The Texas Pioneer Woman

Spring Chores Around the Garden

The Texas Pioneer WomanNo one had to tell me that spring had sprung. It seemed like it happened overnight. One bright sunny morning I woke to birds chirping, clear skies and a yard full of blooms. Lighting the way from my front door to halfway down the driveway were azaleas with sparkling colorful blooms. It made my house seemed gorgeous. Out the back door, I could also see cascading roses accentuating the outside of my greenhouse and along my garden posts.

It was perfect. It was as if I lived in a picturesque English countryside cottage instead of my 1970ish brick ranch styled home in badly need of an update. I felt all was right with the world and I lived in a beauteous garden. Life was blithe and full of hope. I took a deep breath of the spring air as I sipped on my morning coffee. Yes, it was spring and life indeed was perfect!

I turned and walked inside the house to my kitchen sink overflowing with last night's supper dishes and then it hit me like a ton of bricks. It was spring! I have a lot to do! Spring is a time for spring-cleaning, to clean the cobwebs and dust that has accumulated and to get my house and yard organized. Spring is also a time to simplify, to reduce what I have and make what I have be useful for me. Springtime also means that I have sundry list of garden chores as well.

At the start of every season, I make a goal list of what I want or need and then work backwards from there to make it become reality. For example, I want to have herbs such as mint to make fresh tea from and herbs such as basil, dill, thyme, sage, oregano and cilantro to flavor my home cooked meals. I want to have my own vegetables growing in my kitchen garden so that I can serve nutritious vitamin-packed side dishes with my homegrown grass-fed beef and pork. I also want to have fresh fruit drizzled with honey for dessert.

Now that I have the end in mind, I can make my spring chore list. I start out by identifying my goals. In my example, my three goals include herbs, vegetables, and fruits. After identifying my main goals, I then make a list of things I need to do to help facilitate that goal to become a reality. I would also like to mention that I am frugal and love to re-use and repurpose items to save on the bottom line. Here is my own spring chore list.

Texas Bluebonnet

Herbs

• Take stock of my current herbs that are growing and spruce them up a bit by adding some compost.

• Make a list of herb seeds and plants that I will need to buy or maybe a kind friend may have extra to share. I always try to be a kind friend who is willing to share as well!

• Find some old containers that I can paint and add drainage holes to serve as my herb containers.

dogwood

Vegetables

• Take stock of my current vegetables that are growing and spruce them up a bit by adding some compost.

• Weed all of my garden beds and give it to the pigs.

• Make a list of vegetable seeds and plants that I will need to buy or maybe a kind friend may have extra to share. I always try to plant vegetables by seeds because it is less expensive. In addition, I save vegetable seeds from my garden produce to plant the next season.

• Keep seedlings moist by mulching, which also will help in retarding weeds.

• Add cages for tomatoes and cucumbers as well as any climbing vegetable or fruit. Do not feel the need to buy cages; repurposed materials are easily refashioned into climbing structures or to hold in plants that may tumble over.

wisteria

Fruits

• Take stock of my current fruits that are growing and spruce them up a bit by adding some compost.

• Plant trees, bushes, and vines as they are now being discounted at the nursery. Make sure to give them extra attention to get them off to a good start.

• Mark my calendar now to remind myself in the fall to take cuttings of any vine I want to propagate.

• Tie up my blackberry and muscadine vines, so they will grow on the wire where I can easily harvest them.

• Apply fertilizer around the drip line of my fruit trees and look for any pests that may want to munch on them.

roses

The spring chore list helps keep me focused on what I have to accomplish. If I feel overwhelmed by a job, I take a break and do something that is good for my soul such as write my mom a handwritten note, or read a chapter from a good book. In addition, I break a big job into smaller pieces over a longer period of time. Some jobs will require several days or weeks to get done.

To keep me motivated to do spring chores, I will often post photos of last year's crops around my home office or cut out pictures of my dream garden. I also love to write down gardening quotes to read to keep my spirits high when I need a boost of energy.

Sometimes when I look at magazine or online photos of gardens that do not have a single stalk of weed growing it makes me feel like I am failing as a gardener. However, I am realistic about weeding. Weeds will grow. Some I will pull and some I will ignore. Once I felt overwhelmed in pulling weeds that I made a sign that read, "Feel Free to Pull Weed" and stuck it out in my garden. The sign made me feel better.

Have a great spring season! I hope you get your chores in the garden completed!

— Texas Pioneer Woman


To learn more about my adventures in farming, raising livestock, and being frugal and creative in my corner of the woods in Texas visit my blog thetexaspioneerwoman.blogspot.com.

To make a visit to my farm, please visit my website www.gomezfamilyfarm.com.

Photos belong to Jannette Gomez

Planting Garlic in the South

The Texas Pioneer Woman"There are five elements: earth, air, fire, water and garlic." — Louis Diat

Growing garlic on my farm is important. Garlic is an important seasoning for many dishes that I cook for my family. I use it mixed with butter to flavor fresh bread I pull out of my oven as well as to spice up a pan full of fresh grown vegetables from my backyard.

Besides flavoring our meals, there are health benefits to eating garlic. Actually eating garlic provides several health benefits! The two benefits I value the most for my family is that it lowers blood pressure and help us ward off colds and coughs.

garlic

I learned from my elders when I was growing up that if you eat two raw crushed garlic cloves at the onset of having a cold or a cough it will reduce the severity of your illness. This is one "old wives" tale that I do follow and it has worked for me.

Working hard to put food on the supper table for my family is a rewarding experience. I love the fact that I can produce food to keep my family fed as well as to provide nutrition that they need to be healthy. Growing garlic in the South can be very challenging. We often fight a hot and humid summer here, but if a few rules and considerations are followed, producing garlic on your piece of land can be achieved.

garlic

Soil

Garlic will need to be planted in well-drained soil area. Prepare soil by removing growing weeds and mixing in a bit of compost.

Location

Garlic needs full sun to grow properly. While growing garlic you will need to weed to keep competing weeds from taking all the nutrients available in the soil.

Planting

Planting garlic is easy. You can plant directly in the soil in your garden or even in a container on your patio.First, divide each garlic bulb into individual cloves. Plant each garlic clove with its pointy end facing up. Plant the garlic clove about 2 inches deep and 4-6 inches apart.

Water

Water the garlic well about once a week with about an inch of water. Also mulching around the garlic will help to retain moisture.

garlic

Producing food for my family is a labor of love and self-sufficiency. I love that I can grow garlic on my farm and bring it to my supper table to flavor my dishes and to provide health benefits for my family. We are fortunate to have the knowledge to make the most of what we do have, the ability to work hard, a whole lot of passion and determination, and a bit of luck to scratch out a living in our corner of the woods.

To learn more about my adventures in farming, raising livestock, and being frugal and creative in my corner of the woods in Texas visit my blog http://thetexaspioneerwoman.blogspot.com/

— Texas Pioneer Woman

A Cabin in the Snowy Woods

The Texas Pioneer Woman 

We have been snowed in for two days now! Schools have been closed, as well as many businesses. It may be a normal winter for people up North, but we are in east Texas! Come to think of it, our whole winter so far has been fairly frigid.

Cold weather on our farm is both good and bad. It is good for the fruit trees. It helps them to set fruit for the spring. It is also good to help cut down on our pest problems. Living in the woods of east Texas comes with a whole lot of summer insects such as mosquitoes, June bugs, stinkbugs, and a whole bunch of other pests that just make a terrible nuisance of themselves. This cold weather helps us keep those numbers under control.

I reckon one of the best things about cold weather is that it offers more time to sit and contemplate. With less chores to do in the winter, we have more time to plan what has got to be done through the upcoming year. We are planning what fruit trees need to be added to the orchard, what vines need to be replaced in the vineyard, and what herbs and vegetables need to be planted this spring. We have also had spare time to start a good couple of books, mainly books about farming.

One of the so called “bad” things about cold weather is that sometimes there is no avoiding it. There are daily chores that involve being outside in the cold, such as collecting firewood and feeding livestock. Also a cold snap signals the time to slaughter animals to fill the freezer.

We have been laying on the feed to keep the livestock warm through this frigid time. Thank goodness our cow numbers are low to help us save on how much hay we are having to go through. Our cow numbers are lower because last week we sold two yearlings at the livestock auction and butchered one to fill the freezer for the year.

We also have taken to collecting eggs as soon as we possibly can after the hens lay them to keep them from freezing. Unbelievably, the hens have not slowed production because of the cold. They have been troopers to keep us supplied with eggs for breakfast and enough to sell to our community.

We are suppose to start thawing out tomorrow. Well enough chit chatting. I’ve got to put some more wood in the stove and start supper.  Stay warm my friends!

chickens
Photo by Getty Images/AmyKerk

Dehydrated Sugared Apple Slices

The Texas Pioneer WomanWhen I have too many apples that I cannot eat up before they spoil, I like to preserve them by dehydrating or drying them. Then I can store the dehydrated apples without using any electricity until I want to use them as a snack, make them with oatmeal, add them to cereal, or use them in my baking.

Making dehydrated sugared apple slices is pretty simple. We sliced the apples making sure not to use the apple core or seeds. Since apples have a tendency to discolor and darken during storage and drying we pretreated them. To pretreat them, we dissolved 1 tablespoon citric acid powder into 1 quart water. Then we put the sliced fruit into this solution for 2 minutes.

Pretreating Apple Slices 

We then drained the apple slices for a few minutes. Afterwards, we placed the apples in a plastic food storage bag with a couple cups brown sugar. We sealed the bag closed and shook the bag until all apple pieces were coated with brown sugar.

Afterwards we placed the fruit on the dehydrator trays. Depending on the humidity it takes about 24 to 36 hours for the apples to dry. Dried apples should not be dehydrated to the point of brittleness. Instead apples should be dried to the point where you are not able to squeeze any moisture out of it. Also dried apples should remain pliable, but should not be sticky.

After dehydrating the apples, allow them to rest for 30 to 60 minutes before packaging to avoid moisture build up inside the closed container. I store my dehydrated apples in sterilized, dry canning jars with tight-fitting lids. I then place the containers in a cool, dry, dark area (my pantry). I check the dried apples often in the pantry to make sure the apples are still dry and that no moisture is seen on the inside of the canning jar. If I do see moisture, I need to use the apples immediately or re-dry them. If I ever see mold I know to discard the food immediately.

To learn more self-reliant skills, please visit my website.

Check Out Your Local Seed Lending Library

The Texas Pioneer WomanDuring my rainy spring break I happened to stumble upon a seed lending library at my local public library. The basic premise of “borrowing” seeds from the library is that at the end of each growing season, the borrower will be asked to replenish the seed collection with seeds harvested from crops grown that year.

Borrowing seeds from the library is a great way to get free seeds. All of the seeds at my library are heirloom seeds, which I am excited about. They even provided planting instructions and seed saving instructions. I ended up borrowing three packets of seeds: watermelon, tomato and sage.

Heirloom Seeds from the Seed Lending Library

I took them home and planted them in the greenhouse. After they sprout and grow a bit, I will transplant them out to the garden.

Greenhouse Seeds

I hope you are encouraged to go to your local public library to check out your seed lending library. I believe this is a great way to encourage gardening, encourage growing heirloom varieties, and encourage gardeners to save seeds.

To learn more self-reliant skills, please visit my blog.

Make Your Own Instant Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

The Texas Pioneer WomanI love the idea of instant oatmeal, especially on a cold winter day when I am trying to get out of the house in the mornings. I usually use two packets of the stuff to fill my mug. At my house we can go through instant oatmeal quite quickly.

My daughter and I recently made some homemade dehydrated apples that we decided to add to our own homemade instant apple and cinnamon oatmeal. The cost of this recipe is 18 cents a packet, but we usually use two packets a piece, so the final cost to fill our mug is 36 cents.

We stored the dry oatmeal mixture in a clean glass canning jar with a tight fitting lid. This recipe would also make a good gift in a jar for a friend or family member. I hope you enjoy this frugal and natural homemade instant apple and cinnamon oatmeal.

Apple and Cinnamon Oatmeal

Homemade Instant Apple & Cinnamon Oatmeal

This recipe will make a 1-cup serving.

1/3 cup instant oatmeal
1 tablespoon dry milk
1 tablespoon homemade dehydrated apples, cut small
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 small pinches cinnamon (to your taste)
1 very small pinch salt

Boil 1 cup of water, add homemade instant apple oatmeal, and stir until thickened.

To learn more self-reliant skills, please visit my website.

Grow Your Own Potatoes

The Texas Pioneer WomanI went to take a bag of russet potatoes out of the pantry a couple of weeks ago and noticed they had started to sprout, so instead of cooking them I planted them.

It is quite easy to grow your own potatoes. Potatoes are actually tubers that grow from the stem part of the potato plant that is underground. I cut my potatoes into 2- to 3-inch diameter pieces making sure each piece have several eyes from which to sprout. I then store the pieces in a cool dry location until the seed pieces sprouted and appear slightly shriveled. The key to growing your own potatoes is to ensure that the potato has sprouted before planting. This is called chitting.

Potato Seed Chitting

Once the seed potatoes have sprouted, I dug a trench about 6 inches deep and dropped the seed pieces into the bottom of the hole making sure that the sprouts are pointed up. I spaced them about 8 inches apart and covered them with about 3 inches of soil.

As the plant grows I will keep adding or hilling up soil on the stem of the potato plant making sure not to cover the leaves of the plants with soil. Another key to success for growing your own potatoes is to keep the soil evenly moist, so that they do not dry out. Potatoes will be ready to harvest when the potato plant leaves start to yellow and die.

To learn more self-reliant skills, please visit my blog.