Monday, June 29, 2009

Experiment: Making Malt Vinegar

malt vinegar experiment
We have had great success making apple cider vinegar, but are always wanting to try new things. We have been reading about malt vinegar, and decided we should try making that. We have read different ways to make it, but thought we would try the way we do ACV, so we opened a bottle of homemade beer (not sure if commercial beer would work because of additives, but that might be another experiment) and poured it into a sterilized quart canning jar. We then placed cheese cloth on top and set it in a dark place. We will check it in about 4 or 5 months.

After doing that, we read about someone who puts bread in wine to make vinegar, so we decided to do a second batch of experimental malt vinegar with beer and a piece of homemade sourdough bread. That is now sitting next to the first jar, and we will see if it goes any faster or tastes differently.

malt vinegar with bread experiment

Quinoa Salad

1 1/3 cups quinoa
2 3/4 cups water
1/2 cup green peppers; diced
1/2 cup black olives; diced
1/3 cup onion; diced
1/2 cup tomato; diced
1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon garlic powder
salt and pepper; to taste

Cook the quinoa in the water, then let cool.
In a bowl combine peppers, olives, onion and tomatoes.
Add the quinoa.
In a jar combine olive oil, vinegar, garlic powder and oregano. Shake well and pour over quinoa mixture.
Add salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Easy Baking Recipes; Chocolate Walnut Cookies

This is a brownie-like cookie. Delicious warm from the oven.

Chocolate Walnut Cookies

1/2 cup butter; room temperature
3/4 cup honey
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup flour
1/2 cup walnuts; chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a cookie sheet.
In a large bowl, cream butter, honey, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Add cocoa powder and flour, mix well. Add in walnuts and stir until combined.
Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls on cookie sheet.
Bake about 7 to 10 minutes, but do not over cook. Cookies should be slightly soft.
Remove cookies from pan to a wire rack to cool.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Experiment, Making Vinegar Out Of Bad Wine

potato wine vinegar experiment
Last year we made a potato wine that came out terrible. I have read that it is easy to make vinegar from wine (homemade wine because of no additives) so we thought we would give it a try. We put the wine in a glass jar and placed cheese cloth on top and set it in a dark place. That was on Oct 12, 2008. Last night we tested it, and it is starting to taste like a nice vinegar. We will let it sit at least another month and try it again.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

New Seed-Starting Pots?

grapefruit rinds to dry

Can grapefruit half rinds be dried and used to start seeds in? Don't know. That's why we are trying this experiment.
For the past few days we have been saving our empty grapefruit rinds. We set them on a plate to dry, and will dry more as we get them. Once they are dry, we will save them for next year's seed starting. Maybe we will try oranges, as well.

Sourdough Success!

sourdough bread
We have been trying for over a year to make a decent sourdough starter and loaf of bread. The starter always goes bad on us and the bread is too..well, sour. Finally, we have come up with both starter and recipe that have worked very well for us.

Sourdough Starter

1 cup flour
1/2 cup water

Combine in glass jar (we use a quart wide mouth jar). Stir well, with a wooden spoon. Cover. Let sit 3 days before using for the first time, stirring every day, and do not refrigerate for the first 3 days.
Once your starter is ready, you must stir it every day, unless you refrigerate it. If you will not be using it for a few days, it is best to refrigerate.
Take starter out of the refrigerator the night before you plan on using it.
It is best to use wood, glass or ceramic bowls and utensils, basically anything but metal. Metal can inhibit fermentation.
Always replenish starter after using.

sourdough, after kneading

Sourdough Bread

3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 cup warm water
pinch sea salt
1/4 cup sourdough starter
flour; for kneading (it could take up to a cup or more flour for kneading)

Generously grease a bread pan.
Combine all ingredients and mix until dough forms.
Turn out on a well floured board and knead until well mixed,(adding more flour as needed) about 10 to 15 minutes, dough will become elastic and smooth.
Form dough into a loaf and place in bread pan.
Let sit in a warm place to rise, this could take 4 to 6 hours, maybe even longer, depending on room temperature.
Place bread in a cold oven and place a pan of water on the oven floor.
Bake at 425°F for 15 minutes, then lower heat to 350°F and cook about 35 minutes more.
Remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack.
Don't forget to replenish your sourdough starter.
Makes one loaf of bread

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Herbal Teas from the Garden: Healing Herbs, A Garden Pharmacy

Herb gardens can be large, small or even in containers. Many herbs spread easily, making them fun to grow. The following list is an example of just some of the herbs that can be grown for tea. Always use caution when taking any herb, find out if it will effect any medications you may be taking or if they will affect an existing health problem.

A rule of thumb for making herbal teas is 1 teaspoon of dried herb, or 1 tablespoon of fresh herb per cup of hot water, but you may want to experiment to find the taste you like best. Sweeten with honey, if desired.

Blackberry Leaf: helps diarrhea, gargle for throat inflammation, compress for wounds and rashes. High in vitamin C. Chewing fresh leaves can help canker sores and inflamed gums.
Blueberry Leaf: helps diarrhea and urinary tract infections. Rinsing the scalp daily with the tea is said to help prevent hair loss.
Calendula: good remedy for lack of appetite stimulates circulation. A rinse is said to help acne and gum disease. Dab tea on corns several times a day to cure.
Catnip: lowers fever, can relieve insomnia, cramps and headaches.
Chamomile: treats insomnia, sore throat, stomach ache and cramps.
Dandelion: improves digestion, purifies blood, and helps combat arthritis. Spring leaves are less bitter.
Echinacea: Strengthens immune system, helps urinary tract infections, colds and flu.
Fennel: seeds are used, promotes good digestion, expectorant, removes toxins, remedy for gas.
Goldenrod: gargle for inflamed gums or sore throat
Hawthorne: strengthens heart, promotes blood flow, said to lower blood pressure.
Hops: regulates appetite, relieves nervousness, sleep disorders, regulates menstrual cycles, said to help bladder and kidney problems. Do not drink for more than 2 weeks at a time.
Lady’s Mantel: reduces heavy periods, pain and headaches.
Lemon Balm: helps digestion, insomnia, headaches, stress reducer, is said to lift depression, helps digestion, improves concentration.
Milk Thistle: liver and gallbladder cleanser, improves digestion.
Plantain: said to help coughs, bronchial complaints, and asthma.
Peppermint/Spearmint: helps headaches, motion sickness, stomach aches, nausea, vomiting and freshens breath.
Raspberry Leaf: gargle for sore throat, tea helps with menstrual cramps, diarrhea
Rose Hip: high in vitamin C, good for colds and flu, mild diuretic
Sage: helps stomach aches, hot flashes. Gargle for sore throat and gums.
St. John’s Wort: said to help depression
Thyme: rich in vitamin A, magnesium, potassium and iron, good for coughs, poor appetite, detoxes the liver. Gargle for inflamed gums, sore throat.
Valerian: use roots, said to help menstrual cramps, tension headaches, insomnia, and nervousness.
Watercress: use fresh, said to be a digestion stimulant, helps with urinary tract infections cleanses the liver.
White Pine Needle: said to help exhaustion, coughs, and throat irritations. It is a mild diuretic and is high in vitamin C. In a bath it is said to help gout pan, nerve pain, arthritis, sprains and muscle strains.
Wild Pansy (Johnny-Jump-Up): said to help joint pain, fever, constipation, rids the body of toxins. Use the tea as a skin wash for acne, eczema, dry scalp, dandruff and diaper rash.
Yarrow: helps digestion, menstrual complaints, removes toxins.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Wind Power!

Last Tuesday saw the arrival and installation of our windmill, the Sunforce 44444 12-Volt 400-Watt Wind Generator
For the past 5 years our house has been powered by solar panels, with a back up gas generator. We thought a windmill would help during the winter (less sun hours and more windy days), and on windy nights, which would mean less use of the back up generator.

We contacted our friend, Lee Goggin. Lee is an alternative energy dealer/installer and he agreed to help us install the windmill. We knew he would have all the connections, wire etc that we would need, and figured his help would make it much easier than doing it by ourselves (just to make sure we did everything right!)

getting the windmill ready

We purchased the 30’ tower second-hand about 4 years ago, in anticipation of a windmill.

tower goes up

Lee supplied us with a control box, which has a circuit breaker, shut off, meter and lightening arrestor. This box was optional, but recommended for monitoring and maintenance- the windmill can be shut down with the flick of a switch.

Control Box

It took about 3 hours to completely install the windmill and get it connected to our battery bank. We were so excited, waiting for the wind to blow. It did blow a little bit, and we saw the props move. Once. The weather has been calm since!

Garden Pictures

Centaurea Montana
Centaurea Montana

Red Lupine

Red Lupine



Apple Blossom Buds

apple blossom buds

Apple Blossom

Apple Blossom


a bit of sunshine

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Easy Baking Recipes, Gingersnaps

5 tablespoon butter, room temperature
1/2 cup honey
2 medium eggs
1/4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 12 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Combine butter and honey in a mixer on med low speed. Add eggs, molasses, and vinegar. Slowly add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

Spoon onto a greased cookie sheet and bake in the 325°F oven for about 10 to 12 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack.

Kitchen Universe LLC

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Changing of the Sinks: Care of a Cast Iron Sink

Cast Iron Sink, as found
In a previous house I had a five foot cast iron sink, and I have truly missed it. I love a cast iron sink, especially for potting plants and washing vegetables; I like the space they offer.

I mentioned to an antique dealer friend of mine that I was looking for either a five foot, or four foot cast iron sink, figuring it would take some time to find one. He happened to have a four foot one on hand for $40, and even delivered it the next day.

Needless to say, sinks were swapped and we now have the iron one.

Cast iron sinks are very easy to care for. This one was a little rusty when we got it, so I brushed it with a wire brush, rinsed it with a garden hose and left it in the sun to dry. Then, I generously covered it with bacon grease and let it sit in the sun a few days. Before bringing it into the house, I rubbed the grease in real well.

Once a week or so I rub in more grease with newspaper. It keeps the sink black, and keeps it from rusting.

The Simple Things That Make Us Happy

Screen Door on Greenhouse
It’s just a screen door, but oh my, how nice it is! We have had a child gate across the green house doorway to keep the cat and chickens out, and every time I wanted to go in I had to climb over the gate. Sure, I could have moved it, but usually my hands were full.

We changed a door on the house last summer and had a screen door left over. I forgot all about it, but my husband came across it last weekend and put it up. What a surprise; and what a difference (in looks and ease).

Sometimes it’s the littlest things that make us so happy!

Molly and No Name Meet

Molly Meets No Name

The day arrived to let Molly and No Name meet (If you haven’t read about No Name, check an earlier post: June, 3). I was a little nervous as to how she would treat him, but I shouldn’t have been. Once she smelled him all over and knocked him down a few times (just to show him who’s boss) everything was fine.

In fact, everything went so well we decided to get No Name a buddy. Now there are two of them running around out there, No Name and The Other One., AKA: The Black One and The White One (even though they are both black and white, one it more white than the other).

They are getting along great and now we are just waiting for Molly to have her calf sometime in the next few weeks. That ought to be interesting!
Molly and No Name

Easy Baking Recipes; Blueberry Pie

2 pie crusts, 9, unbaked
4 cups blueberries; fresh or frozen
1/2 cup honey
3 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 425°F.
Grease pie plate and line with one pie crust.
In a large bowl combine blueberries (no need to thaw if using frozen), honey, flour and lemon juice. Combine well.
Pour into pie crust and dot with butter. Place other pie crust on top, flute the edges and cut several vents into the top.
Bake for 10 minutes at 425°F, then lower temperature to 350°F and bake 30-40 minutes more, until the top is slightly browned.

Easy Baking Recipes: Chocolate Cookies

1/2 cup butter; room temperature
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup milk
1 Large egg
1 3/4 cups flour
6 tablespoon baking cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a cookie sheet.
In a large bowl, mix all ingredients until well blended.
Drop by tablespoonfuls on cookie sheet about 2" apart.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes.
Immediately remove from pan and place on a wire rack to cool.

Rhubarb Walnut Bread

Rhubarb Walnut Bread
Rhubarb Walnut Bread
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup oil
1 Large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup rhubarb; sliced thin
1/4 cup walnuts; chopped

Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease a bread loaf pan.
Combine all wet ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well.
Add dry ingredients, mix well. Add the rhubarb and walnuts and stir until well blended.
Pour into prepared loaf pan.
Bake 50 to 60 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Easy Baking Recipes, Granola

4 tablespoon butter; room temperature
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup molasses
11/4 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Grease an 8 x 8 baking dish. Preheat oven to 350°F.
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well.
Press into baking dish.
Bake 20 minutes.
Let cool completely, then store in an air tight container.
Serve with milk, as a cereal or with yogurt or ice cream.

Easy Baking Recipes, Baked Custard

This has got to be the easiest custard I have ever made.

Baked Custard
Baked Custard
4 eggs
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups milk

Butter an 8 x 6 x 2 baking dish. Preheat oven to 350°F.

Beat eggs in a large bowl until they begin to get bubbly. Add honey and vanilla and mix until the honey is stirred in well. Add milk and mix well again.

Pour into buttered dish. Place dish in a pan of water and bake about 45 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Using and Growing Mints: Peppermint and Spearmint

Mint is one of the easiest herbs to grow, in fact it can take over a garden, so careful planning is needed before planting. It is perfect for our “less lawn, more garden” project, and is a great healing herb.

Mint likes full sun, but will tolerate some shade. It is easily divided by roots and likes well drained soil. It flowers mid summer (here in zone 5); the honey bees and butterflies love it.

Planted near roses, peppermint and spearmint will deter aphids. Also, it will deter white cabbage moths. Planted around the house, it will help deter ants.

As a tea, mint is unsurpassed. It is helpful for headaches, motion sickness, will increase concentration; it relieves gas, aids digestion, is good for relieving stomach cramps, insomnia and it is even reputed to restore sexual vigor.

The leaves can be used fresh or dried; pick for drying before it flowers.

Mint is said to minimize dark circles under eyes, simply make a strong tea, strain, soak sterilized pieces of gauze (wring well) and apply over closed eyes.

Tie a bunch of sprigs under the faucet while filling the tub for a bath. The scent will fill the room.

To make a “sun tea” fill a glass jar with water, add mint sprigs and let sit in the sun at least 5 hours (we have left ours out a few days), strain the mint, add honey or sweetener of your choice, if desired, and refrigerate.

Mint in Cooking:

Fresh leaves can be chopped and added to fruit salads.

Mint is used for making jellies, flavoring meats, fish and in baking.

To make an herbal vinegar, place a few sprigs in a small bottle of white wine or rice vinegar. Let sit a few weeks for the flavors to combine. Strain herbs, if desired. This makes a nice salad dressing.

Add chopped mint to mashed potatoes, cream cheese dip or fruit punches. It also goes well in chocolate cakes and cookies. Try adding some to vanilla ice cream. Ok, now I’m hungry!

Rain Water Storage for Gardens and Greenhouse

Conserving Water: Rain Water Storage for Gardens and Greenhouse

Conserving water is always on our minds, and watering the garden can be a problem. As mentioned in other writings, we are off the grid and have a small 12 volt water pump. Also, our well is just a 16’ dug well, so the gardens can be a big strain on our well and pump.

This 350 gallon water tank has been a huge help to us. It sits on a trailer so that it can be easily moved. We set it under rain gutters, and then move it up hill from our gardens and greenhouse. Garden hoses are connected to the valve in front and the water is gravity fed to the flowers and vegetables. The pressure is very slow, but it gets the job done and is helping us conserve resources. water storage

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Cake-like Brownies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup baking cocoa
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup nuts; chopped, optional

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grease an 8 x 8 baking dish.
In a sauce pan melt butter and honey. Remove from heat and cool.
Put butter mixture in a mixing bowl, add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

Pour into pan and bake 25-30 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack.

Garden Pictures

The garden flowers are starting to bloom!
Sweet RocketSweet Rocket
PoppyClose Up Poppy
Carolina LupineCarolina Lupine
Chive BlossomsChive Blossoms
IrisIris In Waiting
Rhubarb Flower StockRhubarb Flower Stock

Friday, June 5, 2009

Garlic: Great Food, Great Medicine

The healing powers of garlic make this super herb well worth growing. It is as at home in the kitchen as it is in the medicine cabinet.

Garlic is easy to grow- plant in full sun from early fall to early spring, depending upon your USDA hardiness zone. Plant cloves about 1 ½” deep, and about 4” apart. Cutting off the flower heads is said to make the bulbs larger. We leave some cloves in the ground and are working on perennial garlic bed as an experiment.

For flavoring dishes, garlic can’t be beat. We cook some in with our mashed potatoes, yum. Add a few cloves to olive oil to make wonderful garlic oil for using in salad etc. You can also add some to vinegar. Some people like to take the clove out after the flavor is to their liking. We leave the cloves right in.

Garlic powder can be made by grinding dried cloves; mix with a little salt and you have garlic salt. Garlic cloves can be inserted into meat and chicken before roasting. Try rubbing a clove in a salad bowl before preparing a salad for a nice flavor. The Good-for-You Garlic Cookbook has over 125 garlic recipes, including breads.

For live stock, garlic is used for fevers, worms, ticks, lice and more. It can, however, change the flavor of milk in cows and goats. It is said to be a good blood cleanser and good for lung and digestion problems.

For people, garlic has an almost endless list of benefits. It is said to destroy some types of cancer, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and is good for digestion. Some studies say it can help lower blood sugar levels. Eating garlic daily can help protect against colds and build up the immune system. Garlic is a good insect repellent. I know the more garlic we eat in the spring, the less the bugs bother us all summer. Garlic can help with toothaches, diarrhea, earaches, and expel worms.

In the garden, garlic helps deter Japanese beetles, weevil, aphids and fruit tree borer, especially in peaches. Planted near roses it helps prevent black spot.

With so many uses, it is easy to see why garlic is so well loved, and we haven’t even touched upon the vampires.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Earth-Friendly Living, Reusing, Reducing

Growing up, my mother always had us shut off lights when leaving a room, and we used cloth napkins instead of paper. Kitchen scraps were composted, and even though we lived in the city, we had a small vegetable garden. All the talk on “green living” and recycling got me thinking recently about my childhood ways and I've realize that I've come a long way since then.

I am so much more in tuned with nature, wasting, consumption, reducing, reusing, re-you name it. It has become such a way of life for my husband and me that we no longer even think about it, it's second nature.

Being off the grid makes you so much more aware of power consumption. All of our light bulbs are compact florescent, and I even pay careful attention to the watts they use (why have 18 watts when 11 will do the job). We plug our TV, DVD and computer into power strips and turn off the power strip when we are not using it. Some things even get unplugged from the power strip (the computer monitor hums, must still be drawing power). I plan my laundry (for which we have a front loading washer, uses less electricity and less water) and laundry for sunny days.

Here are some of the other things we do:

We no longer buy paper towels. Living on a farm, we always have lots of rags, just as easy to use one of those as a paper towel.

We shop yard sales and thrift shops. Sometimes we come home with great treasures- lots of building materials (thermal glass kitchen window for $20.00, see photo), garden tools, outdoor furniture, sky light for our mud room; even our work clothes that become rags come from yard sales (double, or triple? recycling).$20 kitchen window

Dexter cows mow most of our yard and are working hard clearing the woods. Dexter's are great for eating bushes and scrubby plants. In one summer they do a remarkable job.

We grow a garden and can all of our fruit and most of our vegetables for the winter. What food we do buy, we buy in bulk to save money and to reduce packaging waste. Buying spices in bulk saves a lot of money. Rice, pasta etc. is stored in one gallon glass jars that are recycled from a local nursing home.

We make our own organic bread.

When the home made pickles are gone, we reuse the brine for pickled eggs. Simply boil up some eggs, peel, and put right in the jar of brine and refrigerate.

Local consignment shops are a great source for clothes. The quality is good, plus you can bring in your own good quality clothes to sell.

Even before we had a wood water heater we heated kettles of water on the wood stove for washing dishes etc.

We shop local, locally owned stores whenever we can. Surprisingly, the prices at our local hardware store are just as good, if not better than, the big stores. Plus we're helping a local business, and (because of where we live) saving gas.

Each year we save seeds from our garden. This is new to us (in the past few years), but so far we have had pretty good luck. We are also trying to start all our own plants, a good goal for us.

Our herb gardens get bigger each year. We are trying to have more gardens, and less lawn. We dry herbs for winter use and have been growing more herbs for tea.

We grow everything organically, no chemicals, no spraying (only with a compost tea that we make).

We use glass containers to store food and rarely use plastic wrap, bags or aluminum foil.

Handkerchiefs replace tissues.

Composting kitchen scraps makes wonderful soil (or try your hand at vermiculture), and keeps trash out of land fills. You can even do it the lazy way- take your kitchen scraps to the garden, dig a hole and bury them (in a different spot each time until the scraps have a chance to break down); an easy solution for someone that doesn't want a compost pile.

We plan meals around what's in season; rhubarb time, we eat lots of rhubarb; cucumber season, we eat lots of cucumbers.

Actually, the longer I sit here and write, the more things I come up with. I know not everyone can make use of all the ideas, but maybe there are a few that will spark your interest.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Welcome, No Name

No Name
Things change around here at a moments notice. We may make plans and think we are on top of things, but we are constantly proven wrong.

Last night we got a phone call around 7PM from a friend who had a chance to get a free day old bull calf. He has three horses and not a good place to raise a calf, so the question was, “Do you guys want to raise him for the summer?”

My husband and I talked it over for about 2 minutes and said, “Sure, why not.”

“Ok, I’ll be over with him in a few minutes.”

“Now!?” Oh yeah, that’s the way things happen here.

About half an hour later, No Name arrived. There is really no name that seems to fit him yet, so “No Name” it is.

I scrambled around to get our former sheep house ready for him (it had become a great storage area) and with the help of a bale of hay, I had a nice spot for him.

Now it’s bottle feeding three times a day. We’ve already had a halter on him, and little by little we will get him used to the electric fence.

Our Dexter cow, Molly, is quite interested, although she has not met him face to face yet. She spent last night sleeping outside his door. It will be interesting to see her reaction to him when they finally meet. Her calf is due later this month, and I have a feeling she will be mothering both of them.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Companion Planting, The Enemies

We have been interested in garden companion planting for a few years now, but found that looking through different books to find what likes or dislikes what to be very time consuming. I decided to put together a chart of plants and have been adding to it over the years as we read about new companions. Here is the list of what we have compiled. This list is of which plant "Dislike" each other, the "Likes" are done on a separate post.

bush beans:
fennel, onion, garlic, beet, shallot
beet: tomato, spinach, marigold, pole bean
blackberry: raspberry
broccoli: lettuce, strawberries
brussel sprouts: garlic, beet, shallot, onion
cabbage: onion, strawberry, tomato
carrots: dill
cauliflower: strawberry, tomato
chard: pole beans
Chinese cabbage: pole beans, corn, tomato, strawberry
chive: bush beans, potatoes, peas, soy beans
corn: tomatoes
cucumber: potato, sage
garlic: brussel sprouts, beans, peas
kale: wild mustard
kohlrabi: pole beans, strawberry
leek: all beans, peas, soybean
lettuce: broccoli,beans, tomato, strawberry
melon: potatoes
onion: sage, peas, beans
peas: garlic, gladiolas, onion
peppers:beans, tomato
potato: sunflowers, onion, pumpkin,cucumber, raspberry, tomato
radish: hyssop, cabbage family
raspberries: blackberries, potato
rue: basil
sage: cucumbers
spinach: potatoes
tomatoes: corn, potatoes, kohlrabi
turnip: hedge mustard, cabbage family

Companion Planting, The Buddies

We have been interested in garden companion planting for a few years now, but found that looking through different books to find what likes or dislikes what to be very time consuming. I decided to put together a chart of plants and have been adding to it over the years as we read about new companions. Here is the list of what we have compiled. This page lists all the "Likes" of a certain plant, we have done the "Dislikes" on a separate post.

apple trees:marigolds, chives, garlic, borage
asparagus: basil, tomato, parsley
basil: deters flies/mosquitoes
bush beans: celery, cucumber, strawberry, eggplant, corn
summer savory, nasturtium beet onion, lettuce, cabbage
borage: deters tomato worm
broccoli: potato, onion, celery, oregano, nasturtium, cabbage, peas, tomatoes, beet
brussel sprouts: cucumber, pennyroyal
cabbage: nasturtium, rosemary, cucumber, celery, potato hyssop, dill, sage, tansy, thyme, rye flour sprinkled in morning dew kills cabbage worm
calendula: deters asparagus beetle, tomato worm, many others
carrots: peas, leeks, lettuce, radish, chives, onion, sage, rosemary
catnip: deters flea beetles
cauliflower: celery, carrots, potatoes, onions
chard: lettuce, onions, cabbage
Chinese cabbage: bush beans, marigold, onion, sage
chive: carrots, apple trees, roses
collards: tomatoes
corn: potatoes, peas, beans, cucumber, pumpkin, sunflower
cucumber: beans, corn, leeks, onion, peas, nasturtium,
chive spray for downy mildew, sunflower, radish
eggplant: beans, thyme, marigold, peas, spinach
fennel: plant away from everything
fig trees: pokeweed
flax: carrot, potato
garlic: deters Japanese beetles, aphids, weevils and fruit tree borer
grapes: hyssop, sage
horseradish: potatoes
hyssop: cabbage, grapes
kale: potatoes, sage, marigold, nasturtium
kohlrabi: beets, cucumber, onion, sage
leek: carrots, celery, onion
lettuce: cabbage, beet, carrots, garlic, onion, radish, cucumber
marigold: deters Mexican bean beetles, nematodes and many others
melon: morning glory, corn sunflower
mint: deters white cabbage moth and ants
nasturtium: deters aphids, squash beetle, striped pumpkin beetle
okra: peppers, eggplant
onion: summer savory, chamomile
parsley: tomatoes, rose
peach trees: garlic
peas: carrot, radish, tomato, nasturtium, corn, broccoli, caraway, turnip, cucumber
pennyroyal: deters ants, plant lice
peppers: marigold, nasturtium, carrots, onion, okra, oregano
petunia: deters beetles
potato: eggplant, marigold, nasturtium, horseradish, peas, corn, bean
pumpkin: corn
radish: carrots, peas, lettuce, cucumber, cabbage, tomato, onions, nasturtium, mustards, beans, kohlrabi
rhubarb: cut off flowers for longer harvest
rose geranium: crushed leaves or oil acts as insect repellent
rosemary: deters cabbage moth, bean beetle, carrot fly and mosquitoes
roses: parsley, onion, garlic, mint, rue, banana peels
rue: roses, raspberry, deters Japanese beetle, deters flies in chicken coop
sage: cabbage, carrots, rosemary
spinach: cabbage, peas, onion, marigold, oregano, strawberry
squash: nasturtium, icicle radish (leave to seed)
stinging nettle: good for the compost pile, powered; add to chicken feed
tansy: fruit trees( deters borers), roses,raspberry,blackberry,grapes
thistle: adds potassium to compost pile
thyme: cabbage
tomatoes: cucumber, carrot, asparagus, chives, garlic, onion, celery, broccoli, cabbage, basil, parsley, bee balm, borage
turnip: peas, hairy vetch
valerian: good for the compost pile

Monday, June 1, 2009

Rain Water, The Toilet Flushing Project

rain barrel
Rain barrel water can be very handy for many uses and rain storage is a large part of our homestead. My husband is always coming up with new ideas for harvesting rain water and creative ways to tie it into our needs. Below is one of the projects he did; it works well for us, and maybe it will give you ideas as well.

Using Rain Water

In the interest of homesteading and conserving resources, we wanted to cut back on the amount of water we use from our well. It is a dug well, about 16’ deep and usually does well (no pun intended), but if we could conserve without too much difficultly, why not. Our idea was to set up a barrel and let the rain from the roof fill it. It works great. All we had to do was tie into the house plumbing, but I didn’t want to cut into the copper pipes and then not have it work, although I was pretty confident there would be no problems

First, I mounted an outside faucet valve in the side of a 55 gallon plastic barrel about 4” up from the bottom (this was to keep sediment from getting into the toilet valve). Then I mounted the barrel outdoors on a tower, under our rain gutters so it was about 4' above the toilet. From the barrel valve I attached a garden hose and ran it under the house. I cut the male end of the hose off for two reasons: mainly I needed a female end to attach to the indoor plumbing, but also so I could drill a hole the size of the hose and not the size of the fitting. .connection to rain barrel
Once the hose was pulled through the floor, I attached a ¾” garden hose ½” MIP connector to the garden hose. Then I attached a braided hose (½” FIP 3/8” compression) to the ½” MIP end of the connector. The 3/8” compression end of the braided hose connected to a shut off valve, which connected to a ½” close brass nipple attached to the middle section of a ½” brass tee. I disconnected the line from the toilet tank and connected that to a ½“close nipple on one end of the brass tee. From the last opening of the tee, I connected a short braided hose (½” FIP 3/8” compression) to the house water supply (the original shut off valve to the toilet tank).inside plumbing hookup

Once all the connections were tight, it was time to test the system. The barrel had been placed outside a few days prior and Mother Nature had given us a hand by filling it. Leaving the valve off from the house water supply, we opened the valve from the barrel and flushed the toilet. Once the toilet was done flushing we could hear water trickling in from the barrel. Success!

Once everything was tight and tested, we sealed around the hose that came up through the floor.

There are a few points to keep in mind with this project. One of the two valves has to be off. If the house supply is on and the barrel is on, you will fill the barrel from the house water supply and we do this on occasion when rain is not abundant. When we do fill the barrel we have to keep an eye on it because there is no automatic shut off on the barrel so the only way to know when it is full, short of putting a ladder up and looking in, is to see it overflowing. Another point is this is a gravity feed system; the toilet will not fill quickly.

The great thing about this system is, since we live off the grid, the toilet does not run our water pump, so we not only save water, we save electricity. We have two water pumps, a 12 volt DC that runs directly off our battery bank, and a 110v AC that we use for large water usage, either on sunny days, or when the back up generator is running,

Another point, if you live in a freezing climate (like we do), the system needs to be emptied before cold weather sets in. We have installed an indoor tank to use in the winter. It sets up in our loft over the bathroom and works almost as well. I say “almost” because it doesn't save us water in the winter, only wear on the 12v pump. In the winter we have to run our generator more often (lack of sunny days...still waiting for that wind generator), so when the generator is on we use the 110v pump to fill the tank. We have to keep a very watchful eye on that; don't want water running out of the barrel and onto the bathroom ceiling.

Other options that we plan to try in the future are: add more barrels outside to give a larger storage area and add an auto shut off on the indoor tank. I also plan on putting in a pipe from the rain gutters to the inside barrel; then in the fall and early winter when it rains during the day but freezes at night, we can still get water but our system will not freeze. Of course this system will have to have an over flow to direct excess water and that will also cure the problem of filling the indoor tank and not have to watch it so closely.

I plan on putting a site tube on the side of the barrel. I was going to put a hose “Y” on the valve of the barrel, but after thinking that idea through I realized the water would flow up the sight tube, so I will need to mount a separate fitting at the bottom, the same height as the valve and have the top of the tube go back into the barrel at the top. This will show the level of the water at all times.

If you complete this project and you don't want to wait for rain, just open the valve from the house water supply and open the valve to the barrel and it will begin to fill. Once it is full, close the valve from the house water and leave the barrel valve open. Now Mother Nature and the law of physics will take over.