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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Out Of The Blue

A couple of weeks ago I received an email out of the blue from Jenn McCartney of Skyhorse Publishing.  She'd read my review of Nicole Faires's Deliberate Life, which was self-published.  She explained that Skyhorse Publishing has published an updated full-color version of the book with 200 color photos that they've renamed The Ultimate Guide To Homesteading, and would I like a complimentary copy?

Why yes I would thank you very much please I wrote back.

If you'll remember, I very much liked the original, so I was really pleased today that the book showed up in the mail.

I'll relish reading it again, and you can be sure I'll be reviewing it for you shortly.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cock Robin

I have been trying to get this guy on film record for several days now.  I think he's taken up residence because I've seen him every day, several times a day, for the last week to week and a half now.  Every once in a while I see a hen robin popping about, but I have a feeling that she might be sitting on a clutch.  Anyway- this little guy usually starts in the peas, and works his way down the bed, then hops over to the next bed, working his way up, then hops over to the next bed, etc., until he finally winds up in the asparagus bed.

Male and female robins look almost the same; males have a black head, and on females the head is the same color as her back, which is the same color as his back.  Her breast is red as well, but not as bright.  Juveniles look a lot like their parents, except that their breasts are speckled.

Robins pair off during the breeding season, but after the kids have moved out, Mom and Dad join the rest of the robins and roost communally.  Such swingers!

I'm glad this little guy decided to stick around.  It's fun to look for him every day.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Homegrown leek and onion in potato soup

...which we had with Dampfnudeln, made from Steve's Oma's recipe, which we like better than the one in the Joy of Cooking.  I'm going to have to do a post on Dampfnudeln for you.  (Tamar- this will be one baked good you'll be sorry you met.)

The Zero Mile Diet Is A Ten - No! It's A Twelve!

This is another of those books that I'm not sure I'm going to like at first pass, but then find out I love when I actually sit down and spend some time with it.

The author spent twenty years operating her own nursery, and turned over to growing food crops at the Garden Path Centre in Victoria, British Columbia, so she definitely has the credentials to write a gardening book.  I found, however, while reading the first couple of chapters of The Zero Mile Diet, that she also has the chops: I started taking notes, and soon there were more than I could handle. I'm going to have to buy this book because I learned so much in the first three months (the chapters are laid out in months), that I didn't have room for notes.  In fact, I didn't finish really reading the book, I just skimmed ahead, because I know I'm going to buy it.

For instance, I knew that blueberries liked acid soil, but I didn't know that strawberries and potatoes do too.  I knew that dolomitic lime was a good source of calcium and magnesium, but I didn't know that lime makes clay soil release water, thus improving it that way as well, and although I knew that liming the soil raises the pH somewhat, I didn't know that acidic soil is a prime environment for the organisms that cause scab and canker which are the two worst problems for fruits trees, and that liming your soil around your fruit trees annually will substantially help them fight off these diseases. This was just a little bit of what I learned in the January chapter.

The book is peppered heavily with lovely color photographs, for which we all know I'm a sucker, and lightly salted with lots of recipes, which I particularly like, because they help you use the stuff that's in season.  She covers perennial vegetables rather in depth- we've all heard of artichokes, asparagus, and sunchokes, but have you ever heard of Oca? Good King Henry? Sea Kale? Sprouting Broccoli? I'm intrigued.

She covers edible weeds, and weeds that feed beneficial insects.  The only wish I could have for this subject would be for good color photographs- identifying weeds properly would be such a huge help. The only one I know for sure is the dandelion.  She also only recommends open pollinated varieties, with suggested cultivars, because she firmly believes in seed-saving as the key to self-sufficiency, and includes seed saving information for each kind of vegetable.

I love this book!  There are too many good reasons and copious subject matter to cover here, really.  I want this book!

Borrow it first, if you can, and find out for yourself; there's just too much good stuff in it.  You'll think you have to get one too.

Homegrown garlic and tomato sauce in pizza

Friday, March 25, 2011

Been Working On My Bug Out Box

I've been taking a daily walk with Steve lately but yesterday we had to go pick up our new prescription glasses (I have a new pair of prescription safety glasses - woo hoo!) so we also ran up 82nd to Costco for some regular things we usually get there, and then on to Winco for some foodstuffs for the bug out box, which I am seriously preparing.  I also ordered a few things from an army-navy surplus outfit today, and once I have everything together, I will feel pretty well prepared for any eventuality.  Steve doesn't think we'll ever really need to bug out, with which I tend to agree, because we're too far inland for a tsunami, we're too high for flooding, and there are no industrial producers/users of chlorine gas in the vicinity.   There are only two things I can think of that could conceivably force us to have to leave, and that's wild fire, which is not terribly likely, given the local topography.  It could happen, but it's more likely that it would get contained fairly quickly.  Plus, we live pretty close to the fire department.  The other calamity that could force us out is a mud slide.

In any case, I'm putting together a list of stuff that has to go in the bug out box, and then a separate list of stuff that has to be grabbed that wouldn't live in the bug out box- meds, passports, my purse, Steve's laptop, etc.  The other list that I'll put together is a list of the foodstuffs in the box, and their various expiration dates.  That way, I can stay on top of rotating the food out.  Come to think of it, I should probably make the same kind of inventory for my pantry cupboard, for the same reason.

We determined yesterday that if we had to, we could sleep in the car.  I'm not convinced that it's not going to kill my back, but since we'd be in somewhat of a survival mode anyway, I'll just have to suck it up.  One of the things I want to do once I get everything together is pack the car as a practice run, and then make a quick diagram of where everything goes so that I don't have to think about it again.  I want to be able to pack what we need in the back of the car and not have to take some things out, just so we can put the seats back to go to sleep!

One of the things I bought from the surplus store today was a folding shovel, because if we have to bug out, a latrine is going to have to do.  The composting toilet I will put together for an earthquake-type emergency will just be for when we can stay home.  We just received an old-fashioned telephone book yesterday; guess for what purpose that's getting saved?

The other thing I did today was research alcohol stoves.  There are a lot of different designs for alcohol stoves on the internet, and I stumbled across one site that had really good coverage of a bunch of different kinds.  This was the same site from which I made an alcohol stove when we were living in Florida as part of our hurricane preparedness kit, and I not only lit the thing successfully, I also tested it with a pan of water and was really pleased that it worked.  But I gave it to a buddy of mine before I left.  Home made alcohol stoves are a pretty wonderful thing to know about because most people have most, if not all of the materials for one lying around, so they're practically free to make.  The advantage that they have is that they're very small, and make great back pack stoves. I've also read that they can be much more reliable than expensive and heavier back pack stoves, but I've also read that some designs are more finicky than other designs.  That's why I've settled on this design.  It had rave reviews for being completely reliable, from doing what it needed to do in minus nine degree weather on windy Mt. Whitney, to being completely reliable on a two and a half month trek through Europe.  Plus, it's pretty simple to make.  I am using the instructions from here, however, because they are much easier to follow (more detail).  I looked for a canned Heineken at my local grocery but couldn't find one, so I'll make it out of pop cans.  The advantage of the Heineken can is that it's ringed where you need to cut it, but I can measure things, so that's what I'll do.  However, the Heineken can is supposed to make a more durable stove, so I'll try to find the canned Heineken before I get started.

Once I have the stove put together and my equipment in from the surplus store, I'll be able to finish my bug out box, and I know that's going to make me feel a lot more secure about everything.  Well, maybe not everything.

But I will get to cross off number twenty from my list.

Note: maybe it's just me, but I get sucked into the Penny Stove site every time I bring it up  Be careful.  It can be addicting.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mini Farming - The Review

Library copy

Here's a funny thing; I borrowed this book from the library six weeks ago.  I flipped through it sometime during the first week, and decided I didn't like it, so I didn't read it.  The first due date came up so I renewed it online, thinking I probably should at least read it so that I could be fair with my review.  Still didn't get around to reading it.  Then the next due date started looming, and I tried to renew it, but someone had a hold on it, so now I had to read it in just a couple of days.  Well, I'm glad I did because I really like this book after all.

The reason that I like this book is that it doesn't give you lots of hypothetical ideas about what you can do to raise food on a quarter acre. There are plenty of homesteading books out there that do that.  This book covers  a lot of what other books cover, but I like it for what else it covers, which is the stuff that other books don't cover.  Like recognizing soil deficiencies by what you're seeing in your crops, more detail on what you can and can't accomplish with composting at home, timing and yield information, with a table of tender, semi-hardy, and hardy vegetables so you can plan appropriate crops. I've never seen it mentioned anywhere else that crops grow slower in the fall and that you need to add ten days to the days-to-maturity calculation for timing fall crops.  There are also tables that mention the the dietary needs of individual persons in terms of how many pounds of something they require a year, i.e., based on the USDA's food pyramid, a person needs 456 pounds of vegetables a year; then he goes on to tell you how many pounds you can expect from a 100 square feet of a given crop (if grown intensively).  This is the first information I've seen that gives me a good idea of how much of my yard I need to have not only in production to feed us, but how much of the yard needs to be devoted to what crop in order to feed us.  This is solid, usable information that has a direct application to what I'm trying to do, and it's the first time I've seen it presented in such a tangible format anywhere.  There's a lot of solid, usable information in this book.  There are step by step instructions with pictures for slaughtering a chicken.  He even has instructions for making a chicken plucker, and includes public domain information for building a thresher (which he does attribute to the kind gentlemen who donated their designs online as a gift to humanity).

In spite of all the reading I do, and I do a lot of reading, I still learned a lot from this book.  Even though I took a bunch of notes for myself, I think that I would still like to own my own copy of Mini-Farming because it's chockablock with information I need.  It's aimed at both growing enough to feed your family, or growing enough to take to market, or growing enough to feed your family and maybe have enough left over to take to market.

Whatever your purpose, you probably ought to read this one.

Homegrown tomato sauce and garlic in leftover Chicken Cacciatore

...last night, which I turned into soup by picking the chicken off the bones, and adding some chicken stock, a small, sliced up smoked sausage, and beet greens.  It was really good.

We had it with a shredded raw beet salad, which sported a homegrown onion, and buttermilk cheddar drop biscuits.  Just take a buttermilk drop biscuit recipe and add a half to two thirds of a cup of shredded, chopped cheddar cheese, a pinch each of dried thyme and cayenne pepper, and a teaspoon or so of parsley to the mix before you blend in the buttermilk.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Short Term Goals, Long Term Purpose

I don't know about you, but this spring is going to be a marvel of juggling for me, and I'm kind of grateful that I don't have a job right now to throw into the mix.

Every second Tuesday of the month I play Bunco with a group of ladies, and last June when we all signed up for our month to host, I chose June, thinking it would give me at least a year to finish getting the house in order.  I'm almost done with the hutch, but I still have the breakfast nook and table, and the dining room nook and table to build, and then I need to finish replacing a couple of light fixtures, and get the glass installed in the upper cupboard doors.  I have roughly three months to get it all done.

While this is all going on, I still have to get the beehive installed, and the garden planted. Somewhere in there I'd like to get the chicken coop built, but The Urban Farm store will get new chicks all summer, so it's not a dire requirement for my June deadline. Yesterday we got the uprights for the hive stand into the ground. Today, I sowed the peppers, eggplant, and tomato seeds indoors on the bench.  I also sowed Enfants de Nice heirloom carnations from Renee's Garden, and bee balm for the bees, and then seeds for poppies and sweet peas that I gathered from Steve's sister's garden late last summer.  Actually, they're her husband's flowers- he plants all the flowers at their house.

In spite of all this, one of the most important things I did this week was to plant my nettles, comfrey, and borage at the back of the yard. The nettles and comfrey are for the compost pile, and for making purins.  The borage is for the bees.  Purins are a French invention. The quick explanation is that you ferment nettles in a five gallon bucket of rainwater (chlorine prevents fermenting, so tap water is out), and then dilute it for a plant drench, or dilute it further for a foliar spray.  I first heard about purins on a local gardening show that had gone to visit a famous organic garden in France; the frenchwoman they interviewed said that the purin fortifies the plants so well that they hardly have any issues with insects.  I should warn you that purins are supposed to smell to high heaven, though. I've also read that comfrey makes a reasonable toilet paper, if you had to do without regular toilet paper.  Comfrey is really great for the compost pile though, because it draws minerals from way down in the soil where most vegetable roots don't reach, so when you compost comfrey, you add a lot of minerals to your pile.  The idea behind the nettles and comfrey is to add to my soil fertility, which I hope to keep in the yard. Next fall, I'll try sowing some cover crops.

So my immediate future is a little crazy right now, but some of the stuff I'm planting is really for my long term future.  It's very grounding to think about that.  It helps a lot, actually.

Happy Vernal Equinox!!

Neighborhood trees in bloom.
It's here! It's finally here! Spring has finally arrived, and I'm relieved, frankly.  The average last frost date for my area won't happen for another few weeks, but all the signs that spring is here are out there.

Except for the weather, which finally broke.  We've been having day after day after day of rain, and I was getting a little more than antsy because even though my bee hive is done, the stand for it out in the yard is not.  The bees will be ready for pickup on 2 April, and I need to have everything ready for them.  We had a couple of posts set in concrete that the previous owner left lying around, and rather than get rid of them when cleaning up, I set them aside knowing they'd be useful for something someday.  It turned out they'd be useful for a stand for the hive, so yesterday morning dawned sunny, and Steve helped me set them.

I'm glad he did most of the digging.  Actually, he did all of the digging.
See what I mean? Had to be good for something....
Yay! All set.  Now all I need to do is set the crosspieces. 
It always amazes me how fast I can get my work jacket dirty. And how did I do that, if Steve did all the digging?

In other news, I've just about finished the hutch. I only have a few finishing nails to set, but my knees and arms could only take so much crouching and hammering.  I decided not to varnish it until I have at least the breakfast nook built so that I can do it all at once, plus later would be good so that I can open windows while the coats dry.  I'll take a picture of it for you once I get the dishes into it, because it's so dark it doesn't photograph well at all.

But back to the vernal equinox:  here are the local signs of spring:

Budding lilac.  My sister in California says hers has blooms on it already, but that's what a difference in latitude will get you.
Returning peonies.  All four are coming up, and I'm really relieved.
Tulip in waiting.
Bulb cluster out front.  Almost there.
I love the different shades of purple and blue  on this hyacinth.

Our lone blooming daffodil.
It's not exactly June busting out all over, but after a dreary winter, it's almost as good.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Homegrown tomatillos and serrano peppers in Salsa Verde

This is the salsa verde I made not last summer, but the summer before.  Guess I'd better figure out where to put a couple tomatillo and serrano plants; I only have a few jars left.

We had it with beans and torts.  Canned refritos and homemade flour tortillas, which are way, way better than store bought.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Pasta and Homegrown Greens

I am such a crappy photographer
We had this again last night. I've mentioned this dish numerous times, because it is truly one of my favorite dishes. I started making it with kale, because I was a little dubious of kale, but I still wanted to get more greens in my diet because they are supposed to be so good for you.  Now I make it with whatever greens I can get my hands on.  This week's version was collard greens I harvested awhile ago and kept in the fridge this way, and some frozen Swiss chard that I grew.  I've decided that I haven't outgrown my childhood dislike of chard, so I won't grow it again- there are a lots of other greens that satisfy the need for something easy to grow that you can cut and come again.  Kale, for instance.  Last spring I discovered that sprouting radish seeds (you know, radish seeds you buy for making sprouts for your salad) make terrible radishes (well, that's not what they were bred for, is it?) but they make great and really fast greens, so I've planted some of those again for that purpose.  When I first started making this, I used capellini because it cooks in three minutes, and it was easier to time the pasta and the greens being done at the same time, but now I use whatever kind of pasta that hits me because I'm pretty used to making this and getting everything to come out about the same time.  You will probably get used to it too.

Pasta and Greens
Serves Two

3 slices bacon, chopped
a healthy pinch of red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly or minced
2 large handfuls of chopped greens: kale, collards, chard, spinach, radish, turnip, etc.
one third to a half pound of pasta: capellini, linguine, gemelli, etc. or a recipe of homemade pasta, if you're so inclined.
extra virgin olive oil
water and salt
freshly grated Romano cheese (or Parmesan)

Put a large pot of water on to boil, with a lid on it so it boils faster. (Don't salt it yet)

While the water is coming to a boil, chop your bacon and brown on medium-low to low heat.  Throw your pinch of pepper flakes in once the bacon starts rendering some fat.

Once the bacon is done, add the sliced or minced garlic.  Stir it around to flavor the oil and to keep an eye on it so that it doesn't brown.  Once it starts to get just a tiny bit golden,  carefully add a ladle full of pasta water to the pan AND STEP BACK BECAUSE IT WILL SPATTER LIKE THE DICKENS!

Now add the chopped greens and put a lid on it.  The pasta water should be boiling by now, so add the salt to it, and then cook the pasta according to the directions.

Once the pasta is cooked the greens should be also.  Remove the lid from the greens, give them a good stir with some tongs, and if there's still a lot of liquid in the pan, turn up the heat.

Remove the pasta from the pot and put it on top of the greens and toss everything together. Keep the heat on and continue to cook it off if there is still liquid; otherwise turn off the heat and add a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.  Toss the pasta again and plate it up, sprinkling it generously with freshly grated Romano cheese.

I never get tired of this dish, and in the summer we eat it a lot because we have so much coming out of the garden and because it cooks up quickly.  One week while I was working, I was so brain dead by the time I got home that I made pasta and greens three times that week, and Steve never complained.

I hope you like it as much as we do.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times, by Steve Solomon

Library book

Homesteaders these days are bemoaning the fact that a lot of what we need to know died about a generation ago.  There a very few old-timers from which we can learn, so a lot of what we're learning, we're learning the hard way.  I just finished reading Gardening When It Counts: Growing food in Hard Times, by Steve Solomon. Reading this book was a lot like having an old-timer tell you what you need to know.

Solomon started Territorial Seed Company in 1979, which he later sold in the eighties.  He homesteaded a five-acre place in Oregon, wrote Waterwise Vegetables, and then moved to Canada, and then finally to Tasmania. What can put you off about this book is that Solomon comes across as an opinionated old man, but you know what? I don't mind opinionated old men if they know what they're talking about and are trying to teach me something useful.  The other thing that I found a little off-putting about this book was that it says it's about gardening in hard times, and then he recommends an organic fertilizer for which he gives the formula.  And then I think to myself: what if those hard times mean that I can't get the ingredients for the fertilizer?  But then I settled into the book and I learned a lot.

He starts with the basics, which is a really dummied down explanation of what vegetables are and what they need to thrive; there's a list of low demand, medium demand, and high demand vegetables that is useful for rotating crops from the part of your garden with the highest fertility to the area with the least.  As I mentioned before, he gives his formula for Complete Organic Fertilizer (COF), which is made up of items that should be pretty easy to get at the feed or agricultural supply store. His concern here is that your soil nutrients are balanced properly, and his COF formula does that. (I think the big lesson here is to build your soil fertility while you still can, and then compost your garden so you can keep that soil fertility.)  He tells you what the minimum is for tools that you need, how to pick good ones at the store, how to use them to keep your fatigue to a minimum, which includes sharpening them, and how to take care of them so that they last.  Have you ever sharpened your hoe or your shovel? I haven't.  Evidently sharpening them makes them a lot easier to use.

He disdains garden centers and the seed starts that they carry, but I can't say I blame him, because I rather do as well.  And it makes a great deal of sense when you consider that he's a retired seedsman. But he also believes that you should buy your seeds from regional outfits so the seed will be more acclimated to your garden, and he gives recommendations for vetted seed companies all over the country by climate type, as well as for the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. He includes information for getting the maximum germination rate, as well as strategies for when things don't come up.

Where the wisdom of Solomon differs from most other gardening gurus is that he doesn't recommend intensive methods and thinks they can be disastrous because they rely on a lot of water.  He recommends something he calls dry gardening, because his theory is that people gardened and farmed for centuries before they could just turn on a tap and have water wherever they wanted it.  This requires more space between your plants so that their roots don't compete for moisture, and he recommends a 'dirt mulch', which is to keep the top inch of so of ground at the base of your plants well hoed and loose, which he insists does a better job at keeping the moisture in the ground.  His reasoning?  Regular mulches wick water away from the ground.  I think this method of gardening makes a lot of sense, but not for everybody.  Ultimately, his method will work best for folks that have that kind of room; if you don't have that kind of room, you're probably better off with an intensive method, but you'll have to be prepared to water your garden.  Where I have more room in the garden I may try this method, especially since it will be in very clay soil.  It could work to my advantage.  One of the best watering methods he discusses is something that he coined called 'fertigation'. Fertigation is accomplished by drilling a small hole at the very bottom of a five gallon bucket and watering with a 1:100 ratio of fish emulsion to water every three weeks on clay soil. On sandy soil, he recommends 2.5 gallons every ten days.  He also advises foliar feeding, and has a formula for that as well. Foliar feeding is accomplished by spraying a weak fertilizer solution (he likes a mixture of fish emulsion and kelp meal with a lot of water) all over the leaves of your plants. I think I would not use foliar feeding on something like lettuce, but on something like peppers it could be really helpful.  In any case, I am definitely using the fertigation method on my cabbage and Brussels sprouts which are both heavy feeders and which are both going into unimproved clay soil this year. But they will also probably have more space between them and I'll keep them dry mulched with hoed soil.

He's a little depressing in the compost department, because he says that all the experts are wrong about what makes great compost, and the fact that most home gardeners do not have the necessary inputs to make a great closed system, well-balanced compost.  He does say, however, that you can greatly improve your soil with green manure, AKA cover crops, and gives a lot of good information on the pitfalls to avoid there.  His coverage of insects and diseases is better than decent, even without pictures. And then he finishes up with what to grow and how to grow it, which is always helpful if you don't have this information anywhere else.

All in all, I liked this book.  There was a wealth of good information, and I took notes.  Would I buy this book? I think so. I wouldn't mind having a copy of it in the archives because I think it's a good reference book, and by the way it looks like things are going, I should probably keep it next to Carol Deppe's The Resilient Gardener.  I think this book will probably be a classic for a much drier future.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I Could Be A Whatereverarian

So Steve and I are kicking around the idea of not ordering a quarter beef this year.  We're enjoying what we have left of last year's beef, but we think we're more pork and chicken people.  We're also knocking around the idea of eating more as vegetarians, not that we would eschew meat altogether.  I do enjoy an occasional steak, and would hate to lose my touch cooking one, now that I know how to grill one perfectly.

No, we're thinking about ordering a hog, but we're not sure we can handle a whole one, frankly.  And most pasture-raised pork outfits don't deal in half-hogs.  I will research that, but we're really committed to trying to eat only pastured animals.  The local grocery store is finally carrying pastured eggs (okay- eggs from pastured hens, is that better?), and they are, no lie, pretty darned expensive. We were paying $5.99 a dozen at one store, but the store closer to home has them for $5.39 a dozen.  That's about what we pay for them at the farmers market, so we're okay with doing it.  I think that once I get our chickens all together, it will be have to be cheaper to have eggs from home.  Maybe not for regular grocery store eggs, but I can probably do better than $5.39 a dozen at home.  If I can't, at least I'll be sure they're pretty darn fresh!

We're also talking about still buying the occasional steak at the farmers market.  I really prefer to grill them anyway, and they're available in the summer so, that would really be seasonal eating. But eating more in the way of vegetables would still be a good thing to do. It would make our grocery bill cheaper and would probably go a long way to keeping us healthier.

I could be mostly a vegetarian.

As long as I could still have bacon and cheese.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Homesteading Update 12 March 2011

The weather is fighting back and forth between winter and spring. Today was winter.  Steve and I took off for Home Depot and rounded up a bunch of earthquake supplies.  It kind of feels funny to write earthquake supplies, because I want to write hurricane supplies.  A lot of them are the same, but there are also huge differences.  For instance, in Florida, I had a brand new, never used, clean plastic garbage can parked out in the garage.  If we got a hurricane watch or warning, I'd fill up the garbage can with water from the hose so that we'd have more clean water.  You can't do that in earthquake country, because it's more likely that an earthquake would knock over that garbage can and you'd lose all that water anyway.  Instead, I have extras of the big orange five gallon Home Depot buckets.  I have some never-used plastic sheeting in the garage; if necessary I can rig up a separate rain catchment system away from our asphalt roof, and we'd be able to drink it.  That's if we need it, and if this fictional earthquake were to occur during the rainy season.  If it happens during one of our hot, dry summers, we're screwed for extra water.

All in all, I feel a lot better just having the stuff in the house.  I need to round up all the old hurricane stuff and get it all together in a bin box so that I have one place to go for it.  I also need to put together an emergency plan.  I actually had a hurricane book in Florida that I'd put together for what to do if there was a hurricane and we could stay, and another plan for if there was a hurricane and we had to evacuate.  Everything was together in a binder, and I should probably put together another plan for eventualities for this coast. Having a solid plan and knowing where everything is really does contribute a lot to your peace of mind.

But back to the fighting weather.  Friday was a spring day, and it was high time to get some of my seedlings off the bench and into the garden, so yesterday I transplanted: Russian kale, Yugoslavian Red lettuce, Red Rubin romaine, Early Market Copenhagen cabbage, and arugula.  I sowed Cherry Belle radishes, Stuttgarter onions, Maestro peas, and a few sprouting radish seeds for quick greens.  I also sowed dill, Italian parsley, and cilantro in the herb bed.

Speaking of peas, guess what came up okay?

Little pea soldiers, all in a row

Friday, March 11, 2011

Getting Ready For The Big One

I was going to post this evening about my progress on the garden so far, but the earthquake in Japan has really captured my attention, probably because I grew up  in California, which is pretty much earthquake central for the U.S.   Quakes are not isolated to California, not by any means.  There have been doozies in Alaska and even as far away from the Pacific Plate as Montana.  There have been quakes a lot further east as well, but I'm specifically interested in parts of the world connected to the Pacific Plate.  Why?

Because not too long ago, there were a couple of earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand.  Today's quake  in Japan was the most severe recorded in that country, and they are saying the worst in recorded history world-wide.  I'm not sure of that fact, but I do know this: Japan is also adjacent to the Pacific plate, and this quake is the worst that I know of in my lifetime, Richter scale-wise.  I went through the Loma Prieta in 1989, that registered 6.9 on the Richter; we didn't hear from my sister in San Francisco until three days after it hit, and it was her future mother-in-law in Hillsboro that relayed the message that she was okay down to us in the lower Bay Area.  That was a pretty tense three days.  I do remember the force of that quake as being the worst I'd ever experienced in my life, and it was really something else.  Imagine hanging on to a wall, with the floor underneath you (we were on a concrete slab) going up and down as if you were riding a wave (which, essentially, you are) and this incredible, deafening roar from the earth.  I wish I could really convey what a big earthquake is like; I can't imagine the terror that the folks in Christchurch experienced, nor what the people in Japan felt during today's quake and then when the subsequent tsunami hit.  My heart goes out to them, as I remember my own fear, and then anxiety until I heard that my sister was alright.

But back to the Plate.  I'm no seismologist, but the rapid occurrence of two major earthquakes on the west side of the Pacific Plate leads me to speculate that Russia is next, and then maybe Alaska.  And I think anyone living in the Pacific Northwest and California is probably well-advised to get ready for something.

Steve and I have pretty good stores set by, but we could use water, so tomorrow I'm going shopping for the following things:

drinking water (lots)
5 gallon buckets
toilet seat
a gallon of SD alcohol

The need for drinking water is obvious.  I know that it's something you're supposed to have on hand for emergencies, but I've never done anything about it.  It's high time I did.  One of the five gallon buckets and the toilet seat will be used for a composting toilet if it becomes necessary; I'm certainly not going to waste water flushing a conventional toilet.  I have carbon already set up for my compost pile; it would be a simple matter to rig up some privacy and put together a composting toilet.  In any case, an outdoor latrine is also possible, but I'd rather have a comfy seat.  Lord knows, if the Big One hit, I'd have enough trouble doing my thing, as it were.  A comfy place to sit would go a long way in that regard.

I have an outdoor stove that we purchased last summer, and lots of propane left in the tank, but the SD (special denatured, for those needing translation) alcohol is for burning in a tuna can-type home made camp stove, if necessary.  I put one together to have on hand back when I lived in hurricane country; I can rig something up again if necessary again.  I just want to have the fuel on hand if I need it.

I might also buy:

quick oats
peanut butter

Just because I'm low on those, and they're easy.

It's very possible that nothing will happen.  But the way that plate tectonics work, is that the plates release energy a little bit at a time, usually along the fault.  I think you really grow up with this knowledge living in California; the San Andreas fault line runs through the better part of the state before heading out to sea a little south of Eureka, with everything east of the fault heading south, and everything west of the fault heading north; if something big hits the L.A. area, chances are that a little while later (days, weeks, months) something will happen in the Bay Area.  It just makes sense to read the signs on the west side of the Pacific Plate and get ready for whatever might come along the line, as it were.

And if nothing happens?

I'll be that much closer to getting goal number twenty taken care of.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Homegrown leeks and garlic in Cream of Leek and Celery Soup

This time, mine broke too, even though I'd tempered the eggs until they were steaming.  I suspect that the soup was still too hot, but I'll research and see if I can figure out why it happened.  The soup was still good; Steve sure liked it...

It turns out that it broke for two reasons, tied to one thing: I shouldn't have used a whole egg; it should only be the yolk.  Yolks do the most thickening, whites the least, and while yolks will stand higher heats if tempered properly, too much heat will separate the proteins in whites and they will break the soup.

Sorry Jules- that should be just one egg yolk, not one egg.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Case For Coppicing

I'm a big believer in the wonder that is coppicing.  Coppicing, if you're not familiar with the term, is a form of woodland management by harvesting wood from the same tree over and over and over again.  It takes advantage of the fact that some trees will send out shoots and grow again after they have been cut down.  The word 'coppice' refers to both the verb, which is the act of cutting the tree down for the purpose of regrowing it for use again, and the noun that refers to an area of trees managed in this way, i.e., hazel coppice, oak coppice, etc.  The stump of the tree grown for this purpose is called a stool, and there are stools in coppices many meters in diameter, which indicates that particular coppice has been managed for centuries. One of the interesting things about coppicing is that it actually extends the life of the tree, by resetting the growth of the tree.  Hazels, for instance, will live for about 100 years until they die of rot or fall under their own weight.  But a coppiced hazel can live for 1,000 years. Coppicing has been traced back since before the bronze age in Britain, and even as ancient as the art is, it's a sustainable practice that's relevant today.

Depending on the species, trees were coppiced for making poles and posts, like Hazels and Black Locust, or for making withies for basket work, like Willow, or for making firewood, like Ash, Maple and Oak. Frequently the smaller pieces from harvest were burned off by colliers to make charcoal.  Harvesting occurs on a cycle of between seven and twenty-five years, and depending on the tree, can be carried out in the period between late fall and early spring.  The goal is to cut the trees down at the ideal time for them to start growth again the following spring.

Short rotation coppicing is coppice managed as an energy crop for producing biomass. Harvesting occurs on a two to five year rotation, and the principal species for short rotation are willow and poplar, both very fast growing trees.  Eucalyptus, which also grows very quickly and makes a very hard firewood, is also harvested in some countries.  All three are frequently chipped for making pellet wood.

Anyone with a few acres that they don't need for food or forage crops should probably manage a coppice.  Even if you don't burn wood for heat yourself, it could still be a cash crop that you could produce on marginal land. The government and many university agricultural extensions have information on woodlot management.  One of the best reasons I've read recently for growing your own firewood is the prevention of the spread of the emerald ash borer, an invasive species from Asia that is devastating eastern Ash forests in fourteen states and parts of Canada. It is estimated that seventy-five percent of infestations by the emerald ash borer in the midwest were introduced by firewood trucked in from other states.

I don't have several acres, or even one acre.  I have not quite a quarter acre and I am still going to try coppicing in my backyard to supplement my firewood needs.  I don't expect to be able to grow much of the firewood that I need because I don't have enough room, but I can grow some of it.  For a long time, I wanted to grow Black Locust, Robinia pseudoacacia, but I've given up on that idea because it really needs a lot of room. It can also be an invasive species.  My interest in the Black Locust was because it appeared to be the quintessential, ideal tree for coppicing.  It has a fast growth rate, has one of the highest BTU contents per pound, and its fragrant flowers in the spring make great bee forage.  In addition to that, it doesn't seem to rot too easily; posts made of Black Locust used for gate and fence posts set in the ground have been known to last sixty or seventy years.  It is also supposed to have a lovely grain for fine furniture making.  So what's wrong with it?  It suckers freely, and I can't do that to my neighbors, since the only place for a coppice is along my property lines.  Also, nothing grows under it; it's supposed to be a great tree to grow out in the middle of a field for shading livestock.

My attention was recently alerted to the Eucalyptus by my friend, Rae.  We both grew up in different parts of California, and both had Eucalyptus trees at home.  I happen to know they make great firewood; my mother has been burning the prunings from her Eucalyptus trees, which were originally planted as a noise and light barrier from the expressway several blocks away from her house. Some of those prunings are six inches in diameter; I think they were branches that had to come down.  Research into the species has helped me determine that Eucalyptus would be a suitable replacement for my abandoned Black Locust.  Eucalyptus grow very fast, some clocking six feet a year, and some varieties do coppice, most notably the Cider Gum (E. gunnii) and the White Gum (E. dalrympleana).  And another plus: the Cider Gum is hardy down to approximately zero degrees Fahrenheit, and the White Gum to about five degrees, so they should both do quite well in most of Oregon.  Best of all, they can be had locally.

So I hope I've made the case for coppicing.  The right trees can make for a sustainable source of firewood or other lumber that can be grown on marginal land, making that land useful or even profitable if needed.

More than anything, I think coppicing is an idea whose time has come.  Again.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Homegrown bell peppers and onions in salmon cakes

Spinning Straw Into Gold

Some several weeks ago I moved my compost pile to where it is now, and into the Geobin compost bin I purchased.  I noticed while digging it up that a lot of it was rotting anaerobically.  How did I know that?  Because it stank to high heaven, that's how.  That rotting garbage smell was a sure sign that I didn't have enough carbon in the pile.

I needed to get some more straw into it, so as I filled the Geobin, I incorporated the last of last year's straw bale in with the compost. My friend Rae helped me out recently by hauling four bales of straw for me, which are keeping dry in the garage.  Those are hopefully going to cover my carbon needs for the rest of this year. (I'm sure the neighbors think I've lost my mind and went full farmer whenever they look in the garage and see four bales stacked up.)  I have a separate, new garbage can that's never held garbage in it, and I keep my dry carbon in it.  Last fall I started it with dry leaves from The Biggest Sweet Gum Known To Mankind, which I put through my shredder.  Then last weekend, I topped off my carbon barrel with some shredded straw.

Shredding straw in the garage

The idea here is to render the carbon smaller so that it will decompose more quickly, because I need lots of compost fast. I've read that fast compost is not as fertile as slow compost, but I'm not as worried about soil fertility at this point as I am incorporating organic material into my native clay. I can always fertilize with a variety of organic methods. To me, compost is the absolute gold I need for turning the backyard into ground with good tilth that will feed us.

The carbon barrel is outside now, parked next to the compost piles. Going forward, we'll add more carbon to the working pile as we add compostables from the kitchen.  I've instructed Steve not to add anything to the resting pile in the Geobin; I'm going to let that finish, and I'm hoping that it will be done by the time the seed potatoes show up in April.  The compost and carbon barrel are going to be key for growing potatoes, and I'll post about that later.

Shredded on the left, regular straw on the right

In the meantime, I have a question for you keepers of chickens.  I've read that pine shavings are the best thing on which to raise chicks. I've also read that the silly little dears eat pine shavings.  Here is a picture of the shredded straw next to straw that hasn't been shredded. The shredded straw is pretty small, and broken up.  Do you think that shredded it would make decent bedding for chicks? Or do I really have to make the investment into pine shavings?

I've also read that chicks stir up a lot of dust.  Where did you raise your chicks? I'm thinking about putting them in the garage, but I'm concerned about the car.  Would backing the car out of the garage be enough exhaust to make them sick?  I've also read chickens have very sensitive lungs.  We don't idle the car in the garage, but it does smell pretty bad just backing it out.  I can think of only one other place to raise them, but I'm concerned about the dust since it would be in the house.

What do you think?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Saving Private Onion

This weekend was a busy one, because the weather was decent and I was itching to get back in the game.  Yesterday I redistributed the compost pile, shredded some straw (more on that in a different post), got the replacement Italian plum into the ground and the strawberries into their planter box. Then today I planted an olive tree and moved two hydrangeas to one side of the driveway.  But that was after I weeded, laid down some leftover slate and put bark down on top of it, and put in a header to make a place to keep the garbage cans.  And it was also before I dug up and moved a native filbert tree, dug up a Japanese maple and replanted it along the left side of the driveway, and dug up and moved another hydrangea.  And I'm not done with this section of landscaping; I still have to move the last hydrangea and plant the other olive tree.  But I was done moving soil and plants for the day.  I am drinking my liniment as I write this.

The most important chore for the day, however, was saving the rest of the onions, which are starting to go.  Oddly, it seems to be the onions at the bottom of the braids that are rotting.  The big thing was to get the braids down off their hooks, so that I could look the onions over and put the good ones in the refrigerator for the rest of their lives.  Turns out, maybe a third of them were too far gone to keep.  The garage is the coldest place to keep them, but for some reason, the weather pretty consistently warms in January, so the garage warms then as well.  It warmed so much this January, that I lost every one of those nice parsnips I put away there.  I should have put them all in the refrigerator, but I put most of them in sand in the garage.  When it warmed up, the parsnips started growing, and my understanding is that they are no longer edible because they are somewhat toxic now.  I will save a couple of the sturdiest and replant them in the backyard for seed, and the rest will go into the green barrel.

But I managed to save some of Private Onion.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Homegrown green beans, with Lemon-Baked Cod

The Lemon-Baked Cod was really good; I found the recipe here.  It was all good.

Still want that bowl of pho, though.....

It's All Fran's Fault

In my Home Remedies for Colds post, Fran commented on liking chicken laksa for colds, which is a spicy asian soup.  I've never seen laksa on menus in these parts, but I knew that pho, which is a Vietnamese soup, can be had.  I've also had it before and I like it. Next thing I knew, I wanted some. I wanted some badly.  A hot and spicy noodle soup with two of my absolute favorite herbs, basil and cilantro, in it.  It sounded like the very thing for this cold. Well, maybe the cold was a good excuse for the pho.

Trouble is, Steve and I haven't had Vietnamese food since we left Beaverton two years ago, and the internet search doesn't always point out all the Vietnamese restaurants there are in a given area. Why is that?  I've noticed tons of Vietnamese grills and noodle parlors all over the place when I'm not looking for them.   Now when I want one I can't find one fairly close.  Except one, which is right over the river from us in Oregon City, maybe five minutes away.  We had no idea if it was any good, or even open, but we went anyway.

I'm really glad we did- it was great!  The food, the service, everything.  We hadn't eaten since breakfast, so we shared salad roll and egg roll appetizers.  Steve was in the mood for rice (actually, he's always in the mood for rice but it seriously messes with his blood sugar, so I don't make it) so he had the grilled pork and rice.  I had the chicken pho, which was really, really good, and just what I wanted, and just what I needed. Hot. Chickeny. Noodly. Spicy. Mmmmm.

Tonight we are having Alaskan cod, because it's on the okay list and because it was on sale.  I love cod; it's one of my favorite fishes. We'll have it with some vegetable from the back yard, probably green beans.   It will be good, and I will like it.

But honestly?

I'd rather to go back and get another bowl of pho.  Thanks, Fran.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Darn Socks: Two Fixes for Two Problems

Steve has worn through the heels of a yet another pair of socks and it's my job to darn them.  Darn them! There, I did it.  Not good enough?  Ah well.  I wouldn't bother for cheap gym socks, because they're not worth the effort, and you probably shouldn't either.   The cotton in gym socks tends to be a little rotten by the time it wears, what with all the sweat and all, so it's a little too brittle to worry about.  This pair was a good woolen pair for keeping his tootsies warm, and I think we ordered them from somewhere, so between the cost of the socks and the shipping, these were well worth darning.

Since we live in a disposable age, I don't have a darning egg, which used to be a pretty ubiquitous item found in a sewing basket.  I even think my mom has one.  They can be an egg-shaped or a concave piece of polished wood at the end of handle.  In Britain, I think they call them darning mushrooms.  In any case, darning eggs are as scarce as hen's teeth at my house, so I used my glasses case for one.

Start by turning the sock inside-out.

This problem is an entire hole, so it will taking some doing.  Run a line of stitches around the hole to stabilize the edges. (By the way, this method is different from the accepted old-fashioned way of doing it, but I think it does a better job of enclosing the fraying edges.)

Then run a 'ladder' back and forth across the hole, making sure you get at least as far as your stabilizing stitches.  I usually start in the middle because I think it makes for a more even darn. Then I go across, starting my weave stitches.

Once you have all the warp stitches in, start weaving the weft stitches in.

Once I get the infill done, I do the same thing all over again, only this time, I run the warp and weft stitches diagonally.  You won't see them for the most part, because you're running through your new fabric.

And this is the new fabric from the outside. It's not pretty, but it'll hold well enough for slipper socks which is all this pair is good for anymore. I think part of the problem with them is their thickness, which caused the rubbing on Steve's shoe, so I doubt they'd last much longer in his shoes again.

The problem on the other sock was that the hole hadn't quite happened yet.

Working from the inside of the sock again, after anchoring your yarn, you want to do the same kind of laddering stitch, but only do one row at a time. You're working the yarn back and forth, kind of the same way a lace goes into your shoe.

On your back pass, you want to catch the stitch you took on the previous row.  This is not a good picture because it doesn't show me catching that lighter green stitch (all my shots of that were out of focus).  But you want to catch your previous stitch because you're creating a new fabric over the old.

This is the second fix from the outside.  It's a lot neater, so obviously darning socks is easier and tidier if the husband doesn't wait until the heel completely fails before pointing it out to his wife.

There are other ways to darn socks.  This is just the way I do it.  If I had to darn a pair of hand knit socks, I would probably learn how to Swiss darn, or use a duplicate stitch, or some version of the toe graft or Kitchener stitch, and maybe I'd finally learn it instead of having to refer to the bookmarked YouTube video like I do currently.  The Kitchener stitch intimidates me.

The important thing is, to darn your darn socks. It makes them last a little longer, which makes the money last a little longer.  Let's hear it for longer lasting money!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Home Remedies for Colds

I've decided to add a new tag to my blog, 'home remedies'.  It will probably only encompass a few posts, because although I'm a big believer in home remedies that work, I don't have a lot.  I do tend to keep my ears and eyes open, so when I ran across a new remedy (new to me, of course) for battling the common cold, I paid attention to it.  I've been following Root Simple, (formerly Homegrown Evolution) which is written by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen, the same couple who wrote the last book I reviewed, The Urban Homesteader.  Kelly has been battling a cold for the past week, and it's threatening to become a sinus infection.  She turned to the old-fashioned, hang-your-head-over-a-steaming-pot-of-herbs-with-a-towel trick, which she says has made her feel a whole lot better.

No stranger to the sinus infection, I am currently battling a cold as well.  I wasn't going to say anything about it because you know, with the cut thumb and I all, I didn't want to sound like a whiner.  But I couldn't resist the opportunity to try this and report on it, and also pass along a cough remedy I've been using for years that works.

Before I start though, I should remind you that herbal and home remedies are no substitute for proper medical attention where warranted.  I had my thumb looked at by a health professional, remember.  Never mind that it was probably at the doctor's office that I picked up this darn cold, and that I'll be tempted to just close the next cut shut with some glass tape.  But you didn't read that here.

Anyway- the point of the herbs is to use those that have antibacterial properties, like eucalyptus (not an herb- I know it), sage, and juniper berries.  You can also use essential oils.  She didn't mention it, but bergamot is supposed to be antibacterial.

In a separate post, she suggested nasal irrigation, which you can accomplish with a neti pot.  She also has a method for doing that without a neti pot, but fortunately I have one.  Neti pot, that is.  I set some crushed juniper berries on to boil in some filtered water (which probably isn't necessary, since you're just going to be inhaling steam) and then ran off to go irrigate my sinuses.  After a good blow (I already felt better), I then removed the saucepan of herbally goodness to a trivet on the table, and then sat down with my head over it, covered by a bath towel. And inhaled as long as I could stand it, which was pretty much until the steam was gone.  I think it was a good thing to do, because, let's see, how can I put this delicately?  The stuff coming out of my nose was now clear.  Still snot, but clear.  Which was a good sign.

Kelly recommends just saving your potful and adding herbs or water to it, whatever seems needed and then heating the whole thing up again.  So I did that this evening, but I remembered something.  I once ran across a clinical abstract online where the experiment was to determine if oregano oil could be used to kill bacteria.  Turns out oil of oregano is a kickass antibacterial. (And antifungal, or so I've read since.)  Ever since then, we've kept oil of oregano in the house.  So I popped a couple of drops from a capsule into the water for good measure.  At first inhaling it stung a little, but it subsided after that.  My nose is still running, but I'm hoping to keep the sinus infection monster at bay.

Then I turned to my old, reliable home remedy cough medicine, which I'm going to tell you how to make.  But first the caveat, and I'm not going to sugarcoat it: it sounds a lot worse than it is, but it's still hard to get down because it's so darn sweet.  But it works.  I don't know when or where I picked up this remedy (it's been years), and I don't know why it works but it does.  So, are you ready?

Boil one chopped onion in a cup of water until the liquid is reduced by half.  Strain the liquid into a glass and add an equal volume of honey.  Stir together and sip while hot.  Tonight's version was much easier to take than it has been in the past, but that might be because I used a homegrown onion (oh! another meeting the starving challenge qualifier!), and I don't know about yours, but my homegrown onions are a lot stronger than commercial onions.  Remember too, that onions get sweet when they cook.  I was tempted to add a shot of rye into the concoction, just working off memory of what it tastes like, but I didn't need to.

Oh- and on top of all this, I'm not taking any chances; I'm also taking my Umcka religiously. Not exactly a home remedy, but kind of an herbal remedy, and I just want to feel better soon.

Maybe by the same time my thumb heals up?

Homegrown onions and tomato sauce in Sloppy Joes, with homegrown green beans


Recipe here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Urban Homestead: Your Guide To Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City

'Nuther library copy

Today I finished reading The Urban Homestead: Your Guide To Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City, by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen.  In a nutshell, if you live in the country, then a lot of this book isn't for you, because, let's face it; you can do whatever the hell you want. However, if  you don't live in the country, then this book is much more useful.  I live kind of in between, in what you'd call a 'bedroom community', so this book definitely applies to me.  I'm not sure that it covers everything you could be doing, but then, I don't think any book really does.  For instance, they don't mention anything about aquaculture, which is covered in Toolbox for Sustainable City Living, by Scott Kellogg and Stacy Pettigrew (South End Press, (ISBN 978-0-89608-780-4). They do, however, cover urban foraging, which the Toolbox doesn't. Urban Homestead covers transportation, while Toolbox covers bio-remediation.  I think for good coverage of all the subjects you might need in the city, having both books (and expecting some overlap) would be a good start.

It's interesting that Urban Homestead covers a lot of subjects, but some things are in more detail than others. There is good information on keeping chickens, but not as much as if you got yourself a copy of the bible, which is Storey's Guide to Keeping Chickens, by Gail Damerow.  I call it the bible, because it's the book to which all the other chicken book writers refer. The Urban Homesteader has enough to get you started though, and certainly interested. There's not so much information on rabbits.  They make a good argument for raising pigeons for food, which would probably be one of the easiest food sources to hide in plain sight in the city; lots of people keep pigeons.  There are a lot of do-it-yourself projects covered; there's a really good chance that we'll use their five gallon Self-Watered Containers for our hops when we move them, and the book has detailed instructions for making them, including pictures. There is a mere mention of beer making, but in depth information, including recipes, on making and using sourdough.

One great area that I think is useful for everyone are the chapters on home cleaning in the Revolutionary Home Economics section.  I found out there that you should never use vinegar-based cleaner on stone.  Guess with what I've been cleaning my granite countertops all this time?  And I've noticed that they're not as shiny as before. Nuts. But now I know, and I've quit doing it.  There are also good ways for cleaning just about everything you need to with just a few things from the grocery store.  Their big three are: vinegar, baking soda, and liquid castile soap.  I ran out and bought myself a big bottle of Dr. Bronner's liquid castile soap, and now I'm just figuring out how to juggle what I have left of the sprays I use so that I can mix up a couple of spray cleaners (one with vinegar, one without!) so that I don't have to buy another spray bottle.

So long story short, this book has a lot of good information, but doesn't cover absolutely everything in depth.  There's also a dearth of pictures and diagrams, which I always find useful.  I just like pictures; they help me see the subject matter.  But they do bring up a lot of ideas, and have references for getting more information if you want to follow up on something.  I found some useful information I can use immediately, and ran across other ideas that I want to pursue as well.   I still think it a useful read for people who are interested in this kind of thing.

It's making me think about a lot of different things, which is what I think their intention was.  In that regard, their book really works.

Homegrown leeks, with bacon and Jarlsberg in a breakfast omelette