Bottling fruit in my ginormous pressure cooker
Ever since I was a little kid these things have irrationally terrified me. I never wanted to use the canner with grandma either: I’d much rather grow and pick the fruit.
I think they used to be more dangerous then they are now? I don’t know. I’m probably just a baby.
Patrizia Soldi Making Mostarda Mantovana, Corte Eremo, Mantova.
Thank you, Patrizia, for making two fantastically strong batches of mostarda for us. The quince tree branches at Corte Eremo are lighter now, and we’ve got a good winter stash of spicy fruit!
For those who don’t know: Just before putting the mostarda in jars, when you add the concentrated drops of mustard (you can buy very small quantities at a pharmacy) to the cooked fruit, the smell is so strong it can burn you if you breathe it in - that explains the cloth over the face!
- One completely free way to tell how much nitrogen is in your soil is by identifying the weeds that are growing best in that particular soil. Chickweed (Stellaria media) often grows vigorously in high-nitrogen environments. Identify what is growing well there, and you can hazard a guess at your soil chemistry by reverse-engineering an article on that plant’s preferred soil composition.
- Weeds as soil indicators [x]
- A soil nitrate/nitrite paper strip test is about $3, which isn’t as bad as it used to be!
- Soil nitrogen testing [x]
- In some countries, state agricultural extensions will test your soil for you if you request it.
Phosphorus and potassium are tested regularly by commercial testing labs. While there are soil tests for nitrogen, these may be less reliable. Nitrogen is present in the soil in several forms and the forms can change rapidly. Therefore, a precise analysis of nitrogen is more difficult to obtain. Most university soil test labs do not routinely test for nitrogen. Home testing kits often contain a test for nitrogen which may give you a general idea of the presence of nitrogen, but again, due to the various transformations of nitrogen, the reading may not be reliable. [x]
Condensing a kale harvest
- Trim all healthy kale leaves from the plants and wash them
- Remove all small friends from their residence on Kale boulevard, and rehome them
- Cut out the middle veins of each leaf. Either keep these to eat, or compost them: they are nutritious for you, and nutritious for the soil
- Condense kale by boiling in salt water [“How to cook kale perfectly”]
- Strain until you have a dense brick of plant matter
- Create freezable, meal-sized bricks, wrap them, and deep-freeze them
These bricks are great for sauces, stews, smoothies, whatever, and are packed with nutrients such as calcium, iron, and vitamin A.
ETA: This is a harvest you can expect from 6 mature plants, if you take about 60% of the leaves.
Remember video cassettes, those big black boxes that played pictures? Rendered useless by DVDs, they’ve found a new purpose. Some 4,000 of them have built a house, along with two tonnes of denim jeans, 2,000 used carpet tiles and 20,000 toothbrushes.
The result is Britain’s first house made almost entirely from rubbish. Based at the University of Brighton, the house opened its doors in June and is a live research project, acting as a test-bed for new windows, solar panels, insulation and construction materials.
Another take from this story is that a lot of that waste from the UK was destined for Bangladesh, which is a clear example of environmental racism. The ways we think about and organise waste disposal are not just personal choices, but also political ones.
- Water tank: Filtered water is kept in the tank and slowly released into the breadbaskets below
- Vegetables growing in breadbasket: Breadbaskets filled with porous lava stoned are used to grow vegetables. The stones and vegetables roots trap the nutrients and filter the water which then flows into the fish tank below.
- Fish droppings enrich the water with nutrients for growing vegetables
- A variety of small vegetables can be grown such as swiss chard, cows peas, eggplants, sweet peppers, etc.
- Pump: A solar powered or had pump recycles the water to the top tank, ready for the cycle to start again.
- Chickens provide meat and eggs for consumption and/or for sale. Their droppings are captured and used to feed the fish.
This unique system integrates fish, poultry and vegetable farming using recycled water. It is designed to maximise the yield of each component, whilst minimising the amount of water required. Our research has shown that Haller’s aquaponics system uses only 2% of the water conventionally needed for the same vegetable production. This is particularly important in drought-prone areas in Africa. Haller’s aquaponics system is also affordable, it is made with low cost materials that can be found locally.
We have made several changes to this initial design – in particular to the fish tanks. A revised illustration is currently being worked on.