Wednesday, February 28, 2024


Several years ago, a dear friend of ours, bought a house that had a citrus tree growing in the yard.  She wasn't sure what it was.  The fruit started green and then changed to a mottled orange.  She thought "wow, my house came with an orange tree!"

Then she ate one.

We remember her going "God, they were horrible, I'm not sure what was wrong with them".  2nd Man saw them, tasted them and said "these are Naranja Agria", or sour/bitter oranges.  His Grandmother used them and they are very popular in Hispanic cooking. This was more than 10 years ago, before we had the farm and sadly, she passed away.  Her house was sold and the tree cut down when the house was a remodeled.

Flash forward to recently when we were were watching a cooking show and they were using them to marinate some meats.  2nd Man said "that's the tree "L" had, we should grow one of them at the farm!"  After a bit of research, I found out that they are also used for making marmalade and we LOVE orange marmalade.  Sign us up!  Then, I just had to find one!

That was easier said than done.  I reached out to close to a dozen local nurseries in the Houston area to ask, but none had them.  They said it was more of a specialty citrus that they didn't stock in lieu of all the regular citrus the usually carry, plus I'm sure some people might grow one and not realize what it is, ha.

It took some research but I finally found one online, sold here in Texas and it even had free shipping!  I ordered it.  They only had two left for the season so I was able to get one of them.  It came in a tall thin box, but was carefully wrapped.  Here it is after I unwrapped it and the leaves started to pop out.  It is a great specimen, about three feet tall and it even has...

 ...blooms all over it (and side note, it smells AMAZING!).  I babied it in the apartment for a week until we could get it out to the farm.

We stopped at the store on the way out and bought a bag of soil specially formulated for citrus.  I also cleaned up a large clay pot we had. 

Got it planted and watered in and it's happily resting on the porch now.  We will leave it in the pot until we are our there, so that we can move it around as needed for either sun or to protect in a freeze or even another drought if we have one of those again this Summer.

Now what is it used for?  They are used in all sorts of dishes, never fresh of course because they are so bitter.  But the rind and juice are most commonly used in all sorts of things:

Bonne Mamam makes a (hard to find) "bitter orange fine shred marmalade".  We'd love to make that someday, it would be wonderful.

It's used in cooking as a marinade for beef, pork and chicken and even seafood and ceviche.  For this, they sell it bottled and ready to go for that!

And this is a glass of a sour orange margarita.  Sign us up for this too, ha!

Heck, with blooms already on ours, we might end up with a few this season, they will produce while in a container.  Even if we only got three or four, that would be wonderful to give us a taste of what's to come!

Monday, February 26, 2024


Saturday was...

Absolutely gorgeous!

Not a cloud in the sky and it was cool and a breeze was blowing. No rain, no rain last week so the ground was dry, the humidity was low and it was just, well, perfect.

Wished I had Zen Machine 2 but it's in the shop for its annual checkup and touch up.  He'll be ready for his closeup first mow of the season soon.

So, I decided to do something I wanted to do last year and didn't get to.  Repotting/touching up all the potted plants on the porch.  We keep the bananas there, the avocado trees, grapevines and a few others, just because we don't want to put them in the ground until we know exactly where they are going to go.

I bought a couple of bags of soil and got to work.  You know how when you water a plant in a container, over time, the soil settles and/or washes out (a little at a time) from the bottom?  They were all like that and we decided they needed a refresh.

This is the "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow" plant (we blogged about it HERE).  We decided it needed a new pot so we moved it into a nice clay pot (don't worry, it's not sitting on the railing now, that was for the photo, ha).  It will much happier now and should have some beautiful (and very fragrant) blooms soon.

These are the two muscadine grapevines (two varieties), took them out of their containers, fluffed up the roots, added soil in the bottom and then put them back in and filled in and around up to the top.  The should be happy as well.  They will most likely get a new home in the orchard area this Spring, we will be ordering new containers (very large ones) to be placed in the orchard yard.

These are the bananas, I pulled them all out, cleaned them up and put them back in with added soil and getting them happy.  They have grown so much just in these small containers.  Banana is a plant that will get bigger according to its container but if you keep it in something small, it doesn't get root bound like some do, so they stay small(ish).  The three colored pots are different (but known) varieties. The two black pots are from my coworkers family house backyard bananas. Varieties "unknown", ha. 

We are going to put them in a special planting arrangement we'll have a post about coming up soon.

I did the same for the avocado trees, the other cherry bush, and the goji berry vine.  All the plants are now redone and are going to be happy and healthy until they can each get in their new homes.

The day was cool.
Birds were chirping.
There was a breeze blowing.
We could smell the bloom of flowers.
Cows were mooing in the pasture behind us.
We could hear a donkey braying in the other pasture.
Life is good...

If we ever have doubts about what we are doing and what our ultimate goal is, these are the days that remind us of it and make us strive all the more to keep moving forward, no matter what life hands us.

Sunday, February 25, 2024


 We mentioned last weekend was the Daytona 500 and our tradition for that was always BBQ ribs.  I have posted about them several times.  The conundrum was how to make them healthier.

Ribs, per se, are not exactly fat free, LOL, but certain cuts are better than others.  The way to reduce that even further is portion control and what you put on it. I made a homemade dry rub with no salt at all.  Before, we used rubs that, in retrospect, were filled with sodium.  Then I found a homemade BBQ sauce recipe that I tweaked and it was SO good and again, minimal salt.  It uses "no salt added" ketchup but that contained the only sodium and it barely registered on the nutritional label compared to a bottle of our favorite "Sweet Baby Ray's".  But, it tasted identical.  I also cooked the ribs higher up than normal on a rack so that it stayed out of the rendered fat.

I also took my coleslaw recipe that had salt, reduced that to zero and instead of a cup of creamy mayo, I used plain Green Yogurt, zero saturated fat.  Boom!

I only cooked one rack and we cut that in half and then we each ate half of that (half of what you see above on each tray, I put the whole half for the picture, ha).  So a 1/4 rack was our serving size and that was it (froze the leftover meat after pulling it off).  Lastly, I added my homemade pickled red onions to it all.  It was delicious and since it's only twice a year, it felt good.

Now for dessert.  Wait, is that banana pudding?  That's not healthy!  No it's our new version, ha.  This is vanilla Greek Yogurt with fresh bananas and a couple of crushed up graham crackers.  Oh my, it was perfect!

During the race, and my cooking of the food Hobart slept, as he does so well.  He had played with a couple of his Christmas presents, but even that bored him after a while.  So we left him to bask in the sunshine.  Because...


Friday, February 23, 2024


 Discovered something new (to us anyway) at the store the other day...the "sweet lemon".  We stood in the store and did a quick Google search to make sure it was a real thing and not a misprint and also to make sure it wasn't a "Meyer Lemon" (which can be slightly sweet but are still acidic like a lemon).  Sure enough, it's a real fruit and so we bought one.

They have a wonderful sweet floral sent from the exterior.  If you look at the picture above, you can see the familiar yellow of a lemon has a bit of an orange tint to it.  Slicing it open it looks like a lemon.  But taste wise, wow it was SO good.  It really was a "sweet lemon"!  Not super sweet, but not at all sour.

After a little research, there are several varieties of this low acidity, sweet fruit.  It is not a true lemon but believed to have been a natural mutation of two citrus species a few hundred years ago. They are native to Asia but have been grown around the world for centuries where they are also known as "Limettas", "Shirin" and "Musambi".  There are several varieties with names, Ponderosa Sweet Lemon, Millsweet, Persian Sweet Lemon, Limu Shirin and Moroccan Limetta.  They say that the tree is prolific and almost everbearing throughout the year.  We're sure they are freeze sensitive like all citrus.

Since we only had one, we figured "let's try it in some iced tea?".  SO good.  Squeezed a bit in and it sweetened it slightly and gave a great florally, lemon flavor.  We could totally see them being used to make a sort of lemonade without needing sugar.  Fun fact, after they are cut, in about one to two hours, they become more sour like a lemon...but if you put them "in" something, they stay sweet.  

Hmm, off to Google to see who sells them...

Wednesday, February 21, 2024


When I made ribs Sunday, we needed some pickled red onions.  We had already used up the ones I made last year.  You can see that post HERE.

But the ribs were the next day and I needed less salt and something that I didn't have to cook the brine first.

So, I tweaked the earlier recipe a bit and these came out great!  We really like them.  There is no heating of the liquid so it's quick and easy and it uses minimal salt (still need some) which works for our healthier eating.


1 cup water

1/2 cup apple cider or white vinegar

2 TBSP sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 red onion, thinly sliced

Slice the onion as thinly as possible.  I like to slice them vertically because it gives you the strips instead of the rings, but hey, you do what you like!  The thinner the slices, the more the vinegar mixture will permeate to soften and mellow the onions.

Put them into a jar, one medium to large red onion should make enough for one pint jar and the liquid will be enough to fill it up.

Mix all the ingredients together and whisk until sugar and salt is dissolved, no cooking necessary.

Pour it over the onions, put a tight fitting lid on and give it a gentle shake.  You can leave them to sit for an hour and eat right away but if you do them overnight, they'll get super good.  You can actually keep these for up to two weeks if you keep them in the fridge, though they don't last that long here!

You can also do like our last cooked brined batch and add jalapeños, red pepper flakes, peppercorns, etc.

They were very good even after just 24 hours of being in the fridge, we'll finish them off over the next few days.  They are great with BBQ, adding a tang and crunch.  Some people use sliced pickles for this and that's great as well, but Texas BBQ likes the red onions.  They are also great on sandwiches, tacos and are a frequent condiment with TexMex food.  Heck, last night we had a salad and put the onions in there!


Monday, February 19, 2024


It was COLD Saturday.  And wet.  Ugh. 

When I got out there, it was 46 and felt like 39.  Actually felt like 29, but that could be the blood thinners  talking, LOL!

Can a picture convey cold?  This one should.  That sky.  It just looks cold.  Anyway, the property is greening up and it will soon be mowing season.

Speaking of...

Zen Machine 2 is sitting outside, waiting to be picked up this week by the dealer to have its first annual maintenance.  It's included for the first two years, they pay the service, I pay for any parts needed.  They will change the oil, filters, check the belts, sharpen the blades and make whatever other adjustments are needed.  I covered it with a freeze cloth we had, just to keep the seat and dashboard from bird poop (ask me how I know about this potential, LOL!).  The rain was gone and Sunday was gorgoeous and this week is clear too.  They are supposed to come Tuesday.

As soon as it comes back, it will be time for mowing!  I checked with the doctors office and they said I was clear to do that as long as it was a riding mower and not me pushing one.  At least until my checkup in April where they will do ultrasound and blood panel.

Sunday, February 18, 2024


It's been an odd weekend of weather.  Rain on and off all day Friday (ugh).  Saturday was COLD (brrr).  Today is nice and getting warmer (phew).

The other night, we had pork chops, sautéed squash and applesauce on the side.  I have always loved "pork chops and apple sauce" said in my best Brady Bunch impression, ha.  If you know, you know!

Of course, as part of our new healthy eating post heart attack, this is a very lean cut of pork, pan seared using olive oil spray with only some pepper and other seasonings.  The squash was cooked in the same pan as the pork chops and 2nd Man added fresh herbs.  Then, of course, apple sauce on the side.  Apple and pork really IS a great combo.

Hobart, as usual, is unimpressed by anything we do.  Just give him a nice place to spread out and sleep. In this case, the couch with back cushion moved so he has plenty of room.  We do it.  Because...


Regular readers know that we are NASCAR fans.  It's been off for a few months now and this is the big weekend of the first races of the season:  Daytona weekend.  The truck race was run Friday night and yesterday was supposed to the be the Xfinity series but it was postponed due to rain.  Welp, as this posts, no one is sure if the actual Daytona 500 will even happen today.  It may be postponed to Monday.  While we're at work.  Of course.

We'll still do our annual tradition, ribs and coleslaw.  But, I'm tweaking my recipe and there will be minimal salt in anything and we're using a different cut of pork chops that are a little leaner.  Will have details on how it came out soon.  It's doing it's thing in the oven now and the apartment smells HEAVENLY.

Friday, February 16, 2024


 Regular readers know that I have a favorite place to look for bargains...our downstairs trash area!  Our building has trash chutes on every floor and they feed into a separate room, but for boxes and other things that people can't put in the chute, there is an area (indoor) near the loading dock where people can put the things they don't want.  I've found quite a few cool items over the last few years. 

As many of you know, a five gallon bucket is a staple in the garden.  And around the house.  And in the workshop.  Well, just about anywhere.

After all the years of discovering some fun things downstairs in the recycle area, we were finally able to score some ubiquitous 5-gallon buckets!

There were six in the stack, they are pretty clean but need to be hosed off a bit.  Otherwise, perfect for use (of course no food storage).  We have three that we picked up a few years back at Home Depot (the ubiquitous bright orange ones) and they proved invaluable when we needed to water the wild pear tree during the drought.  We also used one as a planter.

5 gallon bucket ideas, image via

There are a gazillion uses listed on the internet, just Google "5 gallon bucket" and whatever it is, I think a 5 gallon bucket has been used, ha.

I'm sure we'll have no problem finding something to use them for.  Will get them cleaned and hung up in the shed waiting for further use.


Wednesday, February 14, 2024


Found this last year, after Valentines Day sale, and picked it up.  It sort of matches the one 2nd Man found for Easter a couple of years ago (that one had a vintage pale blue truck filled with Easter eggs).

Made up some bags of Lindt truffles for my coworkers.  We are trying to stay away from chocolate (except for a small piece of antioxidant rich dark chocolate) but I can live vicariously through others, ha.

Saw these below in the grocery store the other day and thought it was a pretty brilliant marketing idea.  They used heart-shaped foil pans to create meals to go for Valentines Day.

These were boneless ribeye sweetheart cuts with garlic the way they even sliced them and placed them opposite each other.  Pretty cool.

Then there were the New York Strip Steaks with garlic butter but they put them in a ready to go meal combo; one with crab cakes and asparagus, and the other with loaded potato and bacon wrapped asparagus.

Since red meat is no longer on our list of things to eat (none since 12/8), we won't be buying this of course, but we'll give props to whoever came up with the idea.

Monday, February 12, 2024


We thought the rain was gone and so off to the farm we ventured...

It was overcast and getting darker and gloomy.  We had to bring some things out there to put up plus I needed to drive the truck since I didn't get to do that last weekend because it was so wet.  Also watered the porch plants but that was about it because... started raining.
We headed back into town.

Then yesterday, a very strong line of storms came through, hail, strong winds, heavy rain and of course...

...a tornado in the area!  It was far enough away from the farm and from Houston, but the same line of storms that produced the tornado moved over the farm and parts of Houston earlier in the morning.

This picture is from a few weekends ago.  Several of you have asked how the wild pear tree is doing, the one we had to butcher prune at the request of the power company last Summer.  Here it is.  It's doing great and this is even after the hard freeze.  Now whether it produces fruit this season, we have no idea, but at least it's still doing well.

So ready for Spring...

Sunday, February 11, 2024


 It's been a stormy weekend so it's a a good time for some healthy food and some Hobart!

Here's a simple one...we had some pan seared salmon over mixed veggies and topped it with avocado, Greek Yogurt and chives.  Very good.  Side note, we are obsessed with plain Greek Yogurt as a sour cream fat and and minimal sodium...and tastes exactly the same as sour cream.  It's all about healthy choices, right?

So a package came the other day and Hobart did what cats do.  Here he is looking back and saying, "WHAT?  Haven't you ever seen a cat in a box?"

"Now leave me alone and let me sleep..."

And of course we did.  Because...


Friday, February 9, 2024


 So, one of my very sweet coworkers thought of us on a great deal.  Her Sister was liquidizing her late husbands's landscaping business and she asked us if we wanted any of the great "pre-sale" deals.


An industrial wheelbarrow, in my favorite color red!  It's in great shape (just needs to be hosed off a bit) but it is otherwise in excellent condition and ready to be used around the farm!  One can always use an extra wheelbarrow, you never know what you might be pushing around on the property.

Then there were hoses.  We got six unused garden hoses, each 50' long!  They also had some brand new sprinklers, so we got four impact sprinklers and two circular spot sprinklers.

These will all come in handy with new flowerbeds and garden areas as we develop them around the farm.

All of the above for $15.

There may be one more thing our future, something really cool to have, but trying to figure out the logistics of it (if they still have it) so stay tuned on that front.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024


.Since we didn't plant garlic last year, we don't have our usual good supply.

So, we got a 2lb bag (that's a lot of garlic, ha) and decided to roast some so we can enjoy the added flavor with our new diet of healthier cooking.  Plus garlic is SUPER heart healthy.

Cut off the top 1/4 or so, to expose as much surface area of the garlic as you can and leave the tighter paper skins on (some just fall off naturally).  Other people just cut it in half but that's wasting too much garlic, ha.  

I like to make a little foil packet, you can put it in a dish and cover with foil, whatever you prefer.

Then drizzle them with olive oil.  You want the oil to really get down in there so I drizzle it in a small stream and let it get into all the nooks and crannies.

You can also add herbs here, salt and/or pepper, etc.  We aren't doing added salt so we just used the pure garlic and olive oil flavor.

When we cook with foil, if foil comes into contact with the food, we like to put a piece of parchment over the food so that's what I did here but again, not necessary, you do whatever you like!

Seal it up and pop in a preheated 400 degree oven for 45 minutes...

At the end of 45 minutes, take it out, carefully open the foil (remove the parchment if using) and leave them exposed and put back in for 15 more minutes...

...or until you like the color, we feel this is a good place to stop, so we always do a total of one hour at 400.  It has always worked well.

Then you just squeeze them out one by one.  If you are trying to keep them intact, you will have to be gentle as you remove the papery skin and the usually pop out pretty easily.  A few get squashed when I do it but it's OK, they are going to get spread onto bread or stirred into a dish so it's all good.

We put them in a small jar (Mason/Ball of course, ha) and keep them in the fridge.  They will keep a few days in the fridge without oil, or you can pour olive oil over them and they'll keep about a week.

*note: they will spoil and garlic in oil without oxygen can actually run the risk of be safe!

They are delicious this way.  Here are a couple of bagels spread with just a touch of heart healthy butter and a couple cloves of roasted garlic...