24 November 2015

cracking hickory nuts for pie

I thought to post this because I read so many tutorials and watched online videos showing different techniques for cracking the nuts open. And what other people said didn't quite work for me. Supposedly there is a very particular spot and if you hit just it right, the nut will fall apart releasing its treasure. I tried many many many times and never could get that spot. So I found a different way but it takes more steps. It was really frustrating until I did one thing: froze them. Put a bag of nuts in the freezer overnight, let them sit out again to room temperature. After that they broke open a lot easier, and the nuts were loosened, not fitting so tightly within the shell. There are so many crevices and contortions in there it's hard to get them extracted otherwise. I used: a hammer, a pick (this one isn't meant to be a nut pick it's really a little skewer) and a pair of needle-nose pliers (to break up shell interiors sometimes- smaller would have been better).
First I hit the nut on a terminal end- stood it on the point or the base, it didn't matter. Not a hard bash, but several firm taps until it gives at the seam. Don't want to crush the nutmeat inside. Opens easy enough into halves like this
sometimes it looks like hearts
Then hold the half sideways and hit it again in the center
if lucky, the half will crack into four pieces.
Sometimes a bit more cracking is needed to get the good stuff out. Or resorting to prying with the pick, but that's really tedious. Lots of times I gave up and tossed the shell piece in the bowl without getting the last little thin bits out.
It can seem a very small result to get from all that.
Cracking them was really a chore. I've only done a third of the total. Way more got discarded for having rotten insides than I expected. Probably a fourth or fifth of what I thought were good nuts, after sorting out the floaters and worm-holes. Maybe if we'd collected the nuts earlier in the season and I hadn't picked up so many that sat on the ground for a month or two... I'm saving the shells, as it's possible to make syrup too.
The nutmeats.
It's very possible I may never do this again... but I told the kids I'd make a hickory nut pie and my youngest is especially pleased with the idea because she is the one who noticed the hickory tree and started picking up nuts in the first place!

So I did it. I made a little pie. I looked at a lot of recipes, they're mostly the same, I kind of combined several. I mainly looked at this one, but used brown sugar cut with flour, and added crushed graham crackers in with the nuts, and layered the nuts on the bottom pouring the melted butter and karo syrup and stuff over. But first of all, roasted the nuts:
Here's a pic just before baking:
A taste test before serving it to more people, as it were.
It was pretty good. Definitely can taste the hickory flavor. Not as sweet as a pecan pie, but I liked that. (It's easy enough to use more sugar, or serve it with cream...)

19 November 2015


Plant response to less light: positive! Our electricity was out for just a few minutes the other day, and when that happens in the middle of my light cycle, it won't turn on until the next "event" is triggered in the timer. In this case, the main lights had just come on for the day and nothing else would happen until it switched to blue 'moonlight.' I didn't feel like tinkering with the override settings, so I just left it lights-out for most of the day. Thought: well, maybe that will knock out some algae, and it won't be long enough to kill anything.
Later in the evening I paused to notice how different the tank looked so dim, with a bit of exposure coming in from the side (overhead on in the next room). Then I stopped and looked closer: my crypts had taken a different form. They were holding the leaves more upright, revealing the pinkish undersides. It looked so nice.
Even the plants on the short end of the tank which I kind of ignore lately because they lie quite flat and aren't big enough to look attractive yet, had a pretty upright habit. They were all reaching for more light.
Impulsively I decided to cut the light period yet again, to hold this shape. Reset the timer so now the total is just 6 hours, with only half of that full brights. So far so good. You can even notice the bronze hue of the crypts in the background here (left, just below an apono leaf), diffuse light shining through them.
I'm eager to see it continue to grow.


some stuff into my tenner. These pics are from last friday, but I forgot to post them. The vallisneria is spreading enough now that removing a few which were loosely rooted (I suppose I didn't put them far enough into the substrate the first time) and snipping off runners of some baby plants that were growing out of the area I want them in, did nothing at all to visually diminish their presence in the main tank. I threw away that last bit of helferi that was dying in the back corner, and transplanted the vals there instead.
A few in the front corner on the same side, but it probably gets too much shade from anubias barteri and the substrate is very shallow there so not sure how they'll do.
As another experiment, I put some small trimmings of rotala indica around the fake skull.
Very small- see the size compared to my tomato nerite! I have one tiny bit of rotala in the background of this tank that you can't even see in normal view, and it has not grown noticeably in months. I thought if something in these tank conditions keeps the rotala stunted, perhaps I could simply use that as an advantage and put it around the foreground. I've started trimming back the worst-looking rotala in the thirty-eight, and just replanting the nicest tops.
On top of that piece, fastened down a few more bits of java fern that came loose from the driftwood in the bigger tank. Maybe they will do better in here.
Likewise I found a few more pieces of windelov variety floating loose and tied those down in here too.
Hopefully some of this takes.

18 November 2015

green rocks

I've been "farming algae" on rocks in a sunny window for the otos. Put this one in and took a picture in the morning (before tank lights were on). The otos quickly congregated on it.
Before mid afternoon they had eaten almost all of it!
You can even see the strand of green poo one is already voiding.
I don't have enough jars of rocks to give this to them every day, or even once a week- have to wait for more rocks to grow it back. Makes me question if they're really getting enough off of tank surfaces. I wonder if I started putting zucchini or algae wafers in this spot, now that they're learning it's a feeding spot, would they figure out to eat off of it yet.

17 November 2015

lost snail

One of my zebra snails died.
I noticed it hadn't moved in a few days and picked it up. The remains fell out of the shell...

drying hickories

Finally got the nuts all hulled.
My four-year-old was happy to wash them all in a sink full of water. We threw away the two or three dozen that floated.
The rest are drying on cookie tins and trays around the kitchen.
Now to learn the skill of cracking, and try a few recipes!

16 November 2015

plant status

in the big aquarium. Lots of them still have hair algae. I cut the bright lights back half an hour. Some fine hair algae on the back glass, but it seems to only appear the day after a water change (and ferts dose- I'm still giving half dose of macros and no micros) and is not noticeable the day after that. I wonder if the fishes ate it? I see them nibbling on the edges of leaves but can't tell if they're picking off micro-organisms or eating the algae threads.
The striped kuhlis like resting horizontal on the spread of hornwort needles.
My biggest aponogeton is becoming a centerpiece again.
It's actually nicest looking from the short end of the tank, because of the way the leaves are broadside to the light source.
I'm still pleased at how much better the plants look (although it is so counter-intuitive to get that result from giving less light and ferts!) but they often seem to have a yellowish hue to me, not bold green.
This might just be because I have the warm light spectrum on for the greater part of the photoperiod, or maybe they plants need more iron (and I ought to give them just potassium + iron as fert dose). I'll give it another week or so as-is and then try dosing with Leaf Zone to see if it makes a difference.

15 November 2015

avocado light

through a new leaf


Checking in on my backyard plants. Very surprised to find a bit of fern growing back! I thought they were all dead. Let's see if this one makes it.
I've learned that the ornamental sage is better known as salvia. Mine is fading into its winter dormancy.
Lenten rose. I counted, there's nine plants in there. Some smaller than others. I think in spring I'll have to spread these out already.

I have two pots of nicotiana on the front porch starting to look shabby, but found three plants in the ground back here that I also thought were goners. They are on the small side but look quite nice.
I don't often take pictures of the liriope, it isn't very impressive. But I do hope these get big enough to divide soon; C wants more of them through the yard.
My baby transplanted shrubs are all still alive, though they don't seem any bigger. I couldn't even get the camera to focus on them.
This is a plant from the daisy family, it makes white flowers. We have three of them, I just cut the dead stems off and the basal foliage is growing back.
Hostas are turning colors. I'm starting to think ours might get too much sun in the dappled part shade here.
This one was the volunteer plant.
Here's an overall picture of that back corner I'm trying to find things to fill it in. Not much to look at yet. C wants to put a seating area back there with some flagstones...
Everything is on a nice dark ground because I just mulched all the plants with compost for the fall. Working on shredding leaves for the pile again.