Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Planting for a Winter Harvest

I'm looking forward to keeping the garden going over winter. Here's a tool to help keep productivity going. It looks like this is a good time to plant starts for winter gardening. I'd better get busy.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Some Vines Taking Over the World

German Pumpkins. These guys are pretty serious about vines.
 German Pumpkins
 German Pumpkins

German Pumpkins

Sweet Potatoes. I didn't know these things grew on vines!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Dealing with Rain (Barrels)

It's been dry for a couple of weeks, so the rain barrel that I use for the herb garden was getting low. So of course, the weather nerds call for rain. I'd better hurry.

I raised the rain barrel 13", so that the top valve on the side is even with the output on the downspout bypass. That means that the same hose can be both input and overflow simultaneously.

I also replaced both other valves, reinforcing them with the new design, and with marine grade epoxy. Also added quick disconnects to the bottom valve (which we'll be using for plants) and a hose storage device.

The plan is to add some more rain barrels to other gutters later in the season

Turns out that this was just in time. After most of a day of fiddling and pretending, the heavens opened, the waters poured forth, and the rain barrel was filled in minutes.

I was sure glad to have it buttoned up by then!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Cool Stuff on the Last Day of Spring

Zucchini is doing well. Already harvested some. Love it barbecued.

Believe it or not, we couldn't get zukes to grow over the last couple of years.

This is exciting. I've never actually been successful with onions before. These are sweet onions, from starts that my sweetheart brought back from the Seattle Garden Show.

If I'm not mistaken, I think we're going to be successful with onions this year.

This is the first melon blossom of the year. This particular vine (and the two next to it) will give the sweetest, tastiest single-serving melons. Each is about the size of a baseball, and incredibly yummy!

From Territorial Seeds.

And this is ginger. I got a package of ginger root from the produce department at Trader Joe's, and divided it between two pots. It's taken at least a month to get this far, and I didn't notice it until now, because it's behind some fairly successful tomatoes, hiding in the sunny corner of the greenhouse.

I hear it'll be a couple of years before we can harvest ginger roots, but I'm looking forward to it!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Is it Right for Chickens to Like Eggs?

I'm not sure it's right, feeding eggs to chickens. But they sure love them.
 Feeding frenzy.
I guess it's good protein for them.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Making Pepper Powder

The process is pretty simple.

  • Get some peppers. 
  • Dehydrate the peppers. 
  • Grind the peppers into powder. 
  • Store the powder in a secure location. 
Note to self: do not rub your eyes or nose when you've been handling hot peppers.  Do not inhale the powder! Just don't do it.

From the top:
  • Serrano's in the dehydrator tray. 
  • Thai in the grinder. 
  • Ground Thai.
  • Some results. 
 Be careful out there, y'all. Someone could get seriously hurt by this.

  • Serrano: 10,000 - 25,000 Scoville.
  • Thai: 50,000 - 100,000 Scoville.
For reference:
  • Jalapeno: 2,000 - 8,000 Scoville.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Foodie Experiments

Experiment One: Drying Peppers:

Got a bunch of chili peppers from the produce stand for cheap, because they were past their prime. I had to sort through a little bit, but they were pretty good.

I'll dehydrate them, and then grind them up and put them in spice bottles: they will be very good.
I think these might be Serrano peppers. Medium heat.
I think these are Anaheim peppers. Kind of mild.
These are Thai chili's. Not even a little bit mild.

(Followup Note: Dehydrating & grinding the peppers into powder does not mellow the heat!)

Experiment Two: Garlic Oil

Step One: Roast a bunch of garlic.

Step Two: Add a bunch of olive oil. I'm told that it doesn't need to be extra virgin or anything.

Step Three: heat it up. Stir well. Mine got to 230 degrees.

Step Four: pour it into a jar. It's probably pretty good now, but it will get better over time. Stir every couple of days.

Step Five: strain the oil, and put it in smaller bottles to use while you're cooking.

This is a pretty heavy garlic:oil ratio, but I wanted the oil to be pretty heavy on the garlic, and this is what I was counseled to go with.

Hints: 3 pounds of peeled garlic is available at Costco for five or six bucks. Olive oil is not expensive there, either.

And the roasting stage is not optional: because garlic grows in the ground, it has bacteria in it, and because it's full of moisture, that bacteria can grow big and strong, even while there's oil around the garlic. So we roast it to be safe, and also because the flavor is richer and deeper.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Things That Are Bearing Fruit Already

Got some things beginning to bear some fruit.

These are pattypan squash.
Broccoli. Small head, but looks yummy.
Cat grass. I don't think it will flower into actual cats, though.
Lemon cucumber. 
Sugar snap peas. This is going to be a pretty good size harvest!
First sunflower. It's small, but it's beautiful.
(And I like the purple things behind it.)

I've harvested basil six or ten times. This came from starts from Trader Joe's produce department: they're famous for not growing well, but these look pretty good.
I've got four successful dill plantings, all multiple plants. Getting the yummy flowers on one. This will be dried for fish.
Got tomatoes showing up on five or six plants. These look like Roma. Several of the mystery tomatoes (that started as weeds!) are fruiting. And several of the hybrid Sun Sugar, from last year's seeds (these may be interesting this year, given that they're from a hybrid) are fruiting

We have peppers on the bell pepper plants. Three peppers are showing so far.

The herb garden (yeah, the one that I thought might be dead... that one!) is thriving. I've harvested spearmint and sage, twice each.
This isn't harvestable yet, by any means. But it needs to be documented in this garden journal, and besides, it's exciting.

This is wormwood. The fact that it's unusual is sufficient reason to grow it. The fact that it's used in absinthe, and I have a friend who makes absinthe is reason to grow it. The fact that it kills bugs in the garden is reason to grow it. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Starting Pineapple

I'm determined. I will get a pineapple started one of these days.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Chickens on June First

Chickens are growing. Very cool.
I've been teaching them how to eat veggies and how to scratch for feed.

They're still incredibly stupid creatures.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Dehydrating Roasted Garlic

I have the best smelling greenhouse in the world. Fifteen heads. Peeled. Roasted. Now we're dehydrating; might take a week. Then we'll grind it into powder and put on the spices shelf.

This stuff is amaazing!


Here's how:

Someone asked if I peeled the garlic, or if I roasted unpeeled garlic. About 90% of them were peeled beforehand in kind of a peeling party. The last 10% were not peeled beforehand, as an experiment, and because I was tired of peeling!

I roasted the two batches separately. I've grown used to roasting veggies in a cast iron skillet in a gas barbecue, so that's how I did these: in a cast iron skillet in a gas barbecue.  Medium heat gave us about 400 degrees inside the barbecue. I stirred them every few minutes. A few got extra dark, but that's not a big concern.

Besides I was grilling dinner, so the barbecue was easy.

The peeled ones had nearly no peels, of course. The un-peeled ones were actually much easier to peel after roasting than before, but weren't as clean, and they tended to burn easier.

They all dehydrated equally well. Took about 2 days in a active dehydrator, with a fan; probably would have taken a week in a passive one. I ground them all this morning in the coffee grinder that I use only for herbs & spices.

Two and a half trays made almost a cup and a half of rich, brown, roasted garlic powder.

I will give a bunch to my kids. The remainder will last us through the end of the year, at least.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Lemon Grass Experiments

I like lemon grass. I want to learn more about how to make the best of it.

The Farmer's Market was completely devoid of lemongrass starts. And I've completely failed at getting it started from seed (so far). I needed another solution.

While I was trying to find lemon grass starts at the Farmer's Market, completely befuddling the guys at the herb starts booths, a little Asian lady interjected: buy some lemon grass at an Asian Foods store and stick it in water.

OK. These came from Capitol Market on the west side. I'm not sure I have a lot of confidence in this one. If they grow well, wahoo! But it wouldn't surprise me if they don't make it. 

This live one came from Bark & Garden, and I've already up-potted it (it came in a quart pot).

I'm pretty sure they grew them from seeds. They're pretty small, and it may take a while to turn into something usable.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Hanging Pots, an Old Fashioned Way

I have discovered several advantages to hanging plants, instead of setting them on a shelf.

  • Hooks in the ceiling are cheaper than new shelves. 
  • They block the sun way less for the plants beneath them.
  • You can push them out of the way to reach the ones beyond them. 
  • I've got hooks set up along the edge of my garage: lots of free room. 

But buying store-bought hanging planters is expensive, so I make my own. Here's how I go about it.

I start with a heavy duty plant pot (which I get free by scavenging behind Home Depot [I have permission] during the gardening season). I buy bulk chain from inside Home Depot and I cut it to length.

Punch holes in the perimeter of the pot, and work a cut chain link through. Use pliers to close the link.

Hook the other ends to the end of a short length of chain. I usually use around 18 inches for this piece: I want it to hang down from the ceiling far enough to be able to water it & admire the growing plants.

(This one has nasturtium seeds in it: it'll go outside once it starts blooming, to attract bees.)

The other end of the chain has another cut link (that's how you cut the chain into shorter pieces). Hook it into the eye in the ceiling.

I made a special tool for reaching the hooks in the ceiling when I can't reach them.

It's just a re-shaped L-hook (or any hook), attached to the end of a handy stick. This one's about 4' long. I glued it in, and I wrapped the end of the stick in wire to keep it tight.

Oh, I also put up a piece of rebar, specifically to hang a lot of pots from.