Reflections on June, 2013

Reflections on June, 2013: Our First Month in Oklahoma

A firefly was displayed on the side of our U-Haul as we pulled it up to the garage of the in-laws’ house in Southwestern Oklahoma on a hot Wednesday in June.  U-Haul began their SuperGraphics truck-side images in 1988, and I genuinely appreciate their willingness to do so.  Having been offered to display advertising for Corporate America, U-Haul said no thanks, and chose instead, to display images and little known facts about each state.

U-Haul's SuperGraphics

U-Haul’s SuperGraphics

The firefly is the iconic image for Indiana, though Illinois has its share of some remaining meadows and grassy areas that become enchanting visual landscapes on summer evenings.  Though we called them lightning bugs, I can remember vividly the twinkling lights, the smell of the grass that was beginning to get moist with dew, and the sounds of so many crickets chirping on those Illinois evenings at my dad’s country home.

     The sounds of the Oklahoma country setting are a bit different.  We were welcomed by the sound of a horse-head lifting up and down in a repetition not unlike a broken record.  The sound, Aaron pointed out, had three distinct notes, high-pitched and whiny, as if we had entered an eerie old west saloon.  Rheeee-Eee-Ooooo.  Rheeee-Eee-Ooooo, it was singing over and over.  The wind was hot and dry as we unloaded boxes, tables, and beds.
     This June has been a cooler and wetter one than usual, though Oklahoma is still technically in a drought.  One evening, we played in the rain and even enjoyed a rainbow!  The grasses and trees appeared quite green and people complained about humidity.  We laughed and thought about Illinois’ nearly dripping forests and muggy afternoons.  My hair wasn’t even frizzy here yet.  We learned that if you want it to rain here, everyone must wash their cars.  If someone doesn’t, you get to blame him/her for the lack of precipitation.
     As far as gardening goes, not much has happened our first month here.  We mulched the three tomato plants that mother-in-law planted and they look great.  Just as I have experienced from gardening in the past, the single straggling tomato plant gets the most attention from the grasshoppers.  This is because plants that are weakened by genetics, under-watering, lack of sun, or whatever it may be, have less energy to expend on defense mechanisms, such as unappealing taste to munchers like grasshoppers.

Mulched tomatoes.  Note the small, sparse leaves due to the high powered solar rays here.

Mulched tomatoes. Note the small, sparse leaves due to the high powered solar rays here.

If we get the leaves wet, however and then apply diatomaceous earth, the hoppers tend to leave them alone, sometimes.

Illinois house plants soon to be ravaged by Oklahoma winds.

Illinois house plants soon to be ravaged by Oklahoma winds.

Almost all of our houseplants have died on the front porch from the thrashing wind, grasshoppers, and lack of rain.  The Aloe Veras got sun-burnt, the mint shriveled up like little green potato chips, the plantain (weed, not banana) shriveled so quickly, it nearly disappeared, and the Jerusalem artichoke looks like a fall corn stalk decoration.  We’re going to need some serious windbreaks if we want to keep anything alive here.

     We visited the nearby farmer’s markets and feel really good about, if we can keep them alive, selling vegetables there.  We also got our business cards made and are eager to pass them out. We’ve already had one visitor, a dear friend from our Farm Beginnings program, and though she couldn’t stay long, she got to see the area we are working with and the ground zero aspect we’re starting from.  On her next visit, she’ll get to see our progress, and hopefully we’ll have a shelter for her to stay in.  If we can build it as energy efficient as possible, we might be near the energy efficiency of the firefly whose light is the most efficient in the world.  100% of the energy is converted to light, with no remaining heat.  An incandescent light bulb produces only 10% light and the rest is lost as heat.  Imagine all that heat that warms up a room when the light is left on!
     When we mulched the garden, we were increasing its water-holding efficiency.  With no cover for the soil, and the high wind conditions of Oklahoma, a lot of the water put on the soil will evaporate, leaving the gardener watering every other day.  With a newspaper and leaf layer covering the soil, it stays cooler and retains that moisture much longer, meaning less water is necessary to allow growth for the plants.  These little acts of efficiency are going to add up to big savings in money and natural resources on our Oklahoma homestead.  I commend that little firefly, hope to see some of his kind here, and hope to be at least half as efficient as his species.

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