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~

April 25, 2011

Last minute hail protection

We knew we had a storm rolling in tonight, but as it came in it had all the signs of one that might bring a bit of hail. And it did. For some last minute protection from possible damage to our still tender plants in our garden I called into use some of my stock - my wife would say overstock - of pots.

There's also some glass figurine covers that I picked up at a thrift stores for a few cents a couple of years ago.
I placed these over the plants literally as the storm blew in and was immediately glad I did.

A few minutes later the hail arrived. It wasn't a tremendous downpour but the weather forecast for the next 36 hrs is very unsettled and may include more hail and snow so I'll leave these on just to be safe.
Just some of the things that need to be taken care of in the backyard farm.

Any of you have any other creative ways you like to keep your "babies" safe in inclement weather? Share them in the comments section to help us all out and give us ideas.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.8

April 13, 2011

Preparing to plant potatoes

Recently, I dropped by our local nursery to pick up a few additional items that we needed to have. One of those items was another five pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes.

While we were sorting through the 'taters, an older couple was there looking to get some as well and asked us if we'd ever grown them. I was actually pretty shocked, after we said "yes, many times", when they asked us, "what are tubers?" (The sign on the display referenced tubers) I guess I shouldn't be... shocked that is... but I was. I guess our disconnect from our food has been going on longer than I had imagined. We talked to then for a little while, giving them a basic primer in potato growing 101, and went our separate ways. It got me to thinking that this may be a really good time to go over some of the basics of growing potatoes. I Usually have my potatoes in the ground around St Patrick's Day, but this year it's been so rainy and wet - Locally our watershed levels are averaging around 160%-170% of our normal level - that I haven't been able to get them into the ground. I probably could have squeezed them in at some point, but I think I would have suffered from a lot of rot if I had.

First of all, the potatoes themselves are the tubers; and tubers are "...various types of modified plant structures that are enlarged to store nutrients. They are used by plants to survive the winter or dry months and provide energy and nutrients for regrowth during the next growing season..." (wikipedia). Just needed to get that straight from the start.

Potato's are plants in the solanaceae family. That makes them cousins with plants like Tomatoes, Peppers and Eggplants. If you think about the way that those plants bear fruit, you'll have a pretty good idea of the way that potatoes bear their tubers as well. Many folks think that potatoes grow from the roots of the plant, an understandable thing considering the photo above, it does look like they've grown from the roots, But take a look at this photo:

You can see the seed potato that was placed in the ground and can clearly see that the small potatoes are growing from the stem ABOVE the planted potato. Think again about tomatoes... if you pay attention to them they actually grow from a small stem that grows from the main stem. Potatoes are the same, except that they only grow on the stem that is underground. Because of that, they are planted a little differently.

This might look a lot like how you would lay out any other plant before putting it in the ground. The difference here is that I'm not going to plant them into the hills, but rather will bury them a couple of inches under the soil at the bottom of the furrows. I lay the potatoes out so I know how many I can fit in a row, then dig them in and leave them alone. Potatoes don't need to be watered in because the tuber itself is mostly water itself and is designed by mother nature to support this plant as it gets itself established. I let my potatoes grow until they are nearly a foot tall before I ever irrigate them. The spring rains take care of that for me. After the Potato plants have grown up enough to be five or six inches above the ground, I will then rake or hoe the soil from the hills over and onto the plant itself. After this, I let the plant grow further. When it's another five or six inches above ground level again, I will hoe the soil up onto the plant again leaving furrows between the plants that I will flood irrigate once or twice a week.

As the weather turns hotter and the plants are getting taller, I want to keep mounding over the plants as much as possible, and mulching to keep the moisture level steady and weeds down. Grass clippings work great for this. The reason, in case you were wondering, why I keep mounding soil and mulch over the plants is because, as I said, the actual potatoes grow from the stems above the seed potato, but only where it's covered. I want to make sure that there's as much stem underground as possible when the potatoes are growing. So, the long and the short of it is that with a little understanding about the way that potatoes grow and some of the ways that you can coax them along and get great returns for yourself.

Best of luck with your tater growing!


April 3, 2011

I feel the need the need for MEAD!

OK OK, I stole that line from a t-shirt idea that was batted around today at my mead making class, but really.. I do feel the need to make some MEAD! From what I learned today, mead, being one of the worlds oldest fermented beverages, is also one of the easiest wines to make.

It stands to reason that it would be when you think about it considering that it was made, almost simultaneously by the Norse, the Egyptians and the Celts throughout history. They didn't have modern tools and sanitation ability like we do and were able make mead quite easily. Also honey, whick in case you aren't in the know about mead, is the base fermentable sugar in the mead, was one of the few available sugars throughout history.

After spending nearly an hour talking "Mead Theory" with the instructor, we got down to it. The mead that we were to make was of course honey based, but also had added in bartlett pears that would increase the fermentable sugars available, while also adding a slight flavor to the mead, and a certain bouquet in the final product.

The Honey and water wort (The base of the recipe)

After mixing the FIFTEEN pounds of honey into water to begin disolving it, the pears and more water were boiled to break down the cell walls and release the flavors and also to kill off any potentially competing yeasts or bacterias. We want to control the yeasts that will go into the mix so this is an important step. While we milled and added the pears to the wort (The base of the mead.) we began to heat another pot of water with other additives that will affect the mead formation in different ways. Peppermint tea, gypsum (yes the stone) and black tea amongst them. This was brought to a boil and was then added to the wort as well.

The "additives" like irish moss, gypsum and spearmint tea...

After everything was added to the wort and it had been stirred vigorously to fully dissolve the honey and incorporate all the additives evenly through the mixture as well as to aid in lowering the temperature to verynear to room temperature, we learned how to "pitch the yeast". Pitching the yeast is much like proofing yeast before adding it to a bread recipe. A cup or so of the luke warm wort was placed in a separate bowl and the yeast was added to this. It was gently stirred into the wort and left to sit and bloom. And bloom it did. After 15 minutes the pitched yeast looked like a bowl of porridge.

Adding the pears for sugar and bouquet. (If you're going to learn to make mead, you should of course learn from a man with celtic knots on his arms yes?)

We had to stop there unfortunately because of legal reasons surrounding the manufacturing laws for alchoholic beverage or some odd thing, but the last steps were simply to stir in the yeast to the full bucket of wort, add a fermentation lock and wait...

All in all I would say that it lived up to its reputation for being a very easy brew to make. If you've not had mead, it is typically a golden-hued wine with a honey sweetness and slight dryness, depending on the recipe. It can be very mild on the finish or can have a strong back-end almost like a distilled spirit. Any way you can get it though, it is very tasty. I look forward to making some this year, and with any luck, getting some bees next year to provide me my own honey to make it with!

Best till next time all.