gardenerscardiff.co.uk

For the Best Gardeners in the Cardiff Area

   Aug 28

Your Questions About Gardening

Linda asks…

What are some low cost but healthy meals?

My husband is gluten intolerant so keep that in mind :) We eat tacos or something of that nature at least twice a week because it’s easy. I like easy too, I’m not the best cook, mainly because my kitchen is tiny so I have no room to do anything. Anyways, what are some low cost but healthy meals I could make. We have been having money problems so our cupboards are close to empty, we eat a lot of fresh fruit and I have a garden full of tomatoes and onions no shortage there, I made some taco sauce this weekend and eventually I’m going to make salsa too. My husband is no help when thinking of dinners so it’s up to me and we have very different tastes in food. I love soup, he hates soup, I love salads, he can’t digest salads. So this often leaves me confused as to what I can make, because I can’t make what I would like to eat. My husband just says steaks or lobster, obviously that’s not cheap though. I buy a lot of very cheap steak and beat the heck out of it for steak tacos and stir fry’s. Can’t eat sandwiches because of gluten and we have gluten free pasta on a regular basis, don’t need any idea’s on pasta dishes. So what are some other idea’s. I can always cook a piece of chicken and put a veggie with it but I would like something more creative if possible :)
Well yes rice is obvious, especially with a gluten free diet. We eat it with stir fry’s and with fish.
Oh, trust me we don’t have lobster, I was just giving an example of how unhelpful my husband is…lol. As far as the small kitchen goes, I can makes some stuff but my space is limited, Usually the only space I have to work on is my freezer top and the stove of course.

GardenersCardiff answers:

-Dried beans and lentils, make sure the companies are clear of cc. (I can buy local beans, try looking at farmer’s markets or if your grocery store carries any local brands). Canned beans are more likely to have cc and are also more expensive. Lots of indian and Mexican foods are meat free (therefore they’re usually cheap >>) that use legumes. Falafel, chili, dahl, plain baked beans…well, those are the things I know names of, but just do some searching if you want a different take on beans.

-Roast!!! I am a celiac and I can’t tell you how important roast is to me. I buy a roast every week, and it usually covers 3 meals for protein. I buy expensive cuts of meat for them as I find they taste a lot better (and since being gf we stopped eating out and actually spend less money on food regardless), but a cheaper one cooked on a long, low heat is delicious and makes for a huge variety of leftovers. Roast pork is cheapest where I’m from, but I rotate with chicken, beef and pork regularly (lamb thrown in there, but that’s not so cheap.)
Key things to do with roast: Keep all drippings and bones. When dinner’s done, pour boiling water in your roasting pan and scrap off all the tasty stuff with a whisk or fork. Then transfer to a jar and keep in the fridge or freezer until you want it for soup (well, I eat soup every week :-p) or gravy.
Roast leftovers: -stir fry, roast pot pie (basically like a shepherd’s pie but with chunks of meat), fried rice, cream-based pasta with meat (I’m dairy-free too, I use coconut milk), fajitas, curry, stew etc. Probably cheaper than buying individual steaks or pork chops, but maybe I’m wrong. I also keep all the bones and boil them down for stock. 1 roast with drippings is enough stock for 1 batch of soup I find.
-Tofu. Sounds plain, but fried with gf soy sauce with a crispy skin, it’s really, really good. I make all my stir-fry’s with tofu now, I just like it better.
-Try different types of soups, not liking any soup is a little weird. There’s pureed/cream soups, some personal favorites: celery with cumin, carrot with nutmeg, leek and potato zomg that’s comfort food, French onion, asian-style ones (I make a lot of these, my husband hates cream soups) like pho and thai. Basically they use fish sauce and hot peppers along with whatever broth you have.
-vege risotto…you can use your roast broth in this for flavor…spinach/other green with mushroom, spinach tomato. If you can eat dairy you’re set, just sprinkle some parmesan or other sharp, dried cheese on it. I make ‘false’ risotto that uses regular rice instead of more expensive Arborio rice, which involves around 4x water to rice ratio and baking it in the oven, but stirring it every 20 min still.
-Liver and onions. Well, I can only stomach this with bacon added, so it’s not really cheap anymore, but liver is like 1$/lb and chock-full of nutrients. Chicken or beef liver is best.
-Stew and curries: (do these qualify as soups?) You cannot go wrong here….oh wait you can…use gluten free spices only! As many stews and curries exist as people in the world, I swear.
-Root vegetables. Potatoes, turnips, carrots, sweet potato, they are always cheap for the amount of calories you get. Cabbage too…fried cabbage with soy sauce and some caraway, yum! Mmm, colcannon with kale and bacon
-Eggs! I eat eggs nearly every day, but my husband can’t stomach them, however, a frittata or spinach/collard green/swiss chard/ soufflé would be good for supper. Quiche is also good if you’re ready in an excersise in frustration in making gluten free pie crust.
-pork chops…so many options, stuffed, teriyaki style, bbq.
-pulled pork using pork hocks…simmer them all day in water and your spices, when it’s time to cook supper, boil them down, remove the skins and bones, and you’re done! Soooo good, and really cheap.
-ratatouille
-moussaka (I like a vegetarian one best, with red lentils instead of ground lamb…I really like red lentils)

I hope your husband can stomach raw vegetables soon, cuz salad is a great side, especially this time of year with so much free, local stuff.

Look into different culture’s foods, there are SO many foods I have yet to make that I’d like to, even with being gluten and dairy free.

Some links to recipes I like that should be fairly cheap:

http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2010/10/spicy-squash-salad-with-lentils-and-goat-cheese/

http://jeenaskitchen.blogspot.ca/2008/01/red-lentil-vegetarian-flan-recipe.html

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/beef-pho/

(I gotta say I only use the spices in this, I just throw in whatever shrimp/beef stock I have frozen and use whatever leftover meat or tofu I have for protein chunks)
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/thai-coconut-chicken-soup-recipe/index.html

Helen asks…

Getting a guinea pig tomorrow I need care tips?

My parents agreed to get me a guinea pig i need a list of things it literally NEEDS!Some Care tips And Good names (leave male and female names please!)

An easy 10 points!!!

GardenersCardiff answers:

Basic requirements

· Companionship

Guinea pigs are social species and are happiest when kept with other guinea pigs. Make sure that both animals are the same sex to avoid having any unintended litters of baby guinea pigs. Male guinea pigs are more likely to tolerate one another without fighting if they are introduced at a young age.

· Housing

Although small, guinea pigs require plenty of space to exercise – the more the better, although at a minimum each guinea pig requires 70xm x 70cm x 70cm (ie. Two guinea pigs will require double this space). Make sure that the design of your hutch allows for easy cleaning. Outdoor hutches must be kept in sheltered areas to protect their inhabitants from weather extremes. Hutches should have a covered section so that your guinea pigs feel safe and protected while they sleep, as well as a well-ventilated compartment. Hutches should be lined with newspaper and then soft grass hay to prevent foot injuries, the bedding should be changed at least every second day to prevent illness. Do not use sawdust or wood shavings as these are more likely to cause respiratory problems. Straw should also be avoided as it does not absorb urine well and the hard stalks can cause injuries. Hutches should be fitted with a water bottle (and small water bowl as well) and gnawing log (made of untreated wood).

It is important to regularly change bedding and floor material and clean out the hutches to avoid ammonia build-up from urine and also to help reduce attracting flies to the area. Guinea pigs can be susceptible to flystrike (which can be fatal). It is important to fly-proof the hutch using fly-screen wire or mosquito netting.

If possible create an outdoor exercise enclosure for your guinea pigs. The enclosure needs to be escape-proof and predator-proof and should be enriched with hollow logs and pipes, rocks caves and shrubbery to provide cover and protection. Keep your guinea pigs safely in their hutch over night and during bad weather.

Guinea pigs are susceptible to heat stress (which can be fatal) – always ensure the area they are kept in is well- ventilated, provides adequate shade and does not become hot. Animals in hutches and cages can die form overheating easily.

· Diet

Guinea pigs are herbivores. They need to be fed the types of food they have adapted to eat.

Offer a constant source of grass and/or grass hay such as Timothy, Oaten, Wheaten, Pasture, Paddock, Meadow or Ryegrass hays. They should not be fed Lucerne (alfalfa) or Clover hays as they are too high in protein and calcium. This is paramount in providing the ‘complete’ diet and encourages ‘chewing’ for long periods of time. This “chewing” helps to wear down their continuously growing teeth and is very important in maintaining dental and gastrointestinal health.
Offer fresh leafy green vegetables & herbs. Some examples of these include; Vegies: broccoli, cabbage, celery, endive, carrot tops, brussel sprouts, Bok Choy/other Asian greens, dark leafed lettuce varieties. Herbs: parsley, dandelion, coriander, basil, dill, mint
High quality ‘Guinea Pig’ pellets may be offered in small quantities only
Guinea pigs require a dietary source of Vitamin C. This is usually supplied sufficiently by the fresh leafy green veggies. It is safer however, to supplement this with small quantities of vitamin C rich foods such as citrus or kiwi fruit
These should not be offered to guinea pigs: cereals, grains, nuts, seeds, corn, beans, peas, breads, biscuits, sweets, sugar, breakfast cereals, chocolate, buttercups, garden shrubs, lily of the valley, onion grass, onions, potato tops, raw beans; beetroot, spinach and rhubarb leaves; and any bulk plants (may cause digestive problems)
Any dietary changes should be made gradually over a few weeks
Provide fresh water at all times
· Grooming

Daily grooming is essential for long-haired guinea pigs to help keep their coat in good condition. Using a stiff brush to gently remove dead hairs, tangles and pieces of twigs, dry leaves or burrs. During grooming take the opportunity to check your guinea pigs’ health and to ensure that it is free from external parasites. Also check the length of your guinea pigs’ toenails and, if found to be overlong, have them clipped by a veterinarian or someone experienced in clipping. Daily handling and grooming is important in building your guinea pigs’ confidence and for developing friendly and social guinea pigs.

· Health Problems

Most of the common health problems seen in pet guinea pigs are preventable by good husbandry and feeding practices. Guinea pigs may be susceptible to respiratory infections, usually due to poor housing conditions. Inadequate cleaning can also lead to skin ailments. Guinea pigs, like most pets, are also susceptible to fleas. Ask your vet about an appropriate flea treatment if required. Guinea pigs may also suffer from mite infestation – which cause intense itchiness, hair loss and discomfort but

William asks…

Can you please tell me about my Ac unit?

The unit is huge, made for 2,200 sq ft. Its a Carrier brand. There is a white pvc pipe coming out from next to the evaporator coil. Condensation builds up and drips from this hose. It has a black double hose valve with a red cap on one side and the PVC coming out the other to the water pump, which looks like a battery pack. Imagine my fear when I thought it was a battery pack buzzing! Should the water pump make a grinding sound when it filters? There are all kinds of air leaks that I need to tape with foil tape. In some parts duct tape was used by the previous owner, which I intend to take off and properly seal. The term “converted” was mentioned to me about either the heat or Ac. Only 1,800 sq ft of the house was used before, so by converted I think they mean upgraded.

I really want to try to understand more about my Ac unit. I know I need to hire an HVAC specialist. My home warrantee provider says that they can only fix the Ac if there is an actual problem, so I have to wait for my electric bill to double before they’ll remedy the problem. The little round thermostat is set on 86* and its a bit chilly in here. Could someone please help me get a better understanding about what kind of Ac unit I have, how it should work, and if anything sounds odd so far?

GardenersCardiff answers:

Home warranty will only fix, what has broken. This system is doing great from what you have said!
“its a bit chilly in here” is the best situation to have when you are a home owner.
There is no water pump. The drain is gravity flow. The battery box on the PVC pipe is a mystery to me. These systems can grow slime in the drain pan that clogs up the gravity fed drain. The double hose valve can be used to flush the pan with a Clorox solution, followed by clear water to flush out the Clorox (it is corrosive). The solution is applied through a very short garden hose held upright and solution funneled into it. Use your imagination as to how to do it without getting it all over the place (think bag and small white hose). Let the Solution set for half an hour in the drip pan by closing the valve to the PVC. Have some one on a cell phone watching the drain output to verify that it is draining when you open the valve back to the PVC to flush it with clear water afterward. Don’t assume it is draining. It can get sticky. Go real easy at first till you are sure it is draining well.
Your thermostat sounds bad. I would look into replacing it or figure out why the system is not shutting off sooner. That it is “a little round one”, says that it is older design, but those are tough and trouble free in my experience. Listen and see where it has to be set to get the system to turn off. Also the fan for the forced air may be set to continuous. It should be set to “auto” .
The buzzing sound is probably coming from a control relay inside there.
The term “converted” was used because it likely was only a heater up there before. Now it has both.
For advice with the air filter take a look at my answers in the links below.
You are getting way more help here than you will from a hired hand.

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