Illegal burning

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It has been reported to Arroyo City News that illegal burning has taken place on a number of occasions in our fire zone 10. While yard burning is permitted, certain rules apply that must be followed. Here is a link to the fire department’s information on burning: http://arroyocityvfd.com/firesafety.html

The rules are stated with residential properties in mind, but the regulations apply to ALL burning in the zone – farming and commercial properties included. We understand much of the burning has been done at night which is prohibited by State law, irrespective of the rules and regulations.

The perpetrators know who they are and we appeal to them to be good neighbors and respect the law and our community.

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Lemons

lemons3Our two Valley Lemon trees had a bumper crop this year. We’ve been giving them away as soon as they become ripe. All of a sudden most of them reached harvesting stage all together, so Saturday we picked them all. Our neighbours are all lemoned out, leaving us a kitchen full with which to deal. We took a bunch to Church Sunday but the rest needed processing. The prospect of squeezing them all for lemonade was too daunting to entertain. The search for an alternative was undertaken. Voila! a Moroccan preserved lemon recipe was discovered as the solution. We had previously used preserved lemons in recipes and found them to be particularly handy when fresh lemons were not available.

Here we are then:

What you need:

  • Preserve jars – Ball or recycled jam jars
  • As many lemons as you need to fill the jars – 9 or so depending on the jar size
  • Kosher salt – lots
  • Black peppercorns – 1 heaping teaspoon for small jars, 1 heaping tablespoon for larger jars
  • Bay leaves – 1 per jar for small jars, 2 per jar for larger jars

What to do:

  1. Wash the lemons well, as many as will fit snugly in the jar – plus a couple extra on the side for juice or squashing in.
  2. Slice the lemons from the top into quarters, stopping 1/2 inch from the bottom, leaving them attached.
  3. Place a layer of salt in the bottom of the jar.
  4. Rub the lemon cut surfaces with salt (or simply pour salt over them and work the quarters together) and squash into the jar, releasing the juice.
  5. Repeat layering the lemons into the jar, sprinkling salt over each layer as you go.
  6. Where necessary, use 1/4 or 1/2 lemons to fill gaps between the whole lemons.
  7. Keep pressing the lemons down to compact and release more juice.
  8. About 1/2 way through, add the bay leaf and peppercorns to the jar.
  9. When full, squeeze extra juice over the lemons to fill the jar and cap tightly.
  10. Ripen at room temperature for 3 to 4 weeks, frequently shaking the jar, then store in the refrigerator – the rinds should be tender at this point.

In any recipe where lemon zest or juice is called for, you can use preserved lemon. Simply retrieve a piece of lemon, rinse it off, mince it finely and add near the end of the cooking time – use your discretion. They can also be added whole to a simmering pot. Of course, while fresh lemon zest has no equal, preserved lemon is a useful substitute.

lemons4

The end result!

Papaya time

It seems everyone’s papaya trees are bearing fruit right now. While some may not like the flavor or texture, we relish them as a breakfast treat. Papayas are one of nature’s healthiest fruits, rich in all kinds of vitamins and minerals. They have also been shown to boost the immune system, promote digestive health, protect against heart disease, lower inflammation, protect against rheumatoid arthritis, protect against macular degeneration and taken in conjunction with green tea, can prevent prostate cancer. This may well be so, but we simply love the taste and any health benefits are a bonus.

Here’s how we prepare them for breakfast – just as Mom did them for us as kids:

  • Refrigerate the ripe papaya overnight
  • In the morning, slice in half lengthwise and remove the seeds (seeds are edible and healthy so keep them if you like)
  • Slice lengthwise into 1″ strips
  • Peel the strips close to the skin (much like filleting a fish)
  • Cut strips into 1″ pieces
  • Place in a bowl and sprinkle liberally with lemon juice (if you have a sweet tooth you can add a little sugar at this point)
  • Toss gently and serve immediately – delicious

 

A new twist on wine tours

The Vergenoegd winery in South Africa has come up with a novel way of boosting sales.

duck-parade

Hundreds of ducks employed to eradicate pests damaging vines at Vergenoegd Wine Estate have proved to be such a hit with visitors that wine sales have doubled in less than a year. The owners of the estate have elevated the status of the colony of flightless Indian Runner ducks – which discretely ate snails in the vineyards for decades – turning them into a media sensation by staging thrice-daily duck parades. The nearly 1000 ducks enjoyed yet another moment of international fame this week when they were featured in the Wall Street Journal. Earlier this year‚ the estate hired a full-time social-media manager to work with a duck breeder and duck master – or “flock flagman”- to tend to the ducks. It took a month to train them to be on their best behavior for visitors. “In the beginning they’d run inside the garden and destroy all the vegetables‚” duck master Denzel Matthys told the newspaper. Visitor numbers have soared since the creatures were transformed into celebrity farm workers.

The name “Vergenoegd” is Dutch for “far enough”. Probably it was chosen since the farmers had come far enough before settling there. This follows a tradition in the area of exasperated farm names. Our favorite is a winery called “Allesverloren” whose founders tried everything before planting Portuguese grapes and producing, in our opinion, the finest Port outside of Portugal. “Allesverloren” is also Dutch and is translated as “all is lost”, the farmers were obviously at the end of their tether at the time. If you want to take a look see, here’s their website:   https://www.allesverloren.co.za/

Buy Texan, support our local farmers

Adam Thompson and his wife Lori Lynn own Thompson Dairy Farms (formerly South Texas Cheese Factory) located in Bayview. They make goat’s milk cheese the old fashioned way using raw milk, culture, salt and rennet only.

thompsons

H-E-B recently picked up two of their products – a “classic” aged goat feta and a marinated version, both found in the stores’ specialty cheese departments. Thompson said that as far as he knows it’s the only goat cheese available at H-E-B made from raw milk, unpasteurized, with no preservatives. The Thompsons have gone from peddling their goat cheese products mostly at farmers’ markets to seeing them on the shelves of 27 H-E-B stores in Texas, including locations in Brownsville, Harlingen, Port Isabel and the McAllen-Pharr-Edinburg metro area.

gotexanAmerica imports over 50 percent of its goat cheese, most of it the fresh pasteurized variety, which tends to have a stronger flavor than the artisan-type cheeses like the Thompsons make. Thompson said the company aims to get more products into stores in 2017, such as its “Goat Gooda” and “Goat-Chego” cheeses.

We wish them well in their enterprise and since we are addicted to Feta, we shall definitely support them.

Cotton harvest in full swing

Cotton is one of the major crops here in the valley. In roaming around the area we notice a flurry of activity in the cotton fields and at the gins in the Port of Harlingen. To the untrained eye, it appears to be a bumper harvest compared to previous years.

Texas leads the U.S. in cotton production and it is the leading cash crop, ranking only behind the beef and nursery industries in total cash receipts.

It is no small wonder that the production of cotton contributes significantly to the economy of the state. In addition to the production of cotton by growers, the industry supports the ginning, warehousing, transportation, selling and processing of cotton and cotton products within Texas. Each initial dollar invested in the cotton industry generates many more additional dollars through to the finished processing and final sale of the end product.

2016 statistics – according to the National Cotton Council and the United States Department of Agriculture, Texas has 5,500,000 acres of planted cotton (a 14.6% increase over 2015). This is almost 9,000 square miles! The total acreage in the US planted with cotton is 10,023,000 acres. This means that 55% of cotton grown in the US is grown right here in Texas! As best we can calculate, the yield per acre is about 1.1 bales?