Category Archives: Country Life

No. 9

These are ninth-generation open-pollinated tomato plants humming along nicely under a 900-watt halogen bulb, awaiting spring transplant time in the garden (which could be any day now given our lack of winter this year).

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The plants were developed mostly from an heirloom beefsteak variety called German Johnson, crossed with another called Belgium Giant, and suffused with the DNA essence of maybe four other heirloom varieties. After the first two years, no further crossing was made, and plant selection for the coming year’s seeds depended on tomato flavor and size, early ripening and the ability to withstand the extreme heat of South Texas summers.

Yum!I call these Brazos Beefsteaks, after the river running a couple hundred yards south of our gardens. The fruit ripen as soon as 65 days from planting, which is pretty quick for a beefsteak type, and they typically range in size from 10 to 16 oz. They’re meaty, with small seed cavities and (OK I’m bragging, but it’s true) really terrific old-time tomato flavor the likes of which can never be had in any grocery store.

Open-source tomatoes are in my opinion superior to hybrids if one has at least three years to devote to selective breeding. It’s amazing how adaptable they are to various climates. With hybrids, selective breeding isn’t possible, because the seeds produce plants that are genetically different from each other and almost always inferior to the parent hybrid plant from which they came.

That’s it for the winter garden report. So remember kids, don’t buy that which you can better grow yourselves.

Also posted in Brazos River, Food, Garden, Vegetables

Meet Chappie

So a few weeks after Bosco died, we decided to get another pup and become a two-dog family again. Actually, I was kind of pushing the idea, while Christi had understandable reservations since Boo, our remaining dog, still is only half-trained and semi-wild. But we pressed ahead and put a deposit on a male Catahoula from the same breeder who sold us Boo.

That pup was born in December, in a litter of six. Five were males, and we had first pick among the boys. Some consider the more well-known leopard-spot Catahoula coloring to be most desirable, however, we chose a black-and-tan pup with brindle trim. Catahoulas either are born with one merle gene, two merle genes or none at all. Those with no merle genes are mostly solid-colored, like ours.

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We picked him because he appeared to be the largest in the litter, with an inquisitive disposition and kind of leader of the pack. I wanted Boo to have a larger companion to keep her safe at the farm. We’ve had coyotes in the side yard, and fresh signs of wild pigs, and our farm neighbors tell us there’s a pair of cougars living along a creek system a few miles away. So if Boo has a run-in with a critter bigger than she is, it’ll be good to have a buddy watching her back.

The kids wanted to name him Chappie – after an artificial intelligence-enhanced robot in the 2015 movie by the same name – and we were OK with that. We brought him home a week ago. He’s 9 weeks old, and I’ve been spending the better part of most days since then refereeing dog wrestling events and working using a dog crate as a housebreaking tool.

I wish I could augment his canine brain with enough AI to skip ahead past the potty training, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. Nonetheless, we’re pretty happy with the little guy so far.

Also posted in Critters, Farm

Waiting For The Electrician, Or Someone Like Him

That’s the title of the first album by the crazy Firesign Theatre audio troop, cut back in 1968. It also describes me over much of the weekend, which is part of the price you pay for living in the Texas Outback.

No power again this morning, so I’m writing the first draft on actual analog paper, with a physical pen – can you believe it?

Yesterday, a transformer blew before noon, going off like a shotgun, which I reported to the proper authorities at the CenterPoint Energetic Monopoly of Houston. Unfortunately for us (in this case) our modest, aging and eclectic neighborhood lies 36 miles outside the megalopolis.

So yeah, two and a half hours rolled by and yet no CenterPoint crews had set foot in the neighborhood, notwithstanding their regional facility just down the street. One grows used to such fate on the fringes, so one hauls out the propane generator, fires it up and prevents the food in one’s fridge and freezer from spoiling. Then one might contemplate the wondrous beauty of an incredible fall day for another couple of hours until, somewhere around 4:30, utility crews actually show up and fix the problem.

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Until 8:30 the following morning (today), when we repeat the whole exercise because, well, just because.

I don’t know why, but I am reminded of a day many years ago, 1985 to be exact, when I patrolled the southern end of the Blue Ridge Mountains as a roving country reporter in South Carolina. And lo! after many decades, a tiny village area tucked away down a small road from “civilization” finally was hooking up with The World electricity-wise. And it turned out an elderly man of nearly 90 years was discovered to have lived all his life in the rural community. And a reporter was tasked with asking the gentleman how he thought his life might change now that he finally could hook up to the grid.

“Ain’t ever needed electricity before,” he said, or something approximate. “Don’t see what I need it for now.”

Also posted in Energy, Nobody Gets It Like They Want It To Be

Dog Bowling On The Open Prairie

What cloud appears on yon horizon absent a silver lining?

To be brief: The Catahoula is a hunter and herding dog possessed of unusual drive and strength even at a tender 8 months and 45 pounds. Should one encourage such a beast to frolic at high speed through the brush in order to test one’s LG G4 mobile camera, one risks canine over-stimulation for which, alas, there are no brakes, apparently.

Yeah, I got her wound up, and the dog decided that rather than juking and leaping past as usual, she would just lower her shoulder into my legs like so many bowling pins.

Silver lining: Somehow my phone camera snapped this picture as it (and I) hit the ground. For the record, this hurt a lot. But the dog indicated she was real sorry.

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In one fell swoop, it turns out I’ve probably invented a new mobile photo category that I am nearly sure will catch on virulently: The Falling Selfie. Ask me how it’s done.

Also posted in Critters, Duh Files