Archive for December, 2009

I Rule The Roost

The neighbors could hear the screams! “No! Stop! Oh, nooo!! Stop it! Get away from me! Oh! Oh! No! No!” It was unmistakably the sounds of abuse.

If this continued some one was going to call the police, I had to quiet her. “Oh! No! Get away from me!! Don’t! Stoooop it!!”

I am Bully Boy, don't forget the name!

I rushed to the door, wondering what is going on. Oh, man! Bully Boy, a 3 pound bantam rooster, is showing my wife, Linda, who is cock of the roost!

When he spied her crossing the back yard, her plastic bucket in hand, immediately he goes on the defensive! Nobody, but nobody, is encroaching on his territory!

Rush, fake attack, back off; rush, fake attack, over and over. Here is a 3 pound bird, sending a (…..let’s just say healthy),  woman into panic mode as she attempts to shield herself by poking at Bully Boy with the bright pink bucket!

Now, we all know, when being attacked by a ferocious creature we must make one of three choices.

  • Weakly resist, cower,  submit;
  • Run like the devil acknowledging  subjection
  • Boldly assert  dominance

Trying not to appear amused. I shout, “Don’t let him do that; knock him down with the bucket, Show him who is boss, or you will never be able to cross this yard again!   Hit him!”  I feel like a spectator at a gladiatorial event.

She continues backing, poking, yelling! “No, shoo! Get away! Stop it!”

“Linda you have got to knock him down!” I yell.  I am unprepared for female logic.

“But I’ll hurt him! I don’t want to hurt Bully!”

“Duh! Isn’t that the whole idea? You have got to show him you are top rooster and the only way to do is with a knock down. Geez, woman, haven’t you ever watched the fights?”

Well, with that bit of advice the adrenaline kicks in; that bird ain’t got a chance in heck now. Here he comes; a pink haze from the left sends him to the ground! He looks surprised, stunned; he not giving up that easily.

Bully Boy shakes his head, ready for another round; he attacks.

He is still trying to figure where that right side bolt of pink lightening came from as he waits there on the ground, in defeat, for the countdown.  

Okay, she won. It’s official, that woman is top rooster!

“Nobody likes me, nobody loves me, think I’ll go eat some worms”; he mumbles as he sulks away.

The ultimate insult is  to come.

Big Boy, a black silkie rooster, who has adopted Linda , since dogs killed his mate, has been watching the battle. Big Boy’s heroine is victorious!

He sees Bully slink away. Big Boy attacks, duck running toward Bully, he stabs him in the butt several times; all Bully can do is tuck tail and get out of the way!

He does not rule the roost!


Heirloom Tomatoes Are A Treasure

When I posted to a gardening forum asking about  a few unusual tomato seeds to grow next year, Gary Millwood from Louisville, Kentucky contacted me.  He is a grower and collector of heirloom tomatoes.  (Gary passed away in 2013.)

He sent his story with  the correspondence and has graciously given me permission to use it.   Too bad there are no pictures to show of these treasures.  I have added links to sources for some of these tomatoes, for information only;  I am not connected with, nor am I being compensated for inserting these links.


Growing up in town as a child, I had limited exposure to growing things other than a few flower plants my mother grew and some purchased tomato seedlings my father grew. As children we helped with the watering and care of the plants.

In days gone by, growing vegetables and seed saving became a tradition or better still a necessity. These seed provided hope and prosperity for farm families.   My grandpa, Edgar Cartee, was a tenant farmer in South Carolina and in my early years I spent some weeks in the summer visiting and enjoying the country life and helping as I was capable.   One thing for sure is that I was soaking in all those summer time experiences.  I never realized how much influence his love of the land and his knowledge would follow me to adulthood.   I owe so much to him and my grandma, Essie, for having the patience to tolerate a growing city boy who always had so many questions.

My life’s work has been devoted to serving the church.  With the exception of six years and a few months working as Director of Education for a church in Greenville, South Carolina, I have served in administrative capacity in three children’s homes in three states.

In  1978 I returned to the Bellewood Presbyterian Home for Children (,  Anchorage, Kentucky where I had worked some years before.   Aside from the responsibilities of supervising staff  and children,  I was responsible for the farm, 200 head of beef cattle,  pastures, hay fields, garden, buildings and grounds.

The garden served as a major source for fresh vegetables for summer meals.  This was the time I began using methods I had observed from my grandpa. Like all gardeners I had to deal with the seasons, weather, some trial and error, and accepting good advice when it was given.  I learned the varieties which produced and did well for us.   The County Extension folks were very helpful to me during this time.

The importance of the farm operation transitioned when the director we had retired and with the arrival of a new director. We initiated new programs which focused more on   services to children and families.  We continued with a small garden to provide   for summer experiences for children who enjoyed the activity and I was involved as much as possible.

When I began having serious health problems I renewed my interest  in gardening because of the therapeutic value.  In the early ’90s I had to undergo angioplasty and in 1995 I had a heart attack and had a triple by-pass. My recovery was remarkable and I was back to work early.  Four years later I had a second heart attack and had a second triple by-pass; my recovery was long and difficult and I had to retire from my work.

The winter of 2000 I decided I would limit my gardening to growing mostly heirloom tomatoes. Not too long after this I attended the funeral of a dear friend who had grown up in Eastern Kentucky.   There I met Jerry Cantrell, the new director at Bellewood Home. He had heard that I was interested in growing tomatoes and mentioned that his Mama, Lettie, of West Liberty, Kentucky,  had a tomato that I might enjoy growing.   She sent me seed and I loved it so much I have been growing it ever since; I have shared seed with folks around the world. Lettie died in 2005 at the age of 96;   “Granny Cantrell’s German tomato is the only tomato she ever grew.  Baker Creek and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange list it in their 2007 catalog.

Byron Crawford was visiting my friend, Nancy Theiss at the Oldham County Historical Center where I volunteer growing some old plant varieties including heirloom tomatoes. This interested him so he called me and did a news article for the Louisville Courier Journal on my interest in old tomato varieties.  Julie Maruskin of Winchester read the article and contacted me about her Coy family, Depp’s Pink Firefly tomato.  This tomato is from Glasgow, KY area from 1890s.  It is one of the most beautiful tomatoes I have ever grown and it reminds me of a large Christmas ornament. Underwood Gardens lists it in their catalog now.

I am a member of several gardening sites.  I correspond with several serious tomato growers.   Doug Zucknic in Romney, WV is one of those.   When he was searching for several seed varieties, I was able to find them for him.  Last year he sent me seed for Purple Dog Creek heirloom tomato. He acquired the seed from a gentleman who had visited Kentucky with a church group when they were on a mission trip to repair housing for the elderly.   The host church provided a covered dish dinner on their last evening there.  Members brought their favorite dishes and one member brought his wonderful Purple Dog Creek tomatoes!   Seed were shared and Doug sent me a few last year and they failed to germinate.  I am treating my seed with care this year in hopes of growing this tomato; I hope I will be able to share seed with the AHSC group in the fall.

One of three Ashlock brothers who served George Washington during the Revolutionary War settled in Kentucky. Carl Ashlock, now of Franklin, North Carolina, is descended from that patriot. Carl and his father and grandfather farmed in Kentucky, however, where they grew a large pink tomato variety, the seed of which, Carl shared with me and others.  He said that he hoped that others in Kentucky would be interested in growing and saving his Grandfather Ashlock family heirloom.

Last summer I tasted the Unknown Kentucky Heirloom aka Kentucky Pink Stamper at our CHOPTAG (Cincinnati Heirloom Open Pollinated Tomato Associate Growers) Both Earl Cadenhead and Carolyn Male shared a few seed with me. I  learned later that Mary Klacson of Eugene, OR had received a tomato called Unknown Kentucky Heirloom from  James A. Stamper who resides in Dwarf, KY.   He said his family had been growing this variety and a   Kentucky White Pole Bean for as long as he could remember. Since the tomato had no name, Mary named it Kentucky Pink Stamper for the Stamper family.

My friend, Al Anderson, Troy Ohio and I have been sharing our favorite heirloom tomatoes the last several years.   He and several of his friends grew better than 350 varieties   in 2006.  His friend John Siegel has been growing Kentucky Wonder Tomato for years and another called Kentucky Striped.  I have seed of these two and will be growing them this season.

While visiting Berea this past winter, I met Sharon Patton who grew up in Jennings Hollow near Monticello in Wayne County, Kentucky.  Our conversation centered on gardening; she said they grew lots of vegetables.  So, I asked what tomatoes they grew. She couldn’t wait to tell me about her family and grandmother. She said they had an all time favorite her grandmother grew which came from her grandmother’s grandmother who immigrated from Ireland.   It has not had a name so I think we are going to call it Lizzie’s Irish Eyes!  Sharon has been ill but is sending me seed once she is better; I hope to grow it this summer.

Seed Saver, Gary Perkins, Wayland, KY, who many of you know (Gary was one of the three AHSC  founders) grows and shares many of his seed with SSE members.   Gary has shared a number of his heirloom tomato varieties with me.   I especially enjoyed the Lenny and Gracie’s Yellow and the Black Mountain Pink varieties.  I grew them this past season and they produced wonderfully for me. See description below.   

Black Mountain Pink: Round, pink fruit is 1 lb. or more, with very good flavor. : Black Mountain Pink was originally collected, and named by, Austin Isaacs, of Richmond, Kentucky. It dates to a Mr. Harrison, who discovered them growing at an abandoned homestead in 1933. Indeterminate. Seed available from Marianna’s Heirloom Seeds.

Lenny & Gracie’s Ky. Heirloom (Yellow): Large, yellow, ribbed fruit
with a pink/red blush and a juicy, fruity flavor. From the Johnson/Magoffin County
area of eastern Kentucky.
Lenny & Gracies Kentucky Heirloom was originally collected and named by Roger Wright of Hamilton, OH. There is a red version as well. Indeterminate.

What I think is important as I consider each individual story of these tomato varieties is that someone thought they had some good qualities and made attempts to save seed.   Many were shared with family, friends and others. Each time I discover a variety like one of these, it is like discovering a “lost” treasure.  The growing and the tasting provides experiences others have encountered over the years. For me it reminds me of blissful summers and cold winters when soups and sauces warmed the heart bringing back memories of boyhood days long ago.

Frugal Gardener: Plant Your eBucket

You have your five gallon self watering bucket ready to plant; what will you grow?

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes

Bucket produces phenomenal yields

We designed this self watering bucket and began using it  six months ago, but our  group has some glowing  reports about growing tomatoes.  Growth is steady, yields are high.

Bush squash, peppers, okra, herbs, and beans of all sorts have been productive in containers; cabbage, collard, brussel sprouts, and broccoli grow beautifully.

What ever the crop, the planting preparations are  similar.

Fill your self watering bucket with a planting mix as described in our original article.

Many growers feel  adding a cup of lime mixed well into the top few inches of medium is beneficial, especially when growing tomatoes.

Around the outer edge of the mix (against the self watering bucket wall) dig a shallow trench with your fingers, fill the trench  with about 2 cups of a balanced granular fertilizer; (I use 10-10-10) but do NOT  cover with medium.

If you have the lid for the self watering bucket, you will want to cut holes in the lid to accommodate the fill pipe and the plants.  A two-inch hole cut in the center of the lid is good for one plant.

I have covered my self watering buckets with plastic wrap fastened with  tape or bungee fasteners;  other times I simple use a mulch (i.e. wood shavings or chips).  The covering helps keep moisture and saves the fertilizer stripe from being washed into the planting mix.

Put in your plants, gently water in by pouring a cup of water around the plant.   You have finished the planting in your self watering bucket!

Check the water level  regularly by pouring water into the fill pipe until water runs from the overflow tube.

There are no  hard and fast rules–experiment!

A Face Nobody Can Love

Buzzard face

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

A face only a mother could love, its head is completely bald, covered with coarse red  skin. Its eyes are beady, seeming to blankly stare. This is a creature so disgustingly ugly few people will ever feel the wish to get  close and personal.

Viewed from afar, this bird presents a different story.
Soaring buzzard

Graceful in flight

Long graceful six-foot wings seldom flap as  it soars far above the earth, riding the wind currents;  keen eyes watching  for the carrion on which to feed.

The buzzard may fly solo;  or hundreds of  silent kin may join in,  dipping five-pound  gliders, high in the sky, looking for the tower or trees,  where it  will rest.

I remember butchering day each year on the farm.  There is not a flying creature in sight. Suddenly the whishing sounds of closing wings of  buzzards landing in the field fill the air, along with the low guttural grunting of these thirty inch tall black scavengers who soon clean the area of  the carrion carried there  by my Dad.

A picture of an old overgrown abandoned homestead, a buzzard sitting forlornly on the roof gazing around just as the sun is setting is the symbol of utter abandonment  It screams “All is lost!”

No, he is  not  good-looking; he is not someone I would want as a best friend; he is a symbol of negativity, but he performs a valuable service like no others can do.

Come to think of it, that describes some people I know.

I can not believe weather this year.

I can not believe  the weather this year. December 1 and there are many plants still flowering. Yesterday I worked  in the yard, preparing beds for next spring and planting pansies.

I have one bed by my back door that I have concentrated on for several years and it shows. The ground is deep and rich. Earthworms show with each turn of the shovel. Spading is a dream, just use a trowel! Wow!

My gardening style at best is what I call “cottage casual”. That means if there is a space and I have a new plant,  in it goes! I start the spring planting with a mental picture of possibilities  for the season; I enter the fall of the year with a veritable jungle.

Front border elephant ears

This year this  is almost literally true. I  spent part of yesterday removing the leaves from elephant ears. The plants are a good eight feet tall, with leaves about three feet long. The stems are huge. Elephant ears are big water containers; I  cut them down with a large knife.

Today we probably will  get about two inches of rain. Good steady, slow; a gardener’s dream, newly  set plants get all the water they need naturally.

Probably too late, but I am transplanting iris and day lilies into beds near the house. Hope they grow.