Join Us Saturday for the Rockport Earth Day and Redfish Run!

Rockport Earth Day and Redfish Run

Rockport Earth Day and Redfish Run

Friends, join us this Saturday for the Rockport Earth Day and Redfish Run.  This event was organized by our friends Kimmi, Christy, and Becky, and this will be a fun day for the family!

The Redfish run begins at 8:15am.  You can run the 5K or the 2 mile, and there is a 1K run for the kids as well as family run/walk events.  Register for the Redfish Run here.  Proceeds benefit the Rockport Heritage District and Coastal Bend Troop Support.

The Earth Day festival runs from 10:00am to 2:00pm in front of Coastal Bend Health Foods.  There will be vendors featuring local and earth-friendly products, refreshments, and live music.  There is no cost to attend this festival, and we would love to have you!  Bring the family and enjoy beautiful downtown Rockport with us!

Filing Taxes in Ancient Egypt

In Ancient Egypt, the Nile Delta was a floodplain.  Every year, the waters of the Nile rose far above the banks and deposited silt and sediment across the golden plains.  Then the waters would recede and leave extraordinarily fertile soil for Egyptian farmers to plant.

The Nile Delta of Ancient Egypt

The Nile Delta of Ancient Egypt

Herodotus, the celebrated historian of the 5th Century BC, tells us in his Histories that farmers have never had it so easy as the Egyptians of the Nile Delta.

He said that once the floodwaters receded, farmers would simply walk into their fields and broadcast their seeds by hand, and then turn pigs loose to trample the seeds into the soil.  The farmers then took away the pigs and returned in three months to harvest an amazing bounty of barley, beans, lentils, fruits, and vegetables.

The Nile Delta transformed Egypt into an empire, and the surplus of the farms fueled the work of the pyramids, the armies who conquered the desert, and the coffers of the mighty pharos.

Herodotus tells us that King Sesotris, one of the great pharaohs, divided the land of the Nile Delta into large squares of equal size and gave one square to each family to farm.  He then taxed all of the farms equally.

However, each year, the river rose and receded to different levels, causing some parts of the squares to go out of cultivation.  King Sesotris allowed farmers to file a tax return based on the amount of their land that had fallen out of production.

Unfortunately, the math to compute surface area did not yet exist, and the tax collectors were not able to calculate the unequal and odd shapes of farmland submitted for tax returns.  According to Herodotus, this is how geometry was invented; to help King Sesotris evaluate the tax returns of his farmers.

Euclid, the father of geometry, came along much later, and he set his axioms to geometric law long after the writings of Herodotus and the reign of the pharaohs.

But if you were a farmer in the Nile Delta, you could be sure that the IRS agents of the king, armed with their new invention of geometry, could assess your taxes with unprecedented accuracy, and not a bean nor a barley seed would be missed.

Ancient Egyptian Farmer's Calendar.   Wall mural showing land preparation, ploughing, reaping, winnowing, grain storage (image courtesy biblearcheaology.info)

Ancient Egyptian Farmer’s Calendar.
Wall mural showing land preparation, ploughing, reaping, winnowing, grain storage (image courtesy biblearcheaology.info)

Four String Chicks Available at Moore than Feed

Emma with cornish rock chick 4-13-14

Friends, stop by Moore than Feed in Rockport to get your very own baby chicks.  Moore than Feed now sells chicks that came straight from our farm.  When your chicks grow up, their beautiful eggs will be blue, green, pink, white, light brown, or dark brown.

We collected the eggs from our own laying hens, and our friends Fred and Linda Marshall, of M-Tree Quail Farm, incubated the eggs for us into healthy happy chicks.

These chicks are the fourth or fifth generation of chickens born on our farm.  We have been incubating our own eggs to develop laying hens that are more tolerant of the intense heat of a Rockport summer.  We have also selected for the most beautiful roosters and hens, and every new generation is more beautiful than the last.

A Good Ameraucana Rooster

A Good Ameraucana Rooster

The chicks at Moore than Feed are straight run and mixed.  The breeds of chicks available include:  barnevelders, cuckoo marans, ameraucanas, black langshans, black australorps, production reds, white leghorns, dominiques, and barred rocks.  Melvin and his team will help you select your chicks.

Melvin also offers everything you need to start your own backyard laying hens, from feeders to hen houses.  Begin now with your own chicks, and soon you will enjoy your own beautiful eggs, freshly gathered, and your laying hens will be lovely to look at.

Emma with Cornish rock looking 4-13-14

The Floating Gardens of the Aztecs

When Cortez discovered the Aztec Empire in the year 1519, he found 200,000 people living on an island in the middle of a lake.  Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City, was the biggest and best-fed city in the world, and this fortress city was completely surrounded by water.

To feed their enormous population, the Aztecs ingeniously built chinampas, or floating gardens, to convert the marshy wetlands of Lake Texcoco into arable farmland.  These floating gardens were a masterpiece of engineering.

Each garden was 300 feet long by 30 feet wide.  To make a garden, workers weaved sticks together to form a giant raft, and then then piled mud from the bottom of the lake on top of the raft to create a layer of soil three feet thick.

The rectangular gardens were anchored to the lake by willow trees planted at the corners.  Each garden was lined on all sides by canals to allow canoes to pass with workers and materials.  This network of gardens extended for 22,000 acres across the surface of the lake.

The floating gardens were companion planted with corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, peppers, and flowers, and these incredible gardens yielded seven crops per year.

(Image courtesy anthropogen.com)

(Image courtesy anthropogen.com)

The Aztec religion was a cult of sacrifice, and the gods were fearsome.  The victims of sacrifice, standing on top of the great pyramid, could see the floating green gardens in the far distance, with the sun sparkling on the lake, and then their hearts were cut out and roasted in a fire.

Tens of thousands of heads rolled down the stone steps of those pyramids, and the rivers that turned the temples red in the noonday sun were a plea to the gods to keep the gardens growing.  But in the end, when the sky went dark over Tenochtitlan, and the earth shook beneath the feet of Montezuma, it was not the sun god who brought judgment; it was the Conquistadors.

The Spaniards’ military advantages over the Aztecs—the swords, guns, and horses–were nullified in the sanctuary of the floating gardens, and Cortez was covetous of gold, not Indian corn, so he ordered the destruction of the chinampas.

The floating gardens of the Aztecs, the key to their great civilization, were torn to pieces by the hands that built them, and thrown to the bottom of the lake, never to rise again.

The Ruins of a Civilization (image courtesy jupiterimages/photos.com/gettyimages)

The Ruins of a Civilization (image courtesy jupiterimages/photos.com/gettyimages)

Plowing Pictures, After

Kayla Garden Hat

I got these pictures of Kayla after Emma came.

Kayla is working for most of the day in the gardens now, and while she works she keeps Emma in a papoose that our friend Kimmi gave us.

On the very best of days, this is what farming looks like to me.

Kayla with Emma in ErgoKayla Emma Bando 3-25-14Kayla Flowers to Left 3-20-14Kayla Emma Bright Trees in back 3-20-14

Kayla working in garden a month after baby

Kayla working in garden a month after baby

Emma spends the time out of her papoose in a stroller at the edge of the garden.

Emma spends the time out of her papoose in a stroller at the edge of the garden.

 

Emma Crying with Kayla 3-20-14Kayla Emma Red Nails 3-20-14

Baby Emma, two-and-a-half months

Baby Emma, two-and-a-half months

Plowing Pictures, Before

Kayla Shaping Rows holding rake

I got these pictures of Kayla when was ten months along.  These are the last pictures I have of her before Emma came, a couple days later.

Kayla was helping me plow up this garden.  I did most of the plowing, but she was out there with me helping where she could.

On the best of days, this is what farming looks like to me.

Kayla Shaping Rows with baby

We moved the chickens off this garden the day before.

We moved the chickens off this garden the day before.

We use the tractor to make straight rows to guide our planting.

We use the tractor to make straight rows to guide our planting.

Justin Behind Tractor

Kayla Shaping Rows smiling

Kayla Shaping Rows profile

Kayla Shaping Rows hawk

Watering the Garden

Kayla watering newly seeded garden bed, five feet wide.  She is standing in between beds on leaf mulch pile that we will place on the bed after the seeds sprout.

Kayla watering newly seeded garden bed, five feet wide. She is standing in between beds on leaf mulch pile that we will place on the bed after the seeds sprout.

In South Texas, we can go for weeks, or even months, without a single good rain.  To survive, your plants depend entirely upon you for their water, and it helps to know how much and how often to water your garden.

The water needs of a garden can vary greatly in the extreme weather conditions of South Texas.  The key to knowing when to water is to check the soil.

Ideally, the top five or six inches of soil should remain moist at all times.  This top layer of soil is where most of the healthy bacteria and micro-organisms live, and they require even moisture to thrive.

The garden dries out from the top layer of soil on down.  Use your finger to dig into the garden bed to check the amount and depth of moisture around the plants (see pictures below).

When it is time, water the soil slightly deeper than the lowest level of the roots.  Watering past this point is simply wasting water.  Let the soil mostly, but not completely, dry out, before watering again.  This deep and infrequent watering promotes vigorous root growth by forcing the roots to reach into the soil seeking water.

It is best to water the soil, not the plants.  In fact, most plants, like tomatoes, don’t like water on their leaves, which causes the leaves to turn yellow and wilt.  Use the rain setting of your garden hose to drench the soil at the base of your plants, but not the plants themselves.

If possible, water the garden in the evening.  Plants do a lot of their growing at night, and they need plenty of moisture in the soil to optimize their nighttime cellular functions.  If you water during the morning, or even worse, at mid-day, you will lose a lot of water to evaporation and leave the soil dry during the night.

To prevent the soil from quickly drying out, add a thick, insulating layer of native leaf mulch around your plants.  A thick layer of native leaf mulch can reduce the water needs of your garden by up to fifty percent.

As you dig into the soil to check the level of moisture, carefully observe the plants in your garden.  You will quickly see the relationship between the health and appearance of your plants and the level of moisture in the soil.  Your soil will tell you exactly how much, and how often, to water your garden.

Checking Soil Moisture, Step 1:  Companion Bed with tomato transplant center left, cilantro far left, lettuce lower left, kolh rabi to right.  Live oak leaf mulch.

Checking Soil Moisture, Step 1: Companion Bed with tomato transplant center left, cilantro far left, lettuce lower left, kolh rabi to right. Live oak leaf mulch.

Step 2:  Dig finger 5 to 6 inches into bed to check amount and depth of soil moisture.

Step 2: Dig finger 5 to 6 inches into bed to check amount and depth of soil moisture.

Step 3:  This is day after a good soaking rain, soil is still wet--holds shape in a clump.  No need to water today.  You do not need to remove soil from the hole to check moisture, this handful of soil is for illustration only.

Step 3: This is day after a good soaking rain, soil is still wet–holds shape in a clump. No need to water today. You do not need to remove soil from the hole to check moisture, this handful of soil is for illustration only.

Step 4:  Gently replace any soil and re-cover with native leaf mulch.

Step 4: Gently replace any soil and re-cover with native leaf mulch.

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