Monday, August 31, 2009

Elementary School Garden - Advise Wanted

A friend has asked for my advise regarding installing a garden. This will be a children's garden at an elementary school. Have any of you done anything like this? If so, any advise?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

This is Why I Love Being a Library Lady

Name This Concoction

I make a hot sauce every year that can peel the hide off of your tongue. It contains chili pequino peppers, habanero peppers, Serrano peppers, good cider vinegar and sea salt. It comes with a laundry list of disclaimers so that no one blames me when they have a horrible out come the day after eating too much of it. With that in mind, Nancy of Nancy's Garden Spot named my sauce After Burner.

This spring I bought my pepper plants like always. The tags that said Serrano pepper lied. Those peppers were Tabasco peppers and I can’t use them to make hot sauce. I hate it when the nurseries mislabel the plants. I spend all that time nurturing the plant only to discover that you have been taking care of an imposter.

Not to let this mistake get me down, I needed to find a use for these thin skinned peppers. I dried them and then crushed them into a powder with my mortar and pestle. Then I got a wild hare and added dehydrated garlic, coriander seeds and sea salt. This stuff smells great. I’ve never had anything quite like it. I added a couple of tablespoons to my last batch of jambalaya. Manly said it was my best ever.

So here is what I need from you. This spicy mixture needs a name. So far there are no disclaimers because there is no reason to use enough of it to do bodily harm. It smells wonderful. The coriander adds a lemony scent.

Anyway, leave me a comment with your ideas for a name.

Friday, August 28, 2009

First Workday on The Farm

First Workday on the Farm

Today was the day. I began working on the community supported agriculture farm, Eden’s Garden. I worked with Marie, the farmer, and Anise another work share member. I will work a couple of hours each week in order to receive my share of the farms produce.

We mulched and pulled weeds talking the whole time. Marie used to work at the same nursery I used to work at. We just worked there at different times. Anise is a comptroller for a local ministry. They are interesting, fun ladies. This should be very enjoyable.

When the weather cools off, I will switch to working Friday afternoons and take the monkeys with me. Hopefully, they will learn just a little more about where their food comes from. They will thank me some day. Don’t laugh, they will.

Today I brought home purslane and lambs quarter. I put them in a bowl of water to rinse and didn’t think anything else of it. I intended to look up some recipes and do something with them for dinner. I gave a sprig of purslane to Teenage Monkey and he loves it. He just keeps eating it. Turns out the stuff is really good food both the taste and the nutrition. He can have all he wants.

Next week, we will spread more mulch. I need to find some newspaper to put down under the mulch. We don’t take the paper, so it looks like I maybe dumpster diving in a nearby recycling box. Wonder if I can get arrested for that?

Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Naked Ladies are Here

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If my garden keeps it up, the blog is going to totally lose it’s PG-13 rating. Since the butterflies are getting it on, the naked ladies decided to show up. The lycoris is beginning to bloom. This is my first year for the pink, and as you can see, it is a little pitiful. The red lycoris are also called school house lilies (but that’s not as much fun is it?). They are called naked ladies because the blooms show up before the foliage. There foliage grows all winter here and then dies back in early summer when it begins to get hot. Then in late summer or early fall the blooms pop up. Now I know that fall is really on it’s way. I believe this is my favorite time of year because of all the blooms and all the butterflies.

The other blooms pictured are Turk’s cap and a sun flower. They have nothing to do with naked ladies. I just think they are pretty.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Garden Orgy

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There is an all out orgy going on in my garden. When Middle Monkey came to me and said, “I just saw two butterflies fused. Maybe they are Siamese twins.” Er…hum. Did I shy away from my duty to education my son on the sex lives of butterflies? Nope, I thought it was funny asking if they were stuck together by their butts. Then told him it was all about making babies. Poor kid, I have probably damaged him for life.

Tonight, while watering the pitiful pepper plants and admiring the gulf fritillary butterflies, I noticed something sad. The passion vine is a disaster. Most of the leaves are gone. The caterpillars have destroyed it. All of those beautiful flying orange creatures have made millions of spiky, scary looking, black and orange babies. There were at least thirty adult butterflies circling each other like they were speed dating. I hope my passion vine survives.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Do Your Know Your Watershed?

If you read this blog very often, you might know we have water issues. Our bills are outrageous. I try very hard to use as little city water as possible. I never really gave storm water much thought other than being grateful that rain fills my rain barrels. All that changed today.

I spent eight hours in a watershed stewardship workshop today. So what the heck is a watershed? Is it the shed where you keep the water? Nope. Is it the outhouse? Nope, not so much. A watershed is an area of land where all of the water that is under it or drains off of it goes to the same place.

This workshops was focused on the Cedar Creek Watershed. It turns out I don't actually live in that watershed. We are in the Trinity River watershed. This is confusing as the Trinity river is part of the Ceder Creek Watershed. Confused yet?

I learned a lot. Looking at charts and maps, it seems that the biggest polluters are farming and ranching operations. Guess what the pollutants are? If you guessed sediment, fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides you would be right.

I also found out that compost can be bad for our watershed. If it is washed into the rivers and eventually to lakes, the nutrients can cause algae blooms and water plant overgrowth. In order to keep that compost in my garden and not washing out into the ditch, I am going to plant ornamental grasses all along the fence above the ditch. This should be pretty and functional. I just love it when being good ecologically speaking gives me an excuse to buy more plants.

Eight hours in a classroom setting is just too long for me. I felt like my head was going to explode. They covered a ton of information. If you have an opportunity to go to a workshop or lecture of this type, take advantage of it. It will change the way you think about water.

Got to give credit to Texas Agrilife Extension for putting on such a great program.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Voice Double

I'm back.

I survived a night with three of my nephews, two monkeys, my oldest niece and a giggle of her teenage friends. There is also a snake in their house AND a cat who wants to give hickies. The youngest child is just shy of three and the oldest is the niece at `16.

There is a funny thing about me and this sister who made these nephews and that niece. We don't look anything alike, but we sound alike. I've been messing with the heads of people who know her since we were teens. She was in high school and I was in college when she met her first boyfriend. If he happened to call the house when I was home and I answered,I wouldn't tell him I wasn't B. The ruse would go on until I answered a question wrong or became hysterical with laughter. That boyfriend truly hated me.

Sister's loving husband, who took her to Boston for her big 4-0, has never ever mistaken me for her or her for me.

Last night the niece brought home that giggle friends. They couldn't see me in the kitchen, but I could hear them coming in the front door. I asked the niece a question and one of the boys said, "I thought your mom wasn't home." The niece and I explained that I am not her mom, just her aunt. This kid says, "I've got to see her." He must have been shocked. Again, we look nothing alike.

I think I might be able to play this game all the way until we are very old women.

Fun times.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

And The Winners Are

And the winners of the string bags are............Monica of Gareden Faerie's Musings and Judy Low of Diggin It. Sorry I will get the links corrected tomorrow. I am at my sister's house watching about 15 billion children and teens. They have a Mac and I don't know how to copy link locations on it. Silly machine. Thank you all for the sweet comments. I will get an email out to the winners tomorrow to arrange to send the bags once they are complete.

Curmudgeon will also receive a bag because she commented before I decided to give some away.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bag Give Away Update

I am shutting down the bag give away at midnight. Tomorrow a Monkey will pick two winners. Curmudgeon got special consideration, she commented first before I decided to give them away. We will pick two more bloggers from the comments to receive bags. (Unless you asked me not to include you) Be back tomorrow with the news.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Farmers' Market Bag Give Away

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I've decided to make three of these string bags and give them away. I already offered one to Curmudgeon. The other two recipients will be selected by a Monkey drawing. Those of you who commented yesterday are already in. I don't mind international mail. Commenting more than once will not increase your chances. Getting your significant other to comment will.

The bags are made of crochet thread. I don't knit. I use a loom. The bags are great for shopping at farmers' markets. They are really stretchy. Don't use them for boxed things. The corners of boxes break the threads. The bags shown in the picture are not the ones I am giving away. I am making three new bags. I think I might dye them with Koolaid just for giggles. Anyway, if you want a bag, leave me a comment. I'll leave this open until Friday.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Trouble with Shopping Bags

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The shopping bags are taking over. It started out innocently enough. I knitted four to take to the grocery store. Then I forgot them and bought four to take to the grocery store. Then another bag was issued at the state master gardener conference. Then I won one from the lovely Anna. Then the local garden club gave me one for speaking at a meeting. Now I think they have reached sexual maturity and a procreating in the back seat of my truck.

Come back tomorrow and I will give three of the handmade bags away. The Monkeys will chose the winners.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Guest Post by Lee Powell - Cowboy Historian

In the mid 1870's there was a 15 month period that witnessed a dramatic career change for a promising young dentist. He was suffering from TB and his father, a prominent Georgia plantation owner, had sent him to Dallas because the climate here seemed suitable to his medical condition. He worked for a Dr. Seegar and he lived with the doctor in a two story house on Boll Street, now just north of Ross Ave. in down town Dallas. In order to combat the pain of TB the young dentist had become engaged in the consumption of alcoholic beverages. In Georgia he had adopted this practice after hours as a dentist in gatherings known as gentlemen's clubs. There were no gentlemen's clubs in Dallas just saloons. This young dentist was the only gentleman who frequented the saloons and therefore he became adept at using firearms. On January 1, 1875 at a saloon located on the corner of Austin and Main Street in down town Dallas the young dentist engaged in a gun fight with the bar tender, Charles Austin. It was his first gun fight; however because of his frailty due to TB all six of his shots missed. Luckily for the young dentist all six of the bar tenders shots missed as well. Because such behavior was unbecoming to his profession, the sheriff asked the young dentist to leave town. His dental career was over, but his new career opportunity would enable him to become a legend. This was the very first gun fight for Doc Holliday.

Courtesy of cowboy historian and library patron Lee Powell.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Fifteen Books

I got razed a little on twitter yesterday for being a library lady and asking for book suggestions. Then I ran across this meme. So here we go

Rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. Tag 15 friends, including me because I'm interested in seeing what books my friends choose. (To do this, go to your Notes tab on your profile page, paste rules in a new note, cast your 15 picks, and tag people in the note - upper right hand side).

The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy
East of Eden - John Steinbeck
The Time Travelers Wife - Audry Niffengger
The Shack - William P. Young
Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
A tree Grows in Brooklyn - Beth Smith
A movable Feast - Ernest Hemingway
Cider House Rules - John Irving
Terms of Endearment - Larry mcMurtrey
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Lisa See
The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood
The Robber Bride - Margaret Atwood
Jitterbug Perfume - Tom Robbins
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle - David Wroblewski
Garden Primer - Barbara Dramrosch

I would like to add one thing. I have read or would read other books by any of these authors. They were just the first fifteen that popped into my mind.

I am not tagging anyone, if you want to play do. I would love to know what books you loved or were moved by in some way.

Have a great weekend.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The End of the Purple Hull Pea Era

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I picked my first handful of purple hull peas today. There is nothing prettier than the color of a purple hull pea pod. Sadly, unless I get a much bigger garden, this will be my last year of purple hull peas. Next year, I will plant my new favorite pea- lady cream peas. Now I love black eyed peas, but lady cream peas put them to shame. While the pea pod of the lady cream pea is pretty boring, the flavor of the pea is wonderful.

So it is so long to purple hull peas
A moment of silence please

(feel free to add to that silly poemlette)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cool Stuff

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A few weeks ago I received three items to review from Starline Promotional Products The items were a water bottle, a rubber tape measure and a gardening stool/bag. I was totally excited that some company thought I was worthy of reviewing their products. After all, I frequently lose my Felcos.

The water bottle and the tape measure totally disappeared within 24 hours. Manly has the tape measure and Baby Monkey took the water bottle. I assume they are very nice because they will not give them back.

They tried to take the garden stool/bag, but I fought them off. Manly thought it would make a nice fishing chair and Baby Monkey just wanted it. But it is mine, all mine. The bag snaps to the stool and it's handles make carrying straps for the stool. The bag has pockets for tools and stuff. One word though, don't leave it out in the rain. That bag holds water. Really, I love this thing. The picture above is the stool sitting in the next area I need to weed (obviously).

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Do It Yourself Rain Barrel

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Okay, here are the two rain barrels. The first one was made by Manly. He used a jigsaw to cut the top opening for the water to come into the barrel. It was made the same shape as the down spout diverter (that brown tube) . He used a pvc tap and drilled the hole for it slightly smaller than the tap itself. Then he screwed it in and sealed it with silicone. I messed the seal up and resealed it with Gorilla Glue. It has never leaked again. This one does not have an overflow. You should drill an overflow hole at the top on one side to allow the excess water to flow out. This one just bubbles out the top and doesn't seem to be a problem. The gutters that feed this barrel are fitted with gutter guards.

Make sure you have either gutter guards or some kind of screen to keep out dirt and debris. The last picture shows the one gallon container with a screen cut out and fitted into the bottom. As you can see it works just fine keeping stuff out. The gutters feeding the second barrel are not covered with gutter guards so it needs some sort of filter. I have seen other barrels that have an open top that is covered with screen. That works fine too.

The second barrel was actually put together by our master gardener rainwater harvesting specialists. I think there is a coupling behind the water tap. It also has the overflow hole.

I am equally happy with each barrel. There are lots and lots of videos that explain this in a lot more detail than I have here. Rather than getting all technical and doing math (which I would get wrong), I suggest you google "make your own rain barrel" and pick a video to watch.

Remember though, this does not have to be all complicated. A barrel with a tap, gutters and a way to keep out mosquitoes is all you need. If you can use a drill, you can do this. They can be dressed up with pickets or 1x1 cedar boards.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Rain Water Harvesting Has Become Necessary

We live in a small town in north central Texas. This little town was grossly mismanaged for many years. They were breaking all kinds of water and waste water laws. When they got caught, guess who had to pay to fix it. That's right the humble citizens of the little town. We are mostly middle middle class. No one is wealthy. This last month our water bill went up 45% and the sewage fees went up 85%. Now my family is able to absorb this ridiculous cost, but what about the elderly? What about those who have lost jobs? Seriously, they are kicking the people while they are down.

I have installed two rain barrels this year. I have about a 185 gallon per rain event capacity and plan on adding another three barrels for another 190 gallons soon. I have been doing this to be good to the planet and good to my plants. Now, I am seeing that this may be much much more important than all that. It may be a matter of being able to continuing to garden during dry times. Between rain water harvesting, gray water reuse and a seriously heavy layer of mulch over everything, I have managed not to increase out water use over the summer months. Even with these measures, our water bill was $55 higher than last month.

The question now is how to get this message out to the others in my community?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Night Blooms

I can't believe I have not posted since Tuesday, but this has been a busy week. We took the Monkeys to Great Wolf Lodge and totally enjoyed outselves. The Monkeys are big enough now that they can do most things by themselves with us just hanging out and watching over them. They had a blast in the indoor water park and we had a nice time riding a few rides with them and hanging out in the hot tub between. We loved it. This trip was a gift from Mamala and it was wonderful.

We made it back and found that my Angels' Trumpets are blooming. The first picture was taken just as the sun started going down. The second was just before dark. The last, unfortunately fuzzy, picture was taken just after dark. I wish you could smell the wonderful scent.

Y'all have a nice weekend.
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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Morning Glories

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I have always loved morning glories. My first garden was at our home in Mesquite, Texas. It was off in a little corner of the yard. My Dad put up a fence to keep out the Great Danes and my multitude of siblings. I tended that little garden for about seven years during middle school, high school and my freshman year of college. I grew squash, okra, tomatoes and Heavily Blue Morning Glories. The morning glories were planted against the fence. Next to the fence was my Dad's prized peach tree. Guess where the morning glories went? That's right, straight up into the peach tree. Dad wasn't happy, but Mom wouldn't let him pull them out because it was "pretty."

One day, Magillacutty, the giant and quite mentally challenged, Great Dane got inside of the garden fence and had a party by himself. I weighed maybe 90 pounds. He weighed more that 110. Guess how long it took me to wrestle him out of that little garden? The squash was destroyed, but the morning glories survived.

A few years ago, I introduced another invasive vine into my current garden. Thankfully, it has a predator- butterflies. Every summer, the Gulf Fritillary caterpillars chew down my giant passion vine. This morning, I was surrounded by clouds of these orange beauties. I would like to say that the butterflies will move on and I can clean up that passion vine, but we still had caterpillars at Christmas time last year.

Do not bring seeds of wild morning glories into your garden, no matter how pretty they are. They will be with you for the rest of your life strangling your other flowers and covering up your prized antique rose bushes.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Last Twenty Hours

I am tired really really tired and here is why. These were the ingredients of my last twenty hours.

Realize at midnight that I didn't have an agenda for the MG meeting
Panic and look for last months agenda to copy.
Find old agenda
Type new agenda
Try to print agenda
Email agenda
Sign my name on email as Debar.
Give up and go to bed
get up
no time for coffee
go to Ext office
find email
don't find attached agenda
retype agenda
start meeting late
forget the names of interns
Don't follow agenda
Realize agenda is incomplete
end meeting
wait many minutes to sign checks
come home fall asleep for a blink
wake up
go to library
detangle intricate family of library patrons
try to figure out someones email problem
forget son's soccer game
frantically try to help find soccer uniform over the phone
feel guilt there will be no "Mom of the Year" award this year
Go home
Water plants
Listen to teen say I am bored one billion times
Fight off accusations that I should provide for teens entertainment for 2 hours
Have the pee scared out of me by my crazed husband
Go outside and have a nice quiet talk with crazed husband.

Night y'all.

Tomorrows my day off. Maybe then we can talk about plants.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Yard Long Beans Red Noodle Beans and Dumplings

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We began harvesting Baby Monkey's yard long beans a couple of days ago. We grow both the green variety and the red noodle variety. The picture above is disappointing. The bean pod that looks black is actually a very beautiful dark red. They stay pretty red when they are cooked unlike other colored vegetables that tend to turn green when put to heat. These need to be harvested everyday. If one is missed, it will turn into something that resembles a lumpy snake. Even then, all is not lost, those can be saved for seeds for next year. Racquel from Perennial Garden Lover showed off her yard long beans a couple of days ago, I just couldn't resist showing ours off as well.

Yard long beans (Vigna unguiculata) are also known as asparagus beans. I have saved the seeds of the green variety for years. I bought the seeds for the red noodle variety from Territorial Seed Company last year. They are easy and a lot of fun for the kids.

We had chicken and dumplings for dinner tonight.

I make chicken stock from 1/2 half an onion, 1 celery stalk, 3 chicken bullion cubes (Mexican varieties are best), pepper, three chicken leg quarters and about a gallon of water give or take. It simmers most of the day and the house smells wonderful. When the chicken is done put it out to cool, skin and bone it then return to the stock. Add extra water as needed.

Dumplings = 3 cups flour, 1 cup shortening, 1/4 cup dried parsley, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 1/2 cups buttermilk. Cut the shortening into the dried ingredients and add the buttermilk. Turn the mixture out onto a cutting board and kneed until the dough is elastic and smooth. Roll it out to 1/2 inch thick and cut with a pizza cutter. I make a diamond shape just for giggles. Add them to the boiling chicken stock in two batches. It takes about five minutes for the dumplings cook through. Stand back so as not to get trampled when the family realizes it is ready.

Disclaimer- I don't really ever measure anything. My grandmothers taught me to cook. They seemed to feel that measuring cups were optional. Things rarely taste exactly the same from batch to batch. The above measurements are fairly close. If the dough seems to stiff add more milk, too loose, more flour. I would rather teach someone how to make something than write down a recipe.

Did you have anything special for Sunday dinner?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Where Aunt Debbi Goes to Work on the Farm

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Today was the big day. I visited Eden's Garden the CSA farm I have joined for a working share. For three hours of work per week during the three growing seasons (approximately 30 weeks) I will get my share. This is a pretty good deal at approximately a $15 per hour exchange and I will love the work. Hopefully, I can one day use what I learn from this farm to help develop a community garden in my own town. This farm is only about 15 minutes from our home and about five from the library. Now I am looking forward to learning and eating.

We love our little garden, but it just doesn't produce enough food for us and I want the boys to experience a real farm like I was able to as a child. That's right kids are encouraged to work. There were little girls running around catching grasshoppers and feeding them to the rooster. This is going to be great for us.

Turns out that the farmer worked at the same nursery I used to work at, just at different times. She says the strongest pesticide they have ever used is Bt. One of the members is a retired engineer and he designed a wind turbine and solar panel set up to run the pumps that move the water from the stock tank to the plants. This is the first time I have ever seen a homemade wind turbine. It is pvc pipe cut into the blades, a metal frame and there are license plates as louvers to turn the blades into the wind. The whole thing is painted green. Gotta show Manly. Maybe he can do it for us here.

Since I stayed up until after 1:00 am last night, after my morning in the library and the farm tour, I was worn out. I took a late afternoon nap and woke up to thunder rolling in. It looked like one storm from the south and one from the north west collided right over our house. The air smelled like electricity and the sky was green. My rain barrel filled up in minutes. We pulled up the overflow buckets and all four of them are full as well as the rain barrel. We had more than 2.5 inches in about 45 minutes. I was so worried about not having enough rain this summer, but the last couple of weeks have been blessedly wet.

Update, news says the middle school across the street only reported 1.67 inches. Can't be true.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.