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.

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.

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.

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.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

When Does Your Garden Grow?

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

March 15, 2009

When does your garden grow?
Our experts have pulled together this year-long guide on
what to do in your garden
® 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).
® 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
® 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
® 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.
® 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.
® 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.
® 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.
® 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
® 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.
® 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.
® 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.
® 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
® 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.

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

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.

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


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.

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.

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.

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.