Friday, March 23, 2012
Alternate your tomato bed between even just two spots and you diminish the risk of soil borne diseases such as bacterial spot and early blight.
When buying tomato seedlings, beware of lush green starts with poor root systems. They will languish for weeks before growing.
Plant your tomato seedlings up to the first true leaves. New roots will quickly sprout on the stems. More roots means more fruits. (tried to tell someone this yesterday who wasn't listening as they knew better)
Soak your tomato bed once a week, or every five days at the height of summer. Water directly on the soil, not on the leaves.
Prune off these non-fruiting branches. This directs the tomato plant's energy into growing bigger, better fruit.
Use 6-foot stakes for indeterminate varieties like the 'Brandywine' tomato. Put in the stakes when transplanting to avoid damaging roots.
While the first fruit is ripening, encourage new growth and continued fruit set by scratching compost around the stem, and trim some of the upper leaves.
Three weeks after you plant tomatoes in your garden, put in another set so all of your harvest doesn't come at once.
Heirloom tomatoes that are too ripe can be mealy. Harvest them when they're full size and fully colored.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
• Use as a fire starter and then use the ashes to raise the pH of garden soils.
• Use as a weed-suppressing mulch. Lay them down several pages thick and cover the paper with a thin layer of hay, pine needles, or wood chips to make aisles between your garden beds.
• Create a new garden spot without mechanical tillage. Lay down a thick layer of newspapers and top off with a thinner layer of hay, straw, or leaves. By the following spring, the grass underneath will have died!
• Protect young vegetable seedlings from cutworms. Wrap the lower stem with a tight collar of wet newspaper that extends an inch into the soil and at least an inch above the soil line.
• Clean windows. Crumpled newspaper and white vinegar make an unbeatable combo for washing windows and other glass surfaces.
• Cut-flower holder, wrapping paper (cartoons especially), and funny hats!
Monday, March 12, 2012
Why You Should Use a Pressure Cooker
Learning to use a pressure cooker could save you time and
Do the words "pressure cooker" bring fear to your heart? Do
you have visions of grandma's double-decker aluminum
monolithic model needing a forklift to move it? Do you fear
permanent facial scaring from flying pressure cooker shrapnel
and scalding tomato bits? If so, please consider the time,
money, and energy savings a pressure cooker can bring to your
Food Network's Chef Alton Brown assures us that pressure
cookers today are safe, efficient, and friendly to use. They
come in a variety of sizes, from large canning models to
medium-sized stockpots to others hardly bigger than a frying
pan. Electric or stovetop varieties are available. They can be
used for cooking meats, rice, legumes, and vegetables as well
as for the traditional pressure canning.
French innovation first led to steam technology in 1679.
Napoleon later used this unique way to avoid food spoilage as
a military secret. Word eventually leaked out of France and
pressure cooking became widespread. Americans use of pressure
cooking has been rather fickle since WWII, but it is now
making a comeback. European and Asian cooks have continuously
used this method due to low energy usage. We would be wise to
follow their lead.
Chef Arlyn Hackett says, "We are in the new age of pressure
cookers." Our user friendly second generation pressure cookers
come in aluminum or stainless steel with a variety of features
like precision spring valves and safety locking devices, which
only allow opening when pressure level is safe.
Saving Time Saves Energy Costs - Pressure cooking reduces
cooking time, usually using only a third of the time of stove
top cooking and much less than that for slow cooking. This
cuts the energy costs for cooking. An electric pressure cooker
uses only 110 volts rather than 220 and both types keep a
summer kitchen cooler.
Broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, potatoes, carrots, and
other root vegetables all cook in under five minutes. Even an
artichoke that might take an hour to cook in boiling water
will be done in twelve minutes. Rice takes eleven minutes.
Whole chickens and roasts are falling off of the bones in
flavorful tenderness in less than an hour.
Saving Time Saves Food Costs - And it encourages home cooked
meals. A wholesome soup can be made in 30 minutes, feeding a
family for a fraction of the price of buying hearty soups in a
can. Pressure cooking tenderizes less expensive cuts of meat
and cooks whole chickens rather than more expensive chicken
parts. Chicken, beef, pork and venison fall from the bones and
make perfectly shredded meat, which can be used in soups,
stews, sandwiches, salads and casseroles. (I add onion,
celery, garlic, and at times, I also bay leaf, green chilies,
Cajun, Mexican or Asian spices to the meat for mouthwatering
flavor and excellent broth.) Meats and broths/stocks can be
frozen in recipe-sized portions to be quickly pulled out for
easy future meal preparation, saving time and money on those
meals too! It's a wise, time-conscious investment.
Saving Time Promotes Healthy Choices - In our fast-paced
lifestyles, many families find themselves running for fast
foods or buying processed foods that have less preparation
time. These are often less healthy foods filled with
additives, salt, saturated fats, and high calorie counts.
Those foods contribute to health problems connected to
obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
Eating healthy can save money in medical cost savings.
Pressure cooking uses minimal amounts of water so nutrients
remain in the food and are not poured down the drain. When
using a pressure cooker, you control what you eat. Consider
buying and eating fresh foods that can be pressure cooked (not
overcooked) and ready to eat in minutes. Fresher, tastier
meals can also be packed to reheat for healthier work lunches.
When choosing a pressure cooker, Alton Brown and Chef Hackett
stress that heavy is best. One adviser says, "If it feels
cheap, don't buy it." Choose double-handles for safe handling
and a three-ply bottom to avoid scorching food. A sense of
confidence can be gained by carefully reading all directions
and planning to stay nearby when using a pressure cooker. With
a little practice, this is well worth the payoffs of time and
money saved. Plus, you'll have delicious, healthy meals to
Many notable cooking personalities promote pressure cooking.
Wolfgang Puck sells his line of electric pressure cookers on
Home Shopping Network
, which also offers a
pressure cooking cookbook by Tori Ritchie. Several brands of
cookers are available on
. Emeril Lagasse is
another avid pressure cooking advocate. See his recipes and
. There are several interesting
and instructive videos on
. Check your local
library, bookstores and recipe websites for more ideas. Each
instruction manual has recipes also.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Make your own cleaning products. Homemade cleaners are simple and a great way to save money.
WARNING: Never mix cleaning products containing bleach and ammonia, as dangerous fumes will result.
2 tablespoons dishwashing liquid
2 teaspoons borax
1/4 cup ammonia
1–1/2 cups warm water
Mix the ingredients together, apply to oven spills, and let sit for 20 to 30 minutes. Scrub with an abrasive nylon-backed sponge and rinse well.
3/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup borax
Combine the baking soda and borax. Mix in enough dishwashing liquid to make a smooth paste. If you prefer a pleasant smell, add 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice to the paste.
1/4 cup ammonia
1/4 cup dishwashing liquid
3/4 cup water
Mix all the ingredients well, then soak your jewelry in the solution for a few minutes. Clean around the stones and designs with a soft-bristle toothbrush. Buff dry. (Caution: Don't use this with gold-plated jewelry; with soft stones such as pearls, opals, or jade; or with costume jewelry, because it could ruin the plastics or loosen the glue.)
Heavy-Duty Disinfectant Cleaner
1/4 cup powdered laundry detergent
1 tablespoon borax
3/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup pine oil, or pine-based cleaner
Slowly stir the detergent and borax into the water to dissolve. Add the pine oil (available at hardware stores and supermarkets) and mix well. For bathroom cleaning, use the mixture full strength. In the kitchen, dilute it with water.
Wood Floor Polish
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Mix the ingredients well, rub on the floor, and buff with a clean, dry cloth.
1/4 teaspoon dishwashing liquid
1 cup lukewarm water
Combine the ingredients. Use a spray bottle to apply the solution over a large area, or use the solution to spot-clean nongreasy stains. (Don't use laundry detergent or dishwasher detergent in place of dishwashing liquid, as they may contain additives that can affect the rug's color.)
1 cup borax
1/4 cup vinegar or lemon juice
Combine the ingredients to make a paste. Apply it to the inside of the toilet bowl, let sit for 1 to 2 hours, and scrub.
1 tablespoon powdered laundry detergent
1 quart chlorine bleach
2 quarts water
Combine all the ingredients in a pail. Wearing rubber gloves, wash off the mildew.
Floor Wax Remover
1 cup laundry detergent
3/4 cup ammonia
1 gallon warm water
Mix all the ingredients together and apply to a small area of the floor. Let the solution sit long enough for it to loosen the old wax, at least 5 to 10 minutes. Mop up the old wax (or scrape it up, if there's a lot of it, using a squeegee and a dustpan). Rinse thoroughly with 1 cup vinegar in 1 gallon water and let dry before applying a new finish.
1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice
1 tablespoon boiled linseed oil
1 tablespoon turpentine
Combine the ingredients in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake until blended. Dampen a cloth with cold water and wring it out until it's as dry as you can get it. Saturate the cloth with the mixture and apply sparingly to a small area at a time. Let dry for about 30 minutes, then polish with a soft cloth. Note that this mixture gets gummy as it sits, so make just enough for one day's work.
2 tablespoons ammonia
1/2 cup alcohol
1/4 teaspoon dishwashing liquid
a few drops blue food coloring
Combine the ammonia, alcohol, dishwashing liquid, and food coloring, then add enough water to make 1 quart. If you prefer a nonammoniated cleaner, substitute 3 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice for the ammonia.
1 cup crushed dried herbs (such as rosemary, southernwood, or lavender)
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
Combine all the ingredients in a large jar or other container with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well to blend. Sprinkle some of the mixture on your carpet, let it sit for an hour or so, and then vacuum it up. It will give the room a pleasant smell and neutralize carpet odors.
Scrubbing hand General-Purpose Cleaner
1 teaspoon borax
1/2 teaspoon washing soda
2 teaspoons vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dishwashing liquid
2 cups hot water
Combine all the ingredients. If you don't have washing soda (generally found in the laundry section of supermarkets), use 1 teaspoon baking soda instead. For a more pleasant smell, use lemon juice instead of vinegar. Be sure to label the bottle accordingly.
Source: The 1999 Old Farmer's Almanac Home Library Series
Thursday, March 1, 2012
MAKES 4 OUNCES
This is a wonderful allover body cream.
¼ cup grated or chopped cocoa butter
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 tablespoons light olive oil
1 tablespoon avocado oil or sunflower oil or almond oil
1 tablespoon grated beeswax
1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and warm on the stove until they just begin to melt. Or heat ingredients in a microwave on high, about 1 to 2 minutes.
2. Remove mixture from heat and stir until well blended.
3. Pour melted mixture into a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid. Massage a small amount into your skin to condition and moisturize.
Sorry I haven't been on lately. I am dealing with some pretty important medical issues concerning myself right now.
Little old me...
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