Saturday, December 31, 2011
As most of you know, I make a lot of organic wines at home. I wrote a book, about a year ago, entitled "Making Organic Wine At Home". It is free for anyone to download on the "Freebies" page of my farm site.
This week I added recipes for the wines I have made recently that we have liked. I use acid blend instead of lemon or orange juice. It's much more exact and much easier to control. Acid blend and pectic enzyme can both be found at any winemaking supply store or ordered online.
I hope these recipes will make winemaking easier for you and will help to give those timid people a good start. Wines without sulphite taste so much better, cleaner and you can really taste the fruit. A reasonable amount will not give you a headache, either. It really is a great hobby!
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Now that our children have grown and gone, we have the opportunity to re-evaluate some of our lifestyle habits and change them. A few years ago we took a second look at how we celebrated Christ's birth at Christmas and become dissatisfied with society's traditions, especially the feverish, stressful ones.
One decision we made two years ago is this: we no longer exchange gifts with anyone. Gift giving no longer has any meaning for society and has lost it's meaning for most Christians. The "Christmas Rush" has just gotten rediculous! Children look at Christmas as a time to get presents, instead of it's true meaning, that of worshipping and praising Christ for His birth and most precious gift to us.
This one change has made our holidays much more peaceful, with no worry about what to buy for anyone who will be giving to us, making sure what we give is equal and appreciated, last minute shopping in the long lines and noisy crowded stores and where we will get the money for all of this. We don't go near the stores during the holidays now. It also puts any guests at ease about gift giving. No one need worry about forgetting a gift, or deciding what to bring. No more gift giving related stress at all, for anyone!
We only wonder why we didn't stop doing this sooner! What a great change this has made! We now enjoy our peaceful time off praising Him for His gift and enjoying the company of a few small family members who come for a small and quiet, simple meal.
We don't load everyone up with food anymore and only cook a turkey if we feel like it (Great roast beef this year!). Easy simplicity is what we have at our meals during the Christmas holidays. This way, even the mom and cook get to relax and enjoy some vacation time at home.
Children will react to the quiet, serene environment by quieting down themselves, especially if candy is not everpresent. Just because it's the Christmas holidays does not mean one can load up on sugar and forget to eat properly! Nor is it a reason to replace all one's "still perfectly good" toys with new ones. If you use Christmas as a time to get presents of things you really need, keep this in mind: Everything is a lot cheaper after Christmas!
We also don't have a tree and didn't bother putting up any decorations this year. Christmas trees are not a celebration of Christ's birth, so we don't bother anymore. We just don't have time for it and living out in the boondocks, as we do, no one sees the decorations anyway. (It might be different if we lived in town, but that will never happen again!) I did think about putting a big red bow on the mailbox, but never did get to it. Decorating is just not that important anymore. The Christmas holidays have a whole new meaning now!
Is it time you took a closer look at how Christmas is being celebrated in your home? Society as a whole has dropped "Christmas" anyway and has just started calling this giant frenzy "The Holidays". Another reason to drop out of it altogether...
Should I be saying "Bah! Humbug!"
Friday, December 16, 2011
I have begun to make many various herbal salves. We particularly like the purslane salve! (Read more about purslane in a previous post "Purslane".) That stuff is fantastic at removing the itch and sting of insect bites! We have been continually amazed this summer at how well it works. I got several big fly bites on my face that just went away in an hour or so after using purslane. These bites usually result in a swollen and black eye for days. (I'm allergic to them. I don't know what kind of flies these are but they always go for my eyes!)
I have stopped using mosquito spray and just opt to pick a purslane leaf, crush and rub on a bite as soon as it starts to itch. Sometimes I have a sit outside and rub purslane on several at one time, then forget about them completely. No more itch!! It really is a necessity out here where we live!
I just let the purslane grow where it wants to grow. It comes up all over the garden and makes a great ground cover to keep the real weeds and grass down. It's good cooked or raw and is less bitter in the afternoon. It's one of my favourite herbs, so I made purslane salve this year.
I also made a healing salve that has a long list of healing, antibacterial, antiseptic, antifungal herbs. It contains yarrow, thyme, oregano, comfrey, lavender, calendula, heal-all, St. John's wart and mullein flowers.
Basically a salve is oil (I use olive) that has been infused with herbs and strained. It is then heated gently and wax added to make it more solid. That's it, in a nutshell. I also add vit E as a healing agent and a preservative, although most of the herbs in the healing salve can take care of themselves.
Thus far, I have used beeswax but will soon be switching to soy. Vegans don't like beeswax and with good cause. The downward spiral of the bees is alarming and some less healthy, productive focused beekkeepers have not helped. The continued use of the old style Langstroth hive is not helping, either. Top Bar Hives produce less honey because the bees rebuild the entire things from scratch after it is harvested, which takes time, but it also allows no room or time for moths to lay eggs or other parasites to set up house. While there is less honey produced with the top bar hive, there is a lot more wax! The use of old hives and recycling materials and equipment by unscrupulous beekkeepers also leads to more disease and parasites in the bee population.
At any rate, we are switching to all natural and organic soy wax for making salves. Soy wax is also less expensive but cost is not the only issue. Soy wax is quite a bit more protective than beeswax, remaining in place and keeping out moisture longer and it is a more easily renewable resource.
The salves that I am making now are in little plastic pots (see above picture). I might switch to the thin metal tins, if these don't work out, but those tins are so hard to open with they have salve and wax in them or you have slippery hands. They are also more expensive, a cost we would have to pass on to the buyer.
In the mean time, I am going to put some of these little plastic salve pots on my farm site for sale. Each one holds 8g of salve and I am going to charge $2.50 plus shipping, for them. The salve goes a very long way and will last a long time. Purslane salve only takes a tiny bit on the bite to work well.
If you are interested in buying them from me, just send me an email:
providenceacres at hotmail.com
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
The strawberry wine is ready to bottle and clear as a bell all by itself! Perfect wine! It smells so good, but I know it's green and not ready to drink. (I tasted it.) It needs to age at least until July 2012 when it will be a year old. I will try it again at that time.
This is the strawberry wine bottled. I also bottled what was left of the one gallon of apple I have been drinking and the one gallon of chocolate mint. Both cleared on their own and look marvelous! I got two small bottles of the apple and three large bottles of the chocolate mint. It sure has a lot of chocolate mint flavour! Wow, it's minty! I'm going to like that one! I think those will be gone quite quickly...
I had one gallon of maple and 5 gallons of rhubarb that were also finished and ready to bottle, but a little hazy. I had to add a clearing agent to them. I have been using chitosan to clear wines and used sparkaloid to clear beer but both of those are made from diatoms. (Diatoms are tiny, tiny shelled sea creatures used to make DE, diatomaceous earth, commonly used as a filter.) My closest friend has a grown son allergic to shellfish so I don't want to use those if something else is available that will do the job. I do have an electric wine filter, but it's so much work to use.
I went with bentonite, racked the wine off any lees, sprinkled the bentonite in the top of the jug and shook it up really well. I wanted to de-gas them anyway. A few days have gone by and it's looking quite clear now and ready to bottle when I have the time.
Making my own organic wines from scratch is such fun, especially when they turn out so well! The rhubarb is even drinkable, for those of us who are used to drinking wines a little green...
You can download my free ebook, "Making Organic Wine At Home" on the "Freebies" page.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
I am a firm believer in recycling everything possible. The new catch-phrase for this is upcycling. It's become the hip thing to do. It's a great way to keep things out of our landfill and it's cheap too!
I reuse cardboard all over the garden. It keeps the weeds down between the rows and can be covered with mulch for more visible public areas. It sure cuts down on the mowing and weeding! This year I have begun to cover the more problem areas with carpet. Not the vegetables and things we eat, but the weedy trouble spots beside the garage and under the deck. I have succeeded in covering the entire under deck area with carpet and around the cold frames. I have also covered about a 3' perimeter around the garage and the parking area under the defunct truck. (You know you are a redneck if you have one car that runs and 6 that don't. We only have the one that doesn't work...)
I use shredded paper as mulch over the cardboard and around the plants in the veggie garden. I pick up bags of it on recycle pick up day in the nearby commercial area. It makes great mulch and sort of sticks together when it's wet making a good weed barrier. The only problem is that it is WHITE and causes some questions and comments from people that see it and think it's snow in July. It's also free! (I like free!)
Another way I recycle is using those plastic and styrofoam containers from the grocery store for seed starting and seed drying. Some even come with clear lids to make a small greenhouse. These make good winter sewing containers too.
I collect paper bags all year for drying seeds and herbs.
I buy curtain sheers at thrift stores to dry the seeds that are too tiny for my screens (also recycled) and to use as straining material for winemaking. I'm hoping to use them in cheesemaking, as well, but don't know if they will be fine enough. I think it's worth a try, WHEN and IF I ever get there...
I get three gallon buckets from the grocery store bakery and use them for everything. This one is a garbage can. I use them in the freezer to store winemaking fruits until I have enough material and time to make wine. I use them for overflow compost, for toting smaller things and for storage. I also use four litre ice cream buckets for a lot of things too. Both are food grade and can be used to store food stuffs, keeping out weevels and other varmits. We don't get many with the cats around.
These are one of my favourite scrounge/recycle finds - Fisherman's Friend display boxes! I have 6-8 of them in my seed store office. They have been great containers for things like envelopes, labels and so forth.
I recycled some old wood into a shelf in the window of my grow room. There is nothing growing on it now but soon it will be full of seedlings!
Another one of our favourite recycle projects is a pizza edger made from an old pan. It's the perfect size and keeps the edge from burning. It helps make perfect pizza every time.
Junking In The Garden".
I recently picked up a "like-new" sink and night table I got free! I plan to put them together into a bird bath for the garden in the spring. I'm going to spray paint the sink black. You can read about my plans to make a planter out of a dresser and the chairs I found at the side of the road in a previous post "
Patio doors made into cold frames:
I have two cold frames and another two patio doors. I am hoping to get two more cold frames installed in spring 2012.
My best recycle project is my new tire garden. I plan to use all the small ones to build a small tire wall across the back of the garden, blocking the bush and overgrowth threatening to take over the garden at any time. It is at the very back of the back garden, against the jungle edge. I extended the garden into the wild area with cardboard in the spring and added the tires. I have cut the top off of the big ones where I plan to grow some of the heat loving vines, like cantaloupe and watermelon, that I have trouble with now. I might also grow tomatoes in the wall top, letting them hang over the side instead of staking. I'm considering covering the tires with fabric to keep the tomatoes away from the rubber and clean. The heat of the black tires raised off the cold ground will add much needed heat to the garden. I know that some of you are trying to find ways to keep your garden cool. Up here we look for ways to warm it up.
I also realize that there is some controversy around gardening with tires due to the health problems of teens with prolonged exposure to the new turf made from ground-up and broken down old rubber. I have done a lot of research into this. It will take years for the tires to break down to that point and should be safe for awhile yet, according to Mother Earth News. Also, the checmical that is causing the problems, which will be leached into the soil from the degrading tires in tiny amounts, is only a problem in nutrient poor, sandy soils and that mostly applies to root crops. The broken down ground up rubber used for the artificial turf is a different matter.
There is also some problem with using carpet in the garden, since it also contains chemicals such as fire retardent and so forth. Although I take these nay-sayers and alarmist with a grain of salt, I won't be using it in the vegetable gardens. I have plenty of areas, such as under the deck, where I need all the carpet I can get without putting it around food. I use cardboard in the gardens...and a hoe, of course :-) Make sure you use jute back carpet so the rain and air can get through to the soil.
Here are a few ideas I have seen but not done myself, that I think are great, but probably won't do myself. I think I will skip the first one but I would like to make the sandals!
Sandals crocheted from plastic grocery store bags:
Shed made from skids (pallets):
Are you doing all that you can do to reduce, reuse and recycle?