Thursday, May 28, 2009

When Cultures collide

So what happens when you put a Black man and Japanese women together; you get Fried Tofu with a side of Fried chicken. I think that is awesome!! Besides being funny as hell, I also love the fact how since our garden has had a great start, My wife has capitalized on making many dishes that fall into the realm of her ethnic background as well as mine. You can't go wrong with fresh ingredients. Before we started growing; my wife was not a big fan of the zuccs and string beans. But after tasting the flavors of what homegrown can produce she is a firm believer in eating fresh homegrown veggies. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next. But whatever it is Im sure its going to taste amazing.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Whats Growing in Zone 8 now?

We recieved our first ever Female Zuccini plant and flower

Our Edamame are looking real good and are starting to get fat. My wife is eye balling these guys.

The watermelon in the haybale are doing excellent I can't believe how big they have grown.

And need I say more this is the king of the house "HUGO" and he is the BOSS

Our sunflowers are growing tall and strong, they are going to make a beautiful attraction to the garden and hopefully attract some good pollinators.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Garden Update

Well the year is not over yet and we grew some things. So I guess my wife and I can officially be called green thumbs. The garden is alive and according her everything is tasting good. It looks like a jungle out there. Her favorite are the fresh green beans according to her they taste very different from the market because of the sweet texture. My dog does what she does best and that's eat, play for 3 mins and back to bed. Spoiled dog!!! Ezelle and Esther are doing well to.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Leave an Inspirational Quote

My wife and I are going to be out and about for awhile and our blog is going to crawl to a snails space over the next several months. We will pick up where we left off in the fall. We will continue to take pics so that we can still track our progress. In the mean time; one of my few collections are inspirational quotes that I have collected over the years from various sources. These are all words that inspire me in one way or another. I will leave some and I will like for those who stop by to leave their own inspirational quotes as well. It will be interesting to collect the inspirational words of those who gather in our community. Until then Happy Gardening and Look forward to seeing your bountiful produce in the fall.

"In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught." (Baba Dioum)

"Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own"

"Knowing is not enough; we must apply, willing is not enough; we must do"

"When you aim for perfection, you discover it's a moving target."

"Be more afraid of an army of sheep led by a wolf, than an army of wolves led by a sheep."

"Life isn't fair, that doesn't mean you can't win."

'Friendship is tested when it's time to share the burden."

"The true essence of a man is not what he has but what he does."

"Do not be wary of men who take risks with titles and lands; be wary of men who have nothing to lose."

"Here is a test to see if your mission on earth is finished; if your alive, it isn't.

"Don't trek where others may lead, instead build your own path and lead the way where others may follow."

"I am the product of circumstance and the result of consequences." (Yours truly, ATW)

"I call on you not to hate, because hate does not leave space for a person to be fair and it makes you blind and closes all doors of thinking." (Saddam Hussein--speaking from his cell after being captured by US Forces)

"Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it." (Buddha)

"It is a brave act of valor to condemn death, but where life is more terrible than death, it is the the truest valor to dare to live." ( Sir Thomas Brown)

"I seek not only to follow in the footsteps of the men of old, I seek the things they sought."

'Put together a group of people with goals similar to yours, although they may come from different fields with whom you can share and build ideas; they will give you support, plus open your mind to new directions you haven't considered yourself." (Napoleon Hill- *Master Mind*)

Share your comments and leave any quote that has inspired you.

Happy Gardening and moving on towards a self-sustainable future


Benifical Garden Bugs; Green Lacewing; Hunt em down Kill em all

My wife had a shocking discovery the other day when she saw that she had so many aphids on her herb garden. It kind of sucked because we are competing for the best herb garden container and these aphids literally were sucking the life out of her herbs. So we clipped as many leaves as we could and quarantined her herb garden to micromanage every aspect of it's growing life. As I was doing some inventory on the rest of the garden I came across this Guy hanging on my herb garden. I immediately wanted to squeeze the life out of this guy. But as looked closer I saw these huge pincher's on it's head. Common sense told me that something equipped with huge pincher's might just be on my team. So I watched this guy for some time and took some pics and did some research and found out that what I have patrolling around my herb container is in fact a Green lacewing in the larva stage and this guy is commonly known as the aphid lion. I think it should be reclassified as the aphid saber tooth.

The Green Lacewing which I had no Idea lived in my garden is not as predacious as it's young. The Green lacewing lays it's egg on leafs and when the young larva fully emerges the aphid lion larva gorges itself on every bug that is attacking your garden namely aphids. Before I started doing some research on these guys I need to be punched right in the jaw, because i think I have killed at least ten larva in the cocoon stage stuck to a leaf. So my advise is to be careful, we want to kill the bad and help the good.

Hands Down Lace wing larva are the most important predatory species in the garden. This is my opinion and I believe so because of the variety of harmful insects they eat. From spider mites to moths. These guys do not discriminate.

Growing Watermelon in the hay bale

When the start of my watermelon season started we faced alot of difficulties. The most notable one being disease. Every melon that produced fine growth in the seed starters didn't do well after being transferred. Needless to say I was severely disappointed, because who doesn't want melons in their garden. So after doing some research on the hay bale gardening, I decided to give it a go and start all over and after the prepping the hay bales with water for several days and throwing some ammonium nitrate on them to get the juices flowing. I finally got my transplants up and running again and decided to plant my melons again.

Currently, I am shocked with the amazing progress the melons are doing. They are taking to the hay bale like fish to water. If you think about hay bale gardening it makes perfect sense. From a layman like myself it's 2nd grader proof; prep the hay bale with water everyday for about a week, throw a cup or two of ammonium nitrate after the 4th day of watering, water the remaining days with ammonium nitrate and on the 7th day continue to water,(What you thought I was going to say rest, Not!) cut back on the ammonium nitrate and continue to water for an additional 3 days, dig a hole in the bale, place compost in the hole, place your transplant in the hole and cover the top of the bale with organic material namely compost. Water.

The Hay bale has it's own ecosystem working in there. The damn thing literally comes alive, microbes start to feed on the hay bale and literally gets hot inside, thats why you take the additional days of watering without adding the ammonium nitrate so it can cool down before you add your transplants. But the hay bale is eating itself and your plants are using the digested materials for nourishment. Alot of hay bale gardeners like to use the same hay bale for at least two years. I don't think im going that route. I will turn them into the garden, but not after letting my chickens have at them first

Growing Corn in an Urban Environment

We started our corn in seed trays and decided position them on the North side of the Garden so that they wouldn't overshadow the small veggies in the garden. But as with anything you play and you learn and we have found thus far that we can rotate our corn to the four sides every year without infringing on the growth of everything else. For some reason even though we have a south facing sun our garden is positioned in a way that the sun is right on top of us and casting huge shadows by other plants will not be an issue.

From what we have learned corn does not have a high yield, But after what I tasted yesterday, I don't care. I had a piece of Georgia Corn that was literally out of this world. That corn tasted like a sweet watermelon. I have never had anything like that before. So if I can get my corn that sweet, I don't care if I have a high or low yield, its the taste in the end that works and those few times we set corn on the grill that will mean the most.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Beneficial Garden Bugs.

My wife has always had the knack for picking the perfect fruits. Especially, cantaloupes and honey due melons. Her fruits are always sweet; mine on the other hand were always blah. One day I asked her how is it that she always pick the perfect fruits and she said, "I smell and pick what the bugs want to eat." From that day onward I started to smell my fruits and would think like the bugs and I had much more success finding the best fruits even at the worst time of the year.

But as with anything, bugs are a problem. Recently, I have noticed allot of aphids in the garden and around my tomatoes and I have been pulling them off, and squishing the life out of those suckers. My wife always brings me back to reality by telling me that I can't have it both ways. Either we are going to have chemically laden produce or we are going to have bugs eating what we want to eat. So with deep sighs I submit to the bugs and understand that they are going to be there. But not without a fight. Because, I'm an A type personality and I just can't admit defeat without a fight, and the other day when I saw my first lady bug on my tomato plants, I was happy the reinforcements started to show up. I also noticed that there were mites working in and out of the garden and I panicked, because although I don't know what there purpose is, I do know they are not good, until I saw one mite carying something in house mouth. The picture above is not my picture but the picture above is the exact same thing I saw in my garden. My research led me to understand more about predatory mites and there function in and around the garden.

Right now there is war going on in my garden. I can't blame the insects that want to eat my veggies. It's a sign that my garden is healthy. But to combat these guys I am going to have to be proactive in more research and get smarter on the types of Beneficial bugs that may find a home in my garden. I will start a series of profiles on Beneficial Garden bugs, Entitled "Hunt em Down and Kill em all" through out this blog over the next few months as I understand how they work and how to maintain them in the garden.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Steak and Potatoes

My wife and I were in the mood for steak tonight and what better way to have steak than to have them with potatoes. i have to confirm that my butcher gets his meat from the area. The fillets were awesome. Recently, I have fell in love with the small fingerling potatoes. They are great to just throw in the skillet and sauteed with butter, covered under controlled heat and garnished with a little sea salt, black pepper and fresh rosemary. The fillet was pan fried to perfection and for me that means rare with a seared crust. The gardens peas and beans picked fresh from the garden were excellent along with the honey glazed carrots were great. Im really digging the tupelo honey we picked up from Florida, it does have a great taste. And thank God for Georgia to finally allow Yeungling Lager into our state. I don't know what the issue was about. But now I can finally get the oldest beer in America in my town. What a great feeling and a way to end the night.

Growing carrots

Ok I have to come clean, I have been chewing on
small little carrots over the past couple of weeks. I just had to see if the carrots were growing and so I sacrificed one and there was this small little nub that looked like a poked out belly button and it tasted so sweet. There was one more a few days ago and that too was delicious. I am not the worlds biggest carrot fan, but I must admit they taste great home grown. My wife wanted to see what our carrots looked like and I said, "hmm, that will be cool, lets try one." she is going to read this and pop me over my head.

Keeping bats at the Urban Homestead

I may have just officially been declared crazy with this post, but im the type of guy that likes to look at all kinds of options. I live in a place where the keepers of the Forest aka "mosquito's" frequently get drunk off of my families and pets blood every day. As soon as I walk outside the vampires follow my trail and instantly are all over me. I have tried everything. We are obsessive about not leaving any standing water around. But the vampires keep on coming. We finally found out why we have so many mosquito's. My neighbors have a small pond that they breed in and because of that it is out of our hands. Or is it?

This is where my little hairy Friends come in. I was doing some reading on the benefits of bats and came up with the brilliant idea that, If I kept bats at my property I could put a dent in the Mosquito population. Maybe my thinking is like throwing gallons of gasoline on the campfire to get it going. I don't know. But there is one thing for sure, one bat can eat up to 1000 mosquito's a night. That's 1000 mosquito's per bat every night. So it's either harmful pesticides or hairy little bats. I'm leaning towards the bats. I really can't talk my wife into this one. I will just have to tell her that 80s' style hairdos are out. No big hair.

On keeping the little guys, the only thing that is needed is a bat box to hang on a near by tree for the nocturnal guys to live in. The information that I read also stated that it may take up to 3 years for bats to occupy the new residents, but once they do they will be back year after year. Bat boxes are sold on ebay in all shapes and sizes and I think this fall I will purchase one and give it go. What about rabies? It's the hype of movies and media hysteria about bats that give them the bad wrap. According to the Bat conservation website they state, 'That Bats can get the rabies virus, but the incidence of bats and rabies is very low, usually only about one half of one percent of bats tested, test positive for the virus. If you take into consideration that people have a much higher chance of getting attacked by a dog, falling down a flight of stairs, or being struck by lightning and dying than dying of a bat bite you can see that rabies is rare."

My Gals

Ezelle and Esther, stuck to the hip like batman and robin, Michael Jordan and Scotty Pippen or more like Aretha Franklin and her Microphone. These two gals have so much attitude that I just say they have "tude" They remind me of my two sisters; Quick to tell you whats on their minds, able to hold several conversations at one time, Always keepin a watchful eye on the latest gossip and a whole lot of fun to be around.

Raising chickens in an Urban environment has it's challenges, but those challenges are not so overbearing if things are kept within parameters that are functional. I never thought I would ever have chickens at this stage in my life. But like with everything else, I do go against the grain and instead of waiting until my knees are blown out, I decided to go for it and attempt to do it right the first time. I never had a platform for what right looks like in an urban environment. But to the contrary, I do have a platform for what wrong looks like. There is an area of town that I drive by occasionally, and the people sit out side of there homes on wet couches, with Budweiser cans replacing the grass, and roosters running in makeshift pens positioned on the front lawn. It's disgusting and it gives guys like me who are living under the radar a bad name.

I personally have high standards for my gals. I know chickens are chickens and they are going to poop and do whatever it is chickens do. But as the guy with the big brain, I will figure out a way to direct their patterns in such a way that works with all of us and for the most part it has. Ezelle and Esther are the beginning and surprisingly my wife was so impressed with the new coop that she would love to add one more as an addition. I love my gals, but we don't have any more room for another loud mouth.

Growing Urban tomatoes

Well they have finally arrived. My wife and I were doing some house keeping around the garden and I noticed that there was a small tomato hanging around. My tomato plants have taken off and are climbing straight up the stakes and trellis that we have surrounding them. Our main goal was to tie all of our branches to the stakes to that they wont fall over. There are so many little flowers and we have taken the advice of giving a gentle shake to activate pollination and pinching off some of the suckers. I really hope these guys do well. Taking a closer look, my wife and I realize that tomatoes are a major part of our diet. It will be great when we have our first.

Growing Bush beans

When we placed our beans in the ground I had no idea that they would almost look alien as they burst through the ground. It seems like all of the beans have this characteristic. But nonetheless, the bush beans responded great to the raised beds and and once their leaves were set they started to produce flowers. The amazing thing about these guys is the time it took from flower to bean. I wish i could do some slow motion camera video on these guys, because they grow fast. We love string beans and look forward to our harvest soon.

Growing Japanese Cucumber

Our Japanese cucumber has been our problem child, due to the disease that overshadowed it a while back. I quickly learned that the disease was more from me than anything else and when we pulled back on the watering she began to live again. She is doing so much better these days that I was amazed to see this flower. It is a good thing but from what I have been learning, one flower is not going to do any good. SO for now I am enjoying the one bloom. There seems to be another one in process but I can't tell and I am not sure with the timing. But I will leave it up the plant to decide and if by some chance another bloom happens to occur I will try diy pollination.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Making a Chicken Coop

Alot of thought went into making this chicken coop for Esther and Ezelle. It was difficult to come up with a solid plan, because all of the materials we had were pulled apart from other projects, so my buddy and I just shot from the hip on this one.

One thing was for sure and that was the need to incorporate the basic needs for my wife and I which was easy access, ventilation, easy to clean, a place to roost, a place to lay eggs, an easy way to collect eggs and a way to throw green material on the bottom of the coop and collect it for compost. I know it sounds like alot but with this plan our coop suddenly materialized in a few hours and it was literally a one day project. Hopefully our girls will appreciate the work we have done for them. They now have a place to roost and lay eggs off the ground and my wife can easily go in and collect eggs from the side with out going into the coop. My favorite design feature of the coop is being able to pull my wheel barrel up with heaps of material from the compost and scatter it along the floor. When I put the girls in thier new home they made quick work of the working green material. They were literally on cloud nine doing their synchronized scratching dance. I can watch these guys scratch all day like I can watch a fire. It's mesmerizing watching them work and it's amazing that these girls have some personality. More pics of the girls latter on this week.

Monday, May 4, 2009

1st Official Homegrown Meal

So today marks the day that we officially ate a meal that came entirely from our backyard, minus the sesame oil for the stir fry. And I must say it was great. Ok I may be a bit bias, but im not trying to be. It really was delicious. We picked some swiss chard that I never had before and threw in some sugar snap peas, along with a few eggs from the chickens and it was absolutely perfect. The swiss chard was a pleasant surprise. It was like eating Pak Choy and spinach which I both love. We have heard that swiss chard can be bitter but there was no such bitterness present. We picked young to medium leaves and wife was impressed how they maintained there integrity under heat. So with the sugar snap peas and eggs to polish of the stir fry we had a nice little side dish that I will never forget.

Three Sister Method

Growing human gave me a wonderful suggestion on using the Three sister method, to grow Corn, Squash and beans in the same space. I don't have alot of space in my garden, so I am trying to maximize my space efficiently by using methods like the three sisters to produce more on less. The only issue I am having is putting in the climbing beans; for sometime it seemed as though my corn was stunted, until last week when they literally doubled in size, in fact everything in my garden took off. I can't explain it, but Im not complaining, nor am I asking any questions.
With the explosion of growth from my corn and Zucchini, I will introduce my fast climbing pole beans to the party and we will see what comes of it. But basically if you are not familiar with the Three sister method, it's a technique that was utilized by Native Americans where they would plant corn on mounds and at the base of the mound they would plant squash that would provide ground cover and keep the grass and weeds from getting carried away and then plant beans to climb up the corn. The Beans would provide the much needed nitrogen the corn needed to grow and Bam!! you have the Three sisters. I currently I have two sisters working right now, but all will be complete by the end of the week

Growing Swiss Chard

My wife and I have personally never eaten swiss chard. In fact I have never handled swiss chard until today. It was only when put together my list of growing veggies in zone 8 that I found Swiss Chard to be one of the Veggies that will do well in our area. So we commenced to plant some seeds and wallah we had swiss chard shoots growing strong with amazing color. But then the tornado came and brought along violent hail that ripped all of my vegetables to shreds and showed no remorse to the swiss chard. I had no hope for it, but to my surprise and my wife's screaming in my ear to leave the veggies alone until they heal, the swiss chard made a terrific comeback. Thank God for the patience of my wife; for tonight we are blessed to try something new.

Growing Blackberries?

My Blackberry twigs that I planted awhile ago are confusing the bajeezus out of me. Unlike my dwarf cherry and peach tree, the twigs have not produced any sprouts. In fact the twigs that I have planted look like they are drought stricken. But here is the confusing part, if you click on the photo you can see green leafed foliage growing at the base of the twigs and parallel. I'm really confused about this, because I have not found any information on blackberry twig growth and I am hesitant to pull anything from around twig. The same thing is happening to another blackberry plant elsewhere in the garden. Any comments or explanation would be greatly appreciated

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Eating Sugar Snap Pea Vines, leaves and Flowers??

Today my wife and I spent the day in Atlanta and like always we love to visit the Dekalb Farmers Market. We needed real vanilla beans to make pannacotta so we drove by and picked up some. We love the farmers market because it's an international farmers market and they literally have so many different fruits and veggies from everywhere, like the infamous Durian fruit that smells like a three day old babies diaper, rotten eggs, smelly feet and the stuff you smell at the bottom of a New York City Garbage Can, But taste like a banana mango custard. I ate one all by myself one time as my wife dry heaved her spleen out on the balcony of our hotel. It was absolutely delicious.
But back to the Sugar Snap pea vines, leaves and flowers; as we walked through the produce aisles we saw our wonderful sugar snap peas and they looked great. We kind of felt good because we were growing them ourselves and felt good about our accomplishment. But something caught my wife's eye. It was the sign that said "Sugar snap pea Vines" and more amazing than that was the price. The Sugar snap peas were going for $1.29 a lb and the Sugar snap pea vines were going for $3.49 a lb. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I picked a few of them up and they were the same thing that I was growing at the house; the vines, leaves and some of the flower buds for $3.49 a lb. I couldn't believe it. But it set me on a mission.
As soon as I got home I did some research on eating the vines and not to my surprise there was very little on eating the vines. One site made it a point that sweet pea vines are poisonous except the ones from the Sugar snap pea. So I clipped some vines and leaves and clipped some basil and I went straight to the skillet with a slice of butter and sauteed those jokers up and I was amazed at the delicate taste they have. They were absolutely delicious and fresh. There is one thing to note; as I clipped the vines I noticed that some of the vines were kind of hard and others were tender. If you are willing to try some Sugar snap pea leaves, flowers and vines, consume all the leaves, flowers and the tender vines. Talk about eating from the rooter to the tooter. I'm sitting on a Gold mine and I didn't even know it.

Friday, May 1, 2009

May the Best Herb Garden Win

So my wife and I got into a little pissy contest about growing herbs and even though none of us has ever had any success at growing anything before we somehow felt that through all of our research that we know what it is that we are doing. We both have different gardening styles. I'm the throw-the-seeds-down-and -let-nature-take-its-course kind of gardener. My wife on the other hand is the very meticulous-calculated-one-inch-spacing-means-one-inch type of gardener. So it's to no surprise that when the conversation about herbs came up we both had our own ideas on how to grow the best herbs. There is one thing that we both have in common and that is we like herb bowls that grow a variety of herbs in the same space. But this is where we branch off, Because same space for me is piled up on top of one another and for my wife that means it needs to be spaced out a little bit. So needless to say we started a little contest on who's going to grow the better herb garden. I must admit, my herb garden does seem a bit crowded but I like the lush greeny foliage of everything that I can't even make out. All I know is that I have a little bit of this and little bit of that going on in there. For now both of our Herb garden bowls seem to be doing very well. Although I have noticed clippings of some herbs from my bowl. I think My wife is trying to cheat and use all my herbs up first.