Welcome to Growbox Hill

Welcome to Growbox Hill
Welcome to Growbox HIll!

Friday, June 1, 2018

Summer on.. working done...

It's the first of June, and we just got a nice heat break.
I got the allium round cleaned up and planted in with a couple fresh lavender and a bunch of nast seedlings for once the bulbs die back and the bed looks dead.. while the butterfly bush grows up and in.
Chatted with mom for a while today.. good to hear her voice. They got goodness going on.

Sadly and tragic.. time has come to pack away the fleecy frocks of the cold.. and kitties best snuggly content.. but hooray comes the days of hanging clothes out on the line, and summer cottons and silks..  hanging linens and rugs out on the line... having windows open to the good smells outdoors and blowing in.....

Have been taking a lot of pics of the yard and such.. will post soon with photo's.. wanted to just post a quick post while I was thinking about it.

Spring blooms are past bloom, and time for digging in, digging out, and such. Irises are coming into some full glory.. daylilies havent' started popping yet.. though now my 3 bins of 13 each of the initial dozen free has been added to by four. Almost all of my sown seed had popped. More or less.

Growbox Hill is still alive and kicking.. working on it.. 

Friday, May 25, 2018

It's been a hard days light.. and I've been working like a dog..

Another full yard day. In the AM hours while the day was cool and shade was good got the front yards, garden walks, and finally the old orchard was dry enough to mow today. Then stowed the mower to let the ole gal rest.. trying to eek out as much of the mower deck belt as I can- not the cost so much but dropping the deck and working off an old belt and the new one on is.. painful, lol.

Then into shade time.. made a new compost bin cage today in the shade on the driveway. Cut a pair of 17 squares/3ft panels off the 6' wide welded fence and then stitched the panels together in a round- First cage I did was square, and took 8 posts. Round configuration only takes 6 posts. Dropped that onto the west end of the north fenceline to start filling up. And weeding out the asparagus bed, garlic bed, and perennial bed sections dumped a goodly amount of weeds into the bottom of the new bin.

The asparagus bed..  I could tell where the wet or shade vs dry and dead areas under the solarizing plastic was. After weeding out, I laid the clear plastic and boards right down again. The front edge I will fill in with more resina calendula.
But the rest of the bed I'm caging in a bit and planning on cleaning out the stable stalls of their poop and straw into the bed... then letting it cook in for a year with dead leaves and good grass mowing.

Up in the morning is another round of mowing.. then a visit with my mum :) I love that woman. Then into the later afternoon hours will be rounds of yard again.

And ooohhh spooky 13 :) over the last couple days...

My free dozen daylilies from GH Wild turned out to be more like 39 daylilies and 3 hostas so far.... I counted 38 nibs with good roots at first and quick planned 3 shallow blue bins from my anticipated 1 bin of most places stuff...
But when dropping in roots to the 3 bins, turned out each one of them was 13.

In the shuffle, needed to move the candy lilies to other bins, and opted to pluck them into 3 bins on the kennel porch. I grew these from seed last year and need to dig up gardening notes. But I had 13 double fan clusters ..

I joked around with my love.. but then today I was on my garden plans.. I had three unopened packs of garden stakes of four each... and one random loose stake. To total 13. I use even amounts of stakes, and hunted high and low.

Anywho.. my fingers hurt from digging up the beds.. and dinner making time is nigh...

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Great weather.. so much gardening

Haven't posted in weeks, been really busy and just not feeling like writing about stuff.

Since I last wrote at the end of April.. My love and I celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary! We got to celebrate my brothers birthday, and see mom and sis and their new digs which are very cute :) We are in relatively good health.
Public parks are going smoothly, almost. Getting a lot of new stuff like grills and garbage cans, new playground equipment at one park... Mama N was nice and restored the beach at one park, but took away the beach at another park.

Weather has been so fine all the tomatoes and peppers I coddled along have long been put into the raised beds or containers. Cept for one sad spare Fred that got decapitated on a windy day and has been making a slow recovery on the porch, lol.

And the garden scramble is on... the stableyard almost ate my lawnmower, and I have a sucktacular amount of dock growing in amongst the almost natural river, sigh....  and the riding ring is rather soggy. The neighbors haven't done a jot to start cleaning up the stable, but I'm about to start moving in anyway.
Mowing seriously needs to be done.. it was wet enough long enough that I finally got most of what is mostly dry done- and it already needs mowing while the wet stuff is almost dry enough to mow.

The first composting bin is finally full to the top! Or at least it is enough for now that I need to start setting up more bins.. good thing I already picked up the mesh for it. The kennel beds are fully cleaned out and planted in... resina calendula and scented geraniums around the borders, true red cranberry, yard long asparagus beans, Edens gem, rich sweetness, and golden midget melons, marketmore cukes and Mexican sour gherkins, sunset runner beans to mix in with the sweet peas on the porch trellis.... hops are looking mighty hoppy, lol.
Astra zukes and dill are filling the spot that was left empty in the raised bed when a particular tomato didn't sprout.. I was a good kid and not tempted to overdo the tomatoes this year.

The solarium surround is getting worked on, got lots of bulbs to go in. Got a bunch of free windows to play with for making a greenhouse out back. Been working with my buddy that runs the local bead and plant shop with more work coming up.

Been working on stuff for Fortunes Turning and various Nightvale and Summerdale action....

Just gosh... and now I gotta bail off and get cleaned up to go to a meeting about our local cemeteries...

I really need to take some pics to post of everything, lol :) 

Monday, April 30, 2018

So much stuff..

Rounds of seeds and plants, bulbs and weather, birds and critters... Sheesh.

Been keeping decent records of seeds... right now the biggest of the pepper plants are newly transplanted and in the solarium today to settle in for a couple weeks. The tomatoes coddled along inside yet. Two greenhouses set up on the porch and filled with foxgloves, calendula, volias, geraniums, coleus, and pansies. Open windows today in a few rooms to let the warm breeze through, and tommorow better yet.

I need to take time and scribe down my written notes into blogging here. Charge up the camera and take some pics.

But I haven't forgotten to write up here on Growbox Hill... just been too busy taking care of many things to really sit down and write about it all..

Been building mini's- right now is making patriotic flags, banners, and such for upcoming rebuild of Summerdale.

Been working a lot with some native plant research and local parks action. Been working on a lot of other there too..

Got some awesome news from some family out of less than awesome things... A few ladies of my clan that have been undergoing some bad things have now been able to move on with good things.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

And it's officially spring... pretty sure...

Started 3/22...
Weather has been below 20's overnight, but in the upper 30's to low 40's during the day. Supposed to start getting into the above freezing overnight temps next week... keeping my fingers crossed.

All the peppers have been repotted as of yesterday. Ended up with a reasonable amount- 1-3 plants per variety. I hesitated a bit overlong, but started a second pot of the Farmers Jalapeno yesterday- the last 8 seeds I had. I had a total fail last year from the seedlings, and this years sole seedling out of 5 seeds planted isn't looking too happy as far as I'm concerned.
I have found myself really short on the 3 gallon sized pots- but used a lot of them up planting bulb stuff that won't be ready to unpot before the peppers need their final pots... And I'm not sure if one brick of cocoa is going to be enough to fluff out the pro-mix and compost this year. So I'm going to need to head out to the grow shop tomorrow for the cheapest nursery pots to be had around town. And probably hit Menards for a new bale of pro-mix and a bag or two of compost. I have a few other big tubs and containers to top off and mix up a lot too.
I know I do a lot of other composting, but I prefer to grow my containers in a more reliably sterile and worked mix in a lot of ways. And this pepper container year is an important comparison year.

Most of the tomatoes are looking pretty good. Got 4 Freds, 1 strong and one popping Moon and a second coming along, only one Inca. Only planned on 2 Freds in the raised bed so if I got extra to fill in where the Moon and Inca does not, ok. One Waspi peach repotted up and going strong. The Coure is kind of, well, herm.. not sure yet. The weird cluster tomato never sprouted, though I'm still keeping it under the domes. If only the one Coure grows on, it's not so bad of a thing. I'm trailing into finally hitting the end of the tomato trials from the seed I got- last year is the final stuff before doing a big comparison year in 2020.

A couple recipes... Tinkered around with the large lasagna pan southern summer squash casserole to feed 6+ down to a 2 person with some lunches or 4 person with a salad kind of thing.....

small light southern squash casserole. And trust me, this is light compared to the original.

Large frozen chicken breast (about a pound), half a little bottle of moscato wine, the liquid from a drained can of mushrooms, and a heavy tablespoon of bacon fat.. cover and over low heat till the liquid starts burbling, then up to medium flipping the breast several times for about 15-20 minutes. The point here is to flash thaw in the liquid enough to cut it up before putting it back into the pan to finish cooking. Once you can slice and dice it up into bite size chunks, put it back into the pan and sprinkle with about a tablespoon or so of Cajun seasoning to and cover to simmer on med-low for another 10 min.

While that's going on, get your big bowl and start the sauce.
Medium onion, halved and sliced fairly thin
2 carrots, peeled and grated/chopped fine
1 can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1 can mushrooms, well drained- you drained that into the chicken fluid.
1T dried parsley
1T dried minced garlic
1T salt
1t dried thyme
1/2t black pepper
1 can chicken cream soup OR other cream soup+ packet of Golden G's
1/2 cup sour cream
Mix well and set aside till the chicken and squash are ready. 

Prepare your squash- I use 3 each of small zukes and yellow squash. Rinsed and sliced into generous inch slices. Set aside till the chicken is done. Once the chicken is done, there should still be liquid in the pan... leave it. Pull the chicken chunks off to a bowl and let sit on the counter to cool a bit, stirring occasionaly. Pour sliced squash into pan, and pour in enough water to cover. Cover the pan and kick it up to med-high and set the timer for 10 minutes.
Once it hits 10- water should be just hard burbling, the slices still rather on the crisp side of tender-crisp. Pull it and shock it.. I put a colander out on the front porch in the snow and dumped it out there- at 20 degrees outside, that shocked the slices right quick! That only needs about 10 min or so, enough to cool them, not chill them off.

I used the 1/3 pan as the prep pan for the raw squash to hold till they were blanching, then did the crust.. Oven at 350. Use the 1/3 pan and melt a stick of butter while the oven is heating up. Once melted, mix in a box of instant stuffing and pat down to the bottom of the pan to make the crust. Set aside till ready to build casserole. 

Time to assemble.
Mix the cooled squash into the sauce mix. Dump 1/2 the mix onto the stuffing crust. Evenly distribute the chicken across mix. Dump other half of mix on top.

Toast off Panko breadcrumbs... I'm not sure how much, I poured into a fresh dry pan and guessed about how much a sleeve of crushed up crackers would be. Enough to coat the top of the pan nice. Once it was toasting for a couple min but not turning yet, I tossed in about a T each of dry parsley and dehydrated minced garlic. Kept swirling around till stuff got it's toasty crunch on, then immediately poured off on top of the casserole.

Covered with foil and into the oven for 45 min and it's first temp check. Popped in the meat thermometer and was a bit above body temp, lol. Another 30 minutes and it was a piping 160. Pulled it out of the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes. Took off the foil on top and let it sit for another 15 minutes or so.

Made an extra good "smear". Kind of more dense than a ham or egg salad, but not quite a cream cheese spread. Deviled ham and egg.

For the sauce:
2 oz cream cheese- room temp or even warmer to mix in well with the Miracle Whip.
2 oz Miracle whip. Don't use Mayo here. The MW as a salad dressing makes a difference.
1 teaspoon smooth yellow mustard
A pinch each celery salt, white pepper, and garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dry dill
1 Tablespoon minced garlic greens- can use onion greens.
3-4 dashes red tobacso sauce. 

Into the processor..
1 cup diced ham
1 small onion
2 Milwaukee petite pickles 
1 teaspoon capers
Pulse several times till the ham is a crumble and the onion and pickles are fine
Add in 2 hard boiled eggs, quartered- pulse processesor a few times to get the egg worked in, then let it run for about 15 seconds to really fine everything up.
Into the fridge overnight- makes about 2 cups or so of spread stuff, great on wheat bread :)

3/23... Another lovely and sunny day. So dry I actually needed to water the outdoor pots of bulbs again. Not supposed to have rain again till early next week, with temps stabilizing above freezing!! Woot!! Good thing we got full tanks from over the wintertime.. coming up soon enough to be uncapping and digging out all the other containers in the kitchen area too.
Outside stabilizing over the weekend also means time to haul out most of the rest of the pots from the solarium of the bit more tender bulbs and all the mums. The mother mums are kind of scraggly but doing good- all the heldover daughters are doing really well. With any luck I should have a couple dozen plants to work with and choose from for setting into the front hibiscus bed early summer :)
Yes- this summer. Mums can establish in  very well if you get them in the ground early. Thing is, they are mostly sold in the fall when it's way too late to put in the ground....

Anywho. Fine day for running around. Hit the grow shop for some pots and a couple blocks of coco fiber. I have enough of the mid-sized peppers growing out nice that I realized I was short on the cheap pots. And I like using some coco in my container applications, and they got the cheap blocks of that. However, they don't have the cheap big bags of soil stuff or tomato cages.. of off to Menards.
Menards only had 2 bales of the pro-mix I usually use and is 14 bucks for 4 cu ft- but the bales were really damaged and I wasn't willing to haul that home in the trunk. But they had 2 cu ft bags of pro-mix for containers on sale for 15 bucks for the 4 cu ft worth. Fair enough. Between the new stuff and mixing in the old dirt, I should have enough to pot up all the peppers and top off a few bins that seriously need topping off.
Hit Meijer and picked up some nyjer seed and a new finch feeder on clearance- it's a two station version of the single sock one I currently have. It was on clearance so I said yes please. Also picked up 5 one pound bags of fresh spinach for 1.50 a piece. I've already wilted it all off in water and have it draining in the sink and cooling down right now to press in the fridge overnight.
I used the 8 quart wide pan with water and broke the 5 pounds into 2 batches worth of cooking. Worked way better than using a 8 quart stockpot for me. 
Tomorrow when the mass is well drained I will chop split it and do a batch each of creamed spinach and Italian spinach and beans. Good stuff for the freezer- I ran out of creamed spinach and been bummed, lol.
That reminds me.. there's a chest freezer out in the stable that I need to ask the neighbor about. Don't know if they plan on taking it or not, or if it works or not, or what. It would be sweet on a sweetstick if it works and they don't want it. We are loosing the little chest freezer soon enough, and I already have the upright one empty again.

Finally made a proper mileage run of the parks while out and about today. Normally I just pop in and around while doing other stuff anyway, but apparently I'm supposed to be claiming mileage for while I'm stopping at the parks. Turns out it's about a 10 mile round trip.

Decided to try out a green chili tonight. Normally I do up Chucks crockpot chili.. but didn't want to wait. Writing up the notes here while it slowly burbles and drives us up the wall with great smells.

Chicken and bean salsa verde chili

1 pound of raw chicken breasts, diced
1-2 tablespoons fat to sear off the chicken in- I like to use bacon grease
1 can of Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 can of Garbonzo beans, drained and rinsed.
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 head garlic- see prep notes
1 4 oz can diced green chilis, undrained- OR 2-3 fresh chopped hot/seasoning peppers of choice and 1/4 cup of liquid- you can do water, stock, wines, beers, ect.
1 16 oz jar of salsa verde- you can make your own.
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 package G Washingingtons Golden
2 cubes chicken demi-glace

Prepping the garlic. Stick the whole head of garlic in the microwave for 15-20 seconds depending on the size of the head. Let cool for a minute or two then cut off then slip the skins off the head with ease. You are using the whole cloves as is. Set them aside till later.

In a stockpot, melt your fat over medium high till it sizzles, then drop in the chicken to brown off. Unseasoned. Stir occastionally till you got some color going on and some juices are starting to render.
Toss in the onion and saute for 5-10 minutes, till onions get a bit soft but still tender crisp.
Add in the whole garlic cloves, stir, and saute another 5 minutes.
Dump in beans, chilis, salsa verde. Don't bother scraping out the two containers- instead fill each one up with water and swirl and drain into pot. This will end up being 2 1/2 cups water total.
Add in the chili powder, cumin, GWG's, and chicken cubes, and a teaspoon of kosher salt.
Simmer on medium high still with the cover on till it comes up to a hard burble, then drop the heat down to medium low uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want a kind of hard burble to evaporate off some water here early on.
Cover and drop the heat to very low- it should barely be showing burbling. Stir occasionally for another half hour to hour of active time depending on how tender you like your chicken and beans.
Kill the heat and uncover, and let rest for at least 15 minutes to let rest and cool down a wee bit, stirring a few times.

Takes a couple hours.. I started fussing around with the spinach action and working up the chili around 2. But not bad for firing up the pot a couple hours before dinner.

3/24: A bunch of gardening and cooking up spinach day. Last night I broke down a lot of the 2017 dried pepper stocks and tomatoes.. this morning I started the fresh dry and grind down, and set up a goodly batch of death spray of hot peppers, vinegar, and oil to steep.
Gave the bigger peppers their first deep drinkie of fertilized water and let them sit while I got some cocoa made up with nute water and fluffed with some pr-mix. Then repotted a bunch of them up deeper into solo cups and under the higher light. All of them are looking healthy and happy.
Did the two batches of spinach. About 2 pounds went with a can of beans for an Italian, and 3 pound went into a bigger batch of creamed spinach..
And also pulled out for dinner tonight from the freezer a pan of spinach and sausage stuffed shells for dinner. Needless to say we won't be eating the Italian beans and spinach or the creamed spinach with dinner tonight, lol. 

4/1: Happy Easter, Passover, and April Fools! We got the earliest of daffodils and hyacinths popping blooms though it's supposed to get down into the 20's tonight, sheesh. A bit chill for the season.
Been running 2 bots out in the solarium, one that's been running all winter, and a new one inside a bagged cage- and the cage runs an average of 5 degrees warmer than the solarium, which is running 8+ degrees warmer than outside. I'm in business for some plant shuffling.

I seriously love Ninjasmoke and CyberGro- the bots are so easy to use, just plug and play. The new harpoon is really cool too, right handy for monitoring and testing moisture and temp levels in big pots. I love it.

The finches have been looking like a bird feeder advertisement of rthe last few days on teh sock feeders. Been a joy of flashing color that makes me just dying to take the plastic off teh windows. But not quite yet, lol. Patience till the nighttime temps stabilize in a week or two.

With Easter season finally came a price break on lamb- so I started the process of making a huge batch of gyro meat for the freezer.  I was thinking about splitting the meats up and doing a batch of Shwarma/kefta too, but skipped the fussing for straight up gyro goodness. Started a couple days ago with pulling a heap of meats out of the freezer to the fridge to defrost. Yesterday I broke down the semi-boneless lamb shank and busted out with the grinder attachment for the mixer and ground up a heap-o-meat with onions, garlic, and herbs. Let sit in the fridge overnight and baked it off this morning. It's cooling on the counter right now. I'm burbling a batch of lamb stock with the bone bits, and so far it's just reducing down on the back burner and concentrating in flavor. I'll keep reducing it down like I did the last couple times with chicken and ham stocks to get that 6-8 quarts of freezer space shrunk down into a more 12 oz of cubes size.
What I did for the gyros. We can't afford straight lamb by a long shot, so I've been building up other meats to work in, hoping to catch ground lamb on clearance or sale since it's so expensive- 10 bucks a pound that I can occasionally find on sale for 8 bucks a pound. But because Easter, I was able to pick up a 4 pound shank for 5 bucks a pound. Thought it was boneless, but it wasn't- so had to break it down. 2.5 pounds meat for the gyros, and 1.5 pounds of scrap for making stock with. Not too bad. Effectively got the meat for the cheap 8 bucks a pound price, with scrap for a batch of stock too.

4 lb semi-boneless lamb shank- yield 2.5 pounds meat
2 lb ground beef
2 lb ground turkey
1 lb, 6 oz cubed pork meat- the pack I made was a that wee bit over a pound, oops
1 lb ground veal

I ran the lamb chunks through the coarse plate on the grinder, then ran the pork chunks through the grinder. While those went back into the fridge to chill, I made batches of seasoning stuffs. Yes, this is about 9 pound worth of meat.

I use a 3-4? cup food processor. It's an old Emmie I picked up cheap second hand. So I can do 3-4 small or a couple medium onions rough cut at a time. I cut into eights to make it easier.
I made 3 batches of seasoning mix. Totaled out at about 5 cups worth of mix. If I had a huge 14 cup food processor this could all be done in one batch- but sometimes I find I like doing a few smaller batches of mix like this too- I started out with 2 batches totaling about 3 1/2 cups, then was able to adjust the last batch a wee bit to make it total out to the 5 cups. In a big processor you can't fine tune the final amount quite so much.
Each batch had:
full of onions
1 head garlic
1T, 1t dried oregano
1T, 1t dried marjoram
1T, 1t fresh rosemary- about 3-4 nice sprigs of prone and upright rosemary.
2T kosher salt
1 t coarse cracked black pepper

You can use the nuke-a-head trick with the garlic here. 15 seconds in the nuker and the skins break off the heads beautifully. Pulse your onions and garlic a bit to break them down to a fine dice. Add the rest of the seasonings, then pulse it down into a fine mince and all the green is even.

To mix- you will need 2 large bowls. Split the meats and seasoning into each. 4.5 lb meat, 2.5 cups of seasoning mix per bowl. Mix it by hand really well to incorporate everything. Then pop both bowls into the fridge to chill for an hour or two.
Then working one bowl at a time, run the mix through the coarse plate on the meat grinder again. Since I started out with decently ground meats and fine mince seasoning mix, I was satisfied at that. And didn't feel like running it through the fine plate, the mix looked great.
Then the two bowls sat overnight in the fridge to let the flavors marinate in well.

In the morning, I pulled out the meat mixes and let them sit on the counter for an hour to take the chill off them a wee bit while I got the baking equipment together. A deep roasting pan for a waterbath, and the deep half hotel pan to bake the loaf in. Kicked on the oven with the roasting pan and water in it to heat up while I set up the loaf.
Dumped both bowls into the half hotel pan and mashed them together a bit and worked the mass down. After it was smooth, did the nice finger tucking around the edges. By then the oven was hot and had heated the bath to steaming, so the loaf went in uncovered.
At one hour in, time to check it. It read at 150 degrees, and the thermometer was solid in the meat, ready to be left in. Sucked out 2 cups of liquid with a turkey baster. Closed the oven and set the timer for another 15 minutes. Temp check was at the nice 165-170 range, time to pull it out. Pulled out the baking pan, left the water bath in the oven to cool down with the oven.
Immediately sucked out another pint and a quarter of juices with a turkey baster.
Then a processing trick. I made sure the slab of meat was loose in the pan, then flipped the whole thing out into my sheet cake pan that is sitting on a cooling rack. Then put the half hotel pan right on top of the slab. Lined the pan with plastic wrap real quick to help keep it clean withhout cleaning, then stacked a half dozen quart cans of V-8 into the pan, then stacked a couple of my heavy cast iron pans on top. I've gone by over the last hour or so sucking out the juices that accumulate in a corner of the pan. I think total I've drained off about 3-4 oz of fat, and 5 cups water. Maybe a bit more.
But now I have eight dense 12 oz loaves of gyro goodness meat finishing their cool off on the counter and will be wrapped up for the fridge overnight. I'll slice down the chilled meat to a 16-18-packages of meat slices by the time I'm done.

It's a lot of work, true. But with zero gyro action around here, this is 16-18 worth of gyro lunches and dinners for many months to come. 36 bucks worth of ingredients, mostly the meat and a few cents worth of onions and the herbs I didn't grow myself.