Succulent Seed Starting

Succulents aren’t my specialty but I thought I’d give succulent seed starting a try. Over the years I’ve grown some, and I recently bought a couple of echeveria plants. I ordered seeds from three different vendors, and so far the seeds have arrived from cactusstore.com and outsidepride.com.

For a starting mix I used a mixture of perlite, lava rock, and brightly colored aquarium stones.

The seeds from cactusstore.com arrived promptly and well marked.

Pot 1

Echeveria seeds

If you look closely, you may be able to see the tiny seeds in the bag. Echeveria are at least supposed to be (from what I’ve read) a pretty easy plant to deal well with. The two echeveria I have are a Miranda and an Arctic Ice. Hopefully if the seeds are a bust then I’ll be able to propagate those via leaf cuttings.

Pot 2

Lithops seeds

Lithops are cool, they are pebble looking plants that have a reputation for being finicky or at least demanding of a particular watering schedule. Known to be prone to overwatering.

Pot 3

Argyroderma seeds

Argyrodermas are similar to Lithops, but are apparently slightly more tolerant of moisture. They aren’t as unusual looking as lithops but still cute. Sometimes compared to looking like a human bottom.

Pot 4

Sempervivum seeds

Sempervivums are similar to echeveria, but flower from the center rosette which dies after flowering. These seeds are from Outsidepride.com. My order was fulfilled quickly and without incident. I planted all 1,000 seeds in the same pot, in hopes at least some sprout.

I also ordered some seeds from another vendor, but they have not yet arrived.

The pots fit into a standard 1020 tray (I prefer the double or quad thick versions if available). They are covered with a clear plastic dome, and will be checked for moisture daily. Current lighting an LED fixture. I am curious to see how many (if any) sprout from the different pots.

Review: PBN Kitten Tea Cup

I haven’t done a paint by numbers for years, and I thought it sounded fun, so I bought the Kitten Tea Cup PBN by Dimensions Paint Works. It is rated Beginner for ages 8 and up so it seemed a good place to start. One thing I appreciate is that the picture on the kit is representative of the finished product if you follow the instructions. Some paint by numbers kits either show the picture the kit is inspired by, or the kit as done by an artist using advanced techniques not mentioned in the instructions. For a kit that cost me less than ten dollars, I felt I got my money’s worth of enjoyment from it.

It comes with six colors, and instructions for two more by mixing two colors to make an additional shade of grey (black and white) and an additional shade of pink (red and white).

The kit comes with a hardboard canvas (as opposed to a regular flexible canvas). In retrospect, I would have started with the background instead of black, but it worked out fine.

While it was pretty simple as paint by numbers go, it was satisfying to see the image develop. I tried not to hurry and to take the time to appreciate the activity.

While I thought I’d mixed the colors in the proper proportion, the mixed grey came out lighter than the box. I’d chalk it up to user error, and in the future will pay closer attention to how the mixed color appears on the sample picture. I would up retouching in a couple of places to make it darker. I went over the white portions again a couple of times as the paint wasn’t opaque enough to hide the numbers with a single coat.

I could have spent a similar amount of time watching tv, or playing a video game, or any of a variety of more modern pursuits. I found painting this to be a relaxing and soothing experience. I would recommend the kit to anyone that hasn’t done a paint by numbers before, to a child, or to someone that just wanted to while away some time in a peaceful pastime.

Review: Fox Run / Norpro / Colibrox Taco tongs

These taco tongs are sold under by a variety of places under several different names, with varying prices, and the reviews I’ve read show varying results. However, they appear to all be the same set from the same manufacturer (I haven’t verified this, I’m just going by the images they use). I bought a pair and here are my experiences, your milage may vary.

When I first received the taco tongs – taco press – taco form whatever you want to call them, the spread on them was wider than what I prefer, so I did modify them slightly by bending them gently inward about 10 degrees from stock. I wouldn’t advice bending them in too sharply, but this simple modification seems to have improved my pair.

Notice that one side sits flat in the pan, and one side sticks up. This has apparently caused much confusion in how to use them (based on several of the reviews I’ve read). I’m not claiming how I use them is correct or safe, but I have success making taco shells using the following method:

Materials needed:

  • Taco tongs
  • Skillet
  • Oil
  • Taco size corn tortillas
  • Meat filling
  • Toppings

Use a skillet big enough that the bottom of the tongs can lay flat along the bottom of the pan. My personal preference is for a heavy cast iron skillet.

Put about a 1/2″ (give or take) of oil in the skillet, doesn’t have to be exact.

Heat the oil to approximately 350 degrees F.

Open the jaws of the tongs and insert a tortilla. Gently close the jaws just enough to hold the tortilla in place in a taco shape. Do not mash the jaws closed or the tortilla will tend to break along the bend. The intent should be to hold the tortilla in place with the correct shape, and force beyond that is counterproductive. If the tortillas aren’t flexible enough, try warming them first to make them more pliable.

Place the flat side of the tongs (holding the tortilla) down to rest in the oil on the bottom of the skillet.

The boiling point of the moisture inside the tortilla is about 212 F, since the oil is 350 F, the moisture inside the tortilla will rapidly start to turn into steam, and bubble up out of the oil to be released into the air. When the tortilla is first put into the oil it has the most moisture, so will bubble the most.

The bubbles will gradually start to subside, and after about a minute there will be noticeably less bubbles forming. How long it will take each to be done will depend on how much moisture is in the starting tortillas, and how crunchy you want the final taco shells to be. If you wait unless it isn’t making any bubbles anymore, chances are they are burnt so stop before then. For best results judge doneness by the amount of bubbles being released and by color rather than by timing (unless you make them often enough to have that dialed in).

Remove from the oil, and allow the excess oil on the tortilla to drain back into the pan. Be vary careful as at this point, the pan is hot, the oil is hot, the tongs are hot and the bottom half of the taco shell is hot.

At this point the bottom half of the taco shell is cooked, but the top half (the half that sticks up) isn’t. This next step takes a little finesse, and should be done carefully to avoid burning yourself. Open the jaws of the tongs over a rack or plate, removing the shell from the tongs. Carefully grasp just the edge tip of the uncooked half of the shell (or use some implement to do so), turn the shell around and place back in the tongs, this time with the uncooked side of the tortilla facing down. Then return to the oil as before and cook the other side, completing the taco shell.

As each is finished, invert the taco shells on a rack so they look like little tents, and continue for each of the taco shells desired.

American style taco filling can be prepared in advance using a variety of recipes. I personally like a combination of ground meat, taco spices, diced onions and chopped jalapeƱo peppers, but chicken or shredded beef is also popular. Put a couple tablespoons of the prepared filling into the bottom of each taco shell.

Then top each with your choice of toppings. Popular additions include cheese, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, sliced olives, salsa, and/or a dollop of sour cream.

I hope you found the above helpful. Below is a link to amazon, it doesn’t cost you any more, but I get a few cents if you use the link to make your purchase.

Garden update for March

The radishes planted February 15th are starting to become ready for harvest. They took a couple weeks longer than the estimate on the packages, but the weather has been cool and rainy.

French Breakfast and Purple Plum radishes

It has been a joy to harvest a few each day, although so far none have made it to the refrigerator. I’ve just been pulling them out as they are ready, washing and cleaning them, and then eating them right away. I am planning on planting more of the Purple Plum radishes again. They are crisp and pretty with just a little bite. The French Breakfast radishes are nice too, and I may grow them again, but they would be my second choice to the Purple Plums if I had to pick one or the other.

So far I’ve been enjoying the root pouches that I’ve been using as raised beds. I don’t bend over as well as I used to, so they really save my back. In the above I have radishes, a couple tomato plants, a pepper, and some carrots in the middle. The plan is to put in a luffa at the top once it warms up a little.

Radishes, tomatoes, and carrots.
Squash Seedlings and Pepper in center

Having fresh summer squash was so nice last year I decided to grow more for this year. In this root pouch there are yellow, zucchini, and zephyr summer squashes, a butternut winter squash, and a lone pepper in the center.

Dixondale onions in a 65 gal. root pouch

The onions seem to be doing well. These I bought from Dixondale farms are bigger now than they were when I received them. They may be a little too close together, but I anticipate picking some of them early for immediate eating. These are Super Star, Red Candy Apple, and Candy onions.

Stockton Red Onion

This Stockton Red Onion is the largest in the garden. It will be interesting to see how it does over the next month or two.

Sunflower

These Mammoth Sunflowers are along my North side fence-line. I haven’t grown them in years and they are a little closer together than they should be, but hoping they give me a little more privacy on that side once they get taller.