Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Party Planner

That is my title for the next couple of weeks.
The middle girl "Boppy" will be graduating next Friday and just like with the oldest, she gets her own backyard BBQ party on Saturday. So, I am mister party planner until then.

Last Saturday was our last Chili Cook Off for the summer. I am now rebuilding and re-figuring on how we can make it a little easier for next season. I am sure I will come up with something.
The Oklahoma Southwest Championship had 140 cooks and brought in a lot of money for their charity. Like always it would have been easier if I would have just handed them my twenty five dollar entry fee and went home. Neither the wife or myself placed in the top twenty one places. We cooked with six other folks who are in the top ten percent of the country and they didn't place either. It is amazing how a chili can win one weekend and not even place the next.

This is funny right here. Monday morning a buddy of mine calls me up and says he knows where the fish are. Well of course I loaded up the family and went. When we got there he said he needed to shuttle all us out to the island. It took three trips in the boat, but we all made it. I kept looking for an island, but what he dropped us off at is pictured here. A forty feet long, twelve feet wide pile of rocks out in the middle of the lake only six inches above the water level, then he left saying, "See ya later Gilligan." To say stranded was an understatement.
We did catch some fish and had a great time. Thankfully my buddy did come back and give us a ride back to shore. That is what I call trusting a friend.

Other than that, we partied like we were young all weekend long. We also got about three inches of rain to boot. The rain water tanks are full once more.


Friday, May 24, 2013

One More Time

A the three day weekend comes with a hefty to-do list, but somewhere in there I have a festival to go to, a chili cook off to win, a barn party to attend, fishing with the girls, a fish fry to be at and I really really want to get at least one nap in. All the in between time will be spent working on this and that, here and there.

Just one more chili cook off and we will be done for the summer. Tomorrow we will be in Durant Oklahoma all day at the KOA grounds next to the casino cooking chili. I will be cooking enough for you to come out and try. You can also come out early and sign up to be a judge. Let me know your coming and I will be looking for ya.

Next week I will post some pictures of the Hydroponics system, the gardens, and a couple of projects the the wife and the oldest girl did last week on their own. You will be amazed at what they did.

Other than that, all is well.

Have a safe weekend and I will see ya on the flip side,

Monday, May 20, 2013

Non Stop All Weekend Long

I put in sixty hours of work on the job during the five day work week. During the two day weekend I put in a little over forty. It is non stop from Friday evening to Sunday night. Not all that is work though, I do take time to do some cool stuff.

After finally dragging our tired bodies in the house late yesterday evening I asked the wife, "What do you think it would have been like if you would have married a normal guy?"
Her response was simple, "Boring."

Friday night after we loaded the truck for the cook off we had some friends come over to sit by the fire and relax a long week away. There is just something about kicking your feet up, watching the flames dance in the dark and enjoying life.

Early Saturday morning we were unloading and getting ready to cook. The chili cook off went just as I figured, the wife kicked my butt again. This time I have no excuses, she flat out beat me fair and square along with over three quarters of the other cooks. This has been harder than I thought. I pride myself on my food and really thought I was going to walk right in and be a super star. I am just getting spanked over and over again like a red headed step child.
It's almost like golf, at fist when I grabbed a club, walked up and hit the ball it actually went close to where I wanted it. After playing for a while, studying and learning how to play I started to suck worse and worse. I think I am over thinking it. Maybe I just need to go and cook chili instead of analyzing every little detail.
I have only failed at two things in my life. One was when I ran for City Council and the other is Cooking Chili.

Straight from the cook off to "Music in the park", where we sat with friends and listened to a free concert. Good music, good friends and cold beer, is there anything better than that?   

 Early Sunday morning I busted everyone out of bed with much resistance to go fishing. After they were all up and alive we had a great time, but that first few minutes was touch and go.

Check out my huge catch of the day. It's not much bigger than the minnow I was using and look at that hat I'm sporting, "I'm sexy and I know it."
The other pictures are of the oldest girl BEB. The youngest girl and the wife was there as well. The middle one stayed asleep because she had to get to work early. 

Why were we not in Church you ask, well let me tell you this, I have spent a lot of time behind the pulpit preaching and more time sitting in the pews listening and I can honestly say, I have never felt closest to my creator, my family and myself as I do when I sit on the creek bank thanking him for this opportunity to be with them and to be alive. That's my kind of church right there my friends. I don't need to sit inside four walls listening to a guy with different views than I have telling me how I need to live.

Sunday evening was spent over at my Mom and Dad's doing some back porch sitting and just living. It was great end to a wonderful weekend.

What I left out of the post was all the work. Even though we had a great weekend and did many things, we still have a homestead to run. Between going here and there we mowed, fenced, built, cleaned, fed, watered, moved animals around and gardened. All that is pretty much a given.
The wife did get one of her projects completed and the oldest girl finished her project. I will post pictures of them both.

More storms tonight coming through so when I get home I will need to batten down the hatches. I hope all my friends up in Oklahoma fared well last night.     

Thursday, May 16, 2013

I Got Him Back

I had to just laugh at the situation.
We got a call from a guy about a mile down the road who asked if we were missing a goat. We described it to him and he said he had it. 
So last night before the storms hit we went down and picked up Buck Owens II. Apparently BO II turned around and came back. He ran away in a complete different direction, but somehow found his way back and down the street into this guys goat pen. He doesn't know how, but he did.
He is home now, secured and happy. I put him in the same pen as BO III

 Speaking of which, BO III is really loving life. He is so small he is able to get in the chicken roost. Cute little bugger.

Now with two bucks I have to figure out who is going to be bred to who. I have about three months before they are ready to breed and by then I might need to sell one to re-coop some of the cost of these high dollar bucks.
I really like BO III so I think he will be the primary. 
Those storms last night were rough, many Texans lost their lives and property from them. Tornadoes touched down all around us, some up to a mile wide. We are safe and assessing the damage. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Two More To Go

Two more Chili Cook Offs to go then we will take the summer off.
I just can't see standing out in 110 degree heat cooking chili. I guess I am not a die hard like some of the others.

Last weekend we had a great time at the Mother's Day fest cook off. Thanks to everyone that came out to show their support and to cook with us.
The end result was not what I wanted, but it seldom is. On my team was the wife, me, the oldest girl and her boyfriend....lets call him..."Slinky". LOL
The weather was great and the environment was spot on. In the end, the wife kicked our butts by placing eighth and that is saying something with the competition that was there. I thought I had a chance, but after seeing all who showed up to cook I quickly knew I didn't. Four world champions and seven of the top ten chili cooks in the nation all came out to this little cook off.
I know where I messed up, I panicked. I tasted my chili a little bit before turn in and started adding stuff to boost it. I thought it was flat and kept pouring the spice in until I thought it was good. I ended up getting last place and here's why. I didn't take in to consideration I still had a head cold. I was stopped up and couldn't taste or smell anything. In the end I almost doubled the spice and peppers just so I could taste it and to the normal taste buds, it was crap. Ha, lesson learned.      

This weekend we will be cooking in Denton on the square. The huge car show in the same area is impressive. I don't think I have been to a bigger one. The same competition will be there as before but this time I am bringing my "A" game with a clear head.

Next weekend is our last cook off for the summer. It will be in Durant at the KOA next to the casino. I hope to see all my Oklahoma friends at that one.

 See ya in the funny pages,

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Dutch Bucket Hydroponics System

I finally got the Dutch Bucket Hydroponics System assembled and installed.

I chose to go with the Dutch Bucket system because of the low maintenance involved. Some would say it is more than other types, but the majority swear by this system.
I also made it only four buckets instead of more. This reason is because of the newness of this to me and the space restrictions. Once I dial it all in I plan to go ahead and extend it to a eight bucket system.

I pre-cut, pre-assembled and set everything up in the the shop before I took it out to the garden. 
It is made from four-five gallon buckets painted black with lids, 2" main drain pipe, individual 1/2" drains on the buckets, 1/2" irrigation hose with 1/4" feeder lines ran to each bucket.  

The nutrient container is 20 gallons with a homemade wood lid and the pump is a submersible 300 gallon per hour pump. I also put in a 4" air stone and a air pump to give the water a little extra air.
A timer is on the pump so it will water 4 times a day for thirty minutes.
The grow medium is Perlite. You can find it at Home Depot. They are the only ones that I found who carry it. 
 These tomatoes were started from seeds in the greenhouse. I washed all the dirt off the roots before I planted them in the Perlite.

Though my gardens are full of tomatoes already, I wanted to do this system to see if I can outgrow what is already planted.
The one thing I am going to have to do to make this work is create a shade for all this. The water cannot get too hot and the plants cannot dry out. Leaving them exposed to the sun will do both.

I cut a small slit in the lid next to the hole to hold the feeder tube.

As far as the mixture of the water, well that is something else. You can buy already mixed solutions you can add to the water but being the cheapo I am, I am doing it myself. If it works out then I will let you know, if not I will change the solution until it does.

And that's about it. I have spent over a year studying about the different types of Hydroponics and Aquaponics and this is what I came up with at the moment. I have more of these projects on the books. For instance, a horizontal, multilevel strawberry design, one that has fish, and a few more.
One step at a time. In a year or so I will look back at this first design and laugh at myself.

That's all I got for now,

Monday, May 13, 2013

3rd Times A Charm

First off, I hope all you mothers had a fantastic Mother's Day and was treated like a Queen having all your chores taken care of.  We had a great time and pulled off a spare of the moment BBQ over at me mom's. It was a great time.

You will find this funny, me not so much.
 The newest arrival to the Mini Farm is our new blood line, Buck Owens III. He is a $250.00 goat, before you grab your chest, let me explain. You see, complacency will cost you money. When doing the same thing over and over again and thinking you know better tends to lead to relaxed security and lack of wisdom.
Here at the Mini Farm we have always prided ourselves on a great system of securing our animals, coming or going. We have a "three gate" system to where one has to be closed before another is opened. Some would call it a "sally port". We have had mishaps in the past where if it was not for this system in place, the animals would have been lost. But after a while when things are running like they should I tend to get relaxed and a gate will remain open here, pulled closed and not locked there and so forth.
About two months ago we drove all the way out to Paris Texas, about a 2 1/2 hour drive, to buy a little buck for a new blood line, his name was Buck Owens I (BO I). We brought him home, put him in the isolation pen and within thirty minutes somehow he disappeared. We looked for days but couldn't find him. With gas and all he was about a $100.00 loss. We have never had anything get out of that pen but "BO I" did and was gone. I had his shelter too close to the fence and he jumped on it and over. That is the only thing I can think of, my fault.
Saturday we found another little buck "BO II" just a couple miles from the house and paid $75.00 for him. I held him in my lap while the wife drove us home. She pulled into the back yard and asked me if she needed to shut the front gate, I said no. We walked through another open gate, that did not get shut, and then to the pasture gate. The wife cracked the gate, I pushed the goat through instead of taking him into the pasture and setting him down. Once he hit the ground he did a one eighty and ran right out all the open gates and was gone. It's not a straight shot either. It was like he knew right where to run and try as I did, I could not get to the front gate in time. The wife also gave it her best by chasing after him in flip flops but in the end, he was gone.
 That's two we lost and at this point we were done. The wife was as hot as a fire cracker more on the situation than me, but it was my fault and I took full credit again. The funny thing was, I didn't get upset. I popped open a beer and sat on the tailgate of the truck. I couldn't help but laugh at what just happened as I waited for the wife to walk all the way back. She chased that thing almost a mile. Heck, I didn't know she could run that fast. She didn't find it as funny. I guess I could have at least gone and picked her up.
I wanted to sell the whole herd because if that was the last buck we were going to waste money on then why were we just going to feed all the nannies without them dropping babies. It just was not practical.

Yesterday the wife found "Buck Owens III" on Craig's List not too far from the house, about a thirty minute drive. With gas and all he was about $75.00. Add in all the others and it puts him costing a whopping $250.00 bucks.
I am happy to say he is still in the pen, spent the night and is happy and doing well.
You should have seen all the precautions we took and the safety measures that were in place just to make sure this high dollar goat got to his destination. It was like we were hauling a load of gold or something. 

I have raised goats my whole life and have never been as foolish as I have on this. Rookie mistakes that happened due to complacency, being lazy and just stupid that ended up costing three times what it should, but I got that high dollar buck and if he does what he should, the there won't be a BO IV anytime soon.

On another note, lot happen this weekend with the chili cook off and some project work, plus some other little things.
This gives me something to post about for the rest of the week. I don't think you will want to miss it.

Have a great Monday and I will see ya on the flip side.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Chili, Chores and Children

I didn't know how much catch up work there would be after coming back from vacation.
After nine days of no maintenance and not doing the everyday "little" things around the Mini Farm, all those "little" things have built up. Almost every night this week I scramble home from work, change my shoes and get back to work till after dark. On top of everything else, the weeds in the gardens are relentless. Plus, on top of all that I ended up catching a head cold and all I really want to do is go to bed., but through my watering eyes, running nose, sneezing fits and hacking up a lung, I press on.

Last night I finally caught back up with the work and had some time to play in my shop. I missed the old girl and she missed me too. Just in one week a thin layer of dust settled and a few spider webs formed on my work benches and tools. I can't ever remember a time when any tool of mine had dust on it from lack of work. It's time to get busy.
Sunday after we do the Mother's day thing I plan to summer-ize. That means loading everything up that has to do with solar heating and winter and store it in the barn. I have already de-junked about three loads of stuff collected over the winter by loading up my friends trucks while they weren't looking so I am almost happy with the way things look out back.  

The oldest girl made it through another year of college. She will be a Junior in August, time is flying by. I am happy to have her home for the summer. The middle girl graduates high school this month and the youngest will be a senior.
Though I would not change much, I would do it all again in a heart beat. I miss their youth so much. If I could afford it I would adopt more children just to have all that again.

It is going to busy the next three weekends. Chili cook offs are all over. Tomorrow we will be in Collinsville TX for a big Mother's Day fest. The oldest girl, her boyfriend and the wife will be on my cooking team for that one.
After that we will be cooking in Denton TX for a huge festival on the Square and then off to the Southwest Chili cook off in Southern Oklahoma, that's a big one.
It is already getting too hot for me to cook chili and these three back to back to back will be the last until the end of September. If you are close, come by and cook with us or just drop by and say hey. Email me and I will give you directions, I hope to see ya there.

That's all I got for now. I hope everyone has a great Mother's day weekend and I will see ya on the flip side. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Industrial Country Market, A Must See

A year ago I was watching Texas Country Reporter and they did a special on the Industrial Country Market located in Columbus Texas, just and hour or so South of Texas A&M six miles North of HWY 10. They advertise that they are a Non-General General Store. The whole complex consisting of many greenhouses, the giant store, multiple water gardens, art galleries and the main house is completely off the grid. This was something I had to check out the next time I was down that way. Last Saturday I had that opportunity to stop by.     
It was everything I could have imagined it would be. Every roof had a rain water catchment system connecting to a main storage room. One green house was nothing but hydroponics, the battery house was amazing and even the public outdoors bathrooms had composting toilets, I was in heaven.
The wife and I watched the fish swim around in the water gardens, took a fragrant stroll through the rose gardens and walked the pathways through the outdoor art gardens. The reuse of everyday materials we call trash that was reused into art was outstanding.
Everywhere I looked there was something to see and learn, my brain was in overload trying to take it all in.
It didn't take long until we were greeted and being the talker that I am, it took about as long to get engaged in a deep conversation with the owners. After the wife and I briefly described what we do in a much smaller scale, we were invited on a special tour of their very own "off grid" home they just built for themselves. It was absolutely beautiful and amazing. I was honored to be invited into their home and shown every detail of how it was constructed. I was so upset with myself because I didn't take a notepad with me to take notes on all the things I can do to improve on what I do.
They also give classes in several different areas on how to do what they do like hydroponics and off grid living. The knowledge these folks have on these things is amazing.       
I have never seen a place like this or met folks like this and probably never will again. If you live within a few hours of this amazing place I encourage you to have a visit. If not, then please take a look at their website. I cannot say enough good things about the owners hospitality and the paradise they have built for us to enjoy and learn from.
Their website is 
We will be making another trip back down that way in August and plan to stop back by. 

See ya down the road.

This is not a paid advertisement by ICM and these are my words from the impression I got from my visit. All pictures were taken from their website.

Monday, May 6, 2013

We Made It Back!

We made it! In one week I was able to scratch off three things on my bucket list.
Our first official week long vacation is now over, actually it was nine days total.
Around day four we were ready to come home, but being on a boat in the middle of the Caribbean kinda prevented that.  
It took two days before I could even start relaxing, then I relaxed so much I got really sunburned even with PSF50 on. This is why my kind of people do not lay out and tan.
I finally set foot on foreign soil with the first being Jamaica, I got to be a tourist in the Caymans going from shop to shop,  I swam in a cenote in Mexico where I also got to drive a buggy through the jungle, I got to see the most bluest of water and I got to eat like a king all week long.  
The guilt didn't start setting in until the last day when we got our breakdown of charges and started adding up every expenditure for the entire trip. I was really disappointed with myself and the grand total. There are so many other things I could have used the money for to better our lives. Plus, if something goes wrong at the house and I don't have the money to fix it now, how can I justify what we did?
Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed and am very thankful for getting away, spending time with the wife, seeing things I have only seen in the movies and doing things I have only heard of in other peoples stories.
I don't think I will ever do another seven day cruise again though. Maybe a three or four day would more suit my style.
Three boats were docking at the same ports every time. A total of about 11000 folks flooded the islands making the streets and shops crowded and overflowing. What made me laugh was the fact that all the souvenirs people were buying were made in china. You can get the same thing and never leave your own city, plus cheaper. All because it says Cayman Islands on it makes it worth more. 

All and all it was one heck of an experience. Been there, done that. Check it off the list. 
On the way to New Orleans I stopped by a really neat little place I saw on Texas Country Reporter. I will post about it later, but I know you will be interested in it.

Other than that, it's good to be home.