Cannin’ and such – The end of summer 2021

Here is a short list of things I don’t like:

  • Humidity
  • Oppressive heat
  • No rain
  • Wasps
  • Fleas
  • Stinkbugs in the garden
  • A summer cold

And here is a short list of things that always happen during Texas summers:

  • Humidity
  • Oppressive heat
  • No rain
  • Wasps
  • Fleas
  • Stinkbugs in the garden
  • A summer cold

At least I can say that summer 2021 DID have more rain, at least through early July. Plus, we didn’t have but a few days of 100+ degrees.

I was not inspired this year to do much in the garden. Last year, I grew stuff like there was no tomorrow (and frankly, who knew?). But this year was the summer of B.L.A.H. (Being Lazy And (probably) Hormones (because frankly, when do they NOT rule our lives?).

Even so, I did get some things accomplished.

I planted enough cucumbers to make almost a years’ worth of pickles. I made a few “spicy” jars this year.

We grew some apples! You don’t hear about Texas apples, do ya? But it can be done! Despite me running over the tree two years ago on the UTV, our tree survived!

Our muscadines produced really well, due to all of the rain we got this year. I still had about 21 pints of grape jelly from 2020, so I couldn’t figure out what do. Then, it hit me: JUICE. Who doesn’t love grape juice? Well, duh. So if you are into making jelly or juices the ONLY way to fly is to get a steam juicer. Throw the fruit in, add water to the bottom pot, heat, and POOF! You get beautiful juice that can be canned as is, or made into beautiful jellies. Don’t even touch the fruit on top; don’t squeeze it with a spatula or you get ugly jelly, like I did in 2020. It puts sediment into your juice and makes it cloudy.

This picture is when I was juicing “Carlos” bronze muscadines. They are amazingly sweet and remind me of those expensive “cotton candy” grapes.

On the left is the finished juice of the “Carlos” grape, and on the right is the finished jelly of “Noble” – a purple muscadine. See how clear the juice/jelly is? So easy with the steam canner. Worth every cent. (Mine is no longer available on Amazon. As of 9/23/21, they have a Roots & Branches brand for $69 that looks nice! It’s one quart smaller in capacity than what I have, but I paid over $125 for mine, thanks to the 2020 canning frenzy)

And in the Weird files, which, admittedly, are very thick over here on the farm, I had a mystery squash come up in my orchard along the fenceline. It grew all over my grapes and I just left it to see. Well…it was a spaghetti squash! What the heck! I could have planted a million of those seeds and probably never grew a vine as nice as this one. I think we got 6 squash from it and they are delicious. So I think I’ll plant some sketti squash next to my grapes on down the fence next spring. Why not? A little cabbage worm ate off some of the skin, which is what you see here, but it didn’t hurt the squash at all.

So maybe it wasn’t my most productive summer ever; oh well. Now I’m just ready for the rains to come to break the official spell of dryness that always hits us in September. Meanwhile, the insane amount of seedlings I have started for our fall garden are sprouting and growing. I have promised them that I’ll not fail them when it comes time to get them in the ground.

Goodbye, summer of B.L.A.H.! Here’s to a productive fall!

Texas: Hotter’n a pot of collards

It’s no secret that in Texas, if you want the weather to change, just wait two minutes. Honestly, it’s a real mixed bag around here. You can walk out in shorts and a tank top that morning, and come back a few hours later in need of a pair of woolen underwear, four layers of clothing, and a full-body zip-up sleeping bag with arm and legholes. But that’s just fall.

In the summer, it is hot. Like…deathly hot. Like…walk into a steaming hot blanket kind of hot. You will hear us say all of the time, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” Well, I am here to tell you that it’s both, and it’s horrible. And hint, hint, it gets worse the older you get. I have learned that I need to be inside from about 10:30am until just before sunset. If I can’t do that (and let’s face it, I can’t), then when I AM outside, I’m hugging the treeline to stay in the shadows. It is on days like today that I dream of moving to Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Maine….pretty much anywhere where my shoes aren’t melting on the pavement and where snow is not a rarity.

Fortunately, there are only a few months that are pretty gross, and our winters are mild. Starting mid-July through September, however, I am ready to live in an igloo and hunt caribou. Or whatever igloo-dwelling people do. I don’t care. I no longer wonder why people take mid-day naps around here and siestas in Mexico. It’s because it is too hot to even manage a decent conversation without wanting to kill or seriously hurt someone. You want to see mayhem? Go check out a line of people waiting for ANYTHING in Texas come July. It ain’t pretty.

BUT, at least earlier this year, we got rain. A ton of rain. Enough to scare you kind of rain. And with a lot of rain, you get a lot of wildflowers. And this year, the crepe myrtle were so beautiful, they literally brought tears to my eyes…I swear I saw a double rainbow and white doves and the American flag in the background as I was taking photos. Really.

So please feel free to live vicariously through my happy photos during the month of May and June. Sadly, everything in my front yard now looks like it has been hit with a blowtorch.


City Mouse, Country Mouse

Yesterday, I went down to our little local ‘general store’, if you will, to pick up a loaf of bread.  I was talking with one of the owners, who is a very nice lady, and we were discussing their produce stand.  I told her that I have been raising laying hens and would like to sell eggs, but that I had some older hens that need to be, how shall we say, removed from the flock due to their inefficiency.  She laughed and said, “Well imagine that!  A city girl doing all of that!”. 

My mind reeled in horror.  ME???  A ‘city girl’?  The phrase ‘city girl’  brings up images of girls who would never dare to soil their hands, touch a bug, or do anything which was ‘unbecoming of a young lady’.  A girl who wouldn’t touch an animal outside of a dog or cat, would rather stay in the air conditioning than to go outside, and would rather do anything on earth than sit on a pier with a fishing pole.  I also see visions of acrylic nails, country clubs, and attempting to keep up with the Joneses.  Ok, maybe I am confusing ‘city girl’ with ‘spoiled rich brat’, but I will venture to say that I am neither, perhaps with the exception of being spoiled.

  After all, we are talking about a person who, at a tender age of about 6, would chase the little boys all over the school playground with caterpillars, and BEGGED my Papaw to shoot a rabbit, so she could have its fur.  This same small girl fished with her Papaw as often as possible, and watched in awe when he cleaned them because she wanted to see what was going on in the inside.   A person who, while in high school,  brought home a pot bellied pig to live in her bathroom, took auto mechanics, and skipped school to go bass fishing.   A person who, even still at the age of 32, has four insects mounted on a styrofoam Dairy Queen cup in her kitchen ‘because they’re cool’. 

A ‘city girl’?  Perhaps in my location, but never in my heart.

The Good Earth

So, about 3 weeks ago now, we brought home TWELVE goats.  Four does, and each had a set of twin boys, so that’s 4 mommies and 8 babies!  For the most part, you can sum up the breed as a mixture of African Pygmy, Nigerian Dwarf, and Mini-Nubian.  What that all means is that they are small, some are better for meat (Pygmy) and some are better for milk (Nigerians/Nubians).  Anyway, they have been a real joy to behold!  I can’t get past the way they look somehow like tiny deer, and the way that they NEVER stop eating fresh leaves and grasses.  They have done quite a number on the brush around the house; all the while fertilizing it with their ever present ‘goat poo’ or ‘nanny berries’, if you want to get cute with it!

Goats are considered browsers, which means that they prefer to take nibbles of EVERYTHING (plantwise) and keep on walking.  Unlike horses and cattle, they would much rather be munching on some sweet gum leaves rather than grass.  They do, however, enjoy munching off the tops of tall grasses.  I can tell you that if you ever want to naturally defoliate some of your property without using chemicals, GET SOME GOATS.  On the other plus side, you can milk them (which we do plan to do later), or eat them, if you so wish!  We don’t plan to eat them, but I will not tell you that I would never eat them.  After all, meat is meat, right?  ;0)  Anyway, for now we are just happy for them to do the arduous task of clearing the land.

Yesterday, I went to one of my favorite places (Goodwill), and after buying a mountain of awesome clothes for a song, I also picked up the classic book “The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck. Ever read it?  I could not put it down and read it cover to cover in about half a day or less.  It is the story of the Chinese farmer Wang Lung and his wife, O-lan.  The time period is pre-Revolutionary China, and Wang Lung and his family must endure the hardships that all farmers must endure eventually; loss of crops, drought, flooding, and in this case, severe famine.  So severe that it was rumored that some of the villagers ate their own children to survive.  But this book is not all about hardships; Wang Lung also enjoys times of prosperity and good fortune.  He is an honest man who is one with his land.  Because of his hard-working nature and unwavering love and adoration for his land, it provides for his family and eventually Wang Lung becomes quite rich.

It’s a funny thing that 200 people can read one book and come away from that one book and have 200 different meanings that we take away from that book.  For myself, I took away many things from this book.  I feel that, first and foremost, the further that we get away from our own Good Earth, the worse off we eventually become.  In this book, if you were not rich by inheritance, you either worked your land or you would starve.  Those who were fortunate (?) enough not to have to work for their food found themselves with too much idle time.  And you know what is said of idle hands!  (“Idle hands are the Devil’s tools”) So it is in The Good Earth, where those idle hands always manage to find trouble, whether it is with opium or prostitutes or just plain laziness.   If you are working hard, you do not have time to worry with such things!  You are too busy planting, watering, or reaping your harvest. 

 I try to relate this story to today, where we can get all that we could ever want with the push of a button, literally.  I’m not saying that we do not have to work (although there are so many who do not, and still rely on we hard workers to take care of them(!) ) but, for example,  I thought about how easy it is just to drive up to a fast food place, pay my cash and get food in return.  Wang Lung had to work for every single grain of rice that he or his family ever consumed.  He didn’t have a Taco Bell or McDonald’s or God forbid, a WalMart.  When his crop didn’t survive, they starved.  They ate sticks and grass and leaves and even the earth itself.  I can get up at any time and grab something to eat out of my pantry, and the thought of having to serve my kids dirt water somehow makes my own food taste as bitter as vinegar.  It’s a very humbling feeling, knowing that there are still people to this day who die waiting for a meal.  So, in that way, this book opened my mind.

Wang Lung cherished his piece of earth.  He nurtured it, fertilized it, planted it, watered it, harvested it, and in turn, it provided for his family.  It reminded me of MY earth.  MY Good Earth.  This piece of earth on where I sit today, writing to you.  Where we have tilled our soil and planted our plants and we raise our livestock and where I eventually want my ashes to be scattered.  When I throw my hands into the soil and pull from it a harvest for my family, I have nothing but a sense of pride and accomplishment.  I do love and nuture my land, and in exchange it nutures me; not just from eating food that I harvest here, but it nutures me physically, mentally, and spiritually.  I don’t wish to be anywhere else but here.

 I think that if we all loved our Good Earth as Wang Lung loved his, this world would be a much, much better place.


Well, this evening Jason was tearing up some stumps and accidentally ripped up our water line.  Oops!  Naturally, we didn’t have a 1″ PVC cap to fix it with, so ‘Mr. Fixit’ made a temporary plug using a piece of rubber hose connected to a ratchet, yes, a ratchet, all held together with hose clamps.  I MUST get a picture of this redneck ingenuity! Unfortunately, it’s dark right now or I’d go snap a pic and upload it.  Anyway, you know how it goes…you try to get something done and end up creating MORE work, lol.  Then, tomorrow, it’s supposed to be like 40 below zero or something so working with wet sand ought to be a blast.

Well, that’s home ownership for you! 

Anyway, I thought it would be kindof fun to give you a ‘favorites’ column here, just to highlight some of my favorite things.  I mean, if Oprah can do it, why can’t I?  So, here goes:

Favorite thing #1: microfiber cloths.

Have you tried these things?  I remember about 9 years ago, my mom and I went to a picture framing association show and they were selling these things for about 6 bucks EACH.  Now you can get them at Wal-Mart (in the auto. section) or any automotive parts store for like 12 for 5 dollars or something like that.  These things are GREAT.  Use them in place of a Swiffer cloth on your floor Swiffer duster or Wet mop.  You can stick them on your pre-existing Swiffer floor thingy (not the Wet Jet, though) just like you would a Swiffer cloth. To use it wet, just get some Simple Green or CitraSolv (another fave, I’ll rave about it later), spray a small area on your floor lightly and use your microfiber/Swiffer assembly to mop it up.  This is GREAT for touch ups in between moppings, plus you can use them about 4 times each by flipping the cloth over and readjusting it.  Then, the best part is, is that they are totally washable and reusable.  I use them for; cleaning glass, cleaning countertops and really any surface in the house, dry dusting, Swiffering, etc.  I use them in place of dishtowels sometimes as they absorb tons more liquid since they have a much greater surface area than terrycloth. I also keep one in my car for dusting the interior when I’m sitting in a line somewhere.  They are just perfect for detailing.  Because they are microfiber, they leave very, very little dust behind. 

Anyway, I think that everyone should own at least 10 of these things.  I know that you’ll enjoy them, too!