Orange Mocha

I bought some awesome free trade bitter orange peel chocolate at the health food store a while back.  It’s really awesome stuff but pretty darned addicting.  I’ve come up with a fairly nice liquid version.  Add equal amounts of sweetener (I use xylitol) and cocoa (the unsweetened baking kind) (adjust to taste – start with 1 tsp each) to equal amounts (1/2 cup) milk (or cream or half-n-half) and coffee.  Heat it up then grate in some orange zest.  Stir and drink. OMG is it good.

Consolidating for storage

Ready to be put away

I’ve pulled my grow bed apart and gotten it stored away in the loft.  I’ve put the hydroton in barrels and buckets for the winter.  I’ve still got to pull the grow bed frame and cover the tank.  Next year I’ll try and find a nice clean 55 gallon drum (plastic) for storing the hydroton.  That’ll let me put it all in a single container.  The 30 gallon drum I’ve got just isn’t big enough on its own.

Vertical gardening

Open source window farm

Every so often I do a search on plant walls and vertical gardening to see what’s new.  This morning I ran into this.  It’s pretty cool!  But better than just the idea is the way this system works.  It is built on the airlift model.  Instead of using a pump and timer to handle delivering the nutrient rich water, the system uses an aquarium air pump.  While you can buy the whole system, they provide full instruction for a number of different models that can be made from plastic water bottles.

This is very cool.  If you’ve got a kid who needs a science project, the hanging plastic bottle farm would be a stellar undertaking.  Add an aquarium and some fish and you’ve a great “watch it work” project!

Watch this video.  Then visit and start reading.  Fascinating stuff.

Football, dinner, dog

Guess who's waiting for his share?

Tell me this doesn’t happen at your house.  Chuck knows he’s supposed to be sitting on his blanket all the way across the room, not at Wadly’s feet . . . but Wadly’s watching Sunday football and not paying attention so that’s where Chuck’s little butt is parked.  His little ears are pointed at me and he knows he’s in trouble . . . I can hear him mumbling “Mom, don’t notice.  Mom, don’t notice.”

More blooming begonias

Begonia in the gutter ready to burst into bloom

I haven’t done anything about a gutter yet, and I need to . . . desperately. I’m making that a priority for tomorrow.  I’ve got two sewing machines to run up to be repaired and will handle it on the way.

All the baby fish are doing great.  I lay on the floor and watch them scoot around the tank.  Some are big enough to come out and feed with the adult fish.  I wish I could get a picture but they’re just too small to get into focus through the glass.  I end up with tiny little blobs of lighter colored stuff in a fuzzy greeny background.  Ugh.

One of the gutter begonias has blossom stalks topped with buds ready to bloom.

The big begonia is doing really well though the leaves aren’t quite to the size achieved last summer.  They’re close, just not quite there.  The wood fern is doing well.  I have  some stuff that is just limping along.  My cape primrose isn’t happy.  I’m hoping it will come around . . . it’s really slow to show happy or sad so I just have to be patient and see if the changes I’ve made help.  By late spring I should know.  I think the gloxinia is toast . . . I think it’s been totally overgrown by the surrounding foliage.

About 1/3 of the rex begonias I planted are still growing.  I think they would have done much better if I’d gotten them in the wall when all the other plants were about the same size.  Now I’ve got stuff that’s gotten huge and the rex begonias are pretty much lost in the undergrowth.  Time will tell whether they make it out of the understory.

All the philodendron, ivy and dumb cane varieties are doing tremendously well.  They really like the wall.  The hoja is doing good.  The rain forest cactus are doing fine.  The Christmas cactus bloomed a couple weeks ago, just one pretty salmon colored blossom.  It’s another plant that’s going to be lost in the undergrowth.  It just grows too slowly to stand much of a chance.  <wince>  Ditto for the epiphytes I planted last summer.  I have to stay philosophical about all this.  That’s what planting a vertical garden is all about, learning what works and enjoying the result.

Not guppies

It looks like the babies I thought were guppies are actually neon tetras.  They’ve finally gotten big enough to have color and shine.  Cool!  Where they were hanging out in the tank should have been a clue.  Guppies stay right at the surface until they’re big enough to not be eaten.  Tetras hang out in the middle darting in and out of the foliage and cat babies cruise the bottom.