Well, free as long as you are a milk drinker. Or if you know people who are willing to give you some of their recyclables. All you need is a clean, empty milk jug, a pair of sharp scissors, and a black Sharpie.
After my close call with dampening off I wanted to get away from using any materials in my seed starting cells that would rot in the damp conditions seeds need to germinate. I came across the idea from an article I saw on making plant markers from empty yogurt containers. I tried the yogurt thing and all of the markers were curved and weird and it just didn’t work for me. So I thought of using the milk jugs instead because we go through a ton of milk around here with 4 kiddos and it worked perfectly.
First you want to cut out all of the areas on your milk jug that are mostly flat. It will then look something like this.
Then simply cut each flat section into as many little plant markers as you can. I cut mine into strips 3 and 1/2 inches long and a little over 1 and 1/2 inch wide. Then I tapered the end that would go into the planting pot. This is what they looked like when finished.
I swished these babies around in a 1:10 part bleach and water solution, just like I do with my planters to make sure and kill any bacteria that may have been remaining on them. Then I wrote on them with a black permanent marker to label my plants and they have been great. Much better than the wooden popsicle sticks, as they can’t rot in the damp potting mix while I wait for the seeds to germinate. Plus, you can’t beat free!
Here is a shot of my seed trays with the plastic markers, after I took out the rotting wooden ones. Sorry the pic is a tad fuzzy, but you can still see that they are so much better! This was actually done about a month ago and they still look just as good. They moved right along with the plants when I transplanted them into bigger “homes” just recently and now are the labels in large solo cups. I will post the pics of the plant craziness at my house very soon.
Happy planting! And a super happy St. Patrick’s Day!!! Gotta love a green holiday, eh?
Yeah, I told you I would keep you posted. I totally didn’t eat the over-wintered beets. I was worried that something might be wrong with them. I probably should have. I’ll bet they were fine. So, sorry about that. I will stick to trying to eat all the beets in the season in which they were grown for now. Or taking them to the local food bank.
On another note, I did venture out to the community church garden where we had over-wintered some carrots (planted in the fall, covered, and harvested the next spring) and I pulled one up. I did eat that and it was really good. Super sweet. And just as crispy as if I had grabbed it out of the ground in August. It did have a few extra of those little hairy things that carrots get, little tiny roots I guess, but they peeled right off. So over-wintered carrots are a yes. Over-wintered beets? Still no idea.
Ok. I planted my tomato and pepper starts. Done. They look so awesome all lined up in a row. I am trying them in the small growing cells this year. But I am planning on transplanting as they get bigger and outgrow their little cells.
Everything was looking good. I went to put them under the grow light and guess what I saw? On the tray I planted last week, there were two cells with a tiny bit of white, fuzzy…mold. Ewwww. Dampening off is one of the most frustrating things that you can deal with when starting new seeds. In fact, this plant disease prevented me from starting seeds on my own for YEARS. It seemed like every time I tried, they would grow and grow and then just up and die on me. I told you that I wasn’t very good at growing things indoors. I am honestly completely challenged at it. However, the last couple of years, I have found success using a very cheap and easy solution. Hydrogen peroxide.
So I pricked the teeny tiny bits of mold out of the two affected cells and then busted out my bottle of hydrogen peroxide and a bottle of bottled water. I drank about half of the water (because it’s good for me and I didn’t want to just dump it out) and then added a bit of hydrogen peroxide to the remaining bottled water (I didn’t measure – just dumped some in. I have heard ratios to mix the peroxide with the water from just using straight peroxide (which I don’t recommend as I think that would be way overkill) – to a 10:1 ratio water/peroxide – to 1 – 1 1/2 tsp. per cup of water – use whatever you think best) and popped the cap back on. Then I took a safety pin and poked about a dozen tiny holes in the top of the cap. I gave it a quick swirl and then watered all of my cells with the peroxide and water mix. The peroxide should kill any bacteria and since my seedlings haven’t been affected yet, I think they will be fine. I will try and keep you posted. I think I will also sprinkle some cinnamon on the soil surface just to be on the safe side. Cinnamon is a natural anti-fungal/anti-bacterial agent. Plus it smells nice, which is always a bonus. Another thing to remember is to water your seedlings from below once the seedlings emerge if possible. That also reduces the risk of dampening off.
It is always good, to remember if you are starting seeds using planting supplies from last year to give them a good washing – either a trip through the dishwasher or with a diluted bleach water solution to prevent bacteria from forming. (I did this – and yet still, the mold came anyway. Go figure.) So it is good to know some techniques to keep your seedlings alive.
A couple of more ideas that I have heard of but not yet tried myself…
1. Chamomile tea – also an anti-fungal/anti-bacterial. You can just brew the tea straight in your sprayer. Warm water and a tea bag. Mist your plants and the soil with the tea mixture.
2. Thyme – another anti-fungal, anti-bacterial. Use dry thyme and brew it like tea. Strain and use on the plants/soil.
3. Sprinkle a dusting of sand on top of the potting soil – dries out quickly and reduces moisture on the surface which is a major cause of plant diseases.
4. Sprinkle sphagnum peat moss on the top of your potting soil. Also an anti-fungal/anti-bacterial.
So, there are a few thoughts on saving our seeds from the dreaded “dampening off.” If you have any other methods on preventing this problem and want to share – please do. I am always curious to find out what works for others. Happy gardening peeps.
If you want to grow anything unusual or unique this year, it is definitely time to get your seeds ordered, (if you haven’t already.) I got my seeds in the mail last week. The seed companies I worked with this year (Botanical Interests and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds) were awesome and got my stuff to me super fast. These have been two of my favorite seed companies to work with but I have also heard great things about Seed Saver’s Exchange, Bountiful Gardens, and High Mowing Seeds. I get an amazing variety from Baker Creek and their catalog is a beautiful and amazing, yet the packaging from Botanical Interests just makes me feel like I got a present in the mail. They are both great companies and I have never had a problem with either one of them.
See how pretty the Botanical Interests order is? The Baker Creek catalog trumps the Botanical Interests catalog, but they have nothing on their packaging. The Baker Creek order came in a plain bubble wrap envelope. But hey, it’s not what on the outside, but what’s inside that counts, right? And I am pretty darn excited about what is inside both these packages.
I ordered more than usual this year, as I am in the process of converting all of my plants over to be open-pollinated and sourced from companies that take a firm stance against GMO crops. Open pollinated basically means that you can save the seeds from your plants and grow the same plants again next year, as opposed to Hybrid (or F1) seeds that you could plant, but you are probably not going to get the same traits of the plant you saved them from. Hybrid crops aren’t bad, they aren’t necessarily GMO – I make sure that I use companies that don’t sell GMO seeds, but I still want to be able to save my own of most of my seeds to use again. So theoretically, my expensive (mostly open-pollinated) seed order should end up saving money over the long haul. HOWEVER, we all know that when those seed catalogs start showing up every spring, I can’t help but find all kinds of new things I want to try growing. So it may not be much of a savings in the end.
I ended up starting one flat of the early, cold weather things – onions, lettuces, artichokes, etc.
I think that in the next few nights I am going to start my tomatoes and peppers and a bunch of pretty flowers. Technically, it is quite a bit earlier than the seed packets recommend you start them inside, but I find that (possibly because I am extraordinarily-challenged when taking care of indoor plants) they need the extra time to get to be properly sized to go in the garden. Mostly, you just don’t want them flowering yet before you go to plant them. From what I understand, if they have already started to bloom and then you go to transplant them, you won’t get as good of a yield as you would otherwise. But, then I have also read that this is not necessarily true for tomatoes. They will usually transplant fine, even with a few small fruits. So, take it with a grain of salt I guess. Either way, I have never found this to be a problem for me. My plants are no where near flowering when I get them in the ground. I started a bunch of my tomatoes and peppers last year around February 4 and they were just right going in our soil in early May.
The last frost date in my area is supposed to be around May 10. But the weather feels weird to me. I went outside today to play with the kids because this was the first sunny day we have had in forever and there were hyacinths coming out of the ground on the south side of the house. It’s not even February yet. What the heck are the hyacinths thinking??? I know they are cold weather, early spring flowers, but I haven’t even seen the crocuses yet. Usually they are the first green things I see. I looked back in my files and it was clear into March when I first saw the crocuses in past years. So I am going on a hunch and betting that it is going to be an early spring in my area at least. I will throw my bet in with the flowers. I suppose they know more than I do about when it is time to wake up in the spring.
Plus this weekend is Superbowl Sunday. For gardeners, this is also known as Super Sow Sunday. So get your seeds started. Soon. And if you don’t have any, get them ordered or see if you have a local seed bank in your town. Apparently there is a seed bank in our town at our local library that I just found out about. A free seed exchange. You might check around. I have no idea how I didn’t already know about this. I plan to check ours out in a couple of days. Happy sowing!
So, I had an earache the other weekend. Earaches are the worst. Well, maybe not the very worst, but really, really bad. My husband suggested that I go to the quick care doctor before it got worse (it was a Sunday and my regular doctor’s office was closed.) I hate the quick care doctor’s office. I always feel that even if they fix the problem I go in with, I will probably pick up some other germ on my way out and have to deal with that too. Soooo, I decided to look into alternative care. My family went to church and I went online and started to research. There are some pretty odd home remedies out there: sticking cloves of garlic in the outer ear canal, holding a freshly cut onion to your ear, and the very worst possible with an “ew” factor of 10 – sticking a urine soaked cotton ball in your ear canal.
I decided to try one of the less offensive options. I wanted to leave the garlic alone because I had to take my kiddos to co-op the next day and didn’t want to smell like the local pizzeria. I went with the onion, and baked it to reduce any offensive odor. One idea was to bake the onion and use a couple of drops of the baked onion juice in the ear canal. Then you lie down to let it absorb in for about 15 minutes. I threw an onion in the oven and went to rest with a heated rice pack on my ear while my onion baked away. About 45 minutes later, I managed to squeeze out a few drops of liquid and put them in a teaspoon. I went to lie down and administer the onion juice – I added a touch of warm olive oil because that was also recommended. Tried it once. Sort of soothing. No other real effect. Still had ear pain. Tried it again with straight onion juice when my family was home from church. My three year old looked at me like I was from another planet when she found out what I was putting in my ear. Then she laughed and told me my ear was smelly. So much for the baking process neutralizing the onion smell. No effect.
I was about ready to throw in the towel, but decided that evening to give one more thing a try. I asked my husband to try putting a few drops of hydrogen peroxide in my ear while I lay on the couch. It felt very nice. Weird, bubbling sounds, but good. It felt better for an hour or two, but the pain came back. We tried a reapplication of the peroxide a few hours later. Again, it felt better, but the pain came back just before we went to bed. I took two advil and went to sleep. The next morning, I woke up expecting misery, but the pain was gone. There was no more pain. I felt a couple of twinges in my ear throughout the next day, but the earache pain had disappeared. So. There is my introduction to useful home remedies. I think the peroxide method worked. I suppose it could always be a coincidence. Before I bank on it, it will have to happen again. But I, generally skeptical of such treatments, was pretty impressed with what appears to be a good result from the treatment. I wonder if the onion juice just took time to work properly or if it was the peroxide? Hmmmmm. Food for thought.
*No picture this time. I kinda figured no one really wanted to see a picture of my ear.
Remember how I had a bajillion beets this summer? Well, guess who was too lazy to harvest everything before winter? Yeah, it was me. BUT I convinced myself that it was okay because I had heard that beets will last in the ground over the winter. So, technically, I am not lazy. I just have an inquisitive mind.
It has, however, been extremely cold this winter. Guess who also doesn’t like to go out and play in the dirt in freezing temperatures? Yeah. Me again. And again I, the master of rationalization, have come up with a perfectly reasonable reason to wait until now, when some days are actually above freezing to harvest the “winter beets.” Obviously, it would have been extremely difficult, if not completely impossible, to dig in ground that was too frozen. And I am sure that it would damage the soil structure. Surely. And I might break my shovel in the frozen ground. That would really suck.
But a couple of days ago I took the dog outside and noticed that I was stepping in mud. Not rock solid frozen ground. I guess I am running out of excuses. Joe and I headed out tonight to check on the chickens and looked again at the winter beet bed. Honestly, with all the greens dead and spread over the tops, they didn’t look appetizing at all. We pulled aside some of the dead greens and saw some beet tops sticking out of the partially frozen ground. I kicked at one gently with my toe and knocked it loose. Joe scrounged around in the mud/frozen dirt and managed to twist it off in his hand. You will notice that it still has some frost on the tip…but it does look like a regular beet. It was still hard as a rock – not soft or anything. I had suspected they would be yucky and inedible. We shall see…soon. I promise. I’ll let you know when I get around to it. But I don’t think we should rush this. After all, it’s still pretty cold out there…
Have you ever had an old fashioned bowl of homemade noodle soup? Real noodles? Made with love by your mom or grandma or (gasp!) you??? (Recipe at bottom of post.)
It really isn’t that hard to do. Grab the essentials and clear your countertops, ‘cuz we’re about to make a big mess up in here. I actually took plenty of pictures to walk you through…here we go…
Eggs. 3-5 of them depending on how many noodles you want. My family of 2 adults and 4 children always does 5 (or more).
Canola or other cooking oil. 1-2 T. We use 2 T. with the five eggs.
pinch of salt
Flour. Enough to make the right consistency. (Don’t you love it when Grandma gives you a recipe? No real details.)
That is it folks. That flour thing is really annoying. To be honest I have never measured it myself. If you get the drift of the recipe though, you can clearly see that everything is very loose and easy going. It is hard to mess this up, honest. You can either do it like Grandma does – make a pile of flour (a few cups to start – maybe 3 or so) in the center of your counter, then make a dent in the top so it looks like a little flour nest and add everything to that nest – proceed to squish and knead everything together with your bare hands and your tough arm muscles. Or you can go all modern – throw 3 cups or so of flour in your big mixer and then add the eggs, oil, and salt and turn it on. I go with the later, because trying to scrape egg dough off your hands is not a fun way to spend an afternoon. But it can be done if you don’t have the mixer or you want the exercise.
Mix all that up until it comes together. It should form a dough that is not dry, but not too sticky. If you pat it into a ball and it sticks all over your hands, you need more flour. If it is too dry and crumbly that it won’t form a ball or you can’t work with it (like a tough playdough) without it falling apart on you, then you may need to work in a touch more oil. Once you get it the way you like it, put it in a bowl, cover it with saran wrap and let it rest for 20 min. or so while you grab a drink or tend to your hordes of fighting children (in my case).
Once the dough has rested a bit you will need to roll it out. This can be done by hand. Flour your surface really well and roll it out in sheets to maybe 1/8 of an inch thick. Flour again. Lots of flour will be flying everywhere. Then roll the sheet up cinnamon roll style, cut it into strips 1/2 inch or less wide and unroll the strips, keeping everything well coated with flour to prevent sticking. You can do this by hand. But you really don’t have to. If you like homemade egg noodle soup, you will eventually (sooner, rather than later) be getting a machine like this…
Mine is called the pasta queen. This is (in my humble opinion) the only way to do this. Here is a link to a similar well-rated machine on Amazon – they no longer sell the exact one I have brand new. If you have such a machine, you will set it up on your counter, divide your (well floured) dough ball into 4 pieces and flatten slightly with your hand, set your machine on the thickest setting on the dough roller end (mine starts at “7”), and feed it through the machine.
Once it has gone through once, it will be a bit lumpy and bumpy. It might have a hole in it or two. It’s okay. Fold the strip into thirds like this…
Then, give it a pat to flatten a bit more, flour it again and roll it back through like this…
Repeat several times. Fold, flour, roll. Repeat.
Then when the dough is looking more pliant and squarish rather than rectangular, you can adjust the thickness setting on your pasta maker to however thick you like your noodles (“5″ or so for our noodles, we like them pretty thick – they will swell a bit when you cook them), add another dusting of flour, and roll it through again.
At this point, you will have a long, thin piece of dough. I usually cut it in half and work with just half at a time. Roll it through a couple of more times with flour if you want to smooth it, but I usually don’t fold it anymore. (If at any point it all bunches up and gets ruined, just remember that it’s not really ruined, it just needs to be rolled out again, starting from the top and making sure to use enough flour this time so it doesn’t stick.)
Now you need to switch your machine to start cutting the noodles. Dust again with flour and feed dough through the noodle cutting side of the machine.
As you cut the noodles, immediate separate them with your fingers and dredge them through a pile of flour to coat them.
If you don’t want to use them immediately, you can freeze them. Spread them out in a single layer on a large pan or cookie sheet and freeze. Once frozen, the noodles can be transferred to a gallon size ziplock bag. They may clump up a little in the bag as they sit in your freezer, but usually separate again without any problems when you add them to hot broth (providing they have been well floured.) When ready to use, add them frozen into hot broth and stir gently to help separate them.
Usually though, you will be using them right away. Here is our favorite way to use homemade egg noodles. Super easy and delicious…you will notice it has no veggies in it. My kiddos much prefer it this way. They prefer their veggies (carrot sticks) uncooked, on the side.
Basic Turkey (or Chicken) Noodle Soup
About 8 cups turkey or chicken broth
2 packages turkey gravy mix (we use Durkee’s Turkey Gravy mix)
Homemade egg noodles
Turkey or chicken meat if desired.
Chicken bullion, dried parsley, salt and pepper to taste.
Stir gravy mix into cold chicken/turkey broth to dissolve. Heat to boiling. Add noodles. Cook until done (usually about 20 min.) Add turkey/chicken meat if you like. Add bullion, salt, and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with dried parsley. Serve.
The noodles can also be used in other chicken soup recipes. And if you don’t have time or don’t want to hand make your noodles, you can always use dried store bought egg noodles (Costco sells them in a giant bag – no surprise there) or frozen egg noodles to make the soup. However, they just don’t taste quite the same. Happy noodling!
*This post contains affiliate links.
Have you ever seen a molting chicken? Neither had I. I didn’t realize chickens went through an annual molt. And I think I have the dumbest chickens because apparently they usually molt in the fall…mine waited until January when they could lose all their neck feathers and freeze to death. Chickens aren’t the smartest animals. Seriously. Like a rock.
Probably taking the chickens to Montana for the Christmas holiday didn’t help. My poor chickens probably got stressed. Well, Butterfly and Angel anyway. They look much worse than they did when they were in their awkward teenage state. Here is a photo of Angel. Check out her feather loss on her neck. She looks ridiculous – like her head is about to fall off her body.
At first, Joe was worried that she was dying. I had to do some research, checking for parasites and the like, but you can see new feathers growing back in if you look carefully. I assured him that she was not dying.
Here is a shot of Butterfly. She is also losing neck feathers, but she doesn’t look as bad as Angel.
Sorry the images are a touch on the blurry side. It was a bugger to get the girls to hold still today and I was a butterfingers. Anyhow…that is what a molting chicken can look like, although I searched the web and saw some much worse looking birds. Molting without any regard to decency or decorum. Here’s to hoping those feathers grow back sooner rather than later, grow babies, grow! We want to get more eggs again. (Another fact I did not know – when a chicken molts, she stops laying in order to put protein reserves toward feather production. And it hurts her new feathers to pick her up, so handling the birds during molting is a no-no.)
Courage and Dragon must be a bit smarter. They aren’t molting as far as I can tell. They must realize it is still freezing at night and that would be STUPID. Well, I am off. Happy chicken keeping and if you have any chickens dumb (or travel stressed) enough to be molting in January, I wish you the best of luck and super fast feather growing speed!
For a gardening blog, this season has really gotten away from me. As an end of the season re-cap this is going to be a little different. Here is the end of the season garden photo…
Ta Da!!!! Just a few remaining plants. Even though they probably won’t have time to produce anything else, I left a few things because I couldn’t bear to pull them up when they were still so alive and healthy. I am a wimp.
Well, here is a general re-cap…
First – the experiments.
I had one tomato plant grow in the milk jugs that were winter sown. And a few onions. ONE tomato plant. The tomato plant grew okay, but not great. And it didn’t produce very well at all. I think I harvested two small tomatoes from said plant. The onions didn’t grow worth anything but the tiny little things made a lovely addition to a beef stew recently. Nothing else survived. This has been my second try at this method. I REALLY wanted it to work. Because really, how awesome would this be if it worked well? But for me, in my area, this method is really a bust. Note to self, this spring, when I see this all over Pinterest as a miracle gardening method (and I will), and I really want to try it again to see if I have better luck (and I will) – DON’T DO IT!!!
I purchased several specialty tomatoes at a local farm – organic and non-gmo. Most were different varieties that I had not used before. Several tomato plants that I grew from seed under the grow lights did okay, but honestly, none of my tomatoes did very well this year. I have harvested quite a few cherry tomatoes, but only because I put in so many plants, not because they produced well. I really think that I like the good old standby common tomatoes better than all the strange varieties you can find. With the exception of the Sun Gold Cherry. Mmmmmm. Every year I will try and plant that little sweetie.
My experiments with the Back to Eden gardening method: meh. I was not here to add the fertilizer when I should have, so I think that that was my main problem. Things did alright overall. I think that the covering over the soil really did help retain moisture and it did seem to keep most of the weeds at bay. Most of the things growing there were a bit spindly, but I really think that that was due to the fact that the plants needed more fertilizer. This method will be continued next year, hopefully with better results. I will plan on fertilizing and keeping a better eye on things when they are first developing to get stronger plants. The video doesn’t seem to emphasize the fertilization part enough. If you watch the video carefully, you will notice that Paul has chickens and utilizes their droppings as a source of fertilizer, though this part was not covered in depth. It almost makes it seem like if you put a bark covering over the garden beds, your plants will become monsters without any further effort from you. I did not find that to be the case, but I think there were some definite positives to this method and will be continuing with it, both at home and at the church garden.
The Back to Eden method is really moving toward a form of permaculture which I intend to research more over the winter. I really like the idea behind making your garden more of an environment that takes little work and disturbs the soil very little.
The only things that grew really well this year were the beets. Lots of beets. Beets, beets, beets. Chickens like beet greens. Good thing.
I planted the beets 2 different ways. One with a traditional row method and one using the spacing suggested in the square foot gardening method. By far the square foot method yielded better beets – bigger beets. I also covered them with a row cover all year long which kept off the dreaded spinach leafminers. That worked very well. This was the first time I have had a decent crop of beets in years.
Overall, it has been a sort of disappointing gardening season (unless you love beets). A large part of that was that we were out of town for much of the summer and so things did not get the attention as they needed it. You may wonder, “Why were you gone all summer?” Welllllll, we were finally able to buy land in Montana!
For the last few years we have been spending as much vacation time as possible in Montana, even bringing our chickens with us (see post on traveling with chickens here, because that is sure interesting). It has been a ton of fun and we are very excited to finally achieve the first step in our dream of moving there. I will have to post pictures of the property soon. We bought 3.5 acres of forested area and I am so excited to build a beautiful home and have a lovely big garden.
I am done with gardening for now. Glad for autumn and the break it brings. But I know that in a couple of months, I will start wanting to plant again and begin browsing catalogs and online gardening ideas. It always happens like that.
And this is why homeschooling is such fun. We were studying the Maori Warriors. Joe was voted to be our guinea pig. We had lots of fun using (washable) crayola markers to try and replicate some of the designs we saw. This is going to be a lovely blackmail shot later in life. Hee, hee, hee, hee…
(By the way – the washable markers work amazingly well and came off with just a few baby wipes. We only left it on long enough for a few pictures and laughs though…I don’t know if it would have come off so easily if left on for an extended period of time.)
"We're all mad here." - Alice in Wonderland. Yep. Pretty much sums it up. Mad about gardens, homeschooling, family, art, latest obsessions...whatever. Enjoy the journey with me.
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