Basements, lemons and seeds oh my!

The season of the beautiful catalogues has arrived.  This year, my most favorite catalogue is the Baker Creek Seeds catalogue.  It’s a bit hokey, but the pictures of the vegetables are just gorgeous!  All in all, with the hokey pictures and the beautiful veg, it’s my idea of a really cool magazine.  I’ve gone thru and spreadsheeted all of my existing seeds, sorted by veg, fruit and flowers.  And then there’s the wish list…sigh…I think I’ve got more on the wish list than I could ever fit onto our lot size.  All the fun things to grow…so little time!

The other neat stuff I’ve been doing lately is this:  I bought a book, before Christmas, called Mini-Farming, by Brent Markam.  He’s got some really interesting bits of information in it.  Did you know, for example, that you can grow all a person needs to live on f0r a year in 700 sf of ground, densly planted?  Well, neither did I until I read this book.  I’m in process with this new yard and believe that this book will play heavily into our garden planning and planting.  There’s a fair amount of actual science and footnoting in it too, so it’s got REAL, not  just anecdotal, information.  And it’s readable and clear.  I LOVE that. 

In the path of making this urban farming/mini farming/being more self sufficient for the impending Zombipocolypse of 2012, (heh!) happen, last year I purchased organic and open polinated seeds.  They nearly all grew.  Yay me!  Most of them went to seed for me!  Even more yay me!  So I saved the seeds. 

Now, being the unorganized puller of things from my butt just drives me nuts, so when I went looking to see what I had this year, I made a spreadsheet in Excel to tell me what I had and what I wanted.  Beyond this, I decided that the way I was saving seeds really just sucked.  (In an envelope in a zip lock bag…) Plus, I always had the mystery seeds in the bottom of the bag!   I didn’t want my effort of saving seeds or buying to go to waste.  Enter my mother. 

What on earth does your mother have to do with seeds you ask?  Well, at Christmas, I asked her to sit and work on my seed order with me.  This turned into the Excel spread sheet and then, it turned into “How can I save seeds easer, cause this method is horrible!”  So we started brain storming.  I came up with coin tubes as a possiblity.  We looked some up and they were cheap!  As I was adding things to the online shopping cart and pulling out my credit card, enter my husband. 

What does my _husband_ have to do with seeds?  Well, he runs a business that deals with plastic, and he objected to the type of plastic that the coin tubes were made of (polystyrene) as being toxic, not food safe and unstable.  With irritation and quite a lot of piss and vinegar, ameliorated by the having of some beer with my mother, I went looking for a better solution.  Glass jars?  Sure, those would be perfect, excepting they’re like $70 plus shipping!  Vials?  Too small.  Coin tubes?  Not a damn thing made out of anything excepting poly styrene…until….Wait!  A NICE variety of coin tube made from polyethelene (STABLE plastic and NOT toxic) that has GREAT reviews!    Without asking my husband this time, having learned my lesson the first time, that forgivness is divine and asking first is asking for trouble, I pull the trigger and buy the darn things.  (These are what I bought.) They came today and I’ve sorted all of my non-organic seeds into them.  Organic seeds tomorow.  They’re fantastic.  Easily viewable and I can write on them.  And…SQUARE!  They stack.  They box together well, they are just darn cool!!!  If I was doing more squash peas and beans, I’d have bought the quarter sized tubes. I think they’ll be REALLY nice long term storage.  SEE!!!

And, just because she was helping, a cute baby to break up the post!

In other cool stuff, this weekend was the beginning of the “time of the lemon”.  Somewhere else in the country, it’s citrus season, because here in the great cold north, it’s cold and they’re shipping us lots of it.  Cosco now has 5 lb bags of lemons for $6/per bag.  I went and bought 12 bags. 

We’ve been eliminating high fructose corn syrup, slowly but surely out of our daily lives for the last year.  This next recipie is one of those efforts.  In particular, we don’t want to get it in hidden places – read as “I don’t wanna drink my calories”.  So last year, while hugely pregnant with baby #4, I went on a mad search for canned lemonade recipes.  I found  a few, but was unable to find one I liked.  So I mixed them all up together and made up one I liked instead.  Here it is – it’s really easy. 

First you need to process the lemons.  Here’s what I do:

  • Freeze the lemons in the garage.  This done by the expedient of not removing them from the trunk of my car until my husband can carry the 50lb box! 
  • Put all lemons on a large plate and microwave 2 minutes per side (I test each time in ten second intervals) so as to not get too hot for the next step

  • Lean on or roll on the counter to release juice within the peel – do not let it squirt out the sides! (This always makes a mess & invariably hits me in the eye – right around my glasses!)

  • Cut in 1/2 and juice – I bought a Kitchen Aid mixer attachment for this last year.

Lemon Concentrate

It’s a straight 1-1 relationship between fresh squeeed lemon juice, sugar and water.

This means, if you’ve got 1 cup of fresh lemon juice, you add in 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar. 

I ended up with 12 cups of lemon juice.  This made three 12 quart batches (4 cups lemon juice, 4 cups water and 4 cups sugar) of lemon concentrate.   

The individual batches of it get heated until it boils, then turned off.

I hot pack them into small mouth pint jars and hot water bath process for 15 minutes. (Don’t you just LOVE the golden color againt the background of the cooler amber?!)

Other lemony bits: last year, I made lemon jam, waste peel lemon marmalade and candied lemon peel.  Well, the kids aren’t such fans of the lemon and the candied lemon peel, 10 months later, has developed a bit of mold (I didn’t have a dehydrator then…)  So, this year, I’m making lemon cleaner

 and lemon oil

They are based on the recipes linked under words -I did not create those.  And, I’m still working on them, they need to leach the nice lemon oil out, so I’ll have to keep you all updated.

And the last thing.  Back in Sept. my dad came out and put vinyl windows into our, what was laughingly called windows in the basement – aka the gaping holes of cold airflow.  We’ve been working on cleaning out the rest of the basement from the move ever since.  Sunday, I sent my boys down to move all the tools into the tool room.  They conquored.  Monday, i sent my husband down to remove all the dirt and cat crap, as the cats have been bad kitties & are pooping in the WRONG places (we’ve a dirt drain around the edges of the slab).  Today, my husband sent down his helper to vacume the entire basement and then set him at cleaning off the cobwebs.  Ooo, it’s nice!

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About catfeet1

Mom, canner, reader, sci-fi geek, she who loves car seats
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