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Costliest drought

Photo by Scott Liddell on morgueFile

The drought in Texas is affecting ranchers like never before, reports the Austin American-Statesman.

The current drought is likely to be the costliest in a 12-month span, said David Anderson, a livestock economist with the Texas A&M University’s Agrilife Extension Service. In May, Agrilife reported losses statewide at $1.2 billion. Anderson said an August report will likely tally the cost at three to four times that. The cost of the current drought may be even twice that of the previous most costly drought, which cost $4.1 billion in 2006.

It sounds really terrible.

Also, check out the photos in this Washington Post blog post about the drought.

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He’s a hard-working man

Photo of man on bike towing tiller on trailer

Photo by Angela Morris

A while back, Aaron rented a tiller from Home Depot and he towed it back to our house using a trailer attached to his bike. I’ve got a hard-working man! Aaron actually prefers riding his bike instead of taking the car. This was a very unusual trip, though, considering he was pulling 200 lbs. He used the tiller to prepare a new garden area in our backyard.

“There is no substitute for hard work.” – by Thomas A. Edison.

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What to do with a summer tomato crop

Okay, here’s the dilemma:

photo of bin full of homegrown heirloom tomatoes

Photo by Aaron Morris

We have a healthy crop of homegrown, heirloom tomatoes that all ripen simultaneously. It’s impossible to consume all the tomatoes raw, so we must preserve them before we lose all our hard work. It’s a great problem to have. But we still need a solution.

Solution one: make tomato sauce

photo of tomatoes cooking in pot on stove

Photo by Aaron Morris

Roughly chop the tomatoes, or you can leave them whole if you want to save time. Place oil in the bottom of a stock pot and cook the tomatoes over medium-high heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Puree the tomatoes with a hand immersion blender. Simmer the mixture over low heat until it’s reduced by half, or until you’ve gotten rid of enough water so the tomatoes are the consistency that you want. Now you can store the sauce in mason jars and can it (or freeze).

Solution two: make fire-roasted salsa

photo of homegrown tomatoes and peppers in pan on grill

Photo by Aaron Morris

Roughly chop the tomatoes. Also chop some peppers: we use a mixture of both red and green jalapenos and serranos, but you’ll have to decide based on the spiciness you’re looking for. Add some garlic and onions, too! Place the produce in a pan and roast them on a low-heat grill for about one hour. Cool the veggies to the touch, peel the skins and remove the seeds. Blend the salsa in a blender with some water, lime juice, salt, pepper and cilantro.Now you can put your salsa in mason jars and can (or freeze) it.

Solution three: can the tomatoes

photo of three canned jars of homegrown tomatoes

Photo by Angela Morris

This is a little more complicated, but it’s worth it because you’ll be able to use the tomatoes for any recipe. Immerse each tomato in boiling water for about one minute, and then transfer it to an ice-water bath. Cool the tomato to the touch and then peel off the skin. Chop the tomato and remove the seeds. Now your tomatoes are ready to can.

Canning is a complicated process and it should be the subject of its own post! In the meantime, check out this awesome website by the National Center for Home Food Preservation at the University of Georgia.

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Flowers attract the bees to pollinate the veggies

Pink and white poppy flower picture

Photo by Aaron Morris

We have a gorgeous wildflower patch on the side of our garden. Aaron grew flowers to attract bees, nurse which help pollinate the veggies in our garden. The photo shows a springtime poppy.

Earth laughs in flowers. – by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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Tips for “no-work” garden

Greg Seaman of writes that he and his wife experimented with several techniques to make working in their garden easier. For example, unhealthy his family uses the no-till method of gardening, pilule spreads mulch liberally, plants cover crops in between seasons, plants only in raised beds, and uses an irrigation system for watering. “It took over 20 years of gardening to realize that I didn’t have to work so hard to achieve a fruitful harvest. As the limitless energy of my youth gradually gave way to the physical realities of mid-life, the slow accretion of experience eventually led to an awareness that less work can result in greater crop yields,” Seaman writes.

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Garden photo of the day

photo of backyard vegetable garden

Aaron & I are swimming in tomatoes right now from our backyard vegetable garden.

Aaron & I enjoy walking around on evenings after work, view checking on new developments in our backyard vegetable garden. In the background of the photo, you see the chicken coop Aaron made from recycled materials.

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Dole agrees to settle with workers made sterile by pesticide

This is one of the reasons Aaron & I have an organic garden. Pesticides are nasty business.

Dole Food Co. Inc. has agreed to settle with workers who claim in a lawsuit the company’s “use of a pesticide called dibromochloropropane, or DBCP, on banana plantations during the 1970s and ’80s caused the workers to become sterile,” reports The National Law Journal. The people worked for Dole in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Honduras. The law firm working on behalf of the injured farmworkers “still has pending DBCP cases against Dow Chemical Co. and other defendants on behalf of banana workers in Guatemala and Panama,” according to the article.

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Aaron’s garden featured on Johnson’s Backyard Garden blog

I’m so proud of Aaron and his garden. He sent in some photos and a description to a popular Austin gardening blog, and the authors decided to feature his garden in a weekly post. To read what Aaron and the JBG folks thought, scroll down to “What’s in Your Garden? Featuring Aaron Morris.” Here’s what Aaron told them about our garden:

“I have converted this entire backyard from a wasteland of weeds and china berry trees into a highly productive mini farm. I have done a bit at a time using little more than a cheap shovel and a soil sifter I built myself to remove rocks. Other than removing the rocks, the only other thing I did was grow a green manure and turn it in. I have a wildspace that I seed with wild flowers and irrigate. I built a chicken coop and compost system, and instead of tilling, I have the chicken clear the spent crops, the I cut out just the stems and leave the spent plant roots to compost in place. So I guess I’m doing a no till system and it is working wonderfully for me.  I just ate my first tomato (May 9th!), an amish paste, that I started from seed. I started my seeds in December, I have about 50 plants in the ground. 30 different varieties, mostly heirlooms.”
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Loving the Texas climate

Fall harvest

Aaron and I brought in our Fall harvest a couple of weeks ago. Our eyes bugged out as we took in the tomatoes, peppers, green beans and butternut squash. The Texas climate can be annoying at times. Just this weekend, it got up to 80 on Saturday and then dropped to the 40s on Sunday. It’s difficult to dress for that type of weather. But thanks to the Texas climate, our season for tomatoes and peppers is much longer than in other places in the country. Recently, our first overnight freeze changed things and reminded us it’s actually beginning to creep into winter. Aaron took down the green bean and tomato plants…Now they live in the compost pile. We still have a lot of lettuces, greens, celery, carrots and some other stuff to look forward to.

Our next task is to learn how to pickle our peppers and can our tomatoes. We have way more than we can use before they go bad.

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Haitians want to rebuild with food sovereignty

illness 1977″ src=”×164.jpg” alt=”Farmers in Haiti, 1977″ width=”250″ height=”164″ />

Yes! Magazine has an article today about a Hatian group that is pushing for the country to rebuild from the earthquake with a system of food sovereignty instead of relying on other countries for imported food.

We were almost self-sufficient until the 1980s. We have to fight and pressure the state so that it prioritizes agriculture. Otherwise, we’ll always have to depend on multinationals and non-governmental organizations for our food. The government has to take responsibility for that.

We’re not in favor just of food security, which is a neoliberal idea. With food security, as long as you eat, it’s good. But we only produce 43 percent of our food. 57 percent is imported. We need food sovereignty, which means that for everyone to eat, we produce it here at home. We could produce here at least 80 percent of what we eat.

They want families to own local farms and produce organic food for the country. They want local, natural, non-genetically-modified seeds. They want to prioritize land use for food production instead of the farming of biodiesel crops. Haitians want their government to create support programs that help local, native small farmers.

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