Archive for ‘green living’

May 8, 2014

May already

Is it nearly May already? May 6th 7th 8th! I figure some day I may get this post up! It’s sad to say I started writing this the last part of April! About a week ago I was probably sitting by the wood stove keeping warm on a below average temp. day and yesterday I was sitting by our kitchen window drinking (eating?) a smoothie trying to keep cool!

One day has turned into another, as it usually often does. It’s been a whirlwind of activity around here!

Our (human) kids are almost out of school, it was one field trip or assembly or end of the year project(s) and goals to be met along with regular chores and kiddings and cold weather turning to warm.

We are done with kidding this year and all of our fresh does are milking well. We had 3 does kid in a single Saturday giving us 6 kids between them. Dawn had triples boys early one Saturday morning followed by Mags with a very good size flashy buck and doe out of Storm and Mischief ended the day with a single buck kid out of Andy.

Mischief and her buck kid and Morgan went on to their new homes the week before last. Several of the buck kids have found new homes and there are several individuals who are currently up for sale. The doe count wasn’t high this year but there are several that I would very much like to keep.

The count was:

Em: triplets (2 bucks & 1 doe)

Pejamy: twins (1 buck & 1 doe). Sadly Pejamy passed away one cold night. From what we are unsure, but given how quickly she went it’s probable it was pneumonia.

Flicker: twins (1 buck & 1 doe)

Ann: quads (3 does & 1 buck)

Apricot: twins (1 doe & 1 buck)

Dawn: triplets (3 bucks)

Mags: twins (1 buck & 1 doe)

Mischief: single (1 buck)

Melody: triplets (2 bucks & 1 doe)

Granite: single (1 doe)

March and April had us building a milk machine for a customer and dis-budding a lot of goat kids!

All but 2 of the piglets have gone on to their new homes. The smallest piglet developed a naval hernia and completely weaned herself from the sow when she was being offered a bottle twice a day, that turned into 3 times a day once she decided the bottle was better. I tried fixing the hernia several times with a few methods I read about online to no avail, she was just too small for it to work well. She was gaining weight but the amount of bottle feeding necessary was a lot of work. She habitated with the sows and her siblings fine but in the end, I felt she’d do better with more frequent feedings so she went to a home with lots of kids who could give her more attention than I could devote.

We’re keeping 2 piglets to raise up to butcher this fall. One’s for us, the other will be sold. Having piglets in February was a challenge and a learning experience but we got through okay. The hay usage for the goats was quite a lot more than usual and that tells me quite a bit about how “bad” the winter was. May 1 I had a fire in the wood stove to take the chill off Last year it snowed on May 2! However we’re in to thunderstorm season two Sunday’s ago it was sure nice to lay in bed an listen to the thunder roll through and the rain pour down.

The skeleton for the new milk barn was delivered and the metal roof went on the weekend before last (right after a storm and the sky offered the most beautiful backdrop!) . We were fortunate in that a neighbor (and master carpenter) generously helped us put up the trim pieces and what a hoot to watch him work knowing where to cut and bend the metal in all the places so it fit like a glove. It’s amazing how much faster the work goes when you’ve done it a time or two (or 500)! The work they got done in half a day surely would have taken Jeremiah and I at least 2!

 

Our bee hives are almost finished! Jeremiah and I built two beautiful top bar hives. Picking up the bees, however, has been put on hold. Apparently with the cold winter, separating the colonies has been delayed about 4 weeks which is just as well. I put a nice coat of linseed oil on the outside of the hives on Sunday to protect them from the weather.

Top Bar bee hive

 

We had a hard freeze come through about a week in to April which was about the same time last year as that ice storm we had that killed some of our newly planted fruit trees.  Those have since been replanted save for the apricot tree which we cannot find any locally! We put sheets around those that had blossoms this year and they seemed to fair very well. The pear and plum trees were loaded with fruit, I picked most of them so the tree puts nutrition into growth. We want big strong trees and not a lot of fruit the first couple of years.

I bought some heated seed mats in March to try out and suffice to say I wish I had gotten them sooner! What a difference in germination time they made! After using both cold frames to keep plants and the greenhouse we put up last year, I will say starting seeds in the cold frames had much better results. It may have been because the winter I used the cold frames were a lot less harsh than the past 2 (particularly this past winter), but it probably also had a lot to do with area. The cold frames did not loose the heat near as much as the greenhouse.

The greenhouse does a great job once the seeds have germinated. I started half of the seeds in the greenhouse this year and half in the house. Of those I started in the house, the 2nd half (mostly melons, squash, herbs and a few tomatoes and peppers) were started on the heat mats and compared to everything else seemed like light years faster. From now on I’ll start everything on the mats and move them out to the greenhouse at a few days old.

Unfortunately, our kitchen window is north facing and if not moved out fairly soon after germinating, even when rotated on the shelf, they can get “leggy” but once they germinated I’d move them into the greenhouse within a day or so. As long as the nights didn’t fall well below freezing, the greenhouse does very well for us. On the vry cold nights, I cover everything with additional plastic and sheeting right over the top of the plants. Additionally, it’s really nice to be in the the greenhouse when it’s chilly (and windy) outside. I found myself at times stopping off on the way to the barn to step inside and warm up! Planting seeds in there early spring is really nice.

Not knowing what the germination would be on some of my seeds, I over planted putting 2-3 seeds per pot. You’re supposed to pick/pull the smaller of the plants and allow the more growthy one to continue to grow in single pots but I can’t bear to sacrifice plants like that so the tomatoes and the tomatillos I  separated and transplanted. I completely forgot to even start tomatillos last year. This year I planted 40 seeds hoping to get a few (the seeds were 3 years old and last year I wasn’t all that careful about how I kept my seeds), 36 germinated! There’s a lot of tomatillos!!! I always go overboard with the tomatoes too. My Mom send me home at Christmas with 3 heirloom varieties to try I planted those along with several of my favorites including Kellogg’s Breakfast (a HUGE meaty yellow tomato).  The jalapeno seeds must have been no good because not a single one germinated so I started some from new but I don’t think they’ll be big enough to plant for a while. Everything else looks great though and I am really excited about the lemon grass that I started from seed. I’ve never grown lemon grass.

It’s almost time to put the majority of the plants in the ground. “Back Home” in Northern Cal. we aimed to have everything in by Mother’s Day. I aim for the same here see as how the last frost date is 2 weeks in to May. Nevertheless, the spring onions are ready for picking anyway and that has made me feel less like I am “behind”. Just this morning I got the entire garden tilled. After a few scoops of some compost that’s been “cooking” for a year and another till, we’ll be all set to plant Saturday.

We’ve decided to put drip irrigation in the garden. We’ll plant the entire garden and then install the hoses and drippers/sprayers so we’ll know where to place them. We really ought to do something like that for the fruit trees too. I water every Saturday as it is. I think the drip irrigation would save a lot of water. We get some pretty high winds here and I don’t always have the time to water everything by hand when the wind takes the sprinkler water and waters everything BUT the garden. It should be such a time saver!

The “meat chicks” arrived a week ago Thursday! They’ll be out on pasture in about 2 more week!

Well, I am sure I could go on and on about the goings on around here but I’ll end for now. Happy May!!!

 

 

 

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January 22, 2014

Seed starting/gardening

A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust. –Gertrude Jekyll

It’s almost that time again, spring is around the corner and I’ve got the fever! The greenhouse is back up and running again after a few modifications and my seed wishlist is complete. I’ve gone through all the seeds I’ve saved and was given and those I had left over and I am primed and ready!

I wanted to share the sites I use to determine when things are started from seeds and when I put my plants in the ground, where I order seeds from and a few different styles of gardening I like (or would like to try).

Dates for planting will vary, of course, depending on location. Some seeds can be direct sowed -meaning the seed is put right into the ground- (melons, corn, beans, carrots…), while others need a month or more to germinate and grow at warmer temps and thus need to be started indoors or inside of a greenhouse (peppers, tomatoes, some flowers…).

It’s important to know what zone you are in. Knowing this will help determine what dates are better for starting seeds and/or putting certain plants outdoors. Back home in Northern Cal. (zone 8A), we did not put the majority of the summer plants out until around May 1. As a general rule, the week/weekend before Mother’s Day was our target date to have most of the summer plants in (earlier for spring crops of course). Here in Central Kansas (zone 5B), I aim to start planting the 2nd week in May so I can be sure the chances for frost to kill my plants is slim. Putting some plants out too early may cause frost to harm them and that can lead to wasted money and time as plants may need to be re-purchased and re-planted. Starting them too early indoors can mean needing to transplant in larger pots or risk having the plant get “leggy” or root bound.

I haven’t come across a general “all inclusive” website that I like to use that encompasses all of the gardening advice or spreadsheets I use. I pick and choose information from a lot of different sources, including books! Some of my sources have overlapping info and it may be a bit redundant but I am including them anyway as it may be helpful to others.

I will also list several links at the bottom of this post to different styles of gardening I like, will be trying, have tried or would like to try. There are so many gardening styles it’s mind boggling and by no means is what I have listed all inclusive!

Find your zone here: http://www.garden.org/zipzone/

Look up your frost dates here: http://davesgarden.com/guides/freeze-frost-dates/

If you know your zone you can use this handy chart: http://www.food-skills-for-self-sufficiency.com/images/Frost-date-chart.jpg

I love Sprout Robot for a weekly schedule of planting/seed starting both indoors and out: http://sproutrobot.com/

By entering your zip code and “x’ing” out of the pop up window, it will give you a weekly run down of what to do. For further details (instructions, etc.), you must pay to join but I like this handy dandy free tool to keep me on track.

I also love this one! Once you know your last frost date, enter it into the box and it will tell you when to start your seeds and set out your plants! http://www.johnnyseeds.com/e-pdgseedstart.aspx

I use this plant/harvest print-out as a tool throughout the year: http://gardnercommunitygarden.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Kansas-Garden-Calendar.jpg

This guide below is in my “Kansas Garden Guide” book that I picked up at our county extension office but I found this same one through a Google image search. I have seen them for many different states. If you Google image search “(your state) garden guide” you may find one for your state. They don’t usually vary too much. I have listed a couple on a quick search. Try calling your county extension/research/ag dept., they are usually a wealth of information!

Texas: http://www.newgardenidea.me/2013/05/vegetable-garden-planting-guide.html

Mo: http://www.igrowsonoma.org/images/year-round-chart.jpg

Wy: http://myflowerland.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/vege-guide.jpg

Here is a handy general planting guide: http://parkseedjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Parks-Veg.-Plant-Guide3.jpg

It doesn’t take a lot to grow your own food. Even a container or two with a few pots of tomatoes on an apartment balcony can be rewarding. I love to see community gardens popping up!

Lasagne Gardening:

Potatoes grown in bags and containers:

Straw bale gardening:

General “all-purpose” gardening sites:

Amending your soil:

Hardening your plants:

Pinching (pruning tomatoes):

Pest control:

Gardening Forums:

Germination temperature:

A few of my favorite online seed stores (usually they will send you a seed catalog for free even if you don’t order). I like to try to stick with organic non-GMO seeds.

Books I love:

  • Vegetable Gardener’s Bible
  • Sunset’s Western Garden Book

Happy planting!

January 13, 2014

Weekend = Greenhouse

Ahhh, always such great expectations as to what we can accomplish in one weekend. I will say that with really getting into a good cardio routine, I am feeling SO much better! I’m not waking up feeling like my back is about to break, no pain in my hips (probably because my legs feel like they’re going to fall off from the post-workout burn HA HA!) and around about the 3 o’clock hour when normally I would really want to take a nap I am feeling just as perky as the 10 o’clock hour. That coupled with our dietary changes, a week’s time has really made a difference! Thank heavens! Not to mention I am daily getting a good look at the fencing along the property line as I quickly make my way around. I always said I need to check it more. What was fun was seeing it with snow on the ground. There were so many different prints including a bobcat and from the looks of it, he/she was hot on the trail of a bunny.

That said, part of our weekend was taken up with a trip to town to the hardware store to gather a few things to fix up the greenhouse. We had also hoped to get wood splitting in there and while the weather was absolutely gorgeous, the prior evening’s rainfall coupled with the existing snow made for a bit of a small lake which made access to the green house a pain! The wood splitter and pile was still covered by snow too so Saturday was kind of a wash. I opted to clean the house instead. It was a good trade, I guess. Jeremiah visited the neighbor to weld a tow bar, I think. Although I think a lot of his time over there was spent chit chatting…and they say women yack a lot! Shew.

Sunday we made up for Saturday’s lack of outside work and we got to work ripping the 2×4’s to make the new greenhouse door, and what a mighty nice door it is. We unintentionally framed for a window when we originally built it but covered it up with plastic last year and did not opt for a window. I thought I might like to have a window this year so we can get a bit more air flow in there on the very warm days so we built one of those too.

The window isn’t completed yet. We ran out of screws to attach the strips (top and bottom).

The biggest issue with the greenhouse was the plastic being torn off the frame. We stapled it last year but the wind proved to be too much. Friends of ours mentioned putting up a high tunnel. I looked at the plans for it and took a queue on how their plastic was attached. (Here is the link if you’d like to check out the link on how to build an inexpensive high tunnel: http://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Project-Products/Western-SARE-Project-Products/Constructing-a-Low-Cost-High-Tunnel. There is a PDF file that goes a long with it with a materials list and what not). I love this idea, I’ve seen a lot like them and we often think about putting something like this up for year round gardening. For the moment however, our little greenhouse is more than sufficient.

At any rate, they cut their plastic larger than the opening and rolled thin strips of lumber up in them and attached with screws. I think we had thought about doing that last year and we did along the bottom frame but ended up not on the upper portion. I’m convinced the strips are the answer.

We also cut a diagonal to go from the door frame to the top of the shelf just as a additional location to attach the plastic (not installed yet). It’s not needed for structural support. Hopefully this fix will last us a few years.

We never did get to the wood pile and the greenhouse isn’t completely put back together but hopefully after just a couple more hours and I’ll be ready to start seeds. Lots of other little tasks were completed though and I am grateful for that. The weekends pass by so quick and particularly this time of year, the weather can make or break it.

This spring-like weather has me feelin’ the spring fever. I think it does for a lot of people but there’s still a lot of winter yet left. Seeds still need to be planted soon though and it’s nice to think about spring being on its way anyway!

Have a great Monday!

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January 7, 2014

Honey Bees

We’re beginning our bee keeping adventure. The hives are being started in February (made locally) and we are researching in depth all about bee keeping and ordering!

We’re very excited!

I’ll be keeping  running tally of some of the websites I have found that have been helpful in our research and I’ll update as I sift through information out there. Bee keeping is so fascinating to us. I feel like a kid in a candy store with each new website I visit. There’s so much to be decided on, so much to learn, so much to think about, so much to pick brains about =).

This is by no means an all inclusive list, just a few sites that I have bookmarked.

An all inclusive site: http://beekeeping.glorybee.com/content/beekeeping-101

http://www.backyardbeekeepers.com/facts.html

General info & some Kansas swarm removers: http://www.bees-on-the-net.com/kansas-beekeepers.html

Nuc colonies vs. Packages: http://www.honeybees4sale.com/NucsvsPackages.aspx

K-State’s list of swarm catchers: http://entomology.k-state.edu/extension/current-topics/honey-bee-swarms.html

Supplies: http://www.heartlandhoney.com/

Parts of the Langstroth  hive: http://www.almanac.com/sites/new.almanac.com/files/images/langstrothHiveIllus.gif

Trapping swarms with Saul Creek Apiary: http://saulcreekapiary.com/swarm%20trap%20use.htm

I was thinking on what one of the guest speakers at the Mother Earth News Fair in Lawrence said back in Oct. While some may think that the “country” would be a great place to raise bees, often times it may not be. Lack of flowering plants & trees (with flowering trees in particular making up a HUGE portion of a honey bees diet if given the opportunity) make them especially great for cities and towns, however.

That said, I got to thinking about what we may have here within a 1-1.5 mile radius (what was said to be a bee’s territory). Alfalfa fields? Probably. Natural pastures with flowering plants? Yep. Gardens? A few, particularly our own (though I doubt it’s big enough to support a colony over a period of time). Fruit trees? More than likely (our own included). Trees? I got to thinking…our overabundance of black locust trees bloom heavily in May-June (when we don’t get a late April ice storm like in 2013, that is!). That got me looking for black locust trees (which are quite different than honey locust) and I feel like I hit the jackpot! While not always a very strong producer every single year, much like fruit trees continually have an ebb and flow harvest, it seems black locust make some outstanding sought after honey! Cha ching, Lordy knows the amount of black locust trees around here could keep us in firewood for decades without needing to reproduce. But reproduce they do, well…and quickly!

Not only are they great for honey production apparently, but because they are a legume (like beans and alfalfa and clover) they affix nitrogen in the soil. They also reproduce easily by sending out shoots (like Bermuda grass) and sometimes in some very unwanted places (like my garden or the middle of the back yard)! That said, we haven’t found they do extremely well in the weather, they can break easily, probably due to the fact they grow very fast but they do make great hard & hot burning firewood and we’re happy to have the quick renewable resource at our disposal. Let’s hope they help make some healthy bees too!

One of these days soon (a nice sunny day!) we’ll take a drive as the crow flies 1-1.5 miles out as best we can and put our honey bee caps on and try to see the world through their eyes.

Now it’s time to get back to the world wide web and research hives and hive plans a bit more before sending over thoughts and blueprints over to our hive maker(s) so we can be ready come April-June for bees!

 

September 6, 2013

Green bag lunch

Not your Momma’s brown bag lunch!

Fun re-usable green bagged lunch bags in an array of prints!

Coming soon to OUR STORE!

Lunch bags

lunch bags1

Fully lined!

lunch bags 3

Folds flat! Space saving!

lunch bags 2

Quality construction with double stitched seams.

September 5, 2013

Egg tote!

EB 1

Scraps scraps scraps…

With my cloth diaper making, I end up with a lot of scraps! I generally try to use even the smaller scraps to add accents! I used to make quilts pretty often when Jer and I were first married and when the kids were little. I started a bed sized quilt for Rachel 2 Christmas’ ago. I finished Drew’s twin sized quilt last fall…

Drew's quilt 014

recently Rachel uncovered her half-quilted quilt underneath many of the other fabrics I use for cloth diapers. With fall and <shiver> winter around the corner, I figured it was about time to finally finish the quilting on it so it’ll be ready for use during -what the Farmer’s Almanac is predicting to be- a “piercingly cold” winter. These quilts and projects always bring to mind all the scraps…

I always save my scraps. Sometimes we use them as kindling (cotton, hemp & bamboo make AWESOME kindling/fire starters!), and sometimes I just wait for the perfect project! This egg tote is one such project!

EB3

We have a metal collapsible egg collecting basket, quite the fancy and space saving contraption. It’s wonderful…except at egg collecting time each evening the children get a little over-zealous sometimes and set the basket down a little too hard before running off to play. I was getting a little tired of broken or cracked eggs. I’ve been wanting to make a coiled basked for a while and after one cracked egg too many, there was no better time!

I’ve seen others that are shallower and the handles were just itty bitty things, more of a display basket really.  I wanted something deeper that would hold 18+ eggs (or a decent amount of stuff), with long enough handles that met in the middle.

EB4

It’s washable & padded & super sturdy too, everything you’d want in an egg basket, or a purse (I’m thinkin’ a button closure is in order!), or key basket or a display basket!! A little rustic, a little shabby-chic, a little scrappy, a little country, a little homespun with a lotta love put in!

Love this tote! Farm-fresh eggs, Easter eggs, hard boiled eggs or golden eggs -leave out the rotten eggs and goose eggs please =)! This is one basket you CAN “put all your eggs in”! Look for a them in OUR STORE soon!

EB5