Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Spring...A Time for Renewal and Newness

Start to Fiesta Pinata by Barbara Ana Designs

I figured since Spring is upon us here in North Texas, that I'd do a spring-y project.  Many years ago, in 2008 to be exact, the designer emailed me this chart after she'd posted it as a finish on a message board.  It's been collecting dust in my inbox ever since then.  Can you believe it?!?  It's full of bright, vibrant colors and it reminded me so much of growing up in San Antonio and the spring Fiesta season, which is towards the end of April.  At the time the designer emailed me this chart, she didn't know what she was going to do with it, and I don't think it's released yet either.  Anyhoo, I've chosen to stitch it on 32ct. Banana Splash evenweave from Silkweaver.  That little piece of fabric has been languishing in my fabric stash for a piece just like this. 

As you can see, my progress isn't much, but I didn't realize how much I had to strain my eyes and concentrate on that fabric!  It's rough when you get old.  LOL  I tried a 28 ct. fabric and that was even worse, plus the purple color got lost in the color of the fabric.  Of course, I was also stitching on this while preparing dinner and watching Dancing With the Stars, so that might have impeded my progress a bit as well.

My first bloom of spring is this little Four Nerve Daisy.  I love this little happy flower!  They can handle the heat and the cold and keep on going.  I need to work on adding more of these to my flower bed because I really like them. 

This precious little girl is also blossoming.  She's been with us now for 2 years and she's come so far from that half-wild thing we brought home.  She's settled down nicely, learned some manners, learned to trust us, and no longer tries to escape through the closed windows.  She is free with her purrs and head butts, unless she's mad at me for going to work and leaving her with the hubby all day!  I love this sweet little thing. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Garden is Gearing Up!

For many of you, there's still snow on the ground and/or the temps are still very frigid.  Down here in Texas, we're getting ready to plant our spring into summer gardens.  We're expecting a cold front to swing through in a few days, so the only thing in the ground right now are some cold hardy things, such as these onions.  The hubster planted these yesterday and has more to plant today.  We order our onions from Dixondale Farms which is located in South Texas in Carrizo Springs.  They are a family owned supplier of onion plants that has been around for many, many years.  We also use their onion fertilizer and follow their planting guide.  We did an experiment last year and the onions grown following their planting instructions and their fertilizer were larger than the ones we just planted and fertilized.  This year, we are growing Texas Legend, a sweet yellow onion, and Texas Early White, a sweet white onion.  Both are very delicious! 

In January, I sowed my tomato seeds indoors under lights in my spare bedroom.  Today, the plants went on their first field trip outside starting their hardening off process.  This year, we are growing Large Cherry, Pantano Romanesco, Homestead 24, and a new one, Marmande.  I had a very other varieties, but never got around to sowing those, so maybe I'll try those for the fall. 

Hardening off is the process by where you take your indoor seedlings and gradually expose them to the outside world to prepare them for living full time in your garden.  It helps avoid transplant shock and it keeps them from dying due to temperature shock when planted out.  I start them out with 2 hours of exposure in full shade.  Tomorrow, I'll increase it to 3 hours in full shade.  I'll do this for a couple of days, then move them to partial shade for a few days.  Then, they'll move to shade in the morning and sun in the afternoon and lengthen the time they're out.  As it gets closer to their plant out date, they'll stay out all night.  Initially, I bring them in at night, especially if we're going to get down in the low 40s or lower.  Otherwise, they can stay out.  I also make sure to water them well as they are root bound in their cups.  I also might need to provide some support for them since they are a bit top heavy and lankier than in years past due to our light set up this year.  We get a lot of wind this time of the year, and I don't want them to topple over.  Last year, I set them in a large laundry basket and that worked well.  I might do that again this year. 

Do you see these garlic plants in the picture?  I didn't plant them this past fall!!  I didn't plant ANY garlic this past fall!  These have sprung from either missed plants last year OR from the small bulblets left from harvesting garlic last year or even the year before.  I'll have fresh garlic either way.  However, I still have tons of garlic left from last year's harvest!  I'd better start giving it away to make room for this year's garlic harvest.
We tried to kill the comfrey growing in our garden.  It didn't work as you can see in this picture.  Sigh!  While comfrey is very good for your tomato plants and to use as fertilizer in your compost pile, it's a bear to get rid of once it's established itself in your garden.  It becomes invasive.  This time, I think I'll pour some vinegar on it and see if I can burn the roots.  First though, I'll harvest some of the roots, plant them up and them offer them to gardening friends.  If I plant it again, it's going in a container...lifted up off the ground...on the concrete...so it won't spread and breed!

Winter is coming to a close.  The birds have eaten most of the berries off the Nandina plants.  I laughingly call these damndinas because they, too, are invasive if left to their own devices for too long.  They have a very extensive root system that is almost impossible to dig out unless you have a backhoe.  My husband broke the handle on his pick axe trying to dig up a stand of these near our back door.  They had to come out, though as they were blocking the door and the walkway.  I do love the colors of the leaves and the berries in the winter, though, and they take our hot, dry summers well.  We'll thin these out this year and pluck out the babies.  Again, I'll probably plant them up and offer them to gardening friends. 

Each year, the biggest problem we encounter in our garden is watering.  Due to the heat and the fact that we don't get a lot of rain during the summer (or other times of the year for that matter), we try to conserve as much as we can.  Plus, to water, you have to get up way early in the morning to beat the heat or water way late at night then you have to fight the mosquitos.  The other day, I ran across an ancient watering technology that has been used in places like Africa and China as well as more locally in South and Central Texas.  It's Olla Irrigation, and I think we're going to try it out this year for at least part of our garden.  We might do a side by side comparison with ollas and traditional gardening to see what happens.  If you'd like to know more about Olla Irrigation, check out these links and You Tube videos.

Ancient Irrigation   (This is the video that got me interested.)

Ollas: A Collection of Information and Techniques

Thesis on Clay Pot Irrigation in Africa (This is a *.pdf document that's 25 pages long, but good research)

Say Hola to Ollas

Monday, March 03, 2014

Perfect Morning for Pancakes!

Like many of you, it's very frigid in my part of Texas today.  Saturday, it was a gorgeous 82º, but that changed dramatically yesterday.  Overnight Saturday, a very strong cold front blew through bringing us a 60º drop in temps along with rain, sleet, and snow pellets.  Some places experienced thundersleet, but we didn't.  We got rain, sleet, snow, and cold temps, though.  I'm so ready for this winter to be over.  I've got tomatoes to plant!!

Since it was so cold out this morning, the Mister decided to make pancakes.  Not only would it be filling, it would help warm us and the house up.  We prefer to make them from scratch rather than use a mix.  It took several failed attempts before finding the perfect recipe for us.  It's from an Amish cookbook and makes enough to feed an army!  I usually cut the recipe in half and that makes enough for the two of us with leftovers for a couple of meals. 

Yoder's Pancakes
5 C flour
5 heaping teaspoons baking powder
1 t salt
1 C vegetable oil
2 eggs
4 C milk  (when I half the recipe, I use 2.5 C milk or the dough is very thick)

In a 4-qt mixing bowl, measure flour, baking powder, and salt.  Mix well with a fork.  Make well in the center and fill will oil, eggs, and 2 C milk; beat well with a spoon.  Fold in remaining milk while scraping sides of bowl.  Stir just until blended; batter should be lumpy.  Ladle 3 T batter into hot, greased skillet.  (I use a 1/4 C measuring cup) When bubbly around edges, flip.  Flip several times until well done.  Yields about 18 large pancakes.  

Enjoy and stay warm if you're getting snow or icky weather!