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The Grow Light System 

For years I have pined away at having a shelf grow light system. I haven’t gone ahead and set it up, believing in my mind that the cost would be to much to swallow.  Well folks it wasn’t expensive. Heck I got the thing running under $200.00 CAD. I bought the shelf at Costco and it holds 800lbs per shelf (this shelf is seriously heavy duty. The one from Canadian tire for the same price is not even half the quality). I bought the lamps at peavey mart for $37.00 each. I also bought an assortment of S hooks and some light duty chain to hang the lamps. The bulbs are just run of the mill shop lights at $6.00 a bulb. I have since added another lamp to the shelves (and I will likely have to add three more for sure) but the differences in my plants this spring is incredible. My starts will look like professional starts this year. And the speed at which things germinate is fantastic. I tell you I am loving the heck out of it and I hope you enjoy the pictures of things I have growing so far. 

Cheers and happy seed starting. 

Lauren

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

It has been a very long year.

By Lauren

It has been over a year since I posted. In that time I have continued raising two amazing boys, fallen into a depression, worked my way out of a depression, worried over the health (both mental and physical) of my husband, watched him slip into a depression, had a small marital crisis, went through the heartache of having my best friend move 1700km away, and if that wasn’t all enough, went through the diagnosis, treatment and ultimate death of my dad due to brain cancer.

Now that I have written all of that out, I am amazed that I made it.  But I did, and not only that, I feel like my life has expanded. Like I have taken my first step on a rainbow that leads to all of my dreams.  I feel like my insides are going to vibrate right out of my chest!

Last year my dad was diagnosed in January and went into surgery on the 26th. Having already gone down this road once with my mom, I knew that Dad was going to need us a lot.  I knew that anything I put in my garden would suffer if I didn’t keep it super simple.  So I bought anything I couldn’t direct seed. I didn’t even fill my beds. There were at lease 6 4×8 beds that sat empty.  But what I did plant grew and as the summer went on and I started feeling better.  I harvested plenty of herbs that I dried and have started making medicine out of.  I am taking an online corse on herbal medicine and it is so exciting and invigorating.  I love making medicine for my family.  I have always been a tea drinker and my love of tea has grown exponentially. And now, something that I have always believed about emotions and how they impact our health has literally fallen into my lap.  It feels like a sign, if you believe in that kind of thing.  It feels like I have been given a gift.  A way to help people.  People that might not be helped from anything else.

But I know this, I have work to do.  I have to wash fear from my being.  I must remember gratitude in all I do, and I have to learn to trust myself.  I know I can help people, I am feeling a stronger and stronger desire to help people. I have to help people, and I must nurture myself. For if I am not healed how can I facilitate healing? So to the garden I go. It is my therapy and my place to recharge.

This year I have finally set up the grow light system I have been wanting for years.  I have flats of veggies starting to poke  their little green sprouts above the soil, and I am feeling energized like never before.

Take care and see you soon.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Potatoes!

By Lauren

So this year I turned the entirety of my mound garden from last year to the potato patch this year.  This created a bit better than double the space than we had from last year and I hoped that it would provide enough potatoes for at least 3 families.

Last year I planted intensively and operated on the false notion that the more potatoes that I planted the more potatoes I would yield.  Well folks, when you crowd plants they tend to produce less! A lesson that I learned, yet we still had a fantastic yield, supplying both my family and Trista’s.  This year however, because we keep our produce in the root cellar that my dad built, that is located at my sisters house, I wanted to make sure there was enough spuds for her family as well. So we expanded the patch, AND planted differently. I am a fan of companion planting and biointensive planting which in my opinion is the most effective in raised beds and optimizes space.  It also helps with soil health. But after the back breaking task of digging the potatoes last year I decided to plant in rows so that we could us an old horse drawn potato digger.  I lack the horse in this equation but my trusty four wheeled red beast was up to the task.

SO, I planted potatoes at least a 12-18 inches apart and also gave atleast 18 inches between rows! Well, it worked! Last year as potatoes were ready we ate 1/3 of the patch through the summer, this year we did not even finish one row! I think I planted about 7 rows. I planted a  Cheiften, a Purple Russian and a Russet.

I had plans of putting a deep straw mulch down to help with weeds, and I did get that done with my beans to great success. But the poor potato patch was neglected in my rush to get ready for a trip to Denmark to visit family. I settled with the fact they were planted.

My most enthusiastic helper sorting spuds by colour to be planted from our leftover potatoes.

My most enthusiastic helper sorting spuds by colour to be planted from our leftover potatoes.

My mantra remains “Next Year”.

I had also planed to get those potatoes out of the root cellar before May so that they could hit the soil growing but alas, it came time to plant and I remembered that I should have had them out three weeks ago.  Next year…

Potatoes planted.

Potatoes planted.

Same goes for hilling the potatoes.  Trista and I swear like sailors every time we harvest at all the sunburnt potatoes we toss. I was thinking we could save them for seed potatoes but they were already starting to go bad before we even got them to the root cellar.  I am not a perfect gardener, not even a really good gardener.  The amount of weeds in my garden is staggering and sends many in to a tizzy when they walk through it with me, but I don’t worry about it.  If I did, I would probably quit growing things because of the massive amount of things I don’t get done.  I choose to focus on what I do get done and do my best to do better next year. I know that I could lighten my load exponentially by spraying round-up on the quack grass and weeds, but I can’t do it.  I would rather look on a forest of weeds than give in.  I choose to keep my garden and the food it produces free of chemicals. I have even stopped using commercial fertilizer, focusing instead on learning about soil health and growing really healthy soil. Something that is not easily done if you use a spray like round-up as it kills the micro organisms that are the foundation of healthy soil. So that is is my soap box for today.  Despite the lack of perfection in my garden it still produces a wonderful bounty for my family and friends. I feel such great satisfaction and gratitude that I am able to feed my family by my own hands.

In my absence from the garden between June and July (only the worst time to leave) I have to extend a HUGE THANK YOU to my dad, who stayed at my house and watered every day and kept things growing. Thank you, Dad. The garden would have been a shrivelled barren patch had you not kept an eye on things.

We had great heat this year most of the time we were gone, end of June and beginning of July, and the potatoes were flourishing. When I got home from our vacation, the garden was at the hight of the season.

My first big harvest from the garden. Purple beans, potatoes (red and purple) parsley, basil and a few onions.

My first big harvest from the garden. Purple beans, potatoes (red and purple) parsley, basil and a few onions.

One Hill.

One Hill.

This wondrous machine made short work of the digging.

This wondrous machine made short work of the digging.

When done properly the potatoes just spill out of the ground and await us to come pick them up.

When done properly the potatoes just spill out of the ground and await us to come pick them up.

This goofy mutt dug a fair few potatoes out for us.

This goofy mutt dug a fair few potatoes out for us.

I am excited for next year, I am planning a lot more flowers and a new approach in regards to controlling the quack grass. I am hoping to smother it with black plastic.  Burn it first then mulch heavily with wood chips.  The chips can then after a few years be put onto the garden.  I am not expecting miracles but a little bit more manageable would be nice.

 

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Just a day in the life!

by Lauren

This spring Trista acquired two bum lambs with the intent to butcher them. They were two of a set of quads from a local producer and were very tiny. Trista and her family nursed them to health and they grew like weeds. 

Thursday was the day that they went to the butcher. But that caused a bit of a flap. How do we get them there? I have a stock trailer and my sister asked me later why on earth didn’t we just use it. Well it’s a home made trailer. And we were kindly given it but it needs a few modifications to make it road legal. Plus, the truck I have to haul it with is a bit sketchy too. It only likes to run if it has a full tank of gas. It dies after it gets to half full. So, being as it was the most simple answer anyway, I told Trista we could just load them in my Honda Pilot. She was dubious as to if they would fit but I assured her if my two big dogs and the goats could all fit back there, her lambs surely could. So we grabbed a couple hand fills of wool and loaded them up! Bye bye Meatball and Spider. See you at the dinner table!

   
 
Just a day in the life! 🙂 And it’s a great life!

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Sexing Ducks

Sexing Ducks

  

By Trista

 

I am always thinking of things I need to blog about, inspiration will hit and then a kid’s falls and there is another boo boo to kiss, leaving inspiration on the back burner. However this blog post needs too written not only so I may share my horror with those who unsuspectingly read it, but with myself in the unlikely event I should ever need a refresher course in sexing ducks.

A little back story…..

When we moved to our new place last year, my youngest daughter told me she wanted a farm, and that what we were missing to qualify in her sweet little mind was sheep and ducks… now how she came up with the idea that sheep and ducks equate farm is beyond me. Anyways I shared her sentiments with Lauren who thought sheep were a great idea and sent me this link about ducks

http://www.nwedible.com/aggressive-duck-sex/

Needless to say we got sheep and left the ducks

Current….

On Canada day while making breakfast I received a call from an acquaintance (a fellow school mom) who had just rescued 6 ducklings from the middle of the highway. She asked if I could come take them as she had less than no clue what to do with them. So I did. My kids were over the moon and they are pretty adorable.  

They were so tiny when we picked them up

 So we set them up in a brooder and everything was great until my husband asked “so did you sex them? What have we got”? I hadn’t sexed them so I headed out to the ducks armed with my iPad in case the sexing method differed from that of chicks. (Chicks can usually be sexed between 3 and 7 days old based on the feather pattern of their wings, girls having two rows of feathers and males having just one)  I quickly realized this was not going to be the same as ducks have all down and no distinct difference in their wing patterns. So I pulled up a YouTube video on sexing ducks. The video Lauren sent me was RIGHT they do have corkscrew penises. Here I was with my oldest daughter who’s 9 trying to find the poor critters vent and out pops a freaking corkscrew. To say we were both horrified was an understatement.

I have included the video for those who need direction on sexing their own ducklings, it was very informative as well as eye opening. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0kqaA8balc

 

The weirdly endowed little buggers are still here and growing. They are still cute but everything considered I’m not sure ducks are for me. I’ll stick with my chickens! Oh and for those interested we had 2 boys and 4 girls!

 

   

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2015 in Ducks

 

Oven Drying Herbs

Oven Drying Herbs

Recently, my family and I went to Denmark.  My husband is Danish and his family still lives there.  We have been twice now, and always enjoy it so much.  Really, it is the place of my gardening and wild foraging dreams, with wild elderberry growing nearly every where you look.  Did you know they grow witch hazel? It’s a tree! Who knew? But I digress..

My sister-in-law Trine has a lovely little herb garden as well as some raised boxes for veggies.  When we were there the oregano was trying to flower so we pinched it way back and then had all of these wonderful smelling leaves. Neither Trine nor I wanted to waste them so I suggested oven drying.  She said she had tried it once and it didn’t work for her. Well, never shy of a challenge and not one to take no for an answer, I hit you tube for some more info.

The directions were pretty simple, oven on lowest setting, leave for 15-30min (depending on what you are drying) and then check every 10 min after that.  Ok so away I went. WELL, that didn’t work at all.  The oregano turned dark brown and looked very unappetizing. Back to the internet I went.  The temperature recommendation was unspecific other than to say not ABOVE 200F. I am in Europe and there is not a fahrenheit gauge in sight, but I discovered a possible problem.  Her oven started at 50C which is much to low.  After getting some help from google on conversion we settled closer to 75C which is about 167F.  All of a sudden the oregano started to dry without loosing its colour.  We tried to not over dry it, taking it out before it was very brittle and voila! Dried oregano. It was very quick and space saving, and I do believe I will be trying this out at home!  Here are some pictures of the exercise.

We striped all of the leaves off of the stems.  Not a necessary step, and it's time consuming but makes keeping the leaves whole for long term storage much easier.

We striped all of the leaves off of the stems. Not a necessary step, and it’s time consuming but makes keeping the leaves whole for long term storage much easier.

Leave the door cracked to allow for lots of air flow and humidity to escape.

Leave the door cracked to allow for lots of air flow and humidity to escape.

Oven up to temperature.

Oven up to temperature.

You want to put it down in a single layer.  I did one tray with much less on it and after these two I would cover all available space.

You want to put it down in a single layer. I did one tray with much less on it and after these two I would cover all available space.

Drying in the oven. Not sure if the paper towel is necessary but used it anyway.

Drying in the oven. Not sure if the paper towel is necessary but used it anyway.

All done!

All done!

After this success, I attacked her Lavender patch.  Oh to have a Lavender patch! Alas, living in Zone 3, Lavender is only a thing of dreams.

Top rack drying with a bit of paper towel to hold the stalks up.

Top rack drying with a bit of paper towel to hold the stalks up.

Like I said, using ALL the space.

Like I said, using ALL the space.

Happy plant drying everyone!

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2015 in Gardening, Preserving Food

 

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I don’t want to talk about it.

I don’t want to talk about it.

By Lauren

No really, I don’t want to talk about it. Just the thought sends the feeling of creepy crawly bugs all over my skin and I want to run screaming  tearing cloths off as I go.  But, this approach helps no one, least of all my chickens. While this all might sound like I’ve lost my marbles, I promise I have not.  Our topic today is chicken mites.

As my 4yr old would say “DUN DUN DAAAAA!!!”

So this is my first experience with parasites personally, which is really a miracle considering how long I have been keeping chickens, AND considering I let my chickens truly free range. Lots of nasty bugs can be picked up from wild birds including the avian bird flu. I do believe that these little nasties were picked up in the wild as my two best foragers were the most infested.  But, Trista has had a go with chicken lice, and after my research on mites I would take the lice any day.  At least the lice are species specific. That means they can only live on chickens.  Mites are less species specific.  Meaning they are happy to dine on any blood that comes their way.  HOWEVER, did you know bedbugs can infest your chicken house? That sent cold shivers down my spine and I had hysterical thoughts of burning the chicken house down.

SO, I walked into the chicken house ready to fill their water.  I have a big waterer that the top screws off of and you pour in the water, so that is what I was about to do. And then something tickled my arm and I looked down and there were a ton of little tiny tiny bugs crawling on me and my shirt!  Needless to say, that shirt didn’t last long and I stomped on it just for good measure.  Then, I called Trista. In the midst of my rant/hysterics she had the nerve to tell me to calm down. Apparently I had done something similar when she was in the throws of lice madness.  I am so sorry Trista, I promise to never give such inappropriate advice ever again.

Ok so after I did calm down I really needed to figure out what the heck I was dealing with.  I went in armed with my phone for documentation purposes. IT WAS SO GROSS!!! There were so many of them! I took as many pictures as I could stand and then ran for my DE.

The scene of the crime.

The scene of the crime.

Is your skin crawling yet?

Is your skin crawling yet?

They were VERY small.

They were VERY small.

DE is Diatomaceous Earth, according to Wikipedia is:

Diatomaceous earth /ˌd.ətəˌmʃəs ˈɜrθ/, also known as D.E.diatomite, or kieselgur/kieselguhr, is a naturally occurring, soft, siliceous sedimentary rock that is easily crumbled into a fine white to off-white powder. It has a particle size ranging from less than 3 micrometres to more than 1 millimetre, but typically 10 to 200 micrometres. Depending on the granularity, this powder can have an abrasive feel, similar to pumice powder, and has a low density as a result of its high porosity. The typical chemical composition of oven-dried diatomaceous earth is 80 to 90% silica, with 2 to 4% alumina (attributed mostly to clay minerals) and 0.5 to 2% iron oxide.[1]

Diatomaceous earth consists of fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. It is used as a filtrationaid, mild abrasive in products including metal polishes and toothpaste, mechanical insecticideabsorbent for liquids, matting agent for coatings, reinforcing filler in plastics and rubber, anti-block in plastic films, porous support for chemical catalysts, cat litter, activator in blood clotting studies, a stabilizing component of dynamite, and a thermal insulator.

Lots of people use DE as a dewormer, because it is essentially tiny shards of sharp silica, it scores the bodies of soft insects, effectively dehydrating them to death.  Its very safe and quite effective. It’s my go to insecticide in the garden.  Back to the chickens, I coated the inside of the chicken house with DE and then went and tried to figure out what kind of bug I had going.  I went to the house and striped off my clothes and washed them with about 5 drops each of thyme, rosemary, sage and lavender to kill the bugs. Then I hit the computer.  I had pictures of them but it was only so helpful, they were SO TINY!

Just a bit of perspective on how small they were.

Just a bit of perspective on how small they were.

BLAHW!!!

BLAHW!!!

After a few terrifying moments of the possibility that they could be bed bugs, I settled on the Northern Fowl Mite.  Honestly I breathed a sigh of relief because the bed bug possibility was so much worse, I had visions of burning mattresses, clothes and hopefully the bed bugs with them.  I also believe I caught this infestation early.  I think there were only nymphs out there.  I had already used my DE, after reading about the mite, I decided to go to town for poultry dust. It has an insecticide in it, (…) and it is very effective.  The use of the insecticide was because mites are quite happy to live on people or chickens.  I just didn’t have time to switch out clothes every single time I needed to visit the chickens and the kids are really less than reliable.  Mites also live for about 5 days but can lay thousands of eggs in that time. Go here Mite Info to learn more.

I went to visit the chickens that night (I did it at night so I knew I had everyone and the chickens are much calmer if you do it at night) and dusted everyone, (don’t forget your dust mask) and so far we have had a clean bill of health.

Phew!!

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2015 in Chickens, Chicks

 

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