Sunday, May 23, 2010


My daughter once had a dream in which we (she and I and I believe some other people as well) were being threatened by a scary monster.  "Don't worry," I said (in the dream).  "I'll take care of it." And I went out and killed the monster, and we ate it for dinner.

I love this dream, because it so nicely expressed my approach to dealing with obstacles. Sure, it's good to overcome them. But ever better is to figure out a way to use them to one's advantage. In that spirit, I have been combing the web for grasshopper recipes (the insect, not the beverage).

One writer says (on a web page that includes Terminix as a sponsor) that her husband ate fried grasshoppers in Thailand and reports that their consistency was like that of Rice Krispeys and their flavor nutty, something like pecans. Wow! That sounds great!

The hardest thing this time of year (if I could overcome my culturally instilled revulsion at the thought of eating insects) would be to catch enough hoppers to make a meal or even a snack. They are young and spry, and small. I'm not sure what the ideal size would be for frying.

The one in the pic above might be just about right, but it's one of the largest ones I've seen this year. Most are only about half an inch long. The one in the pic is eating a bull nettle flower. The one part of the bull nettle flower that is nice for humans (the flowers are very fragrant and mature into delicious edible seeds), and that horrid creature destroys it.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Nature is Cruel

So I walked down toward the creek bottom today to see if any of the wild plums were ripe. A few were, and I took the photo above before picking the subject and eating it.  These sweet fruits are bite-sized, like large cherries. They're a treat, to be sure, but as Wild Horse Havard used to say, they come at a terrible price.

There are all manner of biting, sticking, stinging things down in the creek bottom. I don't mind the snakes and bull nettles -- they won't get you if you watch where you're going and avoid them. But the mosquitoes are horrible enough to make a person crazy. There were hundreds of them, maybe thousands. They lie in wait in cool, sheltered areas -- the very places where wild plum trees grow. [the plum trees here are Prunus angustifolia, also known as Chickasaw Plum. They can grow well in full sun or partial shade. They tend to form dense thickets]

Even though I had applied insect repellent before going down to the creek bottom, the terrible buzzing creatures coated my skin, biting even through my clothing. I hoped I would not catch some terrible disease from them. I would have done almost anything to be rid of them: coated my skin with stinking mud, worn a heavy coat (even if it put me in danger of passing out from the heat) ... I almost would have been willing to rub something truly toxic on my skin, such as kerosene. I left quickly, but my tormentors followed me, even up the hill and into the sun and wind, buzzing around the leeward side of my body. It was mid-day, mind you, not early morning or late afternoon. 

There are also grasshoppers -- thousands of them, I'm sure, maybe 100's of thousands. The chickens eat a few but barely make a dent in their numbers. They are destroying many of the things I hold dear, such as the Saturn peaches and ears of sweet corn. 

I am trying not to be depressed. When I lived up the hill at Altamira, there were few mosquitoes or grasshoppers, but there were other problems, such as packs of javelinas, and our only source of water was a pond which would dry up to a big mud puddle in drought years. Life is never easy for long.

To end on a bright note, though, there are many grapes growing on the wild vines, and even though the grasshoppers have eaten the leaves off the potato plants, there are already many potatoes under the ground. I have not planted any southern peas yet. I'm wondering if it will even be worthwhile. I don't think the hoppers like the leaves much, but they'll eat the young pea pods.

Also, the countryside is beautiful, and the mosquitoes aren't bad except in the creek bottoms and densely shaded places.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Beautiful Flowers on Well-Armored Plants

The white prickly poppy (Argemone albifora subsp texana) has viciously sharp leaves, so sharp that cattle won't eat it even when everything else has been grazed to the ground. Bees like it for the pollen, but I have not seen many bees around this year. (There is an article here: about the world-wide bee die-off).

I let some of these plants grow, despite the pain when I accidentally bump into one of the, because their flowers are very pretty.

The Texas thistle (Cirsium texanum) is another spiny plant you don't want to run into. In addition to producing pretty flowers, its foliage is food for caterpillars of the painted-lady butterfly, and birds eat the seeds. So I only cut down the ones that are right next to places I need to walk to tend the gardens.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

I Love This Place

The reason I bought this strip of hard-used land was that it has a wide range of soils, so I could grow a wide range of plants. Since there is only one of me to do all the gardening, I did not want to till up lots of soil. I've left the land to its own devices, except for the parts I'm actually using.

I've been amazed and delighted by the wide range of  wildflowers and the critters that use them for food.

This is Monarda punctata, colloquially known as spotted horsemint or spotted beebalm. The little horse shaped flowers, which are located between the pinkish-tinted bracts, are yellow with maroon dots. Very pretty little things.  The leaves of this plant produce an antispectic substance called Thymol. One use of it is to control mold in beehives, which may account for one of its names. They are such pretty things I hate to pull them up, but I have had to clear some of them from the garden, as they were crowding the tomato and bean plants

Another pink flower I like  is Proboscidea louisianica, known as devil's claw or unicorn plant. The young seedpods can be pickled and eaten, and are rather like pickled okra. The ripe seed pod is a vicious thing with curved spikes, but I find the fowers and leaves very pretty.  I was happy when this plant came up just outside my veggie garden.

There have been ripe dewberries for a couple of weeks now. The ripe berries are very dark purple -- delicious to eat but not very pretty to look at. Here's a photo of a berry a few days before it was ripe, when it was a beautiful liquid-red.

And for the last photo of the day, a lovely treat. I got this recipe from The Accidental Huswife's blog:

Eggs Poached in Chili With Greens. I'd been wishing for a good recipe for eggs, and a good recipe for greens. You can imagine my joy at finding one that combined both. It was very easy to make -- took only a few minutes. And it was very fine eating. I suspect I used more tomato in the sauce than the Huswife had in mind. I served it with avocado and tomato slices.