Rainwater Reservoir

Northern Missouri had a dry winter and so far, it’s been a dry spring as well. This has made conserving rainwater of foremost importance to us. We didn’t want to spend a lot of money so we began to look around the farm at what we might use. Since we got out of the cattle business a few years ago, we had a plastic grain bin that wasn’t being used. With a few adaptations, it’s perfect to conserve water.



My husband added a gutter to our barn roof and cut a hole in the grain bin.

He added a metal spout for water to drain into the bin.


Lastly, he sealed the bottom of the bin, added a hose, and….

                                                                                                                                      the nozzle!

Now all we need is rain. The vegetables and I can’t wait!



January is for Planning

What do you do when there is snow on the ground and the actual temperature outside is well below zero? If you’re a gardener, you huddle up with your favorite quilt and a pile of seed catalogs. Oh, and one more thing: last year’s garden journal.

It’s important to look at the past growing season and see what worked, what didn’t, and why not. For instance, my onions weren’t as productive as I had hoped, and our eggplant didn’t do anything at all. I know why: I crammed too many plants in my raised bed. This year, I MUST use restraint and remember that plants need room to grow. The onions and the eggplant were shaded by other plants and didn’t get the sun they needed.


I also had problems with our Indian corn that I’m not sure how I’m going to tackle next year. In the past, raccoons wiped out our sweet corn. Two years ago, I had success and fun growing broom corn. Last year, I thought Indian corn would be fun and safe to grow. I couldn’t believe how the raccoons began destroying it before it even set on ears. The entire crop was destroyed. Of course, I could use an electric fence around a corn patch, but I don’t want to spend the money. I plan to research this winter for some organic liquid deterrents.


Broom Corn Arrangement

I’m making a list of the vegetables we enjoy growing and eating as well as the gorgeous flowers that attract pollinators. Every year, I also like to grow something I’ve never tried before. I haven’t decided yet what it will be this year.


So, don’t let this frigid weather get you down. The dirt may be too frozen to dig in, but we can plan and be ready to plant when it thaws!

Orchid ReBlooming Guide

Orchids are beautiful and exotic plants that symbolize fertility, virility and sexuality. There are over 20,000 different types that can be found around the world in rainforests, grasslands and now home decor! They make for an elegant addition to any home. However, there are certain steps that one must take in order to help their orchid bloom to its full potential.

To help you understand the basic steps of orchid care, FTD has created a visual guide that provides six basic steps to orchid care including including how to rebloom orchids and eight reasons your orchid may not be blooming. Did you know that orchids thrive best in indirect sunlight with temperatures of 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit? Check out the rest of the guide to learn more!


Consider Growing Broom Corn This Year

Broom Corn Arrangement

Broom Corn Arrangement

Every year I like to grow at least one plant I’ve never tried to grow before. It isn’t always a success, such as my luffa experiment, but it’s always fun. Last year, I chose broom corn because I knew I would be hosting a gathering in the fall, and I wanted a table decoration that would also serve as a conversation piece. It was a success on all accounts.

 Broom corn is interesting because it’s more like sorghum than corn. Here are the colorful seeds:


broom corn seeds

broom corn seeds


After it pops up and in its early growth stages is the when it looks the most like corn.

Broom Corn Seedling

Broom Corn Seedling

My husband and I were amazed at how tall it grew. Notice how it has no ears.


Broom Corn

Broom Corn

Broom Corn

Broom Corn


As the name suggests, broom corn can be used to make brooms. We cut several stalks to dry in the barn. Our stalks were too curved to make a good broom which was okay by me since I wanted table decorations.

Broom Corn Drying

Broom Corn Drying

I loved the decorations so much and they lasted so long, that I’ll grow more broom corn this summer. Give it a try. You and the birds will love it.


Potato Storage Bins

one hill new potatoes from raised bed 18 potatoes

one hill new potatoes from raised bed 18 potatoes

This is the time we gardeners have been waiting for: harvest! One crop I love to harvest is potatoes. Digging potatoes is like digging for gold—especially if they happen to be Yukon Golds.

Since there are only so many potatoes that can be eaten at once, how can they be stored without rotting? Potatoes need a cool, dry room with air circulating around them. At our home, our pantry is a cool, dry room but we still needed a container to allow air circulation. Here is the solution my husband devised.

potato storage bin

potato storage bin

He cut some leftover wire shelving to fit in milk crates. He also found some metal strips to hold the shelving in place.

leftover shelving

leftover shelving

This allowed us to stack our potatoes and add storage space when needed. It’s worked so well for us, and we didn’t have to purchase anything. I hope this idea will help you and allow to enjoy your vegetables longer.

stored potatoes




Orchid Care Guide

moth orchid

Because I’ve been so taken by the beauty of orchids but have been a bit intimidated by how to care for them, I’ve written two previous posts about them. Well, here’s a third post. Proflowers has been kind enough to share a link to its orchid care guide that is condensed, practical, and user-friendly. I love the guide and I think you will, too. Below is an introduction Proflowers has written about orchids and the link to the orchid care guide.

 white phalaenopsis

Orchids have gotten a reputation for being difficult to care for, but with proper consideration of their natural environments they can be easier than you think! They generally grow in the tree tops of humid rain forests so make sure your home has adequate air flow, sunlight and humidity. If you are looking for specific care requirements for your orchid, consult this Orchid Care Guide by Proflowers. They also include tools for easy orchid care, basic requirements and best orchids for beginners.  

Thank you, Proflowers.  It’s my sincere hope this will help everyone enjoy their beautiful orchids for a long, long time.



Orchid Memories and Orchid Varieties

phalaenopsisOrchids are not only beautiful, but they may also trigger a wonderful memory. When I was a child, my mother always wore an orchid corsage to church on Easter Sunday. My brother would pick it up on Saturday from the nearest florist (twenty miles away), and it would be stored in the side door of the refrigerator. It was pinned on Mom’s dress after she had secured her hat with bobby pins and before she slipped on her cloth gloves.

I have the most common orchid variety, the Phalaenopsis, not the type Mom wore as a corsage. For a wonderful look at the mind-blowing number of orchid types, check out a compendium of the orchid family created by FTD.

Have fun checking out the amazing photographs. Perhaps it will trigger some lovely memories, too.


Looking Backward and Forward

ice tree

It’s January, so you know what that means for gardeners: Time to pull out those new seed catalogs and dream of spring! But before I pull out the order forms, I’m taking a look back at last year’s experience.

It began wonderfully and I had high hopes for the best garden ever. The lettuce and broccoli were tasty and productive. However, the rains in May lasted through July. It rained so much that I had to dig potatoes, onions, and carrots much earlier than usual because they were rotting. Our tomatoes became diseased and set very few blossoms. The watermelon, pumpkin, and cushaw plants grew much less than normal and also set very few blossoms. When the rains finally stopped in September, I ended up a great crop of fall lettuce. I think it tasted even better than the spring crop! All in all, it was a tough year for all the gardeners in our area.

I can’t control Mother Nature, but is there lesson to be learned from last year? The first step in answering the question is to look at what I planted, when I planted it, and where I planted it.

The first thing I’m going to do is admit that my back no longer tolerates long sessions of hoeing. I had a difficult time keeping up with the weeds last year and my overzealous hoeing resulted in strained back muscles. I’m giving up my large hill garden that’s full of clay anyway and keeping my smaller, more fertile barn garden. I may try to do more container gardening.

One small garden means I’ll need to be more selective in what I grow and where in the garden I plant it. I will map out the garden this winter and plan my crops.

Tomatoes: I will plant mostly disease resistant varieties and only a few heirloom.

I will (try at least) be patient and not start the tomatoes too early in the season.

My garden teaches me something new every year. Sometimes the lessons are hard and disappointing, but mostly they are fascinating, fun, and tasty. Every spring I believe with all my heart that is will be the best garden ever. And every year, at least one crop does better than it has before. Last year the lettuce was terrific, and at lunch today we had green beans I had frozen from last summer that were delicious. I’d forgotten about the green beans until today.

It’s not too early to begin thinking about spring. Two below zero is our forecasted low temperature tonight. Bring out the blankets and the seed catalogs!

Bee in Asian Lily

Green-Striped Cushaws

green striped cushaw

Ever hear of a green-striped cushaw, aka Tennessee Sweet Potato Squash? It can be used as a fun decoration or eaten as a tasty “pumpkin” pie. I first grew it about twenty-five years ago when we lived south of Kansas City, well over one hundred miles south of our present home. I’d forgotten about them until last winter when I noticed them in a seed catalog and decided I need to try them again.

I started one green-striped cushaw seed last May in a grow/light box and transplanted it to our clay-filled hill garden. The plant spreads like a pumpkin—all over the place, and it’s normally prolific. However, this summer has not been a normal growing season. The excessive rains made it the worst gardening season I’ve ever experienced. The cushaw kept setting on fruits but they would quickly rot. Finally, two fruits persevered and matured. The picture above shows one of them.

sliced cushaw

 Cushaws are great for autumn decorations, but they’re also great for pies. I processed this cushaw just as I would process a fresh pumpkin. I removed the stem, scooped out the seeds, and cut it up in large slices.

                                                                                             cushaw in pans

I placed the slices on baking sheets, drizzled them with olive oil, and set them in the oven for about 40 minutes at 450 degrees. After the slices had cooled, I peeled off the skins, put the meat or pulp in a food processor, and pureed them. I put 2 cups of puree in each freezer bag.

                                                                           cushaw puree

I think any pumpkin pie recipe would work great for cushaw, but here’s a recipe from American Food Roots for Sorghum-Sweetened Cushaw Pie that I plan to try during the holidays this year. Oh my, it’s not even Halloween and I’m already planning for the holidays!


Putting Our Plants Behind Bars

enclosed flower garden

Deer, turkey, skunks, raccoons, opossums, ground hogs, snakes, owls, and occasionally, a neighbor’s cows can be seen loitering in our front yard. While watching wildlife (cows excluded) from our living room is thrilling, it can also be exasperating when they decide to eat and destroy our beloved plants, shrubs, and trees. Deer are the primary perpetrators.

buck eating pears

The deer love to grab a mouthful of lilies, or knockout rosebuds, or burning bush branches as they stroll between our clover fields. In the fall, they use our fruit trees to rub the velvet from their antlers. We’ve lost count of the number of trees and bushes they have destroyed. I’ve been known to dash outside at dawn in my robe screaming like a banshee and waving a broom to scare them out of the yard. Unfortunately, there is more fascination than fear in their eyes. What’s an Elmer Fudd to do???

We tried using spray repellents but they are costly, washed off with the rain and dew, and the deer seemed to get used to the smell before the end of the summer. This year we decided to put bars around the flower gardens. My husband bought sections of wrought iron fencing and made an enclosure. So far, it has kept our flowers safe and sound. Since our deer are not hungry, they don’t work at trying to get at the flowers. Of course, the fence doesn’t keep rabbits or cats out, but they haven’t been as destructive as the deer.

burning bush cage

burning bush cage#2





Our burning bushes and knockout roses also have suffered greatly from the deer and their pruning. My husband built cages to cover and protect them. We’re hoping the bushes will soon out-grow the cages, and he’ll have to make some adjustments.

Baby Buck

Sharing a home with wildlife certainly has its challenges, but it’s worth it.