The early bird gets the worm, they say, and when it comes to Texas gardening I really think that is true. Back in the Midwest, June through September were the months in which you could find garden goodness of all kinds.

We now mostly count those months as off season months with their persistent heat and low rainfall. For years we have kind of known in the back of our minds that if you’re going to plant, it needs to be early… or late, for that matter.


Well, this year and last are the first two years we have had truly workable soil to speak of (thank you, Lord, for the straw and manure!). And this year and last are the first we’ve gotten a real jump start on the garden. We have, in essence, been planting seeds of one kind or another continuously since February.


We did have a crazy frost at one point and, frankly, if you’re going to plant as early as we did you have to either plan to cover rows or plan to lose something. The shifts in temperature can come on quick and so when we lost a portion of the beans and nearly all of the tomatillos to a late frost, we were grateful to still have seed in order to replant. We’re still working on the tomatillo germination situation but the beans have come back strong.


This is also one of the first years in awhile that we’ve had both the time (no spring baby this year) and the space (south-facing windows in the kitchen) to continue to plant some fun and tasty new stuff. We have about 8-10 tomato plants that are flowering and putting off small fruit and I have about seven pots of peppers and eggplant that will need transplanting soon.


And I am starting to wonder what is going to happen with the squash. We planted eight hills with 2-3 plants on each hill that have survived. We really like squash – both fresh and preserved – and so far this heirloom variety seems true to the seeds packet boasting of “fast growing” and “prolific”.


Oh, and do you know that it’s been nearly six years since we’ve grown a cucumber? I always assumed cucumbers were water suckers and with the water situation here always being somewhere between less than optimal to downright critical, I always bypassed the cukes in the seed catalogs. Well, this year we decided to order several heat- and drought-tolerant tomatoes, cucumbers, black-eyed peas, and cantaloupes from Native Seed Search. So these flowers are from one of about a half dozen Armenian Yard-Long Cucumbers that are coming along well.


And then there is the pumpkin patch. As I mentioned previously, Abram snuck sixteen pumpkins into the Chicken Field when I wasn’t looking and they are looking good thus far. The soil beneath is really not that great but we’ve been mulching and watering and are very pleased with the Seminole Pumpkins we received from a reader (Thanks, J!).

This week we may harvest our first squash (and possibly some baby green beans!). The peas are drying up so we’ll save seed and plant pole beans there next, Lord willing. And the Red La Soda Potatoes need a final hilling up sometime soon. And did I mention that collard bed I had kind of given up on is coming back to life? Stewart got out there and weeded really thoroughly and found a bunch of plants I’d watered unwittingly.

Now, to give those tomatillos one final try…

What’s growing and blooming in your garden?

I have probably said this a hundred times now: Almost nothing on the homestead happens as we thought it might. Take for instance the prospect of raising hogs. We’d been talking about it for years but of course always had higher priorities. Chickens and dairy animals and barns for those dairy animals all came at the top of the list.

And then there is always this question of what will you feed the animal? We always thought it seemed like a good idea to have an abundance of eggs and milk and garden scraps before getting hogs. GMO corn and other animal feeds were something we wanted to avoid and, besides, we had a barn to finish and more milk animals to get online and didn’t even have a pigpen ready so surely raising hogs was a ways off, right?


Well, actually no, no it wasn’t. A couple of weeks ago our friend let us know that there were some wild hogs being kept by a family up the road from us and they were looking to get rid of them. So Stewart contacted them and they said sure, come on over. He had planned to go pick them up and bring them home to butcher and maybe I would can some of it.


Well… they were practically babies, so out the window that went. So he brought them home and by mid-afternoon he had assembled a pen beneath the old camper and grabbed the first screaming hog and threw it into the pen. Within a couple of minutes she found a way out and took off so he doubled up the fencing and we tried again.

After that, the two hogs went in and haven’t come out since so now I guess we’re raising hogs… at least until we butcher them. And while I thought that first hog that got out was long gone, I was wrong about that too. A few days after the other two hogs got settled in, Stewart found her in the food forest while he was watering trees. Since he couldn’t catch her, we decided to go ahead and butcher her that evening and got our first taste of wild hog meat which is actually quite good, by the way.

And now, morning and evening, we feed them a collection of weeds, grass roots, cattails from our pond, whatever slop we have from the kitchen, and some non-GMO grain from a local grainary. I doubt we will repeat this endeavor once the jig is up for these hogs, but then again, we didn’t think we’d be getting hogs for quite sometime…

And here we are.