Farm to Table Dinner

We will be having a farm to table afternoon dinner on Sunday Oct 16, 2022. Serving will begin at 3:00pm. Most of the food will come from our farm and include an appetiser, a soup, a main meat dish, a main vegetarian dish, a couple more vegetable sides, and a dessert. What we have will depend on what is growing at that time.

Tickets

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. thelaughingfrogfarm@gmail.com

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

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.

Ingrediants

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.

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.

CSA

 

A CSA is Community Supported Agriculture.  It gives us small farms an idea of how much to plant and how to plan for the next few weeks.

Most large farms only grow one or two things and market that to a specific wholesaler, but we grow 40 to 50 different items and then have to market it to the public.  When someone signs up for a produce box, they are committing to 10 weeks of trying some new things and eating what will grow during that season.  Freezes, drought, insects and luck all will affect your diet.

Also it is possible that we might have to postpone the CSA due to unexpected circumstances.  This  past February, after the severe freeze we did not have enough produce for two weeks and had to extend everyone into the spring.  There will be no CSA on 12/25 of 2021. 

If someone needs to take a week off during their contract we can extend the contract once or twice.  Please try and keep those to a minimum.

We are going to take a 6 week break from mid July until late August.  Not because nothing is growing, but just because we will be getting tired of harvesting in the 100˚ heat.

The CSA is paid, online or at the market, in advance. You are paying for 10 weeks of 8 to 10 vegetables and a few herbs for $250. You simply pickup your box at the Urban Harvest Farmers Market at the corner of Buffalo Speedway and Westheimer, on Saturday morning.  We also offer a half share for $140 and a petite share for $80.00.  The half share is about 4 to 5 items and the petite share is smaller portions of the same 4 to 5 items.

We are a two person operation that concentrates on growing for high nutrients. We follow all of the organic growing rules and have never used synthetic fertilizers,  pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or GMO seeds.

Online store

A full CSA

Chicken Bone Broth

bone brothNow is the time to strengthen your immune system and bone broth is one of the ways we do that.  Basically bone broth is bones (in this case chicken), acid to help break down the bones like vinegar or tomato paste, and lots of veggies.  One of the great things to add is chicken feet which adds protein, calcium, trace minerals and collagen. 

This is a recipe I keep on hand and never follow completely:

Bones from one chicken
1 pound chicken feet
One tablespoon of tomato paste
Two tablespoons of vinegar
Two large onions
Two to four carrots
Two to four stalks of celery
one bay leaf
5 – 10 peppercorns
Handful of parsley and/or cilantro
Any other vegetables you want to get out of the fridge

put in enough water to cover everything, about two gallons

 

Pull the bones apart, brush the bones with tomato paste, add vinegar and vegetables and cover them with the water in a stock pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 24 hours on low.  Keep the water level where the vegetables and bones can be submerged periodically.  You will need to add some water, but not much.
Strain the bones and vegetables out and use the broth for a very healthy soup.

Should make about three quarts.  I usually make about 10-12 quarts at a time and freeze it and that is about 4 times this recipe.

Enjoy