Tom Allyn

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since Dec 22, 2011
Maple Valley, WA
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Recent posts by Tom Allyn

I've made my own sea salt before. I collected 14 gallons of sea water from a relatively clean area and with it produced 9 cups of sea salt - equivalent to 6 cups of table salt.

Here's how I did it. I strained the seawater through gold mesh coffee filter into a large canning kettle. I found a number of tiny wigglies in the gold filter. I heated the kettle on the patio with the burner from a turkey deep fryer. As it boiled down I added more. To make the straining easier I cut a round hole that fit my coffee filter in a 1x6 board. Then I just set the board over the kettle and poured straight through the filter.

Once I had it reduced enough that all 14 gallons had been strained I temporarily turned off the heat and skimmed the top of the water. I found oils and likely some other contaminants floated on top of the salt water. Once I got the gunk off the top I started boiling it again.

Soon I started to see salt crystals precipitating out of the liquid. I scooped these up with a slotted spoon and spread them on a non-stick baking sheet and put them in a 150°F oven to dry. I continued boiling down the water and spooning out the salt until I got it down to an amount that I could finish in a smaller pot on my kitchen stove.

When I poured the contents of the canning kettle into the kitchen pot I saw that a hard scale had formed on the canning kettle. That scale is waste not salt. And it's rather difficult to remove. I had to chip some of it off butter knife.

Finishing the salt on the stove was an amazing and surprising process. The pot would ping and pop and jump around a little! I think what was happening was that the salt was caking up on the bottom of the pan and then bursting from the pressure of steam trapped beneath it. It was very strange. I continued straining off the crystals. Eventually the remaining mixture boiled down into a paste. By this time I had already extracted about 75% of the salt. The remaining paste then went onto a baking sheet and got finished in the oven.

The first crystals scooped out were the biggest an flakiest. I suspect they were also the purest though I have no way of testing or confirming this. At any rate they were more pure white in color than the later crystals and final paste product. It all tasted the same, just like store bought sea salt.

It was a fun and gratifying project.
6 years ago

James Colbert wrote:I have heard from a couple people that kudzu does not grow in thick dense forests. You find kudzu at the edge of a forest or in open pasture. to me this says that well developed and healthy ecosystems don't have problems with invasive species.



That's a little too broad of statement for me. Some invasives absolutely will take over an otherwise healthy and undisturbed ecosystem.
6 years ago

ceog Hatfield wrote:Also, from further reading, of the two, the Black Locust (fast growing, nitrogen fixer, rot resistant, high energy fuel) is criticised as very invasive, whereas Catalpa (pretty, but not much use) is mostly harmless.



That's where I draw the line. Non-native is OK if it's otherwise harmless. Invasive is to be avoided. It's an easy enough distinction.

Here in the Great Northwet we've had a terrible time with invasive Japanese Knotweed. It's decimating some of our local salmon runs. It's got to go, at least along our rivers. We're slowly getting rid of it. Salmon numbers are climbing again. But it's much simpler to simply not introduce the invasive in the first place.

If you have use for a non-invasive non-native then go ahead and plant it. But to knowingly plant an invasive is irresponsible. I wish more landscapers and nurseries understood this.
6 years ago

R Scott wrote:And barefoot! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fWo0P0MdJM&feature=channel&list=UL



A couple things to note in that video. First is that she's using a 'cruiser' axe. That's a relatively light axe, probably not more than 2-1/2 lbs. with a 28"-30" handle, not generally considered a splitting axe. But the twist technique turns it into a great splitter. Also notice that she has intentionally set up much of the wood on rocks. Using the normal splitting technique would ruin the bit of the axe when it broke through the wood and struck the stone. But with the twist technique the force of the blow is converted to sideways splitting energy and the axe stops dead on top the remaining half of the log. No need to buy an expensive single purpose splitting axe when any old axe can do the same thing and much more.
6 years ago
I'm borderline 8a/8b. Thelma is probably the same (Snohomish Co.).

I start my potatoes a little later than Thelma. Last frost date for my locale is ~April 20th. I'll plant around tax-time, April 15th. They take about 10 days to emerge.
7 years ago
I will occasionally harvest a few spuds from the bottom of the box, but if I do it's from my early red potatoes. The soil is settled enought by then that digging a few from the bottom doesn't cause it to collapse. I shove as much dirt as I can back in and close up the box after pilfering.

By the time the Yellow Finns are maturing I already have plenty of reds to eat so I just let the Yellows die back. The reds don't store as well so they need to be eaten first anyway.

I use the 'garden mix' soil as-is, straight from the composters. I start the boxes with 7" of soil (2 rounds of 5/4 cedar boards). I lay in the seed and cover with another 3-1/2" of soil. When the plant reaches 12" above the level of soil I add another round of boards and another 3-1/2" of soil. With the Yellow Finns I'll build the boxes up to 9 or 10 boards high. With reds I'll stop at 7 or 8.

Oh, and one more thing. I cover the bottoms of the boxes with 1/2" hardware cloth just to keep the moles out. I'm not sure moles actually do any harm but I keep them out anyway.
7 years ago
Wet leaves help the mildew grow. Watering the soil directly is better than letting a sprinkler wet the leaves.
7 years ago
My experience with wild hazelnuts in the PNW is that they won't necessarily produce every year. Some of the wild trees around here only produce once every few years. And trees in the shade never seem to produce or produce very few nuts. Trees with full afternoon sun do well and may produce year after year.

7 years ago
Does anyone here have a good home process for making sugar from beets? I grew sugar beets this year and have just been processing them into a sugar-rich beet syrup. It's a fine sugar substitute but it would be nice to get some of it to crystalize.

I've tried this method.
http://www.grandpappy.info/rsugar.htm
All I get is syrup.
7 years ago
Heater or stove? Heaters are vented outside. Stoves are used outside.
7 years ago