December 25, 2016
berrries, Composting, Gardening, Healthy Lifestyle, Strawberry, Tomato Growing, Winter Chill
Friends, houston, Merry Christmas, Papaya, texas
It was “77 degrees F” yesterday and I actually worked up a sweat raking leaves to add to the compost bin. It wasn’t too bad….just barely a one T-shirt job. Summer jobs in Houston are typically 3 or more T-shirt changes.
I gathered up the ripening, the dropped and the green Juliet tomatoes. Even covered, the last freeze hit the plant hard.
Well the last freeze has made the Juliet tomato plant look pretty sad. I grabbed this handful, green ones included, as the last of the harvest. Yummy Christmas cookies in the background….my secret recipe. Ask for it…
The freeze didn’t bother the strawberries. They handle it well. If I see temperatures in the teens I will definitely cover them. I added another 100 plants last fall……need to treat my babies well!
December 24th and the strawberries are making their appearance.
The colder weather of last week finally started killing off the asparagus ferns. I will find a nice day next week to cut them back and top dress the asparagus bed.
A tangled mess. I didn’t get to it but I will cut back the asparagus ferns next week and dream of spring spears.
I will make some Meyer Lemon Honey Jam in a week or two and maybe a small batch of lemon curd….so rich and so yummy.
My sad transplanted dwarf Meyer Lemon. I moved it from it’s wine barrel home of 4 years to my garden last spring….hope for better results this next year.
My experimenting will continue into 2017. Mike and Annette, who host one of my hives, have two volunteer papaya trees that bear fruit. Fruit tossed into their compost bin several years ago took off and bear very nice papayas. I saved some of their seeds and put them in a small pot. They are doing well. I will repot and protect the young ones for spring.
Papaya….I have a hive in a yard here in Kingwood that has two papaya trees. I dropped a handful of seeds into this pot and have been rewarded. Now to transplant them.
November 6, 2016
bananas, Beekeeping, Gardening, Healthy Lifestyle, honey, Making Jam, Strawberries, Tomato Growing
fall gardening, Texas Small Farming & Homestaeding, tomato
The Juliet tomato is a prolific tomato in the Houston growing environment. Here it is, November 6, 2016, and I still have ripening tomatoes on the plant as well as blossoms! The tomato is sweet but does have a bit of a tough skin. Doesn’t bother me but some may notice. They look like a miniature Roma and make great sauce. The plants are indeterminate and again, to repeat myself, prolific. Two plants can overwhelm a family.
Stovetop Juliet Tomato Sauce
By Analiese Paik
Ingredients: (double or triple as necessary)
- 1 pound of Juliet tomatoes, preferably organic.
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2-3 T olive oil
- fresh basil, oregano or parsley (optional)
- Rinse tomatoes and set aside. Chop garlic while heating a pot large enough to fit the tomatoes on the stove. Add olive oil to the pot and when it shimmers, add the garlic and stir until fragrant over medium heat, a minute or 2.
- Add tomatoes to the pot along with 1/4 cup of water so the garlic doesn’t burn. The tomatoes will take at least 5-10 minutes to soften up and begin releasing their juices. I like to put a lid on the pot to speed this up.
- Once the tomatoes begin to release their juices and the skins start to burst, remove the lid and simmer for another 10 minutes or so until the tomatoes have all lost their skins or are quite soft
- Use an immersion blender to puree the sauce right in the pot. Add salt to taste and a chopped herb if you’d like. The flavor of the sauce, with the garlic alone, is rich and complex.
- Strain the sauce through a large strainer or food mill heavy enough to hold the seeds and skins. Be sure to push down on the solids to release all the sauce. Cool the sauce and store in the refrigerator in glass containers. When making large quantities, be sure to chill in the refrigerator before freezing.
Bright Red Juliet tomato and more ripening
More and more and hint at how they grow in clusters.
A good number of the 100 Chandler strawberries in the ground planted through a weed barrier. Hope to keep the berries cleaner.
The banana flowers begin to turn upward as they mature. The flower hangs down and the bunch develops and points skyward now.
The Burro banana plant has put on a nice bunch going into, what Houston calls , winter. As I have noted before, last winter I had a bunch survive and ripen even though the plant lost all of the leaves. I left the bunch on and I was rewarded with 40 plus Burro bananas. Fingers crossed I have the same luck.
The Burro and Manzano plants are trying to get ahead of me by sending up shoots. I dug up and potted one of each for a member of the Facebook page, “Texas Small Farming and Homesteading” group. Kim and Jeff live nearby and I delivered the potted plants to them yesterday. Surprise, surprise….they are also beekeepers! Smaller world than we’ll ever know. I guaranteed more if these two died.
I recently put Chandler Strawberry plants out into the garden. I am looking forward to spring and hopefully an epic strawberry jam making explosion. Today will be another round of adding beet, turnip and lettuce seeds. I soaked some snap peas and hopefully they will take off. The previous planting went into the ground without presoaking and sure enough….nothing germinated. I have some accidental pole beans growing from volunteers. Enough for a couple of handfuls for dinner.
Bee stuff……during the next two weeks I should finish prepping all the hives for winter and then make plans for 2017. Hopefully my strongest hives will be ready to split in the spring. I will also build a few more swarm traps…..no luck with the three I set out this year. I made about 8 pounds of “creamed cinnamon honey” this past week. Inventories are getting low…..can’t wait for spring!
Bonus; I am passing along my recipe for cinnamon creamed honey. Not sure I should do this but…..if you really wanted to make it you could do a search and find it just the same….
Ok…..enough for today.
September 2, 2016
bananas, Beekeeping, Gardening, honey, Tomato Growing
beekeeping, cut honeycomb, garden surprise, honey
I went to check on of my 8 frame garden hives a few days ago and had a pleasant surprise. I had left a medium super on top the two brood boxes as this hive seemed to be a little slow this spring. Wow, I opened it up and it was wall to wall of beautiful capped honeycomb. The brood boxes were well filled out so I figured I should provide some room for the ladies!
I pulled 4 frames of beautiful honeycomb. I replaced them with 4 four frames of drawn comb. It seems that this urban setting still has some nectar flow. I haven’t fed this hive at all this summer. I added a feeder just to help them out. I will cut 3.25X3.25 inch squares from 2 or 3 of the frames and squeeze the remainder. They look so nice.
A garden update, bananas are still my proudest success but the Armenian cucumbers have grown beyond belief! They are essentially a melon, so even the large ones are edible. I am surprised that my relief gardener missed picking them at a more manageable size.
Please, no rude comments!
The Poblano and Serrano peppers are still thriving. I replanted some tomatoes for the fall and added some more pole beans. Would love to have some relief from the heat and humidity. It was 78 F at 5:45 this morning and only 93% humidity!
December 30, 2015
Berry Preserves, Gardening, Healthy Lifestyle, jam and jelly, Tomato Growing, Vegetables
Took a tour through the garden today, December 30th. In the northern hemisphere it should be winter! Apparently not!
Asparagus should be sleeping, not! I found 3 lovely stalks poking up through the cover of leaf mulch. They are so sweet and tender.
Those young purple stalks are amazing!
Tomatoes – the variety that hasn’t succumbed to our “winter” is Matt’s Wild Cherry. Picked a couple of handfuls and noticed that there are still blossoms forming!
I thought the green beans were done but I am finding new blossoms. I have a number of very mature pods that I left on the vines for seed but tucked away in the foliage are new blossoms and some developing pods.
My sugar snap peas are behaving as if we have the cool spring weather that they thrive in. It is not a surprise to see them doing well at this time of year.
All photos today from my iPhone. Handy and they do make a decent image.
Lemons are ready to pick, beets are very slowly gaining ground and the strawberries are blossoming in earnest! The yellow onion sets are looking great. I don’t have high hopes for my blackberries, may have to rely on the wild ones – the wild ones are small, have too many thorns, scratch the heck out your hands but make great jam!
Last note; my “Garden Hives” are nearly ready. I have put the natural finish on two of the four and then the weather changed. Next week we should be above 60 degrees F, so I can finish the last two.
Unfinished and then finished.
November 2, 2015
bananas, Beans, Gardening, Healthy Lifestyle, Tomato Growing
banana, garden snacks, green beans, Matt's Wild Cherry tomato
It is actually a little more impressive than that. It was pretty much all concentrated during the past two weekends! The garden is very soggy. The beet seedlings have been beat down but I think they will survive.
I took a cruise through the garden around 7:45 this morning after meeting my daughter at the gym….. She ran a 5 mile race in the rain yesterday morning, I drank coffee and tried to stay dry. The green bean vines are healthy and green but not much to pick. I snacked on the few pods ready to pick while checking things out – they were sweet, if that makes sense for green bean pods!
There are stil over 20 full sized green bananas hanging on the plant, waiting to be cut off and ripened inside. The miniature, teeny, tiny Matt’s Wild Cherry tomatoes are still setting and producing. I brought in a handful to have with my morning eggs.
Cherry tomatoes and a few ripened bananas. Time to cut a few more bananas today! Very sweet and very tiny tomatoes and sweet and creamy bananas!
October 19, 2015
bananas, Beans, Beekeeping, Fall, Gardening, Healthy Lifestyle, honey, Strawberries, Tomato Growing
beans, bee keeping, peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, vegetables
The surprise success with plantings this year has been the banana “plant”….. Not really a tree but most folks refer to them as trees. This was the second year after panting the first corms. I was given one that should have produced “Manzano” bananas but has yet to fruit. The other was a mystery….If Marcelino’s father told me I must have not understood or heard. The unknown variety has produced a very nice large bunch and along the way I learned a lot about the growth habits of bananas. An internet search leads me to believe that the bananas are “Pera”.
Once the plant matures a stem growing inside the pseudostem (trunk for lack of a better term) emerges from the top. As it curls downward it has what looks like a purplish heart looking bulb, an “inflorescence”. Looks like tightly wrapped paired leaves.
Female flowers beginning to expand.
“A stem develops which grows up inside the pseudostem, carrying the immature inflorescence until eventually it emerges at the top. Each pseudostem normally produces a single inflorescence, also known as the “banana heart”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana#CITEREFStoverSimmonds1987.
It was interesting watching the top two leaves open up and expose the flowers. The first that are exposed are the female flowers that develop into fruit. Each time the purple leaves open it exposes another tier of flower bracts. As the bananas fill in, maybe 8 to as many as 20 tiers the heart now begins to produce male flowers that appear to be useless….once they appear, they dry up and drop off. At first I thought I had a problem but learned that was normal.
My hanging banana storage in the garden.
Once the banana has plumped up nicely and doesn’t seem to be enlarging I have been whacking off three or four at a time and allowing them to ripen indoors. They will stay nicely on the plant until the weather turns cold. After that I will cut the entire stalk and hang it in the garage to ripen slowly.
Several ripe ones with the most recently cut.
Indoor hanging storage
Gardening activities have included building up a raised bed by adding more compost and mounding it up for planting strawberries. The cucumbers are done but the dang asparagus keeps sending up new shoots, not many but enough to snack on while weeding. The Matt’s Wild Cherry tomato plant has begun producing again….they are small but tasty….pea sized to a little less than cherry sized. My Poblano pepper plant is churning out tons of dark green peppers.
The beginnings of my fall strawberry planting’s. I will ad at least 50 more plants.
Teeny tiny Matt’s Wild Cherry tomatoes.
Hmmm – the beginning of some green beans….they better hurry – the air is cooling.
My bees are now residing elsewhere but I am making more local contacts that are willing to host hives for me. I have a home for the top bar hives about 5 minutes from my house – Yee Haw. The productive Langstroth is too far away but it is in a good home. I am aiming for 10-12 hives next year and possibly 20 the year following. The new Texas regulations allow me to sell at Farmers Markets now….as long as I do not exceed 2500 pounds per year….that is a lot of honey!
This will give you an idea how big the slabs of comb are. This one had an ear on the left hand side broke off.
Side note; I bottled the Honey Blonde Ale a few nights ago…..made with MY honey. It will be awesome! The color was perfect, a hint of honey flavor but not too sweet.
July 7, 2015
Beekeeping, Gardening, Healthy Lifestyle, Optimism, Potato Growing, Tomato Growing, Top Bar Hive
bananas, honey, patience
This find was unexpected up to a point. In the spring of 2014 I planted two varieties of banana tree in my garden. I was at the point of digging them out this year if they did not produce. The other drawback is the sheer size of the plants. They dominate their portion of the garden.
This morning I went out to visit the garden after 10 days away. Daughter Lisa and son Ben kept things green while I was gone. I picked 4 nice cucumbers and have many more developing. The peppers are not doing well and the heat/humidity have done major harm to my tomatoes. Looks like the potatoes in the cage will be good. There is always next year!
My bees, two out of three hives look healthy. One of the top bar hives is in trouble. I will check it out later today. I have 4 gallons of honey to harvest this week! Yee Haw!
Now, the surprise! I have bananas! Yessss! Now, I need to determine when to harvest. It is interesting to see how they develop and arrange themselves! I am looking forward to sampling the fruits soon!
Now the wait!!!!!