Friday, February 17, 2017

OH THE IRONY

As I was preparing the soil for the raised fruit tree beds the other day, I notice that the curious cows were hanging out watching me. 

Or at least I thought it was me they were watching.  Perhaps they were distracted by a certain bag of compost I was using...

 Black Kow manure compost
BLACK KOW cow manure!  

If they could talk, I wonder what they would say?

"You paid HOW much for our poop?  
Sucker!!  Come over to this side of the fence! Bwahahaha!"


Thursday, February 16, 2017

A PLACE TO SIT, INSPIRATION THURSDAY

Every Thursday we like to post a picture of something we've found online that inspires us to do something similar at the farm.  
Sort of our own blog bulletin board so that we can eventually look back and someday, hopefully anyway, recreate it...enjoy!

Sitting area, image courtesy of Southernliving.com
As often happens, we find photos we like and somehow, they involve sitting areas.  For this one, it is just nice to see some pavers, bushes, and chairs under a tree as a nice respite from life.  We like how there is a little path that leads into the area with the chairs.

A good reminder, especially on a large property with lots of walking, to just have a place every so often to stop and sit and enjoy the surroundings.

Be inspired!


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

LARGE WOODEN TRAY TRASH TO TREASURE

OK, so this wasn't a trash find, but it was dirt cheap.  I stopped in a thrift store at lunch the other day and found this.  It was nice that it fit in my car too, ha.


It's a large wooden tray.  I'm not sure of its original purpose, if it was part of something else or what, but when I saw it, I knew it could be useful at the farm.


There are some scratches and scuffs and water stains so it is not mint condition.  Heck, I'm not even sure if it's old. But it is made from a good solid, sturdy wood and has handles on each side to make it easier to carry.

Large wooden tray
Did I saw it was large?  These porch steps are 4' wide so the tray is probably a good three feet.  

I'm thinking a paint job will be in order.  Maybe cork in the bottom?  A mirror?  Glass with something decorative underneath?  Not sure how we'll end up using it but for $6 (yep, you read that right, only paid six dollars for it!) it's worth trying to do something to it.

Any suggestions?


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

RAISED BED SOIL FOR FRUIT TREES

Here is our layering plan for the soil in our fruit tree raised beds.  

Why did we do it like this?  
Why not just have a truckload of soil delivered?  

I did a lot of research on fruit trees and bad soil conditions.  For our native soil, which is a lot of clay, we had to go with open bottom raised beds.  Trees will grow in clay soil but VERY slowly and if the planting hole is not done right, it can become an in-ground bowl and just drown the tree anyway.  So, a planting medium raised above ground level was our choice.  Since we left them with open bottoms so the roots will eventually work their way down into the ground underneath and by roughing it up and partially turning it, the layers above will slowly help to transform the clay into a more beneficial soil.  

So instead of a truckload of one type of soil (and not knowing what might be in it), we decided to know what we were putting in and we we did it in layers.  It is a mixture of composts (two different types), raised bed specially blended soil, and regular garden soil.  Layering will help give different mediums and nutrients for the roots to work through.

I missed the first photo though.  I used a pitchfork to turn the ground under the raised bed.  I didn't completely dig it all up, didn't want to create the bowl effect, just turned it to loosen it and then sat the box in place over it. 

Raised bed with cardboard 
The next thing I put down was cardboard.  That will help kill the remaining grass underneath and decompose over time, adding more nutrients to the soil underneath it all.  


The first layer I put down was a layer of cow manure compost, a 1.5 cu ft bag...


Then a layer of garden soil, 2 cu ft per bag...


Then a 2 cu ft bag of special blend for raised beds...


On top of this I put a mushroom compost mixed with humus...

Raised bed for fruit trees
To finish it all off, I put on another layer of garden soil, then two more raised bed blend layers.  So why not go with all raised bed blend?  Upon research, we found the answer was pretty simple.  Raised bed blends by their nature are a very loose soil and trees need something to "hold on to".  Of course, all garden soil would be too much the other way for a raised bed and not drain very well.    Since the ground below is still clay (for now), drainage is still a concern so we came up with this layering plan, mixing soils and a variety of composts.  Better to do this now, spend the money to get the best soils and give the trees the best chance they can have.

This weekend I'll finished getting the soil (one more trip to the garden center) and then we'll wait until the first weekend in March and get the trees into the soil.  Going to do some more research about what (if anything) we need to add to each tree to give it an extra head start.  Will research that by tree type.


Eight trees...two each of pear, plum, peach and apple.


P.S.  Happy Valentines Day to 2nd Man... 

Love you and love doing this for our future!


Sunday, February 12, 2017

WEEKEND UPDATE RANDOM THINGS

Just some random things for Sunday afternoon...


Got FIVE raised beds filled with soil after a few trips to the garden center.  Only three left to go, will finish that next weekend and then let the soils/composts cure and settle for a week or so and then plant the fruit trees in them.


I had cows watching me both days.  
They are such curious creatures.


Someone mentioned in a post last Fall about a great cleaner for the house siding.  I don't remember what post that was and I forgot to write the suggestion down.  Does anyone have any easy "spray the house and forget it" cleaner that will work for mildew on siding?  This is the North side of the house which always seems to get the most mildew.  It's amazing how fast it appears and how crappy it makes things look, ha. 


Came home today to some chicken oven roasted in the cast iron pan.

Yummy.  A great ending to the weekend!

We hope you had a great one!


Saturday, February 11, 2017

HELP ID THIS PLANT, UPDATE NORFOLK PINE

 Someone put this by the trash dumpster at the apartment and you know me, I snatched it up!  (2nd Man just shook his head, LOL!)


 I took it to the farm and had to snap some pictures of it because I'm not sure what it is!  Some sort of evergreen I'm guessing.  Norfolk Pine.


I tipped it on its side so you could see it in more detail.  I want to plant it in the ground but need to know what it is so I can make sure I do that correctly, i.e. soil, future size, light, water etc.


You see the glistening on it?  It's not water...it's glitter!  I think this was used as a Christmas decoration and someone just decided it was time to dispose of it.  I'm hoping I can plant it somewhere and add a new plant or tree to the farm.  And it will, for a while anyway, sparkle in the sunshine.  

Nothing wrong with that!

UPDATE:  We can always count on people from around the world to help us out with things like this.  Norfolk Pine is definitely what it is.  Yep, from what we've read, borderline possible outside.  Haven't decided yet if we'll do it outside or keep it at the farm inside as a houseplant.  I suppose maybe one season inside as a houseplant and maybe we could try next year outside.  

Decisions, decisions...

Thanks again!  Off to the farm today for more soil in the fruit tree beds.


OFF TO THE FARM TODAY FOR SOIL FILLING

Have to get soil for the fruit tree raised beds...


...and start filling them.  We're doing bagged varieties, soils and composts, etc so that we can control what's in there and create the "blend" that we want (more on that in Monday).  It might require a bit more work and expense up front, but we'll have the trees off to the best start they could have.

The weather today is gray and overcast, and it's lows in the 70's, highs into the 80's.  It's February, right?  It's "Winter"?  Yeah, OK, sure...

Friday, February 10, 2017

SLEEPING KITTIES FELINE FRIDAY

Haven't had any Friday kitty pictures lately (and several of you have noticed, ha).  

So without further ado, here is...


Brisbane, sacked out in his bed, with the sun shining on him (so he can recharge his batteries I'm sure).  So content...


And Hobart, sleeping on the rug in front of the window...in the same sunshine shining through...

And of course, what are WE doing while THEY are sleeping like this?  Working of course. To make money, to keep them in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed, LOL!



Thursday, February 9, 2017

TABLE IN THE GARDEN INSPIRATION THURSDAY

Every Thursday, we like to post a picture of something we've found online that inspires us to do something similar at the farm.  
Sort of our own blog bulletin board so that we can eventually look back and someday, hopefully anyway, recreate it...enjoy!

Garden table and chairs, photo courtesy of countryliving.com
One thing we have always wanted (and a few Inspiration Thursday posts have had similar photos) is a dining table in the garden.  It wouldn't have to only be to eat, it would be a great place to just sit and sort veggies, write, plan, or just take a break.  We saw this photo online and loved the smaller, more intimate style of it.  Of course we couldn't feed an army there but it would be kind of nice for a small group and/or just us for breakfast or lunch.

Love the rustic wooden table and then the vintage style chairs.  We could easily get this done soon, if we could just find the right table and chairs, because we have a big empty space in the garden on purpose for just something like this.

Be inspired!


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

BEEF BACON BY JOHN MORRELL

Picked up some of this recently. something we had never tried before...

BEEF BACON?!!?

Wait, what??

John Morrell Beef Bacon
I'm sure that's an oxymoron or some other incorrect use of two words.  Bacon is a sacred thing, in our household for sure.  We LOVE bacon.  So I thought this might be a good chance to try something different.  

It sure looks like bacon...


It kind of fries up like bacon, though the fat renders away pretty quickly. While it's cooking it smells more like beef of course, but it does cook quickly... 

Fried Beef Bacon
Here is the end result.  It's VERY crumbly.  Some pieces stayed whole for a bit, it definitely crisps up like good crispy bacon would, but they crumbled into bits very easily and quickly.  For that being a match for bacon, we'd say fail on that.  Maybe we cooked it too long, but we like crispy bacon and so we just copied the way we like that normally. If you are looking for bacon bits, well then that wins.  

The taste is very good, kind of like what you might imagine brisket would taste like if you fried it.  It's cured and smoked so it does have the bacon essence that you would want.  Like I said, it was good in a "different than bacon" sort of way.  If you don't eat pork for any reason, it would be a brilliant way to still have bacon for breakfast.  Overall, we'd definitely buy it again.  It has its place in rotation in the kitchen but we think maybe it would be even better as an ingredient in other dishes. 

It is a bit hard to find, we found ours at Kroger, but I've been to other Kroger stores and none of them have had it.

Has anyone ever tried this?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

RAISED BED FRUIT TREES PART TWO

When last we left off...YESTERDAY'S POST...I had eight giant boxes to move to the backyard...

Raised bed boxes built and ready to go
They were all stacked up neatly on the porch.  Each one weighs about 100 pounds (a checked the weight of one 8' long board and it takes two to make one box).  One at a time, I rolled them, like giant square tires, along the porch to the stairs...


And then I tipped it over and let gravity slide it down the stairs on it's side to the waiting cart...

Moving raised bed boxes
Once at the bottom of the stairs, I pushed my Rubbermaid cart next to each one and then tipped it over onto the top of the cart.  Then I just had to grab the cart handles and push it around to the back..


Then I put them in the general area where they would end up but I still had to figure out how to properly measure and space them.  I knew that if I got it wrong, when I see them on Google satellite view they'd be crooked and it would drive me crazy, ha!


Because a tape measure was too difficult when dealing with such wide spaces, I came up with this idea.  We had unused landscape timbers laying around.  I measured and they were exactly 8' long.  Using the piers on the house as a starting point/guide, I put two timbers end to end plus one that was cut to 2' long.  That made them 18' from the house to the edge of the bed and with the 2' to the center where the tree will be planted, that puts the tree trunks 20' from the house. 


I did the same thing to space between the beds.  It still required a LOT of moving around...a foot here, turning at a slight angle there, going back and standing far away and looking at it and going back and making more adjustments.

Raised beds for fruit trees
But after a few hours, here they are!  They are all in place.  I hope when I see them on Google Earth in a year or so, they are perfectly lined up, ha!

You can see in the photos that they all have cardboard under them and the one on the left in the foreground has soil in it. More on that in an upcoming post.  It will take a few trips to get all the soil in and then I'll plant the trees at the end of the month.


Monday, February 6, 2017

RAISED BED FRUIT TREES PART ONE

A few months back, I blogged about trying to decide where to place our fruit trees.  After some research on tree size, cross pollination need for some varieties, etc, we decided it was best to keep the "big 8" as we call them, together.  They need a large space if we want to let them grow to a bigger size so the area behind the house was much better suited to that.  

2 plum, 2 peach, 2 pear and 2 apple.

We have decided to go with raised beds. Our soil is just not right for direct in-ground planting of fruit trees.  They will grow but VERY slowly.  So we've done our research and are doing 4' x 4' open bottom raised beds that are one foot deep with a layering of soils/compost (more on that in another post).  This will give them a huge head start and give us fruit much sooner (still a few years down the road for that of course).

Rubbermaid cart
The first thing I did was move them behind the house and start spacing them around just to see how much room we had to work with.  Side note, I love our Rubbermaid cart...it worked out great for moving them (five at a time, ha).  


After moving and rearranging and moving yet again, several times, we came up with a plan of how far apart they could be and how far from the house they should be. Then we put the trees back on the porch to baby them through the Winter and to do some more planning.

Raised bed corner brackets
Last Summer, I had ordered more of these corner brackets in preparation.  They are used to make raised beds and wow do they ever make it easier.  We've used them for all the raised beds in our veggie garden.  


I've ordered them from Plow & Hearth on sale and then found another place online where they were on a deep discount for end of season sale.  We still have three sets for the citrus beds, but those will have to come later.


Over the last few weekends, as I travelled to the farm, I picked up wood at the hardware store.  Since 4' x 4' x 12" raised beds were the plan, I would buy 8' long boards and have them them cut in half.  They fit nicely in the back of my Jeep and I didn't have to do any cutting myself.  

There's that Rubbermaid cart again. This time, it held the wood and brackets for two beds at once. 


The brackets come with screws but we could tell they would not hold up for years outside so we purchased outdoor rated deck and fence screws.  

These should be much better!

Building raised beds using corner brackets
I just place the wood down, edge to side and then the bracket slips over each corner, holding them in place (it has a lip)  Then you just put the screws in and repeat on each corner.  Did I say I had to build EIGHT?


I built them over the course of two days last weekend (had to make a few trips to the hardware store to get all the wood so it took longer).  

Raised bed boxes
Phew!  I got them finished.  Yay!  All of a sudden we had eight giant boxes on the porch that had to get to the backyard.  Oops!

That was accomplished this past weekend, more on that tomorrow in part two. 


Sunday, February 5, 2017

SUPER BOWL SUNDAY

It is Super Bowl weekend here in Houston.  Yep, we are hosting it for the first time in more than a decade and we must say, Houston has done an OUTSTANDING job...


We have had so much fun going to events here in downtown (we are practically at ground zero for the bulk of the events and celebration).  We've been a few times since we can just walk to it.

Super Bowl LI NFL Experience 
The George R. Brown convention center is host to the NFL Experience, a ticketed event featuring Football in all it's glory, celebrities, interactive events, autographs, merchandise, etc.  It's really neat to see in person, even if you aren't a huge football fan.

Enchanted Promenade 
Discovery Green is an incredible downtown park which sits along the front of the Convention Center, and it hosts all the free Super Bowl events.  There is a lot to see.  For example, at night there are these incredible giant flowers (an art installation) that light up in a rainbow of colors.  I have a video of them coming soon, they are awesome (we want some at the farm, LOL!).   There are also free concerts, sports events, and even a nightly fireworks show.

Wokker TX Ranger Brisket Curly Fries
There are also food trucks galore, and this is just one example of the wonderful (albeit decadent) food we've had.  This one comes courtesy of a food truck called "Wokker TX Ranger" (love the name).  It's food cooked in a wok with a Texas flair of course.  

The above dish is called "Brisket Curly Fries", loaded curly fries topped with chopped slow smoked brisket, cheddar and jack cheese, spicy sesame mayo, green onions and tamarind sauce.  A-MA-ZING!


Not sure who you are rooting for, the Patriots or the Falcons, but the city of Houston is the real winner.  When it's over tonight, they say that a million people will have attended.


We've had a blast being in the middle of such a celebration...


...but we'll admit, this is a really nice view too...

(I'll catch up on comments tonight)