01 June 2013
Some of you may remember that I had ideas some years ago of growing organic-quality Lettuce seed as a commercial enterprise, but those plans -- indeed the Lettuces themselves -- were brought to nought by the Great Drought of 2008-10. Well, I still like the idea, and, although rain has been a little scarce in the past couple of months1, I'm trying once again to build up my Lettuce seed stocks to the point where I can produce decently large quantities of seed. Summer is, as always, too hot, and many of the Lettuce varieties bolt to seed early from the heat and don't produce viable seed as a result. So early-Spring and Autumn are my best chance at growing Lettuce seed.
Some of the varieties are new to me: Malawi, Lital, Lavi and Vulcan. Seed was acquired from friends and barter, and started in late February, and the first-to-seed varieties are just producing flower spikes about now. Others are old friends: Forellenschluss and Cimmaron, but my current seed stocks are getting too old to be reliable, so in dire need of refreshing.
I do wish I'd had bed space for growing more varieties, but I don't so that's about as many as I can manage whilst maintaining adequate isolation distances between the varieties. I've also managed to stagger them in time where I've been forced to place different varieties rather closer together than I'd prefer, and, given that Lettuces are mostly self-pollinating, I think I'm pretty safe for keeping these varieties pure.
I do need your help though! Can anyone help me identify this beautiful Lettuce? I thought it might be "Merveille des Quatre Saisons" ("Marvel of 4 Seasons" - and ancient French2 heirloom, famed for its ability to withstand a wide range of weather conditions and temperatures) but it doesn't form a head, which my online researches tell me MdQS does. Leaves are quite large and broad, rumpled, fleshy textured and delicious even when very mature. But I'm stumped for a variety name. Any ideas?
 ...and as I write this, it has started drizzling. Hooray!
 Who woulda guessed?
13 February 2013
Brewing uses its share of noxious chemicals for cleaning and sanitising bottles, kegs and fermentation vessels. Industrial brewers generally favour Caustic Soda as a cheap and effective cleaner, and I, too, use it for cleaning bottles and removing their labels. Disposing of it is a headache. I don't want to pour it into a dam, as I fear that the alteration in pH would, over time, be harmful to too many organisms. Generally I dilute the hell out of it, and then pour the dilute solution onto the roots of alien weedy shrubs that I would like to see killed off. It's never yet done that, but I live in hope. I also use different disposal area each time so that no concentration builds up.
I used to use diluted Chlorine Bleach for sanitising fermentation vessels, but was always bothered by two things: you have to rinse the fermenters at least 3 times to get rid of any Chlorine taint that might threaten the beer. And if you've ever tasted Chlorine-tainted beer, you'll understand perfectly! The rinsing seems to me to defeat the whole exercise unless you happen to have a lot of sterilised (i.e. High Energy) water around to rinse with. Then, too, disposing of Chlorine is a big headache.
Lately I've been using Iodophore - a concoction of Iodine and Phosphoric acid that requires no rinsing - for sanitising fermenters, and I am quite happy to just chuck this already dilute solution onto the lawn, since I don't consider either of these chemicals to represent a hazard in the low doses and small quantities involved. In fact I'm considering pouring it into the compost heaps where the Phosphorus will make its way to plants where it can do some good.
Just the other day, though, I came across the following recipe for a Home-made No-rinse Sanitiser that I will certainly think about trying. Please note that "sanitising" is not the same as "sterilising", so this stuff would not be suitable for babies bottles or anything like that. The recipe allegedly comes from one Charlie Talley (manufacturer of Five Star Chemicals, makers of Star-San, which we can't get here.)
Thoroughly mix 30ml of distilled white vinegar to 19litres of water. When the vinegar is well diluted, add 30ml unscented Chlorine Bleach.
The high dilution of the vinegar in the water before the bleach is added prevents any out-gassing of Chlorine from the bleach that is added at the end. The vinegar actually helps the bleach work as a better sanitiser by acidifying the solution. The high dilution also means it leaves no residual tastes behind of bleach or vinegar, making it a perfect "cheap" no-rise sanitizer.
I feel quite confident that, in such low doses, no harm will come from just pouring this solution away into the lawn, as long as I spread it around enough. The price looks pretty good, too!
30 January 2013
The problem seems to only exist for users of Internet Explorer 9.
All I can say is...
Get Firefox, or
Both work perfectly, and my time is too short to worry about chasing down bugs in IE's redirect handling.
When I bought my computer, the box said "Requires Windows 7 or better." I complied.
28 December 2012
Finely dice a medium Onion into a cast-iron pan with a glug of hot Olive Oil. Add some chopped Chiles and Sweet Peppers. I leave quantities and proportions to your discretion, since your heat tolerance, Chile preferences and Turkey Leftover volumes will vary, and this sort of figuring things out for yourself is at the heart of self-sufficiency.
Fry the Onion and Chile mix until soft, then add your leftover Turkey, removed from the bones and chopped into centimetre-sized chunks. Fry until browned, and serve on top of Refried Beans, perhaps on a bed of Nachos, or maybe wrapped in a Tortilla with a dollop of Yoghurt (or Sour Cream, if your weight/cholesterol level can stand it).
Enjoy, and pause to give thanks to the ancient Mesoamerican gardeners and plant- breeders who made it all possible. Well, aside from the Onions. And the frying...
19 December 2012
02 September 2012
Just the day for digging beds, getting ready for Spring sowing and planting.
Carrots, Beets and Swiss Chard are already in, sown some weeks ago, the Beets just beginning to show themselves. Carrots will be along in another week or two. Pole beans1 planted along the edges of the same bed are slow, but I was being pretty optimistic with the timing; the ground is only now really warming up enough for legumes. The beans will tent up over the root veggies, and not really create enough shade to interfere too much with their growth.
Next up is clearing a bed for Bush beans - Hopi Black, my stock drying bean, and the least possible trouble of any vegetable you could wish to encounter - and the large, white, and totally delicious Greek bean I know simply as Big Beans. Because that's what I was told the Greeks call them. Perhaps they'd be better off growing more Big Beans rather than relying EU handouts.
Another high priority is the Salad Bed. The few stray lettuces that made it through Winter won't keep us in green stuff for long, and I have a huge craving for salads lately.
Meanwhile the first Tomatoes are up in their seed trays. Eggplant and Chiles are predictably taking a little longer. Beds for these can be a little lower priority, since they'll be in the trays a little while yet. Those beds will need a good composting, though.
I've managed to be a little more restrained this year in choosing varieties... last year was a bit of a mad dash to try and get at least a few plants of many, many varieties grown in an attempt to refresh my seed stocks after the drought years. This year I can afford to relax a little and focus on those that have a proven track record.
Spring has sprung, the grass is riz... la, la, la.2
 Rattlesnake and Purple Podded.
 I'll stop singing as soon as someone pays me to stop!