Permaculture Gardening and a Seven Layer Forest Garden

We are again offering a class on planning and planting your permaculture garden. This time we will focus on the seven layer forest garden; planting perennial fruit trees, bushes, herbs and vines with winter vegetables, and ground cover plants. The class will be on Sunday, Dec. 4 from 10:00am until about 2:00 or 3:00pm.

We have experience raising crops for culinary purposes in this area and want to share the successes and help you avoid some of the failures we have had. The class will include soil preparation, plant selection, irrigation, seed starting and saving, site planning, use of livestock, and what it takes to make gardening flow and turn the environmental problems into assets.

The class will include short presentations about permaculture and organic principles, soil health, and the use of natural assets. This is not just an idea and theory class –THERE IS NO POWER POINT!–but a hands on experience. We will design gardens taking into account the sun and shade, winds, water flow and companion planting while trying to obtain a bountiful yield. We will make beds with swales and berms, plant fruit trees, vines, shrubs, ground covers, herbs, vegetables and root crops–all in one area, benefiting one another. The main focus will be on perineal, but annuals will be mixed in. You will get your hands in the dirt. We will discuss interplanting and plant rotations, make compost tea and see how a permaculture garden might work.

Winter is a prime time to garden in the gulf coast region. Weed and insect pressure is minimal and the temperatures are usually tolerable.

The basic idea of the layered forest garden is creating an environment where each plant contributes to the overall ecosystem. Large fruit trees create summer shade and transpire moisture, vines take advantage of vertical space, shrubs that fruit in the spring grow under the deciduous fruit trees that have lost their leaves, vegetable plants that like shade can be planted in one area and those that like sun in another, a ground cover like herbs, squash or strawberries will hold in moisture and inhibit weed growth, and root crops grow below the surface. Such a garden needs very little attention and holds moisture well, whether we are talking about flood or drought.

My online store is selling it as an item for pickup. It is not. It is a class at the farm on Dec. 4 at 10:00am. I hope I can fix that problem but me and computers are not always compatible.

The class costs $40.00 per person Tickets

If weather makes cancellation necessary a full refund will be available.

Planting Citrus Trees

Planting Citrus trees in the ground in Houston

The best time to plant citrus is in March or April after the chance of frost is hopefully gone. Choose a spot with a high elevation where it drains well (not a sink hole). Citrus trees need at least six hours of sunlight to fruit reliably. More sunlight would mean more fruit.
If you plant in the spring prune any overly aggressive branches sticking out from the formed head. Do not prune in the fall. Pruning stimulates new growth.
Dig a hole twice the size of the pot and only as deep as the pot. Fill the hole with water to make sure the water will drain.  If it does not drain in 4 or 5 hours you will need to build a raised bed for the tree. Put the plant in the center of the hole and fill around it with the soil that came out of the hole. It is ok if the level is an inch higher than the ground, but not ok if it is an inch lower. That will cause ponding and roots don’t like to drown. Do not add compost or fertilizer to the soil you are putting back in.
Top dress with three inches of mulch and/or compost to the drip line but not touching the trunk.  Mulch helps insulate the soil, aids bio-activity, decreases the amount of water you need to add, and controls weeds.
Water in well. For the first two weeks you will need to deep water every three days or so, then change to a deep watering once a week if it does not rain. You can tell by the leaves if it is thirsty.
I recommended you fertilize citrus in April, May and June using an organic fertilizer like micro life citrus and fruit fertilizer (6-2-4). Most other trees I fertilize on Valentines Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, but with citrus Feb 14 is too soon to stimulate growth. The first year use about 4 cups of organic fertilizer in April and 2 cups in May and 2 cups in June. Sprinkle the fertilizer on the ground a bit past the dripline.
In year two and three double that amount. It should not be necessary to fertilize after year three.
Do not fertilize in the late summer or fall. If any pruning is needed do it in April.
It is a good idea after a year or two to prune off the lower branches so that the fruit does not sit on the ground.

Potted trees
Improved Meyer lemon, Satsumas, Key limes, kumquats and Calamondin oranges all can grow in a pot especially if grafted to flying dragon dwarfing rootstock.
If you plan to keep the tree in a pot you should repot it to a 20 gallon pot, 18” to 20” in diameter. Buy a quality potting soil like Nature’s Way citrus mix and plant the tree in the new pot at the same height that it was in the smaller pot. Water thoroughly once a week most of the year, but you will have to water every other day in a dry August. Citrus does not like soggy soil, but never let it dry out completely. Make sure the water is getting to the roots and not just running out the drain holes.
Fertilize as recommended above but every year because it cannot mine for nutrients from the soil.

Dancing with lambs

This little ewe lamb, born with a dot on her neck, looked like she should be called Polka.

And we’re off with a theme for the season.

This years line will include Foxtrot, Rumba, Tango, Jitterbug, Salsa, Flamenco, Fandango, Cha-cha-cha, Samba, Mambo, Two Step, and Cotton Eyed Joe. My granddaughter had already named her sheep Hairspray and five of the ewes have been sold before we got them named. That’s good. We were running out of dance steps.

We have some very good ram lambs available. Contact me for information.

Gulf Coast sheep are incredibly adapted to our climate and we love how easy they are to work with.

Raise chickens! Get free eggs!

So the high cost of food is wrecking your budget. Why not raise your own chickens and get eggs every day, paying only for a little feed?
First you need chickens. You buy them as babies, preferably only a few days old. You can select from many different breeds and they lay different colored eggs. Eggs–some are dark brown, some light brown, some white and even some green ones. Baby chicks will cost less than $4.00 each. The first four weeks you have the chicken you need to keep them very warm, so you need an area you can keep at 90˚ or so. You will need to check on them often to make sure they are not too hot or too cold.
After that they can go out into a forever home where they need to have laying boxes, protection from rain and bad weather, and security from predators. You can buy chicken coops for a few hundred dollars or you can design and build one yourself. If you want good pasture raised eggs, you will need a fenced run for them to spend their days.
I prefer rotating them between two different runs so there is a constant supply of fresh vegetation that you will have to plant for them. They eat a bit of greens every day and love to forage for bugs.
You will need to close them up every night and let them out every morning.
You will have to buy feeders and waterers, and get them the best organic feed available. I use Coyote Creek Organic feed. It is available at about $.70 a pound retail. I get a better price, buying by the barrel. The average chicken eats about one quarter pound a day.
Once you get the chicken you will have to take care of it for about six months before you get your first egg. After that you should expect about five eggs a week from one chicken. It will vary with the seasons and the breed, but that is an average.
You will need to train your pets to not chase, harass or kill chickens.
So let’s say you buy four hens, you are getting 20 eggs a week, and they are eating $4.90 of feed during that week.
Altogether, after two years, including the first six months before they began laying, you have spent $509 on feed for 128 dozen eggs. That means you are able to have fresh pasture raised eggs for only $3.97 per dozen. That is assuming you have no loss of feed due to rodents or rain. Thank goodness there were no coons, snakes, owls or hawks (to name a few) and all your hens survived. Every predator eats chickens. Many eat eggs. Of course, there is a time chickens molt and may not lay for a week or so.
And we are not including the initial cost of the chickens, the feeders and waterers, and the cost of the coop and the run. Then, of course, there is labor, but that was free.
This is all happening under ideal conditions.
So why pay $6.00 to $7.00 for eggs at the farmers market when you can raise them yourself and get eggs for free?
We raise chickens because we love raising chickens.
When we want to get rich we will come up with another plan.
I highly recommend raising chickens. Just not as a way to save money on eggs.

Permaculture Farming and Gardening

We are again offering a class on planning and planting your permaculture gardens for the spring. The class will be on Sunday afternoon, April 18 from 1:00 until 5:00. The class will be taught by Andrew Cobb and Glen Miracle, certified permaculture designers.

We have experience raising crops for culinary purposes in this area and want to share the successes and help you avoid some of the failures we have had. The class will include soil preparation, plant selection, irrigation, seed starting and saving, site planning, use of livestock, beneficial insects, pollinator attraction and all the stuff it takes to make gardening flow and turn the environmental problems into assets.

The class will include presentations about permaculture and organic principles, soil health, and use of natural assets. This is not just a idea and theory class, but a hands on experience. We will make beds with swales and berms, plant fruit trees, move sheep, plant and transplant vegetables, discuss interplanting and plant rotations, make compost tea. We will talk about fertilizers and insect control.

The class will be limited to a small number both for health concerns and for our ability to answer questions. Masks are required. If weather makes cancellation necessary a full refund will be available. Sign up

Wild rice and cornbread dressing


I made a wild rice and cornbread dressing for our early Thanksgiving dinner and it was a big hit. Here is the recipe for enough to feed 20 to 30 people.


7 or 8 cups chicken stock
6 cups water for cooking the rice
3 cups wild rice
3 tablespoon olive oil
3 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup parsley leaves
3 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
12 cups crumbled cornbread
2 1/2 cups chopped pecans
3/4 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Lightly grease two 9×13 baking dishes.
Cook the rice in water. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until tender, about 1 hour. Drain the rice.
Saute the onion and celery in a skillet and season with salt and black pepper. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add parsley and thyme and cook another minute.

Mix rice, cornbread, pecans and vegetables in a large bowl or two. Add butter and just enough stock to get the right moisture level.
Pour everything into the baking dishes. Bake until cornbread is golden and crispy, about 20 minutes.

How I cook a large turkey

First I brine my turkey in water with a cup of kosher salt. cover it in enough water and keep it iced down over night.

Preheat the oven to 325˚

Put the turkey on the counter at room temperature for 45 minutes while you rub a few tablespoons of salt all over and inside. The bird needs to be approaching room temperature before cooking. Tie the legs together

Roast the turkey until the thigh internal temperature is 165˚. That took 4.5 hours in my oven for a 30 pound turkey. I never opened the oven until 4 hours into the process. I never baste the turkey.

With a fresh, pasture raised turkey you do not need to add anything.

Farmers, family and quarantine

monue and poppyMy grandparents, James and Myrtle Miracle (we knew them as Poppy and Monue) would have survived this lockdown in stride. They were farmers who produced their own meat, milk and vegetables. He drove her to town one Saturday a month. Town was five miles away. On that shopping day she would buy the flour, sugar, corn flakes and maybe some fabric if it caught her eye and the budget allowed.
One time she was telling Kenan a story about a person she had known, and Kenan asked “Did they live here?” She replied “Oh, no honey, they lived in Berea.” Berea, the town that was five miles away.
She put up jars of beans, pickles and jams and froze bags of creamed corn, and my mother continued to do the same.  There was never a shortage of meat in the freezer.
The last time I saw Monue at her home, she had tablecloth sized piece of cheesecloth hanging, hammock style, from a broomstick that was placed horizontal on the backs to two ladderback chairs and she was squeezing the warmed juice out of grapes, dripping through the cheesecloth into a washtub.  Jelly was about to be made.
She was 95 years old.
So today, as I am canning and pickling products that grew here on our farm, I feel good about it being a family thing.