Thursday, August 27, 2009


Here is my compost corral. You might remember when I first built it in this post: Compost Corral. I must admit I'm really a lazy composter. I figure why do too much work when nature will do it eventually any how?

Pretty much everything finds its way to my compost pile: Grass clippings, leaves, any organic house scraps that I don't feed to the chickens, and most importantly the droppings from my chickens. I use the deep litter method in my chicken coops. In the evenings I let them free range when I am working outside. There has been too many large roving dogs to leave them unattended.

This gumbo of yucky stuff makes for really great nutrition for my soil. Most of the time I do not get into all the technical details of gardening. I just like to let nature do what it does since it does it so well. It seems to rain enough here to keep my compost corral sufficiently moist and I turn it rarely. Still my compost pile delivers the prettiest darkest yummiest compost you ever did see.

I think the pile is kinda pretty itself. Yes, you can see I haven't turned it recently by all of the mature tomato and luffa plants that volunteered! The mulberry trees by the chicken coop and the compost corral are twice the size and a much darker green than the mulberry trees I planted elsewhere on the property.
The compost corral concept is fairly simple. Throw all the good stuff in stir it and wet it every now and then.....
Scoop from the bottom underneath the bottom slat (it's raised on cinder blocks for this purpose) and you got....
The best nutrition for your soil - Compost! Healthy soil makes veggies more nutritious and easier to grow.
Here's some close ups of the luffa blossoms. The little ants fascinated me for quite a while. I'm not sure what they were doing. I didn't see any aphids. So I don't suppose they were carrying on something symbiotic. What ever it was they seemed to be enjoying the happy yellow of this flower.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Knitting Socks

Now I know why women who knit live to be a crotchety but sane 102 years or more. Knitting has got to be good for your brain. I have either fired more neurons than I ever have in my life or caused a majority of my brain cells to commit suicide in order to escape my concentration.
But finally.....
After numerous starts, corrections, and scrutinizing, I have tediously hashed out what appears to be "elf boots". At least that's what my girls call them.
Aren't they cute....
and cozy....
and fun....and already taken over by my 9 year old daughter. I've already started the next pair....knitting can be addictive.

Friday, August 21, 2009

How To Make Sandwich Bread

Rarely do I buy bread anymore. It's much cheaper and tastier to make it yourself. I splurge and buy "Snappy Sourdough" or "Seeduction Loaf" from Wholefoods every now and then. Simply because any sourdough starter I have tried to make here is scummy and yuk before it ever becomes "mellow and yeasty".

I do make this bread "five minute a day bread" quite often, but it is a rustic type bread. In my Girls' opinions this just won't do for school lunch bread. So following the basic rules I've learned about bread making, I attempted to bake some "sandwich" bread for my girls. The style I decided on was a honey whole wheat bread.

Gather Ingredients.
Heat milk, water, and butter until hot enough that you can barely leave your finger in it. This is my very un-scientific method! Too hot kills the yeast. Too cold doesn't activate it.
Mix it all up, transfer dough to oiled bowl and let rise. Punch down. Put in specially bought long sandwich loaf pan and let rise again.
Bake at 400 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes until done.
Slice it up....
...and watch it get consumed in minutes. Wait....Girls!....this was the bread for you lunches....!
Honey Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
2 cups of white flour
4 to 5 cups of whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tablespoons of fast acting yeast
3/4 tablespoon of salt
1/4 cup of honey
3 tablespoons of butter
1 cup of milk
2 cups of water
2 tablespoons of olive oil

In mixing bowl combine one cup of white flour, one cup of whole wheat, yeast and salt. In saucepan put water, milk, honey and butter. Heat until you can barely leave your finger in. The butter doesn't necessarily have to melt. (I use a kitchen aid mixer, you can do all this by hand) Mix liquid into bowl with flour, yeast and salt. Mix well.

Change to dough hook. (If doing by hand you will stir in flour and then hand knead.) Slowly add 1 cup of white flour and then three cups of whole wheat flour as mixer kneads with the dough hook. Add a little more flour if needed. The dough should be very moist but manageable.

Oil another bowl. Lightly flour dough to make it more manageable and transfer to oiled bowl. Turn dough to coat both sides. Cover dough with cloth and allow to rise until doubled in a warm place.

Punch down dough and transfer to oiled loaf pan. (This will fill one long loaf pan. If you do not have one, this recipe will make two short loaf pans.) Allow to rise until doubled. Before bread is finished rising pre-heat over to 400 degrees. Once bread is doubled bake for 35 to 45 minutes until done.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Around The House And Garden

Slowly the garden is returning to it's orderly neat appearance. Whew, I should have taken a picture of the mound of grass and weeds I pulled! It's quite impressive.
The 8 square beds, the herb wheel, 3 of the long beds, and most of the paths are done. Each year that passes makes established garden beds easier and easier to weed as long as they are kept up. So persistence pays off.
A Black Beauty Eggplant developing nicely in the garden.
I believe this little volunteer melon is a Charentais.
Here are the banana trees I planted. Hopefully soon they'll start to bear.
This is the new chicken coop addition with it's temporary house. We still need to add buried wire to protect them from digging predators. In the next two weeks we plan to kill all but two of our roosters and possibly some hens. I would like about 10 to 12 hens and one rooster in each coop. Eventually I plan to try letting them out to pasture graze and seeing if they return easily to their house.
Good morning girls!
The pear trees are simply loaded. With three tropical storms threatening, I plan to harvest as many as possible to dry and can. Just in case. Last year I lost all of my pears and pecans to hurricane Gustav. He knocked every single one off. He also stripped my plants of most of their leaves and tattered the tropicals.
There are so many pears that a large limb broke and tumbled to the ground. Here's a pic of the break.
It's lime time! The limes are in. Here's a beautiful stash my neighbor Sandy gave me. I plan to juice them and then freeze the juice in ice trays for later use. After freezing in the trays I transfer them to a ziplock bag for storing in the freezer. I do this with lemons and grapefruit as well.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How To Make Candles

I love to have candles on hand. The ones that smell great and burn good are well, pricey. I just can't bring myself to pay that much for the really nice expensive ones. Soooo....I learned to make really nice expensive ones cheaply. In fact according to my figuring it costs about $1.40 per candle. Yep that cheap, and they're unbelievably simple to make.

I use soy wax and 100% cotton wicks, that way there's nothing toxic in them. Usually I do not even use coloring. The candles I made in this post are pink especially for my friend Carmacita.

The only supplies needed are wax, wicks, metal wick tabs, scent and old glass jars. You can buy these easily on the web.
The flower pot is a candle I bought for Carmacita in Yosimite. Finally we refilled it yesterday. I use any jar I have available. If it is a large jar use two wicks.
Close up of a wick in a metal tab. Cut the wicks a little taller than the jars. Next, insert the wick's end in a metal tab and crimp it tight with a pair of pliers. I use a tiny dab of hot glue to hold the wick in place in the jar. The wicks I bought are waxed so they stand up straight at first on their own.
Fill a glass bowl with wax flakes. Place inside a pan filled halfway with water. Add any scents or color at this time. It's usually one ounce of scent per pound of wax. You can double this if you don't mind the expense and like your candles to smell really strong. Simmer until the wax melts fully. Stirring seems to speed this process.
Then pour the scented melted wax into jars with prepared wicks. I fashion a little tray out of foil to catch any wax spills. Good thing I didn't skip it this time. One of the jars had a tiny hole, and all of the wax drained out. If the tray wasn't there it would have been all over my cabinets and floor. I use a grid of clear tape to hold the wick in the center. If you enlarge the picture I'm sure you'll see it.
Here's Carmacita with her refilled candle.
Usually I reuse any old jar from pickle to peanut butter jars. I burn them in pretty holders so the ugly jar isn't seen. It's also safer that way. Don't forget to blow them out when your done!

I buy my supplies from General Wax.

50 lb bag of soy wax - $62.00 or $1.25 per lb

Metal tabs - aprox .02 cents apiece

100 yard spool of wax coated cotton wick - $13.50 aprox .025 for 6 inches of wick

Fragrance- around $25.00 for a 16 oz bottle or about $1.56 per oz (this is the most expensive item and the prices vary on the quality of the fragrance and scent)

For my batches I use 2 lbs of wax, 2 ounces of fragrance, 4 to 8 wicks and 4 to 8 metal tabs. This makes four candles. It costs about $5.565 per batch or about $1.40 per candle or actually a little more if you figure in shipping for the supplies. I don't remember how much I paid for shipping, but I do not remember it being extravagant. The jars I count as free since they are recycled. Even with shipping it still easily beats $10.00 to $20.00 or more for those northern candles :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Hot July Truth

This is my garden after two weeks of neglect. Keeping up with a garden during the summer in our climate can be difficult at best and often impossible at worst. Neglect it two weeks and the impossible starts to surface.

So, I'll tackle it the only way I know how one small thing at a time. You can see where I started to make progress in the first three beds. Fall is just around the corner and the garden needs to be ready for all the great crops we can grow here in the winter. Here is a list of some I intend to grow

Winter crops for growing in Humid Zone 9:
beets, lettuce (all types), Brussels sprouts, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, collards, mustard greens, turnips, spinach, peas, parsley, celery, garlic, onions, parsnips, radish, hmmm...Hope I didn't miss anything. If I did I'll add it later.

I'm going to add some rich compost that I've made during the year using house scraps, lawn clippings, and chicken manure. Then the beds will be ready to plant up with my winter crops. In my opinion winter is the best time for veggie gardening in Louisiana. Also this winter I'll be adding the final large bed with a pergola to my potager. The main structure of the potager will then be finished.

Here's some pics of a busy little bee loaded down with pollen I took today. I couldn't decide which photo I like best.

See if you can find the humming bird in the picture below. (Click to enlarge)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Monique & Melba On Picking The Best Campsite

My sisters Monique and Melba are pretty much experts on everything- car repair, cooking, sewing, housekeeping, brain surgeon, accounting, music, when they speak it pays to listen.

On our recent Sister Biking trip with our extremely awesomely incredibly (all words I learned proper usage of in Maryland) worthy guide and body guard, Byron, I finally learned the art of choosing the best campsite. It may take a long time to do it Melba and Monique's way, but in the end it is well worth the effort.

Being thorough is a must to ensure a good nights sleep. So, examine every inch of ground that could possible do without the tent sliding down hill. Picking the optimum spot ensures you wake up with only one crick somewhere in the body that lasts all week instead of four or five that lasts months.

Here is a pictorial example of Monique and Melba's method, which we will refer to as MMM hereafter.
Melba started seeking the best spot immediately, but not having perfected MMM Monique kindly stepped in.
Monique, "No, No, No Melba, it's never a good idea to pitch a tent downwind of the camp fire. It may help keep the mosquitoes away, but even they know smoke is toxic."
"Now listen to me. Grab the other end of this baby and I'll show you exactly how the MMM is done."
Since this was Melba's first camping trip and Monique's second she happily complied. "OK NeeKee (our shortened version of Monique) grab your end."
Monique, "See how nice and flat the trail is? And, we'll be ready in the morning to take off. No riding or hauling those heavy bikes up a hill. I think this is perfect"
Melba, "But, NeeKee my sleeping pad is too thin to keep those rocks from lodging underneath my shoulder blades, and you know some people ride their bikes at night and maybe even their horse. I'm sure a horse shoe in my ear would be even worse than a rock lodging underneath my shoulder blade and causing a crick all week! "
Monique, " about here? We're still Close to the trail with the added benefit of not having to traipse half an acre to the port-a-potty in the middle of the night."
Melba, "Yeah, but that kid who's sharing the campsite with us has just been sick in there and it stinks. The way he looks I'm sure he'll be back during the night..."
Monique, "Geez you're picky Melba! Such a perfectionist. I thought that last site was perfect. I'm tempted not to even help you carry this dumb ol' tent to another spot."
Melba, "Maybe this nice thick grassy spot upwind of the campfire will work. I sure don't need a crick in my neck that lasts all week."
Monique, "Hey Mel, this spot is pretty nifty. I just hope when I lay down my feet aren't higher than my head. Let's stop here. MMM Rocks!"
If the MMM method is a little too time consuming for your taste you can always try the Byron method. Get there first, snag the best spot, set up, get the camp fire going and brew some coffee then watch everyone else arriving minutes later glare at you.