Organic Tomato, Pepper, and Eggplant Starts for Sale

We will have tomato plants for sale at the market starting this Saturday, March 19.

They are in 4″pots and cost $4.00 each.

All are grown from certified organic seed.

Varieties:

Juliet

New Girl

Sungold

Black Cherry

Granadero

Better Boy

Plum Regal

Cherokee Purple

Also, I will have small sage and oregano plants.

Peppers:

Early Jalapeño pepper

Jalafuego Pepper

Iko Iko pepper

Baron pablano

Goddess banana pepper

Scotch Bonnet Pepper

Orient Express eggplant

Echinacea/Purple Coneflower

Basil

We also have Carolina Reaper Pepper plants and those sell for $8.00 each.

We still have a few fruit trees for sale.

Basil

These plants have been hardened off, meaning that, for the past few weeks, they have not been babied with twice daily watering and 75˚ temps. The plants needed that for their first 6 weeks or so, but before they go outside, they need to be prepared for the real world. They are exposed to cooler temperatures (hopefully no more freezes, moving them inside and back out) and more infrequent watering, preparing them to leave the ICU and get to work in the garden.

All plants are started from certified organic seed, when available, and raised in organic soils, fertilized by organic fertilizer. They are not certified organic because we are not certified by the USDA program. It is an expensive and invasive thing. No bee killing poisons have been used. No synthetic poisons of any kind have been used. There are occasions that repellents are necessary and there might be some dried hot pepper sitting on the soil. Consider it your friend.
Most of the seed was bought from Johnny’s Seeds if you wish to research the different types.

We will have these plants for sale at the Urban Harvest Farmers Market, 2752 Buffalo Speedway, Houston, Texas on Saturday mornings from 8:00 until noon.

All varieties are grown in limited quantities. For most varieties, when they are sold out we will not be planting more for sale.

We will also have some other herbs and fruit trees available.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Super Deluxe

40 years ago tomorrow this happened.

The night before the wedding we gathered with friends for a dinner at Ballatori Italian Restaurant on the east side of Houston. The restaurant was new, had great food at reasonable prices, and the dishes and the staff were all genuine Italian.
But what to serve? Sergio, the proprietor, and Kenan went through the choices for aperitivo, antipasto, primi, secondi, cortorni, insalata, formaggi, (I never imagined so many plates of food) and he then asked if we wanted the deluxe or the super deluxe dinner. What makes one super deluxe? The answer, of course, was “two desserts”.
Well we opted for the super deluxe.
The days preceding the dinner we had friends change plans and others were added to the guest list and Kenan would call Sergio and ask to change the number of chairs. His answer was “don’t a go nervous, don’t a go nervous”. Great advice for a wedding or pretty much anything else.
We had a fantastic three hour meal and a fun wedding day.
Four decades happened.
Tomorrow we will celebrate, keeping it as simple as possible.
But then we will go somewhere special and have two desserts. And an expresso.
Super deluxe.