Friday, June 1, 2012

Drying Herbs at Home

I am growing more herbs this year and using them more often in my cooking. Fresh herbs can add amazing flavor to many dishes and I'm looking forward to experimenting. Recently I visited my CSA farm and picked up some fresh mint, oregano, chives and thyme. I got so much that I knew I couldn't use it all before it spoiled so I pulled out my husband's neglected dehydrator and attempted to dry herbs for the first time.
Our Dehydrator
Joe uses this dehydrator a couple times a year to make beef jerky. The rest of the time it sits up on a shelf. This year I'm growing more things so I'm going to get more use out of the thing.

First I washed and dried the herbs and then set them out on the trays. I had enough mint for 2 trays and the other things got one tray. I stacked them up, plugged in the dehydrator and let them dry all day. I rotated the trays a couple of times for even drying. The thyme became brittle and dried quickly while the leafy mint took much longer. My house smelled very interesting during this process.
5 trays of herbs
After they were all dry and brittle I crushed them up and placed them in clean spice jars I'd saved. Now I've got organic, dried spices waiting in my cupboard for the next time they are needed. The mint is the one I'm not totally sure about what I'll do. I think I'll make tea with it but I need to find the right recipe.

Anyone else dry their own herbs? What do you dehydrate?

This post is featured on: Frugal Days, Sustainable WaysYour Green Resource.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Back To Eden Documentary Review

Back To Eden : a documentary review

Back to Eden is a documentary about Paul Gautschi's simple but revolutionary gardening techniques. I sat down with my husband with low expectations, unaware I would hear such interesting and easy ideas.

Who is this guy?

Paul is a Christian who seeks God in everything including his family orchard and  garden. Throughout the movie he quotes Bible verses and relates them to nature and how he grows his garden.

Upon moving to the Washington Peninsula in 1979, Paul quickly realized he would have trouble watering his family garden because the area only receives around 16 inches of water a year. However, he found abundant life and growth in the forests bordering his property, so Paul turned to God to discover how that was possible. He studied the forest floor and saw a mulch covering that retained water and grew beautiful trees and plants.

Gardening without fertilizing

This caused Paul to question the traditional gardening methods of tilling the land and adding in fertilizer. Conventional farming requires annual tilling and adding chemical fertilizers so every year more and more fertilizer is needed and eventually the soil gets sterile. These bagged fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium but do not contain minerals, leaving food grown today less nutritious - or delicious - as in the past.

Paul changed his gardening techniques, no longer using fertilizers or tilling, but raking in compost and putting down wood chips, then planting seeds directly into the wood chips. The soil never gets compacted and the wood chips retain water like a sponge so the soil is always damp.

Unlikely benefits

I was struck by how crop rotation is unnecessary with this gardening method. Paul stated that it doesn't happen in nature and it's not needed with healthy, thriving soil. He also doesn't have a problem with pests. Bugs will attack weak plants, but they leave Paul's healthy ones alone.

I was also impressed that watering is not needed when using a wood chip covering. Paul said he waters when planting seeds and not at all after that. He cites the ancient world of Genesis before the flood when plants weren't watered by rain, but rather from water vapor from the ground. Ground water is a much more efficient watering method since spraying water through the air with irrigation is only 50% efficient. Mulching with wood chips means that the soil’s nutrients stay put when it rains, with little nutrient loss.

In my view, one of the best benefits with this system is that weed removal is easy. The plants grow their roots down through the loose wood chips into the soil and since the soil is never compacted it's easy to pull out the roots.

You can do it, too!

As Back to Eden concludes, we’re shown some family gardeners trying out this method. You get to see how it works out when you try it from scratch. I was inspired to try this out in a section of my own garden! I like how Paul states he's not interested in making money, he just wants to get his information out there to help people grow their own sustainable gardens to feed their families healthy, delicious food.

It's free and easy to watch the movie online or you can buy a dvd off of the website. I highly recommend watching Back to Eden to anyone who is interested where their food comes from, likes gardening or wants to start their own Back to Eden garden.

This post is part of: Wicked Good Wednesday, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Small Footprint Friday

Monday, May 28, 2012

Menu Plan 5/28- 6/3

I'm continuing my efforts of eating (primarily) from the pantry and freezer just like Stephanie at Keeper of the Home. I dug deeper into the freezer to see what else was hiding back there and I found some pork chops! We haven't eaten pork chops in a year or so since I've become much pickier about where our meat comes from and I buy beef in bulk. Why buy icky grocery store pork when I've got a side of antibiotic free beef at home.

I'm still finding it difficult to not shop and use up what I've actually got on hand. I have to remind myself that I bought those frozen potatoes for a reason so why are they still sitting in the deep freeze?

It's an unusual week since I've got a friend staying for a few days so I've got to take into account what's easy to fix that she'll like. I also have two potlucks next weekend and I haven't figured out what I'm bringing yet.

Weekly Menu Plan 5/28- 6/3
Monday: Out to a restaurant
Tuesday: Skillet Pork Chops, steamed green beans, roasted potatoes
Wednesday: Pot Roast with carrots & potatoes
Thursday:  Tacos
Friday: Pasta with homemade marinara, tossed salad
Saturday dinner: Potluck dinner with friends
Sunday lunch: Leftovers & salad
Sunday dinner: BBQ with friends
You can find lot more menus at Menu Plan Monday at I'm An Organizing Junkie.
What's on your menu plan this week?


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