Saturday, March 29, 2014

Chickens Like Cantaloupe

Our composting activities got a big boost last fall when we started getting produce scraps from a couple of the kitchens at Oklahoma State University.  Here's some information on that:

Occasionally, there are vegetables and fruit that are past their prime and no longer suitable for human consumption.  However, sometime these items are just fine for our chickens.  Today, in the scraps there was a cantaloupe and a couple of heads of lettuce that Tom pulled out to give to the chickens.  Here he is cutting the cantaloupe open.

And, here the chickens are feasting on it.

It looks like this after they have pecked on it a while.

And, after they are finished, there is nothing left except a thin shell.  Here's a picture of the cantaloupe half after they have finished with it compared to the other half of the cantaloupe.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Stirrup Hoe

The weather is warmer and now it's time to rid the beds of winter weeds and get them ready to plant.  It would have been best if I had mulched the beds last fall to keep weeds from growing in the first place.  But, alas, I didn't and now I'm faced with the sight below.

What you are looking at is a weed called "henbit".  I even wrote an entry about this weed and another one called "chickweed" last year about this time.

Henbit grows slowly during the winter.  Then in the spring it explodes with new growth and puts out rather pretty purple flowers.  However, pretty or not, it has to be gotten rid of and I've found a tool that makes this job a lot easier.  It's called a "stirrup hoe" and it looks like this.

To use it, you push the flat side back and forth across the surface of the soil.  It cuts the weeds just below the surface of the soil.  It is much easier to use for chores, like this, than a regular hoe.  The only caveat is that it does not work for large weeds or big clumps of grass.  For those, you still need a regular hoe. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Deer Behavior and Pictures

As in winters past, we have fed the deer and I want to share some pictures the wildlife camera has taken of them and also make some observations about their behavior.

First, is a picture taken last fall of a deer and fawns.  The fawns were probably born in the spring.

And here's a picture of a small herd that came out and started eating before dark.

Next, is a picture of a deer eating out of the bird feeder that is hanging in a tree just outside our bedroom window. 

And, another deer sneaking food from the birds.

Here are some deer in a snow storm we had one night in January.

We moved the camera around to the other side of the tree and got this picture of a deer looking up at the camera.

I've learned a lot about deer behavior over the course of the last 5 years.  First, I've found that they tend to stay in small herds that are sometimes at odds with other herds.  If one group gets to the feeder first, they will sometimes act aggressively toward another group that comes before they are finished eating.  When this happens, they will lash out with their front legs toward members of the other herd.

I've also found them to be very aware of their surroundings.  For example, I have transplanted several small trees that were coming up in my raised beds to other locations around the farm. You wouldn't think that deer would pay any attention to this.  But, in almost every case, they have nipped the tips out of the trees, as if they noticed the trees were in different places and took a bite to check them out.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

And We are Off and Running - 2014 Garden Underway

This winter has been abnormal for Oklahoma.  We've had wave after wave of freezing precipitation and really cold temperatures since the middle of December.  I'm sure folks up north are used to this, but here in Oklahoma we normally have a fairly mild winter with "maybe" a couple of waves of snow and ice.

Now it is the middle of March and I think we are finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  There have recently been several days of warm weather and we have made good use of them to get ready for this year's garden season.  Tom has especially been busy.  He has set up t-posts and cattle panels that will be used to trellis our tomato plants this year.

We've tried several methods to keep our tomatoes up off the ground and finally settled on this method.  The t-posts and cattle panels are easy to set up and, once the panels are purchased, they can be used for many years.

Tom has also planted some of the onions we ordered.  This is just part of them.  He ran out of time before he got them all planted and has to wait until the weather warms up again.

We have been starting seeds in our basement.  The seeds start out in a row tray like this:

Then when they get big enough, we transplant them into pots, like this:

Eventually, we will run out of room in the basement and will have to move them to our small greenhouse.   

Picture of Green House

Finally, I'm in the process of creating a new raised bed.

I got started on this a couple of months ago when we happened to have a mild day between ice storms.  The bed currently has Fairy Roses in it.  These are somewhat of a domesticated wild rose, but still have plenty of thorns and a rather unruly growth habit.  I have cut the roses back and want to transplant them to another location.    It is a big job and I'm procrastinating getting back to it, but need to get it finished so we'll have more room for tomatoes, peppers, okra and such.

More to come .....

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Rhoda's Yogurt Biscuits

Over the years, I've tried several biscuit recipes and, for many years, I used a buttermilk biscuit recipe that we liked quite well.  However, a couple of years ago a friend of mine gave me a recipe for biscuits that used yogurt instead of buttermilk.  Since I make my own yogurt, I always have several jars on hand.  So, I tried the recipe, was "hooked" and have used this recipe ever since.   Here it is.  I hope you can read my writing!

First, put the flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. 

Cut in the butter until it is the size of small peas.  Then add the yogurt, along with enough milk to make a stiff dough.  Turn the dough out on a floured work surface.

Knead a few strokes, just until you can smooth it into a ball.  If you knead it too much, the biscuits will be tough.  

Roll out the dough until it is about half an inch thick.

Cut it into biscuits.  The cutter I use is about 2.5 inches in diameter. For just the two of us, I only make half the recipe and get 6 biscuits.   I get 4 biscuits from the first cutting, gather the scraps together, roll them out and get 2 more.

Put the biscuits on a cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven and bake until golden brown.

Today, I served these with scrambled eggs to which I added crumbled bacon and cheddar cheese.

There is nothing better on a cold winter morning than hot biscuits with lots of butter and jelly! Yum!