Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Old Fridge = Root Cellar?

Today I washed potatoes I purchased in November. They looked remarkably similar to their just dug state. I've always wanted a real root cellar. Now I've found a decent alternative to tide me over until I reach root cellar nirvana. It's a dead fridge purchased for $20 on KSL. I drilled a few holes in the doors for ventilation, but I'm not convinced that they actually do anything much. I think opening the door every other day would work just as well. I also removed the temperature control module so that I could have more room for potatoes. I kept apples in the freezer portion until we ate them all (sad day... I might need to get another dead fridge just for apples). The potatoes live in the fridge part. Until things got actual winter cold the "root cellar" was not a good place to keep onions (they respirate quite a bit when it's anything like warm). Once the temperature dropped I moved them in with the apples and they've done quite well. Both the onions and the potatoes have grown mold selectively. On the onions the roots tend to be colonized by mold once they start growing. Not a big deal - I just cut it off with the roots when I peel the onions. The potatoes still have plenty of dirt on them and those bits of dirt will grow mold. I have yet to find any mold spots that actually got through the potato skin. I like anything that means I can eat potatoes for more of the year AND decreases the amount of canning I have to do. When it costs a grand total of $34 (including the wire baskets from DI)... maybe I have reached root cellar nirvana.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Real Pink Frosting

You all know that I abhor all things artificial... especially in my food. I do own a few jars of cookie sprinkles (purchased pre-personal-food-revolution and not purged because we use them maybe once a year, and the kiddos like them), but food coloring is out. Really out. Especially since it tastes nasty half the time. A friend ordered orange butter cookies as part of Gerry's fundraising efforts (National Theater Competition followed by New York). On a whim I purchased blood oranges to go in and on the cookies and stumbled upon the perfect, all natural, pink frosting. The peel went in the cookie batter. The juice, plus a touch of cream cheese, and a fair amount of powdered sugar became the frosting. I wish I had a picture for you, but I delivered the cookies before it occurred to me that I might not be the only one think natural pink frosting was a cool thing. I just might have to make them again just so I can post some pics.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Planting Schedule For Salt Lake City

I have had several requests for my planting schedule and I'm always looking for blog material, so you all will be subjected to plant stuff this time.
First of all the average last frost date at my house is May 10th.  This being high desert the actual date of the last frost is highly variable.  Wall-o-waters, raised beds, very thorough hardening off, or a later plant date are recommended for anything really picky.

ASAP I plant: peas, kohlrobi, lettuce, radish, turnip, onions, spinach, bok choy   ASAP usually means mid-February.  I don't plant when there's still snow on the garden beds because my fingers get cold enough working outside this time of year.  We usually get a nice thaw somewhere in February when it feels quite pleasant to be outside... that's when I plant the cold crops.  This year that day is tomorrow.  I spent a fair amount of Saturday getting beds ready and finding some extra room in the established garden area (read mostly weed free area) for more plants.

8 weeks before the last frost I plant (inside): tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, tomatillo, basil  I have lights set up in the kitchen and bathroom to house my babies.  They all get field trips outside on any reasonably sunny/warm day after they've sprouted.

6 weeks before the last frost (inside): broccoli, cabbage, kale, chard, marigold, cauliflower

3-4 weeks before the last frost (outside): carrots, cilantro, beets, chinese cabbage, potato

About last frost (outside): summer squash

May 15th-ish (outside): beans, tomatoes (and anything related to them), soybeans, corn, cucumber, melons, marigolds  When these things go in the ground is very dependent on the weather if I don't have enough wall-o-waters to go 'round.  I have yet to meet a plant eating bug that didn't absolutely love cucumber so I always sprinkle some diatomaceous earth (DE) in the wall-o-water when I plant them (and then try and remember to renew it about every week - I had to replant my cukes 3 times last year).

Any non-heat loving plant started inside will go in the ground once it's decent sized and hardened off.
I always leave a few chard, kale, chinese cabbage, etc plants in the ground in the fall for an early greens harvest the following spring.  For example, the chard will taste good even when it's blooming and the kale flowers taste like broccoli.  And the sooner I can start eating fresh greens the better.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Fixing Things: Zipper

I have managed to really mess up a fix-it job I took on a few weeks ago.  Results are still pending, but it has been a big headache.  I was losing perspective about the whole DIY gig, so I started a list of all the things I've fixed successfully in the past year or so.  The money-saved to time-spent ratio is still greatly in my favor even factoring in the futility of the past few weeks.  As a fringe benefit I was reminded of some projects that would make good blog posts!  Top of the list is Isaac's coat.  I found a really nice winter coat at a thrift store this last fall that was going for super cheap because the zipper slide was missing.  What was left of the zipper was in fine shape and I have plenty of zippers at home.  Originally I planned to replace the whole zipper, but I didn't have a good color match.  After staring at the coat for awhile I decided that I could replace the slide without too much trouble.  I used pliers to smash the plastic stops at the top of the zipper so they could be removed without damaging the zipper tape.  True to it's name the slider slides right on once the stops are out of the way.  The zipper I salvaged the slider from had metal stops, so I unbent those (gently) and moved them over to the coat zipper.  Total time outlay 8 minutes.  Total cost $0.  Most of the time when I try and fix something it works.

I am pointing to the (only slightly mutilated) metal stop that replaced the original plastic one.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


I have a dreadful case of respiratory flu today and I am, consequently, feeling grumpy and vile.  It must be time for a post about gratitude!  (I am NOT one of those people that labor under the misconception that thinking happy thoughts will make all the bad things in your life go away.  I do know that noticing a few nice things in my life will make being nice to my kids while I have the flu easier to do.)  Actually, I have been thinking about this as a potential post since the last soapbox posting.  As my most excellent, and very sensible, friend Tina pointed out... if trips to Hawaii are labeled necessities there's no room left in your life for gratitude about more ordinary things.  Like flush toilets.  And hot showers.  Curbside trash service and recycling.  Affordable chocolate that doesn't rely on slave labor.  Ovens that regulate their own temperature.  Refrigerators.  Thrift stores.  The generations upon generations of work that went into developing my favorite veggies and fruits (ever tasted a wild almond?).  Books.  Bookshelves.  An extra $14 to buy clams for chowder.  Dish soap I don't have to make myself.  The internet (perhaps the ultimate do-it-yourself resource).  Free college classes.  Bach.  Immunizations.  Pain-killers.  Dirt.  Rain.  Isaac, William, Spencer, Gerry.  Calvin.  Calvin.  Calvin.  ( be continued)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Making Do... Again

The igniter on the burner I use most often has sparked it's last and is officially dead.  The best possible scenario would be dirt/food/gunk clogging the gas outlet...  No such luck this time - a thorough scrubbing has failed to fix the problem.  I am quite capable of replacing the needed parts.  I'm just not capable of finding the necessary time right now.  So I've been using a match to light the burner the old-fashioned way.  The matches were free (a friend getting rid of a LOT of food storage and related goodies - why do people do that?).  It adds about 2 additional seconds to my cooking time.  And it's good enough for now.  Maybe I'll get around to fixing it over spring break.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Book Reviews: History

Good history books for kids can be tough to find.  Misinformation abounds and so does fluff... this sort of neglect usually leads to boredom.  Which is a shame since real history is SO interesting!  I was delighted to discover a whole series of kid's history books that don't skip the interesting bits.  I boys loved "You Wouldn't Want To Be A Pony Express Rider! - a dusty, thankless job you'd rather not do" and it was informative (and well written) enough that I enjoyed reading it to them repeatedly.  I will be adding at least a few of this series to our collection.  Another gem is "Poop Happened - a history of the world from the bottom up", which is so delightful I ordered it for our collection the same day we checked it out of the library.