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Hypertufa Pots

Did you know you can make your own garden pots? Well, you can! They are called Hypertufa pots.

Once again the internet told me what to do. You get some portland cement, peat moss, and perlite (or vermiculite). These items can be found at home depot. You mix them at approximatley 1 part portland to 2 parts peat moss and 2 parts perlite. If you want a stronger pot, increase the amout of cement a bit. Also, you should get some plastic gloves and a dust mask. Add some water and mix it well. If you pick up a clump, squeeze it, and it clumps together in your hand, you added just the right amount of water. If you make a gigantic pot like I did, you can embed a wire frame inside it to give it more strength. I used an old tomatoe cage.


Then you can use your imagination to make different shaped pots. An easy way to make a pot is to find a plastic pot to use as a mold and turn it upside down. Pack the material all around it. Use a flexible plastic pot or you might not be able to remove it from the hypertufa when it dries! That happened to me. You can also put some plastic film on your mold or spray it with a little wd40 so that it will not stick. It needs to set for a few days at least. You should keep it moist so it doesn’t crack. The water actually helps the cement to cure properly. Then, when its ready, put it outside in the elements (ie. rain) for a few months so that the caustic cement is washed away, otherwise it may burn your plants.


Tip: one website said that you can brush on some sour milk to the pot to encourage moss to grow.
Tip: one website said, if you are in a hurry, you can put some vinegar/water solution on it to neutralize the cement when you are ready to plant.

Factoids:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Hypertufa is an anthropic rock made from various aggregates bonded together using Portland cement.

Hypertufa is intended as a manufactured substitute for natural tufa, which is a slowly precipitated limestone rock; being very porous, it is favorable for plant growth.

Hypertufa is popular for making garden ornaments, pots and land forms. Hypertufa is relatively light compared with terra cotta or concrete and can withstand harsh winters, at least down to -30 °C (-20 °F).

Hypertufa was invented for use in alpine gardens. Alpine gardeners formerly used antique animal watering troughs, which became rare and expensive.

Beebox Update

This is an update to the earlier Beebox post.

I can’t beleive it. The beebox worked! Well, it mostly worked.

It seems that I have a wasp filling in all the holes in the beebox. You can see in the picture the wasp is busy mudding in the hole. The wasp works fast. She filled in almost all the holes in about 1 week. The internet says that these types of solitary wasps will collect 11 to 13 caterpillars or beetle larvae and stuff them in the hole. So they are in fact good for the garden. Then they lay an egg on it and seal the hole with mud. Apparently they aren’t aggressive because they do not defend their nest. Also, I only saw one wasp at a time so there might have only been 1 wasp in the beebox. So it’s not all that bad.

You can also see a tiny mason bee (I think) near the top right. I watched it climb out of the tiny hole and go warm itself in the sun. Apparently, the mud work of the wasp is smooth and the bee’s is rough. That is how you can tell them apart. In my case, it was easy because the bee only used the tiny holes.

Ok here are some things I learned that might help you if you make a beebox:
1. put the box out early in the spring. I noticed that in June there were tons of mason bees around, but now, in July, there aren’t very many. Although it could be because I don’t have many flowers blooming at the moment.
2. the internet says to drilll 5/16 holes but I found that this is the size preferred by wasps. The mason bees like a tiny hole about 3/16. You can drill a variety of different size holes as there are many different kinds and sizes of bees (mason bee, leafcutter bee, carpenter bee, aphid eater bee, etc) But don’t make so many 5/16 ones.
3. put a roof on it. We had a rain storm and alot of the mud got washed away.
4. get some flowers. The mason bees really like the chives.
5. get dense wood. Cheap light wood has splinters and the bees hate that. They like a very smooth hole.

I’ll keep my eye on the beebox and I’ll post an update if I see anything hatching out.

Make Your Own Cheese

Did you know that you can make your own cheese! It turns out it’s not so difficult to make a very basic kind of cheese. You basically get some milk, heat it up, add some rennet (explanation to follow), let it sit, drain away the “whey” (that’s the liquid part) from the “curds” (that’s the solid cheese chunks), and presto, you have cheese!

Well, as usual, I’m no expert on any subject but I thought I would give it a try. Of course, the internet told me what to do. First I had to find these rennet tablets made by a company called Junket. Rennet is an enzyme found in sheep stomachs that makes the milk solidify. I beleive the Junket rennet is produced by bacteria. I couldn’t find any of these tablets anywhere in town so I had to order it off ebay.

The Junket tablets came with some handy dandy cheese recipees in the box. I followed the “basic hard cheese” recipee. I used 4 litres of milk and ended up with a hunk of cheese maybe about 1 Kg in mass. To separate the curds from the whey you need a clean pillowcase to drain it. I just hung it up in the fridge overnight and it drained pretty well. You can also make a cheese press out of an old coffee can. The added bonus is that you can make a little bit of Ricotta cheese from the leftover whey. After that, you throw away the whey.

Ricotta

You can eat it right away or you can coat it in wax and store it in the fridge. The instructions said the longer you leave it the sharper it gets. I didn’t have wax so I wrapped it up as tight as I could in wax paper. I will update the blog with the results in a few weeks.