Sunday, September 14, 2014

Another Dome Tragedy

This week's cold, grey and wet weather kept us indoors for a bit (and by that we also mean inside our Growing Dome). It has felt more like mid-Autumn rather than the end of Summer...thank God we did not have a freak snow storm like Calgary. As a result, we'll spend this blog entry on our Growing Dome progress.

For just over a month now, it seems we had everything under some level of control.

The Tomato plants in what we now call our "Kratky buckets" have exceeded all expectations. They seem years ahead of their raised bed counterparts. They are now well over 5 feet tall. They have been blooming for some time and quite a few heirloom Tomatoes are developing quite well.

The roots of the Tomato plant now occupy half of the bucket and the water has been topped up twice in some cases. For this, we use our fish tank water and we fill the buckets back up to 2/3 of their volume.

Healthy Growing Dome Tomato plants
Even the Tomatoes on the Aquaponic beds are doing well. So well in fact, that we did not really think how we would manage the growth of Tomato pants at such a height while they are mounted on a Styrofoam board. The root mass is so significant that we cannot remove the plants without breaking the board. Furthermore the plants have grown like typical vines, laterally with blooming branches extended upward. These would now prove difficult to cage so we decided to see what will happen as they extend their "territory".

One of our many dome tomatoes now ripening
The peppers on the Aquaponic tables are also proving very fruitful. Our hot Polish purple peppers (sounds like a tongue twister) are now taking colour.

Hot Peppers are ripening
Even our bell peppers are prolific.

A bounty of bell peppers
Even the struggling wax beans are back in shape. They are flowering and producing some beans.

Originally presumed dead, the yellow beans are back in shape.

So much has now gone right that we were really due for a nasty surprise. It came this week, courtesy of our fish...once again.

It seems that plants are a lot more forgiving than animals.

One morning we arrived to feed the fish and found very little interest in our food pellets. By the end of the day, half our fish were floating on the surface of the water. By the next morning, it looked like the other half had succumbed as well.

Another tragedy...a dead Rock Bass (one of many)
At this point we were quite bewildered as to why this might have happened.

The acidity of the water looked fine (the PH has not changed and is similar to our ponds).

Once again we were forced to consider aeration. This time, we have been keeping to a schedule of hydroponic pumping in the morning and aeration pumping in the afternoon. This is done manually since  we hooked up both pumps to the same storage battery (which is itself recharged from a 100 Watt solar panel).

Doing this manually while we maintain our other work schedule around the farm has proven difficult to maintain. We have to admit that we were not always consistent in our timing.

It turns out that after a few hot days last week, the water temperature had climbed to above 26 degrees C. At this point not only will water be difficult to aerate, but Bass will become highly stressed. Adding a delinquent aeration cycle to the mix and the result is a lot of dead fish.

Since the new solar panel and battery system are working out really well, it is definitely time to consider rigging up an automated controller.

In the hope of keeping our plant/fish ecosystem balanced, we decided to go back to our fishing pond to catch a few more fish. To our dismay, we were faced with a Comorant. These birds are not only big fish eaters (upwards of 1 pound a day), but their feces are also deadly to trees and brush.

A Double Crested Cormorant dashed all hopes of catching more fish for the Dome.

This species of Cormorant is the Double Crested Cormorant. In the past, this is not something you would normally see in the Great Lakes region, however it has now become quite a regular site in the area.

For us, it was an indication that we would not do well in our fishing exploits. We were right. Since sighting that bird, we do not even get a single bite on our lines.

We do have a tinge of hope however. Since the recent death of some 22 fish, we noticed that our Dome's Duckweed was still under control (normally it would double in coverage every 36 hours or so).

What we discovered is that there are at least two reasonably sized fish in our tank. We had stopped throwing feed in the tank and they had resorted to eating the Duckweed. Not only that, but we have now seen tiny fish at the surface of the water (could they have multiplied?).

When stocking a tank with schools of fish, it is not easy to count them. With the dark waters of our tank (caused by the Humic Acid), we cannot really see what is left in there. However, somehow, we definitely have created some sort of aquatic ecosystem over which it seems we have little control.

We do not know how the water temperatures will change in the Winter, however having no control over temperature is presenting a real challenge in defining the species of fish we use. In the long run, we are still considering the Catfish...perhaps the hardiest of all edible species.

We'll close this week's entry with foraging. It was time to go back to our Carolinian forest and look for one of our favourite foods: the Hickory nut. They have started to fall and we were determined to get our fair share from the squirrels and chipmunks.

A nice basket of Hickory nuts
The Hickory nut is small and hard to crack open, but it is worth every effort. Our aim is to turn these nuts into a seasonal Hickory nut pie.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

It's Canning Season

Now that the school year has started, things have become a lot quieter at the farm. We are nevertheless extremely busy keeping track of all the fruits and vegetables that now need to be harvested...and somehow preserved. It's clearly canning season.

Canning is tedious and can be messy, particularly if you attempt to process bushels of produce at a time. However, it is also a very fulfilling activity. Once finished, you can be proud of your work. It's also great to know that the results contain no artificial preservatives, flavours or colours.

In our case, we've been collecting a lot of pickling cucumbers from our vines. We've also harvested our garlic and we already have some well established dill in our raised bed. The first canning of the season had to be a Kosher style pickle.

Just about everything we need to start pickling.
Creating a tasty pickle is a rather easy thing to do and we would highly recommend it for anyone wishing to start canning.

The first step is to clean your pickling cucumbers and cut the ends. The flower end of the cucumber contains certain enzymes that make the pickle wilt or go soft..not a good thing for that great crunchy taste.

The small pickling cucumbers need no further processing. However, you can be certain that some of the cucumbers will be large and oddly shaped. These we simply cut into strips no taller than our canning jars.

We sanitize our jars and lids by boiling them for 10 minutes (time needs to be altered if you are processing at an altitude well above sea level). Then we begin to pack our jars. In each jar we first insert a clove of garlic and a few dill blooms.  We then pack as tightly as possible our cucumber spears. We top this with another garlic clove and more dill blooms as well as a couple of pepper corns.

Spicing is really up to one's imagination here.

On the side, we prepare enough brine to fill our jars and cover the ingredients. In our case, we made 3 litres of brine which consisted of: 1 1/2 litres of vinegar, 1 1/2 litres of water, 8 Tbsp of Kosher salt, and 4 Tbsp of sugar.

We use Kosher salt because it does not have any additives. Conventional table salt has some additives which will turn your brine cloudy when packing. Alternatively, you can use a salt specifically marketed for canning.

Since Kosher salt is a large grain salt, recipes using conventional table salt should use half the quoted amount.

We bring the brine to a boil; pour into our jars; and seal them. The jars are placed back into their water bath for another boiling period of 10 minutes and we're done.. It's that easy!

The finished product....the"industrial" size jar is for the Polish member of the family.
This time of year, great deals can be had on bushels of vegetables of all kind. From market stalls to farmers' markets, there is an abundance of local fruits and vegetables waiting to be processed.

One local market offering a lot of Ontario local produce is Gallagher's on Highway 20. There, we were enticed to buy a bushel of pickling beets. These always make a great side dish and can liven up a salad.

Pickling beets is a bit more work but nevertheless worthwhile.

The first step in the process is to peel the beets. To do this, we first cook the beets by boiling them for some 15 minutes (they should  be easily pierced by a fork, and the skin should be easy to "rub" off with one's fingers). If you are faced with dramatically different sizes of beets, the small and large beets can be boiled separately.

Although not necessary, we cut the ends (root and leaf end) of the beets prior to boiling. We do this because the "knotty" leafy end tends to collect dirt and is difficult to clean. Since we will be using the beet juice from our boiled beets, we want this juice as clean as possible.

Cleaned beets ready for cooking.

Once cooked, the most tedious part of the process begins: peeling. Technically, you should be able to "rub" the skins off by applying pressure against the beet with your fingers and thumb. We found the most effective means of peeling is by rubbing the surface of the beet with the back blade of a knife.

We like our pickled beets in large chunks (allowing us to slice or cube them for whatever application). So at most, we will halve the larger beets to ensure we can pack as much as possible into each jar.

Peeled and ready for packing.
On the side, we prepared our brine. In this case, we used 2 1/2 litres of vinegar, 1 litre of the beet juice (drained from the cooking process); 1 litre of sugar, and 8 Tbsp of Kosher salt.

Again spicing is up to taste. In our case, we like the light taste of cinnamon with our beets. So we pack a bit of cinnamon stick into each jar.

Canning beets
We bring the brine to a boil and pour it into each jar until the beets are covered.

The final step is pasteurization; as before we seal the jars and boil them for another 10 minutes.

Will end this week with an odd sight.

Herons are often present on the farm. We always see them fishing in the ponds of the property.

This week, a Heron actually came much closer to the house and perched himself on a pine tree next to our kitchen.

We don't often see something like that out of our kitchen window.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ground Cherry and Wild Pear Preserves

One of the things we decided to plant this year was the Ground Cherry (Physalis), sometimes called the Cape Gooseberry. It is neither a cherry nor a gooseberry, but a "nightshade" closely related to the Tomatillo.

The Ground Cherry (Physalis) and fruits

We planted it as a novelty in the same bed we used last year for our Tomatoes. This turned out to be a great spot for these plants. They have been fruiting for well over a month and it seems they will continue for quite a while. Apparently, one plant can generate upwards of 200 fruits a season.

The fruit is adorned with a husk that is shaped like a paper lantern. They are green on the stalk and to harvest you simply wait for these little "lanterns" to yellow and fall to the ground. Once gathered you can let them dry for a while as the small tomato-like fruit ripens to a yellow orange colour.

Ground Cherry "paper lanterns" harvested from the ground
The fruit itself is often seen as a decoration on plates or pastries, and very few people bother to eat it or taste it. That's a shame since the Ground Cherry has a delightful sweet pineapple-like flavour, very low in acidity unless green.

With all of the fruit we had collected so far, it was time to find a use for them and begin some canning work.

We decided to make a Ground Cherry jam.

With about 2 litres of fruit husked, we cooked the Ground Cherries adding 1/2 litre of lemon juice.

Husked Ground Cherries ready for processing

We started to mash the fruit as it cooked. This turned out not to be necessary in the long run.

On the side, we measured 1 litre of granulated sugar. we took about a quarter of this and mixed it into a bowl with 1 Tbsp of pure Apple Pectin.

The rest of the sugar was added to our Ground Cherries, once the mix started to boil.

With the sugar added, we again waited to get the Ground Cherries to a boil. We then ladled the mixture into our sugar/pectin mix. This was whisked and slowly we added more until at least half of the Ground Cherry mixture was used.

Everything went back into our cooking pot and once again brought to a boil while whisking.

Using a spoon and some ice we tested the jam for consistency as it cooked.

Once a firm set was achieved, we simply ladled our jam into  pasteurized jars and set the sealed jars in a large boiling pot for further pasteurization, by boiling for at least another 10 minutes.

The result is a golden-coloured jam. It is sweet and again very reminiscent of pineapple....well worth the work!
A very unique jam...well worth the work
In the end, we have determined that the Ground Cherry is easy to grow and very much worthwhile. We'll certainly be at it again next year.

On the foraging front, Carol found an old wild Pear tree on the road side. It was loaded with small Pears.

This is a site often seen in Niagara. As orchards have given way to vineyards, subdivisions or simply left to be reclaimed by nature, many old trees previously part of these orchards or simply having propagated away from them continue to generate an abundance of fruits.

Since the trees are no longer cared for, pruned or sprayed, the fruit tends to be smaller, oddly shaped and affected by various insect.

In the case of Carol's Pear tree, the Pears were rather small and suffered from all of these things. However, for the most part, the Pears were in good shape and great to eat. With a bushel on hand, we had to do something.

A load of "wild" pears....what to do?

The solution: canned wild Pears with Basil.

Our Basil has done very well this year. We have many plants now going to seed, so it was natural to "marry" the two.

Our process was simple. After sifting through the best pears and cleaning the best, we stemmed them, peeled them and cored the flower end of the fruit (this is the hardest almost "wood"-like part of the flesh).

We prepared a simple syrup with some lemon juice. The ratio is 1 part sugar; 3/4 part water; and 1/4 part lemon juice (by volume).

We poached the pears in this solution. The pears will get very tender and the flesh will become slightly translucent once cooked.

Poaching Pears in a simple syrup with Lemon juice
Once taking the Pears off the stove, we added a pint of Basil leaves (for some 3 litres of fruit and syrup) and we left the whole thing stand in a refrigerator over night. This gives the Pears some time to absorb the herbal flavour of the Basil (which by the way does not taste like Basil once combined with the Pears).

...great use for an overabundance of Basil
The next day, we extracted our Pears from the syrup and we canned our pears in pasteurized jars. On the side, we again brought the syrup to a boil and poured the mixture over the canned pears. With the jars sealed we again pasteurized the canned Pears by placing them in boiling water for a minimum of 10 minutes.

Finishing the canning process
The result is a delightful poached Pear with an herbal bouquet almost reminiscent of mint (very few people would recognize the Basil in this mixture). These can be used atop ice cream or thinly sliced to adorn and complement a cheese plate.

We're looking forward to enjoying these all winter long.
On the farming front, we are done with the Purple and Black Raspberries. However, the Red and Golden Raspberries along with the Blackberries are really coming on strong. Coupled with the vegetables from the raised beds, this is becoming the busiest time of the year for us. Everything we do surrounds harvesting and preserving.

It's hard to believe how abundant the Golden Raspberries have become
Since we have found a renewed interest in insects on the farm (both those that are beneficial as well as unwanted intruders), we often take pictures and try to identify what we find.

So we'll close this week with a picture of a rather pretty and helpful butterfly: this is the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Family Wedding at the Farm

This blog post will be really short.

This past week has just been dedicated to a family wedding (Tristan and Skye).

Two years ago, when embarking on this project, we certainly did not expect that a) Tristan would be the first to marry (out of our 3 children) and b) that we would end up wearing kilts on the farm (since he married into a Scottish clans).

With the farm boots put to the side, Tristan was finally all cleaned up and ready to "get hitched"
Having well over 20 acres to work with, we were able to hold the entire event for some 200 people right on the farm.

The farm...ready to host.
Kilt and Scottish jokes aside, this was still a really fun event and until we get the official photos, we'll just leave our readers with a quick peek.

Sky and happily married
The young couple are now on their honeymoon and we wish them all the very best.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Growing Dome Aquaponics release 3.5

Like the rest of the North East, this week was particularly cold at the farm. It felt like October weather. This made it pleasant to work around the farm, but also a lot more pleasant to work in our Growing Dome.

For those following our travails in the Dome, we have now addressed Algae issues and contained the Duckweed. We now faced more "structural" issues.

Our hydroponic tables have been supported by large wooden frames. In some cases, we did not provide lateral support to these large plastic containers. Once filled to capacity (some 70 litres), some of these tables would bulge and begin to deform. The net result has been leaking water and more critically warping of the wooden support structure. This further aggravated the situation.

Our support structures have started to deform.
It was time to rethink our design and begin work on some new structures.

Last year, our first attempt was based on a "homemade" wooden table with plastic liners; our second attempt was using what we call "deck technology". This time (release 3.0), we decided to have steel angles support the hydroponic tables.

Replacing wooden supports with steel angles.
We also took the opportunity to rid ourselves of the flexible tubing linking the hydroponic tables to the main water tank. The original tubing (hoses) flexed much too much and in some cases prevented a clear flow of water back to the tank.

We ended up using conventional plastic plumbing pipes. The result is a neater, cleaner looking system with an unobstructed water flow.

Installing new water pipes
We thought this would solve everything...we were wrong. A little bit of engineering would have shown that once the hydroponic tables were filled with water even our steel angles would bend (a matter of insufficient metal cross-sections).

So it was back to the drawing board and what we now call release 3.5. This time, we decided to bring everything down and use "saw horse" technology.

For what amounts to 140 kg of water, the system really required 3 supports longitudinally. So we built 3  pairs of saw horse legs to support our 2x4 beams. This also gave us the opportunity to lower our hydroponic tables somewhat.

The result looks quite strong and should hopefully address all our problems.

Release 3.5: the new hydroponic support structure
In fact, the Dome is starting to look quite green (although we've not yet started many plants).

So what is working now:

1. Our Rock Bass (Sunfish) are doing quite well. The Duckweed is under control and the fish seem to love feeding on this plant. If they thrive, we will probably switch to a more edible species next Spring.

2. Our hydroponic tables are supporting growth of Kale, Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Peppers (both sweet and hot).

Hot peppers are performing well on our hydroponic tables.
The Tomatoes and Cucumbers will likely have to be brought down into "Dutch buckets", as their vines are becoming rather large.

What has not worked is the Wax Beans. These have done extremely well outside, but on the tables it seems that either they are not getting the right nutrients or somehow we may have damaged their roots (too much moving around?).

The Wax Beans are thus far a failure.
The beans are also proving extremely difficult to pollinate (we use our fingers and a small brush).

3. The "Dutch buckets" using the Kratky method are performing very well. Here we have both Tomatoes and Cucumbers. The Tomatoes are flowering while we're now patiently waiting to pick second Cucumber.

Tomatoes n "Kratky buckets"
Meanwhile the Dome has been a great place to complete our propagation experiments. Our Gojiberry cuttings are fruiting, our Baco Noir Grapes are very healthy and we are starting to see some budding on our old Black Currant cuttings.

Healthy Baco Noir Grape cuttings.
 It will now be time to start planting new things to further test our entire system.

As we have been working inside the Growing Dome, we have also noticed something quite peculiar: we are creating a new ecosystem. Trying to minimize energy use (limiting ourselves to a couple of solar panels), we cannot control tings that are entering the Dome. For example the passively activated louvers that control temperature on top of the Dome expose us to the outside world.

The result: we are finding quite a few mosquito larvae both in our main water tank and our hydroponic tables.

The most surprising "guest" however is a population of small water snails. We find these throughout the main water tank, as well as some of the hydroponic tables. The most problematic aspect of these snails is that they are finding their way into our bilge pumps (hampering the proper functioning of the impellers). An easy fix is the use of filters.

Snails hampering the proper functioning of our bilge pump
We're really not certain how bad this problem will be in the long run. Certainly, we currently have no long term solution for this right now.

Based on our past failures (the asphyxiation of our Large Mouth Bass), we've learned how catastrophic things can get when the fish have an inadequate supply of oxygen.

To protect us from this, we decided to upgrade our electrical supply to the aeration pump. We actually changed our 40W panel to a 100W panel in order to recharge a battery as well as operate a pump. The battery provides us with additional power during long overcast days.

Our new 100W solar panel
Battery back-up for the aeration pump
The whole thing is controlled with a manual switch. Eventually, we will probably implement a timer or some sort of automation to the process.

Finally, elsewhere around the farm, the Purple Raspberries are done for the year, but red, yellow and black Raspberries are rapidly coming on line, so are the Blackberries.

One surprise has been the Chestnut trees. Most of them have been harmed by Deer so we have not been expecting much. It turns out however that nor only have they flowered, but one was certainly properly pollinated and we have Chestnuts!

Edible Chestnuts!
 From a foraging standpoint, we need to let everyone know it is time to harvest the Elderberries. 

The Elderberries are ready for picking.
We'll conclude this week with a new finding at the old Victorian Manor. 

We are currently landscaping and clearing the back of the house for a new courtyard. In the process, we noticed the mark of an old arch in one of our exterior brick walls. This arch did not make any sense. It was at ground level and not aligned with our cellars (so not the top of a cellar exit).

We decided to dig....and we found the remnants of what looks like a cistern/well.

A new find in the back of the house.
While we ponder how and in which period this may have been used, we're now trying to determine how we can use this as an exposed architectural detail within the courtyard.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Duckweed and the Growing Dome

This week, we've been spending more time in our dome assessing the state of our Aquaponic efforts.

As most blog followers will know so far we have effectively killed two schools of fish and have been somewhat reluctant to take the next step.

Our biggest and latest issue was the amount of algae generated by the large water tank which serves as a thermal mass in the system. This algae "gummed up" our pipes and effectively absorbed all of the nutrients generated by the fish waste. The result was largely stunted growth of all plants in our hydroponic beds.

We solved this using Humic Acid.

Having done this, we decided to restock our tank with a much cheaper fish: Rock Bass (more commonly known as Sunfish). This fish is really abundant in one of our ponds so the idea was to transfer some to a new home in the Growing Dome.

Rock Bass (Sunfish) from our back pond
Then we hit another problem: Duckweed.

When we started this experiment last year, we threw into the tank a couple of handfuls of Duckweed from one of our ponds. Being 25-45% protein, Duckweed apparently makes good fish feed.

Up until the past few weeks, this plant was well under control. However, once we killed the Algae, the Duckweed has rapidly gone out of control. This week our tank had a rather thick matte of Duckweed on its surface and once again we started to lose some of our fish.

Our tank now overwhelmed with Duckweed
We suspect that the large amount of Duckweed on the surface of the water started to hamper oxygen transfer to the water. It was time to clean things up. We did this using a fish net as best we could to get as clean a surface as possible.

Using a fish net to clear the surface of the tank did wonders 
We ended up with buckets of Duckweed. At first, we thought this would just do well for our compost, until we researched Duckweed a little bit more.

What do you do with buckets of Duckweed?
It turns out that Duckweed has multiple uses. Not only is it used as fish food, but it is used for poultry as well as pig feed. It is also used in a variety of industrial products.

In fact, this is an edible weed used in Asian cuisine!

Our variety is Lemna. It can contain large amounts of Calcium Oxalate depending on the Calcium content of the water. This can be toxic in large quantities so should be eaten in moderation (note: other common vegetables also produce Calcium Oxalate). There are however also lots of references to this food for a variety of medicinal values, particularly in Chinese medicine.

So all in all, this may still be a fine edible and a great source of protein. The main question for us was: what does this stuff taste like?

Lemna: would you eat this?
We had to try it and the best way to get a sense of the taste is to eat it fresh and on its own. We washed a handful and gave it a try. The result is a rather mild plant with a slightly peppery taste. We've seen it compared to Watercress however we find the taste of this water plant much milder.

Now we'll be working on some recipes of course; Duckweed soup anyone?

Finally, elsewhere on the farm, it is time to harvest vegetables from our raised bed. We are getting a lot more than what we can use (time to preserve). This week we managed to harvest potatoes, carrots, beets, peas, wax beans, zucchini, cabbage and cauliflower. This along with our onions, garlic and herbs ensures that we do not need to go to the grocery store for a while.

A good morning of picking our own vegetables
With regards to our crops, the Purple Raspberry is almost done. We are now shifting to red and golden Raspberries while soon our Blackberries will come on line.

What has surprised us though is the newly planted Black Raspberries. We may just be able to harvest enough to produce some great jams.

Our new Black Raspberries

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Citron Watermelon

Last year, we were lucky to grow both a Russian heirloom Watermelon and a French heirloom Cantaloupe. We had to fight with local rodents for the fresh Canteloupe. Meanwhile, the Watermelons were proven to be very seedy.

This year, we decided to plant Citron Watermelons. These things grow wild in the Southern US and although often described as not edible, we felt this might be a great melon to work with.

The Citron Watermelon is technically the ancestor of all currently marketed Watermelons. It traces its roots to Africa. Unlike what its name would imply, the Citron Watermelon is in no way related to the Citron, nor does it have a strong acidic taste. In the wild, two varieties are normally found; one which is bland, the other bitter.

This week it was time to pick a few.

Our first Citron Watermelon harvest
The Watermelons will grow to some 7 inches in diameter and they actually look very similar to a lot of heirloom Watermelons, including the Russian variety we planted last year. Given their taste, rodents were not an issue this year; for us, it was now time to transform these into an appetizing edible.

When sliced open, the flesh of the melon is a pale green. The taste of the flesh is very similar to Watermelon rind. In fact, we've determined that the Citron could find its place in any recipes calling for Watermelon rind (and vice versa).

Dissecting the Citron Watermelon
Our first effort was a preserve and the first step entailed seeding, peeling and dicing the melons. This turns out to be the most tedious part of the process. As for the Russian heirloom melons, these things were loaded with seeds. The best way to address this is to thinly slide the melon prior to seeding.

Seeded and cubed Citron Watermelon
For roughly 3 lbs of diced melon (2 melons), we added the juice of 4 Clementines, 6 Tbsp. of Lemon juice and 3 Tbsp. of Vanilla extract. We then thinly sliced the rinds of two Clementines and added this to the mixture. Finally, we added 1 1/2 lbs of white sugar.

Letting this mixture sit overnight will extract all of the juices from the melon and prepare the mixture for the following step.

The Watermelon-Clementine-sugar mixture will turn "soupy" if left to stand for a sufficient amount of time
The final step is to simply let this mixture simmer and eventually bring it to a boil. This will reduce significantly.  It turns out that the Citron holds a lot of Pectin, so after a good amount of simmering, the preserve will easily set.

As a final stage, we simply load our preserve in sterilized jars and once sealed boil the jars for another 10 minutes. The result is actually quite nice and a delicious new taste experience for those coming to our market.

A new taste at the market: Citron Watermelon preserve
 We didn't exactly stop there. We challenged both Chef and Sous-chef to come up with their own concepts.

Sous-chef has made some candied Citron (simply dipped a few times in simple syrup), while Chef decided to apply the Citron to a Glyko Karpouzi recipe. Glyko Karpouzi is a sweet pickling of Watermelon rind usually served with tea or as an appetizer when guests are welcomed into your home

Chef's Citron-based Glyko Karpouzi
The result is a very sweet, thinly sliced Watermelon rind which (with the right spices) has a taste very similar to poached pear. It would make a great side to certain heavy meats like pork.

Elsewhere on the farm, we are rapidly harvesting many of our vegetables and fruits. The most interesting of these is our new Scarlet Runners. The plants are flowering beautifully and as predicted are attracting humming birds.

The Scarlet Runners have done surprisingly well
The most interesting aspect to the Scarlet Runner however are the very long beans now being generated by the plant (well over 8 inches). We had to try them and surprisingly discovered perhaps the most beautiful beans we've ever seen.

Inside the Scarlet Runner bean pod
The Scarlet Runner bean needs to be cooked. Regrettably the bean looses its colour in the process, but the bean is delicious (very reminiscent of sweet peas).

We'll conclude this week with an update on the Growing Dome. Having adopted the Kratky method of hydroponics, we cannot believe how effective our hydroponic beds have become.

Our "monster Cucumber" is now fruiting just about everywhere on its rather long vine. It is taking a large amount of space in the center of the dome and is very much ahead of its counterparts planted in our raised beds.

The "monster Cucumber" plant is now fruiting in the Dome
Even our tomatoes (originally starved of nutrients because of the Algae) are now also ahead of their counterparts outside the dome. We did not expect this and had kept them in the tall hydroponic tables of the Aquaponic set-up.

Our Growing Dome Tomatoes
The Tomatoes' roots proved to be superbly healthy and well developed.

Healthy roots make for a very healthy Tomato plant
The Dome's Tomatoes are now flowering and tall enough that we had to transfer them into our version of "Dutch buckets".

Our Kratky "Dutch buckets": no oxygen or fluid pumps!
We'll now have to see if they continue on this path.

For our final picture, we have decided to focus on our Dome's propagation experiments. One of the more successful propagations has been the Goji berry. These little cuttings are now flowering and look like they will actually provide us a few berries!

Flowering Goji berry cuttings.