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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Free Dieffenbachia Plant by Mail

Photo: Dieffenbachia, Free Plant of the Month by

Free Plants By Mail ( was started by local growers as a way to use the surplus plants from nurseries and also as a way to support The Nature Conservancy.  Free Plants By Mail offers a new free plant each month.  This month they are offering Dieffenbachia.  Although the plant itself is free, you do have to pay a small shipping and handling fee of $6.95.
This organization also has over 100 plants available for sale on their site.  100% of the proceeds from the sale will go to The Nature Conservancy.
Click here to view Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

When to Harvest Corn

Photo: This corn is ready for picking.  
The silk is dry and brown, and the kernels at the top of the corn have fully developed.

How can you tell when corn is ready to be picked?  I wait until the silk of the corn has dried up and turned brown. Then I take my fingers and feel around the tip of the corn.  The tip of the corn should feel full. If it is pointy, then you can wait longer.  If you are unsure, you can always peel back a bit of the husk to see if the kernels have fully developed to the top.  However, please be aware that when you peel back the husk you are also are risking opening your corn to pests so if at all possible avoid doing this. 

Once you have determined the corn is ready for picking, just grab the corn in your hand and twist it off the stalk.

Tip: Corn will start converting its sugars into starch as soon as it has been picked.  To capture the natural sweetness of the corn, have the grill ready to go before you pick your corn and then immediately grill your corn after picking it.  If you are growing sweet corn it is not necessary to immediately cook the corn.  Sweet corn converts its sugars into starch at a slower rate than other corn.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Homemade Vanilla Extract (Part II)

Photo 1: Starting a new jar of homemade vanilla extract

The homemade vanilla extract I started earlier this year is finally ready for use!  It smells absolutely wonderful, and tastes great too!  I love the fact that we can get high quality stuff for a fraction of the price, and it also does not contain corn syrup like some vanilla extract products in the store do.

Encouraged by the success of my first batch, I started a new batch with a different blend.  Previously I had used all Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans to get that rich, traditional vanilla extract taste.  Now I am using primarily Tahitian Vanilla Beans.  I only had 10 of them, and you need 6 beans per cup so I just added a few more Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans to the mix.  

Photo 2: Tahitian Vanilla beans from 

To Learn How to Make Vanilla Extract Click Here