November 9, 2013

more pottery!

Not bad for my third and fourth pieces of pottery.   :)

2013.11_pottery (1)

2013.11_pottery (2)

2013.11_pottery (3)

Also, we finally got a digital SLR camera!  Yay for depth of field!  I have been wanting a DSLR badly for at least five years now, but there always seemed to be some financial hurdle to overcome (paying off college, paying for a wedding, buying a house).  With a baby on its way, though, we're going to want to savor those precious moments as best we can.  Plus I figure we'll be saving money if you compare buying a nice camera to taking a child to a professional photographer every few years.  Think DIY, people!

November 3, 2013

pumpkin pie brulee

2013.10_pumpkin pie brulee
Everybody's doing it!  And I think with good reason - this is a tasty food fad.  Honestly, I have never enjoyed pumpkin pie until this pie.  What changed?  The crisp caramelized sugar top makes things so much more interesting and in this case it was paired with a chocolate crust.   If I haven't sold you yet, doing a brulee means you get to play with fire!  I used a recipe from Bon Appetit though next time I will make a less fussy chocolate crust.

October 26, 2013

raised garden bed and sheet mulch

We built this raised garden bed with free wood from Craigslist!  I wanted a raised bed so that we could plant  more frequently harvested garden veggies like lettuce closer to the house and so we could easily put season extending hoops with a clear plastic sheet creating mini greenhouses in the spring and fall.

AND.  We filled the raised bed with sheet mulch - cardboard, manure, and wood chips (all of which we can source for free).  The layers should decompose over the winter and worms and other bugs should churn it up so that by the spring we have an excellent soil to plant in.  Here's a step by step:

Lay down a thin layer of manure.
2013.10_sheet mulch 001


Be sure to water each layer as you go.
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Layout the cardboard.  Cover any exposed seams with newspaper.
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Add some more manure. 2013.10_sheet mulch 005


Add a whole lot of wood chips. 2013.10_sheet mulch 006


We covered the top with leaves just because. 2013.10_sheet mulch 008

September 22, 2013

peach tree gummosis

2013.09_peach tree gummosis
Our peach tree got gummosis bad, up and down the whole trunk. I've never seen globs this big. It makes be realize how the amber-preserved mosquitoes from Jurassic Park could really happen.

Gummosis is just the descriptive symptom. Sifting through the internats, it is most likely the tree's reaction to holes drilled by an insect, peach tree borer, or to a fungus, cytospora canker.

I read that some dwarf fruit trees get gummosis as a matter of course, when watered heavily. Ours is a semi-dwarf, but this happened after Colorado's week of record-setting rains (we fortunately didn't get any flooding or hail, but some nearby farms got pretty devastated by hail).

Peach tree borer seems unlikely since they usually burrow below the soil/mulch surface. If it is the canker, that's bad, since you're supposed to remove infected areas and the whole trunk is infected. I'm hoping the tree will pull through. I'm continuing to give it plenty of water.

camelia sinensis blossoms

2013.09_blooming tea plant
Our tea plant blossomed today. It, and the lime tree we got in the spring, seem to be doing fairly well. I've had them on the shady north side of the garage, tucked between irises and alliums. They stay pretty moist there. Surprisingly, tea can be planted as far north as Toronto with the right microclimate, which includes the shady north side of buildings.

You can make a non-caffeinated tea from the flowers or eat them, but I want to see what happens with fruiting.

September 13, 2013

deluge of tomatoes



Prior to the deluge of rain along Colorado's Front Range, we had a deluge of tomatoes ripen in our garden. I canned this pile of tomatoes last weekend.  The resulting 5 pints of pasta sauce will certainly taste good in the winter!

September 7, 2013

share your skills! worm composting class

2013.08.26_worm bin class10

Exciting things are happening in Wheat Ridge!  We are part of a newly developing group called Live Local Harvesters that is building community around gardening, urban homesteading, livestock, local agriculture, etc.  We have monthly potlucks sometimes accompanied by food politics movies.  We have informal skill sharing classes led by community members.  We have informative barn raising events like for example a group set up drip irrigation in one person's backyard and everyone left knowing how to do it in their own yard.  We have a message board where people can ask questions, post new discoveries, or host improptu events.  It's all very fluid and energized which is very exciting.

Anyway, Eric recently taught a skill share class on worm composting and building worm composting bins.  Everyone who attended and wanted a worm bin left with a worm bin that they helped to build and some worms.  It was an excellent community building event! 

August 31, 2013

wax moths in the beehive

2013.08.30_wax moth infestation 05
Well, our honeybee colony's population has continued to decline (though I've continued feeding them) and yesterday I looked in the observation window and discovered that wax moth larvae had destroyed about half of the comb. The adult moth lays eggs in the comb and when the larvae hatch, they plow through the comb, eating everything in their path: beeswax, honey, stored pollen, brood, and even wood.

This is a sign the colony is too weak to defend itself–a strong hive would not let this happen. Perhaps if I had done an inspection of the combs more recently (pulling each one out to look at it), I would have discovered the moth larvae sooner. Then it may have been contained to one comb, as opposed to three.

There's not much you can do about wax moth larvae. I brushed the bees off the infested comb, squished the larvae (would make good chicken food), and saved some of the more intact comb to try to reuse. I put this comb in the freezer to kill any moth eggs.

It doesn't seem likely that the colony will survive the winter. I've been seeing yellow jackets in the hive as well, another sign that the hive is weak. It's possible that the queen is already dead, since I didn't see any new eggs or (bee) larvae in the hive, just a few capped brood cells. Sad, but I feel we did everything we could to improve their chances of survival. At least we have some built comb we can save for future colonies, and we've gained some experience.

To close, some interesting words on wax moths, from Les Crowder and Heather Harrell, authors of Top-bar Beekeeping: Organic Practices for Honeybee Health:

Although we may not see them, there are wax moths, either latent or active, in all beehives. Pregnant moths have a scent-cloaking ability and slip into the hives past the guard bees and lay eggs. Tiny threadlike larvae then begin chewing their way through the combs, eating cocoon silk, honey, pollen, bee larvae, and beeswax. Wax moth larvae actually are unable to digest combs of clean, pure beeswax and instead thrive on old black combs filled with bee feces and layers of cocoons.
Sometimes we hear of hives succumbing to wax moth, but in many cases this is because all the combs in the hive simply had gotten too old and dirty to house bees, so the bees allowed the wax moths to take over. In a healthy hive, the bees in a colony are constantly weeding out wax moth larvae. If the hive gets sick or queenless and the population of bees diminishes, wriggling masses of wax moth larvae proliferate and destroy the hive. However, if a hive is healthy and strong, the bees can keep them at bay and even use them to remove old, unsafe combs. We consider wax moths to be symbiotic organisms in a beehive, like the wrecking ball that tears down an old condemned building to make space for new construction.
Sure enough, the old combs I had hung from top bars to give the bees a head start were the ones most destroyed by larvae.

August 18, 2013

flax and carrot pulp crackers (gluten-free)

2013.08_carrot crackers
I wasn't going to post about these, but they came out so good. It is amazing that they are gluten-free, since they are so flaky and crispy and satisfying when you want something that goes "crunch."

A while back, I juiced a bunch of carrots and froze the carrot pulp that was extracted, since I heard you could use it to make crackers. So that's what I did. Here is the recipe that I used: Flax & Carrot Pulp Ginger Crackers. Basically, you grind the flaxseed (coffee grinder works well) and combine with the juicer pulp and some water and spices.

I also added sunflower seeds, some lemon juice, and salt. I baked them instead of dehydrating since I didn't feel like rolling them out in a doughnut shape. I used my classic technique of perforating the rolled out "dough" with a pizza cutter halfway through baking.

I have a lot more carrot pulp in the freezer, so I'll definitely be making more of these. I'll have to make a batch with amaranth seeds since I've found those to be really nice in crackers.

August 17, 2013

pottery

2013.08_pottery

I am a big fan of pottery.  I love the handmade imperfect beauty of it.  I also appreciate that it is a functional art form—you mean I can eat my granola out of that??  Pottery can be pricey though so most often I find mine at thrift stores.  Occasionally, when I come across an artist I really like (ahem Alex Watson), I will drop the money for a new piece.

Needless to say, I've been wanting to take a wheel throwing pottery class for years now. It just so happens that we moved down the street from an art studio that offers pottery classes, so I signed myself up!  These are my first pieces.  While they are not my favorite, it is super exciting to be learning and experimenting.  The process is intriguing too—it is meditative and humbling, you can suggest a form but you can't force it, and similar to watercolor you have to know when to stop and how to accept what is.