Monday, December 10, 2012

This blog is no longer quite  what I want in a  blog, so I have created a new one.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Storing potatoes the wrong way

I thought that by leaving my potatoes in my dark, cool basement would do well with them.  Apparently not.  I'm not entirely sure what the problem is, but these things seem to have grown all winter.  I tend to think that the issue in my basement was that it got too light down there.  There are some windows, but I didn't think that it got too light.  A few of the potatoes also looked a little bit greenish, which is what normally happens to potatoes when they are growing and get exposed to too much sunlight.  Regardless, the potatoes will not go entirely to waste, I can make some sort of potato soup.  This year my potatoes will be in pitch black however I achieve that.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Why use "lasagna" no till gardening?

I have already talked all about how wonderful compost is for your garden.  For some people, including myself, there is just not enoughroom in your yard to have enough compost piles to feed your wholegarden.  So why not just turn your whole garden into a compost pile?
Lasagna gardening or a no till garden does just that.  You build up your garden with the same layers of browns and greens that you would in acompost pile and just leave it there.  When done well, you can plant your garden right into these piles of compost with little further effort.  You don't need to till because the materials will compost and turn into a nice, soft bed for you to plant your garden in.  You don'tneed to fertilize because your garden is going to be built out of fertilizer.  You don't need to weed as much because the thick layers will block the weeds from growing where they would normally grow.  You don't need as much water because the organic composting materials hold much more water than standard garden soil and the water is there waiting for your plants to drink it up.  The layers you add on to the garden may even prevent some of the diseases and pest you have had in the past from being able to return to your garden for another year.  
I think this coming year I will dive right in and set up my garden this way.  Starting when I do my fall clean up.  The hope is that I walk out to my garden in the spring and throw the plants in the ground and they are already fed and watered for the majority of the summer.  That and I won't have to do much weeding.  We will see how this works out.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Refrigerator canning for hot peppers

Hot peppers in vinegar
If you have plenty of hot peppers and want to preserve them so that they stay nice and crunchy, this is something you should try.  I advise either wearing gloves or washing your hands really, really well afterwards by the way.  First cut up your peppers removing the stems and seeds.  You can leave them whole or you could cut them into strips.  Put them all into a mason jar and then cover them with vinegar.  Let the peppers soak in the vinegar at least overnight so the vinegar can do its work.  What the vinegar does to the peppers is kill the bacteria in them so that they will last a long time rather than rotting.  The next day dump the vinegar off of the peppers.  I haven't figured out what to do with this spicy vinegar yet, but I'm sure there is a use for it in some delicious recipe.  I'd love some input from someone on that one.  Next cover the peppers with olive oil.  Be sure that the peppers are totally covered in the oil.  Put your jar into the refrigerator.  I am told that you don't have to keep these in the fridge, but they will last longer if you do.  I guess it depends on how much space you have and how quickly you will use the peppers.  I am going to try both versions and see what happens.  This recipe can also be altered to make peppers stuffed with prosciutto or something like that.  This is actually where I got the idea from.  When you finish with the peppers you will also have a lovely spicy olive oil to cook with.  It will probably be very hot, so be careful!

I went looking in my fridge for the peppers I had stored previously to take a picture of for you, but there was a little problem.  I didn't take into account that oil solidifies in the fridge.  All this means is that you should probably keep at least one jar out for use.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

How to care for your compost pile

Once your pile is built, the only maintenance it needs is water and aeration.  The bacteria you have working for you are just like most other creatures on earth.  They need water and they need oxygen.  If the pile dries up, the decomposition will just slow way down.  If there is no oxygen, then the anaerobic bacteria will get to work.  These are the bacteria that don't need the oxygen to work.  If this is what you have going on, your pile will smell really bad.  This is not what you ideally want to have going on.
If you chose a good location, you may not have to water except on the really hot spells.  Compost is good at holding water so if it rains often enough, the pile will hold an adequate water supply and won't need much help.
If you keep the size of your pile about a 3 foot diameter, that helps greatly with the aeration of the pile.  If it gets much bigger, the surface area to pile ratio is greatly reduced and there is less available oxygen for your pile.  Either way you will need to aerate your pile to some extent.  The smaller piles are less material to move around and are therefore easier to aerate.  The most common method of aeration is a pitchfork.  Dig in and throw your pile around.  Try to get all of the drier outer material closer to the inside so it can start breaking down too.  They do make fancy tools to aerate your compost, but I have found that those work well for a bucket composter or for the edges only of your pile.  They don't get the heavier innards of your pile very well.  A good old fashioned pitchfork will do the trick perfectly.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Mead making part three

Step three is very simple.  Take your siphon, which you have cleaned well, and siphon the liquid you have from the bucket to the appropriate carboy which you have also cleaned well.  If you can get past my ugly kitchen floor in the picture, you'll notice that the carboy is not full.  You want to top it off with water, but not too full.  It will bubble up nicely unless something is wrong, and then overflow out the top of the airlock.  Yes, I have had to clean up this mess as well.  You can add more later if you need to, but you can't really take any out other than what overflows.  Once the water is in, put the half full airlock on top and wait.  You can wait three months and  rack it, then wait three more.  Or you can just wait six months and rack it.  I will likely wait six months because I make an effort in the beginning to not get much silt into the carboy.  This means leaving some extra liquid in the bottom of the bucket.  That is ok.  One more thing, this picture is cantaloupe mead, not the watermelon I have been showing you all along.  I made two batches at the same time and just happened to have taken the picture of this one.  That is why it isn't pink like the other pictures.  See you in six months!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

No dig potato harvest

If you have been wondering about my no dig potato experiment went, I'm pretty disappointed.  I only got a small bucket of salvageable potatoes.  The rest were so tiny
that there was no point in picking them up.  Many of them were also pretty large but rotten and partially eaten.  I'm not entirely sure why this was, but I'm going to do some research and figure out what I need to do differently and try it again next year.  It wasn't a total failure, I did get some potatoes and I learned that I can't do things quite how I did them this year.  I also knew going in that I had not made any amendments to the straw I used and that there may not be enough nutrients for the potatoes.  I like to try things out bare bones first to see if they can be done that way.  This doesn't seem to be one of those things.  There were also many potatoes that could potentially have grown bigger had I let them go longer.  However, many of the potato plants were ready to be harvested, so I harvested them all.  The one thing I did get out of this garden bed was good, healthy soil full of good bugs .  If you look at the picture above, you can see how rich the soil is that was left behind.  Not a waste at all.
 Either way this was a learning experience.  I started this blog when I did, before I have my future homestead, because I wanted to share these learning experiences with everyone.  I like to learn as much as I can now, before I am on my own homestead so I know more of what I need to do when I get there.  Not that things will be perfect, but I will know more than I would have if I chose to wait for the real thing.  That, I believe, is the most important step I can take to being successful at homesteading.  I hope I am right, we'll find out soon enough.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Worm bin or not?

It seems to me that a worm bin is one of those things that you are supposed to have when you are living on any type of organic farm.  I built one a couple years ago and I'm not really sure if I want to keep it or  not.  It seems to me that it is extra work and extra space that is just not necessary.  I do get good castings and good compost tea, but in small enough quantities that I can't really do much with it.  I could build a much larger bin, but I'm not sure I could then feed it well enough.  There are only three of us in the house right now so we really don't produce much scraps.  Every time I feed the worms, I have to put all new bedding down which does take up some time as well.  I think that throwing all my kitchen waste into my kitchen scrap composter is far less work and I seem to get just as good fertilizer out of it.  I also get it in much larger quantities when I go to use it because the can is much larger.  If you lived in a place where you didn't really have much yard space, a small worm bin could be ideal, but I think I'm going to just stick to a bigger, "lazier" type composter for my house.  Half of the idea of permaculture seems to be less work for more gain anyways.  Set things up so that they are efficient and mostly function on their own.  The worm bin doesn't do that for me.