Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Permaculture: Garbage for Your Garden

The following posting is particularly written for those who don’t make compost for their gardens. Maybe you have a tiny yard or just a patio or balcony with plants on it. I understand.

Take NOTE; Take HEART: Even without composting, there are many ways that your flowers and vegetables can benefit from much of the garbage your kitchen accumulates (see alphabetical list below).
(I will add to this posting over time).

Free. Available. Non-toxic. Gets rid of garbage. What’s not to like? Give some of these a try and let me know how they work for you. I always use the banana, coffee, egg shell, and wood ash hints, and less often the others.

Banana peels: These peels decompose quickly and deliver 41% potash and 3% phosphorus to the plants around which they are buried. Roses particularly benefit. Chop the peels into little pieces and poke a few (2-3) into the ground around the roots. How easy is that! If you wish, you can freeze the peels in order to accumulate enough for a one time spring project.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Easy Recipes from a Tiny, Remote Kitchen: Appetizers (that double up for other meals)

(I welcome your comments, recipe suggestions, and questions through the "comments" option below any entry. --Laura)

UPDATED: See Tomato Nut tapenade and Tomato Puff Pastry at the very bottom of list.

Do you have a tiny kitchen, limited time, a bare pantry?  Perhaps the following recipes will appeal to you. 

Living a half-hour flight from a town, out in the boonies, I cook 2-4 meals a day for months at a time.  No restaurants.  No pizza take out.  As a break, my husband kindly offers to cook all day once a month (which usually means “do you want the bag of green leftovers or brown leftovers?”)

 So by the combination of frequent necessity and boredom, I endeavored to make the process of cooking easier and more interesting to me, within the constraints of a tiny kitchen and no spontaneous access to a supermarket.  My favorite recipes, such as those below, meet the following criteria: 1) few ingredients (most below use only 3-5 ingredients, not including herbs), 2) few preparation steps/bowls/space requirements, 3) ingredients that store well or expand easily for groups or large harvests of produce or fish.  4) Less than ten minutes of preparation time (other than cooking or making dough) and, in most cases, 5) versatile.  Most of the 14 recipes below include 2-5 alternatives, each, and most can be used in various ways, for example, as a dip one day, a sandwich spread later, and a sauce for meat or pasta on another occasion.   

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Mushroom Farming in the Woods

(I welcome your comments or questions, signed or anonymous, in the comment field below each blog entry.  If you would like to receive an email notification when a new item is posted, you can enter your email address where indicated on the lower right side. Alternatively, click the below image to leave me a voice message. -- Laura)
      The weather patterns of the Lower 48 and Alaska have been inverted all year.  Last winter was absolutely balmy in places like Chicago and New York, while Alaska experienced record breaking snow.  This summer is sweltering in the Continental US, but tepid here.  In fact, the first half of July has seen the coldest average in Anchorage’s recorded history (the closest major city to us): +52 degrees.
Needless to say, gardening has been disappointing in yield, size, and speed.  On yet another cool, overcast day, I thought, “Perfect mushroom weather!”  It is cool and damp and we live amidst shady woods full of an Alice in Wonderland array of mushrooms and other fungi.  However, because I don’t feel competent to forage for edible mushrooms in the woods, (and dare I say it – I don’t actually like them) I bought mushroom plugs to plant now and harvest next year for my husband.    Today was the day to start.
The entire vocabulary for mushroom farming is different from other gardening and frankly, somewhere between gross and disturbing.  Instead of buying seeds, one buys “plug spawn.” Rather than plant them, one “inoculates” a log or stump.  Instead of growing, one “incubates.”  The longer one waits to “force fruit”, the higher the “colonization.”  Doesn’t this sound like something in a Bio-Hazard laboratory?  Didn’t I see this in The Andromeda Strain? Still, boredom and yet another incipient rainfall can be a marvelous incentive to play outside with “plug spawn” so we gathered together the tools of the mushroom farmer and sauntered off to the birch tree base in the woods now bereft of the trunk that Bryan had dispatched earlier in the week.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Tote Water, Chop Wood

Buddha’s followers once asked him, “Master, what should we do before we attain enlightenment?”

He answered, “Tote water, chop wood.” 

“What should we do after we attain enlightenment?”

He responded, “Tote water, chop wood.”

I certainly haven’t reached enlightenment, but I am working on the other two. 

Every few days I lug 8 gallon jugs I have filled with lake water up the hill to locations near gardens, the chickens, and the burn barrel. 

Today, I started to chop wood.  I had postponed this endeavor because I was leery of my uncoordinated potential, swinging a heavy, sharp axe through the air and back toward body parts I value.  So I decided to start with something a bit less intimidating:  using a hand axe (about the size of a long hammer, but with a much heavier head) to split logs into kindling. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

How Much Do You Know About Salmon? (Fisherpeople, Cooks, and Restaurant-goers)

Below are 11 questions about salmon, some for people who fish and others for people who eat.  Which facts did you know or not know? 

1.     Match the common name of a salmon species on the left with its alternative name(s) on the right (Some have more than one match).

1.     Pink
a.    Chinook
2.     Red
b.     Coho
3.     Silver
c.     Dog
4.     King
d.     Humpies or Humpbacks
5.     Chum
e.    Sockeyes

f.     Steelhead

g.    Blackmouth

h.    Spring salmon

i.      Tyee


2.         Which of the choices above right (letters) is a trick option because it is not really a salmon but a trout, despite its sales name, Atlantic salmon?

3.         Which species can potentially live the longest?  Which has the shortest lifespan?

4.         Which two species are the most common?

5.         Which two have the highest oil content (omega 3s), and are therefore best suited to grilling, smoking, and freezing?

6.         Which have the lowest oil content and therefore may lose texture when frozen and may dry out when cooked the wrong way?

7.    Which ones have the darkest, red-orange meat (while the others can be beige-pink)?

8.    Although the species run (migrate upstream) at different times in different parts of Alaska (and elsewhere), which of the numbered options tends to run the earliest?  The latest?

9.    Which species is exported in vast quantities to Japan and may be the one you eat at a sushi bar?

10.  Which species develops the startling green head and red body when spawning in fresh water?

11.  Which species is distinctive by its vertical stripes and deeply cut tail fin?


How did you do?  For the answers and more information, enjoy the next blog entry, "Salmon Facts for Tourists, Cooks, and Restaurant-goers."