Diatomaceous Earth Awesomeness: 5-2-13

Useful information for my fellow gardeners that haven’t heard from me in a while:  The good things diatomaceous earth (DE) does for your garden.  And i promise i will try to stay in touch more regularly.  i have so many blogs that i haven’t published because i get caught up in random things around the homestead.  i just need to set aside a certain time everyday to at least talk about one thing i’ve screwed up, or better yet, learned to make more efficient.

So today has been quite chilly, as we have this bizarre May cold front.  So i’m painting pickets in my living room on a tarp, in front of a fire.  Seriously, a fire in May to warm the house up, in Texas.  Global warming, what?…

Anyways, in the past i had only used DE to help get rid of pesky creepy crawlies that kill the food growing in my garden.  i don’t know if it’s normal garden behavior for others, but when my kale, for example among other plants, start to bolt when it gets warm, there are these nasty, tiny bugs that destroy the poor plants.  i don’t compost those.  So after i pull them up and throw them away, i always put DE in those areas of the garden in case there are more of those gross little things in the soil.  But DE does more than kill unwanted insects.

DE is fossilized shells of tiny water-dwelling organisms called diatoms which, when ground, have microscopically fine, sharp edges.  Diatomite is a natural lethal powder for garden pests who digest or contact it. The razor-sharp dust damages the exoskeleton and causes internal lacerations once consumed, but is perfectly harmless for us humans.  Awesome!  Keep in mind, that it only works when it’s dry, so if you use it for pest contol, make sure not to water for a few days.

But DE is even cooler because it’s made of trace minerals not normally found in fertilzers, like magnesium, calcium, copper, boron, sodium, iron, titanium and manganese. These substances add life to plants by feeding the microorganisms living in the soil.  The only thing i’ve found, besides compost, that adds these nutrients to your soil is Azomite.  i do really like Azomite, but DE adds the nutrients and acts as a pest control.  And it’s cheaper.

Plus, it also has the benefit of acting as a natural mulch.  One of the most important things you can do to maintain your garden is MULCH.  DE increases aeration and water flow in your soil. And it boosts irrigation efficiency by absorbing three times its weight in water. So you can use it in addition to mulch around your entire garden to decrease water usage.  Which is important here in zone 8, when we have droughts during the hottest part of the summer.

We have a complete void of progressive politics in this country right now. The will of the people goes ignored and unrealized. I’m searching for the people that can enter the political system, a strong third party. We need to consolidate. ~Ani Difranco

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Piggies: 2-1-13

wrapping piggiesJust because i’m not a pig eater, doesn’t mean i can’t prepare porkish food.  Today i’m attempting pig in blanket thingies. I’m trying to expand my culinary horizons and learn to do more different foods from scratch beginning with appetizers.  And at my daughter’s request, starting with piggies.  i found nitrate-free, no additive, natural sausage.  After shaping them into mini hot-dog type porkies, pan seared them.

For the “blanket” i started with a normalraw piggies yeast bread dough, but not letting it double in size during the first rise.  Instead, it’s just resting for 15 minutes.  Then it’s kneaded again (thank you, KitchenAid).  Now it’s ready to be rolled out on a floured surface and shaped into rectangles.  I’m fond of semolina flour, so i’ll try rolling it on that, like i do with English muffins.  Kyla wants her piggies cheezy, so i’m adding cheese in the dough wrapped sausages also.
done!They then need to rest again, but unlike real bread, not long enough to rise and double in size.  Bake at 400 for 25 minutes.  They still turned out very fluffy.  They almost look like big dinner rolls.  Maybe don’t let them rest after wrapping them, so the bread will be thinner like normal ones.  So they may be bigger than the average piggie, but Kyla approves.  That’s what counts.


Our Founding Fathers would shudder to see how easily forces outside the mainstream now seem to effortlessly push some Senate leaders toward conduct the American people don’t want from their elected leaders: Abusing power. Inserting the government into our private lives. Injecting religion into debates about public policy. Jumping through hoops to ingratiate themselves to their party’s base, while step by step, day by day, real problems that keep American families up at night fall by the wayside here in Washington.~ John Kerry




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Spring Prepping: 2-14-13

I promised the gardeners that came to thewatering market on Saturday an update on my garden and preparations for spring.  I’ve started some plants by seed, germinating in the bay window in my dining room.  These are the plants that take longer to grow before transplanting, about 8 weeks indoors.  I have tomatoes, peppers, tobacco, and even sponge starting now.


If you plan on growing cruciferous veggies like broccoli or cabbage, it needs to be started now too.  i have never had luck with these plants in the spring/summer, so i’ll start all my broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage in July to be transplanted in September.  Anyways, i will start alot more veggies indoors, but not until March.  Cukes, celery, pumpkins, and melons, among others, only have a 4 week growing period indoors before they need to be transplanted.  They grow fast, and will actually start fading if not transplanted within 4 weeks or so of germination.  I know from experience, and have had to start over with new seeds, because i killed all my cukes starting them too early.

i’m also in the process of tilling to aerate the soil .  Plants don’t do as well in compact soil and need it well-drained.  Tilling also makes it easier to mix in fertilizers and compost into the soil so it’s ready for planting in April.  If using fertilizers, do it now, so it has time to break down.  Otherwise it can burn the roots of your plants.  I just tilled up my duck coop and sowed “green manure”.  Buckwheat is used as a cover crop, but this will have a second benefit in the coop, because the duckies will eat it too.  And it grows really fast and is ready to turn back into the soil in about a month.  This puts nutrients into the soil and keeps it loose without amendments.

On to composting.  You can turn yard andcompost kitchen scraps into “gardener’s gold” by composting.  If you haven’t started composting because your afraid it will stink,   worry not.  Anaerobic microbes that break down your compost can create a smell. To cut down on this aerate your pile regularly.  This means to turn your compost and make sure it stays moist.  i know alot of people use bins, which makes it easy to turn.  I just have a big pile in the back of my yard, caged in on 3 sides, and i turn it with a pitchfork.

It is far better to be free to govern or misgovern yourself than to be governed by anybody else.~  Kwame Nkrumah

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Mmm, Spinach!: 1-31-13

tillingToday has been focused on the garden. It’s time to begin prepping for the Spring.  I got a new tiller (thanks Daddy!) light enough for me to use on my own.  And it’s small enough for raised beds and around trees.  So that’s where i’m starting today.  I had bad luck with some raised beds in the front that i planted veggies in for the fall/winter.  Not much germinated and grew besides a bit of kale and some lettuce.  So i tilled and planted kale in a bed that had quinoa. It grows well this time of year and can still be planted.

Also, as spinach grows all year, i planted some in the lettuce bed.  i generally plant more spinach every few months all year long.  And as an experiment, because beans can tolerate cold, and we’re having a mildish winter, i sowed beans from seeds i collected from productive plants i grew last year.  They may not produce much because it is winter, but at the least i can till these nitrogen-fixing legumes back into the bed and they’ll just act as a nitrogen rich cover crop.  But i have hope because i still have peas growing in the garden now, and they need similar environments to beans.

plant cupToday i’m also starting tomatoes indoors.  I got some organic potting soil and already have seeds for orange, red, purple and green tomatoes.  i do them in plastic cups that i’ve drilled holes into the bottom of, because tomatoes need well drained soil.  I’m starting more tomatoes than normal this year, so i can bring plants to the market.  That way people can grow their own organic heirloom tomato plants without buying them from a nursery.  Who knows what kind of chemicals    are used to grow plants sold commercially!

I very much dislike doctrinaire liberals – they want to own your minds. And I don’t like reactionary conservatives. I like to face issues in terms of conditions and not in terms of someone’s inborn political philosophy.

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Creamy Tomato Soup: 1-17-13

i have a bunch of tomato juice left from the tomatoes i used to make peach salsa this week. As i hate waste, today i’m attempting to use it to make soup.  i love tomato soup, especially when the weather is frigid- Comfort Food.

To make a thicker consistency i’ll be adding a few tomatoes also.  But i’ve gotta Lindy-ize it, so i’m roasting the tomatoes first.  Roasted tomatoes have a great flavor and make the house smell awesome.  Toss the tomatoes in oil (i use sunflower to avoid GMO’s) with herbs like thyme, rosemary, parsley, oregano and basil.  i’m also tossing in garlic cloves and minced onion for the soup.  Roast the mixture for about a half hour in a 450 degree oven.

Remember when you peal cloves from the garlic bulb, save one clove and put in dirt somewhere to grow a new bulb, even in potted plants- wherever.  Do this every time and you’ll never have to buy garlic.

Then add the roasted tomatoes to a stockpot with tomato juice and puree it.  It’ll simmer until it reaches the consistency i like.  Then stir in heavy cream and butter, if you like your soup creamy.  Yummers! i even put a little cheese on top just to make it more fattening, because everything is better with cheese.


The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.~ Gilbert K. Chesterson



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Bread That Won’t Rise: 1-16-13

i’m having bread issues.  i’ve never had this problem before.  The last 6 loaves of yeast bread i’ve tried to make haven’t risen well.  The first 2, i baked and ended up with very small, dense loaves.  So i turned those into bread crumbs (to coat chicken or use on casseroles) and croutons.  i don’t know what’s going on, maybe a bad batch of yeast, maybe it’s the humidity, or maybe i’ve just lost my touch.  Nah, probably the weather.

i thought maybe it wasn’t rising because i tried something different with my jalapeno bread.  instead of making the sponge with 2 cups of warm water, i used a half cup of warm water and 1 & 1/2 cups of warm jalapeno juice.  So i figured maybe the jalapeno juice killed the yeast.  Trying again, i didn’t add the jalapeno juice until after the first rise, because this is when i add the jalapenos anyways, and the bread always turns out great.  i just have to add more flour at that point, no biggie.  Wrong again, the dough still wouldn’t rise.  Dumbfounded, i went back to my standard recipe and made it like normal, to no avail.

At this point, i’m trying to find ways to use bread that won’t rise.  i hate waste, and have 4 loaves worth of unrisen dough.  i attempted to make flat bread, like pitas, with some of it.  They also turn out dense, and not pita-ish at all except for the shape.  Pita bread should puff up and make pockets when cut into.  What to do with all this flat bread now?  Maybe i can turn them into crackers?  Slice them thin and bake again maybe?  We’ll see…

Now, i’m making a smaller sponge, and will attempt to incorporate the unrisen dough into the the new sponge and see if that will rise.  if it works, i’ll make bagels out of it today.  Success!  i made a sponge with the same amount of yeast used in a normal 2 loaf batch of dough, but with only half the water and flour.  Then i slowly kneaded in unrisen dough for one loaf of bread.  i had to add a little flour, but it ended up rising and made a batch of big everything bagels!  Woo-hoo!

I don’t have any formula for ousting a dictator or building democracy. All I can suggest is to forget about yourself and just think of your people. It’s always the people who make things happen. ~ Corazon Aquino

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Ghost Peppers: 12-13-12

Because of our recent, very low temperatures here in north Texas, i’ve had too pull all the peppers from my plants or they get mushy and gross.  My poor cold peppers…  Sob!  They look so sad.  So i’m making more candied peppers.  Unfortunately, these were mostly pablano, Anaheim, and bells, none of which are very hot.  So in order to spice up the candied peppers, i’ve added slivers of Ghost Peppers.

The Ghost Pepper, also known as The Bhut Jolokia, has been around for many centuries and it is believed to have originated in Assam, India. The word Bhut, given from the Bhutias people, means “ghost” and was probably given the name because of the way the heat sneaks up on the one who eats it.  Consider that the Tabasco peppers that i grow, which are pretty hot, only have a rating of about 2,500 on the Scoville scale.  The Ghost pepper reaches 1,041,427 units on the Scoville scale!  Really Freakin Hot!

A customer of mine at the farmer’s market brought me a bag of them.  This is definitely something that i need to grow in the future.  This pepper can make grown men cry.  And i won’t even touch them without gloves on, because they’ll even make your fingers burn.  i thought the Thai Hot Peppers i’ve grown in the past were about the hottest things ever, but they don’t compare to these!  i’m saving the seeds and will start my peppers indoors, as always, in January under UV lights.  Hopefully i can get these bad boys to grow!

Politics is very much like taxes – everybody is against them, or everybody is for them as long as they don’t apply to him. ~ Fiorello La Guardia


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Tabasco Peppers: 12-5-12

I’ve been stringing peppers.  We grew all kinds of peppers this year: pablano, Anaheim, Tabasco, bell, jalapeno, and banana peppers.  The chili peppers didn’t make it.

Most of the peppers i harvest often and use immediately.  Alot of my canned goods have peppers: candied jalapeno’s, jalapeno and pablano bread, salsas, chow chow, green olive relish, and i also stick a pepper in my pickled okra, pickled cukes, pickled beans…  And we also like them grilled with cheese.  Yummers!  Anyways, i don’t have as much daily use for tabasco peppers, so i string them up to dry.  Then they can be crushed into any food that you’d add Tabasco Sauce.

So I harvested all the tabasco peppers that were big enough because the plants are fading due to the cold.  The others i use so much that i never have enough to store.

It’s simple to string the peppers not used immediately in order to preserve over the winter and spring before they can be grown again.  Just thread a needle and poke it through each of the pepper stems and hang them.  Then any time you need the flavor of pepper added to any of your food, just pull on off.  I use a mortar and pestle to crush them and use them as a spice.  But they could also be rehydrated and used whole.

Nothing much else to tell.  Just doing the same thing I do everyday, baking and canning and dehydrating my garden produce.  Nothing new.  Except the fried green tomatoes I made last night.  I’d never had them before, and since the tomato plants are also starting to fade, they aren’t turning red.  It was an interesting taste.  Kinda tart.  But good.  Though i’m not much for fried food, with the cajun seasoning, they weren’t bad.

It is far better to be free to govern or misgovern yourself than to be governed by anybody else~  Kwame Nkrumah


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Green Manure: 11-27-12

It’s getting pretty chilly out and some of our fall plants are starting to fade.  Sob!  But it’s still a good time of year to grow.  Actually the only time my garden really ever suffers is in the dog days of summer.  And even though i don’t like being outside when it’s cold, it’s alright because the garden pretty much takes care of itself through these fall/winter months.  Most of what i’m growing through the winter has already been planted and established.

Though i still plant things throughout the season, even all year.  Always experimenting.  This week i’ve planted more onions, beats, beans, kale, peas, and broccoli.  i know i can always use a cloche made from a milk jug or whatever if there’s a frost forecasted.

But there are also still plants from the fall in the garden that won’t survive the cold.  That’s where the green manure comes in.  I’m not referring to diarrhea. Green manures are basically cover crops that are grown with the intention of turning them back into the soil. Obviously this would be more useful in the vegetable garden or in a newly created bed where tilling will not harm existing perennial plants.

Different green manures offer different advantages. Some, like alfalfa, are grown for their deep roots and are used to breakup and loosen compacted soil. The legumes, clover and vetch, have the ability to grab nitrogen from the air and eventually release it into the soil through their roots. If allowed to flower, clover especially is attractive to pollinators and beneficial insects. All green manures will suppress weeds and prevent erosion and nutrient runoff in areas that would otherwise be unplanted. And they all assist with creating good soil structure and food for the microbes, once they are tilled in and begin to decompose.

Popular choices for green manure include: annual ryegrass. barley, buckwheat, clover, winter wheat and winter rye.  This year, i’m doing buckwheat as my cover crop, in one small area of a garden in my backyard, where i don’t plan to plant any more veggies.

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Amaranth Chips: 11-8-12

i get alot of questions on making amaranth chips, so we’re going to go over the process step by step.  People tell me quite often that they try to make them, but it just doesn’t come out right.  And from what i have seen from recipes online, i don’t doubt that people have a hard time with this.  But it’s really so simple!  And it’s super yummy!  This is Kyla’s favorite snack.  She’s devoured most of what i’ve made through the week by the time i can sell them at the farmer’s market.  i don’t mind because they’re so good for her.  And this is the same exact process for any leaf you want to make chips out of: spinach, chinese cabbage, kale, orach, quinoa, chard and even beet leaves or the leaves on brussels sprouts plants…

First, cut the leaves off the plants.  For leaves with thicker stems, such as kale, first cut the ribs out of the middle of the leaves with a pair of kitchen shears before proceeding.  The stems can be discarded into compost.   i always try to harvest the biggest leaves on the plants so that i don’t have to cut as many.  It gets tedious cutting the little ribs out of a bunch of small leaves.

In a large bowl, toss the leaves with a bit of sunflower oil.  For a 2 quart bowl you’ll need no more than a tablespoon or so of oil.  It may not seem like much, but if there’s too much oil, the chips come out greasy and it takes longer to cook.  Plus, you can always add i little more if it’s not enough.  Just always initially toss with less oil than you think it needs.  It’s also yummy to use even less oil and toss with vinegar too for salt and vinegar chips.

Then lay the amaranth flat out on a cookie sheet to where they are slightly over lapped and add spices, salt, pepper, powdered cheese…  Whatever.  Its fun to experiment.  One of my favorites is chipotle chili powder.  Gives it a kick.  Even a powdered bar-b-q flavor sprinkled on might be interesting.  FYi i found a hickory season at World Market without MSG or other additives.  You could also try garlic, or onion powder.

Anyways, so bake the leaves at about 250°F to 275°F for 20 minutes.  If they aren’t crispy, then bake for another 5 minutes.  You want them to be crunchy but not burned.  They will shrink up in the oven.  This is the same sheet of amaranth after it’s baked.  As you can see, the color of the raw leaves doesn’t matter.  It always comes out green. The result is a light, crispy healthy snack.  It’s a great potato chip alternative.

Seriously still stunned.  The Bama, again??? ~me

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