Welcome All! I'm a dreamer, I hope you are too! A Posse ad Esse, or From possibility to reality, is a general state of mind. I hope you'll share your possibilities with me as I will with you. Namaste~

May 18, 2010

Fermentation Friendly Home(stead)

Yes, I think I can safely say that we are a fermentation friendly home(stead).
We've made home-made lacto-fermented sauerkraut, traditional sour brine pickles and pickled corn,
We've grown Lactobacillus cultures to ferment milk into yogurt,
We've brewed our own beer,
We've kept our sourdough starter as a member of the family for nearly the last three years.
Now... well now it's time to welcome "Mother" home.

I'm talking about a Mother SCOBY for kombucha of course. If you're not familiar with what Kombucha is, it's a fermented tea that many claim has many healthful properties. I cannot speak to that yet, but it is a good tea from what I've had of it... good enough to try making some on my own! My kids really seem to enjoy what we've had of it; we've tried a few different varieties from our local health food store.

The first thing we needed to do was to start a SCOBY of our own. SCOBY is an acronym for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. It contains the different bacteria and yeasts that consume the sugars in in the sweetened tea and create the acids and bubbles that are indicative of good kombucha. There are places, I'm told, where one can purchase a Mother SCOBY, but me being me, I had to try to start on on my own.
This is a bowl of tea that I made from Jasmine Flower Green tea and added about a third of a bottle of RAW kombucha that had a small piece of culture starting in it. This little piece was about the size of a quarter and I hoped it would have enough of the live micro-organisms and yeasts to start a new SCOBY.
I left it, covered with a towel, for about ten days on top of my refrigerator and it bloomed very nicely... for lack of a better definition.

Here you can see the new home that I moved it over to this weekend.
It's a two-gallon FOOD GRADE plastic bucket. I brewed a large batch of the same Jasmine Green Tea and sweetened it with about a cup and a half of sugar. To that I added about a cup of the tea from the small batch that I used to grow my new Start and slid the new SCOBY start into it.
And here's the new SCOBY that I have so far. It's darker than most that I've seen, but it's also just started. My hope is that as the new "daughter" SCOBY grows it will form the typical whitish cellulose SCOBY that I've seen before.

So then, I know some of you have made these before, can you tell me if I'm on the right track? How's it looking so far. With any luck, I think that in the next week and a half or so I should be able to drink it!

Are you a fermentation friendly home(stead)? I'm thinking I need to come up with a neat little side bar banner for that? what do you think?
Well, best to you... till next time.

May 11, 2010

Growing Raspberries

I teach quite a few classes every year as a Master Gardener through our local extension service. Every time I teach one of the classes it seems that I get the same questions over and over again.

One of the questions I will get almost invariably, is about raspberries. There's few berries, I think, that are more coveted than fresh sweet raspberries so it doesn't surprise me. That being the case, I thought I'd go over a couple of the basics and take it from there.Here's half of my raspberry patch. I'm standing right where my other half is "supposed" to be growing. Last year it was overtaken by a really bad infestation of field bindweed and needed to be clipped to the ground to let me get a hold of it.

Here are a few basics of raspberries:
1. There are two main types of raspberries, Summer bearing and double or "ever" bearing. The names may sound a lot like the names given to the different strawberry type, but they aren't really the same. I'll get to the reason why in just a minute but suffice it to say that with summer bearing varieties you will get one crop per year from them and with ever bearing you will get two.

2. Raspberry plants are made up of two different types of canes. Primocanes and Floricanes. The primocanes are the fast growing soft skinned canes that grow up to 4- 6 feet tall in one year. You can see one below... You can see the very green tissue of the plant and the healthy flush of new growth coming up from the center of the plant. This is a new cane and it will grow very quickly throughout the summer. At the end of summer this cane should NOT be pruned out. Raspberries, at least the traditional summer bearing ones, will form on these canes the next summer. At that time, when the dry and dormant canes begin to grow, the canes are known as floricanes. These floricanes will fruit heavily in the summer and then will be finished. At this point, the canes can be pruned out.
EXCEPTION to the rule is made for double or ever-bearing varieties. For these varieties the same thing applies to the primocanes growing rapidly throughout the summer months. They will look the same but towards the end of the first year they will grow fruit. The harvest from this fruiting won't be as big as the summer harvests, but it's kind of a bonus one. The next year, as a floricane, it will bear fruit in the summer. Again, this is the last harvest for this cane and it can be pruned out to leave room for new primocanes to grow for next year.

Here's a picture of one of my patches floricanes from this year...Like I was saying, it looks like a dead dry stick. It will be tempting to prune these out at the end of the previous year, or to do so in the early spring but hold off.

As I was saying, after the floricanes have fruited in the summer of their second year, they are expired. They don't fruit anymore after that. At least not enough to warrant keeping them. My hardest thing to keep track of at the end of the summer when I get around to pruning them is which canes to thin out. That explains my little red yard pieces.I decided that this year I was going to mark the canes that are already growing and that I expect to harvest from this year. After the harvest is complete and I have time to prune, I will just go along the bottoms of the canes and thin out all of them that have red yarn on them.
Now, mind you, this isn't a technique that is practical for any sort of larger production. However, it is one of the perks of running a little nano-farm with a small patch. I can do things like this to help manage the patch. I'd like to perhaps find some sort of organic, or plant based paint that I could slap on the bottoms of the canes instead, but for now, this will do the trick.

Hope this clears up a few of the questions that you may have had regarding raspberries. I know it just skims the surface, but that was kind of the point. For more references about raspberries in your area, try checking online to your local extension service.

Best to you all, hope all's growing well!

May 4, 2010

When life gives you lemons...

Well, maybe it's because you have a new Meyer lemon tree??

Alright, I admit it, I'm cheesy. But I did get a new Improved Meyer Lemon Tree last weekend.

I've been wanting one of these for a couple of years now. Then, last year when I got some of my mom's lemons I was sold. They are soooo good! So Saturday afternoon, my gift for my (gulp) thirty ninth birthday, was a lemon tree.
And here she is. My little limoncello machine! right there in her current home in the greenhouse. We've been having some really off again on again cold spells punctuated by hot days so I think I;'ll keep her in there for another couple of weeks to be safe. Later she'll be in a nice pot that I inherited from my uncle and will be kept outdoors for the summer.

And there's lots going on in that thar greenhouse too. As you can see below. I can hardly move around in there any more.There's lots of tomatoes, a lemon tree, peppers, cantaloupes cucumbers, tomatillos, marigolds, herbs...
Even some pumpkin starts that are doing really well.
And I found this on one of the little heartland tomato clones that I was able to hold over the winter. Guess there's no better testament to a healthy plant than that huh?

But Wait! There's more... There's life outside too!
Our onions are coming along well, and just about ready for a good mulching with some straw. I would love to do it earlier in the season, but our winds here just undo all my hard work.
It may be hard to see, but this bed has one of our first carrot plantings of the year growing up in it. There's five rows with a couple of extra wide spaces in the middle section. On either side of the bamboo stakes that are laying there will be planted beans for this year. The carrots will grow right along with them in the shaded area.
Here's a closer look.

And some peas. These are not doing too well. Late winter storms beat them up. Not the cold mind you but the winds. They broke a lot of them off right at ground level.

The first Kohlrabi plantings had trouble too. notice the front (windward) side of both beds were hit the hardest?
This bed has my bok Choi Chinese cabbage and is surrounded by carrots. Later in the season I'll fill the bed in with pumpkins and squash.

Not much to say... more peas!
And last but not least, the potato garden. Lots of green popping up here too!

So there you go, all caught up right? well, kind of... still have a couple more posts that I'll try to get up soon. Too much to do, not enough time!

hope all's growing well with you all