I’ve tried many different commercial products as well as homemade recipes, and I prefer the homemade versions. Not only are they inexpensive and easy, I know exactly what is in them. I would like to share what works best for me.
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Many years ago, I saw a farm worker trellising tomatoes in a commercial field. He quickly walked down one row and up the other side with his hand bobbing up and down like a needle on a sewing machine. In minutes, hundreds of tomato plants were secure in their trellis. This speedy technique, sometimes called Florida weave, holds tomato plants upright in slots created by twine strung horizontally between stakes.
Without a trellis or cage, tomato plants would sprawl on the ground, vulnerable to fungi and insects. One of the most common ways to trellis tomatoes in the home garden is also one of the most time consuming: tying a tomato plant to a stake. With one or two plants, that’s no big deal. But if you have a dozen or more tomatoes needing weekly attention as they grow, the Florida weave saves time.
Here’s how: Plant tomatoes in a straight row, spaced about 2 feet apart. Drive stakes at the beginning and end of the row and in the spaces between the plants. (In regions without a lot of wind, you can get by with a stake between every other plant.)
Best Seed Tape Ever
Planting tiny seeds is easy with this simple gardening trick.
It’s difficult to space tiny seeds, such as carrots, in the garden. The best way to solve this problem is to make homemade seed tape. Here’s how to do it:
1. Unroll a strip of toilet paper on a table (double ply works best), mist it with a sprayer, and place the seeds along the center of the strip. Be sure to space the seeds based on the seed packet’s recommendation. Tip: Alternate carrot seeds with radish seeds because when the radishes sprout, they help to mark the row and break the ground.
2. Starting along the strip’s long edge, fold a third of the paper over the seeds, then fold the other third over to cover the seeds completely. Lightly tamp the paper, misting it again to secure the seeds. Make as many of these strips as you need. Then carefully carry them to the garden.
3. Make shallow furrows in the prepared soil, lay the strips down, and cover them. In a jiffy, your small seeds will be planted and perfectly spaced.
Why Make Homemade Mozzarella?
So, why go to all the trouble of making mozzarella at home? Here are my top 4 reasons:
1. It taste sooo much better than the stuff at the store. The bargain-brand mozzarella you find at supermarkets pretty much tastes like cardboard to me… Of course, you can spring for a higher-quality brand, but expect to pay considerably more.
2. It’s (mostly) raw. Well, as raw as mozzarella can be, I guess. You won’t be heating the milk or curds past 100 degrees with this recipe. However, during the stretching process, you will be dipping the curds in hot liquid which effects the ‘rawness’ a bit. However, I’m thinkin’ it’s still way better than the mozzarella made with totally pasteurized skim milk at the grocery store. (Here’s why raw milk is important to me, in case you were wondering.)
3. It uses up lots of milk. If you have your own dairy animals, this is a really, really good thing. When I’m drowning in milk, I make a double batch of mozzarella, which uses up 4 gallons of milk.
4. It freezes well. Make a bunch of mozz when you’re swimming in milk and freeze it for the times when your animals are dry
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Note: If you’re new to earthbag building, first read the introductory Step-by-Step Earthbag Building Instructable and How to Build an Earthbag Roundhouse . Also, my new Earthbag Building Guide and Earthbag Building DVD are now available.
We built this earthbag dome at our home in Thailand for Mother Earth News Magazine in 2007. The article that describes the complete building process in detail was published August/September 2009. It is now free on the Internet: Low-Cost Multipurpose Minibuilding Made With Earthbags , by Owen Geiger.
This earthbag dome Instructable simplifies the process and illustrates each step of construction with photos. The two critical drawings are also included here. Please refer to the complete article before asking questions.
This multi-purpose dome can serve as a storage shed or cool pantry above ground, or as a rootcellar or storm shelter below ground. No building permit is typically needed, because it is below the minimum size required by building codes, is not inhabited and is not attached to a residence.
Earthbag structures provide a cool space in summer and an escape from the cold in winter (ideal for humans and animals), which means this earthbag dome is well suited for many purposes, like a quiet space for relaxing or playing music, as well as those listed previously. Depending on your needs, the most practical combination of uses might be a rootcellar/cool pantry for daily use and a disaster shelter for emergencies such as tornadoes or hurricanes.
The key concept that makes earthbag domes work is corbelling. This means each course (each row) of bags is inset slightly from the course below. Corbelled domes made of adobe and stone have been built for thousands of years. The concept has been applied to earthbags in the last few decades.
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I spent part of today talking to a retire Professor from the California University system. His expertise is in plants, particularly tomato plants. The subject we discussed was the long-term storage of plant seeds. Based on his many years of experience he said that the best method is to store seeds in a paper sack in the refrigerator. In his opinion, the preferred temperature to store seeds is 50 degrees. For practical purposes, a refrigerator works well. He recommended against freezing your seeds. High heat will also shorten the storage life of seeds.
He has germinated tomatoes seeds that were 50 years old that had been stored correctly. On one occasion, he received wheat seeds (wheat berries) from a cave in South America that were several hundred years old and they germinated.
If seeds fail to germinate, he said it is often because the seed coat has become hard. He said that you can soften the seed coat by soaking in them in a mixture of two parts water to one part chlorox for thirty minutes. Then rinse them in clean water and plant. This will not always work but is well worth a try. He told me the story of another Professor who had some tomato seeds that would not germinate so they were fed to his turtle. After going through the digestive track of his turtle, the seeds were then discovered to germinate.
The length of storage life varies from plant to plant. However, most plants seeds should last a few years. Legumes have a short shelf life compared to tomatoes.
The following is additional information that comes from the University of Colorado.
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recipe for crystallized ginger
*1/2 pound fresh ginger, peeled
*1/2 pound organic sugar, plus additional sugar for tossing the cooked ginger slices
1. Slice the ginger into 1/8 inch thick slices using a mandoline or a sharp knife. The slices should all be the same thickness so they cook evenly.
2. Put the sliced ginger into a pot on the stove and pour in enough water to just cover the ginger. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 45 minutes until most, but not all, of the liquid has cooked off (you want about 1/4 cup of liquid to remain).
3. Add the sugar to the ginger slices and remaining water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Allow to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes.
4. Drain the ginger slices over a colander, reserving the ginger syrup for another use.
5. Spread the wet ginger slices out on a cooling rack set over waxed paper. Sprinkle one side of the slices with organic sugar. Allow to dry for a few hours, then turn over and sprinkle the other side with organic sugar.
6. Once sprinkled with sugar and completely dry, the slices will keep in an airtight container for several months.
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Coffee grounds can be an excellent addition to a compost pile. The grounds are relatively rich in nitrogen, providing bacteria the energy they need to turn organic matter into compost. About two percent nitrogen by volume, used coffee grounds can be a safe substitute for nitrogen-rich manure in the compost pile, explained Cindy Wise, coordinator of the compost specialist program at the Lane County office of the Oregon State University Extension Service. “A lot of people don’t want to use manure because of concerns about pathogens,” she said. Contrary to popular belief, coffee grounds are not acidic. After brewing, the grounds are close to pH neutral, between 6.5 and 6.8. The acid in the beans is mostly water-soluble, so it leaches out into the brewed coffee. Since 2001, Wise has trained and coordinated OSU compost specialist volunteers who have collected and composted nearly 200 tons of coffee grounds from 13 coffee shops and kiosks in Eugene, Springfield, Florence, Cottage Grove, and Veneta. That’s the equivalent of about 25 large dump
trucks full of coffee grounds.
Lane County alone is estimated to generate 1 million pounds of used coffee grounds per year, Wise said. “Recycling this valuable soil amendment and compost ingredient makes sense both economically and environmentally,” she said. Wise is encouraging gardeners and those that compost in other communities to arrange to collect coffee shop grounds for composting. But be sure to make prior arrangements with a coffee shop to collect grounds. Then, take a clean five-gallon bucket with a lid, label it with your name and telephone number on the bucket and lid and leave it at the shop and then pick it up at the shop’s convenience. Here are some suggestions for using composted grounds in the yard and garden from the OSU Extension compost specialists:
-Mix grounds into soil as an amendment. Make sure to keep them damp.
-Spread grounds on the soil surface, then cover them with leaves or bark mulch.
-Add grounds to your compost pile, layering one part leaves to one part fresh grass clippings to one part coffee grounds, by volume.Turn once a week. This will be ready in three to six months.
-Or, put them in an existing unturned pile. Just make sure to add a high carbon source, such as leaves to balance it.
-Grounds may be stored for future use. They may develop molds but these appear to be consumed during the composting process. Or a large plastic bag works for storage as well.
-Paper coffee filters may be composted with the grounds.
-Keep in mind that uncomposted coffee grounds are NOT a nitrogen
fertilizer. Coffee grounds have a carbon-to-nitrogen ration of about 20:1, in the same range as animal manure. Germination tests in Eugene showed that uncomposted coffee grounds, added to soil as about one-fourth the volume, showed poor germination and stunted growth in lettuce seed.
Therefore, they need to be composted before using near plants. Wise and her composting protagees have been conducting informal research on composting coffee grounds. So far, they have observed that coffee grounds help to sustain high temperatures in compost piles. High temperatures reduce potentially dangerous pathogens and kill seeds from weeds and vegetables that were added to the piles. They have noticed that coffee grounds seem to improve soil structure, plus attract earthworms. When coffee grounds made up 25 percent of the volume of their compost piles, temperatures in the piles stayed between 135 degrees and 155 degrees for at least two weeks, enough time to have killed a “significant portion” of the pathogens and seeds. In contrast, the manure in the trials
didn’t sustain the heat as long..
“We were amazed at the results we got with coffee grounds when we did thetrial,” Wise said. Jack Hannigan, an extension-trained compost specialist, is pleased with the results he gets from the coffee grounds he collects from the Fast Lane Coffee Company in Springfield to use on his farm in Pleasant Hill. “I make hotbeds that run about 150 degrees,” Hannigan said. “It kills the weeds. I can get the piles hotter and break down the compost better with coffee grounds than I can with manure. It works great.”
Coffee grounds also can be added directly to soil but the grounds need a few months to break down, Wise said. “We’re not certain about how coffee grounds act with the soil, but anecdotally people say they do dig it into the soil,” she said. An additional benefit of diverting coffee grounds from the landfill is that it helps cut greenhouse gas emissions, said Dan Hurley, waste management engineer for Lane County’s Short Mountain Landfill. “To keep organics out of the landfill is a good thing for reducing greenhouse gas emissions because organics decompose and produce methane. Methane is about 25 times as bad as carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas,” Hurley said. Recycling coffee shop grounds also fosters interactions between community residents and local businesses. The coffee grounds stay in their communities, meaning that fuel isn’t being used to truck them from far-flung areas of the county to landfills.