Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Water Well

One aspect of our self-sufficiency goal is to have our own independent source of water. Although our property has several ponds (also called tanks in Texas) and a creek (usually dry), the house water is supplied by a local cooperative water company.

After much anticipation and waiting for several weeks, the water well digging company came last week. They arrived in several trucks with big pieces of equipment. They tested four different places on the property (two closer to the house, and two away from the house).

Guv'nor found the whole process very interesting and took the day off work so he could observe the drilling. They drilled down several hundred feet, injected water in the hole, and based on what came out they could tell if the hole could produce a source of water. They spent more time on a couple of the holes, but their conclusion was that we don't have any water under our property.

We were very disappointed, to say the least. On to Plan B and C - rain water catchment and bigger and deeper tanks. Stay tuned.

The first drilling was behind the house.

They drilled at a spot by the side of the house.

The most hopeful spot was about 200 yards from the house on the edge of the woods by the creek.

The truck with the drilling equipment

Near the woods they had to clear a few trees.

Their water truck pumped water from one of our tanks to use for the process.

Clay came up from all the holes.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pecan Trees

We discovered the other day that we have pecan trees on our property! 

They are big native trees that have clearly been neglected for many years. The cluster of trees are tucked back into the woods and not easily accessible. There are about 5 or 6 very large trees with a 3-4 foot trunk. 

The only pecans we could find were several years old. So if there were any this year they have already been eaten by the birds and wild animals. We hope to clear the area so that we can have some of them next year.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


When it's cold outside, it's nice to have something hot for breakfast. Guv'nor especially likes oatmeal.

Over the past few weeks, I've been working on my oatmeal recipe and method. I have found that slow cooking the oatmeal overnight is by far the easiest way. A small crockpot is perfect for this and only costs $5 at Target.

I use steel cut oats. These are very different from rolled oats. The oat grain is cut into pieces rather than rolled out. If you prefer a creamier, smooth texture, then you should use rolled oats. The package says to cook for 30 minutes, but ideally they should be soaked for several hours or overnight.
Things I learned in the process: don't bother to grease the pot (it sticks no matter what you do), don't use yogurt instead of milk, use some salt but not too much, a regular size crockpot doesn't work as well, WARM is the best setting, and you have to plug in the crockpot.

Here's the recipe I use, if you're interested:
(makes about 4 servings)
1 cup natural/organic steel cut oatmeal
3 cups filtered water
1 cup raw/grassfed/organic milk
dash salt
soft brown sugar or honey, to serve

I prefer Bob's Red Mill, but didn't have a bag to photograph.

Steel cut oats are not to be confused with rolled oats.

Put the three basic ingredients (oats, water, milk) and salt into the crockpot.

Give it a little stir but the oats will settle on the bottom.

Put the lid on, set on WARM, plug it in, and go to bed.

And just like magic, in the morning, it looks like this. Perfect oatmeal.

Give it a little stir and serve up with some soft brown sugar.

Soak the crockpot in water for a couple of hours before washing.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


We’re finding that winter in East Texas is very variable. One day it will be 72 degrees and sunny. And the next day it will be 35 degrees and icy. We’re often right on the line of the jet stream.

I was standing outside the other evening, watching the sunset and appreciating the strong breeze. And in just a few seconds the temperature dropped about twenty degrees. I was amazed, but I now understand how the weather can be so changeable.

This was an un-seasonally warm day.

This change was in less than 24 hours.

Frozen rain drops were on my hydroponic tubing.

Frozen water drops were on all my plants.

The pansies had collected ice.

The blanket over my water barrel had collected some ice.

Frozen water drops on the rose bush

The rope on the bird feeder was frozen to the top of the feeder.

The mule collected some ice

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Friday Pizza

We love pizza, especially on Friday nights.

Our family’s love for pizza began over 20 years ago when we lived in England. (I’ve loved pizza since my childhood when we’d go to Me‘n’Ed’s and I would get my parents to order an extra one so I could have leftovers.) We began to treat ourselves after a long week of work and school with pizza on a Friday night. Our order would be placed over the phone and the delivery guy would bring our pizza on a scooter right to our front door. If our order wasn’t delivered in 30 minutes then it was free. Those were the days!

We carried on with our tradition when we moved to Florida. We decided this would be a good chance to visit with the grandparents. We picked up the pizza (and sometimes wings) on our way to their house for our “pizza party,” as Grandpa would say. Grandpa would provide the drinks and ice cream.

Pizza delivery is one thing we’ve given up since we’ve moved to rural Texas. The nearest pizza place is 10 miles away with no chance of delivery. They laughed at me when I asked. We went there a few times, but the pizza was cold by the time we got it back home.

So, we have discovered that frozen pizza is a good alternative. Frozen pizza is cheaper, too. We have a bigger freezer now so we can stock up when they're on sale. Plus it's hot out of the oven. Guv’nor loves hot food.

Red Baron is our favorite cheaper brand. $3 on sale.

Guv'nor's favorite has onions and green peppers.

Newman's Own Pepperoni is my favorite so far.

Guv'nor agreed that his was good, too.

The thin crust pizza cooks quickly.

Newman's Own pizza comes on cardboard. Red Baron doesn't.

I slide the frozen pizza right on the oven rack. I use tongs to get it off.

I put the hot pizza back on the cardboard to cut and serve. For Red Baron, I use the box.

Guv'nor likes his pizza hot out of the oven.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Meals on Wheels

I have volunteered to help deliver Meals on Wheels. I had heard about this service but had never known how to get involved. Neighbor’s wife asked if I’d like to help her deliver the meals once a month. She is taking over for her parents who have been delivering meals for several years.

The meals come from a nearby city and are delivered to the City Hall around 10 am on weekdays. The hot and cold parts of the meal are put into two different chests - one with a hot block and the other with ice. Volunteers are given the list of people and addresses. The list is arranged in a suggested route around town. Most of the meals go to the elderly, the ill, and the shut-ins. It takes us a little over an hour to do the route.

The day we helped, the meal was fajitas, rice, tortillas, fruit cup and milk.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Bird Feeder

I thought I’d start using the wooden bird feeder that Son made me at Homestead Fair. I bought a bag of bird seed and have filled up the bottom of the feeder. I am storing the feed in a recycled plastic margarine tub with a snap lid that we got from a local Mexican restaurant. I put the feeder on the back deck ledge. The birds haven’t discovered it yet, so I’m hoping they will soon.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

3+ inches

It has rained steadily for two solid days and we measured over 3 inches of rain on our rain gauge. People in town said they got 4 and 5 inches. Three inches is about what we should get in a month. We needed the rain because Guv'nor reckons that we've only had about 10 inches since we arrived, when it should have been about 18 inches. 

When it rains this much at one time, things get pretty muddy everywhere.