Celebrating the 4th anniversary of the birth of our littlest lady Ruth Elizabeth.
He may be a chemistry nerd, and kinda camera shy, but he sure can build some solid, and good-looking furniture. We had an old decrepit cabinet that we were using in a corner of the kitchen to hold up the berkey water filter. It started to disintegrate, so Ian and I spent an hour or so this past Saturday putting together a super sturdy new stand for the water filter, and a place for Taya to store cloths and towels. Here’s Ian sheepishly showing off his handiwork.
As in…. 72 pints of salsa, 45 pints tomato soup, 24 quarts spaghetti sauce, and 3 pints ketchup. Wow. Taya and the children have really put in the hours processing tomatoes this year! We planted about 75 paste-type plants, and 20-25 “eating” plants – heirlooms, cherries, and a couple new varieties to try. We had a good year with tomatoes for sure, and I learned that the Lemon Boy variety is not for us.
The biggest thing I realize each and every year – Taya absolutely hates tomatoes, but she puts them up for us each year anyway. Hours spent processing and canning, for something you don’t even like. That, my friends is sacrificial.
Here is one day’s worth of processing, literally from dawn until dusk.
Step 1 – harvest: I picked about 2 bushels of tomatoes early in the morning. Starting at about dawn. This is the after about an hour of picking.
Step 2 – cut and process: Taya cored and cut all those tomatoes, then the children cranked the Roma food mill to extract the juice for sauce and soup. The “guts” get saved to make Taya’s delicious salsa. Add onions, peppers, spices and cook. MMMMM.
Step 3 – cook: Using our outside stove, the sauce cooks down for several hours to thicken, and meld the seasonings together. Looks delicious.
Step 4 – preserve: In order to enjoy the fresh tomatoes all winter long, we have to run the pressure canner for 90 minutes a batch. Notice how it’s dark outside now…. Literally dawn to dusk. But it’s so worth it.
Another year’s tomato harvest is pretty much over. I’m pulling out most of the plants, as the determinate plants are pretty much done, and the indeterminates are starting to get hit with late blight. I’m trying the “vehicle method” for making sundried tomatoes with some of the stragglers, but the big rush of the tomato season is over. We’re definitely grateful for a bountiful harvest, and for giving us the skills and facilities to preserve it for the cold months.
Until next time…..
It’s hard to believe we’ve only had Liberty with us for 6 short years. Yesterday we celebrated the 6th anniversary of her birth. Wow they get big fast…..
Happy Birthday Liberty Faith!
Until next time…..
I don’t think there’s enough milk and sugar to make this stuff drinkable!!!
A couple weeks ago, I stumbled across a YouTube video from David The Good called Totally Insane Compost Tea Recipe that got me to thinking. I had read about this idea a few years ago in Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture, and kind of filed it away as something to try later. Well, it’s later…..
We’ve had a big morning glory problem in our gardens this year, with all of the late rain and hot/humid conditions, and I needed a way to dispose of it. I had been yanking it up, and hanging the carcasses on the fences to dry out, or chucking it into the driveway where it hopefully will not re-root. Morning glory is one of those weeds I consider noxious, even if the USDA doesn’t agree with me. Once it gets started, it will take over quickly, and strangle plants and bushes. If you pull it out, and don’t get every little teeny-tiny bit of the root, it comes back with a vengeance; kind of like horseradish. And if you let it go to seed; well you just don’t want to do that. It’s not something you can really “chop-and-drop” either, I’ve had plants re-root themselves and grow back after pulling it up.
Now unlike horseradish, I don’t know of too many redeeming qualities for morning glory. I don’t think it’s really edible, the flowers are nice- but very short-lived, it does provide a living cover- but it tends to kill whatever it covers, the vines really aren’t good for doing anything with- unlike wild grapevines. What on earth was it created for??? Well thank you David The Good for showing me a way to use morning glory, and reminding me about the benefits of compost tea. Turns out The Creator actually had a purpose in mind for this noxious weed we call morning glory.
An unused, shady corner of our big garden had become an absolute massive jungle of morning glory. Impossible to even walk thru. I scared up a barrel, and started working on cleaning up this corner. Why the barrel? Well, it’s one of the important parts of the compost tea; the other 2 parts – water, and weeds. I spent several mornings pulling morning glory vines, and stuffing them down into the barrel. I put a lid on the barrel to keep the mosquitoes out. After filling the barrel, and packing it down, I had nearly 100 pounds of morning glory vines in a 40 gallon barrel! I said we had a morning glory problem. I filled the barrel up to overflowing with water, and let it work for a few days. Oh, and if you watch the video all the way to the end, there’s that secret ingredient that I added as well.
After about a week in the heat, I ended up with the WORST smelling liquid I’ve ever run across. I was a little afraid to dip it out, but I dunked a half-bucket out, watered it down a bit, and poured it on some of the fall cauliflower, broccoli and brussel sprout seedlings. The smell was so strong, I half expected the plants to either wilt over, or grow 2 feet in an instant; kinda like in a cartoon. That didn’t happen, but within a week’s time, those puny little seedlings definitely put on some growth. I’ve since dosed the okra plants, and seen some noticeable results. I missed a couple plants, and they aren’t putting out the okra pods yet, like their neighbors are starting to.
Another benefit of the Insane Compost Tea – since the weeds are rotting away in the water, I feel fairly safe in using the rotted remains of the vines as a mulch (mulchilizer). I would never consider doing this with even dried up morning glory vines. I would be afraid of one of them taking root again. But the remains of these vines could not possibly be viable – I hope. I just planted a fall crop of peas and snow peas today, maybe I’ll side dress the seedlings with some morning-glory-vine-mulchilizer.
Anyway – hopefully this will inspire some folks to try the Insane Compost Tea, and turn an otherwise useless, noxious weed into valuable fertility for the garden, and delicious, nutritious home-grown produce.
Until next time…..
Grape juice, grape jelly, grape wine, grape wine vinegar. We use grapes in so many ways, and we never seem to have enough. So back in the early part of February this year I decided to try my hand at cloning our grape vines. After a little light reading and a trip to the feed store, I was ready. Early to mid February is the best time around here to prune grape vines. It’s past the cold part of the year, so any diseases or pests are dead; and it’s before it starts really warming up, so the sap is still down and the vines won’t bleed.
- Pruners- make sure they’re sharp
- A sharp knife
- A container of bleach water (a half-capful in a pint jar is plenty strong)
- Rooting compound powder
- A bucket of wet sand
- A plastic grocery bag
Prune your vines like you normally would, and choose your best looking vines to clone. You want the section closest to the main stem – the fatter part, and make sure they’re about the diameter of your pinky finger or bigger. If you’ve ever pruned grape vines before you know the huge pile of cuttings you end up with. You can be picky; make sure there are no diseased or damaged sections.
Cut them down to size – you need 3 or more “nodes” – the bumpy part of the grape vine – on each cutting. Leave ½ to 1 inch below the bottom node (yes it matters top and bottom). Then take your sharp knife and scrape just the outer layer of bark off the vine to expose the green part underneath. Immediately dip this section into your bleach water solution, and then into your rooting powder. Roll it around and completely coat that green part, and the bottom node too. The rooting compound has a hormone in it, derived from willow trees that stimulate root growth in your plant. You want to coat that bottom end really well. After you’ve got it coated, stick it down into your bucket of wet sand. I ended up with about 15 cuttings in each of my buckets of sand. You can do as many as will fit, or you can even do individual pots if you don’t want to have to re-pot them later; just make sure you cover each one up to the second node with sand. Then you have to cover the container up. You need something to keep the humidity extremely high during the rooting process. I use plastic grocery bags; they’re big enough to go around the tops of the buckets, and stay on nicely. Once your container is covered, put it in a warm area, out of direct sunlight. It doesn’t have to be a dark room, but it can’t be in the sunlight, or you will bake your grapevines. I stuck them in the shower, since a couple of the buckets had cracks and leaked; kind of a pain to drag them out every time to take a shower, but it kept the floor dry. Check them every week or so to make sure that the sand is still wet. You don’t want them to be under water, but you don’t want them to dry out at all. It’s critical to keep a high humidity level at this stage.
After about 4-5 weeks, you should begin to notice the buds swelling, and leaves starting to form at one or more of the nodes of the cutting. You can take the cover off at this stage, but be careful to keep them hydrated. It’s best to water them every day at this stage; because there aren’t any real roots to speak of yet, and the plant can dry out very quickly thru those new leaves. If you notice the leaves starting to droop, go ahead and put the vine sections back under their plastic bag tent.
After about another month or so, I should begin to see new growth on my cuttings, and the roots should be starting to form too. I’ve re-potted mine before this happens, as I don’t want to damage the new baby roots. I put them in a potting mix with some added vermiculite to help keep things hydrated, and allow the roots room to form. I’m keeping a close eye on the leaves for signs of wilting, which will tell me that they are getting dehydrated, and I need to tent them to increase their humidity level. In late May, I hope to be able to plant the started cuttings in the ground.
Hopefully by next summer, we’ll be harvesting some grapes off these cloned vines. Even if things go extremely well this year, and these start to try and produce fruit, we need to pinch off any fruit that forms, so the plant can put energy into roots. Next year should be ok for a limited amount of fruit, and after that we should be absolutely swimming in grapes. I made 64 cuttings, and 61 of them seem to have taken. So I now have 61 little grape starts with lots of new leaves on them, waiting to take root. Kind of exciting watching God’s creation spring to new life this time of year.
Until next time…..
With all our little seedlings popping up all over the place, I needed some grow lights in a hurry. In the past I’ve used shop lights from the local big-box hardware store, as well as an official fluorescent grow light – I think I got it from Gardens Alive. It worked great, but it was very expensive; and this year the bulb got broken. Tired of constantly buying new bulbs all the time, I looked into LED grow lights. EXPENSIVE!!!!
So, I thought I’d engineer one myself, in my low-budget way. I needed something that would be LED-based- to save on power consumption; water-resistant- plants do require moisture; cheap- obviously; and easy to store- since we only use them for a short time each year. So I came up with something based off of a product I don’t really like – plasticor. That’s that corrugated plastic stuff that all those political campaign signs are made of. But it’s light, sturdy, water resistant, and reasonably priced. I picked some up at my local sign shop, and they even cut it to the size I needed for me. Since I didn’t care about the color, I got an even better deal on them.
Here’s my bill of materials to make 1 light:
- 1 piece of plasticor, cut to the size I need on my growing shelf.
- 1 set of stick-on LED lights (ordered from Amazon)
- A length of mule tape – you can use rope, or chain – I just had this laying around
- A 12 volt power adapter – again, had
onea bunch laying around
I used a soldering iron to melt the holes in the plasticor that I needed for the mule tape and the LED strip’s power cord. You could probably use a hole punch, or a knife, or scissors, but the soldering iron make a nice neat round hole. This is the view from the top side.
I tied a piece of mule tape, cut twice the width of the plasticor at each end, thru the holes I’d “drilled” with the soldering iron. I then slid the plug for the LED strip thru the center hole.
On the other side, I started the adhesive for the LED’s and ran them in a sorta-circular pattern sticking them down tight to the plasticor. They don’t make sharp bends very well, I tried to do square corners on 1 of the others I made, but it didn’t come out very well. Here’s the LED’s all stuck down and ready to light up.
And here it is plugged in to the 12 volt power supply.
Here it is hanging on the shelf over the seedlings, providing the light they need to grow and thrive.
I simply tied another piece of mule tape to the loop that I made, and then tied that to the shelf at the height I want. It’s adjustable so they can be raised up as the seedlings get taller. Once we’re finished starting our seedlings, these should store nicely; taking up a lot less space, plus without having to worry about broken bulbs.
All together, each grow light cost about $14 in materials that I had to buy, and took approximately 10 minutes apiece to assemble. To purchase a pre-built LED grow light would cost $35 or more apiece, and take up 4 times as much space. We should see a decrease in the power usage as well, since these are LED lights. Each strip of 150 LED’s draws 24 watts, and provides PLENTY of light. If you look in the window at night, our pantry is VERY bright. I have the power connected to a power “strip” so I can just switch them all off when we go to bed at night. Hopefully this bit of engineering helps someone out, and gives a jump start on getting the garden plants started.
Until next time…..