In another blog post I discuss the process of filtering vacuum pump oil. But why filter vacuum pump oil? Cleaning and removing water from your oil allows you to reuse the expensive vacuum pump oil several times. Refilling the vacuum pump with clean oil that is free of water helps ensure the pump has a long life. Continually operating the vacuum pump with dirty oil that contains moisture will lead to early pump failure.
In the picture below you will see vacuum pump oil in a quart jar. This oil ran one complete freeze dry cycle before being drained into the jar, It sat for around 24 hours to allow the water to collect at the bottom. The cloudy mess in that jar is food particles from the food. It is drawn out of the freeze dryer as the vacuum pump pulls a vacuum on the chamber and makes it into the oil. You will be able to see what the oil should look like below after I discuss removing the water from the oil.
Remove the water from the oil
To remove the water from the used vacuum pump oil we start by draining the used oil into a quart mason jar. Secure a lid and ring on the jar and place it into the freezer and allow the water to freeze solid.
You can see the water under the oil in our mason jar in this picture. This was a significant amount of water and is not typical. This was a result of a long freeze dry cycle with a full load of very high moisture content food.
Once the water is frozen solid pour off the oil into your filter and allow the very viscous oil to drain into the toilet paper filter. (You can see my Brita TP filter in the picture at the bottom of this page.)
After the majority of the oil is out of the mason jar and before the water begins to melt, I transfer the jar to the filter that came with the Freeze Dryer unit. There the remainder of the oil drains from the jar along with the water as it melts. Once there is a fair amount of oil in the Harvest Right filter it too will go into the freezer to remove the water.
Here is what it looks like after filtering
This is the exact same oil as shown in the first picture after it went through our toilet paper filtering system. The difference is remarkable. One can see how much particulate matter was in that oil before filtering. Clean and filtered vacuum pump oil generally should look like this amber color. Some vacuum pump oil will be a different color, but this is what our Black Gold oil looks like.
So why filter vacuum pump oil? doing so will reduce operating cost and help reduce expensive repairs to the vacuum pump.
Today I would like to share with you the best shoe tying knot. For about a decade I have been using this amazing little knot for tying my boots called a turquoise turtle. It may be known by different names, but it was introduced to me as the turquoise turtle. This knot is simple to tie, simple to untie. A simple tug on the tag end of a lace and the knot easily comes undone.
Before I learned of this simple knot I could expect my boot laces to come untied several times a day. It was irritating and a nuisance for me, but it could be a trip hazard for the children. Now my boots are only tied once a day and the no longer come untied.
At the bottom of this post I will share a video so you can see how to tie the turquoise turtle knot.
Why is it the best shoe tying knot?
The double knot works to keep laces from coming untied. Unfortunately they can be a real pain to untie and isn’t the best shoe tying knot. When the double knot is used on children’s shoes they generally aren’t able to remove the knot so that their shoes can be removed.
Once tied properly this knot won’t come untied on its own. Once you want to untie it a simple pull on the tag end of the lace and the knot easily comes undone.
Watch the knot being tied on YouTube
For those like me who are visual learners, here is a short video where I use a piece of rope to demonstrate the how to tie the best shoe tying knot. Watch the video and then try it yourself and see if you don’t prefer this knot. Teach your children how to tie it and they’ll stop tripping on their laces.
With the New Year upon us we are just a couple months away from starting seedlings under grow lights it is time to start preparing for my gardening season . In order to be prepared it is necessary that I plan out the years garden and make sure we have the tools, seeds, growing medium and chemicals that we will need to get started and to make it through the year.
For starting and growing seedlings my list includes growing medium (sand and sawdust), seedling flats, and to check on the grow light setup. Other required items include preplant, weekly feed, a bucket for the constant feed, and a watering can.
Depending on how you implement growing seedlings and your Mittleider garden, your list will likely differ slightly.
Seeds for the Mittleider garden
Preparing for my gardening season includes making sure I have the seeds in enough quantities to get through the gardening season. This is accomplished by planning out your garden. This can be accomplished with pen and paper or even on a computer using a spreadsheet. The Mittleider garden planning detail sheet helps in determining how many seeds you will need for the year.
There are many options for custom soil mixes in a Mittleider Garden, as outlined in the book. In our garden we use sand and sawdust because its readily available and we can acquire the sawdust for free. If your garden has grow boxes with custom growing medium in it those grow boxes will need need topped off.
Our seedlings are started and grown in sand and sawdust. Before starting our seedling production for this spring we will make the trip to get a truck load of sawdust. That will be used to mix up our growing medium to fill the seedling flats and our three grow boxes.
Nutrients needed in the Mittleider Garden
I won’t go into everything needed to mix the weekly feed and preplant, but you will need to ensure you have everything to mix up a batch. The micro nutrients are the only item we can not source locally. We buy our micros throw the Grow Food website.
Filtering vacuum pump oil is a part of owning a home freeze dryer. It is necessary to remove moisture and food particles from the oil through filtering. Oil from the vacuum pump should be filtered after every load. This helps to ensure a long life of the vacuum pump.
When you purchase a Harvest Right freeze dryer you will receive a filter like the one in the picture below. The Harvest Right filter is the one on the left. It works and does filter out the particulate matter. Unfortunately I found it to be poorly assembled and messy to use. The Brita filter on the right is what we now use.
The Harvest Right oil filter
If you look at the picture above you will see the Harvest Right filter on the left. Initially we used the HR filter that came with the freeze dryer. To remove the filtered oil you have to unscrew the lower lid and lift everything out of the bottom container. It will drip oil and needs to be placed on something to soak up any oil. We grew tired of the mess and having to assemble and disassemble the filter. Now we use the Brita filter on the right in the picture. It is discussed below.
Our Brita oil filtering system
While this system is what we currently use, the idea wasn’t our own. We borrowed the idea from a freeze dryer group and have adopted it for our purposes.
For our filtering system we bought a 10 cup Brita pitcher. These filtering pitchers can be bought new for around $25. For the bargain minded folks, try looking for one in thrift stores. I’ve seen people reporting to find them for just a few dollars.
This Brita filter uses toilet paper rolled up to remove food particles. The toilet paper rolled up will replace the charcoal filter. As the filter gets full simply replace the toilet paper. In the picture below you can see an example of the filter material needing replaced.
How the Brita filter is better than the Harvest Right filter
The Brita filter does not require disassembly to pour the filtered oil back into the vacuum pump. So long as there isn’t oil in the upper chamber you simply grab the pitcher and pour the clean oil.
A quick important note, the toilet paper filter does absorb some oil and you will lose some of it. You will need to have extra vacuum oil on hand to replace what is lost each time you add new filter material. Black gold vacuum pump oil is what we use and is one of the two brands recommended by Harvest Right.
Recently we bought a home freeze dryer from Harvest Right. We have done several loads and are doing well with it. There is still a lot to learn and you can expect to see more related blog entries on our home freeze dryer in the future. Future topics will be filtering and reusing vacuum pump oil, food successes and failures, long and short term food storage.
why buy a home freeze dryer?
The decision to buy a home freeze dryer is one that shouldn’t be made lightly. These units are expensive and require your time to prepare food for freeze drying and putting it away properly. After every freeze drying cycle with your home freeze dryer the oil needs to be drained and filtered. The process isn’t hard but will require your time.
For us being able to store the food from our garden long term with little nutritional value loss was very appealing. We know what goes into our garden, the seeds that are used. We control the insects so we know exactly what has been used. Buying commercially grown food you have no idea what is used or how it was prepared for market. Putting away our own food that we control during the entire growing process up through harvest gives us a piece of mind.
Extending the amount of food in our pantry is another reason we elected to buy the home freeze dryer. Sure, we could be a bunch of commercially prepared freeze dried food with what the unit cost. By doing it our selves we have better control over what food ultimately goes into our pantry. Plus over the course of a few years we should be able to make this unit more than pay for itself.
Little nutritional value loss with a home freeze dryer
We can and freeze but both of those options are more of a short term option. Add to the shorter storage duration is the nutritional value loss that comes with heating food. Whether you blanch before freezing, dehydrate or can you can expect up to around a 30 percent loss of nutritional value in your food. Harvest Right claims a mere 2 percent loss through freeze drying.
Of course foods that were prepared before freeze drying, or that will be prepared after re-hydration will still experience loss of nutritional value. But anything that can be eaten as a snack right of the freeze dryer will retain all that nutrition.
Things to consider before buying a home freeze dryer
Before buying a freeze dryer we would recommend you consider several things before buying, First off, do you have time to prepare the food to go into the freeze dryer and then to store it once it has completed. peeling, slicing and arranging food in the trays can be time consuming.
Properly storing food for long term storage takes attention to detail. If you’re rushed for time and hurrying to get the task done and do something improperly you can lose everything in that pouch. If your schedule is hectic and you’ll have difficulty finding the time to load and unload the freeze dryer it will likely sit unused. A freeze dryer sitting unused would make it a very expensive paper weight.
The cost of electricity is something else you should consider. Here in the midwest our electricity costs are lower than can be found on the coasts. We also don’t have a fluctuating rate depending on peak hours. A typical load will have this unit running constantly for 24-30 hours. If you pay peak electrical rates a home freeze dryer will be running at those times and could significantly increase your power bill. The large unit runs on 220 volts and would be more economical.
The vacuum pump can be loud. Setting it up in an area close to bedrooms could interrupt with sleep.
The vacuum pump needs to be kept cool and the freeze dryer will be more efficient if kept in a cool room. A garage or shed that gets hot during the summer months can causes extra wear and tear on your pump and freeze dryer.
Harvest Right recommends your freeze dryer be on its own dedicated circuit. If you place it on a circuit with other appliances you run the risk if tripping a breaker.
What size freeze dryer do you need?
Currently Harvest Right offers three sizes of home freeze dryers. Picking the one that is right for you and your family can be difficult task. The number of people that will be using the food coming out of that freeze dryer needs to be considered. It might even be good to call Harvest Right and ask them which model they’d suggest you needed.
Based on our experiences I’d say 1-2 people would need the small unit. For 3-4 the stand model. But for anyone freeze drying for 4 or more people you should absolutely consider the large model.
We are members of a few different freeze dryer groups on Facebook. Often times when someone asks for suggestions on which size they need I’ve seen people say they wish they had bought a larger unit. I’ve yet to see a single person say they wish they had bought the smaller unit.
What else do you need for your home freeze dryer?
Unfortunately there will be more things you’re going to need to go with your home freeze dryer. Many of those other items you can get from Harvest Right. They even offer an occasional sale that will include many of them. The sale, when running will include oxygen absorbers, 7 mil mylar bags, and the impulse sealer you will need to seal them.
Silicone tray liners make cleanup and removing freeze dried food from the trays so much easier. Harvest Right offers them to correctly fit their trays. They have three different sizes to fit the trays for the freeze dryer you buy.
Consider an extra set of trays. An extra set allows you to prepare the next batch of food and have it ready to go into the freeze dryer. A second set of the liners would be wonderful.
The vacuum pump comes with one quart of the correct oil. The oil needs to be filtered after each use. The filtering process will not return all the oil as some stays in the filter. To remove the water and properly filter the oil can take several hours. Having extra oil on hand allows you to quickly get the freeze dryer back in operation. Having at least an extra gallon of the correct Black Gold vacuum pump oil is suggested. Some retailers will ship for free if you have Amazon Prime.
Our favorite freeze dried food
So far Gala apples and bananas are among our favorite foods to eat directly out of the freeze dryer. Bananas are possibly our favorite because they’re relatively inexpensive as compared to other fruits and berries. Blackberries and strawberries are my own personal favorite. The kids enjoy ice cream, yogurt and water melon.
When it comes to juicing tomatoes, our Cabela’s tomato juicer attachment is a real time saver. Yes, it will juice other things such as grapes as well, but we use it almost exclusively for tomatoes.
Yesterday we had another small harvest, around 30 pounds, of tomatoes that needed put up. We setup the grinder, foot control and connected the tomato juicer attachment and got to work. If you have a large amount of tomatoes to do each year this is the only way to go.
The only place I’ve found this juicer attachment is at Cabela’s. Our juicer is an older model and doesn’t include a splash guard. You can see our improvised one made from foil in this picture below.
The newer models of the tomato juicer attachment will run you around $100 at Cabela’s and is designed to be mounted to their grinder. It is a big investment, but it saves a lot of time on large jobs. We already owned a grinder so it was an easy decision when we can put up 200 pounds or more of tomatoes annually.
What if you wont be doing large batches?
If you are going to juice tomatoes on a much smaller scale then an old fashioned food mill will work. It is time consuming but is much cheaper. There are hand crank operated juicers out there work well but cost more money than the food mill. One such product is the Weston strainer and sauce maker for around 60 dollars.
Foot control switch for the grinder
The first year we ran the grinder manually by turning the switch on and off by hand. It works but can make a real mess at the end of the day.
One day while browsing the camping and hunting section in a BassPro Shop I noticed a foot control switch. It is designed to power the grinder while your foot is depressing the switch. As soon as your foot comes off the switch the grinder stops. Amazing! It was a solution to our messy grinder and we decided to buy it and try it out.
It works wonderfully and powers the grinder so long as your foot is on the switch. As soon as you release the switch the grinder powers off. No more messy switches and it gives us the ability to shut down quickly if something goes wrong.
It is carried at BassPro and Cabela’s, with the former having the best price if you have one of their stores near you. Amazon had the best price by a few pennies and offers from shipping to Amazon Prime members.
Watch the tomato juicer attachment in action
We made a short video of our grinder attachment making juice. You can watch the video below.
If you grow seedlings, and you should, you too can have seedling success through sterilized soil. That sounds pretty serious but it is actually pretty simple. This process is only for starting seedlings. To do an entire garden simply would not be practical.
By sterilizing the soil where you start your seedlings you accomplish three things. Any diseases dormant in the soil from previous crops will be destroyed. If there are insects or their eggs in the soil this process will kill them. Finally, any weed or unwanted seeds will be prevented from ever germinating.
Growing seedlings in sterile soil helps ensure the plants are healthy and improves your chances of success in the garden.
How to sterilize your soil
The process of sterilizing your soil for the purpose involves a few cookie sheets and your oven. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Place your soil on the cookie sheet. The soil should be 1/2 to 1 inch deep on the cookie sheet and the soil level.
Once the oven is preheated place soil filled cookie sheets in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the cookie sheets and thoroughly mix the soil on the cookie sheet. re-level the soil and place it back in the oven and bake for an additional 45 minutes.
Once the soil has baked at 250 for a total of an one and a half hours it will need to cool before being used. You can put it into the containers where you will place your seeds or into a container with a lid to be used later.
An alternative to sterilizing soil
Another alternative to sterilizing soil for starting seedlings is to use a custom growing medium, Here in our garden we chose to start all our seedlings in sawdust and sand. It is nearly pH neutral and won’t contain any disease.
Watch the video on how to sterilize soil for starting seedlings
For those of you who are visual learners like me consider this video that covers the subject.
How does Mittleider weekly feed compare to similar products?
Recently I got to thinking, how does the Mittleider weekly feed compare to similar products that are marketed for gardeners? I made a note to check the garden section the next time I went to Walmart to see how they compared. Lets talk about what I learned and why the weekly feed is superior.
For this comparison I am going to use three MiracleGro products and Oscomote. The three MiracleGro products are Liquafeed, and their Potting Mix.
Mittleider weekly feed expected analysis after mixing
After we mix our weekly feed for the garden we can expect the following analysis assuming the NPK came from triple 16 fertilizer. Those percentages below would change depending on your NPK percentages. The following percentages come from the instruction sheet that comes with the packets of Mittleider Magic Micro-Mix nutrients:
Plant nutrient Percentage
N – Nitrogen 13.000
P – Phosphate 13.000
K – Potash 13.000
Mg – MgSO4 1.000
B – Sodium Borate 0.050
Mn- Manganese Sulfate 0.120
Zn -Zinc Sulfate or Sucrate 0.300
Fe -Iron Sulfate or Sequestrene 0.030
Cu – Copper Sulfate 0.030
Ca – Calcium 0.700
S – Sulfur 3.000
Cl – Chloride 2.000
Mo – Sodium Molybdate 0.015
Osmocote expected analysis
Here are some pictures that show the analysis of the Osmocote. The percentages are good for N,P and K but that is all that it includes. Osmocote is missing 10 of the nutrients that are provided in the weekly feed. If you calculate the cost of this product just to use it as a standard fertilizer its going to be very expensive. I can buy 50 pounds of fertilizer for one one and a half containers of this product would cost.
Guaranteed analysis of the Liquafeed
The expected analysis of the Liquafeed is Nitrogen 12, Phosphate 9, Potash 6, Manganese 0.05 and Zinc 0.05. It only contains 5 of the 13 nutrients the plants need us to provide. It contains no calcium which aides the plant in taking up those it does provide.
The expected analysis of the MiracleGro potting mix
The potting mix is another one that contains only the NPK. The percentages are Nitrogen 21, Phosphate 11 and Potash 16. People use this and grow container gardens in it.
The expected analysis of MiracleGro Shake’n Feed
In the Shake n Feed I found the closest results to the weekly feed: Nitrogen 9, Phosphate 4, Potash 12, Calcium 3.5, Magnesium 1.4, Sulfur 7, Copper 0.05, Iron 9, Manganese 0.35 and Zinc 0.1.
Of all the products I compared to the weekly feed the Shake’n Feed comes the closest to having the 13 nutrients found in the weekly feed. Unfortunately it lacks three nutrients.
Rock dust guaranteed analysis
The data I found for the rock dust was derived from volcanic rock. Other forms of rock may produce a different analysis. Also, the phosphate shown in the analysis is Phosphoric Acid. Phosphoric acid 13, Potash 11, Calcium 1.23, Magnesium 1.74, Iron 0.8465, and Sodium 1.20.
Side by side analysis comparison
Here is a simple spreadsheet showing the products side by side to make it easier to see how they compare.
So what is the Mittleider Gardening Method, who created it and how is it different? The Mittleider gardening method is a complete system that was developed to allow any gardener to grow a healthy garden in any climate and type of soil. It is a system that ensures the plants have all 16 nutrients they require. Those nutrients are added on a weekly basis. It was developed to be easy and inexpensive for anyone in any part of the world.
It is a system that was named after the man who developed it, Dr. Jacob Mittleider. It allows the gardener to combine the best parts of growing in soil with the results of hydroponic gardening. It allows us to get results similar to hydroponic gardeners but without the massive costs. The Mittleider garden is known as the poor mans hydroponics system.
Dr. Jacob R Mittleider
Jacob Mittleider perfected this system over the course of 43 years to allow gardeners to maximize the use of their resources, space and even their time. The amount plants are large in a Mittleider garden because the crops are grown close together and through nourishing the plants with natural minerals. No special or expensive equipment is needed to apply the nutrients!
Six laws of plant growth
Jacob Mittleider defined the six laws of plant growth. These scientific laws of plant growth are non-nonnegotiable yet very few gardeners follow or fully understand them. If the gardener can figure out these 6 laws of plant growth and implement them in their Mittleider garden they will see a bountiful harvest. Ignore just one of these six laws of plant growth and your garden could be a total loss.
Mittleider gardens provide all the nutrients plants require
Because all the required nutrients are provided on a weekly basis a Mittleider garden can be grown in any soil, even sand and sawdust! Traditional gardening methods provide very few of the required 16 nutrients. When you provide all the nutrients necessary your plants will grow large, taste better and resist disease far better than an underfed plant. Regardless of how nutrient poor your soil may be, you can grow a Mittleider garden.
The first three nutrients the plant is able to provide its self with access to the air. Those three airborne nutrients are :
Next comes the primary nutrients. These three macro nutrients are:
The secondary nutrients are sometimes used in traditional gardens. Of the three secondary nutrients magnesium is often used for tomatoes. The three secondary nutrients are:
The last of the nutrients needed by all plants are known as the micro-nutrients or as the trace elements. There are 7 of them:
Mittlieder Gardening Method maximizes garden space
To maximize the available garden space, Dr. Jacob Mittleider began to grow vertically. For example, tomatoes can be grown a mere 9 inches apart when utilizing the Mittleider method and grown vertically under t-posts or a frames. That is 13 tomato plants being grown in one row that is merely 10 feet long!
When grown vertically a 170 pound test, or greater, baling twine is used to direct the tomato plants to grow vertically. The twine is wrapped around the plant as it grows. Every other tomato is trained up the twine in different directions towards the top of structure to a heavy gauge wire. If the gardener stands at one end of the row and looks toward the other they would see a “V” shape as shown in the picture below.
While the plants grow upwards they get further apart allowing them all access to sunlight and the air. Air and light are laws 1 and 3 of the six laws of plant growth. The gardener will prune the tomatoes or other vertical crop as they grow. As a result of pruning the plants are all able to get access to sunlight and air as they grow towards the top.
Growing vertically such crop as crooked neck squash keeps you from tripping on the vines and breaking plants. Going vertical makes weed control such much easier. Pruning, visual inspections for disease and insects and even harvesting is such much easier with crops grown vertically.
Use less water and help control weeds with the Mittleider gardening method
Watering a Mittleider garden soil bed is easy and uses less water than a traditional garden. A Mittleider soil bed is raised to permit good drainage. It has ridges to contain the water inside a 12 inch wide area. Because the water is only given to the plants in a narrow row, less water is used. When the water is contained inside the grow bed ridges no water gets into the isles to encourage weed growth. As a result of watering a narrow row there is far less water used as compared to traditional gardening methods.
Where can you learn more about the Mittleider gardening method
James (Jim) Kennard now runs the Food For Everyone foundation and maintains the website. You can learn more about the history of the Mittleider Gardening Method and even order the book from the Grow Food website. Jim and Araksya run a Mittleider group on Facebook. For those who like forums to share and search different topics relating to a Mittleider garden try the Mittleider Gardening Forums.
If you’re interested in trying out the Mittleider method you can even download the first 7 lessons in a digital format from the Mittleider Gardening Course Book for FREE. Those lessons cover everything you need to know to grow a Mittleider garden in your own soil.
Can you take classes on Mittleider gardening method?
Indeed you can. The Food for Everyone Foundation offers week long classes each year in Missouri and Idaho. These Mittleider Training Courses (MTC) are described as:
“…the Mittleider Training Course (MTC) is a one-week intensive immersion experience in this amazing system of growing, and for those who experience it their paradigm is forever changed. They KNOW how to grow a highly successful garden and they also have the confidence to assist, teach, and demonstrate success to others.”
For the visual learners who use YouTube
Finally, for the visual learners you can follow us on YouTube. We are still learning how to do the whole video thing so please be patient with us.
Knowing how many seedlings you need when planning your Mittleider garden can be difficult to figure out. Tools like the Mittleider garden planning detail sheet is invaluable in helping the gardener calculate how many seedlings will be needed. Certainly a simple calculator would make the process easier as well.
You can find a copy of the garden planning detail sheet inside the Mittleider Gardening Course book. A digital copy of it is available for free in the files section of the Mittleider Facebook group. We choose to use the garden planning detail sheet as a spreadsheet to make the process a little easier.
How we use the garden planning detail sheet
First we determine how many feet of soil beds and grow boxes we need to fill. Once that is done we decide how many feet of each crop we need to plant. Because we like to use the spreadsheet version of the garden planning details sheet, we started a spreadsheet like the one below.
The hardiness, spacing and number of columns comes from the garden planning detail sheet. The total feet is how much of the bed we want for a specific crop. It was determined by how much of each particular plant we want to grow based upon our need and the available room in our garden.
The seedling number is determined by multiplying the number of feet times 12 to get the number of inches. Take that number and divide by the number in the spacing column. As a reminder, that comes from the garden planning detail sheet. Take that number and multiply it by the number of rows. This will tell you the total number of seedlings you will need for the allotted space in your soil bed or grow box.
For the example given above, I will need 32 red beet seedlings to fill 3 feet of our soil bed. The “+ 10” portion I will discuss next.
Always plant extra seeds
Regardless of where your seeds come from there isn’t going to be a consistent 100 percent germination rate. Each time seeds are planted for seedlings you will need to plant extra to make up for those which fail to germinate.
Seeds bought from a reputable company will average as much as 85 percent germination rate. What that in mind we can plant an extra 15-20 percent and should have enough seedlings to fill our allotted garden space.
Another tip I might like to point out here, in those seeds that do germinate there will be seedlings that fail to thrive or just look weak. Those seedlings should never make it into your garden.
To help ensure only our strongest seedlings make it into the garden we plant an extra 10 percent of seeds. That makes a total of 30 percent extra seeds being planted. In most cases this will produce adequate enough seedlings to cover failure to germinate and the weak seedlings.
Because of the extra seeds planted we have plenty of healthy seedlings to fill the soil beds in our garden.
Planning your Mittleider garden video
For the gardeners who are visual learners, I’ve made this video and uploaded it to our YouTube channel.
Our quest to be self reliant and grow a healthy garden