Monthly Archives: August 2014

August Garden Harvest

August Harvest Totals

  • Basil ‘Aroma 1’: negligible by the sprig
  • Bean ‘Kentucky Blue’: 4.25 lbs.
  • Beet ‘Pacemaker III Hybrid’: 1.63 lbs.
  • Beet greens ‘Pacemaker III Hybrid’: .38 lbs.
  • Bell pepper ‘Big Red Beauty’: 1.25 lbs.
  • Carrot ‘Nantaise’: 1.5 lbs.
  • Cucumber ‘Bushy Pickling’: 27.75 lbs.
  • Cucumber ‘Fountain’: 13.89 lbs.
  • Dill ‘Fernleaf’: 10 heads
  • Eggs: 66 (Barred Rock 23; Ameraucana 24; Welsummer 19)
  • Eggplant ‘Nadia’: 5.5 lbs.
  • Eggplant ‘Rosa Bianca’: 2 lbs.
  • Kale ‘Winterbor’: .25 lbs.
  • Lime ‘Bearrs’: .25 lbs.
  • Tomato ‘Early Girl’: 7.31 lbs.
  • Tomato ‘Orange Roma’: .38 lbs.
  • Tomato ‘San Marzano’: 1.38 lbs.
  • Lettuce ‘Magenta’: 2 lbs.
  • Okra ‘Star of David’: 3.75 lbs.
  • Onion ‘Red Amposta’: 1.25 lbs.
  • Parsley ‘Dark Green Italian Plain’: .25 lbs.
  • Spearmint: negligible by the sprig
  • Zucchini ‘Variety?’: 1.63 lbs.

Total: 76.59 lbs.

2014 harvest total: 503.69 lbs.

2014 egg count: 259

There aren't many things as lovely as an okra blossom. Who knew?

There aren’t many things as lovely as an okra blossom. Who knew?



Rosa Bianca, Nadia, Star of David, and an underripe red pepper.

Rosa Bianca, Nadia, Star of David, and an underripe red pepper.


Homemade Vinegar From Scratch and From Vinegar Mothers

I’m making vinegar from scratch. I hear it’ll be delicious—the best vinegar I’ve ever tasted. But honestly, I don’t really know what I’m doing, and no one else seems to either.

It’s not that there aren’t zillions of blog posts out there with recipes for vinegar, not to mention how-to videos on You Tube. It’s just that everyone says—with a great deal of conviction—something different.

For instance, is small batch home vinegar ready in a week? Should you taste test for done-ness daily beginning at week three or four? Or does vinegar definitely take three to six months of undisturbed development? And likewise, does one casually add wine along the way to continue feeding the vinegar mother, or is it imperative to leave the whole concoction undisturbed for months on end?

How, exactly, does one know when one’s vinegar is ready for consumption? And, as one scans the froth anxiously for dreaded molds, how does one distinguish said molds from the healthy layer of scum created by a robust mother?

Then there is the question of what approach one takes to the vinegar making process.

Should I begin with a store-bought mother and some leftover wine? What about seeding fruit scraps with some unpasteurized commercial vinegar? Or growing a mother from wild bacteria by combining sugar (or honey?!) with water and fruit?

Are the corpses of fruit flies essential ingredients in the vinegar mother-making mix due to the bacteria on their feet, as one popular video claims? Or, as Kelly sagely pointed out, are the many local airborne bacteria and those naturally present on the skins of all fruits enough to inoculate the mixture?

All of these questions have made me hesitant to take the leap into the science experiment that is vinegar making. I’ve been perhaps unreasonably perturbed by the lack of clear, definitive, comprehensive instructions and explanations on the topic. But maybe, as I’m now trying to convince myself, the very wide array of information on home vinegar making simply indicates that there are many right ways to make vinegar. Here’s hoping.

In an attempt to increase my odds of turning out a favorable result, I made a variety of concoctions.

First, about a month ago, I started a batch of white wine vinegar using organic wine without added sulfites—apparently important so as not to impede the growth of vinegar-making bacteria—and a white wine vinegar mother, purchased for a pretty penny at the same boutique-y farm supply store at which I purchased my Perfect Pickler.

One month in, the white wine vinegar smells like vinegar, and the mother, a layered, fleshy looking mass, has grown considerably. Although it smells respectable enough, I haven’t touched or tasted it because the label on the mother’s bottle said it would take three to six months to become vinegar.


My white wine vinegar mother hard at work (the main gelatinous mass of mother is actually not visible in this picture. She is under the surface of the wine/vinegar).

My white wine vinegar mother hard at work (the main gelatinous mass of mother is actually not visible in this picture. She is under the surface of the wine/vinegar).

While my store-bought vinegar mother is busy digesting alcohol in semi-darkness, I’ve been considering trying to grow my own mother from whatever unseen bacteria abound in our neck of the woods.

Today, Kelly got busy juicing grapes to make mead, and I couldn’t resist taking a stab at grape pulp vinegar. Why not? There are plenty of recipes out there for apple and pear scrap vinegars.

Now, a few hours later, I’ve got seven jars of someday-fingers-crossed-delicious-vinegar on the kitchen counter. I’m especially excited to be experimenting with regard to proportions, sugar vs. honey vs. no added sweetener, etc. I even threw in a few strawberries and raspberries to some of the jars.

Vinegar galore--with pickles in the background.

Vinegar galore–with pickles in the background.

I have dutifully left the jars sans cheesecloth for the night, just in case fruit flies really are the key to successful vinegar.

Can one make vinegar without also making a mother? This is another of the many questions I still don’t have an answer to–some of the recipes I found don’t even mention a mother, while others require that one begin with a mother.

I’m hoping that mothers develop in at least some of these jars. Aside from their practical utility, there is something so otherworldly and deep-sea creature/disemboweled organs-grotesque about them. They’re revolting and magical all at the same time. And that name!


The Kids Are Alright

Seems I fall off the blogging wagon every summer. But the excitement never stops around here. There’s been plenty of chicken drama to keep us on our toes. Think months of diarrhea, sibling rivalry, and raging hormones for starters.

Bell and Fifi finally joined the big girls outside in July, and they’ve both laid their adorable first eggs. Luma (aka ‘Baby Tiny’) marches around kicking butt and guzzling food, with a crop the size of a tennis ball, even as she remains convinced of impending famine. Our sweet Petunia is now on chicken birth control to mellow out her raging hormones–the result of having been bred for short term mega-egg production. She’s a little quieter than she used to be, but she can still subdue Luma with one ominous warning cackle.

At the end of a rough day of egg-laying and jockeying for food, everyone enjoys taking dust baths. Except for Luma, who seldom takes time from her perpetual foraging.

We humans continue to be amazed by the complexity of chicken social structure and rely on ‘chicken therapy’ (i.e. watching the chickens be chickens) regularly to cope with our own stressful lives.

Bell--Welsummer extraordinaire.

Bell–Welsummer extraordinaire. She has the spirit of a leader, but she’ll have to wait her turn. In the meantime, she busies herself with being an incredibly picky eater and unskilled forager and with hollering louder and longer than anyone else.


Enjoying a therapeutic dust bath at the end of a hard day.


Promise she’s not dead.

Fifi, in a state of bliss.

Fifi, in a state of bliss. Fifi is a very gentle soul and astute reader of dominant chickens. She is utterly terrified of Luma and relies on daily dust baths under the tomatoes to decompress.

Fifi's first little green Ameraucana egg.

Fifi’s first egg–laid July 28th at 18.5 weeks old.

Bell's first egg.

Bell’s first egg–laid August 10th at 20.5 weeks old.

From left, full-sized Barred Rock egg, Welsummer pullet egg, and Ameraucana pullet egg.

From left, full-sized Barred Rock egg, Welsummer pullet egg, and Ameraucana pullet egg.

Still not sure if Petunia's recent 'birth control' injection brought on an early molt.

Still not sure if Petunia’s recent ‘birth control’ injection brought on an early molt. She is a very fair and gentle but no-nonsense leader of the flock.

At 2.5 years old, Luma (aka 'Baby Tiny') is the meanest kid on the block and lays six eggs a week.

At 2.5 years old, Luma (aka ‘Baby Tiny’) is the meanest kid on the block and lays six eggs a week.

June and July Garden Harvests

Strawberry Free!

Strawberry Free!

June harvest totals

  • Basil ‘Aroma 1’: .13 lbs.
  • Beans ‘Kentucky Blue’: .13 lbs.
  • Cabbage ‘Parel’: 7.75 lbs.
  • Cauliflower ‘Snow Crown’: 3 lbs.
  • Eggs: 28 (Barred Rock 19; Barred Leghorn 9)
  • Fig ‘Variety?’: .13 lbs
  • Kale ‘Winterbore’: .13 lbs.
  • Mulberry ‘Pakistan Fruiting’: .16 lbs.
  • Navel Orange: 1.06 lbs.
  • Nectarine ‘Double Delight’: 2.13 lbs.
  • Onion ‘Red Amposta’: .5 lbs.
  • Peach ‘Strawberry Free’: 14 lbs.
  • Plum ‘Santa Rosa’: 3.13 lbs.
  • Raspberry ‘Autumn Bliss’, ‘Autumn Britten’, and ‘Tulameen’: 1.44 lbs.
  • Rosemary ‘Variety?’: .13 lbs.
  • Serviceberry: .47 lbs.
  • Spearmint: .06 lbs.
  • Strawberry ‘Seascape’ and ‘Albion’: .56 lbs.

Harvest total: 34.91 lbs.

 July harvest totals

  • Basil ‘Aroma 1’: 2.5 lbs.
  • Bell pepper ‘Big Red Beauty’ .25 lbs.
  • Cucumber ‘Bushy Pickling’: 10.88 lbs.
  • Cucumber ‘Fountain’: 5.5 lbs.
  • Dill ‘Fernleaf’: 4 heads
  • Eggs: 21 ( Barred Rock 17; Barred Leghorn 3; Ameraucana 1)
  • Grapes ‘Thompson’: .25 lbs.
  • Lettuce ‘Magenta’ 3 lbs.
  • Lime ‘Bearrs’: .38 lbs.
  • Spearmint: .13 lbs.
  • Navel Orange: 1.25 lbs.
  • Okra ‘Star of David’: 1.13 lbs.
  • Onion ‘Purplette’: .13 lbs.
  • Onion ‘Red Amposta’: .5 lbs.
  • Strawberry ‘Seascape’ and ‘Albion’: .13 lbs.
  • Thai basil: .38 lbs.
  • Tomato ‘Early Girl’: 1.13 lbs.
  • Tomato ‘Orange Roma’: .13 lbs.
  • Zucchini ‘Variety?’: 3.88 lbs.

Total: 31.55 lbs.

2014 harvest total: 427.1 lbs.

Fifi's first little green egg

Fifi’s first little green egg