Monday, June 30, 2014

10 Kitchen Solutions for Common Garden Issues

Whenever I have trouble in the garden, I like to try the least aggressive methods first. Similar to what is being seen with the overuse of antibiotics and resultant development of superbugs like MRSA, using chemical controls in a home garden can often lead to more serious problems later. 

Here are three reasons why I don't like to use commercial sprays: 
  • Money. Those bottles are pretty spendy, and they add up quickly.
  • Bees and other beneficials. Many commercial formulas are broad-spectrum, indiscriminate killers- wiping out both the good guys and the bad. 
  • If something kills 99.9% of anything, that remaining .1% is left to reproduce and pass along its resistant genes. Once that happens, the product that was just used will no longer work effectively against the survivors, and the problem will come back stronger than before. 
Any number of authors out there tout the benefits of natural remedies for your garden, but probably the most popular (and prolific) is Jerry Baker. He's written numerous books on how to concoct and use these less-toxic solutions around your garden. I can't say I agree with everything that he recommends using, and quite frankly I find the presentation a little hokey, but that's just a matter of my personal preference. By and large, however, he offers practical advice and is definitely worth checking out.

In case you don't have time to read a whole book on the subject- here are 10 items that are probably already in your kitchen, that can help you get a handle on some common garden issues: 

1. Garlic: Antifungal, Insect Repellant. If you grow roses, make friends with garlic. Regular application of garlic on roses can help keep aphids and black spot at bay; even just planting a few cloves around the base of your rosebush helps. To make a garlic spray, take 5 cloves of garlic and either chop them or use a garlic press to crush them into a measuring cup. Pour 1 cup boiling water over the garlic, and cover. Let stand until completely cool, then strain the liquid into a spray bottle. Mist affected plants early in the morning or late in the day, to avoid the possibility of burning the leaves in direct sunlight. The spray will start to lose its potency relatively quickly, so make up small batches as needed. 

2. Powdered Milk: Antifungal. The milk reacts with sunlight when sprayed on infected foliage, so this is one time where you do want to spray when the sun is shining. It can also be combined with baking soda, for severe fungal outbreaks. Ratio is 1 part milk to 3 parts water. (Plus 1 teaspoon baking soda, if desired.)

3. Dish Soap: Insecticide- aphids, thrips, Japanese beetles. Note: do not use antibacterial soaps or a soap containing detergents. Ivory Dish Soap, pure Castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s) or Mrs. Meyers Clean Day soaps are good; baby shampoo also works. Make a spray using 1 teaspoon of soap to 1 pint (16 ounces) of water. Spray on leaves, let stand (out of direct sunlight) for about an hour, then rinse with plain water to reduce the risk of leaf burn.

4. Hot Peppers, Hot Pepper Sauce: Repels deer, rabbits and some insects. Try 2 Tablespoons hot sauce in 1 quart of water, sprayed on the plants. Some recipes suggest adding a drop or two of soap or oil to help the mixture stick to the leaves better.

5. Vegetable Oil: Can be used as a carrier/sticker in conjunction with other methods; by itself controls corn earworms. Squeeze a small amount of a light vegetable oil in the corn silk while the ears are still small; this will act as a barrier to the earworms.

6. Vinegar (white): Herbicide. Particularly effective when applied hot and/or with salt. Excellent for sidewalk/driveway/patio cracks where you want nothing to grow. Use full strength to kill weeds; add 1T salt to 1 cup white vinegar and pour hot into the cracks. Avoid spraying this mixture if possible, as it will burn any plant it comes in contact with.

7. Apple Cider Vinegar: Fungicide. Use diluted, 3 Tablespoons ACV to 1 Gallon of Water, applied with a sprayer. 

8. Table Salt: Kills slugs and has herbicidal properties. (See #6) Take note that the salt will persist in the soil, and may stunt or prevent new plant growth, so use with caution. 

9. Baking Soda: Fungicide, Powdery Mildew and Black Spot. Mix 1 Tablespoon baking soda to 1 gallon of water; add 2T of light vegetable oil as a sticker. Mix well before and during application to keep the oil from separating. Spray on affected plants, making sure to get the undersides of the leaves as well.

10. Eggshells: Ground relatively fine (not quite powdered) they help keep slugs at bay and add calcium to the soil as they decompose.      

Remember, you won't get the same "kill 'em all" results out of these solutions, but you will be able to knock out enough of the bad guys in order to restore balance in your garden.

Do you have any home remedies that you use to take care of trouble in your garden?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sunday Special from Craftsy

Craftsy's Pick Your Price Promotion! 
(sponsored post)

Pick your price! Choose from this tiered selection of popular online classes today and get better at what you love to do without breaking the bank! Enroll today to enjoy learning anytime, anywhere, forever. See what's on sale: Pick Your Price Sale at Craftsy

Limited time offer- sale ends Monday, June 30, at 11:59 PM MT, so don't miss it!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday Photos


The softball-sized wild bunny who is currently terrorizing my garden. 

Rat's Tail Radish flower. At least the rabbit doesn't bother them!

Tiny frog in the rhubarb- barely an inch long, if that. 

Sweet little lamb at the rescue.

This guy was my shadow, on orientation day.

Yellow zucchini- the first one this year!

Mmmm, raspberries!

Golden Laced Wyandotte and Rhode Island Red pullets. They're moving in with the big girls this weekend!

Taking the time to recap the week in photos is an easy way to keep track of how a garden is performing from year to year- it's much less work than keeping a journal! Looking back at my photos from last year, I can see that we're about a month behind where we were at this same point in time. We've had more rabbit damage, cooler temperatures and more rain than last season, but far fewer cabbage moths and a bumper crop of strawberries.

Have a great weekend, everyone, and don't forget to take a few minutes to snap some photos of what you have growing, if you haven't already! While you're at it, share them with me over on Facebook- I'd love to see what you have planted.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Around the Web

- Cherry season is upon us! Here are three ways to take advantage of this early summer treasure:

  • Check out this oldie-but-a-goody from WellPreserved on dehydrating cherries, and the bonus syrup step. It's brilliant.
  • This recipe for cherry bounce looks really good. It's close to how I make it, except that I don't ferment the cherries separately. I let them sit overnight with the sugar, and then add the whisky. So much YUM. 

- If you're still swimming in strawberries, set aside a few to make clafouti...  you can thank me later.  (It also works well with raspberries and blueberries, if you're so inclined.)

- Suncreen. Use it! This article details out the safest choices for you and your family. 

- Natural pest control for the garden. Don’t wait until you have a problem- keep ahead of the nasties, before they get out of control.

- This is a great post on ways to use up some of the excess mint that starts popping up this time of year. 

...and now it's time to get outside! Lots of work to do in the garden, as the warmer temps have weeds sprouting up all over the place. 

So, tell me: what's caught your eye online this week? Come on over to FB and share links to the A&T timeline. I have to moderate outside posts, but I'm always looking for interesting info to pass along. I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Goat Rescue

Yesterday, I spent the morning at the New Moon Farm Goat Rescue and Sanctuary getting my new volunteer orientation. I've wanted to get involved over there for quite a while, but with working full-time and having my own animals to take care of in the evenings, I just couldn't fit it in. So, now that my schedule is a bit more flexible, I thought it was the perfect time get involved.

The farm is located on 6 acres, conveniently located not too far from our home. One side of the property is broken into nice big pens for the adoptable animals, and the other is a large pasture where the resident animals live.

New Moon Farm is home to goats of all shapes and sizes, some sheep, a few horses, a little donkey, two barn cats and a couple of the owner's dogs. (Her home is on site, as well.) It was much larger than I expected!

We started out the orientation with a quick walk-through to give me the lay of the land, and then we got right down to business: manure management. (Holy moley, goats poop a lot!) Fortunately, it was relatively easy to clean, the way the pens are set up- there are stall mats down in the shelters where the animals congregate to eat and get out of the weather (and by default, where the manure piles up.)  I think that wintertime clean up is going to be much more involved, when they're not out in the grassy areas as much. It's a good thing I'm starting this in the summer!

I haven't had the opportunity to spend much time around goats previously, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that they are incredibly curious and friendly creatures. Each time I walked into a pen, there was a welcoming committee that came over to see what I was up to.

The sheep were a bit more skittish; not many of them were terribly interested in what I was doing there. The gal who was training me said that sheep tend to be like that, if they're not handled a lot when they're young. That makes sense to me, and besides, the goats definitely made up for that sheepy indifference with their smiles. From toothy grins to simple smirks, goats have some very expressive faces.

Sadly, there are a number of animals there at the farm who were badly mistreated by their previous owners. If there's one thing that I really don't understand, it's people who intentionally harm an animal that is dependent upon them. Neglect is bad enough- awful, really- but outright cruelty and abuse is something altogether different. That being said, however, I can't think of a better place for those animals to come to rehab, than New Moon Farm. Even the ones who had clearly been mistreated were friendly and wanted to interact with us.

I'm really excited to have this opportunity to work with the goats, and to get to know more about them. I've been interested in adding some goats and sheep to our little farm for a long time, but I didn't want to take on something like this without already having some hands-on experience, first. They're intelligent animals, and as a result, they're definitely more work than the rabbits and chickens. I need to know that they'd be a good fit here, before we make that kind of a commitment.

Do you raise goats or sheep? What's the one piece of advice that you think someone new should know?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Grit Day!

It's been a busy morning! In today's post over at Grit, I talk about a few of my favorite ways to use lavender. It's such a versatile plant!

I also just got home from the new volunteer orientation over at the goat rescue. More on that tomorrow, but until then, ponder these three words: baby pygmy goats

Last, but not least: I will be signing up for the Craftsy photography class shortly! Thank you to everyone who responded. I'll probably end up taking the veggie one as well, as it's been hard to choose between the two. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Homebrewing Basics- An Introduction

For whatever reason, even though I have a LOT of different hobbies, I'm always on the lookout for new ones. Homebrewing is something I've been interested in trying for ages- I mean, it's crafty, and it's beer- so by all accounts a perfect fit for me. I've just never managed to get around to it... until now.

I recently had the pleasure of listening to a presentation hosted by our local library called "Homebrewing: An Introduction to the Basics", presented by Don Roberts. Don is the co-owner of Homebrew Heaven, a local brewing supply store, and an avid home brewer.

In his presentation, Mr. Roberts gave an overview of what's involved in making beer, wine, cider and mead (a honey-based wine). The biggest takeaway for me was the understanding that in concept, beer, wine, and cider are all created using the same basic techniques.

Here's the super-simplified version:
  • Brewing: Using a recipe, the ingredients are gathered and combined. Generally, there's some cooking involved prior to the addition of yeast, in order to kill off any wild yeasts so the brew yields true to the yeast that's been chosen. 
  • Fermentation: Wait #1. The yeast does what it does best: takes in sugar, and gives off carbon dioxide gas, alcohol, and energy. Depending on what is being brewed, the time for this step will vary.
  • Bottling: When the fermentation phase is complete, the nearly-finished product is carefully moved from the fermenting vessel to the bottles. If additional carbonation is desired, additional sugar could be added at this point for a short, secondary fermentation in the bottle.
  • Bottle Conditioning: Wait #2. This is the last, and possibly most difficult stage, in which the final product gets to rest for a period of time (beer is one to three weeks, I'm not sure on the others) before consumption. 
The presentation was true to its title: a very high-level look at the basics, geared more towards whetting one's appetite than teaching actual technique. It certainly did the trick, though- as soon as their next class is scheduled, I'll be signing up. I'd like to get a hands-on look at the process in action, before I try to attempt it myself.

Until I get to take the class, however, I'll be doing some research and reading up on the subject. Do you have any experience brewing your own homemade beer, cider or wine? Tell me all about it!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday Photos

Berries and Eggs

Blackberries in bloom. Invasive as all get-out, but tasty.

Peek a Boo

Girdled for future firewood

Happy houseplant in the sunroom

A giant! Yum.

They're still Everywhere....

...but I finally found out who will eat them. Hooray for trout!

Red Huckleberry

Silvana Grain Co. 


Eye on the prize...

... and JUMP!

Dragonfly exuvia (the shell that gets left behind)

Have a great weekend, everyone! Don't forget to help me pick a Craftsy class... I'm taking suggestions up until this coming Monday morning. Feel free to leave a comment here, or over on Facebook- I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Around the Web

Here's what I've been checking out online this week:

  • Garden Zones get adjusted ever so slightly from time to time, so I thought I'd double check mine (7b). This handy link to the National Gardening Association's zone finder will take you to a page where you can just enter your zip code, instead of trying to sort it out on a map. Handy!
  • Grow Your Own Food Summit- a free, online event being held in July. Check out this intro video to get a feel for the event, and then sign up through the link on the right to reserve your spot today. 
  • Make some fruit leather. Also, pay attention to the part where they say to not use waxed paper. Seriously... I missed that bit, and tried a couple of trays of blueberry on paper. It's stuck like glue!
  • This is an interesting story about Burt's Bees co-founder. I'm looking forward to watching the documentary.
  • Another great post from the Head Farm Steward. I have a tendency to jump into things with both feet, so I really appreciate the perspective/warning. 
  • I've sent off an email to these folks about becoming a volunteer at their goat rescue. Cross your fingers!
  • Keeping a watchful eye on the drought in California
  • You had me at Nutella. Adding raspberries, though? Brilliant.
Don't forget to check in on Facebook before Monday to help me pick a Craftsy class to take and review. I always appreciate your input!

What's grabbed your attention this week?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Decisions, Decisions...

I'm trying to decide which Craftsy class I'm going to take, and I really need your help!

Here are my top three picks; please leave a comment and let me know which subject you'd be most interested in reading a post about. I'll take suggestions up until Monday, June 23rd!

Number 1: Love Your Vegetables: Best Methods, Flavorful Techniques. It's all about using seasonal veggies to their fullest! Check out the class description and/or the video Here.

Number 2: Handmade Sourdough: From Starter to Baked Loaf. I love bread, in case I haven't mentioned it before. Here's the link to the description.

Number 3: Shooting Intimate 
Landscapes. Photography is an integral part of blogging, so any opportunity to hone my skills is worth taking. Click here for the description.

They all look so great... it makes choosing just one very difficult! I've loved all of the classes I've purchased from Craftsy, so I know I'm going to enjoy whichever one wins. 

Leave a comment, either here or on FB, between now and Monday (6/23) to help me pick a class. Please! 

**Disclaimer: I am part of Craftsy's affiliate marketing program- if you purchase any classes through the link on my blog, I will get a small commission for the referral. Also, the class that gets chosen will be provided to me at no cost, by Craftsy, as a thank you gift for their new affiliates. My opinion of the company was formed prior to this partnership, however, and said opinion is unsponsored at this time.** 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


The new post has been uploaded to GRIT and should be live later today!   Edit: It's live now. Click here to go read it.

In it, I talk about growing potatoes in bins- what's working this year, and what really didn't work last year. Always learning!

As usual, I'll post an update on FB later once it's available, so check back later for it!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Good Fences and Good Neighbors

On Saturday, Alex and I headed over to the neighbors' house- it was our turn to check on the electric fence and trim back any stray weeds that were encroaching on the hot wire. It was also my first opportunity to see our latest sustainable food project in action: 

If they had names, they might just be Lenny and Squiggy.

 The boys were a little wary of me, at first, despite their barreling across the pasture to see us. They stopped just short of the fence (much to my relief)- maybe 10 feet or so, to get a better look before coming closer. I was more than just a little wary too, I will admit. I don't have personal experience with bovines of any sort, let alone two good-sized steers running at me. So, I opted to make friends the best way I know how: with food. 

I picked a huge handful of grass from my side of the fence, and offered it to the fellas. They seemed pleased with the gift, and apparently figured I must be okay. They came right over to eat the grass and see what else I had. My gloves were interesting to them, as well... I had to keep moving my hands to avoid getting nibbled. They were surprisingly gentle, though, which I wasn't really expecting. Oh, and the white-faced one in front likes having the top of his head scratched, particularly around his ears. 

We didn't spend a lot of time there; it was just a quick stop to check the fence and make sure everyone was doing well, but I was really pleased to finally see our co-op beef plan in action. These guys will spend the summer being rotated between two pastures, getting nice and fat off of the land... and come winter-time our three families will have a nice supply of beef in our freezers. I really couldn't ask for much more.

As usual, I'm super excited to see how this progresses and to learn new things. I've been reading about how other folks raise their beef for years (thanks, Matron of Husbandry and Head Farm Steward!) and while I'm a firm believer that reading is a great foundation, there's nothing quite like hands-on practical learning. Most importantly, though, I have to say a huge thank you to our neighbors Scott and Beth for providing the know how and the home base for this new adventure. I truly couldn't be more grateful.

Have you ever raised your own beef? I'd love to hear about it! Come on over to the Facebook page where you can post photos and tell me all about your experiences with cattle- beef and dairy, both! 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday Photos

Well, I sure had a nice week- and I hope you did too! Between the beach trip with Alex and the sunny weather, I couldn't have asked for much more. Here are some of the things I saw, while I was out and about:

Someone lost half her tail this week. Pretty sure it was the neighbor dog again.

...and as a result, we've had some funky eggs show up. Normal one on the left.

Sand-dollar view

Walking the beach at sunset.

A carrot, about to flower. 

Sunny Daisy

The first eggplant flower!
That little hothouse is working like a champ. 


Not a tent caterpillar... still working on the ID. Love the blue!

The peas exploded while we were away...
courtesy of the rabbit manure I put down before we left.

I totally have a thing for sand dollars. 

Have a great weekend, everybody!