Could You Use A Little More Thyme?

This is one from the archives, but I love this herb and thought it worth repeating!
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. 
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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!
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Snakes & Smoke & All Of That…

The morning dawned cold (for Texas) and I thought it would be so nice to start a fire in the wood burning stove so the kids could wake to a cozy family room and have a warm spot to cuddle by.  I am not sure what happened, but instead of being woke up gently with warmth from the stove the kids woke to the sound of the smoke alarm with the house filled with eye-stinging haze.  Then to clear the smoke we had to open the windows and turn on the ceiling fans.  For whatever reason the log in the stove refused to flame up but just kept smoking incesently.  The moment came when I looked at my kids and said,”Don’t ever do this” and then forced the very well lit and hot log out of the stove into a box which was then delivered to the burn pile where it smoked for hours.

So, began our day.  It was a good day, especially for Jonathan as we found three snakes during our gardening.  I personally hate snakes and have a crazy fear of them.  If you would like some laughs at my expense, you can read all about my fear of snakes on that link above.  The first two were baby snakes and nothing more than harmless garden snakes which are so good to have around that I leave them be.  You don’t have to worry about me killing a snake before I know what kind it is- I don’t stick around long enough to know.  I high-tail it out of wherever I am & the snake happens to be and yell for one of the kids.  Yes, you read that right I have my children do the snake killing.  I am the kind of mom that will lay down my own life for my children- until we meet a snake and then you are on your own.  Unless the child is still small enough for me to carry and then I run away with the child.

The third snake, however, was not so small.  Last week the young man who works for me dug holes for the Camellias I am planting along the fence.  Being such a full week I hadn’t had time to put those in the ground so I just dropped pot and all into the hole.  By dropping the pot and all into the hole it kept the wonderful rain from filling the hole back in before I could get the plant planted.  As it turns out, this also gave a good spot for a snake to take up residence.  I pulled the Camellia out, dropped it in my lap, pulled it our of its pot and tore up some of the roots.  I then leaned over the hole knocked some soil in and went to stick my hand in too.  Then I spotted him, coiled up in the hole hissing at me.  Glory Hallelujah I just about had a heart attack.

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I then called for Jonathan, my resident dragon slayer.  He got his 4-10 and blew the snake’s head off, J is a dynamite good shot.  I would have left the snake alive except that it was colored like a water moccasin and acting aggressive.  I understand the fear the snake was feeling- I was feeling the same way.  But, we couldn’t take a chance and J shot him dead.  Literally, he blew his head off and nothing more so then the snake became a homeschooling science project.  With the trusted field guide to North American reptiles, we determined that it was a yellow-bellied water snake- harmless except for the heart attack and self inflicted injury you incur while trying to get away.  As the kids dissected the snake they found a frog in its stomach.  The snake was then skinned and that skin pinned to a board to dry in the sun.  Jonathan could not understand why Sierra would not even think about letting him bring that into the room that they share.  It seems that smells do not bother 11 year old boys.  So, J will decorate his fort with the skin. Effie the Pig got the rest of the snake, as it turns out water snakes must not taste too good- she didn’t really like it.

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If you look close, you can see the frog on the ground at the end of J’ s knife.

As the boys and girl took the snake apart I got back to my work which was planting the Camellia and raking all the leaves and sweet gum balls up to use as mulch on my tomatoes.  There are about 30 tomato plants in the garden now and all of  them have a layer of cardboard mulch covered by a thick layer of leaves and compost.  Every time I raked and hit a stick which made leaves move I jumped.  Needless to say, I was a bit nervous for the rest of the day.  For all I knew, there could be another snake lurking about.

C, the young man who works for me, did great work putting in the brick edging for the knew path ways.  Now, the gardens in the front of the house are starting to take shape.  These beds are located under large shade trees so we have been planting a lot of azaleas, camellias, hostas, and vinca.  There is enough sunshine for Iris and day lilies to bloom so those will be added.  Sometimes, I fuss at myself for spending time on the “unproductive” gardens when there is still much to do in the veggie gardens and herb beds.  But with the rain, which is wonderful, those area were too wet to work and the great majority of the herbs are planted.  I still have Basil to plant but the weather keeps dipping down to very cool and I am gun-shy about planting it just yet. I just love my work!

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Now for today- errands to run in Tyler and more planting to be done.  I will have more seed trays of Basil done along with cuttings from oregano & mint.  We have been very busy and it is time for new crops of herbs to get going.  Hopefully today will be a snake free day.

So what gets your heart racing?  Snakes, spiders, mice?

Effie The Pig

Around the farm, we love all of our animals but the pigs have probably made their way to the top of our favorites list.  Our first pig was Sir Francis Bacon, he was so smart and good tempered that we couldn’t help but love him.  Several pigs of come and gone (and filled the freezer with the best ham, bacon, and pork chops you ever had!), but we love them all.

Effie The Pig is our current porcine in residence. She does a wonderful job of converting all our kitchen scraps and leftovers into lovely ham and bacon.  She is the first pig to be used as the resident tiller.  Since we moved to the new farm, I (actually the kids and my wonderful husband, Tony) move her pen once she has cleared the current pen of all vegetation. In each of these areas I will plant vegetable crops and take advantage of all the good fertilizer she has left behind. The pig waterer I made for her is working great and I love it!

effie first pen

This area is the first spot where her pen was, as you can see there isn’t anything left.  The pig pen has not been in this spot in over a week, with plenty of rain, we should be seeing some green if there was anything left to sprout.

effie second pen

This is the second spot that Effie has called home.  We just moved her pen before this picture was taken.  As you can tell, we have had lots of rain lately- not that Effie the Pig minds the mud!

effie in new pen

Her new pen- this is what the other pen spots looked like before she got busy.  It takes her only 48 hours to take all the green stuff down but I leave her in there another couple of days so that she will eat all the roots a well.  I get tickled every time I look at the window and see her buried almost up to her back.  No roots stand a chance when she is tilling.  For that matter, no moles stand a chance either.  I have personally witnessed her eating two.  I looked over after planting some tomatoes and saw her flip her head up and gulp it down.  Nature is a tough place to live.  Maybe I will call her Effie the Eliminator…

Jonathan is good at driving t-posts and loves his pig.

Jonathan is good at driving t-posts and loves his pig.

Savannah is filling Effie's waterer.

Savannah is filling Effie’s waterer.

 

Shop Local, Shop The Rock

One sweet lady shopping the rock!

One sweet lady shopping the rock!

I don’t know what the words “Farmer’s Market” mean to you, but for me the words bring back many wonderful memories of going to market with my great-grandparents and aunts and uncles.  The words also bring to mind the smells of dill and fresh washed greens- the smell of fresh washed greens, man that takes me back.  As a preschooler, my family lived in one of three houses located on my grand parents farm.  The big house belonged to my grand parents, the two smaller houses were rent houses belonging to my great-grandfather and all the adult children at one point or another lived in those houses.

Fortunately for me, I lived that close to my grand parents most of my life.  In spring and summer, greens were a large part of the produce grown on the five acres behind my house.  All the family helped with weeding, gathering, washing and growing.  Under the shed was a huge tank that would be filled with water, all the greens from the harvest would be washed in this tank.  As

My grandfather working in the fields.

My grandfather working in the fields.

the greens went in, the smell of fresh greens, well water, and soil all mingled together.  I love that smell to this day.  I say the tank was huge, but I really am not sure how big it was.  I can remember standing on my tip-toes with my nose just above the rim.  I was only about 4 years old, so I guess it may not have been THAT huge.  I had run of the fields.  My earliest and first memories are of farming and burying my bare feet in the soft sandy loam.  Perhaps that is why, to this day, I say life is better bare foot!

And now, here I am taking my own produce to market.  This spring began our first experience being vendors at the White Rock Local Market.  What fun it has been!  This is a great market run by fantastic people.  They have been so professional and organized.  Not to mention getting great publicity and advertisement.  I have had great “neighbors” set up next to me and have made friends with many folks.  Not only do I have a great place to sell my herbs, but I get to do my grocery shopping for the week with great local farmers.

The variety at the market is awesome.  You can purchase local mushrooms, olive oil, granola, bread, meat of all sorts, eggs, and worms!  Yes, worms.  Texas Worm Ranch brings out worm castings (great fertilizer), worm wine (liquid fertilizer) and the worms themselves.  If you are looking to start a vermicomposting projects, these are the folks to get you started.

Where you can find us:

Locations

White Rock Local Market @ Lakeside
1st and 3rd Saturdays
Lakeside Baptist Church
9150 Garland Rd
Dallas 75218
View Larger Map

White Rock Local Market @ Green Spot
2nd and 4th Saturdays
Green Spot
702 N. Buckner Blvd
Dallas 75218

Choosing Seedlings

Nice strong plants with a large cup for plenty of room for roots

Nice strong plants with a large cup for plenty of room for roots

Each year I encounter folks who want to know why their seedling died or simply state the “I cannot grow anything”. I hate hear these words!  The main reason that people fail at gardening is not because they can not grow things or that they are lacking in ability, it is because they start with seedlings or plants that were set up to fail.

Perhaps you are wondering how a plant can be set up to fail?  Well, here is how-

Most of your big box stores or really large retail nurseries get their plants from contract growers.  Contract growers are growers that grow plants for these companies and may be independent, but they are controlled by the big box companies.  An example of  the way the growers are controlled is by the company telling the grower I want this certain plant and this many of this plant in 4 weeks. Now the grower can respond with “That is a plant that takes 8 weeks to grow.”  Then the company simply replies that they don’t care, do it or they will find someone who will.  So the grower then pumps the plant full of synthetic fertilizers, stimulants and even chemicals that cause fruit and plants to ripen prematurely.  Greenhouses are kept at the perfect temperature at all times and grow lights are employed top achieve the most growth in the least amount of time.

 

Now, after having read that- just how strong of a plant to you think you are going to get from that store?  Not a strong plant at all.  The odds are that plant will die as soon as it is exposed to the real world.  If it does live, it will probably never produce as it should.  So you see, most people who think they cannot grow things really just never had a shot.  Those who do know a bit about how to grow things don’t understand why their stuff dies- it all goes back to the beginning.

Now, consider the small grower, the “mom & pop” garden shop.  These people cannot afford to have unhappy customers who tell folks that every plant they have ever bought from that shop has died.  My customers know my face, know where I live, and my name is literally on the product.  If my customers don’t succeed, I don’t succeed.  I chose this business because I love it.  I WANT my customers to be successful and to enjoy their experience in the garden.  So, therefore, if I tell you it is too early for Basil it is because it is.  Most of the other “small guys” grow like I do.  We seed our flats to have the plants ready at the right time.  I fertilize my plants of course, but I use an organic compost tea once a week.  Not daily.  If you buy a six pack of tomato seedlings that are 8 inches tall- those plants are already stressed.  Those plants are too big for the pot they have been living in for way too long.

It may cost you a little more to buy seedlings from a smaller producer, but you will get better plants.  If you are buying vegetable seedlings, you will get more produce from a plant that has been handled properly from the start.  And, you will feel successful not like a failure!  This makes it far worth a little more money up front.  If you are really strapped for cash, then you will do much better to buy seeds and start your own plants in a sunny window.  Cheap seedlings from big box stores are not the place t0 save money, especially when you are wanting to grown your own food.

Our First Wholesale Customer!

Spring is such a busy time around any farm.  With all the clearing and planting that needs to be done it can be crazy.  When your business is one that involves selling the plants to the folks who are busy planting, spring business can take on a whole new dimension.  One of the goals of Hollyberry Herb Farm is to eventually be a wholesale dealer of organic herbs.  So, I am proud to announce that we have our fist wholesale customer!

green grocer

This is a great grocery store offering local produce, pastured meats and poultry as well as household items such as soaps and such. The owners are a wonderful couple who are committed to providing “real” food.   They are great to work with and really do support the “little guy”.  Definitely a unique place to shop and a wonderful way to support small business and small farmers.  If you are ever in Dallas, stop by and check it out- You will be glad you did!