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Archive for May, 2013

Here is some info I found about my new pea shrub:

Caragana arborescens, also known as the pea shrub, is a large nitrogen fixing shrub.  The pea shrub is originally from siberia and so tolerates cold winters well.  It handles conditions such as drought and poor soil quite well and can be used to neutralize soil for future plantings.  This shrub also handles coppicing well, and the clippings make for good mulch.  The root system of the pea shrub is rather extensive, making it good for erosion control and as a windbreak.  Many songbirds use the pea shrub for their home.

The little pea shrub

The little pea shrub

Minnesota and Alaska list the pea shrub as an invasive species, so take care as to where and how you grow it.  It can spread by clippings and be seed, so if you only want one bush, be aware of how easy it spreads.

The pea shrub produces edible beans and pods for both people and animals.  I hope to have a couple in the chicken run that I will eventually have. It could potentially be good for larger animals like cattle as well.  They are said to be bitter and should be cooked in two changes of water before eating, again why I will have them for my animals and not so much for me.  Hummingbirds and bees are attracted to the flowers as a food source. People can also eat the flowers which are supposed to taste like peas.

The pea shrub can also be used in a few other ways.  Medicinally, it can be used for breast cancer and some gynecological issues.  It can be used to make fiber and bright blue dye.  Pea shrubs are sometimes used as bonsai trees.

Grasshoppers and deer are really the only major destroyers of the pea shrub.  However, it seems that they only really destroy the shrub seasonally and they can make a full recovery the next year.

I planted my pea shrub in the flower section of my garden.  I haven’t done much to really care for the flowers, so I figure the nitrogen will do them good.  Since the pea shrub can spread, I would rather have it spread through the flowers than the vegetables.  I guess that’s about all for now.  I will update as my shrub grows and I learn more.

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There are flowers everywhere!  I can’t wait for them to turn to fruit!DSC_0364This is the blackberry bush that we planted three years ago.  It is finally getting big enough to produce a significant amount of blackberries.  Only now it is taking over!  There are about ten volunteer plants all around this one.

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And then the strawberries.  They also have more volunteer plants than I know what to do with.  Hopefully they will all transplant nicely to the second bed I have gotten almost ready for them.  It is really already too late to do this now, but I’ll do it anyway and have the patch for next year.  These here obviously need some space!

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The shipment I have been waiting for since December finally arrived today!  This is what

DSC_0363 will become my very first perennial garden.  I have ended up with a total of 10 plants to trial this year and see what works well and what doesn’t.  What tastes good and what doesn’t.  What I need to buy more of and what spreads all by itself.  All the information that I will need to know when we have our own piece of land and I can plant my food forest.

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Just as the rain was starting today, I finished most of my planting.  Perfect timing for me to not need to go out and water everyday!  I am not good at remembering to water new seeds.  This is a big part of the reason I chose to try the lasagna garden idea.

I had set up the lasagna garden in the fall with tons of leaves and some green scraps as well.  Just as I thought, there wasn’t really enough green scraps, so the leaves didn’t really decompose as much as I would have liked.  But I knew that would probably happen.  It will eventually break down, so I’m not too concerned.  Except for the potential for slugs that the leaves will bring.  I hope that I don’t end up with a massive slug invasion that destroys my whole garden!  There are things to do to prevent this, so we’ll see how well they work.

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The rows in the leaves

Planting was a little different this year too.   I had to push the leaves aside so that I could get to the dirt to plant the seeds.  I ended up making rows in the leaves, which is helpful if I want to see exactly where I planted my vegetables.  Also, while looking for the dirt, I found tons of earthworms.  That alone means that the lasagna method has improved the garden.  Where there are worms, there is good soil.  So, even if the slugs demolish the entire garden, next year the soil should be much improved for growing.  If you look at the picture to the right, you can sort of see how I spread the leaves into rows.  Hopefully, in a week or two, I will be able to show this better because there will be a beautiful row of tiny sunflowers  popping up in this very row.  With all the rain we should be getting this week, they should come up nicely.  Here is one more picture to finish up with.

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I am really enjoying my homemade cheese and learning how to make it.  I found this great website that starts you out making yogurt and then on to easy cheese all the through to the much more difficult cheeses to make: http://biology.clc.uc.edu/fankhauser/cheese/cheese_course/cheese_course.htm.  Today I tried my hand at making labneh.  Very easy and very delicious!  It is apparently a Middle Eastern cheese that you serve with olive oil, mint and olives on pita chips.

The first step is to make a batch of yogurt as shown here: https://nepermhome.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/making-yogurt-in-a-dehydrator/

Strain the yogurt through a cheese cloth to remove the whey.  (The whey can be saved and used to make bread as shown here:  https://nepermhome.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/bread-recipe-with-whey/

Stir the yogurt until is is good and smooth.  Then add 1 tsp of salt and stir well.  (If you are using my yogurt recipe for this just use the whole batch, if not it is about 1 quart of yogurt).

Put a cheese cloth into a bowl and pour the salted yogurt on top of the cheese cloth.  Take the four corners of the cheese cloth and bring them together and tie a knot to suspend it by.  Suspend the cloth over the bowl to drain the remaining whey.  Let it hang here for 24 hours.

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And here is the finished labneh, ready to eat!

DSC_0668Enjoy your cheese!

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All the fun I am having with making fermented foods has lead me right to cheese.  I wanted to start with something that was very simple, so that I couldn’t get it wrong.  I found this recipe for lactic cheese on another blog and figured that it was the simplest cheese I could possibly make.

You will need:

  • 1 gallon of milk
  • 1 packet mesophillic starter
  • 3 drops of liquid rennet diluted in 1/3 cup of water
  • cheesecloth

First, heat your milk to 86 degrees F, add the starter and mix thoroughly.  Add a teaspoon of the diluted rennet into the milk and mix in an up and down motion.  (I somehow managed to mess this up and I added a teaspoon of rennet to the 1/3 cup of water.  I used the whole 1/3 cup in the milk and I still got cheese.)  You will see the curd start to separate from the whey.

DSC_0258After waiting patiently for 12 hours or so, you will have a solid curd.  If the cheese sits around longer than the 12 hours, it will be just fine.  Now you strain the curd from the whey.  I put mine in some cheesecloth and let it sit overnight.  When I woke up the next day, I had fresh cheese for my eggs.  Keep in mind that this is supposed to be a soft cheese and it will be light and fluffy.  That is it, your very own homemade cheese!

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