How to Get Ready for Fall Raised-bed Garden in Zone 9A


The Fall garden season in Zone 9A is right around the corner. Although it will still be hot for a while, there is a lot that needs done to prepare. Let’s talk about some of the things needed done to get ready for the Fall garden season.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones

First, just a word on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map. The hardiness zones are based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, divided into 10-degree F zones. In Southeast Louisiana, we are in Zone 9A. Zones are provided by the USDA to help gardeners understand which plants can survive their region’s climate, especially winter frost/freeze conditions. This help the gardener determine what plants, especially perennials, will thrive in the weather conditions of their zone. This, combined with the first Fall and last Spring frost dates, are also critical. For late Summer, you will need to select and start vegetables (annuals) that you can harvest by the first Fall frost date unless they can withstand a frost.

USDA Plant Hardiness Map of Louisiana

See link to USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Maps (National, South Central US, ).

LSU AgCenter – Planting Guide

The LSU AgCenter publishes a vegetable planting guide providing valuable information to help Louisiana gardeners understand the optimum time to plant different types of vegetables, spacing, depth, days to maturity, etc., along with recommended varieties. This information, combined with the hardiness zone and frost date information, provides critical information needed to plan which types of vegetables you want to plant in you Fall and Spring garden and when. All states have something similar so I’m sure you can just Google it.

Plant from Seed

In my garden, I plant everything from seed, because I like to plant more of a variety than what I can get at the local nursery. I already have seeds that I’ve saved or were purchased from last Fall. I typically buy my seeds from either Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds or Seed Savers Exchange as I love their huge variety. However, any online seed vendor or your local nursery will work.

For my Fall gardening, I usually start vegetables like cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower off in small 4″ plastic seedling pots outside. They are placed where they will receive some sun but not too much. I do this so I can grow them without pressure from the intense heat then I’ll transplant them directly into the garden as they get a bit bigger (and hopefully, it cools off a bit).

Fall Garden seedlings for Zone 9A
Fall Garden Seedlings
Fall Garden seedlings for Zone 9A
Fall Garden Seedlings

Amending the Soil

We need to make sure the soil is prepared to support another season of plants. The soil must be loose and friable, drain well, and provide both the macro- and micro-nutrients that the plants need. Remember that I had plants here during the Spring/Summer so they “used up” nutrients so we’ll need to put some back. Because of this, I’ll work in some of my own compost from my compost tumbler, along with composted cow and chicken manure, mushroom compost, some perlite, and some sphagnum peat moss to increase quality and volume of soil. I usually mix in a little Azomite Rock dust because I want a micro-nutrient boost.

Note: The magical mix for great soil is 1/3 sphagnum moss, 1/3 vermiculite or perlite and 1/3 compost (3 – 5 different sources of compost). My raised beds that started with this mix still outperforms those where I used garden mix from the local nursery. I have been amending the soil in those beds so they are catching up but the original beds with this mix still have the best performance.

Amending the Soil
Amending the Soil
Amending the Soil
Amending the Soil

Direct Sow or Transplant

Some seeds do better if they are planted directly into the garden soil as opposed to being planted in a pot, then transplanted. The root structure of some plants will not withstand the impact of removing it from the pot then re-planting into the garden soil. For example, most root plants like beets, radishes, etc., will do better if sowed directly in the garden soil and not in a pot.

Direct sow seeds in garden
Direct Seeded in the Garden Soil

Darrell’s Lineup for the Fall Garden

I will plant a variety of vegetables over the next number of weeks. For some, I will plant again a few weeks later (succession planting), so I can keep harvesting throughout the winter, especially plants like lettuce, peas, etc. This includes:

TypeWhen to PlantDays to Maturity
Beets8/15 – 10/155 – 60
Broccoli8/15 – 10/1570 – 90
Brussel Sprouts8/15 – 10/1590
Cabbage8/15 – 10/1565 – 75
Carrots9/1 – 11/170 – 75
Celery10/1 – 11/1210
Cauliflower7/1 – 10/1555 – 65
Chinese Cabbage7/15 – 10/160 – 80
Garlic10/1 – 11/30210
Greens, Collard3/15 – 10/175
Greens, Mustard8/1 – 3/1535 – 50
Kale9/2 – 3/1560
Kohlrabi8/15 – 10/3055 – 75
Lettuce8/15 – 9/3045 – 80
Peas9/1 – 9/1560 – 70
Radish9/1 – 11/122 – 28
Spinach10/1 – 2/2835 – 45
Swish Chard8/15 – 10/3045 – 55
Turnips8/1 – 2/2840 – 50

Success in Fall Gardening

We can grow year-round with the mild weather we have here in Zone 9A. As a gardener, be aware of what plant hardiness zone you are located in and become knowledgeable of what that means, along with the first and last frost dates. In addition, find out what local planting guides are available that will give specific direction for your location. Therefore, if we know what and when we can grow, we’ve amended our soil, started seeds when needed, and take care when transplanting plants, then we will have a successful Fall garden.

Please let us know how you like this post or have suggestions on future posts. If you have any questions on any of the plants discussed, feel free to drop a comment.

Enjoy! Remember, if you can dream it, you can do it!

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Garden Update (08-21-2020)

Our backyard organic raised-bed and container garden is doing pretty well considering it’s getting to end of the summer. I’ve already pulled most of my Spring/Summer plants as they just won’t continue to produce and thrive in this heat (95 F with heat index over 100 F). We had tons of tomatoes, tomatillos and cucumbers already this spring/summer. We also got to enjoy some squash, eggplants, cantaloupes, (new) potatoes, ground cherries, beets, carrots and some fresh green beans. Erin will have some good fall decorations from the ornamental corn we grew, although the sweet corn didn’t do too well this year. The squash plants produced well early but the squash vine borer grubs killed those plants and some succession planting of squash as well. They also killed some gourd plants. All in all, we had a good spring/summer garden harvest with peppers and okra really enjoying the heat now!

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Partial view of the raised bed garden

We need to start preparing for the Fall garden. One of the things that I always do in the Spring and in the Fall is put pine straw down in the walkways to keep the weeds down. I’ve used red pine bark in the past but that tends to float away from where it was placed due to the heavy downpours we often have.

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Placing pine straw on walkways to help keep weeds from growing
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Croix likes the pine straw

We’ve also need to start thinking about planting some seeds for our Fall garden. I’ve gotten started with some Cauliflower and will plant some Broccoli and Cabbage seeds this weekend. I will be planting some garlic like the last few years but will wait until around Oct 1st. Other plants for the Fall garden include beets, turnips, lima beans, brussel sprouts, chinese cabbage, carrots, kohlrabi, lettuce, sweet peas and spinach. What else do you like to grow? Hint: Check your state’s recommendations on when to plant crops. For example, LSU’s AgCenter has a planting guide for Louisiana.

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Cauliflower plants from seed (almost 2 weeks old)

Finally, to get ready for Fall planting, I’ll work in some of my own compost from my compost tumbler, along with composted cow and chicken manure, mushroom compost, some perlite, and some sphagnum peat moss or coco coir to increase quality and volume of soil. I usually mix in a little Azomite Rock dust for a micro-nutrient boost.

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Fall garden compost and pine straw

As for the existing plants, the jalapeño peppers are doing quite well. I’ve got a couple of varieties including Craig’s Grande, Orange Spice, Pumpkin Spice and Brown Jalapeño peppers. I’ll make cowboy caviar (a sweet and spicy mix) and can them along with stuffing some with cream cheese and sausage and maybe wrap some bacon around them for appetizers.

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Craig’s Grande Jalapeño Pepper
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Pepper, Orange Spice Jalapeño

I have some Ozark Giant and Purple Beauty Bell Peppers growing as well.

Pepper, Purple Beauty

I planted a couple of varieties of mustard greens and they are coming up fast. There’s also a some collard greens mixed in. I’ll wait another few weeks and plant some more (succession planting)

Japanese Giant Red and Green Wave Mustard Greens, along with a few Georgia Southern Collard Greens

I have some cucumbers on a “cattle panel” trellis that have been very productive but are slowing up now due to the heat. Earlier in the summer they were so productive we couldn’t eat and give enough of them away.

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Tokiwa “Tokyo Green” Cucumber

I planted two varieties of watermelon, Sugar Baby and Stars and Moon (Cherokee). I have this Sugar Baby but can’t wait for the Stars and Moon watermelon to get to size.

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Watermelon, Sugar Baby

The okra is doing well as it loves this time of the year.

Okra, Jing Orange

The squash vine borer has already taken out all but one squash plant and it is has been invaded as well (see picture). I cut 6 of these grubs out from this squash plant. Do any of you have this problem? How do we stop them? This bug is so frustrating!

I have a number of items planted in containers including a Tamarillo tree, Improved Meyer Lemon tree, Goji berry bush, Calamondin Orange, Sam Sweet Cherry tree, figs and blueberry bushes.

Tamarillo fruit on the tree
Goji Berry (looking kind of rough but has been fruiting all summer)

I always have around some herbs as well and use them often in our cooking.

Basil, Thai and Purple
Sage

I always ensure to intersperse various flower varieties to attract pollinators. Without them, most vegetable plants would not fruit. Some flower species, like Marigolds, actually deter certain pests from getting on your good plants so that’s a good flower to plant in the middle of beds.

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Salvia, Victoria
Zinnia
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Strawberry Fields Gomphrena
Tornado Red Cockscomb

I will provide a garden update post every month or so. Please let us know how you like this post or have suggestions on future posts. If you have any questions on any of the plants shown, feel free to drop a comment.

Enjoy! Remember, if you can dream it, you can do it!

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“Real” Cajun Spaghetti Cook and Plate

Real Cajun Spaghetti Meat Sauce

Everybody knows to make traditional spaghetti you’ve got to use a lot of tomatoes in your sauce, and maybe even some italian sausage. Nope, I’m here to tell you there’s another way and its incredibly good and authentically Cajun. What’s the difference you say? The Cajun way is to first make a roux using flour and oil, and that forms the base for your sauce. Erin’s Grandmother, Nita Rivoire Davis (GG), from Breaux Bridge, LA, came up with the recipe a number of years back. GG is not with us anymore but her cooking and recipes sure live on.

Make sure you’ve got all the ingredients ready as once you start the roux you will be steady busy for a little while. The good thing is the ingredient list is not too long:

Again, the element that makes this authentic Cajun is the introduction of the roux. To make a roux, you will mix equal parts vegetable or canola oil with all-purpose flour. So, one cup of oil and one cup of flour. Add the oil to your cast iron pot and heat it up to medium or a little higher (6 or 7). Let it come up to temperature. Sprinkle just a bit of flour and see if it starts cooking/bubbling in the oil. If so, your oil is hot enough. Go ahead and pour in about a 1/4 cup at a time. Use your flat-side wooden utensil or a whisk and mix it up so that there are no lumps. Then add another 1/4 cup, until you mix it all in and there are no lumps. To avoid burning, continue stirring the roux so that it doesn’t stay in one spot for long.

Early in the roux cooking process

When making the roux, since it may take 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how dark you want it, consider the following:

  • Use a wooden flat sided utensil to ensure you are moving all the flour around
  • Use a figure-8 movement while also scraping from one side to the other and repeat, over and over. Pay special attention to the corners where the flour can build up.
  • Don’t get in a hurry as you don’t want to burn the roux. Adjust the temperature as necessary. You will get a feel for how hot the oil is by the temperature, the sound, the way it sticks to the bottom of the pot and the smell. Use all your senses!
  • Don’t leave the pot and keep stirring until it’s at the color (see below) and consistency you are looking for.
  • Traditionalist would smack me around, but if you are in a hurry, you can substitute the homemade roux with pre-made from the grocery store like Savoie’s Light or Dark Roux. GG, please forgive me!
  • Hint: Get a snack and your favorite beverage before getting started.
Nice medium roux – needs to be just a bit darker

The next major steps involved the addition of the tomato sauce, the vegetables (or seasonings per GG Nita), then the ground meat. I used 85/15 ground meat but any type of ground meat will do.

Add the 2 small cans of tomato sauce to the roux and cook for 5 minutes

Add seasonings, mix, and cook until soft
Add ground meat and cook, spooning out grease as necessary
Cajun Sphagetti meat sauce

To finish the meat sauce, I add a little kosher salt and fresh black pepper to taste. I like to plate the Cajun meat sauce over spaghetti pasta with fresh or frozen sweet peas and some garlic and/or cheese Texas Toast. I personally add a bit of “Slap Your Mama” Cajun Seasoning from Ville Platte, LA, and a little Sriracha if I’m in the mood for a little heat. You season it how you like it. Of course, don’t forget to add a bit of parmesan cheese to your Cajun Spaghetti!

There are a few alternatives you can try that will adjust the flavor and/or make it a bit more healthy.

  • Try some fried bacon or pancetta. I’ve even added some browned tasso. This adds to the depth of the flavor.
  • Italian sausage can be added in either links or bulk.
  • Meatballs can be added made from either ground beef, pork, or italian sausage.
  • Mushrooms can be added as well.
  • You can cook the ground meat first and drain the grease before adding to the sauce to make it a bit more healthy.
  • Serving it over spiral cut zucchini and do away with the Texas Toast will dramatically drop the carbs.

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Real Cajun Spaghetti Meat Sauce

“Real” Cajun Spaghetti Meat Sauce

An authentic cajun meat sauce created by my wive's Great Grandmother from Breaux Bridge, LA. The Cajun way is to first make a roux using flour and oil, and that forms the base for your sauce.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs 30 mins
Total Time 3 hrs
Course Main Course
Cuisine Cajun, Italian
Servings 8

Equipment

  • Cast Iron Pot

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup All-purpose Flour
  • 1 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 2 small cans Tomato Sauce
  • 2 – 3 Onions, White
  • 4 cloves Garlic
  • 2 Peppers, Bell
  • 3 lbs Ground Meat
  • Parsley for garnishment
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Cajun Seasoning to taste

Instructions
 

  • Chop up your vegetables and put them in a bowl, cover and place them in the refrigerator. Hopefully you are using fresh vegetables from the garden.
  • Next, we need to make a roux. Put a cup of vegetable oil in your cast iron pot and bring up to medium-high temperature. Keep stirring the roux using a wooden flat edge spoon (preferably)so you keep moving the particle of flour around and so that it doesn't stay in the same place and possibly burn. This can take 30 minutes to an hour.
  • Add in the 2 small cans of tomato sauce. Mix it all together and cook for about 5 minutes.
  • Add in the cut up seasonings (vegetables). Cook until seasonings get soft.
  • Add in 3 lbs. of ground meat. Allow all the meat to brown spooning off the grease as you go (if needed).
  • Let cook for 30 minutes.
  • Add water to reach the desired thickness of the sauce.
  • Cook for 1 or more hours to really get the flavors all dancing in harmony with each other.
  • Boil spaghetti pasta.
  • You can serve the meat sauce over the spaghetti or mix the pasta with the sauce and serve together with some fresh or frozen sweet green peas and some garlic Texas toast.
Keyword Cajun, Meat Sauce, Roux, Spaghetti Sauce

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Now, enjoy the simple life by sitting with your family or friends, and eating some good Cajun Spaghetti.  Please let us know how you like this post or have suggestions on future posts.

Enjoy! Remember, if you can dream it, you can do it!

Please LIKE this post. If you have any COMMENTS or QUESTIONS, please post below. Please SUBSCRIBE to our BLOG for additional great content.

Explore Downtown Baton Rouge

A couple of weekends back, we took the opportunity to go downtown and visit a few of the attractions. It turned out to be a beautiful, but hot, morning. We got to get some walking in while spending time together taking some snapshots and videos of the sights. If you’ve never seen the Mississippi River or downtown Baton Rouge, then you are in far a treat.

Explore Baton Rouge

Our first stop was the old State Capitol which is across the road from the Mississippi River levee. The city of Baton Rouge donated the plot of land to the state for the new capitol building back in 1847. Work was initiated in July 1847 and the official groundbreaking was held in October. The Louisiana Legislature met for the first time in January 1850 under Gov. Isaac Johnson. This building was used as the State Capitol until the new State Capitol was opened in 1932. The architecture is unique and the staircase leading up to the stained-glass cathedral dome is beautiful.

Louisiana’s Old State Capitol
Louisiana’s Old State Capitol – Grand Staircase
Louisiana’s Old State Capitol – Stained-glass cathedral dome

Our next visit was up on the Mississippi River Levee where we had a great view of the boat traffic, casinos, the old and new Mississippi River bridges, USS Kidd destroyer, Port of Greater Baton Rouge and West Baton Rouge/Port Allen (other side of the river).

The Mississippi River is a major pathway to port and industry throughout Louisiana and beyond.  A 45-foot shipping channel to the mouth of the Mississippi River is maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Ships and tug boat traffic is a way of life on the great Mississippi river. The Port of Greater Baton Rouge ranks among the U.S. top ports in total tonnage.

Port of Greater Baton Rouge
Barge traffic on the mighty Mississippi River

The USS KIDD (DD-661) is a Fletcher-class destroyer. It was named after Rear Admiral Isaac Campbell Kidd, Sr. who was killed aboard his flagship, USS ARIZONA (BB-39) during the surprise attack by the Japanese on the American fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941

Today, USS KIDD is moored in the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and is the centerpiece of the USS Kidd Veterans Museum. She rests in a docking system designed for the near forty foot rise and fall of the river each season. Half of the year, she rides the currents of the Mississippi; the other half, she sits dry-docked in a cradle where visitors can see her full dimensions. Restored to her August, 1945 configuration, the USS KIDD is one of the most authentic and accurate restorations in the Historic Fleet.

USS KIDD (DD-661) in Baton Rouge, LA
USS KIDD (DD-661) in Baton Rouge, LA

The old and new Mississippi River bridges span the East and West sides of the Mississippi river in central and North Baton Rouge. The new Mississippi River bridge, actually named the Horace Wilkinson Bridge, is a cantilever bridge carrying Interstate 10 in Louisiana across the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge in East Baton Rouge Parish to Port Allen in West Baton Rouge Parish. It was opened on April 10, 1968 and has a total length of 4,550 feet.

A couple of points of interest on the new Bridge: First, you can actually feel the bridge shake as you drive across it. Secondly, you get a great view of the LSU Football stadium, affectionally called “Death Valley”, especially all lit up at night. Finally, a majority of traffic coming eastbound into Baton Rouge from Port Allen/West Baton Rouge on I-10 necks down to one lane which can be a real traffic problem at certain times of the day.

View of LSU Football and Basketball stadiums looking Southeast while going Eastbound on bridge

The Mississippi River originates at Lake Itasca in Minnesota with numerous other rivers and tributaries feeding it as it runs through or along 10 different states. As mentioned above, the Mississippi River sees close to a 40 foot swing in depth throughout the year. A tremendous amount of silt and debris float down the river as it runs through Baton Rouge and New Orleans and eventually feeds out into the Gulf of Mexico.

Entrance/Exit to the pier out over the Mississippi River and partial view of Raising Cane’s River Center
Walking pier on Mississippi Review (debris give an idea of how the river often gets)
Trees stuck on pier supports showing a previous higher water level
Silt deposit creating a small island

We got a special treat while on the levee when a train come from the direction of the old Mississippi River Bridge where Exxon’s Baton Rouge Refinery and other plants are located.

Train right beside the levee
Train right beside the levee

The new State Capital was built after 14 months and was opened back in 1932. The Governor of Louisiana at that time, Governor Huey P. Long, was instrumental is getting this project off the ground. It is the tallest capitol in the United States, standing 450 feet high and has 34 floor, along with an observation deck on the 27th floor. It stands taller than any other building in Baton Rouge. Unfortunately for Governor Huey P. Long, he was assassinated in 1935 in the building and is buried on the grounds and his statue faces the Capitol.

New Louisiana State Capitol

Of course, we decided to drive closer to the LSU campus to get a few more pictures of the LSU Football Stadium. We included a few below.

LSU Football Stadium
LSU Football Stadium
LSU Stadium from the inside versus Florida (Pre-game)

All in all, it was a great day. It’s always fun heading out of the house and doing stuff with the family after being somewhat cooped up in our house due to COVID-19. Come check out the sights yourself with your family and/or friends, make memories, and enjoy the simple life together.

Enjoy! Remember, if you can dream it, you can do it!

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Louisiana Simple Living – Who we are

Hello from Louisiana Simple Living! My name is Darrell, along with my wife and much better half Erin, my son Ryan and daughter Amanda, welcome you to our BLOG. Our lives wouldn’t be complete without our two standard poodles named Croix and Roux. Together, we are a family from Baton Rouge, LA, living the simple life and want to share that with you. Along the way we will share some knowledge and inspiration while also getting much more back in return.

Croix (black) and Roux (apricot)

What are we about?

  • Family is everything. Family gives you the roots to stand tall and strong. We spend as much time together as we can with our entire family. We have family over for fun and food as often as we can.     
  • We want to be as self-sufficient and healthy as we can. We have a large backyard organic raised bed garden and herb planter.  We want to know where our food comes from and this helps us do just that.
  • We constantly strive to live a healthier lifestyle. The garden helps maintain a low carb lifestyle and we try to get plenty exercise whether that’s walking the dogs or working out at the gym.   
  • We love to cook and eat well, especially produce from the garden. We grill, roast, and cook on the stovetop. We love to boil crawfish, shrimp, and crabs. We love trying food and recipes we’ve never experienced. We feel that cooking is a way to explore new thoughts, cultures, and tastes.
  • We love to have fun with family and friends.  We love to laugh, have fun and believe that is important for our wellbeing. 
  • Louisiana is a great state and want to share our love of Louisiana and its culture, places, and people. Southeast Louisiana’s unique Cajun influence is indeed unique and special.
  • We are openly patriotic and proud to be living in the greatest country that’s ever existed. USA!  USA! USA!
  • We’ve had the opportunity to work and live in a few different places throughout the USA and the world.  We had great experiences at each of these places.  But, there’s no place like home!   Louisiana provides such a great culture with friendly people and warm weather. 
  • We believe in a higher power and our faith helps keep our family centered on the things that are truly important.

You will see posts on our BLOG covering topics such as::

  • Cooking: Salsa Verde – From the Garden to the Jar
  • Gardening: Specific educational posts talking about topics like soil science, organic gardening methods, related to growing your own produce from your backyard organic raised bed garden.
  • DIY/Home: Building a rustic headboard and squirrel picnic table.
  • Louisiana Heritage: Visit to Avery Island, where the tabasco peppers are grown and Tabasco is bottled (when COVID-19 allows us).
  • Travel/Outdoors: Surf fishing at the beach on family vacation.
  • Subscriber suggestions: We want your suggestions on upcoming posts.

Why BLOG:

It is a 2-part answer. First, these are things that we are doing now as we live our lives enjoying the simple life. We believe there is some power in documenting our journey, helping teach or inspire others, and along the way we expect to gain as much or more from you.

Please LIKE this post. If you have any COMMENTS, please post below. Please SUBSCRIBE to our BLOG for additional great content.