Wednesday, February 26, 2014

This Week's Dehydrator Adventures.

Dehydrating some citrus: one tray of limes, one tray of lemons. Got 'em all for a buck from the produce stand. Last of the batch, I think.

I accidentally discovered that mixing dehydrated lemons with dehydrated red onions makes an amazing spice for fish. Seriously, it's one of my favorites now, up there with roasted garlic powder.

I don't know what I'm going to do with the limes. We'll figure that out as we go.

Didn't get pictures, but I finished a batch (5 trays) of blood oranges. Got 'em free from the same produce stand two weeks ago, and have been dehydrating them since. They're very dry, which was the goal. Ground 'em all up. Made a cup & a half of powder. Not sure what to do with it.

Might be good, mixed with sugar, sprinkled on top of sweet breads. I think that it might make pretty good ice cream, but I have no idea how much to use. Might make some orange syrup, for pancakes or something. 

I'd kind of like to try an orange sauce for fish (a couple tablespoons of white wine, some melted butter, some orange powder, a little salt & pepper). And I have kind of an idea for an orange sauce for chicken (Current idea: 2½ TBSP white sugar, 1 tsp cornstarch, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1 tsp rice vinegar, ½ tsp soy sauce, 2 tsp orange powder, 1 tsp  cornstarch, ½ tsp flour, and a pinch of garlic powder and red pepper powder; cook gently, stirring, until thick.)

I also bought a bag of miscellaneous peppers for another buck from the same produce stand. Three big Anaheims, a couple poblanos, and a large handful of jalapeño peppers.

Halved the big peppers on one tray: those are all pretty mild.

Trimmed the jalapeños: these will make a pretty hot spicy mix.

My daughter loves cooking with dried peppers, so I may leave some of these whole, and grind up the rest.

They turned into these:

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Variety of Early Starts

Red Onion. This has been trying for 3 weeks. Not sure these are going to make it.
This is one of my favorites. I had a bunch of seeds strewn about my potting bench. So I swept them up and planted them. The tall, grass-looking things are oats, which I plant for cat-grass.

I wonder if that little guy on the left may be a pepper? It would be from harvested seeds.
I'm going to try to gros asparagus. Planted two pots, and put them on the warming tray. They're supposed to take 3 weeks to germinate, which I count as mid-March before I see them.

Instructions said to plant them 8-10 weeks before planting outside.
I'm working on sprouting some harvested lemon seeds. I know it's not practical, and I'm ignoring that fact. I'd like to have a lemon tree.

These don't look too successful. Planted, kept moist, covered, and on the warming tray. 
This one looks like it might be a lemon sprout. I've got it in a bag, on top of another heating tray, with plenty of moisture inside, and under a grow lamp.

If this doesn't grow, it's not my fault.
Celery, from a stalk. I'm afraid that several of these haven't survived recently. I suspect it's been because of over-watering, but since they grow fine in a glass of water, that doesn't make sense. Maybe it's been the cold.

I'm watering this sparingly, and it's on a heating tray. 
This is a cutting from last year's sweet potato plant. It's not dead yet (which surprises me!), so I planted it in dirt, and put it on the warming tray.

We'll see. 
I planted a bunch of kale seeds last weekend. The smooth kale is sprouting; the curly kale is not yet sprouting.

But growth is growth, so I moved 'em off the shelf and under one of the grow lights.
Fairly often, I've planted the peas outdoors too early. I figured, I've got lots of seeds this year; I'll try some starts.

I have 24 small pots, each with two seeds. We'll see how these do this year. Planted them last weekend.

I've got two pots of basil going. This one is in the window in the back bedroom, and it seems to be sprouting.

The other is hanging over one of the warming trays. It is just thinking about sprouting so far. Probably in the next few days, some of those will stick their noses above the soil.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Survivers: These Are Making It Through the Winter!

A whole pot full of salad.
Some overly mature broccoli and cauliflower.

Six pots.

Left row, top to bottom: Sage, mint (I think it's peppermint), and some Swiss chard that suddenly took a nap.

Right row, top to bottom: This lemon grass died; lavender, and the olive tree.
Top row: some very early broccoli starts.
Bottom row: onions. I think these are white onions.
This one is peppermint. Maybe even chocolate peppermint.

Don't know what this one is. It's Milady's, and she considers it precious, so it still lives. . .

This lemon grass has been kept closer to the heat, and has survived. This one got started when I planted some lemon grass that I bought for a couple of bucks at the Asian grocery store.

Purple Potatoes. These potatoes, from last year's harvest, were sprouting, and I happened to have a large container and some dirt, so I planted them. They thrived for a while, and then they started dying back. It may have been a freeze, or (more likely) I over-watered them.

I'm not sure my pineapple will survive. I think it might have been the cold. The center leaves of the baby pineapple have died.

We'll let it keep growing, and we'll see.

This is a lost little onion and some sort of a brassica, maybe broccoli or kale. They just refused to die, so I kept watering them. They'll go out in the garden come April or so.

This is an aloe vera plant that I was given last July. I left it out through the first freeze and most of it died, but one of the leaves decided it wasn't done, and started a whole new plant out of that one leaf. I'm kind of impressed.

Behind it is the second surviving lemon grass.

Monday, February 17, 2014

First Winter for the Peculiar Trees

People who know me will know that I can't do "just the basics." I've got to push the boundaries of what can be done.

To that end, I'm trying to grow some trees that aren't common (at least in my experience) in western Washington.

This is my olive tree, my Manzanilla olive tree. Some websites are telling me that I should be able to grow it outside. Eventually.

This is a bay laurel. I like cooking with bay leaves. This is where they come from.

These grow pretty well around here, or so I'm told. 

I'm also told that the fig tree will do well outside someday.  I'm a little skeptical, but we'll see.

On the other hand, we saw them growing in Germany; that's a similar climate. Had fruit, too.

I had to up-pot it today: its roots were coming out the bottom of the gallon pot. I think I want to remember not to plant this anywhere near a septic system.

I also have a pomegranate tree. This beastie is the fastest growing of the lot. I pruned it three times last summer (its first!) and this spring it's a mass of long, spindly branches. 

But there's life in them thar branches.

Of the four, it's the only one that lost all its leaves. I was a little bit concerned, seeing all those leaves falling off. It's certainly making a fine comeback.

This one may end up in a larger pot on the patio this summer, and then back into the greenhouse in the fall. Again, we'll see.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The First Grow Light

I couldn't help it. I needed to get some things growing.

In point of fact, I have some starts going that don't care so much about the temperature, but need more light than they need: kale, broccoli, onions, and such.

Moreover, it is highly likely that I will plant some more starts earlier than the sun will provide for them. I must do something to support my habit. 

So I got a 4- shop light, and some "sunlight" or "daylight" tubes (just one of the normal options: not "warm white" or "cool white.")

Because I goofed with the programming on the timer, the light was left on all night. This morning, all the sprouts under the light had lifted their heads and pointed their little stalks at the light.

I think I may be on to something.

UPDATE: I bought another one today. I also added a grow-spotlight next to the bench. I may be done for this winter, though I have thoughts of expansion for the next winter.

Comment: this photo is lit only by the grow lights.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Two [now Three] Small Upgrades to the Coop

It was a sunny and cold day today. It seemed like the right time to add a couple upgrades to the coop that I've been wanting to add.

First: a shelf in the unused space above their roosts to hold their food. One bin for chicken food (that's the blue one), and one for chicken scratch.

I was also concerned about the south side of the coop: that's where all the storms come from, and it was wide open, so it got really wet on those very common rainy days.

So I just sealed up the south side, or most of it.

We'll see how well this works. If I need to add more later, we can do that!

The ladies don't seem overwhelmed so far.

UPDATE 2/23/2014: Added a partial wall to the west side of the coop.

The shelf board was veneer over particle board, and the rain was not doing it any favors. Besides, there's no need for rain to get to the feed or the scratch. So I buttoned up the end.

Needed top make sure the boards were level. Did you know you can do anything with a phone nowadays?

Greenhouse in the Snow

Snowed about 3 inches this evening. I couldn't help but notice the beauty!

The chickens' Christmas lights look real pretty in the snow! (Yeah, it's February; they still haven't taken the lights down yet. Tonight, it was worthwhile!)

I couldn't tell how the garden was doing in the snow.

The next morning, the girls were great, but confused. They were squawking, wanting out. So I let them out. They ran out, paused, and rushed back inside! It was hilarious!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Making Lemon Spice

I wanted to make some spices for cooking fish. I wanted citrus. I can pour (or squirt) lemon juice on the fish, but it always washes the other spices off, and that's not wonderful.

So I sliced three lemons and a lime real thin, and dehydrated them. I gave an extra long time in the dehydrator, because I wanted to make a very dry powder.
I removed the rind from all the lemons and loaded them into the grinder. 
This is what the dehydrated segments look like. Kinda weird.
Ground into powder, it's not so weird. It's a very strong flavor.

I added one lime, but included the rind on that one for a little complexity to the flavor.

It's excellent on mahi mahi with dill and a little coconut oil. Definite winner.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Turned Compost; Added Stuff

Turned the compost this weekend. Added about 75 pounds of used coffee grounds and two more large boxes of produce trimmings.

Trying to add lots of nitrogen to make up for all the carbon in here: it's mostly dried leaves from fall, and straw & sawdust from the chickens.

It's looking like it's actually composting pretty well. Looking forward to a good garden this spring.

Note to self: May need to add height to the raised beds.

Update 2/23/2014: Added another 40 or so pounds of used coffee grounds, and four or five large boxes of produce. Also added fifty banana peels (chopped fairly small) for their potassium content.

The count of red wriggler worms is pretty high, and the center of the pile was pretty warm. The top foot or so was cold and worm free, so that is now at the bottom of the pile.

I used some 2-year-old straw to fill the gaps between the slats in the pallets. It'll add to the carbon content of the compost when I next turn it, mid March.

The chickens were intensely interested. If I stepped away from the compost pile for 30 seconds, then they'd rush in and start eating worms and bugs and things!

Here's to a good growing season!