Monday, September 26, 2011

Garden Shade

Back in the Spring, we got a nice bit of rain; and I thought perhaps it might rain enough to be able to plant some tomatoes (we certainly didn't have enough water for a full garden). And so, I planted them. Well, you probably know the rest -- we've had the worst drought here in 50 years (or more) this year. However, we've been able to limp along most of the plants through it all.

A couple of things we did to try to help was put hay in the bed in which they were planted to help keep moisture in; but that didn't seem to be doing enough to help, with over 100 degrees F every day for month on end. And so, I thought perhaps if I could get them in the shade it might help, as I heard tomatoes do better in some form of shaded area than in the direct Texas Summer sun.

I wanted something easy to move and quick to build, and so I went with 3/4" PVC pipe as a frame. And then I just started cutting and assembling.

Here is the corner. In order to even make it, given the fittings available, I had to get a 3-way corner where one was threaded 1/2", and had to add a threaded 1/2" male to 3/4" non-threaded adapter:

Garden Bed PVC Pipe Shader Corner


Here's one side built. I thought I'd try not gluing the joints at this point, as I wanted to be able to take it all apart easily to be able to store in the barn:

Garden Bed PVC Pipe Shader Side


And here is the side with the top pipes in place:

Garden Bed PVC Pipe Shader Side with Top


Here is the second side:

Garden Bed PVC Pipe Shader Second Side


And the complete frame over the bed:

Garden Bed PVC Pipe Shader Frame Complete Over Bed
Garden Bed PVC Pipe Shader Frame Complete Over Bed Long Side View


Not thinking it through very well, and so I didn't have to try to find shade cloth, I was originally going to put window screening on top; and when I rolled it out, I realized it let in a lot of the light, which makes sense, given it's used to see through clearly in windows and screen doors (duh!). And so, in order to expedite the process, I just placed on top of the frame a couple of blankets and used clothes pins to hold them in place:

Garden Bed PVC Pipe Shader with Blanket Covers in Place


It seems to have worked not too badly. The wind has tossed it all around a couple of times, and we added cinder blocks to hold down the frame, which seemed to help; and because I didn't glue it together, it would lean some the way the wind was blowing; but all in all, it at least brought some shade to the garden bed, and should have helped keep the soil a little cooler.

As Sue mentioned in a previous blog post, we'll see what happens with the tomato plants as the weather gets cooler. We lost one plant early on in the Spring, and have lost it appears maybe two more since then. The rest have even survived an attack of blister beetles earlier in the Summer, where they ate almost all of the leaves; but the tomato plants bounced back.

We're grateful to the Lord for granting provisions to be able to tend the garden and even keep some of the plants going through the drought, and we do pray that God might grant some tomatoes this Autumn season.

-- David

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Our First Longhorn Feast

With the drought this year, we've had to be liquidating many of our own personal herd of Texas Longhorn cattle. We've been trying to sell as many as possible, but we also raise the cattle to eat. With one of our cows, Catalina, there seemed to be no interest in someone buying her. She also was also one of our more rambunctious cows, in that, if she wanted to jump a fence to go eat something wherever, she would. And so, given that we couldn't control her anymore, and that she was getting into areas we couldn't have her, and that no one bought her, we made the difficult decision to take her to the butcher, even though she might be pregnant.

This was Catalina:

Our Texas Longhorn Cow Catalina


And so, after getting her back from the processor, Sue began the preserving process. When we use the butcher, we have them cube a lot of the meat into chunks all ready to go into the jars:

Catalina Our Texas Longhorn Cow in Jars Ready for Canning


And here they are ready in the canner:

Catalina Our Texas Longhorn Cow in the Canner Ready for Canning


Here are some of the hamburger meat packages:

Catalina Our Texas Longhorn Cow Hamburger Meat


And Sue browns it before putting it into the jars to can, which apparently helps get extra oils/grease out which could overflow if not removed ahead of time:

Catalina Our Texas Longhorn Cow Browned Hamburger Meat Ready for Canning


And here she is preserved and ready for the root cellar:

Catalina Our Texas Longhorn Cow Preserved in Jars


One of the benefits of the Longhorns is the use of other parts of the animal, include the horns; and so we had the butcher cut them off of the head, and hopefully I'll be able to turn them into something mountable some day:

Horns of Catalina Our Texas Longhorn Cow


And so, after the processing, it was time to partake in the first one of our personal cows to be eaten!


One of the joys of living here is the fellowship, and we wanted to share in the further joy of the providence of the meat with the community. And so, we had Catalina burger night at our place!

Here are some of the grilled burgers:

Grilled Texas Longhorn Burgers


And the trimmings and side dishes, with which several of the ladies graciously helped:

Grilled Texas Longhorn Burgers Fixings and Side Dishes


We are very thankful for the grace and mercy the Lord has afforded us in this general time of peace to be able to fellowship together, after enjoying His direct provisions:

Grilled Texas Longhorn Burger Fellowship Night Around the Table
More Grilled Texas Longhorn Burger Fellowship Night Around the Table
And Still More Grilled Texas Longhorn Burger Fellowship Night Around the Table


We are grateful to the God of all providence in allowing us the healthy food from this organically raised, grass-fed cow; and we are thankful to Him for allowing us the fellowship and community He has here.

-- David

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Garlic 2011 - Update I - Doing Something About Garlic "Breadth"

In our last blog post on our 2011 garlic, we had harvested our first small batch; and I tried my hand at braiding it (which turned out to be very "trying"). Well, since then, we have harvested the remainder of the crop, which we did back in May; and we wanted to share a little more of the garlic processing process.

Here is Dave pulling the garlic plants from the beds and placing them in a big box:

Harvesting Garlic


Wow! Our first garlic crop! It sure smelled good:

Harvested Garlic Plants in A Box


This time we did a bit more research before diving into it, which paid off. We laid out all of the bulbs in the indirect sun for a few days on our makeshift food dryer:

Garlic Plants Laid Out to Dry


Here is a closer look:

Garlic Plants Laid Out To Dry


Then we moved it all into our summer kitchen in preparation to be braided and hung:

Dried Garlic Plants


I was successful at braiding the larger garlic plants; but as I got to smaller ones, the leaves were just too dry and difficult to braid and handle. So I started gathering them into bunches and tying them at the top. I actually like this method better; and it works just as well, in my opinion. I then hung them on my garlic hanging stand (aka: clothes dryer). I was pleased with the end result:

Hanging Garlic Plants


There ended up being many other small bulbs that either lost their leaves or fell off in the process. So I gathered them up and placed them in a small basket. I keep the basket in my kitchen, and it's perfect for grabbing as many garlic cloves as I need at any given time. And the garlic smells and tastes wonderful!

Basket of Small Garlic Bulbs


Due to the extreme drought we have been experiencing, this is the only garden harvest the Lord allowed us to have this Spring and Summer (in addition to a few tomato plants on which the jury is still out). We are very thankful to God for the gift of this garlic crop and look forward to possibly spreading our garlic "breadth" in the future. :)

Susan