Friday, March 23, 2012

DIY Paper Mache Seedling Pots

What is easy with a capitol E, messy with a capitol M, and fun with a capitol F?  Making paper mache seedling pots!  These would be a great project for the kiddos.  Here's what you need to make them...

The kitchen blender
The kitchen sink (or other large container)
Warm and cold water
Newspaper torn into bits
Wire colander or screen
All purpose flour
2 large muffin tins or other containers to use as molds
Latex or other gloves

**Put on your gloves or your hands will be black with ink.**  (I found this out the hard way)

I began with strips and then tore them smaller

Tear up the newspaper into the sink/bowl.  (Don't use glossy ads.)

Paper absorbs warm water faster than cold

Pour warm water over the paper strips and let it sit for a couple minutes.  The strips tear into bits easier when they are wet.

Not exactly a smoothy

NOTE: You will need to make up two batches of wet pulp to have enough pulp to fill both muffin tins.

Fill the blender about 1/3 of the way with the wet paper bits (don't pack them down).  Add COLD water to about 2/3 full. Pulse to blend.  (By the way...the lid will pop off the blender if you use warm water.)  You will probably have to stir it a time or two during this process to get it to blend properly and if it seems too thick just add more water.  Blend until no paper bits are visible.

The sink would be easier than this bowl

Place the wire screen colander in the sink and pour the paper pulp onto it letting it drain.  I find tipping the colander from side to side helps speed up this process.

It will begin looking more like clay when it is drained some.  Now you can take it by the handful and gently squeeze out excess water...but not too dry as you still need to add the flour.  The original recipe I found through Pinterest did not call for adding flour but every paper mache recipe I have ever seen uses it so I figured I could just mix it into the pulp since I was not gluing down strips of paper. 

Next place the double batch of processed and drained paper into a bowl and sprinkle 1/2 cup flour over the top.  Knead the flour into the pulp until well blended.  You have just made paper mache clay. 

If it seems too juicy at this point just take it by the handful and squeeze out some of the water over the sink until it is not so drippy.  If its too dry add water a little at a time and mix with your hands.  Remember that the wetter this clay is the longer it will take to dry.

Bottom and sides of even thickness

Fill each muffin tin 1/2 full.  Press it into the tin starting from the center of each cup and working outward.  Try to avoid thin spots.  I found using the back of my fingers worked really well for molding the sides.

A heat vent would work great too

Find a warm spot to set the filled muffin tins on and let them set for 24 hours.  When they are about half dry poke a small drain hole in the bottom of each one.  If you don't have a warm spot like I do you can let them dry on the counter and finish them up in the oven at 220 F to finish drying them.  (Time needed depends on how damp they are.)

Didn't get this one pushed into the corners tight but it is fine

When they are completely dry the pots should pop right out of the pan.  If they are not they will stick and could tear if you try to dig them out so it pays to be patient.

Pert near perfect pot I'd say.

As I was extracting my new little paper pots this morning I noticed one thing I probably should tell you about.  These smell a bit like a really old dog...or maybe old dirty socks.

Where is the air freshener?

Not that the odor it will make the whole house reek or anything but they are, fragrant.  So if you are not planning on using them right away I would storing them where they won't perfume the room.  The smell seems to dissipate some with time too as I noticed they were not as strong the day after.

Have fun!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

When Snow Makes You Grumpy

This morning we were blessed with over an inch of wet snow.  Normally I am over the moon about snow...but not in March and not this slushy stuff that has little of the beauty of it's fully frozen counterpart.

Pretty?  Eh, not so much.

Complaining was not going to make it go away so I decided to grab my camera and take some photos of plants in the white stuff and hopefully I would find something to take edge off this feeling that it is never going to get warm again.  Once I was out in it I was almost immediately reminded that there is always something delightful if I will only take the time to look for it.

Nandina domestica with snow jewelry
The violets look even brighter in the snow
Korean Lilac with an bobble of snow
Now how cute is this?  Hellebore all bowing in a row.
God knows how much I delight in whimsy

So if you have the winter blues I recommend you give this a try.  It did a world of good for my heart this morning, maybe it will help yours too.  Have a blessed day.

Copyright © 2012 by Patty Hicks
All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. All reviews must include author's name and a link back to this blog.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Attached Raised Bed Trellis

Beans on the pipe trellis

If you grow veggies in raised beds and need a trellis idea here is one my hubby came up with.  The pipe is from a chain-link fence we tore down a few years ago so the only thing we had to purchase were the 4 pipe brackets, 2 elbow connectors and 2 eye-bolts so we could tighten the wire which the hubs found in the garage.

Here is how we attached things at the base

Elbow connectors come in so handy at times like these.

I cut several pieces of bailing twine, 2 times the height of the trellis plus 12" or so, tying one end of each piece to the wire at the bottom.  My boxes are sturdy enough to climb on so I hope up on one corner with the lose ends in my hand and wrap each piece of twine around the top bar once (see image above), spacing them evenly as I go.  Once that is done I secured the other end to the wire also.

Tie string to the wire to secure.

I have found that if you don't wrap them all the way around the top pipe they will shift more as the wind blows.  You may find you have to adjust the tension at the top some so they are tight when you are done tying them.  You could also use netting instead of twine but the twine is inexpensive so that is what I use.

The only thing that would make this trellis even better is to have the hubs construct a frame that I could just hang on this structure so I don't have to do so much hopping up and down.  Maybe I'll get him on that this spring.  Oh and by the way, this trellis is easily moved or removed and breaks down nicely if we need to store it.  And since the pipe was reclaimed from our fence the cost was minimal to us.

Happy Gardening!

Copyright © 2012 by Patty Hicks
All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. All reviews must include author's name and a link back to this blog.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Really Drunk Gummy Bears; A Pinterest Fail

If a little is good then more is better right?  We all know someone who thinks this way and I am married to one of those someones.  It rarely if ever ends well and thankfully I have learned to laugh about it unless real damage is done. 

A few weeks ago I was in the middle of making my husband drunken Gummi Bears from a recipe I found on Pinterest when he decided to get involved in the process. The results have had me chuckling all afternoon.

These are really simple to make...if you follow the recipe; a bag of "Haribo Gummi Bears", some good vodka, a pan.  Put the bears in the pan, pour just enough vodka over them to cover them.  Stick them in the fridge for three to five days and that's it. 

The bears had only been soaking in the pan for 3 hours when Ben got home from work and got nosy. "What is this?"  He looks at the pan and picks out one of the vodka soaked bears that has already swollen to about twice its size.  My wifey alarm goes off at that smile.  "These are pretty good." He is smiling bigger now and munches down three more.  He hands me one to taste.  They taste like bad cough syrup to me. "Glad you like them, they are all yours." I tell him.

My telling him that was not such a good idea as it only fueled him and the next thing I know is he is springing into action, grabs a jar off the drainboard and the vodka bottle.  "What are you doing?", I try to get him to confess to his plan.  Instead he smiles at me and winks.  I've been married to this man for over twenty years and yes I know he's going to pour more vodka over them but the question has become ritual in our relationship.  I quickly mention that the extra vodka will just melt them knowing full well it is pretty much impossible to reason with him at this point.  I decide to leave the kitchen so I won't get frustrated by his intrusion on my project.

What I know is going to happen.

He seems sure that if a little booze is good, more booze will be better and transfers the bears to the jar and pours enough vodka over them they are not just floating but drowning in it.  He lifts the jar with the drowning Gummi Bears with a proud smile and another wink, then places it in a prominent place where he can keep an eye on it's progress and proceeds to pretty much forget about them.

It's about a month later and I had the urge to purge today.  So I decided to see how his drunken bear "science project" was doing.  I picked it up and looked at it.  Not a single green, red, yellow or whitish bear to be seen anywhere...only an orange gelatinous goo.  (Oh yummy)

What happens when a man doesn't listen to his wife.

The lid was stuck shut so I ran hot water to loosen it.  That was a mistake.  When it finally did come off the alcohol wafted right up my nose making my eyes watered it was so strong.  By the way, if you need a good way to clear your sinuses you might want to use this works great!  I pokes around in the jar with a spoon, poured some out on a plate and here wasn't a single survivor in this science project.

So Ben gets home after work today and I tell him to take a look at his little science project, pointing to the jar of drown bear goo.  He picks up the jar, opens it, smells it and says "What's wrong with these?" which means there is nothing wrong with them in his mind.  Then he grabs a mug, dumps half of the orange goo into it along with a good splash cherry juice, smells it and urges me to give it a sniff.  I hate when he does this but I know better than say no or he'll be asking me over.  It still smells like bad cough syrup.  Then he grabs a beer and pours some into the juice/goo mixture, picks up the mug swirling it a bit to blend it and drinks it down and likes it! Yes...I live with a funny and sometimes strange man and the results have had me laughing all afternoon.

Copyright © 2012 by Patty Hicks
All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. All reviews must include author's name and a link back to this blog.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Kale; A Repeat Performance Vegetable

Laciniato AKA Dinosaur Kale

Kale has become the darling of many gardeners and with good reason. It is an amazingly hardy, productive and nutritious vegetable and very easy to grow.  If you have never grown it you should give it a try.   The thing I love about kale it takes winter in stride, I get to harvest from it for months and the leaves actually get sweeter tasting after a good frost.

Red Russian Kale has gorgeous leaves

Last year I sowed seed in late February in a sheltered area outside and planted out the starts as soon as they had sprouted two true leaves above their heart shaped seedling leaves.  Believe it or not, two of those seedlings are still thriving in my garden from last year...a whole year from when they were first planted.

Signs of future possibilities

From spring into early summer I harvested leaves from my plants until the flower stems formed and the leaf production slowed down.  Kale are mostly grown for their leaves but don't overlook those delicious tender flower stems.  Not a one ever goes to waste here in my garden.  They are succulent and sweet and great in salads or stir fries.  Honestly, they are so good I usually eat most of them before they make it to the kitchen.

When the flower production slowed down I noticed the plants were not ready to give up; there were leaves poking out of their once naked stalks.  It was early September which meant there was still enough time to push some growth on those babies so I gave the plants another shot of fertilizer and my effort garnered a few more meals of leaves before the cold weather stopped their growth.

The cut and this year's growth

After all these plants had given me and seeing their will to live I just couldn't bring myself to send them all to the compost heap so I saved two of hardiest looking Russian Kale plants, cut them off just below the last of their leaves. sat back all winter and waited to see what would happen.

Just look at my babies now!

Boy am I glad I did, just look at my babies now!  This year's seedlings are still too small to harvest but I am able to harvest leaves off last year's plant right now.  I'll give them a spring dose of fertilizer after I get my first little harvest so they will put on more leaves before they flower.  About the time these will be flowering their heads off I will be picking leaves from this year's seedlings. I like the timing don't you? So I wonder how long I can keep this little kale factory of mine going?