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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category
Tuesday, March 11th, 2014
Yesterday it was 45 and today they say we’ll hit 50 and the sun is out. What a relief! I never appreciated water dripping from our roof so much as this year. Yesterday Will and I, along with the dogs, took a nice walk down the drive and onto some of the trails he’s been making with the dozer through the pines on our ridge. They are getting so big that they need thinning and in between other projects, he’s been going out there and thinning and pruning the lower branches so they’ll grow quickly and be nice and straight. In the bargain, we’re getting some nice walking/riding/atv trails. The rabbits are starting to eat the bark off of tender young popple trees so we know the sap is starting to run. Luckily they don’t actually kill many trees but I hate to see them munching the bark on our few maple saplings as some of the trees get girdled and don’t survive.
Today I saw a raven with nesting material in its beak! And I saw the first grove of blooming pussy willows. (Okay, so that bunch always blooms early.) Will has taken the OSB octagon down from the 12-foot peak in our living room. He is plotting out the pattern of wood pieces he’ll place on it to finish the peak with a decorative medallion. (I think this was hurried when the ceiling fan crashed to the floor a couple weeks ago! It shocked both of us. Luckily the dogs and I were in the kitchen and Will was sitting in his chair so nobody was injured. The glass globe shattered as did the four light bulbs but no other damage was done to the fan. Also lucky that the new laminate flooring was not done.) After examining everything Will found that he had “temporarily” left the locking ring loose so he could finish off the octagonal piece in the center of the peak which did not get done for quite awhile. The ceiling fan jiggled around and popped the ball that it hangs from loose and down she came! When Will’s finished, it will look great, I”m sure. And he is going to be sure to lock the fan in place this time.
For those of you who were wondering what the Idingtion Spring looks like, here’s a photo of where we are getting our water until our water line thaws out. It’s a bit inconvenient but not so bad. We’re sure glad that spring is there and has great water!
I’m starting my tomato plants next week. It’s so exciting. Not only are we planting our old favorites but we’re trying several other great open pollinated tomatoes too so we can add the good ones to our seed listing for next year. (By the way, we still have a lot of seeds so if you’re wondering if you should order, go right ahead. We’re still in great shape and spring is coming quickly!) — Jackie
Wednesday, February 12th, 2014
When dry canning can you do a product that has yeast? Also, this may be crazy but as another emergency water source could you hot water bath water as a way for long term supply?
I wouldn’t dry can a food that contains yeast. Yeast is a living plant and can be killed by heat.
Yes, a lot of folks can emergency water. Some just add a few jars of water to each partial batch of canning they do, while others just can a batch of plain water. Personally, I would rather just store larger containers of water without canning them, which wastes jars and lids, then just renew the water each year to keep it fresh tasting. Five-gallon containers work well but I really prefer a large, vertical water tank in the basement, if you have one. Ours holds 300 gallons and we have two. (As we are off grid, we only run our generator to power such heavy draws as our water pump which pumps water into those tanks in the basement. Then we have a 12-volt water pump in-line to supply water pressure throughout the house without having to turn on the well.) It’s amazing how much water you use in a day and how fast those quarts of canned water will be used up. — Jackie
I got some Hopi Pale Grey seeds from a Seed Savers Exchange member a few years ago. I have grown them a couple of times and they are always in the 3 to 4 pound range. The description from Baker Creek lists them more like 10.
I was wondering if mine are like the ones you have. I actually like the smaller ones as there isn’t so much to use, but the meat isn’t very thick.
I’m saving the seeds; one squash had large seeds and the next one had lots of smaller seeds. I tested germination and they both did well. I’m mostly wondering about the size of the squash–if they are true to type.
It often has a lot to do with the soil type and how much water the squash receive during the growing season. For instance, mine are usually in the 7-12 pound range but we got ours in quite late last spring and it was very hot. We watered the garden, of course, but as we have sandy loam, I’m sure we should have watered more. Last fall, we only had five over 10 pounds and 85 in the 3-5 pound range. The smaller squash had smaller seeds and also thinner meat. This was quite unusual and it was the same seed I’ve saved over the past 18 years. I’m sure it was the growing conditions. Hope this helps. — Jackie
Tuesday, February 4th, 2014
But before we get into that, please let me assure you folks who ordered seed in January and haven’t received them yet that they are being processed. We had a huge number of orders every day and we ran out of several varieties, chiefly the Hopi Pale Grey squash seed. We do have lots of squash, and other seeds that just needed to be cleaned and processed. I waited to make sure they were totally dry before shipping as I sure didn’t want any to mold! I’m finishing up with the orders today and tomorrow so your seeds ARE coming soon. I’m sorry to have worried you. As this is our first year, we didn’t have any idea of what to expect. We’ll do better next year.
On a good note, I do have more Bill Bean tomato seeds ready to sell so if you wanted some, just go ahead and order (click on the green box at the top of the blog). Thank you for your patience!
The very last thing Will needed to do on our new kitchen cabinets was to cut and poly some baseboards. The boughten ones were very expensive and not so pretty. We have a pile of nice, dry ash in the wood shed and he chose some with beautiful grain and cut them to fit. After 5 coats of poly, he installed them yesterday. What a feeling of accomplishment! Done!
Now we just have to save money for the upper cabinets, one or two at a time. But they’re not nearly as expensive and there’s no countertop either. Whew! The bathroom and kitchen look wonderful. We’re sure tickled. — Jackie
Monday, February 3rd, 2014
Learning to can and soil preparation
I have been reading your blog for some time now, and just getting the nerve to do canning. I put up some peach jam with water bath canning last season, and purchased a pressure canner in anticipation of pressure canning this season. Being a visual learner, have you ever considered doing some DVDs on pressure canning? I know I would feel more comfortable with this method. I do have all your books.
Secondly, I live in the woods of Maine, and the surface soil is sparse and full of pine needles, any suggestions on how to beef up the soil inexpensively? I do have a small series of raised beds. I live on the edge of a pond, so watershed safety is necessary as well.
South Berwick, Maine
Yes, we have thought of doing DVDs, as Dave Duffy my boss at the magazine suggested. We actually have shot some video at our last seminar and will let you know when it gets put together.
As for your garden soil, rotted manure will fix it right up. You probably have acidic soil (you might want to do a simple pH test) and adding lime would probably help, too. Our soil here on our homestead used to be a layer of pine needles, an inch of topsoil, and 18 inches of rocky, sandy gravel. Now we have about a foot of nice, black, sandy loam. But it did take a few years of both adding rotted manure and picking rocks! — Jackie
We have a new homestead and we are currently raising our first 2 pigs (Duroc-Hampshire crosses) that we hope to process in a few months at the 220-240 lb range. We will put some of the meat in the freezer and give some to friends, but what do you recommend for other longer term storage options — curing, canning, smoking, etc.? What and how many materials do we need? How long will it take? What special instructions should I tell the butcher? Are there any lower carb recipes — can we replace brown sugar with splenda for canned pulled pork?
Los Gatos, California
Wow, your first two pigs on your new homestead — how exciting! For a first-time home meat experience, I’d probably have your butcher smoke the bacon and ham; you’ve got enough on your plate to worry about the smoking. Let that go until the next time you butcher. Meanwhile, read up on the process and gather your basic supplies (brining and smoking supplies are available at most farm and ranch stores and even big box stores as this is getting very popular). Maybe you could butcher one hog first then do the second later when you’ve felt more comfortable with the smoking process.
Smoking meat is very easy, requiring brining first then hanging in an enclosed container that will hold smoke. You won’t be “cooking” the meat, just using a cool smoke made up of sweet wood chips such as apple, hickory, or mesquite. My first smoker was an old dryer body. Other “smokers” have included a clean barrel and even a hollow log. You can also buy either a propane or electric smoker which is much easier and less work. You smoke for the length of time required for the thickness of the meat. Sides of bacon only require several hours where full hams, about three times that, or more, depending on how smoky you like your meat. With the hams, you will be injecting brine in, next to the bones, before smoking to ensure complete curing. This is done with a special brining syringe.
Even with smoked meat, I’d recommend freezing or canning as most modern smoking does not cure the meat enough to store at room temperature as did the old ways. Why not smoke your meat that way then? Smoked meat done as they did in the past was dry and very smoky flavored, much more than we modern folks like.
I can up a lot of our pork, including ham, bacon, pork chops, ribs, and sausage patties. I’d have your butcher grind all scraps and include any not-so-good roasts so you can make sausage. You can either make breakfast sausage patties or use this ground pork to mix with beef or venison to make summer sausage or Italian sausage. This can either just be mixed and seasoned (again, there are seasoning packets available locally, I’m sure, in many sporting sections of even big box stores) for patties or if you have a sausage stuffer available, in casings to make links.
I know it all sounds daunting but once you try, you’ll be SO glad you took the trouble. It really is so easy and tasty! Yes, you can replace brown sugar with Splenda but the results are not as good, in my opinion. — Jackie
Thursday, January 30th, 2014
It takes quite a bit to WOW me after all these years. But I recently saw a mention of it in Farm Show and had to check it out. My-oh-my, what a beautiful and unusual popcorn it is! Although it is open pollinated and not a “new” corn, it has not been commercially available until very recently. I HAD to order some. But it’s not cheap. Native Seeds/SEARCH has it for $7.89 for 50 seeds. With shipping it came to more than ten dollars. But I figured, “What the heck?” I was kind of disappointed when I got my pack and opened it, there were nearly all pastel blues and whites in the pack and often with colored corn, you mainly get what you plant, in coloration. So I ordered another pack. Only one red seed and one pink seed in the pack. Oh well, I’m going to plant it anyway and hope for more brilliant colors.
It’s going up in our berry patch, which is better than 1,000 feet away from our garden corn and separated by woods and hills. So far, corn has not cross pollinated when we planted it this way. I’m real excited!
Will’s got the new bathroom vanity hooked up. When you turn the faucet on, water comes out! I think it looks absolutely gorgeous with the cherry and birds’ eye maple top drawers and lower skirt.
At the cost of propane right now, we’ve cut our use to the bare bones to make the 150 gallons we do have left over from fall last. Right now it’s $4.50 a gallon around here! So we turned down our water heater, turned off the wall heater in my office (I put on a sweater when writing!), only cook on the wood kitchen range, and we’re limiting our showers and baths a bit. We should get by until spring this way and hopefully, the price will come back to normal.
I am very worried for folks who are heating with propane and are living on a fixed or low income. I know that most of their energy assistance money has already been used up and they must be terribly worried. Please pray for them all; I am. It’s another reason to become more self-reliant! — Jackie
Monday, January 27th, 2014
Sure it’s cold, but the sun’s out and it looks beautiful today. We had 40 mph winds with snow yesterday and there’s lots of drifts. I noticed how pretty they were when I drove out of the driveway this morning to go to the post office to ship two big bags of seeds. The graceful sculpturing the wind had done to the snow was simply amazing. It was like an artist had spent the night on our driveway. I hate to think of how it looks now, after Will plowed it.
I’m getting used to washing my hands in the new bathroom sink. How wonderful it looks! Now Will is going to begin work on the other larger antique dresser we bought on Do-Bit, which pretty much matches the one he just finished. That one is going on the other wall, making a corner of vanities. This vanity/dresser with large mirror will be used to store towels, washcloths, and other things.
I’ve been busy with our little seed business. Since I nearly ran out of Hopi Pale Grey squash seeds, I cut another three big squash and squished out the seeds to dry. I’m going to can up the squash so we can have “pumpkin” pie during the summer. Of course some of the squash will still be left so I can always use fresh squash (it’s stored more than two years for us!) but it’s nice to have extra canned squash. The goats and chickens appreciate the “guts” and any squash I can spare for them.
Our new kitchen is great for packaging seeds as I can sit next to the end of the island and package them easily. Will’s helping by packaging the tomato seeds, which are quite small. Then I only have to grab bags out of individual bowls to fill orders. We’re getting into a groove here.
I’m sure that all of you across the country are looking forward to getting in the dirt again. I know I sure am! — Jackie
Sunday, January 26th, 2014
Worms in Jerusalem Artichokes
This was my 3rd year of raising Jerusalem Artichokes. I keep them in a raised bed to help keep them from spreading across the garden. This year things got busy and I did not harvest them until after the freeze. I was surprised to find worms in them. The bed was next to a Brussels sprout patch that I had cabbage worm trouble with. Do you think the cabbage worms just moved beds to over winter? Should I move the Jerusalem Artichokes to a different location this Spring? Stoked that you are now selling seeds!
No, cabbage worms do not go into the soil. They only eat the leaves of plants, usually cabbage family plants such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower (and, of course, cabbage). I’m thinking that your worms are wire worms which infest many root crops, including Jerusalem artichokes. These can be hard to get rid of in a perennial crop such as Jerusalem artichokes. What I’d do is to dig all the chokes in that bed and sift the soil for the tiny ones that will grow later. Then early this spring I’d till that bed well, water it, and cover with black plastic to heat the soil and kill the remaining wire worms. I would use none of the chokes for seed as they may harbor the pests. The wire worm is the larva of the click beetle which can fly. Usually wire worms are drawn to pastures and nearby clover roots but, as you’ve found, they can and do sometimes infest root crops. After heating your bed for several weeks (the longer the better), you can remove the plastic and till the bed well. This helps kill any remaining wire worms. Cole crops such as cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower are said to be distasteful to wire worms, so you might try planting these in your re-worked bed. I’d skip planting chokes for a couple of years as the life cycle of the click beetle/wire worm can run upwards onto 5 years. You want to starve them out. Permanently. I’ve had good luck mixing wood ashes in the rows where my root crops such as turnips and potatoes are planted then watering with beneficial nematodes to establish a population. You might try it. The best of luck!
We’re having a lot of fun packing seeds for folks and reading their letters. — Jackie
Links for canning supplies
Thought you might find this website useful. Also in reading your blog or the magazine, you mentioned a canner site, now I can not find it. I am needing a gasket for my old canner. This site has clear jel.
Here is a link to Ace Hardware’s site. They carry most pressure canner replacement gaskets and many other parts. http://www.acehardware.com/product/index.jsp?productId=17822756. Thanks for the link to Canning Supply. Yes, they are a good company and carry many useful things for us canners. — Jackie
Saturday, January 25th, 2014
Rejected kid goat
I have 2 Fainting Goats who kidded on the same day (Jan. 8). They both were first time mothers and both had twins. The first to kid accepted both, the second to kid accepted her first and completely rejected her second. She had been a twin rejected by her mother and bottle fed by the people we bought her from. (Don’t know if that matters, but maybe it does). It was very cold that day, his mother did break the sac and start licking him clean, then just stopped. He was cold and wet, so we got him dry and warm and milked some colostrum from the other goat and fed it to the rejected kid. Since then (1½ weeks) we have bottle fed him, raw goat milk, raw cow milk and organic whole milk, with some black strap molasses occasionally. Not having a milk cow or dairy goat, I’ve been blessed with friends who do, to provide us with some milk, when not available, I’ve fed him the store bought organic whole milk. He is growing, strong and drinking well. I have taken him into the goat pen to try and get him used to or accepted by his mother, siblings, or the other adult goat. They act very weird around them and his mother glares at him and me, turns her back and has even snorted and stomped and acted like she may charge him. Is it because I’ve cared for him when she didn’t, or is something wrong with him and she instinctively knows it?
I don’t know what to do, I can’t keep him in the house much longer since I love my husband and don’t want a divorce! Haha, just kidding, not that bad, but, my husband does keep telling me, not much longer.
This just happens sometimes. Seldom will a mother take back her kid once it’s been away from her for awhile. He smells different and she doesn’t recognize him as being hers. To her, he’s just a stranger that you’ve dumped into her territory. I’d suggest penning him next to her in a smaller pen where she can see him but not hurt him and continue feeding him on the bottle. At about two weeks, he’ll start eating grain and if you choose a high protein goat feed, you should be able to gently wean him at about 7 weeks of age providing he’s eating grain and hay as well as drinking water. I would try to stick with one type of milk though as switching him from raw goat milk to store milk and back might cause some digestive upsets leading to scours (diarrhea). — Jackie
Adding gypsum to the garden
Since drywall/sheetrock is made of gypsum, can it be crushed and added to soil for our garden? We have some waste from the house we are building that I would use instead of taking to the dump. My concern is that it may have been treated with chemicals. Our Georgia red clay needs all the help it can get but not at the expense of the garden’s health.
As far as I know, sheetrock is not treated with chemicals. When we did our addition, we took all of the small pieces of waste sheetrock out to the garden and broke it up, scattering it over our acidic soil. Then I tilled it in a couple of times. By planting time, you couldn’t see a bit of it and I truly think it helped improve our soil. Be sure that your soil is on the acid side, not alkaline as adding the sheetrock will tend to increase the alkalinity. In our case that was good. — Jackie