Archive | March 2013

Hydroponic Adventure: Day 10

SONY DSCHere we are at day 10 of our hydroponic adventure and we have a lot of new things happening, as well as some nice growth with our existing seedlings.  There was one day this week that very little seemed to be going on, but I know there was plenty of growth happening below the surface.  Our seedlings are busy developing roots and getting stronger day by day.

Within about 24 hours of filling our last four vacancies, two of the four seedlings had emerged.  The Extra Dwarf Pak Choy and Outredous Lettuce surprised me with their rapid germination and growth.   They are pictured here in the right front (pak choy) and right back (lettuce), along with the two baby romaine plants just to the left.

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I was also thrilled to see our jalapeno peppers finally sprouted.  These were planted on day one.

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The leeks are getting taller by the day, although there are still a few leek stations that have not germinated.  In a few days if I still don’t see signs of life in the stations I planted on day one and two, I will start some new seeds.  Our Micro Tom Tomato in the bottom left of the photo is doing well and developing its first true leaves.

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The first rosemary cutting that was added to the cart has finally started to put out roots.  I think the trick with rosemary is to use a younger, less woody cutting.  I also think I will scrape a bit of the woody part away before dipping it in the cloning gel and adding it to the cart.

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The younger cutting is developing some impressive roots!

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It looks like the African violets are starting to develop tiny roots, but I couldn’t quite get them to show up in the photo.  The leaves are still very healthy looking so I do expect the propagation will work, but we’ll have to wait and see.

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Our buttercrunch lettuce and arugula are doing nicely (left hand row) and the purple basil is ready to be thinned.

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And last, but not least our sweet basil are still humming along. 🙂

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So that’s all for today.  I hope to be back soon with another exciting (to me anyway) update!  Hope you all have a blessed and Happy Easter!

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Hrudka – Slovak Easter Cheese

SONY DSCSo, I’ve been feeling a bit of withdrawal in the cheese making department.  Other than making some 30 minute mozzarella and yogurt cheese, I’ve been too busy of late to mess around with my new cheese making hobby.  But when I saw an interesting post about hrudka, a fresh Easter cheese, I was intrigued.  It didn’t look terribly difficult to make or very time-consuming.  And with Easter just a few days away, I decided to give it a try.

Hrudka, also called sirok or sirecz, is a tradition during Easter time in Slovakia and is typically served with ham, kielbasa, beet horseradish, and paska (Easter bread).   It can be made either savory or sweet, but I opted to try the sweet version especially since I think my little one would probably prefer it.

The ingredients are simple and readily available, a dozen eggs, a quart of milk, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 cup of sugar.  Stay tuned as I also added another, super secret ingredient later because I just couldn’t resist!

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The first step is to break all the eggs into a large mixing bowl.

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Then I began breaking up the eggs with a whisk.

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But I soon switched to a fork as I just couldn’t get the desired “whisking action” with my whisk.  A fork just seems to do a better job of breaking up the eggs for me.

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Next, I added the milk and eggs to the pot.

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Then the salt…

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Sugar…

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And vanilla.

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With a low flame I began heating the ingredients.

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After about 10 minutes of smelling the delicious aroma coming from the pot, I felt a sudden urge to add another ingredient.  The aroma of the warming milk, eggs, sugar and vanilla just screamed out for the addition of cardamom!  Since I had never even tried hrudka let alone make it, I wasn’t really sure this was a good idea.  But I went with my gut and added it anyway, just 1/8 of a teaspoon.

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I read that the key to success with this recipe is not to scramble the eggs by using a too-high temperature, while also stirring constantly for 20-30 minutes.  I think I was a little overly conservative with the temperature as a result.  When I hit the 30 minute mark and things still hadn’t progressed much I began to wonder if I was doing something wrong.  The whey was suppose to begin to separate and curds were suppose to appear.  I just wasn’t getting that.

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At about 40 minutes I decided to put the mixture in my cheese bag to see if any whey would drain.  After about 20 minutes this was all I had collected.  I had my doubts about whether I had done things quite right, so while the whey slowly dripped I did a little more research on making hrudka.

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In the end I decided to put the mixture back in the pot and cook it some more.  This time I threw caution to the wind and cranked the heat up to medium!

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And voila! My whey suddenly started to separate and curds appeared!  I guess I was just too cautious about heating the mixture for fear I would have nothing but a big pot of sweetened scrambled eggs.  The next time I make it I will know better.

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So back into the cheese bag it went and now I had some serious draining going on.  If you look closely you can see the stream of whey flowing from the bottom of the bag.  Much better!

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So after a couple hours of draining and periodically squeezing the cheese bag, here’s what we ended up with.  Looks pretty good, I think, and it tasted really interesting.  It was much like a solid, mildly sweet custard.

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I chilled it in the fridge overnight and then it was time to dive into it for breakfast the next morning.  I cut a few slices…

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And browned up some butter in a small frying pan.

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I wasn’t sure if the cheese would melt, but I read that it could be fried and that sounded really good to me.  So into the pan the slices went.

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I cooked them for a few minutes on medium high and then flipped them over.  They held their shape perfectly!

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I served some up for my little one with a drizzle of maple syrup.

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But I decided I’d like to try mine with a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

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Oh boy, they were delicious!  They were lightly sweet with a hint of the warm flavor of cardamom coming through.  It was much like eating french toast but with a different texture.

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It is easy to see why this is an Easter tradition in some countries.  The distinctive flavor of the cheese is something I am sure I will soon begin to crave.  And the ingredients just call out to be experimented with!  Some people add cinnamon instead of vanilla, but others simply add salt and no sugar for a savory version.  Personally, I love cardamom so I expect that will be my favorite spice to add to the sweet version.  But I have to wonder what it would be like to add fresh herbs to a savory version.  Hrudka is often served on ham sandwiches so I think the addition of fresh herbs might be nice.  I may try that sometime, but I’d really love to hear from you.  Have you ever had hrudka?  If so, how was it served?  And if mine isn’t right, please do tell!  I was really flying blind with this recipe, but I am happy with the results it may very well become an Easter tradition in my house too!

Hydroponic Adventure: Day 7

SONY DSCWhat a wonderful snowy Monday!  We’re at the tail end of a winter storm warning, and I am snuggled up in front of the fire working on some digital scrapbooking.  My little guy was able to go out and play in the snow and was especially pleased that it was good “packing snow”.  After lunch he ran out to check the mailbox and returned with a gigantic envelope full of seeds I ordered from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds!  Holy moly I ordered a lot of seeds!

Our biggest surprises in the cart today included the discovery of roots growing on one of our rosemary cuttings…

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And the emergence of our first pepper plant!  Welcome to the party, Pepper!

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The rest of the seedlings as well as the cuttings still seem to be doing wonderfully.

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The first spindly looking plant is a leek.  Several of the leeks I planted have sprouted, including one I accidentally put in with the thyme.  Oops!  I may try to transplant him when he get a wee bit bigger.

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We filled the last four stations with some of the seeds that arrived today: Outredious Lettuce, Extra Dwarf Pak Choy, Mustard Habanero, and Albino Bullnose Pepper.  Here my little guy is planting the bullnose pepper seeds.  Such a good little helper!

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Couldn’t resist adding this photo.

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Or this one!

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Our first true leaves are forming on the lettuces.  This is the buttercrunch.

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And our baby romaine.

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Here’s our updated seed map.  (I feel like hanging a “No Vacancy” sign on the front of the cart!)

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There’s still no sign of the chives, spinach, nasturtium, parsley, or cilantro or some of the other seed stations whose “siblings” (sorry, not sure what else to call them) have already sprouted.  But I have no doubt that more are on their way up.  Now that I have my summer garden seeds, I plan to begin transplanting some of the current seedlings when they get just a bit bigger and stronger.  I hope to start the majority of my transplants in the cart.  It should be interesting to see how this makes a difference in my summer garden.

Hydroponic Adventure: Day 5

SONY DSCThings are going very well in the cart!  Unfortunately I was too busy for an update yesterday, but here are some shots of how our seedlings are progressing today.

This is our first Micro Tom Tomato and is actually our first official tomato.  In my last post I mistakenly said my tarragon seedling was a Red Robin Tomato seedling (I never was very good at reading maps).  It’s funny how this little guy actually looks like tarragon to me.   It was pretty late at night when I planted the first seeds so it will be interesting to see if I actually mapped out the seeds correctly, though I do think I did.

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The seedling in the foreground and the one on the back right are both poppies.

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The arugula and buttercrunch are showing terrific growth almost by the hour it seems!

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Happily, all of my basil seeds have sprouted!  These two are just your run-of-the-mill, ordinary, every day, deeelicious basil varieties!

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And this is the dwarf bush basil, though he’s not looking too dwarf to me.

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And the beautiful purple basil is starting to take off!  Yay!

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This is one of the leeks I planted.  I am happy to see the water temp isn’t too warm for them to germinate.

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Here’s the tarragon seedling… I think.  😉

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And our first Red Robin tomato seedling.  (These plants will be a whole lot easier to differentiate when they grow up!)

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And like our arugula and buttercrunch lettuce, our baby romaine is doing really well!

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Our sage seedling also made its debut yesterday and seems to be growing rather quickly.

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The cuttings are looking healthy still, but it will be a little while longer before their roots develop.

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That rounds out our progress for the last couple of days.  Tomorrow is Sunday so I probably won’t have another update for a day or two at least.  There are still a lot of seeds that haven’t yet sprouted, but I suspect it won’t be long.

 

Hydroponic Adventure: Day 3

SONY DSCThis morning as the snow fell and I sipped a nice hot cup of coffee in the comfort of my toasty warm house, I had the pleasure of meeting my indoor garden newcomers.  It was almost like Christmas morning… really!  But my plants could care less how cold it is outside.  They are busy going about their business of growing.  It seriously never ceases to amaze me when those microscopic seeds first begin to spring to life, but I must say this hydroponic adventure just adds to my amazement and awe!

The biggest surprise waiting for me today was the emergence of one of my Red Robin Tomatoes.  He’s small, but take my word for it he’s there.  I planted 3 of these so hopefully the others won’t be far behind.

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The lettuces are doing splendidly!  I will need to do some thinning pretty soon as all the seeds seemed to have germinated. Here’s one of the two buttercrunch’s I planted.

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And check out these baby romaine plants!  They are really going to town!

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I was thrilled to see some basil making an appearance.  The very first seeds I planted were basil because it’s SO my favorite herb!

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Here’s a look at how my first little thyme seedling is progressing.

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This is one of my favorite shots.  It’s buttercrunch lettuce and arugula all down the row.  Gotta love it!

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Last but not least, we have the baby romaine seedlings (in the front two pots) with the African violets and rosemary cuttings in the back.

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So that’s all for today, but hopefully I will be back tomorrow with another update.  I see lots of activity down in the growing medium so there should be more excitement in the days to come.

 

Hydroponic Adventure: Day 2

Arugula Seed GerminationWell, it’s been less than 48 hours since I planted the first seeds in the hydroponic cart and we already have germination!  Wow, that was fast!  So far I can see several little seedlings struggling to poke up through the growing medium.

Actually, the first seedling I noticed was my purple basil, but it still has it’s shell or seed coat (I had to look that up) attached so it blended in to the grow medium too much to get a good photo.  But here is a shot of some thyme.

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And a tiny arugula seedling.  This one just suddenly appeared so I imagine it will grow rapidly.

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And finally some baby romaine.

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I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!

My Hydroponic Garden

SONY DSCI am so super stinking excited!  My long-awaited hydroponic garden is finally up and running!  My sweet husband and brother-in-law have been working tirelessly on this project for quite some time, but now it’s done.  It’s finally done.  Hooray!

If you’re not familiar with hydroponic gardening it’s a method of gardening without soil.  I am pretty new to it myself, although I did have a miniature hydroponic garden a couple of years ago and I loved it.  But this thing puts my other rinky-dink hydroponic garden to shame.  An invention of my brother-in-law, I have to admit I can’t tell you a whole lot about it at this time.  But I plan to post about my successes and failures along the way.  Today I just wanted to hurry and get a post put together because I am told I should expect my seedlings to emerge any day (or perhaps any minute) because hydroponic plants tend to grow a whole lot faster than traditionally grown plants.  I planted lots of seeds last night and more today so I wanted to share the “before” photos before the first seedlings emerge.

These four little guys (rosemary and African Violets) are cuttings from some of my house plants.  My understanding is these should root and be ready for transplanting in no time.  I can’t wait to experiment with other plants!  I think I will try my new ground cover roses as soon as they come out of dormancy.

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Here’s the map of what I have planted so far.  There are a few vacancies, but that won’t be for long.  I’ve just ordered lots and lots of new seeds!  I can hardly believe there are a whopping 56 spaces for planting!  I just can’t imagine what this will look like when it’s full of mature plants.

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Admittedly I did plant some seeds that will probably not work in the cart, but after planting all the varieties of seeds I had on hand that I thought would work I still had a lot of vacancies and figured, “Why not?”  In particular I wonder if the poppies and the leeks will work out.  I have never grown poppies before, but I think they are pretty big and bushy plants.  The leeks might need a cooler water temperature to germinate.  Right now we have the water heater set to 85 degrees.  My hope is to get the leeks started and then transplant them outdoors in a few weeks.

My goal, besides having lots of fresh herbs, lettuces, and dwarf peppers and tomatoes growing at all times, is to start the seeds to transplant in my outdoor garden.  My brother-in-law assures me this will be a piece of cake!  I hope he is right because my sunroom was a mine field of seed flats last spring and was really quite a mess.

Here’s a close-up of the top of the unit.  Per my brother-in-law’s suggestion I turned the caps to the 9:00 position after they were planted.  There are currently only 4 vacancies (the caps at the 6:00 position) that will be fill just as soon as my new seeds arrive.

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Even as I write this I can hear my cart just bubbling and gurgling away.  Such a happy noise knowing (hoping) I will soon witness the emergence of dozens of tiny little yummy seedlings.  I think I will go check it again (only the 1005th time today) to see if there are any signs of new life…