Planning Future Gardens – A Seed Saving Tip

Spring is just around the corner here in the U.S. and garden planning is in full swing. Are you are gardener who plans to grow several varieties of each type of vegetable? Are you a frugal gardener who will purchase heirloom or open pollenated seeds so that you can save the seeds and not have to purchase seeds again next year or the next. If you are new to gardening it might be worth noting that these two methods of garden management are not necessarily compatible.

When growing multiple varieties of the same plant cross pollination can occur. If two varieties of the same type of plant do cross pollinate the product of that year will not be affected. The plant will still bare the fruit of the seed that was planted. Changes that occur due to cross pollination will only become apparent when seeds from the current years crop are grown in future years. Cross pollination can effect the color, size, and/or shape of the fruit or there may be less visible changes like flavor or texture. While the product would still be edible you may be sadly disappointed with the results.


Squash and pumpkin crosses (like the one above) are usually visually apparent. Changes in corn or tomatoes might not be as noticeable.

I have included the some links that you might find useful in preventing cross pollination

and I hope that all of your gardens are bountiful. 🙂

When The Power Was Out

Our weather today was reminiscent of this day last March when our power went out. As I read though this post of our experience last year I did a mental checklist. I identified the one area that I needed to address as consolidating the food in our freezers and making ice blocks to fill in the empty spaces. Other than that if the power were to go out I think we would be set for awhile. How about you? Are you prepared for a extended power outage?

Don't Eat It! Soap and Skin Care

This post is quite lengthy but it won’t take you nearly as long to read is as it took us to live it. I decided to give a lot of detail in hopes that readers may learn a little something from our experience. I do hope you will take some time to read this.

An unprecedented weather event blew through our area last week. I am hesitant to call it a storm lest you get the wrong impression. The sky remained mostly sunny throughout the day and no snow or rain fell. This was a pure wind storm; tropical storm force winds was how it was described in news reports. The following links tell parts of the story, but there are two things that added to the severity of the damage that are not necessarily emphasized in these articles. The first one is the duration of the storm, while we did not wake up to high…

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Fire Starters


During the winter months we use our wood burning fire place to supplement our heat and lower our monthly natural gas bill. In the summer we often build a fire at the farm. We might use it for cooking our dinner or just enjoy sitting around the fire to unwind at the end of the day. Without the proper materials building a wood fire can be more difficult than it sounds. In the past we have bought fat wood, sticks of pine wood that contain natural flammable oils, in order to get the fire going. This year we decided that the convenience that fat wood provides did not justify the expense. We could do better.

Some of the fire starters that we have used include:

  • Balled up news paper
  • A small paper bag stuffed with shredded paper – out of the paper shredder
  • Cheese cloth or paper towels that I have used for filtering bees wax
  • and my most recent discovery –  A paper towel soaked with bacon grease. When I cook bacon I place a paper towel on a plate and then place the cooked bacon on this as I take the bacon out of the pan.  As the excess grease drains off it is absorbed into the paper towel. I had always just tossed these paper towels in the trash. Last week while I was cleaning up after breakfast and getting ready to start the fire I  though it why not give it a try. I place the greased soaked paper towel in the fireplace under the kindling and lit it with a match.  It got the fire started very quickly. It worked so well that the following day when I was going to start the fire ( but hadn’t cooked bacon again) I took about a teaspoon of bacon grease and put it on a piece of scrap paper. I folded the paper, put it in the fire place under the kindling and lit it with a match. Again the fire was burning hot in no time.

All of these methods worked well for starting a fire and coupled with the fact that we used things that we had on hand, that might otherwise been tossed in the trash, I would consider this a win-win.

Do you use a wood fire for heating your home or enjoy sitting around an outdoor fire  when the weather is nice? What methods do you use for starting a fire? Please share them in the comments section below.


Things I Have Learned About Raising Chickens – Which Came First?

After starting with the toughest lesson so far, I  am happy to back up to the beginning and on a much lighter note answer the question –

Which came first? The chicken or the egg?

This post is not going to be a debate in creation verses evolution nor is it going to be a lesson in biology. The fact is you really should not spend too much time pondering this question at all as it could potentially cause undue stress in your life. Don’t you have enough of that already??? So just forget this question and move on to much more important things unless………………………………………………………………………………………………..

…….you want to enjoy the goodness of fresh eggs from your very own chicken. If this is your desire then you will first need a (female) chicken. Probably the easiest way to do this is to obtain (beg, barter, buy…) pullets or hens. In this case (and this is the way we do it) The Chicken Came First.

Now if you are a contrary type person who likes to experiment or live life on the wild side, you might choose to hatch your own chicks. To do this you will need some form of an incubator and some fertile eggs. We have never hatched eggs in an incubator so you will have to look elsewhere for instruction. If you do indeed successfully hatch your own chicks you may join the ranks of those who can argue that in their case The Egg Came First.

That being said, if you are indeed going to raise chickens in order to produce eggs you will probably want to know a little about how that all works. In our experience hens will not start laying eggs until they are at least 18 weeks old. Even then there are many factors that contribute to egg production including the breed of chicken you have. We have found our Buff Orpingtons to be the earliest layer of the breeds that we have raised, usually beginning to lay between 18 and 20 weeks of age.

Our coop originally had four built in nest boxes available and for the most part the hens  lay their eggs in the nest boxes.  We didn’t have to provide any training for our hens to do this. It seemed to come naturally. The eggs are collected several times a day and clean straw is added daily and as needed. One year we did have a group of hens who decided to lay their eggs in a hidden outdoor location. Fortunately we discovered them and were able to collect them daily. That is when we added two more nest spaces to the coop. While having enough nest boxes seems to be important it does not mean that they will all get used. We often have several hens lined up waiting for one box while two or three other boxes are empty. Go Figure!

If you take nothing else away from this post, remember this: the only time it is appropriate to ask the question “Which came first….?” is if you are talking someone who raises chickens. Stop the needless stress! LOL

Next in the series: Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road?
















What I Have Learned About Raising Chickens – The Toughest Lesson

I have been planning to write a series of posts about what I have learned from our experience with raising chickens over the last 5 years. A heartbreaking incident this week has prompted me to start with the toughest lesson of them all.

We use a natural approach to farming and with raising chickens that means allowing our flock to free range. When I say “free range” I mean that the chickens roam the farm, and at times the neighboring properties, and even cross the road (that’s a topic for a future post) scratching,  pecking and foraging for their food. We are aware of the inherent danger of predators when raising free range chickens, but we feel the benefits of healthier chickens, healthier eggs and stress free birds far outweigh the risks. Over the years we have lost a chicken now and then to a hawk, or found a chicken body with no head that left us wondering what kind of predator does that, and occasionally we have one or two come up missing, apparently carried off to become dinner for one of God’s creatures.

This week was different. It was bright and sunny Monday afternoon and my husband had been to the farm around 4:00 P.M. to check on the chickens, give them fresh water and take Scout and Trooper for their afternoon walk. He left the gate to the chicken yard open as some of the chickens were happily scratching and pecking in a pile of straw near the chicken yard.

He came home for dinner and then waited until 6:00 P.M. to return to close up the coop for the night. He called from the farm, “Something Bad has happened” he said, his voice quivering. “A fox got to the chickens, I’m going to be here awhile,” he explained.  Quite awhile later he returned to the house telling me that as he pulled in the driveway he witnessed the attacker (our neighbors claims it was a coyote) running off. There were dead chickens scattered around the area. He found 9 dead chickens. He only counted 17 chickens who had returned to the coop for the night so there were still 5 missing. He needed to put new batteries in his flashlight before returning to search for the missing birds. I offered to go along but he refused my help, as he wanted to protect me from the horrific  scene. Upon searching the area he discover two more dead and the other three were completely gone, apparently carried off by their assassin(s).

Last Spring we became aware that there were fox living in the area when we got a call from a neighbor telling us that a fox had tried to get some of our chickens as they were foraging in her yard. She witnessed the attack and scared off the predator by banging on the window. We ended up with one injured chicken who we nursed back to health. We took further measures to protect our flock. We began leaving them penned inside the chicken yard when we were not at the farm. Several times a day we, along with Scout and Trooper, would walk the farm, especially areas that do not have open sightlines, and make our presence know. My husband mowed the overgrown ditch that runs along side the chicken yard including about a 20 foot strip into the neighboring field to open up the sightlines. He also mowed a series of paths through the field so that we were able to walk/patrol that field as well. As we continued these practices through the summer and fall we heard stories of several neighbors who had lost large portions of their unprotected flocks to violent fox or coyote attacks.

With the snow and cold of winter the chickens have spent much of their time either in the coop or at least in the chicken yard. We were recently discussing how happy we were that our flock was thriving in spite of the bitter cold temperatures that we have had this winter and that egg production was increasing due to the longer hours of daylight. There were many days that my husband spent at the farm this winter  mostly cutting wood or riding the snowmobile and during these times he maintained our routine opening the gate so the chickens had access to the farm and making his (human) presence known. With no recent predator incidents he grew comfortable that he could leave the farm for short periods of time to retrieve things he needed at home or bring the boys (dogs) back to the house. Our lack of vigilance proved to be a fatal error.

I am not looking for your sympathy as I tell this story but hope that you might learn a lesson from our mistake. I think we have gained a better understanding of the predator’s MO. He is sly, sneaky, and cunning. He is an opportunist and will cause much damage (death) quickly. He may run from confrontation but will likely return to the scene of the crime when no one is around. With this in mind we realize that we will have to maintain constant vigilance in order to protect our flock.

We are also reminded that (as my husband likes to say), “Nobody ever told us that farming would be easy” and (my reply), “If it was easy everyone would be doing it.”

Now that I’ve got the tough stuff out of the way be sure to follow along as  I will soon be answering the age old question of “Which Came First?”