Sunday, June 7, 2009

Last Gasp Before Summer?

Here in Central Texas the squirrels, like the humans, seem to have developed a noted preference for heirloom tomatoes. In blog after blog there are reports of heirloom purple cherokee tomato stealing squirrels.

Not surprisingly, reader comments reacting to squirrel theft issues run the gamut from folks advising peaceful co-existence, reminding us squirrels were around since well before any gardeners arrived, to folks who state they too love their squirrels, right next to their mashed potatoes.

I got my tomato plants in late this year (thank you pesky oak allergies!) All my heirloom tomatoes are currently coming from the store like these beauties.My tomato plants haven't successfully produced enough fruit to attract anybody's attention. Yet. So far the squirrels in our area are mostly content to try and outmaneuver the weight sensitive bar on our bird feeder. When they give up (only temporarily) they hang out. No offense intended but this photo of a young male on the feeder pretty much offers a visual definition of the terms "balls out", don't you think?The Beauty Berries are blooming in preparation for setting a record number of berries later in the year. I haven't ever seen squirrels eating the vibrant purple fruit clusters but the birds, especially mockingbirds, really love them. They should be happy campers if these flowers are any indicator.

We had such a mild winter the queen's wreath vine never really died back. That means we have flowers earlier than usual this year and the bees have been a near constant presence. Getting a great shot of the rapidly moving bees is always tricky, but these all black bees are particularly fast workers. I don't know if they have a different way to collect pollen or nectar or if that is not what they are up to but they zip around so quickly I can't imagine they get much at a time. Anybody know what type of bees these are and why they seem in such constant motion?Finally, while I don't have tomato theft issues so far this year I am fighting a losing battle with rollie-pollies and the strawberries. Whenever I spot a strawberry that looks nearly ready to eat I carefully set it up off the ground on another stem or leaf. Somehow more often than not they end up back on the ground and by the time I get back to pick the berry it has been attacked and partially devoured. The bugs are there full time while I am a sporadic visitor, so they definitely have the opportunistic advantage on me.This is our first year to try these plants at all and now I see the philosophy behind the eponymous terra cotta planters. On my To Do list for next year is to buy more plants and their designated planters both, to see if we can manage to get sufficient berries at a time for a batch of jam or failing that, enough to feature in a salad or atop shortcake for two.

After several discussions about potentially starting queen's wreath vines in a couple of other locations, I decided to try some old fashioned Grandpa Ott's Morning Glory vines instead. One of the new features of gardening for me this year has been to stop pretending I don't care much about results.

I have, any number of times, thrown seed carelessly on soil hoping for vines without much to show for it. Yet, every time I see an old fashioned morning glory plant in bloom they stop me in my tracks. This time I decided, late in the year or not, I would try planting the seeds in pots, at the recommended depth, giving them good sun and keeping the soil evenly moist while germination is in progress. I will transplant the baby vines into the ground where I hope they will take off on their own and am determined to give them extra water until they are well established.

Yeah I know. Following directions to get more predictable results. What a concept! I am optimistic I will be back here later in the year with some nice shots of glorious blooms. If following the planting directions does not yield spectacular results then I predict more surly seed tossing with a return to previous "I don't care anyway!" posturing.

Finally here is one more shot (oh hush - don't look if you don't want to!) of our bottle tree.We have continued to do general work clearing out pesky hackberry trees and persistent trumpet and grapevines recurrent to the area. I am very enamored of the beauty this cleared-for-the-moment little cove reveals.

Whenever we see a bottle tree constructed out of a post and/or metal my husband tends to comment "that's not a bottle tree it is a bottle post!" and on cue I say "that's right!". It is a harmless enough conceit.

The highs in our area are predicted to climb to 98 degrees Monday and Tuesday. That trend in combination with a Do It Ourselves approach here makes it unlikely any large projects (or small ones either!) will begin outdoors in the foreseeable future. As previously mentioned, I do have a list started for next year. Included on there is a note to myself that I want to develop an area suitable for growing cucumbers. I'll do some reading up on them. I think I'd like to get some sort of vertical vine support fashioned so I'll be keeping my eye out in the blogosphere for ideas. I haven't read about squirrels stealing cucumbers off vines but that may be only a matter of time. Squirrels certainly seem to know a good thing to eat when they see it. As do rollie pollie bugs. The plan will be to have enough on hand to share.


  1. I'm continually amazed at those squirrels' huevos--photo is hilarious!

    Looking forward to following your vine experiment. I know nothing about the world of vines.

    I love that your bottle tree is a real tree and your cool choice of bottle colors.

    My first-ever cucumbers (just started harvesting) were easy--just some regular watering and a little organic fertilizer--and I didn't even give them a trellis, although recently I put a couple of plant stands out there for them to crawl on. You'll have the best cuke sandwiches ever next spring/summer!

  2. Thanks for the encouragement Iris. I will probably be coming to you next Spring for a little Cucumber 101ing.


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Rollingwood, Central Texas
Family historian by default. Oldest surviving matriarch on my branch of the Family Tree. Story teller, photo taker, gardener, cook, blabbermouth.