Carolyne Castner

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since May 31, 2020
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I'm a professional dog trainer and animal-rescue advocate located in the heart of Central Texas. I live with my amazing husband and daughter, and our tribe of small furry animals.
We're trying to slowly transform our suburban backyard into a sustainable food garden and native pollinator habitat, and we're fighing the HOA every step of the way!
Our long-term goal is to build up skills so we can inherit/retire to the family land in the Texas Hill Country.
Zone 8B Blackland Prairie, Tx
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Recent posts by Carolyne Castner

Hi Kate!
I’d love to help test out some of your recipes! I’m definitely in a different climate zone though 😂

I’m the primary cook in my family, but I like to get my daughter involved whenever possible.

I particularly love recipes that use techniques that have become less common over time (I.e. making a roux for cheese sauces and gravies, using water baths for texture when baking, making pasta by hand, reductions and i’m just starting to dip my fingers into basic fermentation’s)
3 months ago
Hi Shelby!
Glad to see another Texas permie! I'll have to check out your videos to see what all ya'll are growing
Since you said you already have lots of forested land around this bit, I like the idea of leaving the "meadow" for biodiversity. Around where I live the prairie has lots of clusters of small tree/shrubs instead of taller trees. Are there some native shrubs that you could plant that might provide a food source for the local wildlife? Or something for pollinators perhaps? You could also try sowing some kind of cover-crop mix that would improve the soil and also create food for wildlife. My grandparents who live outside Kansas City use a mix of Hairy Vetch, Clover, some kind of field peas and rye on their meadow in the fall, which helps the wildlife forage and build up fat to last through the winter.
3 months ago
I think I have my BB5, but I can’t tell on my mobile device. I’ll double-check on my computer a little later. I like these badges! It’s a great way to show incremental progress and it’s very encouraging to get off my butt and do more!
3 months ago

Mike Haasl wrote:I think for this badge they need to have naturally shown up in their spot and that spot needs to be in a polyculture type situation.  So I think a wild plant in a traditional grass lawn probably doesn't count.  I think two wild plants that show up in a flower bed (assuming a polyculture of many flower varieties) would count.  I think wild plants that show up in a diverse "weedy" lawn that isn't mostly grass might count as a polyculture but I'm not sure.

Ok that makes sense. I’m going to let the “weedy” plants that I’m currently protecting grow to seed as planned, collect some and let the others fall wherever they want! It might take a little longer but they’ll eventually travel around the yard and end up in places where they can grow nicely together
3 months ago

Mike Haasl wrote:Carolyne, for those little pods, one possible way (untried by me and likely to fail miserably) is to pulse them in a blender for a bit.  That's how I get brassica seeds out of their pods.

That’s a good idea! My husband has a little mini coffee grinder that might do the trick. I’ll have to give it a go and see how it works; the seeds are small enough that I think they’d fall under the blades once the pods were cut open
3 months ago
Can I take pictures of wild plants that I'm attempting to cultivate for seed collection? There are a couple "weeds" in my yard that I'm planning to replant/re-seed for future use in my garden. (Horseweed, medicinal value. Milkweed, pollinator plant. "Sensitive" plant Mimosa pudica, nitrogen fixer)
Do they still count if I relocate them to a spot where they can grow with other plants or do they need to be in their "as found" locations? Mine are spread all over my yard currently, with little flags and bits of wire cage around them to protect them from bunnies and over-zealous husbands with lawn mowers...
3 months ago
I've been seed saving all season, and for once I actually tool pictures as I went along! (somewhat....)

I got pictures of my green leaf lettuce: I planted some butts from grocery store lettuce three years ago. These babies pop up all over my yard every year beginning in Feb. I cull all the weakly looking ones and transplant the healthy ones in the garden bed. I haven't actually needed to save seeds since I let them bolt every year and scatter, but I decided to do it this year to share with anyone who wanted some.

I've got pictures from my green onions: similar story, they were from grocery store "trash" parts. They've travelled about 10 ft in the 4 years since I first planted them, and come back strong every spring. Saved some seeds this year as a backup; had a scare with some little critters eating my plants and they munched three of my green onions!

Clemson spinless okra: new to me this year, I bought one plant to save the seeds so I can plant more for next year. Got two pods off my plant, remembered to grab pictures before I cleared all the seeds out of the last pod.

Shishito peppers: oh boy, this guy is my gardening nemesis! I've been trying to grow one for three years now and every year the seedlings and sprouts have died on me. This year I finally managed to grow one and get not only flowers but peppers! I've saved a bunch of the seeds 'cause those suckers are more expensive than I like to shell out (honestly, most seeds are. I like free seeds)

For my seed collecting:
I let the plant bolt, or let the fruit ripen until it starts to dry on the plant. I cut off or collect the seed pods, fruit, etc and put them in a white washtub. Seeds that are dry get extracted and placed into their container (usually baby food jars or old washed-out med bottles). Seeds from fruit and veggies get cleaned and laid out to try on a papertowel for a few days. I use the "snap" test to make sure they're sufficiently dried for storage, then into the jar they go. All jars get labelled with name and year. Jars are stored in the bottom back of my pantry in a cardboard box.  

I have a picture of all the seeds I've saved this year: veggies, herbs, and a couple ornamentals. I'll tell you what's not fun: getting seeds from basil and catnip!! those pods are so stinking tiny and the seeds FLY out when you open them.....I got a little white washtub just for doing my seed collecting/cleaning.

I realized after uploading all my other photos that I forgot a closeup of the okra in it's jar: it is in the jar collection lineup, second from the left!
3 months ago

Ash Jackson wrote:

Carolyne Castner wrote:...Do you have some go-to resources for safely operating large machinery? ...

Each visit to Wheaton Labs, I learn better how to use large machinery just as you describe.

I would bet someone with the PEP Earthworks Sand Badge could be a resource, and keen to share their skills and knowledge, as well.

That’s a good idea, thank you!
As I've been slowly recovering from oral surgery and a bone graft I've been sitting on the couch trying to brainstorm ways to overcome barriers to complete some of my BBs. I don't know why I didn't think of it earlier, but my family ranch has masses of available land that no one would care if I did projects on. My grandpa was a definite renaissance man, and left behind a huge collection of tools at the ranch. There's even a backhoe/bulldozer! Between that, his gardening tools, and the barn full of woodworking equipment I could probably head out there for a weekend and knock out a whole slew of BBs! My last real barrier to getting them completed is a big one; I have no idea how to use the large majority of those tools. Were my grandpa still living, I'd ask him to show me the ropes, but when he passed he took his knowledge with him. None of my family really knows how to use the tools either, and I want to make sure that 1. I can be safe and 2. I don't ruin or break the tools. Do you have some go-to resources for safely operating large machinery? Between the two of us my husband and I can manage the woodworking tools (I used a lot of them under careful supervision of my grandfather when I was younger), but we're both a bit leery of jumping on the backhoe without doing some research beforehand.
It would definitely benefit the whole family if we could get it figured out; there's a lot of work that needs to be done at the ranch that my grandpa used to do with the backhoe and dozer.