Wednesday, February 22, 2012

More Winter Activities

April finished one of the windows on the strawbale walls.  I now have six thermal curtains out of a total of twelve done and up.  I'd really like to get the rest of them up before the end of winter.  But it looks really good.  Recently I was working on linseed oiling the sills where I'd done tiling.  This should toughen them up so they can resist wear and tear. 

I started some of the earlier starts a little over a week ago. Peppers and eggplant seem to grow the slowest and since I'm able to plant them in the hoop house so early, I had to start them really early. Onions are another early one, but I start those so early because they are the first thing I plant usually.  I'm guessing we will be able to get in earlier than ever since we've had such a mild winter. 

I bought a soil block maker this year so I can do away with the plastic containers I've been using for years that are falling apart.  I'd recommend this method to anyone.  It's really easy and you can make unlimited numbers of blocks. The air space between the blocks supposedly keeps the starts from becoming root bound because the roots just stop when they hit the edge of the block.  I made up my own soil mix out of compost, sand, and a small amount of ash.

This is my first attempt at gouda cheese.  The 4 pound wheel was covered with beeswax and aged it for about 2 months in my cheese cellar. I don't know if it is really gouda, but it tastes good.  To me it tastes more like a mild swiss cheese. I love that it looks like such a professionally made artisan cheese.  A few days ago I started making another wheel of it.  I may try using real cheese wax next time instead of beeswax because though the beeswax did protect the cheese during aging, there was still a pretty healthy mold growing on the rind.  We'll see what happens if I do it differently this time.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Winter Projects and Foods

Winter is probably the least interesting season for me.  Sure I like being able to slow down, read some books, and plan and think about the coming season.  But I think I'd rather everything be green and growing and be able to be out in it.  Of course, thanks to climate change, we have had a record warm winter, so there have been many days in the 50s and 60s in January and February so far. 

This winter I've been working on various finishing touches on the inside of the house.  I was racking my brains to find some good finish for the window sills of the deep wells on the strawbale walls.   I wanted something like tile, that would hold up better than earthen plaster to the wear and tear the sills would be subject to.  The commercial tile I was finding at the store seemed really boring, and the interesting Mexican tile was really expensive and not available at the local stores.  Then I stumbled across some more natural looking slate tiling.  Every piece was unique in its color and surface pattern, but they were all the same earthen hues.  I had the idea to cut them into shapes that would make them more interesting than just one foot squares.  The one foot square fit perfectly in the window sill with enough room to spare.  I cut the slate with a circular masonry blade.