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Archive for April, 2013

No Dig Potatoes

I have been growing potatoes for a few years now.  Digging trenches every year is rather tiring so I had taken an interest in the “no dig” potato method.  All you had to do was to lay cardboard down on your beds and lay the seed potatoes out on top of that.  Add some various nutrients and cover the plants with straw as they grow.  Awesome!!

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So I gave it a shot.  The picture is what my potatoes looked like about halfway through the season.  Big and healthy.   Very exciting!!  Then it came time to “not dig” the potatoes.  I simply pushed the straw away to gather up my huge crop of delicious potatoes and found that my crop  was no where DSC_141to be found.  The majority of potatoes that I did actually find were the size of grapes.  I hadn’t dug too early either, the plants were already browned.  Then I found a few large potatoes.  They had been tunneled out by mice and bugs and were all rotten.  Basically I had zero potatoes for the year.  Nothing at all.  I usually have great luck growing potatoes and I got nothing.  Back to digging I guess.  Oh well, it was worth a shot.  I’m off to go dig my trenches!

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Spinach

It looks like the critters didn’t do as much damage as I thought they had done. The seedlings are all coming up!

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Orach

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Kale

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The next few steps are mostly all waiting.  First you siphon the mead from the bucket into the carboy.  You don’t need to get every last bit of the mead out because when you try to, you end up with extra silt in your mead.  The layer on the bottom of the bucket is DSC_0165the dead yeast cells that were spent and sank to the bottom.  The reason you siphon the wine rather than just dumping it is so that this layer stays where it is and the mead moves on silt free.  If you stir up the layer in any way it will end up getting sucked into the siphon and brought along with your mead.  Once the silt free mead is all in the carboy, add enough water to fill the carboy about two inches from the opening.  If you fill it too full, you will have a big mess, so leave room in the top!  Finally, put the water lock in the opening and wait.  For three to six months.  Be patient, it is worth it.  If you really want really clear mead, you can rack once during this time.  That means to siphon the mead from one carboy to another, again leaving the silt behind. I have found this to be just extra work, and so I stopped doing this step.  You can tell that the mead is done when the bubbling in the water lock has stopped.

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And now, finally, your mead is ready to bottle.  I collected old wine bottles from friends and family and a local restaurant.  I did have to buy the corks though.  Just siphon the wine into the very clean bottles.  I did not sterilize anything.  They were making mead long ago when sterilization wasn’t around and it worked just fine, so why should I change things now?  I put the corks in warm water to try to get a really good seal and then popped them on with my fancy corking device.  Oh, don’t forget these super fancy labels I made.  You should always label your mead as to what the heck it is.  I made a couple small batches to try and forgot to label them.  They are all mixed up and I don’t know what I’m getting all the time.  If you look at the bottle on the left, you will notice some silt on the bottle.  I stored them laying down and so this is where it settled.  You are making things at home and so sometimes they can look funky like this.  It is ok.  It is still delicious!

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One of the byproducts of my yogurt making project is whey.  Since the yogurt making went so well, I have lots of whey leftover.  I hate to throw anything away, so if I can find a use for it, I will.  The use I found for they whey is to make bread with it.  I hadn’t planned on making all my own bread quite yet, but now I guess I have no other choice.  I can’t just let all that good whey go down the drain!

I have done a lot of looking around for a really good bread recipe, this is the very best one I found:

  • 1 egg plus enough whey to equal 1 1/3 cupsDSC_0257
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar or honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Warm up about 1/3 cup of the whey and mix in the yeast and a little of the sugar.  Wait for this to get foamy.  Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and then add the yeast mixture along with the butter, egg and the rest of the whey.  Mix until a dough forms.  Knead the bread for about ten minutes, then cover and let rise for about 20 minutes.  Punch down and let rise until it doubles in size.  From here, I split the dough in half.  The first half I made in to a loaf and the second half I made six hot dog rolls out of, although eight rolls would have been better.  Whatever you choose to make, let it rise until it doubles again.  Then cook at 350.  The rolls took about 20 minutes and the loaf took about 45 minutes, though my oven usually takes longer to cook than the recipe says.  Voila!!  The best bread ever.

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Critter Holes

So this is what I found out in my hoop house when I went out to water my plants today.  Holes all over the place with the dirt piled up onto what would have been my seedlings.  Not too sure if they have any chance of still growing.  I tried to clean up the mess as best I could but I’m not sure if it’s going to happen.  I planted some more seeds, but it may be too late for them to grow.  We will see in a couple weeks I guess.  I really hope I don’t have to go buy plants, but that may be my only option.

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What’s Left of my Plants

 

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We all love yogurt in my house, but it can get pretty expensive to get quality yogurt that is not loaded down with sugar.  This is why we decided to start making our own.  It is actually a very simple process that can be done in a variety of ways.  Since this is my very first attempt, I chose to try it in a dehydrator.  This way the temperature is consistent, which means there is less room for error.  I also am using raw milk because I believe that there is far more good nutrients in raw milk.

The first step to make yogurt is to scald the milk.  Normally you would boil the milk for this step, but in order to retain the properties of the raw milk, I heated the milk to 110 degrees.

The next step is to add the culture.  For this step I used store bought yogurt that had liveDSC_0004 active cultures in it.  You have to make sure that yogurt has these live and active cultures.  If not, you will not get yogurt because there is no culture to grow in the milk which is how you get yogurt.  The specific yogurt I used for the culture said right on the package with the ingredients that it included live active cultures.  I used half a gallon of the warmed milk and two tablespoons of yogurt and whisked them together well.

Next, I put the warm milk with culture into glass jars.  I used peanut butter jars that I had saved, mason jars also work well.  I then set the dehydrator to 105 degrees for ten hours.  When I put the jars in the dehydrator, I made sure that they were well spaced out so that the air flow would be even throughout.  That is all there is to it.

I put mine in the fridge over night to have it nice and cold in the morning.  There was a layer of cream on the top of the yogurt that apparently happens when you use raw milk.  I just mixed it in.  There is also whey in to yogurt.  You can strain this out with a cheesecloth for thicker yogurt or mix it in for thinner yogurt.  I mixed it in, but I wish I hadn’t.  Either way it was delicious, even the toddler thought so!

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