Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My Tanzanian Top Bar Hive

I placed the hive in the back of the garden area surrounded by eleven fruit tree's.


The hive with lid that hangs over the entrance. The lid is a layer of plywood and then the metal. Right now it sits on the top bars, but I am changing that next time I check on them. It will then sit off of them a little bit to provide some dead air space for insulation.

The two on top show how I made my top bars. They are the triangle design with melted wax along the tip of the triangle. The four slats on the left are covering the langstroth frames that I used to transfer the bee's. They have slats in them that the bee's could get through if I didn't cover them. And about three bars over from these slats you can see (through the hole) the follower board I use to keep the hive small until they build up to a stronger colony.

Here you can see the entrance feeder and my super high tech entrance reducer. In this case it was an old stake or something that was laying there when I put the hive up. To change the size of the entrance I just pull the stake to the left.

This shows how I attached the follower board to a top bar. I chopped a little off of the bar so that it would remain the same dimensions as the others.

First Comb From The Top Bar Hive

Here is a short video clip of the first comb that the bee's have drawn in my top bar hive. It is neat to see the bee's festooning (hanging on each other) while making the comb.

I transferred the bee's from their nuc hive in four standard langstroth frames. I built this top bar hive to be compatible with the langstroth frames for this reason. The bee's have been busy filling up these four frames and finally started building comb on the top bar. Besides the top bar in this video, there is one other that has some comb on it.

video

Monday, April 13, 2009

Beekeeping Demo at The Honey Store (Noyes Apiariers)


On Saturday a good buddy and I made a trip down to Fruitland to pick up a couple nucs and see a beekeeping demo put on by the Noyes. The weather cooperated enough for about 50 beekeepers, many from the Treasure Valley Beekeepers Club, to enjoy the day.

I'm about to transfer my two nucs into their hives today. One will go into our Langstroth hive and the other into a nice top bar hive that another friend and I made.

I will post the results of this soon with some photos.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Vegetable Planting and Seed Saving Instructions

This information comes directly off of www.seedsavers.org.

http://www.seedsavers.org/Content/instructions.htm

Vegetable Planting and Seed Saving Instructions

Arugula - Planting: Sow seeds outdoors just beneath the surface of the soil as soon as the soil can be worked and the danger of a hard frost has past. For a continuous supply, seed a new row every three weeks throughout the summer.
Seed Saving: Arugulas will cross-pollinate. Separate varieties by ¼ mile. Allow plants to bolt and form seed stalks. Seedheads may need to be protected from bird damage and rain when drying on the plants. Seeds are produced over a 2-3 week period and will require repeated harvesting.
Beans - Planting: Sow seeds outdoors after the danger of frost has past and the soil and air temperatures are warm. Plant seeds 1" deep and 2" apart in rows 24" to 36" apart. Pole beans will need support. Snap varieties will produce abundantly if kept well picked throughout the summer.
Saving Seed: Bean flowers are self-pollinating and almost never cross-pollinate. As a precaution never plant two white seeded varieties side-by-side if you intend to save seed because crossing may occur but not be visible. It is always best to save seed from plants that ripen first and are free from disease. Harvest seed pods when completely dry, crush in a cloth or burlap sack and winnow the seeds from the chaff.
Beet - Planting: Sow seeds outdoors in the spring, 6-8 seeds per foot ½" deep in rows 20-24" apart. Minimum soil temperature must be 40° F.
Saving Seed: Biennial. Beets will cross-pollinate. Varieties must be separated by ½ mile from other beets the second year when going to seed. Beets are fairly frost tolerant and will overwinter in mild climates if well mulched. In northern climates trim leaves to 2" and store roots in slightly damp sawdust or sand in a root cellar over the winter. Roots store 4-6 months at 32-40° F. Replant in the spring and harvest seed heads when dry.
Broccoli - Planting: Sow indoors ¼" deep in pots or flats 8 weeks before the last frost. Thin seedlings when 2" tall and transplant into individual pots. Plant outdoors 24" apart in rows 36" apart when a light frost is still possible.
Saving Seed: Biennial. Broccoli will cross-pollinate with all other Brassica oleracea, so isolate by 1 mile the second year when going to seed. Do not harvest heads on plants you intend to save for seed. Carefully dig the plants and pot them in sand. Store plants between 32-40° F. Plant back out in early spring and allow to bolt. Harvest seed pods when dry and clean by hand.
Carrots - Planting: Sow seeds outdoors in the early spring 3-4 weeks before the last frost or as soon as the soil can be worked. Sow seeds ¼” deep making sure to firmly press soil against the seeds for good soil contact. Keep moist for optimal germination. Thin to 1-4” depending on the size of mature carrots.
Saving Seed: Biennial. Carrots will cross-pollinate, so isolate ¼ mile from other carrots and Queen Anne’s Lace the second year when going to seed. Dig up carrots in the fall before a hard frost. Trim the tops to 1” and store roots in slightly damp sawdust, sand or leaves in a root cellar over the winter. Replant in the spring and harvest seed heads when dry.
Cauliflower - Planting: Sow indoors ¼" deep in pots or flats 8 weeks before the last frost. Thin seedlings when 2" tall and transplant into individual pots. Plant outdoors 24" apart in rows 36" apart when a light frost is still possible.
Seed Saving: Biennial. Cauliflower will cross-pollinate with all other Brassica oleracea, so isolate by 1 mile the second year when going to seed. Do not harvest heads on plants you intend to save for seed. Carefully dig the plants and pot them in sand. Store plants between 32-40° F. Plant back out in early spring and allow to bolt. Harvest seed pods when dry and clean by hand.
Cabbage - Planting: Sow indoors ¼" deep in pots or flats 8 weeks before the last frost. Thin seedlings when 2" tall and transplant into individual pots. Plant outdoors 24" apart in rows 36" apart when a light frost is still possible.
Seed Saving: Biennial. Cabbage will cross-pollinate with all other Brassica oleracea, so isolate by 1 mile the second year when going to seed. Do not harvest heads on plants you intend to save for seed. Carefully dig the plants and pot them in sand. Store plants between 32-40° F. Plant back out in early spring and allow to bolt. Harvest seed pods when dry and clean by hand.
Corn - Planting: Sow seeds outdoors only after the danger of frost has passed. Corn will not germinate properly when the soil is still cold in the spring. Sow seeds 1" deep every 3-4" in rows 3-4' apart. Thin the seedlings to 8" apart after the plants come up. Corn should be planted in a 3-4 row block (instead of one long row) to ensure well filled-out ears.
Saving Seed: All corn varieties are wind-pollinated and will cross-pollinate with each other. Varieties should be hand-pollinated or isolated by 1 mile to ensure purity. Allow ears to dry on the plants, harvest and shell.
Cucumbers - Planting: Sow 6-8 seeds outdoors 1" deep in 12" diameter hills spaced 6' apart each way a week after the last frost when soil is warm. Pinch off all but 3-4 of the strongest seedlings. Can be started indoors in pots or flats 3-4 weeks before the last frost for an earlier harvest.
Saving Seed: Cucumbers will cross-pollinate, so isolate ¼ mile from other cucumbers. Fruits for seed should ripen past edible stage and begin to soften and turn yellow. Cut lengthwise, scoop out seeds, wash clean and dry. Seeds are dry when they break instead of bending.
Eggplant - Planting: Start seedlings indoors 6 weeks before the last frost. Thin seedlings when 2" tall and transplant into individual pots. Transplant outdoors 24" apart in rows 36" apart. Using landscape cloth or black plastic can accelerate growth and productivity in cooler climates.
Seed Saving: Eggplants will cross-pollinate, so isolate ¼ mile from other eggplants or plant in insect-proof cages covered with screen. Let the fruits grow far past maturity. Seeds are much easier to remove from overripe fruits. Most seeds are brown and are usually located in the bottom portion of the fruit.
Gourds - Planting: In mild climates sow seeds outdoors after the danger of frost has passed. Northern growers may need to start seedlings indoors 3-4 weeks before the last frost. Plant 6-8 seeds 1" deep in 12" diameter hills spaced 6-8' each way.
Saving Seed: Hard-shelled gourds will cross-pollinate, so isolate 1/4 mile away from other L. siceraria or hand pollinate. When dry, the gourds can be broken or cut open and the seeds separated from the dry pulp. Dry and wet gourd pulp can irritate skin and the respiratory tract. Use caution when cleaning seed.
Kale- Planting: Sow indoors ¼" deep in pots or flats 8 weeks before the last frost. Thin seedlings when 2" tall and transplant into individual pots. Plant outdoors 24" apart in rows 36" apart when a light frost is still possible.
Saving Seed: Biennial. Kale will cross-pollinate with all other Brassica oleracea, so isolate by 1 mile the second year when going to seed. Do not harvest heads on plants you intend to save for seed. Carefully dig the plants and pot them in sand. Store plants between 32-40° F. Plant back out in early spring and allow to bolt. Harvest seed pods when dry and clean by hand.
Lettuce - Planting: Sow seeds outdoors ¼" deep and 1" apart. Thin to 8" apart for looseleaf and 12" for head lettuce. Does well when soil temperature is below 80° F., try to avoid planting in the middle of summer. Keep soil moist for up to two weeks after planting.
Saving Seed: There is only a slight chance of cross-pollination between lettuces. As a precaution separate by 25' from other varieties that are going to seed. Allow plants to bolt and form seed stalks. Seedheads may need to be protected from bird damage and rain when drying. Seeds are produced over a 2-3 week period and will require repeated harvesting.
Lima Beans - Planting: Sow seeds outdoors after the danger of frost has passed and the soil and air temperatures have warmed. Plant seeds 1" deep and 2" apart in rows 36-48" apart.
Seed Saving: Lima beans will cross with other limas, but not common garden beans, Phaseolus vulgaris. To ensure absolute purity, isolate from other blooming varieties by 1 mile. It is always best to save seed from plants that ripen first and are free from disease. Harvest seed pods when completely dry, crush in a cloth or burlap sack and winnow the seeds from the chaff.
Melons - Planting: Best when direct seeded in warm soil after the danger of frost has passed. Plant 6-8 seeds 1" deep in 12" diameter hills spaced 6' apart each way. After germination pinch off all but 3-4 of the strongest seedlings.
Saving Seed: Melons will cross-pollinate, so isolate ¼ mile from other “melons” (cantaloupes, muskmelons, honeydew, snake melon and Armenian cucumbers will all cross). Always save seeds from disease-free, early ripening melons. Wash seeds from ripe melons in a strainer and dry. Seeds are ready to store when they break instead of bend.
Okra - Planting: Sow seeds outdoors ½-1" deep when the soil temperature has warmed. Okra thrives in warm weather and should only be planted in full sun. Plants should be thinned to 6-8" after germination. Okra will produce abundantly if kept well picked.
Seed Saving: Okra's large decorative blossoms are cross-pollinated by insects very easily. Varieties can be kept pure by covering blossoms with cloth bags before they open, or you can isolate varieties by 1 mile from each other. Allow the okra pods to turn brown and dry on the plant. Harvest before seedpods split open enough to drop seeds onto ground.
Onion - Planting: Start seedlings indoors 4-6 weeks before transplanting. Sow seeds in flats ¼" deep and spaced 1" in all directions. Transplant as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring.
Seed Saving: Biennial. Onions cross-pollinate and should be isolated by 1 mile from other onions going to seed. Select only the best bulbs for seed. Bulbs store 3-6 months at 32-45° F. Plant out bulbs in early spring and allow them to form seed heads. When the heads start to dry, cut off, dry further and thresh.
Peas - Planting: Peas can be sown as soon as the soil can be prepared in the spring. Sow seeds ½" to 1" deep with 3" between seeds in rows 24" apart. Climbing peas will need support. Double rows can be planted on each side of a trellis. Peas thrive in cool weather.
Saving seed: Peas should be separated by 50' to ensure pure seed. Select the healthiest plants for seed. Allow pods to dry on the plant before harvesting and separate seeds from pods by hand. If birds start eating the seeds before the pods are completely dry, they can be harvested slightly green and brought indoors to dry.
Peppers - Planting: Start seedlings indoors 8 weeks before transplanting. Sow seeds ¼" deep. Keep soil moist and near 80° F. using bottom heat. Peppers may take two weeks to germinate. Transplant outdoors when daytime soil temperatures are near 80° F. and nighttime temperatures are above 50° F.
Saving Seed: Peppers will cross-pollinate, so separate by at least 500' or plant in insect-proof cages covered with window screen. Select peppers that are ripe, fully colored and show no signs of disease to save for seed. Remove seeds off core and place on a paper plate to dry.
Popcorn - Planting: Sow seeds outdoors only after the danger of frost has passed. Corn will not germinate properly when the soil is still cold in the spring. Sow seeds 1" deep every 3-4" in rows 3-4' apart. Thin the seedlings to 8" apart after the plants come up. Corn should be planted in a 3-4 row block (instead of one long row) to ensure well filled-out ears.
Saving Seed: All corn varieties are wind-pollinated and will cross-pollinate with each other. Varieties should be hand-pollinated or isolated by 1 mile to ensure purity. Allow ears to dry on the plants, harvest and shell.
Radish - Planting: Sow seeds outdoors as soon as the soil can be prepared in the spring. Successive plantings can be made every 3-4 weeks throughout the summer and fall to provide a continual harvest. Seeds should be planted ½" deep and 1" apart in rows 12" apart.
Saving Seed: : Radishes will cross-pollinate and must be isolated by ½ mile or planted in insect-proof cages covered with screen. Radish seed stalks will grow up to 3' tall. Always discard the early bolting plants, since they are not the best plants to save for seed. The seed stalk is harvested when the stalk and pods are dry. Seeds can then be separated by hand.
Runner Bean - Planting: Sow seeds outdoors after the danger of frost has passed and the soil and air temperatures have warmed. Plant seeds 1" deep and 2" apart in rows 24-36" apart. Requires support.
Seed Saving: Runner beans will cross-pollinate with other runner beans. Varieties must be separated by at least ½ mile to ensure pure seed. Another option for raising pure seed is to bag the blossoms before they open with a cloth bag. It is necessary to "trip" or shake the blossoms daily to release the pollen, imitating bee activity.
Soybean - Planting: Sow seeds outdoors after the danger of frost has passed and the soil and air temperatures are warm. Plant seeds 1" deep and 2" apart in rows 24-36" apart.
Seed Saving: Soybean flowers are self-pollinating and almost never cross-pollinate. To ensure absolute purity, separate by the length of the garden from other soybeans. It is always best to save seed from plants that ripen first and are free from disease. Harvest seed pods when completely dry, crush in a cloth or burlap sack and winnow the seeds from the chaff.
Spinach - Planting: Sow seeds outdoors ½" deep and 1" apart. Spinach grows best in cool weather and should be planted early in the spring or in late summer to produce a fall crop. For best yield, harvest continually and make successive plantings every 10 days.
Saving Seed: Spinach will cross-pollinate with wind-blown pollen from other spinach varieties. Commercial seed crops are separated by 5-10 miles to ensure purity, but home gardeners can reduce that distance. Harvest seeds when they are completely dry on the plant. It may be necessary to wear leather gloves because the seeds can be very prickly.
Squash - Planting: Sow seeds outdoors after the danger of frost has passed. Plant 6-8 seeds 1" deep in 12" diameter hills spaced 6' apart each way. Pinch off all but 3-4 of the strongest seedlings.
Saving Seed: Squash within the same species will cross-pollinate, so isolate species by ¼ mile. Seeds should be taken from fruits that have gone past maturity by 3 weeks. Remove seeds, wash and let dry. (Note: There are four species of squash: C. maxima, C. mixta, C. moschata and C. pepo. This allows you to grow four different species of squash and save pure seed in the same garden.)
Sunberry - Planting: Sow indoors ¼” deep in pots or flats 6 weeks before the last frost. Thin seedlings when 2” tall and transplant into individual pots. Plant outdoors 24” apart in rows 36” apart.
Saving Seed: Take ripe fruits and crush them in a bowl. Add water to the bowl and the seeds will sink and the skin and pulp will float. Separate the contents and wash the seeds in a strainer. Allow seeds to dry.
Swiss Chard - Planting: Sow seeds outdoors early in the spring. Plant seeds ½" deep and 4" apart in rows 20-24" apart. Thin seedlings to one every 12". Minimum soil temperature should be at least 40º F.
Saving Seed: Biennial. Varieties must be separated by ½ mile from all other Beta vulgaris when going to seed. Will overwinter in mild climates if well mulched. In northern climates trim leaves to 2" and store roots in sawdust or sand in a root cellar. Roots will store 4-6 months at 32-40° F. Replant in the spring and harvest seed heads when dry.
Tomato - Planting: Sow indoors ¼" deep in pots or flats 6 weeks before the last frost. Thin seedlings when 2" tall and transplant into individual pots. Plant outdoors 24" apart in rows 36" apart. Indeterminate vines will require support.
Saving Seed: Cross-pollination between modern tomato varieties seldom occurs, except in potato leaf varieties which should be separated by the length of the garden. Do not save seeds from double fruits or from the first fruits of large-fruited varieties. Pick at least one ripe fruit from each of several plants. Squeeze seeds and juice into a strainer and wash, spread on a paper plate and dry.
Tomatillo - Planting: Sow indoors ¼" deep in pots or flats 6 weeks before the last frost. Thin seedlings when 2" tall and transplant into individual pots. Plant outdoors 24" apart in rows 36" apart. Culture is very similar to tomatoes. Plants can be trellised to keep well contained and the fruits off of the dirt, or the plants can be allowed to sprawl on the ground.
Seed Saving: Tomatillos will not cross-pollinate. Select fully ripe fruits to save for seed. Pick at least one ripe fruit from each of several plants. Squeeze seeds and juice into a strainer and wash, spread on a paper plate and dry.
Watermelons - Planting: Sow seeds outdoors after the danger of frost. Minimum soil temperature should be at least 65º F. Plant seeds ½" deep and 2" apart, in rows 20-24" apart. Thin seedlings to one every 12". Excellent grown on black landscape cloth.
Saving Seed: Watermelons will cross-pollinate. Separate varieties by ¼ mile or hand-pollinate. Always select disease-free early maturing melons to save for seed. Remove seeds from ripe melons, thoroughly wash in a strainer and dry.
Jelly Melon - Planting: Sow 6-8 seeds outdoors 1" deep in 12" diameter hills spaced 6' apart each way a week after the last frost when soil is warm. Pinch off all but 3-4 of the strongest seedlings. Can be started indoors in pots or flats 3-4 weeks before the last frost for an earlier harvest.
Seed Saving: Jelly Melon will not cross with Cucumbers, Cucumis sativus or Melons, Cucumis melo. Fruits for seed should ripen past edible stage and begin to soften. Cut lengthwise, scoop out seeds, wash clean and dry. Seeds are dry when they break instead of bend.
Red Malabar Spinach - Planting: Sow seeds ½" deep indoors 5-6 weeks before the last frost or outdoors when the danger of frost has past. Plants should be spaced 6" apart. Do not plant before air temperatures are consistently between 70 and 80 degrees. For best yield, harvest continually.
Seed Saving: Malabar Spinach will not cross-pollinate with garden spinach, Spinacia oleracea. If two distinct strains of Basella rubra are being grown, isolate by 1/4 mile or cage to ensure purity. When seed capsules turn from green to brown the seeds are ready to pick.
Garden Huckleberry (Solanum melanocerasum) - Planting: Sow indoors ¼" deep in pots or flats 6 weeks before the last frost. Thin seedlings when 2" tall and transplant into individual pots. Plant outdoors 24" apart in rows 36" apart.
Seed Saving: Garden Huckleberries do not cross-pollinate. To save seed simply take ripe fruits and crush them in a bowl. Add water to the bowl and the seeds will sink and the skin and pulp will float. Separate the contents and wash the seeds in a strainer. Allow seeds to dry and store in a cool dry area.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil

A look into how Cuba was able to survive their own peak oil crisis and how we can learn from what they went through.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-66172489666918336

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Handy Farm Devices and How to Make Them

Here is a quick link to a site that shows how farmers made some of their tools a hundred or so years ago.
http://journeytoforever.org/farm_library/device/devices1.html

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Planting a Multi Family Fruit Salad Tree

Today I finally was able to get one of my rare "Multi Family" Fruit Salad Trees planted.

I could not find a nursery that had one for sale, so I had to track down a small orchard that was willing to part with one of their young trees. The orchard, named "Sciocchi Di Aprile" had about twenty of these rare trees that I could see when I picked one up. It ended up costing me $350, which seems a bargain considering the rarity of this tree.

What makes a "Multi Family" fruit salad tree so special is the fact that someone has been able to create multiple fruits from different families growing off of the same tree. They have, in the past been able to grow fruit salad trees with the same family of fruit. Examples would be one which grows peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots and peachcots. Or one which grows multiple apple types.

On mine it includes apples, peaches, plums, pears, cherries and bananas. Then I am supposed to plant strawberries at the base and a grape vine that will grow up the trunk. This way I have everthing I need to make a wonderful fruit salad all in one tree.

It is pretty amazing and I can't wait to get you some photos.

[note- as it is past April 1st, I suppose I can point out that this was an April Fools posting. Although they do have "fruit salad" tree's such as those in my example above, I've never heard of any that can grow different families of fruit]

Timeline of a Chickens Life

Here is a link to a timeline of a chicken's life. How long they incubate, when you can candle them, when they hatch, how long to feed starter feed, when they begin laying, etc.

http://www.freewebs.com/professorchicken/timelineofachicken.htm

Eat, Grow and Raise Rare Varieties

I was following up on one of my posts on a forum I belong to and realized that I had not yet posted this information on this blog.

The example I posted earlier about the broccoli and the fact that Idaho grows so many potatoes should bring to light one of the problems I see in agriculture today.

In the old days, farmers (including very large farms) grew a multitude of crops. People knew that they could get whatever they wanted within a short distance. But these huge Ag companies have narrowed down the varieties of what they grow. Now we have huge areas that only grow one vegetable. In fact, only one variety of vegetable. Now, what happens when a disease comes through an area? You get crops completely wiped out.

It is what happened when the blight wiped out the potatoes and caused the great Irish famine.

The same thing happened with the bananas. We began growing almost exclusively one variety of banana, the Gros Michel, a banana that was larger and, by all accounts, tastier than the fruit we now eat. A fungus called Panama disease began infecting it and by the 60's it was virtually wiped out. Now what we think of as the banana is actually a second rate replacement called the Cavendish. If it happens again, the third variety down the line is a pretty poor substitute. And, in 1992, a new strain of the fungus, one that can affect the Cavendish, was discovered in Asia and most experts agree that we have major problems coming. We may not have bananas as we know them in ten years.

Because of these giant Ag companies taking over our food supply we are losing varieties of fruit, vegetables and farm animals at alarming rates.

Here are some examples:

96-98% of the commercial vegetable varieties available in 1903 are now extinct.

Reliance upon modern varieties of rice caused more than 1,500 local rice varieties in Indonesia to become extinct.

In the USA, only 5% of the apple varieties that existed 200 years ago still remain.

In the UK, 90% of vegetable varieties have disappeared over the last century.

99% of all turkeys raised in the U.S. are Broad-Breasted Whites, a single turkey breed specially developed to have a meaty breast.

83 percent of dairy cows are Holsteins, and five main breeds comprise almost all of the dairy herds in the US.

60 percent of beef cattle are of the Angus, Hereford or Simmental breeds.

75 percent of pigs in the US come from only 3 main breeds.

Over 60 percent of sheep come from only four breeds, and 40 percent are Suffolk-breed sheep.

The less varieties we have of all of our food the more of a chance that we can have them wiped out by disease or by climates that they are not meant to be grown in. The varieties being lost were developed in micro climates and were able to thrive. When we try to grow the same variety everywhere we are looking for trouble.

So, buy heirloom varieties when growing your garden. If possible pick wacky varieties that are at risk of extinction. Keep them alive. We are all part of the solution.

On our place, every variety of vegetable in my garden is an heirloom and our sheep, horses and chickens are all rare breeds.

Do what you can and can what you do.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Walt Minnick to Hold Town Hall Meetings

Rep. Walt Minnick to hold Orofino town hall meeting April 6, at the Ponderosa Restaurant, 220 Michigan Ave.

Minnick will also hold a town hall meeting at the Heritage Center in Riggins from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday, April 5.

Minnick is on the House Financial Services Committee and the House Agriculture Committee.

This may be a good time to get some answers about anything that is concerning you. For instance if you are concerned about H.R. 875, Minnick sits on this committee and it would be wise to hear about it from him. And let him hear your opposition to it if that is the case.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Personal, Local and National Change

While posting on this blog, I have purposefully stayed away from any politics or doom and gloom.
Don't get me wrong, most of my time is spent researching the "doom and gloom" and politics and staying current on our state of affairs locally, regionally, nationally and world wide.

And when you begin to look at the truth of what is going on in this country and in this world, it can begin to look pretty dark. It is easy to get caught up in this feeling of despair. This feeling that we are helpless to stop what is happening. This feeling that the only thing we can do is prepare to protect ourselves and our families. Or for many it may be a feeling that we are too powerless to change anything so we might as well have another beer and Big Mac while we watch American "Idle".

What we cannot forget is that it is the people of this country that make it so great. It is the individual, which becomes the local community, which becomes the regional community, which becomes the national community. It all starts with the individual. If we want change, we must first make that change from within. We must become the change that we want to see in the world. We must then make that change as a local community. We cannot expect to change the path of this nation without doing it locally first. When we all do this together, it becomes a national movement that cannot be stopped. This then will become a global movement that cannot be stopped.

Let me give you my example.

Personally
Although I have a long ways to go, I am currently making great changes within myself. These are the changes I must make to be true to who I want to become. Who I must become to be satisfied in this life.
I am becoming a self sufficient human being. Someone who does not need to rely on any "system" for my survival or happiness. Although I am not completely there yet, I am making great strides.
I can grow and raise my own food. Whether it be sheep, cattle, horses, chickens, rabbits, llamas, fruit tree's, gardens or honey bees, I can manage it.
I gave up television long ago and am not distracted by the chaos that it brings to people's lives. This, I should add, is one most powerful changes you can make. It's positive impact is immediate and huge.
I gave up credit cards and a life of debt a few years ago. If I cannot afford it, I cannot have it.
I am happy and healthy. I strive to maintain a level of healthiness, happiness and strength in mind, body and spirit. This includes meditation, art and enjoying the simple pleasures of life and nature. It includes a fitness program that consisting of long distance running, yoga, weight training and hiking. It includes eating healthy non processed foods as much as possible. It includes staying away from drugs or alcohol. At times it includes staying away from sweets (This may be my strongest adversary).
I enjoy, respect and thrive off of my family and friends.
I am currently devising my plan to take my home completely off the grid. Hopefully this is accomplished by the end of this summer.
I am constantly trying to learn new skills, from welding to cooking to more efficient forms of compost. I am trying to absorb as much as possible.
The list continues, but you get the point. I do not feel that I am just existing like many do, going to work, coming home and watching TV and going to bed to do it all over again the next day. I am on a path to become who I am meant to be.

Locally
I am a strong believer that if there is ever a crisis, we will get through it at a local level. We will need to come together as a community to get through it. Sure, there will be many people who choose to become loners during these times, existing on their stored food and shooting at any strangers that wander too close. Although I feel I would do better than most if I had to make a go of it alone, I do not want to. Nor do I think it is the best way. We cannot make the changes that we will need to make by becoming loners. We cannot grow as a society this way. We will grow, change and prosper as a community.

Let me give you an example.

Our local community has decided to make necessary changes now, to develop a sustainable community. We do not want to wait for a crisis. We want to be, and will be, prepared to deal with the unforeseen.

This was not organized by our local government. We cannot rely on the government to save us. This was organized by the people. At our last meeting we had over 70 people attend. If you knew the size of our local community, you would realize that this number is pretty amazing.

These are the people in our community that grow the food, that know how to preserve, the gardeners, the ranchers, the bee-keepers, the nursery owners. These are the people that are vital to a sustainable community. Now these people are organizing and preparing. It is a beautiful thing. These are the people that will save our local community and ultimately our country. I hope and believe that this will spread across the country.

We are discussing such things as:
How to get information to the people that need it.
How to efficiently garden in our cold climate.
What have we grown in our area in the past?
Who grows what in our area?
What needs to be grown here?
How do we tap into the older generations wealth of knowledge?
How do we grow, transport and store large crops if we no longer have access to refrigerated trucks or storage areas?
Who knows certain skills in our area?
Who are the master gardeners, composters, etc.
Where can we process meats?

The list goes on and we are trying to address everything. It is a serious effort to develop a very real system that will sustain our community.

As a community we need to re-skill ourselves to survive and provide for ourselves. It is amusing, because in the past these skills were common. Communities were naturally locally sustainable. But not anymore. Now it takes great effort to get back to the way it once was.

We need to be able to know where our food is coming from. We must know that if we need it, it is close to us. If we rely on food that is shipped hundreds or thousands of miles, we cannot guarantee that it will always be there.

The broccoli example
This is an example from a cartoon by Jane Burns of MeadowLark Farm. She is an Idaho advocate for sustainable community development.

Each Idahoan eats about 9 pounds of broccoli per year. In 1980 we only ate 4 1/2 pounds.

There are only 12 broccoli farmers in Idaho. The statewide total of 2 acres is found in Bannock, Bonner, Elmore and Teton counties.

Idaho Farmers produce less than .25% of what Idahoans eat.

Nearly $5 million leaves the Idaho economy to buy broccoli from California farmers. This doesn't include paying the processors and distributors.

If Idaho farmers produced 100% of all the broccoli eaten in the state, we'd need about 1,300 acres. That's about 30 acres per county.

Idaho is a great place to grow broccoli. Why do we need to ship it hundreds of miles? This is an example of the change that must take place.


We cannot allow our fear to paralyze us. And we cannot let our fear make us hermits afraid of our neighbors. We must allow these fears to be used as catalysts for change. For growth. Something will grow out of this mess we find our country and world in. Will we come out of it a stronger, healthier nation? Or will it destroy us? I have to say that I have a lot of hope.

Remember, when you cleanse your body of toxins there is an unpleasant period of detoxing. It is the same with a nation. There may be a painful period of detoxing, but we may come out better than we started.

Change yourself
Change your community
Change your nation
Change the world

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

I good buddy of mine just sent me this link to an instructable he made on "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking".


It looks great, and I'll be trying it out in the next couple of days. Let me know if any of you give it a try and how it turns out.


http://www.instructables.com/id/Artisan_Bread_in_Five_Minutes_a_Day/?ALLSTEPS#step0

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fantastic Contraption

Okay, just a little stress release today. This may be the most addictive game I've played in a long time. Play a few rounds and see if you can stop.

http://fantasticcontraption.com/

Thursday, March 19, 2009

When Does Your Garden Grow?

This is taken from IdahoStatesman.com. This is for Boise, so if your climate is similar to Boise's this may be helpful to you.

Idaho Statesman.com
March 15, 2009

When does your garden grow?
Our experts have pulled together this year-long guide on
what to do in your garden
MARCH
® Begin seeding plants indoors to transplant later.
® Expect roller coaster temperatures. Don't get impatient and plant too early.
® Prune trees and shrubs, except for those, like lilacs and rhododendrons, that bloom on old wood and have already set their blossoms.
® Tend clematis. Remember, they are grouped into three pruning categories. Save the tag when you buy one to know what you have.
® Plant primroses and pansies.
® VEGETABLES: In early March, plant lettuce; spinach; St. Patrick's Day, or as soon as soil can be worked, put in peas; spinach; kale;
leeks, potatoes, onions; late March/early April, it's carrots; beets; endive, chicory, sweet potatoes (sweet potatoes need "extraordinary"
protection; Walls of Water are good).
APRIL
® Remove winter mulch from beds so the sun can warm the ground.
® Shear back groundcovers.
® Wake up your flower beds with a general fertilizer.
® Prune roses when forsythia blooms. Cut roses back 1/3 of height. Fertilize.
® Divide perennials, except dicentra, pulmonaria and other early bloomers.
® Plant conifers, trees and shrubs.
® Plant summer bulbs: alliums, cannas, convalaria, bare-root hostas and daylilies.
® Last average frost day of the year: April 29-May 9.
® VEGETABLES: Mid-late April: Asian greens, like bok choy
MAY
® Tend peonies: "Disbud," or remove side buds for a big central blossom. "Side-dress," or sprinkle the ground around each plant with
one tablespoon of triple super phosphate for thick stems and big flowers.
® Deadhead, or remove, spent blossoms from spring bloomers like tulips, daffodils and crocuses. Don't remove foliage.
® Time to harden off seedlings started indoors.
® Local legend says that when the snow is melted off Shafer Butte north of Boise, it's safe to plant annual flowers.
® If you haven't fed your roses, do it now.
® Stake delphiniums and other tall perennials.
® VEGETABLES: Mid-May: corn; late May: cucumbers; beans, squash, melons
JUNE
® Pinch back asters and chrysanthemums for fuller plants.
® Keep deadheading roses and other flowers for continued blooms.
® Prune spring-flowering shrubs - lilacs, forsythia, rhododendrons.
® Mulch trees and perennials; leave breathing room around trunks
and stems
Stop fertilizing trees by June 15.
® VEGETABLES: Pepper, tomato, eggplant seedlings.
JULY
® Water trees deeply. Fewer, deeper watering sessions are better for root development than frequent, light watering.
® Prune wisteria.
® Disbud, or remove side buds on dahlias to promote bigger, central flowers.
® Prune vines if they're sprawling.
® Divide iris.
® Get weeds out of your garden now before they go to seed and make more weeds.
® VEGETABLES: If you do like to start seeds indoors, start kale, collards, broccoli and cabbage to transfer to the garden in September.
AUGUST
® Keep watering - daily for containers and hanging baskets.
® Helenium, heliopsis, rudbeckia (black eyed Susan) all look great in your late summer garden when most other things don't.
® Stop fertilizing roses by Aug. 15 to prepare them for winter slow-down.
® VEGETABLES: Chinese cabbage: start indoors Aug. 1, transplant outside in September or October.
SEPTEMBER
® Watch for sales at local greenhouses with discounts between 30-50 percent.
® Plant peonies, poppies, grasses and other perennials you find on sale.
® Prune Annabel hydrangea, pussywillow, and other bushes that bloom on new wood.
® Clean up flower beds.
® Bring tropicals, cacti, citrus inside for the winter. Inspect them first to make sure they're pest-free.
® Walk through the garden and take an honest look at what plants worked for you, and what plants didn't. Don't get sentimental. "Prune
with a shovel" is the motto of some gardeners.
® Don't add mulch to beds until the ground is frozen. Start cutting back on water.
close
® Dahlias, cannas, gladiolus are not winter hardy and should be dug, packed in packing peanuts, wood shavings, or newspaper shreds,
and stored in a dark, dry, chilly place until next spring. Geraniums, too.
® Plant bulbs, like tulips and daffodils, for next spring.
® Pull annuals and compost. Don't leave them in the garden to rot and get slimy.
® VEGETABLES: Lettuce, with care. Planted too early in the month, while it's still hot outside, lettuce will "bolt," or go to seed too
quickly.
OCTOBER
® The first killing frost: Oct. 7-16.
® Don't prune roses, but cut tall branches vulnerable to winter wind breakage.
® Rake fallen leaves out of flower beds. They can harbor disease and pests.
NOVEMBER
® Shred fallen leaves to use as winter mulch. Leaves that aren't shredded can form a mat around your plants and breed disease.
® Apply Wilt Proof to seal moisture in broadleaf evergreens such as holly, laurel, rhododendron, azaleas, hardy camellias, magnolias.
® Spring bulbs such as tulips go on sale and can be planted through December, as long as the ground isn't frozen.
® VEGETABLES: Plant garlic, shallots, lettuce, before ground freezes.
DECEMBER
® Cut evergreen branches and twigs to display in pots.
® Get out the hose to water trees, shrubs, and other plants, especially under the eaves of the house, or in other areas where rainwater
can't reach. Remember to unhook the hose from the house when you're done.
JANUARY
® Avoid digging in or walking on moist soil for the next couple months. It's easy to compact soil and damage it.
® Cut back hellebores (Lenten rose); don't cut new blossoms hiding beneath leaves.
® Conifers, red and yellow twig dogwoods are showing winter color.
® Peruse catalogs, but check with your local greenhouse to see if they will carry the plants you want. Support a local business and save
postage.
FEBRUARY
® The month of the "big tease", when that inevitable week of freakishly warm weather fools you into thinking spring is here. It is not.
® Cut back buddleias (butterfly bush) to six inches. Also cut vitex, caryopteris, Annabel hydrangea - all of which bloom on new wood.
® Prune fruit trees.
® Spray dormant oil on woody plants to control aphids and other pests. Follow label directions.
® Roses and trees are dormant. This is the perfect time to move them without shocking them.
® Apply Wilt Proof to seal moisture in broadleaf evergreens
® If you left perennials standing through the winter for food and cover for birds, cut them back now.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Zeer Pot Refridgerator


If you haven't seen these Zeer Pot's, you should check them out. Especially if you are in a really hot climate. I've known about these for awhile now, but I've not had the need to use them as I am in a colder climate.
Basically it consists of one earthenware pot set inside another, with a layer of wet sand in between. As the moisture evaporates, it cools the inner pot, keeping produce fresh for up to three weeks.
Here is a link to a site that explains them a little more.

I think that this is just good knowledge to have in your head in case you ever find yourself in a situation where one of these would come in handy. And I'd bet that there are certain areas of Idaho where these would work really well.

Vegetables, Chickens, Fruits, Nuts and Bee's - An Update

Just a quick update.

Vegetables
On the 13th, I started a bunch of my vegetables and herbs, including:

Asparagus- Mary Washington
Broccoli- Decicco
Siberian Pepper- Grandpa's Home Pepper
Bell Peppers- Early Mountain Wonder
Early Tomato- Sub-arctic Plenty
Early Tomato- Gem State
Brussel Sprout- Long Island Improved
Leeks- King Richard
Kale- Red Russian
Early Cabbage- Early Mountain Wakefield
Chinese Celery- Kan Tsai
Mache/Corn Salad- Verte De Cambrai
Red Romaine- Cimmaron
Spinach- Bloomsdale Long Standing
Red Leaf Lettuce- Red Saladbowl
Sweet Basil- Ocimum Basilicum
Italian Parsley- Plainleaf

Chickens
Last night I finally took the 34 chicks out of our walk in shower. We moved them to a heated room in our barn. I think they are enjoying the new casa.

Fruits and Nuts
Today we planted two new walnut tree's as well as two new peach tree's. I'm not sure how many fruit and nut tree's that makes between my parents and us. It must be 50 or more. You can never have too many though, in my opinion. And nothing beats a freshly picked peach in the summer.

Bee's
When we arrived home this afternoon, my bee hives were sitting on our porch. My good friend had finished fixing them up and had dropped them off for me. He gave them a nice red paint job so they'll be the sharpest looking bunch of bee's in the neighborhood.
These are the traditional looking langstroth hives.
For my other hive, I think I've decided on the Tanzanian top bar hive rather than the Kenyan top bar hive. This is only because the sides are straight and I will be able to transfer the foundations from my nucs into these hives.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Vermicomposting

Well I think I'm going to do it. I'm going to become a worm wrangler.



The more I look into vermicomposting, the more it makes sense. Not only are the worm castings, or vermicompost, one of the greatest forms of compost for your garden, but the worms are a great high protein feed for my chickens. The worms compost my vegetable scraps, the chickens eat some of the worms, the chickens poo more great compost and I grow more vegetables with the chicken poo and worm castings. The great circle.
There is a company near me that sells Red Wigglers for $10 a pound. Red Wigglers are the earthworm species most often used for composting. And because you only need two to three pounds of red worms to start most home worm bins, this should be pretty cheap. Of course I could go collect a bunch of night crawlers, but the Red Wigglers seem to be the most efficient composters of garden and kitchen waste.
Redworms can eat about 3 times their weight a week. They reduce the volume of that waste by about two thirds. They mature in 8 weeks & double in biomass every 3-4 months under ideal conditions. That means that if you start with one pound of worms, in three to four months you will have 2 pounds of redworms. In eight months you will have four to five pounds of redworms, etc. 1 mature worm could produce 96 worms in 6 months (2 cocoons X 24 weeks X 2 hatchlings).
Some of the kitchen and garden waste that can be fed to the worms are:
All fruits and vegetables (including citrus and other "high acid" foods)
Vegetable and fruit peels and ends
Coffee grounds and filters
Tea bags (even those containing high tannin levels)
Plate scrapings, moldy bread
Leaves and grass clippings (not sprayed with pesticides)
There are few food wastes that vermicomposting cannot compost, although meat waste and dairy products are likely to putrefy. Green waste should be added in moderation to avoid heating the bin.
So I guess I'm off to round up some worms.

Tumbleweed Tiny Houses

I just think that these are pretty cool. I wonder how many people will be going this route in the next few years. Although his are fairly expensive for the size, I bet you could make one for pretty darn cheap.

Pressure Canning Chart

I just wanted to post a quick link to a pressure canning chart by Off Grid Ebert at Living Off The Grid.

This canning chart shows processing times for for low-acid foods, which must be canned using a pressure canner.

http://www.livingoffgrid.org/pressure-canning-chart-foods-processing-times-psi-and-elevation/

Testing the Freshness of Eggs

Here is an old trick to test an egg and get an approximation of its age.

Simply lay the suspect egg into a bowl of cold water.
If the egg:

A. Sinks to the bottom and stays there, it is very fresh.

B. Sinks, but floats at an angle, it's more than a week old.

C. Sinks, but then stands on end, it's about two weeks old. This is getting to the point where you might want to use these eggs in recipes rather than cooking them on their own, as they don't taste as good as fresh ones.

D. Floats, it's too old and should be discarded.

Eggs act this way in water because of the air sac present in all eggs. As the egg ages, the air sac gets larger which makes the egg float.

This is a great tool for the homesteader. At times you may find an egg that wasn't layed in the usual location. Because of this, you may not always be sure that the egg is fresh. This old trick is more pleasant than cracking open an egg that's been sitting in the sun for the last four weeks.

As I mentioned, this is a very old method. In fact in 1750, Hannah Glass gave this advice to cooks -

a "way to know a good egg, is to put the egg into a pan of cold water; the fresher the egg, the sooner is will fall to the bottom; if rotten, it will swim at the top."

Apple Tree From Seed

After eating an apple about a while back I decided to save the seeds and grow a tree. I know that almost all apple tree's are grafted nowdays. So if I use seeds from one of these apple's, I will most likely not get the same type of apple tree as the apple that I got the seed from.

However, there is a really, really old orchard on our place from the original homestead. I enjoy these apples and I think that they should produce the same tree if I take the seeds from these.

Unfortunately, there are no apples on the tree at the moment and anything on the ground is covered in a few feet of snow. So for my experiment, I am just going to use some fuji apples that I got form Azure Standard. Later I will get some of the old orchard apples and use them.

So, after researching the best way to sprout the seeds on the internet, I decided to try three different approaches.

1. I planted 12 of the seeds in some potting soil after letting them soak for about two weeks.
2. I placed 12 seeds in a wet paper towell in the refridgerator.
3. I placed a bunch of seeds in a glass of water and let soak until sprouted.

Some of these seeds in each method were dried out for a few weeks first. Unfotunatley, I mixed them with one's that were not dried out first and now I'm not sure which were which.

I did not have any luck with the first two methods. But, by allowing the seeds to soak in water I was able to finally get a few of them to sprout. I had been changing the water in the glass whenever it would get really dark. I'm not sure if this helps or hurts the process.

Once I had two seeds that were sprouting well (I think they had a sprout about 1/8 of an inch), I planted them in potting soil. I added some water and then left them alone. After a few days, I noticed that one of them was actually coming up. So, it looks like I may actually be able to grow this thing. I will keep updating this little project.

Unfortunately by growing a tree this way, I will have to wait quite a few years to see any fruit. But it is more about gaining the knowledge and having the experience. And hopefully I will be able to enjoy some nice apples some day.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Chart - How Much Food to Plant

This is a link to a great chart that breaks down how many of each vegetable you would need to plant, in order to feed a family of four for a year.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_DnyLywo1Fts/SZRimqm048I/AAAAAAAAG1U/605g0AXs10w/s1600-h/garden%2Bplanner%2Bimage.jp

Friday, March 6, 2009

Quick Update

Just a quick update on what I've been up to.

I received thirty-four new little peepers that arrived last week. Of course I've already got a favorite. She runs up and jumps in my hand every single time I see them.
This shot is the day they arrived. Their wing feathers have already grown in since then and they are a bit larger now.


I bought them from Dunlap Hatchery in Caldwell. http://www.dunlaphatchery.net/

Not only did they ship a day early, but they sent ten extras, making a total of sixty-six. Five, unfortunately, didn't make it. After splitting the order with a friend of mine, I ended up with twenty-eight bantams and six standard size.

I also ordered two 4 frame nucs of honey bee's from a guy in Fruitland. I'll pick them up on the 11th of April and weather permitting he'll be doing some demonstrations. Although we had bee's when I was a kid, I have never actually owned any or worked with any, so any chance to soak up some information is appreciated.

I'm actually really excited about working with the bee's. My dad still has all of his equipment that I'll be able to use, so there isn't much of an expense. I didn't really plan on trying for a few years. But like I mentioned before, a good friend fixed up the old hives and gave them to me for Christmas, so it was a nice kick in the butt to go ahead and try it.

I think that I am going to start one hive with these traditional boxes of my dad's and then try one in a top bar hive as well. I'm drawn to the top bar hives for some reason, although they produce a little less honey and more wax. I guess I'll just be making more candles. Notice the board on the side for an observation window.
And here is a drawing of a Greek top bar hive described in 1682.


Not only do I want to keep these bee's for the honey and wax, but also for the improved productivity in our garden and orchard. Not to mention the excitement and challenge of it all.
I'll definitely keep everyone posted on how this little endeavor works out.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Food for Thought

The average food item on Americans plates have traveled somewhere between 1,500 miles and 1,800 miles.

If every American were to eat just one meal a week that was organic and local, we would save more than 1.1 million barrels of oil a week.

The U.S. supports about 30 million acres of lawn. It is the largest crop our country produces.

A gas powered push mower emits as much pollution in an hour as 11 cars.

We spend about $8.5 billion a year on lawn care products and equipment.

If we want to become self-sufficient, lets begin by spending less time, energy and money on our lawns and shift it towards something we can use, like a garden. If you water it you should be able to eat it.

By producing some or all of our own foods, not only are we getting fresher, tastier, healthy food, but we are also saving a massive amount of resources.

Like I said, just a little food for thought. Think Globally-Act Locally


These facts come from two books I'm in the middle of at the moment. "the urban homestead" and "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle". Both great books that I'd recommend.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Improved Lighter and Other Daily Carries

Every day I make sure I have three things with me when I leave the house.



The first is a Leatherman multi tool. It doesn't matter if you are a survivalist, a homesteader or a business man sitting at his desk, these always come in handy.








The second is a nice Gerber pocket knife. I have a sheath for it that is slightly larger than the knife. This allows me to put a small LED flashlight, some string (some extremely strong black type used for necklaces), a small fire starter cube, matches and a mini compass. All of these things are very small and light. I really don't even realize they are in the sheath.





The third thing I carry is a lighter. The key here is to buy the lighters with the little LED lights in the bottom of them. They have a button on the side to turn the light on when needed. They also have the push down tops to light them rather than the wheels. I like this in case it is very cold and your fingers are having a hard time turning the wheel.


I wrap these lighters with a bunch of duct tape between the button and the top. This allows me to have a lighter, a flashlight and duct tape. I always find myself using the LED on the lighter. Whether it is to look into a dark tank or to find my way along a trail after dark, it has come in very handy almost daily. And I don't have to mention how valuable it is to have a little duct tape on hand.


So there you have it. Three things that improve my life daily.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Three Sisters

"In late spring, we plant the corn and beans and squash. They're not just plants- we call them the three sisters. We plant them together, three kinds of seeds in one hole. They want to be together with each other, just as we Indians want to be together with each other. So long as the three sisters are with us we know we will never starve. The Creator sends them to us each year. We celebrate them now. We thank Him for the gift He gives us today and every day." - Chief Louis Farmer (Onondaga)

The "Three Sisters" method is a form of companion planting using corn, beans, and squash. Although this method originated with the Haudenosaunee, these three have been planted by many traditional Native American gardeners throughout North America.

The beauty of this method is that each vegetable benefits from the others. Corn gives the beans a place to climb, the beans provide nitrogen to the corn roots and the large squash leaves provide shade and living mulch which helped to deter weeds and hold moisture in the soil.

To begin, you need to make mounds to plant the corn in. They should be about 1 1/2 feet across on the top. The center of each mound should be 5 feet apart from the center of the next. The mounds should be staggered in adjacent rows, making up an area at least 10 ft. by 10 ft. This will ensure that the corn pollinates properly. First, plant four corn seeds in a diamond on top of the mounds. They should be about 6" apart.

When the corn is about 4" tall, you can plant the beans and squash. Plant the beans in a square shape in between the corn.

Build your squash mounds the same size as the corn/bean mounds. Build them in between each corn/bean mound. Plant 3 squash seeds, 4” apart in a triangle in the middle of each mound. Once these squash seedlings emerge, you can thin them to two plants per mound.


This diagram is from http://www.reneesgarden.com/

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Raising Honey Bee's

My good friend surprised me this winter with some of my dad's old bee boxes that he had fixed up. It has me seriously considering raising some bee's for honey this year. We still have most of the equipment, so that won't be a problem. And honey just happens to be one of my favorite things.

Look for posts to come about this little adventure and about the uses of honey in food, first aid and to help with allergies.

In the mean time enjoy this web link page from Bad Beekeeping that has hundreds and hundreds of links about beekeeping.

http://www.badbeekeeping.com/weblinks.htm

Monday, February 16, 2009

Firewood Chart

Here is a great chart that gives information on the many types of wood for burning.

http://www.blountweb.com/goddards/firewood_ratings.htm

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I have not had a chance to read the book, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle", but I've heard from several friends that it is a must read. I will let you know how it is when I am done. But if you can't wait, feel free to check it out.

"Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, this book (released May 2007) tells the story of how our family was changed by one year of deliberately eating food produced in the place where we live. Barbara wrote the central narrative; Steven's sidebars dig deeper into various aspects of food-production science and industry; Camille's brief essays offer a nineteen-year-old's perspective on the local-food project, plus nutritional information, meal plans and recipes. "

http://www.animalvegetablemiracle.com/index.html

Homegrown Revolution

I wanted to share this short video, "A Homegrown Revolution". For those living in the city, this video should be an inspiration. There is no reason that we can't all have our little homesteads.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCPEBM5ol0Q&feature=related

True freedom is the ability to grow what you eat. It's possible. I hope we can all make the effort.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Food You Can Feed To Your Chickens

Here is a list of food items that you can feed to your chickens. It also includes some things that should be avoided.

http://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=2593-Treats_Chart

Sunday, February 8, 2009

"The Art of Improvising" or "How To Convert a Manual Grain Mill Into an Electric One"

The art of self-sufficiency in many ways relies on the art of improvising. This is one of the handiest skills to have to survive and prosper. The following is just one of many examples of improvisation on a modern homestead.

My father had a hand grain mill from Retsel (an Idaho company that makes high quality grain mills). And as many of you know, hand cranking a grain mill can take a lot of work to get enough flour to make anything with. In a survival situation, it is imperative that you have the ability to hand turn your grain mill, but during other times it is nice to just flip a switch.

Many years ago, my father had turned this grain mill into an electric one. The only problem was that the only motor he had available at the time was way too fast. In order to bring the rpm's down, he had to use numerous pulleys and belts. It ended up being too large to be practical.

We first tried to attach an electric drill into the grain mill where the handle had been. Although I had high hopes, this approach ultimately failed. It was just too fast to work correctly, and when we used a slower setting, it didn't have the power.

We ended up using an electric juicer. This works well for us, as we had two juicers between us.
The juicer still needed to have it's rpm's reduced however. In order to accomplish this we had to buy a large pulley and a small pulley as well as the belt. Many homesteads may have old pulleys laying around, or on old machinery that you could scavenge for this.

After attaching the large pulley to the grain mill (in place of the handle), we attached the smaller one to the juicer. The grain mill was attached to a piece of plywood and the juicer was strapped down (see photo). We strapped the juicer down this way so we could keep the belt tight enough and still allow us to use the juicer for it's original purpose if we needed to. We strapped it down with an NRS river strap, which are one of the greatest tools to have around. They can do anything from holding gates shut to strapping stuff to your trailer or even holding a juicer down.

Once the pulleys were in place and everything was attached down, we had to fix a few problems. The first was that we now couldn't fit the hopper onto the top of the mill. The large pulley was in the way. This was easily remedied by adding a piece of plastic pipe to raise the hopper. We then added a large piece of cardboard to protect our hands from the pulleys and belt while they were spinning. And finally a folded piece of thick paper was added to funnel the flour a little better into a container.

There you have it. Now we have an electric grain mill that can also be used manually in case of emergency or long term power outages.




Thursday, February 5, 2009

Photos of Chickens from FeatherSite.com

In an earlier post, I mentioned Henderson's Chicken Breed chart which can help you narrow down your choice of chickens. The following links can be very helpful in conjunction with the breed chart. They are a vast resource of chicken photos. There are multiple high quality photos of each of the breeds.
Just as an example, I was able to use the chicken breed chart to narrow down my choice of chicken to a Wyandotte. I was then able to see what all of the different types of Wyandottes looked like, using the following links.

Chicken Breeds A-C
http://www.feathersite.com/Poultry/BRKChickensA-C.html
Chicken Breeds D-O
http://www.feathersite.com/Poultry/BRKChickensD-O.html
Chicken Breeds P-Z
http://www.feathersite.com/Poultry/BRKChickensP-Z.html

And just in case anyone is interested in seeing the types of Wyandottes I ended up getting, here they are

The Silver Laced Wyandottes look like this beauty.
The Golden Laced Wyandottes look like this.
And the Blue Laced Red Wyandottes, which are the majority of mine, look like this.



Source of Quality Bulk and Natural Foods

While looking for the cheapest way to get bulk wheat, I came across a company out of Oregon called Azure Standard. They had the cheapest bulk hard red wheat I could find at the time. It is about $30 for a 50 pound bag. I soon learned that they were not only the cheapest place I could find bulk wheat, but they were an amazing source of all kinds of natural foods.

They specialize in natural, organic, earth-friendly foods and products. And the best part is that they deliver directly to customers by semi truck and UPS. To have an order that weighed over 300 pounds delivered to a drop off point near me was a total of $8.

I know they have a Boise warehouse that they deliver out of. From the warehouse they have route #1A which makes deliveries through Meridian, Caldwell, Parma, Nampa, Eagle, Middleton and Star. Route #2A makes deliveries throughout Boise. And route #3A will deliver along a loop on Hwy 95, north through Fruitland all the way to New Meadows. Up Hwy 55 North to Riggins. Back South to McCall, and on to Emmett.

They also make truck deliveries along I-84 from Oregon down through Twin Falls. On I-90 between Ellensburg, WA and Missoula, MT. And on Hwy. 95 from Lewiston to Bonners Ferry.

They deliver to many other parts of the country as well, but I believe that covers the truck routes in Idaho. You could, of course, have them use UPS if you are not near one of these routes.

So, take a look at some of the great things they have. I highly recommend them. Their organic produce is a lot cheaper than we can get in our mountain town. Their grain was about the cheapest I could find without getting it straight from an elevator. And they have a huge variety of products.
http://www.azurestandard.com/

Here is a link to the minimum orders required.
http://www.azurestandard.com/policies.php#minimumOrders

I hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

How a penny saved is 1.5 pennies earned!

I just wanted to post a cool video that does a great job explaining how important saving your money is. In fact, saving your money is 1.5 times as good as just earning it. Here is how....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6A0qR_nsdpQ

I know that I don't need to explain just how important saving your money is to becoming as self sufficient as possible.

Average Last Frost Dates and the Safe Dates for Idaho Towns

Not sure when to start planting? This might help.
These are the Average Last Frost Dates and the Safe Dates for Idaho towns.

The first date is the Avg Last Frost and the second is the Safe Date.

American Falls -May 16 June 7
Anderson Dam- May 6 May 23
Arco- June 12 July 4
Arrowrock Dam -May 3 May 19
Ashton- June 15 July 7

Avery- May 21 June 14
Bayview Model Basin- May 29 June 18
Bliss -May 18 June 8
Boise -May 8 May 26
Bonners Ferry -May 16 May 29

Burley Airport -May 16 June 5
Caldwell -May 1 May 17
Cascade -June 19 July 12
Callis -May 28 June 24
Chilly Barton Flat -June 30 July 20

Couer D'Alene -May 11 May 26
Council -May 24 June 18
Deer Flat Dam -May 3 May 19
Driggs- June 18 July 7
Emmett -May 13 June 1

Fairfield Ranger Station -June 23 July 10
Fenn Ranger Station -May 1 May 18
Fort Hall Indian Agency -May 24 June 12
Garden Valley -June 2 June 27
Glenns Ferry -May 17 June 6

Grace -June 8 June 28
Grand View -May 8 May 26
Grangeville -May 25 June 12
Grouse -July 13 July 30
Hailey- Airport June 14 July 1

Hamer -June 13 July 7
Hazelton -May 13 May 28
Hill City -June 29 July 16
Hollister -May 28 June 15
Idaho City -June 25 July 15

Idaho Falls Airport -May 25 June 14
Island Park Dam- July 1 July 18
Jerome -May 14 June 1
Kellogg -May 16 June 9
Kooskia- May 12 June 3

Kuna -May 23 June 12
Lifton Pumping Station -May 18 June 5
Mackay Ranger Station -June 8 June 30
Malad- May 22 June 13
Malad City Airport -June 5 June 28

May Ranger Station- June 20 July 8
McCall -June 23 July 16
Minidoka Dam -May 15 June 7
Montpelier Ranger Station -June 16 July 5
Moscow -May 23 June 18

Mountain Home- May 20 June 9
New Meadows Ranger Station -July 2 July 23
NezPerce -May 24 June 16
Oakley -May 25 June 13
Ola -May 29 June 21

Orofino -May 1 May 17
Palisades Dam- June 2 June 24
Parma -May 12 June 2
Paul -May 19 June 9
Payette- May 10 May 31

Pocatello -May 20 June 12
Porthill -May 15 June 1
Potlatch -June 13 July 15
Priest River -June 3 June 30
Richfield -May 30 June 20

Riggins Ranger Station- April 23 May 14
St Anthony -June 4 June 29
Saint Maries -May 18 June 4
Salmon -June 2 June 26
Sand Point -May 20 June 5

Shoshone -May 18 June 7
Swann Falls Powerhouse -April 20 May 12
Wallace Woodland Park -May 25 June 13

Monday, February 2, 2009

Using Buckets for Long Term Storage

One of the cheapest and easiest ways to store food long term is with a food grade bucket. These are usually five gallons, but can come in four or six gallons as well as many other sizes.

You can find these buckets on many food storage or emergency preparedness site's. Of the the cheapest I have found were at Emergency Essentials. But, I beg you not to waste your money on a new bucket. There is a secret to getting as many buckets as you want for free (or very inexpensive). Just call around to some local bakeries. Their flour, spices, sugar, filling and many of their other ingredients usually come in these buckets. Because of this, they end up with a bunch of empty buckets laying around.

The first place I ever called gave me twenty for $1 a piece. Now, if we call around, we are sure to find someone that will give us them for free.

The Bucket - Make sure that when you get a bucket it is food grade. One trick is to look on the bottom of the bucket. It should have a triangle with the #2 in it. It should also have "HDPE", which stands for High Density Polyethylene. This is the only material food grade buckets are made from. If your buckets are not food grade, they can leach chemicals into your food over time.

The Lid - The lid should have a rubber gasket that goes around the inside of the lip. This will ensure an airtight fit.

The Process - There are several standard ways to seal the food in. The first is to use a mylar bag and an oxygen absorbing packet. Place the bag into the bucket and a oxygen absorber into the bag. Fill the bag with your grain or other food item. Fill to about 80% of volume. At this point, some people add bay leaves to deter little bugs. You can also toss in a moisture packet, but this isn't a must. Then seal the bag with an impulse heat sealer or an iron. Make sure the seal is a good one and air tight. Add your lid and store.

I do not use this method myself. This method is intended for storing food for 10 + years. I am a strong believer in using what you have and having what you use. This means using your food and replacing it. Because of this, I do not have a reason to store my food for more than 5 years. Therefor, for many of my buckets I do not do anything besides put the lids on. These are the buckets that I get into somewhat frequently (let me just add here that a nice bucket opener is a good thing to have). For the items that I won't be getting into any time soon, I use dry ice to seal the buckets.

Place one ounce of dry ice for every gallon (five gallon bucket = five ounces of dry ice) into the bottom of the bucket. Pour grain over the ice (you can also add a paper towel, or something similar, if you don't want the food to possibly get burned from the cold). Leave about an inch at the top. I add a few bay leaves. Then slide the bucket over the top, but don't seal it. When the bottom of the bucket starts to warm up, you can seal the lid. Watch it every 10-15 minutes to make sure the bucket doesn't start to bulge. If it does, burp it (open the lid to let the gasses out).
I add some packing tape to the lid and write with a sharpie the date I sealed it and what food item is inside. Now store and enjoy in a few years.

Keep in mind that the best place to store these buckets are in a cool, dark, dry location that is safe from bugs and rodents. For every 10 degree drop in temperature, they say that it doubles your storage life.

Good luck and enjoy.

Sprouting Wheat and Growing Wheat Grass

I will go more in depth in future posts about how useful these skills can be. For now, enjoy these two videos from Karen Knowler.

Sprouting Wheat
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WZpVKfEHaM&eurl=http://www.survivalistboards.com/showthread.php?t=41155

Growing Wheat Grass
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOczBVR7vX4&feature=related

Chicken Breed Chart

Not sure which breed of chicken you want? Here is a handy little chart to help narrow it down.
http://www.ithaca.edu/staff/jhenderson/chooks/chooks.html

Complete Book of Self Sufficiency

This link is to a free online version of "Complete Book of Self Sufficiency". I encourage you to either print this out or at least download it to your computer.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/8794366/Complete-Book-Of-SelfSufficiency

Buying bulk wheat in Idaho

Here is a list of Idaho elevator’s that sell wheat for home use.



Burley – AgriSource 208-678-2286
6 gallon buckets – 46 lbs wheat type- HWW

Colfax, WA- Almota (509) 397-3456
Wheat type SW, HRW, DNW call for info

Arco – Arco Feed & Fertilizer (208) 527-8209
50 lb bags wheat type HWW, HRW

Meridian – Big D Ranch (208) 888-1710
50 lb bags wheat type HWW, HRW

Lewiston - CLD Pacific Grain (208) 746-0102
Wheat type SW, HRW DNS call for info

Genesee - PNW Farmers Coop (208) 285-1141
Wheat type SW, HRW, DNS, Barley call for info

Ririe - Johnson Grain (208) 538-5500
50 lb bags and 5 gallon buckets wheat type HWW, HRW

Pocatello - McNabb Grain (208) 233-6750
Wheat type HR, HWW call for info

Moreland - Moreland Grain (208) 684-5049
6 gallon buckets - 46 lbs wheat type HWW

Iona - Pasley Grain (208) 522-1910
Wheat type HWW call for info

Lewiston – Primeland (208) 743-8551
Wheat type SW call for info

Ririe - Ririe (208) 538-6712
50 lb bags wheat type HWW, HRW

Rupert - Snake River Seed (208) 436-9828
Wheat type Organic Flax call for info

Rexburg - Steiner Grain (208) 356-5531
6 gallon buckets - 46 lbs wheat type HWW, HRS

Montpelier - Walton Feed (208) 847-0465
50 lb bags wheat type HWW, HRS

Wendell- Wendell Elevator (208) 536-5661
Wheat type SW call for info

Easy Seed Saving for Beginners

This information is from http://www.seedsave.org/

Beans, Lettuce, Peas, Peppers and Tomatos offer the beginning seed saver the best chance for successful seed saving. They produce seed the same season as planted and are mostly self-pollinating, minimizing the need to be mindful of preventing cross-pollination.

Bean

HARVEST: Allow pods to dry brown before harvesting, about six weeks after eating stage. If frost threatens, pull entire plant, root first, and hang in cool, dry location until pods are brown. PROCESS: Small amounts of pods can be opened by hand. Flail larger amounts. Remove large chaff by hand or fork. Winnow remaining particles.

Lettuce
HARVEST: Some outside leaves can be harvested for eating without harming seed production. Allow seed heads to dry 2-3 weeks after flowering. Individual heads will ripen at different times making the harvest of large amounts of seed at one time nearly impossible. Wait until half the flowers on each plant has gone to seed. Cut entire top of plant and allow to dry upside down in an open paper bag.
PROCESS: Small amounts of seed can be shaken daily from individual flowering heads. Rub with hands to remove remaining seeds. If necessary, separate seeds from chaff with screens.

Peas
HARVEST: Allow pods to dry brown before harvesting, about four weeks after eating stage. If frost threatens, pull entire plant, root first, and hang in cool, dry location until pods are brown. PROCESS: Small amounts of pods can be opened by hand. Flail larger amounts. Remove large chaff by hand or fork. Winnow remaining particles.

Pepper
HARVEST: Harvest mature, fully-ripe peppers for seed. (Most bell peppers turn red when fully mature.) If frost threatens before peppers mature, pull entire plant and hang in cool, dry location until peppers mature.
PROCESS: There are two methods, dry and wet, to process pepper seeds. The dry method is adequate for small amounts. Cut the bottom off the fruit and carefully reach in to strip the seeds surrounding central cone. In many cases, seeds need no further cleaning. To process the seed from large amounts of peppers, cut off the tops just under the stem, fill a blender with peppers and water and carefully blend until good seeds are separated and sink to bottom. Pepper debris and immature seeds will float to the top where they can be rinsed away. Spread clean seeds on paper towel and dry in cool location until seed is dry enough to break when folded.

Tomato
HARVEST: If possible, allow tomatoes to completely ripen before harvesting for seed production. Unripe fruits, saved from the first frost, will ripen slowly if kept in a cool, dry location. Seeds from green, unripe fruits will be most viable if extracted after allowing the fruits to turn color.
PROCESS: Cut the tomato into halves at its equator, opening the vertical cavities that contain the seeds. Gently squeeze out from the cavities the jelly-like substance that contains the seeds. If done carefully, the tomato itself can still be eaten or saved for canning, sun-drying or dehydrating. Place the jelly and seeds into a small jar or glass. (Add a little water if you are processing only one or two small tomatoes.) Loosely cover the container and place in a warm location, 60-75° F. for about three days. Stir once a day. A layer of fungus will begin to appear on the top of the mixture after a couple of days. This fungus not only eats the gelatinous coat that surrounds each seed and prevents germination, it also produces antibiotics that help to control seed-borne diseases like bacterial spot, canker and speck. After three days fill the seed container with warm water. Let the contents settle and begin pouring out the water along with pieces of tomato pulp and immature seeds floating on top. Note: Viable seeds are heavier and settle to the bottom of the jar. Repeat this process until water being poured out is almost clear and clean seeds line the bottom of the container. Pour these clean seeds into a strainer that has holes smaller than the seeds. Let the excess water drip out and invert the strainer onto paper towel or piece of newspaper. Allow the seeds to dry completely (usually a day or two). Break up the clumps into individual seeds, label and store in a packet or plastic bag.