Monday, March 28, 2011

Working on the greenhouses

Finally got 2 greenhouses up yesterday. It was a sunny but cold and windy day. They both wanted to pull a Mary Poppins and fly off the deck but this morning I see I got them anchored well enough as the withstood the howling winds last night.

Doesn't everyone put greenhouses together in their living room.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Make your own condensed cream soups

I love to make my own groceries. I found this recipe and finally tried it yesterday except as usual I altered it to suit my needs. It is a dry mix that you only need to add water to and your have something very similar to the consistency of a can of condensed creamed soup. I see great things coming of this for making casseroles.

Condensed Soup Mix

4 c. powdered milk
1 1/2 c. cornstarch
1/2 c. instant chicken bouillon granules
4 tsp. dried onion flakes
2 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp basil - crushed dried
1 tsp. pepper

Measure all ingredients into a Ziploc Bag. Shake well, transfer to vacuum seal bag, seal and store up to a year.

To Use:
1/3 C mix
1 C water
Cook over low/med heat until thickened.

Variations: add 1/2 c. minced or chopped *_________*

*Choose One or More*:
Onions, Mushrooms, Asparagus, Broccoli, Celery, Cooked Chicken, Diced Potatoes, Tomato, Cooked Shrimp, etc.

OK my alteration, I didn't add the chicken bouillon.  Also I have stopped putting the thyme in.  It is too over powering and makes the mix much more versatile.

I needed condensed cream of mushroom soup for my recipe I had some dried mushrooms in the cabinet that I had dried. I took a few of them and crumbled them maybe a 1/4 cup and simmered them in a cup of water until they were reconstituted.
I then remeasured the water and added enough fresh to make a cup. Since I was making a chicken dish I did add a tsp. of chicken base to the water along with the 1/3 of mix. It was just wonderful. I see the use of this mix endless.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Another Frugal Idea

I save my bread bags to keep my homemade bread in but yesterday found a new use for them. I had pancakes to freeze. They are the perfect size to fit in a bread bag. I just placed each pancake in a folded piece of wax paper and stacked them in the bread bag. They stand up nicely and go in the freezer.

Found a great recipe

Made the best Taco Sauce for dinner last night. It is suppose to be a clone of Taco Belle's Taco Sauce. Real inexpensive also as other than spices it only takes a can of tomato paste. Makes 3 1/2 Cups and keeps for a couple of months in the refrig. Thinking of freezing it in ice cube tray as I am the only one to eat it and 1 cube thawed would be about all I need. Maybe 2.

Taco Bell's Hot taco sauce

1 6-oz can tomato paste
3 cups water
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1-1/2 tablespoons chili powder
2-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon minced dried onion
2 tablespoons canned jalapeno slices ("nacho slices")

Monday, March 14, 2011

Yesterday was a good day to cook

Hadn't made pancakes in a while for my brother so decided to experiment and write a new recipe. Make Buckwheat/Buttermilk pancakes. They turned out pretty good.

Also made French Bread. Got this recipe from a cyber friend in Alberta Canada and it is one of the best recipes for bread I have ever had. I just keep making it once or twice a week.

No wonder I can't loose weight.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Seed Starting 101 Step 7

Spring has arrived, the garden is all ready for your wonderful plants that you have started for much less than what you would have paid if you had bought the plants. Time to get these little babies in their final home.

First it is important to harden them off. I recommend doing this for 2 weeks before you put them in the ground. They have been in the house in a controlled environment all their lives. Time to introduce them to the harsh elements of Mother Nature. Move your plants out doors to a sheltered area where they are protected from the wind and direct sun. Over the next 2 weeks gradually introduce them to full sun and the environment they will be in once in the garden.

Prepare you garden soil well to give your babies every chance possible to preform well for you.

I hope this may have inspired some who have never started from seed to do so and also maybe refreshed some thoughts for those that have been doing it for years. To me there is no better satisfaction than on a nice August day then to pick a nice ripe tomato from the vine and eat it knowing that I started this wonderful fruit from a tiny seed.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Seed Starting 101 Step 6

Seedlings are up under lights and growing. It is time to transplant them. When the seedlings have at least their first set of true leaves it is time to transplant them. True leaves are the second leaves the seedling get. They will look like the plant when it is grown. Why transplant? It gives the plant a chance to get a good strong root system and it slows down the top growth.

There are a few tools you need for transplanting especially if you started your seed in a larger container and not in peat pots or jiffy pods. I use a baby spoon, a wood skewer and maybe a 1/4-3/8" dowel. You will also need something to transplant into. I use 6 cell market packs for most things because I sell and that will be their permanent home until they are sold. Since I use pro mix for everything again will get that moist and fill the cell packs to the top. Now there are many other recycled items you can use. Styrofoam cup with holes in the bottom. Yogurt cups and I am sure there are many other things. Using the skewer or dowel make a hole in the medium to plant your little seedling. With the small spoon dig deep and loosen and remove as few seedling as possible with one scoop. If you have planted too thick like I sometimes do you need to gently separate the seedling trying to leave as much medium as possible on the roots. This is where the point of the skewer comes in handy to help separate the roots. Always pick the seedling up by the leaves not the stem as the stems will break very easily. Place the seedling in the hole you have made and gently pack the medium around it. Now when I transplant most seedling I bury the stem up to the leaves just so they are not touching the soil. This will help to keep the plant short and develop more roots. When I transplant is the first time I fertilize. I use 3-10-3 fertilizer diluted at half strength. Reason for this particular fertilizer is the middle # is the ratio of phosphorus in the fertilizer which is important to good root growth and that is what you are looking for at this point. Back under the lights no more that 2" away and don't over water. Check them everyday however for moisture. At this stage I always bottom water.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Seed Starting 101 Step 5

One think I mentioned briefly in step 4 was a term dampening off. To me this is the most dreaded part of seed starting. I have it happen too often and it is usually mine own fault as I don't take the time prevent it from the get go.

Dampening off is caused by a fungus that especially attacks new seedlings. There are products that you can buy on the market and some times you will see on a seed packet drench soil the day before planting with benrot. That is the product but you don't need to buy that. There are a couple of things for the shoestring gardener that work just as well and are organic.

The main causes of dampening off is too much moisture and poor air circulation. One way to help prevent this problem is to fill you contain full of medium so you get good circulation, don't over water and use an oscillating fan running in the room where the seedlings are. If the room has a ceiling fan that will work fine also. Keep the air moving. I have my hooked to the timer with the lights so it runs 12 hours a day. This will also help to strengthen and thicken the stems on your seedlings the same as the wind does in nature.

Listrine is on way of helping to prevent dampening off. Mix 1 tsp of Listrine with 1 pint of water and spray the surface of the planting medium as soon as the seedling emerge and do that every couple of days being careful not to get the medium too wet.

On larger seedlings you can use 1 TBL of listrine to 1 pint of water.

I have been using Chamomile tea which contains sulfur which is a natural fungus killer. If you have dried chamomile flowers pour on pint of boiling water over 1/4 of blossoms. Let steep then strain and put into a spray bottle.

I actually use tea bags. I steep 4 tea bags in a pint of water than place in a 2 qt. container and fill with water. I have just started drenching my seed flats with it before planting and those seed are just germinating. I am still spraying as soon as they germinate also. So far so good. Don't mix a lot at a time as it will only keep for about a week.

Thanks for reading and I hope some are helped by this information.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Seed Starting 101 Step 4

Time to plant the seed. Fill the container you are going to plant in almost to the brim with the medium you are using. Be sure it is good and moist but not soggy. I usually get the medium wet up some, fill the containers they set them in a tray of chamomile tea to finish wetting up. The purpose of the chamomile tea is to help prevent any fungus growing while the seeds are germinating and last ward off dampening off. Will explain mixture etc. after.

Once the medium is wet up you are ready to plant. Be sure you know if the seeds are to be covered with medium or not. If the packet say light needed to germinate just drop the seed onto the medium and press lightly with your hand when finished. If it say cover lightly with soil sprinkle the medium over the seed. Usually seed are planted to 4 times the thickness of the seed. If I am going to cover the seed I have a cut off piece of wooden skewer that I make little furrows in the medium with to place each seed in. Once covered with medium I spray the top with the chamomile tea, place plastic wrap over the container and either set it in a warm place if it says grow at 72-80 degrees or what ever the package say. If it says 50s or 60s find a cool spot to set them. It may say 7-10 days to germination but it can happen anytime. After the second day I check my seed every morning and night. It happens quickly and the cover need to be removed immediately once growth is seen and get them under your lights and get the fan going. Quick example. Last night there were no signs of growth in my peppers. This morning they are up an inch and pushing against the plastic wrap.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Seed Starting 101 Step 3

Next step would be to decide what you want to grow in your garden. All of this information is under the assumption you already have a gardening area with proper sun etc. as that is a whole different thing.

On of the most important things to remember when purchasing seed is what you growing time is. That is the time between the last frost in spring and the first frost in the fall. If you don't have a general idea you can go to Now I know this is not exact as we have many micro climates that do not fit the norm in a given area. If you are doing just vegetables you don't have to worry about your zone. That is for what plants will winter over in your area.

Now the back of the seed packet or the information in the seed catalog becomes your best friend. For the purpose we are discussing here, starting seed in the house early the date to maturity is from the date the plant goes in the ground not the date you plant the seed. Other information you will get from the packet will be if the seed needs light to germinate. That means don't cover it with medium, just press lightly into the medium. There also some other guides available to you for when is the right time to start that seed inside. If it isn't your first year of starting seed you journal would be your first place to look. What did you do last year. Was your timing right? Next there is so much information available on line it will make your head spin. One book I have is Success with seed from Park Seed but you don't have to buy this book most of the information is on line at

Also if you happen to order from Harris Seeds the have a free booklet that is very useful. It is Cultural Guide for Schedule for bedding Plant and container production. Once you have determined which variety of tomato etc. will have time to mature in your area make yourself a little chart showing when you should be starting each seed to be ready to go into the garden when it is your planting time.

I am not advocating either of these companies nor do I have any connect with them. Just where I have found information.

What plants should you consider starting early in the house. Tomatoes, peppers, egg plant, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts and I am sure someone can add more that I am not thinking about.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The snow devil arrived again last night

Got up to about 18" of fresh snow on the ground with wind blowing and snow drifting. Hopefully this will be our March snow storm for the year and we can get on with spring coming to the Mountain.

This is the path into the house after the snow fall plus the snow coming off the roof. The right side of the picture actually shows the depth of the snow that had to be moved.

Seed Starting 101 Step 2

There are a few other items that you will need or would be handy to have. Lights are probably the most important. Since the angle of the sun is not conducive to good plant growing this time of year artificial light is almost essential. It does not have to be a gro-lite just a florescent light. I use the 4' shop lights and 2' under the counter lights. Seedlings need 12 hours of light a day. The light should be no more that 2" away from the seedlings at all time. Many have been able to find lights on freecycle or the free portion of Craigs list or at yard and garage sales. I also have heat mats as bottom heat on most seed aids in germination. Heat mats are expensive so many have come up with shall we say home remedies such as an electric heating pad, a heated mattress pad and I sure others will give more ideas. A small but very important item is something to mark each flat of seed with so you know what you are growing. I use plastic markers made for that purpose but I have seen others cut up plastic milk cartons and I am sure others will have some advice. A few other miscellaneous items that I find handy are wood skewers, baby spoon and spry bottles. A timer is nice but not necessary. I also have a small note book that I use as my garden journal. I keep track of when I plant each seed, the daily weather (which might not be important this time of year but as you start outside it will prove invaluable next year) and crop yield.
I learned something from the people of Seoul, Korea when I visited there that their space is very limited so to accommodate their massive population they learned to build vertically rather than horizontally. Since I am limited for space in the house as well as in my greenhouses I have also gone vertical. This particular seed rack will hold a total of 9 flats under lights and each flat will hold 8 6 packs. Now that is a lot of seedlings.

Here is another setup that was posted on another board.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Seed Starting 101

Many are talking about starting seed to have plants ready for the garden come spring. I have a feeling plants at a nursery are going to be expensive this spring with all of the crazy weather we have been having and the cost of fuel skyrocketing. Why not do your own. It is easy, doesn't take a lot of room and can be done on a shoe string budget or you can go Cadillac style what ever suits your fancy. I guess you might say I am a little between the shoe string and the Cadillac.

There are some that are going to disagree with my methods but if it works for you please share it with others. One might say there is no right or wrong way but what I am going to explain is how we do it in the greenhouse business.

I guess first is what do you need for equipment and supplies. Since I am doing it the greenhouse method (and that doesn't mean you need a greenhouse) I do transplant my seedlings.

So lets get started. You will need a growing medium. Note I said medium not dirt. It should be a sterile mix of some sort. I use pro mix but that only comes in large quantities so will let others tell you what the like or you can mix your own with peat moss, perlite and vermiculite.

Then you need something to wet the medium up in so why not a dish pan from the $ store.

Once you have the medium moist then comes the container to put the medium and seed in. The one I use is specifically for that purpose but use your imagination on what you might be able to recycle for the purpose. Just be sure there are holes in the bottom so excess water can drain off.

How about now a drip tray of some sort so you don't have water running all over the place.

I am actually using this tray also to bottom water my seed and seedlings.

While seed are germinating you need to maintain moisture so it is easier if you can cover the container you have planted the seed in so I just use plastic wrap but you can also purchase domes that go with the large tray i have.

OK so far probably the only thing you would need to buy is the planting medium.

Lets see what others are recycling and using.

How Frugal are you?

I put the turkey bones on to cook last night after supper to make soup. Have to use everything except the gobble these days. Also added to my vegetable scrapes in the freezer. Had carrot peels, onion peels and tops from the celery from making supper left. They will all be cooked down for vegetable stock when there is enough. Also chopped the leaves from the celery and set them to dry for later use in homemade stove top stuffing and other things like that.

Waste not want not. What did you do to save?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Up to my elbows in dough

I love to make bread on a rainy day. It always seems to come out better. Have bagels and French Bread in the making now and hope to get time to make English Muffins before the day it over.

How Frugal are you?

Some may just consider me cheap but I know many of us live on a fixed and limited budget but I feel I am rich every time I do make something out of nothing or really save on a buy.

Yesterday I went to the grocery store in town. Hate the place as their prices are high but with the cost of gas it works out about the same now as driving 90 miles one way to shop. They have a managers corner where food is marked down because it is at the expiration date which by the way it just a suggested sale date or it is something that doesn't move in the store and they are cutting inventory. I got 2 family pack of chicken drumsticks for a $1 off for each package so it worked out to about $1.50 for 2 of us for a meal for our meat. Froze the rest in meal size portions. They also had sour cream (which in my opinion lasts for ever unopened) 16 Oz. containers for $.59. Also Kraft 7 oz. packages of Mexican blend shredded cheese for $1.69 a package. They were dated for July 11 so guess they were just clearing inventory.

Then for supper last night we had our $1.50 chicken drumsticks and potato patties from left over mashed potatoes, an egg, a small onion and some flour. Pretty cheap supper for 2 people.