Gardens of the Cross Timbers: The Ides of July

Becky Emerson Carlberg
Contributing writer
Growing Watercress

The black and white male calf was terrified.  He had found a way out of the fence and was tranquilly grazing in the greener grass when a stream of traffic began flowing past him.  The yard sale patrons were leaving and going to their next designation.  The calf zigged across the road and walked along the fence before crossing to the other side.  Most people slowed to let the little critter do its thing, but then the white car approached.  Not slowing down, the driver honked wildly while the calf balked and ran.  The engine gunning, horn blaring idiot somehow missed the calf and vanished over the hill.  I waved a stick to move the calf along toward an overgrown patch where the fence angled.  He dodged inside and reappeared at the other side.  His mother, who had been trumpeting ‘where are you’ changed her tune as he ran to her.  A couple in a truck stopped to tell me they too had seen the calf find the way back into the field.  We all shared a little happiness that morning.

De ja vu.  The same white car appeared two days later one mile south.  I had just walked past the mother turkey and her brood of five, warning the large bird it was dangerous being in the middle of the road.  The group scuttled off to the side, but after I passed, they turned around and headed back across the road in the other direction.  No doubt part turtle.  I thought the turkeys should be fine.  All was quiet.  Suddenly the roar of a car accompanied by loud honking caused me to turn around just in time to see the mother turkey leap one way, a small turkey fly over the fence and the other four were where?  The white devil car sped past, horn in staccato mode, and zoomed away.  I hurried back in time to see the turkeys regroup, all safe and sound.  Mom quickly led her family under the fence into the wooded field. 

The power of the horn.  Horns are everywhere: Longhorn cattle, short horn bison, cornucopia horns at Thanksgiving, French horns, trumpets, Alpen horns, bull horns, horned toads…

Horns at Home

Many auto horns have sharp yells, a few want to be trains, big trucks or ocean fog horns, some squeak like dog toys, play melodies, patriotic tunes or college fight songs and others are wimpy breathy afterthoughts. There are temperamental horns that refuse to respond unless touched or caressed the right way.  Many of us have unpredictable responses when the shrill sound hits our ears.  Although designed to get attention, the horn tends to cause sudden panic, frantic looking around, or abrupt stopping. Pretty sure that driver behind the horn might have been even more inconvenienced if the car plowed into the calf or turkey blood covered the windshield.  

Approaching July Storm

Love it when the weather prediction doesn’t quite pan out.  Surprise storms earlier this week turned the July dust into mud.  The robust winds downed power lines, leaving many without power or, in my case, internet.  My birthday arrived on an internet-less steamy, hot day.  I was sung ‘Happy Birthday’ at different times on the landline.   Two hummingbird feeders were rinsed and filled.  The lid on one was not properly attached and the sweet nectar rapidly drained away.  This excited the ants below.  Fresh refill.  My van had trouble starting.  Back to the garage this evening to spend the next day in the care of professionals who marvel at her age and condition.  For Baby it’s an ego trip and brief holiday in town. At the breakfast table Sammy cat caught his claws in a placemat and sent the cup of hot tea everywhere.  Off to the washing machine with the placemats.  

American Tulips in July

Yellow tulips for my birthday sat on the Lazy Susan.  Things were going better until Fed Ex delivered the food service order.  Heard the truck and walked outside to see the box being taken across the street.  The good thing, we were able to get the attention of the carrier who turned around, crossed the street and delivered the box to our driveway.  The bad thing, the perishable food was supposed to have arrived the day before.  The order probably rode around on the truck all day, spent the night in a warm garage and was relabeled and repackaged by Fed Ex for delivery the next day.  Staring at the beaten box on the kitchen floor, I peeled away the tape, took a deep breath and opened the cardboard flaps.

Really wilted veggies

Double plastic sacks had been tied into a knot at the top.  Usually, the food is separated into paper bags, super cold, well insulated and surrounded by ice packs.  Peering deep into the abyss, I saw a mass of wet paper, thawed insulation and two deflated ice packs.  Inches of water stood in the bottom of the plastic sack.  The dripping paper and food were fished out (just the right word) and put on the counter.  The box and plastic were removed to the outdoors to be sorted and recycled.  Some of the food had been in plastic jars and sacks while other tidbits had been immersed in fishy smelling water.  Fresh salmon was one of the two meals.  

The warm pieces of fish and chicken were unwrapped, cut into chunks and taken outside to the bird feeders and compost pile along with kale and other saturated veggies.  Salvaged and washed were sealed prepared artichoke hearts and olives, jars of seasonings, tomatoes, one red pepper, a zucchini and two green onions.  Yay. The soaked recipe pamphlets were rinsed and attached to the clothes line outside to dry in the intense sunlight.  

An hour later a murder of crows descended and picked through the edibles at the bird feeders.  They thoughtfully left the foxes some chicken and salmon. At least some are happy and healthy, because most of the food was organic.  

Recycling veggies is something I like to do since planting seeds and other options often have sad results. Somewhere by the east bed are small potatoes ready to be dug. They developed from the eyes of cut up spuds. The plants have vanished so it could turn into a major excavation.  Weeks ago, sprouted watercress seedlings were included in one dinner.  Directions said to use the leaves and discard the roots.  I planted the roots in a pot and now have a small watercress plant.  The ginger rhizome had white growth nodes.  Days on the counter and the nodes are forming green leaves.  The ginger is ready to go into sunlight and moist soil.  If all else fails, green onion roots quickly regenerate into more green onions.  

Sprouting Ginger

If you’re discouraged with your summer garden, sterilize a few pots, fill with potting soil and plunk in some veggie roots.  In no time you’ll have plants not only pleasing to the eye but good enough to eat.

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