Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Mystery of the Rocks

My husband and I live on a two acre property in the Post Oak Savannah of Central Texas. Caught between the clay soils of the Blackland Prairie and the sandy soils to the east, we seem to have an interesting mix of the two soils, but no good landscaping rocks. We're just too far from the Texas hill country and seem to have completely missed out on the fabulous limestone rocks that are ubiquitous throughout the western part of Central Texas.

Smooth Texas hill country field stone
We do have rocks, but the rocks we have are small and more gravelly in nature. An amateur archaeologist once told me that she thought our neighborhood was once much closer to the Colorado River. We're about 5 miles away now, but she believed that we were once right on the banks or perhaps part of a sand bar piled with silt and river rock.

Miscellaneous rocks from our swimming pool dig serve as a dry creek
I think she was probably right. When we had our swimming pool dug years ago, we found rocks that were as round as melons and as smooth as eggs. Within the 9 foot deep hole, we could see fascinating layers of rock and clay. Some of the clay was as thick and sticky as modeling clay. When I saw those layers, I better understood why we had such bad drainage in certain areas.

Rocks found in swimming pool dig
As someone who has a love for rocks in the garden, our lack of large stone creates somewhat of a problem. Sure, we could buy rock, but I have a huge garden and rock is surprisingly very expensive around these parts. My thrifty nature has encouraged me to look for other alternatives and over the years we've found many people willing to share their rocks.

I think the first free rocks we ever collected were from a friend out in the Dripping Springs area. He was trying to clear a horse pasture, so his horses didn't twist a leg. If you've never seen Dripping Springs rock, it's really quite fascinating. The limestone has been eaten away and is full of holes. This rock is loaded with character and makes a great accent piece in a garden bed.

I remember years ago when a friend cued us in on a new development that was going in out in Burnet. The site was loaded with these thick, beautiful, nature flag stones. We spent several weekends collecting (with permission) as many as we could before the bulldozers cleared the remaining rocks away. Today many of these stones can be found throughout our garden.

Small path leading to water feature

Steps leading to a bird bath

Pond edging stone

Garden bed brimming with heartleaf skullcap
When it comes to rock, I'm happy to help those with rock abundant landscapes to thin the herd, so to speak. Our friend Ely owns one such property that I've visited several times in the last few years. He definitely has plenty of rock to spare and is trying to clear some of it out. I've totally drooled over some of the beautiful rocks that were just too big for us to move. Fortunately, a neighbor with a tractor volunteered to help us load them on our last visit. The rocks were so heavy, we couldn't fit many in the truck. They were the devil to move when we got them home, but oh so worth it.

Another Dripping Springs area property, owned by our friend Tom, has been supplying us with lots of stone for our dry stack garden bed projects. I'd like to eventually outline all of my garden beds with stone as a visual cue to the dogs to stay out, plus it looks good too. Last time we needed stone, Tom loaded a huge trailer full of stone for us. The stone has lots of interesting shapes and colors. Somehow my husband pieces them together in a way that they don't fall over. I either don't have the skill or the patience for this work, so I just lay out the basic shape shape and wait for Richard to put together his artistic rock puzzle.

These boulders are our latest acquisitions. I'm not sure where they are going yet, but luckily we have a small tractor to help move them into position. I'll be sure to think long and hard about placement, because I have a feeling they will probably stay where ever they land.

This blog made me realize just how many rocks we've amassed over the years and I couldn't help but chuckle as I was taking the photos. I wonder if archaeologists thousands of years from now will scratch their heads and wonder how all these hill country rocks came to rest so far away out here in the Post Oak Savannah. Hehehe. I know and now you do too.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Garden Geegaws

It's cold and dreary. Wanna have some fun and see my collection of fine garden art (tongue in cheek)?  Come on in and have a look!

When there's not much of interest in the garden, you can always count on garden geegaws to provide a little something for the eye to rest on. I love the funny expressions on these little owl faces.

Some of my best garden geegaws have been gifts from people who share my love for garden whimsy. The giver of this wonderful Christmas gift knows that I definitely dig the earth! The bright colors of this weather smart obelisk really stand out in the gray winter landscape. It's so cheery, don't you think? 

This was a fun and unexpected gift from a friend who knows how much I like chickens. How cute is this little fairy garden sized chicken coop! The front door and side chicken entrances both open and close. There's even a little egg box inside the coop. Totally adorable!

This wind chime was given to me so long ago that the wood has become home to a wonderful variety of colorful fungus. It's held up surprisingly well considering it must be at least 10-15 years old.

The garden geegaws that hold up the best in the garden are made of metal. Bigger than life lizards and insects are fun to scatter around the garden. I really can't get enough of these and I'm always on the lookout from a new one that catches my fancy.

I like the look of rusted metal pieces, but two of my favorites are colorful metal animals. The first animal is Roger the rooster. He pulls guard duty at the chicken coop. I still remember when we first installed him. The hens didn't like him at all. Now, I don't think them give him a second thought. 

The second of my colorful animals in this peacock that lives in the front garden. I just realized this guy doesn't have a name. What a terrible oversight. What shall I name him? Phil? Percy? Peter! That's it! He looks like a Peter. Peter the Peacock. 

Glass probably isn't the best choice of material for garden art. I've broken more gazing balls than you can rain hail down upon, but this lovely glass wind chime is guaranteed by the artist. The drift wood is mixed with glass from recycled wine bottles. Very clever, and she will re-string it or make repairs if there are any mishaps down the road.

Speaking of broken glass, one of my large bottle trees keeled over during the last heavy rain. Only one of the bottles broke, which I think is a small miracle. A nearby tree kept the bottles from completely smashing into the ground. We got the bottle tree standing back up again, so no real harm was done.

Here's our latest bottle tree made out of a dead cedar tree. The bottles have been inserted onto rebar which was installed into the tree stump in a whirling pattern. I need to drink more riesling in blue bottles to finish the job. Challenge accepted.

This heron statue is a practical geegaw that tricks other herons into thinking that our garden pond is already occupied. The popular wisdom is that a heron will not fish at a garden pond that is already taken by another heron. This has worked amazingly well with two caveats. First, you must move the statue around from time to time to make it seem real, and second, all bets are off during mating season, when your statue might actually attract a nearby heron looking for love.

Lately, when I walk by this fairy door, I imagine the fairies have shut it up tight against the cold. Even though it's been unseasonably chilly lately, I feel like the magic of spring time is right around the corner. The garden fairies will be out in full force before you know it. Until then, keep warm my friends!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Aliens in the Garden

There are aliens out in the garden! But, don't worry, these aliens come in peace.

Kohlrabi look beautiful in the garden with their lush foliage and crazy bulbous stem. They are super easy to grow, produce quickly, and the pests hardly bother with them at all.

If you don't grow kohlrabi in your own garden, you can sometimes find them at local farmers markets. If you're lucky, you'll be able to locate fresh ones with the leaves still attached.

To prepare the kohlrabi, remove the leaves and save them to use as you would most any winter green.

Kohlrabi are incredibly versatile in the kitchen. They have a lightly sweet, mild flavor that is wonderful roasted, stir fried, shredded as slaw, or turned into my new favorite dish, kohlrabi cakes.

To prepare the kohlrabi, start by slicing off the top and the bottom. 

Cutting the kohlrabi down the middle exposes the moist, white edible flesh inside.

I like to use a paring knife to remove the fibrous outer peeling.

When peeled, the large pieces can be easily shredded or diced.

For the kohlrabi cakes, I'll be shredding the white flesh into a large bowl.

My kohlrabi is very large, so I'll be adjusting this recipe as I go to account for it's size. I started with 4 small hen eggs from some of my newer layers, but I ended up adding 2 more later to get the consistency I was looking for. 

Beat the eggs well in a separate bowl or at the edge of the bowl with the kohlrabi in it, if you want to reduce the dirty dishes.

I ended up using 1 1/2 cups of Italian style bread crumbs. Add your bread crumbs a little at time. You can always add more, but it's hard to take them out.

Mix well with a fork or use your hands for a little fun. When your done, the kohlrabi, eggs and breadcrumbs should be combined to the consistency of a very moist meatloaf. 

The key to making these kohlrabi patties is to keep them small. With the oil good and hot over a medium heat, make a ball with the dough in your hands, press flat, and gently slide into the oil. Watch out you don't burn your fingers!

Keeping the patties small will make it easier to turn them later and allow them to cook through. I like to use a flipper to turn them, but I place a fork on the top side to keep them from making a messy splash down in the oil.

In hot oil, the patties will cook in about 3 minutes on each side.

These kohlrabi cakes are wonderful with fresh lemon. Bon Appetite!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

My Girls Love Market Day

Sunday is market day! That's when I harvest the freshest and best looking produce in my garden and take my wares to the Hope Farmer's Market. Produce has to arrive at the market by 10:30 a.m., so as soon as the coffee is drunk, it's time to grab my high tech harvest wagon and head to the garden for an inspection.

The last remaining kohlrabi from my first planting are ready for harvest. A succession planting was done to ensure I'll have kohlrabi straight through the spring.

Warm temperatures are causing my purple cauliflower to expand rapidly. Most people prefer a tight head of cauliflower, so the looser ones will find their way to my table.

This year I did not blanch my cauliflower by tying the leaves around the head to keep the head white and pristine. Most of the heads still look great, but some had some minor staining. 

The kale is doing great this year. This dinosaur kale (Brassica oleracea) does best at the market, because it does not easily wilt and looks great all day.

The rutabaga are not as big as I'd like, so they can wait another week to two before they go to market.

I have lots of multiplying onions, but no time to deal with them this morning. I like to replant 1 out of 4 onions when I harvest to ensure production continues on. Replanting takes a little time, so they can wait till next week.

The produce that's ready to go to the market gets loaded into the wagon, while all the excess leaves get loaded into the wheelbarrow for my girls (i.e. my chickens).

"Market Day! We love market day!" says my hungry hens.

That's quite a pile of produce girls! Enjoy!

Cabbage that needs a little spritzing goes off to my high tech washing and drying station.

Finally, my hubby, who is king of crating, boxes up the goods for transport and loads them into the car.

My produce is harvested and delivered to the market in a matter of just a few hours. That's fresh! If you're in Austin, Texas and looking for the freshest, tastiest produce, stop by and see us on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Yard to Market booth.