Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Stainless Steel Compost Bucket

Several years ago we were given a plastic compost bucket at our city recycling center.  It held about a gallon.  I kept it under my kitchen sink and put kitchen waste in it .... coffee grounds, peelings, etc. When it got full, I'd take it outside and empty it into our compost pile outside by the garden.  I even wrote a blog about it.


That post was 3 years ago and the little green bucket served us well.  But, over the years the plastic deteriorated inside and there was no way to keep it clean.  So, I have been yearning for a new compost bucket.  I wanted one that was stainless steel.

Finally, I found one on Amazon.com and here it is.

The lid has holes and there is a charcoal filter in the lid that allows air to circulate, but keeps odors at bay.  So far, I've been really happy with it. 

If you have never composted before and would like to get started, try getting a compost bucket for your kitchen scraps.  Then, just bury the contents in your garden when it is full.  The microbes in the soil will break it down and add nutrients to the soil.  Composting does not have to be a complicated process and it will put your kitchen waste to a good cause and keep it out of the landfill.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Blooming Mint and Butterflies

I have 3 kinds of mint......peppermint, spearmint and chocolate mint.  I wrote a blog about the chocolate mint a couple of years ago.


It has been relegated to an area on the north side of one of our outbuildings where it has to compete with the weeds.  That has pretty much kept it under control and I still take cuttings from it ever so often to sell at the market.

The spearmint is a very polite mint and has not been bad about spreading outside its bed and attempting to take over the world like the chocolate mint did.  It is my favorite one and is usually what I end up taking to the market every week.  It has a mild, almost sweet, flavor.  Just very nice.

As a result of my favoring the spearmint, the peppermint has become an unruly child.  It has grown to be about 2 feet tall and is spreading.  Geesh.  Why did I not learn my lesson with the chocolate mint?

The only good thing about it is that it is blooming and has rather very pretty, soft flowers.  Here is a picture of it:

If you look closely, you'll see butterflies going after these flowers.  They must love the flowers because there are a lot of butterflies and there are several different kinds.

I attempted to take pictures of them, but they didn't cooperate very well.  However, I did get the following pictures.

There are 3 distinct types of butterflies represented here.  My favorite is the one in the middle picture, the kind of gray one with the big spots on its wings.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Zero Turn Mower

I've written a couple of entries about our old riding mower.   We've had it 8 to 9 years and it has served us well.

However, in the past couple of years, we've had several things go wrong with it.  Earlier this summer, one of the blade spindles broke and it was in the shop for about 3 weeks. During that time, we got a lot of rain and the grass really got ahead of us.

We were just beginning to make a dent in the mowing when I noticed that it was not mowing "even".  There are 3 blades on the mower and, obviously, one of them is out of kelter!

We've lifted the mower up with the tractor and looked to see if it was something we could fix, but we couldn't see a problem.  Plus, to try to repair it ourselves without the proper tools and lifting equipment would be a big headache.  Tom doesn't want to put a lot more money in the old mower and decided to look for another one.

He ended up buying a "zero-turn" mower and here it is.

These mowers are a whole new concept in mowing as far as steering them goes!  The old mower had a steering wheel and you steered it like a car.  This one has two ... well I don't know what to call them ... levers, handles, bars?  I'm sure they have a proper name.  I'll just call them bars.  

To go forward, you push them forward.  To slow down, you pull them toward you.  To go backward, you pull them all the way back.    There are no "breaks".  To stop, you have to just pull the bars toward you until it stops.  To put it in park, you push the bars outward into the position they are in the above picture.

Okay, so the above actions are not too difficult to master.  The tricky part comes when you want to turn it.  To go left, you pull the left-hand bar toward you.  To go right, you pull the right-hand one.  If you pull too hard, it will make a 180 degree turn.  If you are going too fast, this can be a rather scary experience, as I discovered while trying to learn to drive it.  Just glad I didn't run into anything!

I ended up putting it on a very slow speed and, after many squeals from me and zig-zag patterns in the grass, I slowly got used to it and began to gain more confidence in driving it.  After mowing with it for an hour or so, I was beginning to like it.  After a couple of hours, I had it on a medium speed and was doing pretty well, if I do say so myself.

One time, I got it hung up on the guy-wire to the electric pole and thought I was going to have to call Tom to help me.  But, as it turned out, all I had to do was pull on the right-hand bar to turn it away from the guy-wire and it did a 90 degree turn away from the wire and off I went.

When mowing, you want to make sure you have the proper equipment.  This includes protection for your ears.

And, plenty of water in hot weather.

Our old mower is still useful for things other than mowing.  We've used it to drag large branches that have broken off the trees to the burn pile. We also have a little cart that hooks on the back and you can haul small loads in it.   We may even end up getting it fixed (again) if it doesn't cost too much.  It would make the mowing go a lot faster if we could both mow at the same time.  However, we may have to draw straws to see who gets to drive the new mower!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Two Black Dogs

Several years ago, I wrote a blog about our dog Sally.  It told the story of how she came into our lives.


At the time of that writing, we had 3 dogs.  Kelsey and Lizzy were the other 2, both of which have passed on and are waiting for us at the Rainbow Bridge.  I wrote goodbyes to each of them in the following blog entries.



But, back to Sally and the title of this article ... One thing I didn't mention in the first story about how Sally joined our family was that there was another dog indirectly involved in the story.  

At the time Tom found Sally in the shed on our property, our daughter and her family were living here while her husband was in school at OSU and they have a black dog, too, name Mia.  Mia is just a little smaller than Sally and has floppy ears, instead of upright ears, like Sally.  

Here is a picture of the two of them.  Sally is on the left; Mia on the right.

During the years that our daughter's family lived here, Tom used the east half of the property for our farmers' market gardens.  So, he was over here almost every day.  On day that Tom found Sally, our daughter and her family were gone for the week and Tom thought Sally was Mia.  He was alarmed that they had left her behind and, thinking maybe they had just forgot to take her along in the rush to leave, he called me at work to tell me he had found Mia and thought something was wrong with her.  Then, I was alarmed and called the daughter to tell her.  She assured me they had Mia with them and had not left her behind. 

It was all a funny case of mistaken identity.  At any rate, the two black dogs are friends, and when Mia comes to visit, she has to go out and inspect the property and see what has changed since she left it to Sally to guard.

One of the things it took her a while to accept was our chickens.  At first, she wanted to chase them.  It took several good scoldings to convince her she was supposed to guard the chickens and not eat them!

She still has an intense curiosity about them, but she does not try to catch them now.  Here she is taking an interest in what they are eating.

One thing you may not know is that there are more black dogs in shelters than any other color.  The following Wikipedia entry has some very interesting information on a phenomenon called "Black Dog Bias":


It sad that black dogs are often passed over for adoption at shelters because of their color.  So, the next time you are in the market for a new pet, please consider going to a shelter to adopt one.  And while you are there, please pay special attention to the black dogs.  They are waiting for a forever home, just like the others.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Better Way to Freeze Corn

Last month I wrote a blog entry about our corn harvest.  

Tom planted several dates of corn and this was the first one to mature.  We ate a lot of it and gave some away.   Then, I froze the rest of it.  I used the standard zip lock bags you use for the freezer and tried to get as much of the air out of the bags as possible.  This is what it looked like when I put it in the freezer.

This is what this same bag looked like today.  Notice all the ice in the bag!  I was dismayed to say the least, but this is not the first time it has happened.

I am really tired of this happening to my frozen stuff, so I decided to do something about it.  I went to Walmart and purchased one of those vacuum sealers.  There were 2 different brands from which to choose and, being the frugal person that I am, I got the lower priced one.  I don't always go for the cheapest thing.  Usually, I try to go with a "middle of the road" item, but this Ziploc brand was so much cheaper that the other brand that I went ahead and got it.

You have to buy the bags to use with it   They come in rolls that you cut to fit whatever you are freezing.

There are 3 buttons on top.  Real simple!  

The top lifts up and you insert one end of the bag so that it lays across the "heating element".  Then, close the lid and press the "Seal" button. 

It only takes a few seconds for it to heat up and seal the end of the bag.

Next, you put the food you are going to freeze in the bag and insert the other end of the bag in the machine.  At this point, you press the "Vacuum & Seal" button and it will suck the air out of the bag and seal the end.  It stops automatically when it is finished.

This is certainly not an advertisement for the Ziploc brand of vacuum sealers.  I'm sure that the other brand works just as well.  But, this should allow me to keep frozen food longer and preserve the quality much better than regular freezer bags. 

I'll still use the regular bags for freezing some things, like chopped onions and peppers.  It is nice to be able to open a bag of frozen chopped onions and get a few out to use in a recipe, then close it back up. 

Having to buy the bags will be an extra expense.  But, I'm already scheming as to how I can reuse the bags once they are empty.  I can see how I could cut the end of the bag open with a pair of scissors and remove the food to cook.   Then, I'd have a heavy plastic bag that I should be able to use for some other purpose.  Hmmmm.