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Archive for September, 2013

Drying: Hot Peppers

Dehydrating hot peppers was a very simple process minus one small factor.  Hot peppers contain capsaicin.  This is what is in the peppers that makes them hot.  When you are cutting the peppers, DO NOT touch your eyes without scrubbing your hands first.  You may know this already, but do you also know that when you dehydrate the peppers the fumes can burn as well?  Move your dehydrator to a very well ventilated area, even outside, before you start.  That being said, the rest is really basic.  Cut your peppers up and remove the seeds.  Lay them out nicely, not overlapping, on the dehydrator sheet.  I set mine to about 110 degrees and it took somewhere around 12-14 hours.  You can turn the heat higher and it won’t take as long, but I prefer to use a lower heat.  The reason being that at a lower temperature you kill less of the good stuff, like enzymes, in your peppers or any vegetables or fruits for that matter.  I’m not sure this works with meat as well, so do your research before trying the low temperature on meat.  When they are nice and dry, store them in an air tight container, preferably a glass jar.  That’s all there is to it.

What do you do with hot dry peppers?  I was wondering that myself and so I did some looking around online to see if people actually stored hot peppers this way.  Lots of people do apparently.  Dried hot peppers make an excellent spice.  Depending on what kind of peppers you dry, you can make things like chili powder or crushed red pepper to season your meals.  Never have to buy these spices from the store again!

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Underground Houses

The final style house that we are considering is also my favorite.  I stayed away from this idea for a long time because it just didn’t sound good.  My idea of an underground house was a cave or a cellar.  Not somewhere I wanted to live.  Then I decided to suck it up and give these houses a chance.  I’m so glad I did.

Let me go on by saying that the specific kind of underground house I looked at was this one.  Not all are created equal.  Many of the underground houses are made with concrete and aren’t really all that nice.  This type of house is basically a post and beam structure buried underground with wood “paneling” all the way around.  It is built with as much wood from your own lot as possible.  These houses can be hugely inexpensive as well.  It just depends on what you can find laying around, what you can cut down, and how much of the work you can do yourself.

The building part of the house seems basic enough.  Dig a big hole.  Then, you sink posts into the ground at specified distances apart.  You connect them with beams and sit a roof on top.  You stack shoring against the posts and then wrap the whole thing in polyethylene plastic.  Then bury it.  It seems like the designing of the house is the hardest part of the whole process.  You want to get in a lot of light and be very careful that you don’t encourage leaks at the same time.

Again, I have greatly simplified this whole house.  However, since this is my favorite, I will be working on it much more and so I will have much more to share with you in future posts.  Be sure and check out that website I mentioned above.  I bought the book and the videos and they are great!

I forgot to mention this website when I originally posted this, but here is the link from the biggest permaculture website I know.  It is specifically a forum on underground houses.  Be prepared for a ton of reading!

 

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A New Home

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And this is it. The piece of land we picked to build our future home.  In my opinion is it perfectly beautiful and perfectly suited to meet all of our needs.  We have finished negotiations with the seller and now just need to finalize.  Next step:  Decide on which type of house to build.  I think I only had one more type of house I wanted to share my research on.  The house that is my favorite: The underground house.  This lot seems to be especially well suited to the underground house because of the hilly nature.  There are a couple smaller cliff sides that we could easily nestle a house into rather than having to dig a big hole to bury the house in.  There are quite a few trees on the lot that we could cut down to use in building the house.  I hope to use the “whole tree method” as much as we can.  However, my very favorite aspect of this lot is the stream that runs along the back border.  I have always wanted my own little creek so this is my dream come true!

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Zucchini and summer squash are a simple vegetable to learn how to dry with.  These squash are all sliced to about 1/4 inch and spread out nicely on the dehydrator tray.  Then all I did was set the dehydrator to the vegetable setting (about 120 degrees) and then set the timer for about 8 hours.  Very simple process.

So what do you do with dried zucchini and summer squash?  You could eat them like chips, but I didn’t really love the chips.  I plan to store them away for a cold winter day and throw them in a lovely vegetable soup.  They will reconstitute very nicely and make a lovely addition to my soup.  Just remember that when you add them to your soup that dehydrated vegetables are much smaller than their reconstituted counterparts.  They will soak up water and get much bigger so don’t add too much!!

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Nasturtiums are highly beneficial to your garden.  I plant them year after year and they always have grown well for me.  However, I have DSC_0410also had to buy seeds every year.  This is a shame because nasturtiums seeds are very easy to collect.  I hope to never need to buy them again.  I have a vining type nasturtium growing in the garden now, and the seeds seem to be all over the place.  Many of them fall right off of the plant and I just have to go out and pick them up.  The picture shows a seed still attached to the plant.  Just pluck it off.  You will generally find these seeds in sets of two, but one must have already fallen off here.  If they do fall of and you don’t get them, they should just grow for you next year.  Once you have your seed collection, leave them out to dry.  They will shrink up a decent amount and probably won’t be as big as the ones you would buy in a seed packet, but then most things you buy look very different then the ones you collect in a garden.  I have yet to try growing my saved seeds, but next year will be the year.  They are all healthy plants, so I don’t see why they wouldn’t grow for me.

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Seed Saving: Sunflowers

You could call it harvesting and eat all your sunflower seeds or you could call it saving seed and plant the seeds next year.  Either way it’s a pretty easy job to do.  Once the sunflowers are past their prime the back of the head will turn yellow and that is when you should pick them.  You may need to protect the flower heads from the birds before they are ready to harvest.  The birds don’t care if the seeds are perfect for picking or not.  You can do this by putting a paper bag or cheesecloth over the flower head so they can’t get to it.

These that I have drying in the picture were probably picked a little early, but a local farm was selling the flowers for charity and they were only selling the pretty flowers, so this is what I had to work with.  I’m not sure if the seeds are viable at this point or not.  I planted some sunflowers in my garden, but they aren’t ready yet.  If you look closely at the head of the flowers, all you will see is a yellow fuzzy layer which is what is hiding all the seeds.  Let the flowers dry completely and you will notice the yellow turn to brown.  Once this happens, brush it away and you will find your seeds.  Simply rub the seeds out of the flower head.  If they don’t come off easily, let them dry a little more.  This should not take much effort to do.  If you choose to store them, put them in a sealed jar and they should last you a while.  If you choose to eat them, you can salt and roast them first or eat them as you work.  I like to eat them as I go, a little reward for all my hard work (not really).

Because I know that these flowers may have been picked early, I checked their viability before putting them away for storage.  I simply put them in my sprouter as I would if I were going to sprout them to eat and make sure that they did sprout.  If they hadn’t, then there is no point in saving them for next year and you should just go ahead and eat them all.  The ones that you have sprouted you can eat too, just don’t eat the outer shell.  They are actually quite tasty.

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Ever gone out to your garden to find the tomato you were hoping to eat with a large bite taken out of it?  I have lost about eight tomatoes so far this year to this pest.  The large

bite is actually many little bites taken by a tomato horn worm.  They creep around on your tomato plants and eat just enough of your big beautiful tomato to cause it to fall off of the vine and rot on the ground before you can eat it.  They blend in fairly well so unless you are aware that they are around you may never see them.  I found this one while picking cherry tomatoes last night.  It was just sitting there not moving so I guess that night time is a good time to find them.  I have also gone out in the morning to find them and if you are quiet enough you can actually hear them crunching away on your precious tomatoes.  If you look at the picture to the right, you can see the bites taken out of the unripe cherry tomato.  I snipped the branch off to dispose of this nasty thing before it got to anymore of my

babies.  I also found one other horn worm tonight.  It, however, has succumbed to organic pest control. The little white things hanging from this worm are parasitic wasp eggs.  When the eggs hatch, they will eat the horn worm which means that the horn worm can no longer eat tomatoes. All you need to do to get the parasitic wasps to come to your garden and eat your caterpillars is to feed the adults.  They need flowers that their tiny little heads can get to.  Yarrow, mallow, parsley, angelica, and marigolds are all good potential food sources for

parasitic wasps that I have in my garden.  Other good options are dill, cilantro, fennel, alyssum, and queen anne’s lace.  If you find a hornworm that looks like this one, loaded with parasitic wasp eggs, leave it in your garden.  The one I found without any eggs I got rid of, but you want to keep this one.  Once the eggs hatch, they will turn to adult parasitic wasps and they do a much better job finding caterpillars than you ever could.  I doubt they can do too much more damage once they are infested.  I was very excited to find this in my garden. I would have been more excited to find ripe tomatoes I could eat, but at least the problem was being dealt with.

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