Friday, February 3, 2017

Indoor Worm Composting

Indoor worm composting has long been on my to-do list as I think it is a wonderful way to compost in small indoor spaces. Worries about escaping worms and smells kept me from starting a indoor worm composting system for many years but I found a DIY system using 5 gallon buckets and a local place giving out free starter worms so I decided that with low financial inputs I could give it a try! I was also excited to have my first 'livestock'!


Benefits of the bucket worm composting method

  • Stacking five gallon buckets took up a lot less floor space than the traditional plastic tote. 
  • Holes drilled in the bottom of the buckets allow for easy worm migration which means no messy separation of worm casting and worms. 
  • Affordable system that can be reused if worm composting doesn't wind up working out. 

Worm Care:
Feed worms vegetable scraps but avoid meat, oil, and breads. 
Bucket should contain 'browns' which include newspaper, cardboard, and/or egg cartons.

Troubleshooting:
The food is mouldy! I sometimes over-fed my worms and some of the food gets a bit mouldy. When this happens I simply add more newspaper or cardboard and reduce food for a while. This seems to quickly resolve the problem. 
What should it smell like? I love the smell of my worm bucket! It smells like warm, damp, earth!  

Friday, January 27, 2017

Seed Purchases


It is easy to overspend on seeds as each package is only a few dollars and you have to purchase a certain amount to justify the shipping costs. Here are a few ways I keep my seed spending under control.

1. Limit the number of seed catalogues. If you do not like the selection of seeds, the business practices, the customer service or the germination rate from one company stop getting that seed catalogue. It will reduce temptation and help you spend your seed money wisely.

2. Save seeds. While seed saving from some plants are more difficult there are plenty of easy seeds to save. Seed saving will eventually result in plants that are ideal for your micro climate, save you money, and you will be able to trade with others for different varietals.

3. Make a plan. Before I even crack into a seed catalogue I have a list of the seeds I saved and have left from the previous year as well as a plan regarding new varietals and new plants I want to try for the upcoming year. This plan includes broad garden goals such as 'some plants for dye' and 'some plants that are unique and catch my eye'. This ensures that I purchase required seeds and limits my need to make just one more seed order and simultaneously allows for spontaneous experimental purchases.

4. Order from a set number of companies. I always make a large purchase from Heritage Harvest because it is a small Manitoba company that I love supporting. Limiting the number of orders I make ensures that I plan my purchases and minimises the cost of shipping small lots.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Off-Grid Laundry

Washing Machine: 
(Photo from Lehman's

I purchased this off-grid, home washing machine in January 2015 and have been doing the majority of my laundry by hand since. I use the coin operated machines in the apartment building for sheets, blankets, and towels as well as anytime I am sick or have an injury. This machine was a sort of litmus test to see if we'd be truly able to go 'off-grid' in the future and thankfully I really enjoy doing laundry this way. I've found that it actually has encouraged me to wear those articles of clothing that are a bit more unusual than my regular t-shirts and jeans. For example, I used to avoid wearing a specific coloured shirt because it would get dingy if I washed it with unlike colours but I did not have enough similar coloured clothing to warrant a complete laundry cycle but with a small machine such as this I can easily wash and wear! The Wonder Wash has a few design problems but the basic barrel works well. I took the suction cups off the bottom of the stand and never use the drain spout. 

I have found that off-grid laundry is easier if you do small batches on a regular basis rather than accumulate dirty laundry that results in a long and tiring laundry day. I do 2 or 3 loads twice a week.  


Soap:
(Photo from Well.ca)

I've been using soap nuts for several years for laundry. They are a naturally occurring tree product but is imported. I like that the this is a natural product but the imported nature bothers me. There are several 'soap' replacements that can be grown in North America which I will look into in the future. This is the best choice for me in the meantime. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Brewing Ginger Beer

Brewing has been on the to-list for a few years now. We purchased a bunch of equipment when I still lived in Toronto and it's been through a few moves now. I did attempt a few batches of all-grain but they never really worked out - my husband insists that the fact that I winged my own recipe has something to do with this failure. That can't possibly be true as all the books say 'if you can make lasagna, you can make beer!' 

Those failed beer attempts really zapped my enthusiasm for brewing so we decided to start slowly with a non-alcoholic extract ginger beer kit. This was meant to test our sanitation process and to boost brewing related skills.




It was a success! We have 5 gallons of bubbly, clean tasting, ginger beer in our fridge at the moment. 


Now to order in some supplies for an all grain beer recipe! Onwards and Upwards! 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Natural Dye: Black Beans


I have been doing research and development for an upcoming on-farm project entitled Foraged Fibre. I have big plans for this project but I started with learning how to dye 100% wool with natural dyes.

I followed this Mother Earth News article to mordant a hank of 100% wool.

The dye liquid was made out of the water usually thrown away after soaking black beans. I put 750 grams of black beans into a cooking pot and covered with an inch of water. This soaked for 24 hours and was drained and used as the dye liquid. (The beans were cooked and consumed.) The pre-mordanted wool was placed into the dye liquid and brought to a slow simmer for 1 hour. Once the wool and dye liquid returned to room temperature the wool was rinsed until the liquid ran clear.

The dye liquid was saved and used to dye a second mordanted hank of wool and resulted in a lighter version of the original colour. (Not pictured)



Monday, December 19, 2016

Preserving Citrus

ORANGES: 
Dried Orange Peels


Before eating oranges, I've taken to peeling the rind with a vegetable peeler (taking only the orange part and leaving the bitter pith behind). This is laid out on a cookie sheet to air-dry over the course of few days. After which the curled, hard peels are ground in a food processor. The bright orange powder is then added by the teaspoon to baked goods (like chocolate chip cookies) and coffee drinks which imparts a delicate but powerful orange flavour.      

Candied Orange Peels


Peel three or four oranges, trying to keep the peel in large pieces. Cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Boil for 20 minutes or until peels are tender. The pith begins to look slightly opaque when the peels have boiled long enough. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Use a paring knife, to cut off the white pith. You should be able to take the majority of the pith off in one piece. Cut the peel into strips. Boil 3/4 cup sugar, with reserved cooking liquid and 1 cup of water until the mixture begins to thicken. Add peel and boil another five minutes. Drain and coat the strips in granulated sugar.

Orange Chocolate Biscotti

2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground flax
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1/3 cup diced candied orange peel

Preheat oven to 350 F. Whisk sugar, ground flax, oil, and orange juice until well blended. In a separate bowl, mix baking powder, flour, cocoa and orange peel. Fold dry ingredients into wet until just mixed. Scope unto baking sheet and, using damp hands, form into a log. Bake for 30 minutes. The surface of the biscotti should be cracked. Remove from oven and let cool. Slice. Bake for an additional 15 minutes. Enjoy! 


LEMONS
Preserved Lemons

Lemons
Salt
Lemon juice

Cut lemon into wedges, but do not cut all the way through the lemon. This creates a lemon that has open surface area but is still attached at the bottom. Stuff lemon with salt. Stuff salted lemons into a glass container. Cover with lemon juice. Leave undisturbed for a minimum of two weeks. 

Salty Lemonade: 
1 wedge of preserved lemon
2 teaspoons sugar
squirt of lemon juice
water
ice

Muddle preserved lemon and sugar. Add water, ice, and lemon juice. Be careful with the balance of sugar and salt. It's supposed to be a tiny bit salty but not extremely so. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Easy Vegan Eggnog


Vegan Eggnog
This creamy vegan eggnog is so thick that it basically requires booze to thin it to a drinkable consistency. It is fairly easy to put together and does not require much in the way of speciality ingredients. It's an eggnog for true nog lovers! 

5 tablespoons flour
1 cup water
1/3 cup almond milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1/3 cup aquafaba (liquid from unsalted canned chickpeas) 
Ground nutmeg
Booze of choice


Combine flour and water in a pan over medium high heat. Stir constantly to remove lumps. This mixture will smell like toasting flour and then start to clump together in clear-ish blobs. Stir consistently until mixture forms one sticky ball then remove from heat. Remove mixture from hot pan. Combine 2 tablespoons of flour mixture with milk, sugar, and vanilla and blend together in a blender. Once combined set aside. Combine icing sugar and aquafaba in a stand mixer and mix until soft peaks form which will take anywhere from 7-15 minutes. Combine two mixtures in a mug and top with ground nutmeg and booze of choice. This recipe makes one serving but 3 portions of flour mixture which will keep for a few days in the fridge.