Daikon Radishes

Yesterday, the weather was calling for our coldest temp so far (23F), so I thought it would be a good time to harvest some of our daikon radishes that are growing in the garden.  

I had not expected this crop to reach a very big size with regard to the roots since the seeds were planted this fall in a hugelkultur (wood chip) bed that was prepared this past summer.  I was pleasantly surprised to see some decent diameter roots becoming visible over the past month; like other types of radishes, the crown that is visible under the leaves can give a pretty good idea of what you will get when they are pulled.

However, daikon radishes can get very long, so it can be somewhat surprising to see what all is harvested.

Here is a picture of some of the daikons after getting cleaned up a bit:

ImageThe tops were coarsely chopped and put into a big bowl with a brine to rest overnight.  One of the roots was peeled and sliced to go with dinner, while the others were cut into strips (julienne) with a mandoline.  The radish strips were then packed into jars and covered with a brine solution, as well.

Tonight I will drain the leaves and roots, rinse and pack into jars with garlic, soy sauce and hot chili to finish making the kimchi!


Update on 12/19/12
Here is a finished jar of each type of kimchi – roots in one and leaves in the other. A sample taste of each was very good! No bitterness to the leaves at all, which can sometimes be an issue with them. The daikon roots have a nice mild radish flavor that complements the fermented salty/spicy tang.

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Mushrooms in the orchard – Nov 2012

November has been a cool and rainy month for us this year. This kind of weather certainly brings out the mushrooms!

There are a lot of “old friends” popping up everywhere in the orchard, inky caps, fairy cups and clumps of an unidentified Little Brown Mushroom (LBM), as well as some new interesting ones…

The ones pictured below (I’ll try and get a clear close-up and update this post) are growing in one of my raised bed rows (hugelkultur) near a pear tree and some sunchokes (jerusalem artichokes). I was concerned that they may be an amanita (death/destroying angel) as I had spotted a couple a year or two ago, but they don’t have a cup at the base and the gills are more free of the veil:

Another interesting group of mushrooms has come up in a raised bed row on the lower edge of the orchard which is partially under a large Oregon White Oak. I picked several dozen morel mushrooms from this bed this past spring. I’ve been watching the large one pictured below for a week or so and the ridges on the underside of the cap are pretty clear now, which helps with an ID. I am hoping they are Chanterelles, but this is the first time I have come across them, if so. I need to study up a bit more on false Chanterelles and Jack O Lanterns to make sure they are not poisonous. There are a number of others coming up in the same general area, but I probably won’t pick many this year (other than to try and confirm an ID) in the hopes that there will be more next year!

Closer pictures of the forked ridges on the reproductive surface:

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Homestead Construction #7 – Nice and Dry – The Roof is Finished

It took a bit longer than expected, but the homestead roof is finished. Our goal was to get the roof on and everything dry by the end of October, so we made our goal!

Once the walls were completed, the next step was to put the sill or mud-plate on the top off the walls. A series of 2×8 pressure-treated boards were run along the full length of the perimeter masonry walls and interior wing walls. Holes were cut through the boards for the embedded J-bolts and notches for the electrical conduit. The boards were secured with 3″ square washers and tightened down with 5/8″ j-bolt nuts.

A temporary support plank of 2×8’s was put up running down the full length of the house on the centerline. This support plank helped out a great deal in the initial placement of the trusses. The trusses arrived on a trailer from the local truss manufacturer. A boom truck came along with the delivery to set the bundled trusses into position.

In this picture, the first bundle of trusses is being lifted over the back of the house. The sill plate on the walls and temporary plank is also visible.

Each bundle of 4 or 5 trusses were placed on top of the house close to where their final position would be once they were separated. Since our house design is really just a big rectangle, all the trusses are the same (34 of them) except for the two on the end that will form the gables (you can see them with the vertical supports built into the truss). In the picture below, most of the truss bundles have been placed on the roof:

Once the delivery and boom trucks left, the process of putting the trusses into position began. The bundles were opened up and each truss slid a few feet to the proper (measured and marked) position. A vertical support was added in a temporary position along the outer east/west walls to help align the end (gable) truss and keep it in position. The spacing of most of the trusses is 2 feet on center. Metal spacing bars were provided by the truss company to help initially align the trusses into position towards their peak with a single nail. By the end of the delivery day, most of the trusses were up and spaced appropriately. Two trusses were closer together than 2 feet to make up the difference since the full length of the house is not evenly divisible by 2.

The rest of the trusses were placed the next morning and additional braces were added to reinforce them.

All of the trusses were nailed firmly into position and hurricane ties were put into place. Notches were cut in the gable trusses and the 2 foot outlooker boards were secured into position. This provides a 2 foot overhang on the ends of the house, matching the 2 foot overhangs on the eaves. Plywood was used along the eaves and overhang sections, since this will be initially visible from below (we may keep it this way depending on how the house looks when complete). OSB was used for the decking over the rest of the trusses. The OSB decking sheets were lifted up onto the roof and placed on temporary flat supports to keep the stack stable during installation. A 2″ opening was cut at the top on each side for the ridge vent. 2×6 blocking and vents were installed between the trusses under the eave overhang.

The underlayment fabric was installed next. We went with a material that was 4 feet wide and came in a 250′ roll, so we could get three full runs along the length of the house and have a bit extra. The underlayment is put down at the bottom first, by the eaves, and then each run above it overlaps by at least 4 inches. A nylon screen mesh was stapled into place over the ridge vent.

The metal roofing was delivered the next morning. We decided on 24 gauge galvanized panels with 1″ standing seams. The panels have a PVDF coating and have a 35 year warranty. Each panel has a section that is overlapped by the next. The overlap is where the screws go through the panels, so there are no screws visible or perforations in the panels until you get up to the top of the roof at the ridge cap.

The eave flashing was installed first, with the underlayment overlapping the flashing by a couple inches. The roofing panels are designed to start from the left side of each section of the roof. Measurements were made to check that each side of the roof was square (it was) and the first panel put into position. The bottom of each panel is caulked in place over the eave flashing and extends out by about an inch and a quarter. The top of the panel starts just below the ridge vent screen. The team on the ground made the cuts and bend necessary to prevent water from being blown up under the ridge cap and then handed up the 17’6″ panels one at a time. It took two days (~4-6 hours per day) for us to finish all the panels on both sides.
The gable ends have a piece of flashing that overlaps with the standing seam of the first roof panel and is then screwed in to the 2×6 gable fascia board. The ridge cap was the most challenging part. A notch in the cap metal was cut for each panel standing “rib” and then screws were put down through the ribs to hold the cap panels in place. All screws were caulked and each bend under the caps were caulked, as well.

Still a bit of clean up to do cutting off the overlayment fabric that sticks out from under the eave and gable flashing. Otherwise we are dry and covered!

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Asparagus Berries/Seed

While traveling past one of the Harry & David pear orchards a week or so back, the family noticed a bunch of red berries on a plant growing along the roadside. After stopping to look, it was obvious that it was a clump of mature asparagus ferns that were covered in ripe red berries. A few of the ferns were collected and taken down to the park where the homeschool meet-up was scheduled. Some of the berries were shared with other families and the rest was taken home to finish the harvesting process.

Here are a couple of photos showing the collection of berries and the individual seeds inside a berry:

The seed will be saved for planting next spring. Some will be planted in individual pots or flats and the rest will be planted via seed balls (coated in mud before being scattered around the homesite and creeks).

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Water Chestnuts – Harvest Day

The water chestnut experiment was completed today. Overall, I would say that the experiment to see if water chestnuts could be grown in southern Oregon was a success.

However, the total yield was very small (~2 lbs) from the 16 initial plants (~1 lb). Many of corms are still immature, small and have not formed a “skin”, so I don’t think they will hold over the winter for replanting. We will eat those and save the largest corms for next year.

I can think of several ways to potentially improve the yield in future test plots:
1) plant earlier in the year – sprouting the corms in early May may have been too late; starting them in late March may provide the extra 45 days or so that I think would make a big difference.
2) deeper soil and water – the several inches of topsoil that I placed in the artificial bog was not enough based on my observation of the root mass. I would like to increase the soil depth to at least 6 inches of muck with 6 inches of water above it. This would provide a more stable environment during our dry summer season.
3) increase the fertility – the topsoil tests for trace amounts of N/P/K. Adding a bushel or so of well rotted/composted manure to the soil a couple weeks after planting would likely allow the water chestnuts to have even more robust growth above and below the water line. I am impressed they grew as vigorously as they did with very little added fertility.

Here are some pictures of the end of the experiment:
the bog in late September (looked about the same today)

Here is a flipped over cluster that was initially from one corm:

Finally, this is a picture of the washed, total harvest:

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Homestead Construction #6 – Walls are up!

The masonry walls are complete!

It has taken two weeks, but the external walls of the house and two internal masonry walls are fully up and filled. With the walls up, it is really starting to seem like a house.

The first pallets of block arrived on October 1st and were placed onto the concrete slab. Plastic sheeting and sheets of OSB (to be used later in the roofing) were put down first to protect the concrete slab. It is likely that we will want to stain it later if we use it as our primary flooring in some parts of the house.

The initial courses of block were put down in the corners and north wall. There are no doors or windows in the north wall, so it was the fastest and easiest wall to start with. The first course of block was a bond beam set (horizontal #4 rebar and channels for a continous length of concrete to be poured in later). Six courses of block (8x8x16″) were placed to get the walls up to 4′ in height.

The blocks between the east and south wall corners were then placed. The overall feel of the house started taking shape. You can see the spaces left for the door in the east wall and the door and windows in the south wall. A large portion of the south wall will be glazing to allow for the thermal mass of the walls and foundation to absorb the heat and reduce our accessory heating demand.

Next, the block for the west wall was filled in and all the walls were brought up to 4′ high. The two interior wing walls were also built up to 4′. This picture was taken from inside the orchard to the southwest of the house. Looking up from here, it is starting to feel like a fort or castle…

A pump was brought in to pump 8.5 yards of concrete (3/8″ aggregate) into the channels for the bond beams and down into each of the cells of the individual blocks. Scaffolding was set up to allow easier access to keep building the walls up to the full 8′ height. The same progression was used to put up the next courses of block (corners, north, east, south then west walls).

In this picture, the final east door and window opening are visible. Sections of 2×8 lumber were used to buck out the rough opening and support the blocks forming the lintels. Rebar (#5) was placed under and above all window openings in the bond beam blocks. Vertical rebar was placed to overlap by 2′ with the sections sticking up vertically out of the foundation. Control joints, two on each wall, that allow for expansion of the masonry are visible below.

The south and west walls were filled in to their final heights, with the window and door openings in place. Sections of rebar were cut and bent into an “S” shape to hook the top horizontal steel together with the rebar above the windows and doors. The interior masonry walls were also finished up to 8′.

Finally, the concrete pump was brought back out to the site. Here is a pic of the delivery truck feeding into the pump:

The concrete was pumped into the walls, filling all the bond beam courses and individual cells up to the full height of the wall. The mix was smoothed flat and 5/8″ j-bolts were inserted into the mix with 2 3/4″ of the bolt sticking up out of the wall. The bolts were placed approximately 4′ apart and positioned so that they would not interfere with the necessary positioning of the truss hangers (2′ on center across the top of the walls).

Most of the electrical infrastructure will be placed in the interior walls. However, in some areas that would be difficult to reach, 1/2″ conduit was run inside the blocks and connected with deep outlet and switch boxes that were placed into cut-outs.

It took a total of 4 inspections to get through the last two weeks. The good part is that we won’t have to get another inspection until the roof is on, the internal walls are roughed in and the top electrical and plumbing is in place.
Tomorrow, the roofing supplies will be delivered to the site. The trusses are scheduled to be delivered on Tuesday, so it promises to be another busy week!

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Starting Black Locust from Seed

I planted a dozen or so Black Locust seedling trees around our property last year.. and the deer found them delicious! They didn’t even get a chance to settle in before getting completely chomped. The trees were not big enough to resprout, so it’s time to start some new ones.

There is a copse of Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robinia_pseudoacacia ) not too far from our property, so we collected some nice dry seed pods that had dropped. A few minutes opening pods resulted in a couple hundred seeds.

The seeds are pretty small, just a few mm across. A couple days ago, I put the seeds in a bowl and then poured a couple cups of boiling water over them. After about a minute, I poured off most of the boiling water and added warm water back to the bowl with teh seeds. The seeds were then allowed to soak overnight.

The next morning, about half of the seeds had swollen up to about twice their original size. The swollen seeds were gently transferred to a wet paper towel that was put into a loosely sealed container. The remaining seeds got an extra day of soaking.

This morning, I opened up container with the swollen seeds and found that about half a dozen seeds had small roots starting to break out of the sead coats. They were planted out in the orchard this morning (safely fenced away from the deer!).

I’ll keep checking each morning and planting out the ones that sprout.

Black locust is a classic permaculture tree with many uses (fuel, timber, posts, forage for livestock, pollen and nectar for bees, light shade for nursing other trees, nitrogen fixation underground and a source of nitrogen rich leaves). These trees will be planted this fall in the hopes that they can spend the winter getting their root systems established. By next year they should start growing quickly and by the end of summer, I’d like to start using them for “chop and drop” mulch around other plants. It may take a year or two for them to settle in to allow for rapid resprouting, but trees planted from seed should allow for fast growth. If nothing else, they should be a good bait for all the lousy grasshoppers that are currently enjoying my other chop and drop crops, such as the comfrey…

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