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

20200322_180717This is a picture of one Saturday’s Community Supported Agriculture box in April.

It includes;  Arugula, beets, radishes, fennel, celery, oranges, Swiss chard, Mixed lettuces, Kohlrabi, mint, spring onions.

The plants at Laughing Frog Farm will continue to grow. Every day we are planting more and we are committed to continuing to provide food to our customers. We have decided to expand the number of subscriptions we offer on our CSA, which will cut back the amount we have to sell at the market. The CSA is paid, online, 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. If there is a disruption to the market, we will deliver to a parking lot in that Houston market area on Saturday mornings. There will be no need for contact between any two people in that transaction.

We grow for high nutrients and use no synthetic pesticides, fungicides, herbicides or fertilizers.

We follow all of the organic rules and have never used synthetic fertilizers,  pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or GMO seeds.

We will also continue to offer pickled and fermented products and chicken. We will have chicken available again starting 6/13/20.

https://laughing-frog-farm.square.site/

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

Spit Bath

spit bathLast week’s 20+ hours of not having water due to a well repair reminded me of one of  my mother’s stories.  She called washing in the sink, or in a bowl of water while camping, a spit bath.

About ten years ago she told me a story about spit baths.  As a child she was staying with someone that did not have running water.  That was not unusual in Appalachia in the 30’s.  This person told her she would have to take a spit bath.  She said that did not know how to take a spit bath, so the person gave her specific instructions.

First, while the bowl of water is clean, wash your face.  Then wash your hands, your arms, your chest, and your belly down to there.   Then wash your feet and legs up to there.  Then wash there.  All clean.

Being here

Back in the dark ages of 1974 I was designing the set for a movie that would never be seen and a set for the University of Texas drama department. Both payed some bills. I had put the last touches on the movie set and needed to get back to designing the set for Bertolt Brecht’s “A Man’s A Man”. The recurring theme for this show was the railroad, so I urgently needed to get to the library to look for images that would inspire me. It was about a mile from the film shoot to the library and I was on foot. About a quarter of the way there, just by the river in Austin, I was stopped by a train. I waited impatiently feeling pressured to get to the library—to see pictures of trains—while being held up by a train. It did finally dawn on me and I found that the experience of a train was not a camera image, but it was repetitive, almost violent thumping, immense power, and unstoppability.
I love the library and I love the internet, but that thumping, and power is what I live in. Glad that train derailed me.

20190125_114043

Now to get the tractor out of the mud.

Planting Calendar

Laughing Frog Farm
Planting calendar

Please note.  We use a free wordpress website and they sell the ads.  I have no idea what they are.  I am neither a supporter or a detractor from the companies advertising on this page.

In Hempstead Texas we do not have a planting season nor a harvest season. Every week gives us the opportunity to harvest something and immediately replace it with a new seed or transplant. The winters tend to be mostly above freezing, cloudy and wet with a single arctic blast down as low at 14˚. The summers are very hot and often dry. Spring, usually a glorious time, can bring us an April freeze and it can be 90˚ by early May. Lately fall has disappeared with hot Octobers and freezes in November. Three recent years, 2015, 2016, 2017 we had over 100 inches of rain. Our temperatures recently have gone from a low of 14˚ F to a high of 108˚ F. So you have to go with the flow because the weather is not under our command. We try at Laughing Frog Farm to mimic nature using permaculture planting methods, keep a large variety of plants in at all times and be ready at any time to start over in an area.
This is the planting calendar recently revised (2018)
This list is a work in progress and always will be.This is not a complete list. We try something new every time we order seeds.    We have seedlings growing to transplant 12 months a year so the items listed under greenhouse growing are time sensitive.  The rest of the year you simply grow anything you want to transplant the next month in pots or trays.

(?) means that I am taking a risk planting and often have to replant due to cold weather.  We take that risk and once in a while have to replant.

“greenhouse”means potting plants in a protected area.

“Seed” means direct seeding in the garden

“Transplant” means moving your potted plants from the greenhouse into the garden.

We will have a class on permaculture  gardening on Feb. 24, 2019.  It is a Sunday afternoon.  We can also arrange classes for a group during the week, never on Saturday.

January

A bad growing month due to the lack of sunlight. Short days and cloudy. We once went 22 days without the sun coming out. Plants do not grow much without sun. We also get some hard freezes that will kill young plants, even cold hardy ones like broccoli. This is the month to prepare for spring and work in the greenhouse, though, usually, you can get a decent harvest despite the elements.

•Greenhouse:
Start tomato, pepper, eggplant seedlings in pots inside – It is best to start them in early December.

• Seed:
English or snap peas,
Lettuce, arugula, baby greens

• Seed or transplants:
Spinach, mustard, turnips, kale, kohlrabi, pac choi

• Transplants:
Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower transplants(?)
Onion sets
Potato – seed potatoes – late in the month
Put tomatoes in the ground at the end of the month if you can protect them from freezes. Keep extra seedlings just in case.

February

Usually the busiest time of the year. We can plant every day, have to battle bad weather and lots of mud. We also have lambs being born.

•Greenhouse
Basil

• Seed:
Radish, Leaf lettuce, arugula, carrots, salad greens

• Seed or transplants:
Spinach, mustard, turnips, kale, kohlrabi, head lettuce, chard, beets

• Transplants:
Broccoli, cabbage
Potatoes – seed potatoes

Move tomato, pepper, eggplant seedlings to protected garden – i.e. hot beds or cold frames. Tomatoes need to go in the ground before March 1 to get good May, June production.

March

March continues February’s busy planting calendar. With decent spring weather we should have most of the spring plants in the ground by the end of the month

• Seed:
Radish, cucumbers(?), winter squash(?), watermelon(?), cantaloupe(?), lima, pinto & green beans(?), okra(?), corn – depends on type and soil temps.
Lettuce, arugula, baby greens

• Seed or transplants:

• Transplants:
pepper, eggplant

April

If the weather has been cooperating we should have most of the spring planting done. However, if it has been a cold March we will be very busy.

• Seed:
Radish, cucumbers, winter squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, lima, pinto & green beans, okra, corn, southern peas, summer squash, basil
Lettuce, arugula – salad greens

• Seed or transplants:

cucumber, basil

• Transplants:
pepper, eggplant

May
May is mostly about harvest. We have an abundance of vegetables, but there is still planting to do.

• Seed:
Summer squash, cucumbers, southern peas, winter squash, corn, watermelon, cantaloupe, molokhia, malabar spinach, amaranth, okra, corn
Lettuce, arugula – baby greens

• Seed or transplants:

cucumber, basil

• Transplants or sets:
Sweet potatoes – slips

June
June is also mostly about harvest. The tomatoes will probably not survive July’s heat so this is your window.

• Seed:
Summer squash, cucumbers, southern peas, winter squash, arugula
July
•Greenhouse:
Get your fall transplants started in a shaded area – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, Brussel sprouts
This is difficult because you have to water often and that can lead to mildew and damping off. Good ventilation is necessary. A fan might be helpful.

• Seed:
Cucumbers, bush or pole green beans, summer squash, arugula

August
•Greenhouse:
Get your transplants started in a shaded area – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, celery, Brussel sprouts
This is difficult because you have to water often and that can lead to mildew and damping off. Good ventilation is necessary. A fan might be helpful.

This is a brutal month of picking okra and cucumbers, with minimal harvest and few customers at the market. It is the closest we get to a slow time.

• Seed:
cucumbers, summer squash, arugula, collards, mustard, turnips

• Seed or transplants:

• Transplants:
Late in the month you can transplant broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, Brussel sprouts
September

This is the second busiest planting time of the year, after February/March.

This is also the month we put in the winter hoop house tomatoes.

Seed:
Artichokes, cardoon
Onions, Carrots, Beets, Turnips, spinach, kale, lettuce, fennel,
Lettuce, arugula

• Seed or transplants:
Kale, mustard, lettuce, collards, chard, kohlrabi

• Transplants:
broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, kohlrabi

If you have a water feature, transplant the celery in rocks or pots on the edge of the water. Celery is perfect for aquaponics.

Potatoes – seed potatoes

October

October weather will almost definitely bring us a few days in the 90s and a few in the 40s. It is a busy planting month for anything that can survive the frost that will inevitable come before the plants mature.

Best month to transplant many herbs like oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary

• Seed:
Onions, beets, radishes, turnips, spinach, mustard, collards, kale, rutabaga
Lettuce, arugula

• Seed or transplants:
Celery – needs constant moisture

Transplants:
Strawberries
Asparagas
broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, kohlrabi
leeks
Garlic cloves

November

This month usually brings the first freeze to Hempstead, Tx. It seldom makes it all the way to Houston.

November through February are the best months to plant deciduous fruit trees.

• Seed:
Onions, beets, radishes, turnips, spinach, mustard, collards, kale, English or snap peas,
Lettuce, arugula

• Seed or transplants:
Rutabaga, kohlrabi,

Transplants:
Broccoli, cabbage

December

December is often a bad growing month due to the lack of sunlight. Keep in mind that growth rates in January are bad due to lack of photosynthesis and a hard freeze might take away your December efforts.

• Greenhouse:
Start tomato, pepper, eggplant seedlings in pots inside

• Seed:
Onions, turnips, spinach, mustard, collards, kale, English or snap peas,
Lettuce, arugula

Seed or transplants:
Rutabaga, kohlrabi

Transplants:

Cabbage, broccoli,

A few notes:
Every month seedlings are started in the greenhouse or shade area.

(?) means that I am taking a risk planting and often have to replant due to cold weather.

We plant cucumbers every warm month because they succumb to downy mildew. They only last a couple of months per planting.

We only plant winter squash from the cucurbita moschata family, due to its resistance to the squash vine borer.

We usually do not transplant squash or cucumbers, however we are now working with a grafted cucumber that shows great promise and has to be transplanted into the garden.

Tomatoes are everywhere


We have hundreds of pounds of heirloom and cherry tomatoes hanging out on our tables right now. We can deliver to Houston restaurants and we will have them at the Eastside Farmers Market in Houston on Saturday. You can get boxes of ready to eat now tomatoes or choose some that will ripen on the counter in a few days. Contact us for pricing and delivery options if you are buying in bulk.

Eating Meat, Helping the Soil. No Shipping, No Handling

Laughing Frog Farm's Freedom Ranger Chickens
Laughing Frog Farm’s Freedom Ranger Chickens

IMG_3204I eat meat. Kenan and I decided that if we were going to eat meat we needed to either raise it ourselves or get it from a farmer that we knew, one that raised the animals with care for the environment, the soils, and the animals themselves. We respect those that have chosen a different diet, but believe that moderate meat consumption is more ecological sound and sustainable. We raise chickens and lamb in a humane, responsible manner.
The industrial model of raising animals, in confined animal feed operations (CAFO), is not ethical nor sustainable. This meat accounts for almost 99% of all meat. It is cruel to the animal, produces a meat that is not healthy and is antibiotic dependent, and is an environmental travesty with the concentrated waste produced, and the chemically dependent grain used as a feed.
Pasture raised, grassfed meat is high in omega-3 fatty acids, beta carotene and vitamins E and low in saturated fat. Livestock raised in an ethical environment must have access to their natural foods, clean water, shelter, protection from predators and room to move in a natural habitat. For pigs it might mean mud, for chickens they need to scratch in the soil. Sheep, cows and goats need a variety of forage eaten while roaming, usually from rotational grazing.
The earth’s ecosystem is supposed to have plant and animal impact with the soil. The animal manure feeds the microbes in the soil that develop the fertility needed for plants to grow nutrient dense food. The impact of the hooves or chicken feet aerates the soil and the grazing animals can turn grass and forbs, inedible to humans, into food. Few inputs are necessary for this type of animal husbandry. We do not have to buy and truck in fertilizer and herbicides. Many of the ethically raised animals are raised on land unsuitable for raising vegetables and many others are used in a rotation with vegetable plantings, like we do at Laughing Frog Farm. Ruminates have a unique ability, with the help of sunlight and water, to turn hundreds of different naturally growing plants into protein while monoculture crops need tractors, fuel and fertilization, to produce their nutrients.
Many vegetables and grains are raised using environmentally destructive methods. In order to grow vegetables we need to add fertility to the soil. The use of manure has traditionally been the farmers go to solution, but with the advent of chemical fertilizers, animals became unnecessary because the farmer can now purchase the fertility. Heavy use of these chemicals is causing polluted water, interrupting the soil food web, and creating dead zones in our oceans. There is evidence that these chemicals are chelating the nutrients in the soil and consequently reducing the nutrient levels in our food.
Compost can add some fertility, but it alone will not provide the nitrogen needed for healthy crops. Many organic farmers turn to cottonseed and alfalfa meals that have been produced, usually, with chemical fertilizer. Furthermore, most of them are now genetically modified, meaning large doses of chemical herbicides have been used, further robbing our soil of its nutrition. Fish emulsion is used extensively in organic farming to raise nitrogen levels. Those fish were often fed GMO corn and soy and, of course, dead fish are not a particularly good vegan option. These amendments are trucked across the country powered by fossil fuels.
Most alternatives to manure, for fertility, have limited availability and high costs in the developing world.
Nitrogen fixing cover crops, vermicastings, mulches and compost tea all are alternative fertility solutions that we use, but most require energy, and labor.
Most of the farm animals would become extinct if farmers quit raising them. These animals have been developed over centuries to provide meat, milk, wool, leather and eggs to humans. Goats, sheep, chickens and cows are not prepared to live in the wild. Pigs have proven they are prepared and have become a nuisance in many parts of the country.
Eating requires taking a life. People just choose where to draw the line. A cabbage is alive. We kill cockroaches and mice. “Vegetarians” often tell me they eat fish or shellfish. Modern vegetable agricultural methods eliminate earthworms, starve monarch butterflies and interrupt the migration of birds.
We know that plants communicate with one another through the soil and that plants have a survival instinct as they struggle to stay alive in bad soil or weather conditions.
Animals are truly an integral part of sustainable agricultural systems worldwide. Of course, we can always raise animals just for their manure and not their meat. Many aquaponics operations utilize goldfish and horse manure is an alternative, as are zoos, though not part of a sustainable agricultural system. Some farmers use animal power as an alternative to tractors but a two oxen will not fertilize a whole farm.
If all animals are to be raised in a pastured, humane way we have to eat less meat and seek out the best places to purchase it. At this point humanely raised, pastured meat is seldom available in a supermarket or a restaurant. Organic, cage free and natural do not mean responsibly raised or humane.
You are what you eat and you are what you eat eats. If your chicken was fed pesticide ridden corn or your farm raised fish was eating GMO soy it will affect the quality of the meat and the quality of the manure we use as fertilizer. Also if your soil was fed chemicals that limit a plant’s nutrient uptake it will affect your health as well.
I honor people who make moral and ethical decisions about how they eat, whether they chose vegan, vegetarian or omnivore.
Remember that the food that nourishes your body is a precious investment in your future.
Don’t eat the cheap, fast and easy American diet.
Don’t be cheap, fast and easy.
Glen Miracle

Putting permaculture to work

ram key.001

chick key.001

We are trying to mimic nature as much as possible here at the farm. It improves the biology of the soil, saves a bit of labor and saves on the purchased organic fertilizers. Nature never pulls out the chemicals or a rototiller or a tractor and everything grows like crazy.
We are working our gardens without tilling. We only plant one of our three gardens at a time and run sheep and chickens in the other gardens or plant cover crops during their off season. It means hoeing, mulching and tolerating some weeds. After the animals leave the garden we do not eat vegetables out of that garden for 120 days, as per organic guidelines, to give the manure time to break down.
Last winter’s garden was very successful but the spring brought in weed competition. That was after the 60 inches of rain from mid April to early June. The rain also made it impossible to bring in loads of mulch.
As you can see below, the winter squash is growing in the company of weeds, but the soil is so fertile that it can feed them both.
After another year, lots more mulch, another cover crop, and 200 more chickens, I hope I can report that it is running smoothly again.
IMG_5707

Putting permaculture to work

ram key.001

chick key.001

We are trying to mimic nature as much as possible here at the farm. It improves the biology of the soil, saves a bit of labor and saves on the purchased organic fertilizers. Nature never pulls out the chemicals or a rototiller or a tractor and everything grows like crazy.
We are working our gardens without tilling. We only plant one of our three gardens at a time and run sheep and chickens in the other gardens or plant cover crops during their off season. It means hoeing, mulching and tolerating some weeds. After the animals leave the garden we do not eat vegetables out of that garden for 120 days, as per organic guidelines, to give the manure time to break down.
Last winter’s garden was very successful but the spring brought in weed competition. That was after the 60 inches of rain from mid April to early June. The rain also made it impossible to bring in loads of mulch.
As you can see below, the winter squash is growing in the company of weeds, but the soil is so fertile that it can feed them both.
After another year, lots more mulch, another cover crop, and 200 more chickens, I hope I can report that it is running smoothly again.IMG_5707