Saturday, November 15, 2008
Today is a very good day. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and I got my new Envirocycle Composter delivered.
My partner (Ron) and I went out to breakfast and to get gas in the Honda Fit. The Gas light was lit saying I was almost out and to fill up was only $20.25. That is the cost of driving a little over 220 miles and I am still ecstatic about that. In my old Toyota Tundra pick-up I was spending almost $80.00 for the same distance. Funny what lower gas prices and higher MPG does to a person’s outlook.
As we were rounding the corner to the house I was saying, “Please, please, let there be a package on the porch” and there was. The composter was delivered by FedEx Ground and came in one large carton. Unpacking was simple and nothing to assemble. I took one of our weekly throw-away magazines (The San Diego Weekly Reader) and I shredded the black and white pages. I am trying to stay away from the colored ink pages and the glossy pages to keep thing a little healthier for the soon to be garden soil.
The next addition was my stockpile of kitchen waste that I have been storing in the refrigerator. The majority of the kitchen scraps have been run thru the food processor to speed up the composting process. But things like the apple peels and cores from last night’s home made apple pie went in whole. There seems to be enough liquid in the mix to give the final mass the water consistency of a wrung out sponge. A couple of turns on the built-in rollers of the Enrivocycle and everything was well mixed.
The other think to be happy about today is that I was given permission by the neighbor to pick some fruit some the tangerine tree that overhangs his yard. My neighbor on the other side had a couple of stokes this last year and doesn’t get around as well as he used to. In the past he would be the one picking the fruit and then leaving a bag on my doorstep. Today I was able to return the favor and will try to do again in a few days as well. It is surprising on how a small act of kindness can make you feel inside.
I have yet to add the tangerine peels to the composter, everything I have read says that you have to be careful with the amount of citrus peeling you add to keep from shifting the PH levels to much in the final product.
Reduce, reuse and recycle.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Today was end of the season garden clean up day. I decided it was time to trim up the grapevines and was really surprised at the amount of grapes still on the vines. They ranged from very small and hard to basically raisins. Not being one to waste prompted a quick internet search. So today I am making wine.
As with all of my Internet recipes I only use it as a starting point to get the basics and then go from there. I took all of my grapes and soaked them in a large bowl with cold water to encourage all of the “The Guests” to leave. I am trying to make wine here, not BUG juice. After removing the larger stems I ran the grapes thru the food processor to a course chop. I ended up with almost a quart of “wine starter”. Next I took 1 cup of water and brought it to a boil along with 2 cups of sugar. When everything was dissolved that was set aside to cool to room temp. Again my impatience raised its head again and a tray of ice cubes hurried that along. In another container I dissolved two teaspoon of dry active yeast in 2 cups of warm water. Everything was loaded into a large glass container along with another 13 cups of water to bring the total water to a gallon. The top was covered with three layers of plastic wrap and tied in place with twine. This was placed in the cabinet about the dryer, a cool dark place and its future home for the next few weeks.
I was surprised to see how quickly everything has started to work. Within 2 hours of combining everything I was able to look at the mixture and watch it churn and bubble. The plastic wrap has extended to a tight skin and now I just wait for the process to continue. I did make sure to inform my partner about “the experiment” so he wouldn’t freak out if he opened the cabinet door and see something growing in there.
A recap on the recipe is:
1 quart crushed fruit (in my case, end of the season grapes)
2 cups sugar dissolved in 1 cup water (dissolved completely)
2 teaspoon of dry activated yeast in 2 cups of warm water
13 cups of water
Combine everything in a clean vessel and seal to keep stuff out and fermenting stuff and smells in. Wait until the MAGIC stops and then filter, bottle, let everything settle and then re-bottle.
As this is my first foray into wine making since I was a kid at home with my mom I will be interested to see how things work. I expect the process to take about 2 to 3 weeks for the MAGIC part and will update from there.
I have told folks in the past that I grew grapes and they always asked if I made wine. Now I can answer with a resounding YES!
Other things on the horizon include a new ENVIROCYCLE composting system and work on the garden. I recently celebrated a birthday and received a few books on gardening, Living Like Ed and a couple of windmill books so look for an explosion of activity.
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Here it is the start of November and I realize just how lax I have been in keeping everyone up-to-date with life in San Diego.
I have recently joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) after hearing about them on Planet Green.
What is a CSA? In my case it was trying a 4-week trial plan to see if I would like to be a supporter of a local farming co-op and share in the seasonal crops that they produce. When you go pick up your weekly “SHARE” it is like Christmas and opening a present. You don’t know what you are going to be getting but you know it will be fresh, seasonal and organic. I am into the second week of the trail and I will probably not continuing with it. In theory it is a great program, in reality I have gotten a lot of vegetables and fruits that I wouldn’t normally buy. I have had the opportunity to try things that haven’t been in my personal menu before and I doubt that they will make it in the future.
Some of the things that I have enjoyed are the organic apples and pears. It is surprising to find the different that an apple has when it hasn’t been polished and waxed to shipping to a store. The radishes have been great and the various greens have been an adventure into the salad world.
On the other side of the coin, the avocados, while very tasty, all seemed to “ripen” on the same day and what do you due when your bounty is over-flowing. My co-workers have reaped those benefits. I am working with a large group of vegan and semi-vegans so that does give me an outlet for unwanted or over-abundance items. Fresh dates and collard greens were a big hit, with the group. Pomegranate was also received well.
Will all of this new vegetable scraps have come a renewed interest in composting. My ultimate goal would to get a solar powered self rotating compost drum but as of right now I am using an old 55 gallon storage bin or directly burying the scrap into the garden.
I use a recycled zipper type storage bag and keep the “extras” from trimming veggies in the freezer. Once a week I will run them through the blender to break the pieces up to speed up the breakdown. I also strain the blended mix and use the resulting liquid as a “tonic” for my various potted patio plants. On occasion I will bury the pulp mixture into one corner of my raised bed as a treat for every diligent earthworms, you know you have to keep these little buggers happy.
This was a rebuilding year for the garden. I removed a wooden walkway and replaced it with concrete pavers. It is much easier to maintain and I done have to worry about water issues and termites. I have also replaced my raised bed. I am working on enriching my soil so that I can get my garden to be a useful addition to the “homestead”.
The last thing to mention was the change from a 2001 Toyota Tundra pickup that got a normal 12-14 mpg to a 2008 Honda Fit that gets an average 23 mpg. Short trips and a hill between home and work account for the low mpg rating but I feel so much better. I do occasionally miss having a pickup for getting large items but I can carry 8 foot 2X4 and 2X6 lumber in the car with no trouble. The big items that don’t fit are just things that I guess I really don’t need.
Well, I will end for now but will try to be better at updates in the future. Reduce, reuse and recycle and have a great day.