Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Recycled Garden

I'm not completely sure if this post is more about recycling or my battle with Bermuda Grass. I have to say though that I love my new old cracked pot that was found on a dumpster dive by my other garden half. He just knows me so well. The bottom had already been taken out of the pottery and was perfect for sinking down in the herb garden for some pretty purple and lime green sweet potato vines. However, as you can see in this picture I have Bermuda Grass coming up everywhere and it's beginning to get all up in one of my sage plants. It just simply drives me nuts. So today I set out to recycle the garden paths to see if I can conquer my nemesis..

Now you can see what I'm faced with. This stuff is not suppose to be here and it's out of control. I've conquered the blasted Bermuda Grass in other areas of the garden by layering newspapers and mulch. It's a cool method called Lasagna Gardening. But I just haven't knuckled down on the herb garden until today. This is suppose to be the path through my Morning Glory Arbor to arrive at the frog pond. That would be that bit of rocks back there hiding in the grass.

The first thing ya gotta do is yang it out. Yes, you heard me right! This stuff will find a way to creep back if you don't get most of the roots out plain and simple. Most of the yanking isn't too bad because I had the paths loaded down with leaves that were raked up last fall. I'm able to take out long strands at a time and that is a very good sign. I've already pulled most of it out directly under the arbor and used a box that our new rotating fan came in. Don't ever throw away boxes. They work great to help smoother out weeds for building new paths. The temperature is already heating up this morning and the humidity is higher than the temp. so I don't know how far I'm going to get on this endeavour.

Just look at all this rich dirt that composted in the path. I'm going to rake as much up as possible and put it in the garden beds where it belongs. I know my tired strawberries and a whole lot of herbs will enjoy it for awhile until rain comes one day to cheer them up again I'm going to get out some more grass and rake some of this stuff up, then it will be time for some A/C and Iced Tea. Whew, this Texas weather is rough this summer.

The heat shot up in the triple digits this afternoon, so I didn't get back out here until after dinner this evening, and it was still blazing out. Determination and hatred for Bermuda Grass is the key here. As you can see I've been putting out all my supplies. They consist of two old trash bags that leaves had been in, a whole bunch of Whole Food Store bags. This really should be a paying gig for advertising their bags.. I love their recycled paper bags and they always double bag. So I've recycled the recycled.. Well then, let's not forget about that fan box too. Anything can work here. We just want to smoother the grass out and you will never see all this when I'm done. Plus everything except the plastic will melt back into the earth. Now it's time to drag up the water hose and wet it all down before a wind comes and blows it away.

Now what I've done was load up a few wheelbarrows of saw dust from the other halves wood shop. It's great stuff, but you don't want it in your garden beds because it will change your soil into very acid stuff. But it doesn't hurt a thing in the paths because I'm only going to walk on it. I don't always have this much wood dust available and usually use just plain old leaves. So now that I've recycled the wood dust from the shop it is time to water it all down. I'm far from finished. I can see a few pieces of wood that I missed picking out of the pile and I'll probably come back later this winter with leaves anyways. Just running a tad low on them right now. But this will work for the time being. 

Now I'm just playing around in here. It's fun again to weave in and out of the paths and go through the tunnel of Morning Glories. See that Lemon Grass in the background? It's out of control. We've been using it in our tea and it tastes great. I'm probably going to be sore tonight, but by morning I'll most likely be inspired to do some more recycling. Maybe I'll even pick up the pieces of wood if I can still bend over. I've got a few more fun pots that the garden half brought home from that prize winning dumpster dive so maybe I'll pot up a few goodies to put in here now. You might actually be able to see them now that the area is more defined.

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Open The Garden Gate To Organic Living

Diversity is the key that unlocks the gate to a healthy organic garden and landscape.  But it all begins with that in which your feet stand on and even the foundation in which your house was built on. Most of the homes in Houston were built by developers who used bulldozers to mound up piles of hard clay and materials before the construction of your house began. Then the lawn goes in with sod layed on a very thin layer of topsoil. This is your soil with no organic matter and no rich compost. Your plants and grass cannot support themselves without artificial means, like chemical fertilizers and herbicides. It cost you a whole lot of money to keep it watered because there is not any organic matter to hold moisture in the ground. Hundreds of gallons of precious water resources are being waisted while our cities water tables are at an all time low. The chemicals pose great health risks to children and wildlife.

To hold the key and unlock the gate is only a few steps away. Changing the endless ritual and expense of endless chemical use is only a matter of organic matter. Instead of soaking your lawn with unnatural fertilizers try adding a thin layer of organic rich compost and mulch. You only need a thin layer of perhaps a quarter of an inch to spread out on your lawn. There are also a vast assortment of organic amendments to kick it off to a great start. Each time you add organic matter back into your lawn and landscape the more life your growing back into the soil. All the beneficial organisms and bacteria and natural fertilizers begin to take root and give your lawn and plants the nourishment it requires to become sustainable on its own. The next time your leaves are raked and your beds cleaned out, instead of having them bagged up and hauled off consider them a gold mine of rich organic compost. All that is needed is to mow over them to shred them. It is the perfect and natural organic matter to add back into your landscape. If we all work together to become green we will in turn create diversity throughout our city. A city where our children can grow and be healthy. They shall observe the wildlife to learn and share. It is for the hope of our future generations that we open the gate to an organic garden.
 Happy Gardening!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Easy Texas Tamales From Scratch

 Tamales are actually a Native American tradition for the holiday's stemming from the Mexican people.

In Texas we call Mexican dishes Tex-Mex. I like to try to make them as traditional as possible.

It is quite easier to do these days with the Masa that is available.

All you have to do is add your broth and choice of oil, butter or lard.

Butter is very good as long as it is organic and unsalted. My favorite is part butter and part olive oil.

Some healthier choices might be organic canola or organic corn oil, but it is very hard to find it non-gmo.. 

You will of course need corn husks to make traditional tamales.

We are harvesting our first crop of Native American dent corn and saving those organic corn husks for the task.

This variety of corn made very pretty husks with pink stripes in them.

I use my big canning pot for soaking the husks in water with just a tiny tad of vinegar for cleaning. They really didn't need the vinegar, but if you buy yours from the store, you won't want to skip using it.

By soaking the dried husks it makes them soft and pliable for putting in the filling. They need to soak for at least an hour for best results.

I start my meat the night before in the crockpot. I did pork in one crock and chicken in the other this time.

I chose a pork ribeye roast, not real big and some chicken breasts for the other one.
I make plenty of broth in the crockpot as well because you need it for the Masa.

This is a great time to use some of those spectacular herbs and veggies from the garden.

Cinnamon is a key secret ingredient in tamales. I use some ground cinnamon as well as add the flower heads from my cinnamon basil.

The flowers of most herbs are really the essence of the herb when they are fresh from the garden.

I grow lot's of Mexican Oregano. I think it is the sweetest variety of oregano! This is great in the tamales.

Corn Husks
Pork Ribeye Roast or Chicken Breasts
Broth made from roast or chicken
4.4 lb. Bag Masa
Ground Cinnamon
Cinnamon Basil (if available)
Mexican Oregano
Chile Powder
Fresh Minced Garlic
Garlic Powder
Minced Onions
Celery Seed
Sea Salt to taste
Fresh Ground Pepper to taste
A Carrot and a Parsnip
Organic Canola or Corn Oil
The herbs and spices in this recipe are according to taste.

  1. Instructions
  2. 1.  I use my big canning pot for soaking the corn husks in water with just a tiny tad of vinegar for cleaning. They really didn't need the vinegar, but old habits die hard sometimes. By soaking the dried husks it makes them soft and pliable for putting in the filling. They need to soak for at least an hour for best results.

  3. 2. I start my meat the night before in my crockpot before we plan to make them. I did pork in one and chicken in the other this time. I chose a pork ribeye roast, not real big and some chicken breasts for the other one. .

  4. 3. I make plenty of broth in the crockpot as well because you need it for the Masa. This is a great time to use some of those spectacular herbs and veggies from the garden. Cinnamon is a key secret ingredient in tamales. I use some ground cinnamon as well as add the flower heads from my cinnamon basil. The flowers of most herbs are really the essence of the herb when they are fresh from the garden. Mexican Oregano and Thyme are also very delicious in the broth. You will also need Chile Powder, fresh minced garlic, minced onions, celery seed and a good pinch of cumin powder A dash of sea salt and fresh ground pepper is always important. I also chop up some carrots and a small amount of parsnips to give the broth a deeper flavor. By morning the meat is so tender and easily shreds for the filling.

  5. 4. Masa usually comes in 4.4 lb. bags. I start by using half a bag in my mixing bowl. I mince cinnamon basil, garlic powder, sea salt, cinnamon and chili powder to taste and whisk it together. I use 1 cup of oil per half bag. Drain your broth from your meat and set the meat aside. Start by adding 1 cup of broth at a time.With the paddle turn the mixer on low. I want the masa to get wet enough that you can squeeze it in your hand and it feels moist, not crumbly and not soggy.

  6. 5. Keep adding broth little by little until you get the desired consistency.

  7. 6. I take a corn husk out of the canner and gently shake off the water. Lay it on a board and get a fair size ball of the Masa in your hand. About the size of a golf ball is good. Place it in the corn husk and spread it by pressing with your finger tips until it is about a quarter inch thick. You want to make it easy to roll and wrap so keep it away from the pointed end of the husk at least a quarter of the way down.Also keep the Masa away from the sides by at least 1/2 inch on both sides. Next take your shredded meat and put a small amount down the center of the masa. Now I fold the entire thing in half length wise and roll it from the folded end. Then take the pointed tip of the husk and fold it down. The wide part of the husk will be open a small bit.
  8. 7. Set each one on a sheet of wax paper or a large cookie sheet until you have them all done. 

  9. 8. I use a big ole pasta pot for steaming the tamales. Place them in the strainer pointed side down. You need to stack them in rather tightly so they don't fall over.

  10. 9. Put a small amount of water in the pot and set the strainer in it. You need enough water to bring to a boil, but not coming up into the strainer.

  11. 10. Bring it to a boiling steam and then turn it down immediately to med. to med. low and keep it at a gentle steam. Take the lid off and place a clean cotton towel over the tamales and put the lid back on. This will help keep them from drying out.

  12. They will take about 2 hours to be finished. Make some of your favorite chili sauce to put on top.

Happy Gardening!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Farewell To The Old Rooster!

I wish I were saying goodbye to an old friend here, but I'm really glad old Greg is gone! He was over 5 years old and a mean ornery cuss this last year. I got to where I just didn't want the fight and started sending in anyone handy to fetch the eggs other than me. Quite ridiculous to say the least. I really don't like any stress in my life and this guy was handing it out on a silver platter. The best thing I can say about him is that he sure was a pretty boy and gave us lots of fertile eggs. I don't think a couple of the brooding hens will ever gain feathers on their backs again. I'm quite certain there has been some chicken gossip going on out there about the whole ordeal. I really love our Ameraucana chickens and they are very sweet and usually very gentle.It's been kind of strange being able to go back into the coop to work again without feeling like I need to watch my back and have a weapon handy. But the timing worked out well because the new chicks are now old enough to free range for several hours every day and all I have to do is leave the door open for them.

This is one of my new baby roosters that I'm keeping from this springs run. He thinks I'm his mama and follows me everywhere in the garden. I've had a lot of cool name suggestions from garden friends and I think I'm going to go with Handsome. I think it fits him and he seems to like it too. The grasshoppers are really out now because of the drought. Most of the crops are done so it's a fine time to let them have at some nutritious bugs. The bugs should always be the biggest part of their diet anyway and it will help in trying to get the old stuff out of the garden and shredded into the compost piles. All the food crops beds will have to be weeded and worked over with some new compost added. I'm getting the plan layed out for fall plantings. It will be time to get more green beans planted. I can't seem to get my tomato cuttings to take hold without the added benefit of rain. Hopefully peas and broccoli can go in soon too. It really depends on the weather a bit. There is no point putting it in when I can't water deep enough to sustain them. Normally that wouldn't be a problem, but since we are having one of the worse droughts in Texas history it really is a serious problem now. I'm so thankful for the harvesting that we have gotten so far, although it has been minimal. If it were not for the thick rich composted soil in the beds we wouldn't have had anything at all.

Here is a picture of my other baby rooster who is the white with the speckles. I think you call that color splash, but I'm not sure and your welcome to correct me. I'm still learning about their different colors. His companion in this picture is one of the baby hens. Hopefully she will be a good egg layer. Our last flock were all actually the Araucana's, which all have the blue egg trait. Which means they were all laying a whole lot of blue eggs. The Ameraucanas are closely related and seem to run in more different colors. I'll have to take more pictures for you to see them. But both breeds share the same traits with ear muffs, beards and a brushy tail.

So here we are saying farewell to an old rooster and to our spring and summer garden. Let's all be praying for some rain and a blessed harvest for fall in Southeast Texas. I pray all my garden friends have a very blessed harvest this year! I know many of you have been struggling with so much flooding and severe weather as well!.

Happy Gardening!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Wildlife Wednesday 4


Wildlife Wednesday at Thyme Square Gardens is an opportunity to Shout Out and share with other people that we don't need pesticides to have a successful organic garden. Diversity is the key element for growing a healthy and productive ecosystem rich with native habitats. With so many things at grave risk and endangered due to natural habitat loss and high chemical use, we must pull together and share with others the importance of a chemical free landscape and garden. That creating native habitats will help preserve our natural resources and give endangered species a chance at survival. Shout Out by posting on our Facebook Page with a photo of your wildlife. Tell us your success stories and your concerns. Just click the link below or post a link in our comment section and we will share it with our readers.

 We don't have as much diversity as usual this year in that we are suffering from the worse drought in Texas in over 50 years. I've let a lot more weeds grow that provide some extra flowers and food for the bees and butterflies. My Anole Lizards haven't been peeking out lately. I think they are all down deep in the growth trying to stay cool and damp. We are still getting plenty of bumblebees, but very few honeybees. If it were not for the dense compost throughout the garden we would have lost everything this year. Most all the native plants are hanging in there. They are very drought tolerant, but could really use a bit of a drink.With weather conditions out of control all over the planet this year, it is more important than ever to try and help create some natural habits and of course NO Chemicals PLEASE!! Let's Shout Out People!! We are gardening for future generations!!!

This is a wild thicket area at the back of the garden full of all kinds of native trees and shrubs and I've let Trumpet Vine grow all up into the brush. This area is full of birds that have been teasing me for a picture, but  I will prevail.  When the Hummingbirds start to migrate back to the south they will have plenty of food and safety in here. Please join us this Wednesday.

Happy Gardening!!