The greenhouse has been getting a few upgrades. There are now three 100 gallon ponds. The aquaponics has been a great success for herbs, lettuces and other green veggies. I experimented with peppers but the peppers we grew in the ground far outproduced the aquaponic plants; easily 10 to 1. Yes, it is a lot easier to grow in the aquaponics system but the harder work has been well worth it.

Genovese Basil in the Aquaponics

We purchased a gallon of habaƱero peppers from Two Happy Children Farm. This was a variety we didn’t grow. Next season we will have these as well as Poblanos that we missed out on growing.

Two Happy Children Peppers

The peppers were turned into an amazingly hot but delicious Fire Sauce. I came up with a few inappropriate names for it but decided to keep it clean.

Round Rock Funny Farm Fire Sauce

Our quail have hatched. We have 12 baby Seven Bobwhite Quail running around the brooding box. They don’t seem to eat as much as baby chickens but they sure run a lot faster. Our plan is to breed them and keep 25-30 around to be used as food for the dog and kiddo. The eggs should be yummy combined with sushi too.

The first hatchlings

So tiny!

We’re having a rockin’ summer here on the Funny Farm. The heat is blazing and it’s the driest summer we’ve had since the Farm started. It’s not stopping us though. Hand watering the gardens has been taking 2-3 hours per day.

The heat has brought out the predators too; we’ve lost a few chickens. I will be building some simple snares to catch whatever has been dining on free meals.

Our quail eggs arrived and put in the incubator right away. The hatching date will be August 6th or 7th. The intention is to have quail eggs for meals and breed the quail to help feed the dog and kiddo.

Seven Bobwhite Quail eggs

Our rooster is huge. Over 10 lbs and quite protective of his girls. I’m sure he’s left a few scars on the animal that is taking a hen here and there.

R.L. (Rusty’s Lunch) our Rooster

Our pepper experiment has worked out a little too well. I selected 8 varieties to see which tastes we like and how well they grow. All but two plants have done extremely well. The cubanelles (think pizza peppers), are almost 5 feet tall and producing new peppers everyday. All of the varieties will be grown until November or so of this year.

A day’s harvest of mixed peppers

Mackenzie took a beekeeping class while she was home for a week during summer break. Round Rock Honey offered a nice deal on a kids’ Bee Keeper Discovery Camp. She had a lot of fun and managed to get really close to thousands of bees.

Our new beekeeper

Bees getting drunk on honey

Honeybee brood comb with the queen at center

This post was started weeks ago, had to get it finalized. Expect another post shortly with pictures of our baby quail!

The pressure cooker is getting to see some serious use this year. This week, we’re canning 95 lbs of tomatoes. Our tomatoes didn’t fare too well this season, so these tomatoes were purchased from various farmers at the Round Rock Farmer’s Market. We bought 40 lbs from Johnson’s Backyard Garden, 25 lbs from Two Happy Children Farm and 30 lbs from Bush Farms.

The pressure cooker getting a workout.

Most of the tomatoes will be quartered and canned with a small amount of lemon juice and salt. A few of the San Marzanos will be pureed into a plain tomato sauce. The select few, combined with tomatoes from our gardens, will be made into more yummy Yard Salsa.

Part of the process.

I’ve given my hand at baking a few different breads that we enjoy. Today, Pita Bread were made. The recipe was found on the web and quite easy to make. It’s nice to see a yummy product that has 5 ingredients opposed to the 20 in store-bought Pitas.

Homemade Pita Breads

Outside, the gardens are still cranking. A new aquaponics bed was assembled in the greenhouse. This system is developing into a kit of sorts. In the future, a parts list and instructions will be posted. It can be made with parts from your local hardware store.

The basil sprouts have already started. We’re not too concerned with raising the fish for food, so only a few will live in the pond. To stock the pond, we caught a few bream and a catfish in the local creek.

The upcoming aquaponics kit.

Aquaponics Basil Sprouts

More homemade stuff is happening on the Funny Farm. Today was busy with Roasted Corn Yard Salsa. Made completely with homegrown veggies and a small amount of time, it is quite tasty. The final ears of corn for the year were harvested yesterday and roasted this morning. We’ve had a good harvest of heirloom tomatoes over the last 2 days and were perfect for salsa making. Of course, our peppers haven’t slowed down one bit and we’ve been looking for more ways to use them all. These few jars may only last a week or two at most. Mackenzie and I ate the 5th jar today.


Roast Corn Yard Salsa


We’re also looking into making all of our own tortillas, crackers and breads. Crackers were quite easy and today’s experiment yielded some yummy Spicy Salt and Pepper crackers. Next time, I want to use baking sheets without edges so I can make thinner crackers. Today’s were plenty crunchy, but some very thin and crispy crackers was the goal.

Spicy Salt & Pepper Crackers

Learning how to make bread really isn’t that tough. Verifying the ingredients before assembly has shown tough today. By mistake, this Honey Wheat Bread has become a very tasty and high protein wheat bread.

Honey Wheat Bread?

The kiddo is shipping out to Camp Longhorn on Sunday. She’s getting some customized gear to mark it as hers. The knot on the bottle is a Turkshead in a bight and the knot on the flashlight is a repeated Over and Under Heaving Line Knot, also called a “Rattlesnake Knot.” I did retain some knowledge from being a Boy Scout for a few years – Thanks, Dad.

Custom Gear

We’re still super busy around the farm. Anne has been photographing quite a few weddings lately. Which has left me to fill my time with odd jobs around the house. Sewing custom sand bags and light stand bags, lots of cooking, pickling peppers, and of course more gardening.

Preserving vegetables has become pretty important. It will allow us to become more sustainable by extending our harvests. At the last post, I had managed to make Kimchi. It was really tasty. This time I experimented with  pickling peppers. It’s very simple with vinegar, water, salt, peppercorns, carrots, garlic and peppers. One jar will be pushed to the back of the fridge to test the canning process. The other won’t last very long since we like our foods spicy.

Spicy pickled peppers with carrots and garlic.

More aquaponic growing is going to happen in the greenhouse. These trays will be filled with gravel once the siphons are installed. They’ll be used to grow lettuce, greens and herbs. We’ve found that fruiting vegetables grow much better in the ground as we can control the nutrients that the plants get. Higher nitrogen and lower phosphorous and potassium in the aquaponics grows great, green veggies.

new aquaponics for lettuce

We’ve found a variety of watermelons that are hardy enough for the area. Our gardens get full, blazing sun in the afternoons and it has roasted other varieties.

Watermelons!!

With all of Anne’s wedding photography going on this summer, she needed some new gear. Sand bags usually come in plain back and sell for around $25 each. Getting out the old Elna SU, I managed to make 4 custom sandbags and 2 custom light stand bags for a total $60. Now Anne has some cool, custom gear and we saved a bunch of money. My Etsy store is coming soon.

Sandbags and lightstands

While the kiddo was out of town, I pulled out the old RC truck for repairs. Managed to get the engine running and tuned only to find the differentials are trashed. Trying to drive and steer with one wheel locked up was no fun. Parts have been ordered. While waiting, the entire truck will be cleaned and oiled. Then it’s up for sale. Yeah, selling the truck to get a helicopter… too bad I can’t do that with my real truck.

My truck exploded.

The farm sure has been a busy place. Updates haven’t been made here in quite some time. Lots of updates have been going on with the farm though. We’ve expanded a bit in size and added a few more veggies to the mix. I will try to keep pictures better updated for everyone.

A new, small chick hutch was built as a staging point so they can eat some developer feed for a bit. That should help turn them into some nice egg laying hens. Unfortunately, we’ve been dealing with a few predators. Solved the problem with the cat eating chickens by installing a finer mesh screen for protection. Skunks however, don’t mind digging underneath the entire building. Last night, our local skunk decided it needed 3 chicks for dinner.

Peppers in the aquaponic system have been growing well but not producing as many peppers as the ground planted variety. The plants look a bit healthier but that is mostly due to less wind exposure. The hot, dry winds have been wreaking havoc on the front yard gardens.

Potatoes have been hilled several times. We should have a nice crop of purple potatoes this fall. Golden celery was also planted to experiment with. It’s handling the heat very well so far. The hardier of the plants will be left to grow out to seed for next season.

Watermelons are growing very successfully for us this year. Lots of mulch was key to keeping the soil moist for them. A few of the melons are nearly the size of an 8 year olds head. We should be picking and eating in just a few weeks.

Even in a drought, tomatoes can be over-watered. I managed to stunt their growth a little by keeping the soil too saturated which locked up some of the nutrients. After backing off for a few days and then adding a foliar feed spray, they’ve turned back around and started setting tomatoes again.

We’ve forgotten the name of these but they’ll just be Backyard Grapes for now. They’re ripening up nicely. We won’t have enough for wine making but we’re learning more about growing better grapes for the future.

In order to determine the best growing pepper for our yard, we’re growing 8 types. The jalapenos, serranos and bull nosed bells are all doing great. In fact, I’ll be pickling peppers this week as they’re producing quite a few peppers every day.

The raised-bed corn experiment is doing very well. Next year, we’ll need to make sure it’s in the ground 2-3 weeks sooner than this year. There won’t be a big harvest but it should all be pretty tasty.

One of the fig trees out front. Hopefully it will start setting fruit. This one hasn’t been a producer yet.

Here are a few bottles of the spicy kimchi I’ve made. All the recipes I could find varied with seasonings and vegetables. I decided to use what we had and make up my own pickling recipe. It is really tasty and will be a great way to save money. This much kimchi at the farmer’s market would be around $30. I made all of this for about $6.

Well the greenhouse is finally ready to be a greenhouse. It gets quite warm and roasty in there during the day. Only took a year or so to get it finished up with no outside help. The next step will be making the solar collector for the radiant floor heating. However, my Urban Greenhouse Controller is still in the works for the Renesas contest. It gets priority for a few days now.

Front view of the greenhouse.

Potting soil has been made from sifted compost, peat moss, vermiculite and a bit our homemade organic fertilizer blend. We’ve started a few seeds and the rest of the trays will be filled this week. This is only a start. We hope to have 3 tiers on each wall of seedlings. There will be plenty of tomato seedlings for sale and trade. This year we are planning on a lot of Cherokee Purple tomatoes. Sliced with Buratta, they can’t be beat.

The start…

The baby chickens have been outside a bit. Temperatures are still a bit cool to let them roam. They don’t seem to mind getting a little sun on a breezy day.

The new chickens, 1 month old.

We’ve also been working hard at making a math game. If we can hurry, we’ll make it an instructable and enter it into the microcontroller contest at Instructables.com. All of the hardware is solved. It’s on breadboard now with a custom printed circuit board in the works. It is powered by a ATMega328p (as a barebones arduino) and programmed with a Bus Pirate. The software is being tweaked and should be done in a few days.

Our Money Math Game

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