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Fire Cider

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With the New Year comes opportunities to focus on change! Unfortunately the commitments tend to erode rapidly. I began my workout routine commitment two weeks post my arthroscopic knee surgery in early December. I am trying to get a jump start on the hordes that arrive the first week of January every year. I will resist erosion!

Now the commitment to the(my) midsection and general overall health. I intend to drop at least 15% of my body weight by summer……. of 2019! Yes, this year! I see the doctor for my annual wellness check in a couple of weeks and I know he will talk to me about the above mentioned 15% goal! He will probably suggest a little more, LOL.

I have been taking a tablespoonful of organic vinegar and my raw honey on a regular basis. One of our regular honey buyers was picking her order and mentioned “Fire Coder” as a healthy elixir. She swears by it so, I decided to make my own. Read a little below for anticipated health benefits.

https://scdlifestyle.com/2016/03/the-science-of-fire-cider-and-oxymels-for-health-improvement/

I found a good looking recipe that had the components of the elixir she takes. A quick search and I found a recipe that looked perfect.

https://blog.mountainroseherbs.com/

My batch…….sadly, it will be 4 weeks in the making so I won’t be able to critique it, but, I ordered a bottle from Mountain Rose Herbs to get started with the regimen prior to mine being ready.

Recipe;

1/2 cup grated ginger root

1/2 cup grated horseradish root

1 medium onion chopped

10 cloves of garlic crushed or minced

2 jalapeños chopped

Zest of one lemon plus the juice

2 tbsp dried rosemary

1 tbsp turmeric- I used 3 tbsp of fresh ground turmeric root

1/4 tsp cayenne

Apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup raw honey- added after filtering the mixture at the end of 4 weeks to desired sweetness- may take more than 1/4 cup.

I added the ingredients to a wide mouth quart jar, used the canning jar funnel to reduce my mess, filled the jar with Braggs organic apple cider vinegar leaving enough room to be able to shake and mix the stuff up. I used parchment paper as suggested under the lid. It will prevent the vinegar from attacking the metal jar lid, I will probably buy some plastic lids for mason jars in the future.

Shake daily, store in a dark place, my pantry closet works well. At the end of 4 weeks strain through cheese cloth and wring out the damp clump. Mountain Rose suggests using the squeezed out ingredients in a stir fry.

Take a shot per day and more of sniffles are coming on. I will start a second batch in two weeks to keep the cycle going. Sorry Mountain Rose, but I will be on my own after the store bought bottles used,

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All ingredients except for the organic apple cider vinegar are in the quart jar.

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The canning funnel makes it easier to load the ingredients as well as topping off with the vinegar.

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Showing the head space needed to provide room for the daily shake and agitation.

 

FYI, I haven’t abandoned my garden nor my bees, but the right knee has been killing me so it was cleaned out in early December. I have beets, carrots, radishes and turnips planted. A few Meyer lemons are on the tree and I am abandoning my attempts to grow bananas.

More later.

TTFN

Bishop

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More Honey, Honey

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” What are you making now?” she asked.

I have been enjoying my beekeeping and honey harvest activities over the last month or so if you have been following along. As a young lad….many, many, many years ago I fell in love with creamed, churned or whipped honey……It is know by several names. I decided to use some the odds and ends of small jars of my honey occupying shelves and whip some up. (Pun intended)

The creamed, whipped or churned honey is not really what the name  implies.  Anyone who has enjoyed raw honey knows that it will crystalize over time. This type of honey is also crystalized but there is a method to create very fine crystals that make the honey smooth and creamy.

So, to answer my wife’s question, “I am making creamed honey, honey!”

The process….”my Raw Honey”….- Raw honey has not been heated to temperatures that alter the health properties of honey, i.e., above 118 degrees F.  Much  of the commercial honey has been heated to 170 degrees F, destroying the health benefits….but it will stay liquid on the shelf for a very long time. Raw honey has also not been filtered, I run mine through a fine sieve to remove wax and other non honey particulates.

I poured about 3 pint jars of honey into a bowl. To that I added about a half pint of creamed honey purchased from the store.  The creamed honey is the catalyst, if you will, for the raw honey in the bowl.  After thoroughly blending the microcrystals are distributed and now become the template for the rest of the honey.

The  honey after it has  been thoroughly blended. Air bubble form at the top and I skimmed those off before  bottling.

The honey after it has been thoroughly blended. Air bubble form at the top and I skimmed those off before bottling.

 

Filled to the brim. I weighed the jars to ensure truth in labeling. These 4 ounce by volume jars hold 6 ounces by weight of honey. Don't you just love the English system? Otherwise it would be, 4 ounce [US, liquid] = 118.294 118 25 milliliter and 6 oz= 170.0971grams

Filled to the brim. I weighed the jars to ensure truth in labeling. These 4 ounce by volume jars hold 6 ounces by weight of honey. Don’t you just love the English system? Otherwise it would be, 118.294 milliliters and 170.097 grams – Just love that precision!

After filling four jars with pure honey I added some cinnamon to the remainder. I think it should be wonderful!

After filling four jars with pure honey I added some cinnamon to the remainder. I think it should be wonderful!

The jars posing before resting in a cool place for a week or so.

The jars posing before resting in a cool place for a week or so.

Can’t hardly wait!!!!!!!

TTFN

Bishop

Foliar Feeding with Vermicomposting Leachate

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That is a bunch of technical gobble-di-goop that means I made a liquid feed sprayed on the leaves of my plants using the liquid that comes off the bottom of my new composting bins. I am now using “Worm Factory Tray Worm Composter”. It has a spigot on the bottom that allows me to collect the liquid leachate or as some call it “Worm Tea” off of the bottom. Many of the gardening forums are kind of split on the value of collecting the leachate and some say it is an indication a system that is too damp. The design of the “Worm Factory” lets the liquid to drop to the bottom and out of harms way and I am good with that.

My recipe, not exact science, about a pint or so of leachate(liquid off the bottom), a couple of tablespoons of agri molasses and two gallons of water. I ran an aerator for 24 hours before filling the sprayer and applying the mixture as a foliar spray. An online reference says – “Foliar feeding is a technique of feeding plants by applying liquid fertilizer directly to their leaves. It has been known for many years that plants are able to absorb essential elements through their leaves. The absorption takes place through the stomata of the leaves and also through the epidermis. Movement of elements is usually faster through the stomata, but the total absorption may be as great through the epidermis. Plants are also able to absorb nutrients through their bark.”

I used an old beer fermenter that had some deep gouges on the inside…good place for bad critters to hide that can give your beer off flavors …. or worse! A small aerator with a small air stone I have used in my bait buckets provided the tiny bubbles. The molasses provides some food for bacteria to grow….the web has lots of don’t use molasses and some say use molasses and I just do what I want….sprayed the plants two days ago and none of them appear to be complaining today. In Houston….avoid spraying your tomato plants….it could increase the chance of disease. I just poured a litle on the soil beneath the plants.

Mixing bucket and my litle sprayer.

Mixing bucket and my litle sprayer.

Gate to may Garden

Gate to may Garden

Gate to my garden with the pole bean arches seen behind the gate.

Gate to my garden with the pole bean arches seen behind the gate.

A look back toward my compost bins and strawberry towers

A look back toward my compost bins and strawberry towers

The second round of the strawberry harvest is under way now. They tend to be a little smaller bur I think sweeter. The blackberries are ready to start picking. I should have enough blackberries to make some jam if the the birds and my wife don’t eat too may fresh of the vine! Tomatoes, yes, homegrown and vine ripe tomatoes are finding their way into the kitchen now. Life would so empty without “real” tomatoes, not the gassed store bought varieies! My peppers, Serrano, Poblano and Bell type are all doing well. I had higher hopes for my asparagus this year!!!! Not sure what is up with that harvest. Last year was outstanding. The pole beans are climbing and producing very well. I still have Swiss Chard that looks good even in the Houston heat.

Yesterday was a light day in the garden in terms of labor. I only soaked through two T-shirts! I am always pulling weeds, that is a given. I added some soil to a couple of the potato bins, i.e., grown above ground in containers. I will get a harvest in another 20-30 days it appears. I added some grass cuttings to my compost bin and then layered in some brown material from the other bin. I will check temperatures of the pile today. The addition of grass clippings really heats the pile up.

Heading out in a few minutes to pick before it gets “way too hot”.
TTFN
Bishop
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Gardening Promises

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I promise to keep my promises this time.

I promise to thin the carrots I planted Monday. I will not let them crowd each other into a carrot top hedge of green. I helped my self by being a little less generous as I sprinkled the seeds into the rows.

I think I can grow bigger/longer carrots if I ask a few more to step up and become compost volunteers.

I promise to thin the lettuces as they emerge so they can develop into nice leafy heads of tender munching. New technique yesterday – I sprinkled seeds over a section that I am trying a no till approach. The area has a fairly deep mat of grass clippings, compost and some shredded leaves. After sprinkling the seeds I used a steel rake to tamp the seeds into the substrate, watered well and will monitor. I have read that lettuces like to be planted very shallow and benefit from exposure to light to germinate…..we shall see.

Lettuces and turnips crowded together in my friend John’s bed…I was just as guilty!

I promise to thin my beets so they can mature into good-sized globes of goodness. I started them in divots space about 4 inches apart – several seeds to each divot so I need to select the strongest to survive the thinning process.

I promise to thin my turnips – see reasons above.

A few made it to decent size but I had far too many nugget sized beets and turnips.

 

I added a few spinach seeds and a few chard seeds … may be a little early but I have many – many more….they may also need to be thinned as they sprout.

I should have reined in the sweet potato vines …. so if I plant some next summer I will do some thinning. We had two sweet potatoes that were sprouting in the kitchen so I just tossed them into the bed with my asparagus – no problems with weed control in that bed. The vines have overwhelmed the are smothering any chance the weeds may have had. The asparagus ferns are ginormous….also helping with weed control. The adjacent bed is also overwhelmed with the vines, also weed free. I did some trimming today but it is well after the fact…in hte process I have discovered new sweet potatoes….. how many more are hiding in the tangled jungle of vines?

This is an 8 foot bed by 4 feet wide. The sweet potatoes have covered this bed, choked out the weeds and climbed the cucumber trellis! WOW!

 

This is the asparagus bed – the two tossed out sweet potatoes landed here and spread like crazy! The asparagus ferns, if standing straight up are 6-8 feet tall. I used tall tomato cages to keep them partially upright! An 8 foot by 4 foot bed!

My long beds – 24 feet long – are somewhat cleared and seeded as discussed above. Some pruned tomato plants, some newer transplants in place, some cucumbers, are hanging on through the heat ( picked 3 this morning), a few flowers, ancho & anaheim peppers are still producing and i’m waiting for emerging seeds!

A look toward the asparagus bed and the sweet potato jungle. Early morning with a little shade from our big oak tree.

 

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

Making Ready to Transfer the Worms

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The worm bin is getting to be well filled with that wonderful stuff euphemistically referred to as worm castings – worm poop – I use Rubbermaid containers…36 quart size to house them. They reside in the garage year round and the Houston heat does not seem to bother them. I actually made two bins when I ventured off into worm world. I have found that 4 months or so is an ideal time to let the little guys toil away in darkness before preparing their new abode and harvest more of the good stuff.

As part of my ongoing research into growing methods…..not really research, its just that I get bored easily and I am always want to try something new and different. The back-up bin was put to use growing potatoes. In addition to the 4 foot tall wire baskets housing potatoes I tossed a handful of extras into the bin filled with about 8 inches of soil. Over the next few months I kept adding shredded leaves and compost as the plants grew. Yesterday I decided it was time to make ready the bin for the worms and dumped the contents – potatoes, leaves, compost and all.
I was pleasantly surprised…with minimal efforts I have 8 or so pounds of naturally grown potatoes. My wife is wanting to cook the new potatoes today….I agree hun!

TTFN

Bishop

Organic and Decadent

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Interesting title….. I want to run a little test to better understand what words cause a reader to read on. Lets take a vote. All of you who read the post primarily because of the word “Organic” please raise your hand….keep them up so I can get a count. Good, thank you. Now those of you that tuned into the word “Decadent” please raise your hands for a count, not both of them – just one hand will do…… good thank you.

Hmmmmmm. I am not sure if I have a statistically significant sample to accurately determine the results….. Some of you may have voted twice or got the word “Organic” mixed up with another word after you saw the word “Decadent” influencing your voting! All this tells me is that my original plan for the title, ” A Natural Lemon Curd” may not have attracted many readers. Really, Lemon Curd? In Texas you might hear the refrain, ” What the Hell is Laaaman Crud or whatever you called that stuff?”

Honestly, I have to admit that I had no clue what lemon curd was until two years ago….yes I know I am not much of a sophisticated foodie, but I am learning! A neighbor friend and fellow gardener gave me a jar of her homemade lemon curd two years ago this Christmas. She has Meyer Lemon trees in her yard and enjoys sharing the bounty. I loved the lemon curd so much that I planted a dwarf Meyer Lemon tree in a wine barrel in my back yard. For a little guy he was prolific. I harvested about 25 lemons this year. So I decided to try my hand at making the fabulous lemon curd. I am sure my friend over at Promenade Plantings could give me some lessons and advice on how to best use my Decadently Rich lemon curd.

Here is where the “Organic” and “Decadent” came about….. I grow everything without chemicals so the lemons are “organic” by my definition. I used certified organic unsalted butter in the recipe, a lot of it! The sugar, well it was not labeled organic but it is essentially pure glucose and nothing else. I used a lot of sugar too! When I looked at how much butter and sugar went into this recipe – it made only 6 half pint jars, I realized how decadently rich this stuff is…. oh my! When you think of a food as being organic you first thought is something healthy. But, here we have an organic product that is so decadently rich and….”unhealthy”? –

Here is how I can justify the dilemma in my little “ole” pea brain….. “organic” = good, “decadent” in moderation = pretty darned good. That being said, I will eat my lemon curd, probably share some with others and feel good about my choices…… unless I can’t moderate my decadent desires and it flames out on the pleasure side of the equation…..its not like I have never gone overboard with “pleasures”….how many times?????? I could probably sit down with a spoon and eat the entire jar! Please don’t dredge up any stories to share with my wife…… she has probably heard most of them but my kids may not have…. after all those years playing Rugby there are a few stories floating around – most have been embellished over time! I didn’t know I was that entertaining!!!! How did a hard partying rugger find his way into gardening? That is a great question. May wind up being a future topic.

Photos are my lemons Au natural and photo-shopped a little. Kind of fun to see what the computer can do.

The winter garden is doing well. My son’s dog Sierra is back but I now have a garden gate to protect my little lettuces! The sugar snap peas, although not plentiful, are outstanding. My shredded leaf efforts are up to about 64 cubic feet and growing. If the weather cooperates this weekend I should be able to more than satisfy my expected needs.

More work coming up, more strawberry tower experimenting, install the new 4X4 bed for John…parts are in and assembled – just need to place it and fill it. Spinach and chard transplants are almost ready and the turnips are kicking butt. Looks like no winter for Houston this year! Oh, I also need to harvest the worm castings….. I keep putting it off. Lets see, what else, work part-time, make beer, turn a few pieces on the lathe, ride the bike, spend some time at the coffee shop and most importantly spend some quality time with my wife…..I need more hours in the day.

I am also planning a series of 3 backyard farming features….. John with his 32 sq. feet, me with my 350+/- sq. feet  and hopefully a piece on my friends, Jane and her John – they are utilizing the entire back yard and have converted most of the front yard to edible landscaping. Maybe a couple thousand sq. feet of plantings. Should be a fun project

TTFN

Bishop

 

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