Monday, June 30, 2008

Gecko Geico Insurance

Woot! We got rain last night. What a blessing! With the ground nice and soft, I tackled my front yard with the hoe and rake - tearing up the ground. Yep, I'm working on my front yard garden. I googled pictures of front yard gardens and read about indignant neighbors. I fail to see how they would much prefer to see a neglected crab-grass side yard that's turning yellow, over a plush veggie garden.

The only thing... I do plan to add a poultry fence to scan about 15' by 25' in diameter - this will protect the veggies from critters. So far, I've spotted opossum and bunny rabbits in the wee hours of the morning, not to mention stray dogs.

Pamela and I couldn't locate any biodegradable planters at the store so I decided to use styrofoam cups. We punched holes in the bottom for drainage and marked each cup to identify the seedlings. I figured by the time they are ready to transplant, the front yard garden will be ready. Although this is early summer, I highly expect to have a good growing season, as I've had tomatoes still blooming in November.

This morning we planted, Zucchini, 3 varieties of Bell Peppers and 2 varieties of beans.

The baby gecko pictured above, we found in the greenhouse. He measured less than an inch. This insectivorous is a welcomed guest! I call him my GECKO INSURANCE against unwanted bugs.

Speaking of GECKO, I actually use Geico car insurance. Three times since we've purchased our car, we've had 2 fender benders and we've hit a deer. Each time, the insurance company speedily took care of us.

No joke, but one of my fender benders happened when I was leaving the grocery store. A man with California plates rear ended me and the officer who took our insurance looked at us both and said, "I have both bad news and good news for you two." He glanced at the man, "The bad news is that you'll have to pay for this accident." and then he looked at me and said, "The good news is that you just saved a bunch of money by switching to Geico car insurance!"

Yes, I know corny, but the cop actually broke the ice and made us laugh! So anyway, I enjoy gecko insurance in my garden too! (And no, I don't work for Geico.)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Greener in Greenhouse

I got my greenhouse yesterday, but waited till this morning to put it together. I had an awful case of sinuses after we got back from river rafting and it didn't go away until today.

This is the end results! I haven't done any planting yet, but plan to do a little tomorrow morning.

The greenhouse fits on my deck perfectly like it was meant for that corner.

Check it out!

I've decided to start a new garden in my front yard. There's an area beside my driveway that's been an eye sore for a long time - the sun bores down on that spot. I think it's time to dig up the grass, fence the area, and start a patch of garden. Now I just need to find the energy to do it all...

Before I forget, my Seed to Seed book arrived Thursday in the mail. I've started reading the first chapter and I'm getting excited about heirloom gardening and saving my own seeds year after year.

This morning, I ordered a used book off of on Common Sense Pest Control - I really have a problem with pesticides, killing off needed bees, and other creatures, so I'm looking for NATURAL remedies. I hate the thought of killing a poor frog or lizard because I went nuts with poison in the yard.

Speaking of bees... I think we have a honey bee nest nearby. I'm finding honey bees in our pool everyday. I guess this is a good thing as I'm sure going to need them with all this gardening!

At the library, I found a video about honey bees and watched it with Pamela. I honestly have more respect for these creatures now. It's little things like this that brings mockery to the evolutionists who deny their Creator. I can see God's handiwork in every creature outside, to the simplicity of a tiny leaf!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

McKinney Roughs Colorado River Rafting

Today, Pamela and I headed for McKinney Roughs park to go river rafting. We met up with some of our 4-H group. The park is about 30-something miles away. I left my house at 8:30 am, and arrived at the park at 9:20 am --- not bad for Austin rushhour traffic!
With time to kill, we went into the visitor center and looked at their aquariums.

A bus arrived to transport us to the river. It was a nice bumpy ride.
Several river guides explained to us water safety, how to wear our lifejackets properly and to talk a little about the Colorado river. My first question was in reference to the drought we had been experiencing, as the river didn't look like it had dropped any.

It was explained that due to dams, the river maintained a steady height and the energy (from the dams) is what kept Austin's power going.

If there was flooding, the water would rise as high as 3/4th the height of the trees we were standing under. This made me think of the flooding that is happening right now in other parts of the country. Makes me very thankful for the dams in the area.

The route we would be rafting, would be past the dams--- so it was a straight shot from there to Matagorda to where the Colorado feeds into the gulf of Mexico. (Matagorda is an interesting small fishing town with shrimp boats lining the Colorado river. The last time we were there, people were fishing and catching sharks.)

We rafted for 5.5 miles and the bus met us at the end of our trip.

I went ahead and uploaded all the pictures I had. I used a water-proof disposable camera and took the film to 1-hour photo after we completed the rafting. I'm sharing these photo's with some 4-H families who didn't bring a camera and needed these for their record books --- so, I'm adding all I have.

We sure had fun, didn't we?!

We goofed off quite a bit, splashed one another, and played bumper boats. Several times the kids slipped off the raft. Pamela fell in twice. Our river guides were easy going (since the parents tagged along) and allowed the kids to swim and drift down stream.

It was a breezy 99 degrees. What a beautiful cloudy day!

I didn't swim, but I was comfortably soaking wet - due to all the fun and splashing! I'm just thankful I didn't get whopped in the head with somebody's paddle. Wrapping up after a full morning! I was shocked to see it was only noon. Talk about a FULL DAY!

As usual (my family's tradition) Pamela and I spied the famous pecan store up ahead. They have one of the largest neon signs I've ever seen - advertising - CHOCOLATES - PECANS - PEACHES - etc.

Yum, yum... Pamela and I picked out the combo package of white chocolate pecans, milk chocolate pecans and cinnamon sugar pecans! (In fact, I hear somebody munching on them right now.) Save me some!

Afterwards, we spied a McDonalds up ahead and had our breakfast and lunch!

This wasn't here the last we visited -- a pecan vending machine for those who are jonesing after hours.

Fun fun! See ya on the next adventure!


Got my heirloom seeds today! Now all I need to do is wait for the greenhouse to arrive - any day now! The seller packaged the seeds very well with nice planting instructions. He also included the bonus lettuce, and bonus Black Krim tomato seeds.

My green thumb (probably more yellow) is aching to plant!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I hope my thumb gets greener!

Today, I went online at Amazon and purchased the book, Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners.

This is all very new to me - propagating and saving seeds from home-grown garden veggies. I've always considered myself a modest gardener, so any and all information is very very helpful!

Last night, I went online and ordered several heirloom vegetable seeds. I DO plan to share my seeds with family and friends. This is what I ordered:

2 varieties of green beans
3 varieties of bell peppers (red, yellow, green)
3 varieties of tomatoes (2 red, 1 orange)
1 red hot serrano pepper
1 cucumber
1 zucchini
several varieties of lettuce (tossed in free with order)

This picture is for Aunt Patty... Pamela wanted to show her the quilt she had made for her doll, completely handsewn. If you look closely, you can see that the quilt was made from the scraps of her pioneer dress/pinafore (pictured above in the new blog heading.)

This is her first quilt, and she plans to make another one for her other American Girl doll. What fun!!!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Weekend Warrior

Cleome Thought I'd better log on and update the blog -- it's been a busy busy week! Where do I start?

My brand new dryer died on me this week. I started a load about two hours before I went to bed and the dryer was still going when Alan got up for work! THANKFULLY the dryer is still under warranty and I saved the receipt! Tomorrow we get it serviced! (I always get a panicky feeling whenever my washer/dryer's act up -- Nothing I loathe more than laundromats!)
Malabar needs transplanting! (I said that about a week ago but just haven't done it yet! The Morning Glories are soooo ready to vine, that their tiny tentacles are reaching out to grab onto EVERYTHING!) (((Hint to self: TRANSPLANT!!)))
Yes, I picked up Mr. Owl at the store this weekend. His head wobbles and I move him around everytime I go outside or think about it. This keeps the squirrels and birds from thinking he's fake. Pamela asked me this morning if I had moved him from the steps and I gave her a poker face and said... No???.... (I couldn't fool her though.)

Okay, so anyways, this weekend, while Josh watched Pamela for us, Alan and I went to Academy so I could purchase my brand new shotgun. The one I fell in love with was the 20 gauge Remington model... Oh la la! Love at first sight, and $100 more than I had wanted to pay. After the background check and redtape, I walked outdoors with my shotgun. (Is it weird if a person hugs their gun?)

So let me set things straight: The whole time I was in the store, I was discussing ammo for the shotgun... The clerk kept saying which was better for "killing"... The thing is -- I'm not interested in "killing" anyone. It's only for self-defense and for SPORT. I'm starting to like going to the gun range and target practicing - even though I don't shoot worth a flip. For example: While target practicing with our pistol, Alan had two targets on top of one another -- mine was the green, his was the red... I did an awesome job of staying on the target... BUT, I was aiming for MY target and hitting Alan's!!

That evening, we shared another potluck at the farm and fished, but it was HUMID! Not sure how much I can take of this 100 degree weather. Let me tell you how bad it is...
I went to the store to buy a new water sprinkler for our (fast turning yellow) lawn and the store was completely SOLD OUT -- in fact, all area wide stores are SOLD OUT!

I've been thinking a lot about my garden and Alan and I decided to plant additional gardens in the area behind our pool that is good and sunny. We plan to dig up my Canna's and transfer them to the front yard, along with two banana trees. On top of that, uproot some bamboo-like tall grass. I've decided on a raised garden bed, so I'll have to hunt for some lumber.

I've also been researching on HEIRLOOM seeds and plan to start growing nothing but HEIRLOOM vegetables, this way I can cultivate my own for each growing season. I no longer wish to purchase HYBRID vegetable seeds and pay homage to the genetically altered food/chemical giant - MONSANTO. Have you researched Monsanto any? Check it out - this evil company is what will eventually control our food supply - which they are already driving farmers out of business. In fact, the farmers who do accept their copyright/royalty based seeds, are basically selling their souls to the devil. Read about Monsanto. (There's a toll free number for farmers to call, something like 1-800-Roundup to snitch on their fellow neighbors/farmers if they decide to grow their own seeds rather than their contractual deal with Monsanto! Gestapo?)

So anyway, I'm transferring over to nothing but Heirloom vegetables for next year's garden and for the garden I start as soon as I receive the greenhouse. I really like the idea of saving my own seeds and being self-reliant, rather than being at the mercy of the stores and their prices. Two weeks ago, I visited Walmart's to buy greenbean seeds and the store had removed all garden seeds - telling me the season was OVER - (Probably getting ready for the Christmas decorations!)

I found a book on Amazon that I wanted really badly, but the cheapest copy is $95!! Sooo, I went online with my local library and they just happen to have a copy! It's already checked-out, but I placed a hold. Can't wait to receive it! The book is called, HEIRLOOM VEGETABLE GARDENING - Read their editorial reviews!

THINK ABOUT IT: Do you want your own cultivated open pollinated seeds? Or do you want to depend next year on what's available in the stores? Each year, certain varieties are not available on the shelf - some going extinct. Also, many hybrid varieties are grown for appearance sake, not nutrition/taste!

EXCERPT: William Woys Weaver has written an important book in Heirloom Vegetable Gardening--important for the kitchen gardener, the cook, the historian, and any American who might wonder what our forebears were up to when they sat down to eat. What was the food on their table? Where did it come from? How did they get it? All these questions are addressed in Weaver's elegant prose.
But there's another side to the story, and Weaver meets his reader there, too: Where is food headed, and what's an individual to do?

We have seen the rise of hybrid crops in the years since World War II. They are good for the seed business because the grower can't just let a few plants grow to seed, save the seed, then plant that seed next season. Hybridized plants don't yield seed that's true to the character of the plant, so the grower has to return to the seed rack year after year. Buying seed on a commercial level is a big deal, as is growing enough of it to meet the market. A lot of tillable land in South America isn't growing food for hungry South Americans, but growing corn seed for American farmers, and the biggest use of corn in this country is animal feed. Not many hungry South Americans get to eat corn-fed American beef and pork. In one sense, he who controls seed controls food. Or, he who owns seed owns food, and the highest bidder takes all.

Heirloom seed, then, is more than a trinket or curiosity from the past. It represents the chance of survival in the future. Should an as-yet-unknown plant virus come along and take out the American hybrid corn crop (something that has in fact come close to happening), it's the genetic diversity available in heirloom, open-pollinated seeds that will save the bacon. Governments maintain plant gene banks, but individuals can do much the same, and authors like Weaver show how.

What Weaver injects into the tale is the incredible pleasure that comes of growing heirloom crops and saving seed, and of eating from a table laden with 17th- and 18th-century foods. He shares his own history and his family's history, all of it tied up in gardening and sharing and caring. This lovely book is an extension that can reach into any garden being dug today. In other words, don't hesitate with this title, whether history, science, gardening, or a rich enthusiasm for constructive ways the individual can affect the future drives your interest. --Schuyler Ingle --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Gone GREEN again...

After arriving home from our trip to Hamilton Pool Preserves...

We discovered a critter (more than likely a squirrel) had been digging around the garden.

Holes were dug in pots, and an Impatient was uprooted from the ground.
Between this, and the problem with birds stealing our tomatoes, I went online and purchased a small greenhouse (identical to the one pictured above.) Probably a pipe dream for protecting my vegetables, but I figured it would be less unsightly than having all kinds of netting and everything else draped over my plants.

The only thing is that I'm not sure how to maintain a greenhouse in sweltering central Texas. Today we hit 103 --- Imagine how much hotter it would be inside the greenhouse? Before I turned on my AC today, my house got up to 88. My pool water hit 80. What would a greenhouse maintain?

If anything, I'm hoping to be able to grow vegetables this winter and get an early start next spring...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Hamilton Pool Preserve

For Father's Day, we decided to spend the day at Hamilton Pool Preserve - A collapsed grotto (cave) and canyon that was formed by thousands of years of water erosion. It's been several years since we'd been out there and we were anxious to go hiking and swimming.

The area used to be inhabited by the Tonkawa and Lipan Apaches. The pool was named after Morgan Hamilton in the 1800's, who's brother had served as the 10th governor of Texas.

The Cypres trees, tropical ferns, and diverse foliage almost feels prehistoric. (Don't forget to click photo's to enlarge.)
If anyone is thinking of visiting this preserve, arrive EARLY. The park only allows 75 cars and will start turning people away. We left our house at 9:00 a.m. and tried to beat the crowds. The preserve is only 30 miles Southwest of Austin. A gorgeous drive through the hill country.

The path we took followed alongside a creek.
The grotto, and people (the early birds) swimming!

We didn't waste time jumping in...
Josh, wearing his new Hawaiian shirt that his fiance' (and future sister-in-laws) had purchased for him. He wanted me to make sure to take this picture so they could see him wearing it. haha
I decided to hike around the grotto before jumping in the water...

50 foot cascades...

I spotted several (what looked like cave entrances) throughout our hike.

Go Cowboys!

Lush ferns...
Due to the drought, the waterfall had been reduced to a trickle...

After we swam, we decided to hike to the Pedernales river. This is a 1.5 mile hike that tags alongside the creek...

At the river and less crowds! More than likely we were the crazy ones for hiking in 100+ degree temps. Over my shoulder, I carried a large tote bag filled with apples, bottled water, beef jerky, camera, and everyone's wallets and keys... Yes, I'm the pack mule.

A refreshing swim in the Pedernales - it was truly wonderful. Every so often our feet caught the cool currents of the aquafer... What a beautiful day!

Afterwards, we lugged back up the hill and followed the trail... (For those who decide to visit the park, the trail is DOWN HILL to the grotto, but UP HILL back to the parking lot. The trail from the river and the grotto meets at a fork, but BOTH take the same trail back to the parking lot.)

We arrived at the car, gulped down more water and blasted the air conditioner. It was around 1:30, and after a couple miles of hiking, we were ready for LUNCH! By the way, as we pulled out of the park entrance there was a LONG LINE of cars being turned away. Get there EARLY!

Nutty Nathan

Everytime we're near hwy 290, we stop at Nutty Brown Cafe to eat. (This restaurant used to be a praline shop - Nutty Brown Mills - a former roadside attraction known for their candy and neon cowboy sign welcoming folks to Austin.)

We like going there for their live music and good food.

By the way, check out their chicken fried steaks. Their burgers are yummy too!

Homeward bound! I think my nose has a sunburn...