Gardens of the Cross Timbers: Time to go

Becky Emerson Carlberg
Contributing writer
Rocco in Lake Wister

“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die, I want to go where they went.”  Will Rogers.  

The precipitation chart within last week’s article was sabotaged by the newspaper’s non-Windows program.  The numbers still say it all.  Lots of rain or little rain.  Erratic and unpredictable.  A challenge to keep plants going through the feasts and famines of moisture, temperature and wind.

Have a stellar fourth?  The day was rather warm and humid, but the area came alive at night with several displays of shooting fireworks in all directions.  Our cats were not amused and stuck to us like glue.  After one incredibly loud bang, a poor titmouse got discombobulated, slammed into the glass storm door and broke its neck. Fireworks are awesome, but our furry and feathered friends just don’t understand.  To them it is the sound of danger similar to the crack of thunder or shooting of guns.

Roadrunners on porch and birdbath

The roadrunner circled the house for an hour.  It taunted the cats by walking up to the side glass door, looking in, the backing away. This was repeated several times.  Great fun.  The bird then made its way to the front storm door to continue its investigation into the house.  The cats became bored.  The bird, clamping the very dead lizard tightly in its bill, darted to the back of the house.  The redcedar branch offered a dandy perch.  The bird hopped up, swallowed the lizard and rested for several minutes in the shade.  It then jumped off, found a patch of sunlight and stretched out its wings for a few minutes.  An hour later the bird reappeared, prancing around the front door with another, smaller lizard.  I wish I could entice it to hunt bagworms.

The Buck moon

The night of July 4th, fourteen minutes before the moon became totally full, a partial eclipse began.  Because the moon was so bright, the earth’s shadow that passed over the top third of the moon was barely visible. Disappointing.  Must wait until November 30th when 4/5ths of the moon is covered in shadow. The July moon’s brilliancy lingered in the night sky until Monday. It has many names depending on where you are:  thunder, rose, Dharma Day, guru, hay and buck moon. Hay is cut in July.  The Algonquin tribes called it buck moon since this time of year young buck deer begin sprouting velvet covered antlers.

“Kiss of the Sun”

“The kiss of the sun for pardon, The song of the birds for mirth, One is nearer God’s heart in a garden, then any place else on Earth”.

When I was in my needlecraft phase as a teenager, I labored over a piece of coarse material printed with the poem surrounded by nature using a thick needle and yarns of various colors.  The end result of the convoluted pattern was the illustrated poem by Dorothy Gurney.  The hand-embroidered masterpiece has been with me ever since.  The garden scene with painted buntings fluttering above flowers springing up to the brilliant sun takes me to a happy place.  

The poem “The Lord God Planted a Garden” written by Dorothy Frances Gurney (1858-1932) is composed of five stanzas.  This is the fourth stanza.  Not much information about the English poet and hymn writer, other than her father and husband were Anglican priests, but she and her husband converted to Roman Catholicism in 1919.  I suppose one could say the poem was divinely inspired.   

Truss of cherry tomatoes

Gardens this time of year are gearing up for summer production.  My tomato plants are loaded with green fruits.  I have started harvesting black cherry tomatoes.  These tomatoes originally resulted from a natural cross in a crop of Florida cherry tomatoes.  They were introduced in 2003 by the late Vince Sapp of Tomato Growers Supply.

Cherry tomatoes are actually the only wild tomatoes found outside South America.  Their ancestry stems from the wild currant tomatoes in Ecuador and Peru and the domesticated tomato from the Andes.  The black cherry tomato is often called an heirloom and considered a rare variety in the cherry tomato world.  Solanum lycopersicum var. cerasiforme forms one-inch berries that turn reddish purple.  The color becomes much darker as ultraviolet light increases. The small toms have a slightly tough skin but the meat is sweet and rich.  To me it is almost like eating candy as I pop one after another into my mouth. An abundant producer, the vine can set up to fifty little tomatoes per truss (cluster of small stems with flowers that develop into cherry tomatoes, usually several ripening at the same time.)

Considering the weather prediction for next few weeks, I should enjoy every tomato that is currently on the vine.  The temperatures are set to sky rocket into the 100’s and stay there with no rain. Tomatoes stop growing above 95 degrees.  The summer crop may well be compromised but might be difficult to find under the mounting piles of leaves being jettisoned from trees as they deal with the heat and drought.

“Dogs….do not ruin their sleep worrying about how to keep the objects they have, and to obtain the objects they have not.  There is nothing of value they have to bequeath except their love and faith.”  Eugene O’Neill   

Rocco on Turkey Mountain

The morning I counted seventeen bluebirds all in a row on an electrical line, my Tulsa grand puppy Rocco was on his last hike around Turkey Mountain Monday morning.  The day before he took sips of water as he waded in Tulsa’s Shell Lake.  The black Labrador could never resist a lake, pond, creek or river if he was within striking distance.  Thirteen years ago, my son adopted Rocco after his mother had been killed by a car.  The wee puppy was four weeks old and had to be bottle fed.  He has been my son’s constant companion through thick and thin.  Rocco liked to go camping, watch bicycle and running races, chase rabbits and balls, possessively guard his boy, his house and his yard.  He never turned down a bone.  Rocco could rip apart heavy duty Kong dog toys with ease, leaving the stuffing everywhere in his wake.  

Age has a way of catching up with our pets usually much sooner than us.  Kidneys are necessary organs and when they go, so goes the rest of the body.  After a few heroic weeks, Rocco tired of fighting.  He laid in the shade, head resting on his bunny dog toy, and waited.  Ron, Rocco’s veterinarian from the very first day, drove to the house.  Rocco recognized him and wagged his tail in greeting.  On a beach towel in the shadow of the large hackberry tree,  surrounded by his family, Rocco took his last deep breath.  Time to go.

Becky Emerson Carlberg, graduate of Oklahoma State (Plant Pathology) is a teacher, artist, writer as well as certified Oklahoma Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at