Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Winter Is Coming: A Two-for-One Instructional Blog Post for the Autumn!

To begin with, I apologize for not posting in a while, I have been extremely busy. 
I hope to make it up to you internet readers with this autumn double-post of DIY goodness. 

    First Up: Create Your Own Compost System!


    This fits into our five-senses theme, because it will help us to grow food and flowers throughout the growing season. This simple method is good for any size dwelling, from apartment to mansion, and the finished product (rich nutritious soil) can be used to grow either delicious or beautiful plants (or plants that are both delicious and beautiful).
    You will need a 5-10 gallon plastic bucket. I found mine at a nearby home-improvement store for under $4.00 (including the lid, which is needed). Using either a drill with a medium sized bit or a hammer with a medium sized nail, make numerous holes in the bottom of the bucket. You will want them to be evenly-spaced so as to keep the moisture within the bucket at a uniform level. The bucket should be placed onto something that will let air circulate underneath it. I chose two lovely bricks, but spare pieces of lumber or stone work just as well. As the plant materials within the bucket decompose, there could be seepage of slimy mineral mud. So, I put an old dish drain mat underneath the bricks so as to prevent our deck from soaking up the goo (also, the 'goo' is actually good stuff for plants and should be saved if is drips out and put back into the bucket).


The final product!

    Any plant material from healthy plants, vegetable and fruit scraps, plain paper products (paper-towel, black-and-white newspaper, etc), coffee grounds, egg-shells, or yard waste can be put into the compost bucket. Each time you add green things (wet organic matter) be sure to add brown things (dry organic matter: dead leaves, grass clippings, or paper). Also, make sure to add a sprinkle of water to the mixture each time you add ingredients in order to keep the process going. The matter will not break down if it is dry! You should probably stay away from adding any bones, fatty wastes, meats, or dairy products because they take longer to decompose and also attract racoons, rats, flies, and other creepy-crawlies. Also, avoid using anything that has been treated with chemicals or contains chemicals, like glossy paper, because you will be eating it eventually (in a round-about way). Otherwise, your compost should be ready to spread in a one-inch layer over your topsoil in the garden in three to five months, which would bring you to the spring planting season if you start now like I did!

The first recycled ingredient: coffee grounds including the filter!

Next Up: Carrot-Top Pesto!

    As a first year gardener, I don't have anything planned to grow during the winter months. This means that my garden is winding down for the season, so it's time to make what I have left stretch through the cold winter months. The basil plants were starting to look pretty sad, so I decided to put them mostly out of their misery. I picked off almost all of the leaves that were left  to make pesto! The problem is, as a first year gardener I didn't plant enough basil plants, so every time I go to make pesto with all the available leaves, I don't have enough to make a large batch. To overcome this problem, I decided to add carrot greens in with the basil this time in order to stretch it. I chose carrot greens for two reasons. First, I am becoming a big fan of the bitter-carrot taste of the greens. Second, I still have a bunch left over from last weeks carrot soup! 

    To begin with, I washed and tore up the basil and greens and ended up with about two cups packed. I put that into the food processor along with four medium garlic cloves, a half-cup of freshly blanched almonds (these are a convenient substitute for pine nuts), a quarter-cup of olive oil, and a cup of freshly-grated Parmesan cheese. I then processed the ingredients, making sure to get rid of any garlic or almond chunks. I promptly added a few dollops to the pasta and kale that I was cooking up. 
     BUT WAIT... THERE'S MORE! The whole point of this post was how to prepare for winter! In order to have home-made pesto throughout the winter months, I needed to freeze the rest of the batch I made. So as to make it easier to thaw out and separate portions out for a few different meals, I divided the remaining pesto up into a clean empty ice-cube tray. I then covered the remaining space in each spot in the tray with a little water. This will help when removing the cubes.  After the cubes freeze, I will remove them from the tray and put them into a freezer bag. Now, every time I want to add some delicious pesto to a meal, all I have to do is grab a few pesto-cubes and add them to the dish while it is cooking! 

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