Thursday, January 22, 2009

Graywater Gardens

Okay, this is cool: not only using the graywater from your washing machine to irrigate you garden, but using your neighbor's graywater!

On one end of the big base trough, a musical sculpture comprising a C-shaped copper pipe, a pale terra-cotta base and a bowl that looks like a huge rust-finished wok spills water into the tub holding the upper story of plants. From there it overflows into the base, and from there?

"We use it to irrigate this part of the garden," Hurd said, pointing out the slope downhill from the fountain. "We're going to add more riparian plants - water lovers - and I'm going to build a willow-stake fence to replace this one that's falling down."

In such a wet spot, as along a creekside where they generally grow, willow branches that are just stuck into the ground can be relied upon to root and grow. What you get is a fence that can be maintained with pruning shears, never needs painting, won't fall over and will furnish branches for art and fun, and twigs to make willow water....

Water approaches the copper "C" piped from a buried cistern - a barrel with a sump pump. There's a lid; when we visited, it was taken off to show the works. That water comes from the washing machine of Hurd's next-door neighbor, Annie Leonard.

The living fountain system does more than move water around; it cleans it. It's a very simple graywater filtration system that wastes no precious garden space on ugly machinery. The first level is a terra cotta pipe filled with sand. The most active filters are the roots of those plants in the tiered hanging gardens. (Hurd claims no technology so far can match the filtration strength of certain plant roots.) She'll have water emerging from the planters tested to see if it's legally clean enough for irrigating vegetables.

I can't wait to try this in my backyard, 'cause while I don't have a washer...oh yes, my neighbor does.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Free Money

The photo is from—click here for the full post. Really, though, the post attached to the photo isn't worth reading; what is interesting is DC's lack of a bottle deposit. After big events in metropolitan California, those money-earning cans and bottles are gone. Either the waste companies take 'em away, or the can men get them. I personally root for the can men. California reclaims about 61 percent of its recyclables, which is good, but Oregon kicks our ass with an 84-percent reclamation rate—and Iowa, Vermot, and Michigan have rates in the 90s. That's some motivated recyclers.

I'm a so-so recycler, and I still pull enough cans and bottles out of my trash (and off the street on which I live) to pay for my dump fees. Put a little effort into it and I could throw in a trip to the taco wagon as well.

Check it out at the Bottle Bill Resource Guide.

Almost-free Chicken Soup

1-2 lemons
roast chicken carcass

Toss the roast chicken carcass in a pot with some water and simmer until what meat's left falls off the bones. Pull everything out of the pot with a slotted spoon and remove all the bones and gristle. Discard the bones and gristle, and put what you kept back into the pot of stock. Add whatever vegetables are on hand, and simmer with a lid on. Zest and juice the lemons, adding both to the pot. Add 1/2 to 1 cup of rice, depending on how much rice you like in your soup. Add as much or as little pepper as you like. Saute thinly-sliced garlic and onion in the butter and add that to the soup pot. When the rice is cooked and you're hungry, it's ready to eat.

I made this on Sunday, because one of the guys in my Saturday gaming group brought a couple of rotisserie chickens to share that he got free at work (he works at a market). I already had four carrots, half an onion, some garlic and the rice on hand, plus two lemons—one from the free shelf at work, the other I found on the sidewalk the day before; it was still good, so I took it home. I went to the store and bought a leafy bunch of celery, so all in all this soup, which I just finished today for lunch, cost me 79 cents. And I only used half of the celery in the soup. So call it three days' worth of meals for 40 cents. W00t!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Green Bean Pickles

Green beans
White vinegar
Black peppercorns

Wash and snip the ends from your green beans. Pack them tightly into sterilized jars, adding 1/2 tsp black peppercorns per pint jar, along with a generous strip of lemon rind (with as much of the white pith removed as practical). Fill with white vinegar and bathe in hot water for 5-10 minutes.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Quiet of Winter

Now that winter's here, I've hardly been canning at all. (Cranberry relish, if you must know. And we've eaten all that I put up, so I must make more before the cranberries disappear from the store shelves.) Instead, we've been sampling this year's produce.

The pickled duck eggs have had mixed reviews. I'd think they'd do better if my samplers were drinking more beer during the taste testing, but with the cold weather we move to wines instead. I think I'll put the rest aside until summer. Additionally, I found a couple of coworkers who really like duck eggs, and are buying the fresh ones as fast as my ducks can pump 'em out. So probably no more pickled eggs.

The green beans were a big hit. I will definitely put up more of those next year. Recipe forthcoming!

Another recipe I'll post soon is one for red-pepper chutney, also well-received. And it works great as a meat marinade, too.

Another surprising hit is the pickled green tomatoes. Yes! After griping about the recipe, and gazing forlornly at the jars in my pantry, we finally cracked one open just after Thanksgiving. The pickles made from quarter-sliced tomatoes are definitely better than the sliced ones; they look better on a plate, and they have a bit more body. So I won't be too terribly sad next summer if my tomato plants crap out again.