Sunday, September 27, 2009

Homemade Trellis

We have trellises made of many different types of recycled materials around here. Sticks, strings, old clothing racks, junk metal welded together...
Climbing plants are pretty determined and are not too picky about what they climb up.

This is a new one we just made out of left over wood from a door remodel and string. We are growing three types of cucumbers under it and will train them up through the strings to give them something to hang on to.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Chicken Feathers

I read somewhere, don't ask me where, that some people sell chicken feathers to fly fisherman so they can make their own lures. I have been wondering if there is a way to use our chicken feathers. So I googled it.

Did you know there is a king of fly fishing lures?

Or that researchers are trying to use chicken feathers to stabilize and store hydrogen for fuel efficient gas tanks??

30 lost minutes later I had learned that you can sell a bag of chicken feathers for about $2.00 on ebay and that only certain neck rooster feathers are really ideal for fly fisher people.

What can we do with all these feathers? I think I shall make you all chicken down pillows for the holidays... unless you have any other ideas.

Chinese Red Noodle Bean

Whoa! These Chinese Noodle Beans are looooong.

This one is as tall as my daughter. They look a little like worms when they are smaller.

They keep their reddish color when sauteed and its best to keep them picked so they keep producing. Chinese Noodle Beans do better in the heat then most beans so they are great for South Texas. We planted them late but they are still doing fine. They bring some fun to the garden.

Hot tip from my daughter: Potted aloe makes for a perfect sized toddler back scratcher.

Monday, September 21, 2009

How To Make A Rain Barrel

Way back when I started this blog I promised to write a post on how to make a rain barrel. Today is finally the day!

It is really pretty easy- I know you can do it. First buy a food grade rain barrel. We got ours from Dave the Barrel Man. You can also get complete rain barrels made there. We just bought three plain barrels and made our own. Then you need a faucet, some plumbing repair rubber, a washer and a screw for the faucet. We got everything at Home Depot. We picked out the faucet first and then explained the plan to the plumbing salesman. He went around and helped us find the other parts we needed. You will also need-a helper, cement blocks and a drill. Maybe tin snips to cut your gutter.

Step One- Drill a hole the same size as your faucet a few inches above the bottom of the barrel.

Step Two-Trace end of faucet onto the rubber sheet. Cut out the circle.

Step Three- Hand screw the faucet into the rain barrel hole.

Step Four- Stack the remaining materials in this order- rubber sheet with hole, washer, screw. Turn barrel on to its side and climb in. Put the rubber against the barrel, put on the washer and screw it in. You will need a helper to hold the faucet on the outside of the barrel so you an screw it all together. So now it should look like faucet on the outside, barrel, rubber sheet, washer and screw.

Ta da!!

Now you will need to prepare the spot you want the barrel to go. Remember its going to be incredible heavy when its filled. Rake and flatting the area under your gutter. You want it to be a level, flat ground surface. Then place four cement blocks down. This will raise the barrel to get gravity working on your side when you need the water to run out of the hose. Then place your barrel on the cement. Cut the gutter to be above the barrel.

You are going to want to have something as a lid to keep out mosquitoes and leaves. We have two options working over here. One is the lid the barrels came with with a hole cut into the top:

The other is just a window screen lid. We bought it at the Habitat for Humanity Restore for about 50 cents.

You are also going to want to buy Mosquito Dunks- You can get them at Home Depot or any big home improvement store. Some nurseries are starting to sell them too. These kill your mosquitoes that would otherwise breed in your barrels.

Hook up your hose and wait for the rain!

***Here is a more recent post on upgrading your rain barrel. 

Sunday, September 20, 2009

National Public Lands Day: The Sequel

I heard of another great National Public Lands Day Event that I wanted to share. Whole Earth Provisions is hosting a clean up the Mission Parks Event from 9-12 September 26th. Then there will be an after party at the store in the Quarry Market with small prizes for the participants and a screening of Ken Burns PBS documentary National Parks: America's Best Idea. Sounds like a good time to be had by all.

There is a similar event in Austin at McKinney Falls State Park.

Friday, September 18, 2009

National Public Lands Day

Sept 26 is National Public Lands Day. All over the country people are getting together and cleaning up the national areas we share, building trails and planting plants. Find a neat project near you.

Texas Public Radio is doing a planting project in San Antonio in Voelcker Park. They need 200 volunteers to plant over 50,000 (!) plugs of native grasses and wildflowers to restore the park.
Here's a quick list to the options in Texas. San Antonio is also hosting a graffiti wipe out event every Saturday in September. In case you want to get a jump on cleaning up the town this weekend. I bet you can meet some cool people.

I starting writing a long rant here about the environment but hell its Friday. I will just leave you with this quote.

Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realise we cannot eat money.
- Cree Indian Proverb

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tres Amigos

A pumpkin, cantaloupe and watermelon walk into a bar. I swear there is a watermelon back there. Just believe.

Ok for the skeptics. Can you see the watermelon now?

Our cantaloupes are amazing. If I do say so myself. And I am not a huge fan of the orange melon. These are crisp and super sweet. We are about to have an over abundance so I am going to attempt to freeze some. Hot tip: Cut the melon into squares and place on a cookie sheet and freeze for a few hours before placing them into a container. Then the melon won't mush all together into a big melon mush pile. I am going to freeze them in a simple sugar solution.

Sorry to leave you hanging, the joke at the beginning has no ending. But I will leave you with this joke that my husband and sister in law think is hilarious and have both told me repeatedly.

Why did the watermelons get married in the church?

Because they can't elope.

Monday, September 14, 2009


These are alternating rows of bok choy and Brussels sprouts. The classic book Carrots Love Tomatoes recommends this combination. We have them under this here chicken wire for the obvious reasons. Namely: the chickens.

And to go with our future bok choy stir fry, our first Chinese Dragon Bean.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Curious Incident of the Chicken in the Nighttime

Warning: This post not suitable for young children, vegetarians, or lovers of Scrambles the Chicken.

We awoke this morning to a feather massacre. But maybe I should back up. Scrambles the Chicken was an antisocial chicken who preferred to sleep in a tree as opposed to sleeping in the hen house with the other chickens. We allowed this eccentric and hilarious habit to continue, until this morning, when tell tale feathers were found covering the yard. The first one implicated was our good-for-nothing dog Grover. In all fairness, he was inside the house because he is terrified of thunderstorms. (Aside: Hooray Hooray! It has been raining all week!) So although he did not harm the chicken- he also did not protect the chicken.

The trail of feathers lead around the yard and gathered in the pumpkin/ corn patch.

Then the trail led underneath the deck into a suspected skunk hole.

Skunk 1/ Humans 0.

Chickens are not the hardiest pets we have ever had.

Scrambles- you were a good chicken. Most of all, I will miss your delicious eggs.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Future Jack O'Lantern

Thursday, September 10, 2009


After a few days of rain the cow peas just all popped out. I saw flowers one day and the next I was shocked to see these long beans. We picked a few and then came inside to google how best to dry them. This is a case were we should have gotten our degree at Google University first and then proceed.

Hot tip: Let the southern peas dry on the vine.

We ate the ones we had picked raw and they were surprisingly tasty. Luckily there are still a ton left to dry on the vine and harvest in the future.

Hot tip two: There are scattered showers in the forecast for the next few days so now is a great time to plant any seeds.

The Broccoli Goes Marching

One by one. Hurrah. Hurrah.

This is a whole stacked row of baby broccoli. It was intentionally over planted so we can weed out the weak ones and keep only the stronger ones as they grow in. Broccoli sprouts make for great micro-greens and tasty salad toppers- so the weaklings will not go to waste.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Biennial Parsley

Parsley isn't an annual or a perennial. It is a biennial. Lives for two years and then dies back. Our parsley used to look like this.  Now it is looking pretty sad. I am sorry to see it go- but we have a new little guy waiting in the wings. Thus is life. Parsley takes a really long time to sprout up from seed so we are going to pop in this transplant when it cools off a bit more. 

They say: Parsley seeds must go to the devil and back nine times before sprouting. 

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cow Peas

AKA Southern Peas

They grow in the hot hot heat and are great for saving as dry beans. Besides their unfortunate name- there's not a lot to growing cow peas. 

So this seems as good a time as any to tell you about our November experiment. We are going to try to live off nothing but food from our garden/ eggs from our chickens for one week. We are growing these southern peas with the intent to dry and save them for that week. Now this is not quite as exciting as going say a whole month like the author in Farm City or a whole local year like the author of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle- but hell- start where you are, you know? We choose the week before Thanksgiving so if it turns into a long, drawn out fast- at least there will be a feast at the end. Think positive thoughts for us. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Birth of An Artichoke

My husband whacked down my favorite artichoke after it had finished flowering. He claimed it would come back as a perennial. I have to admit the dead brown stump had me convinced he was crazy. But look! Will wonders never cease. Its AAAAALIVE!

He also claims super friendly toads live in this hole. I still have my doubts about that. 

The Haze Of Summer Lifts

Surviving the summer in South Texas is like making it through the blizzardly winter in other parts of the country. You hunker down inside and pray your plants are still somehow alive when its all over. When I saw this verbena coming back to life- I knew we was all gonna make it. 

It is September! Which is a fantastic time to garden in the lone star state. It hasn't been over 100 degrees all month. Texas is also unusual because it has two short growing seasons instead of one long one. And season two is kicking off now- right with college football season. It is a really great time to plant again. 

Our planting guide suggests that the beginning of September is the time to put in kale and Swiss chard, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, beets, zucchini, green beans, seed potatoes (if you can find them) and artichokes.  Don't try this anywhere but Texas ya'll.

Have a good time but remember
There is danger in the summer moon above
Will I see you in September
Or lose you to a summer love - The Beach Boys