Tomato Fail – Curly Top Virus!

The garden was hit hard this year by Curly Top Virus. This was my first experience with curly top virus so I did a fair amount of research on the virus.

The virus affects mainly tomatoes, peppers and sugar beets. I had extensive damage to my tomato crop. Minimal damage to pepper plants and I had no damage to sugar beets. I planted beets that were sweet but I am not sure they are technically “sugar beets”.

I had high hopes for my tomato crop this year. I planted 120 heirloom plants from seeds. I planted 12 different varieties with approximately 10 different plants each.

 I had big dreams of fresh tomatoes all summer and canning tons of stewed tomatoes that would last me all winter. Mother Nature had something else in mind. Instead of tomatoes all winter we will be having tons of pickles…… and spaghetti squash.

I guess I can’t complain too much. We won’t go hungry I guess! Anyway back to the problem at hand. I didn’t get the tomato crop I wanted either in the spring or the fall thanks to a little virus called Curly Top.

The virus is transmitted by the sugar beet leafhopper (Curculifer tennelus). It is a tiny little grasshopper that kind of resembles a fly. I have seen several in the garden. It is an invasive species in Texas.

http://www.tsusinvasives.org/home/database/neoaliturus-tenellus

Unfortunately, insecticides are not effective. (I mean- not that I would use any insecticides! SQUIRREL! Let’s be realistic. We all try not to use insecticides! We start by using the least toxic method of killing insect like picking them off and killing them manually. Then, we move to organic insecticides like diatomaceous earth or any other commercially available organic insecticide, fungicide, any kind of -cide we can find.

Then as our plants keep dying we bring out the ……. ((whisper)) seven dust! Yup, you heard me! I’ll dust the shit out of those little insects if they push me too far! I HATE GRASSHOPPERS OF ALL KINDS BY THE WAY!~

Now, back to the problem. Since insecticides don’t work what are my other options?

https://plantdiseasehandbook.tamu.edu/problems-treatments/problems-affecting-multiple-crops/curly-top-virus/

Fine mesh….. NOPE ….. blew right off in this hurricane strength wind of Central Texas once all the cedar has been cleared off the land. See, I think that is the original problem. We have been clearing cedar to improve our grasslands which has left big open grassy / weed fields surrounding my garden which grasshoppers (leafhoppers too apparently) love!

There are resistant tomato varieties per TAMU which include: Roza, Rowpac, Columbia and Saladmaster. The problem they haven’t really been celebrated for the taste! But, I would definitely try them at least for making stew tomatoes at this point!

I reached out to Dr. Harold Kaufman listed in the article link above. He is now retired but did suggest the same varieties above but clarified the Saladmaster needed to be the cherry type. He didn’t think anyone was still doing research on curly top. He did say some people did suggests partial shade. See leafhoppers have to feed in full sun so partial shade might keep them from feeding on the plants in the shade. The problem is tomatoes need full sun. However, I don’t think people realize Central Texas has EXTRA FULL sun most of the summer. I might try a shade block of 50% this next year and see if that helps.

Insects are cyclic so I was hoping maybe the fall would be better for the tomatoes…. NOPE! They were still there…..

It starts with a slight curling of the leaves and small bumps on the main stem. The leaves become leathery and tough. There is also a gummy type feeling to the foliage. The fruit that is there will ripen but it is slow and when it does ripen the skin is tough.

Turns out the leafhopper has three morphs including: a summer morph (3-4 months), winter morph (overwintering females) and migratory morph (capable of flying hundreds of miles). So they were still lingering around in the fall.

I did get a few little measly tomatoes to put up this year despite my new arch nemesis!

I froze them initially, then we cooked them down and made some stew tomatoes. We only produced about 4 pint jars this year. I did also get this beautiful black beauty tomato. There was only one and it looked and tasted amazing!

I also got a few more tomatoes here and there but not nearly the crop I was hoping for.

Look at the leaves on the bottom left corner of the above picture. They are starting to curl. Grrr…. Nothing was more frustrating than seeing that this year! The tomato below is called a mushroom basket. I can’t tell if it was just a fused blossom or if it was infected with something? Either way, I had to pick it before the frost!

 I did get a fair amount of green tomatoes for pickling before our very early frost hit!

I still thought I had another couple of weeks! Again, Mother Nature had other plans! What she doesn’t know is this will go great with Texas BBQ!

The disappointment of a bad tomato crop is always filled with hopes for next year! Curly Top -1 / Chasity -0…….

I would love to hear your thoughts for combatting Curly Top for next year!

Raise Them Right!

The garden beds that is!

We spent February preparing our gardens for spring. The weather has finally been so nice to get outside and get your hands dirty!

We have added some new raised beds thanks to some old salvaged tires and broken feed trough my husband found and placed in the garden. Raised beds allow me to amend soil quickly for growing and contain crops that may spread like mint or asparagus. I also think they are cute! In total, we added four raised tractor tire beds and one old feed trough (that sprung a leak!) bed!

Both setups had to be slightly modified before use. For the tires, Bryon cut the top rim of the tire off so we could fill up with dirt/ soil and work it. Otherwise the lip of the tire would cover a good portion of opening and would limit growing capacity. In addition, I have short arms and I don’t want to reach that far! He had to use a 4″ grinder to make a hole in the top of the tire rim and then a sawzall to cut the rim off. The top we removed I will use later to go around the base of sapling for the soon-to-be peach & plum orchards. For the old trough, he used the 4″ grinder to simply cut out the bottom. We did counter sink the trough purely for aesthetic purposes!

Now to the down and dirty- filling all these up with soil! First, we placed cardboard in the bottom for worm food and some weed control. Next we need soil. You can’t just add dirt because it will get too hard and hold too much water. You can’t add straight potting mix because it’s too light and will drain too fast. I prefer miracle gro raised bed soil. I got burned two years ago with an off brand alternative so I haven’t really ventured out much with other options. I’ve been sticking to what I know works. Originally, I wanted to completely fill each one with bagged soil but that wasn’t feasible. I didn’t realize how much dirt was required for each tire until I did the math.

For all you math/ algebra students that ask “when am I going to use this in real life?”

The volume of a cylinder is pi (3.14) x radius (squared) x height.

One tire measured 4 ft diameter (2 ft radius) x 2 ft height so…..

3.14 x 4ft x 2ft = 25.1 cubic feet

As seen above each bag covers 1.5 cubic feet for $8.98. (25.1 / 1.5 = 16.7 bags for one tire x $8.98 per bag = $149.96)

Now I have 4 tires and one trough so we are talking about $800 dollars of dirt ! WOW! Nope!

Luckily, Bryon found us a cheaper option!

For $140 dollars he got a dump bed trailer load of half top soil and half turkey manure and mushroom compost mix! BAM! With some to spare!

So we layered the raised beds with a layer of topsoil then turkey manure/ mushroom compost then the last layer was of my raised bed garden mix. I used two bags of the miracle gro to each tire and the trough. Now filling them up was a little “tire-ing” but we got them all filled! Now for the fun stuff! Planting!!

We planted a few cool weather crops!

Side note: we never use up the plastic knives in the set so I repurpose them in the garden!

Lastly, we used old hay to mulch the top!

Now we just wait for stuff to grow! Can’t wait to eat and share all our goodies !!

Overcoming life’s little HERDdles

Farnash Creek Ranch added a new mare to the herd last week! Maisie is a 10.5 year old sorrel quarter horse with experience cutting and working on a large cattle ranches.

We think she will be a great addition to the ranch and will be an enormous help with ranch work such as roping calves, pushing cows, sorting and of course trail riding the ranch to check fences of course. We are so excited to have her here! The other horses aren’t so excited, although, she seems eager to be friends with them! The first day out in the pasture together they tried to run off and leaving her!

She wasn’t far behind …..

“Hey guys wait for me”

They eventually gave her a good sniff down but still they did not trust her! She still had to prove herself. I wasn’t sure she would be aggressive enough with the other horses because she was so docile under the saddle. She works so smooth off subtle cues like seat placement and leg pressure. I am a terrible rider and if she can follow my cues she must be good! I have never picked a horses hooves so easily. I gently touched her leg and she graciously lifted her hoof and held it there. I didn’t really even have to hold the hoof. I still get nervous picking hooves and she made it feel so natural.

After the second day out in the pasture with them she came in with a few bite marks and was much more cautious of the other horses.

She was especially cautious of Cisco. He is the biggest horse we have and he has also been the low man of the totem pole since his arrival over a year ago! I guess he was determined to get off the bottom of the hierarchy!

Bryon wishes he would run that fast on cows! He isn’t all he acts like on this video! He is a sweet shy lover except when someone new is around! Sometimes it is the shy ones that are the most fierce! He still gets an concessional bite by Sugar tho!

Rodie the undisputed ring leader also tried to get his intimidation in on her! The first day he ran her off from the hay ring. By day two, she wasn’t having anymore of him taking her food. We sat on the fence and watched Rodie go quietly into her stall after he had eaten all his food and tried to take her food. Within three seconds she had run him out of her stall. He tucked his tail and headed off the the hay ring! Now I think they are friends! Or friendly at least!

“I sorrelly apologize for taking your food”

This morning during feeding Cisco was also still trying to get a little intimidation in on her. He put his giant golden head in her stall and just showed her his teeth. She snapped back at him and let out the loudest “NEIGH” I’ve ever heard! She is standing up for herself! It won’t be long and she will find her place in the herd!

Horses are herd animals for safety reasons. There is strength in herds. Being part of a herd provides them safety and security in the wild. There are more sets of eyes and ears to look out for danger. There are more horses to protect the young horses from predators and dangers in the wild. This herd mentality is instinctive for them for this reason.

Humans are also part of herds. Many different herds. We have work herds, family herds, friend herds, online herds, etc. Unfortunately, we often have trouble integrating into our herds as well. There are many reasons why integrating into herds are difficult. Generally though it is simply that it is something new and no one knows what to expect or who to trust. There will often be bite marks and scars that will be left behind but ultimately there is strength in herds. We must get past all the hurt and move forward because there is support in herds. Just like Maisie we have to stand up for ourselves and be herd – (he he he) Herds are the support systems we rely on to protect us from the wild world of dangers. Love your herd and find peace and strength in whatever herds you can be apart of in this life. Embrace all the members of your herd and celebrate their strengths and encourage them in times of weakness.

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main” -Ernest Hemingway For Whom The Bell Toll per John Donne

For heaven’s sake don’t be like chickens they try to kill the new one to the flock! DON’T BE A CHICKEN!

Don’t sweat the small stuff-ing, Get Half-Baked!

Preparing for the holiday season can get overwhelming! We have been preparing for the Thanksgiving Holiday for the past couple of weeks and I wanted to share a few preparations we have made to hopefully make the holidays a little less busy and less stressful!

I like to start by getting my kitchen organized!

I love the spice drawer because it helps me and my guests easily find whatever they need. I also use this time to take an inventory of what I have and what I need.

I also suggest recruiting some help to get everything cleaned and organized for your guests!

Not sure how much work I got out of her but she is fun to have at the ranch !

I try to buy everything I can that is not perishable well in advance because, #1 I don’t want to fight the crowds and #2 they run out of stuff so quickly! If you are early and prepared you can turn all this…

into these easy-to-make meals and partially prepared Thanksgiving dishes for your guests!!

Dressing (NOT STUFFING!) is my main dish and preparing ahead clears up a lot of room and time in the kitchen! Preparing ahead also enhances the flavor, to me!

Thanksgiving is only one day of the 4-6 days my family comes to visit for this holiday so I like to have other things prepared in advance for them! I have found making beef enchiladas ahead of time is perfect for family visits. I made several pans of enchiladas for my family. I also write the instructions for the dish on the top of the disposable pans or foil so everyone knows how to put it together just in case I get tied up with something else!

Planning ahead frees up my time to enjoy the company of my family and friends during the holidays, which is my favorite part! Here are a few suggestions for plan-ahead meals to freeze and also a “don’t make-ahead list!”

MAKE-AHEAD IDEAS to freeze:

1. Beef Enchiladas (recipe to follow)

2. Chicken Enchiladas

3. Lasagna

4. Dressing (NOT STUFFING)

5. Scalloped Potatoes

6. Breads: cornbread, biscuits, and rolls

7. Breakfast Casseroles

8. Breakfast Quesadillas (recipe to follow)

9. Soups and Stews (leave out rice or dumplings – those are best made fresh)

10. Fruit Pies

DON’T MAKE-AHEAD to freeze:

1. Custard or cream based pies

2. Chicken and Dumplings

3. Gravies of any kind

4. Salads of any kind (obviously)

RECIPES:

BEEF ENCHILADAS (Easy)

ENCHILADA PART

1.5 lbs ground beef

10 corn tortillas

1 medium onion

1 teaspoon chili powder

2 cloves minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

Salt and pepper to taste

ENCHILADA SAUCE

2 heaping tablespoons crisco

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1 and 3/4 cup chicken broth

3/4 cup water

1 small jar diced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease rectangular foil pan 13 x 9.

Brown ground beef with onion, chili powder, garlic, onion powder and salt and pepper. Add seasoning at the end of browning for best flavor retention.

While browning meat, heat tortillas in foil in the oven so the are easily usable and don’t break. Approx. 10 min.

Fill tortilla with meat mixture and cheese. Approx. one heaping tablespoon of meat and one heaping tablespoon of cheese. Roll and place in pan seam side down. Cover pan tightly with plastic wrap and then foil. Place in freezer until ready to use.

FOR ENCHILADA SAUCE:

Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add flour and whisk constantly until slightly brown. It will be consistency of a thin paste and bubbly. Then add chicken broth, water and chipotle pepper in adobo sauce. Bring to a boil. Then simmer for 10 min. Allow to cool then place in freezer safe container.

When ready to use, set out enchilada sauce in fridge for 24 hours prior to meal (or make fresh the day of.) Remove frozen enchiladas from freezer remove foil and plastic wrap, cover with sauce and sprinkle with cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes covered; then uncover and bake 15 min.

Serve with corn or side salad.

BREAKFAST QUESADILLA

Flour tortillas

Eggs

Mix-ins

Butter

Breakfast meat

Cheese

These are super easy and very individualized. Scramble eggs. Shred cheese. Cook meat of choice.

Heat butter in skillet add flour tortilla, sprinkle with cheese, top with egg, choice of mix-in (mushrooms, pico, spinach, etc.), add meat, add cheese and then top with second tortilla. Flip until tortilla slightly browns and cheese melts. Allow to cool slightly. Then flash freeze (place on cookie sheet lined with waxed paper.) When frozen, add to zip lock bag for later use.

When ready to eat, heat in oven or toaster oven for best results! Or, simply place in microwave for 45-60 seconds.

 

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