The Peculiar Persimmon

Another brief plant profile this post, as it’s our first experience of persimmons!

The first thing you learn is absolutely do not eat them when they look pretty enough to eat. With the persimmon, the uglier, the better! If you eat one when it looks like this, you might think you just stuffed your mouth full of dead rodent fur.

If you eat one that looks like these below, you might cringe a little at first thinking you’re about to taste something rotten, but you’d be quite wrong—it’s magically delicious!

Let this funny lady tell you all about it!

It is often claimed that American persimmons are only edible after a frost and that you cannot ripen them off the tree. Luckily, this is not the case. However, most persimmons you can purchase at the grocery store are of a Chinese variety. It seems American producers have decided our own varieties don’t ship well enough.

Preserving ’wild’ persimmons is also a bit peculiar as cooking it will bring the astringent taste back. Making fruit leather was the solution for Native Americans according to this article by Mother Earth News. “When desired, the persimmon leather can be cut into small pieces and eaten like candy. It is much relished by small children this way. Or, the dried pulp can be mixed like raisins with cornmeal and other cereals to make Native American puddings, various cakes and biscuits.”

Time for us to give persimmon leather a try! And persimmon cookies, clearly. I already made persimmon kombucha and it’s positively divine! 🙂

We’ve planted a bunch of persimmon trees in recent years, but only females produce fruit. The ratio of male to female trees is 10 to 1 and you can’t tell them apart until they start fruiting, in about 7 years. Nature’s way of teaching us patience and planning!

Co-Creating Abundance

No politics or unpleasant ponderings this post, I promise!

Just some homesteady happy snaps and a well wishing for a wonderful weekend. 🙂

A sea of sweet potatoes soon to be harvested.

Mexican tarragon—an attractive replacement for French tarragon that does much better in the South.

Drum roll, please, for this next rare shot . . .
A Skittles sighting!

Our barn cat, Skittles, who we see about once a week and lives mostly in the trees.

Mystifying mushrooms! These are quite common, honies (armillaria tabescens) claimed to be good by a good many foragers, but we haven’t tried them yet, because my mushrooming buddy and her husband got wretchedly ill on them once.
Oops, I promised no unpleasantries. 😉

Buttercup paying homage to the pack leader, Tori, she does this multiple times a day.

I suppose these next snaps might be unpleasant to some, sorry! I do get that, I felt that at first too, but I was gradually desensitized as I realized how much economic sense it makes, what an amazing skill it is, and especially how magically delicious it is.

Always an attentive audience at slaughter time.

Our favorite foraging expert who we forayed with nearby this past spring has a great new website all about medicinals. Here’s a short podcast about it, and reminding me that now is the time I should be collecting some goldenrod before winter! Medicine Man Plant Co

Healing properties of medicinal plants

New Thoughts on Old Age

We’ve been at this about a decade now, learning by trial and error. Because of a major health crisis in the family, I’ve been introspecting even more than usual these days. That’s why I haven’t been posting much lately.

I thought it high time to deeply consider what our own health futures might hold, Hubby and I, while we are not under the immediate duress of old age and poor health. Health is one of the main reasons why we committed to this homesteading lifestyle. Other reasons are political, esthetic, quality of life and, for me at least, a sense of urgency to hold on to something precious for future generations—nature—before it slips completely from our lives.

Tumeric flowering, didn’t know they do that!

Watching the impact of the Scamdemic not only on the economy, but also on our ‘health care’ system has demonstrated unequivocally that, despite the challenges and hardships, we’ve made the right choice.

Our ‘health care’ system, which is actually a disease promoting system, is beyond hope, in my estimation. (This one’s surely gone viral by now, but in case you haven’t seen it yet, it’s brilliant!)
The DEVOLUTION of covid vaccine efficacy

I truly believe the only way out of the mess this country has become is by reclaiming our natural rights back from the government.

However, that first means reclaiming our natural responsibilities—those ‘unpleasant’ aspects of life we’ve come to outsource to the government (and their corporate partners in crime) in the first place, which has made it ridiculously powerful, as all governments (and their co-conspirators) are wont to be.

We are trying to accomplish that by first demonstrating to ourselves, and then hopefully to others, that such a thing is possible, and also desirable.

But what if, due to our increasing age, we had to choose?
Limited strength, mobility issues, cognitive decline, all are serious potential threats to our continued lifestyle here.

Considering this I’ve made a few lists, ranking our current activities against future realities based on: Required inputs, health impact, pleasure principle, and bang for the buck.

It isn’t pleasant. I don’t want to give up any of it, ever! Bees, chickens, pigs, sheep, goats, veggie garden, fruit orchard . . . .
But, here goes.

  1. Kombucha, no caveats, it stands alone. If you can make tea you can make kombucha. It’s healthy, it’s fun, it’s delicious. Hubby no longer drinks beer or soda thanks to this amazing beverage, better for health and finances for us, and far better for the environment too, with almost no waste.
  2. Sourdough bread, and already we have caveats. I know loads of folks think they are gluten intolerant; I used to think I was too. Grains properly prepared are nothing like most store-bought breads, for health and taste. Around these parts you can’t even find good bread. In other locales you may be able to find it, but I’d guess the prices are scary. Making your own sourdough bread is time consuming, but it’s not difficult. Same goes for sourdough cookies, brownies, pizza crusts, etc. And, let’s face it, gluten-free products are not tasty, so there’s some extra incentive.
  3. Raised garden beds, and more caveats. Starting to garden at an advanced age is probably not going to be too successful. Of all we do here it claims the prize of Most: most expensive, most labor intensive, most greatest learning curve, most unreliable results. Still, I love it! So, continuing to garden with some foresight and adjustments is perfectly doable. I insist!

That short list makes me sad. It’s the bare bones and I hope such sacrifices will never be required of us—no more chickens, goats, big dogs, great big garden?!

I don’t even want to consider it, but there it is.

Tori surveying the gopher damage. Bad rodents!

There are also many projects still on my list to successfully accomplish, which are in trial and error mode now. Like making all our own body care and household cleaning products and herbal medicines. Hubby has future hopes of making furniture, if his current to-do list will ever allow it. No time for poor health here!

So, another short list is in order. The three things, in addition to those above, that I hope and pray we never get too old for:
1. Bees — not even for the honey necessarily
2. Chickens — they are easy enough to manage, but they attract predators
3. Goats — mostly for the cheese making, but they’re pretty good company too

And the three things we would most likely not be able to continue into old age:
1. Slaughtering — tough work, no doubt about it
2. Orchard — even established ones are a lot of work
3. Pigs — high maintenance, yes, but so delicious

We have no intention of ever rejoining urban life. And as far as intentions go, avoiding nursing homes and hospitals is right at the top of that list as well.

Thanks, Decker https://dispatchesfromtheasylum.com/ for sharing this good one!

I’d love to read any comments on how you’ll be avoiding the hospitals and nursing homes too! And, are you sick of ‘civilization’ yet?!

Still Harvesting

No rest for the weary around here!  Our goal of year-round garden harvesting has been met and is every bit as rewarding, and exhausting, as I expected.

Living, working and eating according to the season is remarkably satisfying.  In the last couple of years especially I’ve spent much less time learning from books and much more on direct observing and experimenting.  

I’m thinking our next goal should be to throw the calendar and the clock out with the garbage. Show those Amish what a real Luddite looks like! HA! 🙂

This time of year the spiders tell me it’s a good thing I’ve got the cool season crops out already. Many of them were started indoors, then transferred outside under shade cloth which will remain until the heat breaks, fingers crossed we don’t get an early frost.  

I’ve just started harvesting the sweet potatoes, the luffa and peppers are going crazy, the radishes, volunteer cherry tomatoes and lettuces are finally happy again and I’m most excited for the mirliton squash (chayote) that is finally getting its first flowers.  This will (hopefully) be our first success with mirlitons following multiple failed attempts.  I love this squash, but it thrives in southern Louisiana mostly, because it needs a very long warm season, even longer than we get here.  I started these indoors in February, along with the turmeric, also a first for us this year.

Several heat lovers pictured above: turmeric, ginger, sweet potatoes, mirliton, peppers, luffa.
Below: longevity spinach

As soon as it cools down I’ll also be harvesting honey, lots of herbs for drying and pesto, along with foraged leaves and roots for teas— sassafras, beauty berry, sumac—and once we finally get some rain, it’ll be time for mushrooms.   

Hubby will be filling the freezer with lamb and pork and freshening our flock for spring lambs and a few to add to our growing herd of milking goats.

Hibiscus in May, hibiscus today . … still not blooming because I got a late start.

The honey bees love the Thai basil and the native bees especially love the salvia and the sweet potato and luffa flowers.  We’ve decided next year to plant an entire row of luffa in the orchard just for the bees and pigs.

Hope you can enjoy a moment of piglet playtime! Surely there will be time for a wee rest in late winter?

Homestead Happenings

Sanity still reigns on the wee homestead and I thought maybe a few of y’all might need a decent dose of it during these crazy dog days of summer amidst continued global chicanery.

The garden looks more like a jungle, but there is a method to the madness. Mostly it’s called ‘too hot to bother’. Still, it looks better than it ever has this time of year (which is saying very little) so I’m proud of a few things worth sharing.

The pigs are eating well off the luffa, which does so well here it actually out-competes the grasses. I wish we liked to eat it too, but I do use the sponges. It’s widely consumed in some cultures, so I might keep trying recipes to see if anything can improve its very bland taste. Plus, the bees love it, so it’s definitely a keeper.

We’re pretty limited on the veggie harvest this time of year, which means eating okra almost daily. I’m really not a big fan and it’s not even a fun one to harvest. It’s prickly and the fire ants scout every inch of it waiting to fall into your gloves or onto your thighs as you cut the spears. Its only redeeming qualities, if you ask me, are that it thrives in the heat and the flowers are pretty.

It’s our first harvest of scuppernong grapes and I’ll soon be making some wine and jelly. I’m kind of sick of canning, after all the pickles and having tried several new canning recipes this year, but I must find the grit somewhere and get back to it. For my latest experiments we’ll soon be tasting pickled watermelon rind, melon butter, and some exotically flavored cucumbers. That’s in addition to all our usual staples of pickles and salsas and sauces.

Green scuppernongs, yum!

I’ve also made poke wine! It tastes pretty weird, but is supposed to be an excellent medicinal, so I thought it would be good to have on hand this winter. Despite popular hype, poke berries are not poisonous. Well, not exactly anyway. The seeds inside the berry are poisonous if chewed. You must extract the juice or swallow the berries whole.

Buttercup decorated with Poke berry splotches 🙂

Our pear harvest was quite small this year, but those will be processed soon too, into cider and preserves. My favorite, figs, have been doing better after a couple years of total failure. Too bad we eat them too fast to preserve them!

I’ve settled into a nice routine with milking our goat Summer and am extremely pleased with the cheeses I’ve been making. It took some getting used to, fitting it all into a workable new plan, after making mostly large-batch cheeses for several years. I’m using only traditional methods now too, so no more expensive cheese cultures to purchase.

Organizing seeds and preparing the fall plantings are also in high gear. It’s a real challenge in 90+ degree temps to be considering the cool season crops. I’ve got some started indoors under lights and my direct sow method amounts to throwing a variety of seeds in the ground every week, waterIng liberally, and keeping fingers crossed. Usually, eventually, some seedlings get brave and make an appearance and if we’re lucky, will produce something before the first frost.

Handy Hubby’s still rockin’ the new utility room and it’s already looking fabulous! It’s been a 100% DIY project for him and he never fails to impress. Once done I’ll give him a proper staging and big kudos post.

Well, that’s all folks, thanks for visiting!

My Rain Man

The Sweltering Season has officially begun, later than usual for these parts, lucky for us.

Long weeks of crazy heat and zero rain makes for four lazy dogs and one crabby wife.

So Handy Hubby comes to the rescue once again!

I wanted to share this one because it’s a cool off-grid hack, even though we aren’t off-grid. The ability to pump water from your natural spring, creek or man-made pond or other source has advantages for any landowner. There is the savings on your water bill of course, and the peace of mind in having an alternate water supply, but beyond that the untreated water is better for the plants, animals and environment.

While it does take some significant time and expense initially, to set it up, move it around and then conveniently store it away when not in use is just what we need around here.

We soak the yard and garden with it, and then soak in it ourselves in our 200 gallon stock tank. A real redneck sort of system, but so refreshing!

I asked for a detailed explanation on Hubby’s handiwork to include here for anyone interested and he mumbled, “Just glue it and screw it.”

Yes a man of few words, but great actions, just like I like ‘em. 🤣

On further pressuring him he said if there was anyone reading this that must know the details, just say so in a comment below and he’ll let me figure out a way to persuade him to oblige.

Breathe in Beauty

Nature is not perfect, nor perfectible. But whether in chaos or order there can always be found magnificent beauty that heals, energizes and inspires.

I don’t like to see folks high on false Hopium when they face troubled times.  I don’t like political slogans or wistful mantras about Hate or Love.  

I wish all mankind could feel what I feel, see what I see, touch what I touch, so that the wholesome Hopium of pure life filled them each day with all the sense of wonder and potential, or challenge and purpose, they try forever in vain to find in others’ words and buying things.

And they would know to micromanage Life is antithetical to our raison d’etre, not to mention a hard lesson in futility.

Co-creating beauty and abundance, participating directly in our daily sustenance, living reciprocally between the heavens and the soil is a marvelous feast of the mind, heart and soul.

Nature does not long to be worshipped, or revered, or admired from afar, or just replicated in images. It is us, it is ours to be truly seen and felt, up close and very personal, not as masters or servants, but as partners, in divinity.

To work with nature, really work WITH it and IN it, is to spend your days suspended in magic.

Try one minute of bee zen. Can you hear their successful model of a happy colony? Contrary to popular lore, the worker bees control the queen, not the other way around. Can you sense their contentedness in maintaining their colony as instinctually as every Superorganism does?

Just like the human body, if left to its own devices, it knows just what to do.

One minute of bee zen

Milking Mamas, Busy as Bees

Big days on the wee homestead! The cucumbers are coming in by the bushel full, the lambs are dropping like rabbits, the mushrooms are growing like mad and the bees sound exceptionally pleased. I can’t keep up!

Luckily, Handy Hubby is here now every day, thanks to his ‘early retirement’ (that is his layoff six months ago) thanks to The Great Scamdemic. With his steady efforts and attention our place is shaping up beautifully and my stress levels have been reduced by half, even as chaos still reigns. For these are not the only new milking mamas, I’m now officially a milkmaid in training myself!

Welcome, Summer! Two piglets for a goat in milk was our barter with a friend. She’s settling in nicely and Phoebe was the first of the herd to greet her.

Learning to milk in humid and buggy 95 degrees F is every bit as pleasant as it sounds. 😏

Impressive udder and gymnast-like capabilities!

Handy Hubby crafted me a nice milk stand from plans posted by Fias Co Farms, a very good resource for goat newbies.

The chanterelles will surely give up very soon in this heat, so I forced myself to brave the mosquitoes and ticks once more to gather one last big basket full. I came across a new variety while hunting that’s not in any of my books, so I contacted Texas Foraging expert Mark ‘Merriwether’ Vorderbruggen, who identified it and directed me to this excellent site:

https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/hexagonal-pored-polypore

Since our temps went from April-like to August-like overnight, I got stuck in a bit of a bind with the bees. Because I’m trying to work between 3 different hive types (very stupid, do not entertain this folly I would advise) I’m trying to get them to move of their own accord. It is working, but it is quite a slow process. I will eventually have 3 colonies from this one very full nuc without too much destruction or fuss, or at least that’s my plan.

To end I offer a true garden success. I’ve been experimenting a lot with companion planting, sometimes with advice from permaculture books, but sometimes just by my own observations. This year I planted sunflowers very early, before it was warm enough for the cucumbers and melons. My thought was to attract the bees to the garden like a lure down to the still small cucumbers. It’s worked like a charm and the trellises are bursting with activity.

I’m also trying some new tricks with the tomatoes, letting the cherry types go wild, but highly managing the large varieties and interspersing them with various herbs, lots of comfrey, turmeric and ginger. The results are not yet in on those efforts, but I’ll keep y’all posted.

Mmm, grapes, our favorite! Ta Ta for now

Flooded Dells & Chanterelles

Wow, what weather! We got 12 inches of rain overnight on Monday, far more than we’ve ever seen here. Unlike the tornadoes, hurricanes and hail, however, I don’t complain about the rain. This region was made for rain, and lots of it. It’s the droughts that are far more difficult to withstand, and far more unnatural.

Texas Weather Modification doesn’t respond to public inquiries and they don’t share data on all the various projects happening around the state, so who’s to say if this was all Mother Nature. Man’s tech being ‘proprietary’ after all, we peons and peasants are relegated to the realms of conspiracy theory. Folks will continue to deny the weather warfare schemes until the bitter end, I suppose. No one wants to believe man is manufacturing the weather, despite clear evidence right at our fingertips.

However, that’s beside this particular post’s point. This is what we woke up to, the sound of Niagara Falls outside our window! While still in bed I said to Hubby, “What is that sound? It can’t be wind, the trees aren’t blowing!” One look outside and I saw, that’s the creek that now looks like the Mississippi, flowing right over the road and bridge (sorry for the shaky camera, I was focused on the roar more than the image).

While we had several fence issues from the debris, lost a favorite old tree, and the electricity was out for a spell, it’s absolutely amazing to me how resilient nature can be.

The water was mostly receded in just one day and then, out come the lovely fruits as kind rewards for our losses and extra labor.

Chanterelles abound, the flowers and veggies are flourishing. The mosquitoes and ticks too, no gifts given without associated costs.

One delicious dinner of pasta in cream sauce with chanterelles, green brier tips and sweet peas. And another favorite tonight, pizza of course, which Hubby pronounced my best ever. Our own homemade cheese, bacon and sourdough crust certainly help the chanterelles sautéed in garlic butter make their best impression. .

While hunting chanterelles I stumbled upon a rather large patch of this rare beauty which I once mistook for a wild orchid. Actually it’s a Purple Pleat-leaf, in the Iris family. It’s gorgeous in the wild, but wilts immediately when cut. I carefully uprooted a few of the tiny shallow bulbs and transplanted them in the garden.

Hopefully the bees will find them as lovely as I do! If not, they still have their garden favorites.

Birds, Bees & Weeds

Exciting times on the wee homestead!

We had a Foraging Walk that was well worth the two years waiting. The first postponement was after a tornado leveled their property during one of their tribal ceremonies, the Caddo Mounds in Weeping Mary, which I wrote about here and here.

The second time was during the initial stages of the Plandemic, when I cancelled due to mask mandates.

On this fun foray, 3rd time was a charm, no storms, no masks and a very educational afternoon. Top 3 things I learned:

1. Medicinal weeds should never be dehydrated in a machine, something about chemistry. Two ubiquitous weeds I thought had no other redeeming qualities besides bee food: Goldenrod and Carolina geranium, are in fact beneficial medicinals.

2. There’s a compound in red cedar that inhibits the breakdown of alcohol for 18 hours. So, a common practice is to soak some branch tips in strong spirits for a month. The final product becomes kind of like Absinthe in that it’s potent enough to cause hallucinations, which can lead to great art, says me, or, a cheap date, says Hubby.

3. Foraging in areas where there was once iron mining operations, quite common around here apparently, unbeknownst to me, should be avoided due to potential mercury contamination.

A super exciting swarm event is next on the Fun list!

I’ve been wanting to populate a couple of re-furbished TopBar hives, but the dimensions are not the same as those Hubby’s crafted, so splits would prove very challenging.

Bearding in summer, not too unusual in our hot climate. But, bearding in spring, probably a sign they’re really cramped.

I was hoping for swarms, and got one off the ‘bearding’ hive I recently wrote about (pictured above). They stationed themselves about 75 feet away in a young cedar tree and I got lucky to find them there immediately, while I was nearby harvesting mulberries. This is our first plentiful mulberry crop and I’m not sure what to make with them. Any suggestions?

I did recently learn from the Deep Green Permaculture site that it’s possible to get a 2nd crop of mulberries by cutting the branches back after the 1st harvest.

As far as the swarm goes, my first attempt was dismal, in the ‘Don’t do this!’ category of the pathetic novice, which I should know better by now, which I post so y’all can laugh at me, as I well deserve.

I don’t know what I was thinking! I wasn’t even good at holding a tray like that as a cocktail waitress. Spontaneous blasphemy makes this quick clip RATED R—For Mature Audiences Acting Immaturely Only. (Bet you didn’t know in a past life I was a sailor!)

Cringe-worthy

The 2nd attempt was successful, thanks to Hubby, who sawed the branch off into my waiting hands so I could gently walked them over to their new hive. They seem to be adjusting nicely! These thoughtful bees saved me lots of messy work.

The Ninja* colony has attracted a gorgeous bird, which I’m pretty sure after consulting my field guide, is a Summer Tanager. Though I don’t approve of his hunting live bees, he does also forage dead bees under the hive, so he gets a pass.

*Ninja colony, so named due to their constant battling yet relatively calm nature. I believe this is at least partly due to their position right next to the house, where they get constant traffic, but seem unperturbed by it, unlike the more remote colonies at the far end of the orchard, who are just plain abusive.

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