Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Grow Room

IMG_0198Known in other seasons as the hot water heater room, the grow room has been all set up for spring.

Derek added some new fixtures to the several grow-lights left over from last year. Buying special fixtures just for grow systems proved to be rather pricey. So this year, we’re testing out simple shop light fixtures and using the bulbs designed to help plants grow. (We attempted to use the daylight spectrum bulbs, but the new sprouts grew very leggy, very fast.)

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Brand new lights. Brand new table.

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Derek is standing on a chair right next to this, nailing the chains to the rafters.

Grow lights are so handy to have. Starting seeds inside gives the plants more time to produce when they’re transplanted outdoors. Not to mention, starting plants from seed saves a great deal of money. It’s possible to get a whole row of  crop for the price of one plant from the store.

(I don’t know about you, but there’s just something fun about checking every day until the little seedlings pop out of the soil. Anticipation is the spice of life.)

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The finished project. Can you see the little space heater on the chair?

Having a grow room is also handy because some crops — the seedless watermelon, for example — need consistent temperatures between 70-80 degrees to germinate! If you no anything about Iowa weather, it’s anything but consistent. 🙂

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Honeyberries

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I’m very excited. I asked Derek if, for my birthday, I could order a three or four honeyberry bushes. His response? He ordered me eight!

What’s a honeyberry bush?

They are a berry (obviously), very much like blueberries, but much more hardy, plumper, and a good bit taller. Some people describe them tasting like blueberries at first followed with a hint of strawberry and/or kiwi. Honeyberries are known to be more resilient against pests and cold — both very good characteristics in Iowa. They are also low maintenance — a very good characteristic for a busy farmer’s wife.

They should be arriving in the mail at the end of April sometime. Too bad it’s still a long time to wait before I can try the honeyberry for myself. It will take them several years before they mature enough to produce in abundance.

Consider it a future investment for birthdays to come.

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Drying Basil with a Dehydrator

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Having made several rounds of pesto with the basil coming in, I decided to try something new — Dehydration.

I have very little experience drying herbs. (One failed attempt at air drying chives — not a method I would recommended.) Thankfully, drying herbs is not generally that hard! Especially if you have a dehydrator, then even a novice like me can do it.

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Assemble your leaves on the racks, in a single layer. Overlap is not a bad thing so long as air can circulate.

These came from our indoor grow system, so I didn’t bother washing them.

If you purchase basil or pick it from the great outdoors, a gentle rinse and an air-dry on a towel work well to clean it.

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A giant leaf. This is Derek’s man-hand to boot!

Herbs dry in a dehydrator very quickly. (Mine took 30-45 minutes.) So check them every 10 minutes or so, and even more often towards the end. You know it’s done when the leaves are crispy crumbly between you’re fingers.

You don’t want this. . .

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Remember that giant leaf? Here it is again. Derek had to leave for work, so this is my smaller, more feminine hand. I’m sure you still get the idea.

Limpy and soft.

If a few leaves are not quite as crispy, that’s okay. Go ahead and crumble them in with the rest. When you seal the jar or bag, the moisture content will redistribute evenly throughout herbs. That is, everything will even out — don’t worry about it.

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After dehydration

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     NOTE: Crumbling the dried leaves can make a big mess. Make sure to do it inside a rather large bowl. Crumbling the leaves in a small bowl over the brand new table cloth you spread out yesterday is not recommended.

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One the right is the freshly dried basil. One the left is a common store-bought brand of dried basil. The difference speaks for itself.

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Snow!!!

Beautiful aftermath of a snow storm.

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    The wet heavy snow stuck to everything. So much came down in one day!

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 It made for wonderful scenery over the next several days.

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The sleeping garden. . .

Won’t be long now until spring comes! (Despite the pictures.)

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