Monday, September 21, 2015

Zucchino rampicante was a pleasant surprise!

AKA tromboncino!  Definitely a favorite this year.  Fast-growing, huge yield (10 fruits per plant) and a delicious pumpkin flavor.

I did not try them as green summer zucchini, but being more of a winter squash it wouldn't surprise me that the green squash would have a different flavor.

Anyway, I let them mature to a deep tan, like a butternut or a neck pumpkin, with bright orange flesh and a very strong pumpkin aroma and flavor.

I made ravioli to the following measurements:

Zucchetta Ravioli Filling

1 medium trombone squash or other butternut type (2 cups puree)
1/2 stick butter, softened
1 t, fresh sage, finely chopped

Peel, seed and cut squash into 2 inch chunks.  Lay on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 1 hour or until very soft, but not dried out or darkened. Allow to cool in a strainer, then puree. Add butter, sage, salt and pepper and mix until incorporated.  Use in ravioli or other filled pasta.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The smart way to process tomatoes!

So I've been looking for an easier way to prepare my tomatoes for freezing. Forget canning, not for me! 
So for several years I have been doing the scald peel quarter seed chop technique and it is very time consuming.
This year I got smart and bought the kitchenaid vegetable strainer attachment. 

Amazing! Here is the first round of tomatoes, about 15 lbs:

No more boiling! Just chop the whole tomato into smaller chunks, throw them into the hopper, jam them down into the auger with the stick thing and the machine does the rest!
The purée comes out the bottom and the seeds skin and tough parts are forced out the front! Very little waste, no juice lost!

Then into the zip locks and trays for stacking in the freezer! I got these shallow trays with lids for free from the local fishmonger.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Fast growing gourds!

Snake gourds are ornamental. My son wants to paint them up for Halloween.  Last year's didn't sprout, so I tried again
And this one is climbing to the sky at about 6" per day!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Tomatoes are over my head!

Beefsteaks are doing well! I'm going to credit the drippers. I prune away the lower branches and suckers and keep each plant on two vines.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Plastic mulch is the way to go

This is an ingenious way to extend the growing season. Clear plastic, stretched and plowed in over a shallow valley, allows seeds to sprout and grow under row covers. Here is how they get a jump on the corn season in my town:
The green poking up is 5" corn below the mini greenhouse. I doing this next year!

I am just using regular black weed fabric as a barrier and to help warm the soil.

Peppers transplanted today. The 10-day forecast looks nice and warm, but I always start twice as much in case of a late frost. 
Update 5/19: the leaves nearest the bottom have all burned off! The black with the sunny days proved too hot even for the chiles. Solution is to cover with hay, grass or leaf mulch immediately after transplanting.

Tomato transplants planted in raised row with weed fabric and hay over top.

In another bed, I have planted the squash.

Once the hay is spread over, the leaves stay cool and the plastic is hidden. This is now a zero-maintenance garden!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

How I built my hops trellis

PThere has been some interest in my design for easy harvest.

After building the frame and sinking it in the ground with some concrete and cable anchors, I strung a stainless steel cable up and across the top.  This line is what I tie the vertical lines to. The top horizontal cable can be lowered to pull down the vines for harvest.

The cable is fished through an eye hook in each corner.

Then down the posts and attached with some creative hardware

Disposable poly lines run every 18 inches or so.  These get cut down every fall and cost about $3.00 total.

An eye loop in the cable to hold the poly lines, and stakes hold the lines in the ground.

Monday, April 13, 2015

A new automatic solar drip irrigation system from rainwater

A 100% solar-powered irrigation system that pumps from my rainwater reservoir.  Backup battery power and timed irrigation for hassle-free, automated, no-maintenance watering of plants!

For more on my off-grid solar power system with battery backup click here.

This is the pump. $25 on Amazon.  Look for one that says 1A 15W 12V 500L/H or thereabouts.  It should last a long time and not drain your battery, or only require a 15W solar panel.

I wanted to try using materials found at a home center, but I effectively went the long way to spend the same amount money as a traditional drip line, and I still needed to order specialized drip parts online! Oh well, I'll show it to you and you can just use a basic drip kit!
My hybrid pvc/poly system.

These are some nice connectors for 1/4" tubing.

Pvc tee with connector and tubing installed.

The green hose runs to the pond pump and the white line runs around the perimeter.

Tees and micro valves to help direct the flow
Some homemade stakes to keep the hoses in place.

A video of the hoses and valves only.

  Here are the three drippers I will try first:
Here are the three drippers I will try first:
Left- inline pressure compensating 1gph on stake
Center-360 degree sprayer (pressure compensating) on stake
Right- simple pressure compensating dripper 1 gph

Here is a shutoff valve (right) with a tee and an inline dripper in the tomatoes.

An inline dripper feeding a potted plant,

I cut some wooden stakes and drilled a 1/4" hole down at an angle to hold the dripper line. This one is fitted with a 1GPH pressure compensating dripper that you can take apart and clean

Here is one of the 360-degree sprayers.  They require a LOT of water pressure to actually spray the water outward.  On this system the water mostly just gurgles out from all sides.  Good for very thirsty plants, but my little pump won't be trowing the water the way I had wanted to.

And again here is the programmable on/off timer for the pump.  12V DC, this little timer has been great, with eighteen time slots available over a 24-hour period.  It can also be set to turn on certain days, for those who subscribe to infrequent deep soakings.

Update 5/19:  I need more drippers!  Working great so far.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Pak choi growing fast!

In a side by side with the lettuces, the pak choi (Rohrer seeds) seems to double every day!

Finished a new raised bed

My goal is to do this around the entire south side of the greenhouse. I had some scavenged stones and after letting it settle over winter I filled it with mushroom soil. Onions and garlic are the first to go in, and I will probably finish with sweet potatoes.
That is a tree stump in the center. I didn't think to chop it out before filling. Oh well!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Tomatoes are in

Two beefsteaks and some parsley that I found had sprouted on the floor.
And some in pots for later

Sunday, March 22, 2015

First round of greens are in!

Iceberg, romaine and pak choi. The ground outside is still pretty frozen, but I did manage to get some compost sifted and I bought a big bag of organic fertilizer.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

My 2015 Helles Lager Recipe

Last year's was more of a Bohemian Pilsener, and won 3rd in War of the Worts, but they aren't far from each other.  The yeast will probably make a lot of difference. Either way, a great start to Spring!

Helles Lager, all-grain

6.5 gal primary wort
1.055 og

12 pounds pilsner malt
1 pound vienna malt
1 pound Carahell malt
.5 pound Acidulated malt
.6 oz Cascade hops, 90 minute
1 oz Willamette hops, 5 minute
White Labs WLP838 Southern German Lager Yeast

70% brewhouse efficiency

Friday, January 23, 2015

The BEST tomato sauce recipe for those who aren't Italian...

...and maybe for some of those who are!  If you are like me, you didn't grow up in a house with the sweet smells of a wonderful red sauce simmering away every Sunday afternoon, nor were you taught the secret family recipe handed down through generations, and you have been constantly disappointed by every recipe you find for traditional pasta sauce!

I have been attempting to make a respectable version of spaghetti sauce for 19 years, and it wasn't until the 17th year that I started getting compliments on my sauce.  I am pretty proud of it now, but it is not perfect by far!  Suggestions are welcome.

Here are some things I learned along the way, in order of importance:

  • More isn't always better! I always thought that maybe it needs more garlic, onion, pepperoncini, capers, artichokes, anything Italian, plus a TON of spices to strengthen the flavor.  It turns out that the ingredient proportions are a pretty delicate balance and we should let the TOMATOES be the star.
  • Don't burn the garlic! Only saute it for a few seconds before dumping in some tomatoes or something else to stop the frying and start the simmering.
  • Cook it all day, perhaps in the crock-pot.  I have done 30 minute sauces and 12 hour sauces.  During the work-week, you can still make a decent sauce fast, but the longer you cook it the better it tastes.  
  • You will NEED some specialty "secret" ingredients that no chef would ever ell you about.  And this is what differentiates great sauce from good sauce.  My favorites are anchovies (don't worry it won't taste like fish) and sun-dried tomatoes.

Here is the recipe for 1 lb spaghetti.  I know this is not your standard recipe formatting, but this is how I like to read and cook.  I hope you enjoy it.

1/2 cup olive oil
             In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat.

1/4 cup onion, small dice
1 rib celery, small dice
1 cup diced carrots (optional, but healthy!)
             Add onion, celery and carrots and saute for 3 minutes

1 large clove (2 small) garlic, minced
             Add garlic and saute VERY briefly (30 seconds max) before adding next ingredient

1 pound ground beef, turkey, or favorite sausage (optional, but really great for flavor!)
             QUICKLY add meat and brown.  No need to drain the fat.

1/2 gallon (more or less) tomato puree.  San Marzano from the garden, fresh or frozen, is preferred.
             Add tomato puree and bring to a boil.

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, minced
1 Tablespoon Anchovy paste or finely minced anchovies
1 Tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1-2 small cans tomato paste (if you like it thick, use 2)
              Add these and stir well, until the paste is incorporated.  Once mixture is boiling, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for as long as you have before dinner. Consider transferring sauce to a slow-cooker and cooking on low for several hours.

1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon ground rosemary
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
               Wait to add spices until you start boiling the pasta.  A later addition of spices, so I am told, increases the flavor.  

               At this point, correct the seasoning.  You will probably want to add more salt.  A few dashes of your favorite hot sauce or more ground pepper will also increase the intensity of the flavor.  You may want to add a bit of good balsamic vinegar to give it and extra punch of richness, but not too much because acidity is your enemy.  Mangia!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Schwartzbier Recipe 2015!

Update 3/30: The judges at War of the Worts trashed it. I will try yet another yeast and more Vienna a crystal to please them.

Update 3/10: Not quite there yet, I can't call it a Kostritzer clone.  It is a little too weak on the mouthfeel.  Next time, I think I will cut some of the pilsner and add some vienna.

Update 1/25: I think I have done it.  I have cloned Kostritzer Schwartzbier! I just bottled it today and it still has to lager a while longer, but I have hit the flavor profile.  Light and crisp, no bitterness, no roasted or burnt flavors, beautiful black color and definitely a "blonde soul" and good malt/hops balance!  It does, however, have more than a hint of raisin, but it's pleasant. I am happy.

6.75 gallon primary
6.25 gallon secondary

11 lb Pilsner
2 lb dark munich
,5 crystal 20
.5 lb carapils
.5 lb caramunich
.5 lb debittered black
.25 lb carafa I
.75 oz Tettnang 90 minutes
1.75 oz Tettnang 5 minutes
Wyeast Pilsen Lager 2007

3 stage Decoction mash: 20 minutes at 122, 20 minutes at 144 and 60 minutes at 156.

Batch sparge for 1 hour.  70% efficiency is about as patient as I can be.

90 minute boil.


6.05 oz Light DME for priming.