We always wanted to be able to test our cows with a simple pee test. Something similar to what us humans use to see if we are pregnant. We looked before but could never find one and were told they don't exist... Then we found the P-TEST from Emlab Genetics. And not only does it test for pregnancy in cattle but also goats, sheep, llamas, alpacas, bison, elk or deer. How many of you out there are raising deer or elk? So cool that it works for such and array of animals.
As of this writing, there is a notice at the top of the website that states the site will soon be unavailable. This is due to the fact that it was created using Office 365 Share point program that is set to be discontinued. I'm sure they probably have another website ready to go but I wanted to let you know in case the above link becomes broken due to this fact. If so just google them.
Now back to the test. It is used very much like a home pregnancy test. However you don't hold any stick or wand in the urine stream but instead must catch the urine and insert it with a syringe into a vile like the one in the pictures above.
The question is, how do you go about catching cow urine (glad we don't have bison!)? I noticed when I went to the Emlab website to get the link for you that they had a video on collecting cow urine. That would have been very helpful if only we had seen it before we did the test!
The most comical part of this test I failed to take pictures of. I'm sorry. I'm sure some pictures or even a short video of the trials we went through running behind our cows and heifers would have worked up a nice belly chuckle for you. You see, we thought we could just be sly and sneak up behind them once they started peeing and collect some pee in a pint jar. Yeah, that didn't work out so well.
Despite the fact that it was bitter cold I decided one morning when going out to milk the cow and to do the morning chores with the kids that "today was the day" we were going to collect the pee and see if our Vondi was pregnant. We were sure she was/is because we could see the baby kicking around in there. This is really amazing thing to see and there is no denying a kick from a baby calf.
So we go out to do our chores. I walk out behind the barn to call Pippy in so we can milk her. Walking over to her at the feeder I start to look at Vondi and then ask my daughter to go get the extra jar we had been keeping in the milking parlor just for this purpose. Would you like to catch the pee of a cow in a pint jar? I don't know what we were thinking! Cows have large streams of pee. LARGE. And they pee, and pee, and pee. I wanted to tell you just how much they pee in one pee but I couldn't find the answer. Google your slacking.
However, when I did my Google search the first thing that came up was "Do cows pee milk?" What? I'm sorry people if you are one of whats seems to be the many who don't know that cows do not pee milk nor do they pee from their udder which was the number one search suggestion at the bottom of the page. No offense to you, but wow, we have lost touch with where our food comes from! In my search I also found that you can buy cow urine from Amazon. Apparently it is used as a supplement. So grateful that we eat a healthy, non-gmo, organic, whole food diet so we don't need any cow urine supplements!
Back to the story, cows pee large quantities of pee. I can't tell you exactly how much, but trust me, it is a lot! My eldest daughter and son were each holding a pint jar as we were waiting for one of our cows to pee. Any other day they all would have peed 4 times each by now. OK, may be only 2. But really, any other day they seem to be peeing all the time. I guess on this day they knew what we were up to.
As we were watching Vondi my daughter Elly realized that Crawford was peeing. Elly ran over there as fast as she could in her boots and coveralls trying not to trip over frozen cow pies. As soon as she got there Crawford stopped. Oh, she was not done peeing, but she stopped. No, she was not going to let us get any of her pee.
It was at this point that it occurred to me how foolish it was to try and catch the pee with a pint jar. Elly now had pee all over her glove. So off my son Carter went for a bucket. In the meantime the steer peed, then the calf peed, then the other calf peed but no heifer or cows peed,
By now I was getting pretty cold and we still needed to finish the chores and milk Pippy. Caleb stayed out with the new found bucket while Elly, Carter and I went back in to the barn. It was well below zero and we had spent the last half an hour to 45 minutes trying to catch cow pee. My desire to catch this cow pee for the test had completely diminished. I just wanted to get inside and stand in front of the fire and Caleb, although one of our heifers peed, was unsuccessful in catching any. I guess cows aren't comfortable having a bucket placed under there parts while they pee because as soon as the bucket arrives they stop peeing. It's the darnedest thing.
I am soooo grateful that we are able to have milk cows. We do not and will not buy milk from the store, not even organic. It is just not the same and not as healthy as fresh raw milk and I just know to much about the truth of store bought milk. So if we do not have a cow in milk we do not have milk or butter or yogurt, or cream. I love cream :). That being said, it can be challenging, to say the least, when it is negative 40 degrees outside. The cups for the milking machine are stainless steel and they get pretty darn cold so my hands are pretty freezing after milking in these weather conditions. You just can not hold on to them the same with gloves on. I've tried and I've failed. So after I'm done milking I'm not interested in lolly gagging and I was certainly not interested in trying to catch cow pee any longer. I was going in.
Fortunately for me and the pee test I have a son who is very determined. Carter loves taking on challenges like this. If we need to catch a sheep or calf he is the one to we call on. He will assert himself whole heartily to meet the goal. Man that boy can hang on to a calf. They might seem little but they are STRONG. With this same determination he decided to stay out there and get the job done. He said he wasn't coming in until he got the pee. We helped him get Vondi into the milking stanchion (what a novel idea!) so he wouldn't have to follow her around to collect the sample, then we went inside.
Low and behold right about the time I was done washing the milker here he comes with a pint of cow pee! Carter saves the day again!
Now let me go back to the video I mentioned earlier that I didn't watch until just now. Apparently you can get a cow to pee whenever you want. Yeah, just like that! You simply massage the area from the top of the cows udder to just below their vulva. No, you don't have to touch that. Sure enough, the man in the video did this and within a minute or two the cow peed. The video cuts off before it gets to a full stream but just like that it started to pee. That would have been nice to know the morning we went out to do the pee test! .
The process is very simple once you have your urine sample. Use the syringe to inject 1.5mm of pee into the little vile. Then wait ten minutes. There is a little pellet at the bottom of the vile. Gently invert the vile several times until the pellet is dissolved. If the cow is pregnant you will see it start to change colors right away. The cool thing about the test is that it also tells you in what general term of pregnancy the cow is in. The darker the color the further along in pregnancy the cow is.
Amber indicates not pregnant, light green-very early term, green- early term, blue green-mid term, dark blue- late term. The colors are shown on the package and in the directions.
Is Vondi pregnant? YES! And it seems as though she is late term. Yeah!
We still have two heifers to test but we will not be following them around with a pint jar or bucket. We will be bringing them into the milk stanchion and massaging that area above their udders with one hand and a bucket in the other. So grateful to have found that video.
Have you ever tried using a P-TEST with any of your livestock? What did you think about the process? Are we the only ones that made fools out of ourselves chasing our cows around trying to get a pee sample in a pint jar? Did you all know the secret get any cow to pee technique? Please do share!
Have a blessed day and may it be free of cow pee and buckets!
Everyone meet our newest addition. And her name is- well, actually we don't have a name for her yet but isn't she so precious just the same! You may be wondering why our cow is giving birth in December, that's usually a spring thing right? Yes and no. Most ranchers calve in the spring and a few calve in the fall but if you have dairy cattle you calve all throughout the year in order to keep in milk. .
We choose not to separate the calf from it's mama after birth though this is the norm of big dairy farms. Mama cows never get to see their babies again after giving birth. This way dairies can get more milk and go about milking without the bother of a calf distracting mama cow. I can't imagine taking a baby away from it's mom like that. I don't care if they are cows. Mammals are meant to take care of their own babies.
There are actual benefits to keeping mommy and baby together as well. The mama cow produces antibodies and passes them onto the baby through the milk building the babies immune system. The antibodies can change depending on the environment. Some of the calf's saliva is actually take into the teat when it is nursing and this is how the moma cow know what antibodies it needs to produce. The calf has virtually no immune system when it is born so it is very dependent on mama to build one for it. If this isn't reason enough, (oh but it is!) milk replacer is expensive and worst of all filled with GMOs. We certainly don't want to be feeding any of that! .
This does make things a little more tricky for the first week or so. Mama may not want to let down her milk for us. They can actually hold the milk back. They sometimes do this to save the milk for the baby. I'm amazed by this. I don't remember having any control of that when I nursed my babies. When mama cow decides she doesn't want to share we have to bring the calf in and let it start nursing. Mama cow then lets down her milk and we can proceed to milk her. After a week or so we start separating the calf out at night. We milk the mam in the morning then she spends the rest of the day with the calf. The mama spends some time in the calf's pen on the way to the milking stanchion (where she is milked) so she is exposed to anything she may need to make antibodies for to pass on to the baby.
You can see in the picture that Pippy is not getting any grain while she is being milked. Nope. She is 100% grass fed like all of our livestock. She is perfectly happy and perfectly healthy. And look at her butter. Wow that is yellow!
Poultry that have access to grass have brighter yellow yolks and grass fed dairy animals have yellower cream and butter. Why is that? Because they are higher in beta carotene and omega-3 fatty acids, a result from eating all that grass. Grass fed butter is also 5 times higher in CLA ( thats the good cholesterol, conjugated linoleic acid.). CLA reduces body fat by increasing metabolic rates. In a study in Costa Rica, Scientists found that participant who consumed more full fat dairy were 49% less likely to have a heart attack. It turns out we need healthy fats like nuts, avocados, coconut oil, and full fat dairy products. Another interesting thing is that you actually digest full fat milk better than skim or reduced fat milk.
Raw milk has added benefits that pasteurized milk does not. Raw milk is filled with enzymes and probiotics that help in digestion and supports a healthy gut. The process of pasteurizing kills all these enzymes and probiotics. After you that you have dead milk. Leave it on the counter and it turns putrid. Leave raw milk on the counter and it turns into clabber. It doesn't go bad it goes different. It ferments and you can use it to culture cheese or yogurt and make all kinds of goodies with it. The fermenting process increases the amount of good bacteria or probiotics. It use to be a common thing the make clabber and fermented dairy products. If you ask your grandma or grandpa they probably consumed it on a regular basis. It is no wonder that the further away the nation gets from whole, fresh, and raw foods and move to prepackaged and processed dead foods, the nation gets sicker and sicker.
We are blessed to have fresh raw milk daily. Safe, healthy and delicious!
Happy, healthy, clean, eating,
Fall is a very busy time of year for most everyone. Quick dinners are essential. We used our farm fresh eggs, fresh cilantro from the garden, some tomatoes from the greenhouse, and few purple onions also from our garden. MMMMM, it was delish! oh so easy, and fast! and that = perfect.
We got to double yokers. That means that there were two yokes in one egg. Yes, that also means that two chick can hatch out of the egg. However they are usually not as strong and it is not recommended that you hatch double yokers. That's ok, the kids enjoy getting them and finding the two yokes and the eggs are larger than normal as well.
Crack you eggs into the pan and sprinkle with seasonings then flip them when they are ready. Once they are flipped you want pop the yokes and add the topping so that they can heat up and the cheese can melt by the time the egg is cooked.
I start with chopped onions then I add the cilantro and tomatoes. At this point I suggest adding more seasoning. So that all the toppings get a good dose. Then to top it all off add the cheese.
I am so grateful for that we are still getting some tomatoes from the greenhouse. There is nothing like fresh tomatoes! I think that these rainbow tomatoes are so beautiful sliced. For some reason it just seems to make them more enjoyable to eat then other tomatoes as well.
Tomatoes, onions (preferably purple), and cilantro always go good together. We like to make little quesadillas with them or throw them in with some beans for a bean salad side dish and don't forget the cumin.
Now that you have all of your topping piled on put a lid on your pan to help the cheese melt. If you don't have a lid to fit your favorite frying pan then you can use a baking sheet. We love our cast iron skillets. This one has a lid that can also be used a a shallow frying pan. It is very handy for making tortillas, flat bread or as an extra pan for frying. When the cheese is all melty and dripping down to the pan then your eggs are done.
Now isn't that a quick little meal. Now let me show you how to make clean up a breeze. It is actually my daughter's idea. She likes to cook and help with meal preparation, or just plain does it quite a bit.
As you can see in the picture below, the cutting board is in a cookie sheet. well actually this time it is in a pizza pan, anyways... This way any juices that accumulate, any scrapes from whatever you may be cutting up, like onion skins or tomato stems, are collected on the cookie sheet instead of all over the counter. Take the Cookie sheet to the compost bin to get rid of all your scrapes then to the sink for a quick rinse and you are done! Yeah!
We have not used this trick when cutting large things like winter squash. I would caution against that because they can be difficult to cut to begin with and it may cause the cookie sheet to move around making it dangerous. Otherwise chop and slice away!
Enjoy your quick and easy meal and happy fall!
Wow! I thought my son was playing some trick on me when he brought this worm in. I looked it over and as you can tell from the video and pictures, this is the real thing. It looks so strange moving about, curling itself around. Once we took some pictures and the video we let it go in the yard.
I'm sure we will never find another worm like this again. The funnest thing about it is the kids amazement. My oldest son was surprised that it lived so long to get that big. He couldn't, nor I, figure out how it tunneled through the ground with two heads. Do you think that it tried to go two different directions at once? I guess the strongest head would win but like my son said, that wouldn't leave much time to eat and such so that it could grow and live. I guess it will always be a mystery.
Speaking of amazing creatures the kids found, look what else they found just a few weeks ago. Yep, That's a Praying Mantis. We bought an egg case a couple of years ago but I didn't figure that any would survive the North Dakota winters. I was proved wrong. This seems like a pretty healthy praying mantis, it is quite large. We are praying that it is a female that will lay more eggs.
Such fascinating insects. I think of them as the lions of the garden. They are fierce predators eating all kinds of harmful pests. May this beautiful praying mantis leave a healthy egg case tucked somewhere safe in our garden. She and her relatives are always welcome on our farm!
What kind of interesting insects have you found in your garden?
Happy, healthy, clean living!
We are so grateful to be able to share fresh organically raised heirloom produce with our customers. It is truly a blessing. In doing so we pray that more people will learn about the importance of "clean" food, going non-GMO, and knowing where your food comes from. But it all began to provide our family with all that aforementioned good food, so we would know exactly what we are eating and what went into it. So our children can learn how to raise their own food and the difference between homegrown heirloom produce and commercially raised GMO counterfeit food. So far it looks like we have succeed (thank you LORD). Our kids love gardening and eating the vegetables. Heck, they don't even bother washing the dirt off. A few swipes of the hand is sufficient enough for them. Oh, it's great!
So with this comes canning, drying, freezing and fermenting. That is a lot of work but once again my kids love being a part of it and that helps tremendously. It takes a lot of food to feed this big ol' family!
The sweet peppers did not do the greatest this year but we had an explosion of hot pepper. My daughter just reminded me how I had said that I wanted a lot of hot peppers because we are about out of our red pepper flakes from the previous year. Oh I got it. We have over a gallon of ground red peppers. I think I will concentrate on sweet peppers next year!
After we get 150 plus quarts of purred tomatoes canned we start canning salsa, wings sauce, tomato paste, ketchup, or what ever new thing we find. We are always looking for new recipes. This year my daughter has really taken a liking to canning and has done all the tomatoes so far.
In addition to all the tomatoes we can beans, carrots, peppers and fruit. Also blanch and freeze greens, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. The kids picked about 6 gallons of wild plums and made plum preserves. They also picked bull-berries. They are cleaned and stored in the freezer so we can can them when all the other canning settles down. They are very good at identifying edible fruit and plants in the wild and it is one of their favorite pastimes. There was a time when almost everyone could do such a thing. I'm so grateful my children are learning those skills.
The onions and garlic have already been taken care of and are put away neatly on the shelves. However we still have to harvest the potatoes and carrots and beets. These can be harvested last because the frost isn't going to hurt the root. They store so well in the ground- at least until the ground freezes so we hold off on them while we get the other canning done.
This year we have started fermenting. OH. MY. GOSH. It is SO easy. Just cut up your choice of veggie, put it in a jar, cover it with filtered water and salt if you'd like, put the lid on a wait a week. And that is it! Now you have a jar of super healthy, probiotic filled veggies. One more skill that was almost lost. Fermenting food was an everyday thing for our ancestors. These probiotics are so good for a healthy gut and good digestion. But that is for another post.
So now you see why there was no September newsletter. But I know that you are the understanding type. Thank you and may you have a blessed fall!
Happy, healthy, clean living,
Most likely your great grandparents did it, maybe even you grandparents. They saved seeds. Why? Well there weren't as many options back then for one but more importantly they knew the value in it.
Saved seeds are not the same as purchased seeds. All seeds grow- well, except for the GMO terminator seeds that produce sterile offspring. You know just a little insurance that the farmers have to go to the big ag/chemical companies to buy their seed. Sorry side tracked, but I couldn't help it. Anyways, most seeds grow so what is the difference? Each seed has a genetic make up that helps determine how well it will grow, how much fruit it will produce, and how well it will cope with the pressures of the environment that it is in. Lets take a Rainbow tomato for example. All the seeds collected from a rainbow tomato will produce a rainbow tomato but there are slight differences in each plant. You can capitalize on this with just a little effort.
Did you have several plants that did better than the others? This is where it all begins. In a year of drought like the one we just had there are going to be some plants that do better than others. Some that tolerated the drought better. If you save seeds from these plants and plant them the following year then save seeds from the plants that tolerate less water that year and so on you will soon have a drought tolerant variety.
Maybe it isn't drought tolerance you are after. Perhaps you get plenty of rain where you are but your tomatoes are prone to blight. Then you would select those that are most tolerant to blight. And the same goes for any plant that you grow. Isn't that awesome! You do not need a seed company to plant a garden. Most seeds are very easy to harvest. As simple as letting the plant go to seeds, collecting the seed, then letting them dry and storing them. (I've included a mini seed saving guide below)
Some varieties take a little more but nothing that you can't handle. Lets start with tomatoes. If you slice open a tomato and take a look at the seeds you will see that they are surrounded by a gelatinous sack. We don't want this gelatinous sack but it is very easy to get rid of. First slice your tomatoes down the middle horizontally. Now squeeze the seeds into a small bowl. Do this with all the tomatoes you are wanting to save seeds from being sure not to mix the seeds of different varieties and label each kind. Next add a little water to the bowl and place it somewhere that you will not be able to smell it. It gets a little stinky but it is only for a few days. This is where we get rid of that gelatinous sack around the seeds. Leave the bowl with the added water to sit for about three days. It will ferment and grow a thin layer of mold on top. This is what would happen to the tomato if it were to be left outside. The tomato would rot freeing the seeds and then come spring they would sprout. Once they have grown the mold add a little more water then use your finger or spoon to swirl the contents around. Carefully pour out the floating contents. The fertile seeds will sink to the bottom. You may have to do this several times and you will loose some good seeds so be sure to account for that when you are determining how much to save.
Now all that is left to do is let the seeds dry-make sure they are completely dry, then place them in a plastic zip-lock bag or mini manila envelope and label with the variety and year. You did it and you are on your way to tomatoes that are perfectly accustomed to your growing conditions! Pretty easy right?
*Please not that you can only save seeds from open pollinated varieties. Hybrids will not produce a true to type seeds and may not even be fertile at all. I suggest using heirloom varieties.
Here's a little recap-video form:
Saving other seeds
Beans- let them fully mature on the plant then pick them, let them dry completely, take out the beans and store.
Cucumbers- let the cucumbers grow until they are overly large and turn yellow. Bring them inside and let sit for an additional two weeks. This give a higher fertile rate. Cucumbers general don't produce a lot of fertile seeds so save plenty of cucumbers. Once the two weeks are over scoop out the seeds and process the same as tomato seeds.
Peas- let them grow to full maturity then bring them into dry. Harvest the seeds from the pod then store.
Spinach- allow plant to go to seeds then wait for the seeds to mature and dry. Once it has turned brown pull off the seeds and let it dry completely then store.
Peppers- choose fully ripe peppers. Slice down the middle, extract the seeds then allow to dry before storing. If you are working with spicy peppers be sure to wear gloves or you will have burning hands.
Swiss chard- Much like spinach, allow seeds to turn brown before collecting then bring them in to finish drying before storing.
Squash- Allow the squash to grow until the skin is hard and can't be easily puncture with a finger nail, cut it open, extract the seeds, clean the flesh from them then allow to dry completely before storing.
Herbs- For most herbs is all you need to do is allow the plant to flower and go to seed, wait for the seed to turn brown then carefully remove the seed. Bring it inside and allow the seed to finish drying before storing.
Carrots- Carrots are biennials meaning they only go to seed every other year. That means they have to overwinter then come back up to produce seed. I have had plenty of carrots go to seed the first year which can be handy for the seed saver in zone three where carrots do not regularly overwinter. When the carrot does go to seed collect in the same way as herbs.
Onions- Onions are biennials as well but they don't usually have any problem overwintering. Just leave a few in the ground and the following year they will come up and bloom. Once they have bloomed and begin to dry it might be a good idea to put a paper bag over the bloom to catch the seeds. because they will start to fall while you are waiting for them to dry.
May this encourage you to start saving your seeds and help you grow many successful gardens!
Happy, healthy, clean living,
You all know that we invested in new, breeder quality chickens earlier this spring. We searched the country high and low for birds that were not only breeder quality but also that they have been raised and selected for egg and meat production and fed a non-GMO diet.
Every hatchery feeds their birds GMO feed. They are not selected for quality and all the eggs are injected with vaccines. Every egg. Furthermore, unless it is stated that they are a heritage breed, you are likely getting a Cornish cross. These are considered by most people who are familiar with the subject as GMO chickens. Although they are not genetically modified the same way as say GMO corn, they are absolutely genetically modified through an intensive breeding program in which only to hatcheries in the country have the Frankenstein breeding stock to do so and with very inhumane results.
Cornish cross chickens have been bred in such a way that they reach butchering size in as little as 12 weeks. A healthy heritage or even a normal bird from the hatchery would take 20 weeks to be ready for butcher. They may be a little smaller but I'm sure you would be fine with that once you learn how the Cornish cross lives in their short little lives.
Commercially raised chickens- everything in your run of the line grocery store, are raised in long "houses" . They only receive artificially light and have at most a 1 to 1 1/2 feet of space each. And that is considered "free range" because they are not locked up in a cage. There are thousands of birds in each house and by the way the houses only get cleaned out about once every 4 years. Because of their super charged growth rate they often get broken legs and have heart attacks. As a result of their confined and cramped (literally walking on each other, hurt/sick chickens, and even dead chickens) disease is rampant, including E-coli so they are given vaccines and medicated feed. But still the death rate is high. Every day people come through and pick out the dead ones and then bury them alive! Yes, they are supposed to wring their neck first, like that's much better, but that "takes to long" so they just throw them in a pit then put the lid on and walk away leaving them to starve and suffocate to death. It is a horrible industry. This is not what we want when we sit done to the diner table. This is cruel and unnecessary. And this so called food does not nourish our bodies.
Organic means that they were given organic food but it doesn't mean that they were raised humanely. A lot of big companies have started an organic division so they can get a piece of profit from the organic pie. That doesn't mean they believe in the value of organic and humanely raised animals. There are a few companies out there that are raising their birds humanely and some even organically on a somewhat large scale. You have to research the company and know what to look for. Like I told you earlier "free range" doesn't necessarily mean that they are out wondering the prairie. It is highly unlikely. It is much better to look for pasture raised birds which are moved to new pasture on a consistent basis. The very best option is to KNOW YOUR FARMER. Where ever you live, either near us or across the world, know your farmer. Do a quick search and find local farmers in your area and buy them directly from them. Go to their farm and see how the birds are raised for yourself. If the farmer doesn't want you to visit then they must be hiding something. Our customers are always welcome to visit our farm. This is the best way to buy all your meat.
Now you can see why we were so very excited to find our birds! It has been several years since we purchased any birds from a hatchery and almost 10 years since we have bought any chicken from the store. But breeding hatchery chickens is not the same. We needed top quality birds to start our breeding program. Now that we have them we will be breeding one line for layers and for meat birds so that we can provide more eggs and chicken to our CSA customers. . Our chicken receives a completely non-GMO and organic diet, including fresh greens and they are free ranged-truly free ranged. They literally roam the prairie freely. Ahh, isn't that nice! And of course all this means that our birds are more nutritious too.
Happy, healthy, clean, eating,
I have done much research on this subject. We are deeply concerned with what we feed our family and take it very seriously. I didn't site the facts in this post but the information is easily found all over the internet if you would like to do further research. There is nothing wrong with eating meat but that doesn't mean we don't need to consider the quality of life of the animals that are raised for this purpose.
I'm so excited to finally be doing this project! It has been over a year in the making and now the beginning stages are done!
We would like to get bees. Better pollination rates for our garden and orchard as well as honey!. But I do not wantGMO honey. So that means I need to have enough flowers throughout the bees active season to feed them or they might go down the street to some GMO crop and bring that back into the hive. They will travel miles to collect food. It will also be great to be helping the declining population of bees and pollinators in general. They are so important to our food supply. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, bees alone are responsible for pollinating 1/3 of our food supply. A great reason for anyone, including you, to start a pollinator garden.
No, I am not counting on this little hillside to contain all of their food it is just another site to add to the gardens (including all the herb gardens) and flowers we already have. We are also making a pollinator border around our newest garden. It is important that we have something blooming throughout the entire season-from early spring to fall and that is where we need to do some work. There needs to be more early and late bloomers. We will be accomplishing this with perennial and annual flowers (this works great for our bouquets in theCSA baskets), trees and bushes, And on top of that they will have everything in the gardens (we're nearing two acres now with plans to turn the front yard into a perennial food forest).
Favorite Plants For Pollinators
We already grow everything with a *. A good start but we still have a ways to go. It can be tricky to coordinate blooms for each part of the season, which ones will grow in your climate, and if they are perennial or if they need to be re-planted every year. That is why I'm working on a reading list for this winter. Next spring I want to be prepared. Here is my list and why I chose each book.
In The Bee Friendly Garden you get instruction from both a garden designer and a bee expert. They both believe in organic gardening and apply this to their techniques and instruction. They also go into attracting other beneficial insects. We knowhow important that is too.
Then there is Pollinators of Native Plants. I really like this one because it goes into the importance of genetic diversity of native plants and their benefit to the bees and other pollinators. It is kind of like growing heirloom vegetables. You don't want to loose so many great traits to hybridization.
Pollinator Friendly Gardening takes things a step further and brings less talked about pollinators into the discussion such as ants, wasps and beetles. Although we want bees and honey we think these other pollinators are just as important.
100 Plants To Feed The Bees focuses more on native plants, trees and shrubs of the US. Each plants lists which pollinators will visit the plant and what kind of honey it will produce. It uses annuals, perennials, herbs, trees, and shrubs. I really like the variety as this is key to great garden design.
It took me, with the help of my two oldest, about a day and a half to get all the rocks in place and the steps formed. We aren't sure how we want to finish of the steps yet-another thing to research this winter.
There was one trouble spot. We knew about it before starting but I wasn't quite sure what to do with it. There was a cement something about halfway up the hill. We were not sure what it was. It didn't seem reasonable that it was anything for the house because of it's location. So after doing some digging and finding out the it didn't go very deep (at least on the edges) we decided that perhaps when the retaining wall to the right of the beds was poured they had extra cement they needed to get out of the cement truck and thus dumped it there. So we took a sledge hammer to it. Well, mostly my son. He loves stuff like that. We broke off the outside edges to find that the middle was quite deep and decided they filled in an old fence post hole. After taking off the edges it became something that I could work with, i.e. hide under the dirt and no longer have it in the way of my path. I really didn't want a cement slab in the middle of my path.
I've planted some Echinacea, Anise Hyssop starts, chive starts, fall crops of spinach, lettuce, basil , and cilantro, Sedum and Rock Rose along the edge and some wild flowers. Even though the perennial wildflowers won't have time to get much of any size this year, they will come back next year. It is a Non-gmo mix for pollinators. I just couldn't wait.
Things are starting to come up. The cooler weather has been perfect for the lettuce and spinach. Don't the little black flowers on the corner look cute. That was my daughter's idea.
Next year we will finish the steps and tackle the section you can see in the upper left of the picture with the plastic. The grass will be dead by then and I should have decided if I want to add a couple of fruit trees there or make more terraced beds. It would be nice to have the fruit trees close and would be a great entry into the perennial food forest we are planning for the front yard. They wouldn't shade the garden because that is the north side but they would provide some shade for the animals in that pasture. So many decisions. I have to see what my husband, who hauled home all these rocks from a job site that didn't want them (thank you!) thinks. I'm leaning towards the trees. Do you think I can convince him?
I hope this inspires you to start a pollinator garden. The bees do too. Or maybe you already have one. Please share your experiences and any tips. Thank you!
Happy, healthy, clean eating,
Cutworms and How to Control Them Organically
Cut worms (they are actually more like a caterpillar) can reek all sort of havoc on a garden. Most commonly they kill seedlings by chewing their way through the stem or just eating the entire top of the seedling off, leaving only a stem. A stem that will no longer grow. Sad.
We have had problems with cut worms in the past eating our freshly planted starts and our newly emerged seedlings. A simple fix we found to work well is to plant your seeds and starts in a ring of un-perforated drain tile pipe. We use 4" drain tile cut into rings about 4-5" tall. Make sure they are set into the ground about 1". At night, when the cut worms crawl out of the ground looking for something to eat, they run into these rings and find they are not edible and move on leaving your seedlings alone. Cut worms don't seem to bother carrots but they do like peas Cole crops and squash. Another way to battle them is with beneficial nematodes. They actually eat the cut worms. We find the rings to be more effective. Beneficial nematodes have a short life and it would require a whole lot of nematodes to cover all of our gardens. They have to be reapplied every year.
Besides eating seedlings, cutworms also like to chow down on mature plants. And that is what happened in one of our tunnels of cabbage this year. They ate some of the leaves for an appetizer then gorged themselves on the center or heads of the cabbage.
Thankfully we caught it in time and applied diatomaceous earth (DE) to kill the cutworms. DE comes from the fossils of diatoms, a type of hard shelled algae. The remains are ground into a fine powder and is used in multiple applications and it is approved by OMRI for use in organic farming.
Watch our video below to find out how we used it to stop the cutworms from eating our cabbage and how DE works.
No more cutworms in our cabbage. Oh, so looking forward to eating these beautiful cabbages!
Always check your local store first for DE but it can be difficult to find. You do not want the kind that they use in swimming pools. Try one of these if that is all you can find. I do use this brand when I can't get it locally. Like I said early earlier is just sprinkle it on with my hands or some panty hose, but is that seems too messy for you, and it is, you may like to try the duster.
I hope this helps you with any cut worm problems. May your garden be blessed.
Happy, healthy, clean eating,
This week we released ladybugs into the greenhouse to help control aphids. This is a safe and effective alternative to chemicals. Ladybug larvae will consume 400 medium sized aphids during it's development to the pupal stage. An adult ladybug can eat as much as 5,000 aphids during it's lifetime! 5,000 aphids in a year, that's impressive!
It is easy to order ladybugs off the internet and I have provide a link to California-native ladybugs below. It is important that you are purchasing native ladybugs and NOT the Asian variety.
Asian ladybugs were purposely introduced to American in the later half of the 1900's by the Department of Agriculture to help control crop pests such as aphids and scale. Although they did do that is was learned that they are not as friendly as the native version. Asian ladybugs bite for one. They also will overwinter in your house if they can find a way in. Once they are in they may stain your walls and furniture with the sticky yellow fluid they secrete.
This certainly detracts from all those "ooh, aren't they cute" feelings we have when we see a ladybug. Can you imagine being worried about letting a child hold a ladybug because it might bite them? That just isn't right. Please buy only native ladybugs.
If you come across a ladybug an want to be sure it is of the native sort then check for a white spot at the back of it's head. If you find that white spot you may want to pass on picking it up but I will leave that up to you.
Once you receive your ladybugs put them in the fridge until you are ready to use them. It is best to release them in the evening. Before you let them out make sure there is a quick food source for them. You can buy lady bug food along with your ladybugs. This just gives them a boost after their long trip to your house. We use a powder form that you sprinkle on your plants then gently water. After this your ladybugs are all set to chow down on all those unwelcome guests in your garden. Remember that you don't have to release all your ladybugs at once. Save some in the fridge for 2-3 months. The longer they are stored the more likely some will be lost but it is good to have multiple releases to ensure that your pest problem is taken care of.
Like I stated in the video, ladybugs eat nectar when there are no pest around for them to munch on. Having flowering plants and herbs increases your chance of them sticking around for any future pests problems.
If you have an infestation ladybugs are not going to be enough. In this case I would recommend Safer Soap. It is a soap based insecticide that uses potassium fatty acids to kill arthropods and soft bodied insects. It works by breaking down the outer shell of the insect. NO synthetic chemicals involved. It is OMRI listed and compliant for organic horticultural practice. Simply spray it on and by the next day the little aphids are brown and all dried up. Reapply in several days, or anytime you see any new aphids to make sure you get any new hatchlings .
Have you ever used ladybugs before? How about Safer Soap insecticides?
Happy, healthy, clean eating!
Hello, I'm Jaci. I love gardening and being outside in God's amazing creation. I'm passionate about whole foods and clean eating. I hope you enjoy my farm life adventures!