Mixes and Blends of Grasses

I get a kick out of watching people trying to pick out grass seed in a farm supply store. It’s almost as much fun as watching people picking out a watermelon. The one thing the two have in common is that the average person doesn’t have the slightest idea of which one to choose. Hopefully, this brief explanation will shed a little light on the subject.

Most lawns contain cool-season grasses which are sold as mixtures or blends. A mixture contains a combination of two or more different species, while a blend contains two or more varieties of the same species. Which grass seed to choose depends upon the conditions it will be used for. Below are some typical mixtures for various conditions. Looking at the seed tags with a little knowledge should make your selection job easier.

  • For a general purpose lawn that has full sunlight look for: Kentucky bluegrass and red fescue, or Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass.
  • For a general purpose lawn that is mostly shaded look for: fine fescue and Kentucky bluegrass, or Kentucky bluegrass, red fescue and perennial ryegrass.
  • If you have a cool, moist climate select: fine fescue and ‘Exeter’ colonial bentgrass.
  • If you want a wear-tolerant turf either in sun or light shade select: Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and fine fescue.
  • If you want a turf grass for heavily used areas choose: Kentucky bluegrass and turf-type tall fescue.
  • If you have a moist, shady location choose: rough bluegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue and perennial ryegrass.
  • If you need a grass seed for a fast established lawn select: Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass.
  • If you have a warm, dry climate select: Buffalograss and blue gramagrass.
  • If you have a cool, dry climate select: wheatgrass and turf-type fescue.

Keep your fork

Smoke Flavors

On 7 December 2015 my post was on wood flavors. I listed the characteristics of some hardwoods and some ‘foods’ that could be paired with the various species listed. Listed below are various hardwoods and their parings that compliment the earlier post.

Remember that various food items, besides meats, can be given a smoky flavor to add new dimensions to ‘everyday’ foods. Try smoking beans, bread crumbs, cheese, eggs, lentils, nuts, pasta, popcorn, rice or other grains, salt, seeds or a variety of other items.

  • Alder – Beef, chicken, pork, seafood, baked, vegetables
  • Apple – Chicken, pork,baked, vegetables
  • Cherry – Beef, chicken, pork, baked, vegetables
  • Hickory – Beef chicken, pork, vegetables
  • Maple – Beef, pork, baked, vegetables
  • Mesquite – Beef, chicken, seafood, vegetables
  • Mountain mahogany – Beef, chicken, sea food, vegetables
  • Oak – Beef, seafood, baked, vegetables
  • Pecan – Beef, chicken,pork, baked, vegetables

Keep your fork

Gel Tests for Jams and Jellies

It won’t be long until wild and/or tame fruits will be ready for jam and jelly making. One thing that some beginners or even seasoned home preservers have problems with is determining the gel or set of the cooked jam or jelly. Here are some methods that may be used to determine the set of your preserves.

  • Plate Method – Place a few small plates into the refrigerator or freezer before you start cooking your jam or jelly. When you think it has set, take a plate out, place a small amount of the jam or jelly onto the plate and return it to the fridge/freezer for 5 minutes. When retrieved, gently press your finger on the edge of the mixture. If it wrinkles, it’s ready to jar. If not, cook the mixture a couple of minutes longer and repeat the test on another plate.
  • Metal Spoon Method – Instead of a cold plate, use a cold metal spoon. When a cold spoon is dipped into the cooking mixture and held on its side shortly after starting to cook, the syrup will run off rapidly. Toward the end of the cooking process, the syrup will drip off more slowly as the mixture thickens. When the drops form together and ‘sheet’ off the cold spoon, the mixture has set.
  • Sugar Thermometer Method – If you are the type that requires more accuracy, try this method. Suspend a sugar thermometer in the cooking mixture. Be sure the thermometer is not set on the bottom of the pot as you want the temperature of the mixture, not the cooking pot. When read at eye level, the gel point is reached at 220 degrees F.
  • Wooden Spoon Method – When stirring the mixture with a wooden spoon and you think enough cooking time has elapsed, raise the spoon out of the mixture and hold it on its side above the pot. Run your finger horizontally across the spoon. Be careful, the mixture is hot! IWhen the gap in the mixture that your finger created stays open, the gel point has been reached.

Keep your fork

Thoughts On Growing your Own Beans

This is my fourth post on dried beans. The 2nd and 3rd posts were on various kinds of dried beans while this one will consist of some thoughts on growing your own beans for drying.

  • Depending of what you want to use the beans for and your tastes, you could plant and dry white beans (Baby Limas, Butter Beans, Great Northern Beans, Marrow Beans, Navy Beans, Pea Beans, Small White Beans), Red and pink beans (Red Kidney Beans, Light Red Kidney Beans, Cranberry Beans, Pinto Beans, Pink Beans, Small Red Beans), Peas (Black-Eyed Peas, Yellow-Eyed Peas, Chick Peas, Garbanzos, Ceci Peas, Spanish Peas, Split Peas, Whole Dried Peas), or flavored beans (Lentils, Black Beans, Turtle Beans, Soybeans). These were talked about in two previous posts.
  • You could let your green or yellow snap beans grow to maturity and dry them, if you don’t mind a variety of shapes and colors.
  • The beans from the scarlet runner, planted for its flowers, could be harvested and dried for a large, delicious bean that has red splash of color in it.
  • The easiest way to dry beans is to leave some of the beans on the vine until the pods begin to open and a few beans shell out.  Insects may be a problem with this method along with an excessive amount of shell outs.
  • Another way of drying is to pull the plants and hang them to dry in an airy place. When the pods are brittle, place them in a burlap bag or leg of a panty hose and gently beat them with a blunt stick. Empty the container and separate the shelled beans from the chaff. Place the air-dried, threshed beans in the oven on warm for about an hour to kill all insects /larvae.
  • As your home dried beans are stored for a shorter time period than purchased beans have been, they will generally cook faster and will be less firm.
  • Store your beans in a an air tight container in a cool, dry, dark place. Be sure to use the older beans first when adding additional beans to the larder.
  • A lot of cook books will tell you that dried beans can be kept in storage for up to a year. Realistically, if your beans have been properly dried and stored, they should keep indefinitely without significant loss of quality.

Keep your fork

House Plants For Your Health

In my many years of teaching agriculture, crop production was one of the subjects/topics I taught at not only the high school and post secondary levels but also in my Veteran’s Farm Management and Adult Farm Management classes. I could write the following two formulas from memory then as I can now.

  • C6H12O6 + 6O2 –> 6CO2+ 6H2O + ATP(energy)
  • 6CO2 + 6H2O in the presence of sunlight & chlorophyl –> C6H12O6 + 6O2

The 1st is the formula for respiration and the 2nd, the formula for photosynthesis. One of the things I mentioned while discussing respiration was that “back in the old days” they would take the flowers a patient received while in the hospital, out of the room at night. They were under the opinion that the CO2 (carbon dioxide) given off at night was enough to hinder the recuperation of the patients. They later realized that there was not enough CO2 given off, so they let the flowers stay beyond visiting hours! They were onto something though. Instead of looking at the negative side of plants and flowers, they should have been looking at the positive side of plants.

My folks had a small forest in their living room along with an air purifier. Needless to say, indoor air pollution wasn’t a problem in their home. That isn’t always the case. Building materials made from synthetic products, cleaning products, carpeting, upholstery, artificial scents, molds and various other toxins in the air in some homes may add to the lack of health and wellness of the family living there. Some everyday houseplants may play a big part in eliminating or lessening the problem. Here are 6 suggestions for your consideration.

  • Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis) – We probably all have used an aloe plant for its burn-healing gel found in its leaves. The gel contains a combination of anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Aloe also helps to rid our homes of benzene which is found in some chemical cleaning products.
  • Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea seifritzii) – Thriving indoors, this plant may grow to be over 10 feet tall. It is pet friendly which may be a plus to some people. It filters trichloroethylene and benzene from the air. It does not stand over watering.
  • Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) – This is the plant often received as a gift. By reducing the level of spores in the home, it helps to keep mildew to a minimum. You will know when it needs watering, but be careful not to over water this plant. It does best in bright, indirect light. The blooms may contribute pollens or scents to the air, so be careful if allergies are a problem in your family.
  • Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) – Growing from 1 to 6 feet tall, this plant adds a vertical effect to the plants you have, while being low maintenance. It converts CO2 into O2 at night, so place this one in the bedroom. It requires little water, so if you are a ‘plant killer’, this plant is for you.
  • Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum) – As these plants need little care, they are a good choice for the novice plant grower. The spider plant prefers bright, indirect sunlight and only needs a weekly watering. They remove small amounts of formaldehyde and xylene from our homes.
  • Weeping Fig (Fiscus benjamina) – This plant prefers indirect sunlight and requires infrequent watering. In warmer weather or climates, the weeping fig can be moved outdoors if desired. It reduces pollutants like benzene and formaldehyde from the air in our homes. Consider this plant if you want an easy keeper.

Keep your fork

Pruning Shrubs and Hedges

Whenever my Dad was asked when the best time to trim shrubs or hedges was, he had a stock answer. “Whenever the saw is sharp,” he would say. Little did he know that there is a definite time of year when shrubs and hedges should be pruned. His advice probably contributed to the reason our neighborhood had the poorest looking ‘greenery’ in Northwest Iowa. If Dad were still with us and read that last statement, I know he would say, “Was it really that bad?” Some ‘Iowegians’ never did catch on! After the folks moved into town and had a nursery do the landscaping around the new house, he never trimmed the shrubs and hedges himself. One day a total stranger, a lady, stopped by when they were sitting on the deck and suggested that he trim the plants. He never told us what his response to her was, but he vowed never to trim them after that. The Pickle Queen and I finally took pitty on the neighborhood and trimmed them every year after that. It took a few years to get them looking presentable. Enough memories, on to the topic.

Pruning flowering trees and shrubs at the wrong time of year can result in little flowering that year.

Spring flowering trees and shrubs develop flower buds for the following year on the current year’s summer growth. If you heavily prune these plants in late winter, you will remove most of the flower buds which will result in little or no flowering. Instead, prune these spring flowering trees and shrubs after the flowers have faded in late spring for the best flower display the following year.

Late summer or early fall flowering trees and shrubs flower from buds that are formed on the current season’s growth. The best time to prune these trees and shrubs is during late winter or in the spring.

Pruning during the fall or midwinter season, will leave open wounds that will lose moisture causing dieback which will require more pruning in the spring to remove the dead stubs. Pruning cuts made during the spring, just before or during active growth will seal over quickly forming a callus, preventing both moisture loss and dieback.

Be sure to make your cuts on young shoots about 1/4 inch above a bud or twig. Cutting to far out will leave a stub while cutting closer can damage the remaining buds. Before making the cut, observe the direction that the bud is pointing. This is the direction that the shoot, which becomes a branch, will grow. If it looks as if the branch will eventually interfere with another branch, choose a different bud to cut above. Like a Christmas tree, if a wide space needs to be filled, prune at buds (branches) pointing outward. If the tree or shrub needs to be narrower, prune at buds (branches) pointing toward the center of the plant.

Sharpen your saw or snipers and prune away. If you screw up this year, don’t do it the same way next year. When I was still getting my hair cut, I always carried a stocking cap with me when I went to the hair cutting shop, just in case. I haven’t seen a stocking cap big enough to cover a shrub or hedge, so as Dad often said, “Watch a little bit out!”

Keep your fork


Expiration Dates

Ever wonder what the grocery stocker was doing taking cans or boxes of food off the shelf, replacing them with like food out of a cardboard shipping carton and then putting the original cans/boxes back on the shelf? Have you ever wondered how the grocery store can sell bins of some items at such low prices? Have you cleaned out the pantry, looked at the dates on the items and wondered if the contents were safe to eat? Check the Best By or Sell By dates on grocery items and you may get an answer to these questions.

These ‘Expiration Dates’ are not magical dates that the food suddenly goes bad. These ‘buy by’ or ‘sell by’ dates are simply guideline dates for peak freshness of the food items. Canned/boxed food has been shown to stay good far past these expiration dates. But remember, most food will eventually  go bad. Here are some things that will tell you it may not be safe to consume food items.

  • If the can or lid is bulging, the contents are probably not safe to eat.
  • If you open the can and excess pressure is released, do not consume the contents.
  • If the seal is broken, the contents may have been compromised. Do not use.
  • If the can shows any sign of corrosion, discard the can and contents.
  • If the contents are leaking from the can or its seal, do not use remaining contents.
  • If the contents looks bad, cloudy, moldy or if you have any reservations about the contents, discard it.
  • If you open the can and the smell is ‘off’ or could gag a maggot, do not use the contents.
  • If you find any insects, insect parts or excrement, webbing, larva, etc. in dry foods, discard it.

If you hate to see the food go to waste, consider adding it to your compost pile or feed it to livestock if you feel it’s safe for that.

Keep your fork