Welcome to Growbox Hill

Welcome to Growbox Hill
Welcome to Growbox HIll!

Friday, April 25, 2014

More seeds?

Today, the 22nd, I was able to get out and pick up my second small greenhouse- it was the last one they had and it was on sale for 10 bucks off, costing me 25 bucks. Worth every penny. Now that I have a pair of these things, I have pretty much doubled my potting space, can work out the batches of what needs to go where when... with hardening off capabilities... The plants are in goodly sun, so no leggies :)
This second one has some nicer assembly, and came with a screen and blackout cover- but their clear cover sucks more than the first one I picked up. I was smart this time and used a piece of leftover bailing twine to tie the darn thing to the railing. I put it on the ground level back to back to the one on the porch. Filled the bottom with milk jugs filled with water too. It's now filled with the peas- those got moved to the top tier that has more head room. And lots of various flowers, mostly columbine. I'm hoping for a lot of those to spring up nicely this year.
I potted up a whole flat of Dwarf Taylor Bush Beans- 18 of them. I decided to direct seed the Masai Beans this year. I'm hoping for a bit of stagger out with production and CMA for spring weather :)
Potted up 4 mushroom tubs of lemon balm- still haven't been successful with getting the stuff to grow well from seed.
Potted up a dozen cups of parsley. I wanted to have at least a few parsley plugs ready for when I put in the tulip bulbs. In a couple years I'm hoping that whole front stretch of fence will be filled with spring tulips followed by a 50 foot hedge of parsley every year. Seriously. We use tons and tons of parsley, I want a whole frigging hedgerow of the stuff. And if I got extra, no problem, I got friends that use it too and might like a big jar of the stuff now and then. Dill hedgerow is next :) 
Speaking of hedgerows.. I got 48 plugs of German chamomile that are growing beautifully in their greenhouse. German chamomile is more often used for tea. It is also a bushy annual that can grow up to 3 feet tall! The chamomiles in the fairy garden are Roman, the kind that only grows 6-12 inches tall.

The 23rd... Cool, sunny, low breezes.
Decided to open up the upper greenhouse today after the frost last night. Time to harden off some nasts for their planting spots.
I still have some cantaloupe and watermelon sitting around... I gave it a great deal of thought, and decided to freeze up some puree for warmer weather drinking that is going to be coming up soon. Figured why not, granita's exist.. now a days we have freezie packets of drinks... I would experiment with some freezing up non-alcoholic purees to mix with whatever or not at will :)
Decided to make some simple syrup today, and try bags of fruity goodness tomorrow. I made a minty one for the watermelon, and plain for the cantaloupe.  I tossed in a handful of crumbled pineapple mint leaves I had on the shelf to the red syrup once I took it off the heat, and let it steep till it was about the temp of a cool cup of tea before I strained it off to go into the fridge- I didn't want to oversteep or have bits of shit in my final puree. I used my gold mesh coffee strainer to pour off the mint after it was done being diffused. Used food coloring to tell them apart and impart extra color to the final drink, lol. Tomorrow I will puree the melons, add the syrup..
And I'm using bags to freeze!
Why not? Why have to use a pan for crystals? The freeze drink packs are bags, right? I'm going to freeze up the puree in bags and just manipulate them every couple hours, just like one would with a fork to break up a pan of granita. Then when I'm happy with crystals, let them sit for final freezing.
I've seen a  couple days for "curing", and up to six months or so in the freezer if one is careful to get air out of the bags.
While looking around about this I came across several nice accounts of an expresso granita done in bags, yum!

Did a little cleaning up and some potting today. I discovered after a loooong and apparently fruitless wait.. a couple of my rose seeds are indeed sprouting! I moved it's seed plate to a much more spring sprouting conducive sort of situation. I set those up waaayyy back in a pair of plates with wet towels to stratify them sort of while it was still cool enough in the solarium. Today I pulled out the plates to chuck the contents and try another sprouting test and lo! A few cracked and sprouting seeds :)
I potted up the 4 pits from methyel plums I had sitting. Will see what happens. I just used little cups for now.
Potted up another big pot of sprouted onions. For the last month or so, the tail end of onion season has shown, and a lot of sprouted onions in the bag very quickly. So I pot them up just shallow enough to let them root, dirt on top just enough to bury the bulbs, and start cutting onion greens to add to dishes.
Made a fantastic tuna loaf tonight too.  It used undrained tuna in oil and drained water tuna, and used matzo meal.. A wonderful kosher recipe I found when I was tired of looking at regular tuna loaf recipes. I bet this one would be good to do sliced cold or cold and seared off too.. Hmmm, something for the raclette grill I got recently from my mum in law. It has just been sitting in her basement for ages, and when over there recently, she remembered to dig it out.

What is a Raclette Grill? A really fucking awesome tabletop cooking device. On top is a dry searing griddle, in the middle a heating element, and underneath space for little pans to sit and broil. It isn't huge- think one medium egg in one of those little pans. Or one hunk of the right kind of melting cheese, yum. And yes, dry searing only- not meant to fry up some bacon or big ole burgers.
Oddly enough, over the last few months before my mum gave me the grill, I had picked up a couple interesting old cookbooks on tabletop service. My sister has been asking me about tapas, and I have some cookbooks into that realm. Some family dinners soon has got to include the rachlette grill.
Heh, I'm thinking it might be entirely possible we set this sucker up out on the picnic table this summer and just run a cord out to power it.

It's Friday :)
Yesterday was a super gloomy, sit around and do research kind of day. The usual stuff, cold case crimes, spooky stuff, gardening and food things. I tried a new kind of hamburger steak sort of thing. Used Kefta spices in the hamburger meat "steaks", and a mushroom, onion, and carrot braising sauce/gravy. It was really good. The steaks were almost kind of like nutmeggy, and more, but not overwhelming. I remembered to write it down as I made it so I can make it again. I'd be more likely to serve it with couscous, quinoa, or maybe a flatbread rather than mashed potatoes. Mashed taters were great.. but not quite right with the rest of the textures and flavors.

 I did end up making the frozen melon purees- today. Didn't take pics, it was pretty much just chunks of fruit in a blender, then I stirred in the simple syrup. Measured out into 2 cup measures into quart freezer bags, and just mush up every once in a while while freezing. I also had 3 bananas sitting just at the point of bread, but didn't feel like making banana bread, lol. So those I peeled, cut in half to fit into the quart bag, and tossed into the freezer too.
My little seedlings in the greenhouses needed to be re-arranged today. I'm using the upper one as a hardening off area, the lower one is staying closed and toasty warm. I'm considering planting my pea plants tomorrow since it's supposed to be rather nice and sunny followed by a few days of mellow temps with overcast and maybe rain. If I need to, I have the materials on hand to tent them. I think I might clean out the great room pots and plant in the papaya cream and nasturtiums too. Perhaps some of the milkmaids in the fairy garden.
Peas on the top- Alaska peas to be specific. The nasturtiums are on the bottom. The three pots that don't seem to have much going on are cherry nasts- biggest seed and I think they were pokey last year too when I direct seeded them.
Yes, those peas are darn big, and temps are now rather cool- and don't you just direct seed? Well. I wanted to get in a spring pea crop as early as possible since I was planting in honey rock melons and a couple kinds of cukes on that same fenceline later on in the season. And I wanted to give my plants the best chance of grabbing on to the fence AND try to keep the seed eating critters not interested. And the whole pea trench is still pretty darn wet. And I want them to already have a standing chance against any weeds I might miss. I plan on using straw on the pea trench at least to bed them in nicely.
The pea trench is this bed I set up/dug out recently:

What about all the leaves and stuff still sitting in the yard? Those are going to get gathered up as a layer in the lasagna bed that will be built to grow the tomatoes, peppers, and bush beans.

With the upcoming rainy but not frosty forecast going on it will be time to put out some more seed tapes down. It's better to put them down when it's going to be damp, lol. And I've been making more seed tapes again. Over the next few days while I make some up I will be taking a photo tutorial to share :)
And it means laying in the earliest of the brown paper bag barrier. We have been saving them since day one, and I want to use them to start smothering off the border of the tulip/parsley bed that will be going in in a few weeks, and perhaps the next section after the pole for a future dill bed. And of course the earliest stage of the lasagna bed. A refresh of the shredded paper mulch on the garlic bed.

It was time to make bread again, and this time I remembered to take a nice pic before it got all sliced up and eaten.
The glass dish I got for a couple bucks at a resale shop while out with T one day. I wasn't sure to get it, but T told me to go for it, and I'm very grateful she did! It's a perfect 2 pound loaf that I made the dough in my 10 dollar brand new bread maker I picked up resale shopping recently. Slices barely fits into our toaster, lol.
Why use a bread maker but bake it off in the oven? Quite often kitchen situation isn't great for good mixing and first proof- breadmaker on dough setting takes care of that.And even with taking the paddle out, bread has a funny hole in one end.. and it bakes up not quite right for me. Oven loaf is waaaaay better. More even better shape, the crust is all around better. And no hole.
I want to make it a goal to bake at least half of our own bread needs.. Kneads?.. by the end of the year. Like regular sliced bread, dinner rolls, maybe even pitas and tortillas.

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