Tag: featured

Fall Pecans

If you are lucky enough to have pecan trees in your landscaping, this is the time of year to start looking for pecans on the ground.  A mature pecan tree can produce 40 to 50 pounds of pecans on a good year.  The pecan trees in our yard were planted by my in-laws over 30 years ago.  With a little maintenance, a little fertilizer and a bit of water over the summer, they do well by us.  Over the weekend Mark and I gathered as many pecans as we could find.  And since I still had most of last year’s pecans yet to shell, we decided to make use of the beautiful day yesterday to haul all our pecans over to Nutcracker Station in Bertram to have them cracked.  If you make an appointment they can crack while you wait.  It was well worth the trip.  Now I have plenty of pecans to cook with all year long.

pecan picker close up

Here is a pecan picker-upper that I highly recommend–it will save your back.  All you do is firmly roll it over the ground, pushing the pecans through the wires.  When the hopper is almost full, you gently separate the wires and the pecans will drop out.  Frank demonstrated this for me.

And here’s a link to the Nutcracker Station in Bertram.  Mark and I had a great time walking through the downtown section of Bertram while our pecans were being cracked.  It was like stepping back in time and it was only a 45 minute drive from Pflugerville.

Chick Feeder . . . for People

The rainy little cold front that blew in today has me feeling like we just might get some Fall weather here in central Texas after all.  To celebrate, I bought a new chick feeder and set it up for some seasonal snacking–for humans this time.  An inexpensive chick feeder with a canning jar makes a pretty decoration when filled with candy corn or M&M’s.  Plus it kinda limits the speed of snacking since it’s not easy to get a handful of goodies at a time.  chick feeder.jpg

Butcher Calves Ready for Mid-June Processing

Many of you ask after Frank.  He is doing well and keeping very bupasture-raised-beefsy running cattle on his place just outside of Pflugerville.  Instead of retiring, he and his second wife, Dolly, have full-time jobs looking after a growing herd of cattle.  Frank and Dolly know each calf by name and tell you about their history and personality.  I joke that Frank’s calves only have one really bad day in their entire life.

We are so proud to sell Frank’s beef at Gaddy’s.  It is simply the best beef I’ve ever tasted –plus I can feel comfortable eating it knowing how well cared for the animals are.

When we had kids at home, Mark and I would get half a calf from Frank that would keep our freezer well stocked for several months.  These days I just get meat from the freezer at Gaddy’s , but if you would like to butcher a whole or half-calf, I happen to know that Frank has a few extra calves that will go to the butcher in mid-June.


Here’s how it works:

  1.  You contact Frank (his contact information is here) and reserve a half or whole calf.  He will need a deposit before the calf is taken to the butcher.  You can also talk to Mark or me (Kim) the next time you’re in Gaddy’s.
  2. Decide how you want your calf processed and fill out a cut sheet for the butcher.  You get to tell the butcher things like how thick you want your steaks, what type of steaks you want cut, what you want ground into hamburger meat, if you want round steaks and if so do you want them tenderized–you get the idea.  You also get to tell the butcher how to package the meat and in what pound increments.  (I recommend vacuum packaging.)  I can get you a cut sheet at Gaddy’s if you need one.
  3. Fax the cut sheet to Westphalia Meat Market where Frank will deliver the Calves.  I can also fax this for you if you bring it to Gaddy’s.
  4. Frank will take the calf to the butcher in Westphalia.
  5. The butcher will give Frank a ‘hanging weight’ of the calf.  You will pay Frank based on the hanging weight (minus your deposit of course).
  6. The butcher will process and package the calf.  It takes about two to three weeks.
  7. Unless you want to drive out to Westphalia to pick up your meat, have the meat sent to the Westphalia Meat Market in Hutto.  They will call you when it’s ready to be picked up.  You will pay the processing fee when you pick up the meat.
  8. Grill.  Roast.  Fry.  Broil.  Braise.  Enjoy.

Field Trip to McGregor

Mark and I took advantage of a day off  and decided to take ourselves on a field trip up to McGregor, TX where Derksen Portable Buildings are constructed.  We toured the Derksen facility and watched as buildings were framed, sided, painted and finished out.  Because we’ve been impressed with the overall quality of the Derksen buildings, we weren’t surprised to find the Derksen facility clean, organized and extremely busy.  In the photo above, Mark is standing outside a cabin painted in one of Derksen’s new color options.  The buyers of this cabin chose to have the electric package installed as well as an air conditioner.  As you can see, we interrupted the carpenter as he was finishing up the porch.

Here are a couple pictures taken inside of the Derksen facility.  The buildings pretty much go from frame to finish in here.  It was fun to walk through and see all the different options people had chosen for their buildings.

I thought this was a charming cottage shed.  It features a new style door with small transom windows and a fabulous dormer window above the doors to let in extra natural lighting.

d transom.jpg

I’m fascinated by the tiny-house movement and have often thought a Derksen cabin would make a good tiny house shell.   Turns out there are a lot of folks thinking the same thing.  Derksen can frame out walls, add electric and A/C, frame for a commode and shower, spray in insulation, and finish walls and ceilings.  Pretty impressive.

Many thanks go out to Dave for showing us around the facility.  W had a great time and feel like we know a lot more about how the buildings are constructed and all the options our customers have in designing their own storage shed, cabin or barn.

d mid entry

Mighty Little Zinnias

What’s not to like about zinnias?  Zinnias tolerate Texas heat and summer sun.  They provide bright pops of color out in the garden and can even be brought indoors as cut flowers.  Plus, zinnias grow easily from seed, making them a very economical addition to your landscape.

I grew this long row of zinnias from a couple of seed packets.  My total cost for seed was only  $3.78.  (Zinnias are sometimes sold as bedding plants in 6 packs, however I fin zinnias do best in the landscape when direct seeded in the soil.)

Zinnia seeds are thin little slivers of a seed and should be planted just under the soil, less than 1/4″ deep.  I sew the seeds about 4 inches apart and thin to 8 inches apart, although you could allow up to 12″ between plants.  Zinnias often germinate quickly and I look for little plants in 3-4 days or so.  Keep the soil nice and moist until the seeds germinate.

Once the zinnia plants are about 4-6″ tall and have at least two tiers of leaves, I pinch off the center group of leaves.  This will encourage the zinnia plant to branch out and produce more flower-bearing stems.

Pinch or clip back the center leaves to promote side shoot growth.

Keep young plants watered and fed.  I water ever other day and occasionally spray with fish emulsion and liquid seaweed.   It will take about 60-70 days for a seedling to produce the first flower.  When your plants start to form blooms you may wish to fertilize with a root and bloom type fertilizer.

Zinnias will bloom throughout the summer.  Remove spent flowers from the plant to promote continued blooming.  Zinnias also make great cut flowers for indoor arrangements.  To get the longest vase life from your zinnias, cut zinnias right before the blooms fully open.  Also place a few drops of bleach in your flower water to help keep the water clean.


Since Zinnias will die off when the weather gets cold, zinnias seeded after July may not have enough time to fully flower before the cold weather sets in.

Garden Update

I’ve been spending more time out in the garden lately than in front of my computer.  Mark and I have been saying that this is our market garden ‘learning year,’ and we are busy learning just how labor intensive managing an acre of garden can be.  Here is a little photo update on what’s going on in the garden.

The onions were one of the first crops we planted, starting in mid January.  They looked so puny when we first planted them.  Now they are nearing harvest.

The tomatoes we started from seed are loaded with beautiful fruit.  The abnormally warm spring helped get our crop off a good start.

We have plenty of peppers almost ready and even a tomatillo or two.

Melons, beans and corn are a bit farther behind, but look great so far.

It’s always fun to try something new out in the garden.  This year I’m trying to grow some cut flowers to sell alongside our vegetables.  I’m experimenting with heat-loving annuals this year and if all goes well, I’ll branch out into more challenging flowers in the fall.  Here’s a couple pics of my sunflowers.  Even the foliage is lovely.  I can’t wait to see the blooms.

Please stop by the store and see what’s going on in the garden yourself.  You’re always welcome to take a stroll down the road that divides the garden, just watch your step and let us know up at the store that you’re headed back there.  One last before and after.


Fighting Weeds with the Hula Hoe

It’s challenging to keep any size garden weeded.  Mark and I are barely managing to stay one step ahead of the weeds in our market garden.  For plants that are not grown in groundcover, the hula hoe has been a godsend.  The hula hoe goes by several names.  It’s also called a stirrup hoe because it’s blade is  in the shape of a stirrup or a scuffle hoe because it scuffles back and forth in the soil.

Mark does a little demonstration (below) of how we use the hula hoe in our garden.  It’s good for clearing up walkways or even in between plants.  The hoe sweeps the weed’s feet right out from under them, slicing the roots below the soil line.  The hoe’s blade cuts on both the pull and the push strokes.  (Note:  you can tell that Mark prefers the ‘pull’ stroke in the video.)

The hoe works best with a nice sharp blade.  Use a file to sharpen the blade once it feels dull.

We carry this hoe at Gaddy’s.  It retails for $19.99.

It is best to use the hula hoe on young tender weeds.  I prefer to weed early in the morning on a hot day so the sun can bake any exposed root system.  Clear the weed debris from you garden and put it in the compost pile.


Growing in Groundcover

It seems like the weeds are growing faster in the garden than the vegetables.  And although I don’t mind spending a little time weeding, I’d much rather tend to other gardening tasks.  Planting through groundcover or landscape fabric is one technique Mark and I use to keep weeds out of the garden.

When we starteold groundcover.jpgd our market garden, there were several feet of old landscape fabric on the ground, left in place from our old tree growing operation.  Even through the fabric had been in place for almost 10 years, it was in fairly good shape, so Mark cut some holes in it and planted tomatoes (see photo left).   It worked so well, we decided to add more groundcover to our garden.

The groundcover we chose is the same as what we sell at the store.  It is made by DeWitt and is a woven polypropylene that allows moisture  and air through but prevents weed growth by blocking the available light.  The groundcover is UV stabilized to help it withstand exposure to the Texas sun and it is striped every 12″ which makes it easy to plan plant spacing.  Our groundcover is available in different widths and is sold by the foot.  For example our 3ft wide groundcover is $0.69/ft.

dewitt rack.jpg

Groundcover is easy to install.  After your soil is prepared (soil amendments added, large rocks removed, area relatively leveled). Place the groundcover over the area you wish to cover.  There is a fuzzy side and a slick side.  The stripes are most visible on the slick side.  Place the fuzzy side towards the ground.   Secure the groundcover in place with landscape pins.  These pins look like giant hairpins and they go through the landscape fabric and into the ground.  We place our pins every 4-5 feet around the perimeter of the groundcover.

Next, cut or burn holes in the groundcover.  The size and spacing will be determined by what plants you wish to grow.  We usually plant transplants into the groundcover but we have also seeded through the holes.  It’s hard to tell in the pic below, but the holes are much larger in the pic on the right (about 8″ for tomatoes) than in the pic on the left (about 3″ for sunflowers planted from seed).

We grew spinach, broccoli and lettuce using groundcover this past winter and had no weed problem whatsoever.  The groundcover also kept the leafy plants so clean I had very little soil to wash off after picking.

To minimize garden pests and maximize soil health, Mark and I will rotate crop placement in our garden.  Lucky for us, groundcover can easily be moved.  When we are ready to plant next year’s cucumbers we will prepare the soil in a different part of the garden, pull the pins on the old groundcover then install it over the new site.

There are some limitations to using groundcover.  It takes a long time to plant seeds in groundcover.  We don’t use groundcover at all when planting beans, corn, or any crop we want to quickly and easily seed using our Earthway Seeder.  We also don’t use groundcover for any root crops like turnips, beets or carrots.  Another worry for us regarding our groundcover is the reflected heat from the sun.  Once the weather gets hot and stays hot we will probably also want to put mulch around our plants to keep them from frying in the Texas sun.


Cucumber Beetles: The Enemy Has Arrived

This is what I get for procrastinating and not putting on my row cover in a timely manner–the cucumber beetles have invaded, both spotted and striped.  As their name implies, cucumber beetles like to eat cucumbers, but they also enjoy feeding on squash, melons and pumpkins (any cucurbit will suffice).  In no time at all they’ll munch through lovely green leaves then leave some eggs, which will hatch into larvae.  The larvae will then start eating your plant’s stems and roots below ground.  If that wasn’t enough damage, the adult cucumber beetles also fly from plant to plant spreading disease like Mosaic and Bacterial Wilt.

I imagine that I’m not the only gardener with a cucumber beetle infestation.  If you see either of the above culprits in your garden, here’s what you can do.

  1.  Spray.  If you are using only organic products in your garden, you can spray with Spinosad or  Pyrethrum.  Spinosad is a bacterial found in crushed sugarcane that is harmful to many insects.  Pyrethrum in an organic insecticide made from chrysanthemums.  If you are not opposed to using chemical insecticides, spray with one safe for vegetable plants like permethrin.  NOTE:  No matter what spray you use (organic or chemical), spray in the late evening or very early morning so you have little chance of harming honeybees when you spray.
  2. Hire a known killer.  Green lacewings, ladybugs, and spined soldier bugs all like to feed on the eggs of the cucumber beetle.  Buying beneficial insects will not provide immediate control of an infestation but the addition of beneficial insects to your ecosystem will provide long term help to manage natural infestations.  NOTE:  If you choose to spray, even organic pesticides will harm beneficial insects.
  3. Deter the bad guys.  Sprinkle kaolin clay on your plants to provide a filmy layer that creates an unattractive environment for egg laying as far as cucumber beetles are concerned.
  4. Prevent the problem.  Protect your plants by covering them with a lightweight floating row cover as soon as the plants are in the ground.  Once your plants are blooming, you will need to remove the row cover so insects can get to the blooms and aid in pollination.

Spinosad-16oz-40691-Glamour-MWhat did I do about my problem?  Since I am using only organic products in our garden, I sprayed last night with spinosad.  If I had noticed only a few cucumber beetles, I might have taken a ‘watch and wait’ approach and given my ladybugs a chance to work, but I had beetles on about 75% of my cucumber plants and about 50% of my squash so I chose to spray.  If I don’t see results in the next couple of days I may spray with neem-pyrethrin spary.  I have also planted the next two rows of cucumber and squash plants and I will definitely get my row cover on them before the seeds even sprout!

Indeterminate & Determinate Tomatoes

tomatoIf you have taken a look at the market garden lately, you might have noticed that Mark and I have constructed a tall stake-and-wire trellising system for many of our tomatoes.  This system will allow us to guide our indeterminate tomatoes up an 8ft piece of twine as they grow.  We will prune the ‘suckers’ from these plants to promote upward growth. Our determinate type tomatoes, will be supported by a shorter basket-weaving trellising system that will be less noticeable from the road.

We are constructing two different trellising systems because some tomato varieties(indeterminate) grow very tall up a central stem and other varieties ‘self-top’ at more manageable heights(determinate).  Here’s how I remember what indeterminate and determinate means–the height of determinate tomatoes is determined (usually under 6 ft) while the height of indeterminate tomatoes is not (they will grow until the central stem is pruned).

Home gardeners can use tomato cages to successfully support both indeterminate and determinate tomato varieties.  Although pruning is not necessary, indeterminate tomatoes may need to be pruned so that these free-wheeling tomatoes don’t take over your garden.  In contrast, determinate tomatoes should not be pruned.  Removing the suckers from determinate varieties will reduce your crop yield.  I prune only the bottom-most leaves and suckers from my determinate tomatoes because I don’t want foliage touching the ground.

Indeterminate and determinate tomato varieties also have different patterns of fruit production.  Determinate tomatoes produce a crop all at once.  This is great for gardeners who want to preserve their crop by canning–you can pick all at once and put everything up.  Roma, a popular canning tomato, is a determinate variety.  Indeterminate tomatoes keep producing fruit throughout the growing season.  This is great for growers who want slicing tomatoes.  It’s nice to have a few tomatoes ripening at any given time.   (Note:  All tomatoes tend to stop setting fruit when temperatures climb consistently into the mid 90’s.  This happens sooner than we’d like in Central Texas.)