Mittleider Gardening Course book through Amazon

Mittleider Gardening Course book through Amazon

For those of you who are Amazon fans, you can now purchase the Mittleider gardening course book through Amazon.  If you will be attending the upcoming Mittleider gardening course you will need this book.  You can get it here at Amazon, or at Grow Food.

Mittleider Gardening Course book through Amazon
Mittleider Gardening Course book through Amazon

You can get a searchable digital copy of the book at the Grow Food site, just select the “ebook” format option.  The search feature works well and makes finding something specific in the book quite easy.  You can print from the document and it is $7 cheaper.

Purchase the digital version of the Mittleider Gardening Course book
Purchase the digital version of the Mittleider Gardening Course book at the GrowFood website

Mittleider Gardening Course dates for 2018

Mittleider Gardening Course dates for 2018

If you’re interested in Mittleider Gardening Course dates for 2018 there only appears to be scheduled.  The class scheduled for this year will be held at the Preparedness University in Kidder, MO.  The class will be held April 9 through the 14th.  To learn more about and reserve your seat go to Jim’s website, Grow Food.

Mittleider Gardening Course dates for 2018
Tomatoes grown 7 inches apart vertically in a Mittleider garden

Will there be additional class dates or locations

Jim and the Food for Everyone foundation has a very big year in 2018.  If there are additional Mittleider gardening course dates for 2018 I will update this page.  Check back periodically for any updates.

Mittleider Gardening Course dates for 2018
More tomatoes growing vertically in a Mittleider garden

What will you need to bring?

What will you need for the classes?  Not much.  Enough clothes for the week, boots or appropriate foot wear for out in the garden and possibly for some mud.  You will be using rakes, shovels and other hand tools as well as digging in the soil.  A pair of gloves to protect your hands, if you so choose.  April can still be quite cool and windy in Missouri. Including some clothes for cool and windy weather would be a great idea.

Mittleider Gardening Course dates for 2018
MGC students preparing to make soil beds

What can you expect from the Mittleider gardening course class

During the Mittleider gardening course you can expect to spend time in the classroom as well as in the garden.  Students will have the opportunity to create their own soil beds.  There will be workshop time where everyone will have the opportunity to make seedling flats and many of the other Mittleider gardening tools.

Mittleider Gardening Course dates for 2018
Mittleider soil beds created with rakes by students

You can see a more comprehensive bulleted list of the topics and activities broken down by shop, classroom and garden time below.

Classroom and Garden Activities:

  • Garden Planning & Preparation (Old school using paper and pencil or high tech using satellite imagery for free, it’s not what you think.)
  • Seedling Production (How to turn that black thumb green and stop killing seedlings.)
  • Understanding Soils (Dirt isn’t just dirt. What you really need to know.)
  • Growing in Any Soil, in Any Climate (How and why you don’t need to do anything different if you know this secret.)
  • Bonus session: Grow year-round using Geo-Air, and building small or large greenhouses – in our own Geo-Thermal Greenhouse!
  • Creating a Mittleider Garden (How and why to REALLY create a productive garden.)
  • Growing in Containers or Grow-Boxes (Like growing above ground? You’ll love this session.)
  • Planting & Transplanting (Master this and you’ll never go hungry.)
  • Watering & Weeding (Made easy!)
  • Feeding – Plant Nutrition (How to source, measure and mix all the nutrients yourself to make your own natural mineral nutrient mix.)
  • Growing Vertically (Grow tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, squash and other plants vertically? Yes you can and why you should.)
  • Pruning & Caring for Plants (Almost every gardener gets this wrong. Understand how to really prune properly and see your garden explode with food.)
  • Protecting Plants from Weather & Bugs (Got a bug eating your garden? We will share solutions that will stop them in their tracks.)
  • Beating the Competition (How to keep deer, moles, raccoons, skunks, voles, bears, etc. and kids from destroying your garden.)

Lab and Workshop Projects

  • Mini-Greenhouses or Low Tunnels (How to extend your gardening season by 3 months!)
  • Planting seeds for seedling production (Super successful soil mixture, proper plant varieties, hands on practice.)
  • Transplanting seedlings in seedling production (We talked about it in class now you get to do it live and see how your seedlings grow through the week.)
  • Drilling PVC pipe for watering systems (Learn how to prepare your watering pipes super fast and easy.)
  • Installing automated Watering system (You don’t need to be a plumber to learn how to install your own watering system either above or below ground.)
  • Making flats for seedling production (Struggling to find all the materials and tools to make this at home?  Make as many as you want and take them with you.)
  • Making markers for seedling production and garden planting (Make your own garden marker or one for a friend.)
  • Building T-Frames (With the right tools this takes just minutes to make. You’ll learn how to do this accurately and quickly.)
  • Building In-The-Garden Greenhouse (Don’t need a big greenhouse but want to extend your growing? You’ll learn how doing this.)

Freeze dried pudding

Freeze dried pudding

One of the new additions to our freeze dryer rotation is freeze dried pudding.  So far we have tried chocolate and vanilla flavors with good success.  Chocolate does not freeze dryer well but food that contains chocolate is often OK.  If the chocolate flavor will freeze dry I am confident other flavors will also freeze dry without any issues.

Pre-freeze the pudding in a mold

When we make freeze dried pudding we will place it into a silicone mold and pre-freeze it into 1 inch cubes.  Once frozen solid we push the pudding cubes out of the silicone mold into a gallon sized freezer bag.  We repeat the process until either we have enough to fill a tray, or until the mixing bowl is empty.

soon to be Freeze dried pudding
vanilla pudding frozen in molds before going into the freeze dryer

Those one inch cubes are a little bit bigger than bite size for the kids and is messy when they bite into the freeze dried pudding.  We are ordering smaller molds from Amazon.  Hopefully they will be of a size that the children can pop into their mouth whole.

Selecting the freeze dry cycle

As with all dairy products I like to do a custom freeze dry cycle.  Twelve hours freeze and another 12 hours dry time in our Harvest Right freeze dryer.  My first time do yogurt in these molds we still had cold spots and required a lot of extra dry time.  The cold spots indicate there is still moisture in the food.

It is entirely possible that the long dry time is needed because of the 1 inch cubes we are trying to freeze dry.  If we went with a smaller mold we could likely reduce the freeze and dry time.  When the new molds arrive we will try a load at the standard settings and see how they turn out.

Removing water from vacuum pump oil before filtering

Removing water from vacuum pump oil before filtering

Removing water from vacuum pump oil before filtering is important to help extend the life of the oil and your vacuum pump.  Water in the vacuum pump oil can cause corrosion and damage to the vacuum pump.  The toilet paper filter we made and use here will remove food particles from the oil, but it does not separate out the water.  In this picture you can see the water that has separated from the oil and sitting at the bottom of the jar.  It needs to be removed before filtering the oil.

Removing water from vacuum pump oil before filtering
Removing water from vacuum pump oil before filtering

How to remove water from oil with a water separator

You can use a fuel filter water separator to remove the water from your vacuum pump oil and filter it at the same time.   They run about $40 and will require fittings and pipes to allow the oil to be poured into the filter and allow the filtered oil to drain from the filter.  The whole system will also need to be mounted with all the attached pipes before you can use it.

There is a system out there called the Harvey filter that is made specially for Harvest Right owners.  His filtering system will cost you about $50 plus shipping.  You can find it and see videos on it at his website Harvey filter.

Freeze the water to remove it from the oil

Alternatively to building or buying a water separating oil filtering system you can simple freeze the water by placing it in the freezer.  Once frozen to the bottom of the container, one simply has to pour the oil off the ice into the toilet paper filter.

All of the oil wont drain out before the ice begins to melt.  We get the majority of the oil out and then place the jar upside down in the filter that came from Harvest Right with the freeze dryer.  It will go into the freezer eventually like the mason jars to remove the water.

Harvest Right filter

Homemade vacuum pump oil filter

Homemade vacuum pump oil filter

It is once again time to change the filter material in our homemade vacuum pump oil filter for our Harvest Right home freeze dryer. The oil filtering system is a simple one comprised of a Brita water filter. Their filter is removed from the pitcher and a new one is made by rolling up a large potion of a roll of toilet paper. That plug of toilet paper is made to be a little large in diameter than the hole where the Brita filter is intended to go.

Remove the old filter material

The old toilet paper filter will need to be removed and the pitcher cleaned. The old filter is going to be full of oil and food particles from the food that has been run through the freeze dryer. Gloves such as nitrile or Food handlers glove for handling the the old filter and cleaning up the pitcher are a good idea. You can grab the filter from the top and pull it out of the pitcher, or remove the part that holds the filter so you can push it out from the bottom.

A finger will work for most people to push the filter out from the bottom. For those with large diameter fingers an improvised tool such a pencil or screw driver will push the old used toilet paper filter from the pitcher housing. Having a rag or paper towel on hand to wipe the oil from your tool would be a good idea.

Clean out the Brita pitcher

After the old toilet paper filter is removed there will be a lot of gunk that is comprised of food particles that needs to be cleaned. We use paper towels for this task.  Here is what the inside of our homemade filter looks like before cleaning.

Homemade vacuum pump oil filter
This toilet paper filter needs replaced and the container cleaned

To prevent the mess from getting into the pitcher one should consider cleaning the mess out as much as possible before removing the filter material.  After we have wiped out the mess it is simple to push the toilet paper filter out from the bottom.  Here is what our filter looks like at the time we replaced it.  It is gross, but you can see all the food particles that this removes from the oil.

Homemade vacuum pump oil filter
Homemade vacuum pump oil filter after replacing filter material

Replace the filter material

Once the pitcher clean and the old toilet paper filter material is removed it is time to add the new filter. To replace the dirty filter material you see above just take a roll of your toilet paper and start rolling it.

You will want to make the diameter of the filter slightly larger than the hole in the pitcher.  When the toilet paper filter is pushed into the pitcher it should fit snugly but not require a lot of force to get into place.  If the filter fits loosely the oil will flow past it and not get filtered.  If it is too tight the oil may not pass through the  roll.

Here is our homemade vacuum pump oil filter cleaned, a new toilet paper filter is in place.

New toilet paper filter installed
Homemade vacuum pump oil filter

Which Brita pitcher to use

I prefer the larger pitcher that can handle a couple quarts of oil at a time.  We bought the 10 cup Brita filter and are very happy with it.  These are often available used at 2nd hand stores for a few dollars.  You can expect to spend 20 to 30 dollars if you buy one new

Freeze dry apples

Freeze dry apples

Today we are setting up to freeze dry apples again.  The freeze dryer is still new to us and this and apples are very easy to freeze dry.  An added bonus for us will be that the kids absolutely love them.

Freeze dry apples
freeze dried apples vacuum sealed with oxygen absorber

When freeze drying anything it is important to have the items being freeze dried to be consistent in size.  This ensures everything in the freeze dryer has the moisture fully removed.  This of the utmost importance to ensure it will survive in long term storage.  If there is moisture left inside one large or extra thick piece of food it can cause spoilage.  One piece starting to spoil can ruin everything in the same container with it.

An apple slicer that is designed to be pushed down to core and slice works, but we found the slices were too thick.  The thick slices makes proper freeze drying more difficult and increases the run time on the dryer.  Our first load of apples with the push style slicer and corer took over 40 hours to complete the freeze dry cycle.

Apple slicer, corer and peeler

To get consistent apple thicknesses we bought this little hand operated apple slicer, corer peeler.  It peels, slices and removes the core all at the same time for less than $20.  It includes a section cup base that holds it in place on tables and counter tops.

freeze dry apples

We use ours mounted to the counter on one corner of the sink.  With a mixing bowl placed in the corner of the sink under the device its a simple task to get those apple peels into the bowl.

Because the device cuts the apple as it rotates and moves closer to the cutting blade the sliced apple will be in one long curlicue slice.  Cutting through one side will give you rings.  The rings are too big to go into mason jars easily.  We cut down the middle into symmetrical half moon shapes.  These are bite sized and easily go into and out of short term jars.

Why filter vacuum pump oil 

Why filter vacuum pump oil

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.

Why filter vacuum pump oil 
Why filter vacuum pump 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.

Why filter vacuum pump oil 
remove water from used vacuum pump oil

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.

Why filter vacuum pump oil 
Clean vacuum pump oil after filtering

So why filter vacuum pump oil?  doing so will reduce operating cost and help reduce expensive repairs to the vacuum pump.

Best shoe tying knot

Best shoe tying knot

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.

Preparing for my gardening season

Preparing for my gardening season

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.

Mittleider Gardening tools

This list is easy and generally will not need any attention unless you’re new to growing a Mittleider garden.  This list includes a shovel, rake, hammer, pump sprayer(s), the Kenyan hoe for weeding, and pruners.

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.

If you’re new to planning your garden you may find the video at the end of this blog post helpful.  Any certified seed provider will work, our seeds come from Mountain Valley Seed.

Growing medium for the Mittleider Garden

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.

Chemicals used in our Mittleider Garden

We use several different chemicals in our garden for pest control.  We use Bacillus Thuricide,  food grade diatomaceous earth, Neem Oil, original Dawn dish soap, and pyrethrin.