Thursday, December 14, 2017

El B's Double Victory Chili

"El Borak ain't got no chili" -- No one ever.
A recipe for the Coyote:

You'll need:
  • 2 lbs of 85/15 ground beef.  
  • 2 15oz cans of Bush's hot chili beans.
  • 2 cans of Rotel chili fixins
  • 1 small (6oz?) can of tomato paste
  • 1 15oz can of tomato sauce
  • 10-15 oz of diced tomatoes
  • Arizona Cowboy or similar jalapeno sauce
  • Tabasco Chipotle pepper sauce
  • Other peppers or tomatoes as desired

1. Brown up the ground beef and throw everything in the crock pot on low

2. Add Beans, fixins, sauce, paste. If you like bigger tomato chunks, add the chunks here but not the water from the can. Home-canned tomatoes are fine, but I don't like fresh ones here (personal preference).

3. Add 1/2 TBSP of Jalapeno sauce and 1/2 TBSP Chipotle sauce.

4. Now, since I was shooting for the spiciest chili trophy, I took a dozen dehydrated tabasco peppers from the garden and diced* them up, but you can use whatever you like. Put them in a little bowl and cover them with water, microwave until it boils, then add the water (not the peppers) slowly, stirring and tasting. The idea here is NOT to burn your tongue off (Spicy <> hot), but to get noticeable heat with the deep, smoky flavor of the other two sauces.

5. Cook it for 3 hours on low, then refrigerate overnight.

6. Next morning, bring it back up to temp (crock pot on high).

7. Profit!

* more like 'crunched', but you get the idea.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Shredded leaves vs shredded paper

Just settled in for a long winter's nap.
So anyway, one of my lovely neighbors* popped by with a present for me the other day: three refrigerator-sized boxes packed full of shredded oak leaves.  There's probably 600 pounds total, sitting in a pile in my field next to the new raised beds.  Now that the rain has stopped, and before everything freezes again, I figured I would pack about 100 gallons of that into a few of the older raised beds.  So I pulled the shredded paper out of this bed and piled in about 3" of leaves.  I might as well give an explanation why I swapped them out...

There's probably nothing better for your raised bed than shredded leaves left to rot on top of it over the winter.  In fact, I won't even bother to fertilize any of the beds that I so treat - no compost, certainly no chemicals - even though I plan to plant heavy-feeding sweet corn in this bed next year. A few inches of leaves rotted into the soil provide everything you'll need, even after doing the yeoman's work of smothering everything that tries to sprout from that bed in the next 5 months. It is, IMO, the best thing you can do for a raised bed.  You just have to have enough leaves.**

That said, you'll notice that there are three 2'x2' beds behind this 4'x8' one, and they don't look like they've received the same courtesy.  That's because they haven't, and may not at all this winter. The bed on the top left has no cover at all. It's got spinach growing in it, and obviously will not flourish if I pile a bunch of shredded leaves on it.  The one on the right has shredded paper that is nearly rotted in.  There's no sense in removing that.  But the one in the center has a brand new crop of shredded paper just added, and the reason for that is that it's got a bunch of 6" garlic plants growing out of it.

Shredded paper is not nearly as good for your soil as leaves. While keeping the soil protected like leaves do, it really provides no nutrients. Your soil needs far more added than this sterile cap can provide. 

But there's one thing it's great for: keeping its form.  When I have 15 little garlic shoots growing, I can pack around them with wet, shredded paper and be certain that the paper, once dried, will hold that exact form until I rip it out. Rain doesn't faze it, wind doesn't move it. The garlic will die back over winter, but when it pops out in the spring there will be a little hole in the bed's cap in exactly the right place.  Leaves will give you no such courtesy.

Once I pull the garlic, about July 1, I'll add a couple inches of compost before I plant again, probably from these very leaves. After all, in addition to my new 600 pounds of leaves, I have all the leaves that I would normally rake and rot.  And the ladies are not terribly happy about that....

* Well, not next-door type neighbor. More like next-town-over. Hi, Dorothy and Marvin. Love you guys.
** Obviously, the more beds you have, the harder it becomes to give them all the treatment. Thus my casting about for other people's yard waste. Preferably delivered.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The chiggers die tonight

Picked the last peppers and any remaining tomatoes bigger than my hand.  The late squash/zuc/pumpkin planting yielded 2 zucchini, 1 grenade-sized squash, and a pumpkin the size of a doll's head that Mr. Charisma broke off from the stem before it could really amount to anything. Not winning, but I'll take it.

If your pumpkins were as sparse as mine, you'll be able to buy up enough grocery store pumpkins on November 1st to make pies and cakes for all of 2018 at about a dollar each. Never look a gift pumpkin in the mouth.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Winter Garden

So anyway, in preparation for the next month of cool temps, I've planted radishes, spinach, lettuce, some cilantro, and other good stuff that can take a little frost with cover.

Digging Dog decided that the planting would not be complete without a cow femur right in the middle of it.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Punching down

Horns. How do they work?

It's probably not kind to make fun of cows for being stupid. But cows are exceptionally stupid.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Harvest and hanging

The Rose of Alabama
So anyway, it was 38 degrees this morning: time to wrap this garden up for the year.  Not a great year, to be sure.  If I had to live the winter off of its bounty I would not have to worry about shedding those extra pounds. But this is why we make our mistakes while there's still time to learn from them.

Mistake #1: Don't plant what you don't want to eat. I planted all kinds of peppers* this year, mostly in an effort to see what grew best here. Unfortunately, the one that grew best is not one that I like to eat: banana peppers. Also, that accidental deer corn is pretty harsh. The chickens enjoy both, so there is that...

Mistake #2: Shade trees make shade. A few years ago we planted some oaks south of the back raised beds, and for years they broke up the sun just enough to avoid scorch. They are now so large that I either need to remove them or move the beds. I'm moving the beds.

Mistake #3: Container planting gets expensive. Unlike dirt, which you get to re-use every year, potting mix is a once-or-twice (at most) product that then needs to be added to the garden or composted. There was an enormous difference in the results of my "first year" and "second year" containers. However, buying potting mix in October is one way to reduce the costs substantially.

Mistake #4: If you plant your squash-type plants late summer in an effort to avoid squash bugs, they will likely fall prey to powdery mildew.

Mistake #5: Don't plant grape vines on the shady side of the post you want them to ascend, even if it's much more convenient to do so.

Still, it was a pretty good year for potatoes and tomatoes and a great year for cukes, garlic, raspberries, and herbs of all sorts. Of the tobacco plants I kept, I got a few pounds of leaves for hanging in the barn, though I have enough seeds left that I didn't bother to save any.

Next year's plans are already on the move. On the back yard cinder block beds I am expanding from six 12'x4' beds to four 25'x4' beds and moving everything to the field south of the house. I'm going to try planting horseradish as an annual instead of just letting it go wild. I'm going to plant only Roma tomatoes next year, as those seem to be the best for salsa and sauces. Finally, the die sales have provided enough fiscal overage that I might get to put in a small greenhouse. The problem there is that I'll have to water much more frequently, for which I'll likely need a second well first. My hundred-year-old, hand-dug cistern is reliable, but I don't like to push it too hard.

Oh, the woes of  prole self-sufficiency.

* Well, not ALL kinds.  I didn't grow jalapenos, but I will need to next year, as my current supply will run low this winter.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Cuked out

Spears and chips and wholes, oh my!

So after putting up 5 gallons of pickles this week, I've had about enough of cucumbers for the year. Which is timely, as the most prolific group of vines is just starting to turn yellow... I'm sure they don't have much left in them.  Time to swap them out for a fall crop.

I have an idea I'm going to try this year that I've never done before: very late planting of cantaloupe, pumpkins, zucchini, you know, all those things that the Squash Bug Panzer Divisions tend to devour*.

The way I'm thinking is this. It's not the first generation of squash bugs that gets you, but the second. That's why when I've planted in April or so, by August my leaves are crawling with little grey demons and the vines are not long for this world. The first generation arrives and lays, but it's their offspring that really take it to the plants.

If I plant now, the second generation won't arrive until October or so. It's not quite frosting here (first frost is usually November 11 or so). But the nights are chilly and the days short. It's very unlike August. I expect they'll find the garden a much less comfortable place then.

But is there enough time between now and early November to get a full crop? Maybe. The plants are 4" tall and ready for transplant, and I was harvesting tomatoes well into November last year, so I'm hopeful.

And sure, hope is not a plan, but if it doesn't work out, at least I have lots of pickles.

* Technically, I shouldn't follow squash family with squash family in the same bed, but this is an experiment.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Maybe it's tobacco

Though since Mr. Charisma moved my signs, I can't be sure.  It sprouted about 2 weeks ago and has done nothing since...

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

I know what you did last night

Look, Ma, no seeds

Raspberry jelly recipe courtesy of Sure Jell*.  The kids fussed about the seeds in my bionic raspberry jam, even as they devoured it.  So with only two jars left I figured it was time for another batch or so, this time juicing the berries and making jelly instead of the (usually) easier jam.

Ingredients needed:
Four cups of raspberry juice
One box of Sure Jell
Five and a half cups of sugar.

1. Bring juice and Sure Jell together to a rolling boil.
2. Add the sugar and bring it again to a rolling boil.
3. Boil hard for one minute, then into jars it goes
4. Boil the jars five minutes in the open bath canner.

Simple, yes?  This recipe jelled perfectly and cleaned up quickly. Just don't double it, as others have reported problems with that. If you have lots of juice, it's not hard to knock out two or three batches in quick succession.

I ended up with enough juice on hand for another half batch or so, but the plants seem to be done with their spring production, so that juice has a new home in the freezer. Here's to hoping that the bionic raspberries decide a fall season is in order. The short case I made last night won't last even close to a year.

* Which, of course, demands that you buy Sure Jell to make it.  Good thing I had some on hand.