Archive for November, 2013

Pot some Amaryllis to get Spring Brilliance on your Windowsill

Here are a few of the dozen or so pots of amaryllis that brighten our winter days.  With minimal effort, you can do this too.

Here are a few of the dozen or so pots of amaryllis that brighten our winter days. With minimal effort, you can do this too.

We had a mild frost a week back, enough to soften the leaves on the Amaryllis I had put out into the garden for the summer.   I cut the foliage back to the about an inch above the bulb and gently removed any dead papery skin from the bulb.

here are the amaryllis I have saved and enjoyed year after year.  After a light frost the foliage is soft and ready for trimming.

Here are the amaryllis I have saved and enjoyed year after year. After a light frost the foliage is soft and ready for trimming.

This is the stage that I like to dig them up and repot them to move them back indoors for the winter.  I mix the soil with a tablespoon of organic bone meal per pot and repot the bulbs so that the top half is showing above the soil.

the foliage is trimmed and the bulb repotted.  They get bigger every year.  This one needs a 12" pot now.

The foliage is trimmed and the bulb repotted. They get bigger every year. This one needs a 12″ pot now.

I water them and put them in the cellar in a cool dark spot where they rest for about 8 weeks.  I check them every so often to see if they need a little water as they shouldn’t dry out completely.  Bring any that begin to sprout up into the sun and warmth.  Once they begin to open, move them to a cooler spot out of the sun to enjoy the flowers longer.  If they haven’t sprouted after 10 weeks or so, bring them into the light to speed them up.  Replant them into the garden or set the pot outside and water and fertilize well when all threat of frost is past in the spring.

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Black Walnuts Part 2: Cracking and Storing

Charlo is ever hopeful of a tidbit.  Here you can see the heavy duty nutcracker.

Charlo is ever hopeful of a tidbit. Here you can see the heavy duty nutcracker.

I went through cleaning the Black Walnuts in a post in the March 2013 Archives but I had to wait until now when we are doing this stage, so I could have pictures of cracking and storing them.  The walnuts are first spread out to dry completely.  We spread them on newspaper in front of a sunny window.

These have been drying for several days and are ready to be cracked.  This is about enough for a quart of nutmeats.

These have been drying for several days and are ready to be cracked. This is about enough for a quart of nutmeats.

After about a week, you can begin cracking them.  We used to use a hammer, placing the nut on a rock that had a depression to hold it and banging away at it until it shattered.  Goggles were required for this as the sharp shell fragments scatter all over.  I had an acquaintance who owned a Hican (Hickory/Pecan cross) farm in Kansas and he told me about a heavy duty nutcracker that they use on the farm.  After purchasing that, it was much easier to access the delicious nutmeats.  These heavy duty nutcrackers can be found on line.

There's more shell to nut ratio than with typical English Walnuts but the flavor is much more intense.

There’s more shell to nut ratio than with typical English Walnuts but the flavor is much more intense.

My husband cracks them and I pick out the nutmeats.  I fill quart plastic containers with the raw nutmeats and keep them in the freezer.  I have tried roasting them before freezing them but have found that it is better to store them raw and to roast them right before you use them. They deteriorate faster if roasted before freezing.  I do recommend roasting or toasting them before eating as it takes away a certain bitterness that is characteristic of the nuts.

Apple Crisp with Maple Whipped Cream and Toasted Black Walnuts

Apple Crisp with Maple Whipped Cream and Toasted Black Walnuts

We use them for salads (kale, Waldorf, beet with toasted chevre and pear with Gorgonzola), also in fudge, my husband’s ancient southern family fruitcake recipe and as a topping for desserts.  If we had a way to grind up the shells, one of the boys tells us they are excellent for  sandblasting as they are natural and don’t need to be cleaned up since they biodegrade.

One quart of nutmeats and a large pile of shells, the result of a couple of hours work.

One quart of nutmeats and a large pile of shells, the result of a couple of hours work.

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Tricks for Growing Lettuce in Cold Weather Months

This frame has a double zippered front and a removable plastic top.

This frame has a double zippered front and a removable plastic top.

Well, let me preface this by saying that I might have waited too long to get this project going here in Connecticut.  In past years, I’ve planted my winter lettuce in early September and it was a couple of inches high by the time it needed winter protection.  This year we were birding in Africa when I should have been planting lettuce and I didn’t get it planted until about 2 weeks ago.  It’s now up and about 1/2″ high and I’ll see how it goes.  In the past, I have been able to pick fresh lettuce through winter months with the help of a cold frame.  I have a heavy quilt that I throw over the top of it when the temperatures are below freezing at night.  During the day, I take off the cover and the sun, even a weak sun of deep winter, will warm it up.  I put a soil thermometer in the corner to monitor the temperature.

One way to have a warm cold frame is make it a “hot frame” by digging out the bottom and putting  a layer of fresh cow or horse manure (not dog or cat) on the bottom.   You then cover it with about 6″ of garden soil for the plants to grow in.  As the manure breaks down, it releases heat, raising the temperature.  I didn’t have fresh manure, so I am just going with the protection of the cold frame.  When truly cold weather sets in, I raise the temperature inside by filling plastic gallon milk jugs with hot water and putting them around the edges inside in the evening.

I used to have a wooden cold frame with a sheet of Plexiglas for a top that my son Pete made for me.  It has deteriorated over the years and the Plexiglas shattered a couple of years ago, so I have searched for alternatives.  My friend Rachel found something at Costco and got me one, so we’ll see how it works.  Those of you further to the south still have time to get your winter lettuce going.  Wish me luck with mine.  I may have to break down and (gasp!) buy it this year.

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