clouds: Today wasn't quite as hot as the past several. It started out heading that way, but then some clouds move in during the early afternoon. The temperature only made it up to 96º before beginning to fall. I heard some thunder rumblings in the distance, but that's as close to rain as we got. There isn't even a good chance of rain in our forecast.

Hornworm report: Only one found.

Tuesday, 8/28/07

Glaze firing: At midnight I "started" Jo's last glazing firing before our show over in Fayetteville on Labor Day weekend. At 3 AM I went back over to the studio and completely closed the lid on the kiln. (The lid is left in a vent position -- i.e. open a couple of inches -- for the first three hours of the firing.) The firing finished up around noon.

Garden Watering Hose: A couple of days ago the hose I use for watering out in the garden burst. What can you expect for a 30-or-so-year-old hose?. I spliced it back together by sticking a short section of PVC pipe inside and twisting down a couple of pieces of wire to hold the hose in place. (The hose isn't worth the investment of a couple of hose clamps.) Today the hose came unspliced. I employed the same method to fix it again, except this time I stuck a piece of copper tubing inside and flared out the ends a bit before installing. So far, it seems to be holding. (That this was the most exciting event of my day tells you how things have been going lately.)

Hornworm Report: Picked 4 off the tomato plants this afternoon.

Weather: 97/72 ... clear skies ... light and variable wind ... 77º at midnight.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Mason Wasp

Mason Wasp (Euodynerus hidalgo boreoorientalis)

One of the many potter or mason wasps that use mud in nest building. At the University of Texas Brackenridge Field Laboratory this particular species has been observed nesting in burrows in dirt bank, and in cells of Sceliphron (mud) and Polistes (paper) wasps nests.

Monday, 8/27/07

RABBITS: We've almost gotten ourselves out of the rabbit raising game. We didn't plan it that way; we just weren't paying close enough attention and let all our rabbits get old without saving any replacements. Several months back we got a young buck from some friends thinking that he would solve all our problems. However, it takes two to tango -- so they say -- and we discovered that our doe population (3) was as geriatricly impair as was/were our bucks. (One buck died; the other was shooting blanks.)

We bred our new buck to our three does. Two does did not conceive and the other had a litter of one -- and it died.

We tried again. One doe still did not conceive. Another was clearly pregnant, went several days passed due and died. The third had a litter of two.

We finally got around to sexing our two new rabbits today and found we have a male and a female. Two females would have been better, but with our luck, we figured we had two bucks. I reckon we can start rebuilding our rabbit herd now. I also reckon that we've got some rabbits that need to be butchered for the stew pot.

HORNWORMS: We may be at the end of our tomato (tobacco) hornworm problem. I certainly hope so! Today we only found one caterpillar. Yesterday and the day before we only found two per day. That's a lot better than the dozen or so we found for several days in a row.

HOT AGAIN: The temperature climbed up to almost a hundred degrees today. It was still 80º at midnight. Tuesday is also supposed to be really hot. However, a new cool front, lower temperatures and a chance of rain are forecast for Wednesday.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sweet Potato Leaf Beetle

Sweet Potato Leaf Beetle (Typophorus nigritus)

This is one of the 35,000 described species of leaf beetles. (It's estimated that there actually be as many as 60,000 species.) Obviously, with that many species within a family (Chrysomelidae), there is a gread deal of variation, but there are still many little, green, metallic leaf beetles quite similar to this one -- so many that I wouldn't have even attempted a genus/species ID. However, one of the experts on BugGuide says that it's a Sweet Potato Leaf Beetle so who am I to argue? At least I found it in the right place, munching on the leaf of a wild morning glory, a very close relative of the sweet potato.

Sunday, 8/26/07

Electric Fence: I discovered the electric fence around our garden off this morning. I briefly looked around to see if I could spot a problem. The only thing I discovered was that the ground fault adapter into which the fence charger is plugged had tripped. When I reset the breaker the fence worked fine. Later, Jo told me that our electricity had been off for about 30 seconds earlier in the morning. That kind of surge usually causes the ground fault to trip so I reckon that was the problem.

Corn: Jo picked our first ears of corn late this afternoon. About 15 minutes later we were eating it. Delicious!!! Between poor germination and the cottontails, I really wasn't sure if we were going to get any corn this year. I still doubt that we'll get enough to put any in the freezer, but we can certainly enjoy what we've got while we've got it.

Weather: Up to 96º today, a full ten degrees warmer than yesterday. Summer refuses to make way for early fall.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Fly Attack on a "Tomato" Hornworm

I'm not sure exactly what's going on here, but I seen it several times before. The fly makes repeated attacks on the hornworm. My best guess is that the fly is trying to lay eggs, but I'm really not sure.

We've recently been under siege by the hornworms. They are a yearly event, but this year there seems to be more of them and they've been a problem longer. Our total "kill" of hornworms has got to be well over 100. There were several days that we picked off and squashed over a dozen. Hopefully, the hornworm invasion is coming to an end. Last evening we only found two.

By the way, the hornworm pictured above isn't actually a "tomato" hornworm, even though that's what everyone (including me) calls them. The caterpillar pest most often found consuming tomato plants is actually a tobacco hornworm, the larvae of a Carolina Sphinx moth.
A tomato hornworm is the larvae of a Five-Spotted Hawk moth. The quick and easy way to tell the difference between the two is that a tobacco harnworm has a red "tail" while the tomato hornworm's tail is black. There are also slight differences in the pattern of the strips.

Saturday, 8/25/07

The worst of our summertime heat wave seems to be coming to an end. Late Friday afternoon we received a little cool front. This morning we received a some rain (only .3") and today's high temperature was only 86º, a full ten degrees lower than yesterday. It was a muggy 86º, but that's still better than having the heat up around 100º. Partly cloudy skies helped keep our temperature down. The sun tried to break through and dominate several times, but never really made it. Overnight the temp made it down to 67º, the first time we've seen the thermometer fall below seventy in quite some time.

Jo didn't get to enjoy the full benefit of our reduced temperatures because she was doing a glaze firing. I started the firing at midnight and she finished it around noon. (Actually, all I do is record the electric meter reading and turn on the exhaust fan in the kiln room. The kiln is programmed to start automatically.) Adding all that heat warmed up the studio quite a bit, but it still wasn't as bad as it would have been had we not received the little cool front.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

More Fun With Tomatoes

An online friend has suggested another use for our tomatoes. Thanks, Marlene, I needed that.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Tomato Sauce and More

Bubble, bubble, Toil and Trouble

All those tomatoes we grew are now beginning to get ripe so we've got to deal with abundance of our garden. This past week we've canned 40 pints of tomato sauce, 15 pints of stewed tomatoes and 8 pints of Rotel-style spicy stewed tomatoes. Just to give you and idea of how many tomatoes that is: It takes a quart of tomato juice to produce a pint of sauce. And, it takes around 2.5 pounds of tomatoes to produce a quart of tomato juice. So, it took around 100 pounds of tomatoes to produce the sauce we've canned thus far.

(I do use the pronoun "we" loosely. Jo does all the actual canning, but I help by running the tomatoes through the hand-cranked strainer that separates the seeds and pulp from the juice.)

And, wouldn't you know it, now that the time has come to process tomatoes, we experiencing a heat wave. Our daily high temperatures have been near (or over) 100º for several days now, and are forecast to continue in that range at least until the end of next week. Sunday our thermometer recorded a hight temperature of 108.7º, but that isn't really accurate because the pick up for the thermometer is located too near the pot of boiling tomato sauce.