Nicole Castle

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since Jul 18, 2012
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Recent posts by Nicole Castle

Lee Morgan wrote:Is lard that you buy by the block at the grocery store processed a specific way? What is the shelf life of that (which is just wrapped in a piece of parchment)?

If it is unprocessed lard, it *should* be in the refrigerator section at least. I usually see it in the freezer section here, but sometimes it is in the meat case.

Fully hydrogenated lard is shelf stable for some time: months, even up to a year. Sometimes the stuff in the store is fully hydrogenated, but sometimes it's only partially hydrogenated. Don't get the partial stuff, that's really bad for you. The jury is still out on fully hydrogenated. Store lard is also bleached and a few other chemical things done to it to make it smell less piggy. At that point it is basically Crisco, but from a pig. Again, it's not something you can do at home.

IMO, it's an completely inferior product to home rendered lard, but it's popular and useful in places without reliable refrigeration.
11 years ago

Paul Gardner wrote:If canning fat doesn't kill all the bacteria in the process, then that means that no food with any fat should be canned. Sorry, but you cannot get 100% lean meats and yet they still can it. I realize of course there is a difference between canning very lean mean and (near) 100% fat, but the premise is still the same. If you get the temperature high enough for long enough it will kill the bacteria. Fat or no fat. That is why different requirements for canning Tomatoes versus Chilli. Granted the higher temperature for Fats might not make the bacon grease (or other fats) as palatable though.

Fat, bacon grease or others, is too dense to reach the required 240F temperature for non-acid foods inside a jar while in a pressure cooker. It's the same reason you can't can squash puree but cubed squash is okay. A little bit of fat in the meat you are canning is not enough to affect the internal temperature of the can, but that's why all canning recipes tested for safety say to remove visible fat as much as possible -- to prevent dense spots where the Clostridium botulinum bacteria are not killed and can then reproduce inside the can.

People can butter all the time even though the County Extensions and FDA don't recommend it. It must be possible, otherwise why would one be able to buy Canned Butter?

Safety is always relative. It's inherently not safe to travel in a 2000 pound bullet (i.e. a car) at 65 Miles per hour, but if we take care and follow some common sense guidelines, we will be ok. Same with canning ANYTHING.

You are confusing commercial thermal processing methods with home canning methods. They are not the same, and that's why there are many things you can buy in a commercial can that isn't safe to do at home. Fat is one of them. Commercial processing heats the product to 240F+ and sterilizes it, then hot packs inside those conditions, being monitored constantly. It requires special equipment. We can't reach inside a home pressure canner while it's at pressure.

There is a difference between an adult taking an informed risk, and assuming because someone lived to tell the tale that a process is safe. You can't smell, taste or see botulism and the can may not swell; that doesn't stop it from being deadly. It's fairly rare -- hence why so many get away with it. So I understand why people choose take that risk, but they should do so in an informed manner, and keep the risk to themselves -- which is to say, don't can risky foods and then have a dinner party.
11 years ago
Safety-wise? No. You can't home can fat safely; the bacteria doesn't all get killed in the process. Fat also prevents a good seal from forming.

Some people do it anyway, but it's among the least-safe things you can can.
11 years ago
Chayote squash (aka merletons). You'll see these growing on fences in So Cal from time to time. It's a summer squash-like mild vegetable. Some people intensely dislike it from some reason -- you can buy one at many grocery stores to see if you like it before growing it.

Most people eat the fruiting body but all parts of the plant can be eaten.
11 years ago
Another downside to rock mulch is that is rather rapidly sinks into the soil and, in this dirt, creates a barrier almost like concrete. I have a section of my property that used to be a gravel driveway (greater than 50 years ago) but has about 4" of dirt on top now from erosion. Only a few hardy weeds and grasses will grow there, and their roots don't penetrate the rock layer. Forget digging there with a shovel; I've tried. It would require a mini-ex.

Also, getting the rocks out later on is nearly impossible. Whenever I use rocks (like in my creekbed), I put down a porous but sturdy barrier like weed cloth that keeps the rocks on top. Dirt and weeds still collect on top, but you have a little assistance when it's time to remove the rocks.
11 years ago
You may way to look at traditional house designs in the Gulf Cost, like bayou houses and shotgun houses. I lived in a "bayou house" design and it worked quite well at catching any breeze and bringing it into the house.

Also, "sun-tempered" passive solar designs, like those from Debra Rucker Coleman. Some of hers are passive solar for heat gain, but she's an Alabama architect and understands and produces the reverse. Most of her home designs are online at

Earth-sheltered homes are another option.
11 years ago

Rick Larson wrote:Do you think this material is ok to use otherwise? Is there a list of certified organic growers that sell compost?

I think the answer is just "it depends." Here, the city compost is just yard debris; mostly old leaves. They just pile it up but it does get hot. So I have no problem using it. Although it's not the greatest quality, it makes a fine top dressing, at least one I pick the trash out of it..

You city may have a different recipe. Some cities include treated sewage. I think the thing for you do so is find out what exactly the program is in your city, and then decide.
11 years ago
What you usually see referred to as food and tastes like Hawaiian Punch is a tropical plant, Passiflora edulis. Then there's what we have, which is Passiflora incarnata, aka maypop. It has edible fruit if you are lucky enough to actually beat the animals to them, but they aren't quite as tasty as the tropical version. Collect fruit when they are turning orange. (There are others in the family, too.)

It's probably too late in the season to collect any fruit. Normally it will fruit about July here and I suspect what you are seeing now will die back before the fruit has a chance to set and mature. It can't hurt to check, but you may want to make a note of the spot and return next year. These vines are very good about reseeding themselves.

Amazing flowers, aren't they?
11 years ago
Updated list:

Nicole Castle wrote:
Basil, Osmin (Park 2009)
Basil, Dark Opal (Park 2009)
Bean, Charlevoix (SSE 2007, germination tested at ~100% Jan 2012)
Bean, Dragon's Tongue (SSE 2007, germination tested at ~100% Jan 2012)
Bean, Tiger's Eye (SSE 2007, germination tested at ~100% Jan 2012)
Bok Choi, Ching Chang (Baker Creek 2012)
Carrot, Parisienne (Baker Creek 2011)
Carrot, Jaune Obtuse Du Doubs (Baker Creek 2012)
Carrot, Shin Kuroda (Baker Creek 2011)
Cilantro (Seed Savers Exchange 2007)
Cilantro, Santo (saved 2011)
Cucumber, Double Yield (SSE 2007, germination tested at ~100% Jan 2012)
Cucumber, Greensleeves F1 (Park 2009)
Cucumber, Parade (SSE 2007, germination tested at ~100% Jan 2012)
Cumin (SSE 2007, germination tested at 50% Jan 2012)
Daylily, pinkish-purple (saved 2012)
Dill, Fernleaf (saved 2008 )
Dill, ? (saved 2011, large seeds on this one)
Fennel, Florence (SSE 2007, germination tested at 10% Jan 2012) -- happy to add this one gratis to any trade due to low germination
Feverfew (Baker Creek 2011)
Forget-Me-Not (? 2011)
Ground Cherry, Aunt Molly's (Baker Creek, 2011)
Melon, Charantais (SSE 2007, germination tested at ~100% Jan 2012)
Melon, Kazakh (Baker Creek 2012)
Melon, Rich Sweetness 132 (Baker Creek 2012)
Mini Luffa Gourd (saved 2008, germination tested at ~100% Jan 2012)
Mizuna (Park 2011?)
Mustard, Yukina Savoy (High Mowing 2011)
Money Plant (saved from wild 2012)
Nasturtium, Black Velvet (SSE 2011, germination tested at 80% Jan 2012)
Oregano, Greek (SSE 2007, germination tested at ~100% Jan 2012)
Ox-Eyed Daisy (? 2010, germination tested at ~100% Jan 2012)
Parsley, Triple Curled (SSE 2007, germination tested at 25% Jan 2012) -- happy to add this one gratis to any trade due to low germination
Pea, Blauschokkers (saved 2012)
Pea, Golden Sweet (SSE 2011)
Pepper, Ancho 101 (Park 2009)
Pepper, Ancho Gigantea (SSE 2007, germination tested at ~100% Jan 2012)
Pepper, Cayenne Long Thin (Baker Creek 2011)
Pepper, Corno Di Toro (Park 2011)
Pepper, Orange Bell (SSE 2007, germination tested at ~100% Jan 2012)
Pepper, Orangesicle F1 (Park 2011)
Pepper, Pasilla Bajio (Baker Creek 2011)
Pepper, Purple Beauty (SSE 2007, germination tested at ~100% Jan 2012)
Pepper, Sweet Spot XR F1 (Park, 2011)
Persimmon, Common (Sheffield 2009) -- happy to add this one gratis to any trade due to seed age
Runner Bean, Scarlet (saved 2012)
Sage, Culinary (SSE 2007, germination tested at ~100% Jan 2012)
Sassafras (Sheffield 2009) -- happy to add this one gratis to any trade due to seed age
Savory, Summer (Seeds of Change 2008?, germination tested at 50% Jan 2012)
Spinach, New Zealand (Baker Creek 2011)
Spinach, Red Malabar (Baker Creek 2011)
Squash, Autumn Gold F1 (Park, 2011)
Squash, Cocozelle (Park 2011)
Squash, Bonbon (Park 2011)
Squash, Honey Bear (Park 2011)
Squash, Honey Nut (High Mowing 2011)
Squash, Kikuza (SSE 2007, germination tested at ~100% Jan 2012)
Squash, Jarradale Pumpkin (Park 2009)
Squash, Orange Dawn F1 (Park 2010)
Squash, Small Sugar Pumpkin (SOC 2007)
Squash, Small Wonder F1 (Park 2011)
Squash, Sweet Reba (High Mowing, 2011)
Squash, Wood Prolific (SSE 2008, germination tested at ~100% Jan 2012)
Sunflower, dwarf mix (Park 2011)
Swiss Chard, Geneva (Park 2009?)
Tomato, Brandywine (Park 2012)
Tomato, Gold Medal (saved 2010)
Tomato, Keepsake Hybrid (Park ?)
Tomato, Pineapple (Park 2011)
Tomato, Spoon (Park 2011)
Tomato, Tomande (Park 2011)
Wormwood (Baker Creek 2011)


I am looking for these seeds in trade:
Basil, Sweet
Basil, Sacred aka Holy Basil (O. sanctum)
Corn, Fisher's Earliest
Horehound, White
Lettuce, any iceberg or romaine type
Peas, Amish Snap
Pepper, California Wonder
Pepper, Emerald Giant
Radishes, any red round variety
Squash, Chiriman
Squash, North Faukland Island
Squash, Nutterbutter
Squash, Seminole Pumpkin
Squash, Sweet Potato (C. moschata, not Ipomoea batatas)
Tomato, Cherokee Purple
Tomato, German Striped

You may want to look at the arborvitaes. Not useful for anything as far as I know, but they suit the spot. I don't think you could use them in the full shade area, though.

Alternately, why not make a trellis all the way around and go with a vine?
11 years ago