Welcome to Growbox Hill

Welcome to Growbox Hill
Welcome to Growbox HIll!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

End of 2013

Well, it's the end of the year....

Of course the obvious high of the year was our wedding. I'm still grateful and amazed at how wonderful that was and the generosity of everyone involved. Especially Mama N for taking a long forcasted horrid winter weather weekend and giving us an impeccable warm and beautiful spring weekend. It was truly a party amongst loved ones and was perfect.

Scored some points in the yard, getting the luffas to work, the bumper crop of beans, putting in our first raised bed, cleaning up the solarium beds... Also lost some points in the not taking care of the orchard again, and not getting the flowers in the sanctuary to work, and having such problems with all the container growing.

To date, and there is still a chance of more seeds coming in the mail today...
Growbox Hill now has a breeding base of 360 seeds. We donated 220 packets of seed to new gardeners in 2013. Scrambled the whole trade list, but I know we traded in and out dozens of packets of seed. Currently under 200 seeds on my wishlist, lol- I'm sure that will change once I get my bean and tomato seed swaps in and look through the new seed catalogs.

Had some fine culinary accomplishments this year. Canning has turned out to be a wonderful experience, though I'm particularly pleased with the wild gathering and making of blackberry jelly and the salsa I gathered ingredients from several produce sellers to make. Discovered the joy of making homemade horseradish and tahini. Figured out making my own dinner kits.

Tikki came into our home this year, and boy what a difference from when we first rescued her to today! She is a right plump little thing now, sweet as she wants to be. Still not getting along great with the other kitties, but slowly things are looking like they will be fine.

2013 was a good year. A good setup year, a good learning year.

Looking forward to 2014 though. I don't really have resolutions, but I do have things I want to accomplish.
I want to try wintersowing this year. I've been wanting to do this before, but 2014 will be the first time I really have the resources and seeds for doing it. Primary target this year will be flowers.
Want to get some progress done in the sanctuary- get flowers established.
Want to get 2 raised beds set up this year. Now that I filled the first box with garlic, I realize I will probably always have a garlic box. Maybe we can squeeze 3 beds.
I want to finally, really get the orchard cleaned up. It's been way overdue for way too long. I want good, edible, useable fruit in 2014!
Want to build/obtain a cider press.
Want to paint the interior of the house.
Want to get the garage fixed or shored up, and the solarium skylight repaired.
Want to make the top gate for the basement door and set up the salt teat system.
Want to get the beehive setup accomplished this year so we can put in a nuc in 2015! By this I mean the bee patio finished, including the beehive and accoutrements. I'm thinking of doing a traditional Langstroth hive and a Mason Jar Observation hive, which is pretty much a Langstroth with a bunch of mason jars on top. Pretty darn neat.
Want to get one alternative energy project set up. Don't care what it is, but I do think we should apply it to the power source for our well. We can progress from there :)

Will likely slow down on the seed collecting in 2014. I do ultimately have goals of storing more kinds of seed, but considering I have over 100 more kinds of seed than my initial goals in January of this year.. Whew, I need to do some sorting and growing out of a lot of stuff to catch up!
Will likely get a handle on the raspberry patch- or at least sweat and swear a lot over it. Considering how much better the raspberry patch is down at the corner, I'm seriously thinking about just grooming in that chunk and doing something else entirely with the current patch. What, I don't know.

So now it's afternoon on New Years Eve. I'm not sorry to see 2013 go, but I'm not thanking heavens it's over, hahahaha. I'm grateful I've had a year full of love and good things, friends and family, experiencing cool things.

Hope everyone has a safe and wonderful evening... We will see you in 2014! Cheers!!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Making stuff for the holidays...

Started Thursday, December 5th..

Heh, we got in so much snow last Wednesday we couldn't leave the house for Thanksgiving.. Yesterday saw the 50's and mostly melt off.. Tonight kicks off freezing temps for days.

As per usual, now is the end game time for getting Christmas shopping and gift making done... I try to make more than I buy. Quite often baked goods and seasoning mixes, and we usually make an ornament or few.

So far the luffas are all sorted out and in a couple bags to get strung up or packed up. Picked up a couple random bits for the boys. Of course there are jars of goodies in the basement too :)

Been tinkering with some gift in a jar stuff... Tried a sesame cracker that was pretty underwhelming, and a cranberry hazelnut cracker that was pretty good- but I wouldn't really call it a cracker. I didn't have cranberries so I chopped up a few prunes instead. Yes, prunes, and it was tasty. Don't think I would use either for gifts.
Made up a few batches of jambalaya rice mix for our pantry. We like to eat rice with beans and/or sausage pretty often, and the grocery mixes are just too darn expensive. I didn't have any chives on hand like the recipe suggested, so I used a mix of parsley and dehydrated radish greens. And ground my own celery flake too. I just keep em in little ziplocks in a jar for my pantry :) But now that I've resupplied the larder, I'll make up a couple of these in jars for gifts too.
Tried out a hearty Italian style bean soup.... It's more of a thick stew. Very tasty. I made a few presentation jars of that one, they just need their instruction tag and pretty cloth cover. Think I might make a couple of these for our pantry shelf too.
Made a few Spicy mushroom and corn quinoa spice mix kits. Those turned out nice enough I'm considering making a few of those for our pantry too :)

Started baking. I desperately need a small chest freezer damn it. And I dropped my nutmeg mill and shattered it- may angels and demons weep. Life sort of shrivels up without freshly milled nutmeg.
But got a batch of regular chocolate chip cookies done- And they turned out different than usual because I used the homemade dark brown sugar. They taste great though. But I do need to tinker with that ratio quite a bit, and I need to make more brown sugar too.
Also pulled from the freezer and baked up the bar of Nutella cookies. Those turned out exactly as they should :)
Now I just need to make up a third batch of something and off into the mail that bit will go. Not sure what it will be, But I'll be baking it tomorrow.

Started out this morning taking the mushrooms I got on clearance off the dehydrator- oyster and button. Spent a crying hour prepping up a full load of fresh onions to dehydrate. I clean and chunk them, then mini process them fairly fine before spreading onto jelly sheets. I'm almost out of dried minced onion from making up gifts and mixes and onions have been on sale recently. A little work and I pay about 2 bucks to refill a container that sold for 5-7 bucks. And it gives a little low gentle heating on this side of the house during the day and night for the few pennies it costs to run the dehydrator.

Quick cooked up a batch of dried small red beans to dehydrate once the onions are done. Did I just say I dried cooked dried beans? Yeppers.
Dried beans in the bag are dried from fresh, and require a goodly cooking before they are edible. But there are 30 minute dried mixes with beans, how is that? Because they cook the beans, then dehydrate them. After a lot of reading around, I decided that making my own beans from dried before dehydrating would be better than using canned beans for the final product. And it's cheaper- Once a 1.29 bag of dried red beans is cooked up, fills the colander like 4 cans of beans. No way I'm picking up canned beans for 30 cents a can. But dehydrated beans can cook up just like canned beans do- fast or slow cooking, though with some slow cooking additional fresh addition of canned is good.
Used the standard quick instructions on the bag- cover beans well with water, bring to boil, let boil 2 min, kill heat and cover. Let sit one hour.
Fully drain and refill water, cover, and simmer for 2-3 hours, till tender.
From there I let steep for a half hour before draining and rinsing. Already small cracks and splits are appearing on the skins- but not like I care about that. All of them are still very whole and seem like they will stand up that way on drying AND they are very tender. Now it's just hurry up and wait till the onions are done. The beans might have to go into the fridge overnight.

Picked up a beautiful 3 lb rib end pork roast for a buck a pound yesterday. Today it is being brazed up with onion, garlic, and baby carrots, with mashed taters for the starch.

It's Saturday!
Yesterday I made up a batch of spinach and white beans for dinner tonight. And a set of lemon mini-loaves. Threw a pork roast in a crockpot this morning. Today I did mini carrot loaves and sour cream loaves. Cream cheese frosting, spiced honey butter and sweet citrus butter. Gotta wait for the bananas to brown to make the last loaf for the sweet quartet, banana squash loaf.
Also trying out a clementine marmalade that takes a couple days to steep before making into the final product.

Now it's Monday... I really got to get better at putting up notes, hahaha.
Finally caved in a ordered a nutmeg grinder over the weekend- it's my gift from my hubby, I think he got sick of hearing me whine about it.
Broke in my pasta cutter- gunked up my pasta cutter, lol. The main rolling machine is good, but the pasta was way too sticky for the fine cutting attachment. So much for lovely pasta nests for Christmas, hahaha. Still might try orecchiette or perhaps tagliatelle.

Decided to go for the ecig thing. Picked up a couple of disposables last week and we tried them out. Pretty good, but then we had tried a friends ecig a while back and liked that. Over the weekend we picked up a couple of less expensive refillable ecigs. One pack of smokes is 7.30-7.50 and lasts a day or two. One package of refills for the ecig was 6 bucks and had 4 refills, equaling 8 packs of smokes. The main part of it was a 16 dollar kit- the tube and it charges on a USB port. No shit.
We hope to be totally ecig by the holiday weekend. It's way cheaper. Once you figure out pack price, I don't think I saw smokes that cheap as a kid. And it does not stink like cigs, or leave compounds all over. And it can be done where cigs can't anymore, like eateries and pubs.
Yeah, the best solution is to not use the stuff at all. But it's a good step.
Going onto ecigs is a little bit baffling at first. There are a lot of brands, flavors, disposables vs refillables, and different levels of strength just like smokes have full flavor or lites.

Gonna post this now since it's already Tuesday night...