Too Many Tomatoes?

We didn’t do any canning this year, so the freezer is packed with quarts and quarts of tomato sauce and pints and pints of tomato paste.  We’re out of room – what to do with the last few pounds of San Marzano heirloom tomatoes? Here’s a recipe for a simple way to put  up a few more tomatoes. They’re delicious and versatile – use them on pizzas, pasta, salads… or just have them with some bread, cheese and wine. Yum.

The recipe is kind of a zen thing. If you’re not comfortable just wingin’ it, email me and we can work out the particulars. Here we go:

1) Slice the tomatoes in half and cut out the stems – they don’t need to be cored or seedless. This should be quick and easy.

2) Gently toss the tomato halves with (here comes the zen part) – enough olive oil, sea salt and ground pepper to taste, enough garlic chunks to make you happy, and a sprinkle of dried oregano. Roasted San Marzano Tomatoes with Garlic

3) Place the tomatoes face up in a single layer on a sheet pan – parchment paper is a good idea.

4) Roast for 2.5 hours at 275F

That’s it – easy and quite tasty.

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Another Great Hop Harvest!

Cascade HopsWow – year after year it keeps getting better.  I planted these rhizomes in the spring of 2009 and had a meager harvest that fall.  Pretty much as expected.  Last year they did pretty well – I took 3 harvests from them.  The first harvest was early and harsh.  They were starting to be infected with some kind of wilt and also with whitefly.  I cut them all the way back to the ground – except for a couple of new shoots that had recently emerged. I don’t Cascade Hops recall how much I got, but enough to brew a batch or two of beer.

The new shoots grew like crazy – back up to the roof in just a few weeks. Then I picked off a 2nd harvest leaving the bines in place to grow more hop cones.  That harvest turned into a homesteading failure… I had the hops in my high tech drier, but I was not diligent in giving them the occasional shake, and I probably had too many hop cones in each bag. Tragically – they molded.

The 3rd harvest was another good one.  I dried them properly, bagged ’em, froze ’em and brewed with them throughout the year – just ran out a few months ago.

This year the cascades are doing really well. The nuggets – not so much. In prior years I had just looped some lengths of coir twine around the chimney.  Each rhizome got 2 paths to grow.  This year I put a 14 foot bamboo pole behind the chimney. Then I added more coir trellising up to the roof to give them more space to grow.  You may be able to see in the 2nd picture that the cascades have 4 pairs of coir rope to climb. They hit the roof and still wanted more vertical space. Time to harvest.

Now… to this season’s first harvest. The cones are beautiful and fragrant and huge. I got just over 3 pounds wet. I put about 1/2 pound each into 6 brown paper bags, rolled the tops over and put them in the car. There the heat is enough to help them dry quickly, but not so hot that the aromatics are all released. (And it does smell pretty wonderful in the car.) After 1 week they’ve dried to the point that the stems are quite brittle – they’ll snap instead of bending.

The 3 lbs wet dried to 9 ounces. One ounce of dried hop cones will fit (with some convincing) into a 1 qt ziploc freezer bag. Your hands will wind up with some of the yellow lupulin sacs on them and will smell like pure hop oil. When all the air is squeezed out and the bags are sealed with tape, they are very flat – less than 1/2 inch thick – and can be put in a paper bag (or something that will block light) and then into the freezer to slow oxidation. Time to brew!!!

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What’s eating my raspberry leaves?

Do you know what causes this kind of damage to raspberry leaves? I recently noticed that one plant (of the 6 in the area) appears to have been munched on.  Whatever it is, it’s made a lace out of the leaves. I looked around and checked the undersides of several of the leaves and I don’t see any bugs. I did some googling and found somebody else that looks to have the same problem, but not a lot of answers there either.



I’m also trying to find out what has caused this yellowing of the leaves on a neighboring plant. My research is leading me to believe it is a mineral deficiency, probably manganese. I’m thinking it’s time to try some manganese sulfate. Any ideas?  Please leave me a comment.

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12 Weeks Old

The chicks were 12 weeks old in this photo which was taken in the first week of August.  They love getting treats of bugs and grass, and the occasional scraps from the kitchen, but they are getting most of their nutrition from their starter/grower crumbles.



We were still using their little trough feeder which needed to be refilled daily, and which they kicked over way too often. I decided to make some modifications… I lashed it to a brick paver so it would stay put, and I added a filler pipe that holds enough food for several days.

It was pretty easy to do – I notched the pipe a little bit so that the feeder would slide into the bottom.  Then I used the ubiqitous duct tape to hold it all together and to keep the crumble from leaking out the sides/bottom. I drilled a keyhole in the top of the pipe and mounted it on a screw in the framing of the run. A planter drip-tray made a convenient lid.

The other ‘system’ you can see here is the waterer. I used a decommissioned 5 gallon bottling bucket from my original homebrew kit, and a short length of pvc pipe into the run. Since the bucket sits outside the run, I can clean and refill it easily. Then I added two of the push-in nipple waterers (they’re the orange bits in the photo above) which you can get for a couple bucks each in the watering section of the poultry equipment, from  I’d strongly recommend getting some extra grommets – at 45 cents each, it’s just good for the peace of mind.  Unless you have exactly the right drill bit and technique, you may end up tearing a grommet on your first attempt.

I love setting up systems that let me be lazy, and these were two pretty easy additions. I still visit the girls a couple times a day, but my time is more flexible now.

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We got our chickens this weekend.  We went to Double S Tack and Feed in El Cajon.  It was a bit of a drive, but we had really liked the store on our first visit.

The previous weekend we had gone out to Double S.  The store was hosting a customer appreciation party to celebrate the store’s first year under new management.   They had pony rides and street tacos, and it was fun.  They had a pretty good selection and the people there were very nice. While we were there picked up everything but the chicks. We got the heat lamp, wood chip bedding, feed, feeder, waterer…

The selection had thinned a bit during the week.  The delawares were gone. We had intended to get 3, but after we picked them out, the guy said there was a ‘buy 3 get 1 free’ deal (I’m pretty sure he fabricated that right on the spot as a way to move some aging inventory) so we took the extra one too. We got 2 barred rocks, 1 star, and 1 rhode island red.  They are happily occupying a large box in the basement.  I took the week off work to entertain/enjoy the babies and to put the final touches on the coop.

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