Diane Kistner

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since Sep 06, 2018
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Athens, GA Zone 8a
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Recent posts by Diane Kistner

Kevin Goheen wrote:So I know your post is about chamomile, which I love, but might I recommend a weed that is so pleasant and even provides fruits: The Maypop/Passionfruit. Maypop is a true passionfruit, and the leaves are actually used as a substitute for Prozac by some. Leaves and fruits are a win.

I have Maypop growing rampantly in my new garden area (cleared of dead pines last year) and came here to find out if it has any benefits for healing the soil or being used for compost. Can you elaborate on how the leaves are used as a Prozac substitute? Infusion, tincture, eaten as greens?

I was looking into chamomile, too, and bought one of those bulk packs of Stash chamomile teas. Glad to hear they make a good eye-pain compress.

2 weeks ago

Pearl Sutton wrote:I'd make it's back face the glass so you can open the door to get stuff out. All you'd need is a glassed box, doesn't have to be spiffy, and a way to make it vent into the bottom of the dehydrator. Holes drilled in the bottom and it sits on the top of the glass box output would easily be enough. Glass box has similar holes drilled in it's bottom to let air in, and in it's top to let air out.

Ah! I can see it...and that's a great suggestion to have the back face the collector. I have some old windows and boards, so maybe I can cobble this thing together! Thanks!
3 months ago

Jay Angler wrote:The biggest pain/time user, is often making the trays, and the trays look nice. About what size are they, and how big is the gap between them? There seems to be two types also.

The trays are 12"x16" with about an inch between them. Half are like oven trays and the other half are a mesh.

As far as a fan is concerned, I was wondering if I could somehow press into service one of those woodstove-type fans that run off the heat of sitting on the stove. I can't visualize how I would rig it, though. Maybe I should just try, like you say, staggering the trays every other one and just sit it outside and see what happens and go from there.

Should I plan to put this inside a box that I could leave outside? Maybe something angled toward the sun that this could sit inside of?We do have a good bit of humidity here.

I was looking at this build, which helped me visualize the whole convection thing. I'm pretty dyslexic.

3 months ago

William Bronson wrote:
This is basically the same idea I had for converting a file cabinet into a solar dehydrator,  but your starting point is much better.

I was thinking I could maybe put this inside an old filing cabinet we have, but it wouldn't fit. Great minds think alike!
3 months ago

Pearl Sutton wrote:Yes, you absolutely can.
Give us some good pictures so we can see how it's made, and we can give you better advice about holes etc.


Okay, here are some photos. Essentially, the fan blows through the sides across the trays. It has rubber feet, a glass front door, and the rest of the body is stainless.

3 months ago
I've got a 9-tray all-stainless-steel dehydrator that doesn't work very well. It heats vwry unvenly and the timer and temperature knob are very iffy.

I'm wondering if I took it and, say, painted the exterior with high-heat black paint and maybe drilled some ventillation holes (if it needs any) if there might be a way to repurpose it into a solar dehydrator. I could perhaps stick an analog thermometer in through a hole to help monitor the temps. Anyone done something like this?

It's the kind of thing that it's cheap Chinese landfill junk but might be put to good use. Would I stick it inside of a box with a glass lid or something like that? I know I'd need to screen it to keep insects away from the food. In Zone 8a here, we have pretty intense heat sometimes. I'm just wondering if it might work just to paint it black and stick it out there...

3 months ago
I was very nervous about canning, too. I got addicted to watching Pam Cantrell's Rose Red Homestead videos on YouTube after seeing her comparison of the Instant Pot Max (which passed) and Nesco electric pressure canner (which did not pass). She's a food scientist and I trust her. I bought the Instant Pot Max, which can handle four pints at a time, because it also can be used for regular pressure cooking, sous vide, yogurt making, etc. (I figured I could can things in small batches as I got them harvested from my little garden; turned out the deer ate everything, so that was a bust!) An Instant Pot Max (the only IP you can can use for canning) is a fine, fine thing, and I knew I would use it daily even if I decided I didn't like canning. This was a great way to learn canning (I skipped water bath altogether), and through the constraint of only doing 4 pints at a time, I learned how much food I could deal with and also about flat sour and why it happens.(Yes, we will eat the case of flat-sour chili I put up, because I know it won't hurt us, and next time I'll know.) I learned what is suitable to can and what is not, either for taste or safety reasons. I followed USDA canning guidelines and recipes. And I always check in with Pam at Rose Red Homestead. She's fun to watch.

Why didn't I start with water-bath canning? I found the whole acid/pH thing more confusing than just doing it in a pressure canner. Most of what I wanted to can was not suitable for water-bath canning, so I skipped that. The deer and chipmunks ate all our tomatoes this year, but I probably would have pressure canned those as well. Also, I like that you don't have to use as much water to pressure can; the pot is therefore not as heavy.

A few months ago, I started going to a local pickup place (I call it the food gazebo) where they set out produce and other expiring items culled from local grocery store shelves, trying to cut down on landfill waste. People pick through it, compost what's bad, and preserve what is not. I started freezing a ton of fruits and vegetables for smoothies or stir fries, or to make country wines, and dehydrating, fermenting, or canning things as I  could get around to it, learning as I needed to at a pace I could handle. I thought I was really set! All that money saved! I filled up a 21 cubic foot upright freezer with food.

Whelp, after multiple power outages this summer and loss of a lot of the frozen stuff, I decided we just cannot depend on electricity to preserve all our food. I set up an outdoor canning kitchen using a covered firewood rack into which a Camp Chef Tahoe stove with propane tank fits perfectly. I bought a 22 quart T fal canner on sale (the American canner was out of $$$ reach) and can now can 16 wide-mouth pints at once, which is better for dealing with the huge amount of food I come home with from the food gazebo. Yesterday I wound up with 22 pints of organic baby spinach (from two boxes full of perfectly good "past use-by" culled triple-washed bags), 16 of which I canned outside, 4 in the IP Max, and the other two were refrigerated for meals the next few days. I have paid for my canning kitchen with savings on our grocery bill by going this route.

I'm still freezing things, of course, because that's the easiest, but it eases my mind to know I could pull things out and can them quickly if the grid goes down and I've got a freezer full of defrosting food. I'm also more likely now to dehydrate some things that are best not canned rather than trust them to the freezer. When we are able to afford the solar panel setup and installation to keep our freezer running when the grid is down, I'll be less nervous, but I still think I will can a lot of food.
3 months ago

Betsy Carraway wrote:Hi, for Diane Kistner:  Maypop (passiflora Incarnata, or just "passiflora") is safe and popular herbal throughout Europe, Central and South America, and maybe more; it is commonly used as an extract, tea, or in capsules, for anxiety issues, insomnia, and even babies' colic.  It is not only quite effective and lacking in any side effects, but safe at any dose, even for babies.  So you may wish to collect the mature Summer leaves, before fruit formation, and dry them in shade for use as tea or powdered.

Thank you, Betsy! I hadn't even thought of using the leaves. When you say mature leaves before the fruit is formed, if there are small fruits on the vine, can you still use the leaves? I actually see fruit pretty early here. And I've got one vine that puts out very large maypops, so I'm really looking forward to seeing how they taste.

5 months ago
We've taken down about 90 diseased pine and sweet gum trees on our 1-acre suburban lot in Athens, Georgia (talk about dense red clay)...on the mucho mucho cheap...so we've got logs lying around everywhere and huge stumps rotting down. It's so humid here, things are actually decomposing pretty quickly, and all kinds of things are growing up now that there is some sun. When I make my morning rounds every morning, I pull up hundreds of pine and sweet gum seedlings plus any particularly crappy grass that's trying to grow, but I've been leaving the annual bluegrass and most of the weeds. My partner is afraid to go out into the back yard because he says it looks "so snakey." Yeah, I expect there are tons of snakes back there; I'm just hoping the huge black rat snakes who are enjoying the new habitat are eating any copperheads that might venture into the yard. I try to be careful when I'm walking around.

Lots of birds are taking up residence here and crapping all over the place, so that's got to be good, right? ;-)

One thing I've been letting run wild is maypops (Passiflora incarnata), which come up wild and want to cover everything. My big crop this year will be maypops, so I've got to find something good to make with them. I pull the little sprigs that come up in the pathways and drop them, but I'm letting some of the vines scramble over the logs. The solitary bees are filling the logs full of holes now that I've peeled off the rotting bark, and I have never seen so many happy bees in my life!

I'm encouraged that I have lots of worms now and that, in areas where I've layered cardboard and bags of leaves, the soil underneath is starting to get more friable. I have lots of fungi...lots of stinkhorn surprises, the phallic kind and the brain-coral kind! I'm just letting everything pretty much do their thing, just being sure to knock down anything that's to the flowering/seeding stage that I don't want to proliferate too much. I've read those maypops can be invasive, so I'm a bit nervous about that, but you can't beat them for a lot of biomass and fruit. The bees are absolutely all over the flowers all the time.

I also bought a ten-pound bag of white Dutch clover seed, and every time it rains, I go out and scatter some more in among the other rampant growth and stretches of bare ground. I've got large patches coming up now all over, and I'm hoping eventually it will outcompete a lot of the other weeds.

As far as planting is concerned, I've been trying to put in guilds with the usual perennial suspects, and about half of what I've planted has died because the soil and pH are probably not to their liking. So I'm going to force myself not to buy anymore trees this fall but focus instead on nurturing the life that's happening on its own pretty much without me, then adding wood chips when I can and neighbors' leaves and such, chopping and dropping, fermenting comfrey tea, studying what's doing well to try to get clues about what else I can plant that might do well. I do have a small fenced area with raised beds that the deer can't get to with tomatoes and some other veggies planted, but it'll be a while before I get that soil in better shape.

I've got to find out what maypops like and see what else will like that same thing. Because, wow, do I ever have maypops!
5 months ago

Trace Oswald wrote:

Diane Kistner wrote: I just made two large batches of yogurt in it starting with ultra-pasteurized milk from the food pantry, then stirring in some plain Greek yogurt (also from the pantry), and it worked great!

If you wanted to start a thread telling how to do that, I would be very grateful.  I have an instant pot I've never used.

It wouldn't take a thread. You just dump in the milk, put on the lid set to vent, and press the yogurt button. It brings the milk to the proper temperature, then turns off. You then use a thermometer to ensure the milk cools enough to add your starter. The instructions are in the Instant Pot manual. When the temperature dropped to about 110 degrees, I just stirred in a single-serving pack of plain Greek yogurt with live cultures, then covered it with a cloth under the glass lid and let it sit in a warm place for a few days. Then I strained it to make yogurt cheese, and I just salted it. Came out like the best thick, spreadable cream cheese I've ever had...but I'm going to try pressing some of it in a cheese mold to see what happens to it.

7 months ago