The Martins are back! We had a freak winter storm here in Texas and had below freezing temperatures for a week, and I was worried that any Martins that had already started their trip back to us had frozen and died. Luckily that was not the case and our first 4 adult Martins arrived last week on Thursday.
The hubby and I have gotten fed up with the HOA crap where we currently live and have started looking at property where we can relocate with some of our extended family. Lots of land out in Coupland area (about halfway between Elgin and Taylor, 45ish min drive from Austin on the toll roads). Lots of the farmland is being parceled up into 10acre plots; no electric, water or sewage on most of them but it's a good place to start!
I’d love to help test out some of your recipes! I’m definitely in a different climate zone though 😂
I’m the primary cook in my family, but I like to get my daughter involved whenever possible.
I particularly love recipes that use techniques that have become less common over time (I.e. making a roux for cheese sauces and gravies, using water baths for texture when baking, making pasta by hand, reductions and i’m just starting to dip my fingers into basic fermentation’s)
Since you said you already have lots of forested land around this bit, I like the idea of leaving the "meadow" for biodiversity. Around where I live the prairie has lots of clusters of small tree/shrubs instead of taller trees. Are there some native shrubs that you could plant that might provide a food source for the local wildlife? Or something for pollinators perhaps? You could also try sowing some kind of cover-crop mix that would improve the soil and also create food for wildlife. My grandparents who live outside Kansas City use a mix of Hairy Vetch, Clover, some kind of field peas and rye on their meadow in the fall, which helps the wildlife forage and build up fat to last through the winter.
I think I have my BB5, but I can’t tell on my mobile device. I’ll double-check on my computer a little later. I like these badges! It’s a great way to show incremental progress and it’s very encouraging to get off my butt and do more!
Mike Haasl wrote:I think for this badge they need to have naturally shown up in their spot and that spot needs to be in a polyculture type situation. So I think a wild plant in a traditional grass lawn probably doesn't count. I think two wild plants that show up in a flower bed (assuming a polyculture of many flower varieties) would count. I think wild plants that show up in a diverse "weedy" lawn that isn't mostly grass might count as a polyculture but I'm not sure.
Ok that makes sense. I’m going to let the “weedy” plants that I’m currently protecting grow to seed as planned, collect some and let the others fall wherever they want! It might take a little longer but they’ll eventually travel around the yard and end up in places where they can grow nicely together
Mike Haasl wrote:Carolyne, for those little pods, one possible way (untried by me and likely to fail miserably) is to pulse them in a blender for a bit. That's how I get brassica seeds out of their pods.
That’s a good idea! My husband has a little mini coffee grinder that might do the trick. I’ll have to give it a go and see how it works; the seeds are small enough that I think they’d fall under the blades once the pods were cut open
Can I take pictures of wild plants that I'm attempting to cultivate for seed collection? There are a couple "weeds" in my yard that I'm planning to replant/re-seed for future use in my garden. (Horseweed, medicinal value. Milkweed, pollinator plant. "Sensitive" plant Mimosa pudica, nitrogen fixer)
Do they still count if I relocate them to a spot where they can grow with other plants or do they need to be in their "as found" locations? Mine are spread all over my yard currently, with little flags and bits of wire cage around them to protect them from bunnies and over-zealous husbands with lawn mowers...
I've been seed saving all season, and for once I actually tool pictures as I went along! (somewhat....)
I got pictures of my green leaf lettuce: I planted some butts from grocery store lettuce three years ago. These babies pop up all over my yard every year beginning in Feb. I cull all the weakly looking ones and transplant the healthy ones in the garden bed. I haven't actually needed to save seeds since I let them bolt every year and scatter, but I decided to do it this year to share with anyone who wanted some.
I've got pictures from my green onions: similar story, they were from grocery store "trash" parts. They've travelled about 10 ft in the 4 years since I first planted them, and come back strong every spring. Saved some seeds this year as a backup; had a scare with some little critters eating my plants and they munched three of my green onions!
Clemson spinless okra: new to me this year, I bought one plant to save the seeds so I can plant more for next year. Got two pods off my plant, remembered to grab pictures before I cleared all the seeds out of the last pod.
Shishito peppers: oh boy, this guy is my gardening nemesis! I've been trying to grow one for three years now and every year the seedlings and sprouts have died on me. This year I finally managed to grow one and get not only flowers but peppers! I've saved a bunch of the seeds 'cause those suckers are more expensive than I like to shell out (honestly, most seeds are. I like free seeds)
For my seed collecting:
I let the plant bolt, or let the fruit ripen until it starts to dry on the plant. I cut off or collect the seed pods, fruit, etc and put them in a white washtub. Seeds that are dry get extracted and placed into their container (usually baby food jars or old washed-out med bottles). Seeds from fruit and veggies get cleaned and laid out to try on a papertowel for a few days. I use the "snap" test to make sure they're sufficiently dried for storage, then into the jar they go. All jars get labelled with name and year. Jars are stored in the bottom back of my pantry in a cardboard box.
I have a picture of all the seeds I've saved this year: veggies, herbs, and a couple ornamentals. I'll tell you what's not fun: getting seeds from basil and catnip!! those pods are so stinking tiny and the seeds FLY out when you open them.....I got a little white washtub just for doing my seed collecting/cleaning.
I realized after uploading all my other photos that I forgot a closeup of the okra in it's jar: it is in the jar collection lineup, second from the left!
As I've been slowly recovering from oral surgery and a bone graft I've been sitting on the couch trying to brainstorm ways to overcome barriers to complete some of my BBs. I don't know why I didn't think of it earlier, but my family ranch has masses of available land that no one would care if I did projects on. My grandpa was a definite renaissance man, and left behind a huge collection of tools at the ranch. There's even a backhoe/bulldozer! Between that, his gardening tools, and the barn full of woodworking equipment I could probably head out there for a weekend and knock out a whole slew of BBs! My last real barrier to getting them completed is a big one; I have no idea how to use the large majority of those tools. Were my grandpa still living, I'd ask him to show me the ropes, but when he passed he took his knowledge with him. None of my family really knows how to use the tools either, and I want to make sure that 1. I can be safe and 2. I don't ruin or break the tools. Do you have some go-to resources for safely operating large machinery? Between the two of us my husband and I can manage the woodworking tools (I used a lot of them under careful supervision of my grandfather when I was younger), but we're both a bit leery of jumping on the backhoe without doing some research beforehand.
It would definitely benefit the whole family if we could get it figured out; there's a lot of work that needs to be done at the ranch that my grandpa used to do with the backhoe and dozer.
I found an air fryer at a local thrift shop and brought it home as a christmas gift for my best friend. She ended up leaving at our house (she doesn't have a home of her own yet) so I've done a lot of research about the best ways to do it.
So it's basically a tiny little convection oven; the whole "Fryer" part of it comes from coating the food in oil and the hot air circulating around it to cook all sides at once.
You can use it as a tiny little oven; almost anything that can be baked in a full-sized oven can also be cooked in the air fryer. Since the air is being circulated with a fan it does change the cooking time substantially. I've found that it usually takes about half off the baking time. You can find small pans that are made specifically for use in an air fryer, or if you're like me you can scrounge the second-hand stores for stuff that's small enough. I like to use it when it's too hot to run the full-sized oven (about 8 months out of the year here in Texas!) My most recent sucess was a tiny little cheesecake, complete with water bath. It cooked up in about 10 minutes in the air fryer!
Thanks for coming to share your tools with us! I know I'm personally looking for some useful multi-tools for my backyard gardening, and have been specifically pining after a nice Hori Hori knife. How often would you recommend doing blade maintenance and sharpening?
Janet Reed wrote:I was SO disappointed when I bought a new pair of FISKARS clippers and they found they are JUNK. They lock every time I make a cut and it’s a total pain.
So! Here’s my good, bad and ugly garden tool list.
GOOD...the GARDEN CLAW is a pretty good tool for loosening up big weeds without constantly bending over. It was a gift to me and I’m surprised at how good it works.
BAD...FISKARS CLIPPERS...a total waste of money.
UGLY.. my favorite garden tool..a broken old hoe I found here 30 years ago. The broken handle makes it perfect for planting and weeding.
I’d love to see what you’re using that works! Ugly or not!
The garden claw looks just like my hand tiller that I found in a thrift shop! The last of the blue paint was flaking off, but the handle looks like an exact match and so does the blade end. Thank you for solving a mystery for me!
The tools that's been the most useful in my backyard gardening is an old hand tiller that I found at a second-hand store. It makes quick work of the compacted clay soil and is great for turning compost into the garden beds. I immagine it will also be useful for doing chop and drop when I get ready to start planting my next batch of plants. I have no idea what brand mine is; it's old and worn and all the paint has come off of the wooden handle.
I have a nice, lightweight hedge trimmer (I think it's a black and decker or something) that makes quick and easy work of my rosemary and rose bushes. It gets stuck in our passionflower vines though, and those are too woody for most of my other "light" tools. Something with a motor would save a lot of time and effort (versus having to go in and cut/saw at all of those stems) but most everything I've tried gets caught up on the vines. They're at some strange in-between-point between woody and green/viney that plays havok with a lot of my tools. I've been having to use some manual loppers to cut through the main stems (or as many of them as I can find) and then just drag the entire mess to a corner of the yard where it can decompose.
So I've been searching around on the forums and haven't seen this mentioned. Do Badge Bits have to be done in a specific order? For example: Seed Saving is a BB for the Straw Gardening Badge. Can I complete that BB before I complete the sand badge? Or do they have to be done in order, completing each badge before you can work on bits from the next badge?
How do y'all go about making contacts and sourcing your non-herbal medicinal supplies (like beeswax, for example).
I know there are more than a few bee farms in my area and I'm trying to figure out the best way to ask for beeswax. Do I just call and ask if they sell it?
What questions should I ask about how they keep their hives; are chemicals often used in bee-keeping?
Or do y'all have some go-to sources for materials that sell online? Getting out and about right now is difficult due to my daughter's health, so shopping online is certainly the most convenient, but I'd much rather shop locally and support someone who's using sustainable methods.
First picture shows all the appropriate page dividers (with the exception of “Herbs”)
Second picture is the divider for the Herbs section (also shows the tabs in the binder)
Last picture is my herb page detailing Lemon Balm.
Rebecca Norman wrote:Not herbal, but at least it's not opioids. Last year when I had a tooth extracted that involved some rot down into the bone, ibuprofen turned out to be enough
Yeah, my doctors sent me home with some 800mg ibuprofen. Instructions to pack gauze around the wounds to help start the clotting. I feel like I’m playing that game where you see how many marshmallows you can stuff in your mouth 😂
Thanks, I found a couple of things there that may work. Unfortunately most of the rest don’t really apply...I can’t gargle right now because it would wash out the blood clots that are trying to form to protect exposed nerves.
I’ve essentially got four large open wounds in my mouth so a tea or tisane is really the only safe option right now.
I saw clove and plantain both mentioned in the other thread. I’m wondering what other herbs may be applicable.
Looking for things that are
Passiflora incarnata would probably do well! The leaves and vines can be used for tea that helps with calming and sleep. The flowers can also be used, but contain less of the medicinal compounds.
Make sure you only use incarnata for this; other varieties of passionflower have cyanogenic glycosides which when broken down will quickly release poisonous cyanide.
I'm planning on using a lot of "ornamental" looking plants to turn our garden beds into more productive and useful beds.
Currently I have rosemary, lemon balm, day lilies, and catnip in our front beds. I'm planning on adding Lavender,
Bull's Blood beets, rainbow chard, perennial artemesia, some varieties of purple basil, society garlic and garlic chives, Roman Chamomile, bronze fennel, some lamb's ear (or a native plantain), curly parsley, mint, pineapple sage, sorrell (a couple different varieties), some sprouting broccoli, cabbages, and lettuce in the fall/winter, probably some amaranth....
Since the bed out front can be seen from the street (and is subject to HOA approval) I'm trying to plan for things with a high "ornamental" quality.
Brick-paved patio with heat source (possibly rocket oven?)
Skiddable tool storage shed
Permanent hammock frame
Improved compost system
Improved brush pile
Raised bed (shaded) for Zoe and neighborhood kids
Permanent trellis for vining veggies
Re-build garden beds!
Soil ammendment via cover crops
Re-think rainbarrel system
Buried dog waste system
Tyler Ludens wrote:Oh, I notice you have a lot of drought tolerant plants in the design, but can't see indication that you are trying to direct run-off to the planting areas. Are the french drains routed to the beds, or, what is your plan to transition to a water-retention landscape?
The current french drain system incorporates two of the three downspouts on the house; specifically the ones in the front yard and the one nearest the street in the side yard. Those drains both run under existing beds, but we left the ends accessible if we wanted to extend them. The third drain empties out into a teensy little bed where I'm currently growing canna. I'll probably plant some more water-loving stuff in the mini bed to help soak up all the lovely rainwater.
I've mapped out the drainage of our yard, and it basically all slopes towards the fences; the heaviest drainage flows right into my existing veggies beds. The new beds will all be in the drainage areas up against the fences to make use of the run-off.
Edited to add: If you have any suggestions for methood we could implement to help utilize and retain water I'd love to hear them! I have a lot to learn and would love to make our garden/yard a truly sustainable ecosystem.
16' x 16' x 6" poured slab (Patio)
-dig up grass and topsoil (save topsoil for later use)
-build wood frame
-pour and level cement
Materials: concrete, sand, gravel, 2x4 lumber, floats, finishing trowels
(Concrete options: rent a mixer and work in batchs, or use local company)
-Drill holes for end posts
-Secure corner and side posts to concrete
-Outer framework for the "roof"
-Brace corner posts for stability
-Cross-beams for "roof"
Materials: 4x4 or 6x6 posts, 2x6 lumber, metal post brackets, metal hardware
-Attach hardware to roof framing
-Thread shades onto lines
-Hang lines from hardware
When my husband and I started house shopping 6 years ago, I started day dreaming about gardening. I wanted a potting shed made from old reclaimed windows, a chicken tractor and moveable roost, rain barrels hooked up to an aquaponic growing system, a huge garden with a mini orchard, rabbits, gazebos, a permanent hammock stand.....and on and on....
My preferred houses were older, some even historic, on small plots of land from 2-10 acres. My husband wanted a brand new house in a nice neighborhood....He said everything I liked was too old, I said everything he liked was too new. He said the land was too big, I said too small. Eventually it all came down to economics; what we could afford was a quick-build new house in a suburban neighborhood. We did managed to get one of the biggest lots in the neighborhood (my consolation prize).
Shortly after we moved in I started drafting up designs for my backyard paradise, and started digging up some nice beds in the front lawn (I really dislike the "lawn" as a concept, too much wasted space). That got brought to a screeching halt by our HOA.
Did I mention our HOA? Yeah, I hate them. By-laws in the HOA contract state that beds and landscaping in front lawns (or anywhere that can be "seen from the street") must be ornamental only. NO VEGGIE BEDS! Any and all lot "improvements" (garden beds) must be submitted to the HOA council for approval. Absolutely NO livestock animals of any kind; no poultry, rabbits (other than indoor pets), goats, etc. Backyard "improvements" don't require approval unless they can be seen from the street.
So basically our HOA is evil.
Over the years since we moved in, I've built up some small garden beds in the backyard. Planted some sneaky "ornamental" herbs in the front beds.
Then I went back to work full time and put the gardening and landscaping stuff on the back burner.
Last year I changed jobs and got a significant pay increase and started setting money aside for "Projects". Then Covid hit and I was furloughed. I've been using the downtime to start re-thinking my approach to my HOA problems. The larger beds in the backyard are going to be "Pollinator Gardens" on paper and a food forest in reality. Beds in the front yard and side yard will look traditionally landscaped, but will contain mostly native ornamentals. Lots of interspersed herbs and visually decorative food plants mixed in. I'm planning on keeping at least 5-6 traditional veggie beds in the back in addition to the "sculpted pollinator" beds. The pond has been completely nixed by the HOA along with the rain barrel system. We installed a rather large system of french drains instead since they are buried underground and therefor not "visible from the street".
We did manage to get our Solar array approved and that was installed about two years ago.
I've drafted some plans to submit to the HOA before we start working on the front "lawn". We probably won't start working on this until next year at the earliest; haven't decided if we want to start in the back or front. Current pending project is a framed patio in the back with sail-shades.
I've attempted garlic a couple of times and it has not been successful so far. I've got dark heavy clay soil, so I think there was too much water and not enough drainage. The bulbs just kind of rotted away over the course of a week.
A very good local friend of mine has had great success with her own garlic. When she set up her bed she dug down about 4 feet into the ground. She dumped in an 8in thick layer of pea gravel and a foot deep layer of wood chips. Broke up all the heavy clay soil and mixed it with playground sand. (She went a little nuts and hand-sifted her clay dirt and broke up any large pieces that wouldn't fall through the 1in metal screen). She sprays it down and completely drenches the bed about 4 days before she plants her garlic, and then lightly mists the freshly planted bulbs. She uses drip irrigation for her garlic to combat poor drainage and high heat. She grows mostly softneck varieties and braids them up for storage.
Figs and Pomegranates grow wild all around where I live. Figs are probably the easiest to harvest; the pomegranates tend to have very small fruit and you have to beat the critters to them when they get ripe!
There's a lot of wild buffalo gourd around us too, but I haven't experimented with it yet; it can be poisonous due to high levels of saponins. I think I'm going to try to harvest some seeds this year. They are really bitter if you don't get all the flesh off. Supposedly they taste like pumpkin seeds when you roast them, and they have a pretty good protein content!
I've been researching some mid-low chill peaches to try and find varieties that will grow well in my backyard.
I'm in Zone 8B, central texas, so we get anywhere from 400-700 chill hours depending on the year. Very strong direct sun, heat in the 100s during the summer, and a really long hot growing season (usually April-October).
I would love to hear your opinions or experiences with any of these varieties!
I've also heard that Sentinels, Harvesters, Reglobe, Redskins, Dixieland, Springold, Biccentennials, June Gold, Bounty, and Red Baron varities are good options. Still looking up information on their respective chill hours.
One of the things I have to keep in mind is that our soil is 90% Houston Black Clay. It's very rich in nutrients but is extremely hard-packed and riddled with limestone and calichi deposits. I'm planning on sowing a cover crop over the entire backyard this winter to chop-and-drop in the spring (probably a winter rye/vetch mix). We have very little topsoil back there right now (probably only about 8 inches) so I've got a lot of work to do to build better soil and increase organic matter.
Medicinal herbs have been a passion of mine ever since I watched my grandmother tend her herb garden as a child. She had herbs for everything, from stomach ache, to bug bites, to headaches.
I have plans to create a food forest in our suburban backyard, along with lots of medicinal plants and lots of native pollinator plants.
Living in central Texas means that I have to always keep the heat in mind; the concept of a food forest seems like a brilliant way to create shaded (slighly) cooler micro-climates for some of my herbs and vegetables.
Wanted to update everyone who was helping me brainstorm this: I finally laid eyes on the culprit this morning. A very chubby little rat! She scurried off as soon as I came out (making great use of the fence boards as a little mini-highway) and seems to be living in the brush pile.
This also explains why the netting wasn't working (I affixed it to the fence, so she was just running along behind it and jumping into the tomato bed.)
Now that I know what it is I find I'm actually okay with her nibbling in the garden. Kind of funny how that works out...
I've been pulling the tomatoes off the vine early, and while they're a bit smaller, they're ripening up perfectly on the counter inside.
Also got our first squash today!