Tuesday, May 19, 2015


The garden bed that is.  I stopped on the way to work this AM to check on it since it had been a few days.  There had been no frosts and it's been a bit rainy so I figured it would be OK.


Here it is (yes...it's rotated...I can't get it to change and it's time to leave):




Not bad!  Everything is alive that I put in, except one unidentified plant from the Moscow Garden Club plant sale last week.  It looks like it could be a cabbage.  Its mate is still alive so I'll keep the blog posted if something clearly cabbage-y pops out of it.

Monday, May 11, 2015

New Garden Bed

Well crap!  I typed this in once and it failed.  Let me try it again...

So....There is a gardening class in the town where I work.  If a person attends 2 classes (or says they will) and is willing to talk about how their garden is doing, and is willing to share any knowledge he/she has, then the person gets the bits and supplies to make a 4x8x1foot raised bed!  Very cool.  And very nice.

I've already attended more than 2 classes, talked to people about my garden bed (like that it existed...) and volunteered to teach 2 classes (vermicomposting and fermenting).

Here is the basic bed:

As you can see, I put rotted wood in the bottom.  This is supposed to help it hold moisture and require less watering over dry periods.  It will also slowly decompose and build soil rich in organic matter.  This is a twist on Sepp Holzers big permaculture beds that have whole tree trunks in them.  On top of this I put composted manure (from bags since I don't have a handy animal source).  I want something available to work with the carbon in the wood.  As an afterthought, I threw in some old dry deer bones, mostly ribs, that had been lying around the land for a year or so.  My hope is this will add calcium and minerals over the years.  Who knows.

Here it is with some of the manure and another experimental addition:

The rails will do many things...they stabilize the corners and link the upper and lower 2x6 bed frames.  They are also there to hold plastic, shade stuff, anti-critter-netting, or anything else I want.

And no...the camper is NOT that far off level. 

Finally, here it is with some dirt, and manure and compost (all from bags) and ready to be soaked before planting.  It's best to soak the wood down early and it wasn't supposed to rain for a while.  That meant hauling buckets from the creek.  It's not far.

I added more dirt over the next few days.  continued adding water with buckets. 
Then I got some "clear" (actually whitish) 4ml plastic and put it right on the soil to warm it up.
I didn't take a photo of that for some reason but it looks like plastic lying on garden bed.

Next episode: Organizing and planting the bed.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


It has been dubbed the Death Ray by a young friend and I think he's absolutely correct on that.
This is a picture of it from the interwebs:

And here is an attempt at photographing mine:
It's made of mirrors and real glass so it tends to reflect EVERYTHING.

I had it a couple 3 weeks before I was out on the land on a day when I could use it.  That was last weekend.   I tried solar cooked eggs and baking bread.  The oven enclosure is under the nipple-like knob.  You can kind of see the oven thermometer in there.
Here it is out in the sun (lounge area in the background)

The oven got up to 275degrees Fahrenheit which wasn't too bad for so early in the year, the haze and wispy clouds, and serious wind which was no doubt cooling things down a bit.  I also need practice aiming it.   It is on wheels so you can turn it to follow the sun as it progressed westward.  The base, easier to see in the first photo, also has a curved bit with a retractable peg so the angle can go from horizontal to vertical to catch the most sun.

 When changing that angle, there is a board, painted black and hence extremely HOT, on which the cooking items rest.  This has an angle adjustment as well so in theory it could be pretty darn level.  In reality for my first try, I didn't get it flat.  The eggs didn't mind (they were in the shell).  The bread slumped to one side of the pan but whatever.  I'll get that down better as I learn to aim better.

I looked up solar cooking eggs on the internet and it said to just put them in the cardboard carton and put them in the cooker...don't try to boil water and have them in that.  Then leave them for a LONG TIME...like 90 min to 2 hours.  So I did that.  As I took them out of the cooker a bit of smoke was wafting.   The carton had a scorch mark.  I had only done 2 eggs and it was a partial carton I'd put them in.  I cracked one to find that it had lost all integrity in the shell.  Unlike the youtube video showing a nicely boiled, if hard to peel, egg, my egg had air in the top 1/3 of the shell, and a uniform mass of white and yolk that had mixed together and turned beigy-yellow in the rest of it.  I couldn't eat it.  I hope the wild life enjoy the eggs.  I suspect that 275degs was too hot.  I think the cooker I was watching on youtube only got to about 200degs.  Coddled vs baked.  Big difference.  I think next time I will try a solar omelet or frittata so I can look at it while it cooks and see how it's doing.   I didn't want to take these eggs out too early because soft boiled eggs make me barf just looking at them.

Anyway, the bread dough was deeply flawed and finicky being pure whole wheat and sprouted wheat at that.  I'd never worked with sprouted wheat flour before.  I had it too wet.  Still, it made a nice crusty bread, though the center was doughy.  I baked some in the electric oven yesterday and it came out doughy in the middle too.  It wasn't the cooker's fault, it was the cook's.   Still super fun to try.  I'll try a basic white bread, dry-er dough too, next time.  Or perhaps a can of cinnamon rolls or biscuits.

Closer to solstice we will be attempting PIE!  If I can hit 400degs, I can do pie.  I saw a pie plate with holes in the bottom at thrift the other day and seriously considered it as I think you'd get a crustier bottom (and who doesn't love a crusty bottom?) but I don't want grease on the wooden board that holds the pan ...  so instead I'm either going to try a black/dark pie plate, or perhaps a cast iron pan if it will fit in there.  The iron will heat slowly though...I think thin is the way to go.  Maybe I'll start with a 99cent banquet pie (they have apple pies now at the dollar store...) rather than putting out all the effort of making and organic scratch pie only to have it fail.  

What if I heated up a cast iron pan and set the pie-plate in that to get the bottom crust going fast?  Hmmm...and the cast iron would hold some heat when I opened the oven to put in the pie.   If only I had a frying pan with no handle  A small pie would fit inside the dutch oven...but will the dutch oven fit inside the solar cooker? 
So many options. I can experiment with the Death Ray until I'm dead.

And yes, I wear SERIOUS sunglasses while using this thing.