Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hoop Houses

Last year, we spent a lot of time and energy building a cold frame out of plywood and salvaged windows. It was only about 3 feet by 3 feet, but it worked well for us throughout the winter. This year, we are experimenting with hoop houses. Winter aside, hoop houses are great for protecting young plants from the brutal UV rays at this high altitude. They keep the soil moister longer, and keep the temperature up to encourage growth. We're still trying to figure out whether to add more layers of this row cover or whether to get greenhouse plastic instead. Has anyone been through this with hoop houses? Any wisdom to impart?

Tristan built these hoop houses out of PVC, row cover, and large binder clips. He used lengths of 1/2" PVC for the hoops, and they are anchored in stakes made out of 1 1/2" PVC. Shade cloth is drawn over the top and secured with binder clips.
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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Fall Starts

These little guys have become these bigger little guys (and girls. Spinach has male and female plants). I transplanted kale, spinach, lettuce, and fennel under a hoop house. So far, all are doing well, aided by cloudy wet weather as they recover from the shock of it all. It may be too late to get good fennel by the end of the season, but it's an experiment. The rest, I think should make a good fall crop, and most of it should be able to overwinter in the hoop house.
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Friday, August 28, 2009


We have a flush of oyster mushrooms growing successfully in an empty chick feed bucket on the front porch. We bought an innoculated sawdust kit, crumbled part of it up, mixed it with coffee grounds removed from the compost of a local cafe, and voila! It takes longer to get a flush this way, but you can keep the extra starter in the fridge and get more bang for your buck.
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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Volunteer Arugula

We hung a dried arugula plant on the porch to dry out the seeds for saving. Well, it looks like we had some escapees. These arugula sprouts are thriving in our recent wet weather, right in front of the porch. I guess we'll put a cold frame over them in a few months and overwinter them if we can.
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Wednesday, August 26, 2009


With our new goat coop, we're really rolling in fresh goat milk. Our recent experiment with hard cheese has been successful so far (we haven't tasted it yet), but one milking's worth of milk yields a cheese wheel barely 1.5 inches thick.

In order to make larger batches, we experimented with freezing our milk in our new chest freezer. We froze milk until we had about 5 gallons, then we thawed it, pasteurized it, and proceeded as usual with the cheese making. For awhile, things were tense around here as the milk looked separated and funny while it was defrosting. It clabbered just fine though. I guess we'll have to wait awhile before we know if there's a taste difference. For now, I would tentatively recommend this as a strategy for home cheese makers with limited milk supplies.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


We grew soybeans for the first time this year. They were planted back in May, and germinated sporadically (like most things in our garden this year). We ended up with only about 6 plants. Those 6 plants yielded very well, and we harvested our first edamame appetizer last week. These soybeans are so sweet and so delicious. Not to mention they're great nitrogen-fixers. I'm going to make sure we raise a large patch of them next year.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Originally uploaded by Whittled Down
We're working on our first batch of hard cheese in about a year, and this is the first time we're using cheese wax to age it. This is a goat milk cheddar made with milk from our goat share. After the waxing, we will keep the cheese in our "cave" (minifridge set to 55 degrees) for 4 weeks or more. Then, hopefully, we'll have something resembling cheddar.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Freecycle Score

We scored this chest freezer off of freecycle. The ad said something like, "roomy, like the kind of freezer in the ice cream section at the grocery store." We had no idea they meant it was an actual Nestle ice cream freezer, of the sort that dispenses drumsticks and good humor bars. We haven't turned it on yet, but we hope it's efficient enough to justify the long term storage of our dumpster scores and growing season surplus.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Watermelon Juice

Our friends from Holy Scrap Hot Springs came to town this weekend for the Re:Make It! Festival at the Santa Fe Complex. We had a great time, and they came bearing gifts, including this experimental watermelon from an undisclosed research facility. The thing was huge, and after having maybe a third of it for dinner and breakfast, we decided to turn the rest into a watermelon agua fresca.

Several months ago I dumpstered a commercial juicer, worth probably 1K. We're planning to sell it, and we haven't really used it much since I got it. We cut the watermelon into chunks and tossed it into the juicer, and in no time we had a yield of about 1/2 gallon of juice. We mixed this with some limeade and topped it off with water, and the result is a wonderfully refreshing drink. It would probably taste great with a little kick added as well.