Hired help

We have trapped seven — count ’em, SEVEN — squirrels in our garden this year, covered all the tomato plants with bird netting, and the birds and rodents are still decimating our harvest. No, wait. Not decimating. That would imply they’ve only ruined a tenth of my tomatoes. They’ve actually destroyed closer to half of them. Jerks.

As I was cussing the birds a few weeks ago, I remembered we never had this problem in Tulsa, largely because our neighborhood was full of stray cats, including a half-feral character who liked to hang out next to the chicken tractor and sleep on top of the beehives.

Schrodinger, as I called him, was a great deterrent to marauding wildlife. He served us well for several years until we had to put a privacy fence across the back of our property, whereupon his visits ceased. I don’t know whether he couldn’t climb it or simply didn’t choose to, but we never saw him again.

Our current yard is surrounded by a six-foot privacy fence, and it’s full of shady places for a resourceful cat to duck out of the weather or escape from overly curious dogs, so this afternoon, I decided to roll the dice and answer an ad I found in the paper for free kittens.

As it turned out, the lady who ran the ad is overrun with strays that people dump in her neighborhood. As I was holding a kitten, this little girl — who is about a year and a half old — wandered up and clamored to get in on the attention:


The lady said she really needed to find a home for “Moomaw,” as her grandkids had dubbed this little cat. After learning Moomaw was an enthusiastic hunter who would probably be content to hang out in the yard as long as she was fed and petted regularly, I tucked her into Scout’s old crate and brought her home. She complained for a few minutes but settled down nicely when I turned on some music.

I was going to change her name to something less ridiculous, but then tonight, I remembered an eccentric artist named Bob Moomaw was responsible for the world’s only known hippie memorial, so I have to think about this name issue some more. Maybe her first name should be Karen. She seemed to like the Carpenters. Then again, she’s definitely a country girl, so Loretta would be appropriate. Loretta Karen Moomaw sounds like a good name for a cat, doesn’t it?

I’ll settle on something after I learn a little more about her personality — assuming she doesn’t scale the fence and ditch us before she settles in. I don’t think she will. She seemed pretty happy rolling in the dirt under the tomato vines and rubbing her cheeks against the bird netting this evening, and she definitely liked being petted once she worked up the nerve to approach me.


Eco-Saturday: Save garden seeds

Here, I've allowed arugula to bolt and let the seed pods dry so I can save seeds to replant next year.
Arugula, one of my favorite salad greens, is very easy to grow from seed.

One simple way to save money on both garden supplies and groceries is to save seeds from garden produce and replant from year to year.

If you want to harvest seeds from the star performers in your garden, you’ll need to start by choosing open-pollinated varieties that will produce the same type of plant and fruit every time you save seeds from it and replant them. Hybrid varieties are unpredictable, and genetically modified organisms often come with patents that make it illegal for you to save seed and replant the next year. Any seed labeled as an “heirloom” variety is a good candidate for saving and replanting.

Choose seeds from the best plants in your garden. If, for instance, you have a particular tomato plant that is outperforming the others of its type, harvest seeds from that plant.

I used an old sherbet tub to collect the seeds as I removed them.
I used an old sherbet tub to collect the seeds as I removed them.

For plants that set fruit with seeds inside, such as tomatoes or cucumbers, allow the fruit to reach full maturity before you harvest it. For leafy plants, such as spinach, collards or lettuce, allow the plant to mature and set seed, then leave it alone until the seed pods are dry and brown. Do the same for beans and peas. When the pods are completely dry, bring them in and remove the seeds from them.

In some plants — for instance, cucumbers and tomatoes — the seeds are surrounded by gelatinous fluid. To harvest, scoop out the seeds, spread them thinly on a paper towel, and leave them in a warm, dry place until all the moisture evaporates. When the paper towel is completely dry, peel off the seeds. It’s OK if some of the paper comes with them.

I didn't have any on hand, but those little snack-size ziplock bags are great for seeds.
I didn’t have any on hand, but those little snack-size ziplock bags are great for seeds. I used a Sharpie to label my bag.

Seal dry seeds in an airtight container, such as a ziplock sandwich bag, labeled with the year and variety. If you live in a humid area, you might want to save the little silica gel packets that come in shoeboxes, purses and some kinds of beef jerky and slip one in each bag with the seeds to absorb moisture. For best germination, store seeds in a dry, relatively cool place, and plant them the next season.

If you end up with more than you can use, share them with friends who garden.