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.

Nov 8 Farm to Table Dinner

20190512_154548We will have another farm to table dinner on Nov 8.  This will be a Sunday afternoon event with service beginning at 3:00.  We will limit the guests to 14, and people can sit with their party or alone. The vegetables and meat will be from our farm.  Other ingredients, as much as possible, will be from people we have personal contact with. We will observe physical distancing.  The service will be buffet and family style.  We will tour the farm and talk about our permaculture methods of farming. All events at the farm are BYOB.  We have dogs, chickens, and sheep on the farm.  If you are allergic to them, this farm is not a good place to visit.  If the event is canceled due to weather or health concerns there will be a full refund.   

9/29/20

Register

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.

Forty years after “Ladderman”

Forty years ago on Tuesday, Sept. 20 my company, Houston Stage Equipment, loaded the Houston Ballet’s “Swan Lake” scenery into a trailer headed for Jones Hall.
The entire crew then got together at Larry, my business partner’s house, for some refreshments and fajitas catered by this little local Mexican restaurant named Ninfas. About 2:00 a.m. I got on my bike and motored home. I pulled into the garage and headed to my second floor home in the little fourplex.
The phone rang. I don’t think my phone had ever rung before. When I picked up the receiver I heard my landlady, who lived in the apartment below me, alarmed that the light in the garage had just gone out. I assured Ms. Brown that I would check on it, and halfway down the outdoor staircase I saw a young man on a ladder climbing toward the window of the apartment over the garage. I yelled. He ran. All the neighbors came out, and down from the garage apartment came a women, barefoot and in a red nightshirt. I had never met her.
Ms. Brown had called the police, so we had to wait. Everyone went inside but the young woman and me. We sat on the steps and talked. It took two hours for the police to arrive but it didn’t seem long. We relayed our stories to the police and sat back down on the steps and talked. And then, suddenly, the sun came up. “I’ve gotta go to work”, so I quickly changed from my clean jeans and shirt to my work jeans and shirt and headed to the shop.
We had lots of change orders and additions to do, so I worked long hours for the next three days, but took Saturday off, ostensibly to sleep, but I also thought I might try and get the attention of the woman I had met.
Early, before I felt comfortable knocking on her door, Ms. Brown called me with another emergency. Her cat had died and she wanted to know if I would bury it for her. So, as my grandmother would have said, “I braved up” and knocked on the garage apartment’s door and asked if she would like to go for a walk.
Our first date was a walk down the railroad tracks in Houston’s east end to bury a cat.
The next date was more romantic.
And that is how I met Kenan.
Happy 40th Kenan!

Restarting Local Business Begins With Us

The Sunday morning after hurricane Ike struck the gulf coast in 2008, there was minimal flooding here in Hempstead, and no electricity, so I went into town to see if I could find the source of the electrical outage. We had a full freezer and I needed to know if I should crank up the generator. It was about 5:00 am when I drove by the Snowflake Donuts shop operated by an immigrant family, and a young man was standing out front, in the dark, with a sign that said “Open Today, Cash Only”. They were not going to let a little hurricane and no power stop them from cranking up the propane in order to pay the bills. I didn’t stop and feel guilty about that.
Houston has a young population, a large energetic immigrant community and hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs. Often those assets are all rolled into one person.
If you want to jumpstart this recovery, continue to donate what you can, time and/or money, but the thing that really makes the economy come back is supporting local business. If you buy lunch from a food truck or a mattress from Gallery Furniture, you know that much of that money will be recirculated into the local economy.
It will take government money to get the roads and schools back and rebuilding the homes is a long term project, but each of us has the power to help the local hardware store, the small restaurant, and, of course, the local farms. We can help rebuild lives purchasing the things we need to rebuild our own.
So before you head off to the big box store, or click “add to cart” at Amazon, look around our home turf for it. That money just might come back to you and your friends.