Garden Seedlings – Time to Start!

One way our family has saved quite a bit of money is to have our own vegetable garden. Not only do we enjoy fresh vegetables throughout the summer but I also freeze vegetables to enjoy in the winter. I am very serious about putting vegetables up in the freezer  – we have 3 chest freezers and by this time of year, they are almost empty! So, with the end of last year’s bounty almost gone and the very warm spring weather, I am planning the garden.

To further the savings, we try to start many plants from seeds. Right now we have tomato, bell pepper, jalapeno pepper and eggplant seeds started.

Starting your own plants from seeds is much more economical that buying plants. It is also alot of fun to watch them grow! It really is very easy. We use egg cartons, plastic ones that will not dry out so quickly. Simply fill the egg cups with potting soil, sow your seeds and lightly cover with soil. Don’t forget to mark the carton with the type of seed you planted!

We put our cartons in front of a sunny window and keep them watered. I must confess, though, we had 3 more cartons to begin with than we do now. They were all planted and resting comfortably on a table outside. The days were warm so we would open the tops to allow the sun in. At night the cartons were closed to protect the seeds. Unfortunately, a west Texas wind storm came up and blew 3 cartons away – never to be found – and two others were turned upside down! But, our quick thinking 12 year old merely flipped them back over and brought them inside. They are now healthy bell pepper and jalepeno plants! I have ordered more seeds to replace those “gone with the wind”.

Seeds are available in many local stores. There also are several online companies from which you can order seeds. I have purchased tomato seeds from both Tomato Growers and Territorial Seed. I really like the San Marzano and Principe Borghese varieties from Tomato Growers. San Marzano is great for making tomato sauce and very tasty just to eat. Principe Borghese is a good grape/cherry tomato which also dries very nicely. I use Territorial Seed for most other seeds. With shipping, both are comparibly priced to the seeds available locally and I think they yield more produce. Territorial Seed has also sent replacement seeds for some pumpkins that never germinated!

Soon, we will be transplanting the seedlings to a larger area for further growth before subjecting them to this west Texas wind.

If all goes well, by the time they must fend for themselves, they will be much larger.


*I am in no way affiliated with either Tomato Growers or Territorial Seed – I am just a satisfied customer and wanted to share my experience.


More Pruning!

We finished pruning our 20 acre vineyard last week and began helping our oldest son (Tyler) and his wife (Jessica) prune their 25 acres. They live about 15 minutes from us so we do not have too far to travel. We normally get to the vineyard by 10:00 am, work until lunch and then continue working until dark which is about 8:30 pm. It makes for a long day but we have a lot of fun working together. The time passes quickly with conversation, jokes and movie lines.

In our vineyard, the varieties of grapes (Aglianico, Montepulciano and Roussanne) have relatively late bud break, meaning the buds begin to open later in the season. Tyler and Jessica, on the other hand, have early bud breaking varieties. These include Vermentino, Merlot, Viognier, Trebbiano, Dolcetto and Muscato Giallo.

With the early spring temperatures of mid to high 80’s, most of the early bud breaking varieties have budded. The above picture shows the buds and leaves popping out. While it looks pretty and lets you know that spring is here, it is also dangerous. We are still 4 weeks away from the average last frost for the west Texas area. That means that there is the danger that the buds will be frozen and fruit lost.

Below you can see the same plant after pruning. Pruning is used to shock the plant and slow down its push to put out buds and grow.

We are 1/4 of the way finished pruning in Tyler and Jessica’s vineyard. Hopefully we will finish by the end of next week!


Lacto-Fermentation – What Is It?

In the following, I have linked to products from my affiliate partners that I personally use and recommend.

You may have noticed my latest recipe additions – Sauerkraut and Fermented Carrots - are fermented. Being on the GAPS Diet and reading about the health benefits of probiotics, I have purposefully added them to our family’s diet. One way to get probiotics is through fermented foods. But, not just “fermented” as in pickled, I mean “fermented” using the lacto-fermentation process. So, what is lacto-fermentation and why is it so healthy?

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Fermented Carrots

fermented carrots

Fermented foods are a wonderful sources of probiotics which help keep the beneficial bacteria in your gut healthy and active. The following recipe for fermented carrots is an easy to prepare, lacto-fermented recipe. You can read more about this process in Lacto-Fermentation. After only a week on your counter at room temperature, fermented carrots are ready to be refrigerated and enjoyed.

Basically, lacto-fermentation is good for you because:

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Rest Day?

Yesterday, I awoke to a rainy day! Yes, you read that correctly. Here in west Texas it was raining! The normally dry, desert conditions were completely different – everything was wet! We even had rain running down our windows! Now, we are dedicated workers and even work in freezing weather, but with the rain, everyone went back to bed for some much needed sleep.

About 9:30am however, the rain began to slow and stop. With that realization, we got out of bed and began breakfast. With the last 3+ weeks being filled with pruning our vineyard, the housework has suffered. I decided to take a “rest” day and do some deeper cleaning other that just the maintenance upkeep.

So, while John and the children went to complete the pruning and tying of vines, I kept the two younger children home deep cleaning, organizing and cooking.

While preparing dinner, thinking about tomorrow’s work – we move up to our oldest son’s vineyard and help him prune their 25 acres – I happened to look out the kitchen window. A beautiful sunset was waiting to be admired.

As I watched, the picture changed before my eyes becoming even more brilliant.

What a beautifull end to a productive day!

Pudding, Raw Chocolate

raw chocolate pudding

In the following, I have linked to products from my affiliate partners that I personally use and recommend.

We have chocolate addicts around here. And, it does not have to be healthy chocolate for some of them!

Being on the GAPS Diet for the fourth week as a family, the feeling of deprivation by all has me seeking new recipes with honey. The following recipe for raw chocolate pudding appeared on the Nourishing Gourmet as a guest post by Kristin Jukes.

Putting my own twist on the healthy chocolate pudding (based on a dessert pudding from our time spent in Switzerland), it has quickly become a family favorite. For our family of nine, I quadruple the healthy raw chocolate pudding recipe ingredients and process it in batches in the food processor. If our older children are visiting, well, let’s just say I make even more – we have hearty eaters around here!

As my 16 year old daughter put it, “it is hard to believe something that good is really healthy!” – It had everyone asking for more![Continue Reading]

Foggy Morning

With all the dramatic temperature changes while pruning, we have come to really appreciate the warm days of early spring. This morning, however, was met with damp thick fog – very unusual for west Texas! Looking from the house, you can see in the picture above, the vineyard is not even visible. My first thought was, UGH! – We have to prune in this![Continue Reading]

Results of the GAPS Diet

While we undertook the GAPS Diet as a family experiment, to make sure everyone had healthy gut bacteria, the results have been encouraging. I have detailed my experience with the GAPS (relief from rheumatoid arthritis pain and ability to eat meat after a 30 year “allergy”) but the family has also benefited. I see results of the GAPS diet in several areas.

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East and West

This week has been filled with pruning. From the time we finish breakfast until we stop about 8pm for dinner. Actually, we do not stop for dinner – it gets dark around 8pm so we quit work. We are averaging pruning about 1 1/2 acres per day and have about 4 1/2 acres left.[Continue Reading]

It’ll Change!

When we moved to west Texas four years ago, one thing we were told was not to fret the weather – give it time, it’ll change. Boy, were they right!

Last week we had freezing weather with drizzle, sleet and snow. Oh, and don’t forget the wind. One day we had 41 mile/hour sustained winds with gusts reaching 50 m/hr – we lasted about an hour before deciding it was a great day for schoolwork! The younger children are the ones who really suffer in the high winds – the dust is being blown around closer to their eye level. Wanting to be prepared, they played around us with their goggles on to protect their eyes!

This week the weather began with temperatures in the high 70’s and very little wind. Monday was such a beautiful day that we had an afternoon snack of apples right in the vineyard! As you can see, most everyone is wearing shorts!

We are now well over 1/2 finished with the pruning. We completed the 7.5 acres of Roussanne last week. Tomorrow we should easily finish the 5 acres of Montepulciano and begin the Aglianico (7.5 acres).