Review - 200 wooden clothespins #spon

Monday, July 6, 2015


For years, I have walked into the cleaning departments of our local stores and looked at the clothespins. Do I need them? Will I need them someday? Should I get them?

It seems ridiculous, but sometimes I find that my de-cluttering tendencies cause me to get rid of things that may come in handy someday and clothespins are one of those things.

I moved out of my parents home with a set of big, sturdy clothespins. I used them randomly through college and then stored them in the laundry room through my years in suburbia. Then I donated them.

I just never used them.

Then I had kids and they did crafts. Clothespins could have come in handy so many times. What if the grid went down and we needed to wash laundry by hand. Wouldn't clothes pins come in handy. Yes, but is that likely to happen? Who knows.

Well, I finally had it this winter when we made maple syrup and I needed clothespins to hold up my sap filters....and of course we didn't own any.

I drove to the dollar store and checked out their flimsy clips. Barf.

I resolved to get a good set of clothespins the next time I saw them. As luck would have it, I was offered a chance to review a big set of  200 wooden clothespins.

They are sturdy and wooden. They are also medium sized. Some of my filters are really fat and I would have loved if this set was mixed - some big, some medium. But with 200, I can compensate by having 2 or 3 do the work of 1. Plus, they would work great for most clothing, craft projects, and various other uses.

I am happy with the set and would recommend them to friends.

Disclosure: I received complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own and this article does NOT contain affiliate links. No compensation was received.

Set of 5 MIRA Reusable Produce Bags Review #spon


When you think about produce bags, doesn't it strike you as odd that nobody is selling reusable produce bags? Or at least I had never seen any, until I was offered a set of 5 for review.

The concept is easy, it makes sense ecologically, and they would be easy to use. Well, Mira has created a set of 5 mesh bags for use while buying produce.

They are a decent size at 12x14, are completely washable, and they tie closed at the top (with a drawstring cinch top.)

They do weigh more than the plastic bags at the store so produce that is weighed by the pound will offer a slight disadvantage. They are white, so things like cherries or berries could stain.

But they are reusable. They are easy to open (not so for the grocery bags!) and they have a multitude of alternative uses - cover your fruit on bushes/trees to keep out bugs/birds, as a laundry bag, to transport items, to carry your lunch, as a nut milk strainer, jelly bag, seed /nut bag for drying after harvest. Literally, there are dozens of uses!

I would buy them again....except I wouldn't have to because they are reusable and will last a very long time.

Disclosure: I received complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own and this article does NOT contain affiliate links. No compensation was received.

MIRA Stainless Steel Black Beer Growler Review #spon

We don't drink beer, so reviewing a stainless steel growler must seem odd - until you realize that a growler is a fantastic way to bring cold drinks to the beach, picnic, camping trip. Oh wait - and it also stores a family sized amount of hot cocoa for your trip to the slopes or sledding hills!

This particular growler is stainless steel with a black exterior. It looks sleek and holds 64 oz of liquid! It's huge! It's literally family sized!!!

The top can open or be taken off to use as a cup. It keeps cold drinks chilled for 24 hours and hot drinks hot for 12 hours.

I did notice that it lost heat through the top, but it did keep the drinks inside steaming hot for hours. It did not give off any heat in the body of the container. I always test for heat since it is the most difficult to trap in our environment and I routinely use vacuum containers for cooking, making yogurt, etc.

The best part about this growler are the size and the fact that it is stainless steel. I have owned large thermos containers that essentially do the same job, but that only held enough for 2 or 3 people or were made of plastic and developed "smells" after a while.

The only downside to this container is cleanup. You will need a long/thin bottle brush. I own the perfect one (and it took me weeks to find!!) because of my other thermos use, but you will want to get that before you start using it for anything besides water.


Disclosure: I received complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own and this article does NOT contain affiliate links. No compensation was received.

2015 Garden - Part 10

Saturday, July 4, 2015

As we roll into July, the garden just keeps changing....

The potatoes and tomatoes seem to be suffering from some sort of blight - the potatoes seem to be worse. Yellow leaves with brown spots. At this point, I am just letting the potatoes go. When the leaves die off completely, I'll dump out the boxes and see what happened below.

The tomatoes are more worrisome. I have been picking off the yellowing leaves and the plants are starting to look a little "thin." Some of the plants have small tomatoes. Of those, half were damaged in a hail storm. All flowers seem to have shriveled up and fallen off. They definitely do not look as lush as I am used to and I am worried. This year, the garden is unmulched and I ran out of Fish fertilizer at the end of last season and have been using only bone meal.

Plus I started them all from seeds. Maybe they were stunted/ruined by the cold spring? Maybe heirlooms aren't as robust and strong as hybrids. Oh....let's hope not!

We have pulled up all the buckwheat - making buckwheat pancakes.
The bok choy seeds have been harvested - I realized they were ready when more than half were eaten by birds:


The bachelor buttons are just about to open:

The sunflowers are all dying off and leaving behind a scant amount of oily black seeds. I will not be growing dwarf sunspot again. They were not very attractive. they got ratty very quickly and they barely made seeds.
The sunflowers look good in this picture, but really small. They look far worse after the storm and after being eaten by random animals....
I killed off 90% of my strawberry patch. I tore out the old plants, shredded through the soil, added a ton of not-finished compost, and then left it there to rot. They were over 5 years old and not very productive anymore.


I will be adding finished compost, top soil, and a mulch soon. Then I will be planting these runners we clipped earlier this spring:

The peas are winding down. There are still flowers up top, but the bottoms are starting to die down. They are full of obese pods, being saved for next year's seeds.
 =The flax plants suffered irreparable hail damage. They refuse to stand, even with support. The seed bolls are starting to yellow/brown. I hope to get them and bring them inside before they get opened by birds (lesson learned from the bok choy!) Look at the disgusting sunflowers behind them!!
 I mulched around the strawberries with lava rocks to stop the slug attacks.
The radishes went to seed. Radishes are biennial so this doesn't make any sense. The only way it makes any sense is that we had frosts after the radishes were already growing. This must of "tricked" the radishes into thinking they went through winter. I kept two plants as they flowered and they both produced "pea pods." Apparently, these are edible. I chose to keep them for seeds instead. I did eat a few of the bok choy seed pods with no ill effects. They tasted like peas/beans/grass.
We ate our first fava beans (ever!) They tasted a lot like beans and smelled a lot like peas. They seem to create a lot of waste for very little bean.  The pods are ginormous, the plants are ginormous, and the "skin" around the beans is quite large. We cooked them with and without the skins and they tasted the same. In the future, I will not peel the skins. They are still putting out flowers (see the beautiful black and white flowers below.)

 We are no longer picking the fava beans and will be leaving all the rest for seeds.
I captured some wild purslane and put it in the garden. Since this plant "grows like a weed" and is considered a menace, it speaks volumes that I can barely get it to grow in my garden!!!

If I can get this beef up a bit, I will be eating it. I have garden purslane growing in my porch (so it wouldn't go wild and take over...lol!!) I have tasted both. The garden purslane is almost a dead wringer for spinach/swiss chard. The wild version tastes like spinach mixed with wood sorrel, a little sour.
cultivating wild purslane
If I can get this purslane to set seeds, I will try growing more of it next year. It requires 90 degrees F for germination. Oh baby!

The squash and cucumbers are finally starting to climb their trellises.
The yellow crookneck squash have started putting on little baby squash. The bunnies have stopped attacking the fence ever since I added big globs of cat hair everywhere. I kind thank you to our cat for the gracious donation!!

Yes, the cat hair looks horrid after rain and hail. But if it keeps bunnies away, it will be a regular garden feature!

The ground cherries have finally started growing larger and even have little cherries on them! Woo!!! I just need enough to taste them and save a few seeds. Come on baby!!
One of the severely damaged and left for dead scarlet runner beans has made a resurgence. It is trying hard to out grow the destructive flea beetles that have decimated every last bean sprout! I have planted 4 - FOUR - separate tranches of beans in an effort to get any harvest. I am out of seeds and will have to save a bunch of whatever harvest we pull in for seeds next year. Imagine if we had to survive on our own garden! I tell you what we'd do... we'd find a way to eat all the pests! Watch out flea beetles, I'll find a way to eat you!
We stopped by  the only currant farm I have ever seen and bought a few of each variety. We had never tried currants (in any form) prior to today. It turns out...black currants taste like poison and there is a HUGE variance in the taste of the white/red/pink varieties. Even still: the reds, pinks, and whites are all tolerable out of hand and will probably make excellent jams.
Even better, they are hardy in our area and I completely understand how they grow - thank you years of learning how to prune blueberries and grapes! I finally get it!!

And so, after making a deal with the farmer.....
 I took home 7 plants for $12.

We planted 3 gooseberries, 1 red currant, 2 white currants, and 1 pink currant. I also have wild gooseberries in our forest garden and will taking better care of them going forward. I'm kind of master at pruning now.... It only took 8 years. Man, I'm a slow learner!




When I got home, I googled how to preserve/use currants. In my search, I found that most people agree that black currants taste like medicine/poison. It's just that, black currants are full of all sorts of good antioxidants. It turns out they taste good when they are cooked. Maybe. The same thing was said of Sunberries and they tasted like poison to me when they were raw and cooked. And cooked with a ton of sugar!

I like the red/white/pink currants. I don't love them like raspberries or blueberries. But I like them. I could eat them in an emergency. I could save them for a rainy day. I could cook with them and make them great. So I am happy with my purchases.

I also tracked down a hardy apricot (YAY!!!) and hazelnut (not my favorite but I could grow to at least appreciate it) tree. Once I find a place for those, I think my own garden will be complete. I simply do not have anymore room. Oops...I have to find room for a few dwarf cherry bushes. Dang it!

In other news....

Deer chowed down the strawberry bowls and I planted more buckwheat, bush beans, and basil seeds. Still no seeds or sign of flowering on the amaranth, leading me to think it may never seed...

I also found 3 full grown juneberry (saskatoon) trees in the forest and stalked the plants until the berries ripened. I ate a bunch of them. I'm still alive, lol. They taste like very apple/pear blueberries. I like them. So do the birds. The day after I ate a few handfuls, the birds had stripped the plants clean.

I read that they ripen off the bush like pears. I took a few red ones home and they mushed up after a few days but did not continue to ripen. If I want juneberries, I will have to beat the birds each year. Good to know in an emergency situation!

More articles from this year's garden:
19 Tomatoes and counting
Growing Heirloom Tomatoes without electricity
2015 Garden Part 1
2015 Garden Part 2
2015 Garden Part 3
2015 Garden Part 4
2015 Garden Part 5
2015 Garden Part 6
2015 Garden Part 7
2015 Garden Part 8
2015 Garden Part 9
Growing Potatoes from the Grocery store 
Growing Espalier Grapes on a Fence
Can Tomatoes Survive temperatures below 28 Fahrenheit?

A full list of the edibles in our garden as of July 2015:
Aronia chokeberries
Asparagus
Walking onions
Rhubarb
4 Varieties of Blueberry
3 Varieties of Red Raspberry (2 summer, 1 fall)
Red, White, and  Pink Currants
2 Varieties of Gooseberries
Black Raspberry
Dill, Sage, lemon balm, thyme, parsley, cilantro, basil
Garlic chives
Onion chives
6 Varieties of Tomato
2 Varieties of Potato
2 Varieties of Grapes (1 red, 1 white)
2 Varieties of Strawberry (1 june, 1 alpine)
Fava beans
Bush beans
Snap peas (2 types)
Butternut squash
Cucumbers (2 types)
Bell Peppers
Parsnips
Leeks
Onions
Garlic
Sweet Corn
Popcorn
Amaranth
Buckwheat
Pineapple Ground cherries
Watermelon
Radishes
Cantaloupe
Crookneck squash
Swiss Chard
Beets
Bok choy
Purslane (2 varieties)
Golden Flax
Sunflowers
Scarlet Runner Beans
Honeyberries (2 varieties)
Sunberries

Rich Habits Rich Life Book Review

Friday, July 3, 2015

I am an avid reader - always trying to learn something new, figure "things" out, and understand the world. Some of my favorites are history books and personal narratives from the 1800s.

Studying people (both old and new,) you quickly realize that there is nothing new under the sun. Though people are complex, they are also quite simple and what makes them happy/sad, successful/miserable, healthy/sick is often the same.

So I dove into the new book Rich Habits Rich Life by Randall Bell expecting to find the same telltale habits that most self-help books repeat. You know the drill.... make your bed every morning, smile, save at least 10% of your income....

I did find those things, but the book was organized in a different fashion and parts of it left me annoyed, others reflective.

The book is devised into a Me, We, Do, Be system so that habits are broken down into categories of growth. You can spend all your life in one of the categories and some things will go really well, but to be a truly successful human you need to look at all four.

Here's where things get murky. What does it mean to be successful? If you think money is the answer then you are either extremely greedy/narcissistic/selfish or you are poor. If you think it has nothing to do with money, then you have never known want.

Does it mean lots of friends or a few close/real friends? Does it mean good health, passion, love, hope? Does it mean a spiritual connection to the divine or the world?

This overall issue makes the book a bit frustrating because, of course, it's all of the above and/or some of the above, depending on the person. The author clearly believes this as well, but the book jumps from different habits espousing their benefits on relationships, wealth, or health and sometimes gives off the impression that building monetary wealth is the supreme goal.

More specifically, the charts in the book often compare the habits mentioned to the percentage of millionaires with those habits. Millionaire or not, your life could still be pretty terrible. In fact, a good friend of ours with everything to live for - beautiful wife, new baby, physically fit body, exceptional intelligence, lots of friends, and millions in the bank that he freely spent at will - just committed suicide. Clearly, he did not view his life as successful.

Also....I have quite a few complaints about the charts in general. Not only are they not very clear on what they are measuring/comparing - (% of people who perform their habit compared with their education levels, wealth levels, how happy they are in a relationship etc) - but they are not necessarily causative.

For example - one of the habits is keeping your space tidy. All in all, this is a good habit. Or is it?

I personally worked for a professor in college that was a multimillionaire, he was highly respected in the field of organic chemistry, and he taught and worked on his research until the day he died. He loved it. Was his life a success?

He had millions, but he barely spent any of it. He had a job he loved and he never stopped working. He lived into his 90s and appeared to be in "good old person" health - physically and mentally.

I know little about his personal life, but I know ALOT about his tidiness. When you went into his office, he was hard to see because he had stacks and stacks of everything. But he knew where everything was. He could find you the answer, was always on task during lectures, and harshly criticized a lack of focus or failure in the lab.

He also drove around in a car stacked with garbage and apparently lived in a small apartment packed to the gills in garbage. He was frugal to the point of hoarding.

But was he satisfied with his life? Did he have the respect of others (in chemistry and/or otherwise? Which mattered more?) Was he always learning and striving for success?

Would his life have been better if he was more "organized?" In some ways yes, but in some ways maybe no. His disarray certainly didn't affect his job performance, mental acuity, or physical health. Maybe he was lonely? Or maybe he didn't want a wife and/or kids. Maybe he built walls up to keep most people out but had an active life with friends or was involved with community service to animals and people in need where his hoarding mess was irrelevant? Maybe he received so much joy studying and sharing chemistry that it's all he really cared about. Maybe he loved collecting junk and it made him happy? Maybe he worked best in chaos?

This is where things get difficult because even though we all function as part of the herd, we are very individual. Personally, I think he probably had the life he wanted and was probably pretty satisfied.

This is just one example of habits that may be well and good, but do not necessarily cause "success."

So I had a hard time with the charts. More millionaires brush their teeth than non millionaires. People who follow sports teams are happier. People who keep their space tidy are more likely to be in better relationships.....

Maybe.

Some of the habits in the book make perfect sense - with or with out a causation link to wealth/happiness/success! Some of them seem like distractions - sports teams, religion, tidiness. They remind me of "bread and circuses." Some of the habits give people something they can control (tidiness) or something else that takes over in areas where they have no control (religion/sports.) In general, most people probably need these things and we all need to believe our lives have some sort of meaning or purpose in the grand scheme of things. So, all in all, the habits are mostly helpful, not all that harmful.

If you open the book and feel like you should just skim the chart boxes to read the "habits" - DON'T. Reading the whole book gives you a glimpse into the author's mind and true intentions.

Even though I harped on some of the habits and the charts, it's clear that the author has led a purposeful life and he wants to share that gift with others. He wants to give back what he's learned. It's a good lesson and you should read through the book and try to absorb it.

However - you may end up like me and be left wanting. You see, the author is a very knowledgeable person. He has so much more than this book to share. As you read through the book, you will get snippets of projects he has worked on - The Heaven's gate tragedy, the Bikini Atoll/Marshall Islands nuclear test site, the Jon Bonet Ramsey case, a brush with the LA riots, and more. He mentions each adventure in 1 or 2 lines, and then moves on! NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Every time this happened, I was flabbergasted. He has interesting stories to tell. There are so many unanswered questions. He's probably bound by confidentiality agreements not to discuss all the good parts, but that's what makes it all the more interesting.

I kept thinking I should write the author. He has been involved in so many different events throughout history, I could only imagine what else he's witnessed/analyzed/explored.

Long story short - the book does have pearls of wisdom but don't expect to scan the book, implement a few "habits" and be on the road to millions. Actually, if you ever expect that from anything, then you need to step back and really evaluate what you want from life and why. The book was helpful and I've added it to the neighborhood library for others to enjoy; there are good suggestions in the book and a rational/logical explanation about how you can change your own life.

But what I'd really love to see is an analysis of all the world events Dr. Bell has been involved with, along the lines of Jared Diamond's Collapse or Guns,Germs, and Steel. My guess is that Dr. Bell holds many pieces to today's world puzzle in his experiences, and since history often repeats, we'd be fortunate to gain from that wisdom before we repeat any of the major tragedies.

*I received a complimentary book for review purposes. Once I finish reading all review books, I add them to the neighborhood library (little free library) for others to share.

FLAMELESS COLOR CHANGING LED CANDLES WITH REMOTE REVIEW #SPON



When we moved out of our last house, I was shocked at what I found behind our picture frames. Soot! Actually, the soot was all around the picture frames and the wall behind was clean. I was mortified and spent hours cleaning it off.

From that day on, I refused to burn candles in our homes. Now, we also know about the detrimental health effects of burning chemical candles and so we stick to all electric lighting.

I have a wide variety of decorative electric candles - some controlled by remote, others not. So when I had the opportunity to review this set of color changing candles, I was pretty excited. All of my other candles glow white.

These glow a myriad of colors (12 total.) They are controlled by remote (and run by 3 AAA batteries). You can set them on a timer, have them scroll through the colors, and flicker.

They are a great set. They smell a little like crayon, but only if you put them to your nose. Otherwise, they are pretty much scent free.

Disclosure: I received complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own and this article does NOT contain affiliate links. No compensation was received.

Silicone Lids and Food Covers for Preserving Food Review #spon



Growing up, we never used things like paper towels, plastic wrap, or parchment paper. Why not? Because they are wasteful - making them expensive.

Why have we devolved into a throw-away society? I am taking back my kitchen and will not allow disposable items! We use cloth dish rags. We use silpats instead of parchment, and plastic containers instead of zip top bags.

But what about plastic wrap. I can count on one hand the number of times I have used plastic wrap. I used it once for potluck picnic to cover a salad and a few times to cover my rising bread.

Otherwise, I've dumped whatever I was using into a reusable container. Now there is an easier option! One that actually sticks to your bowls (remember how bad plastic wrap sticks!!!?)

I had the chance to review a set of silicone lids. These are silicone covers that vacuum seal onto your bowls, pots, and pans.

Imagine your bread rising in a pyrex bowl, fully protected by a silicone lid? No plastic wrap to throw in the trash. No stinky towels used to protect your dough. Just a simple washable, silicone lid.

You can cover salads, leftovers, dough, batters, basically anything! I no longer need to buy plastic wrap - ever again. For the few times I would have used it, these are a perfect replacement. For all the times I dirtied an extra container in order to be able to close it with a lid - this saves in dishes (water, soap, time, resources!) these would make the original container fully closeable!

This set comes in a 6 inch and a 10.5 inch size. I have found them the most useful for covering leftovers on plates, small bowls and cups (e.g. someone didn't finish their milk with dinner!) and for covering large bowls of salads.

Disclosure: I received complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own and this article does NOT contain affiliate links. No compensation was received.

How do you keep slugs OFF your strawberries FOREVER? I might have the answer!!!

I have been battling with slugs for years. I never had them in my previous garden (all sand,) but I have oodles of them in my all clay garden. In fact, as I've amended the soil and made it more "loamy" the slugs have increased. They seem to like leaf mulches and thrive on the extra organic material.

In the battle of the slug, I've tried a multitude of organic remedies. This year, I am experimenting with the following: wood ashes, no mulch, and lava rocks.

In my main 2 annual beds, there is no mulch. ZERO mulch. This is a first for me and I can see the stress in my plants. They are not as robust and the soil dries out much quicker. I also added a thin layer of wood ashes last fall. I mixed it in in order to add nutrients to the soil and maybe wreak havoc on any slugs that were planning to overwinter. I have not seen any slugs, evidence of slugs, or slug damage in these two beds. I have, however, had lackluster growth and mass attacks of flea beetles. MASS attacks - many leading to the death of whole plants!

The other two beds are covered in mulches. One is covered in leaves and old garden debris - this bed may have slugs but the bed contains only raspberry plants and slugs have never dared climb their spikey bodies. Maybe they grow here and then migrate to the annual beds....

The other bed contains annuals, blueberries, and strawberries and is mulched half in pine needles/half bare soil. The bare half contains mostly onion family plants - chives, leaks, onions, garlic. I have not had slug damage in the bare soil area this year, but pulling back the pine needles to fertilize the blueberries revealed a slug extravaganza! 

In addition, the strawberries near the blueberries were riddled with slug holes. Grrrrrrrrrrr! I thought the spikey pine needles would spear the slugs and make them rue the day they entered the garden. NO! 

The ground under the pine straw is gloriously black and moist. I sometimes throw leaves, garden debris, cardboard, or kitchen scraps beneath the pine straw to decompose. It doesn't seem to harm the blueberries (never mind the center blueberry in the photo below - it is still repairing from 7 years of no pruning and the top portion is currently dying while "a new" bush forms from new canes.)

In fact, my blueberries (with the exception of the unpruned) are bigger, healthier, greener, and more loaded with berries than ever. 

But there are slugs.

The slugs don't usually bother blueberries unless they are near the ground. So I didn't plan on killing them in the blueberry patch. In fact, I would guess they help quite a bit with decomposition of organic matter. But I do not want them eating all my strawberries.

So I devised this plan:

Lava Rock Mulch to protect strawberries from slugs
I pushed all the pine straw over into the blueberry area and put lava rocks under the strawberries. My rationale is that slugs will not want to climb the sharp rocky surface. Unlike pine needles, the rocks can not lie down and become "soft." They do not get washed away with water, and they should last for years.

Strawberry season is pretty much over, but I do have one berry ripening in this patch. We shall see if it is protected from slugs or not! EVERY berry that has come out this year had at least one slug hole, so I would have expected this berry to be slug eaten as well. I will update in a few days.
Lava Rock Mulch to protect strawberry plants from slugs
The mulches stop when the berries stop, but if this works, I will be extending the lava rock up the center of the bed where additional berries will be planted.

Lava rock will make plant propagation more difficult, but I plan to pinch the runners anyway. I can always scoop them aside to dig and put in new plants. If they keep out slugs, it will be worth any/all extra work.

For other plants, slugs are still a challenge. You do not want to add wood ashes very often as they sweeten the soil (and my clay soil is already very alkalkine). Diatomaceous earth is ruined by water and kills all soft bodied insects indiscriminately.  Mulches bring slugs.....but mulches maintain consistent moisture levels and provide organic material to feed growing plants. They also provide cover for other insects (beneficials included.)

Would it be prudent to mulch the annual beds, but ring each individual plant with lava rocks? If you till your garden, then rocks in the beds will be a challenge. I do not till, so I can always push them aside at the end of the season.

This year, I am committed to giving the no-mulch strategy a try. I want to see how it all turns out in the end. I'm also still trialing the lava rocks. We have a 1 strawberry test awaiting, and probably won't know the full extent of the benefits/issues until next July.

I will update this page accordingly:

**Update 1** The "one" strawberry made it and was eaten by a human being - rather than slugs.



The Best way to Hull buckwheat by Hand DIY

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Ahhhhh.....Buckwheat! A protein rich seed (faux grain) that grows easily, attracts bees, pulls phosphorus from deep in the soil, and stores easily. What's not to love?
removing hulls from buckwheat groats

Well, there's that whole hulling issue......

We grew buckwheat for the first time this year. I bought a few whole groats from Whole Foods (about a handful for less than 18 cents) and I planted a small row in my garden. I think I planted 12 individual plants. I had a lot of groats left over, but that means I have more seeds for next year!

They grew through some pretty cold temperatures and ended up putting up flowers early. I just harvested the last of the seeds today on July 1st. I pulled up the plants and put them down around my asparagus where I will use them as a mulch until they break down and become fertilizer.

But back to the hulling.

We wound up with less than a cup of groats. Not bad from planting just a dozen in the first place, but not super stellar either.

I didn't have a lot to experiment with, but we tried three different methods to remove the hulls.

1. We tried putting them in a mesh bag and pounding/rolling with a rolling pin.
2. We ground them in a manual coffee grinder.
3. We ground them in a mortar and pestle.

My rules were: I wanted to use what we had on hand and I wanted to do it without electricity. I had read that people grind the groats in their blenders, but I wanted an off-grid solution. I keep buckwheat around as an emergency food (and emergency seeds!) so it's important that it be useful in an emergency (no electricity) situation.

Long story short - the rolling pin did nothing but smash the groat and make everything super difficult to separate. The coffee grinder did a pretty good job of leaving whole hulls mixed with ground groats. If it had been windy outside, I could have winnowed the hulls and it might have been a great solution.

The mortar and pestle was the most helpful. After grinding through the coffee grinder, I sifted the flour/hulls then ran what was left in the sifter through the mortar and pestle. That turned any big groat pieces into flour and then I sifted it again.

I'm not going to tell you it was easy, fast, or efficient - because it wasn't. If I ever become a serious buckwheat grower, then I am going to need to come up with another way. Until then....
buckwheat flour ground at home diy

We wound up with 1/8 cup of buckwheat flour. It's not pure white and does contain some hull bits. Extra fiber, right? Uggh.

buckwheat pancakes
We cooked this little bit up and made 4 buckwheat pancakes (our first ever) and decided it would be worth growing again.

Simian 10 in 1 Autoloading Ratchet Screwdriver Review #spon

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


A friend of mine recently told me that she had no tools. Like zero.... Apparently, she had lost all of them in her divorce. So she was on the hunt for a whole new set of tools. It reminded me that we're really fortunate to have a full tool bench full of random tools. Something is always needing repair.

But whenever we do a repair, the "one" screwdriver you need always seems to be missing. So when I had the chance to review this autoloading ratchet screwdriver I was pretty excited.

What makes this multi-tipped screwdriver different is the fact that it loads itself. You don't take the tips out so there is much less risk of losing them. It works like a charm too. You just pull it up, twist to the right bit, then put it back down. It's a really great invention and it comes with all the main sized bits you regularly use. It also comes with a few others that you can swap into the main rotation.

The only issue with the screwdriver is that in the selection area - it goes like this 1,2,3,4,6. I am sure the product was not made in an English speaking country and this was just a "typo." It does not effect the use of the product. It's actually kind of funny. But for perfectionists, it will probably be quite annoying.

Disclosure: I received complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own and this article does NOT contain affiliate links. No compensation was received

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