Monthly Archives: February 2012

Garden Tipi

Justin came out last night and this morning we went out to the middle field and took down the tipi he’d built from a billboard tarp and assembled there a year and a half ago and hauled it to the garden and reassembled it.  The plan is that I’ll be staying in it this summer to keep critters out of the garden.  I’ll also have Kita on a run in the garden, together I doubt we’ll have any problems.

We set it up in a position where it would get the best shade, but I won’t be in it during the day anyway.  There’s a few things to fix up and tweak on it still.  It needs a door flap, some new smoke flap adjustment poles, and it needs to be staked down.  I’m putting a raised tent platform inside of it and I’ll have a mattress on that.

Being up in the garden will be nice too since I’ll be a lot less likely to neglect the plants.  I’ve decided to dedicate at least 30 minutes every morning to working in the garden.  I think it’s going to be fun, besides it’s not too often you get to say you live in a tipi.

Tao’s Hard Lemonade Cider

Out of all the things I brewed last year, this was the most popular.  It was also the easiest, fastest, and cheapest to do.  I’ve tweaked the recipe a little, but here’s the recipe for my hard lemonade cider.  This should give you around 10% alcohol, and cost about $17/5 gallons.  5 gallons is about 50 12oz. bottles and American beer for example is typically ~5%.  This means you’re only paying about $0.17/beer equivalent of alcohol.  This is much tastier than typical American beer.

 

Ingredients

  • 5 cans 6 cans frozen lemonade concentrate w/o potassium sorbate
  • 5 cans 4 cans frozen apple juice concentrate w/o potassium sorbate
  • 3.5lbs table sugar
  • 1 packet champagne yeast
  • 5 tsps. yeast nutrient
  • 2.5 tsps potassium sorbate
  • 2.5 tsps. pectic enzyme (optional)
  • 1 campden tablet (optional)
Equipment
  • ~4 gallon pot
  • (2) 5 gallon bucket
  • (1) 5 gallon bucket lid
  • Air lock for bucket lid
  • Large stirring spoon
  • 3-4′ of 1/2″ inner diameter tubing for racking (optional)
  • Specific density meter (optional)

 

Directions

  1. Clean your bucket, lid, spoon, and large pot well with antibacterial soap and/or a little bleach.
  2. Heat up about 2 gallons of water.  It doesn’t have to boil, but it should be steaming at least.
  3. Stir in 2lbs of sugar, or half of a 4lb bag of sugar and make sure it dissolves completely.
  4. Depending on the size of your pot you can add the cans of juice concentrate into that or pour the hot sugar water into your 5 gallon bucket and then mix in the concentrate.  I like to mix it in the pot to melt the concentrate faster, but it doesn’t matter really.
  5. If you haven’t already pour the sugar/juice mix into the 5 gallon bucket and pour in enough water to make it 5 gallons total.  The 5 gallon mark is right about level with where the bucket handle usually attaches.
  6. Wait until the mix has cooled to roughly room temperature or a little warmer and stir in the yeast nutrient as well as the pectic enzyme and crush campden tablet if you’re using them. (The pectic enzyme makes the brew more clear.  The campden tablet is to protect against other bacteria or yeast getting in your mix.)
  7. Put the bucket in a room temperature area out of direct sunlight and wait 24 hours.
  8. If you’re using a specific density meter to measure the final alcohol content, you’ll want to measure now and record it.
  9. Add the champagne yeast by just sprinkling it on top and then make sure lid is tightly sealed and air lock has water in it and makes a good seal on the lid.
  10. Wait about 2 weeks, it can be faster or slower depending on the temperature.  Ideal is around 75F degress.  After a day or two the air lock will start to bubble as the brew ferments and makes the precious alcohol.  When the air lock stops bubbling after a week to 10 days or so you’ll want to let it sit for an additional 2 days to let the yeast settle out.
  11. You now have very dry hard lemonade cider.  The yeast will have eaten just about all of the sugar and turned it into alcohol.  This is the time to measure the specific density again.  By comparing it to the previous measurement you can calculate the percent alcohol accurately.
  12. Now we want to sweeten it, but if we add more sugar the yeast will just eat that too.  Stir in 2.5 tsps of potassium sorbate to force the yeast into dormancy.
  13. Wait a day or two for the yeast to go dormant
  14. Rack(ie siphon) the lemonade/cider into the other freshly cleaned 5-gallon bucket using the also freshly cleaned tubing.  The key is to get the tubing positioned about 1/2″ from the bottom of the bucket with the cider so you don’t siphon out all the yeast and other fermenting biproducts that have settled to the bottom.  (You don’t necessarily have to do this, but you’ll want to carefully pour off the lemonade/cider and leave as much of the dregs behind in the first bucket as you can.)
  15. Stir in sugar to taste.  This will be roughly 1.5 lbs of sugar depending on taste.
  16. Bottle it or just drink it straight from the bucket
  17. Thank your buddy Tao for sharing his wonderful recipe.

That’s it.  It only takes about 2 weeks altogether.  Beer takes a month, 2 weeks to ferment and 2 weeks to carbonate in the bottle.  Because this isn’t carbonated it takes half the time and doesn’t  have to be bottled at all.  Let me know what you think!

Starting Onions

I started some onions from seed today.  I used some of the peat pots instead of the soil blocks.  Soil blocks aren’t ideal just because of the way onions grow and how many we’d like to grow.  Each of the pots here have 20-30 seeds in them and will be pulled apart for planting when it’s time.

We haven’t gotten very large bulbs the last few years, and since we eat a lot of them I’d really like to solve the problem.  I originally tried starting from seeds without much luck, and the last couple years I grew from sets.  Unfortunately I picked the largest sets to start with thinking they had the most stored energy and would make the largest bulbs, but the opposite is true because the biggest sets go to flower instead of making bulbs.

I also read that onions were light feeders and did not need especially good soil, but other things I’ve read since say that to get good-sized bulbs they do need good soil.  We did get plenty of green onions in the poorer soil.  I tried inter-planting them with other crops previously, but this time I will give them their own space and make sure they stay well-watered.

Seed Starting with Soil Blocks

This is my second year using soil blocks to start transplants from seed.  A soil blocker allows you to press soil blocks out of a sort of potting mix specially made to hold together on it’s own.  The benefits are that no plastic trays, which inevitably breakdown and make a mess, are needed. Biodegradable pots made out of peat or newspaper is a good option, but another reason makes soil blocks tempting.

Because the blocks are separated by air only, when the roots reach the air they stop growing. This is called “air-pruning” the roots and avoids the plants becoming “root-bound”, which is when the roots hit the side of their container and wrap around.  When those roots grow they essentially choke the plant.

There are various sizes of blockers and the plugs that make the indentations for seeds in each block can receive smaller blocks.  For example these 2″ blocks we’re using for tomatoes and peppers fit into the large 4″ blocker.  We likely will plant them out before they outgrow the 2″ block, but you never know and some people have shorter growing seasons and need a bigger head start.   We’ll be using the micro 1″ blocks for starting our greens in a few weeks.

John studies the blocker, blocking mix, and empty tray
John studies the blocker, blocking mix, and empty tray
First tray blocked.
First tray blocked.
The mix could have been drier.
Finished soil blocks
Finished soil blocks
Tomato and Pepper seeds with associated trays
Tomato and Pepper seeds with associated trays
The two trays on the left are for only 3 varieties of pepper. Each row in the tomato tray will have a different variety of tomato. Also, tomatillo and ground cherry are together.
Record keeping for seed trays
Record keeping for seed trays
I ran out of seeds for the Anaheim peppers so I had to adjust. Note to self: It's better to write in the notes during or after you've seeded the blocks.
Pepper seeds in the soil block indentions
Pepper seeds in the soil block indentions
Seeds covered in the soil blocks.  Trays on thermal mass rocket bench.
Seeds covered in the soil blocks. Trays on thermal mass rocket bench.

The mistakes I made last year were to put to many different kinds of plant in one tray.  Tomatoes and broccoli have different temperature, light requirements, and germination times.  This year,  I put them together.

Last year we had a late frost and we lost most of our first planting and didn’t have enough for a complete 2nd planting.  This year looks to have an early spring, but just to be sure I’ll be starting at least 2 different batches several weeks apart to insure we have enough transplants and don’t have to buy any.

One thing I’ve already noticed that I’ll do next year is to write down what I plant in each row.  The rows are marked A-I on trays that are numbered.  I ran out of seeds for one of the peppers and had to go back and change my notes.

Also, in case you missed the video I made last year, you can check it out below.