Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Worm Bin Part 1

This winter my lovely wife let me set up a worm compost system in the kitchen. I had dragged her to enough lectures on vermicomposting so she was on board but you have to recognize just how awesome she is.

So why compost with worms anyway?
Well first of all you can compost kitchen waste all year long. For many people this may not be that important but for those of us up in the frozen north being able to compost during the winter allows you to produce more valuable compost. The compost you get is also said to be superior to conventionally composted material. Plus you also get worms that you can either use for more composting operations or even take fishing with you.

So the bin we built started with two plastic storage containers. like this one.

The first thing you need to do is provide a way to manage the moisture in your bin. Worms exude moisture during the composting process and the food that you add also has moisture in it. That means that if their was no way for water to leave the bin your worms would soon drown. So we made a bunch of holes in the bottom of one of the bins. I have been told that quarter inch holes are small enough to avoid plugging but large enough to keep most of your worms from leaving.

It is also important to make sure that the worms can get enough oxygen so I drilled holes in the top of the bin as well. The lid also helps to keep light out of the bins as the worms are also sensative to light and we don't want to stress them.

Lastly I nested the bin that was drilled into the un-perforated twin. The second bin will catch the moisture that comes off the bin.

So that is the bin. later I plan to tell you how to set one up and how well our first one is working out for us.

Frustrated Farmer Rick

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sometimes others just tell the story better.

My friend writing about processing deer this year after the hunt
over at You Have To Cook it Right.

Also my buddy writing about the fall festival we through this year.
also at You Have To Cook It Right

And my lovely wife wrote a nice wrap up of what we have been up to as of late as well over at Lefse and Kimchee.

On The Folly of Going Lone Wolf.

Good afternoon readers. Over the last two days we have received something on the order of 18 inches of snow! Now those of you that are only familiar with Minnesota via the national news probably think this is the norm for us but in fact this is one of the top 10 snow storms in modern recorded history for our area. This storm ground our roads to a halt, buried many cars and even collapsed the roof of the Hubert H Humphrey Metrodome. In short it has made a mess of things. But something interesting can be seen happening. Everywhere you look people are banding together to help each other. Twitter is awash with stories of folks plowing out neighbors and helping to dig out drives and sidewalks. Today while plowing and shoveling out the few bits that my wonderful neighbor could not reach with his giant farm sized snow blower it occurred to me that this is just the sort of response we may need in the face of all challenges. It doesn't mater if the challenge is Climate Change, Peak Oil or just the plain old economic hard times we seem to be currently experiencing the response will need to be the same, we have to help our neighbors. But the key to all of this is that we will need community, we will need the strengths that we all have to make it through.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Trying to get this started again.

This blog has been difficult for me to keep my nose to as of late. This fall has been a bit difficult We are still following the path of increasing self sufficiency and have made some real gains in that department this fall. There are far to many things to list out but a few of the things we have done are,

We attended a weekend workshop put on by the Women's Environmental Institute (WEI) and Growing Power. There were a number of great classes on things like Hoop house construction and greenhouse operations. We particularly took inspiration from the classes about composting and vermiculture. Since getting back to Caerwyn we have started a large compost heap and also an indoor worm compost bin.

We set up our first proper root cellar in an area under the kitchen. We dug up many of the amazing root vegetables we grew this year and stored them in wet sand inside coolers. Today I grabbed a hand full of potatoes for lunch and noted that the temp was 43F. Last time I picked up some potatoes and parsnips everything seemed to be doing well. I also hope the coolers will help keep the roots from any intrepid rodents which is good as we seem to have a plague of them this year. Probably shouldn't say plague, that might be next.

There was also a hunting trip that was quite successful this year. In fact our freezer is full of great meat.

So things are OK here.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Well like a mushroom this blog burst forth from something near death.

Err. Or something.

We found the above mushroom growing out of the base of a dead ash tree in the yard earlier this week. I thought it looked like sulphur shelf. With a little help from friend Kathy Yerich via twitter I was able to verify that. I decide to harvest it yesterday and today set about cooking it up for lunch

The first thing we had to do was clean the mushroom as it had been growing quite close to the ground and had incorporated bits of dirt and grass as it grew. After a bit of cutting and trimming it started to look quite nice.

We decided to saute it in butter with some white and red onion and a couple of sprigs of thyme from the garden. It looks great and smells good too. It has a really meaty texture without a strong flavor of it's own. I can see how some people say it tastes like the white meat of chicken

Well time to eat the rest so wish us luck.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

quick update

This is just a quick update post. I need to break the streak of not posting to this blog.

The garden is realy going like gang busters. We are getting three or four courgettes every day. We are starting to get sungold tomatoes by the bowl full daily as well. We have harvested almost all our small shallots along with our onions and garlic. We have let our borloto beans go past green bean stage and now plan to harvest them for fresh beans. We lost one of our towers of scarlet runner beans in one of the recent storms. We seem to be having storms every three days this summer. The ducks are doing well. I cleaned out their pond yesterday and refilled it with rainwater captured from the pole barn.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Apricot Chutney

We have had our first real harvest from our Apricot trees this year. We decided to pick them all off of one of our trees earlier this week as a windstorm was forecast and the fruit was already starting to drop off the tree at the slightest provocation. We kept them in the refrigerator for the week and they have held up well. We needed the time because we wanted to preserve them but were already sitting pretty from last years jelly and jam. So we poled a few experts and they suggested chutney.

We have seen chutney made on a few cooking shows and have loved the store bought chutneys we have had a few times. This was still our first batch and I was a little nervous about getting it right. As we planned on canning the batch it was important to get the acid right. From my internet perusing it looked like around two cups of acid to about 2-3 lbs of fruit was the right ratio for preservation.

The fruit was made up of six cups of chopped apricots and four red onions from the garden along with a cup of golden raisins and some grated ginger . We used cider vinegar and a bit of orange juice for the acid. The recipe also called for one pound of brown sugar and four tablespoons of salt. I trimmed the salt and sugar just a bit. As for spices we added hot pepper, black pepper, mustard seed, cardamom and cumin to a spice bag and cooked up the lot. From there we cooked the chutney down to a good consistency and canned it. I won't say much about the canning part as I am still learning to get it right. So far so good, but I would rather you looked up the proper method in a reliable source like the Bell "blue book".

There was more than this but I took the picture while the first batch was cooling on another towel.

I tasted a bit of the chutney and it turned out great. Hot and spicy but with the sweet tang of the acid and sugar. I can't wait to try some after it has had a chance to come together a bit as chutneys are supposed to get better with age.

Monday, July 12, 2010

First Zuchini

We harvested our first zucchini yesterday night. It was actually two of the round variety. We decided to grill them out as we were already roasting a pan of beets, turnips and garlic with thyme and sage. We decided to grill as it was too hot in the house to use the oven. The squash was great and the mixed roast was quite good as well. We also had our usual dinner salad as well. We topped the salad with some smoked lake trout we picked up on the way home from our weekend up north.

I also wanted to put up a picture of the new runner bean trellis. I got this up a bit late but runner beans have never disappointed me when it comes to rapid growth.

Sometimes it is just so good to be home.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Weekend update

I was going out to the orchard to check on the ducks this morning and noticed how deep green the grass inside the orchard was in comparison to the grass outside the fence. It was my hope that by housing the ducks in the orchard we would be restoring the soil. The soil in this area is incredibly thin and clayish. I think it is actually subsoil that was left behind by excessive turning of the soil in that area. We hadn't realy dug into the soil before having the orchard planted and if we had we probably wouldn't have put the orchard where we did. So now we are stuck with improving the soil around the trees. Last fall I planted clover around the trees and I am sure it has helped as well.

We also gathered these berries last week from around the yard. We planted the raspberries and the strawberries but the gooseberries and the black raspberries are wildings.

We didn't want to let them go to wast but we still have a fair supply of jam from last year so we made them into a galet. It turned out pretty good. I hope to make more out of our raspberries this fall.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Yellow dog has gone.

I came in tonight to set out my thoughts about the passing of our beloved farm dog Cooper and found that my lovely wife had already written the most perfect post. She posted over at Lefse and Kimchee. So I will settle for a bunch of pictures instead.

To Cooper.

I hope to someday be as good a man as he thought I was.