Welcome to Cranky Puppy Farm!

This blog belongs to two Gen X-er's smackdab in downtown Kansas City where we've been renovating and decorating two old Victorians built in the 1890's. Our life is filled with 3 demanding Pomeranians (1 of them cranky, of course), honking cars, noisy neighbors and the hustle and bustle of city life but we dream of the day when we can move to our 40-acre farm and hear nothing but the wind and the cows next door. Until then, we're chronicling our triumphs and mishaps here as we try to garden and preserve on 2 city lots, raise chickens, and learn all those things we should have learned from our grandparents. Welcome to our world - we hope you'll stay awhile!

Homemade Mosquito Traps

Friday, March 30, 2012

Why mosquitoes can try to suck me dry and leave J. completely alone has always baffled me.  Perhaps it's my sweet disposition or the fact that I can't put the chocolate down.  It probably exudes from my pores.

So I was ecstatic when we talked about how to build homemade mosquito traps.  This is a great way to trap those nasty little boogers and recycle also.  And it's really easy! 

Step 1.  Start with your everyday 2-liter bottle.  Drink the contents if you haven't already.  :-)

Step 2.  Cut the top off the bottle right along the top of the label.

Step 3.  Remove the lid and recycle it.  You won't need it.

Step 4.  Add  1 tablespoon sourdough starter and 2/3 cup water or, if you don't have any starter, use this recipe:

  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 cups of cool water
  • 1 tablespoon of dry active yeast
  • Dissolve the sugar in the boiling water and remove from heat.  Immediately pour in the cold water and stir well.  Then pour in the yeast and stir again.

Step 5.   Invert the upper half of the bottle and insert it into the lower half.  The top of the bottle will now be pointing down.  Either staple the plastic together so that it stays in place or use duct tape.

Step 6.  Cover the bottle in dark colored paper (or paint the outside).  Mosquitoes love dark places. 

Step 7.  Poke 2 or 3 holes evenly spaced around the rim and use string or wire to create a hanger.

That's it!

The best place for these is in the corner of your porch or patio.  The CO2 from the yeast mixture will attract the mosquitoes and they'll be unable to figure out how to get out of the bottle.  The mixture in the bottle will stay good for a couple of weeks.  Trust me...the bottle will be full soon.  And, with 80 degrees in late March when it outta be in the 60's, mosquitoes are already out in full force.

Find out what other cool things folks are up to over at the FarmGirl Friday Blog Hop!

Quilt Step 4: Strips and Triangles

Thursday, March 29, 2012

With a hiatus in there for Spring break, it's been awhile since I posted about progress on the quilt.  When we last looked at this project, I was piecing together the 32 squares that make up the quilt.  I've spent the past couple of weeks figuring out what fabrics go where in the quilt and then sewing the squares together.  I found it really helpful to lay everything out on the bed so that I can see what it would look like when it was finished.

For those of you that are following along, we're close to starting to put this quilt together.  There's just a few remaining pieces that we need to cut out- the triangles.  If you remember, the quilt is en pointe, so there are triangles around the outside to make it square as shown in green

Start by cutting out four 18.5" x 18.5" squares. Then cut them into quarters diagonally.  You'll end up with 16 triangles that will be used for the triangles that are NOT on the 4 corners.

Then cut out two 9.5" x 9.5" squares and cut each one in half diagonally just once.  You'll then have 4 triangles that will be used for the 4 corners.

Use the guidelines on your cutting board to keep the fabric straight.  On the larger 18.5" square, it may be easier to double the fabric over when you cut it to 18.5" and then double it over the other direction to cut the other 18.5" length.

We're now ready to start piecing the quilt top together.  This quilt is made up of 8 rows of squares and triangles:

The yellow lines designate the rows in our pattern.

Start the first row by sewing one of the smaller corner triangles to the top of the first block.  Then a larger triangle is sewn to either side of this block.  Center the triangles so that you have at least 1/4" seam allowance on both sides.  Repeat until all the rows are completed.

Then, when the rows are completed, sew the rows together to form the quilt top.

Next week, we'll talk about cutting and attaching the inner and outer borders to our quilt.

Happy quilting!

Poor Hen-Pecked Henrietta

My heart is heavy today - so much so that I couldn't bring myself to post about this yesterday.  But I promised to talk about the goods as well as the bads here on Cranky Puppy Farm and, well, this is one of the bads.

The flock of 9 that grew up together have always been happy hens.  So I'm not sure why they decided to start bullying poor Henrietta - the sweetest hen, the smallest in the bunch and the lowest on the pecking order.  She was the first to start molting, so perhaps that was the trigger.  This weekend, I noticed she was staying in the coop by herself on the roost and she wouldn't come out even for a treat.  I took her some treats and checked her over and she seemed fine.  When I got home Tuesday night, she was sitting in one of the nesting boxes backward with her tail facing out.  She was battered, bruised and bloody with almost all the feathers removed from the back of her neck and head and a hole in her neck.  Fortunately, it was just through the skin and not further.  I thought about posting a picture so you can see what damage feather picking and bullying can do if you allow it to progress, but it really was much too graphic.

I lovingly scooped her up and she let me carry her out of the coop and into the yard where I put her down to get a closer look.  She wouldn't leave my side - particularly after I let the rest of the girls out.  Not wanting to cause her any more stress, I put together a dog cage that we used when our dog Chase was a puppy and put her in a warm place in the basement where it's quiet.

Yesterday, I spent some time with her and she ate some pellets, carrots and cabbage and talked to me ever so softly.  Her wound was no longer fresh.  But there was no poop in the cage either, which worries me.  I would like to carry her back outside, but it's raining every day this week.  For now, she is resting comfortably in her new home without stressors and she has the free range of the basement when I'm there.  This weekend, I'd like to figure out (a) a way to get Henrietta integrated back into the flock but in a way in which she is still separated, and (b) which hens are responsible and separate them.  Knocking them down in the pecking order might be the best way to nip this behavior in the bud.  And, in the meantime, I'm adding more protein to their diets and giving them more distractions in the run.  I've read that both a protein deficiency and\or boredom can lead to feather picking behavior.

I am so sad and feel terrible that this happened to Henrietta.  If you're a flock mistress and have dealt with aggressive bullying, I'd appreciate your advice.  Thank you,

This post is linked to the Rural Thursday Blog Hop #9.

Unplanned Gardening

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Nearly all the best things that came to me in life have been unexpected, unplanned by me.
 - Carl Sandburg

I'm the planner in the family and, well....J.?  Not so much.  So it wasn't surprising that he sprung on me at Home Depot this weekend that "wouldn't it be nice to plant some cabbage so that we could make slaw?"  Oh...and "those Early Girl tomatoes did so well last year, so maybe we should plant some of those also."

I hadn't planned for either of those and I could see my beautiful garden plan slipping away with every word.  (Hey...a little moment of melodrama never hurt anyone.)  But how could I say no to my one true love?

So two little Stonehead cabbage plants went in the cart along with two healthy-looking Early Girl tomato plants.  Little did I know (and I should have paid more attention) that those two cabbage plants were actually 8 cabbage plants!

J. accused me of being unhinged when I described this little cabbage plant as "cute"? It IS cute!

We planted everything tonight, with a couple of the cabbages going in the bed with the cucumbers, squash and beans.  I'm hoping that this won't be an issue since we'll be trellising everything and they'll have room.  I'm also going to move the lettuce over there, so that freed up just enough space to put the Early Girls on the south end of the westmost bed near the Romas.  The rest of the cabbages?  Planted in a raised bed in our backyard by the hot tub.  Which is where our blackberries are.  Speaking of....we planted another Apache thornlesss blackberry bush there as well tonight.

Storms are coming tomorrow and all next week it looks like, so I'll be keeping an eye on these tender little plants.  I hope it's not a washout like it was last week.  We're about 2.5" over average for this month and still running abot 20 degrees warmer than usual!

What were you up to this weekend?

This post is linked to the Country Homemaker Hop.  Check out what other folks are up to!

Would You Sit Down for a Minute?!

Monday, March 26, 2012

hear that question alot from J.  I can't help it...I'm constantly doing something and I can't stand to just sit and watch TV.  And with weather like we've been having (70's and 80's!), there's a garden to get started!  And I was rarin' to get to work on the to-do list come Saturday morning.

First, we planted the potatoes in our new potato bins.  Clicky to find out how to make your own!  These are the Yellow Finn seed potatoes that I ordered.  Anything 2" and under are planted whole and everything else is cut a day ahead of time into chunks 2" or larger.  Just make sure they have at least 2 eyes on each chunk.  If you're new to potatoes, the reason for cutting them a day ahead is so that the cut will scab over and it prevents them from rotting in the ground.  Plant them about 4 to 5 inches deep and about 8 inches apart.

While we were at it, I also planted 6 more garlic cloves with the others in the existing bed and 25 more Ozark Supreme strawberry plants in the strawberry\onion raised bed.  I've got more to plant, including some tomato and cabbage plants that J. wanted at Home Depot, but it'll all have to wait until Monday night.  The dirt\compost we put in that bed must have had tons of weed seeds in it, because I had to spend some time weeding it as I was planting. 

Then it was on to stripping the last of the wallpaper at the rental house.  Let me tell you - there's no more fun than stripping wallpaper.  Not!

While we were making a list of stuff that needs to be done on the house before we sell it, I noticed that there was an old stone door sill under the deck from when the house was built in the late 1800's.  It's solid limestone and about 8 inches thick, 40 inches wide and 14 inches deep.  A door sill?  Nah...it's the perfect step into the chicken coop!

My "new" repurposed limestone step into the coop.  Looks like it was meant to be there, doesn't it?

It may not look that big, but J. and I estimate it weighed somewhere between 250 and 300 pounds.  We had to use some smarts, some lever action and some serious elbow grease to get that thing into our garden cart so that we could use the lawn tractor to move it over to our backyard across the street.  And we're both sore today from all the effort.  That thing was heavy with a capital H!

And if that didn't wear us out, then mowing the yard-full-of-10-inch-high-weeds, cleaning the chicken coop, grocery shopping, and cleaning out the garage did. 

So I think I'll end today's post with a look at some relaxing flowers around our house right now.  Or should I say summer?  At 80 degrees, I'm pretty sure we skipped Spring altogether.

Purple Beauty Creeping Phlox isn't creepy at all!  It's a great option for a slope or to cascade over a rock wall.

This Emperor Tulip looks out from behind the prison bars of our fence. 

Funny thing about the to-do list, by the way.... it never seems to get completed.  I scratch something off and two more things get added.  Does any one else have this problem?

Wondering what other folks are up to this week? Check out this week's Barn Hop!

Crop Circles

Sunday, March 25, 2012

With a title like that, I bet you thought some UFO came down last night and left indentations in the garlic.  Nope...we're talking about circles of the rotation variety today:  crop rotation!  As if planning a garden isn't hard enough with trying to think about what plants grow well together (companion planting) and what plants don't like each other at all.  Sheesh...

And it's really hard when you're a home gardener with not alot of space.  That doesn't mean you can ignore it, though.  I had always heard that it's not a good idea to re-plant tomatoes in the same place that you did last year, but I never knew why.  Well, Scientific evidence shows (and farmers know this thought experience) that trying to grow the same crop in the same place year after year can result in stunted growth and rampant plant diseases.  In fact, a study by Penn State shows that the probability of tomatoes contracting early blight rose from 3% to 74% after they were planted in the same location for 3 years in a row.

So how do you figure out a workable crop rotation plan as a home gardener?

You start with the basics:  understanding what the 9 main families are in the vegetable world.  Then step 2 is just avoiding planting a plant in the same location as one of its family members occupied last year, and you should be golden.  Here are the 9:

Nightshade Family
Nightshade includes tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and potatoes.  All of these will heavily deplete your soil of nutrients so you'll need to fertilize before planting another crop.  Perils of replanting in the same space:  Increased problems with blight and pests like tomato hornworm.

Legume Family
Peas and beans are legumes.  Legumes are really beneficial plants in that their roots inject nitrogen into the soil.  These would be a great choice to follow a Nightshade planting in your crop rotation schedule.

Squash and Melon Family
It's pretty easy to guess what goes here:  summer and winter squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, and melons. These are also heavy feeders and will deplete your soil nutrients over time.  The big pest here that will cause problems if you don't rotate is the squash vine borer and the squash bug, which will overwinter in the soil. I had these attack my pumpkin vines last year and, let me tell you, they are a PAIN!

Brassicas and Salad Greens Family
Leafy greens such as arugula, broccoli, cauliflower, rutabagas, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale (NOT lettuce!) are in this family.  Because they put on such a large amount of green growth, they are highly dependent on lots of nitrogen during the growing season.

Sunflower Family
Sunflowers are in this family, of course, but it also includes Jerusalem artichokes, lettuce and endive.  All of these tread very lightly on soil and are light feeds, so they are good choices to either precede or follow a member of the Brassicas family.

Carrot Family
Along with carrots, this family includes celery, parsley, and parsnips.  They like lots of organic matter but not lots of nitrogen as it can cause you to get some really funky looking roots.  So you don't want to plant these anywhere you planted a legume the following season.

Goosefoot Family
Members include beets, spinach and swiss chard.  This family is great because it will grown even in soil with low fertility, so they are a great follow-up crop for members of the Nightshade family.

Grass Family
Corn is the number one member here, but this family also includes oats, wheat and rye.  It's a great follow-up for the spot where you prevously grew beans or peas, as it needs really good, fertile soil.

Onion Family
And last but not least is the Onion family which includes onions, garlic, leeks and scallions.  Great at repelling pests but they require high fertility.

With this information, you should be able to identify a crop rotation schedule that will fit into your home garden.  The idea is to come up with something that is logical:  either left to right, front to rear, circular or otherwise.  Here are a couple of examples:

Garlic ---> lettuce
Broccoli ---> bush beans
Onions ---> leafy greens
Peas ---> carrots
Garlic ---> shell beans

This year the big one for me is following up my large tomato plantings from last year with squash, cucumbers and bush beans.  We'll see how that works out.

It's that time of year where we're all planning our gardens and getting hands in the dirt. I hope you found this information useful as you put together your plan and start thinking about next year (it's not too early for that is it?)

This post is linked to this week's Country Garden Showcase.

Would You Like Pesticide With That?

Friday, March 23, 2012

I recently ran across this list from the Environmental Workinhg Group that is affectionately called "the Dirty Dozen", or the top 12 fruits and veggies that have the most pesticide in them.

My beloved apples are at the top of the list!  Which is why we planted 2 apple trees last year and a third last weekend.  (TIP: If you can't get fresh, then make sure you wash the outside of the apple really well to get rid of any pesticide residue.)

Let's see...strawberries, peppers, lettuce, potatoes, blueberries, grapes.....all things that J. and I love to eat and they're on the dirty list!  And they are all plants that are super easy to grow.  It makes sense, I think, to grow these foods that hard to find locally or that are expensive in the stores.  That's how I pick what to grow each year.  And I feel better knowing that we'll be eating organic food out of our own garden rather than these chemical-laden foods. 

I'm glad to see that some of our other favorite foods are on the "clean list" and are very low in pesticides.  I love sweet corn and watermelon in the summertime, and J. is a big fan of pineapples and grapefruit.  Of course, we can't grow either of those here in Missouri.

Like many people, I used to use weedkiller on my lawn and grab the wasp spray whenever I saw a bee or a wasp.  I will never EVER do that again.  Especially now that I know that wasps are a major pollinator and a good insect to have around your house\garden, since they take care of other pests.  The pesticides that we use not only kill the bad bugs, but they kill the good ones as well - the ones we need to help us grow our food.

What do you think about this list from the EWG?  Does it surprise you at all?

I'm linking up to this week's Farmgirl Friday hop where there's lots of gardenin', cookin' and other interesting adventures going on.  Click the link to find out!

Wiggle It Just a Little Bit

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Here's an interesting tip from my Food Not Lawns class:  if your peppers (green, red, jalapeno, etc) or tomatoes have lots of blossoms but aren't setting fruit, try shaking them lightly 3 times a day.  Why?  No, it's not plan aerobicise.  It actually causes some of the pollen to shake loose and, hopefully, it lands in the right place.

With visions of the guy from LMFAO in my head, I laughed out loud in class when the instructor said this.  *snicker*

Fortunately, I've not run into this garden problem yet but will file it away as one of those "useful facts" somewhere in some dark corner of my mind where all those useless 80's song lyrics and movie quotes live.

High-tech Gardening with Online Garden Planners

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

If you've been reading along, you know that I mentioned that I started using an online website called Smart Gardener to keep track of my garden chores and progress.  I thought I would give you the skinny on why I decided to use this tool instead some of the others that are available, as well as what I *don't* like about it.

First, of all it's FREE.  Well, sort of....and we'll get to that in a minute.  I can't remember how I ran across this website - I'm assuming it was mentioned in one of the myriad of gardening emails or blogs that I read every day.  I was hooked when I saw their motto though:  "We track all of your gardens' to-do's so that you don't have to."   I'm the world's most laziest gardener so that is right up my alley!

I'm not going to walk you through every feature of the website, as you can watch an online tour or read about how it works.  But here are the features that made me decide to use SG:

1.  Customizable growing seasons, frost dates and garden orientation.  You start by inputting your zip code and it will automatically fill in your zone information.  But you can customize all of it.  Smart Gardener will use it to determine your planting and harvest dates, and the best places to plant your different varieties in the garden.  It also lets you input how many people you are trying to feed and will then calculate how many of each plant you should grow.

You can click on the colored bars and get recommendations about which plants do well in the cold, warm and hot season in your area.

2.  Customizable shapes and sizes for in-ground, raised beds, and containers.  You design it however you want your garden to look.  For $2.99, you can purchase an add-on that allows you to add shaded areas, paths, structures, or trees.  Or you can go further and, for $5.99, you gets all the shapes AND help with to-do's for succession planting if you want to have multiple harvests in a growing season.  If you just want succession planting and not the shapes, it's $1.99.  I've already done a garden layout in a different program (you can see it here), so I really don't need the shapes.  That saved me $5.99 already.  :-)

3.  Good selection of common garden veggies.  You can get recommendations based on square footage needs, hot vs. warm vs. cool season, days to maturity, etc.  Or you can pick your varieties off the list.  All the information you need to know about a plant is already there for you.  Just click to add it your garden or, if you need to order it, you can do that from within the program as well.

Then you can rearrange them in your garden design and you end up wtih something like this:

4.   Information about companion planting and tips on planting, fertilizing etc.  You can see the good\bad companion information in the pic above.

5.  Weekly To-Do reminders including a reminder email.  This is the primary reason why I picked Smart Gardener.  Tell me what to do and I'll do it!

6.  Ability to add notes and photos in a journal format.  No more paper for me!

All in all, Smart Gardener is a pretty cool website and it's allowed me to get rid of my ratty old notebook and grid paper.  It's even better that it's free, as most online planners cost money. 

Now a few words on what I DON'T like about Smart Gardener

Just a couple of small things.....

1.  Not all plant varieties are available.  They have a pretty good list but not everything is there.  For example, I couldn't find comfrey.   But there is a way to add a variety if you can't find it.  I'm sure the variety list will get much bigger as more people use SG.

2.  Berry plants are an add-on.  I was really disappointed to see that they didn't have berries listed, and then I was even more disappointed to find out that berries are a $1.99 add-on.  Did I mention that I really like FREE?

3.  Bugs in the system?  I can see my weekly tasks, but the monthly glance view isn't working for me.  I've contacted them and we'll see how responsive they are.

Other Online Gardening Tools

I realize that you may look at Smart Gardener and decide that it's not just for you.  There are lots of other online tools out there.  I haven't used any of these so I can't speak to their usefulness, but here are some of the more popular online garden planners.

GrowVeg (free for 30 days, $25 annual subscription)
Plangarden (free for 45 days, $20 annual subscription)
Territorial Seed Garden Planner (free for 30 days, $25 annual subscription)
Mother Earth News Garden Planner (free for 30 days, $25 annual subscription)
My Garden Pal (free until October 31st)
SmallBluePrinter (simple free visual garden designer - this is what I used to create my design)

Are you using any online tools to help out with your gardening this year?  I'd love to hear what you're doing!

Just for Fun: Barn Time!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

While making our way home from the auction on Saturday, we took the long route through the countryside surrounding Gardner and Olathe, Kansas and came across some really cool barns.  While not really a barn, this little corner feed store is one of my favorites.   There didn't seem to be anyone around and the place seemed out of business.  

I'd love to have a sign like that on the side of our shed, but they go for big bucks!

See this old feed mill and more old barns over at this week's Barn Charm Hop!

This Week's Garden Progress

Monday, March 19, 2012

I'm looking at the clock and Spring is just an hour
and 3 minutes away!    Woohoo! 

J. and I got busy this weekend in the garden with some chores and a pretty good sized honey-do list.  It all started with my garden chores for this week:

Click to biggify this if you can't read it

Pretty cool, huh?  That's a screenshot out of a new online tool called Smart Gardener that I'm using to manage my garden this year.  The cool thing about it (besides it being free) is that you can design your garden beds to size, then pick the plants you want to grow and it will send you these weekly "to do" lists based on what zone you're in.  It has a ton of other features as well, so I think  I'll do a post tomorrow just about Smart Gardener and some other online tools that are out there.

I was naughty and didn't do my homework - I actually decided NOT to plant the carrots as the schedule dictates because the weatherman is calling for rain for the next 4 or 5 days.  I was a little afraid that the seeds would either get washed away or not germinate because they were too soggy.  My plan is to wait until next weekend and see if we get better weather.

But....we did get alot of the honey-do list done:

  • Built the worm condo and added the new inhabitants
  • Planted another dwarf Honeycrisp apple tree (we now have 2 + one Jonathan's Winesap dwarf)
  • Purchased additional garlic and planted it
  • Side-dressed the sprouted garlic with fish emulsion
  • Fixed two broken patio chairs
  • Thinned out tomato plants
  • Cleaned out and mulched the landscaping beds
  • Finished filling the potato beds with compost and soil
  • Oiled and tested all the mowers and weedeaters

Not too shabby of a weekend.   On top of that, my jalapeno seedlings are up and my blackberry bushes that I planted last year have tons of new leaves on them.  The strawberries are waking up and the onions are up a good 6 inches.

Sparkle Supreme strawberries waking up from a long winter's nap.

Outside, I hear the pitter patter of a soft, steady rain on the patio flagstone.  Spring is here indeed.  What were you up to this weekend? 

This post is linked up to this week's Country Garden Showcase.

How To: Make A Worm Hotel

Sunday, March 18, 2012

I think everyone knows how good compost is for your garden because it contains all the nutrients that your plants need to grow.  But what about all that paper waste in our house like toilet paper and paper towel rolls, newspaper, etc. that is recyclable?  What if you could just toss that into a bin in your house and have it magically turn into the best compost you can get?  If you're a gardener, how would you like to have a 173.5% increase in plant growth?  Then read on, my friends, as we enter the wild world of vermicomposting, or worm composting.
I mentioned in my earlier post that I had lucked into a handful of red wigglers and, after letting them hang around in a paper bag for a couple of days, I thought I had better get on my duff and make them a permanent place to live. Setting up a worm bin (I prefer worm condo, myself) is insanely easy.  You just need a few simple things and no more than an hour of your time.
Materials Needed to Make a Worm Bin:

  • Two 8 to 18 gallon plastic storage boxes with tight-fitting lids (dark colored and not transparent)
  • A drill with 1/4" and 1/16" drill bits
  • Newspaper or shredded paper
  • Red wiggler worms, a pound or so (Elsenia Foetida)
  • Cardboard that fits within the bin that you selected
  • Bucket of water  

Where Can I Get Worms?

Believe it or not, you can buy these little guys locally or right off the Internet (just Google "red wigglers").  Red Wigglers seem to be the preferred type as they reproduce quickly and are very hardy.  They're also expensive, with a pound of worms going for up to $50!  So I was very lucky to find someone who was willing to share their worms with me.

If you want to get your own for free, go overturn some pots and other things in your garden and you're bound to find some.  You can also "catch" worms by placing wet cardboard on your lawn overnight.  Worms love cardboard and will actually congregate underneath it at night.  The difficulty with catching your own is that you might just catch the common earthworm and they don't do well in composting bins.  You really need to catch red wiggler worms if you can.

Which size bin should I use?

The most common storage bin size is 18 gallon, which is what I used.  However, that's not going to fit easily under the kitchen sink if that's where you want to store your worms.  And, of course, that would be a convenient place for them because you can toss your table scraps in there as you clean the plates.  I'm putting mine on the stairs to the basement, so the bigger size didn't bother me.  The other thing to consider is weight when the bin is full.  Make sure you pick one that isn't going to be too heavy for you to move around!

I love the bright green, don't you?  These 18 ga. containers were just $5 at Home Depot.

Step 1.  Dril holes in the bottom of both bins.

You need to drill about 20 evenly spaced 1/4" holes in the bottom of each bin.  I simply stacked one within the other, turned them over so that bottom was facing up and then drilled them both at the same.  These holes will allow for drainage and wil also allow the worms to crawl into the second bin when their castings are ready to be harvested. 

Oops!  Missed one.

Step 2.  Drill holes in one of the lids.

Switch to the 1/16" drill bit and drill 30 evenly spaced holes in one of the lids - NOT BOTH!  The other lid will be used as a tray on the bottom of the bin to catch any drainage.

Here's J. showing off his mad tool skillz again. 

Step 3.   Drill ventilation holes.

Still using the 1/16" drill bit, drill holes about 1 to 1.5" apart on each side of the bin near the top edge.

Step 4.  Cover the bottom of the bin with soaked newspaper.

Tear newspaper into strips no more than 1" in width and soak them in the bucket. I left mine for about 45 seconds to a minute so the water would permeate the paper completely.  Worms breathe through their skin, so their environment needs to be wet.  But they don't like soggy bedding.  The consistency you're going for here is similar to a moist sponge.  When you remove the newspaper from the water, squeeze it until only one or two drops come out.  Then lay the strips in the bottom of the bin and repeat until the entire bottom is covered as shown below.

Step 5.  Fill the bin with moist bedding.

We now need to add about 5 or 6 inches bedding and the smaller the pieces better.  I opted for paper right out of my shredder, because the thought of my worms turning those bills into worm poop made me giggle.  You can also throw in leaves, dryer lint, torn cardboard or newspaper, torn egg cartons, paper towels, etc.  Just make sure you soak everything, then squeeze out the excess water and fluff it up before placing it in the bin.  It's also recommended that you throw in a couple of handfuls of dirt, as the worms use it as "grit" to help them digest their food. 

Everything that goes in the bin should be moist, but not soaking wet.

Step 6.  Put the worms to their new home.

Just dump them right out onto the surface of the soil\bedding and place them under a light.  Sunlight isn't recommended, as they are very sensitive and could dry out too fast.  Worms don't like light and will very quicly disappear into the dark depths of the bin.  When

Step 7.  Top the bedding with wet cardboard.

Cut your cardboard so that it fits on top of the bedding.  Soak it and then place it on top.  Then put the lid on top of the bin (the one with the ventilation holes!)

Step 8.  Assemble the worm bin and put it in a safe place.

To assemble the worm bin, place the lid without holes on the bottom, followed by the filled bin on top of the lid.  I recommend setting the filled bin on small blocks so that ventilation can flow under the bin and it will also allow drainage to drain onto the lid rather than having the bin sit in it and cause fungal or mold issues.

When the food scraps are no longer recognizable and bin starts to get full, remove the lid and place the bottom of the second bin on top of the bedding.  Then add bedding to that second bin as well as food.  In 4 to 6 weeks, the majority of the worms will have migrated up into that second bin and you'll be able to easily harvest the castings from the first bin.

Worms like cool, damp environments with good ventilation.  The basement, laundry room, garage or under the kitchen sink are ideal (just make sure you bring them in if your garage gets cold in the winter!)  Ideally, your location should stay between 55 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 8.  Feed your worms (repeatedly).

You should start out feeding your worms slowly at first.  Then, as they reproduce and multiply, you can add more food.  The rule of thumb is that a pound of worms can eat 1/2 pound of food waste per day.  You should always bury the food to prevent odors or problems with insects such as the fruit fly.  Bury the food in different sections of the bin each week under the cardboard and the worms will follow the food around the bin.  It's worm exercise!

Worms are strict vegetarians and, in general, like old produce and fruit.  But just like my cranky puppy, they have some treats that they like also.  For the most part, you'll want to follow this diet:

So see...it's really easy to let worms do the hard work for you.  What are you afraid of?  A little worm?

This blog post is linked to the following blog hops:

Hangin' at the Poultry Auction

Saturday, March 17, 2012

J. and I headed down to the Poultry\Livestock auction in history Gardner, KS this morning.  I was under strict orders to look but not buy (big meanie!)  So I snapped some pictures of some of the more interesting critters they had for sale. 

Anybody know what the heck this is?  They were in with the chicks and small birds.

I love peacocks!  Don't tell my chickens I said this, but I think peacocks are the most beautiful birds in the world.

There were all kinds of turkeys, bantam and stands chickens, guineas, pigeons, and ducks.  You couldn't hear yourself think with all the honking, crowing, and cheeping that was going on.

Can't remember what kind of ducks these are.  Anybody know?

Look at the beautiful plumage on this pheasant!
There were only a few goats, including 2 full-sized and a couple of teenie little Nigerian fainting goats.  I wanted to take them home but J. wouldn't let me.  The full-size goats were very friendly and stood up on their hind legs to say hello.  Here they are getting some fresh grass from one of the 4H kids.

Yum!  These two wanted a kiss.  Or maybe they wanted to eat my hair.  Or both.

And there were 3 pigs.  But they weren't little.

Is it bad that I thought of bacon when I saw this guy?

J. and I didn't get to the auction until about 2 hours after it was in full swing, so we missed the announcement that was made about not taking pictures during the auction.  Oops!  I didn't even know they had done that until I read about it on Mary Ann's blog later today.  There were no signs posted anywhere about photography and, trust me,  I looked.  I guess they didn't want animal activists taking pictures?  Can't think of any other reason other than the flash bothering the already upset wildlife.  But I wasn't using a flash.  Nobody said anything to me either.

I found it interesting that Mary Ann mentioned in her blog post the same thing that bothered me about this auction.  There were many cases where the cages were much too small and the animals couldn't even stand up or move around.  Some of the peacocks had their long tail feathers stuffed through the opening in a box so there was no way they could turn around.  Many didn't have water in their cages.  I can understand that the animal is for sale, but that doesn't mean that they shouldn't be treated humanely during the process, especially since all the noise and people hovering over them is already very stressful for an animal.  I doubt I will go back to this auction because of that.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the pictures of some of these beautiful animals.   After the auction, J. and I cruised the backroads in Kansas and took some pics of some really cool barns.  I'll be sharing those with you as part of the Barn Hop. And, tomorrow morning, I'll be setting up the worm hotel and will have a garden update for you, as J. and I spent all evening working in the garden.  And, man, am I tired....

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