Clemson Spineless. Where’s a little okra backbone when you need it?

An okra crisis.

I’ve been silent here for a while and nothing like the potential catastrophe of tectonic dinner plates smashing together to draw me to my blog dashboard.

Granted I planted late this year.

But it was so cool till mid April.

Only to turn so very hot.

Eight out of 10 of my Clemson Spineless plants coded.



A prime example pictured above. Alright, a miracle might happen but it is on life-support.

This is very, very bad.

A quick, non-scientific google of my blog post library revealed I’ve blogged on okra more than any other vegetable.

I guess you don’t know how much you love someone till they are gone or continue to shrivel up in spite of all attempts to help them thrive.

In 2014 it was yellow squash. Usually squash sprouts forth like Legos on the floor of a 7-year-old’s bedroom but in 2014 — nothing. The first sentence of that blog post read: Don’t ask me to choose between going all summer without sex or without a squash casserole.

This year the squash potential looks good. So I’ll need to come up with another excuse about the other.



But a summer without roasted okra for lunch? No fried okra for dinner? A pain to fix but something I endure because the kids love fried okra so very, very, very much. (Did I say how much the children love to eat fried okra?)

We’ve had a very hot, dry two weeks. But I’ve watered every night. And yesterday it became apparent, only three okra plants might make it.

Three okra plants in summer does not a happy Jamie make.

So I put on my old, crumpled farmer’s hat and thought . . . Gryffindokra.

No silly. I thought . . . seed.

Maybe a seed cracking open, pushing its roots down into that clay, lapping up my water, growing bit by bit, stretching its leaves, unfurling those yellow flowers.  Maybe with seed the odds of having more plants mature would be in my favor. And less expensive.




For those wondering, Clemson Spineless has been around since 1939.  Genetically engineered at Clemson, logic infers that Tiger scientists thought spineless was moniker of pride.

With okra it is. As for a football team not so sure.

While buying these pictured seeds today, I mentioned to the woman ringing up the purchase.

“Every okra plant I’ve planted this year has shriveled up. Burnt to a crisp. Anyone else having problems? Any idea why?”

“Soil’s too hot,” came from a tall bespectacled fellow standing beside her, behind the counter.

“I’m going to plant seed hoping it will do better,” I offered in a hopeful chirp.

Silence from the tall fellow in the baseball cap. Well, silence and then he walked away.

Sometimes you get sucked into being the city-slicker-with-faux-dirt-painted-underneath-her-fingernails-in-the-farmer’s-store asking questions looking like the city-slicker-with-faux-dirt-painted-underneath-her-fingernails-in-the-farmer’s-store asking questions —

but I’ve done this a while and realize he’s probably right.

It has been too hot. Too early. But it’s worth a shot.

For pity’s sake, I found a recipe for okra casserole that I’ve got to try.

Any okra lovers feeling my pain?







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O ye of little faith, why do you assume so much?

For truly I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain,

‘Move from here to there’, and it will move,  . . .  Matthew 17: 20


Most of the week, I gazed upon this:




Green, promise of spring kind of stuff.

About Thursday, I looked upon its puerile beauty and thought I haven’t seen any blooms yet. Nothing that even sniffs of a green shoot that could morph into a bud.

Suddenly I questioned everything I knew about the natural world. What if all chickens stopped laying eggs? What if the sun didn’t rise tomorrow? What if my skin started growing younger instead of insisting on well — aging? Which would totally be sooo very great.

Why on earth did I pick the one plant with nary a bloom so sure that bud will sprout and open into a hopefilled bouquet of tulips?

Why was I certain they were tulips? They could be daffodils just by looking at the leaves. Sure I selected this pot from a group of pots with blooming tulips but?

Why do I assume so much?

For instance, take this spot of dirt in my garden.



About a month ago on impulse, I purchased two inexpensive packets of seeds, Spinach and Mustard Green, while at the store.

Once out in my plot, the soil gave away easily as I created a deep row with nothing more than a few drags of a pick axe.

I dropped in the seeds, covered them up and thought with all this rain and a few warm days, who knows I might have spinach by March?

Well, we’ve had nothing but rain and cold so as that photo attests the dirt looks pretty much the same as it did a month ago.

Every day as I pass my little plot, my eyes search for the spot. Knowing one day I see clusters of teensy greens.

Why am I so sure that when the temperatures rise so will my seeds?


Maybe the question is why did I buy that pot of tulip shoots or take the trouble to scatter those bitty seeds in the first place?

That’s easy peasy. A longing for the beauty of spring. The promise of fresh spinach with my eggs in the morning. Knowing that though outside the window gray abounds, life is there.

The expectation of faith fullfilled is a huge part of who we are. Who I am, I guess.

Here’s to a week of tulips blooming, spinach sprouting and no shadows for groundhogs.



Editor’s note: Last week’s novel perservering resulted in an average of 785 words for six work days.


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I’m Not Strong on Pinterest for Pest Control.

Don’t ask me to choose between going all summer without sex or without a squash casserole.

That would be a poser indeed.

Waking up countless times the other night, the same image was in my head.

A squash vine with a borer hole.

Since I’ve been preoccupied with keeping borers from decimating my squash this year, I assumed that was the reason behind the dreams.

Then I read about bugs in dreams how that means something’s worrying you. And vegetables in dreams, spiritual nourishment. Of course there could be a sexual connotation to bugs (they might represent sexual thoughts) and squash (fertility and abundance.)

All I want is a squash casserole this summer.

Or maybe I am subconsciously chewing the cud of withered fertility, Sahara sexuality and something drilling holes in large green fertile vines.

Really all I think I want is a squash casserole.


Last year those d@nm bugs, left me with one yellow squash and about five zucchini.

Six squash. All summer.

Honestly, if I hadn’t witnessed it myself, I wouldn’t have thought it possible. My June usually consists of carting supermarket bags of squash all over town — to people who are too kind to say they have their own car full of supermarket bags of squash they are carting around town to give away.

Not last year. Nothing.

Annie at our local extension office was most helpful and forwarded me information on organic control of vine borers. One of the suggestions from a well-known university was to make aluminum foil barriers around the base of the plant — or something like that.

I’m not strong on Pinterest ideas for pest control. I’d just want to spray the cr@p out of something and be done with it.

Here is a nice healthy zucchini.





I started inspecting the green fellow like I’d opened up a preschooler’s book bag and discovered a note heralding there’s a slight case of lice in the class.




What is this? An egg?

Whatever it was, it is no more. Crushed between my fingers like a wee beastie should be.

It probably was nothing. From what I’ve read the borers don’t come out till later in the process right after the blossoms. Or is it right before the blossoms?

Well, that’s the state of my squash and of my dreams.

I really started this post with the intention of asking advice for rabbit control.

So . . .

Off to check my traps for any collected coyote teeter for my Pinterest post on rabbit control . . .


Any advice on the squash?

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Aging gracefully. Standing Amongst the Sunflowers.

Plant them and they will grow.

Reseed and they will grow. Some will grow.

Spend $20 on seed and six weeks later end up with 10 flowers.

My sunflowers almost got the best of me this year, as I showed in this silly vlog for the Ten Things of Thankful group.

Something kept eating them. Their little heads would pop up and be whittled away by wee bugs overnight.

Then to realize they had bug spittle all over them.

It was almost too much.

But this past week, my persistence paid its dividend.

Yellow petals finally withdrew from those shy brown and yellow faces.

Ten Things of Thankful that I persevered with my sunflowers.




10.   Every time I pull in my driveway I smile.


9.   Bees.




It’s one thing to write about bees. Entirely another to watch them in action. Every time I look, every head has at least one bee working away.

Single-minded focus.


8. Yellow.



See the bee. See the yellow. See the bee buzz in the yellow.

How can you feel sad staring at this color?

(Although living in a room of it for 48 hours might have me tearing out my toenails with my incisors.)


7.   Tall.

Once you get the babies past the critical stage, they tower over me. And I’m tall.

A fact that I hated in seventh grade. Sunflowers have incredibly posture.


6.  They greet the sun every morning.

As heliotropes, their heads tilt upward and swivel all day following the sun.

Each dawn they face east, waiting expectantly for the light.


5.  They just do their thang.


Sunflowers are content. Glorious in their own imperfections.




4.   They relax and let others do their job.


The rains beat them down. Then once the sun is out, they straighten up best they can. Spewing forth pollen, they allow their estheticians — the bees —  to work away.



3.   Heads grow heavy and backs bend. Elegantly.




2.  Time takes it’s toll.


It may only be a few days, not 50 years — but rain, those darned bees, bugs ripping their leaves into Swiss cheese, leave their mark.  Just a few weeks after blooming, those radiant heads look like hell.


1.   It holds fruit. Tons of fruit.


Shhh. Don’t tell them. But in a week or so, their heads packed with seeds will hang low facing the ground. The stalks once so green will turn as a tobacco leaf ready for rolling into a cigar.

Age does get us all.

The sunflower matures without a compliant.

Acquiesces to the ravages of time with a gentle bow.

Not I.



Linking up with . . .

Ten Things of Thankful



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Who knew sunflowers were so hard to grow? Tragedy strikes.

I’m mad.

I try to stay upbeat. Shield you my valued readers from mayhem that breaks into my carefully constructed eggshell bubble.

But so you don’t think that it’s all whistling Zippity Doo Dah around here, I’m  sharing an underbelly moment in my 2014 summer garden journey.


*  *  *

Last week, I wrote a post extolling how wonderful sunflowers are to grow.

How easy.

How they shoot up three inches overnight.

Well. This happened in less than a 24 hour period.

I was so excited to see their heads peeking through the dirt and then . . .




These aren’t the best photos but you get the idea.




Something invisible was munching on my plants.




More carnage.



Feasting on them.

Well, not the crooknecks, zucchini, okra, my 20 tomato plants (and yes, I have 20+ tomato plants growing), my peppers and cukes, all seemed to be doing fine.

It’s just my sunflowers. Last year, none of the ones I planted came up. Bad seeds — or so I thought.

Maybe they came up and were eaten faster than corn on the cob after the Concordia Spring Football game?


“Fear the ear.”  I’m trembling this very minute.



Dang. That is one rascally Corn Cob.

Maybe I need an angry Cobber scarecrow to frighten the stink out of those bloodthirsty insects?

It’s hard to fight an enemy that is invisible.

I bought more seeds.



Grief had so ripped my bodice that I was unable to focus any of these photos.



I also bought Sevin spray and plan to nuke the heck out of those teensy stalks when they start breaking through.

There you have it.

A set back with the sunshine flowers. I lost a battle, but I’m not going to lose this war.

Any tips for bugs eating your flowers?




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The Midlife Crisis Gardener Diaries. Chapter 12: Sunflowers

Ten Things Thankful. Sunflower edition.

Okay. The dirt is prepared. My vegetables planted.

Everything done.

Then this morning I saw these.




My Sunflower seeds.

Completely forgot about them.

So I hurried out there. Found my pick axe and got them in the ground.

10 reasons why I am sooo very thankful I found my sunflowers.

10.  They make me happy when their little green heads break through the dirt.

9.    They make me happy when they grow three inches over night.

8.    They make me happy when their big leaves stretch out from their sturdy stalks.

7.    They make me happy when I see their head begin to form.

6.    They make me happy when their faces rotate to follow the sun each day.

5. — 1.  They are easy to grow. And did I say they make me happy?


And here is my expert video on how to plant your sunflowers.



Does your summer include sunflowers?  I hope it does.



Ten Things of Thankful





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My Passion Pit is a rumpled clay bed.


Lust. Can’t wait to dig my hands deep into the earthy rawness of something.

Linking up with Finish the Sentence Friday: I am very passionate about . . .

My garden.


Can’t you tell?

Here it is April 26 and bare earth. A spot where no tiller dared to tread since early October.

And a much smaller pit. This patch is a quarter of the plot I’ve planted the last few years.


Because passion that burns bright and fierce — cools as quickly. It is a heck of a lot of work to keep a garden growing right. And you might as well forget about a purty, well-manicured garden in my case.

A few weeks ago, I removed the remains of the fall/winter garden: turnip greens, collards, broccoli, lettuce, cabbage and spinach . . . Na na na na. Na na na na. Hey hey goodbye.

I nuked the weeds.

And here it sits.

Till rotary blades break up the earth again.

I’ve lined up a tiller for Sunday.




Yes. It’s easy to line up tiller.

It’s easy to plan what beauties to place in your clay play pen.



It’s wrestling the heavy as a hippo tiller up and down out of the truck that’s killer.

The actually tilling itself is a blast. If you like riding a bucking bull for a hour.


I don’t sound very passionate about my garden.

No. I’m not passionate about getting every thing ready.

Going out there every day and looking for blossoms. New fruit peeking through. Watching a little yellow pearl of a spot grow into a squash that you can roast or throw into a casserole with toasted bread crumbs baking on top.

Picking weeds.

Well, maybe not picking weeds but feeling the sun’s heat on my shoulders while I’m out there, having its brightness elevate my mood. Smelling the dirt.

That’s passion.




These guys are ready to fill my kitchen with good things to eat all summer.

So I better get the out there this weekend.

How about you? What is your passion?


Finish the Sentence Friday

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Tweenage Mutant Ninja Sweet Potatoes.

I went out into the side yard late this afternoon and surveyed the wreckage.


The plot of ground that used to house my garden for the last few years. I decided to downside my farming efforts this fall and planted grass seed here.

You can tell how much of the stuff came up.

I could draw all kinds of metaphors to my mood such as dry as the hard Georgia clay. Tired as the last shriveled pecan to drop. Bitter as the roots of all the weeds that had gone before and refused to die.

But I’m too dry, tired and bitter.


No, I’m not that down but I’m a little discouraged with my luck of seed growth — so what do I do when I feel all is lost in my garden?

I find one of these.

And one of these.

And do this.


Lookie, lookie what I found.

A Chambered Nautilus.

No silly, a humongous sweet potato.

I dug around a little more and pulled these from the same hole.

No. We won’t go hungry this winter. Neither will we be deficient in Beta Carotene and Vitamin C.

We might turn a bit orange, but we will survive.

Even if I can’t get a grass seed to grow, I can grow the heck out of a sweet potato.

What do you have luck growing — in spite of yourself?

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He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. #garden


Sometime we feel as if we have failed, even though it might just be a change of life phase.

It became increasingly clear to me that I need to stop trying to have my large garden. I couldn’t give it all the attention it needed and I couldn’t afford to pay someone to help.

So I removed the fence posts and reduced the size of my enclosure to a fourth of the original size.


But I thought if I somehow could get this mini-me garden planted on my own that would be a minor hurrah.

I borrow a friend’s tiller.

A killer tiller.

I was excited to learn how to use one. Even though this was a much smaller garden than I had before, it would be my garden. No help from anyone else.

I got behind the beast and turned it on.

It bucked and rolled and I tried to get it under control.

I was so busy trying to figure out how to contain this bouncing rotor that I didn’t notice a man on the other side of the fence.

“You need some help with that?”

“No. I’m fine,” I answered. I didn’t know if I was fine but I wanted to do this myself.

So I continued to jerk and lurch behind the machine all the while this person watched.

“I can do that for you.”

“No. I’m fine really. I want to learn how to do this.”

He stood there. You know how annoying it is when someone is watching you do something you can’t really do.

This gentleman who rode up on a bike decided to take matters into his own hands. He came on inside the fence and showed me how to control the tiller. Under his manhandling the ground was breaking up.

He made me an offer to do the job that I couldn’t refuse.

I gave Michael the reins of the tiller and let him have at it.

I went and bought more plants.

Spinach, collards, turnip greens, broccoli, romaine lettuce and cabbage.

After Micheal pocketed his earning and rode off into the hot afternoon, I got in there and finished tilling a bit myself. Just to get the hang of it.



Then I planted all my new babies. That was a lot of work. But not nearly what it would have been if Michael hadn’t insisted I pay him to till the yard.

I wanted to do this garden myself.

I did.

Most of it anyway.

I finally got my fall garden planted.

Maybe not how I had planned it — but it got done none the less.

I’m learning to let go.

That turning loose of expectations is not a sin.

I have a much smaller garden. I did not till that garden.

Romaine lettuce knowth no difference.

What about you? Any fall gardens out there?

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Butterbeans. The forgotten vegetable.

The life of a farmer is filled with heartache and frequent glances to the skies.

While we were gone the first week in July, a violent storm slammed my corn flatter than a tween’s chest in a DDD bra.

Managing to save some ears,  all I could think of was what could have been.

Until I started picking the butterbeans.

If you notice a little dirt, they’re straight from the field.


You see, my butterbean bushes stood in the shadow of the tall luxurious stalks.

After I cleared out the decimated corn, I turned my attention to them.

With the corn gone, the garden could breathe.

I picked pods and shelled away.

My youngest came into the kitchen while they simmered on the stove and said, “What smells like popcorn?”

We had our first taste last night.

You know you’re onto something when an 11 year old and 8 year old ask for another helping of vegetables.

They were AMAZING.

Once again, the Lord taketh but he also giveth.

And I’m going to be picking and freezing those butterbean pods till mid-September.


How’s your garden growing this point in summer?


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