Monthly Archives: August 2016

Going into fall garden season

The tomatoes are just about gone. We haven’t had significant rain for almost 3 weeks with temperatures in the 90ºs during the day, and not cooling off much at night. Another couple days and we will pull up the rest of the tomatoes and try to get a fall garden started.

IMG_2348The county extension agent says it remains too hot for a good germination of broccoli, lettuce, and cauliflower unless one uses a row cover to keep off the sun. Another website said lettuce might germinate if planted in the evening, then ‘watered’ with a cover of ice over the top. We’ll try and get some things started in pots in the greenhouse and then transplant into the garden in early September.


Found a Froe!

This medieval-looking tool is called a ‘froe’ and we have been searching for a real one (not a new one on Amazon). I found it at Ed Lebetkin’s antique tool shop in Pittsboro, the one right above The Woodright’s School, run by Roy Underwood from the PBS show.

Froe.jpgIt was originally used to make shingles out of a block of wood, and also to trim wood blocks to get them ready for more tooling (planing, shaving, cutting and so on).

We plan to use it for splitting blocks of wood for kindling. And, also maybe try to get wood ready for hand tool working.

When visiting Pittsboro you have to stop by Ed’s store.

Pickled Cantalope

I read an article a few days ago in the Wall Street Journal about pickling excess fruit. One of our wonderful neighbors grew an abundance of cantalope this year (he credits our bees for the great harvest) and shared several nice cantalope with us.

However, one can only eat so much cantalope at a time. So we tried this recipe for pickled cantalope.  Wow, was it ever … ummh … interesting. If you’ve never tasted elderflower liquer, go try a small bottle. It’s great by itself and mixes well with other drink bases.

Pickled Cantalope.
For the basil syrup:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup tightly packed basil leaves
1 cup warm water
For the pickles:
1 small ripe cantaloupe
6 ounces St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur
6 ounces gin
6 ounces lemon juice, fresh squeezed
6 ounces basil infused simple syrup
1. Make basil syrup: In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine sugar and water, stirring to dissolve. Transfer to an airtight container. Add basil leaves to container and seal. Refrigerate 4 hours. Remove wilted basil. Return to refrigerator until ready to use.
2. Peel and halve cantaloupe, scoop out seeds and cut into wedges.
3. Make pickling liquid: Combine elderflower liqueur, gin, lemon juice and basil syrup.
4. Place melon wedges in an airtight container or Ziploc bag. Pour pickling liquid over fruit, filling container, or pressing as much air as possible out of bag. Refrigerate 24 hours before eating.

Dog crate for truck

We needed a way to transport the dogs in the back of the truck, and didn’t want to get a topper (hard to take on and off when moving compost etc) and couldn’t see spending several hundred dollars for a commercial dog crate.

So we decided to build our own out of PVC pipe and fencing.

First we built a frame using 3/4″ PVC some special PVC connectors (3-way and 4-way) ordered off the internet.Frame.jpg The shorter end tucks up underneath the truck bed cover.

Then we enclosed the sides with horse fence cut to shape, and covered the top with wire fencing which was connected tightly using cable ties.


Completed crate

After their first ride the dogs are happy.

Elderberry Harvest

We picked elderberries yesterday. These things are very easy to pick, as they produce in large clusters of berries that one just cuts off with a nippers.

Then the fun begins. The berries are very small – about BB size – and they are scraped off the clusters with a fork. And while wearing rubber gloves, because everything they touch is immediately stained purple. We still have a few stems to pick out yet.


Now what? Three recipes to try – elderberry liqueur, elderberry jelly, and elderberry syrup.


You get what you pay for

We recently purchased a used honey extractor. This is a large stainless steel tub (20 inches in diameter) about 3 feet tall with a spigot at the bottom. Honey frames are inserted around a centrifuge-like device in the center of the tub, and then spun rapidly by hand through a gear mechanism at the top.

This device was used to extract our most recent batch of honey. On the last frame, it stopped.

We opened up the gear box and found the worm gear had disintegrated. IMG_5238

No luck finding replacement parts online. This thing was apparently made in Italy. The product label is in Italian, and (after translating by Google Translate) roughly says:

Made by (the equivalent of) Sears Italy
Of really good stainless steel
Here are the detailed specs on the steel

Not much help.

So, back to the drawing board.