Wednesday, October 26, 2016

October Is Always Dry

Based on data we track, October is always one of the driest, if not the driest month of the year.  So far in October 2016 it rained only two days, netting a whopping 0.5 inches of rain.  The grass in the yard is dying.  There's no rain in the long range forecast that I see.  So I turned on the water sprinklers in the garden to try to give the seedlings some moisture to help them grow.  The dry ground sucked up the water with quickness.

I also asked Tricia to turn on the water sprinklers in the landscaping.  The camelias are loaded up with buds and I'd hate to have them drop them when they'll be blooming shortly.  Same thing with the azaleas and Lily of the Niles.

As I walked around to the back of the house, one thing caught my eye - we have dead leaves on our tangerine trees - in several places, too!  That has me concerned as this hasn't happened before.  I normally don't even bother watering the fruit trees as it hardly ever gets this dry.

But we've got a lot of fruit on the trees that is ripening.  We love all of our citrus trees, and I certainly don't want to lose them.

As I look on the ground under some of the trees, I can see several tangerines that the trees are dropping.  It is way too early for this to be occurring.  I can only surmise that it is so dry, that the trees are jettisoning some of the fruit so as not to be stressed carrying them and nourishing them.

I picked up the fallen fruit and made fresh squeezed tangerine juice using them as I'm not one to waste the fruit.  I chilled it and it was so good.  Tricia sent some juice to Russ at college.  That dude loves fresh squeezed tangerine juice.  It's so tangy and tasty.

So I ran a water hose out to our mini-orchard and turned on the water very slowly. I went around doing my normal chores as the water soaked into the ground beneath the trees.  I can remember one time on a trip to California, we toured an area that had almond and apricot trees growing.  Water is scarce in California.  The fruit and nut growers essentially built small levees around their orchard and flooded the entire orchard, allowing the water to soak in to the roots very slowly.  I attempted to do the same.

Thirsty Citrus
Pools of water beneath the trees gradually disappeared as the dry land drank it up. The roots beneath the surface of the ground absorbed the water and by the next day the leaves had better color and had perked up.

Hopefully this will help take the stress off of the fruit trees and they will hold on to the fruit.  Seems like only yesterday I was whining about how wet August was and now I'm lamenting about how dry October is.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


I love our little country church.  While our congregation is small, their hearts are huge.  People hang around when services are over and after shaking the preacher's hand, they just enjoy talking with one another, joking, laughing, praying with one another, and engaging in conversation.

On any given Sunday, there are people bringing little gifts to each other.  Lots of times people bring fresh eggs to share or when you open the church door, there will be trunks open and people sharing fresh homegrown produce like cabbage, okra, squash, cucumbers, watermelons or cantaloupe or fresh shelled peas.

But it is not limited to edible stuff.  Many times people will bring clothes to share. A dear lady from LeBlanc had a surprise for me last Sunday after church.  She asked me if I wore coveralls.  I told her that I don't have any, but would gladly wear them. Then she blessed me with this:

I have to tell you that I've never owned a pair of coveralls.  These have six pockets in them: two breast pockets, two front pockets and two back pockets.  Thinking back, I can distinctly remember both of my grandfathers wearing coveralls.  I remember theirs had a little emblem of some sort on the chest and some of theirs had a belt of some sort with a metal clasp.  They always looked comfortable, but I never seriously considered wearing them.  I don't know why.

Speaking of comfort, flipping them over on the back, you can see that there is an elastic belt built in to them.  When I lived in Houston, we would always eat sensibly for lunch on Monday through Thursday, but on Friday, we would splurge and go eat a huge lunch.  My buddy always wore Sansabelt slacks on Fridays.  They had an elastic built-in belt.  My friend called them his "eating pants" because they would expand as his girth grew from eating the big meal on Friday.  That still makes me laugh.  Although I won't be eating in these coveralls, I'll be working in the garden and doggonit are they ever comfortable!

Not only was I blessed with a maroon pair, but a blue and grey pair, too.  They are big enough so that I can wear clothes underneath them and that works perfectly for times that I go out to milk cows and don't want to change into my "farm clothes." Now I can just slip the coveralls on over my clothes and not worry about getting them dirty.

I had to laugh when I looked closer at the photo below.  In the upper right hand corner, you can distinctly see the stock of a Marlin .22 rifle and a package of .22 LR bullets.  It reminds me of something Jeff Foxworthy might say: You might be a redneck if directions to your house include, "turn off the paved road."  Or you might be a redneck if you take pictures of coveralls and have random firearms and bullets stockpiled in the corner of your bedroom.

Three pairs of coveralls
These coveralls just remind me of my grandfathers and make me smile.  I looked at the label and they are made by the Sweet Company and I see that they've been in business since 1922.

So I'm thankful to be the owner of the coveralls.  I don't really see many people wearing these anymore.  I'm not sure if they are considered stylish, but I'll wear them often.  They are functional, comfortable and as an added bonus, they bring back some good memories of my Grandpa and Poppy (my other grandpa).

Monday, October 24, 2016

A Cool Front Blows Through...

One of the first cool fronts of the season blew through, bringing with it cool temps, crystal clear skies, and low humidity.  It was met with approval from man, woman and beast.  Our cows who normally slowly lumber to the barn for morning milking, briskly ran, kicking up their back legs in frisky fashion.  We hadn't seen them move like that in quite a while.

When we finished milking, we poured the milk for chilling and washed up the buckets.  Then we put on a pot of Community Coffee with Chicory.  I asked Tricia if she wanted to have our morning coffee on the front porch since the weather was so nice.  She was happy to do that and when we sat on the rocking chairs, our Great Pyrenees, "Big Boy" showed up to join us.

Big Boy and Tricia
We planned out what we'd do on that Saturday while we sipped our coffee, flavored with a little bit of local honey and some fresh thick cream from our Jersey cow, Daisy.  So good!  Our view from the front porch faces north.  There is a field just across the road that hasn't been planted in rice or soybeans in quite a while.  If you look closely, in the absence of any agricultural crop, a bumper crop of tall yellow flowers fills the field.

Those pretty yellow flowers are actually goldenrod and they are giving me fits. Their pollen fills the air and my allergies are really acting up.  I'll be happy when the flowers fade and are gone.  Until then, I'll continue to cough.  And cough, and cough some more.

As they say, "One man's trash is another man's treasure."  In this case, while goldenrod is my annual nemesis, our column full of bees absolutely love the goldenrod.  Goldenrod gives me coughing fits, but it gives the bees food to last through the winter.  You can see the busy bees in flight in the photo below, bringing back the goldenrod nectar/pollen they are busily accumulating from right across the road.

How can we tell they are getting goldenrod?  We can smell it.  Goldenrod honey has a very strong smell that reminds many of smelly gym socks.  When we walk outside of the side door, it is an unpleasant smell that greets us.  Although the honey smells bad, many people like it and will pay a premium for it.  Goldenrod honey is also darker than 'normal' honey and crystallizes quicker.

You can almost set a clock to this time of year: first cool fronts, coughing fits and the pungent aroma of goldenrod honey.  Don't get me wrong, though, we are enjoying the weather!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Rolling up the Paddocks

After ignoring the hay for the past three months, the cows went through the last round bale I had on hand very quickly.  As you can see, there's nothing left.  I called the gentleman that I purchase my hay from and asked him to please deliver me 8 more bales.  At this time of the year, the grass in the pasture falls off in terms of quality as it goes to seed and its nutritional content is not as good.  So the cows begin to eat hay again.

The gentleman I buy hay from told me that he would and then went on to tell me that he's had a rough 3 months.  First, he told me that the tremendous rainfall during August diminished the quality of the hay as well as his yield.  Then a connecting rod went out in his tractor.  Then his hay rake broke and was beyond economic repair so he had to get a new one.  Finally, his baler caught fire and burned to the ground and he barely got the tractor unhooked and moved or it would have burned too.  Those are some tough breaks.

Up to this point, I still had the pasture partitioned off into different paddocks by temporary electric fencing using reels and fiberglass temporary step-in posts.  I move the cows to new paddock to eat fresh grass every two days and that allows the grass to rest and regrow before introducing the cows to it again.

At this time of year however, it is time to roll up all the fencing and allow the cows to have free choice to roam wherever they want to on the pasture and eat whatever grass they want.  The reels to roll up the poly wire make the rolling up process quick and efficient.

Upon opening a new paddock, the girls always rush out to dine on fresh grass. From this point on (until next spring), they can go wherever they wish.

You can see how in some places they've eaten the grass down to the ground.  This is not really a good thing as that is how they pick up parasites.  In other places, you can see how the grass is overgrown and not eaten.  In some of these cases, there is cow poop underneath it.  In others, the grass just got too tall and tough and now the cows won't eat it.

I finally rolled up the final cross-wire and the six paddocks is now only one big 3 acre one.

The cows now have 3 acres upon which to roam and graze.  The cooler temperatures and dry conditions tell me that the grass isn't going to grow much more now and that the cows will still graze, but they will now get most of their nutritional needs met from the round hay bales.

As of right now, I don't think I'm going to supplement their pasture and hay by planting rye grass.  I haven't had much success with rye grass due to the fact that the pasture is in dire need of lime.   Over the course of the next month or so, the cows will have access to the whole pasture and they will clip it down.  No worries, though, my order of hay will be delivered later in the week.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Sowing Seeds for the Fall Garden 2016

With the garden all worked up on Saturday, it was time to get seeds in the ground. I feel like I'm a month behind already, so I was impatient to start planting.  As discussed yesterday, I decided to go ahead and work up the entire garden and then begin planting the seeds in the Cole Crop family first since their cut-off date for fall planting for seeds in our area was October 15th.

Here's a picture of four rows ready for planting.

After working up a few rows, I was a little winded, so I went inside and got out my LSU Vegetable Guide.  You can find it online HERE.  It is really helpful and contains information for each crop that includes planting dates for Spring and Fall, planting depth, space between plants and Days Until Harvest.

Once I had the full garden worked, I climbed up on a ladder and took a picture.  I guess that's how people took pictures from this vantage point before drones!

Now I used both saved seed as well as purchased seed.  Here is some saved bok choy seed.

And here are two varieties of beet seeds - Bull's Blood Beets and Chioggia.

Beet seeds are different than any other seeds:

I planted two varieties of Swiss Chard - Rainbow and Fordhook Giant

In addition to those mentioned above, I also planted cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, sugar snap peas, spinach, cilantro, three varieties of carrots, 5 varieties of lettuce, parsley, celery, and radishes.  In a couple of weeks, I intend on planting some turnips and mustard greens.

We're expecting a cool snap along with some much needed rain tomorrow.  Grow seeds Grow!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Groundbreaking event - Literally

Last weekend, even though I ordinarily get this done a couple months earlier, I set out to begin breaking ground for the fall garden.  Normally, I would be doing this in mid to late August, but the torrential rains that fell throughout the month of August changed my plans!  Finally, the ground dried out and I circled October 8th to do the work.

I checked my Louisiana Vegetable Garden Planting Guide and to my delight, I discovered that I was still within range of planting dates for many of the fall crops that I like to plant.  Most of the crops had a cut-off date of October 15th for planting fall seeds.  My goal was to work up the entire garden on Saturday, plant what I could and continuing to plant each afternoon after work until the work was done. Some items like mustard greens, radishes and turnips don't have an October 15th cut-off date, so I can afford to wait on those.

I have 24 foot rows that are roughly 42 inches wide.  With my garden shovel, I can turn over the soil four shovel widths, chop up the dirt and then step back and repeat until I'm at the end of the row. Then I start on the next row.

Hey look, I found a SHOVEL-READY JOB!
Since during the spring and summer, I don't have a big hay inventory, the huge tarpaulin that is actually an outdoor billboard sign, got used in an experiment.  I draped it over a big portion of the garden.

Late summer ground covering
The experiment was to see if the tarp would suppress weed growth that normally appears.  I was hoping that the tarp would block the sunlight and eliminate weeds. The result?  Well, look below. You can see the area that was once covered by the tarp.  There were much fewer weeds under the tarpaulin than on the untarped garden area.  Also keep in mind that the difference in weeds between the tarped and un-tarped area would probably be much more pronounced if not for chickens.  If you recall, you'll know that my other experiment was allowing chickens to graze in the garden area and cut the grass.  Had the chickens not been there, I think you would see taller grass in the bottom of the photo, amplifying the good work that the tarpaulin did in covering the ground.

Rolling away the tarp (top half of photo)
The other noticeable difference in the tarped and untarped soil was that the soil that had been under the tarp was soft and easy to turn with the shovel.  The soil exposed to the weather was more compacted and hard to turn.  The tarp made my shovel-work easier.  There is a slight downside to the area covered by the tarpaulin, though.  The chickens that roamed the garden for over a month put down fertilizer everywhere except the area covered by the tarp.

Turning the soil over
Even though September and definitely October have been drier months than August, the ground was still moist, with big clods of dirt sticking together that had to be broken with a shovel to work into a finer consistency.

Then I put on my work gloves and hand-scattered pelletized agricultural lime over the rows and worked the dirt with my trusty hoe.

I hand pulled any weeds remaining, trying hard to pull them up by the roots and throwing them over the garden fence.  Then I got out my seed inventory and the Louisiana Vegetable Garden Planning Guide and began sowing both purchased and saved seed.  I may go into that in a little more detail tomorrow.  I was very tired after turning all the soil, but I felt good and energized and I slept deeply and peacefully, happy to have the garden soil worked and anxious to start planting.

Monday, October 17, 2016

A Delicious, Healthy, Simple Snack

Tricia ordered a case of organic pears from Azure Standard Co-op.  It is the craziest thing because she doesn't like apples.  I think pears and apples are similar.  We made quick work of the first case and then she ordered a second one.  Just the other day IN THIS POST we made some homemade cream cheese.  It was very simple to make.

We use cream cheese to make cheesecake, dips and lo and behold, Tricia found another recipe for a simple, yet healthy and delicious snack.  For starters, take a pear and cut out the seeds and stem.

Then in the blender, she combined mostly homemade cream cheese with a dash or three of goat kefir to make it a thick, liquid consistency.  Then she dunks the cut up pears into the cream cheese/goat kefir concoction to coat the pear.

In a separate container, she has run some of our 2015 pecan crop through a blender to chop the pecans into semi-fine crumbles.  She drags the cream cheese/kefir coated pears through the pecans and the pecans stick nicely to the pear.

And she does likewise for the remaining pieces of the pear, arranging them on a plate for viewing and then snacking.

This simple recipe came from Southern Living Magazine, but Tricia changed it up a little bit.

The sweetness of the pears contrasted against the tanginess of the kefir and smooth cream cheese and flavorful pecans.  Yeah, this recipe is a keeper!
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