These weeds are turning into the bane of my gardening existence, since they seem to be going at an exponential pace. I’ve already gone with a stirrup hoe on the left hand side of the garden, since the soil was a bit loose. But on the right hand side, which has all the onion, that soil is as firm as hell, so using the stirrup hoe was a big waste of time. Maybe next weekend, I’ll bust out the string trimmer, and really go to town on the right hand side of the garden.
But check out the hops! The Centennial is already at the ~10ft mark on the A-Frame, and its only been about two weeks since the last set of pics. Even the Golding is doing better this year compared to last year. Maybe it has something to do with all the heavy shade being provided by the surrounding rhubarb.
So I went to the transplant sale a few weeks ago over at Turtle Farm, and picked up a whole pile of random seedlings, and here is what I ended up getting (I’ve included links with more info for some of the more off-beat items):
So I have a pretty good variety of random stuff for the garden. And we’ll see what does or doesn’t do well in the garden this year.
You’ll also notice that the seedlings that I started are looking better compared to a few weeks ago. I guess there really is something to using a bulb that is more in the blue spectrum. Since these seedlings are definitely looking hardier than they were two weeks ago. A few more days, and all these seedlings are going to be put into the ground, and the garden will then officially be up and running for the season.
Seeing how last year was a complete failure in trying to grow hops diagonally, I’ve reconstructed the old EMT conduit A-Frame, since it was just sitting in a pile of parts in the backyard. And the reconstruction was just in the nick of time, since the Centennial is growing like gangbusters. The Golding is going on the slow side, but so far it’s doing better this year, then it was last year.
You’ll also notice that the rhubarb has already gone to seed, which is earlier than I was expecting. But none the less, all I did was take my pruners and just cut off the seed heads, since I don’t need the seeds, and the seed head also takes away from stalk production. But as the pics can attest, I’m not really in a shortage of rhubarb stalks this early in the season.
For some reason this year, the weeds are growing like crazy in the main garden. So I’ll have to finally bust out the stirrup hoe or string trimmer one of the nights and do some heavy duty weeding to get the garden ready for the May 20th transplant date.
As far as the peppers and the tomatoes, those are both on schedule to be transplanted around May 20th. But the herbs are looking VERY weak this year. So this year, instead of going to Goode’s Greenhouse or Menards, I’m heading up to Turtle Farm, to round out all the seedlings that didn’t come in this year. But I’ll also pick up a bunch of random plants, just for fun. Since I’m always up for growing something different.
So we’ll see what that farm has to offer this weekend!
One other this I did this weekend was to change out the fluorescent bulbs above the seedlings, since the seedlings were looking a bit “leggy.” I talked with my farmer neighbor, and apparently when you start plants, you are supposed to use a bulb that is more in the red spectrum. But then after the seedlings have germinated, you’re supposed to transition to a bulb that is more in the blue spectrum. Apparently this is supposed to mimic the sun in going from spring to summer. Talk about learning something new everyday, since I’d never heard of this before, so I might as well give it a shot.
It’s still a bit chilly outside, at this point in the year. But you can already see the hops, rhubarb & green onions starting to grow like crazy. I can just feel that summer is right around the corner.
At this point I’m shooting for a transplant date of May 20th, 2011, for all the seedlings that are growing in the house. And a few days after Mother’s Days, I’ll start the transplants for the corn & cucumbers, since they only need a day to germinate, and about 4 days before they are big enough to be transplanted outside.
We are now in full seedling mode in the house. Most of the time, I’ve been keeping the seedlings in the house, since its still in the high 40’s to low 50’s outside. But on the couple of days these past few weeks, it’s been in the high 60’s, so I was able to take both flats outside for a couple of hours of sun in the late afternoon and early evening.
For some reason the only seeds that haven’t germinated out of the two flats, are the bell pepper, rosemary & cilantro seeds. So it looks like I’ll just have to pick these plants up, when I go to the seedling sale at Turtle Farm up in Granger, in about two to three weeks.
The seedling sale starts next weekend (Easter Weekend) at Turtle Farm, but I’d rather wait until it’s a little bit closer to Mother’s Day, just so I don’t have a bunch of seedlings getting “leggy” in the house, when they would be better off in the greenhouse over at Turtle Farm for the time being.
As tribute to the Nick Cage/John Travolta movie…..we are going to have a Face (hand motion) Off.
Once again I picked up two crazy looking flavors, and surprisingly, I thought that these two chips would be very similar in taste, but they ended up being pretty different. Both in the intensity of the hot sauce hot, as well as the overall flavor.
First up are the Hot Sauce chips from Herr’s, and the description on the bag perfectly describes these chips, which is chips with a coating of dried hot sauce on them. You maybe get a little bit too much of the vinegar flavor, that you would have with a cayenne based hot sauce (such as Texas Pete or Franks.) But in actuality it’s the cayenne and vinegar that make these hot sauces who they are, so you really can’t fault Herr’s for trying to capture the full essence of a hot sauce on a wavy potato chip.
Lastly we have the Ruffles Molten Hot Wings, and these chips kind of surprised me, since I was expecting them to be close in flavor to the Herr’s chips, but they really weren’t. With the key difference being that the Ruffles have not only the hot sauce flavor, but they also have some chicken bullion added in, so that you actually kind of think that you’re eating a buffalo wing, even though you are eating a potato chip. I wouldn’t necessarily say that the flavor is “molten”, but they are mildly hot, and quite interesting for a chip flavor.
Unfortunately in the end I thought this challenge was going to be more like apples vs. apples, but it turned out to be more of apples vs. oranges. Both chips overall have a good flavor, it’s just that with the addition of the chicken flavor on the Ruffles, it puts them in the same category in my mind as the Baby Back Ribs chips from Herr’s, due to the addition of a “protein” flavor on the chips. But really, if you are looking for a chip with hot sauce flavoring, either one is more then adequate to satisfy your desire for hot sauce. I know it did for me.
I haven’t made a chicken stock at home, in at least a couple of years. With the main reason being that I usually just buy chicken stock by the 1 quart carton at Aldi, which covers most of my chicken stock needs. But with chicken bones piling up in the fridge and freezer, it was time to finally bit the bullet and make up a batch of stock.
Personally I’ve gotten to the point where I really don’t even use a recipe when making up a batch of stock, but I do make sure that it always includes the following four items: water, chicken, vegetables, and herbs/spices.
So to break it down even further, here is what I ended up using for this batch of chicken stock:
One whole young chicken cut up into seven pieces (2 breasts, 2 wings, 2 thighs and the spine)
Three Quart sized plastic bags of “chicken bones” (this includes wing tips, leftover skin, breast bones & thigh bones)
A large handful of frozen parsley stems
A quart sized bag of frozen green onions
One whole head of fresh celery
6-10 large carrots
A couple of tablespoons of whole black peppercorns
Four or five Bay Leaves
Four or five cloves of frozen garlic
Enough water to cover all the ingredients by 1″, plus you’ll need to add more water after the first 12 hours of simmering.
Having assembled all the ingredients, I realized that I needed to use my strike water kettle from my homebrewing set-up to cook this stock, since my 12 quart pot wasn’t going to cut it for all these ingredients. As a side note, since I was using my strike water kettle. I should have heated up the pot and contents on my propane turkey fryer burner, since it would have brought the mixture up to boiling much more rapidly compared to my electric range. But with that lesson out of the way, it’s time for the “boring” part of making stock, which is letting the mixture simmer for as long as possible. So after the stock was brought to a boil, I let is simmer for 24 hours, so that every last bit of flavor was extracted from the ingredients.
And speaking of flavor, I almost forgot to mention a step before the actual boiling/simmering of the stock. Which is roasting all the ingredients under the broiler. Since I had so many ingredients for this stock, I ended up using two half-sized jelly roll pans for all the ingredients (except for the bay & peppercorns.) Make sure to give everything a light coating of olive oil, and then roast the ingredients (turning often) until they are good and browned all around, which should take about 30-60 mins depending on your broiler and the rack setting of your oven.
So with the roasting and simmering done, strain out all of the solids from the stock, and chill overnight. The next day, remove the fat cap on the stock, and bring the stock to a full boil, and reduce by about half to concentrate the flavors. And now you have a pot of chicken stock to use for whatever cooking needs you have.
After three days we already have some activity in the flats. From flat #1 the swiss chard has sprouted, and from flat #2 the basil has sprouted.
I’m especially surprised about the basil, since it usually takes about 2 weeks to germinate. But seeing how both flats have a heating pad that is keeping the growing environment at a constant 80F, the accelerated germination shouldn’t be surprising (but it still is to me.)
But with the basil & swiss chard having sprouted, I’ve set-up the grow lights and a timer to begin an artificial light schedule starting on Sunday morning at 6am. Let the growing season begin!
I’m a little late in starting my seedlings this year, but not by too much, since last year I started my seedlings in mid-March. But with a later start to my seedlings, I also plan on waiting at least a week after Mother’s Day before I do any transplanting this year. So any late start is a moot point.
But after reviewing my growing notes from last year. I put together 2 flats of seedlings, one with all herbs, and the other all vegetables. I’m holding off on starting the sweet corn & cucumbers until a week before transplanting, since both seeds only take a day to germinate, so there is no sense in starting them this early. But for the two flats that I did start, here is the breakdown of all 72 cells in each flat:
Flat #1 – Vegetables 9 cells – JSS Jalapenos
9 cells – Aji Limo
6 cells – JSS Eva Tomatoes
6 cells – JSS Voyager Tomatoes
6 cells – JSS Debarao Tomatoes
3 cells – Big Boy Tomatoes
6 cells – Roma Tomatoes
9 cells – Swiss Chard
9 cells – Bell Peppers
9 cells – Saved seeds from a tomato that had very little pulp in 2010