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Homegrown Celery and Lessons Learned

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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…….

TTFN

Bishop

January Post Recovered

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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.

TTFN

Bishop

Where Should I Start?

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Let me jump in with some homemade cookies. I will backtrack just a bit to share my ,dilemmas…… FYI I looked it up because I wasn’t quite sure what the plural of dilemma was….. my guess was dilemmas but I worried that a certain English major friend of mine might subtly correct me…..I have beer blogging adventures that I am behind on, garden blogging that I am also behind on – my beekeeping adventures are included in the gardening blogs. Then there are those times when I meant to post a gardening blog and I don’t pay attention and it becomes a beer blog post and obviously vice versa. This post will be kitchen focused and feature my award winning Oatmeal Raisin Applesauce cookies with Chopped Walnuts. Credit goes to my Aunt actually but read on.

No brag just fact…..When I was 11 years old, 1962, I was encouraged to submit some baked goods into the youth division of the Kern County Fair. My sister, a year younger was on the hook to submit baked goods in more than 10 categories, primarily cookies. I committed to one cookie recipe and a coffee cake recipe. I will post the recipe that won first prize, ribbon and cash……..I am a professional of sorts. Just to set the record straight my coffee cake also won first prize, how, I will never know. My coffee cake was a rectangular sheet type cake, all of my competition were works of art in various shapes, glaze covered and adorned with all kinds of goodies (almost gaudy looking……) alas, that winning recipe has been lost in the fog of time and and many moves.

The winning fruit cookie was from a recipe given to us by my mother’s oldest sister, my Aunt Lula. If you look back in my blogging history I posted the recipe but received feedback from a cousin that I must have missed an important ingredient. After digging through scraps of paper and handwritten recipe cards I managed to find a pink 3X5 card in my mother’s hastily written handwriting and a college ruled 8 1/2 X 11 sheet in my hand writing…..there were gaps between the two that I tried to reconcile. My taste memory of Aunt Lula’s cookie was pretty well imbedded so I made a half batch to test the reconciliation. It turned out almost perfect. I made a small adjustment and the full batch recipe was an overwhelming success.

Aunt Lula’s Oatmeal Applesauce Raisin Cookies with Chopped Walnuts

  • 2 C applesauce
  • 1 stick butter (1/2 C)
  • 1 C brown sugar – I prefer the light brown
  • 1 C raisins
  • 1 tsp baking soda dissolved in ¼ C hot water
  • 2 ¼ C all-purpose flour
  • 1 C quick oatmeal
  • 1 C chopped walnuts
  • 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground Allspice
  • I tsp ground cloves
  • Pinch of salt (1/16 tsp)
  • 1 Large egg

There is a method to my madness in making the line breaks in the ingredient list. My suggestion is to prepare the three steps in the process in advance. In a large sauce pan mix add the applesauce, brown sugar, butter and raisins. I use a microwave safe measuring cup with 1/4 C water and the Baking soda stirred into it but not yet heated. All the dry ingredients mixed well with egg sitting off to the side. It will be the last ingredient added!

Start heating the saucepan mixture up to a boil while stirring often. As it approaches a good bubbling boil, heat the baking soda water mixture to almost boiling. Remove the saucepan from the heat then quickly pour the baking soda and water into the hot mix. It will foam up so continue to stir until it settles. Pour into the dry ingredients, it will become a sticky mess, then mix in the egg stirring/mixing thoroughly. Don’t forget the egg……don’t forget the egg.….there I said it twice …… well, you can guess why.

Saucepan ingredients ready to be heated up.The butter could be softened or as in the photo cut into smaller pieces in order to speed the process up.
Hot baking soda mix has been added and settling down.
Nice sticky gooey lumps of cookie dough. Surprisingly these cookies do not spread much at all. If aesthetics are important a cookie scoop would tidy the look up. The are baked at 350 Degrees F for 15 minutes or a little more – remove and cool on a wire rack.
24 cookies, 12 to a sheet were made with this batch and the remaining cookie dough is good eaten by spoonful or shaped into cookies…. The cookies actually taste better and become more moist the next day……soft, cake like and chewy.

The search it still on for the coffee cake recipe. My cookies won first prize two years running….

I really do need to give a lot of credit to my mom for giving me the love for cooking and baking.

TTFN

Bishop

Backyard Farm Resurrection

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June of 2021 was my last update, don’t get the wrong idea…….I haven’t given up on the garden……but nearly given up on my blogging. Oh, I have good intentions, taken photos, jotted down notes in my brain……an unwise and not secure place to store thoughts…LOL. A friend began shaming be about the hiatus and I agreed to be more diligent!

One of the aspects of gardening that bothers me, but I also realize that thinning when planting by seed is a necessary evil…..the taking of a life….pulling out a crowded seedling and seeing it suffer, wilt but yet, create the circle of life becoming organic material for the soil. oh well, necessary for those that grow to harvesting size.

Thinning activities are happening with the carrots and the beets. Need to be sure to wear my reading glasses because, too often, the emerging seedlings are almost twins!

Some emerging beets previously thinned.
Carrots poking up through the leaf mulch. So delicate at this stage so I really need the reading glasses for my 70 year old eyes.
Some beets with a head start. My first plantings were from a packet dated for 2017 so germination wasn’t too good! latest beet seeds are 2021 season packets, both red and golden.

Sugar snap peas aren’t cooperating at all so I may have to try again in the spring. I have added some bases off of celery stalks and, lo and behold…..they are taking hold. Hopefully they take off and enjoy the cool Houston fall and winter.

It should be pretty obvious which one went in first and which one was last. I may continue and eventually make an edible border in the garden! They also share space with some beets….they seem to get along pretty well.

Bees seem happy and I will do my best to help them through the winter….I will share more about them soon…..really I will!

TTFN

Bishop

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Homegrown carrots

If I Am Lucky – Muscadine Jelly From My Garden

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My vines are 4 years old now and put out a few bunches of grapes in 2020. It wasn’t enough to get too excited about so I combined them with the local Wild Mustang Grapes. I may not have quite enough this year for a discrete batch solely from my garden/backyard but it may be close. Timing may be an issue. ……. They may ripen when I am in Denver seeing my newest grandson.

Winter of 2021 I decided to learn how to prune the vines….my prior attempts were really just butchery. it was real actively simple if you follow instructions, not my long suite as my Goo friend John will attest too. If interested look into the archives for Goo Friend….. a typo that became a standard reference for my buddy, assistant beekeeper, beer drinking buddy, a long time ago mountain biking buddy and the list goes on.

Today June 11 marble sized
A few weeks earlier
Covering the new arbor, thanks Ashleigh for the construction assistance, and being trained along the back fence.

An FYI, I must be doing something right because I have captured 4 swarms in my backyard this Spring/Summer. I am hanging in there at 16 colonies now but……the rains have had a negative impact. In some cases lots of nectar but they can’t get it dried out enough for honey to be capped. I shoot for 18% water content or lower. Other wise the wild yeasts may begin to ferment the honey before it is consumed.

Bee swarm consolidating itself into one of my swarm boxes.

TTFN

Bishop

Snow? It Snowed In Houston

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Crazy as it sounds, a big blast of Canadian icy air made it as far south as Houston. For Houstonians it was brutally cold this morning, 16 degrees according to my backyard thermometer. It looks like it won’t warm much for a few days. Obviously my vegetable garden will nor fare well. I covered a new bed of carrots with fingers crossed that they will make it. I covered my strawberries with a couple of inches of leaves and I suspect they will survive. The Romaine lettuce had already started to bolt, so no loss there. My biggest concern was for my Meyer Lemon tree. I have it tented and a small light bulb included under the tent to keep it, hopefully, warm enough.

Lettuce is biting the dust. Upper left is a section of carrots that are covered and fingers crossed they survive. Top right is my topbar bee hive and I believe the colony is strong enough to survive.
I have put a bar in front of the opening to the hive and completely closed off the similar opening on the back side of the box.
There were a couple of bees slowly moving around near the entrance so I do have faith that most are clustered up tightly and keeping the central portion warm.
Swiss Chard standing defiantly against the freezing weather…..at least for today.

Roads are icy and I don’t have any place to go so, sit tight and hope the power stays on! A couple of my pineapple plants are in the garage and hopefully warm enough. If we do lose power at least my home brewed beer will stay cold…..always a silver lining. I was proactive enough to pull a good portion of my beets yesterday and ready to be roasted today!

TTFN

Bishop

Catching Up…..Spring is on the Way

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The quiet time of winter is over here in my backyard just north of Houston. I have been eating beets from the garden as well as some carrots. In fact, last night I grilled a spatchcock chicken along with a handful of freshly pulled carrots…….FYI, I should have pulled up a few more carrots!

I love this water color app called Waterlogue…..orange and a couple of yellow carrots freshly pulled.
Obviously not enough carrots. Olive oil, a little sea salt and rosemary. 8-10 minutes over direct heat and about 15 minutes over indirect heat with the foil sealed shut. FYI, this is a good size of carrot to cook through and not be crunchy in the center.

I have both red and gold variety beets growing along with Romaine lettuce, about 50 new Chandler strawberries. The radishes are done and I could probably plant more but I’m the only one that eats them! Sugar snap peas have been planted, along with some turnips and another round of beets.

Bees are doing well and the early spring bodes well if the weather stays wet enough for the early spring nectar flowers. For you folks in Texas here is a very good list, link attached. Late winter does include my Meyer Lemon tree as a good nectar source….. looks like it will bloom very soon. https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/travis/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/EAGF-2017-Central-Texas-Bee-Friendly-plants.pdf

My backyard topbar hive. Bees are storing honey…..this comb is a little wonky so I will pull it and maybe two other misshapen bars to crush and squeeze in a few weeks once I see more nectar flowers blooming.
Suited up but not for the backyard bees….my backyard bees are pretty sweet, no gloves or suit needed but I do always wear my veil. I was suited up here because I was cutting weeds and brush around some of my friskier bees!
Bonus image from our recent trip up to North Dakota. These two whitetail boys were sparring a bit, not real energetically but grunting a little.

More spring stuff in the works.

TTFN

Bishop

Armenian Cucumber

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“The Armenian cucumber has a bit of an identity crisis.

Botanically, it’s considered a melon, with seeds and a mushy center that resembles a cantaloupe and a raw aftertaste akin to watermelon rind. Gardening enthusiasts like to compare it to zucchini. But if it’s picked at the proper time, it has the crispiness and flavor profile of a garden fresh conventional cucumber, so that won out in the naming convention.” https://www.mysanantonio.com/food/recipes-cooking/article/Armenian-cucumbers-stand-out-for-size-and-11949986.php

This one is a midsized fruit, 14 inches long by 3 1/2 inches wide.
Ready to be seasoned after coating in olive oil.

I thought that I had allowed the fruit to zoom past right size for picking but apparently that is not true. Up to about 18 inches long they mimic an English cuke in flavor. The really big ones apparently become sweeter and more melon like in flavor. I suspect the larger and sweeter ones may caramelize while grilling adding even more flavors. I will have to report back with results in the near future.

Unfortunately I composted this one before educating myself!

Grilled Armenian cucumber…….I am happy to report that it turned out well. Next time I will season it a little spicier but one thing I really liked is that it retained it’s crunch after grilling. I like grilled zucchini but it zooms past retaining it’s crunch far too fast while grilling…..mush! “While the grill is heating up, slice the cucumber into 1½ to 2-inch chunks and lightly coat both sides with olive oil and sprinkle each side with Spice Rub to taste. Place the chunks on the side of the grill opposite of the coals, and cook for 15 minutes with the lid on the grill closed, flipping once midway through. Move the chunks over to the area directly above the coals. Sear for 2 minutes per side and transfer to a plate and enjoy.”

Turned out very well. It is a keeper and I will do some experimenting to find a spicier rub mix. All in all, we enjoyed the Armenian Cucumber. My “Goo Friend”, chef last night also grilled the zucchini nicely.

TTFN

Bishop

Goo Friend….. there is story there somewhere in my archives. https://bishopsbackyardfarm.com/2016/04/

Tomatoes, Sourdough and a Mexican Pilsner

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I may have mentioned it in an earlier post, but my new favorite tomato, just a notch above #2 Brandywine, is Cherokee Purple.. I quizzed my wife today and she agrees with my assessment. It is not truly purple but has been described as “beautiful, deep, dusky purple-pink color, superb sweet flavor, and very-large-sized fruit. … From Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Both the color and flavor descriptions are dead on!

From Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds website.
From my garden next to a very large Brandywine…..the photo can’t quite capture the colors.

This tomato has become my favorite BLT tomato, especially when paired with my sourdough bread. Ok, just to pat myself on the back, no yeast used and allowed to ferment about 20 hours before baking. Of course, I also like to pair the sandwich with a beer, today it was a Pacifico, Mexican Pilsner!

I may try my hand at brewing one…….a bit more time consuming as it needs to be fermented at 50 degrees F and after a rest at room temperature, lagered at 34 degrees F for 6 weeks or so….
Yum!
Last night’s sourdough loaf. Damn I am pretty talented with a few things…..LOL!

Garden news, surprising success with summer squash this year, cucumbers are kicking in, pumpkin vines are going wild and the late summer tomato plants are in the ground. Cleaning out and spreading completed compost out of one bin in the next week or so. Honey harvest is dying down….maybe 300 pounds or so.

TTFN

Bishop

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