Rainy Day Musings


Yes Lord I know we needed the rain…..couldn’t you have at least spread the bounty over many weeks rather than this past 8-10 days….? I did wade out into the garden to gather up some cherry tomatoes for my daughter. My tomatoes are swelling up and splitting! I snack on a few of those immediately as the they go bad fast and the fruit flies just materialize out of thin air to their damage.

I want to get out and ride the bicycle a little this week and have only been able to sneak in one decent ride and a couple of runs to the store on the bike with the shopping bags…. I can get about 4 grocery sacks in the panniers without overdoing it. On one of the grocery runs it began to rain and I had to pull up under an overhang in front of the local grill, “Three B’s”. While waiting out the rain I had a St Arnold’s Double IPA – very nice. FYI – St Arnold’s is a local Houston craft Brewery that is garnering a great reputation. The wait was about a pint in length and then dash off to the house before the next shower.

While it is raining I have been reading through the current issue of the “Urban Farm”. Two articles were of perfect timing. One was concerning the resurgence in home canning. It fit very nicely with my efforts over the  past several weeks. Jams, pickles, salsa, spaghetti sauce and some uncanned but frozen tomato and cucumber gazpachos. The family really enjoyed the salsa last night…..a lot like Pace Picante sauce made right here in Houston. Article was written by Lindsay Evans living in rural North Central Washington.

The second article of interest was about trench composting. Seems like a great way to get nutrients into he soil in an easy and straight forward way. Let mother nature and her earthworm and microbe warriors do the heavy lifting…. I will consider the method as the beds begin to ready themselves for fall and winter plantings. An option for smaller amounts is to use an auger and drill a hole to be filled with kitchen wastes… I have a post hole digger that would accomplish the same thing.  Article was written by Jessica Walliser – Pittsburg, PA composter by trench and bin.


2.5 + inches of rain this morning – over 6.5 cm for those that know how to measure uniformly and more on the way!

This Morning’s Rain Total



Canning Some Salsa


Today I picked a bunch of tomatoes and peppers and decided to make some salsa. I was able to provide most of the ingredients from my garden. Nothing like the freshest of ingredients! I wound up with almost 3 quarts after it all cooked down prior to canning. The aroma coming off of the kettle was very, very nice!

Home Made Salsa


    • 7 lbs tomatoes ( about 20) –  I used celebrity, ox heart & early girl from the garden – Roma tomatoes also work well
    • 6 Anaheim chilies, diced – my Anaheim  chiles
    • 4 Poblano chiles, diced –  I used Ancho chiles from the garden
    • 5 Jalapeno chiles, diced
    • 3 Serrano chilies, diced
    • 2 cups rough chopped yellow       onions – used fresh white and red onions and green from my garden
    • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
    • 5 cloves garlic, minced – also       from my garden
    • 1/2 cup white vinegar ( 5 %       acidity)
    • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon black pepper


  1. ** Wear gloves or cut chiles under cold running water, leave the seeds if you want, chile pepper heat comes from a vein in the flesh of the chile not the seeds.
  2. Peel, seed and chop tomatoes.
  3. I leave the tomatoes in large chunks for a chunkier salsa.
  4. You can plunge the tomatoes into boiling water for about 30 seconds then run under cold water to make peeling easier.
  5. Place chopped tomatoes into a colander to drain for 30 minutes – mas o menos.
  6. You will want about 14 cups of chopped tomatoes.
  7. Chop chiles.
  8. Remove seeds.
  9. You want about 4 cups total chopped peppers.
  1. Set aside.
  2. Chop onions, mince garlic and chop cilantro.
  3. Place tomatoes into an 8 quart Dutch oven or a large sauce pan.
  4. Bring to a boil.
  5. Boil 30-45 minutes or until desired consistency.
  6. I boil for 20 minutes, we like chunky.
  7. Add peppers, cilantro, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, sugar and vinegar.
  8. Return to a boil.
  9. Fill hot sterile jars 1/2 inch from top.
  10. Wipe rim off with clean towel, place lid and screw band on and tighten to finger tight.
  11. Set each jar into water bath canner right after filling.
  12. Bring water bath canner back to boil and bath for 35 minutes.
  13. Remove jars and cool on a wire rack or towels.

The rain has backed off a little – 6 inches in my garden since last Saturday. I can use a bit of a dry stretch. I have some garden clean-up chores planned if I get a few dry days this coming weekend.

The gazpacho – the cucumber gazpacho is much better with the addition of some Tabasco – Very refreshing in the is hot and humid Houston summer weather.



Busy, Busy, Busy – Catching up in the Garden and the Kitchen


I went out and picked a little this morning before the sky opened up and poured buckets of rain. I wound up with a bunch of cucumbers, a few ox-heart tomatoes and peppers. I will go out tomorrow and gather many more tomatoes and peppers. Into the kitchen now for a recipe experiment – I had a bowl of cucumber gazpacho in Carlsbad New Mexico this past week. It was very nice and refreshing but just a bit too peppery hot for my tastes. I searched the web and found a few similar recipes that seem to match my tastes.

My Cucumber Gazpacho

  • 7-8 Cucumbers – several varieties, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 2 Ancho peppers – warm enough and a very nice dark green in color – seeded
  • 2 – Anaheim peppers seeded – one that had turned red and the other a reddish-brown – for color and flavor
  • A couple of garlic cloves – skinned and crushed
  • 1 tsp coarse black pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup ice water
  • ½ cup white tequila
  • Tabasco sauce – season to taste – added a lot more after taste testing on day two!
  • Lime oil
  • Chopped fresh mint leaves

Puree the cucumbers with the olive oil, water, lemon juice, tequila, garlic, salt, black pepper and Tabasco. Add the coarse chopped Ancho and Anaheim peppers and pulse to chop coarsely…leaves a little bits of pepper chunks for color and texture. Refrigerate overnight. Garnish with a bit chopped fresh mint and a few drops of lime oil.

Next up for the kitchen before my wife returns from California – brew my American IPA Ale with Cascade and Chinook hops, can my strawberry and blackberry preserves and possibly a few more quarts of spaghetti sauce…..the last batch was very good – now where did I put that recipe????

Enjoy the slide show from the garden and –

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Ahhhhhhhh – Back Home!


I have been on the road for much of the past 6 weeks with brief trips home for laundry and repacking. The travels were not without a bit of fun and a few new learnings, but I am tired off the road. I received a nice goodnight text message from my wife last night – oh, by the way I am home but she is still visiting family in California – The message, ” ‘Night – sleep well in our bed Hun.” and I certainly did. I have been waking up multiple times every night in the hotel beds, tripping off to shed some water….last night – I closed my eyes at 10:30 and opened them at 6:30 – Yee haw!

I did a quick walk through the garden yesterday evening and Lisa did a wonderful job keeping things green. I will be picking tomatoes and cucumbers today. I will take a lesson learned from a restaurant in Carlsbad New Mexico, The Stock Exchange, and make some cucumber gazpacho. I may not add quite as much of the hot peppers but it was both refreshing as well as having a good “bite” in the mouth. I will post an update to my culinary efforts soon.

Today – weeding is high on the list – They seem to enjoy my garden beds and grow like – well weeds – with the water, warmth and sun. Rain has helped keep the water meter from spinning too much. Son Joe will need to crank up the mower and fill up the compost bin today – The grass  is ankle-deep – at least!

I may do something I haven’t tried in twenty plus years….I will try to direct seed a few tomatoes for fall replacements – The Oxheart, Mortgage Lifter and Early girl tomato plants are succumbing tot he Houston heat and humidity. In their place I will plant some Juliette seeds(couldn’t find plants this past spring…they do so well here) Arkansas Traveler and ????? not sure for the third yet until I review my seed inventory. The volunteer cherry tomato is still “kicking butt” – the term is not as violent as it sounds….it means “out producing everything in the garden”!

It is so nice to be home!

A Composting We Will Go!


Hi Ho the Dairy Oh, A Composting We Will Go! This is a delayed post….I created this blog posting and set aside as a draft then forgot about it….such is life with CRS. (can’t remember shtuff) – 3 weeks ago maybe. Why can I remember my third grade teacher, Miss Keck with such clarity and can’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday?

It is a hot and sweaty job in the Houston heat to turn the pile and harvest to black gold…no, not Texas Tea or commonly known as crude oil! I am talking about the organic ,material piled high in my bins and rotted down through microbial action of probably billions of too small to be seen critters’ munching away and converting the browns and greens into the almost black rich compost that every garden craves. The microscopic critters do get some help from the worms…just under the surface are the red wrigglers that have found their way out of the vermicomposting bin and the big ole earthworms the migrate to the deeper, cooler and more mature regions of the pile.

This recent turning of the pile has produced 2 and a half wheel barrow loads of rich compost. One load has been added to my most recently established raised bed. It is in need of big help. When I built this bed I used quite a bite of supposedly organic materials, existing heavy clay soil, organic compost, composted cow manure and topsoil. Not money well spent. The 4 bags of “Miracle Grow” organic labeled compost were primarily sawdust and very small wood chips. Technically, yes it is organic but it is a far from being a source of plant nutrition – the sawdust and wood products lock up nitrogen until they break down sufficiently…probably in a year or less for our hot humid climate. The composted cow manure was at least 30% sand and probably 10-15% wood chips… some readily available nutrients but not what I wanted. The top soil again was loaded with small wood chips, sand and some “soil”. I realized the error of my ways when most of the seedlings came up looking anemic and with most the growth was stunted. This recent wheel barrow load supplemented two other loads that I had added 3 months ago to this bed … growth is improving so I am feeling better.

The first of several loads heading to the garden.

Getting down to the bottom of the bin. What luscious yummy garden food!

I am pretty well done adding new beds to my backyard farm so from this point forward all additions will be Bishop made compost. I am looking for some well-rotted or composted horse manure and I may have located some.  Craigslist is for more than finding casual encounters, or at least it is here in Houston. The farm and garden section has me drooling….yes, not a pretty sight but when you can get a pick-up load of aged horse manure for little more than $40.00 – gas included, you can get a little excited. That is a little more than 2 cubic yards if not mounded high – about 2 cubic meters for those lucky enough to be on the metric system.

While typing that last paragraph it reminded me to remind Joe, my youngest son, to remember to mow the grass….and most importantly dump the grass into the left bin of my two bin compost pile. Although it should be obvious I decided to be a Dad and give explicit instructions…..leave nothing to chance with a teenager! Dear iPhone, please send my text message ASAP! The right bin has about a wheelbarrow and a half of luscious compost waiting to start feeding the hungry plants….I don’t want it buried under a couple of weeks of grass cuttings. The only cost of moving the grass cuttings over to the left side is copious amounts of Houston inspired sweat required for the task….I will sweat when I want and when I know that I must… I will try to conserve my sweating for NEEDED activities!

I am still in California( update left New Mexico yesterday in Midland TX this morning and back in Houston before night fall)  but I have traded the cool foggy evenings and mornings for the heat of the central California Valley in my “real” home town of Bakersfield California. I am trying to think of something that does not grow well here???????  My mother-in-law’s backyard, besides looking like a park, has a variety of citrus trees. The grapefruit tree is loaded to the point of sagging heavily. FYI, my mother-in-low just poked her head into the room and reminded me about the fresh apricots just picked off of the neighbor’s tree. My, my, my, California, if the government here wasn’t so broke I would consider returning – maybe!

A garden tool hook that reminds me of how easy it is to sweat in Houston and also a reminder of the fruits of hard labor!



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