Tag Archives: culinary herbs

Pinterest finds

I was going through some of my pinterest finds and thought I would share a few.

Growing

Herbs

LEaves

Regrow

companion planting

I found a website http://www.dumpaday.com/genius-ideas-2/simple-do-it-yourself-craft-ideas-52-pics/and you can really dump a day there. I found all kinds of cool stuff I added to my pinterest account. Before long I have used up 1/2 a day looking at some of the cool stuff.

Here is where I pin stuff I find.

http://www.pinterest.com/rikkrack/

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Herb Blurb – Garlic

Recently I wrote about homemade cold remedy, and homemade chicken broth. Here is the details on another great herb. Garlic.

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Garlic is closely related to onion, shallot, leek, chives and rakkyo and has been used by humans for some 7,000 years. Originally from Asia, it has spread all around the world and is used in both culinary and medical applications.

Garlic today is available in many forms, including fresh, frozen, dried, fermented, (black garlic) freeze dried, and shelf stable products (in tubes or jars). Personally fresh garlic, or home dried is the best option.

Garlic is easy to grow and will grow in most areas of the US. While it can reproduce naturally using pollination from a male and female plant, most grown garlic is used by planting a clove from the bulb. One bulb can plant 10-20 new garlic plants. Garlic is typically planted in fall about six weeks before the first frost and deep enough to not go through many freeze thaw cycles as it will develop mold and rot. It is then harvested in the spring. Garlic doesn’t have too many enemies in the pest world, and is actually great to plant near other plants which are more susceptible. We planted garlic around the roses this year and have noticed a significant decrease in pests. You can also do this around more susceptible plants in your vegetable garden. Garlic can be places fairly close together as long as there is enough room for the bulbs to mature. It likes loose, dry, well drained soils in sunny areas. The best USDA zones for planting are 4-9 but don’t let that stop you from trying if you are outside that zone. If I am close to the zone boundary of a plant I will at least give it a try. There are many techniques using permaculture that can elevate your current zone 2-3 zones higher. Example you can get an extra zone using rocks around the base of a tree to increase 1 zone going from 5 to 6. Or a hoop house can get you as many as 3 zones. From 5 to 8.

You can not only eat the bulbs or cloves, but you can also eat the leaves and flowers. Both have milder flavor than the bulbs, but is still usable in many dishes. Garlic has so many uses in the kitchen they are almost endless. You can eat it raw, sautéed, roasted, infused in oils, toppings and that is just a few. My favorite (although my family hates it when I do this) is to roast it in a terracotta roaster. Take a bulb or elephant garlic, cut the top, and roast it. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, and eat right out of the peels. The reason my family hates it, is I already eat a lot of garlic. From adding to my scrambled eggs, with a little goat cheese and herbs, to minced raw garlic topping on my salad, to garlic herb butter on my steak. Eating roasted puts me over the edge. I start to ooze garlic out my pores. I smell like walking garlic for a few days until it works out of my system. Apparently can smell from a few feet away. I never notice.

As I said in an earlier post garlic is a component in the cold remedy. Garlic has been known to repel parasites, aid in digestion, antimicrobial, antibacterial, improve respiratory problems, and improve low energy. It has been shown to improve cardiovascular and cholesterol related issues. It has shown in some studies to increase good cholesterol and decrease bad cholesterol. Some studies have shown that regular use of garlic in the diet can reduce high blood pressure and even regulate blood sugar levels. During World War II it was used as an antiseptic. Garlic has been used to treat infections, and administered for treatment of chest colds, digestive disorders, and fungal infections such as thrush. Garlic has also been successful in China in treating AIDS patients with certain types of infections and ailments.

The sticky juice of the garlic has been used to glue glass and porcelain together, and even as an insecticide in organic gardening with diluted and sprayed over plants.

If you are looking to add garlic to your gardens, whether it is vegetable or ornamental gardens, fall is the time to buy. A little bit of garlic can go a long way. 1lb of garlic bulbs can yield 10 lbs of garlic next spring. If not wanting to plant garlic to eat, perhaps just plant as insect and pest control. It is also good against molds, and bacteria and viruses that attack ornamental plants. The less people spray they better off we will all be. While I think of garlic as a wonder plant/herb my family is not so keen on the herb. As my wife says “Everything in moderation, and honey…you over did the garlic again… you are banned until you stop stinking.” Yet I don’t get sick very often, and can eat all kinds of food not good for me (mmm fried foods). My cholesterol is low, and I have really low blood pressure for someone my age, weight, and dietary intake. Now there is an idea. Combine my favorite. Fried garlic in some way? Off to the kitchen to experiment…while the wife is still at work.

Backyard Gardening for a Sustainable Lifestyle – Class Scheduled

Summer is dwindling down and fall will soon be upon us. Come find out why this is the perfect time to start planning and even starting your productive gardens. Landscaping and gardening doesn’t just have to be about pretty flower garden or doesn’t just have to be about vegetable gardens. You can combine them. Come learn about aquaponics, back yard chickens, medicinal herb gardens, edible landscapes, water harvesting, permaculture and much, much more. Recent graduate from Geoff Lawtons Permaculture design course and willing to help you turn your space into a productive one. Reduce your grocery bill, turn your hobby into an income generator, reduce your dependency on pharmaceuticals. Live in an apartment, or rent, you can garden too! Come learn how. This talk will be a broad coverage of many topics, and more in-depth class on topics will be scheduled for interested people.

Meeting at the Franklin Township Civic League
8822 Southeastern Ave. Indianapolis IN 46239

Meeting to start 7 pm

Alternative Gardening

Indiana Disaster and Survival Preparedness

Herb Blurb – Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm also known as Melissa officinalis, spreads and is part of the mint family. Rubbing the leaves you will get a lemon scent hence the name. In summer it has white flowers and is a pollinator attractor. Because it attracts bees so well it was given the name Melissa or Greek for “honey bee”. Lemon balm is as invasive as other members of the mint family and should be planted in containers or other was contained if spreading is not desired.

Lemon balm is used in candies, ice cream, teas both hot and cold, and is the main ingredient in lemon balm pesto. In teas it is used as a mild calming agent or sedative. The extracts from lemon balm have been shown to have high antioxidant properties.

There have been numerous studies involving lemon balm. From reducing stress in agitated people in a control group to reduction in obesity. Some studies have shown when drank in a tea given to people with regular exposure to radiation, the DNA degradation, and increased plasma levels. While it is known it inhibits the thyroid medication thyroxine it however inhibits antithyrotropic activity and may lead to treatments for Graves’ disease or hyperthyroidism. The extracts from lemon balm have show to improve mental performance and even shown positive results in testing with Alzheimer’s patients. It has both antimicrobial and antiviral properties and has shown to be effective against herpes simplex.

At our homestead we use it as a mosquito and fly repellant in addition to a flavoring for teas. Three of the four kids including myself react harshly to mosquito bites and we have lemon balm growing all over our homestead. Any time one of walks out it is now a habit to grab a handful and rub the leaves all over any exposed skin. This has kept the mosquitoes at bay and prevented us from using any harsh chemicals or pesticides.

We regularly harvest and dry the leaves and dehydrate for longer term storage. We also sell plants from our herb gardens to start your own natural medicinal and culinary herb garden. Use the contact us page for purchasing.

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Lessons learned in aquaponics

I don’t believe in failure. What others call a failure I call them lessons on what didn’t work, opportunities for improvement, and in some cases, the “failure” was an improvement. In each “failure” I learned something new or proved my hypothesis was wrong, and I needed to analyze what happened and why. Make it better then next time around.

I learned that you MUST make sure your system and all components are clean despite what people tell you. When I first started, I used 55 gal drums that previously contained vinegar. I bought them, and because the seller said they were cleaned, I started cycling my system. Well there was some residual in the containers and my pH was way off. Thus killing my first batch of fish and lesson two at the same time.

You must cycle your system for a while, and it depends on the size before adding plants and fish. I researched some and my first attempt was just to see if I could do it. Then learning from my mistakes I began to research more and understand the underlying fundamentals. There are three main components to aquaponics and each must work together effectively. If one of the three are out of balance then the other two get out of whack as well. Fish, plants, and bacteria. The bacteria break down the waste products of the fish, so the plants can take up the waste of the bacteria. The plants clean the water and grow off the bacteria waste, and then can feed the fish. At least in my case the duckweed feed the fish.

I say that your cycle time is dependant on the size because not two systems are alike and not one solution fits the situation. You could be using a 30 gallon indoor system, or a 55 gal outdoor system and the cycle time is different for each, as well as how you flow the system, and the media you use, the amount of light, what type of water you use. How you start your ammonia for the bacteria to begin digestion etc. All can vary your system requirements.

You can learn a lot more from doing than theory and reading. From my research several sites, and books said you should only grow leafy plants such as lettuce, herbs etc. and you couldn’t grow fruiting plants. Last year I grew melons, cucumbers tomatoes, beans, peas, chives and water chestnut. I try something and if it works great, if not, I note it, and try it again a few more times to confirm the results. My 1st few attempt at growing peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and beans failed. I was attempting to start them from seeds in the system. I learned you need to get the plants started in some sort of media then transfer. I used coconut coir. I am attempting strawberries in addition to celery, marshmallow root, leaks, and some of my other past accomplishments.

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Start with “disposable” fish. In my area tilapia are about $2 a fish for fingerlings. Catfish $1 for each 4 inch fish. When stocking a 2000 gallon system that is a big investment to have all of them die off. I used feeder goldfish from my local pet store. 100 for $12.49. My 1 inch fish I started with are not about 1-2lbs each. Goldfish are pretty hardy, they will survive through winter water temps below 40 degrees, they eat just about anything, and produce a lot of waste. Can you eat goldfish? Yup, it is of the carp family. But I doubt I would ever eat them. Because of their high waste output a larger bio filter is needed, but means a higher plant food source. We have added bluegill, read ear, and catfish as we catch them while fishing. Some fish are too small to eat, but they are great to add to the aquaponics and allow to grow to a bigger size.

Don’t believe you have to have a commercial system or parts. I wouldn’t ever but the thousand plus dollar kits they sell online. You can make an aquaponic system with just about anything. If it will hold water you can have a system. Rubbermaid plastic totes, 55 gal plastic drums, aquariums, in ground ponds. You also don’t need a commercial biofilter. I made mine out of plastic cat litter containers I found at my recycle center, landscaping lava rock, and seeded it with bacteria from a local pond. All free.

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I attempted to use pipe as my grow area. This would work if you harvested the entire plant. I wanted to be able to pick a few things, and let the plants continue to produce. The roots end up clogging the system. So now I have adopted grow beds.

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There are so many other things I know now that I would have done differently if I had to do it all over. I could have learned much of this from following someone else step and what they did. I could have bought a kit and paid for tech help and support. But I don’t think I would have learned as much about my own system. When something breaks I know how to fix it. I have learned to adapt other materials for my purpose, cat litter boxes, landscaping lava rocks etc. It would have definitely cost mre more. Experiment, learn what works for you and your system.

Want to start your own system? Let me help. I can discuss pitfalls and lessons learned. Help with sourcing materials that won’t break the bank. If you are in the Indianapolis area or are located in Indiana I can provide onsite help and consulting. Check out the consulting and contact us pages.

Outdoor aquaponic and garden pond

I was jealous of my neighbors “water feature” and wanted one. I couldn’t justify the cost of putting one in and it not be productive. Then while cleaning out my MIL junk barn, we found a small plastic pond. I dug a hole, and with a spare pump from my greenhouse aquaponics I had a water feature. No extra cost. But how to make it productive? Fast forward a year. I decided I wanted a bigger pond and stock with fish. So again I dug the hole by hand. It kept getting bigger and bigger as I thought of all the things I could add.

Here is a picture of the hole. it is 4 1/2 feed at the deepest 15 feet long and 8 feet wide.

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Next we added a roofing liner. I chose EDPM, 60 mil thick. I got a change through my professional work history to meet an engineer who works at firestone. Who make both roofing liners and pond liners. The material is identical. The only difference is the anti caking agent they use when rolling it or folding it. But here’s the catch, the pond liner is quite a bit more expensive. I just bought the roofing liner, and washed it several times, then with soap, and rinsed a few more. I cycled my system for several weeks before adding fish or plants.

Here are some photos of the system when we just got started.

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Here is the same angle today.

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The overflow from my rain catchment system goes into the pond. After a few spots in the yard heal from chicken devastation, I will swale and fence in the area to remove the pipe. It is only there to keep the water from eroding the surface soil.

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The overflow of the pond goes into my garden.

When stocking with fish I use pet store feeder fish. Here locally I can get 100 different colored and patterned goldfish for $12.79. They are pretty hardy to get the system started, and add some color. The fish I started 18 months ago were around 1” and now are 9”+ and 1-2 lbs each. I feed duckweed and a handful or organic fish pellets. Duckweed will duplicate every 24 hrs in summer, and has more protein than soy and the feed I give them. I bought my first duckweed from a pond store, and it just keeps going. I have given duckweed to people on tours when asked and now sell if anyone wanted to start their own for their systems.

For the production piece. I added drip irrigation to recycled plastic containers which I hung from my deck railing. I took 2L bottles and cut off the bottom. Then drilled holes in the lids. The top bottle drills to the second, and then to the third, which drains back into the pond. In each bottle I used coconut coir as media. We planted cucumber, 3 kinds of melons, 5 varieties of lettuce, strawberries, peppers, and cilantro. The liner is pulled up so high to catch the drip irrigation and to keep chickens and the dog from the back side of the pond.

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For the biofilter I again built my own. Recycled plastic feed containers, and PVC pipe. Inside there are river rock, lava rock, pea gravel and more coconut coir. The top container flows to the second which has a diverter and the drip irrigation. Again all recycled parts. Most of the plants I started from seed. The only things that cost me anything were the pump, bought off season for 75% off, and the liner. Since I bought roofing liner, rather than pond liner it saved me a few hundred dollars. The fish, but now we restock it ourselves when we go fishing. Any minnows that don’t get used, or fish that are too small to eat go to the pond to grow, and keep down mosquito population. The rocks were picked up from fields that get plowed. the 55 gallon drum serves no purpose than giving additional height. I am working on another system of hanging baskets from the pergola to give more growing area.

 

Here are some additional photos and description of our outdoor aquaponic system.  I have experimented with different growing systems. From drip irrigation to floating rafts.

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Do you want to turn your “water feature” into a production space? Contact us and we can help. Want your own aquaponic system, again we can help.

Q: What do you do in winter? All the plants and the drip irrigation go away, mainly to compost. I disconnect the biofilter, and run a fountain to keep the water from freezing and oxygenate the water. The water plants move to the greenhouse, and a stash of duckweed goes into the greenhouse, and in the indoor system, to be returned next spring.

Q: What kind of fish can you use? Any kind of fish that will be winter hardy. You can use koi, goldfish, catfish, bluegill, carp, sunfish etc. You may be able to use tilapia but the water needs to maintain 50 or above and for optimal conditions 70-80 degree water is needed. This year we didn’t get the system cycled in time to optimize the growing season for tilapia. Next year we may put them in once the water maintains above 50 overnight, and then harvest before the water drops below 50. MAYBE 9 moths or less. for now bluegill, sunfish, and catfish are stocked along with goldfish for color.

 

Group tour July 6th

If you are local to the Indianapolis area we are hosting a group tour to see in person and ask questions some of the things we have used on our micro farm in the city. See the three aquaponic systems in action, back yard chickens, medicinal herbs, water harvesting, edible landscapes just to name a few. Ask questions, tips, techniques and see some of the items we have for sale. Because we have a small yard, and to make sure question and answer time is available, we are limiting to 20 people. This will be scheduled through Meetup Alternative Gardening group. If you are not already a member of Meetup there is a link below. We are having it on Saturday July 6th 9am.

 

Group Tour info

Not everything is productive, or is it?

We made the plan that nothing new goes into our homestead that isn’t productive. Well what is productive? We had originally thought you can eat it. There are hundreds of plant species you can eat. Some you use for other properties, but not eating, for example medicinal herbs. Some are only for skin, or tinctures, and are not for consumption. My wife loves her roses. So are they productive? Yes.

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Roses actually produce a fruit. Rose hips. Look at many of the herbal teas. At least a few on the shelf contain rose hips. It is the round ball like fruit that comes after a rose bloom has fallen off. You can also use it to make rose hip jelly. The petals can be dries and used in potpourri, you can sugar and eat the petals, you san make rose water from the petals, a nice aromatic. Put in a spray bottle and you have a nice scent to spray on bed linins or even on yourself.

What about a clematis?

Clematis

Again yes, to a point.  While we only had it to disguise a light pole, it attracts and brings in beneficial insects such as bees and other pollinators.

In the American Old West the Western white clematis, Clematis ligusticifolia, was called pepper vine by early travelers and pioneers of the American Old West, who took a tip from Spanish colonials and used seeds and the acrid leaves of yerba de chivato as a pepper substitute. The entire genus contains essential oils and compounds which are extremely irritating to the skin and mucous membranes. Unlike black pepper or Capsicum, however, the compounds in clematis cause internal bleeding of the digestive tract if ingested in large amounts. C. ligusticifolia is essentially toxic. Despite its toxicity, Native Americans used very small amounts of clematis as an effective treatment for migraine headaches and nervous disorders. It was also used as an effective treatment of skin infections.Clematis is also a constituent of Bach’s Rescue Remedy. Leaf extracts from two Ethiopian species (Clematis longicauda steud ex A. Rich. and Clematis burgensis Engl.) are used locally to treat ear disorders and eczema. Phytochemical screening of the extracts from both of these species showed antibacterial and antifungal activity.

So we redefined what productive plants are. We now say that it must a beneficial plant to our homestead and property. We now carefully select plants and the available space before getting any new species or seeds. Can we eat it? Can our animals eat it? Does it have any medicinal properties? What insects does it attract or repel? Can we use it for something, cordage, climbing trellis, or will it amend soil conditions. The permaculture courses have really opened our eyes to just beyond what is on our plate.

 

Planting Barrel V 2.0

So I took the time and redesigned what was a strawberry barrel and no came up with a planting barrel. You can put so much more than just strawberries in them. If you are limited on space, you just want to maximize space, or wanting a new way to display your flowering plants this could work. And bonus it has a built in composter/fertilizer in the center. In 2′ garden space there is not 60 different planting sites.

All of the steps are available for sale.

I started with a 55 gal white food grade barrel with the top cut off. These are available for $20

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Next I drilled drainage holes in the bottom. Also available for $20 and can be used for a potato barrel. You could probably get 3-4 layers of potatoes in one barrel, around 30-60 lbs of potatoes.

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Next pilot holes along the outside edge for cutting the holes.

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Using a jigsaw  I cut approximately 9″ lines between the holes but not connecting them.

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Using a blowtorch I softened the plastic and inserted empty wine bottles to hold the shape until the plastic cools. Do this in a well ventilated area, and make sure the caps are off the bottles. Learned that one hard way. If the bottles heat up and the cork/lids are still on they can explode from the pressure.

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You have to keep the row above filled with bottles while forming the second one down. As you heat the plastic the upper pockets will start to close.

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Here is the completed barrel with composted in the center and filled with compost/mulch mix ready to be planted. I plan on making this into a salad/herb garden, with varieties of lettuce, cooking herbs, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes and radishes. I will publish and post once the plants start to develop.

These are available for $70 empty,

$80 full of compost/mix,

$90 with composter and prepopulated with worms.

$120 filled with strawberries and all of the above

$150 filled with salad and cooking herb mix.

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These are made to order and some plants may not be available. Allow 2-3 days from order to availability. There may be an increased price based on plants requested. Delivery is also available and there may be a fee based on distance from SR 135 and Stop 11.

To order or ask questions use the contact us page or the consulting page.