Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Herb Fairies is Back!

...and to celebrate, we are giving away a free PDF activity pack to show you what Herb Fairies is all about! Simply click on the picture below and it will take you to the download.
Want to see more Herb Fairies? Head on over to their website to get some more great freebies from Herb Fairies!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

First Aid Kit for Traveling Abroad

A friend of mine's daughter is traveling to Nicaragua soon and being a herbalist, she created a first aid kit appropriate for traveling to the warm, buggy climate. It's a great source for more first aid kit information, especially for those who will be traveling abroad.

First Aid Set for Traveling Out of the Country

Friday, March 8, 2013

Of Potatoes and Mushrooms

Last year at this time, spring had sprung weeks ago. This year, I have still yet to hear the peepers declare their promise that spring has arrived.

Today I went to purchase a few more seed potatoes. I bought some purple potatoes at the grocery store a few months back and they are sprouting quite nicely. Today, I grabbed up about 5# each of red, white and yellow to round out our crops.

In the past I have always planted rows. This year, in an effort to thwart the chickens incessant scratchy and destruction, I'll be using old tomato cages and growing potatoes vertically. Today, I also chitted the potatoes that were too big for planting singly, a very small amount as I purposely selected small seed potatoes.

Our sweet potatoes are growing like crazy! We have 4 containers full of slips that I'll be planting into containers shortly to get a head start on their growth since I cannot put them out for another 2 months. I am truly amazed at how large they have grown.

My order of ginger and turmeric have arrived and I'll be pre-sprouting them this weekend. I'm hoping to have a crop for selling at the farmer's market this fall. And for us to have plenty for the winter. It will be interesting to see how this crop works out.

The store also had a bag of Oyster mushroom plugs for $12. I decided to try them out, as Oysters are my favorite and it was a decent price for 100 plugs. I'll be drilling logs this weekend and planting them in the orchard and woods.

In order to keep track of what should be planted when, I splurged for the Zarkin Royal calendar. I'm so glad I did, it is very helpful for keeping on track. It will be great to look back on at the end of the year.

We have also purchased 150' of chicken wire to surround some of my herb/garden beds to try to reduce the amount of damage caused by turkeys, chickens and ducks. We'll see how it works. I'll be planting lettuce first thing when the moon is new next week.

I'm ready for spring to arrive! How have you been preparing?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Some Things Old, Some Things New

I pulled out my seed jars today to get the onions started. Last year I didn't start them soon enough and they didn't do well because I planted them when they were tiny. There are actually a few onions growing in the garden right now left over from that failed attempt last year. A friend of mine who runs a CSA has started experimenting with overwintering his onions. Our zone seems to be warming up quite a bit so plants we previously wouldn't be able to overwinter here are doing nicely now.

Things we'll be trying out for the first time are:

Pickle cukes - Sage loves pickles but because of his sensitivities, there aren't any options where we are so I hope to ferment some for him this year

Shallots - Something we don't get from the store often because of their cost

Ginger & turmeric - I have grown ginger in a pot for myself before, now I'm going to try to grow both for selling at the farmer's market. I've ordered #5 of each to try out.

Purple Potatoes - The kids are tickled about purple mashed potatoes and they are supposed to be higher in antioxidants, etc.

Longkeeper Tomato - Eating tomatoes that we had stored from October in January was the clencher! I'm going to be growing Rev. Morrow's Long Keeper and Giraffe, a Russian variety.

Things we'll be returning to are:

Luffas - I grew these successfully a few years ago and my stash is now almost gone. I tried growing them again last year but the drought didn't allow them to start blooming until it was too late for the fruits to mature.

Garlic - I used to be so good at planting garlic in the fall. The past 3 years I've slacked off, probably because my friend who runs the CSA sells 10 varieties of garlic at the farmer's market so I know I can always get good garlic from him.

Amish Paste Tomatoes - These are a long time favorite for me to grow for using in making sundried tomatoes and ketchup

Rose Tomatoes - Hands down my favorite slicing tomato. This heirloom has few seeds and that's the one thing I don't like about eating tomatoes are the seeds. This tomato is thick and beefy and a beautiful rosy pink color.

Corn - Though we've grown corn in the past, this year we'll be bagging the corn so that we can hand pollinate so it won't cross contaminate with the gmo corn that grows all around us

What tried and true favorites do you return to every year? Which ones are you throwing out? Are you trying anything new this year?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

2013 Garden Planning

I've been lax on our gardening efforts the past few years but with a year of extremely restrictive dieting under our belt, I'm more determined to grow the food we like and eat this year.

Part of this is because my youngest has shown remarkable improvement in his behavior over the past year with the deletion of food dyes, preservatives, msg, pasteurized dairy, gluten and gmo's. But, there's still something I am missing and I think part of it might be pesticides/herbicides that are sprayed/absorbed into foods as they grow. We try our best to buy organic as much as possible but if there's anything I've learned, it's that I cannot trust a label to be completely honest with how that plant grew. During the summer I can get veggies from the farmer's market and I do but from mid-October to mid-June, it's slim pickin's and that's the other reason I want to get better at gardening. I hope to fatten our larder choices for that time period.

I'm looking into fall planting for potatoes for next year. I'm going to experiment with some gorgeous purple potatoes the grocery store has this spring. Several of them are already sprouting so I plan to buy about 10# and see what comes of them. It's cheaper to buy them at the grocery store than it is through an online seed potato supplier.

I've started compiling a list of foods we love to eat and eat on a regular basis. From there I will try to map out a way to grow them year round as much as possible. I know with some things it will be impossible but with others, such as broccoli, kale, cabbage and such, I am hoping I can. Our winters are becoming a lot more mild in the past few years and I think with the help of a hoop house (which we have started) I could even possibly grow lettuce and a few other things in there all throughout the winter.

I'm also stoked that I brought home a box of tomatoes from a friend up in Chicago back at the beginning of October. We JUST ate the last tomato 2 days ago. Unfortunately, it was a Burpee "Long Keeper" which is a hybrid but I hope to research and possibly find a tomato that will last that long and still be a heirloom.

So, this week I've started a sweet potato and will grab a few more organic ones at the store to start as well. We have a pile of potatoes that were grown last year that are sprouting. We are going to have a warm (50's) week coming up so we're going to do an experiment and plant them with lots of goat manure and straw.

Early Spring plants:

Late Spring/Early Summer:
Sweet Potatoes
Green Beans
Summer Squash
Winter Squash
Celery (have plants growing in pots)
Corn (we are going to bag the tassles/silks and hand fertilize them)

Fall planting is going to be more intense this year. I hope to start growing these plants this fall:

Are your garden plans changing for this year? Are you doing more or less? Trying out any new produce or techniques this year?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Preparedness: Stocking Stuffers

Solstice is coming and with it the dilemma of what to stuff stockings with. I hate buying flimsy, crappy toys that will fall apart or useless junk that will just become trash in a few weeks. My kids LOVE survival stuff so I've put together a list of possible stocking stuffers. Many of these items have been requested by my kids at one time or another.

Para Cord Survival Bracelet
These come in a variety and colors and sizes. Each inch of bracelet roughly equals 1 foot of para cord.

Even funner are the Para Cord Bracelet/Compass Combo.
You lose a bit of the cord but the compass could be handy, especially on a daily basis with my kids going out into the woods which meander all around.
Full tang hunting knife with fire starter
The reviews on this particular knife and some of the others recommend wrapping your own para cord on the handle.
Survival Snare Kit
Has instructions on using snares and 2 different sized snares. I most likely would buy one then create my own kits based off this one as they are about $17 with shipping.

Fishing Survival Kit
Possibly another kit I would buy 1 of then create copies of. It gets expensive buying for 5 kids!

Leatherman Multitool (there are many styles and price ranges available)


11 function credit card tool

Pro-Knot Card Sets by John Sherry. They have 3 to choose from

Ka-Bar Hobo Utensil Set - my 15 year old is in love with this thing!

Will you be stuffing prepping/survival items into your kids' stockings this year? What sort of survival/prepping goodies will you give them?

Friday, August 3, 2012

IDC: Week 26

By popular demand, the Independence Days Challenge is back! Every Friday from February - September we are challenged to work on our skill set. Anyone can join in!

****Still no rain and reports coming in are bad. The local feed store has closed - local farmers are selling off their livestock or putting them down because supposedly the animals are dying off from too much nitrogen in their feed from the lack of rain? Both beef and pork.****

The categories and my responses:

Plant something: A lot of us were trained to think of planting as done once a year, but if you start seeds, do season extension and succession plant, you’ll get much, much more out of your garden, so I try and plant something every day from February into September.
Plant something:


Harvest something: Everything counts – from the milk and eggs you get from your animals to the first dandelions from your yard to 50 bushels of tomatoes – it all counts.
Harvest something: 
Weeds to feed to the goats and sheep
Calendula flowers

Preserve something: Again, I find preserving is most productive if I try and do a little every day that there is anything, from the first dried raspberry leaves and jarred rhubarb to the last squashes at the end of the season.
Preserve something:

-Drying Calendula flowers, Basil
Waste not: Reducing food waste, composting everything or feeding it to animals, reducing your use of disposables and creation of garbage, reusing things that would otherwise go to waste, making sure your preserved and stored foods are kept in good shape – all of these count.
Waste Not: 
-Fed chickens, dog and cats scraps; composted unfeedable scraps
-free range grazing the sheep and tethering the goats
-using weeds to mulch plants as I weed & to feed to goats, sheep and chickens
Want Not: Adding to your food storage or stash of goods for emergencies, building up resources that will be useful in the long term.
Want Not:

-48 bags scratch grains = 6 month supply
-3 large round bales of hay (plus another 60 square bales around in storage) = 1 winter's supply
-bought shorts, shirts, pants at thrift shop for kids
-bought a shirt for me that i'll be bleaching and dyeing with walnut hulls soon

Eat the Food: Making full and good use of what you have, making sure that you are getting everything you can from your food, trying new recipes and new cooking ideas, eating out of your storage!
Eat the Food: 
-eating eggs and milk
-food from farmer's market: free range chicken and beef, okra, green beans, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, watermelon, eggplant, kale, peppers
Build community food systems: What have you done to help other people have better food access or to make your local food system more resilient?
Build Community Food Systems: 
-offering milk and eggs to my community
-bartering with friends at market: eggs and soap for produce
-teaching kids about herbs
-taught class about medicinal and edible weeds to kids at The Nature Institute
And a new one: Skill up:  What did you learn this week that will help you in the future – could be as simple as fixing the faucet or as hard as building a shed, as simple as a new way of keeping records or as complicated as making shoes.  Whatever you are learning, you get a merit badge for it – this is important stuff.
Skill Up: 
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