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Accepting The Award

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I have been basking a bit in the warmth of a compliment passed along to me by a talented member of the blog community a few weeks ago – I have been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by Claire who has a fascinating blog under the label “Promenade Plantings” – wit, recipes and too much fun!

As explained to me; (1) I must list 7 random things about myself that you don’t know and (2) nominate other bloggers to receive the award.( note to readers – a little research seems to show that the number bloggers to nominate varies from 4 to 10. So, I will nominate more than 4 but less than 10, I hope you are ok with that and (3) post a picture of the award.

Hmmmmmm – Seven random things you may not know about me –

  1. In High School and during the first few years at UCLA I wrote poetry, usually linked to a one of my better – at least I thought they were better – photos. Looking back at the words I wrote – what was I thinking at that moment in time?????
  2. August of 1977 – I spent three days laying half way down asteep  ravine with a crushed pelvis and no water in brutal 108 degree heat. I came out half way down after rolling my old Bronco. The Bronco gathered no moss as it rolled to the bottom of the ravine. Thank you Jim Trout and Leonard Smith for deciding to walk down that hill and kicking of the rescue rather than a recovery.
  3. I dream of an idyllic life  – maybe on a small farm, gardening, raising poultry, maybe a couple of pigs rooting around and a back porch looking out over a small pond……….or – owning and running a small microbrewery…. I will have to drink on it a bit more, or is that think on it ????
  4. I fell in love with Rugby in 1973 – it is in my blood and yes I have given a little during the playing years I spent on the pitch. Off the pitch –  I do love having a beer with my mates!
  5. Some things are far too important to give up on…..the heart always has room to hold the love for family, regardless of how long they have been  away……
  6. I can stare into the dying embers of a fire for what seems like forever…… embraced by the fire’s warmth and remembering the many warm memories I carry in my heart.
  7. Lucky seven – my partner in life is the women(girl then) I first saw as a 16 year-old lifeguard in Jefferson Park(1967). She was this cute little swimmer, seven years younger &  hanging around the pool – totally unaware of my existence. She crept back into my life in the year following my 1977 life changing event noted above. Three days lying on the side of the ravine became the start of something very special and enduring –

Some thanks are in order –

Promenade Plantings – I mentioned Claire and her blog above – I love her writing style….recipes that broadens my meat and potatoes upbringing….Mom – no offense! I can’t nominate her for the award as she has already been tapped for the award – If I tried to renominate her it could result in double jeopardy and Alex Trebek would probably complain.

I follow and enjoy these folks and in doing so I dub thee Versatile Bloggers;

startingtobrew – I also post a beer brewing blog…..I may list it below….a bit of narcissism. This young lady periodically posts and adds some nice wit and humor to adventures with home brewing

Everything Is Homemade.  I began following this posting a long time ago…..she was gone for a bit after having a child and is now sharing great home stuff, recipes and life bits.

kiwsparks – Seeing the world through art-colored glasses – this is a recent add and it has been a very nice add to my expanding awareness on how small and connected this world really is. I find myself enjoying the artistic and poetic energy in these postings. We seem to share a strong gardening or rather growing kinship.

BeerCat Brewing and Babies – This a very recent find – It is amazing at how many women are stepping into the world of home brewing….Fun style of writing and talks about one of my favorite topics

The Iris and the Lily  A nice gentle and relaxing read….I really look forward to seeing how others view this wonderful natural world around us.

Erie Ale Works – Very informative and a great place to learn a little and see where creative home-brewers are taking their craft… Nice straightforward style.

The Yeast Factory – Another beer blog- what were you expecting? I love to read and learn from others and have picked up some nice tidbits here.

KKH Photos -Off The Desk – I have been considering expanding my photography efforts to make it pay for some of my purchases…..have learned a little here and I continue to peek in on a regular basis. Lots of energy here!

http://pappadeckerbrewing.wordpress.com – What a brilliant and witty guy! I really can identify with every word he writes. It is as if he has cloned my pea brain and captures all of my random thoughts about beer and brewing. I can’t seem to get enough!

hotbincomposting – Learning to better manage my bins. Great information site and cheaper than buying a book – and probably more current than anything published.

This award process seems to be a great way to bring others in to our circles as well as expand our boundaries… Now for a bit of humor – my favorite picture taken on my 60th birthday with that cute little swimmer from Jefferson Park.

Happy 60th Bishop!

TTFN

Bishop

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Now John Has Worms

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I have been back home for a couple of days and finally got my hands dirty in the garden. When I was installing my friend John’s new raised bed over the Christmas Holiday I discovered a healthy bunch of earthworms, fat, busy and working the soil in his old bed but, the new bed is pretty much devoid of any sort of critters. The soils in the new bed were store-bought and pretty much sterile. My raised beds are teaming with worms of all sorts so I decided to infect John’s new bed with some of my own. The big guys I dug up in my garden for placement in John’s new bed are of two probable types, Lumbricus rubellus (red earthworm) and Lumbricus terrestis ( common earthworm) –  besides being good for my garden they are  excellent catfish bait in our local lake and river. I also found a few red wrigglers that may have escaped from my worm composting bins and went native. They tend to stay near the surface feeding on organic material and don’t do the heavy lifting and turning of the soil like their  Lumbricina  cousins. The composters are, Eisenia fetida, commonly know as manure worms….their favorite food, yum! A little known fact amongst the non academic types is that most of the common earthworm in US garden soils are not native – they arrived from Europe many years ago. Do you now know more than you ever wanted to about worms?……. they really are a fascinating subject. One more tidbit…..earthworms are detritivores – seems obvious to me now but I never knew their eating habits had a label. Detritivores, also known as detritophages or detritus feeders or detritus eaters  obtain nutrients by consuming detritus.

After infecting John’s new bed with some of my finest specimens, I pulled a few weeds, thinned some of the plants that were crowding each other a bit and hand watered. I have always enjoyed hand watering, i.e., using a hose with a gentle sprinkling nozzle. Hand watering relaxes and soothes my mind. I have been tempted to lay drip lines and automate the process – and I still may eventually invest the time and effort to do it, but not any time soon. I really enjoy walking through my beds, seeing how well everything is doing (and sometimes not so well), noting what may be too wet or in need of a well-aimed spray from the nozzle. Automated watering seems to be a bit impersonal….missing that extra connection to the living and growing energy of the garden. I also like to see the daily changes, sometimes subtle but always there if you look. Like the tiny crack in the soil where a seedling is beginning to emerge or the daily elongation of the pea-pods emerging from the flower bud, or the bees busy visiting whatever happens to be flowering….and those cursed weeds!!!!….. God must have had a plan for them – maybe they are one of those life challenges thrown at us to see how we handle the irritation….My big heavy-duty propane torch sure makes quick work of those irritations around the far edges of the garden but is far too indiscriminate to be used near the planted beds. I remember going out to my friend Mike Rossi’s pasture many years ago and cranking up the heat with his truck mounted propane torch. We were trying to wipeout the invasive and pervasive Bermuda grass just  long enough for the more desirable grasses to emerge. It is a battle that can’t be won, but you can quickly shift the outcome a little more to your favor….for a little while.

More work done today on my new experimental growing system…….I will let the spud out of the bag soon…..and yes that was a hint!

TTFN

Bishop

A Worm Discovery

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See how the worms have been nibbling on the edge? click on the picture to see larger image.

I flew home today from Grand Junction, Colorado to a warm spring day……..but the calendar was way off….. January 20th is not a spring date! I thought I would dive into the garden and get my hands dirty but the day had other plans for me. Oh I did visit my garden as well as seeing how John’s was coming along. I am becoming a bit envious of the garden I have established in his back yard. The sun favors his beds significantly more so than the location I have been allowed to partition off from the main yard. Thank you dear! His young lettuces are well ahead of mine, the sugar snap peas are jumping out of the ground and the onion and garlic bulbs have found the beds to their liking. I planted some bunching onions from seed in his garden as well as mine…..one the same day. Well, in his plot the seeds are up and looking good and in my bed, well I am still waiting for their emergence.

So Bishop tells us about the worm discovery…..OK I will. I was tidying up the kitchen today and discovered some old and wilted lettuce that was begging to be fed to the worms. Let me set the stage for the discovery. A week ago my son Joe brought home from school an uneaten PB&J sandwhich….peanut butter & jelly just in case PB&J is a foreign term. My wife suggested that I share it with the worms. I thought about it for a couple of days – really I forgot about the suggestion until reminded by my wife. I wasn’t sure if it was proper fare for the worms but decided to see what would happen. Before I left on my recent  trip I noticed what seemed to be a cluster of worms congregating near the PB&J. When I looked today I noticed a similar cluster and what appears to be evidence of”worm bites” along the edge of the sandwich.  (see photo above)

So, how can I makes use of this discovery? Whenever I add a new bin filled with bedding and kitchen scraps trying to entice worms from the nearly finished bin up into the new one, it seems to take forever for them to migrate up into the new bin. I think I have discovered a way to accelerate the process. At the next bin swap I will make up a couple of PB&J’s and place them in the new bin. I could do some experimenting with either smooth or chunky peanut butter and try a different jam….this sandwich was smooth peanut butter and blackberry jam – seems to be working pretty well. Could be a long experiment… there are so many combinations to try….it could be years to discover the perfect combination………but maybe it is like horseshoes and hand grenades – getting close may be good enough!

Off tomorrow to see my son Ben swim against Texas A&M over in Baton Rouge. It should be a lot of fun and I always love to see him swim. It will be a quick trip and I promise to get my hands dirty upon my return Sunday.

TTFN

Bishop

Longing For Dirty Hands

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I am away from the garden since Tuesday morning… My only interaction has been to follow the weather reports to see how the plants and beds have been treated in my absence. Well, the reports indicate that we continue to have a spring like winter in Houston so all is well. I am fortunate to have a wife and partner in life that understands my love of the garden. She will peek over the gate and will sprinkle some water if things look too dry and I thank her for that. She will also snack on the berries when they are producing……her snacking sometimes diminishes the harvest available for my jam and jelly endeavors. It really is a small price to pay for her continued support.

When l get on the plane tomorrow at 6:00 AM in Grand Junction, Colorado, I will be on my way to getting my hands dirty again…..Yes I can wait but it sure is tough!

Note to wife, Grand Junction is becoming well known as a wine growing region as well as for their wonderful peaches….Lots of beautiful mountains nearby, rivers, lakes and forest…I could probably grow a nice garden/orchard here and we could have 4 seasons not the 1.5 seasons that we have in Houston….Just a thought Hun!
TTFN
Bishop

Ok – I Will Try The Turnips!

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Three nice turnips on an 8 inch plate - ready to peel, boil and mash!

I have been looking to find some decent recipes for my turnips. They seem to grow like crazy here in Houston! Most of the recipes I find include turnips as a companion for the main portion of the recipe, i.e., stews…… I dove into allrecipes.com and found “Patty’s Mashed Turnips”….. I have been trying to curb my appetite for starches and refined carbs over the past few months. This recipe may help satisfy my craving for mashed potatoes. My daughter’s 27th birthday was a week ago and she asked for “meat and potatoes”, specifically mashed potatoes. I indulged in a spoonful at her birthday dinner and avoided loading my plate up! Lord knows I would have and could have put away a mountain of mashed potatoes – with garlic and real butter! I needed a mashed potato fix!

I picked three nice sized turnips from the garden…. I am plucking them at this size rather than letting them become large and pithy. I have also staggered my plantings so I have a good variety in size and age in the beds. I cut the recipe down to a more manageable size. What I like about the allrecipes site is the feedback section…. I usually read and make modifications based on what the practicing audience advises. In this case, most recommended cutting way back on the added milk when mashing……the recipe tends to be very wet naturally due to the high water content of the turnips. That is the approach I took. Boiled until tender, about 35 minutes, rinsed and then mashed. My only add to the recipe was a large clove of garlic boiled along with the turnips and mashed together with everything else. I used skim milk….not much but enough to provide the “right” consistency. I used a few tablespoons and that was too much….. also a teaspoon of butter, a little sea salt and ground black pepper to taste. Surprisingly good! So, I tried them and they were good enough to become a keeper recipe….. They are filling and low in calories! Nothing was wasted…the peelings, tap root and cap all went to the worms….they have to eat the remnants raw, but hey, they don’t seem to be fussy eaters.

I will still experiment a little. I read that some folks tried cauliflower along with the turnips. That seems to be a reasonable alternative…. and then maybe a 50/50 mix by weight of potato and turnip. This recipe can help my efforts to be/become healthier in 2012. I started my quest last July at 19.8% body fat, just under the recommended upper end for men. Last week I tested out at 12.1 % body fat and I feel like a younger man (is that right hun?)…..The lower end of recommended % body fat  for men is 10%…. That has now become my target. Portion control…and more activity!

My vegetable garden….a stress reliever, a place to experiment, the satisfaction of seeing the results of my efforts & sometimes my failures, a place to share with friends and neighbors….including the “cyber” neighbors looking over the “blog fence” into the garden as well as providing for the table. Pretty good stuff, eh! ……( I have been practicing my Canadian as I will be paired up with a lad from Alberta this week in my consulting work)

P.S. – I started another experiment in the garden today……..details later! Oh yes, today in my posts, I ate the turnip from top to bottom, well almost bottom…. I did cut the tap root off!

TTFN

Bishop

How Fresh Is That?????

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Kale, turnip greens in olive oil - before adding the eggs

I was inspired over the weekend in a number of ways. My wife’s cousin and daughter spent the weekend with us. They were in town to compete in the Houston Marathon, sponsored by my former employer, Chevron. The inspiration was due in part to this very fit 65-year-old man running 26.2 miles at an 8:00 +/- pace, but also due to his healthy diet on exhibit. The Friday night before the Sunday race he swirled into he kitchen, found that we had a decent supply of ingredients and whipped up a fabulous meal. I had picked up some skinless chicken breasts intending to grill them, a bunch of asparagus, fresh spinach and some  cauliflower – he wouldn’t touch the cauliflower. So in he dove, he coached Kathy on how to cook the penne pasta to his liking, al dente he says….Kathy knew what he meant. Why didn’t he use a term this country boy would better understand like, firm – not soft. He allowed me to grill the chicken without interference, a country boy can grill just about anything as long as it won’t crawl off the grill. He put his recipe together that included the grilled chicken, asparagus, olive oil, butter, fresh ground black pepper and the rosemary picked from my garden moments before adding to the skillet – he really wanted fresh basil but the freeze hammered the basil! My wife encouraged the addition of some yellow bell peppers – that added some nice color and flavor.

I liked how he prepped the asparagus, he placed it into the broiler until just beginning to carmelize – I have done the same on the grill and it is really nice. He chopped the asparagus into mouth sized chunks and added everything together in a large skillet. Once mixed and heated he placed the entire skillet into the oven under the broiler element until the penne pasta was just showing signs of golden brown edges. It was excellent!

The cooking inspiration he provided the next morning included the spinach. He sautéed it in olive oil…..he is a big fan of good olive oil…..I had to run off and buy a bottle of first press oil …. it is worth it. Once the spinach was wilted he added some eggs and yum…..a nice healthy breakfast. That Saturday morning’s inspiration also included the Houston Chronicle and an early morning call from my friend John.

The Saturday Chronicle had an article on winter garden vegetables and on the side a recipe very similar to the spinach and eggs I saw prepped that morning. First John sent me a text message while I was just finishing my early morning workout at the gym. I called him back…..texting is ok but with my fat fingers and wanting to better connect to the real meaning of his message, I chose to “talk” to him. I had not yet read the paper so he filled me in. He said it looked like an article that I could have written – on top of that, the mix of winter garden plantings was almost a perfect match for the seeds that went into his garden bed on Christmas Eve! Santa really does know Best! Too funny. I came home and smiled while reading the article, yes I could have written it. The recipe also caught my eye. It was similar to the breakfast cooked by cousin Billy, albeit with a few more added for flavors, and it included alternative greens that I could easily supply fresh from behind my garden fence. Kale was the first choice but they suggested trying turnip greens among several other greens choices… I had both kale and turnip greens. Now if I could just figure out how to better use those beautiful turnip globes attached to the greens?????

I just finished my breakfast of eggs cooked with chopped and wilted kale and turnip greens (I used both), some soy sauce, sea salt, garlic and fresh ground pepper. The kale was less than 5 minutes out of the ground and the turnip greens had been picked and washed the evening before, you can’t get much fresher than that  – that is the blog title hook …..  who knows how old the store-bought eggs were but – the results were –  sehr gut, muy bueno, molto benne and in Texan – damn good!

Cousin Bill – Thanks for the inspirations……the healthy food choices, the after dinner discussions on personal choices for living healthy, the inspirational personal best you ran on Sunday as well as the friendship……. While visiting with your son-in-law’s father Don, I also realized that you have touched him too – he spoke of your influence on him and his health choices. I too may have also inspired Don after his visit to my little garden…..he is ready to go back to Arlington, TX and add some raised beds in his yard. Changing the world a few words and examples at a time! eh? (that’s a Canadian term found at the end of any sentence – not able to be directly translated)

Bless all y’all!

TTFN

Bishop

Remembering A Garden of Days Gone By

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Peeking over the fence at a very special Peach tree.

This week I traveled to Midland Texas to earn a little money. Apparently I have some strong powers that affect the weather in Midland. I last traveled to Midland in early December and brought about 4-5 inches of snow into town. On this trip the snow held off until the first full day in town and by noon the town was covered with a blanket of very wet snow. The town can’t handle much snow so we cancelled the training class and sent people home before it became dark. We also took Tuesday off as we did not want folks trying to travel during the potentially icy mornings.  It continued snowing until nearly 10 PM last night (Monday the 9th of January). The weather is now cooperating and we will have full sessions for the Wednesday/Thursday training classes.

There is something magical about the snow for those of us who rarely experience it. My work partner on this trip is from Canada (Calgary, Alberta to be more precise) and he doesn’t quite see it the same way I do. I love the crunching sound underfoot as you walk across the fresh snow. I love the crisp air as you inhale through your nose and the frost on your breath as you exhale. I love the quietness that descends upon you during a snowfall – it is as if the falling snow flakes absorbs and muffles any ambient sound. I love how the landscape changes, how the trees capture a mottled blanket of snow in their boughs and how the morning sunlight sparkles across the ground smothered by that frozen” comforter” spread out before your eyes. And then it melts into slushy nastiness and turns brown or black and your shoes get all messed up……did I just destroy the images????? I just had the throw in the perspective of those living in snow country!!!!

This morning I took a trip down memory lane and drove through the old neighborhood where we lived from January of 1997 through July of 2004. I have always planted a vegetable garden in the yard wherever my former employer, Chevron, dropped us off. Midland was no exception. I will have to admit, Midland was the most difficult location that I have ever been challenged with. The soil, if you can call it that, was thin, rocky and primarily decomposed limestone. It requires lots of help to become a fertile soil. Add to that the incessant wind, scorching like a blast furnace in the summer and in the winter it will chill your bones! I was pretty successful with squash and indigenous weeds and not much else. Unfortunately squash becomes less a gift and more of a curse as you quickly run out of different ideas on how to use it and the weeds……I didn’t find too many recipes for the weeds.

In November of 2001 my father passed away after a valiant fight against bladder cancer. He also loved to see things grow in the garden. He seemed to always have a peach tree or two in his yard. In the spring of 2002 I planted a peach tree  at the western edge of my garden in his memory. I wasn’t overly optimistic at the time but as I can see now, eight years later, the peach tree has more than survived, it has thrived. Our friends and neighbors a couple houses down the street have told us how well the tree has done but this was the first time that I have actually stopped to peek over the fence. I have driven down the alley in past years and noticed how large the tree has grown but never stopped to look. I guess Midland has sufficient chill hours and the soil provides what this peach tree needs.

It was a nice feeling to recapture a bit of the joy I felt when I first planted the tree in Dad’s memory and even more satisfying to see the tree thriving. I will need to peek over the fence again this spring, if my work assignments cooperate, and see the tree in blossom! I know the people living in our old house….maybe if I am back to Midland when the peaches are ripe I can add the taste of a peach from “this tree” to my memories.

Good things are happening for the gardens in Kingwood, both my garden and John’s have been blessed with a lot of rain yesterday. The stressed trees in our forested neighborhood are also drinking deeply….we don’t need another summer of drought like we had in 2011.

TTFN

Bishop

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