Sourdough with Spent Brewing Grains.


I have been diligently making sourdough during our social distancing exercise and I am getting pretty good at it. Yes, I am patting myself on the back. I searched the web for a simple and straightforward sourdough recipe utilizing the spent grains………. I’m a simple guy and I got lucky – finding a simple recipe within my skill set! See below.

Sourdough & Spent Grain Bread – based on a recipe from this site….pretty much followed it but just a few tweaks. https://noteatingoutinny.com/2010/04/13/sourdough-spent-grain-rye-bread/

1 cup sourdough starter
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour – I used 3 and it was just enough.
1 cup spent grain, still a bit wet
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 – 2 cups water – varies depending on how wet the spent grains are.

Combine the starter, 3 cups of the flour and enough water to allow the dough to just come together, in shaggy strands(I didn’t know what that meant so I googled for images). Knead about 5-6 minutes( I used dough hook) and let rest in a bowl, covered with a towel. Keep in a warm place and let sit for 1 hour. Fold in the mash with your hands and dust on the remaining flour as you combine it to help keep dough from being too sticky( I used my stand mixer and a dough hook). Form dough into a long, oblong loaf (or put it in a prepared loaf pan, I had a 5X9 loaf pan, sprayed a little Pam on the sides and coated the top of the dough with flour. I did a couple rounds of stretch and fold like do with my regular sourdough prior to the final rise. Let sit in a warm place covered with a towel for an 1 hour or so. Score deeply before placing the oven.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. I used a big pizza stone that was also preheated. Bake for about 20 minutes, monitor, I used a thermometer to chick internal temperature. It took an additional 10 minutes to reach 200 F. Remove and let cool on a rack for 10 minutes before eating. My wife didn’t want to wait…… I held my ground and gave her the first warm slice with butter. She forgave me!

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly



Tomatoes and Planting Seeds


My small varieties of tomatoes are kicking in. The larger red ones are called Juliet and they do really well throughout the hot and humid Houston summers. The small ones are called Sugary and yes, they are sweeter. Hopefully they will do well through the summer. None of large varieties have started to show color yet but, thankfully, even with the abundant rains recently , they show no signs of cracking or splitting. The 25 cent piece in the photo is for reference on sizes.

Juliet and Sugary bunching type of tomatoes. Both are yummy. The Brandywine, Cherokee Purple and Celebrity will ripen in the next week or so.
My cucumber support. I used 3 panels of 4″X7″ reinforcing wire used in pouring driveways. Cattle panels are used by some people but they are heavy and pricier. Market More variety planted here.
The fourth panel I used to create an arch entering the garden. I have planted Blue Lake Pole beans here and they climb like crazy. Should also make it easier for me to harvest. I will promise to provide some follow up as the grow.

I added 3 mounds for some Early Yellow Crook Neck squash. I haven’t had much luck with summer squashes in the past here in Houston but have not tried this variety. Also planted Mammoth variety sun flowers and they truly are Mammoth. Sometimes rising more than 10 feet and the seed heads are maybe 15-18 inches across. The bees adore them and our local squirrels do too…..LOL

I do have potatoes to harvest in a couple of weeks. Red potatoes and some Yukon Gold. I will clean out the beets…..some of them have become huge. I will see if they are worth salvaging. The sugar snap peas are done…..hopefully I will do better with the Fall plantings of them. The Meyer Lemon tree has set a good number of fruits and another round of blossoms has just appeared….not sure about them but we will see. Honey harvest is still 2-3 weeks away. We have a very long waitlist and they are our faithful buyers, I hope I do not disappoint them this year.

My Muscadine grape vine looks really healthy this year and as the grapes begin to develop and mature I will post photos. At this point in time the blossom heads are tiny, tiny and just now starting to open up. My other challenge with the Muscadine Grapes will be fending off the robbing birds and I suspect some squirrels get tempted. My wife won’t let me pop the squirrels with the BB gun but I do have bird netting as an option….time will tell.



First Tomatoes….Next Few Weeks Will be a Feast


The small varieties are setting tons of tomatoes and today, May 4th was my first picking……not many but the gates are open. I guess Mother Nature whispered……”May the 4th be with you”……LOL. Yes, “kinda” corny, but I couldn’t resist. The surprise for me today, upon my return from babysitting grandsons in Denver, were the number of tomatoes set on my Brandywine vine…..I promise some photos later in a week…..maybe less.

Small and so very sweet.

I have quite a few beets that have blown up into to monstrous sizes in the past few weeks too. Hope they will still be edible. Sugar snap peas are almost done and now I need to get my Blue Lake Pole beans going. My two eggplants are blossoming but no fruit yet. The plants are robust looking so I think I may have some eggplant lasagna in the future. I was gone for 8 days up to Denver and the weeds have jumped ahead and will keep me busy for the next week or more.

Bees……next few days and into next week will find me evaluating the honey stores and looking to see if I can rob any to take care of my customers. wish me luck!!!!!!!!



Tomatoes to the Power of 5


No, it is not an exponential equation but does reference that I have have only planted 5 tomato plants and each is a separate variety. Three of the 5 should be robust enough to produce well into the summer. The heirloom Brandywine will be coddled, buzz pollinated and well protected until the heat causes it to not set fruit. I have green ‘maters now so it won’t be long before they ripen. Images are from East to West in my garden.

East-most is a smaller fruited variety called Sugary. This should be one of the 3 to hold well into the summer
Next is Juliett, a small roma shaped tomato that can overwhelm the garden. Slice it and it makes a nice caprese salad.
Celebrity – A very good and prolific slicing tomato….not too big but very consistent into summer
Cherokee Purple…..I am anxious to try this one and know little about it other than seeing it at Farmers markets
Brandywine …..The flavor of this heirloom tomato is out of this world…..but….fruit sets with great difficulty. I have successfully been able to get fruit set by buzzing the flowers with an electric toothbrush, mine and god forbid I used my wife’s.

Beets are almost done and I am ready to add some Blue Lake pole beans. Bees, all 15 hives, are all busy and hopefully late May will be a good harvest. I have a couple of projects….rebuilding the compost bins…..a big project. Clear out all the junk lumber and wood that I have accumulated. Put up some trellis apparatus to help the cucumbers climb…..they grow so well here in Houston. Potatoes are also looking good this year….can’t wait to dig them up.



Blueberry Pollinators

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“Surprise, surprise, surprise!”…… to quote Gomer Pyle USMC, and of course “Shazam!”. Yes honeybees are used but, they may not be the perfect choice! I am going to include a link to an article from North Carolina State University that will tell a very detailed tale of blueberry pollination in that state’s commercial blueberry fields and mirrors some of my lay observations on a local blueberry field where I kept some bees for a few years. The location was just a bit too far from home to effectively care for the hives. My observations got me thinking…..I had three strong hives on the property and when the flowers were blooming I saw more bumble bees visiting the flowers than honey bees……the honey bees seemed to be more active on the adjacent blackberry vines…..There had to be a reason of some sort!

“Numerous native bees (including bumble bees and solitary bees) are indigenous pollinators of blueberry plants in North America. In addition, honey bees are used extensively by growers to augment populations of native pollinators. Bees are attracted to the flowers by odors and sweet nectar that is produced by glands near the base of the stigma. Both pollen and nectar serve as food for the bees and their offspring. As insects visit blueberry flowers, pollen adheres to their bodies and is carried with them as they move from flower to flower. When bees probe for nectar inside a flower, they brush against the stigma and unwittingly leave behind some of the pollen they are carrying. Some species of bees vibrate each flower with their flight muscles as they collect pollen. This buzzing activity (known as sonication) shakes pollen from the anthers so it is easy to collect, and also tends to increase pollination” will occur.

Read more at: https://entomology.ces.ncsu.edu/small-fruit-insect-biology-management/blueberry-pollinators/


I wrote this several months ago and found it in my saved for future editing so I resurrected it just in time for Easter. I hope you like it.

Pay attention to the flower size compared to pollinator size……this is either a bumble bee or ? I don’t believe our area is native to the Southeastern Blueberry Bee! These big guys use a form of pollination called “buzz pollination”. Electric toothbrushes work well too……LOL

One of my honeybees I suspect from one of my hives nearby. Note the size difference to the other pollinator working the blueberries above.

Yessssss Buzz pollination is a thing and I have had success using it on heirloom tomatoes that do not set fruit when this Houston weather gets warm and sticky…..like way too often. I have used an electric toothbrush, sadly my wife won’t let me use hers so mine is the vibrating device that does the trick. I will be doing some of that today as my Brandywine Tomato is beginning to set display flowers. Check out one of my long, long time ago posts broaching the subject with an included video of the technique. It is very effective.

Enjoy looking back into my past.
One of my favorite bee photos converted to Black and White with an artistic treatment added.



Pollinators Are So Much More Than just Honeybees!

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I have making an attempt to do some self talk and improve my numerous past resolutions to more regularly immerse my self in blogging, whether it be for the Backyard Farm one here or my “Bishop’s Beer Blog”… https://bishopsbeerblog. I actually love the catharsis that envelopes me when I put thoughts about my favorite things onto “paper” ….. I guess you can call words spread across this page as “onto paper”…. I need to thank Jennifer Moore, https://wayward-bee.com/2022/01/13/how-to-grow-bees/ for her article that gave me a push I needed to write this one……It has been in the planning stages for nearly 3 years or more. Problem with my mental filing system is that it has aged and probably not very well …… LOL. Now, be kind if you visit her site…..She is a Brit and my Australian and Canadian buddies have labeled me an “Anglophile” and it is not as a compliment. When I was being an active follower of her site I learned an awful lot of useful stuff and have a brilliant poster she put together on my dining room wall, Sustainable Beekeeping; https://wayward-bee.com/sustainable-beekeeping-poster/ Please give her a look…..Another big plus for Jennifer is that she is a lover of sourdough bread, as am I. Poke around on my previous blog posts here and you may run across a recipe for using spent grains from my brewing to make bread……most of the grains now go to feed the chickens at one of my nearby apiaries ……and yes I have digressed…..so where was I?

A few years back during the fall Goldenrod flow I grabbed my camera and macro lens to visit the bees foraging on the blossoms. Here in my area of east Texas the Goldenrod is a major component of what bees can put away for the winter…..the weather here is rather mild here but that can create problems for the bees too. Gives them false hope and they can start to brood up and then a freeze hits and they go through their stores rather quickly. This was probably Fall of 2019 or 18 when I first took a look and I was surprised at the variety of winged critters swarm on the Goldenrod! Something else that I will add about Goldenrod…..the heads of the stalks are, yes, brightly golden, but on closer examination the blossom heads are a collection of incredible dainty and small individual flowers. The photos below will include honeybees and you can use them as a reference against the blossom size. I was amazed once I got down onto my belly and closely examined and photographed the drooping blossoms. With that perspective I saw winged critters almost too small to see as they flitted around….

Next group will include the teeny and tiniest that I was able to observe. All of the photos in this blog were shot in October of 2021 with a Sigma 90mm Macro lens……and yes I am still practicing. Before I will go on with some more photos I will reference Jennifer again. Her “how to grow bees” post really addresses what we need to create a winged critter friendly environment. When I have discussions with folks about my beekeeping I get lots of comments about protecting honeybees. This allows my to bring the discussion around to the myriad of pollinators that very few people even realize exist. I have a little shelter in my backyard that houses Mason Bees through out the year……unknown to many is that they may actually be a better pollinator than honeybees – they are also known as Orchard bees. You will notice wasps and hornets on blossoms….their larvae need protein to develop of which pollen is the key ingredient. And others that I have zero knowledge of what they need and how they utilize it. 2023 I may make a concerted effort to polish my macro lens skills and attempt to catalog the many winged critters on the Goldenrod.

Hope this gives you a better understanding and knowledge about pollinators and not just honeybees.



Post Freeze Update


December 22-24 my garden experienced a danged good freeze…..well, the freeze is not really good for the garden, so a better term would be…….an extended period of freezing weather of hard freezing temperatures. What is considered a hard freeze in this area, Kingwood, TX just north of Houston? A hard freeze warning is issued when temperatures drop below 28° for 2 hours or longer. Well, we had about 36 hours and it required some effort to help our cold intolerant plants from dying……….some didn’t make it!!!!!

My wife had a good number of ornamental plants that we covered in an attempt to minimize the damage with some success. My biggest worry was my Meyer Lemon tree that was nearly destroyed in the 2021 major deep freeze……yes Texas made national news on that one. I managed to get some recovery of the tree after the 2021 freeze and was optimistic that I would finally get some fruit as it was beginning to blossom…….I was able to protect, marginally, about 1/3 of the tree. More on that later.

I had been attempting to get some succession plantings of beets, carrots and sugar snap peas started. We had run out of coverings for my veggies so it was plan L time. Plan L stands for leaves, lots of leaves and deeply piled leaves. I did have some success. One failure were the sugar snap peas that had climbed over 20 inches up the trellised string ladders. I will tell you that some of the peas had not yet started climbing and and they were lucky enough to be buried under a thick cover of leaves.

Carrots upon uncovering looked very, very healthy.
After uncovering the beets, lo and behold, one of two snap pea vines were discovered. I hope to get them trained up the trellis this week. I also added 15-20 snap pea seeds that had been soaked over night.
Soaked for 24 hours in order to imbibe and be ready for the garden. A tip, if the seeds float in the water rather than sink to the bottom of the cup they will not be viable.
Next round of carrots emerging and they will extend my harvest a bit longer.
Another discovery…..young beet sprout that lay dormant until I removed the insulating cover of the leaves….they should also help extend the beet harvest.
Sadly I will just have a handful of surviving blossoms this year on the Meyer Lemon tree. Although I did not shoot a photo of it, but some of the damaged and dormant branches are beginning to leaf out…..gives me reason for optimism.
Oh…..some radishes…..don’t even know why I toss out the radish seeds, they are rarely eaten, except by garden pests but, they do stroke my ego a little because they will sprout quickly and visitors will compliment me on my green thumb…….as my chest puffs out. If they only knew…….

Looking forward I will add in some more beets, most likely another round of carrots, trellis up the peas, no more radishes and begin composting an enormous supply of fallen leaves. Just an FYI, I no longer till my garden plots. For the last 4 or 5 years I have just piled on leaves and grass clipping to suppress the weeds and add to organic material to the soil. In my humble opinion…..the fertility of my beds has markedly improved and the weeds struggle, they don’t disappear but the become more manageable.

In March tomatoes and peppers will go in. Maybe a week or too before that a couple of mounds of Irish potatoes will be added. Then a couple of teepees of beans of several sorts. I will grow Blue Lake and Kentucky Wonder pole beans…..last year’s crimson variety grew huge……and only produce a few handfuls…..going back to the trusted varieties.



Second Start on my Fall Plantings

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About 5 weeks ago I began to ready my garden for fall and put some cool weather veggies in. I planted seeds for beets and Sugar Snap peas. We had been in a long period of drought here in the Houston area and the prospects for rain were slim. My poor luck was made worse by an extended period of time spent out of town to help out with grandkids thus, the seeds failed to germinate. I should have drafted some help to water in my absence but did not. So, today I added carrot seeds and beet seeds. I know that beet seeds are not the typical looking seed that you would recognize.

Beet and chard seeds are multigerm seeds. (Quick botany lesson: The germ is the reproductive part of a seed — the embryo — that grows into a new plant.)

Multigerm seeds occur when flowers grow in clusters, fused together by the petals (such as the flowers on a beet plant), which then produce multigerm seed balls.

When the seed balls germinate, they may have two to five seedlings sprout all at once. https://www.gardenbetty.com/why-do-multiple-seedlings-sprout-from-a-beet-seed/

I intend to do my beets in a long row and do succession planting every few weeks. This phase 1a ….. as Phase 1 failed.
In this area I am doing carrots that I have broadcast in 4 wide bands and will thin once they begin to sprout. Two varieties, Red Rocket and Danvers. They both seem to do well in our dense soil here in the Houston area.

I have challenged myself to do a better job keeping the seeds wetted this go around. Our weather is chilly for the next few days or two but next week we are back up into mid 80’s and mid 60’s at night. Perfect temperatures for the seeds and “multigerm seeds” to germinate. Insert smiley face here…..

Sugar Snap Peas are soaking tonight and will go into the ground tomorrow. I always let them soak over night and imbibe enough water to fill out the wrinkles…….Hmmmm maybe I need to imbibe a little more and see if my wrinkles will fill out! I wonder if beer would have the same affect on me. Maybe a winter time experiment.

Shifting gears. I have two large 4X4X4 compost bins and I am pretty consistent hauling kitchen scraps, egg shells and coffee grounds out to the bins. All of my grass clippings and leaves wind up either in the bins or as mulch helping to smother the weeds. (a never ending challenge). I am a bit proud of the fact that I have not sent any grass clippings nor any of my Fall leaves to the landfill in over 10 years. About 5 years ago I gave up on turning and tilling my beds and they seem to be as productive as ever. I have hired several thousand earth worms to till for me and because of their anatomy I have not paid one back injury claim, even though I employ thousands. (tongue in cheek)

I know that my egg shells take forever to break down so I have started drying them and pulverizing them in my coffee grinder. I do grind coffee every couple of days and I decided to tolerate and residual calcium dust in my grinder as a bit of dietary calcium. so far no ill effects …….. fingers crossed. The article I read suggested using a mixer, coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle to reduce them. My mixer wouldn’t be very efficient, mortar and pestle sounds like work and my arthritic hands would protest, so…….the coffee grinder is my choice.

Dried and ready grind up into some dust.
I probably could have spun these in the grinder a little longer. I am bagging them now and in the spring I will add them into the planting holes for tomatoes, reduces blossom end rot and for my peppers.

Plants like tomatoes, peppers and eggplants in particular will benefit from shell fertilizer. The extra calcium will help prevent blossom-end rot. Broccoli, cauliflower, Swiss chard, spinach and amaranth are also calcium-packed and could use extra from eggshells. So there you go…..waste not want not. Just in case you were curious about he origin……and I was….I assumed it was from Benjamin Franklin but was proved wrong

Waste not, want not – Grey Bears

https://greybears.org › waste-not-want-not

“We’ve all heard the proverb, “Waste not, want not.” This old saw has its origins from 1576 in, The Paradise of Dainty Devices by Richard Edwardes, a distinguished lyricist and playwright who was rumored to be an illegitimate son of Henry VIII. On page 88 the proverb was written as: “For want is nexte to waste, and shame doeth synne ensue.”

In 1721 the saying was recorded in an easier to understand version: “Willful waste makes woeful want.” Then, on August 10, 1772 in a letter to Alexander Clark, John Wesley wrote the saying in the more familiar: “He will waste nothing; but he must want nothing.”

All of the various forms of this proverb get at the idea of how we can always have just what we need. The less we waste (or acquire), the more resources we save and the less we’ll want for anything later. Waste not, want not reduces the risk of poverty and need. Put another way, many of us are saving money for something we’ll need or can afford in the future (savings). We will opt to not have what we may want/desire now in order to preserve what we need/want in the future.”

Maybe it will come up one day in trivial pursuit or on Jeopardy and you will be well armed.



What is in Season Now?

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Well, let’s fast forward past all the plants that have come into season, been harvested, been converted to compost or have graced my table……….March 8th 2022 was about Celery growing time LOL. Today’s topic class, will be about Muscadine grapes and the missed opportunity with the local close cousin, Mustang Grapes, that grow wild along waterways here in the Houston, area.

Vitis mustangensisn – A common and easily recognized grape with a white, velvety surface on the lower side of the leaves. A vine climbing over shrubs and into trees and often shading their leaves. Leaves in two forms: one form unlobed or shallowly lobed, and the other form deeply lobed, with the latter less common and on rapidly growing shoots. The lower surface of the unlobed leaves often concave. Grapes up to 3/4 inch in diameter, few to the bunch, ripening in August and September to dark purple, and usually bitter, even irritating, but popular with makers of homemade wine. Note; I will disagree a bit with ripening dates……here in Houston area it typically the last week of June and first week of July…….except, as always exceptions, this drought driven year, 2022, it was early June.

Distribution; – USA: AL , AR , LA , OK , TX
Native Habitat: Woodlands’ edge, Opening, Thickets, Stream, river bank, Fence rows. What is really crazy about the growth habitat it that the vines seem to grow wildly heaven bound……70, 80 and my guess is even 100 feet tall before making the turn and heading the other direction. It can be a challenge to harvest with out long reach pruning tools.

Today’s class though is for, Muscadine grapes (Vitis rotundifolia), which are native to East Texas. They thrive in slightly acid soils and have good disease resistance which makes them particularly suited to the humid climates of East Texas. My harvest is a mix of the native Muscadine grapes and a commercial variety that I have trellised along my back fence and over the entry into my garden. They can be grown commercially here it Texas, actually East Texas, but it is difficult.

At the entrance to my garden

As you can see they don’t grow in bunches like most grapes we are all familiar with. 2022 looks to be a great year for this variety that I planted 3+ years ago. That said, I am in direct competition with the local squirrels as they ripen…..a real challenge. Every day I make a pass along the vine looking for the hidden ripe ones before the squirrels indiscriminate approach…….Yes they knock an awful lot of green & unripened ones to the ground……unforfunately the green ones do not continue to ripen……dang squirrels – If my wife didn’t think they were so cute I would ……….. well, strongly encourage them to go elsewhere.

I do believe I will retrieve enough to make some outstanding jelly. I missed harvesting the Mustang grape which makes a to die for jelly…….there is always next year.

Cucumbers…..can’t ignore this year’s natures bounty…….It is nearly as bad as the gardening neighbor that looks to give away the their abundance of zucchinis! I always wondered why they planted so many….LOL…..Kinda like me and my cucumbers this year……neighbors lock their doors when the see me coming now……I guess I should make some cucumber Gazpacho…..hope it freezes well and I don’t run out of freezer space……



Homegrown Celery and Lessons Learned


I have seen many suggestions that celery can be grown from the base of a store bought celery stalks. Being of curious mind for most things, I decided to give it a try. Beginning last Fall/202,1 I began to plug the cut off stalk bases into the soil. Nothing fancy, just shove the base down until the top cut is flush with the soil and keep it moist.

Two recent additions to the garden waiting to sprout.
After about a week or two or three, the cut off stalk will begin to sprout.
This is one after about 45+ days of optimal growing weather. Adjacent is a Golden Beet competing for space.

I was surprised at the growth habit in my garden and being a novice to celery growing I was expecting a tightly bunched stalk. Here is where some of my lessons to be learned began to be realized 1. increase spacing especially if sharing space with other veggies. 2. As you will see in a photo later, commercially grown celery is blanched either by trench planting or by wrapping in paper and cardboard and mounding the soil up around the stalk.

Here is a method incorporating wrapping in newspaper and mounding up the base of the stalks. Source; https://gardenerspath.com/plants/vegetables/blanch-celery/

Another lesson learned…..celery takes 120-130 days to mature. Record keeping is not one of my strengths whether it be for, gardening, beekeeping, beer brewing( a little better here for repeatability) or vehicle maintenance. So for the next go around of stalks to harvest I will just be guessing based on size and shape. My usual process…..LOL

Unmounded, unblanched and poorly harvested. I had to do a taste test and just cut a handful of stalks.
Obviously unblanched yet surprisingly tasty. Also nice and crunchy so I will give it a thumbs up

Based on my dead reckoning I have 4 or 5 stalks needing attention for blanching. I am not confident that the most recently planted cut offs will not degrade into something to bitterness due to the Houston, Texas heat. I will update all y’all my progress as the heat finally sets in.

So, those articles you have seen or read about planting the cut off bases of celery stalk do have merit. In the Fall of 2022 I will begin again. As for record keeping, technology may help……so as I put a cut off base in the ground I could use use my smart phone to establish a harvest date 130 days out minus the 3 week window for blanching! Ok…….I’m sure it could work but…….



January Post Recovered


Some of the good days prior to our freeze.

Surprise, surprise…..looks like Mother Nature will give us another shot of near freezing weather this coming weekend. A fitting chill as I celebrate my 71st birthday on Saturday.



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