Monday, August 3, 2020

NEAR CATASTROPHE IN THE ORCHARD

 So it was a dark and stormy....oh wait.  Ok, it rained.  After the washout last weekend, most of the week was much better...until Thursday evening and Friday evening and Saturday morning...


...well this was the radar when I decided to go ahead and head to the farm.  The farm is the pinned dot in the radar image above.  But they were moving East and away from the farm so I figured I could beat it before the next round.  Of course I knew I couldn't mow because we had gotten fairly heavy rain Friday night and then again Saturday morning.


When I got there, it was moving out but more coming later in the day.  Sure enough, a lot of standing water.  As you can see the grass is green now and needed mowing, I just have to hope that this coming weekend won't be too bad...

The reason I went was as usual, just to check on things, make sure all was OK.  90% of the time, everything is good.  But this time...

(Please ignore the out of control grass in and around the beds in the following pictures, had it been dry, the pictures would have been taken AFTER mowing and edging, ha)
  

...I rounded the corner of the house and saw this branch from one of the pear trees in the yard.  WHAT???


Then this on one of the apple trees!

\
And this on the OTHER apple tree!


And finally, one of the plum trees...sigh. 

Near as we can tell, something got into the fenced area.  There have been deer but they are larger and wouldn't be able to get into the fenced area without ripping down all the fishing line and probably pulling over a pole or two.  The mystery deepened.

We only have one trail cam right now and it's focused on the front yard.  But I decided to swap out the memory cards anyway and see what's on there that might give us a clue.  


GOATS!

They have to be the culprits.  These belong to the neighbors on the side of us.  I didn't know about this until I got home and checked the photos, it's from the 20th, last time there was the 19th.  I called 2nd Family and "R" is going to go check the fence line and see where they got in.  I was going to have a post coming up about all the leaves being eaten off the lemon tree a couple of weeks back.  We figured a caterpillar.  In retrospect it was probably these mischief makers.  

Notice the apple trees above, there are not many leaves on them.  I didn't even think about that until I examined the pictures again.  There was one section of fishing line on the bottom row that was missing for the last few weeks.  I noticed it the last time I was out there there but the fishing line I had brought back into town and forgot to bring it with me.  I wasn't worried because it was the lowest part and about knee high for a deer.  I didn't foresee goats.

The thinking is one or more got in and ate what they could reach and then probably pulled on higher up branches and broke them since they were pulled downward.  There was one additional fishing line snapped and that probably happened as they left.



Ugh.  We hope the fence gets patched up.  I am going to add a few extra rows of fishing line this weekend when I mow. And edge. And clean out the beds.  A full weekend for sure, weather permitting. 

Now I'm tired thinking about it...and it's only Monday...

Sunday, August 2, 2020

GARDEN PRETTY MUCH DONE FOR THE SEASON

Well the tomatoes are done for this year.


Here are the tomatoes that ripened since our last harvest two weekends ago including a couple of green tomatoes so I pulled those too.  The plants are definitely done. Crispy leaves and no new growth.

We think by covering them with the freeze cloth (to keep the birds away) we extended our growing season just a bit longer.  They were protected from the heat of the blazing sun but didn't set any new fruit.  All that ripened were the ones that were already green.  A bit smaller than normal but we'll take it.  The squash has one small fruit on it but it looks done as well.  The peppers never set fruit.  Not sure what happened there.  

The basil has been nice and we've used a lot of it this season.  All in all, it was a nice distraction during the quarantine/pandemic.

Tomorrow an update on the weekend, including a near disaster in the orchard area.


Today NASCAR is back after a couple weeks off but of course, both of us being space fans, we are watching astronauts Bob and Doug and their return to Earth on the SpaceX capsule Endeavor.  Good luck guys!

Friday, July 31, 2020

GLOWING INSECT FRIDAY DEBATE IS BACK

On Friday in the past we have done a "Friday Food Debate" where we tackle some of the burning questions of the culinary world, ha...we haven't done one in a while but this week we'll expand to another random fun question that just came up recently.

This week, the burning question is:


Both 2nd Man and I grew up calling the ubiquitous glowing Summer insects whose rear end lights up "lightning bugs"...but since I grew up in several states from Oklahoma to coast to coast, I've heard the word "firefly" as well.


Apparently it's fairly regional.  There is some thinking, though unproven, that lightning bugs are in the areas with the most Summer thunderstorms, hence "lightning"...and the fireflies are in areas with Summer wildfires, hence "fire".  Interesting indeed.  there are of course areas where things overlap and both words are used interchangeably.

There are some other words for them, some of which we had never even heard of:

Candlefly...firebug...glowworm...will-o'-the-wisp...

So which insect are you?  Team firefly or team lightning bug?  Or something else entirely?



Wednesday, July 29, 2020

AT YOUR SUGGESTION A BLT

2nd Man is baking again.

Homemade bread
Last week it was brioche, this week standard white bread with a touch of sourdough...one plain and one with Trader Joe's "everything but the bagel" seasoning.  That stuff is so good!  A mixture of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, garlic, salt, onion.

By the way, I'm getting 2nd Man to share his recipes, some are just straight from online, some are adjustments on his own.  We'll post soon. 

Garden fresh tomatoes
We had two tomatoes left from our last garden haul and of course everyone knows how amazing garden fresh tomatoes are no matter how you use them.  In fact, with our last sandwiches, several of you reminded us of the joys of the ubiquitous BLT sandwich...let's see:

Fresh homemade bread...√
Applewood smoked thick slice bacon...√
Mixed garden lettuce...√
Garden fresh tomatoes...√
Mayonnaise...√

BLT sandwich
BLT's for two!!!

They were so good.  There is something so satisfying about the combination of flavors that is so retro and so comforting at the same time.  

Thanks for the suggestions!  Now here's to hoping for the last few tomatoes this weekend.

Monday, July 27, 2020

YOU ALWAYS REMEMBER YOUR FIRST

Our first apple.
What did you think this post was about?  LOL.

One of the two apple trees bloomed this year and developed several fruits.  It is the Anna apple.


In Texas, or at least in our part of Texas, we can't grow red apples.  We have to go for green or yellow.  We opted for this variety because it has a low chill hours requirement and that's our climate for sure.

From the online description of this variety it produces large (though these are small since the tree is still small), crisp apples with a yellow greenish skin and a red blush.  The sweet and slightly tart flesh is perfect for fresh eating, cooking and baking.


Here is it sliced up.  2nd Man said it reminded him of a pear.  It was sweet and had a similar taste.  We did both notice it also be slightly tart just like the description and we're pretty sure they would be great for cooking and baking. 


But wait!

There were three in total.  I pulled all three the last time I was at the farm and we've been rationing them for a few days.  Not bad looking fruit for our first ever homegrown apples!  It also means the DEER FENCING has worked because they did not get these tempting morsels...we did!

We do have an issue with this tree, more on that in an upcoming post.  This weekend was, as you probably saw posts about, a stay at home weekend because of the rain bands from Hurricane Hanna.  The ground was starting to crack at the farm so the rain was welcome.  I'm guessing this weekend will most definitely be a weekend for mowing and edging.  


Saturday, July 25, 2020

HUNKERED DOWN


For those who saw yesterday's post you know we are staying in town as Hurricane Hanna heads inland.

Hurricane Hanna radar image
Here is a radar shot from about an hour ago.  As you can see it is making landfall much further South of us than originally anticipated.  However you can see the rain bands from the rotation are training across our part of the state.  They say we'll have more rain tomorrow but it might move quick enough that our training bands may move on sooner.  We'll see how the day goes tomorrow.

Stormy downtown Houston
Here is a shot from the balcony in town right now.  Definitely a rainy day.  It's typical tropical activity though, sunny for a bit and then dark and heavy rain, then clearing up again.

So we're just hanging around inside watching TV and 2nd Man is cooking.  As for Hobart...

Hobart is holding on
...well he is "hunkering down" by straddling the arm of the couch and holding on..you know, in case the building blows over or something, LOL!  Hey, he makes it work, I guess that's all that matters.

Hope you are off to a better start of the weekend. 

Friday, July 24, 2020

FIRST OF THE SEASON

Well...in the middle of a pandemic and under quarantine, now we have a tropical storm headed in our general direction..the first this season.

Image via NOAA.org
Last night the depression in the Gulf of Mexico was upgraded to tropical storm Hanna.  The good news is that the new forecasted landfall is further South from us so we should be spared a direct hit.  

The downside is that they predict we'll still get a lot of rain.  Shouldn't be a flooding event, thank goodness but still a few inches of rain.

Image courtesy of khou.com
Of course that means this is the forecast for us.  The rain will start today and continue well into next week.  90% chance means yep, it's gonna rain pretty much everywhere.  Nest week, with the 60% chance, we hope it falls more on the 40% chance it won't ha.  

But if anything good to share is that the pandemic/quarantine has prepared us better than ever.  We don't need to leave the apartment at all.  We've got food/water and everything we need.  We're good.  2nd Family will keep us updated on the farm and what's going on out there.  We think the farm is far enough away from where the heaviest rain will be that we might get spared the worst of it out there.  Still should be some rain, which we need.  The ground was cracking last weekend but we don't need flooding, that's for sure!

Image via NOAA,org
And then to top things off, there's this...Gonzalo is out there floating around for us to keep an eye on this time next week!

And now we wait...


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

QUARANTINE BAKING BRIOCHE BREAD

Monday, we posted about the the tomatoes we finally got from the garden.  Well 2nd Man decided to use some of our flour reserve (and eggs and whatever else goes into this) and made some brioche bread.  He had never done it before and followed a recipe he found online and these were the end result:


Two beautiful loaves.  Soft and golden and delicious.  We have just been snacking on it like candy because it's so good.  Then we saw the tomatoes and decided to have sandwiches for lunch.

Of course BLT's would immediately come to mind (and we do still have tomatoes left and some bacon in the refrigerator that is calling our names) but for now we just had a regular sandwich...


...bologna and cheese.  Toasted homemade bread and fresh from the garden tomatoes, oh my it was so good.  A few kettle potato chips on the side and it all made for a great lunch.  It's just so amazing how delicious garden fresh tomatoes totally transform even the most mundane things.

Monday, July 20, 2020

HARVEST MONDAY

Houston, we have a harvest!

Not huge but not too bad all things considered (heat/no rain/automated watering issues).



We got three yellow squash.  They look pretty good and of course we had to harvest some basil.

And look...


...tomatoes! (and more basil, ha).

I pulled all the red ones and two yellowish ones fell off as I was reaching in to get them.  There are still more that are green so the cover has been working as we had hoped.  We are hopeful that the green ones remaining on the plants will turn over the next week or two.

The plants however are very scraggly and there are zero blooms on them so with these near 100 degree temps, we're guessing tomato season is over.  Even the squash vine is starting to fade.  Not the best season we've had but we got started late because of the pandemic and focusing on prepping while stores were closing down around us.  At least we got something in the end and had fun with the distraction from the other stuff going on in the world.



Saturday, July 18, 2020

A SIGN OF THE TIMES


Today we skipped the farm because we're going to a relatively new thing in the time of the pandemic, a drive by birthday party!  It's for our dear friends' son Cameron, he was born 9 years ago.  Such an amazing boy, we adore him.  

His parents are having a drive by car parade.  What a memorable birthday this will be.  Let's hope this time next year things are back to normal.  

Tomorrow I will head to the farm, probably won't have to mow but will check on things, water, etc.

Hope you are having a good weekend and stay safe!


Friday, July 17, 2020

SAUSAGE AND CHEESE BISCUITS QUARANTINE FOOD FRIDAY

Since so many of us are stuck inside, we are going to post some food/meals we are eating.  Usually there will be no recipe, what we want to post is just a reminder that simple is good, simple is comfort and during these times, we can all use a little (or a lot) of that.


This was lunch one day (or I guess brunch).  Now 2nd Man makes a mean biscuit (recipe is on the blog) but for the pandemic and to save our flour I also stocked us up with canned biscuits. I know, sacrilege, but hey, it's all about saving time and resources while providing comfort.  We baked up a can of flaky "Grands".  All we needed was a package of sausage patties and some cheese.  We have those on hand as well.

Pop the biscuits in the oven and the sausage in a skillet.    By the time the biscuits are done the sausage is ready.  We put some squares of cheese on the sausage so it starts melting and then just load up the biscuits!


It's warm, flaky, cheesy, sausage goodness!  We like keeping sausage in the freezer and the canned biscuits usually have a long enough "fridge life" so that we can stock up on them too for fewer trips to the store.

Speaking of shopping, here is some quarantine dark humor sent to us by a friend of the blog:



Stay safe and eat well!

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

THE CASE OF THE VANISHING WASP NEST

 Now for something weird...


You will recall last week that we posted about this wasp nest in one of the blueberry bushes on the porch.  You all had some great suggestions (moving was one, 2nd Man considered it, LOL) but I vowed to take care of them.  I made up a spray bottle of dishwashing soap and water and thought I'd try that out.  I had some other ideas in mind.

So I got to the farm armed with my "weapon" of choice and got ready...


...um...what happened?  They were gone.

Not just "abandoned nest gone" mind you, no it was gone.  Nest and all.

And not just "laying on the porch floor gone", it was entirely gone!

There is no trace of them ever having been there.  Are there animals that would eat a nest?  Birds?  We thought maybe they just moved on but there would be an empty nest still hanging.  Or if the wind blew it down it would be on the ground.  

We guess it will forever remain a mystery. 

We are however RELIEVED that they are gone.  There are a few small nests in the eaves of the house and I used the regular spray on those.  I just need to make  sure they don't come back in the blueberry bushes.

I've been bad on catching up on comment replies, I'll work on that tonight. We always read them all!

Monday, July 13, 2020

GAWD IT WAS HOT


We are in the midst of a heatwave here.  Sunday we made it to 100.  Saturday when I went to the farm it was 97 for a high...


...with a feels like of 107.  Ugh.  With the stay at home suggestion (we're not yet under a lockdown), it's really just go to the farm, do what I need to do and come back.  Don't stop anywhere along the way, ha.


The skies were clear but it sure was hot.  Thankfully, the Zen Machine was back, having been delivered Friday.  So I mowed.  It was a mess.  I should have taken a "before picture" but I was just trying to get it done as quickly as possible.


As it turns out, I was on the mower almost two hours.  It was thick.  Plus I had to go back over areas to disperse the clippings more evenly.  I mowed it short once again.


This time of year, in this heat, the less I have to do the better.  So after a couple of hours on the mower I called it a day for mowing.  The original plan was to edge as well.  THAT didn't happen.  As I told 2nd Man in a text, we don't have to worry about curb appeal and we don't have a Homeowners Association to tell us otherwise, ha.  It's a bit out of control around the fruit trees and the barn and shed but hey, it is what it is.

Of course in this heat watering is the most important thing to do so I watered the fruit trees well, all the stuff on the porch and made sure the garden watering system was still working.  The plants looked a bit wilted so I changed the watering schedule to be more often.  The tomatoes though are starting to turn a pale orange so we should have those soon and the squash has a lot of blossoms so maybe we have more squash coming.

By then it was mid afternoon, hottest time of day and so I headed back into town.


When I got home, 2nd Man had spaghetti and meatballs ready for me.  Also a salad and some garlic bread.  It was so good and very filling, I needed the carbs, ha.

Have a couple other updates on things I've blogged about so I'll post that tomorrow and/or Wednesday.

The city of Houston wants to go on a mandatory lockdown again but the Governor says no.  However, word is that may change soon.  Our numbers are on an almost straight line up on the graph (new cases/hospitalizations/deaths) so we have to do something, this isn't sustainable.

 

Friday, July 10, 2020

PILLSBURY THIN CRUST PIZZA QUARANTINE EATING

During the lockdown/quarantine, we are going to post some food/meals we are eating.  Usually there will be no recipe, what we want to post is just a reminder that simple is good, simple is comfort and during these times, we can all use a little (or a lot) of that.


We like to make pizza.  Simple topping ingredients usually.  2nd Man has a dough recipe he uses but when I was stocking up for the pandemic I saw this Pillsbury's pizza dough that is ready to roll out and had no weird ingredients, no preservatives, just what you'd use at home.  I bought a couple to just have a quick and easy meal and not use up all our flours and such.  Simple toppings of some fresh mozzarella, a package of pepperoni and this pizza sauce that we love.


We rolled it out and it even comes with it's own parchment so it just sort of unrolls onto a baking sheet.  It's thin (they have both options, regular and thin, we like thin).  Our only complaint is that it was small.  Should have filled up this regular size sheet pan.  You can't stretch it either because it's preformed and so thin you don't have anything to stretch.  

We just spread on the sauce, lay out the pepperoni and tear up some mozzarella.


I can't remember what the package said but I think it was 425 for about 12-15 minutes.  It's pizza, we just do it until it gets to how we like it.  Crispy and bubbling cheese with the crispy bits on the pepperoni edges.


Here it is, sprinkled with some Italian seasoning.  It was really good.  Is it homemade?  Sort of.  The creation is but the crust was a shortcut.  It was definitely worth it to save the time and ingredients.  We'll do it again, especially if this stay at home order drags on.  It's nice to just throw it together as a last minute idea.

Normally when 2nd Man makes pizza dough we keep a ball in the fridge but that only lasts a few days.  This is good for when you just need a quick meal.

And can you go wrong with pizza in any form?