Sunday, April 29, 2012

Time To Feed The Dogs, Cats, Chickens, Pigs, and Rabbits

Rabbits?  Yes.  Rabbits!  We've become the proud owner of four Angora Bunnies - a mother and her three babies.  

Right now, because the weather is so chilly and they've been inside rabbits with their previous owners, they're residing in my spare bedroom. 

Today though, because it was so warm and nice for them, they got to spend some time in the half finished outside hutch in which they'll live.  We put the sheet over to give them a bit of shade.  They had so much fun.  The little babies were running around and flipping their legs up in the air and they all loved nibbling on the fresh grass.  I kept their grass intake to a minimum because I don't need these fuzzy critters getting diarrhea!    

Don't they remind you of Tribbles?
 (I'm referring to an oooold Star Trek show, "The Trouble With Tribbles)

Mama Bunny With An Attitude!

Charlie Brown

One of the twins

The twins 
The other twin.

Don't forget to hop on over to Homestead Revival's Blog Hop!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Why Do You Buy From A Small Business?

My Dad sent me this this morning.  I think it says it all.

Homemade Seed Tape

This is a blog from last year and I wanted to show it again for this year's gardens.  I made this homemade seed tape last year.  It worked really well.  The seeds sprouted beautifully ... and then the fabric end of the high tunnel blew back and forth and eradicated the tender shoots.  I've made more seed tape for this year and plan to plant them outside.  I think/hope I'll be successful!

When shopping for this year's garden seeds, you've probably seen seed tapes for such things as carrots and spinach.  The tiny seeds are spaced evenly on a biodegradable tape and you just lay it out in the garden.  

Seed tapes look like they would save a lot of back-breaking work and a lot of bending over to fiddle with teeny-tiny seeds in the garden.  It always seems like when I'm sowing my seeds I end up planting twice as much as I need and then I have to thin out a lot of my baby plants.  But, because the seeds on the tapes are evenly spaced, you save on the amount of seed you use when planting.  Then later, you can cut down on how much time you must spend thinning out your plants.  Seed tapes can save time and money!  

One problem with seed tapes though, is that there are only a few varieties offered, and if you want to plant organic or heirloom seeds you're pretty much out of luck.  

I've been reading about homemade seed tapes in the various blogs I follow and I thought I would give it a try.  I've read about different variations such as using paper napkins as a base, or using Elmer's glue to stick the seeds onto the tape.  But after some research, what looked best to me was using a very biodegradable toilet paper because I could lay out the long strips that I needed and then I used a simple flour and water paste to stick on the seeds.  

So I gathered my supplies: toilet paper, my flour and water "glue," a ruler, a Burpee seed dispenser (very helpful!), a pen to write what I was planting, some toothpicks, my seeds, and went to work.  

First, I laid out the toilet paper and then measured the distances apart for my seeds.  I planted Burpee's Organic Onion Evergreen Long White Bunching down one side and Burpee's Organic Lettuce Buttercrunch down the other side.  I hope to lay the tapes out and run the drip tape down the center.  I planted the seeds at a distance where I would thin every other plant - if they all germinate.  

Using a toothpick, I put a dab of the flour glue, and then, using the seed dispenser I tapped one seed onto each dab.  

I waited about half an hour or so for the glue to completely dry, and then rolled up the tape.  Voila!  

I was happy with the results.  When I'm planting dark colored seeds directly into the dark soil, it's often hard to see how much I've tapped out of the seed dispenser.  But planting dark seeds onto a white background made very visible every dropped or extra seed I planted.  

Creating these seed tapes is something you can easily do in the evening while watching t.v. or listening to the radio.  To make the work go faster you could even recruit the kids to help out!   

We're planting in the high tunnel tomorrow and hopefully I'll save my back a bit! 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Snow, Snow Go Away

Come again another day... like next winter!  When you're supposed to!

"A Winter Storm Warning is in effect.

A significant winter storm or hazardous winter weather is occurring, imminent, or likely, and is a threat to life and property. Stay vigilant for severe weather."

I almost planted my lettuces outside last week.  Boy am I happy I held off!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

More Kittens!

Our second cat, Mouse, had her kittens three days after Lavender.  We have ten cute little kittens.  Mouse climbed into the box with Lavender to have her kittens and surprisingly, Lavender helped her by licking the kittens clean and starting to nurse them.  Now we have the two momma cats tag-teaming to keep the kittens nursed and warm.  

You can see the cats are jammed into a small box.  We tried to put them all into a larger box, but they kept taking the kittens back to this smaller one.  I guess they know what they want!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

We Split The Bees

We split one of our beehives yesterday.  This means we took some of the frames that had eggs and larvae  - and covered with nurse bees -from one hive and put them into another hive body in hopes that they would start a new colony.  We didn't buy a new queen... we're hoping they'll make a queen out of the eggs that were in the hive.  We're experimenting.  The hive we took from is crazy strong after the mild winter we've had.  Now we're crossing my fingers that the new hives "take."  

Good news!  One sting and no allergic reaction.  Maybe the reaction I had last fall was due to a super venom-ized bee?    

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Pigs Are Enjoying Their Pig Pen

After our horrible pig chase, we got the pigs in a small enclosed area inside their pig house.  When they stopped being so terribly skittish we took the boards off and gave them a very small fenced in area with three rows of fencing around it (no more pig chases!)  

The inside row was an electric fence.  Outside that there was a double row of mesh fencing with concrete blocks at the bottom of the mesh.  The pigs quickly learned that the electric fence "bites"!  

After a few days of learning to "respect the electric fence" (they let out a half yelp, half squeal when they touch it with their nose - a squelp?), we let them loose into their larger enclosure.  You can see the electric fence in the background of the first picture.  They were quite jumpy, but after they made a few heart stopping runs (my heart, not theirs) towards the fence - then they slammed on the brakes - they settled down and began very, very happily rooting.  Every batch of pigs is different, and this is a batch of rooters!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ramps aka Wild Leeks

Allium tricoccum – known as the ramp, spring onion, ramson, wild leek, wood leek, and wild garlic – is an early spring vegetable, a perennial wild onion with a strong garlic-like odor and a pronounced onion flavor.

A Nice Little Wild Leek Patch

Ramps are found across North America, from the U.S. state of South Carolina to Canada. They are popular in the cuisines of the rural upland South and in the Canadian province of Quebec. Ramps also have a growing popularity in upscale restaurants throughout North America. (from

The ramp has broad, smooth, light green leaves, often with deep purple or burgundy tints on the lower stems, and a scallion-like stalk and bulb. Both the white lower leaf stalks and the broad green leaves are edible.  The leaves (and bulbs) smell like onions when bruised or crushed.  If they don't smell like onions they are not Wild Leeks.

The flavor, is a very pungent combination of onions and strong garlic.  Ramps get made into dip, pickled, made into a relish (quite popular when I have it at the Farmer's Market!), made into pesto, and much, much more.  Most commonly, I hear of them cooked with ham.  Our American Legion traditionally has a Ham and Leek Dinner every year.  

My wild leek story:  One year I thought I would dehydrate some wild leeks and make wild leek powder.  I chopped them up and put them into the running dehydrator then went out to work in the yard.  When I came back in the whole house reeked of the dirty sock/garlic/onion smell!  I quickly ran the dehydrator out to the garage and continued the drying out there (after I opened all the house windows)!  

A woman from West Virginia told me how it used to be that kids who had wild leeks would get sent home from school if they had eaten them the day before (they make you stink!)  

Note: Wild Leeks form patches in the forest.  To keep them available for everyone and so that they don't become an endangered species as in Canada, if you collect them for eating, please only remove a few individuals from each patch.  

Saturday, April 14, 2012

More New Additions To The Farm

Yesterday I was walking out the door to go to my substitute teaching job at the high school.  I looked down on the ground and saw a wet, grey creature lying on the sidewalk.  I said to my daughter, "Oooh!  The cats got a rat!"  I'd never seen a rat around here before (just mice and voles) so my tone of voice was pure disgust.  

Then it mewed.

And I realized it wasn't a rat at all... it was a newly born kitten!  

Our pregnant cat, Lavender, had given birth to her very first kitten on the icy cold sidewalk and left the kitten lying.  I picked up the poor little thing and because I had to get to work and the mother cat was nowhere in sight I told my daughter we would put the kitten in a nest box in the warm house and hope for the best.  

My daughter went looking for the mother kitty and I heard her yell, "here's another one!"  We went out and picked yet another kitten lying on the cold ground!  It was quite robust and still warm; it began mewing like crazy.  Lavender came running when she heard it.  With Lavender following us, we brought the kittens into the garage and put them into a prepared bed.  The momma hopped into the box and started cleaning them.  We thought that Lavender's body heat and care would be the very best thing for the newborn kittens.  We could only leave it to nature. 

We couldn't wait to get home.  We were greeted by a very contented momma kitty nursing her four kittens.  Sadly, the first kitten died.  I believe it had become too chilled and just couldn't survive the trauma.  

Lavender's Day Old Kittens

In about eight weeks these cuties will be looking for good homes!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Chasing A Pig

We got this year's batch of four piglets on Monday.  I've been too exhausted to write about our harrowing day!

We dropped the first piglet in the pen.  It hit the fence... and kept on going!  It ran into the forest behind our house and so began a three and a half hour pig chase.  

We put up a push-in fence along the road and herded the pig into it in an attempt to slow it down so we could jump on the pig and catch it.  It hit the fence turned sideways and ran around it.  After that, it knew that fence was there and wouldn't go in that direction.

We found that piglets never tire out.  My husband, four children, and I chased that pig until we could hardly move and it never got tired!  It would lay down for a second while we all tried to herd it, but then up and away it went.  We tried hiding and catching the pig as it ran past.  We tried closing in on it in a circle.  It's much easier for a little pig to slide through the forest than a big vertical human!  

After hour number two we started thinking, "roast suckling pig."

Finally, in an opening in the forest, we made a "C" shaped fence enclosure and doubled the fencing.  The children herded the pig into the enclosure.  It ran in at top speed!  The piglet hit the back end of the enclosure, got hung up for a second, frantically backed out and turned sideways, hit that fence, and my husband jumped on it and grabbed its legs!  It screamed bloody murder.  Oh my, did we cheer and dance!  

Now, we've put the piglets in a high, solid board enclosed area for a few days until they calm down.  As they get accustomed to their new home they'll gradually get a little more freedom.

The lessons never stop coming!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!

We had a little bit of Easter basket fail.  As I put together my Easter baskets, I wondered who had eaten the bunnies!  On closer inspection I found the chocolate bunny had melted and formed a pool of re-hardened chocolate at the bottom of the box.  I guess I left it in the car too long.

Luckily, my kids are old enough to take it in stride.  I don't know what I would have done if they were younger!  We don't have late night stores in our area.

(I think the bunny silhouette inside the box kind of makes it look like a crime scene.)   

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Chicken Run Is Finished!

I've finally finished penning in my chickens.  They've been completely free range for many years, but they've gradually migrated up to the house and have been wreaking havoc.  

I'm waiting for this chicken-destroyed wreck...

to become this?...

It's so nice to not worry about stepping in chicken pooh as I walk into the house!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Fan Them

The transplant seedlings are growing beautifully.

It's time to put a fan on them.  Indoor seedlings grow in a very artificial environment.  They live in perfectly still air and don't move at all.  This leads to weaker stems and can promote damping off - a fungus that enters young seedlings from the soil and kills the baby plant.    

Putting a gently blowing, oscillating fan, just enough to make the seedlings "shiver," helps conquer these problems.  Leave the fan blowing gently on the plants for about fifteen minute periods, two or three times a day.  The moving air keeps the surface of the soil slightly dryer and helps fight damping off.  The tender plants move a tiny bit each time the air blows and I've read that this creates an enzyme in the plant that thickens their stems.

Happy Growing!

Be sure to hop over to Homestead Revival's Barn Hop!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Chores, Chores, Chores

Yesterday, I wrote down chores and the list keeps getting longer and longer. 
For this week the immediate plans:

Get ready for piglets.  We're moving the pigs house to a higher area as the last batch of pigs dug out the floor and made it a mud pit.  Paint the roof panels to put recycled steel roofing on it.  Split the pen in two so that I can rotate them onto fresh pasture every week.  

Chickens.  Finish the chicken fencing.  They've started hanging out on the back walk and it's a minefield of pooh to negotiate.  We're fencing in a very, very large area for them.  

High tunnel.  Get it cleaned out and get the peas, lettuces, radishes, chinese cabbage, and spinach planted (I'm late on this).  

Roofing.  We had a patch of shingles come off and my husband needs to climb up and get them replaced.  We have a very high, very steep pitched roof, so it's quite a job.  

Maple.  Finish insulating and putting roofing steel on the inside of our bottling room so that we can get it inspected.  Hook up water and electric. 

That will keep us going for a "few" days!

At no time are we ever in such complete possession of a journey, down to its last nook and cranny, as when we are busy with preparations for it.
~Yukio Mishima


Monday, April 2, 2012

Monsanto Transparency?

"Monsanto got a big boost in Europe yesterday when an official ruled that the European Union’s constituent countries couldn’t independently ban genetically modified crops (GMOs) on their turf. France and five other EU countries have put a blanket ban on GMOs, citing safety concerns."
Source: Red Green & Blue (

"So while France doesn’t have to open the floodgates tomorrow… this definitely ups the pressure on Europe to let Monsanto in."
Source: Red Green & Blue (

We lived in England in 2000 and I remember the stores having signs in their produce department listing if foods were GMO or not.  Twelve years down the road and we don't see even a hint of this in the U.S.

Is it futile to hate a corporation?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Florida 2012

I was in Florida earlier this week for my father's birthday.  One day we went to Thomas Edison Summer Home in Ft. Myers and of course I was absolutely fascinated with the grounds and gardens.

His workshop was simply to die for.  It's amazing that without the ever-present plastic and synthetic materials of today they were able to create so much.  I went to the Edison Home many years ago and at that time you could walk through the workshop and home.  Sadly, now you must stand behind tall barriers to look in.  

Finally, I couldn't resist a photo of this tasty and beautifully presented salad that would be simple to recreate!  The order of ingredients:  spinach, grilled portabello mushroom, tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese, roasted peppers, and a balsamic vinaigrette.  Yum!

It's almost too pretty to eat!