Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Walnut Harvesting in East Texas

Inspired by a post on the Homegrown.org social network about walnuts I decided to go to the walnut tree outside our  yard and gather as many as I could find.  Rarely does anyone go to this part of our property except for my occasional mowing which keeps if from turning into mess of thorny vines and small trees.  I also wander past once and while to a check a section of the branch to see if it has flowing water.  I have seen a fair amount of snakes right under the tree and when I got under the cover of the tree I scanned the open area  for fallen walnuts and snakes.  Being so vigilant about these things I failed to notice that I was standing in a pile of ants. The worst part of standing in a ant pile is that your boots will be covered in ants before you feel the first bite. East Texas is full of bugs that bite or sting.  Growing up in California I never appreciated the lack of fire ants. 

I have no idea what kinda of bug this is in my picture.  I had reached up and grabbed a branch to pull it close enough to get at the walnuts and when I pulled it in front of my eyes I saw this guy.  Not paying attention I had almost wrapped my hand around it.  I guessing some type of caterpillar and I don't think it would have a bite, but around here everything else does.  It was while I was trying to take his picture when I felt the first ant bite and saw them crawling all over my boots.   I had to go the kids from school in a minute so brushed off as many as I could and finished filling my bucket.  I will have to back tomorrow to fill another bucket.  Since they are black walnuts they will take a good deal of work to get the nuts out, but like most things out here it is worth the a couple ant bites and a little extra effort.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My first Mulch

Everyone has different natural resources on their homestead and one of the resources we have is a forest covered with a thick blank of pine straw that keeps everything, but the trees from growing.  I finally decided to take advantage of this and do my first mulching on the cucumbers I just planted.  I know now that if  I am watering it this small dead spot it will quickly come back to life and be covered with five foot tall grass shoots.
If this works well I imagine I will end up doing this in my regular garden because weeding has to be the worst part of gardening.  I would never buy mulch.  I just don't think I could bring myself to fork over the money to buy something to cover the dirt, but I will definintly wander out back and grab a load.  I don't own a wheel barrow, so I had to adjust and used the girls radio flyer to haul my loads from the dark forest out back to the spot where I have my cucumbers planted. 
After spreading it out I sprayed the whole thing down so that the mulch wouldn't blow away in the massive windstorm which is been ready to fire up all day.  I am not sure how close to the plants you are supposed to get so I left a good bit of space for watering.  I have enough I might try to dig up a left over bubbler valve from my sprinklers in vegas.  Then I can bury everything except the actual plant under the mulch and it will still get water.  I was hoping that this would start to make my garden beds look better, but when I uploaded this picture I realized that I am going for practical, not pretty.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Magic Beans

I don't think I really understood where the story for Jack and the Bean Stalk came from until I actually planted some beans.  Last night I went out to see how everything looked because we were about to get hit with nasty thunderstorms and pounding rain.  I thought everything would be smooshed or washed away, but was very pleased to see that the rest of the cucumbers had come up and the beans are two and half inches tall!!!! From a half inch yesterday.  They grew two inches over night.  It would be easy to see how that quick growth would work its way into your stories when your life was in the fields.  Nothing else I have planted grows even close to that fast.  I wish could have a time lapse film of it, but probably it has been recorded for jr. high science classes films many a time. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Small Town Entertainment

When we lived in Las Vegas we lived right down town about five minutes from the strip on the West side right off Valley View.  We both worked for casino's and didn't want the long drive into town just to go to work so we picked a smaller house in a old neighborhood instead of going for the cookie cutter house out in north Las Vegas. With both us working in the entertainment business we got a fair amount of free tickets to shows, at some point or another went to most of the casino attractions, we liked to go out to dinner, on rare occasion we went gambling and never drove more than twenty minutes.  I love the movies and Vegas has great theaters with huge screens, great new seats, and amazing sound systems.  It is pretty hard to find a foreign film or independent movie because people in Vegas don't like much  culture in their entertainment, but that can be said for this place too.  Besides the occasional fair or rodeo, a night out with the kids is most often a trip to the movies.  Normally we go to the Jasper twin cinema, but since they were playing the Last exorcist and no one wanted to watch the kids freak out for a week we settled for Nanny Mcphee at their sworn enemy the Fain Theater in Livingston.  This was my first trip to the Fain so I had to take a picture of the fantastic sign which I could just imagine looking all super shiny back when it first opened.  I do miss the super comfy seats and selection of the Las Vegas movie theaters but when I  can take two adults and three kids to the movies on a Saturday night, load up on popcorn and drinks for only forty bucks I feel a little less deprived.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

WD-40 contest and fanclub

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of WD-40. All opinions are 100% mine.

WD-40 has created a new fan club section on their website and to kick if off they are having contest to give away three awesome prize packs each consisting of  the Now & Then WD-40 twin pack, a Smart Straw can wall clock and a Nostalgic can wall clock.  WD-40 has been around for fifty years and the classic WD-40 can is an american Icon, but the new with the new smart straw you lift the straw up to aim it or you flip it down to use a wider spray so that you never lose the straw.  I use to take  the straws and chuck em in the top of my tool box in case I lost the next one, but I guess I will have to use those to stir my coffee now.

Wd40logofinal3By joining the fan club you will get exclusive promotions and you can share your uses for WD-40 and check what others are doing with WD-40.  It's free and you can get the WD-40 badge which looks great on your blog, myspace page or as a sweet tattoo.  Ok, maybe you think twice about the last one, but you should definitely sign up for the fanclub. Follow the link below to join the fan club.
Join the fun in the WD-40 Fan Club

When I started my blog I was beginning my battle with my tiller and my ten year old craftsman mower which hadn't been touched for five years.  WD-40 was high on the list of tools to get them running again.  When I first changed the back tires they were locked tight and I use it to get everything unstuck. East Texas is humid and every thing metal rusts so  fast  I have come to rely on WD-40 to keep everything  around the homestead clean and protected. There are thousands of projects that can use some WD-40 and it tastes great on pancakes.  Ok, please don't put WD-40 on your pancakes, but let em know how you do use WD-40. Need some inspiration check out the latest video release from WD-40: Watch the latest WD-40 video release

To enter this contest you have to leave a comment on this post and tell us what you do to save time and money on your DIY projects. I know anyone could use the WD-40 around the house and two count em, two WD-40 wall clocks that would be a great addition to any shop, office, or home. For anyone who is a stickler for details you can find the contest rules right here: contest rules

Visit my sponsor: The WD-40 Fan Club

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fall Planting

Here in east Texas there doesn't seem to be much of a fall because it is just as hot now as it has been for the last four months.  I know carrots will grow because I tried them last year and even though they didn't get huge they did produce.  If it was slightly cooler I would try a bunch of salad greens, but I think I have to wait a little while.

Today I got carrots, radish, turnips, and green beans in the ground.  Tomorrow I hope to get some cucumbers planted I think I can get some to grow before it gets to cold. Somehow we didn't get enough jars of pickles put up to last the girls until next summer so this is a big priority. I am pretty sure I might be able to get some Zucchini as well. With Garden in disrepair not nearly enough veggies are going from yard to table.  It surprises me how much I miss being able to just wander out and pick something to fix for dinner.  The availability helps with my cooking decisions as well.  Instead of having to decide what sounds good or what the family might want I just have to go see what we got.

I could see how if you were producing your own food for a long time how hard it would be stop and just go to buying all your food at the store. I know I really didn't think that there would be much difference in what I could grow and what I could buy.  I thought that modern agri-business with all it's years of experience and science would be able to get better produce to the store than a guy who had never planted anything before.

Monday, September 13, 2010


East Texas is covered in mushrooms.  These big boys were waiting in the yard this morning.  They were huge.  Enormous, bigger than the muffins you get at the nine dollar muffin shop.  The inside had the texture and the look of chocolate cake, but without the flavor.  Ok, I didn't try to eat one because I have no idea if is safe  or not.  About five or six of these were scattered across the yard.  If you knew for sure that these were safe to eat you would have quite a meal.           

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Free Lunch

So I decided to buy a sack of corn this morning and set up my feeder even though I have a full month and a half until rifle season opens, but I figured I see if they will come this close to the house or if I need to move my feeder a little further down the line.  The corn cost 5 bucks for a fifty pound sack and this year I am going to try to keep track of what I spend on hunting season so I can see if it is cost effective.  Bow season opens in a couple weeks and I am tempted to pick up a bow on Craigslist and give it a shot, but so far I haven't been able to bring myself to spend the money.  A new bow goes for a minimum of two hundred fifty bucks  with the average around four hundred and the top end around a thousand bucks.  You gotta put up a lot of meat to make a thousand dollar bow pay for itself.

The feeder has a light sensor which will set it off about a hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset.  The little metal plate spins around allowing the corn to flow out and be scattered around the feeder.  The black box holds the light sensor, a six volt battery and a controller that allows you to test the motor as well as set the amount of time the feeder spins.  I have it set to the minimum so that I won't have to fill the five gallon bucket as much. I know the deer are out there so really I am just trying to lure them a little bit closer and hopefully at a convenient time.  Apparently they have never gotten the message that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
The main reason I put it out now was to see if it draws the hogs into the area.  On the the east side of the creek where Luci's cousin bow hunts all he seen are hogs, at her grandmothers place a little ways down the road they have trapped ten or twelve this year.  If the hogs come I will have to take the hunting more seriously.  You can't have them to close. They tear up gardens and can be dangerous.

This feeder has to wait a full twenty four hours to set its internal timer for sun-up and sun-down so it wont be until the morning after next that I will hear the clinking of the corn and I can start watching to see how long it takes for them to go for the snack.

Face to Face with Bambi

Last night after moving the chicken tractors and making sure they had enough water I decided to go down my shooting lane to check on the little branch and see if it had any water flowing.  I walked around past the old garage and through the small gate that leads down the highline to where I have my DeerCane mineral site and where I just put up a pole to hang up my little deer feeder.  As soon as tromped around the corner I looked up and saw a doe come out of the tree line on the other side of the branch.  Apparently she was off to see if there was any water in branch too.

We both stopped moving and starred at each other.  There was no way the deer could miss me since I was wearing a bright orange shirt and light blue shorts.  I guess I must have stopped first because instead of bolting off into the woods she just starred at me.  Dripping with sweating and itching like crazy from the humidity  I tried to stand as still possible.  After about a minute the doe  shook it head and made a loud WHSSSSSST noise and then went back to staring at me.  Determined to see how long this would play out I kept as still as i could.  After waiting for a few seconds to see what I would do the deer did a combined foot stomp with the WHSSSSSSST.  Like it was trying to say "hey dumbass, move so I know what the hell is going on". I stayed put and the doe did this a couple more times until she finally turned her head and did it in the direction of the opposite tree line where she was answered back by several other deer.  Finally she got tired of this game and bolted back into the woods.

I didn't want to chase them out of the space that I am hopping to find them during hunting season so I headed back into the yard. I started to pull plants out of what had been the kids small garden so that I could mow the whole thing down. I realized that the tomato plants were still alive and decided to give them a little helping hand and see if we get any more tomatoes.  I took all the tomato vines and laid them up on the trellis separated them and gave them some room.  After picking off the few rotten tomatoes that had grown covered by weeds I started to clean out the beds.  First thing to go was the squash plants which stopped producing a while ago.  I had most of them out when I saw a medium sized patty pan squash that had probably been their for a month.

Figuring this thing had to be hard as a rock I picked it up and threw it as far as I could out into the woods.  As soon as the thing went into the woods I hear this really loud WHSSSSSSSST and something bolting through woods.  I have to wonder how close did I come to bouncing this squash off one of Bambi's relatives. I'd feel bad about it if I did, but since I am going to try to put a rifle slug in one these animals I guess my sympathies are ridiculous.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

my mower battle continues

For a while now the tire on my mower has had slow leak that has been getting faster every time.  It had gotten to the point where mowing was like racing and I would have to pull into the garage and air up the tire ever twenty minutes.  It takes a couple hours to mow the yard so it's a good five or six pit stops just to get the whole thing mowed.  This tire had to ten to years old.  When we first moved here it was messed up and I had tube put in it for ten bucks instead of going for a new tire.

It is a sad state of affairs when the highlight of my day is installing a new tire. I don't think I can equate that to country living, just my own  shift in personal interests. The low part of my day was forking over fifty bucks at the tire shop in Jasper to get a new one and have them put it on the rim.  It will be nice to be able to mow without having to turn on the air compressor.

Thankfully, changing a mower tire is a lot easier than changing a car tire.  If you have something stable enough to slide under the back you could simply lift the back end onto a block, but I use a car jack to lift it up.  The shaft goes through the rim of the tire and is then held on by retention ring.  The most important thing is that when you take the old tire off you don't lose the Key.  The Key is a square strip of metal that goes into that notch on the top of the rim.  The shaft has the same notch and when you slide the key in it connects the two.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Salty Dirt, YUMMM!!!!!

Nothing says snack time like salty dirt!!!!!!!  I went out to check my mineral spot this morning because it is supposed to rain off and on for the next couple of days.  Last time I went out they hadn't found the spot yet, but this time they have definitely  added it it their list of places to stop.  Some how when I reinserted the memory card in the camera it changed the settings so I didn't get any pictures, but the tracks are clear.  I sprinkled a little bit of corn that had laying around from last season and that may have brought them in, but they are definitely digging through the dirt for the minerals.  Last year they never dug up any of my corn sites.

The tracks are doe tracks, but since I am not really concerned with getting a big set antlers or a head to mount on the wall then a doe will do just fine.  It will be just as tasty.  Of course the website for Deer Cane says that bucks will want the minerals for "overall health and rack development".  Somewhere out here is a big ol buck with  good sized rack.  Last year we spotted his tracks and this year Luci caught a glimpse of him on the edge of the road.  Of course they have this rule about if you take a buck the antlers must have a width of at least thirteen inches which is pretty hard to determine.  The best advice on determining width I have found is from Wild Ed's Texas Outdoor Blog.  I will probably just stick to taking a doe for meat if I can get one.  Last year I never could get even a look at the buck while I had a gun in my hand let alone a good shot.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Wish it was Bigfoot

The deer is hard to see behind the weeds, so a little mowing on the shooting lane is in order.  I know these guys will be out during the day time at least until hunting season starts and the bullets start flying.  Everyone tells me I gotta be ready when the season starts because the twenty or so guys that hunt the deer lease next to us will be shooting on opening day and whatever they don't kill will definitely have the Spidey sense kicked into over drive.