How To Compost On a Small Scale

Composting on a Small Scale

Spring flowers in a container garden fertilized with compost

We’ve talked about composting before, but compost is so vital to healthy plants and beautiful gardens that we are going to talk about it- again.

This time, however, we are going to talk about composting on a small scale.  Many of us in Galveston do not have a large yard, if any, so a large composting bin or pile will not work.  At my home on Winnie Street, there is no soil to dig in, it is all concrete.  So, I have container gardens and a container compost bin. So, if you find yourself in a small gardening situation or even an apartment, this method will work for you.

The average kitchen produces plenty of green matter for a compost pile.  Green matter is fresh vegetation that is high in nitrogen.  Fallen leaves and old newspaper or boxes provide plenty of brown matter.  If you are using paper or cardboard, the smaller you tear or shred it, the better.  The brown matter is dried vegetation that is high in carbon.

What I use for my container is a large plastic pot that housed an ornamental tree from the nursery.  When I first began the compost bin, I layered leaves 2-3 inches thick with kitchen scraps about 1 inch thick then topped with another layer of brown matter.  You want a lot more brown matter than green matter.  I wet this down and left it alone.  In a few days, I stirred it.  If it got dry, I watered it.  My pot does have a few holes in the bottom so that it drains.  Given time, the ingredients break down and look like black soil.

There are a lot of myths about compost.  If your compost smells, you are doing it wrong.  Add more dry brown matter to the pile to correct the smell.  Rodents are not attracted to a compost pile unless you are adding meat scraps or cooked food- which you shouldn’t do.

Regardless of the size of your garden, compost is essential. Feeding plants is crucial to their health, all soil can be depleted regardless of the type of gardening that you are doing. In a container, the soil can be depleted much faster than in a garden bed. So, adding compost is a great way to feed the soil in a container garden.

Composting also keeps garbage out of the landfills. By converting your kitchen scraps such as vegetable trimmings, coffee grounds, and egg shells into black gold for your flowers and plants, you are helping the environment in so many ways.

There are many other ways of composting, including vermicomposting, but a simple bucket and some old leaves will get it going. You can also turn your compost into the best liquid fertilizer- compost tea.

As I have created gardens and grown all manner of plants for over a decade, people always ask how I get the great results.

COMPOST is the answer.

Here are some of the results:

Do not spread the compost on the weeds.”

William Shakespeare- Hamlet

Compost does make things grow, but thankfully weeds detest fertile soil. So, the more compost you use the more fertile your soil and the less

weeds you will have. Beautiful!

Here are some common kitchen items that make GREAT compost:

  • eggshells
  • vegetable trimmings
  • coffee grounds
  • old coffee
  • old tea
  • newspaper
  • paper towels
  • tea bags
  • old lettuce from the drawer of your refrigerator
  • any old veggies from the drawer of your refrigerator
  • banana peelings
  • paper egg cartons

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Holly K. Ross, where happily ever after is a way of life. Writer on Galveston Island
, ga

Growing Lettuce!

It’s time to grow lettuce. It has been since September, actually. The thing about lettuce and other similar greens is that they need to be planted in succession. One planting is never enough! If you plant one crop and then follow it with another crop then you always have lettuce in the prime picking stage (succession planting). The weather may have turned cool, but the soil temperatures are plenty warm enough to cause Lettuce seed to germinate.

Now, you may be thinking, “Why bother?”

There are some nasty rumors going around about lettuce.  I hear that it is really hard to grow with lots of insect problems.  It has also been said that lettuce grown in Texas tastes bitter because of the heat.  Lies, all of them.

The misinformation comes from the fact that  the instructions on the back of seed packets and those great little farming magazines are written for folks living in the areas of the country that actually have four seasons and one growing season.  Now do not misunderstand me, I love my gardening magazines, but the time lines do not line up. Well, welcome to Texas Gardening.  There is a rhythm to gardening in Texas that is as unique as our Texas spirit.  Once you learn the rhythm you will be amazed at what you can grow.

However, for now we will focus on lettuce and its cousins.  It perturbs me to no end to have to purchase greens of any kind in the grocery store.  Homegrown greens are so easy and tasty!  Also, it is so much easier to have a bed of lettuce and just go pick you some whenever you want, than to have to go to the store when you want a salad.  If you are like me, lots of times what’s for dinner is not something planned very far in advance.  So, having items growing in the garden to have on hand is just the ticket.

One of the perks about lettuce and all the other greens, such as arugula, chard, spinach, etc. is that they can by eaten at all stages.  Baby greens make for a scrumptious salad or sandwich.  Many people, like my children, do not like mature spinach but love baby spinach.  So, while the plants are growing you can pick the outer leaves and enjoy the garden abundance for many weeks.  The greens( the term greens refers to all types of lettuce, herbs, kale, greens, spinach etc.)  do not take a lot of space.  One 5X12  foot bed of greens will keep a family of 6 in fresh greens. If there is only one or two of you, then a container that can hold 3-4 mature plants at a time is sufficient.

Now to dispel the lies.

First, that lettuce is hard to grow.  Not so, you just have to know when to plant it.  If you read many of the labels on lettuce sold in Texas, the labels  say to plant after all danger of frost has passed.  The problem with this is that if you wait that long in Texas you can have as little as 2 weeks until the temps are consistently in the mid- 80′s.  The proper planting times in Texas are February- April and September- December.  Lettuce is a cool season crop.  When most areas of the country are having dead of winter, we are having our cool season.   When we have had a mild winter, I harvest greens from September until June.  That is only 2 months of store-bought greens in a year.  That makes my heart happy!

The second lie is that lettuce has many insect problems. Now there are certain worms- Cabbage Loppers for example- that do like lettuce.  However, these are easily dispatched with Bt.  Bt- (Bacillus thuringiensis) is a naturally occurring bacterial disease that only attacks caterpillars.  Bt is organic and you can eat the produce with no worries that synthetic pesticides bring.  There are other insects that can be a problem at times, but I have found in my gardens that Bt is all I need to keep things in balance.  Also, there are other methods of insect control, but again the Bt is simple, easy and effective so that is what I use.  You can find it at most hardware and garden supply stores.

Lastly, lettuce grown in Texas tastes bitter- hogwash.  Again, you just need to know when to plant and what varieties to plant.  The types that are considered “slow to bolt” are the best for planting in the spring.  Bolting refers to sending up a conical shaft with blooms that will produce seeds.  Warm weather signifies to the lettuce that it is time to make seeds.  So, those lettuces that are slow to bolt will be the most tolerant of warm weather.  While you are looking in seed catalogs for heirloom selections (heirloom refers to varieties that will reproduce consistently if the seeds are saved) look for ones that were developed in Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas- of course- or Israel.  These areas have climates similar to ours and those varieties will usually do well here for the summer planting.  Look for varieties labeled “Cool season” or “cold tolerant” on the lettuces, these will be the one for planting in the fall.  When it comes to the spinach, swiss chard, and kale- these are not even stopped by a freeze so they will grow all winter.

Some of my favorite varieties are:
For Fall Planting: Black Seeded Simpson, Drunken Woman, Tom Thumb, Oakleaf
For Spring Planting:  Oakleaf, Jericho- awesome, Tom Thumb
Spinach- Longstanding Bloomsdale is great year round.

Most of your annual herbs like dill, Salad Burnett, chives are best planted on the same schedule as lettuce.
I like to sow the seeds in wide beds.  I thin the seedlings and use them in salads as baby greens.  Keep the lettuce or greens watered one inch once per week and a little shade is very helpful for extending the growing season in the summer.  The seeds usually germinate and emerge in 7-10 days.

So there you have it- the truth about lettuce.  Now what are you waiting for?  September is coming to a close and October is upon us,  I can just taste the homegrown lettuce now.

Choosing and Planting Fruit Trees

Fall is prime time for planting trees, shrubs, & roses.  The heat of summer has passed and the cooler weather stimulates root growth.  This root growth gives the plants a great start to the growing system and provides them with a buffer to withstand a Texas summer.

Any type of tree, not just fruit trees, should be planted in fall.  Shrubs include blueberry bushes, elderberry bushes, and other fruiting bushes.  Fall planting is also great for roses as well.

When choosing any plant, but especially fruiting trees and shrubs, you must make certain that you choose a variety that is right for this area.  Soils can change with just a distance of 30 miles and chilling hours are quite different from the Red River down to the Texas coast.  Chilling hours refers to the amount of time in the winter where temperatures stay between 32 and 45 degrees.  So, by choosing varieties that have the lowest required amount of chilling hours you can be sure that the trees will set fruit even when we have a mild winter.

You might think that if you are shopping locally that you will be finding choices that are right for this locale.  Sadly, that is not always the case.  You will need to do a little homework so you know that varieties that you need.  Many times, especially at the big box stores, the stock they carry may have been shipped from five states away or more.  Also, if you have ever tried to ask a gardening question to one of their employees, you most likely found that they did not know any more than you did.  The best place to shop is at a local nurseries that have knowledgeable staff (like The Farm On Holly’s Hill!).

Below are  lists of varieties that are well suited for this area.  There are also links to websites with really good information about varieties, planting, and maintenance of your trees and shrubs.  These selections are based on the most popular items I am asked for, but there are so many choices among fruit producing trees and shrubs.  So, don’t be boxed in try your hand at Papaws, Mayhaws, or JuJubes.  The extension websites have lots of great information on these more unusual selections.

http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/peach/peach.html

Texas A&M University Fruit and Nut Resources

Texas A&M Horticulturalist Jerry Parsons Video Archive

Texas Winegrape Network

Blackberries:

Navaho

Cheyenne

Arapaho

Brazos

Apples:

Red Chief

Gala

Super Gala

Mollies

Starkrimson Red Delicious

Starkspur Golden Delicious

Plums:

Morris

Methley

Ozark Premier

Bruce

Allred

Blueberry Bushes:

Premiere

Briteblue

Climax

Tifblue

Peaches:

Varieties for Low Chill Regions
EarliGrandeSmall-medSemi-cling2004/15-4/20
FlordaCrestSmall-medSemi-cling3504/18-4/24
FlordaprinceSmallCling1004/19-4/29
ValleGrandeMediumSemi-free2004/20-4/25
TropicBeautyMediumSemi-free1504/25-4/30
TropicSweetMediumFree1754/25-5/01
FlordagloMediumSemi-free1504/29-5/7
TropicSnowMediumSemi-free1505/14-5/25
FlordaGrandeLargeSemi-Cling1005/16-5/27
Varieties for Medium Chill Regions
SpringoldSmallCling7505/15-5/20
FlordaKingLargeCling4505/15-5/20
BicentennialSmallCling7005/20-5/30
TexstarMed-largeFree6505/20-6/01
JuneprinceMed-largeSemi-free6505/20-6/01
junegoldLargeCling6505/22-6/03     

Lettuce Get Planting! How To Grow Lettuce In Texas

Lettuce, Herbs, Green Onions, and Radishes- great fall crops

This post in from the archives- and oldie but a goodie!

There are some nasty rumors going around about lettuce.  I hear that it is really hard to grow with lots of insect problems.  It has also been said that lettuce grown in Texas tastes bitter because of the heat.  Lies, all of them.

The misinformation comes from the fact that  the instructions on the back of seed packets and those great little farming magazines are written for folks living in the areas of the country that actually have four seasons and one growing season.  Now do not misunderstand me, I love my gardening magazines, but the time lines do not line up. Well, welcome to Texas Gardening.  There is a rhythm to gardening in Texas that is as unique as our Texas spirit.  Once you learn the rhythm you will be amazed at what you can grow.

However, for now we will focus on lettuce and its cousins.  It perturbs me to no end to have to purchase greens of any kind in the grocery store.  Homegrown greens are so easy and tasty!  Also, it is so much easier to have a bed of lettuce and just go pick you some whenever you want, than to have to go to the store when you want a salad.  If you are like me, lots of times what’s for dinner is not something planned very far in advance.  So, having items growing in the garden to have on hand is just the ticket.

One of the perks about lettuce and all the other greens, such as arugula, chard, spinach, etc. is that they can by eaten at all stages.  Baby greens make for a scrumptious salad or sandwich.  Many people, like my children, do not like mature spinach but love baby spinach.  So, while the plants are growing you can pick the outer leaves and enjoy the garden abundance for many weeks.  The greens( the term greens refers to all types of lettuce, herbs, kale, greens, spinach etc)  do not take a lot of space.  One 5X12  foot bed of greens will keep my family of 6 in fresh greens.

Now to dispel the lies.

First, that lettuce is hard to grow.  Not so, you just have to know when to plant it.  If you read many of the labels on lettuce sold in Texas, the labels  say to plant after all danger of frost has passed.  The problem with this is that if you wait that long in Texas you can have as little as 2 weeks until the temps are consistently in the mid- 80′s.  The proper planting times in Texas are February- April and September- December.  Lettuce is a cool season crop.  When most areas of the country are having dead of winter, we are having our cool season.   When we have had a mild winter, I harvest greens from September until June.  That is only 2 months of store-bought greens in a year.  That makes my heart happy! Most lettuce varieties,as well as spinach and collard greens, can stand temperatures down to 23′ degrees.  Some winters we don’t even get that cold once so you can have a productive garden all winter.

Second lie- lettuce has many insect problems. Now there are certain worms- Cabbage Loppers for example- that do like lettuce.  However, these are easily dispatched with Bt.  Bt- (Bacillus thuringiensis) is a naturally occurring bacterial disease that only attacks caterpillars.  Bt is organic and you can eat the produce with no worries that synthetic pesticides bring.  There are other insects that can be a problem at times, but I have found in my gardens that Bt is all I need to keep things in balance.  Also, there are other methods of insect control, but again the Bt is simple, easy and effective so that is what I use.  You can find it at most hardware and garden supply stores.  If you have fertile soil fed and amended with organic compost and fertilizers, most other insects won’t pose a large problem.

Third Lie- lettuce grown in Texas tastes bitter- hogwash.  Again, you just need to know when to plant and what varieties to plant.  The types that are considered “slow to bolt” are the best for planting in the spring.  Bolting refers to sending up a conical shaft with blooms that will produce seeds.  Warm weather signifies to the lettuce that it is time to make seeds.  So, those lettuces that are slow to bolt will be the most tolerant of warm weather.  While you are looking in seed catalogs for heirloom selections (heirloom refers to varieties that will reproduce consistently if the seeds are saved) look for ones that were developed in Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas- of course- or Israel.  These areas have climates similar to ours and those varieties will usually do well here for the spring planting.  Look for varieties labeled “Cool season” or “cold tolerant” on the lettuces, these will be the ones for planting in the fall.  When it comes to the spinach, swiss chard, and kale- these are not even stopped by a freeze so they will grow all winter.

lettuce in compost raised beds

Some of my favorite varieties are:
For Fall Planting: Black Seeded Simpson, Drunken Woman, Tom Thumb, Oakleaf
For Spring Planting:  Oakleaf, Jericho- awesome, Tom Thumb
Spinach- Longstanding Bloomsdale is great year round.

Most of your annual herbs like dill, Salad Burnett, chives are best planted on the same schedule as lettuce.
I like to sow the seeds in wide beds.  I thin the seedlings and use them in salads as baby greens.  Keep the lettuce or greens watered one inch once per week and a little shade is very helpful for extending the growing season in the summer.  The seeds usually germinate and emerge in 7-10 days.

So there you have it- the truth about lettuce.  Now what are you waiting for?  September is coming to a close and October is upon us,  I can just taste the homegrown lettuce now.

Raised beds are great for gardening, this one in the front is filled with baby greens.

The Winter Solstice, The Longest Night

The longest night has just passed.

Did you feel it?

We did, we kept noticing the time, thinking that it should be much later than it was in reality.  The evening wore on with cookies baking, gift baskets being stuffed, and herbed salts, salamoia bolognese, being prepared.  It was a quiet night, the rain that had poured from the heavens all the previous night and this day ceased just long enough for a few rays of sunshine to grace the landscapes before the dark crept over us.  It was not a darkness to be feared, but one that encouraged rest.

From here on out, the days will gradually grow longer and eventually bringing warmth but definitely bringing life refreshed.  Below the ground, the Narcissus bulbs are beginning to stir- soon little green spears will pierce the ground followed by buds that will one day show us their beautiful white and yellow faces.  Those are some of my favorite flowers because they tell me, “Cheer Up, spring is just around the corner.”

I always find parallels to life in my garden.  In life, we will walk through the longest nights, but spring will come.

“For his anger endures but for a moment; in his favor is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

 

daffodil

 

Two Brown Eggs, A Leaky Chicken House, & One Happy Duck

Duck is quite happy with all the water, she keeps splashing about having a raucous good time.
Duck is quite happy with all the water, she keeps splashing about having a raucous good time.

I sat down to type up a new post about an hour ago.  Just as I began, I heard the rain begin with gusto.  Sigh…  Guess what I did?  I put on my trust old coat (technically it is my husband’s but I have commandeered it as it has a really long waist and covers my back side.  If there is one thing I cannot stand now that I am older  is drafts), muckers, hat and went out in it.  You see, we have just built a chicken house on our little place and each time it has rained the inside has been wet.  This is not good.  Chickens can endure some harsh conditions, but they need to be able to get dry, especially while they sleep.  Once you have small livestock, you will never again enjoy the sounds of a rain storm without a care in your head.

Chicken in  the Coop

After each storm, I have made modifications that I thought would fix it- to no avail.  So, the only way to know is to go out when it is raining and sit and watch.  Well, the problem is where the nails have attached the tin to the lathes on the roof. The roof is leaking like a sieve. Strange, considering that we used the correct sort of nail with a little rubber washer attached to prevent just this sort of thing.  Regardless, this problem must be addressed.  When the weather is dry and warmish- God only knows when that will be- we can calk the nail holes but for today I had to improvise.  There were a few pieces very thin plywood in the scrap pile so I took these and wedged them on the ceiling.  This will at least cause the water to run to one spot instead of all over the coop.  The girls really haven’t seemed to mind so much they are eating and scratching about out in the rain.

Easter egger chickens

We really don’t need any more water right now.  It rained last week, then that froze while ice coated everything except the roads in my neck of the woods.  It has been so cold that the ice stuck around for days and when it did melt it was like another rain storm.  Frankly, I hate this weather.  I am a Texas girl and we like the heat.  There was a time not so long ago that I thought 45′ was cold.  This morning when I saw 45′ on the thermometer, I thought “Great, it is warm enough for a run before the rain comes.”  Well, it didn’t take long to remember that this is still on the cool side.  But, the cold air in my lungs and just being outside did me a world of good.  I didn’t beat the rain, however, a light shower came while I was running.  Oh well, that is what hoodies are for.  I am hoping the weather men have it together as they are predicting sunshine and 60’s next week.  Hooray!

Two beautiful eggs in the coop this morning.  Laid by the black and white hens- Dominiques
Two beautiful eggs in the coop this morning. Laid by the black and white hens- Dominique Hens

I may not like the ice, but it did make for some pretty landscapes.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJonathan and the Duck are the only ones happy with this weather.  Jonathan enjoys breaking the ice out of water bowls- what a handy fellow to have around!

 

Basil- For A Moment More & How To Make An Herbal Vinegar

As I left out on my morning run, for the first time this year I wore a hooded sweatshirt over my t-shirt and wind-pants with a cap on my head.  For us here in East Texas, that is just almost cold.  I could see my breath but there was no frost on the ground, just a heavy dew.  Oh, but how brilliantly the dew shone in the early morning sun with the reds and golds of the leaves finally beginning to show.  I was not the only one feeling invigorated by this Autumn morning, as I ran by the field across from our place, the resident horse came galloping up to the fence and ran along with me until she ran out of field.  Some days, it is an effort to choose to run but not today.

purple basil and kale

One thing the morning did tell me was that basil and it’s other hot weather friends are not long for this world.  So, in preparation for the influx of herbs & peppers that are about to line my drying racks and the hall (I have to make use of the space I have so I have fishing line strung down the hall to hang herbs on) I am getting the jars and vinegar’s ready to go.  Making herbal vinegar is an easy process, they make wonderful gifts and they add so much to your kitchen prowess.  A pork loin marinated in basil vinegar tastes like something from a five star restaurant.

purple basil and vinegar

For the most part, which herb you use and which vinegar to use are completely up to you and your taste buds.  A good place to start is with white wine vinegar and basil.  This will make a wonderful vinaigrette or marinade.  If you have purple basil, you will have the most beautiful purple/pink vinegar you ever laid your eyes on as seen in the above picture.  The purple basil is Dark Opal and the green is Sweet Genovese- both of these are the standard type basil flavor with which you would make pesto or spaghetti sauce.  Health food stores will generally have better prices on large quantities of vinegar in its various forms.

The recipe below calls for chives, if you don’t have any you can leave that off.  If you have not been growing herbs long enough to have this much material to cut from, you can purchase fresh herbs at your local farmer’s market.  Remember, any flavors you like together will go together in the vinegar such as rosemary and garlic, oregano, basil, and sun/oven roasted tomatoes.  While learning the way, start with small batches this way if it tastes bad, you didn’t lose much.  However, every mistake is a lesson learned and experience is the best teacher.

For sterilizing your jars, wash them with hot soapy water, rinse and dry in a 225′ oven for 15 minutes or use a dishwasher.

 

Basil, Chive, & Lemon Vinegar

Zest of ½ lemon

5 Basil Leaves

10 stalks of chives

1 cup white vinegar ( any type such as rice or wine)

 

Zest lemon, crush or chop basil and chives, place in a clean dry jar.  Pour vinegar in and cap- vinegar should cover all the herbs completely add more if needed. After 24 hours add more vinegar if the herbs have soaked up the vinegar.  Vinegar is ready to go after 24 hours, but the flavor will develop the longer it sits so 10 -14 days is fine too.  Strain herbs out and compost them.  Store  vinegar in a cool dark place, it will keep indefinitely.

Making these things at home is a safe activity- it has been being done since ancient times.  Use good sense, clean and dry utensils and jars- moisture is your enemy- and all will be well.  Remember- if it is growing funny things, bubbling like it is boiling but there is no heat or it smells raunchy- throw it out.  Please consult your county extension office if you would like more detailed information on canning.

herbal vinegars

 

The choices are endless, just make certain that you label and date all your creations at the time to place them in the jars.  Trust me, you won’t be able to remember it later!

Chickens Again and Rose Pruning Goats

Luffa gourds to go with the herbal body scrubs.
Luffa gourds to go with the herbal body scrubs.

Each morning I wake up with a very full to-do list.  Everyday I go to bed with a lot scratched off the list and yet at the end of the week there is so much yet to be done.  As I write tonight, I can feel the slight sting on the back of my neck left by the sun.  We reached 90′ today, but the breeze was so cool and the sun was so pleasant that I didn’t even notice while I was working at my table.  Often, I am in the herb gardens in the morning when neighbors head off to work.  I wonder as they pass by if they realize that I am in my office?  Probably not, I know what I do looks much like a hobby to lookers on.  However, if you could see my to-do list you would know that it is definitely not a hobby.

Whenever family or friends ask what I have been up to, I usually say “more of the same” .  By that I mean more harvesting, drying, and processing of herbs.  More planting, propagating, and watering of herbs.  More retrieving the escape artist goat, planning for the breeding of animals, more feeding of what we have and so on.  But really, no day is ever the same.

We learn new things every day, too.  Like today, I learned how to unhook a fuel line on the riding lawnmower and how to drain the gas tank.  Why would I do this?  Well, because diesel doesn’t work will in a gasoline engine.  It seems that, according to my husband, the label on the can with diesel came off.  He was at work or he would have known better than to use that can in the lawnmower, but I was ignorant of the fact that the gas can did not in fact contain gasoline.  Yes, I know many of you rule followers are appalled to hear that we used a gasoline can to hold diesel, but if you knew my husband you would not be surprised.  Anyway, I am still a bit suspicious as to whether the can was ever marked properly- I do know my husband.  But, I noticed that the lawn mower did not run quite right and parked it immediately.  When Tony called to check in he was just so thrilled with the news.  Never fear, I know my way around an engine well enough to manage.  The tank is drained and we will refill with the right fuel and see how it goes.  Once before, I added the wrong fuel (not diesel) to the push mower.  When we took the mower to the shop, the old fellow said that it wouldn’t matter much, no worries.  I like that sort of answer and will proceed forward as if this is no big deal until proven otherwise.  The can in question with the push mower was also not marked properly- I should know better by now, right- so I still don’t think I am to blame.

Thankfully, the vast majority of the farm got mowed before the refueling incident.  I am relieved due to the fact that we are looking at rain for the better part of the coming week.  If I hadn’t gotten the mowing done we could have lost a small child in the grass by the time mowing was again possible.  I am hoping to get more seeds into beds before the rain begins.  I love fall gardening!  We have many types of  lettuce growing along with spinach, kale, radishes, beets, and greens.  All the herbs are growing like mad and I am harvesting heavy each week.  Buds are appearing all over the rose bushes, those that were not pinched back by the heat were “pruned” by the goats when they got out while we were in Galveston.  I can’t even begin to communicate what went through my mind when I received the text that said “Are the goats supposed to be in the front yard?”  Mercifully, they hadn’t done much damage when my older daughters found them.  Seriously, though, I have only pruned my own roses a few times the goats have always seen to that chore for me.

The new chickens bedded down for the night.
The new chickens bedded down for the night.

Speaking of goats, my two bred does are building udders and I am excited.  There is nothing cuter than baby goats- except maybe baby pigs.  Raw goats milk will soon by back on the menu in the Ross household, oh happy day!  The farm is expanding and the business is growing.  New chickens have arrived, 6 Dominique hens and 1 Black Wyandotte Rooster.  The rabbits have been moved to their new home.  The chickens and the rabbits will be housed in a new building we are building.  So far, the rabbits are in their side and the chickens are in a tractor for the time being.  Of course, the birds free range in the day.  Propagation has begun in earnest, time to get Spring 2014 under way.  Lavender, mint, & rosemary are in such demand that I have to begin now for next year.  However, I am selling all that I root just as soon as it is ready but I am certain that I will get ahead of the demand sooner or later.  Not that I mind, selling the herbs is the name of the game.

I hope you all had a wonderful day!

 

The freshly tilled garden patch, soon to be seeded with hairy vetch.
The freshly tilled garden patch, soon to be seeded with hairy vetch.

Earthworms & Sibling Rivalry

The Siblings & Their Dad
The Siblings & Their Dad

I am certain that if you have ever had children, grand children, babysat, or visited a friend/family member with children you can relate.  Today as I was harvesting earthworm castings from my earthworm bins outside at my workstation, very loud voices could be heard from within the house.  With only two children left at home, I certainly knew who was making all the ruckus.  I, of course, assumed it was fighting and someone would appear and ask me to settle the dispute- unless a compromise or winner was determined.

More often that not, my kids will settle it themselves.  I realized when the first two were young so much of their fighting and getting me involved as a referee was really a power play to see who I would side with in the altercation.  Therefore, I removed myself and told them to sort it out themselves.  I won’t deny that with the fiery temperaments of my daughters that fists sometimes came into play.  No one died and they are better off for having learned to settle things themselves.  I should also note that no bullying was allowed in our home and the playing field was pretty level- the older two are almost exactly 2 years apart and the younger had caught the older in size by the time she was 3 and they stayed neck and neck until the younger was 12- and passed the older sister.  Often times, mothers need to be needed and want to be in the middle of the children’s scraps as they feed off of the sibling rivalry as it feeds their own emotional needs.  I determined not to be that way and wanted my children to have an honest relationship with each other apart from me.  No triangles in our family.

So anyway, I kept picking earthworms out of the castings dumped on the table wondering just what had set off the two of them.  Soon, Sierra emerged from the house and began her sentence with “Mother” always the term she uses when she deems action is necessary on my part.  But I must say that I was not prepared for what followed next.  “Will you please tell Jonathan that he is not allowed to annoy me for no reason and this includes standing outside my door and clucking like a chicken at the top of his lungs!” Sierra says giggling and trying to look perturbed.

I burst out laughing, he was staying out of her room but had still found a way to bug her- a very creative way I might add.  Of course, I did say that he could not come within five feet of her door, this distance would put him in his own room.  In his room still meant that her could cluck like a chicken but that was the best I could do.  As I type this, lots of noise is coming from the living room- all four kids are home and they are engaged in a wrestling match.  The young bull (Jonathan) has grown quite strong and Cheyenne loves to wrestle him to see if he has passed her in strength.  Siblings are funny.

Sierra & J

The earthworms did get their bins refurbished with compost and shredded paper.  Using earthworms to compost your kitchen scraps in called vermicomposting- a  name which I dislike it reminds me of vermin.  Now, the castings are fertilizing my garden boxes, making compost tea in the drum, and providing mulch for a rose bush that is trying to recover from being eaten by goats.  I am amazed at how quickly the worms can eat watermelon or an old cucumber or anything else they find in their bin.

Vermicomposting

It was a full day- the master gardeners and I began our Earthkind demonstration plot.  Today we removed a lot of Bermuda grass- that is hard work!  I am the youngest member by about 25- 30 years and these little ladies worked like you wouldn’t believe.  I am hoping to be so agile and sturdy at their age.  Five pounds of earthworm castings went up to amend my plot.  We are conducting an experiment- one side of the garden is done using synthetic chemicals such as round up and Miracle-Gro and my side is going the organic route.  I am looking forward to see the difference.

Back at the farm, I mowed, weed-eated, painted signs, and mopped some really dirty floors.  Needless to say, I am looking forward to my bed. Oh, and speaking of clucking like a chicken- we are getting our chickens this week!  I cannot wait.  I have missed having hens singing the “I laid an egg” song and pecking at bugs in the grass.  I plan to get 6 hens and one roo- for now.  Pictures to come.

Herbal Deodorant- A Recipe

deoderant

As we journey along on our path to health, herbs are playing a huge role.  The home medicine cabinet can be stocked with so much that will keep the doctor away and keep your body humming like a well-oiled machine.  One of the items in my medicine cabinet that I wanted to replace was deodorant.   It is a well known fact that most antiperspirants and deodorants that you purchase from the stores have a lot in them that our bodies do not need and are harmful to us.  Aluminum being one of the biggest concerns.  But what to do?  Body odor is something no one can live with.

At Full Heart Farm, this recipe was posted.  I have tried it and like and even one of my family who had to use clinical strength deodorant is using it and it works!  The only challenge is that the coconut oil turns to liquid above 85′.  Really, this is only a problem if your are taking this in a vehicle or airplane or you keep your home very warm.  In my bedroom this mixture remains in a creamy state. If I travel in a vehicle I simply put it in a zip-lock bag as a precaution and if I am traveling on a plane I take a long my store bought stuff. Trying to explain the jar of unmarked liquid at the baggage check is more than I care to undergo and I can’t shake the mental picture of me in a holding cell repeating, “I make all kinds of things with herbs and this is deodorant, I promise.”

So, try this inexpensive alternative- you will be glad you did!

Healthy Deodorant:

1/4 cup coconut oil

2 Tbs corn starch

1 Tbs + 1 Tsp of baking soda

few drops of tea tree oil– too much tea tree oil and the smell will overpower just about any other essential oil.  A little of this oil goes a long way.

enough of your favorite essential oil to make it smell good.  Not only do essential oils smell good, you also receive the added health benefits that each essential oil offers.

Mix together and store in a small mason jar or anything that works for you.  A wedge shape applicator sponge works great for applying the salve and it only takes about a dimes worth of salve per pit.

deoderant on displayI like to use an antique Noxema jar for the container.  I love the cobalt blue glass and it looks lovely on display in my bedroom- no need to hide it in the bathroom.