Learning The importance of a Gesture

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It has been probably 6 years or more since a chance meeting introduced me to beekeeping in Oman. Maybe it wasn’t totally chance, I had been hired to teach a class for a large oil company and one of the attendees was the grandson of a traditional honey gatherer. His grandfather would search the Wadis in northern Oman seeking bees and the honey located in the cracks and crevices of the canyon walls.

The video attached below is the technique he said his grandfather used. No protective gear, sometimes a little smoke but the key was to move slowly and gently! The young man in my class, and for the life of me, I can’t recall his name, would go with his grandfather carrying the bucket used to transport the honey.

The young man did something that only now do I fully understand the importance of his gesture. The last day of the class he brought me what looked like a 750 ml screw top wine bottle filled with honey from his cousins apiary. His cousin had transitioned to more modern techniques but the honey was truly Omani mountain honey. The cap was not a tight seal so I taped it up tightly and packed it, well protected, deep inside my checked luggage. I thanked him profusely, knowing that similar size bottles I saw in the old market at the port of Muscat were $ 75.00 USD or more.

Six years later;

This morning while reminiscing I pulled up the article linked below detailing beekeeping in Oman. I cut a portion of the article enclosed in quotes below. I now know that gesture from 6 years ago carries much more weight than I ever imagined.


“Twice a year, from March to May and September to December, Hamrashdi, 48, harvests honey according to a method that he learned from his father.

Destined for local markets, the precious golden liquid is traditionally bottled by Omani farmers in recycled glass Vimto bottles, a beverage of choice during the month of Ramadan in the Arabian Peninsula.”

I now recognize that ill fitting cap and the shape of the bottle. My gift was from the heart and a reflection of Omani culture. The honey, WOW, the flavor was unique. It was almost spicy in flavor. I selfishly doled out the precious liquid on special occasions, or, to share it’s uniqueness with friends. Now, how do I go back, reconnect and give the appropriates thanks? I need to add this return trip to my bucket list!



Compost Pile Moving Day


Well, it just turned out to be one half of the move. Several soaked T-shirts later, I decided to spread the move out into the next day or two or three. It is 93 degrees F and feels like 106 degrees with the lovely Houston humidity…..keeps my skin from ever drying out and fills in the wrinkles….LOL. (34 C feels like 41 C) Lovely temperatures regardless of the scale!(July 25, 2017)

First part of the move was to finish emptying the left bin and spreading the compost/mulch where needed. I love to smother the weeds in layer upon layer of mulching materials and then let the worms takeover working it into the soil. I am essentially a “no till” guy now.  Besides, the thick layers make any successful weed long and leggy and very easy to pull.


The left side was full at the end of the Fall leaf season and was slowly pulled out, layered between grass clippings on the right and spread throughout the spring and early summer as mulch. The right side has been gathering all my grass clippings, banana stems & stalks, coffee grounds and whatever else my composting worms don’t get.

I spread several trash “barrelfuls” of the good stuff around my sad looking lime tree, I thought it succumbed to hard freeze in January, and the recovering dwarf Meyer Lemon. The lime tree sent several new limbs up from above the graft post freeze so, I selected a stout one to someday become the trunk of the little tree.


In my last post I talked about planting more beans, pole beans to add some detail. The previously planted beans were not pole beans…..I guess I should have read the package a little more closely. I try to minimize bending over to pick stuff….strawberries are an exception, oh, and carrots and beets get a pass too. I grow mostly stuff that I can pick in a mostly upright position.


Bees, bananas and some clutter in the background. I smothered most of the existing bush beans, watered in the compost readying the ground for the pole beans. I grow them tepee style.

I also do a “minimal labor” style of managing my composting. The bin of the right will be “moved”, probably over the course of several hot, humid, yucky, disgustingly sticky days. No hurry, I just need it emptied before the fall. The last 18 inches or so will be some well aged compost begging to be spread, hopefully around the mounds of potato plants soon to emerge. The title is just a bit misleading….

Update, as of July 27th, 2/3 of the right been has been moved to the left bin. The bottom third is looking a lot like finished compost….Yee Haw!



A New Toy – an Early Father’s Day Gift


Thanks Ashleigh and Ben….. I put the “wine barrel tumbling composter” into service today. Y’all did a fine job with the project. I love working on the barrel because each cut or drilled hole gives off the scent of the barrel’s previous content….

I will load the barrel over the next few days. It is hotter than Hades here right now! Pulling up some elephant garlic leeks today in addition to installing the door on the barrel was a three t-shirt day. Absolutely soaked through. Just hand-watering today raised a “sweat”!

The barrel in position behind the garage. Need to trim the center dowel. I reinforced the glued up staves with 1.5 inch aluminum strap.

The barrel in position behind the garage. Need to trim the center dowel. I reinforced the glued up staves with 1.5 inch aluminum strap.

A look inside showing some slats that may aid in the tumbling action of the contents. Apparently they extend the life of the barrel.

A look inside showing some slats that may aid in the tumbling action of the contents. Apparently they extend the life of the barrel.

A look from the other side.

A look from the other side.

The kids made a turned piece of oak to fit the bung hole. It is a handle and a reminder of the Father's Day Date this year. Don't you just love it.

The kids made a turned piece of oak to fit the bung hole. It is a handle for rotating the barrel and a reminder of the Father’s Day Date this year. Don’t you just love it.

Some of the day's harvest - Elephant Garlic.

Some of the day’s harvest – Elephant Garlic.



Pomegranate Jelly – The Hard Way

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One of my favorite jellies is Pomegranate and more specifically that made by my Aunt Josie. Her husband, my Dad’s brother, Uncle Jim, worked for Western Water Works in Taft, CA. The equipment yards were fenced and ringed with pomegranate trees. They didn’t grow very tall but were loaded with juicy fruit every fall. The word pomegranate is an apt description – “seeded apple” – and by golly, tons of seeds. After my efforts to make pomegranate jelly the hard way I have a lot more respect for the effort and love my Aunt put into making that wonderful jelly she handed out around Christmas each year.

To address my wife’s concern about costs – $ 20.00 for pomegranates, $ 3.00 for the Sure – Jell low sugar pectin, 5 cups of sugar about $ 4.00, lemon juice less than a dollar. About $ 28.00 for a batch. Let’s not consider my labor costs, it is a labor of love, just like my love for my wife …… priceless! Commercial pomegranate Jelly – somewhere between $ 7.00 to $ 13.00 per jar ~ 8 ounces. My jelly is in that cost range, only better because I made it!!!!!

I was smart enough to use my outdoor potting bench and sink set-up to extract the seeds. It is a messy mess. As I worked through the extraction process I actually became more proficient in the process. The methods I found on the internet search did not help much at all. See the process below.


Pomegranate cut in half.

The next step is to break it apart. If done well, and that is a bit of a learning experience, it makes the removal of the kernels easy. If not it is a B……….!

Broken open and the sweet kernels on display in a bowl sloooooowly becoming full.

The sink comes in handy to rinse my hands off and to rinse the kernels. The white membrane like material floats and the kernels sink making it relatively easy to separate the good stuff from the chaff.

The bowl with kernels on the bottom and the chaff floating on top of the water. Makes it easy to segregate the good stuff from the trash.

The trash….oh my, it is quite a bit, but it is all destined for the compost bin. Hopefully it breaks down fairly quick!

About halfway through the effort! Lots of trash.

Next is the extraction of the juice. I dumped the seeds into a pot, added a little water and heated it all to the boiling point. I used a potato masher and then ran the mix through my food mill. The juice is a bit murky after sieving and filtering. I have it siting in the fridge to clarify a bit before making the jelly some time today. More on that later. Can’t hardly wait to sample the results…..To my cousin Drew….I will send you a jar!





Gardening Perspective – Thrifty or Cheap?

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Am I cheap or am I thrifty? I guess, if I were to answer my own question, I would say yes! I am a bit of both. For example, this morning I was out in the garden straightening a few things up. As I was removing some of the supports/stakes for the cucumber vines I started saving bits and pieces of twine to use next time I need to support my vines. Twine, jute garden twine is about $ 2.00 for a 200 foot roll, that’s about a penny per foot. In about 10 minutes I saved maybe 50 feet of twine, 50 cents worth. That works out to a $ 3.00 per hour rate of return….. That sounds cheap to me! I will probably continue to waste my time with this effort. The twine is a very slow decomposer in my compost piles.

My ball of twine salvaged!

A diffrent look at my salvage efforts.

$$$$$ Saved eh? Some twine and a few stakes/supports…about a 3 year life for the crepe myrtle limbs.

The supports/stakes I use in the garden are from my Crepe Myrtles. Ugh….Just read how to prune Crepe Myrtles and my technique has been labeled crepe murder! My technique does produce an abundance of tall straight limbs that I use to support vines and such in the garden. My technique produces knobby looking plants. This past year I looked at some of the professionally trimmed crepes and modified my technique but I inherited stumpy crepes when I moved in…. don’t take that statement as a political jab at the current administration…I would never do that. My Crepe Myrtle is definitely not better off than it was 4 years ago. But, I have saved money over buying commercial stakes/supports. A six foot bamboo stake will cost a buck and a half. I use 50 or so every year. I am saving at least $ 75.00 annually – I am discounting the labor cost because I have to cut the crepe myrtle every year regardless of the use of the limbs….I am also keeping waste out of the landfill – my verdict – thrifty and “green”!

An example of the mess I inherited! Murder is a strong word – lets just say brutalized!

The way they should be!!!

What aspire to accomplish…..may require removal of the brutalized example in my yard!

A link to a pruning lesson and the source of the photos…


A spring look at a portion of my garden using the crepe myrtle limbs –

Supports/Stakes in action this past spring.

Let Me Redeem Myself

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No more polls….or at least polls that seem to be a little too personal. It was all tongue in cheek but my sense of humor tends to be a bit “off” the garden path. By the way the sink looks great and the book is on display sitting on the mantle. So let’s rev-up the disjointed train of thought and let it hurtle down a track, any track because the destination changes quite often…..

Now for the weather;

partlycloudy Mostly sunny until late afternoon then becoming partly cloudy.Highs in the lower 50s. North winds 10 to 15 mph.
It must have been a dream …….. Could the Houston Chronicle have been wrong?


The Lament –

Breathe deep the gathering gloom,
Watch lights fade from every room.
Bedsitter people look back and lament,
Another day’s useless energy spent.
Impassioned lovers wrestle as one,
Lonely man cries for love and has none.
New mother picks up and suckles her son,
Senior citizens wish they were young.
Cold hearted orb that rules the night,
Removes the colours from our sight.
Red is grey and yellow white.
But we decide which is right.
And which is an illusion?

The Moody Blues –

Tonight – The the cold hearted orb is 3 days past full – The positive attributes of a waning moon include – A time to review endeavors and correct mistakes. Settle disputes and make amends. Yes dear are two words that come to mind! I will ask forgiveness and maybe the frigid night will spare my tomatoes!
nt_partlycloudy Partly cloudy. Lows in the lower 30s.Northeast winds 10 to 15 mph.

I have wrapped the lower portions of my tomato cages with clear plastic and if I am sincere in making amends the cold weather will not do any damage. John, your tomatoes are similarly protected but if you need to make any amends, do it tonight before the temperatures drop.

I used the turnips the other night as an add in for a Butternut Squash soup. I am expanding my horizons by adding previously avoided items into my cooking. Earlier this winter I tried baked Butternut squash and found it to be very nice. The soup was superb! If the early offerings of strawberries are an indication, I may be wonderfully overwhelmed with strawberries this year. I had a great crop last year and still have 7 or 8 jars of jam leftover…. looks like some friends and neighbors may get a jar before I start “jamming” again.I see asparagus poking up in several spots now….please be tolerant of this, hopefully last, blast of chill! The onions, garlic, lettuce, beets, radishes, snap peas, carrots and spinach should all be fine!

Note to Bev – you asked “what’s up with the soy beans?” well here is a link for “what’s up with the soy beans”… http://www.edamame.com/ I have already planted some in my yard and will plant some for you and John today. Between the two plots we ought to have enough to enjoy.

I will finish hooking water up to the sink today and plumb it up so I can use the rinse water for spot watering. The soil rinsed off will fall out in the bucket under the sink and I can also dump the dirt where I want…a win/win for the garden. Photo documentary for the project coming soon.

The Crepe Myrtle has been trimmed/pruned/butchered……. I drove around a bit over the past several days to see how some of the professionals are pruning the Myrtles and I see several styles – “….we decide which is right and which is an illusion?” I will get another chance next year to correct my mistakes…in the meantime I get to use the long upright trimmings to support my beans, peas and cucumbers. The unusable trimmings passed through the chipper and are now residing in the compost bin….nearly zero waste.

OK conductor…pull the stop cord for a brief respite.



Pre-Valentine’s Day Blog and Poll


Shown above are key elements of the poll to follow….but first I need to place everything into context so you, the readers, can make the appropriate vote. The poll will be good for only one week so be prompt. Click on the image to see more clearly which gift is the Best!

The context;

I 2009 my wife Kathy and I were able to extend one of my work trips to the Islands for an additional week. We chose to hop over to the island of Kauai and we spent a wonderful week there. I always have my cameras with me and I  filled up a big memory card with the stunning scenery on the island – aptly named the “Garden Isle”…. The memory card helps support my 60+ year old brain….so far so good but…..

The Book

I have been painfully slow getting the photo book put together and printed. (I used Blurb – simple enough even for me)  I was thinking about a gift for this Valentine’s Day so I actually planned far enough out to finish the book, started 10 months ago and recently revived, so that I could deliver it to her on or before Valentine”s Day. The finished book arrived on February 8th, yesterday…well before the day I needed it. I was so excited to, both get it done and wanted to see the surprise/enjoyment on her face…..that I gave it to her yesterday. I will not share how it was recieved in order to not bias your votes nor spend time on the couch. Don’t let that last comment taint your response.

The sink

…….after Kathy looked through the book, she smiled and said, “I got your Valentine’s present out in the back of the car. I followed her out and I was impressed! I had just mentioned to her a week or so ago that “if” she spotted one on Kingwood Yard sale or Craig’s List – for a good price – to grab it. I know how much she loves finding those treasures out there but didn’t expect this kind of quick result. I immediately removed the faucet so I could trace the outline of the sink on the potting bench in preparation for installing it. I think she laughed a little because I was right in the middle of pruning the Crepe Myrtle and just dropped everything to start the sink project. I did manage to get the sink set yesterday before dark but it won’t be functional until the weekend after I plumb up the lines and fittings. It is going to be so perfect….don’t let that influence your vote! I still have a bit more to prune on the Crepe Myrtle……manana, maybe.

So, all ya’ll……those that really do read the blog….please go back up to the poll and select the appropriate answer. I am curious to see which gift is “the best” !!!!!

Just a note for today in the garden – picked a couple more asparagus spears, a couple of strawberries, a handful of sugar snap peas and the remaining lemons…it is going to be a good spring….with a very early start. I have 6 tomato plants in the ground and looking healthy! Note to Bev…I found the soy bean seeds to plant in John’s garden….it is so nice that you have taken an interest in the plantings…and I aim to please.





A recent call from my Mother got me thinking about the topic. She is 82, a child of the depression, frugal not cheap and has an interesting creative streak that she displays often. She called me to brag a little on her latest recycle/reuse/re-purpose discovery. A couple of years ago I made her a calendar featuring family photos for the various months. Fully opened it measured 11X17 inches, so each sheet is 8.5X11 inches – a standard US paper size. She needed more file folders to aid in organizing her papers and statements and hit upon the idea of using the out of date calendar. She was able to create 6 folders with the photo(s) of family on the outside of the folder ( so she could gaze on our lovely faces) and the meaningless dates on the inside. How clever…….I believe she noticed that when she finished the photos were upside down……I am sure that is fixed by now….

Greeting cards sent to Mom will find their way back in a re-purposed condition with the added bits of this and that she has lying about. Many of the bits and pieces she has lying about become awards that she hands out as outstanding achievement recognition for her 16 or so Tai Chi students…. complete with Chinese characters that she makes up – including some bogus definition & they all seem to believe her! She is a recycled Tai-Chi instructor from one of her previous lives….  She will re-gift and as far as I know it has not boomeranged on her  – yet! Yard sales provide a treasure chest full of goodies for which her creative side will find a use for each and every item – eventually. So, Mom, I must come by some of it naturally and I do think Dad’s genes must be an influence….although he was not nearly as creative as you are…. he had lunch boxes, jars, cigar boxes and file cabinets filled with things that may be needed somewhere down the road…and yes I have a bit of his collection – brought back to Texas after he passed. Note to Kathy – my wife – I needed a hook latch for the new gate I just hung and I knew I had one in my collection….thanks to daughter Ashleigh, I found it in one of the bins that she had organized – result – no trip to the hardware store to buy something that I already had but couldn’t find!

Let’s see if I can tie this back to my little backyard farm…..hmmmmmmm. Second try – just lost 400 words and a photo – the words should still be fresh in my head – operative word is “should” – I do have the photo – the computer is a little more reliable, most of the time.

I know that I have mentioned my recycled fence screening my wife’s portion of the yard from my garden/backyard-farm in previous posts. The fence materials as well as most of the lumber used for the compost bins were from the recycling and remixing done by the Hurricane Ike winds. The eye of the hurricane took well over an hour to pass over our house and neighborhood. The fences that were leaning hard one way were violently whipped to the other direction as the back side hit and the 110 mph winds did a 180 degree turn. In hindsight I could have and should have made a concerted effort to salvage many more down fences…..I could probably still be building for my friend John – he needs a fence as his Golden retriever loves ripe and vine picked tomatoes, as well as many others. I even saved the pulled nails and carefully and patiently was able to straighten and reuse the nails! I have been the recipient of some wine display props no longer needed and heading toward the trash heap…..shelves, wheel barrow, signs, barrels and other do-dads. My garden potting bench was rescued from a garage clean out and until recently my garden hoses were also rescue hand me downs……some work needed like end pieces and duct tape for the minor leaks. My wife helps the community recycling effort through” Kingwood Yardsale”, an online posting site. She buys and sometimes sells through the site…..remember Hun, I am still looking for a small sink to add to my potting bench.

Recycled fence, pots, barrow, bricks - gate is a mix of old & new - arbor - not!.

Both Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Ike  downed literally thousands of trees in our area. From the downed oak trees I have turned out a handful of items on my wood lathe – bowls, boxes, pen & pencil sets, travel mugs and a duck call. This area of Texas is in the midst of a major drought and thousands of dead trees are being removed, most of which become mulch after grinding them up. I have noticed many of the dead trees are being sectioned and sent to some of the small lumber mills that dot the country side. The landfills can’t absorb the massive volumes being generated right now. The photo below was taken a couple of days ago along one of our many “Greenbelt” paths…becoming more and more bare! I have plenty of pieces to work with but I still have my eye out for something special…a burl or a  nice crotch – like from a tree!!!!! or anything that may lend itself to another purpose.

The disappearing green of the green belt.

Those 400 lost words – those words above are parts of what I could remember plus a few more…..I had written some words concerning allotments – a British passion – that were lost  –   those words will find their way into a future post….if I remember!



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