Sunday, October 30, 2011

Solar Clothes Dryer

No doubt about it, doing laundry can be a chore.  But, it is one of my favorite chores.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe because I get a feeling of accomplishment from seeing the pile of dirty laundry get smaller and smaller and then putting away nice clean clothes to wear next week.

Another thing I like about doing laundry is hanging clothes out to dry on my solar clothes dryer.  Here is a picture of it.

My mother used to call this a "clothesline" and I suspect that is what most people still call it.  I used to have one when we lived in town that looked like a big umbrella attached to a pole that was sunk into the ground.  It was amazing how many clothes I could dry on that at one time.    

We didn't  bring that clothesline with us when we moved to the farm.   I figured that I'd just go to Walmart or somewhere and buy another one to put up here.  However, in the mean time, Tom rigged up the one above for me between the poles of the carport.  That has been over 2 years ago and I'm still using it. It will only hold one load of clothes.  But, in the summer time, most clothes will dry before the next load of clothes is ready to hang out.

I've never done any research to determine just how much energy (and, therefore, money) it saves to dry clothes outside.  But, it has got to be quite a bit, because a load of jeans will dry much faster outside on a hot summer day than they will inside.

Unfortunately, the heating element on my solar clothes dryer is going to go out this week.  We've already had several days this fall when it was too cold to hang clothes outside and this week we have a cold front coming that is suppose to drop the high daytime temperatures into the 40s.  I imagine it will be next spring before I'll be using my solar clothes dryer again.

Friday, October 21, 2011

First Frost

We had our first frost this week.  It is kind of sad in a way because everything had perked up nicely after the hot, dry summer was looking really nice.

Now the basil is dead as a doornail.

The same thing is true of the climbing okra.

As well as the tomatos.

Oh, well, by this time of year, we are really pretty tired and need a rest.  So, I guess it is just as well.  Besides, Tom has radishes, turnips, lettuce and swiss chard ready to harvest.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sticker Weeds on Fire

We have these little weeds that produce pretty little yellow flowers.  They were one of the wildflowers I spotlighted in my blog entry titled "Windy Acres Wildflowers" on June 1 of this past summer.  They are called Buffalo Burr and are the second picture in that posting.

They really do have a lot of stickers and you DO NOT want to step on one of them in sandals or barefooted!  This fall these little sticker weeds have been very prolific.  So, I've gone out every couple of weeks and pulled up all the ones I could find.  Note that you DO NOT do this with your bare hands.  I have a pair of leather work gloves I use for this chore and occasionally one of the little buggers even sticks me through those.

Here is a basket showing one of my harvests from a couple of weeks ago.

As pretty as they are, they get thrown on our "burn pile" and burned when the weather permits.  If you have lived in town all your life, the idea of a burn pile is probably foreign to you.  However, if you live outside of town and don't have trash service, then a burn pile is a necessary part of life.  Seems like we always have brush, boards, feed sacks and the like that need to be disposed of. 

Here is a picture of our burn pile.  Notice the sticker weeds.

Most of the summer, a burn ban was in effect for our county.  So, we couldn't burn anything outside.  But, last week the ban was lifted and we were able to burn it.

We are always very careful when burning our burn pile.  We try to pick a time when there is very little wind.  It is also important to have a shovel and garden hose ready just in case. 

If we can time it right, I like to roast wieners or marshmallows over the fire.  And, if there are still some flames going after dark, there is something mesmerizing about sitting there watching the fire.  It is a sort of primeval feeling that does not occur when watching a fire during daylight.  I figure it is something that is innate to our nature.  Something that we still retain from our early ancestors to whom fire was an essential element of life that kept them warm at night and safe from wild animals.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hummingbird Moth

Last fall I wrote an entry about Four O'Clocks.  See the following link:

As it turns out, they were just getting started last fall.  And this fall, they have been spectacular!  They have also attracted what I have always called "hummingbird moths".  These are huge moths that are about the size of hummingbirds.  They don't come out until early evening and appear to be attracted by the heavenly scent that the Four O'Clock flowers produce at night.

Here is a picture of one of them.

Notice the pretty pink patches on its wings.

It is really quite pretty and I got to wondering what kind of moth it really was and what type of caterpillar it came from.   I found out that there is a large group of moths that are generally referred to as "hummingbird" moths.   But they are also called Sphinx or Hawk moths.

This one is a White-lined Sphinx Moth.  I've heard people at work say that these are the moths of the tomato hornworm.  But, that is not true.  They appearently make a large caterpillar similar to the tomato hornworm, but they are not the same thing.

At any rate, it was quite challenging to try to get good pictures of this moth.  They dart around pretty quickly and don't stay in one place very long.  But, I did get several good pictures of it and am sharing them here with you.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dried Basil

My basil has perked up now that the weather has cooled a bit.   Basil likes hot weather and a couple of really cool nights will make it turn black.  But, even it could not hold up to the days and days of 100-plus degree temperatures, like we had this summer.

During most of the summer, I barely had enough to meet demand and rarely brought any home from our Farmers' Market.  However, last Saturday I had a couple of bags left over and decided to dry it for use this winter.

I have a dehydrator, but it is fairly large and I didn't want to get it out for such a small amount of basil.  Several years ago, I had pretty good results drying it by simply laying it on sheets of newspaper on the dining room table.  So, I decided to go that route.  I stripped the leaves from the stems and laid it on a paper towel in an out-of-the-way place on my kitchen counter.

Here is what it looked like this afternoon.

I put it in a zip-lock snack bag just like this.  I may have even more left after tomorrow's market.  If so, I may end up drying some more.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Food Additives and Tom's Toothpaste

For a several years, I  have been reading the labels on things.  I have a grandson who has a health condition which is irritated by corn products.  As a result, he has to avoid anything containing high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  So, at first, I just started reading food labels trying to avoid buying anything with HFCS in it.  I was shocked at the number of manufactured foods that contain it!  I challenge you to try to find any non-diet soda pop or kid's cereals you see advertised on TV that does not contain HFCS.

Then I started noticing all the other "non-food" ingredients that were in the food I was buying.  A package of taco shells has something called TBHQ listed in the ingredients with (preservative) beside it.  A can of ripe olives has "ferrous gluconate" listed "to stabilize color".  And, a can of blackeyed peas has "disodium EDTA" added for "color retention".  No wonder we are all getting cancer with these artificial ingredients in all our food!

As a result of all this, I've begun to get a little paranoid about what I put in my mouth.  So, the other day, I needed to buy toothpaste and I'm at the store looking at all the different kinds of toothpaste.  Just for Crest alone, there's Crest Pro-Health Enamel Shield, Crest Pro-Health Gel, Crest Multi-Benefit Tartar Control, Crest 3D White Vivid, Crest Cavity Protection Gel and on and on and on.

Then I saw this brand:

There was only one kind of this brand on the shelf and it contains no artificial colors, flavors, fragrances or preservatives.   Its website
states that they use no animal testing and are devoted to sustainable manufacturing practices and recycling.  They even donate 10% of their profits to human and environmental goodness.

Guess which brand of toothpaste I bought.