As I type, it is 41 degrees outside. 41! This is the first time in months that we have been above freezing, and I’m so happy I’m dancing all around the house! What are you doing on this glorious spring-like day?
Despite this turn in the weather, we still have over three feet of snow in the yard and the driveway is still one big sheet of ice. Obviously I won’t be getting any outdoor chores done just yet, but I am cruising through my to-do list:
I made that list the day my husband went back to Afghanistan, meaning to get around to most of them within a couple weeks. Then I came down with a wicked cold and spent nearly two weeks shriveled up on the couch surrounded by kleenex and cough drops. The sunshine today is picking up my spirits immensely! I’m ready to start tackling all these things one by one. I am going to set a goal to get at least one of these things done a day. I finished grouting the last of the tiles today. Still have lots of time left in the day, so I might try knocking out another item or two now.
I also finished grinding up my first batch of eggshells to use as a calcium supplement for my garden this summer. I have started saving all of my shells, rinsing them under hot water at the kitchen tap, and drying them in front of the wood stove to get them nice and brittle.
After a day in front of the fire, I crush them in my hands and put them into the coffee grinder. Why do I bother going through the trouble of grinding the shells up really fine? Because the eggshells contain calcium that can’t be used until it is broken down. By grinding, I am increasing the surface area and ensuring that the calcium can be freed as quickly as possible.
Once it is all ground up, I toss the powder into a small, lidded container that is clearly labeled. What you see there is two dozen eggs worth. Doesn’t make much, does it? Good thing we eat so many eggs here. I should be able to fill this container up by the time summer is here.
When I need the calcium supplement, I will add vinegar to the shells to activate it. Why vinegar? I’m glad you asked. You see, the calcium in the egg shells is in the form of calcium carbonate. Acetic acid, found in household vinegar at about a 3% solution, easily breaks down the calcium carbonate into calcium, water, and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide bubbles up out of the solution, leaving you with a calcium and water solution that plants will readily be able to use. For those who are curious, the reaction is: CaCO3+ 2H+ -> Ca+2 + H2O +CO2.
The bonus? When this reaction is complete, it has a neutral pH, so you don’t have to worry about it being too acidic for your plants. Science is cool, huh?
What plants will need this homemade calcium supplement, and why? Most plants use calcium to build cell walls and membranes. Without the proper supply and intake of calcium, plants can develop conditions such as blossom end rot. This is a common affliction for pretty much all fruiting vegetables. It looks like a squishy, rotten spot on the blossom end of the fruit. I will be using this calcium solution on my tomatoes, peppers, melons, squash, and eggplants. When I transplant the plants into the garden, I will sprinkle each hole with a bit of the solution, set the plant in the hole, water it in, and settle the soil in around it. Easy peasy, and a foolproof way of making sure that my harvest isn’t spoiled by something completely preventable.
While I’m on the topic of gardening, I see my planting date for the onions and peppers is coming up. Maybe I can cross another item off of my to do list by planting those seeds tonight with our boys. Spring, I hope you come soon! I’m getting antsy and impatient to dig my fingers down into the soil!