seed starting 1seed starting 2It’s time to start thinking about starting seeds for your spring garden! Here’s a method that uses plastic containers that would otherwise be tossed in the landfill – a rotisserie chicken container and used k-cup coffee pods. This is especially convenient if you only want to start a few plants. One rotisserie container comfortably holds 12seed starting 3seed starting 4 pods.

Here’s how you do it…

Step 1: Purchase a rotisserie chicken and eat it. Wash it down with 12 cups of coffee!

Step 2: While you are at the height of your caffeine-induced mania, clean out the chicken container and gut the k-cup pods. Heck! Clean out your closets, your garage and your basement while you’re at it.

K-cup pods have fiber liners. Dump the grounds and tear them out. And hey, coffee grounds can be recycled too! Acid loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias love them.

Step 3: Punch holes in the k-cups. These holes will allow water to wick into the pods.

Step 4: Fill the k-cup pods with seed starting soil. Add about ¼” of water to the bottom of the container. Water the soil in the pods as well. Potting mix is light and doesn’t readily absorb water at first. In fact, it almost seems water resistant! Let the soil filled pods rest in the pool of water in the container. Slowly, the soil in the pods will relax and absorb the water. If the bottom of the container dries up, add enough water to just cover the bottom. If you prefer, you can mix the potting mix in a bowl or bucket of water ahead of time and fill the pods with moist potting mix.

Step 5: Now, you are ready to sow the seeds! Follow the sowing directions for each type of seed. Most seeds will only require a light covering of soil. Don’t cover too deeply.

Step 6: Place the lid on the container and put it in a warm spot. The top of the fridge works. You can also place the container on a warming mat made especially for seed starting. At this point, sunlight is not necessary. Humidity is key. Keep the soil warm and moist and everything will be okay. When the bottom of the tray is dry, add water to the tray… but not too much. Keep the soil moist but not soaked. The water will wick through the holes in the pods.

Step 7: After your seeds sprout, remove the lid as a humid environment is no longer necessary.  You can now move the seedlings to a cooler, but sunny location. Setting them under grow lights is ideal. Now, the seedlings need more light than they do heat. If you notice your seedlings leaning toward the light, turn the tray. If your plants start to look lanky, they aren’t getting enough light. Also, at this stage, you won’t need to water as often. Overwatering can lead to damping off (a virus that rots the seedlings at ground level). Add water to the container only when the soil feels dry.

Step 8: You’re ready to transplant your seeds to larger containers after they have developed a set or two of true leaves and are about 2-3” tall. Typically, this takes 2-3 weeks. Carefully transplant them in larger containers (filled with garden soil rather than seed starting soil) to allow for root growth. I like to use a small spoon to transfer them from one container to another. Disturb the delicate roots as little as possible. It’s okay to add a slow-release liquid fertilizer at this point. I use it at half strength.

Step 9: Your seedlings will grow like crazy after being transplanted! Before they are garden-ready, they need to be hardened off (toughened up). Even though they look quite strong and healthy, they are still tender and need to slowly be exposed to outdoor temperatures, sun and wind. Initially, set them in a sheltered outdoor spot for a couple of hours each day. Gradually increase their outdoor time. Eventually, if the temperatures aren’t too low, you will be able to leave them out all day.

Step 10: Plant your veggies and flowers in your garden and enjoy!

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_______________________________

Door 1

Door 3

Door 2Door 4I had a stack
of old doors
BEGGING
for a purpose.

 

So, off to Pinterest I trotted! I considered making a bench, a coffee table or a coat rack, but kept coming back to the bookshelf idea. It looked like a simple project (and it was) that could be completed in a day. Perfect!

The first thing I did was scrub off the grime using soap and water. After the wood dried, I drilled holes in two corners of each panel (kitty-corner) to accommodate the jigsaw blade. Using a jigsaw, I cut out the panels. Then, I sanded the rough edges and removed loose paint. Finally, I attached two L-brackets to the underside of each panel/shelf and attached them behind the openings.

I struggled
with the thought
that I could be
“ruining”
a perfectly good
old door.

 

After I removed the first panel, there was no turning back! Turns out it was the right choice. Had I not repurposed this door, it would still be sitting in a shed collecting dust.

What’s the point
of having a great door

with no purpose?!

_______________________________

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To celebrate the upcoming 1 year anniversary of my book, “Pickin’ A Chicken”,
I’m offering a downloadable version for 99 cents.
Winter is the perfect time to start planning your new spring flock!
CLICK HERE
to get a copy of Pickin’ A Chicken for 99 cents!

AlsoAvailable on Amazon…
Pickin’ A Chicken – Softcover
Pickin’ A Chicken – Kindle

COVER for Blog

Thinking about getting a few chickens? “Pickin’ A Chicken” will guide you step by step through the chicken selection process and help you pick the perfect chicken with confidence.

 

pumpkin one slice outpumpkin chunkschunkspureeThis spring, I planted several Fairytale Pumpkin seeds (true name: Musque De Provence). It is an heirloom pumpkin that originated in France. I fell in love with it the moment I set eyes on the bronze, deeply ribbed lobes pictured on the seed packet. I knew I had to purchase these seeds and hope for the best! Not only does this pumpkin have a stunning exterior, but its flesh is perfect for pies, baked goods, sauces, and soups.

Only two of approximately fifty tiny pumpkin babies made it to maturity. My chickens free range during the day and gobbled up most of the tiny pumpkins, which is probably just as well. The flesh on these pumpkins is extremely thick, so one large pumpkin makes a lot of pumpkin puree. Last week, I cut up the larger of the two pumpkins. It weighed 34pumpkin bread.5 pounds and produced thirty-eight (38!) cups of puree. That’s a lot of pumpkin bread, folks!

With a pumpkin this large, where does one begin? First, I scrubbed the exterior of the pumpkin. Then, I cut it into wedges and scooped out the seeds and pulp. The wedges were too large to microwave, so I cut them into smaller, more manageable pieces and put them in a microwaveable bowl. I added about 1” of water and covered the bowl. Next, I microwaved the pumpkin until the flesh easily scooped out of the shell, which was about 15-20 minutes. I dropped the scooped out pumpkin flesh into a blender and pureed until the mixture was smooth and formed a nice swirling vortex of pumpkin-y goodness. Since many recipes call for two cups of pumpkin puree, I poured two cups of puree into a freezer bag, squeezed out the extra air, sealed it, and put it in the freezer. Then, I repeated this eighteen more times! The flattened freezer bags stacked nicely and will be easy to use the next time I have a recipe that calls for pumpkin.

Immediately after processing the pumpkin, I made two loaves of pumpkin bread. Delicious! Baking with fresh pumpkin is well worth the effort. Had it not been, I wouldn’t have saved the seeds for planting next year.

Fairytale Pumpkin/Musque De Provence… eye AND mouth candy!

___________________________________________

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___________________________________________

MY BOOK IS NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON!
Pickin’ A Chicken – Softcover
Pickin’ A Chicken – Kindle

COVER for Blog

Thinking about getting a few chickens? “Pickin’ A Chicken” will guide you step by step through the chicken selection process. By the end of the book, you will be able to pick the perfect chicken with confidence.

 

soap ingredients soap chunks cooking adding borax whipped soap in jarsI tried something new – homemade laundry soap. Why? I’ve always wanted to try it. Plus, it’s crazy inexpensive (costs a few cents per load), only uses three ingredients (plus water if you make the liquid version) and is very easy to make.

Most laundry soap recipes are for the powdered version. I added an extra step or two and made a liquid soap. I use one heaping tablespoon of soap per load. Don’t be alarmed when it doesn’t get all sudsy like commercial laundry detergent. It’s the soap, not the suds, that cleans your clothes.

To my surprise, I had to hunt for the ingredients. I hoped to find them all in one place but ended up going to two. No big deal. The ingredients will last a long, long time and will make many batches of soap.

 

HOMEMADE LAUNDRY SOAP
(makes approximately 2 quarts)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 bar Fels Naptha soap
    (substitute Ivory, Zote or any soap you like)
  • 1 cup 20 Mule Team Borax
  • 1 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
    (NOT baking soda… two different things. Washing soda is in the laundry aisle.)
  • 4 cups hot water

Grate soap using a hand grater, blender or food processor.

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add soap and stir frequently until soap dissolves (10-15 minutes). Do NOT let the mixture boil. Apparently, it makes a big mess.

After the soap has melted, turn off the heat and add the borax and washing soda. Stir for several minutes.

Pour the liquid into 2 quart size jars.

Screw lids on and let the jars sit for an hour or so. Shake to break up clumps and separation. I did this a few times throughout the day. You can also let it sit overnight, dump the mixture into a bowl, then whip with a mixer until it has the consistency of hand lotion.

Pour it back into the jars and enjoy your homemade laundry soap.

*If you want powdered soap, skip the water. Just mix the soap (be sure to finely grate it), borax and washing soda. You’re done!

___________________________________________

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___________________________________________

MY BOOK IS NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON!
Pickin’ A Chicken – Softcover
Pickin’ A Chicken – Kindle

COVER for Blog

Thinking about getting a few chickens? “Pickin’ A Chicken” will guide you step by step through the chicken selection process. By the end of the book, you will be able to pick the perfect chicken with confidence.

 

fig forestfigs in treebox of figscooking figswater bathfigs in jars 2Every summer, I promise myself I will make fig jam using the figs from our huge, sprawling old fig trees. Finally, after several broken promises, I made my first batch. Those little jars of jam are so beautiful and their contents so delicious. I could kick myself for not doing it years ago!

I found several recipes in books and online. Some seemed too fancy. Others required too many ingredients or tedious preparation methods. I wanted a plain, simple, tried and true, old-fashioned recipe. I finally ended up using the Sure-Jell pectin recipe. They even include nutritional information. Considering the fact that this recipe calls for 7 cups of sugar, you might want to skip over that part!

SURE-JELL Fig Jam
Prep Time: 45 min
Total Time: 45 min
Makes: About 10 (1-cup) jars or 160 servings, 1 Tbsp. each

What You Need
5 cups prepared fruit (about 3-1/4 lb. fully ripe figs)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1 box SURE-JELL Fruit Pectin
1/2 tsp. butter or margarine
7 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl

Make It!
Bring boiling-water canner, half full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain jars well before filling.

Trim stem ends from figs. Finely chop or grind fruit. Measure exactly 5 cups prepared fruit into 6- or 8-qt. saucepot. Stir in lemon juice and water.

Stir in pectin. Add butter to reduce foaming. Bring mixture to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn’t stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 min., stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.

Ladle immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches; add boiling water if needed.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 10 min. Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middles of lids with finger. (If lids springs back, lids are not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)

Nutritional Information PER SERVING
Calories 40
Total fat 0g
Saturated fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 0mg
Carbohydrate 11g
Dietary fiber 0g
Sugars 9g
Protein 0g
Vitamin A 0%DV
Vitamin C 0%DV
Calcium 0%DV
Iron 0%DV

___________________________________________

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Clever Chicks Blog Hop
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___________________________________________

MY BOOK IS NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON!
Pickin’ A Chicken – Softcover
Pickin’ A Chicken – Kindle

COVER for Blog

Thinking about getting a few chickens? “Pickin’ A Chicken” will guide you step by step through the chicken selection process. By the end of the book, you will be able to pick the perfect chicken with confidence.

 

pickles in jarspickles sliceddilly beansThe green beans, cucumbers, zucchini, and yellow squash are rolling in with no sign of letting up any time soon. In fact, this is just the beginning! As much as I love garden fresh produce, I tire of the more prolific veggies before the end of the season. I hate to waste them, yet have trouble managing them. This year, I vowed to use as much of my produce as possible.

Since it’s impossible to eat every fresh green bean, cucumber, or zucchini I harvest, I’ve decided to preserve some of my precious produce by freezing and canning. I started with the green beans and froze a few quart bags. I also made a jar of pickled refrigerator dill beans. I made a simple brine using white vinegar, sugar, garlic, peppercorns, and fresh dill from the garden.

Next, I tackled the cucumbers, zucchini and yellow squash. I didn’t have enough to warrant dragging out the canning paraphernalia, so I made three quarts of pickled refrigerator pickles and squash (zucchini and yellow). I used Ball pickling mix, though you can create your own, of course. It was easier to use the mix given the small quantity.

You know what’s great about refrigerator pickles? Since they won’t be stored long term, they don’t require official canning jars and lids. I did use one canning jar because I happened to have it. I used empty spaghetti jars for the other two. Reuse whenever possible! The other advantage of pickled refrigerator produce is that you can enjoy it a lot sooner than its canned counterparts. Refrigerator pickles are ready in about 4 days, though three weeks is ideal. If you can wait that long, good for you! I confess to trying mine after day one.

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___________________________________________

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Being Frugal by Choice
___________________________________________

MY BOOK IS NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON!
Pickin’ A Chicken – Softcover
Pickin’ A Chicken – Kindle

Thinking about getting a few chickens? “Pickin’ A Chicken” will guide you step by step through the chicken selection process. By the end of the book, you will be able to pick the perfect chicken with confidence.

 

cobblercast iron skillet cobbler 1cast iron skillet cobbler 2cast iron skillet cobbler 3It’s no secret that I love my cast iron cookware. When I discover a new way to use it, I’m on it like flies on the best seat in the outhouse! Not an appetizing image, is it? Okay… erase that visual from your mind and think juicy berries in a lovely cake. Better?

This berry cobbler is even more delicious when served warm with ice cream. It’s not difficult to make and easily pops out of the skillet. I used blueberries and raspberries, but you can use any berries you like or happen to have on hand.

 

 

CAST IRON COBBLER

Ingredients
1 ½ cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 Tbs. honey
2 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ cup butter
1 ½ cups milk
3 cups berries (fresh or frozen)
Juice of one lemon

Directions
Preheat oven to 350.
Add half of the berries, honey and lemon juice to a 12” cast iron skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat. Stir for 10-15 minutes until berries break down and the mixture thickens. Pour the berry mixture into a separate bowl and mix in the other half of the berries.

Add the butter to the skillet melt it over medium low heat.

In another bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Then, add milk and stir until the mixture is smooth.

Add the flour batter to the butter in the skillet and mix until combined.

Evenly drop the berries into the batter. DO NOT stir them in.

Bake for 35-45 minutes. You will know it is ready when the edges are slightly brown and a toothpick poked into the center comes out clean.

Give the cobbler 10-15 minutes to cool. Then, slap on a scoop of ice cream and dig in!

 

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___________________________________________

Linking to

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and
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___________________________________________

MY BOOK IS NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON!
Pickin’ A Chicken – Softcover
Pickin’ A Chicken – Kindle

Thinking about getting a few chickens? “Pickin’ A Chicken” will guide you step by step through the chicken selection process. By the end of the book, you will be able to pick the perfect chicken with confidence.

 

straw 1straw 2I was so excited when a friend gave me four bales of half rotted straw! This was exactly what I needed to mulch my vegetable garden. Three bales filled a 16’x20’ area to a depth of approximately 4 inches. The other bale is on standby. If I don’t need it during the rest of the garden season, I will spread it over the garden this fall and let it break down with the rest of the straw.

The not-so-exiting part was that the straw was soggy, slimy and filled with ants. A good pair of leather gloves protected my hands from the mush and slime, but not the ants.

Why is rotting straw good for a garden?
  • Unlike fresh, yellow, new straw, the weed seeds in rotting straw have had time to sprout and die.
  • Straw will keep weed seeds in the soil from sprouting.
  • It will help the soil retain moisture.
  • The straw will break down over time and leave behind excellent organic material.
  •  Less watering and weeding! Need I say more?
Tips when using straw mulch…
  • Don’t smother the base of the plant with the straw. It could cause the plants to rot.
  • Make sure the straw is well seasoned. If not, the grains in it could start to sprout.
  • Loosen it up as you scatter it around your garden. Tightly packed clumps will mat. Matted straw will not allow water into the soil as readily as loose straw. Also, it will not break down as quickly.

The next time you see a bale of rotting straw, you will no longer see it as something that needs to be discarded. Rather, you will see it as baskets laden with fresh, delicious produce!

 

If you haven’t done so already, please “like”
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___________________________________________

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and
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___________________________________________

MY BOOK IS NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON!
Pickin’ A Chicken – Softcover
Pickin’ A Chicken – Kindle

Thinking about getting a few chickens? “Pickin’ A Chicken” will guide you step by step through the chicken selection process. By the end of the book, you will be able to pick the perfect chicken with confidence.

 

lettuceon towelburritograb towelwhippingThe spring lettuce is ready and we made our first cutting today. So buttery soft. So fresh. So delicious! The downside is that cleaning lettuce is no picnic if you don’t know how to do it.

I’m going to share my top secret lettuce cleaning and drying method with you. It’s easy and it doesn’t require fancy/expensive equipment (a salad spinner). My salad spinner happens to be a cotton dish towel. It does a fantastic job. As a matter of fact, it spins the water out better than a salad spinner, doesn’t cause as much bruising, and it takes up far less space in my kitchen.

Immediately after I harvest lettuce, I dump it into a sink filled with cold water. I gently slosh the lettuce in the water. The tiny bits of dirt drop off and sink to the bottom. I then scoop the lettuce out of the sink and put it in a colander to drain. Next, I lay out a cotton flour sack-type dish towel. I use this type of towel because it is light enough to allow the water to “spin” out. I then put the lettuce on the center of the towel and fold the sides over with a generous overlap. Pretend you are making a giant lettuce & towel burrito. The next step is best implemented outside. Gather up the ends of the towel and whip your homemade salad spinner around and around. It’s fun! Water will fly everywhere, but it won’t matter because you are outside. You remembered to go outside, didn’t you? Oh well. It’s just water.

For the best flavor and freshness, harvest lettuce one hour or less before your meal. After you clean and spin it, gently wrap it in clean, dry dish towel and put it in the refrigerator to rest.

 

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___________________________________________

Linking to

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and
Homestead Barn Hop
___________________________________________

MY BOOK IS NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON!
Pickin’ A Chicken – Softcover
Pickin’ A Chicken – Kindle

Thinking about getting a few chickens? “Pickin’ A Chicken” will guide you step by step through the chicken selection process. By the end of the book, you will be able to pick the perfect chicken with confidence.

 

pole bean seriesI’ve never grown pole beans and, until recently, didn’t know much about how to build a support for them. My research uncovered everything from bean pole teepees to bean fences. I took a little from each of the solutions I found and created my own design.

My pole bean supports are like mini raised beds. They have a wall/barrier separating them from the ground and they contain potting mix rather than Carolina red clay. A simple trim with a weed trimmer will keep the grass (okay, weeds!) around the planter tidy. I considered building a 2’x12’ raised bed for the beans, but knew it would need a lot more soil than five planters would need. Plus, I just wanted to try something new!

I buried the planters to keep them from tipping over. I also hope that burying the pots keeps them from drying out as quickly as above ground planters.

To build your own buried pole bean support, you will need:
Plastic planter
4’ or longer length of rebar
5’ or longer piece of PVC pipe (with an opening large enough to slip over the rebar)
Strong garden twine
Drill and bits (3/8″ and 1/4″)
Hammer
Shovel

Here’s how to build it…

1. Drill 3/8” drainage holes in the bottom of the planter, including one in the center.

2. Drill four or more 1/4″ holes in the rim of the planter for the string supports.

3. Drill a 1/4″ hole through the PVC pipe (about an inch from the end).

4. Dig a hole for the planter and bury approximately two thirds of it.

5. Place the rebar in the center hole of the planter and pound it approximately 12” into the ground.

6. Slip the PVC pipe over the rebar (hole at top).

7. Add soil.

8. String the twine through a hole in the planter rim and then through the hole in the top of the PVC pipe. Run the string through the next hole in the planter and continue stringing until complete.

9. Securely knot the twine at the top of the PVC pipe.

10. Plant your beans and watch them crawl up the string!

 

If you haven’t done so already, please “like”
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Thanks!
___________________________________________

MY BOOK IS NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON!
Pickin’ A Chicken – Softcover
Pickin’ A Chicken – Kindle

Thinking about getting a few chickens? “Pickin’ A Chicken” will guide you step by step through the chicken selection process. By the end of the book, you will be able to pick the perfect chicken with confidence.

Linking to Clever Chicks Blog Hop
and Homestead Barn Hop

 
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