Saturday, August 13, 2011

Seed Money

While Texas swelters in the unending heat, I have headed out to Las Vegas in order make some seed money for next years garden. The temperature here is a cool 105 and a little muggy. Hopefully, my departure will allow Texas to finally get some rain. Bad weather tends to follow me, so by next week it will be 130 here and 75 with a few days of rain in East Texas. Sadly many farmers have been hit hard by the lack of rain and the price of corn for animal feed has nearly doubled. Every where around us is a brown as could be and I would guess that at time when ranchers will need supplemental feed the price of that will be going through the roof as well. The hot, sunny weather has mostly been good for my gardening. Other than having to use a good deal of water, most of the garden grew has grown well this year.
When I left a few days ago I had bell peppers, cherry and Roma tomatoes, and egg plants growing. The sorano and pablano peppers were just about to produce, new cucumber and zucchini sprouts coming up. Unfortunately the six cantaloupes where torn to pieces by raccoons. This year I made a earthen dam around each plant in order to hold the water right where it was needed and let it soak down to the roots and watered each plant with watering can. This both fed the plants better and keep the garden from having many weeds.
Next spring I want to get even more planted and hopefully I can use my time in Vegas to plan for the 2012 planting. This has to be a big one since I have to prepare for December because according to the History Chanel the Mayans predicted the fall of civilization that day. Since the History Chanel is never wrong I better get prepared.

Monday, June 6, 2011

it ain't sunshine and pretty flowers

Gardening can be down right disgusting at times, with a hint of discouraging and disappointing.  The stem of the pumpkin plant has been eaten by some type of bug, maybe ants.  When I pulled on it slightly  the stem became completely detached.  I am not sure if I should have left it down, but I pulled the whole thing up and chucked it into the compost pile after I pulled the two pumpkins.

I am not sure how long these will survive, but I will keep them in the house in the hopes that they last until Halloween.  I was hoping to get four pumpkins. Two for the kids, one for our niece, and one so that I could try to make a homemade pumpkin pie.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

And the Survey says!

When you live in the concrete jungle you usually have a pretty good idea where your property lines begin and end.  Of course there are many a neighbor who have had a dispute over small patches of land, but it gets even harder when the boundaries are out in the woods covered with over grown brush in areas where a fair number of poisonous snakes are found.  The survey crew has been out in the woods over the last week trying to big up these old markers.

Some of the points are fairly easy to locate because the corner posts from the old fence are still standing in a couple places, but just getting back to those corners can take a whole bunch of hacking through brush with a machete.  Even more to get a clear signal for the GPS devices that they use to mark these spots.  Luckily the kind of survey we are have done does not require them cut a line of site from one corner to next.  If that had to happen I would have to cut the lines myself due to certain budget restrictions.
Most often each spot is marked with some type of buried metal.  Pipes, old tools, sometimes old rifle barrels where used to mark property corners.  Working from the field notes on the deed they have to locate each one and clear enough area to get a GPS signal. Most often the marker hasn't got any actual marking on it at all, but since that should be the only reason to bury an old piece of rusty pipe out in the woods you know when you have found it.  With two machetes and a metal detector they have found all the marked corners of the property and are drawing up the survey. 

Some of the markers are from when this property used to be part of one large piece owned by the Kirby lumber company.  The survey crew says that a few of these concrete markers should have had some brass plates on them with field notes them from way back when, but the plates have come off.  They don't need to find the plates if they locate the marker, but I am going to check around these areas with our old 1970's metal  detector and see if I can dig any of these up.  I figure that in ten years I will be able to do the survey with an app on my iphone.  It might be sooner if they ever figure a way to get a better signal out here in the boondocks.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Old Fashion Organic Pest Control

Going through the garden over the last month I have spotted a couple of these weird patches of eggs.  Most are on the top of one of the upper leaves and easy to spot.  I rip the section of leaf off and feed it  to the chickens.  I am not sure if they even notice when they eat these tiny eggs.  Yesterday, I filled over a pumpkin leaf as I was tearing open a section and realized the underside was covered with these things and they had just hatched. Tiny gray insects with short black legs were swarming all over the leaf.  The chickens may have enjoyed eating that one.  Today, I went through all the plants in the garden trying to look under the leaves for these eggs.  I only found one other leaf that was covered on the underside.  Mostly, they appear on the leaves and are easy to spot. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The meat market

Saturday morning we took the kids and drove up to the Kirbyville auction barn.  It is one of the few livestock auctions left around here. A good number of the small towns around here had livestock auction barns at one point, but over the years most of them have closed down.  If you Google Kirbyville auction barn a the first thing you find is a site called Manta that says the it is estimated at doing five to ten million in sales, but somehow I can picture this place doing that kind of business.  It is easy to see this place as it must have been in the early sixties when it was built, filling up all the pens and churning through the sales, but now only a couple pens had cattle inside. 

This one is about forty minutes away and is probably the closest one left in the area.  I would guess it had around a hundred and fifty seats and on our visit probably forty people were inside.  Definintly an old school kinda place, one of the few places left where you can smoke while you do business inside.  In nineteen sixty five this place was probably packed full a chain smoking, cowboy hat wearing, ranchers and farmers every Saturday.  These types of places were the center of comerce for a rural areas, but even when this was built the small farmers and ranches were probably fading fast as businesses and really only surviving as hobbies.

We mostly came to see the goats and pigs. Both, sold for for twenty to thirty dollars each for young ones and the grown goats could go up to a hundred and fifty.  The only grown pig for sale was a boar and since you can't eat it it only sold for thirty bucks even though it was a big fella. Most people were interested in buying feeder pigs.  They will fatten it for five or six months and then butcher in the winter.  We aren't quite ready for livestock yet, and when the girls realized we were serious about not buying anything today they were not interested in waiting through the cattle auction.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The first harvest

As the girls eagerly await the first cucumbers and tomatoes of the year the squash and zucchini has exploded.  This is one day of picking and there will be at least this much tomorrow, possibly the same the next day.  I may have planted just a little to much this.  I didn't expect to get this much out of what I planted.  Next year I will stagger each group of four zucchini and squash seeds by a week so that they roll in a little more evenly.  One week I will plant a group of each kind for about a month maybe five or six weeks.  That should help spread out when things are ready to pick.  If I had much more I would have to find somewhere to sell some of this stuff.

The only thing fresher, than fresh, FRESCHETTA

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of FRESCHETTA® for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.
Living in the deep dark woods of south east Texas we are mere hatchet throw away from a big, plate of super fried chicken and biscuits at couple dozen so called restaurants, but for pizza our options are limited to something that comes from a hut.  Since I haven't perfected a homemade crust we often consume a slice of the frozen pie.  I do like to heat it up a bit first. The good folks at FRESCHETTA were nice enough to send me a sweet coupon for one of there pizza by the slice products.
FRESCHETTA® By the Slice

They got four fantastic flavors of single slice pizza options: BBQ chicken, vegetable medley, chicken-spinach-mushroom, and the SIX CHEESE MEDLEY!!!! Since I like my chicken deep fried, dipped in butter and my veggies come from the garden, I went for the SIX CHEESE MEDLEY. Cheese is what pizza is all about and this slice-a-pie was tasty.  It's a darn good thing there was only one slice in there or this would have contributed to my overwhelming gluttony cause I could have eaten a whole big ol' pizza pie. It was tough to resist the temptation to use the second coupon they sent me so that I could get  another slice of this tasty pizza, but that one I am giving away to someone who leaves a comment on this post saying they would like to try the new Freschetta By the Slice.

What you thought this was over, no chance man, because Freschetta also sent me this six piece LaCuisine locking round storage container set.  No way! Yes way! With the gardens booming I know someone could use this to hold some of the their veggies.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Eating Wasp Larva

Not for me.  I watched some survival show where they ate wasp larva after they snatched the nest during a rain storm.  That was the first thing I thought about when I saw this thing a minute ago.

No way I could snack on these things unless the options where pretty limited. I think I might rather end up like the cannibals in that book The Road than slurp down some of this.

Put down the sprinkler and step into the garden

Our main garden is pretty big and we also have the raised beds, plus another little spot where the yard was all torn up big the chickens.  Normally, I hook up a couple big ratcheting sprinklers or use a couple of those that shoot up into the air and rock from one side to another,  the kind the kids love.  I think the best thing that happened this year for the garden is that the kids broke that sprinkler the last time they played with it. This year the garden is getting its water the old fashion way, with  the  two gallon green watering can.  Turns out this is the way to go.

 I planted the zucini and the squash in little groups of four and when they had come up out of the ground I mounded dirt around each group as well as each tomato, and pepper plant.  That way the water is only going right to where it is needed.  The sunflowers, green beans and cucumbers had to be planted into a row, but for these I mounded the dirt around the entire section.  When everything had come up I sprayed the whole garden and gave it good soak.  This a bunch of remaining seeds from weeds germinate and after a week or so I started to see little green spots everywhere. After hacking up all the dirt outside the little wells, I resumed only watering the little rows and the places where I had made little wells.

The result is that the weed factor is almost gone.  Everything died after I hacked it up and then withheld the water. The few things left where easy to pick from the base of the plants by hand.  I thought the drought conditions that we are experiencing in Texas would be a problem, but this is the most productive garden I have  had and I am using a fraction of the water I normally do.  It is time consuming, but seems to be paying off in zucchini.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Why Get Burned?

This is a compensated post written by me on behalf of Walgreens. All opinions are 100% mine.

Walgreens Brand Health & Wellness Products

The garden needs soil, water and sun, but the sun can do as much damage skin as it brings life to my plants so I was pretty stoked when I got a sample of Walgreens Brand SPF 50 sunscreen lotion.  Being kind of a pale guy I have to be careful not to fried when I am in the garden.  Besides being pale I can be one sweaty dude especially in the nasty east Texas heat and humidity which can wash off sunscreen in a heart beat.  With the lack of rain sunscreen has gotten more important and the Walgreens Brand SPF 50 sunscreen lotion fits the bill and has kept me from getting my usual beginning of the season back of the neck burn.  I can even go without a hat because this stuff works great on the old chrome dome I've been sporting for some time now.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

And then there were none

You do get a connection with nature living out here in the middle of the woods.  Often it seems it is a connection I could live without involving massive swarms of bugs.  During the time I lived in Las Vegas I never truly appreciated the absence of little critters.  For the last three nights we been swarmed by Junebugs. If a light was on to close to a window they would thump on the window like zombies trying break into the house and driving at night sounds like a hail storm as the fly towards the headlights and meet their fate on the grill of my truck. Last night I accidentally flicked on the back porch lights when I turned on the lights in the kitchen and they exploded into a frenzy. I sat their and watched the swarm just engulf the back porch. This morning I swept up piles of them and feed them to the hungry chickens, but tonight nothing.  I clicked on the lights out back and nothing.  Not a even a couple little remaining clicks.  If it happens again I am going to put a light inside the chicken tractor and turn it on after dark and let the chickens feast.  I don't know if the little solar pathway light attract the Junebugs or not, but I will have to see. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

It was the best of times, It was the end of times.

I watched a show about the impending doom of 2012 and realized I need to fortify the homestead to survive the end times.  Well, maybe not, if was going to be paranoid about events to come I would probably be more worried about the devaluation of the dollar and the potential for sky rocketing inflation.  Of course if that happens and it takes a wheel barrel full of dollars to buy a loaf of bread the my cucumbers should go up in value. If one tomato sells for a kazillion, trillion, monopoly money dollars then I will at least have some tomatoes.  What I have realized about myself, however is that I prefer living in earthquake country to a hurricane zone.  By that I mean that growing up in California you get use to earthquakes and when they happen, they happen. Not much you can do about it, no sense worring about it.  Hurricanes, on the other hand, are on the news for weeks with predicitions about where they going to land.  Of course those predictions don't really mean squat until the last little bit. You can get prepared, seal up the house, pack the car, and run for life only to have it turn and head somewhere else.

Of course when we moved here everyone said don't worry about hurricanes they don't come this far inland. Uhhh, well, in the six years we have lived here two have come through.  Probably, my  fault bad weather seems to follow me around.  In the six years the ran fall here has also significantly dropped off and the branch that runs behind the house has dried up every summer, which it never did in all the time my wife lived here as a kid.  If there was some kind of societal collapse we would be in a better place than many to feed ourselves and survive, but one thing I learned living here is that people moved to the city to get work because having to kill, grow or gather everything to feed a family would be a huge pain in the ass. I would be a much slimmer fellow than I am now. 

Little by little I have been putting in this years garden.  So far I have some zucchini, squash, green beans, carrots, shallots, tomatoes and cucumbers in the ground with about half of it poking up through the soil.  In the next couple weeks I have to get peppers, eggplant, herbs, and possibly some corn and melon in the ground.  I had kind of been finding it hard to muster the enthusiasm to the planting done, but some squash plants had come up on their own in the garden either from seeds that didn't sprout last year or some squash that got forgotten in the garden.  The smell of those plants gave me the shove I needed.  I never thought it would matter, but that sort of earthy smell always make me want to spend more time in the garden.  The smell conjures up memories of being in my grandfathers garden as little kid in Delano.  I don't remember much from before I was around ten years old so I am always surprised when I smell the squash or tomatoes and it instantly takes me back to that house. Now I wonder if grandpa was getting ready for the end times and just didn't want to spook a little kid by letting on that the world was gonna end.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The aspargus is trying to tell me something.

This is year one of our asparagus plants.  All of the shoots I planted have come up again this year and I am happy to see they are still alive.  Asparagus needs about three years of growth before you can harvest anything to eat, but the stalks coming up is a good sign that I need to get the garden in gear.  I started the tiller after its long winter nap which always requires a spark plug socket wrench and a hefty spray of carburetor cleaner.  Ah spring, the bees, the flowers and sweet smell of carburetor cleaner.  I can't imagine trying to do a large garden with out the tiller. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tastes like ass

Ok, actually it was delicious.  I cooked a hunk of venison butt roast in the crockpot today.  I just chucked it in the pot this morning with some carrots, onions, green beans and a little hunk of bacon.  It cooked all day and when we got home the house smelled great.  The first one I did in the oven was ok, but this was the way to go. 
The kids loved it and even came into the kitchen while I was putting up the left overs and ate every last bite.  According to Underhill Farms Online Store they sell Venison roast for 14 bucks a pound so that was the best deal on a home cooked meal we have every had.  I think it works out to be a dollar or two for the bullet and since I missed once I saved around ten bucks.  I really couldn't tell much difference between the venison and beef and wouldn't have known if I hadn't cut it up myself.  I never thought I would say this, but it is kinda satisfying to eat something you killed.

Monday, February 21, 2011

woodville bass club

Sometime country life is all about a relaxing, but I have never been much on fishing.  My wife's grandmothers place has a couple big ponds so we took the kids fishing this weekend.  My dislike of fishing may be the result of my general failure to actually catch fish. I find it hard to be quiet and wait for a long a enough time to  land a fishy, but not this weekend.  This time I got one a nice fat, wide mouth bass.  I think I had a little help.  A power provided to me by the energy of the patch.  I found this totally retro Woodville Bass Club patch in the house the other day.  I think the members of this now presumably defunct club open the universe for just a moment and granted me this tasty little fellow.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Garden number three

    With a day of warm tempatures I spent the day planning out this years gardening attempt and cleaning up some of last years remains.   The scarecrow came down, some tomato stakes that stood abandoned finally got pulled up, a soaker hose completely lost to weeds was recovered and the pepper plants that look like skeletons got torn from the ground.  I had hoped to winter the peppers, but I had to go to Vegas before I managed to get them covered up and safe from the few days of freezing weather.
      This year I am going to spread out some and till up two more areas for growing.  One will have tomatoes only and I haven't decided on the other one.  Either green beans or squash I am not sure which yet.  The tomatoes have to go somewhere else.  Luci thinks they will get tomato blight if we plant them in the same area again.  I figure around 120 square feet should be enough for the tomatoes.  We will actually have less tomatoes, but I think we will get more out of them if they are spread out and easier to get to.  Last year we couldn't barely get into the rows once the pants got big and it made picking them a huge hassle.  The longer they stayed on the vine the more damage form bugs. 
      I need to get the tiller going and get everything tilled under a couple times before planting time come around.  I had the chickens in the garden to tear everything up and add a little fertilizer before I moved them back to the yard, but I will probably buy a little bit of manure and maybe some compost to add to soil.  I should plant a cover crop, but I never get around to it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

My lesson in Cartography

This is a picture I took of a survey map at the appraisal district office this morning while I was trying to sort out how our property taxes had gotten jacked up.  When you live in the city the boundaries of your property are usually pretty clear.  At our house in Vegas I could have measured the whole lot with a three hundred foot tape measure in about a half hour.  There is of course always easements and once and a while neighbors have issues about where the lines begin and end, but it get more complicated when you can't actually walk along the property lines or see from one corner of the property to the other because there is a tons of trees and brush in the way.

According to the appraisal district, which is who decides how much you owe, a portion of our property had never been included in the tax roles.  When they added it and created a tax ID account for that section it was no longer considered land with agricultural value and was taxed much higher than some of the other parcels. The problem comes in when you have to figure out which parcel is which.  No where on the ground does it say this is parcel 777777.  I had to go over all the maps and aerial photographs with the mapping guy who at first assured me that no mistake had been made. The problem is that the lines are often left on the maps for separate parcels even when those parcels have been combined into a single tax account number.  Lines are also sometimes removed when parcels are bought from different people by one buyer. 

In order to determine which parcel is which you have to go over the field notes on the deeds which basically say  start at one agreed upon point and then say turn south 97 degrees go 85 feet turn east 56 degrees go 79 feet etc, etc, etc,  The only way to find the points is to take a metal detector and look for the scrap that is usually buried as a marker.  According to the mapping guy rusty rifle barrels were once a popular marker that would be hammered into the ground by the surveying crew. Why survey crews had piles of rusty rifle barrels laying around I will never know. 

Each chunk of land here is divided into files by the origanal surveys ours falls into the Robert Conn survey and you can dig through the file which is a collection of maps, photos, field notes, legal documents, etcs.  One survey from the sixties clearly showed how the land was originally divided and made the problem clear.  A piece of our land had not been properly accounted for, but not the piece they tried to add.  The good news for us is that since they can't tax us twice on the same piece we get a break this year, but have to file to have the newly added section classified as agricultural timber land. What a pain in the @$$.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The big freeze has ended.

      The weather has finally taken a turn for the better.  The freezing tempatures have been a pain since we aren't used to it and the house isn't really built for it.  The lowest I tempature we had was 19 degrees, but for us that's a pain.  I had to put a couple lights in the pump house to keep the compressor and the well pump from freezing. Even with those the connection between the pump and the pipe got a small crack somehow and it currently dribbling a small amount of water constantly causing the water in the house to occasionally spit and sputter  from air getting into the line.

The first day of the freezing weather a storm took out power lines all over the area and around twenty thousand people were out of power.  It is actually pretty amazing that everyone had power restored by that night.  We were in the last group to have the power restored because the line ends at our house.  If the line goes through and affects more people then it will be fixed sooner.  We realized we need to have a bigger stockpile of seasoned wood available just in case.  It would be fairly easy for the roads to get messed up leave us stranded for a few days without power. When all you have is the fireplace for heat you quickly see why pioneer houses were so small.

With the weather turning for the better I know I have a lot to do in order to get ready for this years garden. Today I had to fix the chicken tractors because the poultry netting had degraded in the sunlight and the now the chickens could claw through it and climb out.  I added a layer of metal chicken wire to each one and now they are safe to move around the yard again.  This week the girls are out of school and I need to get some tilling done and start some peppers and tomatoes.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Back to the farm

After a month in Vegas, getting a few other things done, everyone being sick and a week of total slacking I need to turn my attention back to the garden and all things agricultural.  Hunting season is completely over including black powder season, I don't own  a musket anyway, but of course the deer come in herd every evening behind the house. Now that I have some deer meat in the freezer it would be nice to get a little swine.  For one you need to mix a little fat into the ground meat in order to make decent burgers.  The deer is just to lean for that.  I tightened the line on the pig trap and have been dumping corn in, but so far they haven't set it off.  I am going to have to set up a camera in order to determine if it is pigs, raccoons or squirrels that have been eating the corn and apples.

As for growing all I have left is my carrots.  The neat little rows are still slowly growing.  I had been building a quick little hot house for my peppers to try to keep them alive until spring, but my wife got sick right before I went to Vegas and didn't have time to finish.  I will probably finish it now and use it to start off some early plants because we are sure to have more freezing before it is actually time to plant anything.