Wednesday, May 30, 2007

touch and go technology

today illustrates the love hate dependency we share with technology. computer worked great last night, poopy this morning. well the computer seems to be fine except for the screen which is either full dark or covered with colored lines. the lucky thing is that i performed a full backup last night and that i have a back up. bad news is that i'm sure this is going to cost a few bucks.

can't live with them can't live without them. or so it seems. i'm sure we could live without them it's just so much a part of life.

keep on bloggin'

minor tomatoe upset & super cool find

i noticed a bit of tomatoe rebellion upon my return from my bike jaunt to the river. my support structure had given way and the weight of the fruits on the vines then toppeled over the next support structure and so on - you get the idea. to my suprise the number of loose green tomoatoes on the ground was fairly small compared to the impact they must have made when they hit the ground.

so i pulled out the big guns. super duper bamboo, tall and burly and began again. I built 4 bamboo tepees allowing airflow and structural stability. i tied the maters to the structures, trimmed just a few suckers. why just a few? well with the hot weather that we get, the suckers actually help to keep the maters cool. i pulled the suckers mainly from the lowest areas of each vine.

super duper ooper cool free find today. 2 super large clear bags of fresh grass clippings in a trash pile a few blocks away from home. being the geek that i am, i rushed home on the bike, parked it in the garage, jumped in the car and booted it back over to pile to claim my grass clipping find before someone else did. there's the joke, i actually thought there would be another geek going for the clippings, so i rushed to get there first! geek! anyway, the two bags easily mulched one 4'x8' chard/christmas lima/cow pea bed at 3" deep and one 4'x16' squash/melon/artichoke/bunching onions bed at 3" deep with a little something left for the 2nd seeding of baby okra plants. the cuttings were already warm and toasty in the bag and they smelled fresh and yummy, now the garden smells fresh and yummy. i've got a number of more beds that need some mulch love. you know i'll be keeping my eye on that house each week before trash day, that's a goldmine.

what you don't know is that i've got several spots i keep an eye on.
  1. my personal bamboo supply person
    • he does not know it but I take the bamboo he cuts out of his yard each year for the veggie/floral support supply
  2. my personal brown leaf supply family
    • above and beyond that which i get from my own yard
  3. and now my personal grass cutting supply
  4. now i just need a personal cow/chicken/goat poo supplier
    • i'm sure there would be a willing volunteer just for the asking around here. hmmm

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

more eggplant more baba!

today's picks: 3 skinny but lengthy asian eggplant & a nice handful of blackberries

ohhh i love the eggplant. i have got to get additional plants in due to the fact that i eat the baba faster than the fantastic four plants that i do have can produce. now i gotta go pick me some yummy carrots for dipping. looking for the recipe? see my very first entry in the blog, you'll find it there.

finally had a whole day of sunshine and boy did the temps shoot up. the thermometer here is reading 89 degrees and that's the thermometer that i keep in the shade. for all the rain though, it's not too too muggy. things seem to feel dry, and every once in a while there's a breeze, not cool but movement. it's really quite nice to see the sun again.

the rivers are high. danger could still lurk. the colorado here at home is above this years additional shoring supports. crazy! I've watched entire trees float down the waters and at swift speeds. I would not want to be caught in the waters. not for a while anyway. i'm sure the nutty white water kayak folks would think it cool but the amount of wood and debris floating down bring great unpredictability. just the same, it's beautiful to watch the muddy murky flow. i think i'll get the bicycle out now and go see how she floes.

several hours later...
yupper, she's about as full as she can get that ole' colorado. i was not even able to ride along the river walk here in town due to the fact that it too was flooded out! that's a big deal. i sure hope the trees make it through. it's hard for them when the roots systems soak for so many days. they loosen up and tip over. hang on babies, dryer weather is with us for a bit now.

red imported fire ants chapter 2

chapter 1 dealt with the first attempt to convince the fire ants in the yard and garden that there were much better places to live than in the yard and garden. as they say the grass is always greener and less disturbed on the opposite side of the fence, don't they? maybe not in ant universe but they should!

well in chapter 1 i spread dried molasses in the garden and around the entire yard with some concentrated hits on the several fire ant mounds i could identify. it managed to move them a foot or two from their previous homestead, so i kept at it trying to build a path towards the grass on the side of the road. it might have worked had it not been for the intense rains we've had these past few days. good news is the molasses is now in the ground feeding beneficial microbial creatures and helping out the yard overall. bad news is that the ants are no longer repelled by it.

tactic 2 in chapter 1 involved taking cuttings from my mint and peppermint plantings and distributing them around all the window sills and door entrances. That turned the ants right around. they do not like mint. they did begin to get braver as the mind wilted which brings us to...
chapter 2

chapter 2 features the use of water (some hot and some rain barrel temp) and dr. bronner's peppermint soap. LOVE THIS STUFF! not only is it fully biodegradable it's uses are many. if you're looking to switch to a biodegradable soap product this is it! How does it work? Well as stated above, ants do not like peppermint and the enzyme action in the soap knocks them out by drying out their exoskeleton.

one suggestion before you start: apply some of the cooler temp soap mixture to your hands, shoes and the base of your pant leg to deter the ants from attacking you. they are fast and you'll need all the help you can get. this works for me pretty well. I make sure my shoes are covered. you could even use a bit of soap straight out of the bottle smearing it on your shoes for a more potent repellent.

for mounds: i heated a large pot of water to almost boiling and added dr. bronner's peppermint soap at 4 tablespoons per quart of water. i then poured this over the mounds. i could cover 2-3 mounds per pot of water. i also poured hot water over the paths they were using to relocate essentially giving them one route of escape. where did that route lead? one guess? Yes out of the yard!

for the garden fellows: using rainbarrel temp water and 3 tablespoons per 2 quarts of water, i disturbed the mounds, turning them over with a hoe and poured the 1/2 the pot of water over and into the mound. i then used a soup ladel for targeted areas and to build again a type of suggested escape route for them by pouring a barrier in the areas I did not wish for them to go. last of all, i waited until a large number the ant folk were up and out to pour the remaining soap water mix over the lot.

for the ant action around doorways and windowsills: I used a spray bottle filled with rainwater and 2 tablespoons of dr. bronner's peppermint soap. I sprayed their pathway on the side of the house. I sprayed around the window frames and around the doorways. I also for good measure gave a spray around the electrical boxes and air conditioners knowing they are attracted to electrical type elements.

i think this will turn out excellent
results barring we don't get pummelled with rain again. if so, i'll just repeat the process. don't get me wrong, I'm happy for the rain, i'd love to just spread it out a bit. til' next time...

Monday, May 28, 2007

on career, family and quality of life

i should start by saying that i have always tended to be an overachiever, often a workaholic and career driven person. something is changing and my instincts tell me it's for the better. i'm looking at priorities in a different kind of way. i think i'm on the cusp of a shifting focus. the way i think about life and the experiences i enjoy are more simple. the experiences are still driven by the get back what you put into it idea, like the gardening and the fixing of things around the house and the keeping time with friends. i don't feel all that different, i've never been good at small talk, i've never been one with little ideas and it's never been easy for me to slow down and relax. i don't know if any of that will change. i think it's more about shifting than changing. it's about focusing energy in different places. 39 years to get here. i've always felt like a late bloomer. is 39 years late to bloom in this way? don't know, i've only got the experiences of this current life to guess from.

now i'm not sure that i can get this turned around in a fashion pronto. i just hope to find a way to keep my focus clear and steady. and the focus is quality of life. this means opening up myself to the extended family more than i have (this is where i often choose work over family, i'm very close with mom, dad and brother), opening up to the possibility of a relationship (i'm one of those who takes care of herself and has a hard time and/or would rather not ask for help) and trusting that the person i am is good in hopes of chipping away the protective barrier i've built up over the years.

more to come on this...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

chicken soup and helping others

it's funny and true that anytime you make an effort to help someone else that you often get more in return. today that happened to me.

my next door neighbor, not she who mows, but another broke her foot. she's a fantastic single mom with two teen/young adult children who could not be nicer. she's got a great mom and dad who have been helping her out this past week, shopping, cleaning up, taxi-ing the kids to soccer, band and every other of the many activities they take part in. i decided to make her some chicken soup. i thought that something homemade might be nice.

i used potatoes, tomatoes, herbs and onions from the garden along with an organic chicken. chicken soup is one my specialties, mostly because i love it and have taken many stabs at the making of it. so i brought it over to her and landed in a fascinating conversation with she, her mom and her dad
that has really made my day . we now, the lot of us, have plans to frequent an outdoor music festival once or twice a month. one of my great faults is that i don't get out with others to have fun as much as i should. i love outdoor music and good company which they are, so really the gift today returned itself.

most important, i learned that there's a lot of love next door. that's good to know. i enjoy my neighbors; definitely a good thing on the path to happiness.

today's picks - sunday scamblicious

today's a.m. picks
  • 1 baby summer squash
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 porter improved tomatoe (2")
  • 1 small green onion (bunching type)
the sunday scramblicious
  • chop up squash, carrot, tomatoe, onion and onion greens into tiny bits.
  • saute' veggies in a bit of olive oil until tender
while the veggies are cooking
  • beat 3 organic eggs (got a double yoke today, cool!)
  • add a bit of salt and pepper to the eggs if you like
  • chop up 1/2 ounce of your favorite cheese
once the veggies are tender
  • pour eggs and cheese into sauteed veggies
  • scramble it up
  • serve it up when the eggs are how you like them
*change the veggie mix as you wish, cheese or no cheese as you wish. i try to use olive oil rather than butter these days, use butter if you prefer.

tre' yumme'

*remember always compost the bits you don't use!

a.m. pj-muck boot lady

here's the usual routine: wake up, prep too lazy to get up yet kitty's breakfast, pour the almighty iced coffee for myself, hit the lou, slip on the muck boots and head out to the garden. yup still in my pj's; pj's, muck boots and maybe a spray of mosquito repellent before I walk out the door.

i know there are others in this re-evolution of gardeners that do the same. you don't have to admit it, stay under cover if you wish, just know that i know you're out there. some of you may think, how could she? the neighbors must think she's crazy? what about hair, makeup, does she check that? here are my answers to your kind.
  1. vegetable and fruit trees don't judge you for how you look
  2. i live in small historic texas country town
    • yes there are many women here who would never think of heading out the door less than spiffy
    • i'm here to assure you, i'm not that woman, i have more important concerns than early a.m. spiffies
  3. the neighbors might think i'm crazy and folks they may not be too far from wrong
  4. hair: pull it back, tie it up
  5. makeup: never been much of a makeup girl, i generally keep in natural 24/7
  6. lastly i'm usually up, out and back in before 8:3o-9:ooam, the most traffic i see is the kiddos walking to school who already think i'm an alien for simply being an ADULT and on sundays, the church folk who are on their way to listen to live and let live anyway, i just give them their first lesson, no sermon required.
in truth, i think the pj and muck boot combination is actually quite fashionable and sensible. i'm fully dressed; my pjs are full length leg and long sleeved usually with some hip design. i'm an artist, artists MUST have cool pj's, it's an unspoken rule, PLEASE! the long pj pant and long pj sleeves help to keep me warm on cool mornings and protect me from the biting mosquito critters of which i am a bonified magnet for, a talent i would gladly give up. the muck boots are great on wet days of which we have of late had many and they help deter the vertical marching fire ants. they give me a small prayer of brushing them off before they bite. eiik!

my neighbors don't seem to blink an eye when they see me in this attire. maybe earlier they thought, huh? and maybe they still do but now even the kiddos just walk by or say hello without any odd crinkle of forehead or giggle once they pass. i'm just the a.m. pj-muck boot lady.

  • pulled the last bit of kale to make room for the squash and melon which are doing quite well
  • pulled the last bit of last year's flat leaf parsley form the herb garden
  • increased support for outback tomoatoes, getting heavier by the day
  • seeded new flat leaf parsely with the asparagus patch
  • gentley turned a bit of dry organic veggie fertilizer into the beds, this also turning in the molasses that was set out yesterday
  • found that one group of ants choose to relocate to the okra patch, gave them a bit of a stir, hoping they will travel to the other side of the fence just 8" away to the east
  • cleaned up bit petals, leaves and such that was wooshed around during the rainstorms
  • composted the clean up bits and inside cooking bits from the past few days directly into the east side squash bed
growth report
  • 2nd round of watermelon and squash are pretty much all up through the dirt, brave souls, they all stand about 2" tall
  • 2nd round of okra standing tall (this is where i ruffled the feathers of the fire ants)
  • lost a 1st round squash vine to the borers, others seem to be holding steady
  • most of the tomatoe plants are loaded with green maters of all sizes, desperately waiting for the pink to red transition
  • baby thyme, basil and marjoram seedlings are up
  • transplanted borage babies seem to be adjusting to their new homes without any upset
  • eggplant flowering, fruiting, flowering, fruiting very well
  • peppers that defoliated are hanging on. i see new buds and the stalk appears to be strong.
  • swiss chard and carrots going strong
  • cow peas and bush limas are about 9" tall, first vines tendrils appear
  • watermelons and melons are in their first flowering
  • bees are abundant as the flowers round the garden are overflowing with blooms
  • generation 3 of black swallowtail pillars are enjoying the dill and maturing quickly
  • the blackberries ripen 4 or 5 a day, just enough for an early morning treat (they never make it in the house)
  • leeks and bunching onions are looking great, tall and full, how long can i wait?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

today's adventure toward happiness

it's still early and already we've had some great saturday adventures.
  1. found local organic eggs at the farmers market at only $2.50/dozen (that's a deal!)
  2. found 50lb bag of dried molasses at the local feed store
  3. had a great chat with a fellow at the feed store about our recent rain and historic drought (love the feed store guys, always interesting conversation there)
  4. spread the molasses for microbial fun and as fire ant deterrent (see below post)
  5. enjoyed an eggsellent egg sandwich made from the farmers market eggs- yummy!
  6. refilled the bird feeders for the hardworking soon to be parents and adventursome squirrels
it's a good day... more to come.

one not so happy element of the day - VORACIOUS MOSQUITOES
trust me, i gave blood.

molasses for organic fire ant control

rain rain and more rain has made at least one group of creatures happy campers this year in texas - fire ants and boy they are active! prior to 2007, a 13 year drought (some folks will claim it's been 16 years) has kept them low, literally, deeper in the ground searching out water sources but due to our record rainfall they are all traveling up up up to the surface in numbers folks have not seen for maybe 13-16 years!

i already having been bit too many times by these suckers decided to take action, organic action. for me it's about creating an environmental balance that makes the land i live and garden on less attractive to the fire ants and more attractive to fire ant competitors (soil microbes) so that they, the fire ants, choose on their own to search out alternate housing locals (hopefully far away). so plan 1 is a combination of orange oil mound treatments followed by a full lawn and garden spread of dried molasses. the oil and the molasses will not harm the soil, but greatly increase microbial activity. how to: i mix 4 tablespoons of orange oil in a gallon of water and then poor it right over the ant mounds. make sure you have boots on these kiddos can travel up your legs fast and the bites are oh so unfun. for the molasses, i went to the local feed store and bought a $15/50lb bag of dried molasses, placed it in a seed/fertilizer spreader and walked the entire yard. I then took an old plastic container and went a bit heavier in the garden area since this is, in my opinion, is one of the best garden treatments you can offer your fruits and veggies. i'll report back in a few days to see how the treatment works for ants. fingers crossed. they seem to be moving but where is the question?

Friday, May 25, 2007

unusual texas spring

spring here in texas has been more than pleasant so far this year; cooler temps, spring rain and lots of it, cooler temps, cooler temps... get it.

happy joys of a cooler texas spring:
cilantro lives a bit longer
potatoes grow a bit bigger
tomatoes can actually set before the sweat
peas gave out a full crop this year before the temps grew too warm
artichoke harvest was incredible this year, they just kept coming
longer harvest of fresh lettuce (can't grow it here in the summer)
spring flowers are still blooming
the rain has the garden flourishing like never before

the globe may be warming but i'm sure thankful for the break we've been offered thus far. last year, the irrigation system was up an running mid to late april. thanks to the great amount of rain that's been falling from the sky, i've not yet had reason to turn it on, hard to believe. i don't imagine next month will offer the same relief. just the same, i'm thankful.

the rains will stay with us through the weekend. today was an on again off again type of rain day. people got out during the breaks. there is a great humidity in the air, thick and heavy. the warmer temperatures are just around the corner and when they hit, oh watch out, it's not the kind of heat you get used to. it's just darn hot!

so i turned the last of the winter/spring garden goods over to summer garden goods. the last of the red onions came out along with last year's flat leaf parsley. i relocated borage babies to corners of my various plots. sweet peppers moved to the former parsley location where the dirt
is teaming with earth worms and nicely aerated from the large parsley taproots. they should be happy there and in good company; carrots to the south, nasturtiums to the east, eggplant, mallow, basil and marigold to the north and tansy and sunflower to the west.

the spring tomatoes are booming. i started seed today for the fall tomatoes. last year i waited too long and the summer tomatoes were too spent from the heat to go on. the second seeding of okra and the second seeding of watermelons are already up and sprouting no doubt thanks to the rains. the second set of basil babies were distributed out and about and i trimmed back the sage enough to dry four large bundles. they hang in the garage and smell sweet.

lastly, the dirty work; today is squash vine borer eradication day! round one anyway. those little creeps are voracious mofo's. i lost quite a bit of my squash planting to the borers last year. this year i'm trying a different tactic by planting two crops approximately six weeks apart. yeah yeah I know we get two generations of borers but i'm going to do my best to save as many plants from the first planting and hope my irradication tactics help further with the second planting. irradication consists of a very simple process. first i lift eggs off the plants as i find them. second i take my handy dandy piece of metal wire, look for the frass & entry holes and spear the creatures while they munch. no it's not pretty but necessary if you ever wish to see your vine survive.

and as the temperatures rise, the harvest grows more frequent. i look forward to the daily picking of tomatoes, beans and okra. i look forward to watching baby melons grow to size, the eggplant shining on the branch, the peppers maturation of color and the continued harvest of my partial shade grown carrot patch. what more could a girl ask for?

after the rain

here begins an ongoing visual adventure in hippy chick's garden.

in the list of things that make me happy, my garden lives daily in the top five. blooms, shoots, roots,vines, stalks, fruits, petals and all the little creatures that help along the way; is there anything more inspired?

today's picks: 2 beautiful tomatoes (porter's improved), a small handful of blackberries and for later a salad of nasturtiums, basil, mint, dill, carrots and baby red chard.

as she mows

8:48 am as the neighbor across the way mows her lawn still soaked from the rains we were blessed with last night. a determined mower choking on the wet grass only ever so often. i can only imagine she, the neighbor, needed a bit of time alone, outside, with a task resulting in a feeling of accomplishment. it's true, that a fresh cut lawn breeds satisfaction and the smell being youthful relaxes. today the path is a rectangle, another day it may be left to right, right to left aisles. either way, newly shorn freshness is the prize. but ahh, the wet grass has claimed more time for itself. the mower chokes and the mower stops. a single long thin rectangle of uncut grass lives to feel the sunshine of the day, that is until the dew dries.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

hippy's current adventure

Chapter 1

currently we are:

  • raising organic veggies, herbs and flowers in raised beds
  • raising organic fruits (trees and brambles)
  • collecting rainwater
  • recycling everything we can
  • composting
  • brewing compost tea
  • feeding birds and squirrels
  • building abodes for toads, frogs, lizards and the like
  • eating our home grown food as often as possible
  • sharing with our friends when the harvest is particularly lovely
  • shop only the basics: milk, eggs, honey, yogurt, adult beverages, bread and meat
what we'd like to do:
  • bake bread like grandma and the great aunts did
  • brew me some good beer
    • hey little brother, hint hint...
  • find meat and eggs, milk and yogurt locally
    • possibly buy a share at a local farm that might provide the above
  • expand upon current rainwater harvesting system
  • learn more about food saving and storage
  • raise chickens
    • obtain a work/life balance that would allow me the time to raise chickens
  • reduce lawn size : increase garden size
  • strengthen mind and body
  • strengthen relationships with family and friends
  • slow down, enjoy life and share with others

today's picks: 3 eggplant, 2 red onions and baby carrots - baba for lunch w/carrots for dipping.

easy baba
  • turn oven to broil or outdoor grill to medium high
  • roast eggplant until soft, turning the eggplant as the outsides char just a bit
  • once soft, place the eggplant on a plate and let them steam themselves for 10 minutes (you can cover this plate with another if you wish to speed up the process or if you are working with plump eggplants. I'm working with 3 of the long skinny asian type this round)
  • cut the top off the eggplant and place entire eggplant in a food processor ( I keep the skins on if not too charred, I peel them first and keep only the interior flesh if they got super charred)
  • squeeze the juice of 1 big lemon or 2 little lemons into the processor
  • add 1 to 2 tablespoons of tahini to the mix
  • add chopped garlic or chopped onions (whichever you like best or have on hand and as much as you prefer) to the mix
  • process until smooth
  • taste, season with salt and pepper if you like (i like pepper, no salt), add a bit more tahini if you wish (it's all to your personal taste)
  • enjoy!
tre' yume'

*remember always compost the bits you don't use!