Cement Block Raised Garden Bed (04/03/15)

Today I built a raised garden bed.  I had planned to build one out of redwood until I saw the prices.  Creating a decent sized bed would have been well over $100 just for the wood alone.  At the same visit to Home Depot, I saw that concrete block was only $1.05 per block.  I ended up buying 36 blocks to create my bed.  Each layer is made from 18 blocks.

I had to dig out my yard some for the back section of blocks.  I then laid out my first layer of blocks using a 3 foot long level to make sure they were at least mostly level.  After that I used construction adhesive to attach the second layer of blocks to the first.  I have used the adhesive to hold together some other small walls I made before, and it worked out well.  Once the wall was built I laid 1/2 inch hardware cloth  on the ground to keep gophers out of the bed.

Once I get the dirt in, I plan to plant some Jalapenos, Habeneros, and Bell Peppers in the bed.  With the low price of the block, I should be able to build another bed for this year.

While working on my project, I even got to see a sun halo.  That isn’t something I have seen often here in San Diego.

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Ricotta Cheese – from scratch?

I’ve always wanted to try making cheese but just was not inspired to do so until I borrowed this book from the library:

Click the picture of the book to take a look at it on Amazon.
Click the picture of the book to take a look at it on Amazon.
What is interesting about this book is that it is a cookbook without any pictures!  Somehow this has not deterred me from wanting to try most of the recipes in it. It also has so many fun stories in it that I didn’t even miss the pictures.

So, let’s get to the cheesemaking part! Ricotta cheese in the grocery store right now is usually a special buy for me because it is so expensive! Today’s batch of ricotta cost around 3 dollars for at least 2 and a 1/2 cups. I used a gallon of whole milk, 6 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice (lemons came from our trees), and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. Mixed it all together in my largest nonstick pot and brought it up to 200 degrees (I LOVE my candy thermometer). The milk definitely looked curdled at that point. I turned off the heat, let it sit for 20 minutes, then ladled the curds into a cheescloth-lined colander. I let it drain for 20 minutes (I did have to use two bowls for this part because there was so much whey!). Then, the cheese went into a container in the fridge, and the whey went back into the gallon milk jug and also in the fridge to be used for breadmaking (or any baking really).  My hubby is the breadmaker so I had him use the whey today to make a loaf of bread in the bread machine.

I did take pictures of some of the process, mostly to remind myself that I actually did this!

The ricotta draining in the colander into the 2nd bowl I had to use
The ricotta draining in the colander into the 2nd bowl I had to use

The whey in the 1st bowl I used. Behind it is the pot I used to cook the milk and vinegar/lemon juice. Some of the milk cooked onto the bottom of the pot so I had to keep that from getting into the ricotta.
The whey in the 1st bowl I used. Behind it is the pot I used to cook the milk and vinegar/lemon juice. Some of the milk cooked onto the bottom of the pot so I had to keep that from getting into the ricotta.

The ricotta is ready to go into the fridge! I am hoping to use some of it to make stuffed shells tomorrow for lunch.
The ricotta is ready to go into the fridge! I am hoping to use some of it to make stuffed shells tomorrow for lunch.

I labeled the milk jug I used to store the whey, just in case someone tries to drink it. It can be used as a drink; I just don't think my kids would like it very much.
I labeled the milk jug I used to store the whey, just in case someone tries to drink it. It can be used as a drink; I just don’t think my kids would like it very much.
I think my next cheesemaking attempt will be mascarpone!  I just ordered the tartaric acid I need to make it.