Regrowing Veggies from the Grocery Store

Spring is almost here and we are having spring like weather!! I am busy planning my garden space, old and new, for this coming season. One thing I want to grow this year are a lot of fresh herbs. I do grow thyme, oregano, sage and chives. This year I am going to add several more to this list.

I have seeds for basils, cilantro, rosemary, dill and a few more that I cannot remember at the moment. These things will grow from seed but it is a slow process, especially for the perennials, so I am attempting to root new plants from fresh pieces I purchased at the grocery store for the cost of a package of seeds.

Today I bought rosemary and last week I bought and planted terragon cuttings.

When I look through the packages of fresh herbs at the grocery store, I look for pieces that have tiny bits of root still attached. These will need less time to continue rooting and start growing. I am not sure this is root. It could be a piece of the stem that didn't break away cleanly but I will leave it there, just in case it is a root piece.

I don't know for certain that rosemary stems will root but I will try it anyway. I am not losing anything, as I will still have the pile of leaves that I stripped from the stems. I can continue to cook with those.

The first thing I did was fill a small container with light potting soil. I buy the inexpensive stuff from Walmart for this. It is better for rooting and seeding if you mix it with perlite, but I am not going to at this point. Mainly because I don't have any at the moment.

I use all kinds of containers to plant in. This is the bottom half of a vegetable juice cocktail jug with holes in the bottom. The aluminum foil is to catch the water that runs through when I water it. Dampen the soil with warm water before starting.

I use rooting hormone gel for this. I put a tiny bit in the corner of a throw away plastic thingie (its and industry term ;-). I keep my rooting hormone gel in the fridge. I have read that this gives it a longer life span. I don't know this from my own experience, but well, it can't hurt and it doesn't take up much room in the fridge.

Lay out the branches of the fresh herb. Remove all but a few leaves at the top. One piece with long enough for me to make two rooting pieces out of it with a few leaves left at the top of each one. When this is done, recut the bottoms of all except the pieces with a slight root still attached. Leave that alone.

Dip the end of each piece in the bit of rooting hormone. Poke a small hole in the damp soil and insert the end. Fill in the soil around it.

I plant all pieces in one container together. It takes up less room that way and it will be awhile before they are so big that they need a pot of their own. I am hoping they can go into the cold frame, or even the ground, by that time.

These are the terragon cuttings I rooted a few days ago. They wilted at first but seem to be perking up now. I did not cover these with anything but I am going to put a bag over the rosemary to help keep them moist while they root. Put the cuttings in a light place but not in direct sunlight until you see real, new leaf growth.

I am looking forward to using these fresh herbs from my garden this year. I use them to make soap, as well as cook with them. One thing I want to make this year is a lot of pesto! I might also make myself some herbal bath oil, hand lotion and hair rinse.

New Litter Box Design

I have two young black cats, only six months old. They were very tiny when I got them and they only needed a little litter box. They outgrew it awhile ago and I thought about getting a regular litter box, or two for them, until I have an idea for something better. This is what I came up with.

Its a large bin. The high sides keep the litter inside the box and its big enough for both of them to use. It fits under a table out of the way. 

I cut the door with my dremel and sanded the sharp edge. It's not fancy but Shadow and Abby don't care. They happily use it anyway! 

Making Tallow

I use tallow to make soap. It can also be used to make candles. Beef fat is called tallow, pork fat is called lard - prepared in exactly the same way. Tallow is harder than any other common fat and will make a harder soap. Shortening can be used to make vegan soap but the soap won't be as hard as that made with beef fat.

I picked up some beef fat scraps from a butcher nearby and have put them into a pot to render. Rendering is cooking the fat scraps until all the fat has been liquefied, straining it and letting it cool and harden. This separates the fat from other impurities. The fat rises to the top and can be taken off in one hard chunk after it cools. The fat will simmer slowly in this pot for awhile, until I am satisfied that it has cooked long enough.
When it is finished I will strain it through a colander, then through a fine strainer before letting it cool outside on the front porch. If you are cooling it outside, a lid is important. Otherwise you might find little racoon prints in it or you might even find it completely gone! The smell will draw the surrounding animals. I will leave it there throughout the day and bring it in at night. The next morning it will look like this in the pot.

Now that it has cooled I can separate the fat and give the rest to the chickens. They will love it! This is the bottom layer under the pure fat. You will need to make sure none of these impurities get into the tallow.

While the fat simmers, I will go through the rest of my things and make sure I have everything I need to make soap. Tomorrow is a holiday, after all, and there will be nowhere open to buy ingredients.

This is the pure tallow. Isn't it beautiful! It looks just like lard or shortening from the store!

If you have especially smelly fat to render, the addition of a potato to the simmering pot will help to remove odors. A few teaspoons of white vinegar will also help remove odors from the fat.

It can be boiled twice if it is not clean and pure enough the first time. A tablespoon of salt added to the boil will help make it cleaner.