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!



Santa’s Christmas Eve in the Garden – Or How I Procrastinate


It was a cold and rainy evening…..yes it truly was. The early afternoon wasn’t too bad so I thought that Santa, that’s me, could do all of his appointed rounds in time. You see, santa needed to finish the strawberry towers because the plants had arrived on the 23rd and needed to be planted. I had purchased the PVC pipe on the 22nd intending to have them cut, formed and filled with planting media – just waiting to have the plants tucked away. I did not work out that way…I had coffee to drink, more leaves to gather, a few last-minute gifts to buy, some time down at the gym…..in general – anything to keep Santa away from his appointed rounds.

Yesterday afternoon……yes this is Christmas morning!, I began to finish in an afternoon what could have, should have, been spread out over a day or two. Oh, I forgot to mention – in an earlier post I told you that I had the materials to install my friend John’s new 4X4 bed. Well, on the afternoon of Christmas Eve I still had the materials and added that to Santa’s to do list. Are you seeing the big picture now? I do my best work under tight, tight time deadlines!

The weather cooperated for the initial phase of the tower construction. The PVC pipe is made in 10′ lengths, so each tower is 5 feet in length but when placed in the garden only about 4 feet are usable….. photo later ( actually taken Christmas morning so I had some light to see). eight foot lengths or 16 foot lengths would be awsome. I will whine more later.

I snapped a line down the center of each pipe. Then 18 inches from the bottom – bottom 12 inches will be buried – I make my first cut across the pipe – I then measure up 6″ and then off to the right approximately 135 degrees, based on my simple math skills that is about 2.3571 inches off to the right of center. (note for my brother Todd, I rounded off heavily and simplified the number crunching). I measured up 6 inches on the center line and then 135 degrees to the left for the next cut, up 6 inches and back to center. I chose the not make a Fibonacci sequence spiral as some of the cuts would wind up on the north side of the pipe…. again – simplified for me. Center line will face south upon installation and the left and right cuts would be west and east facing – approximately – …… Photos below show the cuts and then the planting pockets after they were formed by heating with a “blow dryer” – yes Lisa I wore my gloves….she is always reminding me.

Just as I was beginning to finish forming the pockets on the third tower,….I made 5 and installed 4, the rain began. i installed them adjacent to my original experiment. I took my post hole digger and carved out a 12 inch deep pocket for each new tower. I filled the base of each up to just above ground level to ensure dry “feet” for the towers and berries. The 4″ towers are much easier to fill planting medium as compared to the 3″ towers and a lot easier when it comes to planting the new bare root plants. The pockets will not shred the skin of my fingers while planting but I still chose to wear my gloves – thanks again to my daughter Lisa and her gentle reminder. The rain was beginning to come down and it was beginning to get a little darker. I waited until this morning to photograph the results. See the slideshow below.

Santa wasn’t yet done for the evening – He loaded up his sleigh an – F-150, not red but basic polar white and drove over to John’s house. Now the rain was heavier and colder. I cleaned up the dead tomato plants, pulled the cages, reorganized – just a little his wood storage stack and installed the new bed. Looks good but he will have to wait a bit for the winter plantings…..and of course I will  weed the old bed…the Rosemary and strawberry plants in the old bed are looking good though… maybe some photos later today when we swing by for the annual dinner and dessert orgy…. I was soaked, chilled and ready for my hot shower. Oh it felt so good.

Santa could now ready himself for Christmas Eve and family time….. Santa can plant John’s bed another day.

Spring is Really Here

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I found a use for the other half of the wine barrel. I have been wanting to plant some sort of citrus for quite some time. After reading about a Meyer Lemon tree, as they are hardy down into the teens, safe enough for the Houston area, I decided to give it a shot. Placed rock and gravel in the bottom of the barrel, a double handful of worm poop and potting soil. Looks pretty good. I decided to top it off with the remaining escapee strawberry plants. Hope they are compatible!!!!

One benefit of strawberries in the barrel may be the absence of slugs that just love to eat the berries right before I pick them. A friend gave me a jar of Lemon curd made from Meyer lemons…. very good – so hopefully my dwarf tree will reward me with enough fruit to make my own!

I added the penthouse to my worm bin. The bottom  bin was looking pretty wet and nasty so I will let them migrate up and I will work to keep the penthouse in better condition. The last batch  of worm poop  I harvested made about 3 gallons after drying. If you want to get some worms to eat your garbage look for Uncle Jim’s Worms…..

Stuff is popping up in the Garden….asparagus has sent up some shoots, beets, carrots, beans and a small patch for cut flowers. Go get your hands dirty!!!!!!



Spring is Springing

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Had a week free from travel and got the spring work under way. Not much growing through our winter but I did manage to get a huge pile of leaves for mulch. I am trying something new to stay ahead of the Bermuda grass invasion of my beds. In one of the photos shown I have put down a heavy paper barrier. I covered it with my leaf mulch to hold it in place and to help conserve moisture. As I was prepping the soil I was amazed at how many earth worms I disturbed. I added a bunch a few years ago and added some vermipods (encapsulated worm eggs) a year ago. Looks like it is paying off. My composting worms, earthworms and vermipods are all from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm. http://www.unclejimswormfarm.com/

I have planted my tomatoes in this bed….. just cut a small hole and dug down a little ways. I am trying Brandywine tomatoes again but I am placing them where they will get more sun this year. If this year is a bust with then I will look to find another heritage style that tastes as good and holds up in our Houston weather. I also planted a Mortgage lifter, a Celebrity and my prolific Juliet tomato. The pole beans are in the ground but have not broke through. Some chard is up and I just thinned a couple rows of carrots. The beets look healthy and adjacent to them is my Asparagus bed……. I am getting anxious to harvest this year. Also put out swweet banana peppers and a couple of eggplant plants – is that redundant????? or is it alliteration????
I harvested worm poop today. They are just as busy as ever and multiplying like crazy. I may need to make a convert and share my worms with some like-minded person. It looks so rich, no odor and is so good for the plants. While I was in the mood I rounded up a bunch of wayward strawberry plants that had escaped the bed. I may look to fill in some bare spots in my other beds or …… get some started in a friend’s yard.
I finally got a “round-to-it” and cut the wine barrel that my daughter Ashleigh brought home. I have it out on the patio and I planted a – go figure – a patio tomato surrounded by a couple of marigolds. Looks pretty good!



Garden Winds Down – Maybe????

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Last of the Fall Garden

The garden has not officially gone to bed because the weather has just been flirting with being chilly. In fact, yesterday, December 4th I was working outside and soaked with sweat because it was so warm. The tomato plants still have lots of green “maters” and only the tops of the plants were frost burned two weeks ago. I have been hoping that my asparagus ferns will die back but they continue to look green and healthy. The Serrano pepper plant is not flowering but is still loaded up.

The winter plantings are taking off. My progression of beet plantings is looking good. I have baby lettuce ready to go in the ground and a few sugar snap peas ready to start climbing the poles. I have been working out on the road and my time home has been too little. I need to really do a thorough cleaning before the Spring starts…. That may be January this season…

I rescued the worms and put the new super on top. They are beginning to migrate up into the penthouse. My early conclusions that an opossum was the guilty party have been put to question. We are seeing a small raccoon late in the evening coming out from the garden where the worms were located. So, I may need to review the forensic evidence, the paw print, and verify the animal.

For backyard vegetable gardeners – Global Warming may not be such a bad thing ?????????




Carelessness Leads to Death of Thousands – CSI on the Scene

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The yellow tape is out marking the crime scene. Evidence, death and destruction scattered across the area. First real piece of hard evidence was in the walkway leading up to the crime  scene. Due to a recent rain there were a number of footprint impressions. Close examination of the imprints pointed the investigation to a certain class of culprit, the Didelphis virginiana. Now I knew the class of the culprit but I knew identifying the individual would be very difficult unless he or she was caught in the act.

I realized that it was my fault that lead to the tragic loss f life. I had to take precautions to prevent another crime like this from occurring. I gathered up the scattered evidence, survivors and the housing structure for relocation. It was my original relocation efforts that lead to the devastation.

It all began with cleaning and organizing my garage. Noble projects in itself, but it lead to the tragedy. I had safely and productively housed my worm farm/bin in the garage for nearly a year without a problem. As we worked on the garage the weather began to ease up and I decided to relocate the  bin to a suitable site outdoors near my garden. The move went well and the little guys seemed to be doing well. They were about 6 weeks into the move when I left town to do a consulting job. When I returned I did not immediately  go out and check on both the garden and the worms. Now Kathy has accused me of always going out to the garden before seeing her upon my returns from trips, but not this time. It has happened in the past but I am making an effort to shift priorities. (it was after 9:00 PM and dark so it was easier to do the right thing)

Friday morning I saw the scene…..it  looks like an opossum(based on forensic evidence) was drawn to the scent of kitchen scraps and managed to open the bin. Now these worms work just at or  slightly below the surface under a layer of bedding material – usually shredded newspaper. The top layer and most of the worms were slurped up. A few tend to be deeper in the worm poop so they survived but the majority of the worms were sacrificed to my carelessness. They will reproduce but it will take a little longer as the cool weather sets in and they slow down a little. I was just at the point of splitting the bin as the population was really crowding the space.

Lessons learned  – never trust Didelphis virginiana and do a better job on the relocation efforts – consider the local thieves in the night may be and plan appropriately. May need to give my supplier a call – http://www.unclejimswormfarm.com/



Serrano Pepper Jelly

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So, what do you do when you have an abundance of Serrano peppers? I don’t know anyone that can eat one. They are too friggin hot…… even with a cold beer. For info I pasted the Scoville heating list below – the Serrano is a notch above the Jalepeno but way down hte list from what must be some blister inducing varieties. I see that Habenero chilies are near the top. You must be a serious fan of heat to try anything near near the top of the scale!

Now, to answer the question posed above. I made some Serrano pepper jelly. I did it the old fashioned way – made my own pectin from 4 lbs. of tart apples and 1 cup of cranberries. Strained the mess through a cloth bag. In the boil I added a handful of my Serranos and a red bell pepper. A word of caution – after prepping the Serrano peppers, you must wash your hands very thoroughly with soap, scrub hard and rinse well. If you do anything less than that and touch any sensitive skin – well the pain and heat went away about 45 minutes after my bio break!!! A little Alo Vera helped. 

 – The Jelly, it looks great – I added a single Serrano pepper to each jar for an aesthetic touch. Taste – well it seems a bit mild. I have another 100 or so peppers available so maybe another batch is in order – I will add a few more to the boil next time to see if the heat goes up on the final product.

TTFN – Bishop

Naga Jolokia (ghost chili)[9][10]






 Red Savina habanero[11][12]






 Guntur Chilli, Habanero chili,[13] Scotch Bonnet Pepper,[13] Datil pepper, Rocoto, African Birdseye, Madame Jeanette, Jamaican Hot Pepper[14]






 Bird’s eye chili/Thai Pepper/Indian Pepper,[15] Malagueta Pepper,[15] Chiltepin Pepper, Pequin Pepper[15]






 Cayenne Pepper, Ají pepper,[13] Tabasco pepper, Cumari pepper (Capsicum Chinese)






 Serrano Pepper, Peter Pepper






 Jalapeño Pepper, Guajillo pepper, New Mexican varieties of Anaheim pepper,[16] Paprika (Hungarian wax pepper), Tabasco Sauce






 Anaheim pepper, Poblano Pepper, Rocotillo Pepper, Peppadew






 Pimento, Peperoncini






 No significant heat, Bell pepper,

Patrolling my Beans

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On Patrol - My Little Helper

Out picking green  beans this morning and found a little guy helping to keep my veggies chemical free and growing healthy. I don’t spray anything other than BT to kill catepillars so I depend on others to help minimize the loss to bugs. This guy is on of many in my employee.



As Promised – A Worm Story


Well – today I swapped out the bottom worm bin after allowing 7-8 weeks for my wiggly buddies  to migrate up into the next level of the worm condo. Dumped the bottom section out onto some butcher paper in the shade and sorted the worm poop from the stubborn guys that did not want to move up into the second story. I started the sorting and my daughter Ashleigh joined in…. she said she likes the littles guys. Managed to harvest about 3.5 gallons of dark rich material to feed the garden.

I have also been clearing out the compost bin. It is about half empty and I should finish it up this week before I have to go off and earn some $$$$$ working. I am really admiring how robust and healthy the asparagus ferns look. If that is an indication I should have a great crop next year. I resisted the urge and did not cut any this year. 

Beans are still producing, cucumbers, there are a couple that should mature and I will get a few more Juliett tomatoes before they shut down. I planted a couple of dozn beet seeds and they are popping up. I may get to stagger a couple more plantings before it becomes too chilly.



Back in Blogosphere – And Sweating in my Kingwood Garden


Cleaning up the Garden
Fresh Beans for Tonight

After neglecting my garden for quite awhile and suffering through the closing of my previous site. Found this one that allowed me to archive my old site.

So, today, October 11, I was out chopping weeds, clearing the old vines from the Armenian cucumbers and pulling out the torch to incinerate the stubborn weeds. The torch worked awfully well! Salvaged 4 of the brussel srout plants and relocated them to a clean plot.
The recently planted tomatoes have blossoms but I am not sure they will produce by the end of the month. The shining stars are the Pole Bean tepee, the asparagus ferns, the Serrano peppers (too hot to eat but a beautiful plant) and if lucky a few Straight 8 cucumbers.
As always a bit warm and humid – it was a two shirt effort along with two quarts of water. I began pulling some of the rotted compost out and will unload the bin over the next few days. Then comes the hard work – turning it into the soil. I had such good luch last year with leaf mulch that I will triple that effort this fall/winter. By spring I hope to have the compost neatly tucked under with a smothering layer of leaf mulch to strangle the weeds!!!!!
I will not flood you with my ramblings but should be a little more regular (not due to my fiber intake!!!!!) with the new site and the  
cooler weather should be more conducive totending the patch and seeing my plants grow. Next blog may feature my worm farm – the little guys are working in the dark and being fed waste……hmmmmmm  sounds a bit like a mushroom…….mushrooms  could be my next venture.

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