Could You Use A Little More “Thyme”?

Lovely plant and wonderful scent
Kitchen Dictionary: thyme
Pronounced: TIME
This is one of those little plants that laughs in the face of a Texas summer and remains undaunted by a few freezes.  The creeping variety has been spreading between the rock stepping stones in my herb garden for months.  I have to harvest it or it will cover the stones.  It is fabulous!  With dark green foliage that is so petit it belies its strong flavor, it is a perfect choice for edging the bed or filling in between the stones.
For me, it was surprising to see that Thyme is classified as a Southern European and Mediterranean ingredient.  I thought it was totally southern cooking.  When you think of decidedly southern dishes such as Chicken n’ Dumplins, Turkey & Dressing, Roast Chicken, Meatloaf, and so on, Thyme is a key player in creating the warm comforting tones of these dishes.  If I am boiling chicken for almost anything, I have Thyme in the pot, too.  Nothing beats the flavor of a lightly battered filet of Tilapia with Thyme mixed in the flour and cornmeal, I don’t care who you are- that is good right there!
Being that Thyme is a perennial, it is easiest to start with a seedling in the garden.  Soggy places are no good for Thyme as it likes will drained soil.  Lots of sun is a must, but a little afternoon shade in a Texan summer is greatly appreciated.  This is an extremely easy plant to grow. 
Top of Form
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With Thyme being available in the garden year round, there is no reason not use fresh Thyme in all your cooking.  Just snip off what you need and chop it finely or tie the sprigs together with kitchen twine and remove before serving.  Thyme is a well-mannered herb and is not given to being over-powering in a dish.  To a roasted chicken, I will sprinkle about 2 teaspoons over the skin or add about 2 tablespoons to a pot of soup.  Your personal tastes really are the determining factor in how much to use.  Experience is the best teacher, so give it a try.
Thyme is perfect for filling gaps in a rock pathway
However; some days it may not be very convenient to get to the garden, so I like to keep dried herbs in the pantry. To dry Thyme, cut as much as you want from the plant- but never taking more than two thirds of the mother plant- and using a rubber band, secure the stems and hang in a dry place with good air circulation.  I have a little “clothes line” strung above my refrigerator where I clip bunches of herbs for drying.  Once dry, which will take about 2 weeks, remove the leaves from the stems and place the leaves in a air-tight container and store out of the sunlight.  Dried herbs keep for about 6 months and any extra you may have makes great gift ideas.
A “mini- clothesline” works great for drying small amounts of herbs
Matches well with: beef, carrots, chicken, figs, fish, goat cheese, lamb, lentils, onions, peas, pork, potatoes, soups, tomatoes, venison 
So, get planting!  Everyone needs a little more “thyme” in their day!

Roses, Herbs, and Compost

Man alive, the weather has just been gorgeous!  As I worked outside over the past few days, there were birds everywhere.  I am so glad to have a business that requires me to be outside.

It may only be February, but spring is really gaining momentum.  I am not the only one feeling it, a lot of calls and emails have started to come in inquiring about certain plants and compost piles.  According to the farmer’s almanac, the spring equinox will be on March 20th, the earliest start of spring in 116 years.  Spring is definitely coming early this year.

The compost pile that has been working all through the hot dry summer and this winter did not look like much on top.  I could still see whole leaves and hay on top, but once I shoved the shovel through the first layer, I felt that resistance give way.  Underneath the intact top layer was the gorgeous deep brown stuff my dreams are made of these days.  I haven’t decided if I will continue composting in this spot or if I will put in a flower bed there.  If I put in a bed, the ground is already prepared.

For now, the compost is helping the business grow.  Last Thursday, we picked up our first order of David Austin Roses.  Roses are my love and David Austin has done an amazing job of breeding roses for beautiful old world blooms and scent while achieving the repeat blooming of the modern rose and keeping the disease resistance strong.  I have had several of these roses in my garden for several years.  To be honest, they were not thriving like my earth-kind roses were in the same bed.  Then, Mark Chamblee spoke to our Master Gardening Class and said that David Austin Roses like a little afternoon shade in our very hot Texas summers.  So, I relocated the roses and WOW- they took off and thrived right on through this record breaking heat and drought.  Now, I am proud to add the David Austin roses to our product line-up for 2012.  Saturday, four of us- Jonathan, Sierra, Tony and I- potted up 100 roses in 3 gallon pots.  That was some work!  However, we had a good time talking and laughing.  Sierra can now prune a rose bush with the best of them.  Each pot received a mixture of planting medium and compost with a layer of compost on top as a mulch.

Not only did I pot roses on Saturday, but I also potted in 4in cups 75 tomato plants.  “June Pink” is an early heirloom variety that is supposed to rippen  up early so those of us who just can’t wait to eat fresh tomatoes don’t have to wait so long!  My numbers are nothing compared to a lot of growers, but I am doing what I know I can do and do well.  There are 4 varieties that we will offer and all of them are organic.  “June Pink” is first into the pots, but Cherokee Purple, Iliini Yellow, and Arkansas Traveler are sprouted and will soon be in their pots ready for a new home.  As tempting as the weather is, tomatoes won’t be ready to plant outside until the end of March. Tomatoes, Eggplants, and Peppers need the very warm/hot weather to thrive.

Herbs have kept me busy as well.  Herbs are second only to roses on my lists of loves.  However, since roses are considered to be herbs- I guess herbs are my first love!  We have flats and flats available and I am doing hanging baskets of herbs this year. 

Spring is no time to rest, but after such a wretched summer and a quiet winter I am ready to be busy.  Five out of six raised beds are ready to go.  So, I plan to have cool season veggies planted by the end of the week and that last bed will be cleaned out and ready, too.  From one 5X20 bed, my pig got 3 bushels of “organic greens”, my goodness that is a of clover and weeds!  Happy Spring, Y’all!

Beautiful Day

Won’t be long and the roses and iris will be putting on a show!

Today was just beautiful.  The temps were perfect the sun was gorgeous and the wind was reasonable!  Needles to say, we spent a lot of time outside.

As spring is coming on, a new to-do list emerges.  Tony got the lawn mower and tiller tuned up a ready to go and I got some mowing done.  With such a mild winter, there were all kinds of clover and such growing like crazy in the garden areas.  I like to let them go as long as I can since the bees and bugs like them, however, with it being so warm the plants were already going to seed.  I love the way the gardens look with all the open spaces neatly mowed.  Now I just have to get the clover cleaned up and out of the garden boxes.  Out of six boxes, I have cleaned out three and I did get the herb garden cleaned out, too.  I was tickled pink to see how many herbs were still with me and growing strong.

Savannah and Sierra spent a lot of time reading their books out on a blanket in the sun.  Jonathan helped Tony with the mower and such and lit the burn pile.  I am so grateful for the rain over the past weeks.  Jonathan was going through withdrawals over the summer since he couldn’t burn anything for months.  Cheyenne went with me to Athens to update our booth at Winnie and Tallulah’s.  We had a great lunch at McAlister’s deli.  She had to work inside on college work once we got home so she didn’t get to spend as much time outside as the rest of us.

 As it happens, dinner was late.  Once the temps warm up, dinner gets later and later.  We simply don’t come in until the sun goes down.  Yes, that means that in the middle of the summer we don’t eat until 9pm.  I always come up with a new “plan” to fix this, but the fact is we like being outside and that is all there is to it.  We know the winter is over when dinner is late and I have perpetually dirty knees.  Let the good times roll!

An Herb That Makes My Tastes-buds Happy- Cilantro

Cilantro Seedlings @ The Farm On Holly’s Hill waiting for someone to take them home!

For years I always wondered what that flavor was in the Mexican restaurants that I could not replicate at home.  Then I became a Pampered Chef Lady back in the nineties and several of the recipes called for Cilantro.  I had to hunt this up in the grocery store as I had never heard of cilantro.  Once home, I cooked up the new recipe and how excited I was to find that flavor I had been missing!  I love it and so do lots of other people, but there are those who DO NOT like it.  So for those of you in the latter category, check back later and we will talk about an herb that you like.

Cilantro is the plant parts of the spice Coriander- which is the seed of the plant.  Cilantro is not hard to grow, but it does like the cooler temps so start it early inside or start with seedlings in the spring.  Moisture is important to this herb so keep the pot or bed watered once a week if the rain doesn’t fall for you.  Spring is not the only time to plant cilantro, fall is great, too.  I have plants in my garden right now (February) that have not been bothered by the light freezes we have been having this winter.  You should grow some, not only will your tastes-buds thank you, but so will your body.

Cilantro and Dill growing happily in February!

The Global Healing center has this to say about the medicinal benefits of cilantro:

“This herb isn’t just a commonly-used leaf and seed ingredient found in many tasty and exotic recipes, it’s also a powerful natural cleansing agent. Cilantro has been effectively used to help remove heavy metals and other toxic agents from the body.
The chemical compounds in cilantro actually bind to the heavy metals, loosening them from the tissues, blood and organs. Cilantro’s chemical compounds then aid to transport these harmful substances out of the body through elimination.
There is also a large amount of literature suggesting that cilantro could be one of nature’s best chelation agents, particularly for individuals who have been exposed to heightened levels of mercury. Mercury excess is a common problem that may be the result of metallic teeth fillings or over-consumption of predatory fish. Many people suffering from excess mercury report that the feeling of disorientation resulting from the poisoning can be greatly reduced through consuming large and regular amounts of cilantro over an extended period.
Also, the rich qualities of cilantro oil have a powerfully positive effect on our inner digestive tract. The oils aid our digestive system in its production of digestive enzymes, acids and juices. The oil also helps to stimulate digestion through peristaltic motion.
The known benefits of cilantro are extensive, and researchers are discovering more every day. Currently, there are several well-known, well-documented benefits of organic cilantro, including:
List of Cilantro Benefits:
  • Powerful anti-inflammatory capacities that may help symptoms of arthritis
  • Protective agents against bacterial infection from Salmonella in food products
  • Acts to increase HDL cholesterol (the good kind), and reduces LDL cholesterol (the bad kind)
  • Relief for stomach gas, prevention of flatulence and an overall digestive aid
  • Wards off urinary tract infections
  • Helps reduce feelings of nausea
  • Eases hormonal mood swings associated with menstruation
  • Has been shown to reduce menstrual cramping.
  • Adds fiber to the digestive tract
  • A source of iron, magnesium, and is helpful in fighting anemia
  • Gives relief for diarrhea, especially if caused by microbial or fungal infections
  • Helps promote healthy liver function.
  • Reduces minor swelling
  • Strong general antioxidant properties
  • Disinfects and helps detoxify the body
  • Stimulates the endocrine glands
  • Helps with insulin secretion and lowers blood sugar
  • Acts as a natural anti-septic and anti-fungal agent for skin disorders like fungal infections and eczema
  • Contains immune-boosting properties
  • Acts as an expectorant
  • Helps ease conjunctivitis, as well as eye-aging, macular degeneration, and other stressors on the eyes.
James A. Duke, Ph.D., a former botanist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and author of The CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs, states that cilantro has been shown to settle the stomach. He recommends drinking a cup of the tea made from a handful of the leaves, when experiencing any form of stomach discomfort.4″
Just another great reason to have an herb garden!

Babies, Babies, Babies!

A rare Barred Holland chick.

Wow, what a day yesterday was!  Spring may be springing a little early this year, as we have babies coming and going.  This is the part of farming that everyone enjoys, there is just nothing cuter than baby animals.

Thursday began with a call before dark from the post office letting me know that my chicks had arrived.  I love getting that call, no matter how many times we have ordered chicks- it never gets old.   I can’t really explain why, but you feel like you are on some kind of secret mission as you drive through town in the dark with downtown so quiet and the streetlights reflecting of the damp pavement.  Then you get to the post office and you are the only car in the parking lot and entering a government building during the un-open hours can make you feel like you are committing some crime.  Once inside you ring the little door bell, I did not even know this doorbell existed until I started ordering chicks by mail.  The half-door opens and the post lady hands you a box of chirping chicks. When it is cold I run the heater full blast and then set the box in the floor board so they can get warmed up.  Before I leave the post office, I always open and check for dead chicks.  Thankfully, in all the chicks I have ordered, I have never had a DOA.  However, you must check before you leave so that the hatchery can refund you for any that did not make the trip.

Sierra and a Silver Penciled Hamburg.

We chose Barred Holland, Silver Laced Penciled Hamburgs, Black Australorps, and Minorcas.  Jonathan wanted the Hamburgs because he thought they were so beautiflul.  They are beautiful and supposed to be excellent layers of white eggs.  A lot of people think white eggs means the chickens are in commercial egg farms, however, egg color is simply  a genetic trait like blue eyes.

Savannah named this one “Clarice” because she thinks she looks elegant.

After the chicks were settled, Tony and I went to the dairy sale in Sulphur Springs.  That sale was very nice and clean, I was really impressed.  We have been looking for a pair of bull calves so we can keep our home grown meat coming.  Also, I have been looking and researching about what breed of family cow I want for about 2 years.  I finally decided that a Jersey is for me.  I am happy to report that I got a jersey heifer and a jerseyXholstein cross heifer.  I am very excited.

The cross is a little older and already knew exactly what a bottle was and just took right to it.  The other 3 are younger and we have had to teach them what to do.  This is quite messy, but fun.  So, between the lambs and the four calves, it is bottle central around here.

One happy farm girl and Tawanda

In 24 months, my heifer will give birth and we will have milk!  The jersey heifer is named Tallulah, we love Cool Runnings, the movie about the Jamaican bobsled team.  That name just makes me smile.  Due to the fact that when we put the little cross heifer in the stall and she decided the gate should be open and began to ram the stall door, we gave her the name “Tawanda”  Love Fried Green Tomatoes!

My jersey girl, Tallulah
Bottle feeding has its hazards, in a second she is going to butt my butt looking for an udder.

Waiting 24 months seems like a long time, but by starting with a bottle baby I will have a family cow that was raise on our place.  She and I will know each other and trust each other by the time I start setting down to milk.  And as I have gotten older, 24 months just aren’t as long as they used to be!!!