potato harvest

Growing potatoes takes up a lot of room and when you compare to how cheap, even organic, potatoes are to buy, one wonders if it is worth it. Then you taste a truly NEW potato and you know. So here I am, several years later, still trying to grow potatoes in the Arizona desert in my backyard!

So the first thing I’ve (finally) learned, is that the potatoes grow best in a hard sided bin rather than a “grow bag”. Now I have nothing against grow bags, have done a lot of my gardening in them because they make it easy to grow things in the small nooks and crannies of a back yard, and allow you to take advantage of micro-climates. But potatoes, for what ever reason, have done best in the hard sided pots compared to a grow bag. and even then, the yields are small . . .

Heat is a factor also, and it may just be too hot for growing potatoes well in the summer here. So this winter will be experimenting with a crop. I’ll try some in the greenhouse and some outside exposed to the elements.

Posted in container gardening, greenhouse, homesteading, organic, potatoes, self-reliance, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

planting garlic

fall is as busy a season in the garden as spring! and we’ve yet to have a frost, so its easy to put things off.

Finally finished clearing the west bed in the main garden area to plant garlic and shallots. Unfortunately, last year we had no rain after December and I just plain didn’t water them! So my shallots did okay, but my garlic was puny. The Siskiyou purple did best, and though its not my favorite garlic, planted some of it today as it did the best on horrid conditions. For the rest, picked up some elephant and regular garlic from a local organic farmer. He’s about 500 feet lower in altitude than I am, but that’s closer than most of what I might purchase. The 2 bulbs of elephant garlic gave me about 8 or 10 cloves. Also had 3 other bulbs of regular garlic; the cloves forming similar to the Siskiyou. The shallots were all from what I’d grown last year. Two years ago bought some shallots at the local health food store, that gave me about 6 bulbs. I’ve brought that up to 12 or 15, including having some for use in the kitchen. This year, will be sure to water and fertilize!

Also spaced them better than I usually do. Start off with good spacing and then they get closer and closer together as I go along.

Usually am a stickler for counting the cloves I’ve planted, but not this year for some reason. Am looking forward to the first shoots in about 6 weeks.

Posted in gardening, garlic/onions, homesteading, organic, self-reliance | 1 Comment

bee update

Not much to really update as the hive failed. Did not open it early enough in the season to determine why, but have my suspicions and disease isn’t one of them.
1. location, location, location. Being in Arizona, was afraid of the hive getting too hot in the summer and placed it in the shade of some evergreens. Knew it would get good winter sun, but it might have been too shady for the summer. Know others who have their hives in full sun for the day and they are doing fine.
2. pollen flow was low last year, with a dry summer, so no fall flowering plants. This area does not have a lot of landscaped properties, not even much in the way of flowers. Only a few veggie gardens, and mine did not do well due to an influx of gophers! and there are feral hives about, so there is competition for what is available
3. did I use good sugar. Cane sugar will help build honey stores, beet sugar will sustain, but not build stores.
4. almost as soon as I’d put in the hive, our dog decided she was too old for big walks and picked one spot for doing her morning business and it happened to be upwind from the hive – phew!
5. did I overfeed? and get them used to sugar syrup rather than working for the pollen.
Have finally started dismantling the hive and see the wax moths have really decimated the combs that had been built which is why I have no idea what went wrong. After much thought, have decided to clean up the hive box (its a top bar), move it to a more open location, and try another batch of bees. Thought of trying to capture a swarm, but decided to go with a known quality/quantity of bee so have ordered a batch for the spring.
have found a spot nearer to the house, much more open to the sun and elements, protected somewhat from curious eyes as it is an open, public location. working on preparing the spot, and am going to get to work on cleaning and re-prepping the hive so it has some time in the sun to just air out and let the sun clean and purify all.

Posted in bees, container gardening, gardening, homesteading, organic, prepping, preserving, self-reliance, top bar hive | 2 Comments

one is two knitting

this is a knitting technique that I stumbled into . . maybe others know of the technique, or another way of accomplishing this – after all great minds do think alike . . .

anyway, it is knitting a two sided piece on a set of straight needles.  Great for making a potholder, a pouch, an envelope, glass case, etc.  Like it particularly for pot holders as it makes a double layer and it is not as tight/stiff as knitting a single piece, folding and sewing.

Cast on can be accomplished several different ways: cast on all stitches and then start the knit in pattern  With this, the bottom is closed, but will be longer than the width of the finished piece.  In this photo,  cast on loosely, then knit one through the back of stitch, and slipped loop of original stitch knit or purl wise – as you are comfortable.  As you can see, the bottom is smaller than the overall width of the knitted piece.  You can also cast on 1/2 the total stitches, next row slip the first stitch purl wise, then loop the yarn over the needle for the second stitch and continue to end of row, ending with yarn loop. Then begin pattern.  When doing this technique, you can create a closed bottom to the piece by holding the loop in front as if to purl.  If you hold the yarn to the back, as if to knit, the bottom will be open.

IMG_0490 (869x1024)   IMG_0492 (1024x768)  here the stitches have been separated so you can see it opens up.  the piece will look like reverse stockinette, or you can turn the piece inside out for regular stockinette look.  This is different than knitting in the round as there is a distinct fold at the edges.

cast off can also follow different techniques; cast off usual one stitch at a time and the cast off row will be longer than the width of the finished piece.  Or you can separate the stitches as shown in the above picture and cast off one stitch at a time as usual, one side at a time to leave the top open.  OR, cast off one needle and then continue to knit the other to create a pouch flap.  To close the top, and be even with the width of the piece, knit 2 together, then knit 2 together and pull the loops over as you would a regular cast off.  don’t do this too tight, but it doesn’t have to be sloppy loose.

IMG_0491 (1024x953) for this pot holder – a 50g ball of cotton worsted weight yarn (this was an old Peaches and Crème), number 9 needles.  knit on 30 stitches.  Next row, holding the yarn in front as if to purl, slip one purl wise, looped yarn for next stitch.  continued to end of row, ending with loop.

Then begin pattern stitch which is (slip one purlwise, knit next stitch), continue to end of row, ending with knit stitch. turn and repeat.  continue to piece is the size you want – 9” for this pot holder.  Bind off by knitting two together, then knitting two together.  Pass loop from first stitch over second and continue to end of row.  crochet for loop and tuck in ends.

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cowl with a twist

dreadful pictures.  This is an unknown brand of worsted acrylic yarn, about 4oz, knit on #9 circular needles.  Cast on 120 stitches, place marker, knit first few rows in garter, letting stitches twist at least twice on first round.  Then, (k2tog, yo) through row, purl next row, and continue in garter stitch for about another inch and repeat the (k2tog, yo) (purl) then garter stitch for another inch, etc. continue for about 8 inches.  bind off loosely.

IMG_0485IMG_0486

The acrylic is not the softest, drapiest yarn there is, but this a nice cowl that can offer some warmth, while just looking like a nice addition to a sweater.  This particular yarn is black with very bright color bits so it will go with a lot of different outfits.  and is long enough to not muss a hairdo when putting on and off

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Winter soups

Time to start the winter soup making! This week its potato leek. Already did 7 quarts of chicken stock. For this soup dug out some of the saved Turkey carcasses from the freezer and got the stock pot going. This morning strained that, and added Bob’s Red Mill potato flakes (instead of dairy), some chopped up potatoes, and a nice leak that had been sauted in bacon fat and garlic. Salt and pepper of course. And after cooking a bit, into the canning jars. 9 quarts. Unfortunately, my canner only takes 7 – and not enough to get out the other canner. So 2 quarts will go into the fridge for more immediate eats. Did seal the jars with canning lids so they will keep quite awhile in the fridge.

Soup like this is a great base for a richer soup as a meal, or as is for having with a sandwich or salad.
To thicken it up, add corn, more potatoes, Kale or Spinach, ham, crumbled bacon, top with a sprinkle of grated sharp cheddar.

As I love to eat, fall/winter time is my favorite for hearty meals!

Posted in canning, corn, gardening, garlic/onions, gluten free, greens, homesteading, organic, potatoes, preserving, recipes, self-reliance | Leave a comment

Easy string bag

Back when I started knitting again, about 2 years ago, made several of these bags.  Used Peaches & Crème cotton, the 2oz/98 yard balls.  It took a little while to get a “design” down, although its not much of a design since all the variations worked!  But I get so many compliments on these bags that I decided to formalize the pattern so I could share it.

For all the steps and stages, its still open to variations depending on what needles you use.  Its all straight knitting, yarn overs, and the handles are a bind off/cast on.  A few places you might need to do increases, and two rows have decreases.  But you can cast on with what ever technique you’re most comfortable with.  You can increase with what ever technique you are most comfortable with.  K2tog works fine for the decreases.  Circular needles are best for the body of the bag as the stitch is too loose for using DPNs.  But if you use something to hold the stitches on the needles, DPNs will also work.  The lightest color bag in the pictures was all #13 needles, except for the change over to #9’s.  The others started with #13s, went to #15s, and then back to #9’s.  If you use #13’s, you will probably want to add an extra row of pattern to get the bag size.  But as you can see from the pictures, that little bag holds 10 lbs of potatoes!  You can certainly use more than a single ball of yarn and make a bigger bag.  But remember it will be that much heavier to carry!

The increases to make the bag opening, with the smaller needles is a  necessity.  otherwise the mouth of the bag will be small and hard to get objects – like 5 lb bags of potatoes – into the bag.  If you want a bag that will have a smaller opening so stuff is less likely to fall out, then go for it.

These are washable, but being 100% cotton, you will probably have some shrinkage. Still, they stretch open and hold a lot of groceries. always keep an eye on the balance of yarn on the ball as I’ve found these to vary greatly despite the label and have just managed to finish, or have had yarn left over despite extra rows of knitting!

IMG_0469 (768x1024)     IMG_0472 (768x1024)            IMG_0471 (768x1024)

Yarn: Peaches and Crème 100% cotton, 2oz/98 yard, or any similar type yarn.  Acrylics will stretch too much and don’t have the strength you need

Needles: #13’s, straight or circular, #15 circular if you have them, #9 circular.  two markers.

ALL STITCHES ARE DONE LOOSELY.  Looser the better!

cast on 9 stitches by your favorite technique on #13 needles (I like to knit on)

knit next row, increasing by one stitch at the second stitch to 10 stitches.  Do the same for the next row, increasing to 11 stitches. 

Knit 10 rows

Next row, knit1, k2tog, and knit to end of row, back to 10 stitches. Next row do the same, back to 9 stitches.  This is the bottom of the bag.

Switching to circular needles, pick up stitches around edge of knitted piece. 

You are ultimately looking for 60 stitches to make the body of the bag (plus or minus a few is not important.  less is a taller, thinner bag, more will make a fatter, shorter bag). You don’t need to pick up 60 at this point.  You can increase accordingly on the next row.

when you have picked up your stitches, count, and prepare to increase for the next row if necessary.  You will also switch to #15 circular needle if you want.

Knit the next row, increasing if necessary. Place a marker to indicate beginning/end of row.

Next row, (K1, yo) all the way around keeping stitches loose

Next row, Knit the knit stitches and drop the yo.   Repeat

Next row, (K1, yo) all the way around.    Next row, Knit the knit stitches, drop the yo, but now yo again before the next knit (K1,dropyo, yo).  Now knit the next row dropping the yo.   repeat pattern

knit next row

next row,  (k1, double yo).  Next row, knit the knit stitches and drop the double yo. 

knit next row.

IT IS VERY EASY TO DROP STITCHES DOING THIS AND VERY DIFFICULT TO SEE THEM. SO BE CAREFUL AND CHECK FOR THE LOOSE LOOPS ON EACH ROW.  A LOOSE LOOP MAY BE JUST THAT, OR MAYBE A DROPPED STITCH.  PICK THEM UP AS QUICKLY AND SOON AS POSSIBLE OR YOU WILL HAVE BIG OPENINGS IN THE PATTERN, BIG ENOUGH TO LET YOUR GROCERIES SPILL OUT!!

If you are using #13 needles, you may want to put another double yo row to give yourself a deeper bag, but it is not necessary.

Next row will be a (k1,yo) through the row.

For the next row, time to switch to the #9 circulars, and to increase to 80 stitches.  The easiest way to do this here is to knit your knit stitches, dropping some of the yo’s and knitting others until you have your 80.  If you wind up with 78 or 82 its all good.

Knit next row.  Here you will want to place a second marker at the half way point.

Beginning the next row, bind off 10 stiches, knit to next marker, b/o 10 stitches.

Next row, knit into the first two bound off stitches.  This will give your handles extra strength. cast on 15 stitches, then continue knitting to next marker.  repeat for the second handle.  Now knit around until you have just enough yarn left on your ball to do the b/o round.  it should be at least 3-4 rows of knitting.  The more rows the more comfortable the handle will be in your hand.

b/o loosely and secure ends. Blocking is not necessary.  Putting in a five pound bag of potatoes will take care of evening out the stitching!

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