Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I love the patriotic aspect of these old posters.
Funny that the caption is "Garden To Cut Food Costs",
a 70 year old message that's as relevant today as it was then!



While I haven't started our gardens yet, I've been planning and learning and part of my plan is to utilize a technique called "Companion Planting".  I did this last year with my tomatoes here in the city.  I planted marigolds next to them, because marigolds repel numerous insects in the garden and also keep out the bad nematodes in the soil.
Last year was the first time I had done this and I had virtually no problems with insects on my tomatoes.

Here is a great link to companion planting suggestions.  (Mother Earth News)

Companion planting is using plants next to or near each other that either one benefits the other, or one acts as a repellent to bugs that like to eat the other one.  It's fascinating to do.

The above chart I randomly found online and have tired to use when I plant, is a good starting point.  It shows what plants like to be next to and they don't.  The L is for "Like" and the D is for "Dislike/Don't".   Yes, it works both ways, some plants don't like to be next to each other, usually this is because one plant either takes valuable nutrients from the soil that the other needs, or it puts something into the soil that the other doesn't like to have.

This is not a new technique.
There is evidence going back to ancient Rome that farmers were doing this.
In fact, many of you may be familiar with the Native American Indian tradition of planting the "Three Sisters", corn, squash and beans. 

Part of organic gardening is this technique.  If you plant just one crop in one area, you force that plant to become dependent on you for it's nutrients and pest prevention that it might normally get from nearby plants.  That means adding chemicals and pesticides.  Think about what you see in a forest or a naturalized setting....plants thriving with no help from the outside.  Example, at the farm, we have a patch of wild dewberries.  They have been there for years, no one ever waters them, or puts nutrients on them or sprays them for bugs, yet every year, they flower out on schedule and provide buckets full of berries.

Another way to use companion planting is light requirements.  Take a look at this picture below.

Cucumbers like lots of sun, lettuce doesn't.  In this example, the cucumbers grow up the trellis and provide shade for the lettuce so that they can both be grown at the same time in the same space and benefit from each other.  Pretty cool huh?

So the next time you buy plants for your garden, check out what you can add near them, you might be surprised how much easier your gardening is!

Enjoy your garden!

Monday, May 30, 2011


The USPS is releasing a new series of stamps, pushing a GO GREEN movement.  

Apparently, the US Post Office has been going green over the last few years.  They have reduced their energy costs, become the first shipping company to get a certification for 
eco-friendly packaging, and they were the first Federal agency to publicly report greenhouse gas emissions.  

The stamps give suggestions that each of us can do to live a greener life.

Buy local produce, reuse bags...
Fix water leaks...
Share rides...
Turn off lights when not in use...
Choose to walk...
Let nature do the work...
Recycle more...
Ride a bike...
Plant trees...
Insulate the home...
Use public transportation...
Use efficient light bulbs...
Adjust the thermostat...
Maintain tire pressure...

It's nice to see this.  Since we bought the farm, or since we first started thinking about it actually, we've come to a new appreciation of land and nature and it really makes you realize, especially when you grow your own food, that our environment is important.  We need to do what we can.

You can read about it, and order stamps, HERE.


Good afternoon to the latest visitors from Puerto Rico!

Hope you enjoyed the blog and we hope
you'll be back soon!



Our deepest gratitude to all those who have given their lives in service for our country...
Of course, we always keep those actively serving now
in our thoughts every day.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


I received a cool email yesterday from a coworker.  She thought I would appreciate not only the message, but the garden theme as well, and I did.

I'm reposting it here, and adding pictures for that garden flair.  It truly does make you think:



1. Peas of mind
 2. Peas of heart

3. Peas of  soul


1. Squash gossip
   2. Squash indifference
 3. Squash grumbling
  4. Squash selfishness 


1. Lettuce be faithful
2. Lettuce be kind
3. Lettuce be patient
4. Lettuce really love one another


 1. Turnip for meetings
2. Turnip for service
3. Turnip to help one another


1. Thyme for each other
2. Thyme for family
3. Thyme for friends



We had grand plans today to go out to the farm for the first time a couple of weeks, and take some measurements of the rooms, and make a list of things to do.  We got in the car, drove about 30 miles (it's 45 miles from our house to the farm), decided to stop off at a furniture store and roam around for a bit, got back in the car, and it barely started!

Now mind you, this isn't an old vehicle, it's a 2008 model!  We checked the navigation and found an NTB nearby (well, 10 miles back the other direction) and so we drove there.  Sure enough, battery had 2 dead cells in it.  

Nothing was left on, the guy said it just happens with cars that are often left parked outside in our hot weather.  This is 2nd Man's vehicle and at his office, he parks outside in an open parking lot.  At home, it's in the garage of course, but that's pretty much just at night and on the weekends.  The rest of the time, it's outside in the heat all day long.  You'd think batteries would work better than that, but who knows.

Long story short, we spent the rest of the afternoon at the shop, and then just came back home.  No farm visit for us this weekend.  We might try again tomorrow!

Hope to have some more pics of the farm soon, I know you all want to see and hear more stuff!
Hang in there!

Friday, May 27, 2011


Victory Garden Poster

I love these old posters so much, I think I will post them whenever I stumble across one on the Internet.
It's a neat glimpse into our past.  These were popular during the war when food rationing was going on,
and our main food supplies were going to feed the troops overseas.
Growing a home garden was a patriotic thing to do.
I don't see any reason why it shouldn't be like that now.

It's cost effective, it's healthy and in the long run, it helps the environment.

And I STILL think a few of these would be cool hanging at the farm!


I decided on this entry to not just focus on one thing, because there is really no SINGLE herb or spice that you must have, quite simply you need to have a variety.  I would say however that this is a list of essential herbs and spices that you should have in your pantry to use in your cooking. 
I'd make these the important herbs for savory cooking, i.e. dinner. 

Beautiful spices, herbs and seasonings

In no particular order, they are:

  • BASIL -  We all need this most essential ingredient for almost any Italian dish.  You can't make a sauce, lasagna, pizza or pasta dish without this necessary ingredient.
  • OREGANO -  Again, a versatile addition to any Italian dish, it's also great for Greek dishes and used in Mexican cooking as well.
  • THYME - Great with poultry and pork, beans, potatoes, soups and rice.
  • ROSEMARY - A very strong taste, use sparingly, but it does pack a lot of flavor.  We love it on potatoes with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, roasted in the oven.
  • BAY LEAVES - This is almost a requirement in any kind of soup or stock you might make. 
  • PARSLEY - Probably one of the most common, it's in so many recipes, you'll just always need to have it on hand when that recipe calls for it.
  • DILL - Essential for canning pickles of course, but almost as essential for any fish dish.
  • PAPRIKA - Great for pretty much any meat, it adds a very nice flavor, and can even add color (reddish) to a dish as well.  A deep, smokey flavor.
  • ONION POWDER - Not Onion SALT, onion powder, it's a quick way to add that great onion flavor to a dish and another layer of flavor.
  • GARLIC POWDER - Same for onion, you don't want garlic salt.  And everything goes well with garlic, an essential ingredient in any Italian dish.
  • CHILI POWDER -   You ALWAYS need some heat available.  Even subtle amounts make a huge difference in the outcome of a dish.  And the nice thing is, you can use it as your taste desires, super hot or just barely there.
  • CUMIN -  Essential in any Mexican dish, it's a rich earthy taste that goes well with spicy foods.
  • SAFFRON - I know, everyone goes "but it's the most expensive seasoning out there!" and yes it is, for the quantity you get, but you use so little it's still cost effective.  You can't imagine the punch of flavor that a few threads can add to a dish, especially adding it to rice.
Bulk spices and seasonings
Don't be afraid to try new seasonings, they have been around for thousands of years and are integral ingredients in any dish you want to cook.  Best of all, they allow you to make any dish your own.  You can follow a recipe that calls for certain ingredients or you can take it and add your own seasonings according to taste and create your own version.

I'll cover spices used in baking/desserts in a future post.

What about you?  Any seasoning or spice that you consider essential to your own kitchen pantry?


Yesterday, we had new friends visit our blog
from Guatemala.

We hope they'll join us again on our journey!

Thursday, May 26, 2011


There is something so peaceful about green grass, trees, and blue sky....
I see some shade,
and that always makes me feel like napping!
See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Hello hello to our new visitor from Paraguay!
Please come back and see us soon!


This is something I like to do and I thought I'd pass along the suggestion.  I keep vases around the house in the same spots.  I have one by the kitchen sink, one on a desk in the front room, one on an end table, and some others scattered around the house.  What I do is leave them in their spot, and they sit there empty, as a reminder that they need to be filled.  It's so easy to grab some flowers on a grocery shopping trip and bring them home and put them around in the "waiting vases".   Here are some examples:

Desk Vase

One week it was a few roses in the this round bowl/vase on the desk.....
Desk Vase

...the next time it was some bright orange and yellow Alstroemeria flowers.

Here I put in some greenery for something different, along with dark pink Alstroemeria and yellow Daisies....

....then another time it was lighter pink Alstroemeria with a whole lot of greenery.

It's always nice to have fresh flowers next to the sink, so I just put some yellow, white and pink daisies/mums in this time....

Sink Vase with Flowers

...and this time I used different flowers for something slightly more formal, using some of the same Alstroemeria from one of the other vases along with a couple of white Carnations.

What I find easiest to do is buy one of those "assortment" bouquets at the store.  They are almost always available with a variety of flower types and colors in one bouquet.  Then you have a variety to scatter around the house. You bring them home, sort them out and create your own "mini arrangements".

The vases I use are all vintage cut glass or pressed glass.  Just like in the back yard where I use all clay pots of one color, in the house I use just clear glass vases and let the flowers be the color and style.  It's just so easy, the vase just always stays in the same place and acts as a subtle reminder to get flowers.  Even the empty vase looks like a decorative element where it is sitting.

So put some flowers around your house and enjoy the color and life they bring to a room.  Trust me, when you leave the vases in the same spot, and you see them empty, you'll want to run to the store and pick up some flowers and keep them full.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


OK, so it's not enough for a pie, LOL, but it's pretty fun to actually gather some real live fresh blueberries that we grew ourselves in our city backyard.

In our small urban concrete garden, as I've posted before I've had to be creative.  Late last summer, I found some blueberry bushes on clearance at Home Depot, a deal much like my Knockout Roses from the earlier post.  There were four different varieties for $2 each.  I bought all four and put them in clay pots.  Two froze during our unusually cold winter, but the other two made it.  They eventually bloomed and we now have real blueberries!

Of course, it's a fight to get them before the birds discover them, but for now, it's more a test to see what will grow in our climate.  We have plans for a berry garden at the farm, and then I'll have to install some bird netting to make sure that we DO have enough for some blueberry pies.

For now though, at least I know we CAN grow them here.
If I can do this in a small clay pot in the city, what can I do in real live dirt in a country garden?

Until then, we will enjoy the few we get in some of our favorite
fresh, steel cut oats for breakfast.


Here are some pictures of the results from my canning class.  Unfortunately, not all of the pictures taken during the class came out.  I forgot to take my camera (d'oh!) and instead relied on my phone.  The pictures weren't the best in the world so these were taken after I got home, just to show you the outcome.
The most "intimidating" thing we did, at least the thing that made me the most nervous about coming out, was the strawberry jam.  It couldn't have been easier.  Really the only thing that it requires is time.  Time to let everything simmer and cook down and thicken up.  Once it reaches that magic point, and your jars are ready, it was as simple as pouring it in, putting the lids safely on, and processing them for a few more minutes until they sealed.   

As you can see, with some of 2nd Man's homemade "farmhouse" bread, fresh out of the oven, the jam didn't last long!  Truly some of the best jam I've ever had.  This recipe had some unusual ingredients added and what they did was enhance the strawberry taste.  It just made for a rich deep taste, not like ANYTHING you would get in a grocery store.  And best of all?  No high fructose corn syrup!  100% natural and good. 

Here is a closeup of the strawberry jam.  Very thick, chunky, and the spoon doesn't sink to the bottom.  Just as jam should be!
These are all the items we made.  The large jar is the jar of sweet and spicy pickles.  They were crisp and delicious and didn't last much beyond this picture taking!  The bright reddish orange jar is homemade hot sauce.  Delicious as well, almost like a homemade buffalo wing sauce.  With a little tweaking, I could bottle this up and sell it.  The small jar is Tomato Jam, a smoky, sweet and savory condiment, I would describe it almost like a chunky BBQ sauce.
It was a fun class and I'd recommend anyone who has a chance to take a class like this do it, it's amazing how easy it really was and I look forward to doing quite a bit of canning when the gardens are producing lots of food!
I will be writing a review of the Viking Cooking School at the always amazing Hubbell & Hudson grocery store in a future post.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Vintage Canning Poster

I just adore these old posters from the 30's/40's/50's.
I would love to have some of these as decor in the farmhouse kitchen.


Canning is fun again!

It seems that the old standby that your grandmother or great grandmother used to do is coming into favor again.  Canning, that old way of putting food up for long term storage, is becoming more popular among younger people.

That's something I wondered a few years ago when I saw that "Ball", arguably the country's number one canning and preserving supply company, changed their lids and rings from an old school "gold" color
to stainless steel color, sleek and stylish to go with, I presume, the rapid rise of stainless steel in kitchens

On Friday, I attended a canning class at the Viking Cooking School. It wasn't a class full of Grandmothers, haha, it was a cross section of people, mostly young!  It was great to see such diversity.  Young single people, men, women, couples, young and old.  This is a popular class and I believe this was the first one they have done.  We made all sorts of delicous things during the class and I took pictures and will post them later to show you what we did.  I'm hoping they have more classes in the future!

One thing I learned, and what I wanted to get from the class, was that you can't be intimidated by the "thought" of canning.  We didn't get into the more advanced pressure canning, this was the basics, water bath canning, but we made jams, preserves, hot sauces, and pickles and it was so NOT intimidating.  Just follow the rules, have your stuff ready to go and it's just more a patience thing than anything else. 

This is something I've always wanted to learn, my Grandmother did it for years and while I helped her often when I was growing up, I never really paid attention.  I wish I had now.  Fortunately, I do still have her recipes, so once I become more proficient, I can start recreating some of her delicious recipes that are memories from my childhood.

One of the first things I want to do when the farmhouse is finished, and the kitchen and gardens are up and running, is to start stocking our pantry with stuff from the garden.

One thing I did learn this weekend, after bringing home jars of what we made, is that it's SO rewarding to eat something you made with your own hands, and tastes 100 times better than what you can buy at the store.  Plus you KNOW what ingredients you put into it.
No chemicals or preservatives, it's all natural and good for you. 

I'll post tomorrow the pictures of what we made in class and more information.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


So sorry for my absence this weekend.  After my class on Friday, which I didn't get home from until later in the day, it was a blur of a weekend, not the least of which included some more lingering 
back pain.  When oh when will that go away?

Anyway, I'm going to get back on track Monday and get back to posting.

Thanks for hanging in there!


We just had our first visitors from New Zealand!

A big Texas hello "y'all", and we hope
you will come back 
and visit again soon!

Friday, May 20, 2011


I totally forgot that I would be off today for a little while because I will be in a class for a few hours.
What class?  More on that in the next posting.

I'll give you a hint....it involves food (naturally!) and it might be
something your Mother or Grandmother used to do.....

More later!  Have a great day!

Thursday, May 19, 2011


This kind of landscape appeals to me because of
it's great use of color and texture.
Enjoy!  See you back here tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


This is, again, something I want to do as soon as we can start doing stuff on the inside of the house.  We've always wanted to have a fireplace.  I know, we live in Houston, what do we need a fireplace for?  Trust me, this Winter we really could have used one, but for me it's just as much about aesthetics as it is warmth.  I just love a mantel and having a fireplace as the focal point of a room. So a few years ago, I started looking for some ideas for putting in a faux fireplace.  It can be as elaborate as you want, or as simple, as the following pictures show.  You just need to find the right spot and it will look like it's always been there.  Here are some examples I've collected from around the net to use for our own inspiration:

This one was made by actually cutting out sheetrock to create an actual opening and then bricking it in.  Can't have a fire in it, but it sure looks like you could!  Pretty nice!

This is a really nice shabby chic look, put into one end of a small space.  Looks so nice with the colors and the mirror and candles, like it's always been there!

This one had a full tile treatment around it, and it's a very small scale mantel.  Love how they even put a stack of wood in front of it. 

I think this is genius.  They put a black board to the wall first to create the illusion of an opening, then put 12"x12" floor tiles around that, and finally, they attached the mantel over everything. It adds depth and dimension without actually cutting into your wall.  And with the great use of the floor tiles, you could literally put ANY kind of decor / pattern you wanted as your "tile surround".
This is a simple way of doing things. It's attached to the wall, and the wall color stays the same "inside" the fireplace.  You get something like a wall shelf, but it looks great, and I love the shabby chic look of the mantel.

This, I believe, is a one piece mantel just placed up against a brick wall.   Not something we'd do but it certainly shows another option for those with brick walls instead of sheetrock. 

And lastly, again, this is a simple design but has an ingenious twist....to the back side of the dimensional mantel, they attached a piece of wood and painted it with chalkboard paint.  They can write on it, put words of inspiration, or, as seen in the picture here, draw "flames" on it.  Very fun idea.

So there you have it, just a few ideas on what a fake fireplace or faux mantel is.  As you can see in all of them, they become what their real life counterparts do, a focal point in a room...a painting or mirror above it, pictures or candles on the mantel, stockings at Christmas, whatever you would put on or around a real fireplace, you can do the same with a fake one. You might not get the heat, but you can get the style.

I'm currently keeping my eyes out for an old mantel.  I'd love to find one that I could either paint or if it's shabby enough, I'd leave it as is.  I lean toward doing something like the one above that has the floor tiles around the black panel opening.  I think we'd use black and white ceramic tiles so that it matches the entry flooring and the linoleum around the rest of the house.

Again, we're still a ways off from doing this, but if I can find the perfect mantel somewhere, I'll get it and put it aside until we're ready.  Of course I will have detailed instructions as I do it and step by step photos of the process.  That's what I've always wanted this blog to be, the kind of place where you can come to get some ideas, and then you can follow along with us as we learn, and probably even make mistakes.
After all, trying is half the fun, right?