tax day

At least for some people.  For me, it was getting one section of the garden cleaned up and organized. 

IMG_1025 (618x1280) First, the tale of the Goal Zero 1000.  This was from Costco of all places and seems to be an unique item from them.  Could not get the solar panel input plug to acknowledge the panel.  As I have a smaller unit and that one immediately acknowledges the panel, had to presume it was something with the input jack.  At indeed it seems to be exactly that.  It takes full sun PLUS a few minutes for the input jack to light up and start working.  Think it must have something to do with some circuitry to protect the Lithium battery from over charge.  That it has to wait until its at full power for it to recognize its an okay power source.  So now that has been solved, it has taken approximately 10 hours for the panel to take the unit from 32% to 100% charge.

IMG_1016 (1280x960)My folding garden cart.  Costco has one for more than half the price I paid for this one with Gardeners Supply.  But theirs is made in China and this one is made in Canada.  The tires on this are FAT so they don’t cut into the soil or into hoses (should one be run over) and the insert is well made with padded panels on the bottom to provide stiffness, plus little pockets to carry tools and stuff.  Hauled two x 2 cu foot bags of soil today through soft sandy uneven terrain and it did okay.  The front wheels though get to be like a bad shopping cart and can end up sideways instead of facing forward, especially as you go around turns.  But it moved that soil, then shifted a big pot of Rhubarb and helped me move a full composter.


IMG_1018 (1280x960)This is one of the pop up shelters I’m trying out this year.  its 4×4 and sitting over a 4×4 pallet with a 3’ diameter grow bag under it.  To its left is a raised planter that has just been planted with some lettuce as it’s a cooler spot as the season heats up.

IMG_1019 (1280x960) Last year, while we were on vacation, our house sitter forgot to water the ginseng and it was all dead by the time we got back.  Surprisingly it has come back.  Maybe its just too hot by June, we’ll see this year as we are not going to take that much time off this year.

IMG_1020 (960x1280)You can sort of make out the cheapy shelf unit under this plastic cover.  It was given to me a few years ago and had gotten an equally cheapy plastic cover for it to create a quasi-shed on the other side of the yard.  This way I’ve got tools there and tools in the other growing area and don’t have to schlep back and forth.  Heavy winds the other day took it all down and ripped up the cover.  Since that unit is no longer available, had to make do with another style cover.  This is heavier, but deeper, and not quite tall enough.  Still, its to keep stuff covered and protected from the elements and from blowing around all over.  Using some poles and the tie rings to attach it to the trees on either side, have my shed once again with more space for a neater area.

IMG_1021 (1280x960)the row, nearest is some Lemon balm in the ground, then a grow bag of arugala (which it turns out we don’t really like), some onion starts that never got planted and an overwintered fig that has just been replanted.  Then a squat container of Rhubarb that has just been moved into that location, next to a large grow bag of rhubarb.  Its starting to flower, so keeping after them so it will go back to making stalks. Then three blueberry pushes, one already producing fruit.  Have just added a bit more soil to all the bags as it has settled last year.  At the very end is a grow bag with an Amaryllis.

IMG_1022 (616x799)To the right is a nectarine that has yet to produce fruit.  Was going to rip it out and decided to give it one more year, being careful to protect it from freeze/frost after it has flowered just in case that is why I’m not setting fruit.  That’s what happened to the apricot, it could be the same here and I’ve just not seen the beginnings of the fruit before it gets frozen.  Next to that is a Doyle Thornless blackberry just planted.  That’s where the composter used to be as well as the squat container of rhubarb.

IMG_1023 (1280x960)more of the pop up covers.  This is an 8foot by 4foot  over one 4×4 container and a 3’ grow bag. Nothing planted inside them yet, and these are also fitted with ollas.  The one of the left will have peppers and eggplants, and those are the supports for them.  Getting ready.

IMG_1024 (1280x960)This 2’ grow bag is waiting.  Am thinking bush beans.  also with an olla.  Behind it the composter.  This is the location had originally though to put it, but it does not get a lot of sun in the winter in this spot.  Still, want growing space, so it gets relegated to the side.

Have been harvesting asparagus.  Tomorrow, move to the other garden area for clean up, watering, and planting of grapes and berries.

Oh yeah, planted tubers of Tumeric and Ginger in pots in the greenhouse today too.

Posted in asparagus, compost, container gardening, fruit, gardening, garlic/onions, greenhouse, greens, grow bags, homesteading, legumes, organic, prepping, self-reliance, solar, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Goal Zero at Costco

As some of you may know, I’m something of a fan of the Goal Zero product even though it is made in China.  Started out with a Yeti 150, which was pretty much useless, unless all I ever wanted to do with it was power a C-Pap machine and charge a cell phone while on an overnight camping trip.

Traded up to a Yeti 400 and a Renology 100W solar panel with the appropriate connector for charging the Yeti and was a happy camper.  As it happens, my Yeti 400 gets used regularly for power the pumps that take water from my storage tanks to my garden – that sits uphill from the house.

Had wanted to go bigger – MORE POWER!! – but the price was heafty and the weight with the lead acid battery heaftier!

Then, they came out with the Lithium battery.  Made the units lighter, but more expensive.  The Yeti 150 remains a lead acid battery and is $230, which equals $1.53/watt hour (the 150 means the battery is good for 150 watts hour -or in other words, a 150W incandescent light bulb will burn for one hour, a 50w low voltage equivalent to 150W will burn for 3 hours).

The Yeti 400, with the lead acid battery as I have it is $460, or $1.15/watt hour.  The Yeti 400 Lithium is $700 or $1.75/watt hour.

The next level up from Goal Zero is their Yeti 1250 with lead acid battery, weighing 103lbs and costing $1600, or $1.28/watt hour (the Yeti 400 is so far the best buy!).

Then there is the Yeti 1400, good for 1425watt hours at a price of $2000 or $1.40/watt hour – definitely better price/watt hour than the Yeti 400. And only 45.7lbs!!

Lithium batteries are a mixed level of acceptance for me.  They hold a charge longer off the charger than the lead acid, and they certainly are lighter.  But Lithium Ion batteries still have a mixed reputation for FIRE!!

Anyway, back to the story.

So there I am in Costco and they have a Goal Zero Yeti 1000!  This is NOT in the Goal Zero catalog.   BUT, Costco is known for having the pull, and the market, to get one off’s for them alone.  BEST, this unit costs $1000.  basically, $1/watt hour.  DEAL!

If it works!

So far the solar input connection is not working.  Hooked it right up to the solar panel and NOTHING!  NA DA!  Hooked it to the regular house 120v and the light came on and the panel responded to the input.

Was it my solar panel or wiring?  Hooked up my Yeti400 and its fine.

So have e-mailed Goal Zero.  In the past they have been very prompt with replies and appropriate action.  Am not keen on having to send this back, but if that’s what needs to be done, so be it!

So do I need TWO Yeti’s.  probably not, but this does allow me to keep one in a faraday cage while the other is working, and am sure there are places where this will get hauled out and used instead of running extra long extension cords.

And why Goal Zero?  Well, Humless is still more expensive, without having any kind of panel to let you know how its charging and where in the charging / useage level you are. Goal Zero has high quality panels, but VERY expensive, though other panels will work with their products.  They’ve proven themselves to be a reliable product and a reliable company.  There are other people offering packages about the same price or a little less, but they are a guy (or gal) building them up one at a time.  What kind of back up are you getting if you have a problem? and they are, so far, using the lead acid battery which makes a HEAVY product.

Posted in homesteading, prepping, self-reliance, solar, Uncategorized, water | Leave a comment

sous vide advantage

Since being introduced to Sous Vide cooking, have found it useful for pretty much every day cooking.  Working from home doesn’t always mean the noon day meal is easily done, especially as it is our BIG meal of the day and we have been BUSY.

Thankful for the busy.

Thankful for the Sous Vide.

Can put the meat part on as early as 8am for the noon meal, earlier if its a thick cut.  Then quick sides, brown the meat for a few minutes and dinner is done.

Like a lot of you, also have a vacuum sealer and freezer for buying in bulk or on sale.

With the Sous Vide, I sent up the meal.  The meat goes into the bag, marinade or other seasoning with it, yes, I use a no chemical paper towel, and vacuum it shut.  Mark it carefully and into the freezer it goes.   Having Chicken today?  Out comes the vacuum bag, into the Sous Vide cooker (in our case its a 6qt stainless stock pot) and on with my business.  Don’t have to defrost it, just put it on for two hours instead of just the one.  Usually, by the time the water has come up to temperature, the meat is defrosted.

If its a tough cut of meat, again, a little longer in the hot water.

The idea of the Sous Vide is you set the temperature to the temperature of how you want your meat cooked.  Medium rare steak is one temperature, well done another.  Like your chicken just cooked, set the temp accordingly.  My husband likes it falling apart done, which is another.  BUT, despite being well done, because its cooked in a sealed bag, it doesn’t dry out!

Wish I’d known about this stuff when I worked outside the home.  Of course, programmable units and blutooth operated units didn’t exist then.  Now you can set this up like a slow cooker so its ready when you get home, just have to make the sides.

And reheating left overs is a snap, no drying out!

My vacuum sealer is getting regular use again, and we’re eating better!


Posted in homesteading, prepping, preserving, recipes, self-reliance, sous vide, Uncategorized, water | Leave a comment

canner good, tattler no so much

The advice that was given to fix my steaming canner worked.

An All American canner, 3M red pad, lightly clean the mating surfaces to get rid of all remaining hardened Vaseline, a good dose of Olive Oil as lubricant and canner worked PERFECTLY!

As had been suggested, canned some quarts of water.  This so the canner was actually having to work to heat stuff up and hold pressure. and if this wasn’t the problem, wouldn’t lose any food.   Since I’d already been thinking of canning water, set up 7 quart jars.  4 had the last of the Tattler lids, 3 reused regular two piece lids.  The regular lids had previously been on water canned fruit, so they weren’t bent out of shape.  Just a little dimple from the can opener that definitely had not pierced the metal.

and TWO – that’s 50% of the tattler lids failed to seal.

Since we’re talking water here, no biggy.  Which was part of the point of using water.

Very disappointed in the Tattler lids.  Know some people swear by them and have no problems, but my results do not match theirs.

Posted in canning, homesteading, prepping, preserving, self-reliance, Uncategorized, water | Leave a comment

More on DUH

Almost immediately after writing my post DUH Moment, found an article about growing ginger and turmeric in any climate.  Now, just have to find viable rhizomes.  Have tried Ginger before; rhizomes from the grocery store were more viable than those from the health food store!  But neither really grew.

Posted in container gardening, gardening, grow bags, herbal healing, homesteading, organic, prepping, self-reliance, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

DUH moment

Yesterday had a DUH moment; and its not the first time for this one.  But, it gets forgotten as ego overrides common sense.

Regarding my medicinal herb garden: Since I believe in using what grows in your area gives added benefit that buying prepared or even dried herbs grown elsewhere, there are a lot of “healing” herbs that I’ve tried to grow here.  Have bought seeds, have bought plants.  Some take, some don’t.  Don’t know how many years arnica seeds have been planted to never get past the first two leaves – IF they even sprout!

On the other hand, some things have done well – like hyssop, bee balm, yarrow.  Of course grow garlic and things like oregano, rosemary, and thyme.  Some years are better for basil than others.  We have a variety of Oregon Grape that grows in abundance as a wild plant. Comfrey does well in a container – not in the ground.

Think you see where this is going; not what I want to grow, but what grows that is useful!


Posted in comfrey, container gardening, gardening, garlic/onions, herbal healing, homesteading, organic, prepping, preserving, self-reliance, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Buy American!

Have an All American 915 canner.  This is a made in Wisconsin, all aluminum – milled out of a solid block of aluminum – canner.  No gaskets.  Heavy as hell, takes forever to cool.  and there is no way, no matter how bad it gets, that this canner will explode.  okay, put explosives in it . . . the walls are thick and the lid is clamped down with 6 separate screw down clamps.  Has a pressure gauge as well as a “jiggler” set for 5 – 10 – 15 lbs.

And mine has been leaking steam through the lid.

and it seems the answer, which I still have to check out, is simple!

FIRST – a PHONE CALL from the customer service rep at the Wisconsin Foundry.  Yes, an real live American, from Wisconsin, on the phone, rather than an e-mail.  Tells you how bad things are that such a call totally makes my day!!

So it seems that Vaseline is OUT as a lubricant for these canners and Olive Oil is in.  a couple of reasons for that, and one is that the Vaseline will stick to the surface and harden giving an uneven sealing surface.  A red scotchbrite pad is the recommended cure for that.  Be sure to NOT sand down the sealing surface unevenly – then nothing will help – this is just to clean it up.  Then Olive Oil.  will have to buy a cheap bottle for just this purpose.

Not that I’ve been without a canner, but there is something about that 915 that’s special!

Posted in canning, homesteading, prepping, preserving, recipes, self-reliance, Uncategorized, water | Leave a comment