Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Mystery Squash Experiment

While chopping down some out-of-control weeds for my neighbors. (See my Weed Getting post.) I happened upon a few old, dried up squashes in their garden. I decided to take them home and conduct an experiment. I have no idea what kind of squashes they are, or how long they have been there, but I have decided to retrieve the seeds, see if they are still viable, and find out what kind of squash they might be. My method for this experiment is simple: smash open the husks, sift through the contents and retrieve the seeds. This being done, I shall plant the seeds, and wait for them to grow. If the seeds are still viable, they will grow and make more squashes, and those squashes can subsequently be identified based on their physical characteristic. (I've been reading HG Wells, can you tell by my grammar and wording?)

First things first, I have spread out some newspaper on my kitchen counter. Using a hammer I have carefully broken open the husk of my first squash, revealing the dried up "guts" inside. Judging by the formation of the guts, I should think that these squashes may be spaghetti squash, but we will have to wait and see! 

It doesn't take much effort to break apart the guts and pick out the seeds. At first my intention was to break open both husks, however, upon finding that there are a great many seeds to be harvested from the first of the two, I think that one shall suffice. Since the husk, guts, and seeds were already dried by the sun, I shouldn't think that any further processing is in order.

I have simply picked out the seeds, rubbed gently to remove any excess remnants of the guts, and set the seeds aside. Many of the seeds at the bottom of the husk (where it had previously rested upon the ground) were stuck, and the guts had packed them down firmly. These seeds, I decided, would not likely be viable, and were discarded. So, now that the seeds have been retrieved from the squash husks, where shall the experiment go?

 I will use these seeds in my upcoming Starting Seeds post, to see if they will sprout and grow. Therefore, it needs be that you should check with me again at a later date and see what transpires. When my Starting Seeds post is uploaded, I will update this page with a link for you to follow.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Basic Crochet Stitches

It occurred to me today that I have a number of crochet projects planned out, but I have not yet shown or explained the basics of crochet. How thoughtless of me!

Here are the basic stitches of crochet and their abbreviations:
Top to Bottom: Single, Half Double, Double, Triple

(ch) Chain
(sc) Single Crochet
(hdc) Half-Double Crochet
(dc) Double Crochet
(tr)Triple Crochet (or Treble Crochet)
(sl st) Slip Stitch

I am one who learns best by watching others. Good thing there is a video accompaniment! Unfortunately, this video has neglected to instruct on how to accomplish a half-double crochet. It is really pretty easy, but it's not a stitch that I use very often (in case you couldn't tell, I am the instructor in this video.) Begin like a double crochet: yarn over, insert hook, yarn over, draw through. You should now have three loops on your hook, yarn over and draw through all three loops. Done. Half-double crochet.

Once you know the basic stitches, you can complete simple projects and combine the basic stitches to make more complex ones. One day maybe I'll instruct on the more complex stuff, but this will get you going for now!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Make it Yourself - Frozen Fruit

Why buy frozen fruit when you can freeze it yourself and make whatever combinations you want? Pick up fruit that is on sale or use what you have grown yourself, and you're in business for cheap! Although it takes a little bit of time, it is not at all difficult to produce your own frozen fruit medley. Since we use our frozen fruit for smoothies, I've been trying to figure out which fruits are best suited. For the purpose of this article I have purchased kiwi fruit, as I have not seen this particular fruit in the frozen foods section. We shall see how it fares in the world of smoothie making!

The tools for processing your kiwi fruit are simple, yet effective. A cutting board, sharp knife, and a spoon are all you need. First, cut off either end of the kiwi, and cut a slit down one side.

Using your spoon, peel back the skin all the way around, leaving behind a bright green barrel of fruit.

Once I was finished peeling, I cut my peels into manageable pieces and tossed them out the back door for the goats and birds to munch on. Here, I shall end the 'how to peel a kiwi' tutorial, and continue on with the 'how to make frozen fruit' tutorial.

When deciding how small to make your pieces, keep in mind how hard it will be for your blender to process your fruit. You want to make the pieces small enough to be blended easily, but not so small that you take all day to chop the fruit. Since bananas are soft and easy to puree, just peel and cut into halves or thirds. Remove stems from smaller berries, and halve strawberries (quarter if exceptionally large.) Peel, core and chop anything else.

Once your fruits have been chopped into appropriately-sized pieces, line a baking sheet with waxed paper and arrange the fruit pieces evenly over the surface. Store your baking sheet in your freezer (a deep freezer works best) for about an hour to an hour and a half, just long enough to freeze those puppies up firm. Remove your baking sheet from the chill chest, peel your now-frozen gems of deliciousness up from the wax paper and store in a zip-top bag.

Be sure to press all the air out, and return it to the freezer immediately. I always label anything that I remove from its original packaging, or process myself, with the date, and what is in the bag. That way you always know what you have, and you know how long it's been there!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pepperann's New Sweater

Poor little Pepperann the chicken chose the worst time possible to begin her molt. She dropped nearly all her feathers just before our "winter weather" set in. I felt bad for the scraggly little lady, and decided to intervene.

The only logical thing to do for a naked chicken in winter would be to clothe it, so I started searching for a pattern to make my little friend a sweater. I needed something simple, that would go together quickly, and that was crochet. I cannot knit, and it makes me crazy.

I found my perfect pattern on a blog called Adventures in Everyday Life, and you can view it here. The only thing that I did differently from the pattern is that I added a couple of extra rows on the belly. I tend to crochet pretty tightly, so I had to add on to accommodate Pepperann's breast.

Poor little gal was so scared after I wriggled it on her and worked her wings out of the slits, she nearly toppled over and fainted. Ever seen a chicken faint? I nearly did. She snapped out of it, though, and now she is trotting around like nothing is going on.

The only sad part in all this is that I think in order to get it off of her I may need to cut it. Oh well, if it keeps her from freezing to death long enough to regain her plumage, it's worth it.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Saving Seeds from Onions

An onion flower
Onions are a biennial plant, therefore, they only produce seeds their second year. This allows you to have edible onions your first year, and if you want seeds the next year, all you need do is keep the plant in the ground over winter. Next year, your onions will flower and produce seeds. If you're onions become stressed, however, they may "bolt." Bolting is when a biennial plant goes to seed in its first year. If you do not want your plant to go to seed, snip off he flower as soon as you see it begin to develop. These onions won't last as long as other onions,  but will still be edible if you get the flower out of the way quickly. I had a plant bolt this year, so I decided to let it go so that I could show you all how to save the seeds. Once the flower has fully developed it will lose its little petals and the little flowers will turn into little papery envelopes. This is where your seeds live! 

This flower is drying up. See the black seeds poking out?

When these little envelopes start to dry up, it is time to trim your flower and bring it inside to finish drying.

My onion flower, drying in a paper bag

Snip it off the plant and put it into a brown paper bag to finish drying. Mine took a few weeks to dry out completely.

Smashed flower, showing black onion seeds.

Once it is completely dry, smash it all up!  The seeds will be big enough that you can pick them out easily from the chaff.

All my little onion seeds!

Put your little onion seeds in a zip top bag or envelope and put it away for next year!