Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Whine-Free Update

Just an update on some of the plants that have graduated from Bucketville to The Bermuda Rectangle (the lot next door where we've spread horse barn compost throughout the year, giving rise to a jungle of Bermuda grass and various other lawn-mower-defying growths....oh for livestock!)

Last year, this lot was flat and bare. Now we have a good collection of test plants going. Seen here are a pigeon pea and some moringas in the background.

We see these both as potentially valuable crops to us beginning now, but even moreso in the future. Rather than back up and reiterate the many uses of these under-utilized (in our country) plants, here are a couple of good links from one of our favorite resources, ECHO (an hour away, practically in our own backyard, yay!)

Pigeon Peas link

Moringa link and Another Great Moringa Resource list from another site

And not pictured in this post, but something we're trying to encourage the proliferation of is the Chaya plant (the link is a's worth a good read) Jack's trying to get some cuttings of our very small plant going in the Bucketville nursery.

If there's anything that can pick me up from the doldrums, it's seeing that some of these plants are hardier than our horticultural learning curve, and the joy of spending time reading many of the resources from lists like inspires me that we have so many underutilized plants that we really NEED to gain the wisdom (regain, more often) to use in our own backyards. And we DON'T have to have fancy equipment...there is so much we CAN do at the most basic level (reminder to self!) Here's such a list...

MJ had recently requested pics of the pigeon pea progress here, so here are a few. We didn't know when to plant them this year, so we may have planted them pods on them yet, but one of our intentions in growing them was as a fodder plant for livestock. (We're working out the growing part ahead of time... no livestock as yet) See how tall this one is? Kaleb's size lends perspective to how much growth we've seen in these in a relatively short time. I think Jack planted the pigeon pea seeds in July, starting them off in (what else? ha) 5 gallon buckets. Things learned?

1. They prefer being in the ground
2. They're vigorous enough to skip the bucket stage and just be sown directly at their permanent site.
3. They prefer a drier location that's not often waterlogged.
4. They really put on growth quickly.
5. Of all our plants, they are among the ones that take the most abuse...heat, drought, extremes of weather. Let's see how they do this winter...
6. They make good nurse plants to give partial shade to smaller seedlings. That's what the buckets beneath are in the pictures shown.

Shown below are the moringas, started at about the same time, or even later than the pigeon peas. The growth is amazing...I think these are in the 8 to 10 foot range high. We were supposed to cut them at the 3 to 4 foot height if we wanted a coppice sort of rotational leaf/limb harvest, but we have to get our act together and read up on it before we start hacking away. Thankfully, there are excellent resources ( see those lists above) to familiarize ourselves with. But to answer the question of whether they'll grow? Yes! They are not much good as a shade tree, but the leaves and the entire tree all have individual uses...the leaves are packed with so much nutrition, they're said to be the cure for malnutrition in most of the known warm-weather world, even where there are weather extremes of heat and drought. And I believe they are cheap and easy enough to grow that their harvests should benefit the entire world at large nutritionally, without science and marketing putting a hefty price tag on it.

Here's some idea of our little jungle we have going. There's something really encouraging about seeing this where before I couldn't get a shovel to penetrate the hardpan. Jack gets the lion's share of credit for the brawn and sweat involved moving a lot of that manure and digging all those holes! He told me once he never knew he could grow things, but I have to say the plants and he seem to have a symbiotic enthusiasm for each other. Most likely my biggest contribution is fueling the plant addiction...ha! (that's not really an exaggeration)

Below, a closeup of a pigeon pea bush/plant

Here is another superstar say they grow like weeds falls short of describing how, in plastic bins, these things grew so fast they now top seven and eight feet in fast we got preoccupied with other things and didn't get them into the ground fast enough! But the ones transplanted even at this late date are going gangbusters. These are the cranberry hibiscus, also known as false roselle. It looks along the lines of a japanese maple, and the leaves are simply delicious picked at the small tender stage and eaten fresh...they are a fresh lemon flavor, and the color is gorgeous. It's on my To Do list to expand my use of these in the kitchen...I have many ideas I just haven't tried yet. In the meantime, they just continue to grow. Our plan is to keep these much shorter so they'll take on a bush form instead of more vertical leggy growth. One thing we've learned is that the leaves have to be utilized immediately upon picking, or they wilt quickly. They can be prolonged by cutting a branch and keeping it in a vase of water...and make beautiful leaf bouquets that way.
I can't get enough of this color...

Here is a closeup of the moringa leaves, with morning dew. All parts of the moringa are edible. The leaves can be cooked, or dried and powdered. They are edible fresh, too, but have such a strong peppery flavor that way that a little goes a long way. Cooking them or drying them for additions to soups and so on de-intensifies the sharp flavor significantly, and it's not very noticeable...but oh, the nutrition! Super great, and responsible for keeping whole populations of third world babies from malnutrition, and mothers in milk. Don't get me started on breastfeeding as a topic :) My baby is 21 and I was fortunate enough to be able to nurse her for a great start in life. Ok...back to the post :)

One of the few branches of medicine I'm really enthusiastic about :)

Well, that's about it, but no post is complete without Kaleb photos. I'm sorry about my rant in the last post. Besides my hubby, Kaleb is a bright light every can anything be really terrible when you have 100% devotion and adoration from this soft and loyal companion?

Regal canine... and his squeaky toy.

He's not always asleep on the floor. I took these pics to illustrate that wherever I am, he accomodates me, but HAS to be next to me. I love those instincts. I have to be careful not to step on him sometimes...he's truly a Velcro dog.
See what I mean about having to be careful? This is the wheel of my computer I am sitting in it.

Love own personal bodyguard glued to whatever I'm near, if he can't be glued to my person. Love you, Kaleb!

And of course, the frog leg pose always makes me smile!

Thank you so much to you all for encouraging me after my last post. I really love you guys!
I know it's time to go now because Kaleb's run out of patience and trying to get my attention with a very insistent wet nose. I'm not alert enough to read his mind just now, and just got a blank stare from him when I asked him if little Timmy is trapped in a mine shaft. Plus we're in the wrong state for mine shafts. But outside we go for some air and sun :)


Phelan said...

Your plants are looking wonderful.

Conny said...

It looks like you've got some really good things going on in the back forty. Thanks for the links you provided - I've not heard of those plants before, but now I'm interested.

Just having read your previous entry, but responding here instead, I hear you on the relatives that are "too busy" to call or send e-mail. We have the same problem at our house. Somehow getting forwarded spam from the in-laws doesn't give us that "we're loved" feeling. And, I think a blog is a perfectly good place to whine - sometimes I just save mine in draft form because it just feels better write it down.

I enjoy reading your blog when I can. Cheers ~ Conny

Robbyn said...

Phelan, thanks :)

Conny, I hope you enjoy the links. I get lost on rabbit trails with links like them. Thank you for the encouragement :)

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Wow, that gives me an idea what a a jungle looks like - amazing! The only thing I recognize is black and hairy, we seem to have that "problem" here too :)

Saw a cute cartoon: Lassie(looking kinda rough) was at a bar, and the phone rang, before the bartender answered, Lassie told him, "If it's Timmy, I'm not here!"

Robbyn said...

Nita, ha, good Lassie joke! the uncleared properties on the other sides of us are truer subtropical wildness, but the pics shown here are after Jack mowing...and mowing...and mowing, just to be able to FIND the plants. And yeah, the black furry bit is a keeper :)