December 27, 2023

Garden Notes: December 2023


  • 1st: 0.3"
  • 2nd: 0.4"
  • 3rd: 0.02"
  • 9th: 1.33"
  • 10th: 1.08"
  • 17th: 0.17"
  • 25th: 1.9"
  • 26th: 2.01"
  • 27th: 0.03"
  • Total: 7.24 inches
  • range of nighttime lows: 21 to 58°F (-6 to 14°C)
  • range of daytime highs: 45 to 67°F (7 to 19.5°C)
Garden Notes:
  • I have a few things growing in the garden: kale, daikons, turnips, and Swiss chard.
  • Continuing to finish up mulching the remaining beds.
  • Then I'll start on tidying up and re-mulching the aisles.
Greenhouse Notes
  • Everything is doing well so far, although slow to grow.
  • Our coldest night so far this month was 21°F (-6°C), but the greenhouse didn't get below 32°F (0°C). My cherry tomato plant is still alive and well. 
  • As are my transplanted green pepper plants.
  • Once the sun hits the greenhouse, it warms up quickly, so I have to keep an eye on the temp and turn on the vent fan if needed. 

cherry tomato vine with quite a few flowers

sweet pepper plant



Planted (in the greenhouse)

celery base (from Thanksgiving stuffing)

sprouting garden potatoes from the pantry

The potatoes are an experiment. Potatoes are typically planted around here in March, which doesn't make sense to me because a frost or freeze will kill the top growth. Depending on what the rest of the winter is like, these may do okay for a few early potatoes.

Parting Shot

December salad: daikon leaves, kale, Swiss chard, chickweed,
dandelion leaves, feta goat cheese, & greenhouse cherry tomatoes.

December 23, 2023

A Twist on a Christmas Tradition

Firstly, no matter what holiday you celebrate, I wish you a happy one! 

My holiday offering for my readers is a bit different this year. I first heard this a couple of weeks ago at my granddaughter's school Christmas program. She plays trombone in the junior high band, and this was one of their concert offerings. It intrigued me enough that I had to look it up on YouTube to find—shall we say—a less beginnerish rendition. This one was uploaded by the composer himself. I think you'll see why it would have great appeal to school bands, especially with the great percussion part.

I give you Santa the Barbarian: Snowpocalypse by Randall Standridge.


December 17, 2023

Status Quo Days

December, January, and February pretty much make up the winter season on our northern hemisphere agrarian calendar. In our part of the world, that means more indoor time with quite a few lovely afternoons to work outside. Having switched my creative pursuits from writing to weaving, I feel productive in a different sort of way, and it's nice not to spend so much time at the computer.

So while there's not much new news, I do have tidbits to share, such as, I got our Christmas tree up!

I get a live potted tree every year and then plant it afterward. Except that for the past several years I've gotten rosemary bushes that never seem to make it. So I decided to try something else. This is an arborvitae. 

With gift giving days coming up, I've been busy weaving Christmas presents.
twill table runner

crackle table runner

woven red plaid scarf

woven gray plaid scarf

The links go to technical details.

Dan spends his morning and evening indoor time woodburning.

The panel is from the bottom of one of the doors he bought off craigslist for the greenhouse. The top was glass panels, which he cut off to use for the upper center of the greenhouse roof

In the department of needful things, Dan built something we've been talking about for years; a headgate for the task of trimming the buck's hooves. 

Our bucks are all pretty friendly, but no goat likes having their hooves trimmed and tends to be uncooperative. This time of year they are still in rut, which means they are rambunctious and harder to handle. The bait, of course, is feed, but we have to have only one at a time in the pen. When we're working on one buck, the others want to take advantage of his restrained situation by butting him (and us, if we're not careful.) It's all goofy play, but they are rough and their play is not something the humans want to be caught in.

With feeder. They're always more cooperative if there's something to eat!

The headgate works very well. I just wish I'd remembered my camera the last time we tackled the job.

The chickens are moulting and so not laying at the moment. But the ducks are obliging us with eggs.

These are lovely for Christmas baking.

As you can see, not much exciting going on. We're just enjoying our season of rest. Hopefully, you'll enjoy these parting shots of Riley. 

He loves to play in the water dish, which gets water everywhere.

I hope you all are staying warm and dry.

Status Quo Days © December 2023

December 11, 2023

Greenhouse Ventilation

In case you missed it, here's the last greenhouse photo I shared.

Photo from Garden Notes: November 2023

At the top of the greenhouse roofline, a vent covers a solar attic ventilation fan.

We finally assembled all the pieces needed to hook it up to solar, and now have functional ventilation in the greenhouse.

It's powered by a 12-volt 100-watt solar panel on the roof above the greenhouse. No battery, so it runs when there's sun and doesn't when there isn't. Fan speed is regulated by the amount of sun hitting the panel. This is okay, because I need ventilation when the sun is bright and heating up the greenhouse more than I want! This is ultimately why my hoophouse failed for winter growing. It's not uncommon to get 60°F (16°C) days or warmer during winter here, which meant the hoophouse got too hot for cool weather plants. I had no means of ventilation other than opening the end flaps. This wan't effective, and everything bolted! I'm hoping the vent fan will help with that.

If it's cold out and we don't want to lose warmth, there's a switch to turn it off.

The solar panel is wired to the switch,
and the switch is wired to the fan.

The fan will be on during warm winter days and probably run all summer. Not because I plan on using the greenhouse for plants then, but to help vent hot air stacked up right next to the house and warming up my studio/sewing room!

The jalousie window on the backside of the greenhouse provides cooler outside air for the draft.

There's more shade and hence cooler air on this side of the greenhouse, so it makes sense to draw from this side and vent out on the hotter sunny side.

The big question was, will it work?!? The next day we had a chance to test it out. After lunch, the outside thermometer read 52°F (11°C). The greenhouse thermometer read 80°F (27°C). I turned on the fan and opened the jalousie window. Two hours later the outside temp was up to 55°F (13°C), but the greenhouse temp had dropped to 75°F (24°C). That's promising! The following day was another warm one in the greenhouse. When the temp got up to 80°F (27°C), I turned on the fan but left the door open instead of the window, to experiment. Two hours later it was down to 70°F (21°C). My conclusion is that the 80-watt fan has a good air draw.

Of our overnight lows, the coldest night we've had so far was 22°F (-5.5°C). The greenhouse got down to 32°F (0°C), with no frost or freeze damage to the cherry tomato (my only warm weather plant).

Summer cooling may be another story, but that remains to be seen. I'm not planning on growing anything in the greenhouse in summer anyway, but it would be nice to keep it as cool as possible to keep the heat from transferring to the house.

I'm calling this first year our test year. I'll keep track of temps and we'll experiment. Our coldest weather is yet to come, but we have a few ideas to try.  Hopefully, we'll learn some things about how to regulate greenhouse temperatures (both cold and hot).

December 6, 2023

Curds 'n Cream

Late autumn is the time of year when milk production drops. Milk production is seasonal, for the most part, and by now, the does are hopefully bred and apparently less interested in making milk. Although some does will "milk through" for more than a year. I've never had such a doe, so I plan my cheesemaking during our peak of production.

I experimented a lot in the past, and have pretty much settled on what could be classified as Mediterranean cheeses for home production. For cheesemaking and cheese storage, this type of cheese works the best in my climate.

  • mozzarella - fresh or frozen (shredded)
  • feta - aged and stored in olive oil
  • halloumi - fresh or frozen
  • paneer - fresh but can be frozen and crumbled into soups, eggs, enchiladas, etc.
  • farmers - fresh
  • ricotta - fresh or frozen
While I make others on occasion, those are my staple cheeses. 

The other day, Dan mentioned an old favorite of his, pineapple and cottage cheese. Years ago, I tried my hand at cottage cheese. It turned out well enough, but somehow never got eaten and ended up being a treat for the chickens. Even so, this sounded like a good idea for the smaller amounts of milk I'm now getting. And then I got to wondering if I could make it with vinegar like paneer and ricotta, rather than rennet. I gave it a try.

I started with 1/2 gallon of milk, from which I hand skimmed the cream first. Then I heated it to almost simmering and added one 1/4-cup of vinegar.

The curds and whey begin to separate immediately. 

Then the whey is drained off and saved for baking.

Plop curds into a bowl, add salt to taste, and stir in the cream

The result is something like a dry, small curd cottage cheese. The creaminess can be adjusted with the amount of cream added. Since it doesn't follow the traditional cottage cheese recipe, I decided to call it "curds and cream." It turned out to be a real treat, especially with pineapple.

Serve as desired, here with pineapple and pineapple juice.

Like my fig sap cheese, this is a good one for smaller amounts of milk. It makes a tasty change in our diet, so it looks like this is now officially on my "keeper" list.

Curds 'n Cream © December 2023