Thursday, July 29, 2010

New Garden Growth

My garden is coming back!  Check it out...most of the vegetables that were decimated in the recent deer raid on my garden have come back to life with lots of new growth...look!

My peppers are looking so lush and full, I can hardly believe it.



Note the netting until the new fence is built.  (As an aside, I am NOT a fan of all.  Last year a beautiful garden snake got caught in it and we lost him.  It was very sad.  You know how I feel about garden critters.  But until the fence is built, I have no choice.  The deer are still getting on the property.)  

My heirloom and cherry tomatoes are still producing fruit and making new flowers.

And the two remaining eggplants each have new blossoms and a couple of baby eggplant on the vines.

I couldn't be more pleased with the recovery of my hill country garden.  All this new growth has occurred since July 5th!!  And all I did to encourage this was feed each plant every couple of weeks with Medina Growin Green granules and made sure the plants got plenty of water in this blazing hot sun and you see the results.  Pretty amazing.

Although this growing season is just about over, I'm happy that I'm still getting some fruit production.  And my experience with the peppers has been that they will continue to produce into the fall.

Seeing this makes me glad I decided to try and bring the plants back to life instead of pulling them and waiting to plant in the fall.  Although I will definitely have a fall garden!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Yellow Garden Spider

I know...these photographs may freak some of you out (except you TP :) and I'm sorry (sort of) for that :)  But to me, this is simply another beautiful creature with whom I share the South Texas Hill Country.  It's a Yellow Garden Spider, Argiope aurantia.  I'm pretty sure it's a female (based on her size, which appears to be over 1 1/2 inches in body length) and she has spun her web just outside the back door of my office (the door I go in and out of daily).  I noticed her last week and have been watching her ever since.  She's just beautiful. 

Despite their menacing appearance, the Yellow Garden Spider is a non-venomous, common orb spider, which basically means it spins its web in a circle.  I actually watched her one morning this past week spin part of her web.  It was pretty amazing.  In doing some online research, I read that these spiders eat their entire web each night and then spin a new one.  Maybe what I saw was the rebuilding of the web...

These spiders prefer sunny locations to spin their webs, areas with little or no wind.  She'll hang head down in the center of the sticky web to wait for prey, which most commonly includes flies, grasshoppers, katydids, cicadas, June bugs, wasps and other insects.  The webs are unique in that they have a zigzag pattern in the center of the web...look closely and you can easily see it.  I actually saw (and photographed) her wrapping up and eating a smaller spider she caught in the web, but I didn't think it would be appropriate to post those photos (although I *really* wanted to!)  Anyway, just thought I'd share photographs of another of God's beautiful creatures...


Friday, July 23, 2010

Onion, Tomato & Goat Cheese Tart a word...delicious!  Y'all know I picked all those onions a few weeks ago and I'm constantly searching for new ways to use them.  I also had some beautiful beefsteak tomatoes that I bought at a local farm stand a couple of days ago.  Well, I found this recipe from my favorite chef, Ina Garten, and I tweaked it a little (not much) to suit my taste and made it for dinner last night.  It was wonderful!   It's one of those recipes that is easily adapted to individual taste and to what one has in one's favorite kind of recipe :)  You should try this one.

Onion, Tomato & Goat Cheese Tart
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
Good extra virgin olive oil
4 cups thinly sliced yellow onions
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon good balsamic vinegar (you could deglaze with white wine)
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano Regianno cheese, plus a few additional shavings
2 ounces garlic & herb goat cheese (you could use blue cheese, mozzarella or feta)
1 large beefsteak tomato, cut into 4 thick slices
2 tablespoons julienned basil leaves (you could use more fresh thyme, but I like the basil :)

Preheat oven to 425

Unfold pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface and roll it lightly into an 11 x 11 inch square.  Using a 6-wide saucer or other round object as a guide, cut 2 circles from the sheet of puff pastry, discarding scraps.  Place pastry circles on sheet pan lined with parchment and refrigerate until ready to use.

Coat the bottom of a large skillet with olive oil and heat to medium.  Add onions and saute until very soft, stirring frequently, until there is almost no moisture remaining in skillet.  This could take 30-45 minutes.  Stir in salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar and thyme and continue to cook for another 10-15 minutes until the onions are nicely caramelized.  Remove from heat.


Using a sharp pairing knife, score a 1/4-inch-wide border around each pastry circle.  Prick the pastry inside the score lines with the tines of a fork and sprinkle a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese on each round, staying inside the scored border.

Place 1/2 of the onion mixture on each circle, staying within the scored edge.  Crumble one ounce of goat cheese on top of the onions.  Place 2 tomato slices in the center of each tart.  Drizzle the tomato slices with a little extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with basil, salt and pepper.  Finally, scatter a few shards of Parmigiano cheese on each tart.


Bake 20-25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.  Serve hot or warm, delicious either way!

I served them along side scallops that I quickly pan seared, with a lemon butter sauce.

Buon Appetito!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Wild Sunflowers

I'm not sure if it's due to the recent rain we've received, but the wild sunflowers are putting on quite a show.  They are everywhere on the property...standing tall and providing a great source of nourishment for the local bee population.  The goldfinches love them too!  Just thought you might like to see...


The tiniest bee... :)


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Black Ground Squirrel

Isn't he adorable!  I was sitting at my desk (blogging actually) when I looked out the window and saw this beautiful black ground squirrel sitting on top of an old bird feeder.  Well, I just happened to have my camera right there on my desk and I couldn't resist snapping a few photos of this beautiful critter to share with y'all.  He lives in the rock wall just on the other side of my pool and I see him around a lot.  He doesn't ever climb the trees and he eats the seeds on the ground that fall from the bird feeders. 

Cute, eh? :)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Great Potato Recipe

You guys know I harvested all those potatoes a few weeks ago.  Now the challenge...what to do with them!  This past weekend I created (on the fly...which is my typical MO) a new way to fix hash brown potatoes.  This "recipe" is not rocket science and it lends itself to many variations and possibilities. 
  • Thinly slice a small yellow onion (I used one of mine from my recent onion harvest!)
  • 5 small red new potatoes, scrubbed and cut into a 1/2 inch dice
  • Butter and extra virgin olive oil to coat the pan
Melt the butter and olive oil over medium high heat, add the potatoes, onions and salt and pepper.  Cover and cook until potatoes are cooked but still a little firm (maybe 10-15 minutes), stir occasionally.  Remove cover and let potatoes cook a little longer, until nicely browned.

  • Mix 2-3 tablespoons of half and half with 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard and add to potatoes, stir well
  • Simmer until liquid is absorbed and potatoes are nicely coated

 Add a handful of fresh dill, season to taste with salt & freshly ground black pepper and they're done!

I served them alongside some leftover Cedar Plank Salmon and it made a delicious brunch!  You can add a poached or sunnyside-up egg over the potatoes, which my husband really likes. you think he liked it? :)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Aftermath

OK...I'm over it...time to move on.  Thanks to all who emailed me with condolences :)  

After closely inspecting what is left of the recent deer massacre, I've decided to see if I can bring the peppers, tomatoes and two eggplants back to life.  It is only early July and there is still a long growing season remaining here in South Texas.  Let's see what we can do with it.  Besides, I *hate* pulling up green, growing things.  You know what I hard time I have thinning beets!

A few days ago I took a good look at each of the plants and found most of them to be very healthy and strong, only sans leaves :)  The peppers were already beginning to show signs of new growth as were the tomatoes, and even a few baby eggplants were beginning to form.  

 See, they don't look so bad :) 

We were expecting a couple of days of heavy rain from "Tropical Depression #2" so I decided to capitalize on that weather event.  I fertilized each plant with a full cup of Medina Growin Green granules and worked it deeply into the soil.  Next, I pruned each plant, removing all the dead and half eaten stems and fruit, and re-staked each plant as needed.  Then I said a little prayer and let the rain take over. And rain it did.  It was wonderful.  Although my garden gets watered daily via a drip irrigation system, you can't beat a a good soaking two-day-rain storm!

I'm fairly confident my garden will come back this season.  We just have to be diligent in keeping the deer out until the new fence is built.  But that what's my beloved puppies are for!  Tyson, Bandit, Mouthy...time to earn your keep!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Total Garden Wipe Out...

...yep...all of it...with the exception of a few heirloom's all gone. 


We spent the long 4th of July weekend at our ranch house about 100 miles North of here.  This is not a new activity.  We've been doing this for years and I've never had a a problem with the garden.  Except this past weekend.  I think a deer (or more than one) got on the property (having jumped a 6-foot high deer fence) and with no one around and no dogs here to chase them away, he/she/they had a feast in my garden and destroyed it all.  There's nothing left except a few chewed up heirloom tomato plants.  

I can't tell you how I felt Monday when we got home and I went to check on the garden.  Utterly devastated about sums it up.  Yes, I cried.  I wasn't even angry.  Just crushed and very very sad.  All that work...all those beautiful vegetables...all those wonderful meals that will never be...gone in an instant. 

Maybe the Universe is punishing me for gloating about how well my garden was doing (although I doubt this one).  Maybe it's payback karma for something awful I did either in this life or a past one.  Maybe it's a result of throwing too many left over parsley/cilantro stems over the fence to the deer.  Maybe they got greedy and saw the smorgasbord inside my garden and wanted more.  I've quit trying to explain it and am now simply accepting it.

I had actually written a few posts on my peppers and squash because they were so beautiful and healthy and I really wanted to share them with you guys.  But alas, that will never be.  Here are a few before and after pictures...but be sure to grab a box of tissues...what you're about to see is pretty sad.

Beautiful peppers before

Peppers after the attack

And here is what my lone squash plant looked like before...

And after...


And a few after shots of my heirloom tomatoes, eggplant and green bean plants...



OK...enough whining.  Believe me, I have put all this in perspective.  It is not the end of the world.  There are worse things in life, I know that.  I have a son who's been deployed since January.  Thankfully, he's on his way home and God willing, should be home safely with his wife and soon-to-be-born baby boy in about six weeks.  I have family who live on Pensacola Bay and tar balls are beginning to show up on what used to be beautiful pristine beaches.  I have a dear friend who is not in the best of health and who is in constant pain.  These are the serious events in life that ought to be fretted about; not my garden being eaten by critters who are just doing what they do in the natural world.

But for about 24 hours, this event in my little microcosm of the Universe sent me for a loop.  Now it's time to get over it and figure out a way to protect my garden in the future, which my wonderful husband has already done :)  Before becoming a doctor, he was an engineer and he has devised a fencing system for my garden that, hopefully, will keep the deer critters out!  I just love him (not the deer wonderful husband)!

Now it's time to get to work.  I plan to pull all the plant stubs, except the heirlooms, this week.  The heirlooms came through this massacre pretty well and I should be able to salvage a few of the plants and hopefully get some fruit off them during the remainder of this season.  I likely won't plant anything again until the new fence is in place.  I'll keep you all posted on that project.  But that gives me time to get the beds ready for late summer/fall planting.  And have no doubt about this, I will rise to plant again! :)