Today’s Harvest

DSCN5894The metal bowl contains 5 pounds of Jerusalem Artichokes (aka Sunchokes).  I’ll make a soup tonight, and next week will feature Sunchokes fried in Sage Butter, and Roasted Sunchokes (perhaps with Blue Potatoes).

I am not sure what I am going to do with the behemoth zucchini in the background.  It exceeded the 5 pound capacity of my kitchen scale.  It is longer than my microwave.  I’ll probably end up cutting it into manageable size  pieces and stuffing it.

Tomatoes are still on the vines, but ripening has slowed.  I’ll need to bring in the green tomatoes and do Chow Chow and my end of the harvest ferment.  Still have some more zucchini and peppers ripening.

Starting to get in the winter vegetables:  another round of lettuce, broccoli, spinach bok choy, carrots, beets etc.

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Olla Irrigation/Groundcover Project

I enjoy listening to Permaculture podcasts while I am driving, or performing menial tasks at work.  I am always picking up interesting new factoids and discovering new possibilities.  My major discovery this week was this podcast on Olla Irrigation.

Olla irrigation is burying unglazed pots in the garden.  The pots are filled with water which seeps out and waters the plants.  It’s useful in dry hot areas where evaporation is a problem.

I did some more research and found this article on the Permaculture Research Institute website.  It is an extremely useful article because it includes a chart showing how far the water from pots of various diameters will seep, as well as suggested planting distances.

Most of our suburban homestead is on timed drip irrigation. However, I have a few problematic areas that aren’t covered well.  I have also been working on my goal to cover all of our planting areas with living mulches.  I have had success in most areas except the ones with poor irrigation coverage.

We are in the midst of a drought, so it’s important to reduce our water use as much as possible. It’s like a vicious circle.  The areas with good, drought tolerant living ground covers require less water after establishment, but it’s impossible to get them established without irrigation.  We try to be as efficient as possible, and the drip does a pretty good job.

Here’s an example of an area where I have had success establishing ground covers.

DSCN5881The ground cover is Yerba Buena (Satureja douglasii) and Woodland Strawberry (Fragaria vesca).  Both of these plants also fall into the medicinal and edible categories.

This weekend I set out to establish some additional areas of Yerba Buena and Woodland Strawberry.  I also have a shady area where I am trying to establish Wild Ginger (Asarum caudatum) and Yerba de Selva (Whipplea modesta).  There’s also a particularly dry area where I plan to try Mendocino Gum Plant (Grindelia stricta ssp. platyphylla) which attracts pollinators and has some medicinal uses.  My oldest daughter who works at a nursery suggested that one.

With everything that I wanted to plant this weekend, it looked like four Ollas would be required to adequately irrigate them.  I looked into purchasing them, and found that the going rate is $35-$50 each.  This was a bit more than I wanted to spend on my weekend project.

I performed more Google-fu and found this blog post on how to make Ollas from unglazed flower pots.  I decided to give that a try.  I gathered all the materials for a total cost of $50 to make four Ollas.

DSCN5872This was my first time using Gorilla Glue and caulk.  It was quite an adventure.  Somehow I missed the statement on the Gorilla Glue instructions about it expanding 3-4 times!  A little goes a long way!

Here are a few photos of the construction process:

DSCN5873DSCN5874I filled the Ollas with water and found a few spots that needed to be re-caulked.  After the caulk had dried, I went out into the yard and laid out the plants and the Ollas so I could see where the holes needed to be dug.

DSCN5877DSCN5878I got everything planted and buried, then I gave the plants a good watering in.  After that, I filled the Ollas and put on the tops.  The tops are to prevent evaporation and mosquito breeding.

DSCN5883DSCN5887DSCN5889I plan to check the water daily by removing the top and putting a stick down inside.  When it gets down to half full, I’ll add more water.  I’ll report back on how the plants are doing and how often I need to fill the Ollas.

Stay tuned!


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Fermented Chile Rojo Garlic Sauce Finale

Today I tasted the Fermented Chile Rojo Garlic Hot Sauce that I started on September 22nd.  It was delicious and Muy Caliente!  I decided it was time to finish the batch and bottle it.  First I pureed it in the crock with my stick blender until it was smooth.

Here’s how it looks in the bottle:

Chile Rojo

Coming Attraction

I have several types of hot green peppers and sweet green bell peppers ready to harvest today.  I’ll get them fermenting so I can put up my Chile Verde Hot Sauce for this year.  I plan to do them in a 1/2 gallon canning jar with a fermentation lock instead of a crock.  I’ll give you a peek in a few days.

Posted in Coming Attractions, Food Preservation, Fun with Fermentation, Harvest, Locavore | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Calendula Oil Infusion

I recently started a formal Certified Herbalist Education program.  After I saw the huge increase in understanding that completing a formal Permaculture Design Course gave me, I decided that my dabbling in herbal medicine would probably also benefit from a more directed approach to study.  This project is part of my latest homework assignment.

Calendula has been used historically to soothe and heal wounds and skin irritations.  It’s often incorporated into salves and lotions.  It’s also very useful in the garden, repelling pests and as a companion plant for potatoes, beans and lettuce.  I enjoy using the petals as a salad garnish.

I started by harvesting Calendula flowers for my yard.  When using fresh flowers, they need to dry for about 12 hours to remove moisture.  This helps prevent the oil from getting moldy later.

DSCN5850After the flowers have dried, place them in a clean jar (I used a one pint canning jar).

DSCN5852Fill the jar with oil until the flowers are covered and have about an inch of oil above them.  Use a high quality organic olive oil or sunflower oil.  I used sunflower oil this time.

DSCN5853At this point there are two different options for how to proceed with infusing the oil.  The jar can be capped and placed in a sunny window.  It should be shaken every day for 4-6 weeks, then strained and stored.  The second method is the one I opted to use.  The oil can be infused by placing the jar in an uncovered container filled with gently simmering water (about 100 F) for 3-5 hours.  I used my crock pot to do this.

DSCN5855After the infusion is completed, strain the oil through cheesecloth and a strainer to remove the flowers.  Squeeze the cheesecloth to get all the oil out.  Cap the jar and store in a dark, cool place.

DSCN5858DSCN5859DSCN5860I’ll utilize this oil at some point to make a salve.  Stay tuned!

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In the Garden

DSCN5848It looks like we are going to get a second crop of artichokes this year.  Last year we only got them in the spring.  Has anyone else gotten artichokes in both the Spring & Fall from the same plants?

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Today’s Harvest

Here’s what I found out in the yard today.


I also harvested mint and lemongrass which are not pictured.

I plan to make some tomato jam and some fermented Chile Verde Hot Sauce.

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Fermented Chile Rojo Garlic Hot Sauce

Yesterday I had fun with fermentation.  I started a batch of red pepper and garlic hot sauce.





  • 2 1/2 pounds mixed hot red peppers (I used habaneros, jalapenos, and an unidentified hot red pepper growing in my front yard)
  • 1/2 pound sweet red peppers
  • 2 heads garlic
  • 1 ounce salt

I used the formula in Sandor Katz’s book “The Art of Fermentation”.  Two percent salt by weight.

Be sure to wear gloves while you do this!

Remove the stems and seeds from the peppers (you can leave some seeds in if you want it a bit hotter).  Peel the garlic.

Chop ingredients, or use a food processor to coarsely chop the ingredients.

DSCN5836Layer the chopped peppers and garlic in a mason jar, crock or other container.  As you layer the vegetables and salt, knead and squeeze the vegetables to release the juice.

Put a weighted object on top of the peppers.  The purpose is to keep the peppers below the liquid.  I used a serving dish which fit exactly into my crock.  TMOTH’s host family in Denmark used an ash tray to hold down their fermenting herring.


The peppers and garlic need to ferment for a month.  We’ll visit them periodically so you can see the process. After a month, the mixture will be pureed and used as a delicious hot sauce.




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