Country Traditions

October 21, 2012

Root Simple: Hay Boxes or Fireless Cookers

Filed under: family, wisdom — Tags: — dmacc502 @ 6:06 am

Root Simple: Hay Boxes or Fireless Cookers.Why would you want to build a fireless cooker?

  • To save time at the stove
  • To have food ready when you get up, or come home from work
  • To save energy, because you’re a do-gooder.
  • To save energy, because energy is expensive/unreliable where you live.
  • To learn this technology well so you’ll know how to use it in case of emergencies. (A fireless cooker combined with something that can boil water, like a camp stove or a rocket stove, would be a great combo for any emergency, long or short.)

via Root Simple: Hay Boxes or Fireless Cookers.

February 6, 2011

Gardens: Old wives’ tales | Life and style | The Guardian

Filed under: composting, family, farming, gardening, wisdom — Tags: — dmacc502 @ 11:26 am

 

 

Crocks in pots improve drainage

The theory Water drains more quickly through coarse materials, so�a layer of gravel�or pot fragments in the bottom of containers lets excess water drain freely.

The evidence Research by soil scientists shows that water doesn’t flow freely from fine-textured materials into coarser ones. Water moves into coarser materials, such as gravel or crocks, only once the soil above is saturated, so a sudden change from a fine to a coarse texture causes water to collect in the�soil above, rather than drain away. This can be bad news for roots. Pot feet help to improve drainage and prevent waterlogging, especially in containers sitting on a�hard, flat surface.

The verdict False: a drainage layer in�the bottom of pots reduces the volume of soil available to plant roots. Don’t add gravel or crocks, but ensure pots�have drainage holes.

Watering in the middle of the day scorches leaves

The theory Water droplets act as�mini magnifying glasses, which�focus the sun’s rays and scorch leaves.

The evidence For the first time last�year, researchers investigated the effect of water droplets and sunlight on leaves. Scientists in Budapest studied various types of�leaves and found no evidence of sunburn caused by water and light. Watering in the middle of the day should, however, be avoided, because it’s wasteful. More water will evaporate compared with the amount lost when watering at a�cooler time of day. And not only that: watering in the heat of the day also raises humidity levels around plants, creating conditions loved by�fungal diseases such as�powdery�mildew and�grey�mould.

The verdict False:�watering in�bright�sunlight does not cause sunburn, but it�does waste water�and can create�problems with�fungal diseases.

Urine speeds up composting

The theory Human and animal urine is�a source of nitrogen, which�speeds up decomposition by�boosting the activity of composting organisms.

via Gardens: Old wives’ tales | Life and style | The Guardian.

January 15, 2011

Marmalade is way easier than it looks – Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories

Filed under: canning, family, recipes, wisdom — Tags: , , , , , — dmacc502 @ 4:25 pm
Today I made marmalade......mmm!

Image via Wikipedia

The first step is to peel the fruit. We’ve made lemon, lemon-orange, and orange marmalade, but you can use pretty much any citrus fruit.

We looked around a bit and settled on this recipe primarily because of its simplicity. It scales well. For a large batch, just keep peeling and cutting fruit until the pot is full or your hands were tired. You can also scale down–grab a couple of oranges from the cafeteria and you’ll make a lot of friends in your dorm kitchen.

The peels need to be cut into little slivers for the appropriate texture in the marmalade. If you stack up the pieces, you can cut a bunch at once.
Marmalade 06

Many recipes recommend removing the white pith because it is bitter. Other recipes recommend removing the pith and reserving it, cooking it along with the fruit in a cheesecloth bundle and removing it at the end, presumably to allow extraction of the pectin. Many jam and jelly recipes call for pectin to be added, but it isn’t needed for marmalade because of the amount of pectin already present in the skin and pith of the citrus fruit.

Some recipes call for a blanching or soaking stage. The primary purpose of blanching is to remove the bitterness from the pith and peel. We like bitter marmalade, so we left in most of the pith and didn’t soak or blanch the peels or fruit. That also keeps the recipe simple– just slice up the fruit and throw it in the pot with the peel pieces.
Marmalade 08

The fruit and peel are cooked in water until they’re good and soft. It takes a while (about an hour), but once you’ve got a nice simmer going, you can ignore it pretty well.
Marmalade 12

The sugar goes in. Lots of sugar. The original recipe calls for 4 cups of water and 4 cups of sugar (with ten lemons). The 4 cups of water barely covered the raw fruit (in a saucepan with roughly equal depth and diameter). For scaling the recipe up or down, you can use that as a rough guide: pour in water a cup at a time until the fruit is almost covered, then once everything’s soft add as much sugar as you did water.
Marmalade 15

Stir in the sugar, and bring it up to a boil, stirring regularly.
Marmalade 28

The original recipe says to cook it until it’s 220 degrees fahrenheit. If you’re one of the few with a well-calibrated thermometer, congratulations. For the rest of us, put a spoonful of the proto-marmalade on a cool plate. If it’s still runny after cooling for a minute, keep simmering a little longer. It should show signs of jelling after cooking for 45 minutes to an hour.
Marmalade 19

That’s it. You’ve made marmalade!
Marmalade 20

But now you’re wondering what to do with it. We recommend spreading it on a freshly toasted english muffin. Or maybe a crumpet.

You can put the rest of it in a bowl, let it cool, then keep it in the fridge and use it. Or you can can it. Canning is not as scary as it sounds. You pour the warm marmalade into warm jars, wipe the rims clean, put a clean lid and rim on them and boil the jars covered with water for 15 minutes.

There are lots of kinds of canning setups but the simplest is a pot with a spacer to keep the jars off the bottom. While you can get dedicated canning kettles with jar racks inexpensively, you don’t really need any special equipment. Rules of thumb: your pot needs to be deeper than your jars so you can cover them with water, and the jars shouldn’t rest on the bottom of the pot, so as to avoid thermal stress. You can put a small wire cooling rack, a vegetable steamer, or an array of skewers tied together in the pot to keep the jars off the bottom.
Marmalade 21

After boiling the jars, you can ladle out some of the water and lift your jars out with an oven mitt. However, a set of jar lifting tongs doesn’t cost much and makes that step easier. A wide mouthed funnel is nice since it keeps stuff of the rims of the jars, but is also not necessary, especially if you get wide mouthed jars.

The folks who make Ball jars have some nice overviews of canning techniques.
Marmalade 30

You may recognize our technique as one common in mathematics. We have reduced a difficult problem (what to do with 75 pounds of citrus) into a problem whose solution is well known: what to do with many jars of marmalade.

 

via Marmalade is way easier than it looks – Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories.

December 9, 2010

Directions for Making a Greenhouse | eHow.com

Filed under: wisdom — Tags: , , — dmacc502 @ 7:07 pm

Wash and dry your soda bottles, removing all labels and adhesive. Discard or recycle the caps; you won’t need them for this project.

2

Poke the blade of your utility knife into the center of each bottle. Cut the bottles in half widthwise, so you have a bottom and a top. Fill the bottom of each bottle with about 2 inches of sand. This helps with drainage later.

3

Cut your seed flats into square sections of four wells each, using scissors to snip the connecting plastic between wells. Fill the wells with soil and poke your finger about ½ inch down into each well.

4

Place a seed in each hole and cover it with soil. Place each square of seed wells down into the bottom of its own bottle. Water the wells with about a cup of water for every four wells.

5

Match up a bottle top with each bottle bottom. Slide the cut edges of each bottle top down into the bottle bottoms. The edges of the bottle tops should touch the seed wells seated in the bottle bottom.

6

Set your bottles in a sunny, temperature-controlled area. The bottles surrounding the seed flats will contain heat and moisture, creating a warm, humid atmosphere for your seeds. You may cluster all of the bottles together on one table or set them around your home. Just make sure all of them remain warm and well lit.

via Directions for Making a Greenhouse | eHow.com.

Directions for Making a Greenhouse | eHow.com

Filed under: crafts, wisdom — Tags: , , — dmacc502 @ 7:05 pm

Wash and dry your soda bottles, removing all labels and adhesive. Discard or recycle the caps; you won’t need them for this project.

2

Poke the blade of your utility knife into the center of each bottle. Cut the bottles in half widthwise, so you have a bottom and a top. Fill the bottom of each bottle with about 2 inches of sand. This helps with drainage later.

3

Cut your seed flats into square sections of four wells each, using scissors to snip the connecting plastic between wells. Fill the wells with soil and poke your finger about ½ inch down into each well.

4

Place a seed in each hole and cover it with soil. Place each square of seed wells down into the bottom of its own bottle. Water the wells with about a cup of water for every four wells.

5

Match up a bottle top with each bottle bottom. Slide the cut edges of each bottle top down into the bottle bottoms. The edges of the bottle tops should touch the seed wells seated in the bottle bottom.

6

Set your bottles in a sunny, temperature-controlled area. The bottles surrounding the seed flats will contain heat and moisture, creating a warm, humid atmosphere for your seeds. You may cluster all of the bottles together on one table or set them around your home. Just make sure all of them remain warm and well lit.

via Directions for Making a Greenhouse | eHow.com.

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December 7, 2010

How to Compost: Hot and Cold Methods

Filed under: composting, gardening, wisdom — Tags: , , , — dmacc502 @ 4:45 pm
A picture of compost soil

Image via Wikipedia

Composting is a method of recycling naturally decomposing matter. Ingredients, size of the pile, local weather conditions, and your maintenance habits will affect the outcome. Note that shredded leaves, chipped wood, and chopped food scraps generally decompose more quickly than whole or large pieces.

Hot, or Active Composting

The quickest way to produce rich garden humus is to create a hot, or active, compost pile. It is called “hot” because it can reach an internal temperature of 160°F (140°F is best) and “active” because it destroys, essentially by cooking, weed seeds and disease-causing organisms. The size of the pile, the ingredients, and their arrangements in layers are key to reaching that desired outcome.

Size: A hot compost pile should be a 3-foot cube, at minimum; a 4-foot cube is preferred. The pile will shrink as the ingredients decompose.

Ingredients:

  • One part high-carbon materials (shredded, dry plant matter such as leaves, twigs, woody stems, corn cobs)
  • One part high-nitrogen green plant matter (green plant and vegetable refuse, grass clippings, weeds, trimmings, kitchen scraps—but avoid meat, dairy, and fat) and good-quality soil

Pile the ingredients like a layer cake, with 2 to 4 carbon materials on the bottom (twigs and woody stems here will help air to circulate into the pile). Next, add a layer of soil. Add 2 to 4 inches of nitrogen-based materials, followed by soil. Repeat until the pile reaches 2 to 3 feet high.

Soak the pile at its start and water periodically; its consistency should be that of a damp sponge.

Add air to the interior of the pile by punching holes in its sides or by pushing 1- to 2-foot lengths of pipe into it.

Check the temperature of the pile with a compost thermometer or an old kitchen thermometer. A temperature of 110°F to 140°F is desirable. If you have no heat or insufficient heat, add nitrogen in the form of soft green ingredients or organic fertilizer.

If a foul odor emanates from the pile, flip the compost to introduce more air. And consider: Did you add meat or dairy products? Remove and discard them, if possible.

Once a week, or as soon as the center starts to cool down, turn the pile. Move materials from the center of the pile to the outside. (For usable compost in 1 to 3 months, turn it every other week; for finished compost within a month, turn it every couple of days.)

Cold, or Passive Composting

Cold, or passive, composting uses many of the same type of ingredients as hot composting and requires less effort from the gardener, yet the decomposition takes substantially longer—a year or more.

To cold compost, pile organic materials (leaves, grass clippings, soil, manures—but avoid dog, cat, and human waste) as you find or accumulate them. Bury kitchen scraps in the center of the pile to deter insects and animals. Avoid adding meat, dairy, and fat. Also avoid weeds; cold compost piles do not reach high temperatures and do not kill weed seeds. (In fact, weeds may germinate in a cold pile.)

Compostable Goods

In addition to the ingredients mentioned above, any of these items may be added to a compost pile:

  • Coffee grounds and tea bags
  • Dry goods (crackers, flour, spices)
  • Eggshells
  • Hair
  • Nutshells
  • Pasta (cooked or uncooked)
  • Seaweed
  • Shredded paper/newspaper

http://www.almanac.com/content/how-compost-hot-and-cold-methods

November 16, 2010

How to make soap | Life and style | guardian.co.uk

Filed under: decorating, farming, recipes, soap making, Vinegar, wisdom — Tags: — dmacc502 @ 8:19 am
Handmade soaps sold at Hyères, France

Image via Wikipedia

“Never put vinegar in your eyes and remember, the quickest way to kill someone is through the optic nerve straight to the brain,” Sharon Homans warns.

Whoa. I’m glad I’ve come on a soap-making course: I’ve always been interested in the idea of making soap, but nervous about handling the ingredients. But the dangers posed by household vinegar hadn’t even crossed my mind (soapmakers keep a bottle of vinegar handy to neutralise alkaline burns from the lye).

Some of my 25 fellow students have travelled to London from far-flung parts of the UK. The man on the door tells me people have flown in from Japan and Brazil before. The course is led by Melinda Coss, who is something of a grande dame in the soap world. She advises numerous cosmetics companies, and products devised by her are sold in Harrods as well as in the high street chain Lush.

via How to make soap | Life and style | guardian.co.uk.

via How to make soap | Life and style | guardian.co.uk.

November 14, 2010

A Guide to Saving Seeds | Care2 Healthy & Green Living

Filed under: dehydrating, family, farming, gardening, herbs, weather, wisdom — Tags: , , , , — dmacc502 @ 7:19 am
Fennel seed

Image via Wikipedia

A Guide to Saving Seeds | Care2 Healthy & Green Living.

via A Guide to Saving Seeds | Care2 Healthy & Green Living.

How to Save Seeds

There are two main types of seed saving depending on the type of plant: wet processing and dry processing.

Wet Processing

Very simply, when the fruit of the plant is fully ripe, separate the seeds from the flesh of the fruit, wash them, and air-dry them on a non-stick surface. During washing, any seeds that float can be discarded as this is usually a sign of a non-viable seed. Some fruits and vegetables in this category are squash and melons.

Exceptions

Some seeds, like tomato seeds, actually have to be fermented to become viable. For tomatoes, mush up the fruit (with seeds) and add to a quart jar filled 2/3 with water. Let this sit for about a week (it will be fermenting during this time), then rinse, dry, and store the seeds in an air-tight, dry, and sterile-as-possible location, where the temperature will remain cool.

Dry Processing

You might have read in the Bible about threshing and winnowing. Well, when it comes to saving seed, those skills are just as valuable today as they were back then. Threshing is separating a seed from its coating, usually by beating it or whipping the dry plant on the ground. Winnowing is separating the seeds from the chaff, traditionally by enlisting the help of the wind. For some plants, this can all be achieved by hand, as with beans. With beans, simply crack open the dry pod and remove the seeds. Other dry-processed plants include broccoli, cabbage, carrots, most herbs, flowers, and grains. Storage is the same as for wet-processed seeds.

Other Plant Varieties

Of course, some plants are propagated by means other than seed planting. For instance, potatoes can be stored through the winter, then each eye can be cut out and planted. Most fruit trees are propagated through cuttings. The methods listed above are general principles of seed saving. There are excellent books and online resources which will provide further information about specific plants.

Related:
4 Reasons to Grow Heirloom Plants
10 Tips for Harvesting Your Kitchen Garden
Grow Your Own Food!

Read more: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/a-guide-to-saving-seeds.html#ixzz15G6D6Spl

 

November 2, 2010

How to make your own haggis | Life and style | guardian.co.uk

Filed under: family, farming, herbs, recipes, wisdom — Tags: , , , , , , , — dmacc502 @ 8:07 am
Haggis

Image via Wikipedia

How to make your own haggis | Life and style | guardian.co.uk.

via How to make your own haggis | Life and style | guardian.co.uk. step by step slideshow.

Wash the pluck and simmer it gently in unsalted water until it’s tender – usually about and hour and a half. Let it cool overnight in its own cooking liquid. Chop the heart and lungs finely – I used a mezzaluna but a food processor will do the job if pulsed gently. Remember that you’re looking for a gravelly texture, not pate. Grate the liver – a weird and strangely satisfying sensation.

Toast the oatmeal for a few minutes in a medium oven while chopping the onions. Season the meat with salt, coarse ground white pepper, sage, thyme, rosemary and savory. There’s no need to go overboard here – particularly with the pepper. This isn’t, after all, an English sausage. Add the onions, the oatmeal, the suet and a pint or so of the liquid in which the pluck was poached. The mix should be moist but not enough to hold together as a single mass.

The ox bung will have been thoroughly cleaned and salted so rinse it inside and out with clear water and pat it dry with a kitchen towel. Spooning the stuffing into the bung until it’s half full; I wanted to make two so I stopped early and cut off the bung short. Expel any air left in the casing, tie the opening tightly with several turns of butcher’s string and work the filling back out into the full length of the casing. The stuffing will expand in cooking as the oatmeal absorbs the fat and meat juices. The most important trick is to allow space for this expansion whilst preventing any air bubbles which might turn the entire thing into a meat-based Hindenberg disaster.

Lower the haggis into gently simmering water. The casing will contract and the stuffing will swell. Use a skewer to pierce and release any trapped air. Remember that cooking time is based on thickness not mass; the long sausage shape of the bung means that this one took just over an hour and a half to cook. Lift out onto a plate and pat dry.

What’s the best British sausage?

After an upsetting childhood experience, Jeremy Lee of theBlueprint Café could never find unalloyed joy in British bangers. Is there a sausage which might restore his faith?

• Jeremy Lee’s favourite sausages

5 types of sausageFive types of British sausage. Photograph: Alamy

Ah, the British banger. Growing up with sausages that gave my brother and me severe headaches means I still struggle to enjoy the things today. On occasion my parents cooked that shame of convenience, mini skinless sausages. My brother and I, in a rare moment of bonding, wept at the prospect of eating these abominations, both craving a proper sausage. We were ignored until a radio programme exposed the hideous reality that some cheap sausages were pumped so full of unsavoury preservatives and additives they were likely to upset your stomach and give you a headache. Our parents saw the light; we never saw the dreadful wee things again.

My father restored our faith in the banger now and again by making a fine sausage stew accompanied by a great heap of mashed potato and a healthy dollop of Dijon mustard. It was delicious and there was no suspicion of a little white polystyrene tray stuffed in the bin. But the earlier memories, made at a formative time, have never really left me.

I know it is unfair to damn an entire business on one little episode in a generally very happily nurtured childhood but my feelings on the subject are strong enough to have got me into trouble once or twice. I was once asked to sit on a judging panel for sausages. Within minutes I was teetering on the verge of banishment for being disruptive and, well, downright rude. Eminent fellow panellists shuffled their feet as I poured vitriol on the defenceless sausages, but so many of the offerings masquerading as the very best of this mythical food, the British Banger, are just terrible. It upsets me. It is a sadness that when craving a sausage or two nowadays, I rarely set off in search because I have found most of what is on offer fairly duff, annoyingly cheap, and tasting so.

The singular addition of glamour such as exotic or surprising ingredients to jazz up a sausage is only makes for more unpleasant eating. Why is there such a dazzling array of new flavours of sausage? Bad enough the chicken tikka masala pizza, but in a sausage? Likewise, ham and pineapple, beef and sweet chilli, Jamaican jerk and chicken and sun-dried tomato – abominations all. Who among us eats these?

The recipe for a great sausage could not be more simple. Coarsely ground pork, salt and pepper and scrupulously cleaned intestine. Perhaps a few little pieces of chopped back fat for the trencherman. A sausage as God intended will cook beautifully, eating well unaccompanied; will braise beautifully in a pan of lentils; will happily tackle a great pot of borlotti or haricot beans enlivened with a pinch of chilli; it will revel in a good roll with a smear of mustard. Should the use of herbs be required, a small and judicious pinch of thyme could well be a benefit to a dish lacking that last little something. But the holus bolus piling in of cheap dried herbs into the sausage itself which repeat on you for days afterwards leaves me bewildered. Keep it simple. The dread introduction of inventive jolly and cheer is most unwelcome. Dour is the order of the day.

So I still remain bothered and unconvinced by the banger to this day. I can think of no more appealing sight than a butcher behind a great tray of sausages in proper casings made from pigs raised by a farmer he knows well, but these need seeking out. Richard Vaughan of Pedigree Meats makes a pleasant chipolata. I am fortunate indeed to have The Ginger Pig, who sell a Toulouse sausage, just round the corner in Victoria Park, and there are other sausages worth tracking down. But where to find the British banger to equal? You need Sherlock Holmes for that game.

 

November 1, 2010

In pictures: How to press apples | Life and style | guardian.co.uk

Filed under: family, farming, gardening, recipes, wisdom — Tags: , , , , , — dmacc502 @ 8:32 am
American-style apple cider, left; Apple juice,...

Image via Wikipedia

In pictures: How to press apples | Life and style | guardian.co.uk.

via In pictures: How to press apples | Life and style | guardian.co.uk.Choose your apples. I like a fairly tart juice. Here I’m using almost all Bramleys. That’s fine at the end of October, when the sugars have built up. But pure Bramley juice made in mid-September would be too sour, and you’d need to blend them with dessert apples. Unless you have a sweet tooth, you’ll probably want at least a few cookers in the mix, or a perhaps a handful of the less acidic cider apple varieties. Experiment with different varieties and proportions until you find the blend that suits you best. Wash them.

Cut them up. You’ll need to do this only if you’re using a drill-bit scratter (or pulper) like mine or a kitchen juicer. If you’re lucky enough to have a hand-cranked scratter you can feed them in whole. But in any case, cut out all rotten or wormy flesh: if this goes into the press, it will make the juice taste musty. Recent bruising won’t hurt, however: in fact it tends to make the juice sweeter. You don’t need to remove the cores.

Here I’m using the cheap scratter I don’t like very much. It’s a drill bit, threaded through a tough plastic lid, with which you cover a bucket containing the chopped apples. The first time I used it, it wasn’t properly secured and the bit went straight through the side of the bucket. To prevent that from happening, you need someone else to put their foot on the other side of the lid (in this photo it’s just my foot, so you can see it more clearly. But don’t do this alone). If you’ve got a variable-speed drill, turn it down (to about 3/10). Once the lid is on securely, pull the trigger and raise and lower the drill for around 20 seconds

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