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!


Posted in Olla Irrigation, Permaculture, Suburban Homestead | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

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 , , , | 2 Comments

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!

Posted in Herbal Medicine | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

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.




Posted in Food Preservation, Recipes, Suburban Homestead | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Life’s Passages Continue

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.

Helen Keller

I have returned to this blog after an absence of more than one year to give my readers (all five of you) an update. When I last updated you, I was becoming interested in Permaculture and had begun converting my yard from a conventional yard with lawns and ornamental plants to a Permaculture style landscape filled primarily with edible and medicinal plants.

As I became immersed in learning about Permaculture, I also began examining my life and goals for the future. The time I spent learning about Permaculture and working on implementing it in my surroundings was very satisfying to me. I decided it was time for me to move towards a different path for my life.

I set the following goals for myself:

  1. Become debt-free so that I have more flexibility in my employment requirements
  2. Obtain a Permaculture Design Certificate so that I could start a Permaculture business
  3. Find a piece of land 2-5 acres in size to use to develop a Permaculture Farm
  4. Identify multiple income streams that could be produced by me from the products of the farm
  5. Transition from working full-time for someone else to working full-time on my farm.

I have made progress in achieving these goals.

  1. I expect to be debt-free (except for mortgage) in 18 months
  2. I have obtained my Permaculture Design Certificate from Geoff Lawton/Permaculture Institute
  3. TMOTH and I are actively working with a realtor to find a property, concurrently with preparing our home to sell
  4. I am currently working on the administrative details to start my business, Rancho Seabow Permaculture

I have identified the following potential income streams for my business:

  1. Jams, jellies and sauces
  2. Eggs
  3. Essential Oils and Herbal products
  4. Dried value added products like elderberry and moringa powder
  5. Dried gourds and items made from gourds (e.g birdhouses, candle holders etc.)
  6. Depending on property, may list secondary housing units for vacation rentals
  7. Fresh fruits and vegetables

This weekend I’ll be setting up a Rancho Seabow Permaculture blog.  My Paleo Passage archives will be accessible.  Either url will direct to the new blog.  Hope to see a few of you there as I journey through the creation of a Permaculture business.

Stay tuned!

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Weekend Projects

I got a lot of things done this weekend.

First, I put four trays of strawberries into the dehydrator on Saturday morning:

DSCN5309This yielded just under a quart of dried strawberries:

Dried Strawberries

Dried Strawberries

Then I reloaded the dehydrator with Tomatoes:

DSCN5311My major project for the weekend was to can some Italian Meatballs in Spaghetti Sauce (homemade).  Here are the meatballs ready to go into the oven:

DSCN5312The sauce is simmering on the stove while the meatballs bake:

DSCN5313The sauce has tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, basil, green peppers, onion and oregano.

Finally, I combined everything in wide mouth quart jars:

DSCN5316I wiped the jars down and processed in my pressure canner for 90 minutes at 11 psi pressure.  I’m at sea level.  People at higher elevations will need to adjust the pressure based on their altitude.

The five quarts are cooling on the counter.  All of them sealed.  I figure each jar will provide a dinner for TMOTH and I, plus enough leftovers for my lunch.  We’ll serve this on shredded Spaghetti Squash or Zucchini Noodles.

While I was monitoring the canner, I mixed up a batch of deodorant.  I’m sure those of you who see me in real life are relieved.  As my five loyal readers may recall, I went “No Poo” in November 2011.  Basically this means that I stopped using shampoo, soap, deodorant and toothpaste. I’ve developed, or found, alternatives for these products that don’t have harmful chemicals in them.

Deodorant was the thing that was the most difficult thing for me to find a satisfactory replacement.  Rubbing coconut oil in my armpits and powdering with baking soda was just not cutting it (to say the least).  I found a recipe that has essential oils, beeswax and other magical things in it.  You mix it all up and pour it into a standard deodorant dispenser.  It hardens and then is just as easy to use as standard deodorant.  Best of all, no stinky armpit funk at the end of the day,  I’ll blog the making of the next batch for those of you who may be interested.

Posted in Coming Attractions, Food Preservation, Harvest, Natural Hygiene, Recipes | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Today’s Harvest

Today is going to be a pesto day again.  The basil is going crazy.  I also have lovely garlic that I harvested.  When I last spoke with all y’all, I promised to share my basic pesto recipe with you.



Every batch is different.  It depends on what I have on hand.  The basic recipe is:

  • 1 cup Basil
  • 1/4 cup Nuts (walnuts, pecans, pine nuts)
  • 1/3 cup Olive Oil
  • 2 cloves Garlic
Pesto ready to puree

Pesto ready to puree

Throw it all in the food processor and puree until smooth.  My food processor holds three batches.  You can make Pesto with other herbs also.  Simply replace the basil with cilantro, parsley or mint.  The Parsley version is really good with a nice steak.

I preserve my pesto by freezing it.  Heating up basil can give it a bitter taste, so I don’t can pesto.  My favorite way to freeze pesto is in an ice cube tray,  Here it is ready to go into the freezer.

Preparing to freeze

Preparing to freeze

Once the pesto is frozen, I remove it from the ice cube tray and pack it into a freezer bag labeled with item and date.

Frozen and ready to store

Frozen and ready to store

I find that each cube is the perfect size for an individual serving.  This makes a very convenient and tasty lunch.

My 4 or 5 loyal readers are aware that I eat Paleo/Primal and cannot tolerate gluten.  I also try to stay low-carb, so gluten-free pastas are not for me.  I have however found the perfect conveyance for pasta sauces:  Zucchini Noodles.  I use this tool to make them: Paderno World Cuisine A4982799 Tri-Blade Plastic Spiral Vegetable

Here’s how it looks in action:

Spiral Cutter

Spiral Cutter

For a quick lunch, I make one zucchini into noodles and place in a Pyrex container.  I top the “noodles” with some protein (usually 1/2 of a spicy, pork sausage from one of the local producers), one cube of pesto, and whatever other veggies I might have around.  Sprinkle with a bit of Parmesan Cheese if you can tolerate dairy.

Lunch prep

Lunch prep

At lunch time I microwave briefly and mix.  Yummy!

This is a great way to utilize zucchini during those times of plenty that every gardener experiences.

Posted in Food Preservation, Harvest, Locavore, Recipes, Suburban Homestead | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments