Tuesday, January 31, 2012
This was originally shared by Rhonda over at Down to Earth, but I found it via the Barnyard Blog Hop over at Hoping For a Homestead.
Monday, January 30, 2012
Onions are one of the easiest plants to grow in your garden.
They're generally hardy to temperatures as low as 20 degrees F and they're not super picky about the soil. And onions that are properly harvested and stored can last as long as 6 months.
But timing is everything. There are some folks who claim that onions should be planted in the fall before cool weather. There's certainly nothing wrong with doing that, but it won't give you the biggest onion bulbs. To get the biggest onions, all you need to do is plant in early spring and add compost. That's it!
You can grow onions from seed, but it can be tricky to get them started or transplant them and the seeds may require a longer growing season than you have in your area, which is why most folks (including moi) plant onion sets. Onion sets are just tiny bulbs and they're usually available from seed or garden stores, but just note that sets will be more expensive than starting from seed. Once you have your sets, you're ready to plant. Here are some things to make your onion growing project a success:
- The best time to plant onion sets is early Spring about 4 to 6 weeks BEFORE the last freeze. In Missouri, that's right now! Don't worry....if it frosts, it won't hurt the bulbs.
- Pick a planting location that has at least 6 hours of sunlight a day. Onions will grow in shadier areas, but the size of the bulbs depends on the level of direct sunlight. More sun = bigger onions.
- Raised beds are perfect for growing onions because they love the better drainage and less soil compaction. You can plant onions in the same location every year, but just be aware that you run the risk of disease affecting the plants. It's a good idea to rotate every once in awhile.
- Onions love nitrogen-rich soil and will do well with regular fertilizer applications. Prep the beds by adding well-rotted manure or compost and then tilling the soil to a depth of 8 inches. Then rake the soil smooth.
- Make a small hole about an inch deep in the soil with your finger and insert the bulb. Make sure the stem is pointing up (you can see which end is the stem in the picture above.) Cover the top of the set and then push down firmly with your hands. Onions should be planted 4 inches apart in rows that are 1 foot apart.
- Water thoroughly and keep the soil evenly moist to encourage new growth. Unless you live in a really dry climate (like Missouri this winter), you shouldn't need to water much in the Spring. Onions actually prefer a slightly dry environment, so don't water too much. It could cause them to rot.
- Keep the area weeded so they sets aren't competing with weeds for nutrients. It doesn't hurt to mulch around them to help suppress the weeds.
- Apply a water-soluble 5-10-5 or 10-10-10 fertilizer once a month. I'm planning on using coffee grounds on mine, as they're high in nitrogen. And some fellow gardeners shared that the grounds will repel onion maggots as well. They actually put a little bit of grounds in the bottom of the hole before they plan the onion set. I didn't do that myself, but I may try it next year to see if it makes any difference.
- You can interplant onions with other veggies, such as lettuce, tomatoes or even strawberries. Since I had some extra space until the strawberry plants fill in, I planted mine on one end of the strawberry bed.
- Now you wait. The onion tops will start to turn yellow and fall over in mid-summer and then the onion plants will be ready for harvest.
I plantied my sets today as the sun was setting and the chickens were heading in for bed. It's the end of January and the thermometer should be reading 25 degrees, but it says I was out in shorts and a t-shirt. The days are already getting longer. Feels like Spring!
Saturday, January 28, 2012
But I decided to take advantage of the situation and do what I've been wanting to do for a long time but could never find the time to do so - give Cranky Puppy a new bloggie look.
I really like the old one since it had a rooster on it, but these colors suit me better. I also like the picture portfolio at the bottom, which will allow me to showcase some cool stuff that's been happening lately on the "farm".
What do you think about the new look? I hope you like it as much as I do! And if there's anything you'd like to see added, or topics you'd like to me to talk about, leave me a comment. I love to hear from you!
Friday, January 27, 2012
But one of the other questions I've been getting is "Oh! Do you sell your eggs?" In fact, I've had an overwhelming number of people ask if I would sell them some. Today, the girls made their first sale to Karen, a friend at work, for $2.00 a dozen. She asked me if I was sure I wanted to sell at that price and I said yes. Maybe I need to rethink that. :-) I'm not going to get rich at chicken farming, I know. But, truth be told, I'd be happy if I could sell enough to pay for their feed every month.
Here's the dog's reaction to my asking when I could expect them to start earning their keep:
I think that's called the "I are cute" defense.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
If there's one good thing that has come out of being stuck on the sofa with this bad back, it's that I've been surfing away on various gardening and homesteading blogs. One of the things that I've been thinking about alot is the stuff that we throw away every day. In particular, the food scraps and other things that can be going into our new composters.
One interesting post that I ran across is over on Craving Fresh and covers how to use coffee grounds in the garden to improve your soil. I'm not a coffee drinker, but J. is and every morning he throws out his grounds and a paper filter. Apparently, coffee grounds make a great fertilizer because they're really rich in nitrogen! So, instead of buying commercial fertilizer, I've got a ready supply already. Just add 2 cups of grounds to a 5-gallon bucket of water, let it steep for a few hours and then pour it onto the plants. And here are a couple more uses for coffee grounds that I found on the Interwebs:
- They supposedly deter slugs and snails but I haven't had a problem with those yet. I guess slugs don't like caffeine.
- Grounds are naturally acidic, so they will help balance the pH of your soil if it's on the alkaline side.
- They're lightweight, porous, and high in organic matter, so they are a great amendment to potting soil.
- You can use them like mulch around plants that love acidity (blueberries, roses or azaleas, anyone?) Just don't pile them more than an inch deep or you may end up with mold.
- Worm farms love coffee grounds.
- Starbucks introduced a grounds recycling program in 2001. You can read more about it here.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Anyway, hopefully, I will be up and running around like my usual rambunctious self by Saturday. I have to....I've got projects to work on this weekend! (And I'm sure J. is getting tired of taking care of the critters by himself.)
Monday, January 23, 2012
Boredom? Accident? Dietary issue? Could be lots of reasons. But let's take a look at how you can keep your chickens from eating their own eggs:
- Collect eggs promptly. The faster your collect eggs from the nesting boxes, the less chance they will get accidentally broken or pecked. My 9 hens all want to lay in the same nesting box, despite the fact that there are 4 nesting boxes in the coop. I've actually seen 2 hens stacked one on top of the other in there fighting over the box.
- Watch their diet. One of the reasons chickens might start eating their eggs is to make up for a lack of protein in their diet. Make sure that you are feeding your chickens a complete feed that contains all necessary vitamins and minerals, and not giving them too many starchy treats. I don't think this is my issue because I don't see any other pecking and I'm feeding them a balanced diet of Layena and table scraps.
- Pad the nest. Use plenty of soft bedding in the nesting boxes so the eggs don't rattle around once they're laid. In the interest of recycling as much as possible, I've been using shredded bills and junk mail. It works great and it's free!
- Provide some entertainment. When chickens are shut in together (as usually happens in the winter months), they get bored. Providing a treat ball, Flock Block, or something to entertain them can keep them from pecking at eggs and each other.
- Stop bad behavior quickly. If your chickens have started eating their eggs, replace the eggs with something inedible like a golf ball or a wooden egg. Hopefully, they will realize they can't eat the fake egg and will stop eating their own. I have one wooden egg that I leave in the nest at all times.
- Use negative reinforcement. Some folks have had good results by empting out the contents of an egg through a small hole and then replacing the inside with something spicy like hot mustard, jalapeno relish or habanero sauce. The hope is that your chickens should learn to associate this experience with their own eggs and stop pecking them.
- Alter your nesting box. Angle your nesting box so that fresh eggs roll down a ramp to a safe distance.
Do you have any other suggestions for how to keep your chickens from eating their own eggs? I'd love to hear them!
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Earlier in the day, we snagged a roast at Hyvee for just $5.00 and popped it into the slow cooker with some potatoes. Yum! We got interrupted when J.'s brother stopped by to help us move our old mattress out to the curb so the city can pick it up. Looking at the tag, it's only 5 years old but J. says it makes his back hurt. Just as we wrestled the thing down the two flights of stairs and out on the curb and were standing there talking, it started to rain. So we retired to the parlor where J. and I worked on getting some nasty viruses off of his niece's laptop, and then we all enjoyed some tasty roast. Outside, we could hear a *tap tap* on the windows and quickly realized that it was hailing! It hit 56 degrees today, which is crazy for late January, so I guess it's not surprising that a surprise thunderstorm blew up. The bad news? The wind was so high that it blew that heavy mattress halfway down the block!
Speaking of the new mattress....J. wanted a Tempur-Pedic. But who can afford thousands for a mattress? After doing some searching, we found the Sleep Innovations mattress that Amazon sells for just $399 and has great reviews. Using coupons and rewards points, we got it for "free" (no money out of pocket) and free shipping. The poor UPS guy had to drag that 80 pound behemoth up the stairs to our front door. So far, J. says it definitely feels better on his back.
Friday, January 20, 2012
But, in honor of such a momentous occasion, let's look at a recipe that is oh so yummy, easy and cheesy to boot. I give you Cheese Hand Pies!
Cheese Hand Pies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
6 tbs butter cut into blocks
1/2 tsp salt
1 small egg, lightly beaten
3 1/2 tbs milk
2 tsp white vinegar
Filling Ingredients (**you can fill these with anything, like apples and butter!)
3/4 cup cottage cheese (drained)
1/2 cup smooth ricotta cheese
2 tsp finely grated Romano cheese
pinch salt & pepper
2 small eggs
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp milk
- To make the pastry, combine flour, butter and salt.
- Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until it is crumbly.
- Add the eggs, milk, and then vinegar. Mix well until the dough forms a loose ball. Flatten it slightly.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- To make the pastry filling, mash the cheeses together.
- Mix in salt, pepper, paprika, and 1 egg.
- In a separate bowl, whip the remaining egg and 1 tsp of milk together to make a glaze.
- Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8" thick.
- Cut 4 inch rounds with a cookie cutter or a glass, cutting them as closely together as you can. Re-roll the scraps if you needed.
- Brush around the edges of the pastry circles with the glaze.
- Place about 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp of filling in the middle of each round, spreading it out lightly into an oval.
- Flip one half of the pastry over the filling to create a half circle.
- Press the edges together to seal them and then fold them up and over to make a lip. This will keep the cheese filling from leakingout. You may need to stretch the ends slightly to make them match up.
- Place the pies on the baking sheet and brush the tops with glaze.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until they are nicely browned on top and bottom. Let them cool slightly before eating, as they will be piping hot on the inside.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
|Photo by Pam Marshall via FeatherSite.com|
As a society, I'm amazed by who so very far removed we are from where our food comes from. My move to raise chickens, start visiting local farmers markets, and growing food in our own garden just felt right. And that feeling of being on the right track is underscored as I learn more and more about the food industry.
Let's talk tonight about those chickens that we buy in the store. Believe me, I've bought and eaten plenty of them and, all the while, I thought I was eating healthy. In fact, I'm not alone because the average American eats 91 pounds of chicken per year. That's a 300% increase in chicken consumption and it is being placed squarely on McDonald's doorstep for their introduction of Chicken McNuggets on their menu. Have you had a McNugget lately? It tastes like cardboard.
Does that chicken in the picture look healthy to you? It's Cornish Cross, which is one of the breeds that the commercial poultry industry loves. They are specifically bred to maximize profits and satisfy our enormous appetite for chicken. They're genetically altered to eat constantly and to grow an enormous amount of white breast meat. To illustrate the point, consider this: a normal chicken takes about 12 to 16 weeks to reach full maturity and will weight about 7 to 8 pounds. The Cornish will weigh 5 pounds at only 5 weeks! They grow so quickly that their legs literally cannot carry their weight any longer where, propped up by antibiotics and growth hormones, they end up sitting by the food bowl eating until they die. If they're not slaughtered for consumers, they die of a heart attack. They never live long enough to lay an egg and usually live out their short lives in a commercial chicken farm with thousands just like them. At least one-third of them have respiratory or digestive failures by the time they are killed. And then they end up on your dinner plate.
|Courtesy of Food Inc. If you haven't yet watched this movie,|
you need to. It's an eye opener.
Knowing this information makes me sick. How is this a sane and humane industry? Efficient, yes - sane, no. My little chicks are lucky in that they will live out their lives as pampered pets eating grass and enjoying the sunshine. They'll never be mistreated as these birds are.
Buy local. Eat local. We can make a change through the choices we make. We can do better.
Monday, January 16, 2012
Sunday, January 15, 2012
But it's one of those things that needs to be done and is a long time coming. We took advantage of a Groupon several months ago for "College Hunks Hauling Junk" and two really nice young men (neither were college students, but one was the local franchise owner) came and helped us move all the trash and broken stuff left over from our 10+ year renovation of this old house.
It really was amazing how much stuff we had down there. The biggest pile was old wood trim and house parts - some of it over 12 feet long! We've found that it's impossible to find trim to match what's 112 years old, so it would be a sin to get rid of any of it. It must stay with the house. So J. and I's first order of business was to build a place tucked under the stairs to store all of it.
Next up on the list was to put together 6 large heavy duty shelving kits from Lowe's. My stockpile is spilling over from my pantry upstairs, so we setup space to store long-term food items, J.'s 500 gallons of grapefruit and cranberry juice that I got for free from couponing (there may be a little exaggeration there), and other household items. That area will be complete once J. has wired in an outlet so that we can move the chest freezer over to that location as well. It will be really nice to have it closer to the stairs rather than all the way across the basement.
Once that was done, we had cleared the middle of the basement and the next project was one that I had been dreaming about for a long time. I'm in love with stained glass and learned how to do it several years ago but I don't really have a dedicated space for a glass project or my tools. Ideally, you really need a large flat working surface and a place to cut glass. Obviously, the dining room isn't a good choice, as you wouldn't want to find little glass chips in your food.
A little over a year ago, I was in Lowe's to pick up something for our reno and they had 4 white kitchen cabinets on closeout for just $20 a piece. I guess they had just put them out and marked them down, because I barely snagged them before 3 other people. My vision was to put 2 of them side-by-side and then backed up to the other 2 to create a square, then put a thick plywood top on as a work surface. The more I thought about it lately, though, it would be nice to be able to move that thing around if we have to do wiring or plumbing work on the house and it will be heavy once it's all put together. So J. and I built a platform for the cabinets to sit on and bolted 6" casters to the bottom. Two of the casters have brakes so I can stop the cabinet from moving. And an added bonus is that the casters and platform raise the working surface about 9", which makes it much easier on someone like me who is 6 feet tall. I wish, in fact, that we had raised our kitchen cabinets when we did our last renovation because I sometimes get a backache from bending over when I'm cooking.
No pics for you today (sorry!) because I was too lazy to go up 2 flights of stairs and grab the camera. We're still putting the cabinets together and will hopefully have that done later this week. And I promise to have some pics for you then. But for now....J. and I are off to let the chickies out to enjoy the nice weather too.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
The one class that really caught my eye is the "Discover Nature Families: Maple Sugaring" class on Saturday, February 25th at the Burr Oak Woods Nature Center in Blue Springs. I've always wanted to know how to do that, so it should be a fun 2 hours of hands-on. And it's free! How awesome that the Department puts on these educational programs.
Are you thinking about any classes or learning new skills this year? I'd love to hear about it.
Friday, January 13, 2012
But Old Man Winter let us know he's still lurking last night. J., my friend Paula, her daughter Amanda, and I went to see "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and, while it was cool and blustery when we went in, imagine our surprise when we stepped out of the theater to snow flying! The ground was covered and actually a little bit icy. We saw several wrecks on the way home, but the trusty Jeep got us home safe and sound.
Is it winter? Yep. But it's having trouble finding its footing this year. It's supposed to be back up to 57 degrees this weekend. *sigh* If you live in Missouri, it's a given that you've heard "It's Missouri. If you don't like the weather, just wait 5 minutes." Ain't that the truth...
Off to work now...
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
|Beautiful barn owl|
|A somewhat blurry picture of a Great Horned Owl. When you're standing in front of this bird and he's looking at you, it feels like they are staring right through you. Those eyes are huge and a vivid orange!|
Monday, January 09, 2012
|Snowy owl hanging out and catching a snooze at Smithville Lake|
This crank puppy is in love with birds - not just chickens - but bird of all kinds Especially of the raptor variety. Here in Kansas City, we currently have the opportunity of a lifetime to view the rare snowy owl, a raptor that normally lives in northern Canada near the Arctic circle and normally winters in Canada. So it is very rare for them to be located this far south and the bad news is that they are here because of hardship. Apparently, there's been a huge boost in the owl population and a severe dip in their main food source - the lemming population. (Clicky for those of you who don't know what a lemming is - I certainly didn't.) The average snowy owl can eat up to 1600 lemmings per year. They're the largest owl in North America, coming in at almost 2 feet in height and with a wingspan of over 5 feet.
There are currently 5 snowy owls that have been spotted on Smithville Lake, just north of Kansas City. This one posed for us all morning long as part of "Eagle Days", a joint education project sponsored by the US Army Core of Engineers, the Missouri Department of Conservation and the US Parks Service. It's an annual event where residents can come by and learn about the bald eagle, which nests in our area regularly, and actually see them in the wild. They have spots setup around the Lake with spotting scopes. Unfortunately, we were able to see a bald eagle sitting in a tree in the middle of the lake from about a mile away with their scopes, but it was far out of reach of my best camera lens. (Must correct that situation!)
Having held the snowy owl above in my camera lens, I can say that they are breathtakingly beautiful birds. But viewing them comes with a note of sadness. According to a local news story, many of these owls will not make the return trip home. Operation Wildlife rescued one last week after it was hit by a car and broke its wing. Unfortunately, the owl didn't survive. Another was struck by a train in Kansas City, Kansas. Since they're from the tundra, they're a little naive about cars and power lines.
I've got some other pics from Eagle Days that I'll be sharing with you in my next post.
Saturday, January 07, 2012
The farm is full of heavy hearts this morning as we say goodbye to her - a sweet, loving, beautiful Australian Shepherd. She was what every dog strives to be - a good dog, a loving friend. There will be no one to herd us or our trio of Pomeranians now.
Goodbye, sweet pup.
Wednesday, January 04, 2012
Related to that, I just read in the local rag that we have some rare snowy owls visiting our area right now. It would be a treat to catch a glimpse of one of these, but sad to hear they are here as they probably won't survive to make the return trip to their natural habitat ot the Artctic.
So, until I can get some good pictures of my feathered neighbors, we'll have to make do with this video. Can you believe this little burrowing owl likes to be petted liked that? Too adorable for words.
Tuesday, January 03, 2012
They're also offering $20 off product orders of $40 or more on their website (limit 1 offer per customer).
I'm thinking about getting the following:
#Organic yukon gold potatoes, $14.95
#67909 Organic Cal Wonder Pepper, $3.10
#3203 Organic Sugar Baby Watermelons, $3.45
#3199 Organic Roma Tomatoes, $3.45
#3197 Beefsteak tomatoes, $3.45
Total out-of-pocket after coupon: $3.40 (+ $9.95 shipping).
Leave a comment and let me know what you get for your $25!
Monday, January 02, 2012
- Finish the renovations on our rental house and get it sold. Before we do that, I'd like to get our two remaining full-size apple trees transplanted over there so they can provide pollination for our trees. Hopefully, the new owner won't cut them down. This goal is very important to our plan of getting completely our debt.
- Finish the renovations on our travel trailer and get it moved up to the real farm.
- Finalize our water management plans for the mini-farm so that we're not using city water for the garden or chickens
- Diversity the plants in the garden to include more varieties of heirloom tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, carrots, garlic and potatoes. That list may get bigger as I go through all the seed catalogs that are now showing up, but it's a good start. And I'm going to try to start everything from seed.
That's a pretty big list and it will take us all year to get this stuff done. Whew! But I'm excited to get started on that organization item today. I'll be posting pictures of our progress for you shortly.