|Cheyenne & Savannah working hard, taking off the cattle panels|
|Cheyenne & Savannah working hard, taking off the cattle panels|
Today was a day of cleaning up and catching up on chores. The word “chore” often conjures up a negative thought, but it was really fun and refreshing. The kids all commented at different times how good it felt to have things back in order.
|The two ladies wanted the same box, forget the open one right next door!|
Jonathan loves birds, including our chickens. When others are making faces and trying to look busy doing nothing, Jonathan is willing and ready to help me in the coop. For the most part, the chickens are low maintenance livestock on the small scale that we keep them. At this time, we have a dozen hens and one rooster. With two feeders that will hold 25 lbs of feed each, the feed only has to be filled once a week. Water is different, most of the time it has to be filled daily. Once we get moved to the new farm, I plan to add automatic waterers to the hen house. The only real complaint I have about the hens is that they insist on roosting on the nesting boxes. This wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that during the night they poop a lot. Which in turn means that the nesting boxes and roosts must be cleaned out. Usually, Mondays are my chicken coop cleaning days; however, I have been remiss lately about that chore. So, today Jonathan and I got after it. Funny thing about chickens- they don’t like me messing with their nesting boxes. For a few days, we will be finding eggs in odd places.
|Some one’s been messing with my box!|
The girls all chipped in and picked up trash, moved supplies and swept porches. The dogs favorite past-time is to find anything plastic and chew it up. Their favorite place to chew it up is in the front flowerbed for the whole world to see. Thanks to them, there is plenty of trash to pick up. The last chore of the day was to load up all the trash from all areas and tote it off.
Once the chores were done, we enjoyed a nice steak dinner and Cool Runnings movie night!
|The family enjoying homemade soup and NCIS Los Angeles|
If there is one meal that speaks comfort to me, it is a bowl of homemade soup with cornbread. My mom made this soup a lot when we were growing up and it was probably the first recipe I learned to make. I have memories of making it when I was 5. You may not believe me, but I did! I have lots of preschool memories, plenty from 2 and 3 years of age.
The memory that stands out regarding the homemade soup is from Kindergarten. While in kindergarten, my Grandad and Uncle Kenny picked me up from school and kept me while my mother ran her afternoon bus route. I absolutely adored both of those men and loved seeing them waiting for me after school. One of those days the subject of dinner came up. I informed them that I could cook homemade soup and they let me. This must have been one of the reasons that I loved hanging out with them, they let me do a lot that my mother would not have turned me loose on.
Homemade soup is a simple affair with basic ingredients, which is usually the case with comfort food. One pound of ground meat and chopped potatoes boiled fork tender are the base of the soup. After that, its any one’s game. Mostly, corn, green beans, English peas, carrots and stewed tomatoes are added. At this time, canned veggies were common place in the kitchen and because they are already cooked, once the meat is browned and potatoes boiled, it is just a matter of assembly and bringing to a boil. I had watched my mother do it many times and I am sure that she had let me pour in the cans of vegetables.
I have no idea how long it took me to peel the potatoes and brown the meat. However, I received no burns or cuts, so it must have been going pretty well. Just before I was getting ready to pour the veggies in the pot, Uncle Kenny came in the kitchen. Now in my five year old brain, I knew that you didn’t pour off the water in the cans of vegetables because this juice has lots of vitamins in it as did the water that held the potatoes. What did not compute in my little brain was that all the contents of the cans, the pot, and the browned meat would not fit in the stock pot I was using. Kenny walked in and saw what was going to happen if I attempted to put all this in the same pot. Now, I was fit to be tied that he had come in the kitchen and was insisting on draining the canned veggies!
To fully understand just how mad I was, you would have had to have had first hand knowledge of what it was like to be Kenny Ray’s niece. He hung the moon as far as I was concerned. But, he would pick and aggravate until you were ready to inflict bodily harm. The problem was that, being about a dozen years older than me, he was too big for me to actually do any damage- except to myself. Like one time, I was so infuriated with him that I decided that I was going to kick him in the shin. That was a great idea until he lifted his foot up and I kicked the bottom of his cowboy boot. My toes were black and blue for weeks. Of course, I would start crying and run and tattle- only to be told ” Don’t come crying to me, you know what is going to happen when you start playing with Kenny, why do you keep going back?” Why? I don’t know, we just loved him. He was kinda like chocolate, you just can’t leave it alone. He was the Uncle all the little kids adored. Period.
So, he had a history of making me mad and as far as I was concerned this was just one more injustice at his hand. Stomping angrily, I left the kitchen determined not to participate in the ruining of a perfectly good pot of soup. In due time I was told dinner was ready. Being hungrier than I was miffed, I went to get my soup. As we sat in the living room watching tv- which would have either been cartoons or westerns depending on whether or not he picked the program or I did- we ate our soup in silence. After a few minutes, he looked over at me and said, “Now, isn’t this good soup?” To which I replied, “I’ve had better” I can still remember the look of shock and humor in his eyes and then he replied, ” So have I, but if we hadn’t drained the water it would have overflowed.” The truth was, as much as I hated to admit it, it was good soup. I loved it, but I just couldn’t give him the satisfaction of telling him so.
If you doubt that a five year old is capable of all this and remembering, you just don’t know me. I did and if you ask any of my cousins you will know that everything I have said about Kenny is the honest to God truth. Between Kenny and my mom’s homemade soup, I had a very rich childhood.
Recipe for Homemade Soup
1 lb of ground meat or ground turkey
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 medium potatoes peeled and chopped
2-3 cups of mixed veggies- any kind you like
1- 13 once can of stewed tomatoes
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp ground sage
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
In medium skillet, brown the ground met with the onions. In an 8 qt stock pot or dutch oven (you can use a larger stock pot- then you don’t have to worry about over-filling) bring water and potatoes to a boil. Add enough water to boil the potatoes, but not so much that you have to pour a lot off, because the water does have lots of nutrients in it. If you are using fresh or frozen veggies, add them now. Boil until the potatoes are fork tender. Add the ground meat, stewed tomatoes and veggies- if you are using canned or leftovers. Add seasonings and more water or broth as needed to achieve the desired consistency. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes then let cool a bit. This soup is great with cornbread or crackers.
Today was a busy day and a very good one. Sierra and I planted lettuce and cleaned up the raised beds. I love the way the beds look when all of the dead plants are pulled up and cleaned out.
Once they were clean we planted lettuce. So, in about 2 weeks we will be able to start harvesting baby greens. Given that I spend about $5.00/week on lettuce and salad mix, a $1.10 pkg of lettuce seed goes a long way in helping to ease the grocery bill. Not to mention the fact that all our home-grown veggies are organic and much better for us. Sierra is great help in the garden, while I cleaned she planted. It is interesting to see what is coming back after such a cruel summer. The pole beans are putting on new leaves and carrots are popping their tops up through the soil. It seems some Zinnias dropped their seeds into one of the beds because some little Zinnia plants have popped up. I don’t know if the pole beans will have enough time to put on beans before the first freeze, but I will leave them alone and find out.
Several herbs have earned my respect having hung on through this summer. Not only are they showing themselves to be heat tolerant, but drought tolerant as well. The basil has made a huge comeback after this great rain we have gotten. I had given it up, certain that it was a causality of 2011 history making summer, but it is doing great. Salad Burnett and Parsley have also comeback from death’s door. Sage was one that never gave up. Comphrey and Echineacea died back, but have put back out from the roots.
After gardening and breeding the American Blue rabbits, it was time to get cleaned up for Savannah’s big night. She was awarded the Gold Star Award which is a big deal in the world of 4H. One members who show great achievement and leadership are awarded the Gold Star. She is very proud of herself and we are proud of her. Tonight was the D4 4H Banquet that honored all gold star recipients and Adult Leader of the Year recipients. It is a dressy affair and we had a good time getting all gussied up. The dinner was very nice and the company was great. Tony and I sat with our good fiends, Tammy and Mike Lenamond- whose daughter Rebecca also received the Gold Star Award.
Now it is time to call it a day. Tomorrow we deliver a 100 gallon, 17ft tall live oak tree. This is the largest we have ever handled- should be interesting. Never a dull moment on the farm.
Sanannah, being the awesome sister that she is, found Jonathan the perfect Christmas gift. While at Third Monday Trades Days,McKinney, we ran across a guinea pig for sale. J has been wanting to get a pet he could hold and love. Interestingly, Savannah was also the one who bought Jonathan his first pig. The pigs have been one of Jonathan’s loves. However, Hamshire hogs don’t make a good house pet. Not that J did not try. When his sow, Valentin, had her piglets one was a bit of a runt.
If you know Jonathan, you know that he is NOT a morning person. Nothing, aside from a hunting trip, gets him up on his own- much less before 7 am. But the morning after the piglest arrived, I got up to find Jonathan in the kitchen. He began to state his case as to why the little piggy needed to be brought in and bottle fed. As he was talking, I was thinking of all the reasons we did not need a baby pig in the house. Then I thought, “What is the point in having a farm if the kids don’t get to have any fun.” So, I said “Ok, go get it” To which Jonathan replied ” I already did, she is in my room.” Well, it was in his room, complete with a heat lamp, rubbermaid bin, and hay for bedding. I was quite surprised, but why should have I been- that is not the first critter to have been brought in the house unbeknownst to me.
J did great for about 2 nights. Then, the midnight squealing for milk got old. At which time, he began to put the little pig out in the hall and shut his door hoping that someone else would get tired of the noise and feed the pig. Of course, someone did and then the someones decided to put the baby in the loafing shed. Button was the little pig’s name and Button liked the loafing shed. Not only did we have to take the pig to visits with grandparents we even took Button camping. Lots of folks had stories to tell when they went back to work after meeting us at Purtis Creek State Park that weekend!
Now Jonathan has had a bottle baby pig and he is satisfied. But a guinea pig is just the ticket and he is so happy! Thanks to Savannah his Christmas has begun a little early.
|Jonathan and Gimlie|
|Button all grown up|
Just wanted to say a few words about my favorite person in the whole world- Tony Ross. Tony and I were married July 11, 1992. He is and always has been the best decision I ever made. Marriage is a journey and sometimes the road is rocky. However, through the growing up and the rough spots, he has always loved me unconditionally and would move heaven and earth to get me what I want. His friendship to me means everything.
I just had my 39th birthday. Tony celebrated my day for almost 2 weeks. The Saturday before my birthday, he took me to dinner at the Texas Land and Cattle Company after taking me to Chamblee’s Rose Nursery where I got to pick out 10 new roses! He is kind of like an enabler when it comes to my rose addiction. Then, he bought me a lemon tree and a gorgeous pot in which to plant it. On my actual birthday, which landed in the busiest First Monday of the year, he cooked dinner. Two weeks after our first dinner, he told me I could order my new laptop! Wow, he really knows how to show a girl a good time!
In a time when so many women seem to want to point out every flaw and play down the good in their husbands, I want to go on record in saying the good about mine. He has worked as many hours as needed to ensure that I could be a full-time mom and raise our four children. He has been my defender and advocate, but has never been afraid to tell me when it was time to grow up. Forever faithful, he has earned my eternal love and devotion and fierce loyalty. It’s no wonder that there is no person I like more or admire more than Tony Ross.
During times past, roses have gotten a bad reputation. Due to breeding for a huge rose blossom that looked beautiful at the expense of disease resistance and hardiness, many roses were developed that took an extreme amount of care to live. The truth is, there are a lot of roses out there that are tough, beautiful and easy to grow.
In an effort to provide maximum garden and landscape enjoyment, Texas AgriLife Extension service developed and education program called Earth-Kind. This program uses organic and traditional practices to create a new approach that delivers optimum enjoyment with no negative effects on the environment.
This is where roses enter the picture. The roses that were being developed needed huge amounts of fungicides, insecticides, and fertilizers to stay healthy and bloom. These practices are not earth friendly or friendly to the average gardener. Through research in the Texas AgriLife Extension service, roses are being selected for the Earth-Kind program. To be given this designation, roses must undergo a rigorous trial and only those that display extreme disease resistance and pest tolerance make the cut.
These roses are easy to grow and once established, the roses exhibit excellent drought and heat tolerance. For a Texas gardener, those traits are certainly valuable! When a rose is selected by a gardener with the mature height and width in mind, these roses will grow with very little care. There are 21 cultivars at this time. Below are pictures of each Earth-Kind rose, copied from Chamblee’s Rose Nursery in Tyler, Texas. Chamblee’s Rose Nursery is a great place to buy roses, they were the first of offer Earth-Kind roses. All 21 are available from them.
Soft Pink Hybrid Tea Earth-Kind Rose®
Lilac Pink Polyantha Earth-Kind Rose®
Light Rose Shrub Earth-Kind Rose® Dr. Griffith Buck Rose
Pink Polyantha Earth-Kind Rose®
Rose Pink Climbing Polyantha rose Earth-kind Rose®
Pure White China rose Earth-Kind Rose®
Duchesse de Brabant
Rose Pink Tea rose Earth-Kind Rose®
Bright Rose Pink Floribunda Earth-Kind Rose®
Knock Out (PP#11,836)
Cherry Red shrub rose Earth-Kind Rose®
Pink/White Polyantha Earth-Kind Rose®
Medium Pink Polyantha Earth-kind Rose®
Mme. Antoine Mari
Pink Blend Tea rose Earth-Kind Rose®
Earth-Kind Rose Salmon Pink Tea
Mrs. Dudley Cross
Earth-Kind Rose Yellow Blend Tea
Yellow/Orange/Red Earth-Kind Rose
If I had to pick one thing that was essential for a good garden, aside from the soil, it would be compost tea. Compost tea is a liquid fertilizer, mild insect repellent, and a mild fungicide. The ease of application and production makes this potion hard to beat.
Everyone should have a compost pile going somewhere on their property. Even if it is just a pile back in the corner that you add to when the leaves fall, you bag the lawn clippings, or you have veggie scraps from the kitchen. If you would like more information on composting, see the gardening category at the side. Down at the bottom of this pile will be finished or almost finished compost. To make the compost tea, you simply take some of this finished compost and soak it in water. Then you pour off the water in a container, discard the old compost into the garden and you have compost tea. That is the basic process and it is that simple.
To be more specific, I use a 55 gallon drum, these can be found at feed stores, on craigslist or from folks selling them on the side of the road. In the bottom of the drum I dump about 3 inches of almost finished compost. Almost finished means that there is still larger pieces of leaves and hay, but a lot of brown crumbly stuff also. Then the drum is filled with water and the lid is put on. Once this sits for two weeks, the tea is done. This is the basic recipe for compost tea and it will work great.
To enhance the power of the tea, there are a few simple additions I like to put in the drum when I fill it with water. First, I add a bag of Epsom Salts. The salt adds trace minerals that are essential for good plant health and blooms. Next, is a can of beer. The beer feeds the microorganisms that are doing the work of breaking down the compost and making the nutrients usable for plants. The more microbs, the more work gets done, the more beneficial to plants the tea will be. Molasses is also good for feeding the microbs. There are many other things that can be added, such as alfalfa meal, fish meal, bone meal and those are all good, but not essential. Basically, there is no wrong way to make the tea, so tinker around with it and find what works well for you and your plants. If you google compost tea, you can find some really complicated recipes and “rules” that must be followed, however, I have been using the above recipe for several years with great results. Complicated is not necessarily better.
Once the tea is made it can be applied in several different ways. You can simply dip it out of the drum with a bucket and pour it on or use a watering can. My favorite way is to strain the tea through a screen- an actual window screen works fine- and put it in a pump sprayer. Eight ounces of tea will dilute into 1 gallon of water. Please remember to dilute the tea, concentrated tea right out of the drum can burn new growth and seedlings. The 1 gallon sprayer I use is just right for the job. It is not too heavy to carry and it holds enough to do my flower beds and nursery stock for one week. The fine mist that lands on the leaves is excellent for the plants.
As you can see, one batch of tea in a drum will last the average gardener all growing season. All that the tea costs you is what it cost to fill the drum with water. Compare the cost of the tea with a liquid fertilizer you would buy at a garden store and you will see that the effort to make your own really pays off.