Sunday, February 22, 2009


My worm project is underway!! I have spent the last few weeks researching and building my worm box and on Friday evening I met with a "worm master" in Austin, Gordon Wybo, and picked up 2 lbs. of red worms. Wow, my own personal stash of Eisenia Foetida! I spent almost an hour with him, his wife and their two teenagers and I gotta' tell you, this guy knows his worms!! These are the kind of people that, in their own quiet way, are saving the planet. He was giving a free seminar on vermiculture the next day at his house, so the place was literally crawling with worms. He raises his in plastic tubs and I wish I had taken pictures because he is so organized and he made it look incredibly easy. It was after 11 when I got home that night, so my worms stayed in their little cardboard boxes (which are biodegradable-Gordon thinks like that!) and I couldn't wait to haul my worm box in the house and set it up. I built it with an old vegetable bin from a 1950's refrigerator as a liquid catchment system. Gordon said there should not be much liquid, but he taps a spigot into the side of his plastic tubs just in case. So I guess my huge bin in overkill. The base of the box is filled with coconut coir (a neutral ph bedding AND a renewable resource), shredded paper and a bit of garden soil. Then you add your worms.
They are smaller than the nightcrawlers I remember my dad having in his worm box when I was a kid. Boy, the hours I would spend watching those worms! I guess it is no surprise I have this worm bin going now. I've been interested

in worms since I was 2 years old! Here are the worms, still in their nifty biodegradable boxes,
getting ready to be introduced to their new home.
When I dumped them out into the bedding in the worm box, there were LOTS more than it looks like in these boxes. They tend to bury themselves to avoid light, so most of them were in the bottom of the boxes. Two pounds of worms is ALOT! They were very active when I turned the boxes over and immediately started burrowing into the bedding. Their nickname of "red wigglers" is well deserved. I took apart the boxes and laid them on top of the worms and bedding as a cover and to make sure all the beneficial bacteria that might still be adhering to the boxes would get incorporated into the environment. I waited half a day before feeding them and then chopped up some turnip tops from the garden and a banana peel and mixed this with some coffee grounds and tea bags (they'll breakdown the tea bag, the string and the tag even! But not the staple...). I lifted the cardboard boxes, sprinkled the food over the soil and worms, replaced the boxes and then my wooden lid. This morning when I checked them the food was moved around, some half buried and they seemed happy and active. To contact Gordon for info about worms or to buy some, his website is: His website has LOTS of information about raising worms as well as supplies you can buy and a complete listing of his FREE workshops.

This is about 2000 worms!!!
They will reproduce!!!
They will eat my kitchen refuse and turn it into black gold which will then super fertilize my garden!!
I can soak the worm castings in water and make a super solution for my garden that will increase my plants' growth and make them more disease resistant!!
Can you tell I am super excited??!!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What I Love About the Garden

It feels like SPRING! Today was almost 80 degrees and sunny and I repotted tomato plants and watered the garden and planted daffodils. The new garden bed that I planted about 10 days ago is alive with new seedlings in varying shades of green...everything coming up in nice, neat little rows...a first for me. It's true, I'm a haphazard gardener. I guess that's the way I conduct my life, too, come to think of it! Usually, when I plant something in the garden, I simply rough up the soil a bit, scatter seed around, cover it back up and water. Subsequently, my garden has a "freeform" look to it (that's putting it nicely). What I LOVE about the garden is that it is ALWAYS a work in progress. However, it's also the thing that bothers me most about the garden! It looks perfect for about 45 seconds one morning in early April and then it falls apart on me. This is the garden in April 2007.
It was wild! Of course, it has changed tremendously in the last 2 years. The paths are all thickly mulched, so hardly any weeds. The beds, which were all starting to fall apart in this pic, are now shored up and a few new beds are built. About a week ago, I spread a thick layer of compost over everything and it looks lush and rich right now. In this photo, you can see the gambions. They are cages with a post stuck in the middle and then filled with rock. Almost indestructible! Great for the Texas Hill Country where "rocks r us"! With the added advantage of not having to dig postholes!!
Our rock cages stand 5 feet tall and the landscape timber in the center stands 4 feet above that, so our fence is 9 feet overall. Deer jumping in are not a problem. Armadillos digging underneath can be, so I patrol the fence line occasionally and put down big rocks if I see the fencing pulled away at the bottom. I will post pics of this years garden soon. We'll see how the nice, tidy rows compare to the circus I usually have going. A pic from April of 2007 of one of my artichoke plants in all its' glory~
Things are hoppin' in the greenhouse where everything got a good dose of compost also. My tomato plants are huge, having been repotted twice already. The Texas rabbit eye blueberry bushes are full of buds ready to burst into bloom (they will be planted in the garden in late March). I have 3 papaya trees that started in the compost pile from a papaya we ate. One of them has a trunk as big around as my wrist! And then there is this plant. I cannot, for the life of me, remember what it is called. I'm pretty sure I got it from Lupe when she moved into town.
Most of the year it is a pretty unassuming plant, but come does a dramatic change almost overnight and some of the green fronds turn a shocking pink and then the flowers fall out as the pink fronds unfurl. It is an amazing miracle to me and I watch it almost daily this time of year. I love how the "petals" are outlined in deep purple-blue! It blooms for quite a long time and then eventually goes back to a very plain green plant.

In other news, our rooster Johnny passed away this week. He was so very old and had taken to following the girls out of the coop in the mornings and then finding a nice spot to sit in and staying there all day long. He was blind in one eye and rather raggedy looking, but treated the girls so sweetly and had a calm temperament towards us, too. We got Johnny from Tracy at the feed store and this week Scott stopped in and told her Johnny was gone. With a gleam in her eye she told Scott, "Have I got the rooster for you!" I am looking forward to a new rooster...I am not so sure the girls are though. I think they had become accustomed to not being hassled too much with Johnny. I'm sure they'll be annoyed with a virile new rooster. We got a strange egg last week. When I went to collect, there were 2 regular sized eggs and one teeny, tiny one. Not much bigger than the tip of my thumb. When I cracked it, it was all white, no yolk. Now, all of a sudden the girls are laying like crazy. We went from getting 1 or 2 eggs a day to 5 or 6. It is great to be egg rich!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Seared Tuna with Bok Choy

I never get tired of eating fish. Scott and I probably have fish or seafood for dinner 2-3 times a week. I have a few favorite recipes that I do over and over and this is one of them. It is quick, easy and we always leave the table feeling satisfied, but not stuffed. I buy cases of tuna steaks at Restaurant Depot in San Antonio. They are individually packaged and really quite a bargain considering what the tuna goes for at HEB. I almost always have bok choy in the garden (except maybe in the dead of summer) and I have to say that, next to broccoli raab, it is my favorite green. To make the tuna: mix equal parts black and white sesame seeds-for 2 steaks I use about 2 tablespoons each, grind in about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of Szechwan peppercorns and about 1 teaspoon of five spice powder. Heat about 2 teaspoons peanut oil in a skillet (I use cast iron) until it is quite hot. Dredge the tuna steaks on both sides in the sesame seed mixture and place them in the pan. I cook them for about 2-4 minutes per side. You just want the outside cooked...the inside is warm, but still red as in the picture below.
I showed these pics to our daughter Molly as she is trying to eat better. After seeing the first
picture (the one above), she said, "That looks good...I could eat that" and then I showed her this picture and she balked..."Uh-uh...can't do raw fish...I wouldn't be able to get that down."
Oh well...
The bok choy is easy...chop and boil it for about 2 minutes, then drain and saute in some hoisin sauce. It is equally good with oyster sauce instead of hoisin. The brown sauce on the plate, which looks just awful-muddy brown and gloppy-is my favorite new sauce. Molly did go home last weekend with a jar full of it although she won't be using it on tuna! It is easy and magnificent. To make: mix 5 tablespoons ginger jam, 2 tablespoons tamari (or soy sauce) and
1 tablespoon prepared wasabi. Just those three ingredients, yet such a complex and interesting flavor. I can think of so many ways to use it and I think this summer, when we have spring rolls weekly, this will be the dipping sauce. I am going to bake a salmon in it next week. I can imagine how well it would take to the oily, strong flavored salmon. Anyway, for the meal above, add some buckwheat noodles (udon) and you have a great, quick, healthy dinner.