Saturday, December 29, 2012

Overgrown Agave

Our agave has gotten fairly large since we've put it in the ground and it's baby is about twice the size of it's momma when we put it in the ground. There are lots of agave plants around the city.  Some yards have several plants or even an entire row of them lining a yard.
Although not the famed tequila agave, all agave plants accumulate a sweet syrup in their cores and can be harvested for this "nectar" which has been popularized over the years.  Once our plant grows big enough we will probably uproot it and harvest this sweetness and see about using it in a recipe of some sort.  Since it has already put out runners we will still have more to use.

One of the problems I've had is when cleaning out from under it.  The teeth on these things are hard, sharp and plentiful.  When they're covered with dead leaves they are also really hard to see and aren't in a nice neat pattern.
The pointy tops of the leaves can be broken off and used as disposable needles for sewing and if broken off right will even have a little bit of fibers attached for the thread. The fibers in general can be cooked down and broken up and made into rope or coarse cloth.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Second Cold Snap of the Season

Tonight will be the second cold snap of the season.  If I can get the tomato plants to adapt and weather this through I may just have some tomato plants make it through till spring.
The plan is mulching with some grass debris and leaves I have and hopefully keep the stems in good condition until it warms up.
The wife has been asking about doing something similar to the lemon grass. Currently it's the biggest clump we've gotten so far and we really don't want to loose it like we did our basil crop.  At least the basil will reseed itself and we should have plenty in the spring popping up.
Speaking of popping up, the saffron has popped up and is still growing nicely.  We've had one flower although I seem to have misplaced the stamens we picked.  They're already dividing from the bulbs we purchased as seen from the clusters of shoots in places where we only planted single bulbs.
As far as planting, it's about time for root vegetables and snow peas. Hardy greens will do good as well. I'll probably be planting carrot, cabbage and snow peas in the next couple days.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Monster Beet Growth

After looking for a little while many people are touting the nutritional benefits of the beet, which is a great reason to eat them, and a bit about the ability to eat the whole thing.  I was eating greens right off the plant just yesterday showing our neighbor's kid that I wasn't joking that you could eat right off the plant. Since we don't use pesticides and I had just watered anyway they were even already washed. Living in the metroplex, I still want to wash off the pollution that can settle from cars and industrial places around.

What I didn't find was the mangled monster that I have growing in my garden.  At first it just seemed to be a strangely large beet plant with a huge stalk. The leaves on the stalk died back somewhat but the stalk never did.  After it got cooler new growth started on the stalk and more recently it started to grow entirely new beets off the side of the stalk.  We're thinking of cutting some of them off to go in a salad but we'll see when the time comes how it looks. In the mean time we're just letting it grow and hopefully soon we'll get some seed from it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Fall Tomatoes

Even after being run over with a trailer and sat on by neighborhood cats, my tomato plants are still trying to produce tomatoes for me.  The first couple had some bugs but there are several that are doing really well.
The weather seems to want to cooperate with me too.  No freezing temperatures in the near forecast and plenty of sun. All I have to do is keep them watered and happy and we'll have some good pasta sauce in our future.  Likewise the basil plants are continuing to grow and look healthy.  We'll probably harvest them soon and make more pesto and save some for making sauce.
The beet plant is still getting bigger but no flower stalks yet, a few more weeks of waiting and we'll see what happens.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Approaching winter

I haven't had a lot of time to go out and garden but winter is fast approaching and it doesn't look like it's going to wait on me to get my garden ready.  The on and off drizzles have started which makes it hard to plan when a good time to go out would be but it also keeps me from having to worry as much about watering.  Anything hardy probably won't have to be watered by me until spring.

Crops I'm hoping will still produce something this year:
tomatoes -  they're still flowering but I don't think they're pollinating. I haven't seen any little tomatoes forming.
saffron - I planted the bulbs but they might not do anything until next year.
beets - They're growing but I don't know if they will be big enough to eat. the really large one may be too big and I'm hoping it will flower and make tons of seed.
wild yam - Still not sure what to do with it but there's a small patch in the front yard.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Eco Fest - Raptors

We stopped by Eco Fest today (in Arlington, Texas), mostly because we heard they were giving away free plants.  While we were there, I was able to photograph some of the birds brought out by the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center.  All of thier birds are either injured or for some reason unable to care for themselves in the wild, so hearing their stories is a little sad, but it is still amazing to see such majestic creatures up close. 

Perigrin Falcon -- This is the type of bird made fameous in My Side of the Mountain.

Red Tailed Hawk -- This guy is a teenager, with lots of energy.  He broke one wing, probably while learning to fly.  Somebody patched him up, but he couldn't fly properly, so he crashed and broke the other one.  In captivity, he'll probably live to be in his twenties.

Screech Owl -- Isn't this just the most adorable thing you ever saw?  That's probably why somebody fed him, and now he can't hunt on his own.

Red Shouldered Hawk -- This guy never learned to hunt either.  He can fly, but tends to go in circles.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Texas Spiders

We were out at Cedar Hill State Park scouting locations to do a little stargazing.  While we were there, we met a few of the park's arachnid inhabitants.  I know the two large spiders were both Texas tarantulas (they were surprisingly willing to have thier picture taken).  Not sure about the other two.  Anybody have a guess?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Citrus and Chocolate

Citurs season is around the corner.
My mom used to tell me stories about getting oranges as gifts and how it was so special since they lived up north and of cours they didn't grow aound that area.  Winter is citrus season though and a whole variety of fruits will be available for a decent price.  As the strawberry preserves are being eaten on fresh scones out of the oven it will be time to preserve the citrus in marmalades and candied slices to be enjoyed throught the summer.

This brings to mind my kaffir lime tree.
So it's still kind of small but it's getting bigger and there are plenty of leaves to use in curies, which are also great in the coming cold weather.  I have to admit my favorite is masuman but any curry is good, especially with potatoes.  I don't know what it is but potatoes go great in any curry you can imagine.

What goes better with citrus than chocolate!
Fortunately the chocolate conference is comin up again this year in Addison on the 29th.  Perfect timing since my chocolate stash is coming to it's end from last year.  I bouth seven bars and saved some of the bigger samples you get with your admision ticket.  They will have lots of chocolates to sample and buy. I'm hoping to have a good variety this year an not so much bacon....  Bacon's ok but not really what I want my chocolate poured over, it's much better with scones and jam.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Cantaloupe Season is Over

No need for a photo today.  I was hoping the cantaloupe plant was only going through a short slump but it seems the  cantaloupe season has ended for our area.  The last fruit has been picked and is sitting in the fridge waiting to be eaten.  The vine is turning yellow and the lieaves are shriveling.  The night air is reaching the mid 60's signaling the end of summer is comming.  Time for the fall harvest to start producing!

My next project is to sprout some black currant seeds and have something in the ground in the next few weeks.  Hopefully they will have time to produce for next fall.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Dallas Inner City Landscaping, Cactus

 It seems Dallas is trying to get some greenery to stay around during the hot weather we've had yet again this year.  Wandering around the streets last weekend we came across dozens of planters with these guys nestled in them.

Some of them had rocks tossed on top, not that that would have bothered them much but it just didn't look very nice so I pulled them off, others had weeds.  I didn't try to fix the weeds since I didn't want to get poked in the process.

These guys aren't the vicious kind you read about that dig their barbs in and don't let go though.  It's more like pointy zip tie ends.  The barbs even have that look to them as if they might make that same zip sound if you ran something along them.

They really are a pretty plant and I hope they keep it up.  They should be able to survive the down town conditions pretty well and they can always use more greenery.  Also the watering requirements for them is pretty low.  The slow growth in these guys will also make it easier for the upkeep.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Blue About the Blue Moon?

There has been a bit of hype recently about the supposed blue moon today.  This is actually not a blue moon however since the actual blue moon can only occur around four specific days of the year give or take a day or so.

The possible dates are February 19, May 20,  August 22 and November 21.  These are approximate give or take a day but no other months can have a blue moon since they signify the third of four full moons in a season and the seasons start at the times of the winter and summer solstice and the spring and fall equinox.

The purpose of the blue moon is to have the names of the seasonal moons consistant, having three named moons per season.  I would consider the full moon today as the Corn Moon.  It's a little early for the harvest moon here since it's so warm in August.  The next moon would be the Harvest Moon, the time when the harvest should probably come in.  The names of the moons differ depending on who is naming them, where they live and what is important to their cluture.

The Jewish calender kept this by having an extra month every few years at the end of the year.  Thus on years with a blue moon during the sacred Jewish calendar, which starts with the new moon before the full moon after the spring equinox, the month of Veadar is added to keep the months straight.  Each month being from new moon to new moon.

As mentioned in a previous post the idea of a blue moon being the second moon in a month doesn't work because of the  famed double blue moon, a second moon in January followed by a second full moon in March. This throws the naming all out the window since there would be no full moon in February  and two blue moons would mean a named moon would be missing.

The next real blue moon is on August 21, 2013. The other three full moons that season are on June 23, July 22 and September 19.  This means that next year's harvest moon will be October 19 which is almost a month later than this year.

(The above picture is not a full moon but was taken a couple days early on a clear night.)

Thursday, August 30, 2012


We went to the plant nursery yesterday to get some onion chives.  We have green onions and garlic chives already and decided to get the onion chives to round out the set.  At check out I noticed the little box of saffron bulbs and decided I would finally grow some of them.  They are hardy from zones 6-10 making my zone 8 just perfect, although summers will still probably need extra watering.

We've used saffron in many recipes including bread and couscous.  For the bread recipe we steeped the saffron threads in the water before adding it to the recipe giving it a nice yellow coloring.

Although it will be a while before we can use anything from the bulbs, the wonderful purple flowers will be a nice addition to the front landscape.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Cantaloupe Seed Saving

Saving seeds from cantaloupes is a messy business.  After scooping out the innards you have to clean off all of the slimy stuff.  The way I get it done is by using a lot of paper towels.  Paper towels are good at absorbing moisture and pulling off all of the stringy stuff that sticks to it when you first get it out.

After that you have to let them dry in the open air.  Paper towels are good for this too.  After they're dry then rub them to get any residue left over off of them.

I like to use a little glass bowl after this step so the seeds have good air circulation.  The tips will look dry while the main part of the seed will keep some color.  If this starts to turn then you can pretty much toss it.  The above picture is a good example of seeds that are still in good shape.

They are also second generation seeds which should pretty well imitate the fruit it came from.  It goes without saying then that if you don't like the fruit you grew then you probably don't want the seeds.  Of course it could have crossed with something else in your area but chances are it didn't.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Cantaloupe is Producing Again

Cantaloupes have a nice little yellow flower even if they don't end up making any fruit.  Fortunately if you keep it watered you should be able to get something off of it. Fertilize and you up your chances greatly and you might just get bitten by the gardening bug.

Don't confuse this with the other bugs in the garden.

This little baby is growing nicely.  You can see the flower at the bottom and the lines already forming.  On a Tuscan cantaloupe these lines will stay and get deeper. and the mesh will for between the lines.  Our variety isn't Tuscan and therefore the mesh will wrap around the entire fruit.  Fortunately this vine has produced very juicy fruit already and should continue to do so.

Below are the two other cantaloupes currently forming on the vine. As you can see they form next to leaves and can form in pairs as seen on the bottom picture although only one flower is actually making a fruit in this case.

So, go out there and don't let the heat get to you.  It was 110 yesterday and they don't seem to mind one bit.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Guano in the Garden

I don't know if it's the guano or the diligent watering I've been doing but the cantaloupe plant has start making at least two more cantaloupes.  I was looking at a neighbor's plant yesterday, a heat tolerant cucumber vine, and it's doing way better than it.

I also have one of the tomato plants wraping around pretty well now.  I'll do a little more pulling today to get it where I want it and then wheigh it to the ground for it to root well before fall creeps in. Should have plenty of tomatoes this season.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Citrus Seeds and Others

It's amazing how popular the post on citrus seeds still is after all these years.  It gets several hits a day, probably because there really isn't much out ther on planting trees from seed or what to look for and do with them if you desire to go that route.
I am very happy that my kaffir lime tree, started from seed, is still looking good.  It needs to be repotted which I plan to do around the end of the month or beginning of next month.
Another seed I have recently gotten is from the spqghetti squash we had for dinner last night. Still needs a little processing but they should be good. It's the end of the planting time for squash so I need to step on it.  The cucumbers haven't done so well and unless they pick up I'll probably plant the seeds there.  the canteloupe on the other hand are picking up and have secured their place until winter.

Monday, August 6, 2012


I got some bat guano over the weekend and sprinkled it in the garden.  I've heard it does great things but I've never had the chance to try it.  The garden is still doing well and i watered it in yesterday.  I guess I'll have to go look at ti this afternoon and see if there are any immediate effects.  Probably not but I was going to look it over anyway.  I only used half of what I got so there will be more if it needs another treatment.
I was also wondering if it might keep some bugs or animals out.  It does have an unusual odor to it.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cantaloupe Flowers

I guess the cantaloupe likes the care it's getting.  There were two new flowers this morning and the leaves are getting nice and full.  I'll have to keep an eye on it and make sure it's wattered well.  The 4 o'clocks are perking up as well.
We'll be topping the temperature hump in the next few weeks and the plants will be ready for a quick sprint of growing.  In preperatoin I still need to wrap the tomato plants around so the stems can root and provide a larger nutrient base for growth and pluck more basil flowers off to keep them happy and growing.  They've been real troopers in this heat.  If I can keep them up then we'll have plenty for a nice italian dinner using fresh tomato and basil.  Mmmmm.  Maybe even a fruit salad with cantaloupe on the side.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Heat in the garden

I have done some light weeding in the side bed and it's already taking a toll on the plants.  The 4 o'clocks really don't like the heat on the ground and are showing it by having wilty leaves.  I have since put some of the dried weeds back on top to give it some shade and hopefully keep the heat off a little better.  It's a hard battle in DFW between weeds and mulching in the heat which always comes and eventually leaves it's mark on crops.
I have watered enough to keep the cantaloupe plant happy and growing.  There's even a new shoot producing nice size leaves.  If it keeps up I hope to have more cantaloupes in the fall. One of the cats loves them.
I found wasps trying to stay cool as well by making a nest on my rose bush.I haven't gotten it out entirely yet but also don't want to be stung.  I'll try again today and see how far I can get.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Wonderful Weeds

The heat is up and all of my plants are growing like, uh well, weeds.  All thanks to the actual weeds growing in among the plants  The four o' clocks especially are blooming in the morning. By this time they are usually just hanging on and waiting for September to roll around.
The cantaloupe plant has started growing again after fruiting and I hope to see new flowers soon for a possible fall crop.
The tomatoes in the back are a healthy green with many flowers. Trying to pollinate early in the morning before the heat rises in hopes of having more tomatoes.  Not much of a crop yet this year.
Planted some leek bottoms which are already double the size they started out as and are still very healthy looking. Hopefully they'll keep it up and we'll have leeks available all year.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Middle of Harvests

We went to visit family and found out that there is very little being picked at the moment. It's too late for figs and citrus, or too early depending on how you look at it, and it's too early for grapes, pears and peaches.
There are a few tomatoes and peppers out there and an occasional veggie that's ripening all alone but for the most part it's time to water and wait.
I still have the amazingly big beet root growing and a couple more beets growing nearby. I'm hoping they bolt soon or I'll have to eat them. They just look so tasty.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fig Harvest

Our fig tree has produced at least five pounds of figs so far.  With this we've made preserves, fig spread, and a tart. If you looked at the fig tree today you wouldn't know that we'd even picked any off. The birds help with keeping the tree from being overloaded and make sure I know they've been helping  by whistling away while I pick some myself.
I could probably pick a cup or two each day if I wanted to but instead I go out every 3 or 4 days and  pick more at a time. I can see some of the fallen figs that I otherwise would have had if I did pick daily but that's more work for less yield and the birds will get to those in due time.
The weather hasn't been bad either for ripening them up. We usually get a cold snap or a strong wind storm that knocks most of the figs off and sometimes the heat just makes all of the figs shrivel up to nothing and makes the harvest inedible. So far this year it's been the best producing plant in the bunch.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Out of the entire garden I'm most looking forward to the cantaloupe again.  We've only one vine but it has a good size melon on it right now, larger than a softball. The last one I grew didn't get any bigger than a softball but it was big enough to eat for one person.
The tomato plants haven't put a tomato out since we bought them.  I don't know what it is about me an tomatoes, I don't think they like me much.  maybe they know I want to eat them...
We have had good success with the fig tree out back. Nearly five pounds of figs which we've eaten and mostly preserved into fig spread.  I'll probably go back out today to get some more. The birds are putting up a fight though. Last time there were over a dozen birds squawking as I picked.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Tyler Roses and Camping Trip

We had a nice trip out to Tyler, Texas a week ago where we stayed at the state park.  It was interesting to see the historical side of the park which was almost just a roadside attraction to begin with.  The lake is spring fed which makes it nice and cool even in the summer.

While visiting the city we had to stop by the rose gardens, it is Tyler after all. They had roses of all sorts as well as other flower gardens. I was especially fond of the day lilies of course. Still waiting for mine to bloom again but it's looking good.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Black Swallowtail Butterflies Are Back

We went through one round of the pesky caterpillars eating the dill but it doesn't seem like the dill and cucumbers will be ready at the same time anyway so we're letting the dill go mostly to the caterpillars only keeping them off of the front two.  It's a simple matter to just pick the piece they're currently eating and putting it on one of the back plants.
Maybe this time we will be able to get them before they get too big and put them in a tank to change into butterflies. The netting is still available from last time we thought about it.  I still don't remember seeing the butterflies in the first place but I'm pretty sure that's what they are.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


I found the first cucumber start this morning. The vine isn't very long yet but it's a good sign that I might be getting a few this year.  The neighbor is growing a different kind of cucumber that's more heat tolerant and makes a less flavorful fruit but there are already five off of that plant this season.

My tomato plants have only put forth two tomatoes so far but there's quite a few flowers.  I'm thinking of building up the dirt around the base of the plants some more and see if I can't get even more growing.  If nothing else it will help the plants health.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Balanced Diets

There are lots of healthy foods out there. Even if a food is healthy there can be problems if a diet isn't diverse.  Scurvy is one of the more common problems that can occur due to a lack of vitamin C.  One of the more surprising problems I came across is eating too much corn which if not prepared well can cause delusions and even death.
As long as a wide variety of foods is eaten then there usually isn't a problem unless allergic reactions are involved. At that point there's no telling what can come up.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Summer's coming

The heat is coming and it's time to make sure everything will survive the temperatures we're about to have here in the metroplex. We're usually five or so degrees hotter than the surrounding country side mostly due to running engines and pavement reflecting heat.
Last year I had good success just making sure there were enough weeds to keep in the moisture.  Natives are really good at this and are one reason they have survived here for so long.  Most of them are grasses but there are a number of vining ground plants that come along as well.  For the most part they won't compete too much with the plants you want since they keep their roots shallow. So not only do they help retain the water in the ground they also don't compete to use it up.
Mulch can help too but it's not really made for the job. Although it does create shade, it wicks the moisture up off of the ground and gives a higher evaporation surface. When the wind picks up they dry out quickly and pull more moisture.
Watering throughout the day in specific areas, not broadcast watering helps too. One of my favorites is ice watering. A block of ice will melt slowly and not only release water but also cool the roots down. It's like placing the glass of iced tea on your chest on a hot day while at the same time sipping it. Which isn't a bad idea to do while refreshing your plants.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Cooking with Fennel

You probably know that fennel is used in lots of italian food. For instance it's the reason my wife doesn't like italian sausage. It's also used in soups, pastas and sauces.  You can braise the bulb of the fennel plant and serve it with a mustard sauce.
What I like to do, which is also considered italian to some degree is put fennel seeds on pizza.  It just seems to add that little bit of kick you don't usually have. Not too much though or you'll be picking the little seeds out of your teeth for a while and the flavor can be overpowering.  So next time you have pizza delivered, sprinkle some fennel seeds on a slice and see for yourself.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mexican Hat - Plant Profile

Mexican Hat is a wildflower which ranges over a wide area including most of the United States. It prefers drier climates, which we have plenty of her in Arlington.  It's currently in bloom and can get 2 to 3 feet tall. It grows in clumps.
Although not related to the purple coneflower another name for it is Long Head Praire Coneflower due to it's tall flower.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wednesday Weed: Queen Anne's Lace

Most of us probably think of it as a nice addition to a bouquet but for many in the eastern United States it's an invasive weed and it's spreading west at an alarming rate.  Although not poisonous like it's cousin hemlock, it grows in areas such as open fields.  In our area it was growing in a field used for producing bales of hay which will make the meal a little less palatable for the poor animals who get to eat it.
Some areas and even states have put bans on planting it in an attempt to keep it from spreading any more than it has which will be difficult since it produces so many seeds which can spread a long way before settling down.
The root is edible but more palatable when it is young but also hard to determine if it truly is the plant you're thinking it is.  So unless you planted it I don't suggest trying it on the tongue first and in the big scheme of things probably better to go get some carrots from the store.

One striking characteristic is the single purple flower in the center of the spiral of flowers.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Lavender Harvest

It's that time of year again. Tomorrow we'll be harvesting the first lavender flowers of the year and making spindles out of them.  We hope to get at least fifteen to twenty for the American Herb Society's conference this weekend where we'll have a booth selling among other things herbal sachets and of course the spindles.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Datura / Angel's Trumpet

It's come up again that datura is coming out as a great local hardy plant that has beautiful night blooms and is good for adding a splash to your landscape.
What I haven't heard about is the warnings for people with children.  The plant is avoided by most everything unless it's a last resort. The plant in it's entirety is poisonous and the seeds in the pod have been used for centuries as a halucinogen. A big problem is that you can't tell until it's too late that you've ingested too much.  Every year there are fatal or near fatal cases of kids eating the seeds for fun which makes little sense since dogs won't even chew on them, at least not in my neighborhood.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tyrrell Park

We went back home for an herb festival and to visit family.  The weather was nice but a little windy.
While at the park we took some great pictures. Quite a lot of developing had been done since the last time we went there, nearly ten years ago...
Among the highlights are the wild onion and the Yellow Crowned Night-Heron which took a little while to figure out what it was.
Of course I liked the familiar pine trees and many magnolias. Down in the Piney Woods National Forest there used to be the largest magnolia tree until it got damaged in a storm and came crashing down...
Still a wonderful trip to the coast.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Snow Pea Sprout

I put a few snow pea seeds in with my potted pineapple plant hoping something might happen.  I didn't expect it to sprout quite so soon though.
Currently it looks like a curly tendril with small leaves.  I would almost cal it a bean sprout. more than a sprouting bean plant.  It's currently on it's fourth set of leaves and doesn't seem to be stopping any time soon.
I'v also put a black currant seed in there but so far nothing has happened with it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Solomon's Seal

After cutting back the much overgrown back yard the solomon's seal is again able to come forth and show off for us.  A lovely shade plant, it's come back every year since we planted it, about four years ago.  That's more than I can say for the elephant ear plants. I've found a better way to get those though. Just go to the asian market and sometimes the mexican market and look for taro root.  I've seen it as cheap as 89 cents a pound. Just plant and enjoy. (variety not guaranteed)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Plant Roundup

Before the heat of summer comes it's nice to know what was there before it's just a dry patch of land with nothing growing.  Fortunately most of these plants should make it for quite a while save the hyacinth and snow pea plants.
The weeds last year are what really made the garden survive last year and i plan to let even more grow this year in hopes of keeping the heat at bay and saving precious ground water.  The rain barrels are full and ready for whatever heat comes our way.  Already people are complaining about the heat, 82 degrees.  I don't know what they plan to do when it actually gets hot.