Google+ Followers

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


This year is my first successful onion harvest. I am gonna "show and tell" what I did. In early spring, as soon as the ground can be worked, you can start onions. This year spring was early and my onions were started in early February. I actually had leftover onions from last year that I never harvested and they kept growing. (Thank you mild winter!) I replanted them along with the new onion sets I bought  I have a raised bed garden and I packed the onion sets in close (3 inches apart) in the 4X8 plot.

Jadon in the garden Feb 2. 2012
I feed them and mulched them with last falls' leaves. Tip from my mom: "Pinch the seed bulbs off when they form to divert the nutrients back to the bulb" I did this and the onions are indeed larger than they have ever been before. Onions are ready to harvest when the tops have yellowed and fallen over. Let the onions cure for couple of weeks on a warm, dry place. After they have cured, you can string them up in nets, mesh bag, stockings, or you can add a touch of Mediterranean glamour by making traditional plaits.Plaiting is easy if you can braid.  Just start with three onions, braid twice, and add onions as you go up.

Just harvested

" Onion Plait"

Hanging in our garage

My "best of show" walla walla

I hope to start growing onions from heirloom seed in the next couple of years.  I really like the sweet onions!
God Bless!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Going microwaveless?

Way back in March, on the 21st to be exact, our little 3 year old microwave quit on us. My wonderful fix-it hubby took it apart to see if it might be fixable. Jadon had fun playing with the outer shell, but no, it was a goner as far as cooking food goes. We pondered on the idea of running to wal-mart to get another one, but they just don't make anything built to last more than a few years. Would it be worth it to spend a couple hundred dollars every 3 years to nuke our food? What does that mean anyway? "nuking" It sounds like a very bad term. The freedictionary dot com defines it as this: tr.v. nuked, nuk·ing, nukes 1. To attack with nuclear weapons. 2. To heat in a microwave oven. It sounds like radiation leading to painful death. How does a microwave work anyway? In case you have ever wondered...A microwave takes the electricity from a regular wall outlet (110 volts) and via the high voltage transformer, turns it into approximately 3000 volts. This is what it takes for the magnetron tube to convert the high voltage into undulating waves of electromagnetic energy called microwaves. The frequency used in microwave ovens is the perfect frequency to heat water molecules. (2.45 gigahertz) To review biology: The water molecule has 3 atoms: 2 hydrogen and one oxygen. These atoms share their electrons in such a way that the positive charges are on one side and the negative charges are on the other. The electromagnetic waves produce constantly changing electric fields which forces the water molecule to rotate. Think about magnets and how they attract and repel and how you can move them by the opposing force. In the same way, the water molecules spin at the fastest rate possible, causing heat energy to be released, which in turn, heats the other molecules in the food. So basically the microwave capitalizes on the water molecule which is found in almost all foods (except obviously dried foods such as rice and pasta which will NOT cook) and uses its specific frequency to heat it up causing the surrounding molecules in the food to also heat up thereby heating it from the "inside out" In ice the molecules can not rotate as easily, so microwaves do not heat ice as effectively as they heat liquid water. The heated liquid water must heat the frozen water by normal conduction. So frozen foods can heat unevenly. Does cooking with a microwave damage or alter the food it's cooking? Well, microwaving uses alternating currents, begins within the cells and molecules of foods where the energy transforms into frictional heat which damages the molecules and creates harmful by-products (radiolytic compounds)however, this occurs during direct current cooking as well. Our food changes when we cook it, that's why we cook it. There are studies that show negative effects of microwaved food. (There were basically two that I could find) Dr. Hans Hertel, a retired Swiss food scientist, with Bernard Blanc of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and the University Institute for Biochemistry, conducted the first clinical study of the effects of microwaved nutrients on human blood and physiology. Dr. Hertel concluded that microwave cooking reduces the nutritional content of foods and creates harmful by-products that lead to blood abnormalities and deterioration in the body. [Valentine, Tom. Search for Health. 1992.] Another doctor, Dr. Lita Lee, adds that microwave ovens leak radiation and cause the following adverse effects in food: Formation of cancer-causing substances, leakage of toxic chemicals from the packaging into the foods, and destruction of nutrients [Lee, Lita, Ph.D. Microwaves and Microwave Ovens., 2001]. Food changes when we cook it. It does lose nutrient value whether we cook it in the microwave or on the stove. I do believe that food should not be microwaved in plastics. I also believe that microwaves could possibly leak radiation, so I do not stand near one that is on. So in conclusion, I am not certain that microwaved food is any more dangerous than grilled, baked, fried, or saute food. However, we decided not to replace our broken microwave. Our new house did not have a formal cubby for a microwave, so we kept ours on top of the fridge, which was terribly inconvenient. I did not want to use up precious counter top space so that was where it had to go. Honestly, I can say that I don't really miss it. I can heat sissy's milk on the stove top in about the same time as the microwave and stove top popcorn is WAAAAAYYY better than that microwave stuff and is well worth the extra effort. Bye Bye microwave!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Cayenne Pepper Story

Last summer (2011) I planted 2 cayenne pepper plants in one of my raised beds in my garden. Sometime around the end of October, I managed to pick a bunch of flaming red peppers, about a wal-mart bag full. Over the next couple of weeks, I strung them up with a needle and thread and put them in my kitchen to dry. I was hopeful they would be completely dry by Christmas. My plan was to grind them and find some nice spice bottles and give as Christmas gifts to my family. (Cayenne peppers are excellent for digestion as well as boosting your metabolism) So, a couple of days before Christmas, I went to make my now very dry peppers into spice. I have a mini-chopper that I thought would work and sure enough, it did a fairly decent job. I took out most of the seeds that I could, but some managed to work their way in. I didn't think I would need gloves, which was a really bad idea. Also, the lid to my mini-chopper had a small hole in it, which I did not notice immediately. Of course, I inhaled some of the cayenne dust. I washed my hands and used cold water to try and relieve the burning in my nose. (Cold water does NOT work by the way) After that failed attempt to put the fire out, I'm trying to think of what to use and all I can think of is milk and fat. Aaahhhhh....butter!!!! So I dove my fingers in the butter and smothered my nostrils in it. Success! It quit burning after a few minutes, and actually, I forgot all about it as it was time to get dinner ready. But, later that evening, I began to smell something wasn't the kids....hmmmmm... oh my goodness! The butter had soured that was up my nose! Next thought: how am I going to get melted butter out from inside my nostrils? Answer: warm water on Q-tips. So, my cayenne pepper spice was a success and I got three large bottles to give away. The peppers are quite hot, but they have a marvelous flavor. A little dab will do in alot of dishes and a good shake in chilli or Mexican dishes. Advice: ALWAYS wear gloves when dealing with hot peppers; wear a mask when processing them; if you can, process outside or close to an exhaust fan; and if you have safety glasses, it couldn't hurt. And, even with the mask on, after 40 or so peppers, I still sneezed repeatedly! Lastly, don't forget to save a few seeds to replant for next season.
Cayenne Peppers

Monday, July 2, 2012

Composting Worm Bin

In December 2011, I decided to purchase some "Red Wigglers" for an inside composting bin. I secured a large plastic storage container that we weren't using anymore. I cleaned it out and drilled 3/8 inch holes every 3 inches or so at the top in two rows.
I ordered the worms online through Amazon and they came in a canvas pouch with castings and some egg cocoons. I got the bin ready by wetting newspaper (a bunch) in the sink and wringing out the excess and then tearing it into strips. We also had several boxes leftover from moving laying around, so I wet them and tore them into small pieces until I filled the bin about 2/3 full.  I got two cups of soil out of the greenhouse (you could use any) and scattered it on top.  The soil has grit or sand in it to aid the worms in digesting their food.  I had been saving food scraps (no meat, oils, or citrus) for some time and had a full container already in the rotting stage. The worms will eat basically what the dogs won't eat plus any paper like: coffee filters, paper plates, napkins etc.I dumped it out on one side of the bin and covered it up with the damp shredded newspaper. I added the worms and put the lid on. At first, the bin was a little stinky from the rotten food scraps, but after a few weeks, it changed to an earthy, soilly smell.  Our bin is located in our mud room, so it was out of the way and didn't stink up the house, plus close to the kitchen. It was very rewarding to see and smell the progress the worms were making after several weeks. I checked to make sure that water was not accumulating on the bottom of the bin and it was not.  The newspaper and cardboard was also staying adequately damp. Somehow I got it right the first time :) (it's pretty easy)  On the last day of  December, I emptied another full food scraps container into the bin.  I dumped it on the other side and covered it with some paper from packaging from Christmas gifts.  I can't wait to harvest castings to use in the garden or wherever. I'm also looking forward to starting new bins once the worms have multiplied to the max.  I'm thinking about starting mom a smaller bin or anyone who might appreciate turning good scraps that would normally go into landfill or down the garbage disposal into rich, organic FREE fertilizer for plants.
~Fast forward to July 2012 and here is the best thing about this simple project. I completely forgot all about the bin for several months! When I went to open it, I really expected to see a nasty mess with dead bugs and worms, and maggots. But, what I saw was a container 1/3 full of castings! Those worms turned all that paper, cardboard, and kitchen straps into the best looking, best smelling stuff I have ever seen!
This project is: simple, works, kid friendly, and is totally procrastinator proof!!!  The pic below is a new addition of paper and food scraps and my son is pointing to the worms wriggling all over the place.  (They don't like light) You can use their hatred of light to your advantage by getting them to move away from it and into another container so you can harvest the castings. I am going to try that soon. I am also going to harvest some worms for the aquaponics system.

Thanks and God Bless!!!!