Getting Started Again

I have returned! {crickets chirping} Today I will begin, again, to document my attempts at becoming more self sufficient in a suburban setting. There are a few posts and projects underway.


Experiment One. Sauerkraut. Details to follow.



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Compost Test Update

Houston, we have germination!

It only took a week for these bush bean seeds to pop up, so far so good.  If the compost doesn’t burn up the roots, I should have quite a bit of green beans coming.  I chose beans to test the bed because Damon from Greenhorn Gardening recommended that you should start new beds with beans or another legume in his podcast. The seeds were inoculated before planting.  Also on another podcast I listen to, Jack at The Survival Podcast, suggests them to test to see if there are any herbicides in the compost because beans seem to be more susceptible to them. We shall see.

The compost mix has quite a bit of wood chips in it, almost makes it look like mulch,  especially after a few waterings. I will mulch this bed with either straw or grass clippings when the plants get bigger.  The other beds are already mulched with shredded leaves.

I am really enjoying gardening, for me it’s just one of the things in life that feels right.  I am growing part of what my family needs for food and I like that.  There’s plans for adding laying hens, rabbits and maybe fish to the backyard food cycle.  I will try to use some permaculture principles and experiment. Of course I want to do it all at once, but I know I should keep a manageable number of projects going while I am learning new stuff.

Thank God for podcasts, I have learned a lot about numerous topics while doing other tasks.  Don’t tell my boss.

Thanks and God Bless.

This post is part of Friday’s Photo on Your Gardening Friend


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Compost Delivery

For my birthday my brother-in-law had four yards of organic compost delivered from The Soil Supermarket.  He took particular delight in knowing he was getting me a giant pile of poop.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him that there was very little manure in the mix.  It was a very thoughtful and timely gift.

The compost, as delivered, seemed to be hot.  So I used some to top dress my beds and made one bed using mostly this compost.  In that bed I have bush bean seeds planted to see if they will germinate.  I figure that I’ll either have a whole mess of beans or a bed ready to go for broccoli and leaf lettuce come fall.

By the way, whoever invented the two wheeled wheel barrow is a stinking genius.  Much more stable, only slightly less nimble.  This one is my brother-in-laws, he’ll probably want it back. Dang-it.

Thank you and God Bless.


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Your Friendly Neighborhood Yard Sale

Just a quick post today.  The main purpose is to remind myself and others to keep a close eye on yard sales and estates sales in your area. With the popularity of Craigslist, EBay, Freecycle and other internet swap boards, it’s easy to overlook what your neighbors may be selling for next to nothing.

Had a pretty good haul at an estate sale here in town.  Picked up a pick, a scoop and a light weight fork for cheap.  The handles are in better shape than they look (ok, the pick needs a new handle).

At another house we found several crates of the 4″ transplant pots (I only bought one).  Inside the house there were bookcases full of oldies but goodies, where I scored books on gardening and herbal remedies.  My wife bought well over a thousand wine corks. I might steal a few to make some top-water lures when she’s not looking.

My wife and I actually enjoy the time spent together when we remember the yard sales on Saturday morning. She is a crafter and scrapbooker; she almost always finds stuff to repurpose. I guess I can plug her blog, she probably won’t mind.

Thank you and God Bless.

This post is linked to Apron Thrift Girl.


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Pickling Jalapenos

Today’s entry is about my first experiment with both canning and pickling.  Maybe this is not a big deal for some, but I don’t cook much.  My wife does 99% of the cooking at our house.  She likes it and I like that she likes it.  With my interest in gardening and storing what we grow however, I will need to learn food preservation skills.

Due to our mild winter and being in zone 9, we had peppers and herbs throughout the winter months.  I have been freezing the peppers but wanted to try something new.  So I went out to the foundation garden, picked some jalapenos and mixed herbs, and went to the internet to see how to pickle peppers.

So I found some basic recipes and saw that water bath canning would be required to finished the project.  “Well, how do you do that?” I wondered.  So after another half hour on the web, I ran to the grocery store to get pickling salt and vinegar.  We happened to have jars and new lids already.

So the recipe went like this…

  • 1 cup white or cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon canning salt
  • bay leaves

Wash peppers. and slice 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.

Pack loosely in a jar with 1 bay leaf in each jar.  (I didn’t use bay leaves, I used fern dill, cilantro, Greek basil, and oregano.)

Heat ingredients to a boil and pour over peppers in jar.

Place jar lid after wiping jar rim clean; tighten band.

Process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Do not forget the oil. The oil is the secret. For a clear liquid, use white vinegar; for the best flavor, use cider vinegar.

I followed these instructions closely up until the bay leaf part.  I substituted in oregano, dill and basil.  I loved the “POP” sound when the jars were removed from the water.

These will be used in sandwiches and salads.

If anyone has input as to a better recipe for pickled peppers, please write it or put a link for it in the comments.  I had fun doing this project and am confident that I’ll be able to water bath can some of our tomatoes towards the end of summer.

Thanks and God Bless.

This post is linked to Today’s Creative Blog and Too Much Time



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Last Summer’s Foundation Garden

Summer 2011 was a rough one for gardening. Severe drought plagued south Texas; it wasn’t just dry, record heat compounded the problems.  This was the year I decided to grow a few things for the first time.  As an aside, this is how my luck goes, so stay tuned as I mess with power tools, firearms and what not…  bound to get interesting.

I tried cilantro, basil, oregano, tomatoes and jalapenos.

The oregano was a non starter, the seeds germinated leggy and got worse from there.

This little experiment was planted along an east facing brick wall.  The soil was pretty much just clay with some sand I mixed in from where the swing set used to be.  I put my starts and seedlings in the ground, mulched with grass clippings and stood back with pride.  That was around April.

I kept the mulch deep, like 8 inches deep.  After tiring of watering with a coffee can, I buried a soaker hose under the mulch.  That worked out pretty good.  Everything grew well.

Started getting tomato and jalapeno blossoms, then the tomato plants started looking sick.  I diagnosed it as three different things, but looking back, I think the location didn’t get enough sun and tomatoes just don’t like wet feet, the pepper plants didn’t seem to care.

The pepper plants were a huge success, lots of frozen jalapenos put up.  My dad and friends got quite a few.  Believe it or not, it is February 16th and those two plants are still putting on peppers.

I began putting kitchen scraps directly under the mulch and putting earthworms in the bed.  The soil is looking more like soil and the afternoon shade probably kept everything alive.


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The Self Sufficient in the Suburbs Blog

Hello, my name is Phil.  I am starting this adventure to learn how to provide for my family’s needs with very few resources.  The scope of projects that we will tackle will be broad and focus on saving money and being as self-sufficient as possible.

Just three generations ago our country’s families provided for themselves in almost every way. They needed and craved community, but weren’t reliant on complete strangers for everyday NEEDS like food, water, shelter and security. My goal is to convert my home on a postage stamp lot into a homestead that provides for my needs rather than just another bill that I have to go to work to pay for.

I will mess it up but it will be exciting and educational.

All of this will take place on a small suburban lot south of Houston, TX.

Now I understand some people believe that it is impossible to be 100% self-sufficient, maybe so.  My goal is to see how much can be achieved living in town.

God bless.

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