All About Saffron


A few months ago I was sitting in the break room with a co-worker and he told me that he was interested in growing Saffron.  He and his wife had taken a class on making paella.  They were so in love with it, he was interested in growing his own saffron rather than buying it.  I, of course, sat there stunned-wondering why I had never even considered growing saffron.  It’s absolutely gorgeous.

Photo courtesy of Bloomingbulb.com

Saffron has a slightly-sweet earthy taste that enhances with seafood, chicken, rice, pasta and breads.  Retail cost varies widely, I found prices from $75 an ounce to $150 per .25 ounces.  Ouch.

Saffron is the stigmata (lady parts) of a fall-flowering crocus called crocus sativus.    Hmmm…when I’ve bought it for recipes (like 3 times in my life) it’s been yellow right out of the jar.  There could be a few reasons for this.  1.  Lower grades of saffron come from the lower part of the stigma and are more yellow.   2.  The stamen of the saffron crocus is yellow and they were selling me the man junk and the lady business of the flower.  3.  They added tumeric to aid in supplying yellow color associated with saffron.  So while the saffron gives off a yellow color in recipes, the threads are actually red.  Usually in spice jars it’s wrapped in paper to protect it from light, so you can’t always see what you’re buying.  This probably accounts for the big price difference.  High quality saffron threads look like this when dried:

Saffron Threads from gourmet-delights.com

So here is the skinny on growing saffron crocus.  They are hardy in zones 6-9 but can be lifted and brought in for the winter in colder climes.  Saffron like well drained soil and in some areas they only plant them in raised beds to help with drainage.  Look for a spot with full sun to part shade.  Plant 3-4 inches deep, 6 inches apart.  Corms can be planted in the spring, but you wont get a good harvest your first year, since the roots didn’t have time to establish in the fall.  Most of the suppliers I found ship saffron crocus in late summer to fall for planting.  Your saffron crocus will break ground in spring but not  flower until September and October.  You get to pick the little red threads out of them.  Picture yourself with a magnifying glass, tweezers, and a itty bitty jar to hold your bounty.  Harvesting the threads doesn’t hurt the flower.  Dry them then store away from light.  Whole threads maintain flavor the best.

I’m posting this a bit early to give you time to look in your garden and see if you have any saffron crocus, maybe you planted some without knowing or inherited some from the previous owner of your garden.  If not, you can start looking for corms from your favorite gardening store.

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Issue number two, hot off the press!

Breaking Urban Ground Cover 2
 

 

In this issue we introduce you to Deb Leonard as she helps us take the mystery out of our first cheese making adventure.100_1387


We hear Marie Edwards explain why a Tower Garden may be your ticket to having fresh, home grown fruit and veggies when you thought it might be impossible.IMAG1030


Our friend Larry Hall shares his latest creation; The amazing, the simple, the versatile, automatic, self-watering,

Pop Bottle Grow System.Pop Bottle Grow System 1


Also hear and see stories of two community gardens and the people working to share the bounty with others.


New this issue we have a contribution from a viewer of her garden and some of the things she does to make and repurpose garden fixtures.


Also new are videos and pictures from viewers like you.

So what are you waiting for?

The newest subscription is ready now on iPads world wide in the Newsstand application and on iTunes for the iPad. The Breaking Urban Ground magazine app is free to download and will allow you to get notifications of exciting news when we post it.

Come join the fun. Take part in others adventures and don’t forget to share yours with us too here at

Breaking Urban Ground

Breaking Urban Ground

Facing Tropical Storm Andrea. Are you ready?


Tis’ the season friends. Andrea is the first named tropical storm of the 2013 season. Hence the name starts with an “A”. This is not yet classified as a hurricane but technically neither was Sandy at this point in the life of that storm. If you live on or near the East Coast what are you doing to make yourself more safe? If you are not doing anything I ask WHY?

 

If you know you are in the path of Andrea why are you not preparing for the encounter?

What are you waiting for?

 

I just received this email from Steven Harris. Steven is an expert in the field of making yourself ready for disasters of all types. REAL DISASTERS, BEFORE AND AS THEY HAPPEN.

 

This is not zombie stuff. This is happening NOW!

 

Email:  ”Joe,I’m very busy right now so I have to make this SHORT.
Remember “Hurricane” Sandy was only a huge tropical storm.

Tropical Storm Andrea is ONLY a huge tropical Storm and it is going to smash all the way
up the coast from Florida to Maine and its WIDE… just because you are inland do NOT
think you are NOT going to be affected.”

 

Well here it is folks. One of the things your tax dollars pays for and actually does well is the NOAA National Weather Service. Look at what is being broadcast for you at the time of this writing.

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/refresh/graphics_at1+shtml/090936.shtml?5-daynl?large#contents

6-6-2013 map of projected Andrea storm path.

6-6-2013 map of projected Andrea storm path.

Click on the picture to get a more clear image.

OK, So I’m in the path, what can I do?

 

I’m glad you asked. No, really, I’m thrilled that you are even considering taking a next step. Breaking Urban Ground, as always, wants you to take the next step toward doing more for yourself. Thank you. Here is the rest of the email from my friend Steven Harris. Each link is loaded with info on things you can do

RIGHT NOW.

And,

It’s all

FREE!!!

Email cont’d: “Here is what I have for you NOW to prepare you NOW with stuff you CAN GET.

* Family Prep Course – Listen to it now.
– Food and Water from your Grocery Store, so easy, 30 second emergency bread.
http://www.Solar1234.com

* How to Power Your House from Your Car Course
– Simple 20 buck inverter, 10 bucks in bulbs, inordinate light, infinite cell phone
http://www.Solar1234.com

* Fuel and Fuel Storage Class
– How to store a lot of fuel quickly and easily so you are not a sucker in a gas line
http://www.Solar1234.com

* How to Keep your Refrigerator and Freezer COLD without Power
– Its so darn simple… you’ll hate yourself for not thinking of it.
http://www.Solar1234.com

* Emergency Home Power from a Battery Bank
– Works with or without your car, a dedicated marine battery, or 2, will do wonders
http://www.Battery1234.com

* Emergency First Aid Class that the Red Cross will NEVER teach you.
– Simple quick real world first aid for preppers, stuff Red Cross is too scared to tell you.
http://www.FirstAid1234.com

Think its TOO LATE ??? ITS NOT !!!
I tell you and show you all the items that you need so you can get them from the local store
OR you can get them from Amazon. Amazon will 2 day and overnight ship stuff to you and
it will show up the day before the storm even when all of the shelves at the store are EMPTY.

This is a little miracle secret of prep that most people don’t know about. If you join Amazon
Prime, overnight shipping is only 4 bucks. 2 day shipping is no charge. I think you can even
get the first 30 days for free and then you can avoid the yearly charge….

Keep Safe…this storm is moving fast and its big.

Steven Harris.

p.s. Tell your friends, put it up on face book, if you have friends in the storms path ALL they
need at NO CHARGE is at
http:///www.Solar1234.com
http://www.Battery1234.com
http://www.FirstAid1234.com
KnowledgePublications.com

So, if you are reading this you are almost certainly sitting at a computer. If you are sitting at a computer click a link of your choosing and take that step. This will not be the last storm disaster on the East Coast. If you don’t take steps to mitigate the effect it has on you then you accept part of the blame for the magnitude of the aftermath.

 

Learn.

Do.

TEACH!

Breaking Urban Ground

Oklahoma City Tornado


First I want to say my condolences and prayers go out for the families who lost loved ones in the wake of the Oklahoma City tornado disaster. This is heart wrenching. I am truly sorry for everyone who is suffering from this natural disaster.

Now this was not a typical tornado. The magnitude of this twister is currently listed as EF5 meaning the winds are believed to be 160 to 210 miles per hour and the diameter is approximately 2 miles wide at its widest point. It was simply large and powerful. I have spent quite a bit of time looking at pictures of the destruction and I can not imagine being a witness to this. One thing I have noticed was how the professionals recognized the magnitude of this particular event and how their warnings took a more dire tone. As pointed out near the end of this video the weather reporter was telling people to get away as fast as they could. Not to shelter in place in the interior rooms of buildings but rather to go underground into storm shelters or to simply flee.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

I wont try to pretend that I understand all the dynamics of all tornadoes and how we should react to them but I have to wonder why did so many people lose their lives? The first warnings went out 16 minutes before the first reports of the tornado actually touching down. The tornado ravaged a strip of Oklahoma for 40 minutes and traveled 20 miles so even though the wind was an ungodly 200 miles per hour the tornado moved along at 30 miles an hour. I am left wondering why. Why, with all of our best weather reporting data, why with our NOAA radio system in place, why with so many instant notification media avenues available did some (I repeat, some)  people do nothing until the last moment or not at all? Lives were lost as a direct result of inaction. It is an ugly thing to think about but the result of failure to do something is even uglier.

I want to be clear about something. I am not judging others. I am observing them and trying to learn. We have got to restore the mentality of prevention and preparation. We need to foster the desire to take action and do something. People died because a tornado in tornado alley during tornado season waltzed toward them at the speed of a car in normal traffic and they failed to get out of the way FOR 40 MINUTES!

This is one reason why we are bringing back Steven Harris in coming issues of Breaking Urban Ground Magazine. Steven is perhaps the nations leading source for emergency preparedness information. Not zombie stuff or UFO stuff but rather real world, tornado, power failure, hurricane, earthquake preparedness. I was planning an interview with him about very simple emergency foods to make when power goes out and we will still do that in a future issue. But I because I intend to introduce those who are learning to the experts around us who are teaching I want to address the complacency that is too often exhibited and the agony it fosters at times like this. These are times when we should be leading our neighbors to safety instead of sharing in their misery. Moving friends away from danger instead of watching it bring them to an untimely end.

It is said that the best thing you can do in an emergency is “the right thing”. The second best thing you can do is the “wrong thing”. And the worst thing you can do is NOTHING.

Watch, learn, prepare, teach.

DO SOMETHING!

Breaking Urban Ground

Announcement!!!!


Breaking Urban Ground

is thrilled to announce our first issue of

Breaking Urban Ground magazine.

It is currently available on iPads everywhere in the Newsstand app. We have interviews from Paul Gautschi on his amazing Back to Eden garden. Larry Hall talks to us about the Rain Gutter Automatic Watering System he created. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds comes to you via the voice of Jere Gettle. A personality local to me, Gretchen Anderson answers some of our questions about starting backyard chickens. If chickens are not for you maybe our discussion with Vice President of Mann Lake Ltd may interest you. Jack Thomas gives us great advice on the topic of becoming a bee keeper. If you want to know anything about real world emergency preparedness then you will want to catch Steven Harris‘ interview. He tells us what every home can do to take a first (and easy) step toward counting on yourself in a power outage or if you lose a regular water supply. We even have a special article contributed to us from Pepper Miller. Her 3 part blog article “The Chicken Plan” is an example for you to see how one person put her wish to keep chickens into practice.

We are thrilled about the launch of the magazine but we are always looking forward to new issues. We are building June’s magazine right now and would love your participation. It can be as simple as a picture. You can send us pictures of your Breaking Urban Ground Projects. They can fall into these major categories.

Animals:

Show us your chickens, bees, rabbits, worms(worm compost projects) goats and others.

Alternate power:

Battery storage, home wind generator, solar projects, rain storage. Any utility you provide for yourself.

Food Production:

Canning successes, canning failures, dehydrated foods, cheese making, syrup, yogurt. What food did you make?

Gardening:

Your urban garden, community gardens you participate in, Veggies you grew or are growing, unusual crops, your first plant. If it is growing for food we want to see pictures.

Household Stuff:

Planter projects, a trellis you made, detergent, candles, beeswax lip balm, a bat house. This is the “construction zone”.

Preparedness:

This is more of an action than a “thing” so let’s see first aid kits, group pictures of your CPR certification class, your 72 hour kit. Send photos related to “being” ready for lives turbulent situations.

Storage:

How do you maximize your space. Lets see creative ways to manage what you have. Shelves you built, basement root cellars, serious spice cabinets.

Don’t forget to tell us about the picture. A picture of canned carrots is nice but information on who made them and a little background is better.

With all of this be sure to include the kids. Breaking Urban Ground includes all people learning to provide for themselves as they have interest. The entire family can be included. My kids don’t like gardening but love to make cheese. If your kids like doing something send pictures of their projects too.

We are all about learning. Learning includes mess-ups and failures. Send pictures of these and some info on what you learned from the experience and what you will do differently next time.

Sending your photos to Ideas@BreakingUrbanGround.com constitutes permission to use or not use the photos in future issue and articles and on the Breaking Urban Ground website and social media affiliations. Don’t send us pictures if they are not your own or you do not have authorization to distribute them.

Our first issue was so much fun to make. Lets make the next one better.

Joe Gore

Growing like a weed, so it is time to transplant. (We’re moving.)


Breaking Urban Ground is already feeling the confines of this Blog site and we needed to migrate to another site to make some changes. I would like to invite all our friends, fans, visitors, followers and anyone who stumbles upon this site to join us at our new site.

At the new BreakingUrbanGround.com we will be exploring the same things as they relate to making ourselves more self-reliant at our own pace and with our own resources.

At the new site please sign up for the V.I.P. email list. We will be collecting names until Monday April 22nd for a drawing. Five lucky people will be sent an email with instructions on how to get access to our first iPad Newsstand magazine for free. We are very excited to share this with you and are already gearing up for future issues.

You can also send us pictures of your Breaking Urban Ground Projects. They can fall into these major categories.

Animals:

Show us your chickens, bees, rabbits, worms(worm compost projects) goats and others.

Alternate power:

Battery storage, home wind generator, solar projects, rain storage. Any utility you provide for yourself.

Food Production:

Canning successes, canning failures, dehydrated foods, cheese making, syrup, yogurt. What food did you make?

Gardening:

Your urban garden, community gardens you participate in, Veggies you grew or are growing, unusual crops, your first plant. If it is growing for food we want to see pictures.

Household Stuff:

Planter projects, a trellis you made, detergent, candles, beeswax lip balm, a bat house. This is the “construction zone”.

Preparedness:

This is more of an action than a “thing” so let’s see first aid kits, group pictures of your CPR certification class, your 72 hour kit. Help me with ideas for this category photos.

Storage:

How do you maximize your space. Lets see creative ways to manage what you have. Shelves you built, basement root cellars, serious spice cabinets.

Don’t forget to tell us about the picture. A picture of canned carrots is nice but information on who made them and a little background is better.

With all of this be sure to include the kids. Breaking Urban Ground includes all people learning to provide for themselves as they have interest. The entire family can be included. My kids don’t like gardening but love to make cheese. If your kids like doing something send pictures of their projects too.

We are all about learning. Learning includes mess-ups and failures. Send pictures of these and some info on what you learned from the experience and what you will do differently next time.

Sending your photos to Ideas@BreakingUrbanGround.com constitutes permission to use or not use the photos in future issue and articles and on the Breaking Urban Ground website and social media affiliations. Don’t send us pictures if they are not your own or you do not have authorization to distribute them.

Please join the fun at the new site. This can be a great spring if we make it one.

 

Repurposed Wire Mesh Shelf into a Hanging Garden Trellis


This project was born last summer when we went to the local consignment auction.  At about 2:00 am them auctioned off a wire mesh cube shelf set that was in a box.  No idea how many pieces were there or what we would do with it, but no one was bidding for a dollar…so we jumped in and bid.  Seemed like we could find a use for it somewhere.  Originally it probably looked like this:

Wire mesh shelving unit.

Wire mesh cube shelf that we bought at auction last summer for a dollar.

Wire mesh cube shelf that we bought at auction last summer for a dollar.  There were 25 pieces in the box.  

Fast forward to last weekend.  My wife, Margo, and my dad were talking about a trellis for the front yard vegetable garden.  We like to have veggies in the front yard because our kitchen window overlooks it and it makes it really easy to pick side dishes to go with dinner.  Just look outside and see what’s ripe.  Last year we had three different trellises and it looked a bit junky.  Given that this is our front yard, Margo wanted something that was sturdy, aesthetically pleasing, and cheap.  Cheap being the word that makes her smile with glee.

Tiny little trellis from last year couldn't keep up with our cucies.  This is the wall we need to cover.

Tiny little trellis from last year couldn’t keep up with our cucies. This is the wall we need to cover.

My dad saw the shelving and they started hashing out a plan.  The plan went from a stake-in-the-ground trellis to a hanging trellis.  They perused the garage and found a piece of conduit about 8 feet long for the top bar that we could suspend under the eave.

It took us a few tries laying it out in a pattern that we liked.  We were confined to the garage as stormy weather was on the way.   Margo comes from a family of quilters so she liked how the squares took on a geometric design.  We also made sure the gaps were big enough we could reach between the squares to pick our produce.

Laying out the shelving pieces to get the pattern we wanted.

Laying out the shelving pieces to get the pattern we wanted.

We decided to connect it with hog rings since they are cheap, sturdy, and we could probably find uses for the extras.  We made a trip to the local farm and garden store for supplies.

Purchased supplies.  Cost was 2.59 for the hog rings, and 1.29 each for the hooks.  I bought three of them.

Purchased supplies. Cost was 2.59 for the hog rings, and 1.29 each for the hooks. I bought three of them.

We gathered up tools:

Tools for the project.  Drill with drill bit slightly smaller than the hooks, tiny drill bit for metal screws at the end of the conduit.  Pliers or hog pliers, wire cutters in case you need to remove one, screwdriver.

Tools for the project. Drill with drill bit slightly smaller than the hooks, tiny drill bit for metal screws at the end of the conduit. Pliers or hog pliers, wire cutters in case you need to remove one, screwdriver.

Hog ringing without the proper pliers is easiest as a two person job.  Margo got the hog ring held in the pliers, then I held the wires squares so she could fasten them.  Real hog pliers have little dimples on the sides to hold the rounded ends.  Our farm store sold them for about $14.  We figured we could make do with regular pliers.

In the absence of hog ring pliers, we used regular pliers and  put the hog ring in sideways.

In the absence of hog ring pliers, we used regular pliers and put the hog ring in sideways.

How we held the screens together to hog ring them.

How we held the screens together to hog ring them.

 

Hog ringing is a two handed job.

Hog ringing is a two-handed job.

 

Hog ring in place.  Makes a nice triangle.

Hog ring in place. Makes a nice triangle.

 

We did 4 vertical rows point to point, and one set of horizontal squares between them.  Then we decided it would be easiest to hang what we had so far, and hog ring the rest of the squares in place.

We drilled three holes into studs under the eave and screwed in our hooks.  We had them alternate direction so there is no way it can come out of the hooks.  We slid it in place from the end.  We found 4 cheap carabiners in the kids rooms to use to hold the wire mesh on the conduit.  Sorry, didn’t get a picture of that.

Conduit hanging under the eave.

Conduit hanging under the eave.

We also drilled holes in the end of the conduit and put some metal screws in the end so the carabiners can’t slide off.  Because we used a scrap piece of conduit, the carabiners are right at the edge of the conduit.  If we had conduit a few inches longer than the span of the hanging trellis, we could have skipped this step.

Drilling screws in the end of the conduit

Drilling screws in the end of the conduit as a stop.

The finished project doesn’t quite touch the ground.  Our plan is to use some temporary stakes when we put our plants in with string so they can climb to the first part of the trellis.  This will also limit the amount of sway that the trellis might have in the wind.  We don’t want our wee plants getting ripped out of the ground in a harsh wind.

Side view to show how far it is from the wall.

Side view to show how far it is from the wall.

 

Angle view so you can see the pattern.  From the road it's not very visible.

Angle view so you can see the pattern. From the road it’s not very visible. It has gaps big enough for us to reach behind the mesh grid pieces and pick our produce.  This view shows the diagonal grid pieces best   

 

Another view, still hard to see against the grey wall.

Another view, still hard to see against the grey wall. This angle shows the horizontal grids better.  Impending storm didn’t allow for very good lighting. 

Now the lemon cucumbers and peas have a place to call home.  Just as soon as it’s warm enough to put them outside.

 

 

 

Repurposed Wire Mesh Shelves into a Hanging Garden Trellis


Looks cool and was a fast project.

Simple Urban Country Living

This project was born last summer when we went to the local consignment auction.  At about 2:00 am they auctioned off a wire mesh cube shelf set that was in a box.  No idea how many pieces were there or what we would do with it, but no one was bidding for a dollar…so we jumped in and bid.  Seemed like we could find a use for it somewhere.  Originally it probably looked like this:

When we bought it, it looked like this:

Fast forward to last weekend.  My father-in-law and I were talking about a trellis for the front yard vegetable garden.  We like to have veggies in the front yard because our kitchen window overlooks it and it makes it really easy to pick side dishes to go with dinner.  Just look outside and see what’s ripe.  Last year we had three different trellises and it looked a…

View original post 492 more words

The Dandelion. If you hate them, maybe you misunderstand them.


WOOOHOOO! The Dandelion is here!!!!

We just came home from the store and I have 4 beautiful yellow flowers in my yard. Now many who read this might think I am out of my ever lovin’ mind. And 4 years ago I would have agreed with you.

They are a tenacious weed (term used loosely) that exist almost universally across the United States in the city and in the country and many other places around the world. In fact the name Dandelion comes from the  French “Dent de Lion” meaning teeth of the lion. If you view the edge of the flower petals very closely they resemble a row of teeth with canines and incisors.

Teeth of the lion.

Teeth of the lion.

I’m guessing that if you dislike Dandelions you don’t raise bees, you don’t have a garden, you don’t eat (or know how to eat) them or you are not fondly familiar with Dandelion wine.

This little plant is usually the first naturally occurring ground flower of spring and therefore is a very important source of nectar and pollen for our hungry bees coming out of the hives after consuming honey all winter. The food the Dandelions supply the bees is very important. We do have blossoming trees at this time but in areas with few flowering trees the Dandelion makes its annual appearance to save the season.

A happy bee feasting and gathering pollen.

A happy bee feasting and gathering pollen.

There are many culinary opportunities to consume the plant as well. Almost everyone has heard that Dandelion leaves are good in salad but very few people have tried it before forming an opinion on whether they like it or not. I found a rather extensive list of recipes that include Dandelion. I encourage you to peruse the list and pick one to try. See what you think about this free crop.

dandelion fritters pancakes

A word of caution: Roadside Dandelions are filthy from dirt and car exhaust and other debris. Dandelions in parks, schools and many privately owned areas get sprayed with herbicide. If you don’t know if they are clean and safe

DON’T EAT THEM.

I have never made or even tried Dandelion Wine or Dandelion Mead (honey wine) but it is something I am going to try if I can find a place or two to harvest a few pounds of Dandelion flowers in a one or two-day period. I am a big fan of homemade pear mead and I’m hoping to make a gallon of Dandelion mead to compare it with. I’m thinking for my first batch I am going to try a subtle flavor. If It proves tasty I will go for a stronger flavor next year.

dandelion20wine2037_5cl

I’m hoping a few of you reading this will find a place in your heart for the durable little flower. We have come to dislike it by default because it wrecks our lawn. But really, when viewed objectively, it does way more than we give it credit for and it never asks for help. If by some chance you hate gardening but are reading this gardening blog, learn to use Dandelions and you will never have to plant, water, hoe, weed, cultivate, rake or shovel and you will always have a free springtime crop.

images

Seattle Gets It!!! Do you?


It’s not a fairytale. Seattle to build nations first food forest.

http://www.takepart.com/article/2012/02/21/its-not-fairytale-seattle-build-nations-first-food-forest

7 Acres in Seattle to become    a "Food Forrest"

7 Acres in Seattle to become a “Food Forrest”

Are you planting food in your yard? Are you sharing it with your neighbors? If not, why? What ideas can we help you with so you can grow or make or raise something?

Cold Frames are hot.


The Cold frames my brother made me were cheap and easy and that’s pretty cool.

So I’m trying to start more of my plants this year from seed. It’s not going too bad but one of my problems is that my sunny window is only sunny for about 5 hours. And putting the seedlings in my sunny window takes up 4 square feet of counter space right next to my sink. This means I am moving my plants from a table in my front room where they spend most of their time under a homemade grow-light frame and back every day. Do I need to do this? Probs not, but I can’t help but feel that the sun is better than artificial light. That’s a “no brainer”.  The artificial light works and If I had no other option I would use it and be glad. But I am looking for better, more natural, less expensive and easier. If it reduces my need for electricity then I’ll call that the bonus. I live in a regular suburban home so I decided to use what I have, where I have it. I have a back yard deck so I figured that I would make a cold frame and learn to use it for germinating seeds and growing strong little plants.

My wife wants to make a greenhouse and she wants to use old windows from farm houses being demolished and has been able to collect a few of them already. She let me use two that my brother gave to us from a farmhouse in the area. They are the same size and have hinges still attached. I brought them to my brother to get some help building the body of the cold frame.

Old Farmhouse Windows

Old Farmhouse Windows

I was planning on spending a few dollars on a 2×12 board long enough to make the walls of the enclosure and a few more dollars buying a piece of plywood for the floor. When I arrived at my brothers one acre farm and showed my brother the windows he said he had an idea and walked to a lumber stack near the back of the property. He returned with an old section of cabinet that was hanging in the garage when he moved to the farm.

Garage Cabinet

Garage Cabinet

It was just the right size. The cabinet  length and width were almost exactly the same as one of the windows.After we removed the center shelf and the facing he cut a piece of old siding to cover the opening.

Facing and Shelf Removed

Facing and Shelf Removed

With this cut siding firmly in place what we had was now a closed box.

Closed box left

Closed Box Left

Closed Box Right

Closed Box Right

Question: What magical tool turns a closed box into 2 smaller open boxes? YES, a saw. So after deciding what angle we wanted for the sides we drew the saw guide marks and he went to cutting. 4 straight-line cuts later and we had two halves of a box.

Layout

Layout

Sawing

Sawing

Open box with backs taller than fronts

Open box with backs taller than fronts

They looked great. The next thing to do would be to attach the windows that would serve as sun gathering covers for these boxes. Screwing on the lids was easy since the hinges were already halfway attached. We simply placed the windows on the boxes, lined them up flush with the hinge side wall and ran the screws in with a power screwdriver.

Window aligned and hinges screwed in place

Window aligned and hinges screwed in place

I chose not to paint the boxes for a few reasons not the least of which is that I just didn’t feel like it. They will serve their purpose as is and should I decide to drill some smaller vent holes in them or should we scrap the frames to reclaim the windows for the bigger greenhouse project I won’t feel like I spent any money or time needlessly.

Matching Cold Frames

Matching Cold Frames

So there we have it, a pair of matching cold frames that cost almost nothing, use no electricity, reduce the risk of me dumping seedlings on the kitchen floor, and will help me bring strong plants to the garden.

The Chicken Plan Part III


Chicken plan  coming to fruition.

My friend Pepper has been a chicken owner for years. She has put her plans for keeping chickens in print and allowed me to share them. Part three brings us to the completion of her coop. At this writing the coop is 4 years old and still serving it’s purpose well. And I don’t think the chickens have complained any.

The Chicken Plan Part III

Building The Hen House Finale

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In Pepper’s Words

Re-bloged with permission.

The Chicken Plan Part II


The next of this helpful series.

My friend Pepper has been a chicken owner for years. She has put her plans for keeping chickens in print and allowed me to share them. In this part she brings you onto her property with pictures and covers the progression of building the coop.

The Chicken Plan Part II – Building The Hen House

Pepper 2

In Pepper’s Words

Re-bloged with permission.

The Chicken Plan


My friend Pepper has been a chicken owner for years. She has put her plans for keeping chickens in print and allowed me to share them. If you are entertaining the thought of having chickens in your yard but don’t know where to start Pepper provides a clear example of how to organize your thoughts and it’s a spark for what thoughts to think about.

The Chicken Plan…

Pepper

In Pepper’s Words

Re-bloged with permission.

Maple Syrup Season 2013 Wraps Up. Great Success.


This is the end of a successful sap flow and syrup making season in my front yard. I harvested 24 1/2 gallons of sap and reduced it to about 3 quarts of syrup. Real, sweet, sugary, smooth, flavorful maple syrup. It took 4 days and 2 nights to cook it down. I split the syrup and did 2 days and 1 night twice. And with lots of patience and some research and just a little dumb luck it turned out great.

19 gallons maple sap

19 of the 24 1/2 gallons I got from 1 tree.

My method for reducing it was to put an enamel canning pot on the large electric heating element of my Brinkman meat smoker in my garage, in the middle of the concrete floor with the overhead door cracked open about 4 inches.

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REMOVING 96% OF THE MASS OF THE SAP, WHICH IS WATER, SHOULD BE DONE OUTSIDE TO AVOID WATER DAMAGE TO THE INSIDE OF YOUR HOME.

The smoker element heats the whole bottom of the pot and does so at a top temp of 205 or so. It is especially handy because I didn’t have to worry about running out of fuel. I split the total sap into 2 parts just in case I botched it somehow I did not have a total loss. So as it steamed down all of day 1 I kept adding sap. As I went to bed around midnight I topped it off to within an inch of the rim and went to bed. My lovely wife wakes up early so when she got up around 6 in the morning she checked on it and topped it off again.

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When everyone was up and the kids went off to school I kicked it into high gear by placing the liquid in the canning pot on a turkey frying propane cooker.

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This is important to note: If you bring the sap to a boil then, for whatever reason, reduce the sap temp below 190 degrees F the finished product will have a haze that settles to the bottom. It is perfectly fine other than the appearance.

100_1084That said, I topped it off again and brought it all up to a pleasant boil. As I added in the remaining few containers of sap I did it slowly to maintain the boil. As it reduced to a point I could put it in a smaller pot I did that quickly (safety first) to keep as much heat as possible.

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Now I started to monitor the temperature. Lets discuss that for a moment. It is said that water boils around 212 deg F depending on altitude and atmospheric conditions. It is also said that you technically have “syrup” when the sap will boil at 7 degrees above boiling. Roughly 219 F. So you can use the SWAG method (Scientific Wild Ass Guess) and just boil it until it will rise to 219 F. You can do better though by boiling water at this stage and getting an accurate reading on your suitable for the job thermometer and adding 7 degrees for your specific altitude and that days weather. I have done both and still my syrup came out thinner (after completely cooling) than I thought it should. Now back to the story.

I kept an eye on the temp and as it approached 214 F. I went inside and turned on my gas stove burner on as high as it would go. I went back to the garage and with oven mitts on I carefully carried the pot in and put it on the burner and got it boiling again. The time from stove to stove was about 15 seconds.

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Now for the final work. I know that that day the digital thermometer I was using read a pot of boiling water at 208 F. I know that the syrup I made that was brought up to 219 (I went right past 215) was still thinner than what I thought it should be so this is what I did on my last batch. At this point I recommend the project gets your undivided attention. A helper is indispensable. I boiled vigorously until I got a reading of about 219 F then I put it on as low a heat as I could and keep it boiling. I brought it up to 221 F. At that point it was bubbling so much that the bubbles were slowly filling the pot. I then killed the flame and carefully poured the syrup into the canning jars I had prepared while doing this final boil. I put the lids on in accordance with normal canning procedures and let them be until the next morning. This is my result.

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This is most of the 3 quarts I got from the 24 1/2 gallons of sap I started with.

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The dark syrup is still hot. It is thicker. The light syrup has a chill haze in the bottom (all edible though) and is not thin but not yet a syrup consistency.