Toad's

Poll: What’s your favorite season

Plant Names and Classifications

Are you like me and didn’t know that common plant names are not the best way of identifying plants because a lot of the common names get confused or could overlap with others? I mean there are trees that are called oak trees that are not in the same group. It’s just a bunch of craziness and I just want to make it clear: up until this point I was entirely ignorant. I’m cool with it.

Now there is a science to plant classification and in that science there are two categories that we should be aware of and that is the plant taxonomy and plant systematic systems. We used to go by common names but it often became confusing  for a lot of people. Today we classify all plants based on their genetic and evolutionary characteristics, this means that the plants are grouped based on who their common ancestors are.

In horticulture they are primarily concerned with the last three levels of classification: Species, Genus and Family.

The species is the most basic level of classification and below this there can be many subspecies. These plants are usually the most closely related to one another and they can interbreed freely.

The Genus is a group of related species.

The Family is the general group of Genus who are all related by a common ancestor.

There are two important flowering plant families that my professor made sure that we covered. Frankly, I’ve already learned more than what I knew before and I am pleased, but we’re only part of the way through so I’ll continue to let you know what I know or I am learning.

First is the dicot family, which is a flowering family with two cotelydons (embrodic leaves). Just to let you know those cotelydons are inside and this is the largest of the two families. There are over 200,000 types and they are everywhere. They are roses, myrtle trees and so many more.

The second flowering family is the Monocot. They are grass like flowering plants that only have one cotelydon per seed. In agriculture the majority of biomass is created through monocots. You might find a monocot as wheat, rice, bamboo, sugar cane, forage grasses and many others. This family includes many bulb flowers like daffodils, lilies, and iris. They are not simply flowers and grasses but also tumeric, garlic, and asparagus.

Both are angiosperms and very popular. I really enjoy these classes and can’t wait to learn more. How many more things am I going to learn? Who knows but I can’t wait.

Although this information may not be useful right away I am certain being able to identify plant families will be useful in the future. These pictures are by a wonderful lady named Vivian Morris.

Plant names are identified not my their family but by the genus and species. Common names change by region and can be confusing because a rose is a rose and can be any different species of rose if you are looking for a specific type. Although common names can be misleading botanical names are not. The Botanic name is a Latin name accepted world wide.

For example: Magnolia alba or Ligustrum album.

Until next time…

Horticulture: What I didn’t know

My salad barnett

Why didn’t I learn this stuff when I was in school? I’m amazed. Regardless, horticulture is a field of agriculture that deals with every aspect of plants from business to science and even the art of growing ornamental plants. Horticulture covers everything from ornamental plants and office plants to fruits and vegetables. Horticulture is different than other fields of agriculture for a lot of reasons, but mainly (from what I’ve learned) because we deal in landscape and artistic design.

The fields of the landscape industry according to my professor are installation, maintenance, irrigation, and design. This is not every part of horticulture and is only one of three different primary industries within horticulture. Inside each field of the landscaping industry there are many different jobs and needs that we most likely work with regularly on our homesteads or farms. The landscape industry as a whole deals in the design, installation and maintenance of home and commercial landscapes.

My tree

In the cities landscape is the most recognizable industry and is one of the largest industries in the entire State of Texas, allegedly with over nine billion in total added revenue to the state’s economy. This may not take in to account the kids who are looking for summer work, but it is clear that it is one of the easiest fields to get into.

When we talk about installation we are discussing the full destruction of a previous landscape and creating a completely new design or modifying an existing plants. Sure, it seems like fun but demolition of existing systems can take a lot of work and effort. It includes: bed preparation, adding organic matter to beds and tilling the soil before new transplants are added. This also includes adding things like rock walls, paths and structures that benefit the landscape or area of attention. It’s not hard to see why this area is one of the highest in profitability but is seasonal work because grass doesn’t grow in the winter.

My tree

Maintenance is also just more than maintaining existing landscapes. This can also be turf maintenance, which if you didn’t know is what we use on golf courses and sports fields. This could be anything from mowing the yard to making sure that edging and trimming is properly done around the fencing and other fixed structures. This work is usually low pay but can be continuous throughout the entire year with only a small decline during the winter months.

Irrigation is something that I have just started learning about outside of class- I set up my own crappy five hundred dollar system. Now irrigation system managers may assist in the initial installation of a landscape system or they may work in maintaining existing sprinkler and irrigation systems. They usually work on larger commercial projects or they have many smaller projects in a larger city and people who go into this field can specialize in irrigation design which I didn’t not know was a real life thing. This does require a license in Texas with TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality).

Plant at TAMUC agricultural plant science center

Finally, there is design, which seems to be incorporated in each and every single industry so far. They are usually in charge of designing new or existing landscapes. They usually design large commercial projects or for residential customers. If you are working in a large city you may be required to get plans from a landscape architect (who knew this existed) and those people are specifically certified by the ASLA (American Society for Landscape Architecture). Sometimes these people also specialize in irrigation in design, which I thought was kind of neat.

A big thing to look at with landscaping is that they do a lot of work with turf grass, which if I’m reading properly it should be an industry of it’s own. Especially because turf grass is widely used by sports fields and golf courses. This falls under the care and maintenance and is covered under the landscaping industry, rightly so, but is a huge part.

Sign at TAMUC agricultural plant science center

All in all I had no idea there were so many different types of landscaping and we haven’t even gotten through the rest of horticulture. Allegedly this is the most important because it is the most money making. Landscaping, it’s the most commercialized and has the highest profit margins. So if you’re looking for money to be made it’s from people looking for these services and for some reason I was a dummy and thought it might have something to do with food, but I was wrong.

Now onward to the other fields that are equally important regardless of how valuable it is to commercial America. After landscaping we have interiorscape. Just to let you know I don’t think that’s a real word, I know that it’s all over the internet and they say that it is a word and so we’re running with it. Spell check says no too though, so they should get together and work on that.

Sign at TAMUC agricultural plant science center

This specific industry deals specifically on the inside. That works with the installation and maintenance of landscapes inside buildings or structures. This doesn’t seem like a very common or wide range field. Yes, there are plants in the majority of buildings but the majority of buildings do not require someone to set them up. This is specifically to help businesses to establish a natural environment inside their building. For example a fancy fountain with fish at the bottom and the whole ecosystem that goes along with that. You might find these in fancy malls, hospitals, banks, offices or other environments where there are people who want an enjoyable and relaxing environment. Sometimes they might design an enclosure in a zoo. This is where they must design an environment that is suitable and specifically designed for the animal; that’s temperature, plants they are comfortable with and everything else that goes into recreating a temperature controlled environment. Although, this is usually done for primates.

After Interiorscape and Landscaping we have Floriculture. This one doesn’t pass the spell check either. I didn’t know they had a name specifically for flower people, but here we are. These people specifically deal in the production, sell and use of flowers. It’s got a lot of layers to it but floriculture serves a purpose in landscaping, but is a lot more than growing flowers in yards and it also is used in specialized greenhouse production. Floriculturists provide insight on color (especially seasonal color) and pretty much all plants that are used in interiorscapes. They are known for their ornamental plants and their pretty flowers and deal in anything from pothos ivy to flowers that we see in flower shops.

Sign at TAMUC agricultural plant science center

They are the growers of flowers you cut to make bouquets with as well as flowers that go into pots or in garden beds. This industry is the primary job in greenhouse production. That’s because floriculture deals in bedding plants, which is where plants are grown in tiny little pots to get ready for transplanting in a garden or a landscape. They also work with foliage, which are plants that are grown specifically for their pretty leaves instead of their flowers. They are the primary flower producers and in order to protect those flowers from being eaten by bugs before they hit the floral shops they grow them in greenhouses. Finally they work with potted plants and flowers, but this is mainly used in interiorscaping and not to be confused with plants that are grown for transplant.

The nursery is what you hear most about, or at least I do. I hear more about this because the people I am around go to nurseries a lot and so do I. They work in the production and sale of perennials, trees, shrubs and ground covers. Nurseries can be owned locally or by large box stores like Lowes, Home Depot and Walmart. Really, I advise everyone to shop locally, but I cannot deny sometimes they have things that I want and need.

Plant at TAMUC agricultural plant science center

Finally, my two favorite fields in the whole world and that is because they are the ones that I am most particularly interested in. Fruit and nut production is the first one, because as we all know I’ve been working hard towards growing my fruit trees and berry bushes. From fruit and nut production we have the two largest fields for fruit and nut production in Texas: pomology and viticulture. Pomology is concerned with fruit trees; in Texas it’s primarily peaches, pecans and plums but it can also include apples and citrus. Viticulture deals with grapes and grape production, this is particularly useful in wineries and vineyards. Although, you would think that this would be a big deal in Texas most of our production is done by people like me: hobbyists.

The last one would be Olericulture and if you hadn’t guessed by now this would be the field of horticulture that deals with the production and sale of vegetables. I am not going to lie when I tell you that I expected that this would actually be more in the higher profit margins because I see vegetables everywhere when I got to the supermarket. I am wrong, this is not the most profitable. Actually, if you want the honest truth it’s not even driven by vegetable sales it’s driven by hobby farmers like me and possibly you.

Plant at TAMUC agricultural plant science center

Learning about horticulture has really helped me see that there is more than just one field to go into and I am excited about it. I am still learning and have a lot to learn but as I learn so will you or not. I mean, tell me if I’m wrong and I’ll look into it. Regardless, have a great day.

Snowpocalypse pictures

It really shows off what a blank canvas we are working with.

The foraging birds

First, I love birds. They are a favorite of mine. I mentioned in a previous post that I did not like clipping my dead stuff until spring and I have a very good reason for it: birds.

But it’s not just for birds. The leaves and dead plant droppings cane be home to salamanders, butterflies, chipmunks, box turtles, toads and many other creatures. They provide a lovely ground cover for earthworms to turn all of that matter into compost. There are so many benefits to just leaving it alone and letting the animals forage through it.

Leaving it alone can also increase the survival of important and beneficial insects and other arthropods. They will be your helpers in keeping pest problems low and help in decomposition of earthly matter. All of this stuff combined will increase soil health and that benefits you in the long run.

So not only are you reducing your time and effort but you’re also the proud parent to an entire ecosystem. It warms my heart just to write that out. This will also save waste because a lot of people throw their trimmings out- which could be recycled and composted or just left to allow a little home for the bird food. It’s only temporary.

For more information on why you should leave your lawn alone you can go here Scientists Say or here National Wildlife Federation to find out more information. It isn’t hard to find out why I am such a big fan. Bring on the birds.

After the snowpocalypse 2021

Our Swiss chard had stayed alive up until that freeze and then well- it did not agree. It is brown but makes for pretty pictures

I can’t help it if I like earthy tones.

My sweet lemon thyme was barely bothered. You can see a little bit of frost damage on the leaves but this one will most certainly survive.

I am not going to lie I am really excited they made it through and I am thinking about doing a mass propagation and using this as part of my groundcover. I am kind of excited to see how it plays out.

Not going to lie. I thought my parsley was done for, but there is a little bit of green growing back. It really is a winter mericle but I am excited that the parsley made it out alive.

Parsley isn’t a fan favorite so I probably won’t spread it around but I do like having some on hand just in case.

My fairy garden looks like trash. I just want that noted but I just don’t have the heart to fix it because it is a habitat for so many bugs and birds use these areas to forage for food. I dunno, maybe I should, but things are coming back. Who knows what is good or bad?

Salad Barnett saw no changes. Looks just as bushy as ever. I think I might spread this one out as well. It just seems to do so well and stays green all year. It gives great coverage for insects seeking shelter from the cold and for birds to forage for food.

My English thyme is looking a little frost bitten but I don’t see any reason to be concerned. The plant will continue to grow and is another keeper. We like cooking with it and now we know it can survive cold winters we are sold.

A lot of oregano died but a lot survived. I am glad because this is one of our favorite herbs and we love the way it makes our hands smell. I am going to spread this one around as well. I am just happy to see that the plants are coming back to life. Fingers crossed we don’t get another freeze.

My sweet rosemary. Funny thing: the one outside lived the ones inside died horrible slow deaths. I dont know how it happened but this baby survived and once clipped back this spring will spring into life. I cannot wait. I am super excited.

Finally the sage which survived with flying colors. I didn’t even see any frost damage. I will definitely replant garden sage throughout my permaculture food forest. It seems hardier than the others.

I did not take a picture but my snap dragons survived as well. More to come but things have been busy.

Insects: What We Should Know

That’s right, bugs. At least, that’s the slang term for these creepy crawlers and freaky fliers. They are the primary consumers of plants on this planet and also the greatest predator of plant eaters (if you don’t count how we poison them by existing and on purpose for crop improvement).

Insects are also major players in the decomposition of organic matter and materials. Not only are they major predators they are also food for many different animals and some humans. It’s good that they are edible because they out number us two hundred million to each individual human. That’s roughly forty million insects per acre and over thirty million species in all.

I am pretty sure it is some kind of cockroach but I can’t be sure. I should be able to identify them just by looking at them, but I am working on that.

Remember: those are just the bugs that we remember.

Fun fact: fewer than one percent of bugs are considered pests. Most insects are considered beneficial because they are pollinators and/or predators.

Just so we are all on the same page, insects have a few things in common:

  • They have their skeleton on the outside to protect their insides. This is called the exoskeleton and is made of chitin. Chitin is a tough, kind of transparent nitrogen containing polysaccharide (a carbohydrate which has molecules that contain a whole bunch of sugars bonded together)- which is related to cellulose and is used in the exoskeleton of arthropods.
  • Their heart, the most important part, is located on top of the insects body.
  • Their nerves are on the lower side of their body
  • They smell with their antennae
  • They taste with their feet
First moth for my insect collection that I have to turn in. When I know what it is I’ll share

All fun things to know about insects on a basic level. Now, a lot of individuals are going to say that there is more bad than good but that is no necessarily true. First we’ll go over some of the positives of insects:

  • They produce products for us such as honey, silk, wax, and assist in composting.
  • They are pollinators and assist in the development of crops.
  • They are food for wildlife and are usually scavengers.
  • They can be a food source, if you’re brave enough.
  • They are useful for research and experimental purposes. They can track quite a bit through insects from their development to their effects on crops. There are lots of things that bugs tells us.

The bad things, the ugly things, the things that concern us:

  • They’re weird looking: this is ninety percent of our fear.
  • They are generally annoying to humans and animals because they’re always flying around and just being where they don’t belong.
  • They destroy crops because they are hungry and they are trying to survive like the rest of us.
Another specimen I hope holds out until

Insects are in a larger group called arthropods. Now, arthropods are cold blooded creatures- they have an exoskeleton and no backbone. I was really surprised by that because they seem so brave when they fly head strong into my face on the porch. So, arthropods are above insects. Insects are inside the phylum -> arthropod.

If you are going to be doing any work on your land you, like me, should be aware of what the world we live in populates. Who knew that this was going to be so fascinating?

I must contribute all knowledge to Dr. Drake at TAMUC. I am taking classes in order to benefit my home. Why shouldn’t I make my love for plants a real thing? Regardless, I can’t wait to share what I am currently learning in class with you, because it’s fun to share.

This does not make up for being in a college class where things are better explained. Please do your own research about the bugs in your area.

Butterflies and Moths in North America is one of many resources that are available to the public. Check it out and find out what kind of lepidoptera (fancy official word for the order in which butterflies and moths come from) you are dealing with or are in your area. Enjoy the crappy moth pictures.

Rosemary Indoors

I am having a lot of fun with rosemary. It is one of my favorite herbs to grow in our garden. I started rosemary in 2020 and I fell in love. Have you ever just taken your face and moved your face between their leaves? It is the greatest experience.

Also this is another perennial for my area. One thing I learned is that perennial doesn’t mean that it will live forever. It only gives the promise of three or more years. The more you know, right?

Rosemary is evergreen that boosts the immune system and helps blood circulation. This plant is high in antioxidants, improves digestion, enhancing memory and concentration, neurological protection, protection against macula degeneration, and many other amazing uses. They have this disclaimer that says: do not bulk up on rosemary and try to just eat all of it. Eating rosemary in bulk can put you into a coma and many other not so cool side effects.

This has been one of the easiest herbs that I have been able to grow. Rosemary can get between 1.5 and 3 meters tall- which is awesome. It can be used as an anti fungal remedy as well.

Fun Fact: this is a beneficial herb to help prevent scurvy and certain cancers.

I love that it is one of the many herbs that grows well in containers. I enjoy the smell and that is an evergreen. It is so pretty. Smells good, tastes good in food and has all of the benefits a humble farmer could want. It makes an excellent border shrub and repels certain insects.

I have dried out a large amount of rosemary and I am really excited about grinding it down. I have been making it into a powder and putting them in cork bottles. One day I plan on doing a lot with it. Unfortunately, my plants aren’t producing large quantities of rosemary just yet.

I have been thinking of it’s uses because I do not use powdered rosemary for cooking. Who knows, but the uses are endless.

Not recommended for women who are pregnant, nursing or wish to become pregnant. If you are taking medications that are prescribed or provide long term medical care always consult a physician before adding rosemary to your diet on a regular basis- as in more than 4 nights a week.

Just putting that out there so that if people see it prevents cancer they don’t eat three pounds, put themselves in a coma then sue me. I don’t have time for all of that nonsense.

Just know rosemary is easy to grow, does well against cats using it as camouflage to attack one another and my children love running their fingers through it and it doesn’t die. I can forget to water it and it doesn’t act dramatic.

Healthy Hopefuls: Endive and Arugula

After 5 days. They are still babies.

I started planting endive and arugula. I was told I should plant them in January, they can’t be transplanted until after the front but they need a little bit more time.

At 8 days we had a few more popping up. This is a mixture. One side is arugula and one side is endive.

I think we should start with endive. I should let you know that before this I had no idea what endive was or that it was a thing. You should know that I am new to this and I am trying everything.

Still 8 days. They are just now coming out of their seeds you can see that on this one. It’s lovely.

We planted endive because it can take longer to mature than other plants. It grows like lettuce. They are a leafy green that can be placed in salads for a bitter taste [which is allegedly good in salads].

11 days and we are strength training our sprouts with a fan to over the stove. I know it sounds silly but it helps us thin out weaker sprouts and they are strengthening their stems for our windy area.

The primary reason we are growing it is due to the fact that it is high in fiber and endive glycemic index is very low at 15, which can help prevent spikes in blood glucose after meals. I do not have diabetes but it is a beneficial plant to keep in your garden just in case. Plus we’ve never tried it before. It could be a delicious addition to our salads.

11 days from the top under their grow light. I swear one day the cops are going to come over with a warrant and be very disappointed to find lots of herbs and plants.

Now arugula has this tangy flavor and is also known to help lower blood sugar. It is known to lower the risks to cancer, osteoporosis, assists in preventing insulin resistance, improves the heart and rich in vitamin K. Remember when dealing with vegetables that are high in vitamins similar to K that you should slowly introduce as this vitamin helps assists in blood clotting.

Day 15 and these babies are busting out. You can really see how putting the fan on them for a couple of hours twice a week has caused their thin stalks to thicken and some of the taller sprouts have fallen away.

They say that arugula is said to have a peppery taste as well. It can be chewed to combat sour breath so I have read. Again, this one is new to me but have you see the benefits? I am really impressed. I can’t wait to find out how arugula tastes. They say you can put it in salads, smoothies, and omelets. I am sure that there are a million ways to make it.

More day 15.

I enjoy learning about these cool foods are out there and how having them might benefit my family. I feel like I am missing a lot of useful information. I am hoping that I can continue to learn amazing things that we can all benefit from.

An from the top picture of my plants. From the top boys is all I said and they started posing. Look at Arnaldo, he is so proud of himself growing from the side.

Healthy Hopefuls: Endive and Arugula

After 5 days. They are still babies.

I started planting endive and arugula. I was told I should plant them in January, they can’t be transplanted until after the front but they need a little bit more time.

At 8 days we had a few more popping up. This is a mixture. One side is arugula and one side is endive.

I think we should start with endive. I should let you know that before this I had no idea what endive was or that it was a thing. You should know that I am new to this and I am trying everything.

Still 8 days. They are just now coming out of their seeds you can see that on this one. It’s lovely.

We planted endive because it can take longer to mature than other plants. It grows like lettuce. They are a leafy green that can be placed in salads for a bitter taste [which is allegedly good in salads].

11 days and we are strength training our sprouts with a fan to over the stove. I know it sounds silly but it helps us thin out weaker sprouts and they are strengthening their stems for our windy area.

The primary reason we are growing it is due to the fact that it is high in fiber and endive glycemic index is very low at 15, which can help prevent spikes in blood glucose after meals. I do not have diabetes but it is a beneficial plant to keep in your garden just in case. Plus we’ve never tried it before. It could be a delicious addition to our salads.

11 days from the top under their grow light. I swear one day the cops are going to come over with a warrant and be very disappointed to find lots of herbs and plants.

Now arugula has this tangy flavor and is also known to help lower blood sugar. It is known to lower the risks to cancer, osteoporosis, assists in preventing insulin resistance, improves the heart and rich in vitamin K. Remember when dealing with vegetables that are high in vitamins similar to K that you should slowly introduce as this vitamin helps assists in blood clotting.

Day 15 and these babies are busting out. You can really see how putting the fan on them for a couple of hours twice a week has caused their thin stalks to thicken and some of the taller sprouts have fallen away.

They say that arugula is said to have a peppery taste as well. It can be chewed to combat sour breath so I have read. Again, this one is new to me but have you see the benefits? I am really impressed. I can’t wait to find out how arugula tastes. They say you can put it in salads, smoothies, and omelets. I am sure that there are a million ways to make it.

More day 15.

I enjoy learning about these cool foods are out there and how having them might benefit my family. I feel like I am missing a lot of useful information. I am hoping that I can continue to learn amazing things that we can all benefit from.

An from the top picture of my plants. From the top boys is all I said and they started posing. Look at Arnaldo, he is so proud of himself growing from the side.

Year Zero: Serious Moment

I have a five year plan. It is not a good plan and it changes from day to day but it is a plan. Right now, I have just left year zero. January 2021 is starting a new year for me.

You may ask:

What is Year Zero? Year Zero has been my year of planning. I also went around the area and looked at local nurseries. I wanted to see what everyone had to offer. It opened my eyes. I also planned to go back to college and learn about plant things.

Why is Year Zero so important? Year Zero is my planning year. We moved in October 2019 and that only started our adventure. During this year I have walked the property over five hundred times. I have learned the land-ish. There is a lot more to starting a permaculture food forest then I anticipated.

This is where I outlined my goals. I learned my property and I planted starter plants- which I will get into later. We have a lot to cover so I will continue.

Some of the trees ready for new homes

What does having a poorly planned year zero do for someone who is just starting out? This is a tough one because I had to reset my Year Zero last year. It was insanity. I killed every plant I got my hands on because I just jumped in. I thought I could just wish my garden into growth. It was poor planning and I wasted a lot of money on plants that died. So, don’t waste money use your year zero wisely. Learn to work with your property and not against it.

Year Zero is the most important year of planning and development. This is my year of research and getting to know my property. Here I started and failed then restarted after some research. Even still I am not 100% sure that everything will work out. My year one began with medicinal plants and evolved into the dreams of a food forest. Somewhere it evolved and I wanted to have real food security.

I learned a lot about the native plants that already live here and it inspired me to start a Monarch Butterfly Santuary. I started by going online and joining many types of groups. They kind of inspired me and so I continued with my year zero goals. I did way better than I anticipated.

The reason Year Zero is important is because it lays the foundation for success but remember: you can always switch it up later if your plans don’t work out. I know it sounds crazy but a lot of people (myself including) thought they could just jump in (like I did) and fail. I’ve learned it’s only a true failure if I stop trying and so I will continue.

It took me the better half of the first year to figure out I was doing things wrong and I might need to talk to experts. That’s why I enrolled in classes but I’ll share all of that information as I get it with you.

Squash flower (I think?)

Sure, I was in the best Facebook groups. Unfortunately I hadn’t been utilizing them. So I went online and I just dove into research on permaculture, companion planting, ph levels, soil samples and I was blown away by how much was out there. I will never know everything but I had started down a rabbit hole that brought me here to this blog.

Spoiler alert: my plants stopped dying. I got better at planting the more I learned and there is this feeling of happiness when you are using your own vegetables and fruits.

All throughout year zero I sat outside my plants hoping they might grow. It does not make plants grow faster.

Now I know I need a plan and in year zero it’s the perfect time to decide what you want and where you see that going in five years. Make it fun and exciting but remember: your plan must flow with the tide. So make sure you are ready for those changes and adaptations as you go. For example: I thought I could just put seeds in the dirt and it would just grow. It doesn’t work that way and now I know thanks to countless people.

Goals for my property and my life for the next five years. This is important because it gives me a general outline to work with. Remember, I am making plans but they are like the wind- every changing and straightforward.

In five years, I want to have every individual breed of plant I want on my property. Even if I do not have every part of my land covered (Which I most likely will seeing my progress already- it is a possibility). I am not talking about a neat little orchard- I want trees and shrubs. I want to be overwhelmed with sight, smell and feel like nature surrounds me.

Keep that in mind- it is the foundation for our success. My goals are not primarily food security, even though it is a reoccurring theme, but instead a food based garden of eden, a place for me to retire my body and my spirit. So, not all of my plants will be solely food based. I am going to continue on that note, but keep your goals in your mind.

Another goal I realized: I want the species here to be closer to disease resistant and ready to produce in five years. This means that in the first few years I have to plant my trees that need to be producing as well as create a water source.

In Year Zero, I am going through plant lists to find edible plants, flowering plants, herbs, and pollinators. I am collecting seeds and planting what I like to call guaranteed success plants such as blackberries. During Year Zero I did a lot of planning but then I began planting samples.

For example: I don’t know of I even like certain fruits- this is a great time to plant one or two and try them. If I don’t like them I won’t plant more of that particular tree. It’s good to know before I make a mass planting decision.

The ones that do well and we like: we plant more of them. The ones that don’t we just move on from and don’t plant more. At least we are keeping those three blueberries (if any of them survive), but I am hesitant of planting more until we know they will survive. That is one of many examples. We keep what we like but we don’t want continue any difficult plants. If something happens we want to make sure we can take care of it. (Eventually I hope it will take care of itself, in my old age I don’t want to be chasing around a 7 acre mess)

I want to cover my entire property in plants that are useful primarily with a little playroom for beautiful things. I want to retire in my own hand made forest and I want to leave it for my kids to enjoy. I cannot wait until I make my dream come true, but Year Zero opened my eyes to the many possibilities.

Frankly, Year Zero did not go as planned and there is a good chance your Year Zero will not be magnificentbut don’t give up. I killed a lot of plants that I want to blame on bizarre seeds from China that I never received. Really it all came down to poor planning.

Year one starts now in January and during that year I have a lot of things I would like to accomplish. But first let’s talk about what i have already got started:

  • 75 thornless blackberries, three different kinds.
  • 33 grape plants, twenty four muscadine, six concord, two seedless randoms from Wal-Mart, and one Spanish grape.
  • 8 apple trees, 4 persimmons, 4 pomegranates, 5 peaches, 3 plums, 4 cherries, 2 pears, 2 limes, 2 lemons, and 2 avadaco trees.
  • Planted many perennials and failed two gardens.

Year One I have new goals.

  • I would like to plant 100 additional thornless blackberry plants. This year so far we have planted 75. We know that blackberries will do great here and we want at least 200. We want to primarily plant thornless varieties which is also why we are not dying into raspberries.
  • Set up the irrigation system that will support the amount of plants that I want to bring in. We already bought two irrigation systems. One is set up for bushes and one is set up for the trees.
  • I want to plant a minimum of 25 different kinds of apple trees, but that may not be possible.
  • I want to focus on the 41 disease resistant breeds that grow in my zone. Zone 8a.
  • Focus on filling in the spaces between my trees with shrubs and berry bushes.
  • Expanding my seed collection
  • Creating a creek system that runs through our property
  • Planting as much as I can as fast as I can and keeping it all alive with magic

So, don’t give up. Year Zero seems hard on everyone. We’ve got this now onward to YEAR ONE.

A much more detailed goal list for Year One is coming but you’ll have to be patient. I am busy looking through seed catalogs while listening to permaculture information.

The Texas Association of Nonprofit Organizations is dissolving

It is with a sad day as I have recently found out that the Texas Association of Nonprofit Organizations will be desolving as of December 31, 2020. This decision was made of November 24, 2020.

They put up this long thing stating they will be dissolving, but why? This is strange, but it makes sense. Nonprofits are not doing well, in this pandemic they are falling to the side in a record amount. You can find out Base facts about Texas nonprofits at the link provided but I want to talk a little bit about what that means and what we can do about it…

So first, it is no surprise that volunteering has went down and COVID is sweeping through killing Nonprofits. People aren’t donating and they aren’t volunteering, which is not cool but I wasn’t either.

Even before COVID 19 I wasn’t volunteering. Donating old jackets and shoes at the local shelter does not count. I am talking about real volunteering: picking up trash, being active in the community, or joining a nonprofit.

My volunteer work was simply local with my kids- picking up trash (twice a year and it was usually when we went berry picking and sometimes we find ourselves helping someone out.) I thought doing it once or twice a year was good enough but this really saddens my heart.

The reason TANO shutting down is so difficult is because they were advocates for nonprofits all over the state of Texas and have been for decades.

First, they advocated for nonprofits on a legislative level. They lobbied in order for the voices of nonprofits to be heard during critical laws that passed (which touched not just nonprofits but also regulations in small businesses etc).

They also were a secure education and information source. If you joined they gave you discounts on many things and promoted your nonprofit or sometimes innovative ideas. It was job posting, networking and so much more.

This is a loss to the Texas community. There is No Update and no information. I am very suspicious of this, if you have any information on why they are shutting down can someone let me know. I am finding no information on this, which is weird because it’s a big deal.

Regardless, have a nice day and enjoy these pictures from around.

Project Grow Your Roots: I love Plants

Contributed by Ann Millington

These are her Osteospermums. She took this picture in April. They are so happy in her green house.

These flowers are better known as African Daisies, I had to look it up because I couldn’t pronounce that. I didn’t find any benefit other than looks but it is still a win in my book.

Contributed by Tina Hitchens

She let’s us know this is a pomegranate tree from Granada, Spain. She say the birds love the fruit, which I don’t doubt it is a magnificent tree.

Fun fact I learned from our contributer: the word for pomegranate in Spanish is Granada and has beautiful red flowers.

This gets me excited about my own pomegranate trees. I hate having to wait for things to happen.

Contributed by Alison Maparura

While sharing her plants she said, “2020 – when things go wrong find the little left that gives hope, nurture it and watch it grow. Wishing you, yours and my tradescantia a happy and healthy 2021.” We appreciate the warm wishes and our homestead wishes you the same.

This is also called a Spiderwort. This is a perennial flower and allegedly can be grown in any part of the United States. Western spiderwort is considered an endangered species in Canada.

Native Americans may have used this go relieve stomach problems. I don’t know for sure, I’m not an expert but it’s on the interweb so you can find it yourself if you want more specific information.

Fun fact: the flowers are blue but if they turn pink it is because of radiation levels. These flowers can be used as a bioassay, how you determine potency in a substance, to measure radiation levels. I thought that was a cool cookie.

Contributed by Susan Lowrie

Delphiniums come in lots of colors and are perennials as well. They are not are not for my zone. Only to 7… I am disappointed, but they are cool to learn about. All flowers are toxic to humans and livestock and is also known as Larkspur. These flowers can be used to make a dye.

Project Grow Your Roots: Update

Good day humans, it is I. So I have gotten a lot of responses which I love and with that comes the fun part. So I have been keeping up with these as best as I can, but my plan is to make a video and go over it together on New Years. Hopefully my kids will appreciate the time I put in and my oldest said she’d help, which is always nice.

Now without further ado more pictures of plants from all over:

Contributed by Laura Notobartolo

She calls his her dragon tree because of the dragon figurine. This is how they figure our if they need to water their houseplants, which is brilliant. He has also made flowers which is the best part. I love the dragon figurine ideas, if it sinks the ground needs water. Smart stuff from strangers on the internet.

Contributed by Luna Jade

She grew some pumpkins out of her compost and they seem really happy to be there. This is from her 2019 garden, she’s right: Mother Nature will find a way.

Contributed by Kristel Corter Webbe

Now this lady wanted to show off her pumpkin, she put it in a hammock to support it’s growth and boy did it grow. I am impressed. She says it came out to be a 35 lbs pumpkin. I am impressed and I hope you are too.

We have more on the way as soon as I sort them all out. Have a great day and stay safe.

Project Grow Your Roots: From Indiana

Contributed by Robert Hollis

Mr. Hollis said Merry Christmas with a lovely mammoth sunflower. He is from Indiana.

Now the Mammoth Sunflower grows wild from the Carolinas to Canada and over. It is just everywhere, no wildlife conservation unit is keeping an eye on these giants. They are well loved by all and I say giants because they can grow up to 13 feet tall. That’s right they are huge and that is one of my favorite things about them.

Contributed by Robert Hollis

The Dahlia is the national flower of Mexico, which is fun because that is where the flower is native to: Mexico and Central America. They are Edible and that is awesome. Can’t wait to try one in my salad.

Contributed by Robert Hollis

Project Grow Your Roots 2021: Victorious

Contributed by Jeremy Sledd

This Groot house plant was sent from Bauxite Arkansas and where a father is homeschooling his 2 daughters, ages 11 and 8.

This amazing father got his daughters an African Violet, which is a perennial and have lovely fat leaves that look like hairy green tongues. That is not a scientific description don’t write that down.

Contributed by Jeremy Sledd

He sent us a better picture to show off the leaves and the flower which I appreciate. African Violets do not like extreme temperature changes and come from tropical Africa. So they don’t to be cold either, don’t do that.

African Violets are associated with moms and motherhood. I am sure your mom will love the heartfelt well thought out idea. Regardless, love the plant love the pictures.

Contributed by Nicola Stohr-Machowski
Contributed by Joely Ann Lindsey

This amazing Gem was her first plant and it is looking happy.

Pretty pictures: Amber E

Amber E. Clifton was just convinced by me to start a hobby Facebook page for her amazing pictures. Of course, I provided a link and I look forward to everyone having very pleased eye holes. She did some amazing photography work. 10/10 would buy these in a coffee table book if I was coffee table book rich.

Project Grow Your Roots 2021: Happy Plants

Last night as I was passing out I got a little lazy. My problem is that I got so into speaking to some of these amazing people that I let my posts get a little sloppy and instead of going back and checking each article over (this is a labor of love not money) I just kept going.

I apologize for my negligence, but I was really enjoying this project. I am still on day 1 submissions if that shows you what an amazing response this has all been. Thank you for your overwhelming support and now without further ado…

Contributed by Helen Evans

There was a lovely lady online who rescued Orchids and gives them a place to stay. I admire her work and I love the flowers (have never been able to keep them alive but someone had to be able to in order for them to be such a widely given gift). She let allowed me to share her picture and said:

“This is one of my rescue orchids – I have 3 that I rescued from the rejected section in Asda for just 10p each. No one wanted them because the original flowers had died, but I knew that with a little tlc they would flourish. This was my reward . Shows that with a little care and attention, wonderful things can happen.”

Orchids have over 28,000 accepted species and are members of a huge plant family. They are roughly between 6 and 11% of all seed plants. They are perennial without the woody structure. Not going to lie there is so much information out there, because there are so many that I am getting a little overwhelmed. I’ll have to look back into this when I have more time on my hands. There is so much Information.

Contributed by Yvonne McLeod

These are her favorite roses! She loves them and takes great care of them. Look at all of those amazing blooms. I am impressed.

This was a mini rose that she bought from the grocery store. Now it’s “3ft tall and gets more beautiful every year!” I love her enthusiasm for her roses.

There is a lot of Information about Roses and I’ll have to do something about them later.

Contributed by Francine Holland

“This was a tiny plant in a small basket 12 years ago. It loves its spot by the window,” she says about her house plant as we see how excited it is about the fresh light.

Thank you for this beauty. These plants always make me feel like I am in a jungle. I love it when people share the pictures in my many plant groups.

Contributed by Catherine Gurney

This plant has grown over the years but it comes with a fun story:

My husband saw this as he was queuing in B&Q. It was £1 (and only a couple of feet high). He could sense that the lady behind him was staring at it too so he picked it up. It makes us smile to think it is doing so well in our house!

We are so glad you bought it all those years ago. Look how it’s grown from a baby in a tiny pot. We are lucky to see your amazing plant. We’ll call it a love-love tree as it is a symbol of you and your husband’s love.

Contributed by Annie Joseph

What she loves about this Succulent Ghost Plant is that “it grows with very little care” and “overflows from a tiny 2 inch pot looking beautiful”. It really seems to be happy and at home with you.

These babies are native to Mexico and their appearance depends on soil and exposure. The Succulent Ghost Plant is a common succulent that has been mass sold at the store. They do not like lots of water but love the full sun to part shade.

Project Grow Your Roots 2021: Beautiful Flowers

Contributed by Jody Foster

She wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and reminds us that Jesus Lives. These are her beautiful hibiscus. I love the cottage core feel to this picture.

Contributed by Leanne Toohey

The Brittlebush is a desert native plant. This picture was taken in the Mohave Desert in Oatman, Arizona. They are frost sensitive and drought tolerant.

Did you know they are a relative of the sunflower? I thought that was pretty cool.

Contributed by Michelle Hartman

She has so many lovely coneflower growing in her garden. I am so envious. I bet her coneflower brings all of the butterflies and bees to her yard.

She has paired us with two of her favorite living beings. Here is what she told us:

I got this wonderful, photobombing, dog in 2020. Bristol is the farm dog I’ve always wanted and with her I don’t feel scared on my own anymore.
Pictured with some of my favorite prairie flowers. Pink Sensation Coneflower (echinacea).

I just want to continue to thank everyone for their overwhelming support so far. I appreciate you all so much. Until next time 💚

Project Grow Your Roots 2021: A Story of Love

This amazing lady Allana Greuel shared something I am honored to share. Here is what she said:

My Heartleaf Philodendron. Although so common, this plant is priceless in my eyes. My dad had passed away in a freak accident this past June; and this was a tiny starter plant in an arrangement a family friend had gifted me. Of course I have my many peace lilies, but something about the heart-shaped leaves really draw me to it. My dad was my best friend for 19 years, so when I look at my philodendron and see new growth I feel that he still lives! I believe the spirit lives forever, but this plant keeps me connected physically. The hearts remind me that his love is never ending regardless of our physical existence. Sorry if this wasn’t exactly the answer you were looking for. I know it’s mainly from Central America! Although what happened is not a “nice” thing. This was what got me to notice plants and actually enjoy the varieties, so I guess you could say I found a hobby in something horrible. That’s nice to me I guess.

Contributed by Allana Greuel

That is absolutely beautiful. This plant is definitely your father telling you he is happy and safe and feeling amazing. The plant is amazing too.

Heartleaf Philpdendron is an indoor house plant around these parts and it does originate from South America. It can trail out up to 4 feet.

This is a beautiful plant with a beautiful story.