Welcome to Growbox Hill

Welcome to Growbox Hill
Welcome to Growbox HIll!

Monday, February 27, 2012

MMMMM weekend success

Cook and bitch weekend was a success!! One person brought a shepherds pie, a couple loaves of homemade Hawaiian bread and made a super taco dip, another brought a big bowl of spinach and beans- and made another batch so we could learn how and brought peanut butter chocolate goodies and made a badass chili dip, I made chicken Parmesan and guacamole.. and one of us played the harp for kitchen music while the rest of us cooked. It was divine. A perfect weekend of gossiping and eating.
We all agreed we need to do this again :) Maybe I will hold off till it's truly spring and have a couple more people come out and we can all do camping food in the yard, that might be pretty cool.

And I love our neighbors behind us. They are such good and honorable people. Had a nice sitdown with Dave today- they want to eventually build a house on their back 40 but need to change the easement drive paperwork to do so. Instead of fighting city hall for grandfathering the current easement, he sat down with us and asked if we would be willing to work with them about just changing the paperwork a bit. It won't even change anything in the yard itself at all. We said "Of course!" Being the awesome guy he is, he offered to help us out on some repair action we need done around here, most notably help with the garage and solarium roofs. Hooray!! He also let us know that reworking the koi pond in the solarium into a people soaking pool was ill advised... But he may be willing to let us have a small hot tub they just got sitting in storage in their barn instead. How cool is that? I imagine the whole process probably will take a while for everything to come about, but they are really good people, and we are so happy to work with them. Such a HUGE difference from the general asshole attitude of Chicago.
As an extra hooray, and I'm super excited about this. In the spring when he gets a cat to re-even the easement drive and spread out new gravel, hes willing to haul as much horse poo as I want to where I want it in the yard!! Fully mature horse poo too, so I'm thinking a couple dumpings where the boxes are gonna go and a good dump in the compost patch. It will save me dozens of trips with the wheelbarrows, I am so happy about that if I had a tail it would be wagging :)
It was also pretty cool to just sit and chat, talk about the stuff we are doing out here and want to do with him, hear what he likes to do and wants to do in the future.

From Tippy and friends... Found out what the deal is with white kitty. Apparently when they were still living here they had a white kitten that went feral. We are pretty sure that kitten is white kitty. Sure does explain why he seems to like hanging around here so much. Way to wild for a pet, but still likes to hang around the house hes used to. I think maybe next winter I will build a little cat shelter for him. Kind of getting too late in the season now to worry about it much. Also learned today that still having the chickens wandering around is almost a miracle. I already knew we had horned owls in the area, but I didn't know they had a taste for chicken! Apparently horned owls are more than happy to swoop down and pick up a critter as large as a chicken.

It was a good weekend, and a nice kickoff to the week :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ah, the first glimmerings of spring

I look out my office window right now and I see the first light of spring. You know, that soft light quality of sunset that spreads a mantle of warmth over the land instead of a mere retraction of brittle winter light for yet another evening.

Frigging yay.. I'm just dying for spring. Not dying for the presumed storms and power outages, but I'll take it.

I think this week I will start up some of my parsley seed. Had to buy a little jar of the stuff the other day because I ran out, and gack a buck for a measly .5 oz jar. Seriously, I got the seed and I really need to grow some up- a buck for a packet of seed that I can probably harvest a pound off of. I use flat leaf for growing, I think it tastes better. Also thinking of starting up some moonflower seed for my loves office garden. That takes a while to grow up to my understanding.
Still a tad too early to start kicking off other seed for now.. hurry up and wait for a week or two. Still a bit low for overnight temps in the solarium, and I'm chomping at the bit!!
The water garden: The two coco noirs have been dropped into the adult tubes and are thriving, hooray!! The totem toms.. Not too sure about those, they are such tiny sprouts we aren't sure about them surviving in the baby tank. We put one in to see how it goes. The eggplant seed, nada. They ain't doing anything yet. I'm not sure, but they may end up seeing a second test run for sprouting.
I did get confirmation today that using recycled soup cans are good for blanching leeks, yay!

Enough drooling for spring and the gardening.. Haven't done anything on Food in a while so...

Making a stroganoff tonight. Picked up some almost gone mushrooms on sale yesterday, and yeah, by today all three packs of them are going into the pot. I knew I should have dehydrated some yesterday, but I tweaked my back loading stuff into the car at the store and ended up in bed instead. I also picked up three big bags of almost gone mixed greens (the braising kind, not the salad kind) that I'm going to be braising up individually and packing away into the freezer.

So.. pound of ground beef, a couple packs of fresh mushrooms, a medium onion, few cloves of garlic. Cup of water, a bouillon cube, some salt and pepper, parsley, sour cream. A carb to serve it on, my favorite for this is egg noodles.

Brown up the beef with the onion of garlic. Toss in the mushrooms and stir them in with a little salt and generous pepper. Cover and allow to burble up to heat. Stir and repeat. Once you got some decent liquid rendered in the pan, pour in a cup of water with a beef bouillon cube dissolved into it and a palmfull of parsley. Cover, reduce heat and just let burble away for a while till the mushrooms are all cooked up nicely. Take the cover off, and bring the heat up again to cook off most of the liquid. Stir in the sour cream and adjust the seasoning if needed. Serve over the egg noodles- I like to butter them just a tad.

And the greens I'm braising up? Maybe they will end up making a batch of beans and greens, or get added to a soup or skillet.. Perhaps just seasoned and used as a side dish. I have found that we like pot herbs just as much as spinach when it comes to greens.

And as a cooking shout out.. Hell yeah to my friend Lanie!! She never fails to be a source of cooking inspiration to me. And Hell yeah to my sister Stacy!! That woman is a constant source of awesome sweet creations.

Future food yumminess... The cook and bitch is this weekend, and I am sooo looking forward to it. Looking forward to the food and the company, some of my favorite people are going to be here. My agreed on dish is chicken Parmesan, and I am seriously thinking about making mozzarella for it. To my understanding it's basically the recipe I use for making ricotta, just heating up the curd a bit and kneading it to mozzarella standard.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

WOOT from the tec front!!

A big round of applause and congratulations are in order for my love. We just found out today that he won first prize in a 3-D design contest that was being sponsored by Queens University.

What did he win for? A really cool flow control valve he designed and printed out for indoor gardening use.

Three Way Flow Control Valve

Yeah, he made it here at home, just like the sweet fruit spikes he designed and printed out for me when I whined that I needed a simple way to feed the orioles.
I love my man. He's smart as hell and a little crazy like a mad scientist.. And his inventions usually work rather well :)

Oh, and just in case I didn't share the cool fruit spikes before.. Here it is. Fruit holder

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Indoor gardening

Wrote this entry earlier, but now I'm editing it for what I did get done today.

Well, the Coco Noir beans are in the juvenile tube, and doing very well, hooray! A nice set of secondary leaves are sprouting out already. I'm very hopeful that with some dedication, we will be pulling some dried bean pods off the plants sometime in April.
Sad, the disoy soybeans have barfed out a second time. Same mushy falling apart that happened the first time. So for now they are getting shelved. Alibi cukes are getting shelved too for now. Found out that yeah, probably a good idea to container grow them first- the vines may be sort of unmanageable for water gardening. A couple more seeds got added to the water garden bag, a dwarf pea and a dwarf sugar snap pea.
I started some new seed today for the water garden. Four Totem toms, and four White Finger eggplants. We shall see if they join the Coco Noirs or not.
Looks like it's time to go through all my paintbrushes and pick out a few for pollination purposes. We are so not introducing any pollinators into enclosed space. But hmmmm, perhaps a future bot will be a pollinator bot. That would be cool.

Went back through all my seeds again today. Most of it is now accounted for. All the important plantings have been checked off, and now figuring out where some odds and ends seeds are going. I think a lot of seed is going through the solarium this year.
Yep, we are kicking off some growing in the solarium this year. Just a little bit though. The solarium needs some serious help before anything else. It works well as a really big coldframe right now. So I'm going to use it as such. I'm also going to try out a few of my more questionable herb seeds. Find out just how weedy they are before plunking them out into the yard.  The ones that "behave" will likely end up in the living fence. The ones that don't will likely end up contained elsewhere. Of what I currently have out there, the sage and thyme look like they will go out, but I'm still not sure about the rosemary, so I think that one is going to get some more container time. Not because it's acting weedy, but rather because I'm not sure if it will die overwinter outside.

I may be getting some surprise seed soon. A couple of friends have mentioned mailing, so exciting. I need to sit down and pack up the last of the spring seed to go out too. Not much to go, I think I'm going to figure out where the postal scale got packed off to and use up as much backstamp action as I can. I've started picking up forever stamps now and penny stamps.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Had a couple people tell me they weren't able to leave comments. Turns out I had some stuff turned off that should have been turned on. I fixed that, so leaving comments should work now. 

And please do feel free to leave comments. 

Friday, February 10, 2012


Weeds can be our friends. Managed carefully that is.

There are indeed noxious weeds that should be removed, yes. However, they can be useful still. They can indicate what types of plants will grow in that location. Depending on what they are and when they are pulled, they can help add green matter to the compost bin.

That leaves a lot of useful weeds. Edible weeds are abundant. Plantain, Wild Carrot, Lambs Ears, Purselane, Mustards, Wild Chives and Onions, Chickweed, and tons more. Next time you go to yank some of those weeds out, reconsider. Maybe plan on securing a patch of that weed instead. Right where you found it since it's already growing there. Transplant like weeds into that area too if you can and make it a thick patch. Make damn sure you know exactly what weed it is you have, never eat anything without serious identification.

We have raspberries on the property that were being smothered out as weeds. I cleaned up the patch, and now all the raspberry weeds I find elsewhere in the gardens I pull out and put them in their proper patch. We are now ready to introduce the red raspberry to the patch :)
I found that the FOH garden is pretty much useless right now for anything but weeds, and not the useful kinds. Blew a few packets of spinach, chard, and kale finding that out. Found plantain growing there though, so I went around the yard and collected a goodly amount of plantain seed growing in the weed strips, and now I've started seeding in part of the FOH garden with an excellent pot green alternative. As I identify other weeds that grow well in the FOH, I will start spreading that seed in more too. And yep, some of our first mushroom growing efforts will be stacked in that area. Only oh so much pot greens our household can use after all.
As a har de har.. I scattered about a third of the plantain seed on Imbolc. And now it's all cold and snowy again. I still plan on splitting up whats left over 2-3 broadcastings in the area.
Another high yield seed out of the weed strips was wild carrot. After they started seriously going to seed, I collected all the heads I could and scattered them in a hedgerow strip, loosely marking off where our property meets the neighbors property on the far side of the firepit sanctuary. Over the next couple years, I will be able to start harvesting seed. Some will be for cooking, some might be utilized for actually growing carrots :)
A nice side effect of pulling plantain and wild carrot seed and relocating them to good bed areas is now I can start to eliminate the parents beds in favor of plants I want to grow in those areas. I can now proceed with full blackout plastic for the entire arch drive, the three sisters row, and veggie row.
We have wild chives. Sometimes in some rather thicker bits on the road side of the pole barn. And we have moles. In that same area. But they never seem to use the spots where the wild chives grow. So I will be using that weed for pest control and see how well it works. Tossing plugs of it into the fenceline will also help out not needing cleanup efforts so much. Where it is growing thickest this year I have to resist trimming out and allow it to go to seed.
This spring also kicks off the chickory patch. It too will serve as a section of hedgerow bordering the firepit sanctuary.  It already grew heavily in sort of a border strip along the easement drive and I want to encourage that.

The path to the firepit is being changed. I'm planning on keeping the original opening and mowing open the whole upper hill area quite a bit. To the edge of where I want the chickory patch to end. As long as I'm starting seeding in the marigold border and know I want some picnic sized space there anyway, might as well start setting it in now.
I'm pretty sure some future plans for the mown open area will include some sort of overhead canopy action.  I'm thinking ahead on this one, and calling the canopy plant hops. We will be planting in a main cultivar with a couple flavoring cultivars elsewhere. I figure the main cultivar would be great as a canopy plant. Maybe mixed in with a pretty blooming something that won't interfere with hop harvesting.

A weed renewed:
At one time, there was a local variety of bee balm, AKA bergamot and oswego plants of scarlet hue that were so populous here they were weeds. Now they are considered almost extinct in our region. Not only are they lovely and give joy to the wildlife, they also may be of tea quality use. Bergamot is one of those distinctive components in most Earl Grey teas. I have tracked down a couple of local conservatories that may be able to help me with re-populating part of the firepit sanctuary wild space with this species again. The side opposite that of the drainage field.

My love is in charge of dinner tonight, and that is serving up soon, so enough stuff for now. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

It's a rambling kind of day..


Well, we are now through the sprouting cycle of the beans.
Two of the three coco noir beans did beautifully. In the last 48 hours they are already upright, have cast off their shells, the first set of secondary leaves are opening up, and the root systems are already starting to hair out. Boo-yah start!!
Disoy soy. One of the three turned to mush right off the bat. The other two started to sprout, but also died off. So I started a new sprouting dish today with four seeds and we shall see if they take or not. Next up on the list for sure is now going to be Totem tomato. It's a patio variety, so might be pretty well suited for indoor growing. Gonna start a set once the Disoys take or not.

And HOORAY!!!!! My Pinetree seed order came in today. I was just thinking about it, hopeful but figuring that it was still a tad too soon for them to have come in. My love grabbed the mail and there was my envelope. So thrilled :) Now my seed list for this year is complete, it's just a matter of getting the rest of the materials I need for the garden. And of course, sorting the new packets into their appropriate bags for where they are getting planted.

Still on the list? Big bag of starting soil, a few rolls of black plastic and the yard spikes to pin it down with. A couple packages of bamboo skewers and probably a couple more packages of bamboo stakes.
 I'm still a bit undecided about what to do about trellising. I have a bunch of staves curing in the fence runs right now, but I just don't think I'm going to use them, I got other plans for them. I'm thinking I will just go standard right off the bat and go PVC.


Bird scares.. I'm going to be doing a goodly bit of innovative recycling for those. Got a bunch of beer caps saved up now, and I got the bag of tinsel I took back off the christmas tree before we took it down to the firepit.. What the plan is is to make hanging loops out of florists wire for hangers, and then some strands of tinsel will be hot glued into half the cap. Crimp the cap in half, and volia, a bird scare. I was going to straight crimp the caps onto the hanging string, but then thought better of it. Making them with their own hangers means I can have as many as I need on a string, and if the tinsel wears out, I don't have to try to uncrimp a cap off the string to replace a scare.
And yeah, I'm NEVER using tinsel on the tree again. Too much of a cat hazard while in the house, too much of a nature ick when the tree goes back outside. I did pick up some decent bead garland on super sale for future use. Hah, at some time I plan on using a bunch more beer caps to make garland for the tree too :)
Looking forward to spring and starting on working with CD's for bird scares. Gonna be doing that outside because I'm trying cutting and heat methods to see what works best. Ha, that reminds me, I need to build a mini hot wire cutter.
Another spring activity will be my first fused plastic bags project. Planning on making a couple small tarps for the wheelbarrows, kind of liner sized with handles. For when I want to lift something out like a barrow full of chestnuts for shelling, or apples to dump into a press.

Recycling any crafter can do for the birds. All those little snippets of thread, string, yarn, ribbon, fabric scraps.. Toss it all into a container of some sort. Then in the late winter, toss out some nice nest building materials around the yard. Placing it in late winter gives the stuff a chance to weather out all human scents from it while still leaving it in decent condition for birds to use. And it gives you a nice chance to go take a tour of your yard and see what else is going on :)

Making stuff:
Made a supercute housefrock yesterday out of some quilters cotton I had left over from when I made a bunch of scrubs for myself. Happy red and pink daisy flowers with smiley faces in the centers. I used a vintage 60's pattern I borrowed from my sister. It's a simple three armhole wrap around dress, and it will be super comfy when it's all hot out.  Also started a hooded double capelet.
I dug out the dressform and took the armor off of it, and amazingly enough I remembered to recharge my camera so pics will be coming soon.

Cool items for crafting. Pattern stuff.
Medical table paper. You know, the stuff they roll out over the exam table for sanitary reasons? It's right handy, comes in rolls for cheaper than regular sheets. Look for it in medical supply stores. And paper bags. Excellent for heavy duty long lasting paper templates once you have your lightweight pattern.

Setting up a cook and bitch weekend with a couple of my favorite gals :) It's like a stitch and bitch, only it's cooking. Everyone that comes has to cook something during the weekend.