Friday, March 25, 2011

A Public Service Announcement - Death be to Fire Ants

Yep, still no cider...but I am sipping a Shiner Bock at the moment, isn't that close enough?

No, I don't think so either...but onto the subject at hand...Fire Ants, or more accurately, how to f'ing kill the little f'ers! (No, they don't like me either.)

Now, if you live in the south, and many of us do, you have no doubt been introduced to the presence of these little critters from south of the border. Yep, that's right folks, much like the Africanized bees that are illegally crossing our border as we speak, the Fire Ant was the one that showed them the way (makes one wonder...can Fire Ants swim? I digress).

So you have several options...gasoline and fire (a redneck's favorite), poisoning (expensive and if you want it in your water, put it on the ground), or the organic, non-toxic, totally natural, tree hugging, hippie dippie method of Fire Ant death...

Yep, grits...I crap you not.

It works like this...Ant sees grit, ant eats grit, ant gets thirsty and goes down into hill for water OR even better, takes grit to queen ant on her little dirt fire ant throne and lets queen eat the grit. Then ant drinks water. Grit expands, ant does not, ant does the best impersonation of popcorn it can.

If it doesn't kill the hive outright, it will force the hive to move to more "environmentally friendly" pastures.

How much does one use? Well, that depends on the hive...but I just use  enough to cover the top of the hill with a thin layer. Every other day or so I check and see if it need a new dusting and poke the hill with a stick...if ants come out, they get more grits until between ten days to two weeks later the hill looks something like this...

Notice the caved in tunnels? The dry center? The layer of new growth? This hive is gone.

And, not only is it clean, non-toxic to Yankees (yeah, try telling a northerner that grits taste "good", Life Partner is sitting here saying "Grits are GROSS!") and pets, but are cheaper than dirt (should know after buying all that potting soil) about $1.00 to $1.30 per can at the local Mega Mart.

So, I hope this post helps and you too will be living the life of a Fire Ante free homestead, urban or otherwise.

Peace folks! :-)

The Best Laid Plans of Mice...

I know, I know...I promised Cider...well, that was the plan, especially because I knew I was going to be working this weekend after we had to cancel our camping trip...(Boo!)...and I was going to be getting thirsty doing thirsty work and all...

But, lets get caught up on what we've been doing...

 We now have eight full beds and two single row micro beds along the southern edge of the garden.

To date we have planted tomatoes, sweet onions, red onions, peas, squash, water melon, honeydew melon, and we have about 1/3 left open for further cultivation.

Planting has begun...

We have two shade arbors built from recycled/reused  materials (some needed patching and reinforcement).
Arbor for chard shading and something for beans to climb.

The herb garden is in...plans seem to be the first point of deviation and I have different medicinals that I had originally planned, but almost all my original culinary herbs...also added were two aloe plants and a rose bush.

And we are planning a larger one...the circle is 24 feet across and there are pepper plants along the perimeter of both gardens.

Notice the jungle that is our front yard? Centipede sod is the bane of my existence...

Our mint bed is planted and that is a pepper plant beside it. We do quite a bit of container gardening and especially with mint, if you let it go, it'll choke out an entire bed of herbs. (Yes, that is an old lid from a luggage  carrier that at one time was strapped to the top of some middle class families car on it's way to Disney Land. Did I mention we recycle a lot?)

The strawberry bed has it's bed of fertilizer down and is just waiting me to scrape enough dirt out of the middle of the main garden to fill in the box.

And as if that wasn't enough, the ever industrious Life Partner started several other plants from sprouts she had started from seed.

We got a lot done this week. So now we more to do tomorrow...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Today We Rocked!

Tilling up ground for our garden doesn't sound like it would be much work...Not with a modern tiller sporting a 6.5 horse power Briggs and Stratton motor on it...

Until you realize you are tilling through centipede sod, in SE Texas soil (sand and clay mix) thats almost as hard as concrete at times. And before you can plant all that mulched plant mater needs to be raked out of the soil so it can be tilled we did three passes on a virgin stretch and retouched the one we did yesterday.

We tilled enough for 8 4'x25' beds. Zucchini, Chard, Tomatoes, Radishes, Watermelon, Bell Peppers, Potatoes, Green Beans, Peas (if its cool enough) will be going in. We have some wire fencing that we intend to make almost an arbor with to run the beans through and plant the chard under it so it stays shaded

While my lovely girlfriend was rocking on the tiller and between helping her rake the main garden I was clearing the site for our herb garden with a hoe, rakes and shovel and other implements of destruction...It was a groovy thing and a good time was had by all.

I still have to figure out the layout but the plot is going to contain both cooking and medicinal herbs. I love Flat Italian Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (yes, I'm a Simon and Garfunkel fan). Garlic is alway a staple in my cooking. Cilantro/Coriander, Oregano, Basil, Chives, and just for Lynne, Curled Parsley.

For the medicinals I'm going to be looking for Feverfew, Catnip (going to have to containerize due to our cats having a bad drug habit - stoner kitties), Horse Mint, Rose for Rose Hips, St. Johns Wort and Comfrey (some where outside the bed as it get's huge)...maybe some others, still deciding on what I want.

That pile of mulch in the back is all the material I removed from the bed. It's now my compost pile. Tomorrow I'll be stopping at the bait shop to pick up a couple cartons of night crawlers to help the process along.

Our next door neighbor has graciously donated three rows of his field to us and we are probably going to put in gourds there (bird houses, gourd art, paleo canteens, rice wine bottles, etc) along with watermelons.

I was wanting to post some picks of wild edible from our front yard, but unfortunately was too busy working to play...but just to let you know...Cleavers are in season and great in salad, Clover is coming up nicely, Dandelions are young and tender, and First Year Thistle just about ripe for harvesting (but is almost as labor intensive as Black Walnut to process), Violets are in bloom and make a colorful addition to salads. Cat Tails are sprouting nicely in our drainage and Blackberry leaves and Pine needles make a tea, but rich in Vitamin C.

And while I'm harping on salads, we also have three jars of sprouts growing on our kitchen counter, radish, alfalfa, and bean sprouts.

My next post should be about making homemade hard cider.

Remember, no matter where you are, you can homestead. So to all my friends, keep up the good works.