Growing Ginger in Containers or How We Stumbled Upon A Thing

I say Stumbled Upon because like a lot of my ideas, it was due to a rapid fire exchange of ideas with a good friend of mine up in the Atlanta suburbs, Craig.

800px-ingwer_2_fcm
Picture from https://en.wikipedia.com/wiki/ginger

You see Craig and I have been exchanging ideas on what to plant for a while.  The Climate there is about the same as I had in Philadelphia, Zone 7a or 7b depending on whether you live on the East or West of Philly.

When I lived there, I would fill my back deck with dozens of pots that would all march their way indoors by Halloween or whenever the first cold snap into the mid 30s would happen.

That would be a low of 2 or 3 C for the Fahrenheit Impaired.

Apparently with Ginger, you don’t have to be so concerned.  The plants will die back in colder areas and Zone 8 should be fine – that’s 10F or about -7C.  Colder than that and it’s a container plant.

I had mentioned that we were given a pot of Variegated Ginger and wondered if it was the same “stuff” that I use when I stir fry chicken.  He said No, but you can grow that stuff from the stores.

We banged it back and forth and the method we put together was this.

  • First, get yourself a piece of ginger with a lot of “fingers” on it.
  • Select a finger about the length and size of the first joint of your thumb to the length of your thumb.
  • Wash all the pieces you wish to plant in Dish Soap thoroughly.
  • Don’t bruise the skin while washing the pieces.
  • No, you didn’t wash it enough, repeat the wash another two or three times.
  • Plant in well drained soil, or a pot, and wait.
  • Water periodically and hope that the Squirrels don’t put peanuts in the pot.

The reason why I mention those damn Squirrels is my neighbors feed them raw peanuts.  They grab the peanuts and bury them in my pots.  I have peanuts growing in about a quarter of the pots I have out back.

It is the same thing with me, I guess.  I’m the kind of guy that throws pieces of tomato or fruit that is past its prime in the garden and watches to see if it grows.  Win-win, if it doesn’t I get fertilizer for this beach sand we call soil here.

I had actually forgotten that I put those thumbs in the ground in my front garden because when I walked out there one afternoon, I noticed that two ginger plants were mixed in with all the other confusion that I have out front.

I dug them up and then put into a pot, minus the peanut plants, so I could watch over them.

Ginger does not seem to mind being crowded in a pot, so you can plant it and grow it “Up North”.

Now, if you live in a zone that is on the edge, like my sister does in Zone 7b Cherry Hill, NJ, you may be able to “get away with it” in the ground.  Find a south facing wall of your house.  Plant close to the foundation because the sun hitting your walls will warm the soil just a few degrees, and it may be just enough.

Here, 8 miles south of the freezing temp lines, I don’t have to worry at all.  But as always, your mileage may vary.

Why would you bother?

My friend Craig got further along than I did with this.  Of course you can go to your favorite market and buy ginger root, that’s not the point.  The point is that the flavor of absolutely fresh Ginger Root is much more complex than some that has been shipped, treated with anti-growing chemicals, and sitting in the store waiting for you to use it.  Any natural product will taste different depending on where it grows.  In fact, certain plantings in certain fields in certain farms will yield different results.

Oh and the green parts of the plant?  You won’t find those in stores, but Ginger Greens and Stems are edible as well.  They can be tough, so you may limit that to tea or used in soups or stirfry but it’s worth a shot.  You may find a new favorite. Chop fine until you realize your own way of using them.  You will have a lot since the plant grows waist high.

That is called the “Terroir” by the French and is used to describe the effect of the environment on the grapes that go into the wine.  Similar effects happen with Coffee where one specific estate on one specific mountain will taste different than the adjacent field because there’s just a tiny difference in the amount of water or sunlight or …

Well you get the idea. 

So give it a shot, the worst thing that could happen is that you get a “pretty plant” and a great story to tell the nosy neighbors.

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Cooler Weather, Potatoes, and A Weird Dog Walk

Roasted Potatoes Picture from Wikimedia.com

I am not expecting any more hurricanes this season.

No, it’s not like Granny saying her “Rheumatiz” is firing up and predicting the weather.

It’s more like the pool is cooling, the house is cooling, and the windows are open.

There are just some things you don’t want to do when the weather is hot.  Roasting a chicken or some potatoes, or both is one of them.

Of course I know some people who would say that they would never want to do that, for various reasons.  But if the temps are in the mid 90s and will be for two months, you tend to hold off doing that sort of thing.

It’s that “Who Needs More Heat” mindset.

But this week has been what passes for cool here.  High in the 70s and warming to the low 80s.

Blistering hot for anyone living in the northern latitudes.  For us here in Sunny Florida, it’s perfect weather to roast those root vegetables.

No, it’s not a recipe, but since you asked.  Scrub the potatoes well, score the flesh, rub with a little olive oil and perhaps salt or pepper or both.  Wrap in foil.  Toss in the oven at 450F for an hour.  Should be close enough.

Larger potatoes take an extra 15 minutes to 30.  Test with a fork.

That’s how I have been heating the house.  Or at least I did when what passes for cold here arrived.

Yeah, cold.  Get out the survival gear, it’s 56!

Someone who is Farenheit Impaired would wonder what on Earth I am talking about.  Then do the conversion and wonder why I am complaining about a 15 C Day.

Here, when that happens, we’re all in black, and sunning ourselves on a rock.  Yes, Florida turns you into a big lizard.  We get cranky and dress for sub freezing temps when things are merely “cool” to the rest of the world.

Tropical countries would agree.

So when we go to the market later this week, I will look long and hard at that Roasting Chicken, and debate getting more potatoes to “Heat the House”.

Wandering around town, I noticed that the people aren’t the only ones noticing.

Rack the SuperDog (TM) also has more energy.  The walks are getting crazy long.
Having a smart dog means that they aren’t just a lump of cute.  You see, my boy learned the neighborhood.  He knows its bounds.  He knows where to go and where not to go.

I got up that morning and said “Lets go, Show me walk”.

Bad idea.

I was cold and cranky.  It was two hours to sunrise.  I just wanted to get back inside.

We went out, and got walking.  He did his business quickly.  Now normally a lazy middle aged dog coupled to a cranky and tired man means a short walk.

Nope.  We got out a half mile from home.  He turned back toward the house.  When we got to the turn to the house he stopped, looked up at me, smiled, and did a 90 degree turn wrenching my arm out of my socket.

I bent down, picked up my detatched arm, slid it back inside the leather jacket that would have been unnecessary had we lived in a more normal climate, and attached it into position.

Turbines whirred, lights flashed, pilot noises happened with servo noises and beeps.  My arm was reattached with a metallic click.  Handy to have a way to take a trip into the future.

“Rack!  Wait up!”  I plodded after him.

We walked another half mile out.  Usually at this point he is ready to go home.

Or so I thought.

We got to walk back to the house, but when we got there, he spun up his robotic space-legs, and pulled me through a warp in Space-Time past the welcoming abode.

“Boy, are we going for more?”

He looked back at me, smiled again, and I shrugged as we passed into another dimension.

Or maybe not.

Total walk was a three mile long one.  Five Kilometers.

He is a herding dog after all.

But that’s the thing.  Take advantage of the day, whether it is blistering hot, or frigid cold, or what ever you call it.

There will be fresh potatoes waiting for you when you’re back.

Ginger Blossom and Frog

Travel.  Broaden Your Horizons.

Bring a camera.

All that.

I don’t actually get into the Jeep often.  15 year old car with only 46,000 miles on it.  So when I do go for a drive, there has to be a reason, and I almost always really enjoy it.  It’s a fun vehicle to drive, and I’ll get there.  You may not, but I will.

The occasion was that I got to visit one of my favorite people, my godmother Kathie.  She’s a prime example of love makes a family.  The godparent tradition came from our childhood, and we both have found different spiritual paths.  But we stayed in touch via her moves to Florida, my much later move, and many years.

Plus she’s great company.

I got a message in my email asking if I wanted to come up and enjoy a lunch in the restaurant.  Sure! Great! When?

When became a rainy trip up.  We’ve had a lot of random smallish rain storms.  Fun.  I’ve got the right car for it.  30 inch rubber donuts, no lifts, it’s a Jeep not a Mudder.  My theory is that 10 mpg is no fun, and while the car is rated 15, I drive gently and get 18 city, 22 Highway.

Not a Prius.  But I don’t fit in a Prius.

After watching people do stupid things on the back roads, and one clown spin out, I got there.

We chatted, I added her printer to her Mac, and we went out to look at the Preserve.  Hurricane Irma took out a few trees, including a Honeybell Orange that I will miss.  But she did point out the Ginger plant.  We’ve got one too that I just planted, so I was interested to see it in bloom.

You know that motto, Always Bring A Camera?

She lifted a fallen leaf to show me the blooms and right there, sitting on the flower was this wee little Frog.

“I need a Picture of that!”

“For Ramblingmoose.com?”
“Of Course!”

So there it is.  We still don’t know if that is an Ornamental or Culinary Ginger, but it is a pretty thing.  The flowers merely smell Floral instead of smelling like a Gingerbread.  That may be what I will get out back by the shed.

The ginger, not the frogs.   Frogs are welcome too.

With an Intelligent Dog, You Get Opinions

I have read that dogs don’t disobey.  They interpret.

You just may not understand how they are interpreting things.

Of course all of that interpretation will change based on where that dog finds himself in a pack.

A dog who is confident will decide that it wants to go for a walk, so it decides it will do so.  Whether it is on its leash or not.

Of course they tend to only do such a thing if they are not getting exercised enough or are deadly bored.

Don’t want your dog to wander off?   Walk him.  Long walks.  Three miles for a dog in a day really isn’t a lot unless you have one of those fussy little things that bark at a leaf moving in the next county or an airplane over head.

That’s your burden.  It still needs a walk.

Beta dogs are a puzzle.  They require careful handling.  After all, they are looking to you for guidance.

Constantly.

Rack is a Beta.  He’s also incredibly intelligent just like any other McNab Dog.  Intelligent breeds are that way.  Anything-Shepard.  Herding Dogs are used for their intelligence because they think.  In a house, they can get bored.   A Beta who is Bored is going to still find things to do and interpret what he thinks the rules are.

Luckily Rack isn’t bored often.  He’s happy to lay down and sleep next to me for most of the day.  My chair that I do most of what ever it is that I actually do is near a window.  I see things that happen, after all it is a busy street.

The other day I saw something go on.  Rack was asleep.  But being a herding dog, it was almost like there was someone whispering in his ear what is going on.

Then I spotted that something.  Could have been anything from the feral ducks to a neighbor getting landscaping to a passer by.

I made the mistake of saying “Oh.”.  Not particularly loudly mind you.  Just a slightly louder than a whisper “Oh.”

Rack had an opinion.  “WOO WOO WOO WOO!”

Standing up, he ran to the front door.  Fur up on his back.  I guess he didn’t like what was going on.

“Damnit Dog, go take a look, there’s nothing out there!”

“WOO! WOO woo grumblegrumble mmm”

The grumbling went on for a bit, then he lay down and go back to sleep.

“Knucklehead”.

I go back to entertaining myself answering emails.  Reading tech websites.  I realize that I have a website that needs attention.  He’s fast asleep and jogging in his sleep.  Alternating between running and wagging his tail.

“Hmm, better log into that site.”
“WOO WOO WOO”  He didn’t like my tone of voice.

“Rack!  Nothings wrong, go look!”

My standard thing is to keep him busy when he’s interpreting what I am going on about.  I won’t tell him to look if there’s a delivery in the area.  That would set him off again.

I get the same cycle of winding down and walking back to his place where he can continue watching me, getting things wrong, sliding into sleep, and wagging his tail.

When he’s not doing dippy things, he’s actually very quiet in the house.  But twice a day…

You see, the UPS truck comes through the neighborhood every afternoon and that would set him off.

Opinions.  Interpretations.  Two Plus Two are Five.

That’s what you get with an intelligent dog.  A Police Officer who worked with dogs once told me “On their best day, they’re still a dog”.  I can see that.  They just don’t always get it right.

But, I can easily tell him to walk around in the front yard to dry off his feet after I wash them at the end of a walk.  Even if his best dog friend the giant Rottweiler named “D.O.G.” is out there.

Yes, D.O.G., and no I don’t know what Double-Oh styled agency that he’s a part of or what it is short for.  It’s just 165 pounds of mostly black love sponge who whines at me from across the street.  And yes, he interprets as well since that whine is him saying come on over I am lonely.

Weirdly, Rack is now comfortable enough with that that he hasn’t taken the Once Around The Car “Walk in the Grass” order as being conditional and up for interpretation, but who knows.

After all, on his best day, he’s still a dog.

Safflower and Milkweed

Why do you want to grow those things again?

Because they’re DIFFERENT!

But they look like weeds, the thorns on the leaves pinch, and then the flowers dry up and …

I said they’re different.  Besides, we’ve got the seeds.  Why not grow weird plants?

I have basil growing in my garden so I can make pizza.  Green onion in pots make so much that even I can’t eat it all.  My Rosemary has grown into a carpet of green.  I have banana plants in a pot that are taller than I am by a solid two feet that I need to break into separate pots for gifts. I can’t give away my spare coleus or mango trees.  There are peanuts growing all over the place…

Yes, PEANUTS!  As in Jimmy Carter’s pride

And the conversation petered off at the end.  People let their artichokes grow all the time and they end up with a big purple poof that looks like the yellow safflower blossoms.

Beauty is where you find it.  No, I mean YOU find it.  I may not agree, so don’t let that hold you back.  Be creative.  Grow what you like, especially if you like it on a pizza.

Gardening here is simple, drop a seed, it grows.  It may grow out of control.  Up North, that hardy Asparagus Fern you grow in your bathroom.  Down here, it is a noxious and invasive weed.  I can’t understand why someone wants all those thorns growing inside their house anyway.

But they like it.  *sigh*

So I’ll grow a few more oil seeds in my garden.  The flower bloomed, and stayed intact. I put the dried flower in a plastic bag, rolled it between my hands, and got more seeds.

You might ask where I get safflower seeds?  We ordered something electronic online.  It showed up saying that it was shipped from Bahrain of all places.

Bahrain?  Don’t they usually sell products in barrels?  Crude Oil?  Safflower oil too I guess.  There has to be a reason why you live where you do for centuries, so enjoy.

I put some seeds in the front garden and watched.  Landscapers came by and raked them up.  I put more seeds down and will “box” them off with old roof tiles.  They are good at figuring that all out.

I hope.

As for the Milkweed, well it was in the pot first.  It made it to the seed pod because the Monarchs never discovered it.  I carpet bombed the neighborhood with milkweed seeds where ever they were left to grow from the last time I did that.  The butterflies will enjoy that,  they’re back already eating the daylights out of what is in my yard.

Now, if I can only figure out how to squeeze inside my hedge so I can plant that variegated hibiscus to fill in some bare spots, I may be getting my flowers back!

Goodbye, David Clarke

I told myself I wouldn’t write this.  I had already said my goodbyes in a few ways, made my comments, and as is normal these days I made some comments on your facebook feed.

Then I saw this picture of you on a pass through my picture collection.

It must have been what was in the back of my mind when I wrote on facebook that day.  It’s exactly what you’d do.

You’d park yourself in the backyard under my umbrella.  Next to the pool, you would go out there “Not To Smoke” but you would anyway.  You were the only person allowed to smoke on the property but never in the house.

Bringing your cup of tea out there, it became Your Spot.  You could look across the pool at the tropical plantings secure in the knowledge that they were tended to by someone else.  You were taking a break from your duties.  I guess we could call you a Concierge because you were always doing something for someone in some weirdly random way.  I was always surprised to find out some of the things you would do.

My backyard was your refuge from all of those duties.  You came here, occasionally but not frequently enough, to get away from all that happy nonsense of the life you chose during the week we met.

I have known you since, as best as I can tell, February 1987.  We met when I vacationed there and you had just landed from London.  It was a vacation from that life, but you would make it permanent.  A lucky break or three gave you just enough to be able to set roots down and you could live there.  Maybe I have the timing off one way or another but that is my best guess.

We kept in contact excluding a gap in time.  One chance meeting I was walking into the market some time around February 1992 and there you were coming out.

It was like old times.  We did not lose contact again.

You visited us in Philadelphia.  You enjoyed my own neighborhood of Chestnut Hill as much as we did.  I was told it looked just like the English countryside town that you came from.  It was “Very English”.  When you were there, I didn’t tell you that the shop owners took you to heart.  When you left they would occasionally ask when you were coming back.

Later we moved to Wilton Manors, Florida.  It’s a full 190 miles away and a long four hour drive from you in Key West.  I was warned that it was one way in and one out and traffic could completely block.  People could have a 10 hour trip through the keys because “The Sysco Truck broke down” or overturned or some dumb tourist cut in front of it.  All were plausible.  None happened when I went down there.

Just watch your speed driving the Keys.  They will ticket in some places at one MPH over.

My visits were a mirror of yours.  Take over a room, drop the suit cases, and relax before a long wander through town to see how much things changed.  Key West changed completely over the years.  Wilton Manors less so.

Every visit I would spend fixing your computers.  I was happy when you got a Mac because then you wouldn’t get those Windows viruses.  Then the virus writers targeted Mac and you would get them there.  I remember you had a literal stack of machines and every one would end up used up and set under the bed in the spare room waiting for care because Virus.

Stop clicking on links in emails, please.

Well now there are no more links to click.

No more Mangos to duck from the trees.

No more check ins.

Someone else will feed the cat that visits you on your porch for food and sometimes come in for a short visit.

You died suddenly of natural causes on July 29 2017.

I didn’t find out until after I called you and left a message, worried.

Four minutes later someone on your facebook feed confirmed it.

The stories went back and forth.  You never completely hide from friends.  Now it is much easier for friends to talk.  We shared details of how you were planning to come here but kept missing the trip because you were feeling badly, twice in the week before.  Each time this happened I’d implore you to visit the doctor.  You would become more strident about my coming to visit.  I think we know why now.

I had a wonderful chat with your friends, even in your home town.

You were so very proud of that town, Winsford, England.  When I showed you how to virtually walk down the street there you were “gobsmacked”.  So was I.  I would love to see it myself but probably never will get there, just like  at this point I doubt I’ll get back to Key West.

I captured that picture of the big stone church and put it on your computers every time I set one up for you.

In fact there were three computers here for you to look at.  All with the picture of that church in Winsford, England.

We would go through those pictures and virtually visit your town with the old show To The Manor Born on the TV.  We watched that series so many times that we could quote dialog along with Audrey and the Rest.  All those old comedy shows that you’d bring along, some I had seen, some not, and always a very enjoyable time.

You are and now were more than a friend, you were a big brother from another mother.  You will be missed.

Goodbye David.

Snail on Tree

In the yard, there is a little garden.

The little garden is an island afloat on a sea of grassy green.

In the middle of that island is an old snag of a tree.

I can’t bring myself to cut it down.  It’s old, it’s moth-eaten, and it’s partly dead.  But the parts of that old snag are quite thoroughly alive.

The old snag is a bottle brush tree.  It puts out red flowers that look like a bottle brush from time to time.  So I cut the dead spots off and leave the thing be.  I’m overdue for cutting more dead spots off that tree.  Because of those dead branches, I also have lots of air plants, Tillandsia, growing on the bark.

It is its own little ecosystem.

Spanish Moss, ants, birds.  It’s full of life even if the tree can’t decide what to do.

After a rain, much of that life is forced to the surface.  You can go out there and watch the lizards crawl over it and poach a few insects.  That is their place in life, to keep the pests down.

They don’t seem to mind being watched anyway.

But on the bark this one day was a snail.  They usually are seen stuck to a window or a post or some other vertical object.  When they are there, normally, they are not alive.  In fact it is rare that I see one out in the open like this particular day.

A little piece of Escargot trailing a shell that looks like a fancy chocolate, right there in the open, on my half alive tree.

Sure, I could cut it all down but what is the point.  I already have a palm tree next to it.  I did not plant that palm.  It ‘involuntarily’ grew in my pot in the back yard, and took it over.  Most likely thanks to some errant bird that left the seed when it was getting ready to fly from my Sea Grape tree in the back yard.  I did not weed the palm until I realized it was too late so I cut the pot away from the plant and dragged the root ball to the front yard where I figured I would need it.

The blasted palm tree is now more than 15 feet tall.

So it’s all a nice little family.  Half dead bottle brush tree.  Out sized palm tree.  Some red screw palms and another clump of green ones on the other side.

And the chocolate shelled snail lives there happily as well.

We will just call it a garden, uplight the palm, and call it done.  May as well.  You get some interesting visitors from time to time, you know.