Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Purslane or spurge

September 1, 2009

This is going to be a very important blog entry.  Purslane is so important and so tasty that it deserves its own entry.   These two plants, purslane and spurge are very widespread.  Purslane tastes really good. Other than wild berries I think that purslane is my favorite foraging food. Learn this plant.  It could save your life.  Purslane grows near you.

This is purslane. b4It has red stems and kind of fat leaves.  It kind of reminds me of a succulent like a jade plant.  Purslane used to be a garden plant, but now it has escaped and even grows out of the cracks in my driveway.  It seems to like sunny, sandy soil.  Interestingly enough purslane is also very nutritious as it contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, like seafood.

In nature it seems like similar plants grow near one another.    For example, the cure for poison ivy, jewel weed, grows near poison ivy.  And spurge grows near purslane.  You don’t want to eat spurge.  This is spurge.

b5Like purslane, spurge kind of has red stems too, but if you look closely you can see that the stems of spurge are more woody and thin.  Spurge radiates out from the center in a circle.  Purslane is an erect plant growing upright.  Spurge crawls along the ground.  Purslane has thickish jade plant like leaves and spurge leaves are thin growing across from one another on the stem.

Here’s another shot:

b1At the top is purslane and at the bottom is spurge.  You can see the difference right? I’m telling you purslane is one of the best wild edibles that you can forage.

This lemony, crisp nutritional powerhouse is neither, it’s actually a succulent. This accounts for its resemblance to a jade plant, and its water content. Many describe it as similar to arugula or spinach. It’s less bitter than arugula and less tannic than spinach. It can be prepared in many of the same ways as either.  In terms of nutrition, it’s a good source of Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6 and Folate, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper and Manganese. More good news: recent research has confirmed that purslane is one of the best vegetable sources of omega-3 fatty acids. “Purslane is one of the richest sources of ALA (alpha linolenic acid), which is a precursor to DHA. In other words, if you can’t eat fish, purslane helps fight heart disease and stroke, too.”

Did you get that, if you can’t eat fish eat purslane to fight heart disease and stroke.  Easting purslane is like taking fish oil.

b6And the spurge plant ripped up on tossed on my driveway.  Now spurge is a weed and I shed no tear as it meets a drying death.

b7And purslane and now you have to be able to identify purslane and its close non-edible neighbor spurge.  Also, when you break a spurge stem it emits a white sap.  You can always ID spurge from it’s milky white sap.

Purslane also has a ton of medicinal properties,

Purslane has long been considered of value in the treatment of urinary and digestive problems. The juice has diuretic effects. 2 Purslane is also considered to be a “cooling aid” and cleansing stimulant of the kidneys, helpful in the bladder for urinary tract infection. The plant’s mucilagenous properties make it useful in GI problems. Besides having vermicidal properties, purslane has been reported to possess antifungal effects, with marked activity against the genus Trichophyton. The phenolic constituents of the plant exhibit antimicrobial effects.  Purslane, placed in animal feed, prevents diarrhea as well as provides immunostimulation in patient. Other sources mention purslane as effective in treating hookworms and amoebic dysentery. Clinical dataPurslane in a combination mouthwash demonstrated antimicrobial as well as anti-inflammatory effects. Skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, or sunburn may benefit from purslane. Other uses of the plant include a poultice for backache/dysmenorrhea; 1 neuropharmacological actions; and in cosmetics as a gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) source.

So GET OUTSIDE EVERYDAY © and find yourself some purslane.

Bugs

July 31, 2009

Bugs can drive you nuts.  If you spend any amount of time out of doors than you know that bugs can drive you nuts.  I was out walking today.  It was 90 degrees and 100% humidity.  The bugs, skeeters, were so bad that I had to put on my rain jacket and hood.   Even if your plans don’t entail being outside for any period of time you need to prepare for it, because the one thing you can be certain of is that reality will differ from your plans.   You never know what may force you our of your home and into the great outdoors.   Anyone that has spent some time outside will tell you that the bugs are at their worst during dawn and dusk.  One time we were out afield and as the sun started to set the mosquitoes came out.  We had to stop set up our tent and nap and hideout for a few hours until dark.  By then the bug couldn’t fly and it was safe for us to come out of our Eurekas.   Slapping at bugs can be a draining experience too.  Bugs constantly at you, at you, at you can wear you down physically, and more importantly, psychologically.  Insects can spread disease.  They can give you infections.  You need to prepare to protect yourself against any insects in your neck of the woods.  Bees and such don’t bother me too much.  I’ve been stung more times than I can count.  At this point I kind of enjoy the pain.

Leeches and ticks are two more insects that one needs to be careful of.  You need to know enough to give yourself the once over and know how to remove them and treat the location of the bite.

Candles, lamps, Mosquito magnets, lights and bug zappers – I never thought that citronella worked.  It does smell kind of nice though.  it would be good to burn a citronella candle on a cold, snowy January day to remind me of the summer.  Not so good for chasing bugs away though.  The black bug lights don’t work either.  The mosquito magnets work well.   Mosquito magnets are like pools and boats though.  You’d rather have a neighbor with one than own one yourself.   Bug zappers attract bugs like moths that are attracted to light.  Bug zappers zap the wrong kind of bug.  Mosquitoes like carbon dioxide.  The drawback with all of these but the small citronella candles is that they’re too big to carry any distance.

Bug sprays and ointments – these work well, DEET is the best, but some folks are allergic to it.  You may try putting some of the stuff on your clothing, cap and shoes rather than skin.  There are some repellents made from natural ingredients.  I don’t think that these work as well as the DEET.

Ultrasonic – I don’t think these work either.  These are the ones about the size of a lighter and work off of battery power.  They generate some ultrasonic noise that is supposed to scare insects off.  I don’t think these work either.

Physical – bug nets, head nets, long sleeves and long pants – If you live in bug country you need to carry a bugnet in your bug out bag, get home bag or whatever bag it is for you.  These work great.  The drawback is if it’s hot out you’re wearing more clothing.

Sometimes when I’m out in the woods I’ll break off a small branch from a white pine and just use it like those Shite Iranians who practice self-flagellation.  It may not be the best method but swinging a little pine branch around my head sure does seem to work.

First aid supplies – just the basics here.  Some folks like to use tweezers for ticks.  Other use a blade of some type to force udner the tick.  Me, I just grab it by its body and yank.  You have to make sure that you removed the head of the tick too.  Otherwise you can end up with an abscess.  So you need the basics too like: antibiotic ointment, adhesive bandages, tweezers and alcohol.   People have told me that if you put vaseline on a tick that it will release its bite and back out.  It hasn’t worked for me.  Neither has the hot method though either.  Don’t forget instant cold/ice pads for bee stings.

Edit: I should have mentioned that diatomaceous earth is good for intestinal parasites.  It’s also good for water filtration and has some use in the garden too so you should make sure to get some and store it.

Don’t be afraid of the bugs.  You can’t swim without getting wet.  GET OUTSIDE EVERYDAY!!! ©

q3This is a mulberry that’s just about ripe.  Kind of a bad year for berries of all types it has ocurred to me.  If you haven’t had the pleasure of knowing a mulberry tree you really are missing out on something.  I really like the taste of mulberries.  They do have a lot of teeny tiny seeds though like a cane berries.  The trees are pretty small and in a good year have so many berries that you can set a tarp up under the tree and shake the tree to make the mulberries fall into the tarp.   Eating the fruit is supposed to be good for a fever and a root tea can be made to combat weakness.  Notice the heart shhaped leaf.

And some blackberries.  This is really a beautiful time of year in New England.  I’m telling ya going for a ramble in the woods and seeing wild berries along the way, a nibble here and a nibble there.  It’s a beautiful thing, man.  You have to GET OUTSIDE EVERYDAY!!

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Border fence

May 26, 2009

The “Virtual Border Fence” is another example of corporate, Military-Industrial Complex welfare.  I virtual-border-fence-5am all for protecting our borders.  I think that we need to shut our borders down.

In announcing the resumption of a “virtual fence” on the U.S.-Mexican border yesterday, the Obama administration sent a powerful message of continuity with President George W. Bush..described a five-year, multibillion-dollar plan…

Originally as envisioned by Bush 43 the project was to cost $7,600,000,000 (Billion), but its been (ahem) cut to $6,700,000,000.  That kind of money seems like it would help a lot of homeowners, pay for healthcare and hire a ton of border agents.  These are HUGE numbers so we need to lend a little perspective here – so let’s say we want to pay border agents $100,000 a year including benefits, that means that $6.7 Billion would hire 67,000 border agents.   We could hire 67,000 border agents at $100 grand each!! Got that?  67,000 agents!!  Think that would help the economy?

This is corporate welfare of the worst kind at a time when our country can’t afford it.  Of course Boeing has its hand out.

V.1 of the border fence was a complete failure; “Between 1998 and 2005, the government spent $429 million on two border surveillance efforts that were so unreliable that only 1 percent of alarms led to arrests.”    Uncle Sugar not being one to allow military contractors to go away empty handed though is willing to spend another $6,700,000,000 on V.2.

Why is there always enough money for high-tech gadgetry, but not enough money for the simple things?  We blow hundreds of millions on Halliburton contracts, but can’t buy enough armored humvees.    Blow billions on high-tech unproven, unnecessary jet fighters, but can’t give our troops clean water and safe showers.A third U.S. service member has been determined to have been electrocuted in a shower in Iraq…

Our guys and gals in overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan shouldn’t have to equip themselves from a Brigade Quartermaster catalog or rely on the kindness of friends and family. If you know someone that has served, than you know that they all have a wish list of what they need from ceramic plates for their vest to knives and shoes and food.  My cousin had his stuff stolen and the government freaking billed him!!

How about employing a low cost, low tech solution that works or onceAhh, but then there wouldn’t be so much money for the Boeings, Lorals and General Dynamics of the world now would there.

Have no doubt about it, this has more to do with corporate giveaways to the military-industrial complex than it does with border security.  The Naval War College performed a study, “Time to Put the Military on the Border.”  Some of the study’s conclusions are that “it is well documented that the U.S. Border Patrol is undermanned, under-equipped, and under-trained…”

So what do we do, do we hire more border agents, equip them better or train them more comprehensively?  Of course not, the leaders of both political parties, Democrats and Republicans, Corporatists both to be sure, figure out a way to pad military contractors like Boeing.

And since we’re on the subject of military contractors ripping off taxpayers with the assistance of government tools, that shower story above, the contractor was KBR.  How do you think KBR was punished?  They weren’t.  They were rewarded!!!  “Military contractor KBR Inc. was paid $83.4 million in bonuses for electrical work in Iraq — much of it after the military’s contract management agency recognized the contractor was doing shoddy electrical work…

Does that piss you off!?!?!? IT PISSES ME OFF TO NO END.

  • We have banks that screwed up, that rape borrowers with bogus fees and what should be illegal interest rates and the taxpayers have to bail them out.
  • We have car companies that screwed up, built cars no one wants to buy and the taxpayers end up giving them huge bailouts too.  I think the taxpayer spoke when we didn’t buy enough of their cars.
  • We have military contractors that can’t build a safe shower and they get bonuses.
  • We have more military contractors who coudn’t build an effective border fence so they get more taxpayer money.

It makes me feel like checking out of the system altogether.  We have to stop feeding that beast called government. I hate how my hard-earned money is being wasted by this beastly government.

Our goverment is out of control and unresponsive to the citizens that empower it to serve their interests!!

When in the course of human events….

Get outside everyday!!

12I hope that you have a garden.  You don’t need much space.  These are some of the radishes that I grew.  I also grew white radishes.   You can get twice this amount of radishes from a four foot square area (2 * 2).  You could even try to grow veggies in a container if you are so inclined.

Meet the new boss Same as the old boss

May 14, 2009

Well, well, well.  Lookie, lookie, lookie Obama hasn’t brought a whole lot of change so far.  Most of the purported change has been smoke n’ mirrors.

He serves the same master – Moneyed Interests.  He promised middle-class tax cuts and we got $10 a week while the banks got hundreds of billions.

He promised transparency, but is now fighting the release of information related to the US torturing prisoners.

He promised to get us out of Iraq, but will still leave 50,000 troops there while also increasing our presence in Afghanistan by tens of thousands.

May 15th edit WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Obama is planning on Friday to resume the Bush administration’s controversial military commission system for some Guantanamo detainees — which he suspended in his first week in office — according to three administration officials.

If you voted for Obama do you feel taken?

The budget is broke.  The country is bankrupt.  The collapse will continue.  Continue preparing by learning new skills, getting informed, buying extra food, storing extra clothing and non-perishables, buy imported goods now while the US$ still has some value and GET OUTSIDE EVERYDAY!!

p1010098A little waterfall near my house.  Wehn we walk here we say that we are visiting the Waterfall Goddess.  The picture doesn’t do it justice.  It’s probably 15+ feet tall.

p1010021You can see that my strawberries are looking good.  I only have a 1/4 acre lot, living in suburbia.  Less than 1/2 is arable because of the house, the patio, the driveway and steep hill.  Still I have a small garden, a ton of herbs, bunches of wild things like lambs quarters, jerusalem artichokes and purslane.  Strawberries don’t take up much space.  If you live in the suburbs you have foundation plants.  Plant strawberries as a living mulch around your foundation plants or in that little patch where grass can’t grow.  You can grow a lot of food on a little scratch patch of land.

Jerusalem artichokes

May 2, 2009

Jerusalem artichokes are a great plant.   Each plant can grow 7 or 8 feet tall.  They have yellow flowers like a sunflower, but rather than having only one flower like most sunfowers, 450px-sunroot_top1a single Jerusalem Artichoke plant can have 10 flower buds on it.  It’s not the flowers that we are interested in though, although they are nice to look at.  It is the root, or tuber of the plant that we want.

I live in USDA zone 5-6.  Of course even on my own small slice of land I have microclimates.   Jerusalem artichoke grows great around here.

So this is one of my favorite times of the year, because all the plants are waking up from their winter slumber. The apple and peach trees are blooming.  We’ve had a run of unseasonably warm weather so everything is blooming very early.  It’s actually kind of dangerous because our true frost free day is between the middle and end of May, so if we get a frost after the fruit trees bloom then a lot of next fall’s fruit could be lost.

p10100011So I saw some Jerusalem artichokes coming up on a patch of land out front.  You  can see what they look like.  Kind of pointy, lance like leaves covered in hair.  If I remember right, the stems are also kind of hairy.  Over the course of the summer these little green plants will grow 7 or 8 feet tall.

Jerusalem artichokes don’t make a bunch of seeds like sunflowers.  Jerusalem artichokes spread underground through rhizomes.    The rhizome is what we eat.    Jerusalem artichokes can become quite invasive if they like their environment and are left to spread.

I had maybe a ten square foot area out front that p1010005had these little puppies coming up from last season.  Yup, they can stay in the ground right through cold New England winters.  Dig em up when you want to harvest them, as long as the ground ain’t frozen.  So I wanted to dig some up to replant in different areas and also have with dinner.  Go ahead and click Gon the picture to expand it.

You can see that from a small plot, that I don’t do anything to, you can get a fair harvest.   Each of the roots looks kind of like knobby gingerJerusalem artichokes like poor, sandy, dry soil and full sun.

p1010009Here I cut one in half so you could see the nice white inside.  See they look like knobby ginger.  You can use Jerusalem artichokes just like you would use potatoes.  The thing is Jerusalem artichokes don’t contain starch like potatoes.  They have inulin (whatever that is).  But it’s good for diabetics because the inulin isn’t converted into sugar like starch is.

I peel them first, then I slice them and use them like water chestnuts or steam them with salt and butter.  They taste pretty good, kind of like a potato, but sweeter.

I wanted to dig them up to replant some of them in a couple other spots on my property.  I’ve heard that the Indians, errr Native Americans, used to plant them all over the place so as they traveled from hunting ground to hunting ground there would be Jerusalem artichokes already there growing for them and supplying a ready food source.  So I decided to plant them around some of the places that I walk.  So I’ve doing some guerrilla planting.  I’ve been planting them along the edges of fields, powerlines and anyplace else that looks dry, sandy and sunny.   This summer and summers going forwards they will continue to spread.  I’ll remember where they are and I can dig them up whenever I please.  Kind of like the original prepper Johnny AppleseedDo you got that!?!?! If you are able to start planting food crops in your neighborhood in the woods, roadsides, parks, ponds and lakes. Just like diversification is good with your financial portfolio, you should also diversify your garden.  Spread it out.  You do have to be careful though not to plant any food where the real owner may spray chemmies on your food.  You can find Jerusalem artichoke tubers for sale on the Internet. Buy a few now and you will have them forever.

Get outside everyday!!

And while I was ambling and rambling I saw some of blueberry bushes blooming.  If we don’t get some cold weather it’s going to be an early season for everything.

p1010010Years ago I used to pick wild mountain blueberries and make homemade wine.  It was actually pretty good.  Just goes to show put enough sugar in anything and it will be palatable.  You do have a lot of sugar squirrelled away don’t ya? I still have a bunch of waterseals laying around.

FASB 157

April 7, 2009

You may be wondering what this FASB thing is.  It’s a rule that accountants have to abide by.  Which because of a change by the folks who administer all of the rules means more dirt is swept under the rug.

You’ve probably heard the term, “mark to market.”  What it basically means is that the assets on the books of the banks have to be based upon what they are actually worth.   If you’ve bought or sold a house then you know the realtors look at comparable sales to figure out how much your house should be priced at.  Because the rule was changed banks don’t have to mark the assets on their balance sheets to what they are worth, but to some sort of mythological value what the asset may be worth in a perfect marketplace.

As an accountant and as an investor I don’t like it.  The banks are in the same shape now as before the rule change, yet the bank stocks go up.  It’s paper, not some positive increase based upon efficiency or operations.

Make no mistake, cash makes Washington, DC turn.

The FASB approval comes after an effective lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill by the American Bankers Association and other interest groups. Roughly 800 bankers gathered in Washington earlier this week, in part, to meet and press lawmakers to send a message to FASB that the accounting rules needed to change.

Jeesh man, first the congress people give the banks TARP then the bankers give money back to the congress people as campaign donations.   Then the banks are being weighed down by toxic debt and the bankers and their proxies basically go protest on the Hill and lo n’ behold the FASB rules get changed so the banks can mark the left side of their balance sheets to unrealistic values.This is getting truly bizarre.

Anyways, what’s left to do but,

GET OUTSIDE EVERYDAY!!

p1010060Nice day, huh?  A week of rain is in the forecast now.  I planted Sunday to be sure to get the benefit of the rain.  I had black plastic down for a couple of weeks to warm the soil.  I planted radishes, mesclun mix, spinach, arugula and peas.  I’m a little later then I wanted.  The way I grow lettuce is to heavily plant a 3*3 square.  I can reach into it from all sides.  Then I cut the lettuce with a pair of scissors when its 3-4 inches tall.  I basically give it a haircut and eat the baby lettuce.  It’ll regrow.  A couple of weeks later I’ll plant another box.    My lettuce will bolt later in the season.  I’ll also work a little all purpose organic fertilizer into the top couple of inches of soil.  Happy growing.

Farmers Associations

January 12, 2009

I love the Northeast Organic Farmers Association (NOFA).  We all know that it’s good to hang out with like minded people so that we can exchange ideas and learn new stuff. leftheader(Come to think of it it’s good to hang out with people that you don’t agree with too so that you can exchange ideas and learn new stuff. Hmmmm.)

Anyways, I’ve been a member of NOFA for a long time.  If you are interested in growing food, food safety, organics or eating healthy (who isn’t?) you really should join the state chapter of your organic farmers association.  Just Google your state name and “organic farmers association.”

My member ship is $35 a year.  They also offer low income memberships.

Why I like being a member i.e. what I get out of it:

  • Quarterly issues of the Organic Farmer – it covers food, organics, government issues and hints, tips and tricks to grow more stuff using better methods.  The last issue had a great 8 page section on mulches.
  • Six issues of the state chapter newsletter.  These have ads for jobs, land and swaps.
  • Annual Organic Food guide that tells ya where all the organic farms, markets, stores and suppliers are located locally.
  • Discounts on the Summer and Winter Conferences – more below! This is what got me thinking about writing this blog entry.
  • Discounts on the Practical Skills Workshops – more below! Ditto.
  • Discounts on the group bulk order – Man, this is the coolest thing.  If you are an organic gardener you know that you don’t feed plants.  Please do not feed the plants. Organics is all about feeding the soil.  Water solubles are bad.  Minerals and stone dusts are good because they don’t get washed away and break down slowly.  (Sorry that’s another blog entry.)
  • Anyways, the deal with the bulk order is that you get to join together with other members and due to economies of scale buy stuff on the cheap.  I’m able to order composts, organic cover crops seed, sets for onions and potatoes, organic fertilizers, organic pest control supplies, all kinds of organic soil amendments like azomite, granite meal, gypsum, colloidal phosphate, potting soils and all kinds of other useful things too.

Now for the nuts of this entry……….

The best part of being a member of the Association are the conferences and Practical Skills Workshops.  For example, the Practical Skills Workshops run throughout the year.  Each one probably costs 40 bucks or so.  They cover such things as: High Tunnels for Season Extension, Breadmaking with whole grains, Cheesemaking, Solar Hot Water, Shamanic Plant Journeying, Biodiesel,  Draft Horses, Veggie Oil Car Conversion, Rustic Stick Furniture, Draft Horses *Advanced*, Composting Toilets, Tofu and Tempeh, Organic Home Lawn Care, Foraging for Wild Edibles, Making Soap with Goat’s Milk with soap-making, Couples Massage, Medicinal Herbs, Yoga for Farmers and Gardeners, Cheesemaking #3! – (ADVANCED*) making difficult cheeses,  Winemaking, Canning your Garden, Seed-saving : keeping your favorites for next year, Tinctures, Salves, and Lotions.

And that’s just this year!!

At the Winter Conference.  There are maybe 30 different classes on things like what I listed above plus: beekeeping, raw milk, nutrient dense crop production, raising pigs, pastured poultry, plants and plans for an organic garden, nursery management, pest and disease control and so on.  The conference runs all day.  There are classes from 8:30-10, 1-3 and 3-5.  During each time slot there are maybe 6-8 classes offered so you just choose which one to go to.  So I can go to three different classes during the day.  There is also a potluck lunch where all the attendees make something depending on the first letter of your last name and we all break bread together.

The Summer Conference is basically the same deal, but we take over a college/university for three whole days and nights.  There are dinners and contra dances and raffles and entertainment and things for the kids to do too.

Probably one of the best reasons to join is that you get to plug into the community of farmers, growers and gardeners so if you have crop, garden, plant or pest problems there is a whole network of supportive people anxious to exchange info ideas, tips and tricks.

I can’t stress enough how good it is to join your state’s chapter of the organic farmers association.  It’s a no brainer.

IMHO what you learn about growing food, storing food, growing animals and building soil is more important than all the guns and ammo in the world. Chance of shooting Zombies = .000001%.  Chance of putting good organic food on the table = 100%.  Don’t be a dullard, play the odds.

Git outside everyday-

p1010100I was out skiing through the woods off piste (I like saying, “off piste.” It means “off path.”) and came upon this rather large pile of deer poo.



Compost

November 21, 2008

Got compost?  You have to start composting.  Even if you don’t garden stop wrapping your kitchen scraps in plastic to be buried for 1,000 years in some landfill.  Collect your scraps and dump them in the woods.  Stop paying to have your leaves dragged away by the town.  Dump them in a pile in your yard.

Happy compost

Happy compost thanks to Google Images

And if you do garden, you can’t be successful at it if you don’t compost.  Compost is gold.  You can’t have too much compost.  If you garden please start trending away from water soluble fertilizers and move to organic fertilizers.  You can spend a ton of dough on fancy composting bins, but you don’t need to.

Compost is just decayed organic matter and composting is basically just piling all of your organic matter up and allowing it to decompose.  Bacteria and other creatures work their magic by breaking leaves, grass and lettuce down.

What you basically do is a make bins to hold your organic waste like grass clippings, kitchen scraps, prunings and leaves.  I have three bins.  One bin is almost done compost and ready to be spread on the garden, one bin is about halfway through composting and then I have another bin for fresh organic matter.  To collect kitchen scraps like eggshells, coffee grounds, seafood shells, carrot peels and scraps from making salads we always have a plastic bag from the grocery store on the counter.  Other people use a little rubbermaid or tupperware container.  One bin is made from three pallets that are tied together with wire to make up three sides of the bin.

Compost bin made from pallets

Compost bin made from pallets thanks to Google Images

My other two bins are made from chicken wire wrapped around metal posts.

Compost bin made from chicken wire

Compost bin made from chicken wire thanks to Google Images

Then you pile everything up in your compost bin.  All of your leaves, grass clippings and kitchen scraps go into a pile and over time it all decomposes into beautiful compost/soil.

scraps - thanks to wikipedia

scraps - thanks to wikipedia

You can see this is the beginning of compost.  You can see leaves and other large chunks of stuff.

The best way to make compost is to layer materials.  First understand, that there is nitrogen material (green stuff) and carbon material (brown stuff).  You want to have much more brown stuff than green stuff in your pile.  A ratio of 20:1 or 25:1 of browns to greens works best.

So as we all know compost happens.  Over time organic matter left alone will decompose.  Just look at the floor of the forest.  So how to speed it up.

Compost needs five things – browns, greens, bacteria/creatures, air and water.  I start by putting some branches in the bottom of the pile to let air circulate from the bottom.  Then I start piling in grass clippings, leaves that I raked and scraps from the kitchen.  You can end it here.

If you want to speed it up I also shovel in a thin layer of garden soil.  Because oak leaves have a lot of acid in them I also add a layer of crushed limestone to the pile.  Finally, to really get things cooking I put in a few shakes of 10-10-10 all purpose organic fertilizer.  If you get everything just right your compost pile will start to “cook” and the internal temperature of it can get to over 100 degrees.  At real high temps the heat can kill weed seeds and plant pathogens.

Cooking compost heap - thanks to Wikipedia

Cooking compost heap - thanks to Wikipedia

This heap is really cooking.  To get a pile really hot though it needs to be a good size, probably over four feet tall  and four feet wide.

You also want your piles to be moist, but not wet.  I think the piles should feel like a damp sponge.  If it gets too dry give it some water.  Maybe build a depression in the top of the pile to collect rainfall.  Sometimes I put a metal post down through the center of the pile and spin it around to make a hole going down through the center of the pile so water can get to the inside of the pile.

I also like to turn my pile over every once in a while.  Every time you turn it, the turning moves the stuff from the outside of the pile to the inside and stuff on the inside of the pile to the outside.  Then the heap will start to cook anew.

finished compost - thanks to Wikipedia

finished compost - thanks to Wikipedia

Some good resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compost

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Composting

http://www.compostguide.com/

http://www.wikihow.com/Compost

My pics from the woods-

Crab apples

Crab apples

These are edible, but they may be too tart to be palatable to you.  I guess it all depends how hungry you are.  They do have a lot of pectin so you can make great jam or jelly from them.  Boil them strain them and sugar them.  As you can see there are gobs of them.

Coyote crap

Coyote crap

And this is coyote crap, I think.  You can tell it’s not domestic dog crap by the way it looks.  Looks pretty fresh, huh?  You  can tell that this beast eats different stuff than Alpo.

Sprouts

November 19, 2008

Do you sprout?  Sprouts are great.  Maybe it’s not as exciting as grinding your own grain or guns, but hey you guys can shoot it out over the last few cans of peas at the 7-11and I’ll be safely sitting at home reading my books munching on fresh sprouts.

You can grow sprouts in the dark in a cool area.  How many other ways are there to grow something fresh even if you are locked in your house for an extended period of time?

You can sprout all different kinds of seeds.  I like a mix with some radish or arugula seeds in it so there is a little bite to the sprouts.  Find a mix that you like.  I like something called the French Mix.  The seeds I sprout have 35% protein, amino acids and vitamins and minerals.  That’s 35% protein that grows in a cool dark place in less than a week!!

Sprouting seeds is easier then making pie.  Basically all you do is measure some seeds into a jar and rinse and drain them twice a day.  I rinse them in the morning and then sometime after dinner.  In less then a week you’ll have a jar full of sprouts.

Bell jar and sieve top

Bell jar and sieve top

This is what you start with, a standard Bell jar and a top that has holes in it to drain the water.  I bought this green drain top and you can get them in different sizes.  Before I bought one I just punched a bunch of holes in a metal top and used that to drain the jar.

Seeds

Seeds

This is my one pound bag of French seed mix.  It’s made up from: clover, arugula, radish, fenugreek, cress and dill seeds.  This one pound bag would probably sprout enough seeds to fill a 55 gallon drum.  You can get seeds, a jar and a drain top for less than $10.

Seeds in the jar

Seeds in the jar

This is a few tablespoons of seeds in the jar after the first rinse.  Just dump a couple spoonfuls of  seeds in the jar, add water, put the top on and drain the water.

Day two

Day two

This is day two.  If you look closely or click on the picture you can see that these babies are already sprouting.  They look kind of like chlorophylic little tadpoles.  Can you see their little white “tails?”

Day three

Day three

This is only day three and you can see that the sprouts are getting some volume to them and beginning to fill the Bell jar.   Rinse, drain and stick back into the cabinet.

Day  four

Day four

Now we’re really cooking.  Rinse, drain and stick back into the dark cool cabinet.

Day five

Day five

Just about ready.  They’ll be ready tomorrow morning.  Rinse, drain and stick back in cool, dark cabinet.

Day six

Day six

The jar is full enough.  I’m going to clean them up now.  I put in a little too much seed.  They could have grown another day maybe, but the jar is full so I’ll finish them up.

Sprouts in a bowl

Sprouts in a bowl

I dump the sprouts into a large bowl and fill with water.  I then agitate the seed hulls off of the sprouts.  The hulls float to the surface of the water.  You can see the hulls have all been washed to one side of the bowl.  The hulls are all that brown stuff on the left side of the bowl.  The hulls aren’t bad for you, they’re just a little crunchy and get caught in between your teeth so I wash them out.  I then drain the bowl and away go the hulls with the water.

Sprouts in colander

Sprouts in colander

Last, I rinse and drain them in a colander.  Then I store them in the refrigerator in a plastic bag.   I usually also put a paper towel in the plastic bag too to absorb excess moisture.

That’s it.  If you don’t have sprouting seeds as part of your preparations, you have a hole that needs to be plugged.  Sprouts are a great way to introduce fresh produce to a canned, dehydrated or dried diet.  If there is a pandemic and you don’t want to leave your home for a week or two or a month then sprouts can give your body the fresh stuff that it will be craving.  They’ll help to keep you regular too.

I like these folks a lot.    I have no interest in the company other than them providing great service, great advice and a great product.  Plus, I think that they’re hippies so they get a few points for being anti-establishment.

Sproutpeople

http://www.sproutpeople.com/