Saturday, July 26, 2008

Golden Acre Update

That's an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail...female...which have lots of blue on the hind wings. Some are black, but the yellow is more common. Only the females come in both yellow and black forms...the black is similar to, but bigger than the Black Swallowtail. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail caterpillars are dark green with two large eyespots. They eat various trees and shrubs especially Yellow Poplar, Wild Cherry, and Sweet Bay.

I spent the past two weeks studying and being tutored about herbs and herbal remedies. During this time I carefully made oils, vinegars and tinctures.

Here’s how I made the tinctures: I used dried herbs (flowers or roots according to use). I put about two cups of herb into a quart jar. Then I poured just enough very hot water (not boiling) on the herbs, just enough to soak them. Then I added different 80-proof alcohols, depending on what I already had on hand. So I ended up with tasty-sounding tinctures. These tinctures have to be shaken twice daily.
English plantain in Rum
Red Clover in vodka
Gingko Leaf in citron vodka
Cinnamon sticks in bourbon
Siberian Ginseng root in bourbon
Siberian Ginseng root in vodka

Infusion Oils:
I filled a small jar with dried lavender flowers and covered the flowers with sunflower oil. After removing the bubbles I floated two tablespoons of vodka on top. The alcohol helps to keep the oil from getting rancid and also aids in extracting the oils from the herbs. I covered the jar of oil with thick cheesecloth so the alcohol could escape and placed the jar in a sunny window. I check the jar every day for signs of spoilage then gently shake it.

Supplies: Small mortar and pestle, alcohol (vodka), bottles and jars, oils, beeswax for salves. I’m using different base oils according to how I’ll use the oil later on. Some oils are absorbed into the skin and some are not.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Golden Acre Update


I talked to the Tennessee Bee Inspector in our area yesterday. He is a veritable fount of information. He assures me there are bees in my area. He inquired about the kinds of flowers, herbs and veggies I was growing, whether I used pesticides (no), whether there was a tree line, all kinds of questions. He didn’t think it would be a good idea to keep bees here on our land because of the potential danger to my grandkids. He suggested I put hives on a friend’s farmland.

Among other things, we talked about colony collapse disorder. Not only are there mites to contend with, drought and warmer temps to withstand, but millions of bees are transported to different locations all over the U.S. to pollinate large crops. Recently in the news there was a story about a Canadian truck that overturned and released x million bees. The generation that comes after these transported bees are unable to find their way back to the hive.

The Beekeeper’s Society meeting is once a month so I’ve got that on my schedule for August. The first of the month a bee expert instructs on what a beekeeper should do for the bees that month. They offer mentors, so although I can’t have a hive in my neighborhood, I can still learn from somebody who keeps bees in the area.

In the “bird” category, I called the city manager’s office and found that a chicken coop has to be 1000 yards from any dwelling. Our home is within the city limits, and our lots aren’t big enough to make that happen.

Planted: Blackberry brambles along the back property line. Successive plantings of okra, Alaska No-Wilt peas, lima beans, peppers, zinnias, marigolds, cockscomb, Black Magic elephant ears, and more cukes, zukes and squash in case this group fails.

Harvested: I dug up several blackberry brambles on the nearby construction site [with the builder’s permission]. Some are a little worse for wear; they bear the imprint of heavy machinery tires on their backs. I read that wild blackberries are more soil and drought tolerant, and they produce more and better-tasting berries. We’ll cover them with bird net next year when the berries come in.
We harvested tomatoes and beans for Monday night dinner. Spotted cat’s eye for salad. Our water catch system is working well. In the past week we harvested more than 110 gallons of rainwater. Picked green beans and steamed them.

Prepped: Pre-ordered Sharon’s book! Cleaned out a crock to use for blackberry brandy. Hub built some a garden bed with lumber we got from the construction site. I ordered heirloom seed from Southern Seed Exchange: long-standing spinach, Buttercrunch lettuce, Deer Tongue lettuce, Yugoslavian Red Butterhead lettuce, Red Russian kale, Georgia Green collards, Red Giant mustard greens. The names alone sound good enough to eat. We’re going to plant tiny amounts of each for fall greens and save the remaining seeds for spring. I read that you keep the seeds in a jar or airtight container with an oxygen absorber out of light. Not in the refrigerator!

Stored: Scavenged more lumber from the construction site before they took the rest away to the landfill. Stored various canned goods, shelf stable milk, and more water. I was disappointed that my coop order from Breakbeckers isn’t coming in until July 30th. Still, lots of veggies are in season, and our own plants are beginning to put out.
I started a brandied fruit crock. When we got the gorgeous blackberries from Delvin Farms, I put them in the crock, covered the fruit with sugar, and about an hour later I covered the whole thing with brandy.

Managed: I started pollinating the pumpkins, squash, cantaloupe and cukes. I used a tiny artist’s brush. I’m finding that most of the blooms on the pumpkin are male, which explains why all the blooms drop. The high heat is also a factor. The following link gives a brief explanation and instructions on pollinating plants yourself.
This week we turned out the compost bin into a larger space, added string for beans to grow up to reach the lattice on our deck, started digging a hole for the apple tree. Cut and raked grass for the compost heap.

Recycled/Reused: We composted and recycled as usual. Shredded lots of white paper to use in the composter. Scavenged the construction site. We bought grapes and they went bad fast, so I spread them out for the butterflies.

Learn Something New: Bees get up earlier than I do. After the recent rainfall here we had a crop of sunflowers that bloomed. Suddenly our yard is filled with honey bees.

Local: Our collective neighbors tell us they have NO desire to garden. They want nice smooth lawns, every house uniform.
We bought produce from Delvin Farms, a local organic farm. The blackberries were huge…only half of them made it into the brandy crock.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Golden Acre Week 10 Update

Prepped: We’re still working on garden beds for the fall planting. I filled the compost bin full of dirt in anticipation of dumping it out soon. This time I won’t use beer! (see post below) Cleaned garage.

Planted: I’m doing successive plantings of lima beans, hot salsa peppers, sugar snaps, mammoth dill, mammoth sunflowers. While the garden percolates I’m going to turn my attention to herbs.

Harvested: Tons of plantain, basil, green beans, green tomato to use as a side dish.

No weeding necessary for the veggies so far, which is an incredible time saver. Not so lucky on the flower beds. We have horse nettle, nutgrass, and Johnson grass. I cleaned out the filter on the 110-gallon capacity water catch. We used control-top panty hose as a top filter on the water barrel and we put a knee-high stocking over the end of the downspout to filter it. After I struggled and sweated to get the permanent downspout to the cache Hub finally had mercy on me and fixed it up. In addition to the aforementioned panty hose, we used the other leg of the filter pair as a kind of gasket between the gutter opening and the downspout.

I have Pokeweed in my front flower bed. In the past I’ve eaten poke salat in early spring but it's highly toxic if you aren't careful. Now that I have grandkids running around I want to dump it, which will be a challenge.

We did a layout for the backyard homestead. We’re adding a fence, prepping garden space, planting fruit trees. With all the lumber I’m gathering we should be able to build a chicken coop for next to nothing. I’m planning to build a Dr Seuss type house that looks like a playhouse. No rooster.

More water. Canned mandarin oranges. I dried a lot of wild grass for fall décor. I’ve been waiting on a Walton Feed order for eight weeks. That seems nuts.

Reduced, Reused, Recycled:
Handed off a 4 ft. stack of magazines.
Took recycling to the center.
Went to see the construction foreman where the houses are being built near us. He let me go through and keep a massive pile of lumber in all shapes and sizes. I can go back every day to get discards. Not only can we build an arbor on the deck, but we can frame three more garden beds. And now I have giant beanpoles. I was amazed at the total waste of materials on the site.

I hit the Goodwill store this morning determined to find crocks. I found two good ones with lids, and a water-bath canner.

Cooked something new:

I cut back the basil plants so they’d keep putting out. Then I made pesto with basil, sun dried tomatoes, garlic, and Romano cheese. I froze the pesto in little capers jars, olive bottles, etc. Best pesto we ever tasted! Then I made basil vinegar. Next I’ll be making ba
sil oil, but I’d don’t know about using oils for eating. They go rancid so fast in the heat.

I made two tinctures. One is Red Clover flowers and citron Vodka. The other concoction is plantain leaves in rum. I put the tinctures in dark brown- glass vitamin bottles. I’ll use the plantain tincture to make salves. I’m using three books for identification, instructions, etc. Since so many plants look alike, I want to be cautious in gathering edibles and h
erbs in the wild. In the past we’ve relied on the state park head ranger to confirm the identity of herbs and edibles.

Learned: I’m using three books for identification purposes. I’ve learned how to recognize the wild thangs in my yard.
The Herbal Home Remedy Book by Joyce Wardwell
Wildflowers of Tennessee and the Southern Appalachians (Native Plant Society)
The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody

Drink Hatcher milk! We eat local produce.

The “Other” Book
The Fun Book is a glue-and-scissors project that I use to relieve stress and trigger my imagination. I took a copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise and used it for a collage book. I used Modge Podge to affix handmade paper, tissue paper—all those little bits and scraps I saved—to the pages as background. After the paper dries, I glue “things” on the pages.
There are no photos of family and friends; I use pictures and clippings and do-dads. Each two-page spread makes a statement. The topics deal with what is happening in our culture today—politics, the news media, disaster, icons of North American culture. There is poetry, and pages I sponge painted around the page gutters. I transferred images to scotch tape. That step creates a ghostly slightly transparent picture. When each page is finished, I Modge Podge over the whole thing and let it dry for a few days. That process creates thick pages with texture and weight. It also means I’ll have to cut some pages out of the book so the binding doesn’t burst. I’m experimenting with preserving wild edibles with silica gel or in some form that will kept them from wilting or changing color. I’d like to use them in the fun book.

Leave a comment! Take a minute to chat.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Planted: Mammoth Dill, Mammoth Sunflowers. Black Magic elephant ears, hostas and ferns in a shaded bed by the front door. Wisteria along the fence.
Harvested: Sugar Snap peas, chives, rosemary, basil for pesto
Prepped: Enlarged vegetable beds along the deck. Time to order more compost.
Managed: Added a soupcon of hot compost to the sides of the tomato plant. Weeded flower beds. Laid cardboard for paths then covered with shredded bark mulch. Shredded more white paper for use in compost #1 (the rawest compost).

Ordered these books:
Food Drying Techniques : Carol W. Costenbader
Making Cheese, Butter & Yogurt : Ricki Carroll
Making Natural Milk Soap : Casey Makela

Tomato Plants

Learned: Flowers in Ultra Violet
When I was researching the types of flowers to plant that would attract bees, I found out some interesting info about how flowers look to bees and birds. The ultraviolet rays form a bulls-eye pattern on the flower that not only attracts bees but warns caterpillars not to feed on certain plants. This link shows you photos of the flower in natural light and also in UV light.
This is an article about flower chemicals

  • Local: Hooked up with the local Beekeepers group, found a local source for fresh eggs, bought local farmer’s market peaches. I left messages with two local tree companies asking them to bring dump materials (tree trunks, branches, bark and sawdust) to my house. I heard from somebody in the biz that they’ll do that. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The Notebooks
    The Food Independence Days Challenge is an online class about food storage and self sufficiency. Certainly I’ve learned as much in the last eight weeks as I did in eight weeks of college. As I would with any course, I put together a notebook with suggestions and information about the topic. As I read and researched, I realized that I wanted to preserve some of the best info and pictures for future use, so I did step-by-step instructions with photographs for each of the following topics:

    Bees (still working on this one)
    Bread -How to make bread
    Candles - How to make candles
    Canning Guide - Complete USDA guide
    Chickens -How to find where your hen lays eggs, keep a clean henhouse, Henhouse designs Dairy - Cheesemaking instructions with how-to photos
    How to milk a goat w/ photos
    How to pour off cream and make butter w/ photos
    (Looking for actual photos of milking a cow)
    Gardening Guides
    How to compost
    How to take care of fruit trees
    How to make your own gardening tonics
    How to care for house plants
    Vegetable gardening
    Different gardening methods with drawings and illustrations
    Herbal remedies
    Buying Bulk herbs
    How to grow mushrooms on a log
    How to harvest
    How to store
    How to make
    How to make a solar generator
    How to make a solar dehydrator
    Using mirrors to enhance panel performance
    Different methods of growing
    How to rig your own rain catch system
    How to make a purifier
    Water storage guidelines including purification

Fun Stuff:
Beer for Compost
Compost pile #3 is about ready to filter and use. A couple of weeks ago I decided to give compost pile #2’s decomposition process a boost by adding ½ a bottle of beer to the several bushels of composting materials. The beer adds bacteria which speed up the process. It also makes the compost heap smell like what it is—a pile of rot. My neighbors were pretty pissed when they couldn’t use their pools for a couple of days because my compost pile smelled so bad.

Missing Umbrella
One day I had worked in the yard, cleaned everything up, put up the umbrellas including the beach umbrella we use sometimes on the deck. I went in to get Hub so he could check out the beauty, and we couldn’t find the beach umbrella anywhere. We went all over the neighborhood.

Caterpillars Love the Fennel
Every year we grow fennel so we can watch the caterpillars feed and hang…always hoping to see one of them emerge from the cocoon. This season we’ve had three egg-laying episodes on one fennel. By accident I closely planted three important foods for all butterfly stages: sunflowers, tickseed, butterfly bush, fennel.