Woodhaven Place

Your Neighborhood Farm

Tag: Homestead (page 1 of 3)

Growing Peas: Varieties, Method and Trouble Shooting

What do you do in mid-March if you live in southwestern Ohio?  I plant peas!!!  Yes, I plant them, from seed, in the ground.  The fact is, peas will germinate in soil as cold as 40 degrees. Early peas taste great, get you out working in the garden when most folks are still dreaming of planting vegetables, and they do a fantastic job of prepping beds for future crops. Like all legumes, peas can take nitrogen directly from the air with the help of nitrogen-fixing soil bacteria.

Types of Peas

Vine length varies from one variety to another, and long-vined peas need a taller trellis than compact varieties. Both compact and long-vined peas are available in four types, which vary in pod and seed characteristics. Although I only grow one type of pea, I will explain why later, I am giving you information on all four varieties. Continue reading

Top Ten Farmer Gifts For The Female FarmHER

“Women make do.” That’s what we do and the garden is no exception. When something does not work, we make it work because at the end of the day, things need to get done. As ladies have twisted, pulled, pushed, and toiled in the soil over the centuries, we have done so largely with the aid of tools designed for men.

Over the last few years, we have been given some fantastic farm related gifts and have tried out dozens of products. There are more and more companies making things specifically for hard working women (including work clothing!).  Continue reading

Osage Orange Tree or Monkey Balls

They look like green brains, lying in clusters along roadsides, from September through December. They are the joy of many squirrels and the bane of every homeowner trying to mow in the fall. Continue reading

Rosies: My Review of Work Wear for Women

I never thought I would say this but I have a love affair with overalls, specifically my Rosies. I wear my Rosies so much that I had to buy a second pair for when my primary pair are in the wash.

They are the most functional pair of clothing I own and I recommend them to everyone. If you are a back yard gardener or a full time woman farmer you need to own a pair (or three!) of these overalls.

But don’t take my word for it. There’s good reason why Rosies are amazing.  Continue reading

{Classical Conversations} Flip-Flap Books & Cycle 2 Match Ups!

We love using Flip-Flap Books (especially to flesh out our Classical Conversations work at home). Check out our recommended supply list and cycle match ups!

Along with farming and homesteading, we are a home school family. We belong to a local Classical Conversations community and I am always looking for fun ways to add depth to our memory work. I use the website Teachers Pay Teachers a lot and I would like to introduce my favorite seller Simply Skilled in Second.

She has created a resource called Flip-Flap Books that my son and I both love.

Anna has a great website that explains many of her resources.

Each book has a single theme, comes with detailed easy to follow instructions, and matches up with CC memory work wonderfully! Right now we are working with books that match up with Cycle 2, but she has books that will work with all of the CC Cycles. I love this resource because it is easy to put together and looks great. Continue reading

Top Reasons to Rent-A-Chicken

Have you ever wanted to experiment with a new activity, but the upfront investment has prevented you from doing so?  This is exactly why farmers around the country have started programs like Rent-A-Chicken.  At its most simple, the program is a short-term agreement where the farmer delivers chickens and all the stuff that is needed to take care of them to a customer for a specified period.  Normally chicken rentals run for six months starting around April and ending around November.

Chicken rentals are a good place to start if keeping chickens is something that you have wanted to do but were not sure if it was right for you.  The two hurdles new chicken owners encounter are the start-up costs involved with raising chickens and the work of taking care of the birds once winter arrives.  We knew we wanted chickens, but these were the two things we were unprepared for.  With a chicken rental program, the customer skips all of the “work” and goes straight to egg laying birds.

Most people do not know that the cute little peepers that you get at the feed store will not start laying eggs for up to six months.  That is quite an investment in time and resources before you get any eggs.  During the first six months, the owner acts as momma chicken.  It is your job to brood, feed, water, and clean your babies.  Let us tell you having a box of baby chicks in your living room for six weeks was not a step we enjoyed our first time around.  Although it did make for a few good stories.

The other end of the spectrum is winter care for chickens.  If you are set up for it, it is not that big a problem.  Just keep in mind the number of eggs a chicken lays is determined by the number of hours of light they have each day.  Some breeds of chickens slow down egg laying to one egg every few days during the winter to not laying any eggs at all.  In addition to lower egg production, you have to make sure their water is not frozen and that they are protected from the cold.

The last thing that most people do not mention when they are explaining how great chickens are is how they molt.  Chickens molt, or lose and replace their feathers, every sixteen months or so.  During this process, they do not lay any eggs and boy do they look sad.

The important thing about livestock is taking the good with the bad.  These are the only hurdles we find annoying throughout the year, and we would not give up our chickens because of them. Having backyard chickens allows you to know exactly how the animals producing your eggs are treated.  Chickens not only produce eggs, but they are fun to watch.  Each hen has her own personality.  They love kitchen scraps, eat annoying bugs, and fertilize the yard.  Having chickens is a great way to teach children responsibility and how to care for animals.

With a chicken rental program, the renter gets all the good and none of the bad.  Hens that are part of the program are first-year birds that have started laying eggs.  The farmer gives you all the equipment that is needed to take care of the birds, so there are no additional costs.  The farmer will also pick up the birds before all the winter chores begin.  Also, there is always someone just a phone call away to answer any questions that arise during the hens visit.

If you want to get your feet wet without the commitment renting a chicken is what you are looking for.  Two hens will produce roughly a dozen eggs per week, and if you decide you want to adopt the birds permanently you can do so at the end of the rental.

IBC Totes and what you can do with them?

When we started down the homesteading / farming road there was one acronym that continuously popped up.  It felt like every post I looked at mentioned something called an IBC Tote.  The things people were creating with these containers were awesome, but what on earth is an IBC?  After some research, I came to find out that IBC stands for Intermediate Bulk Container and they are a standardized shipping container for liquids.

BCs are used to transport everything from oil and soap to syrup and molasses.  They come in two standard sizes 275 gallons and 330 gallons.  The footprint of the totes are the same as a standard full-size pallet.  The plastic container is surrounded by a metal frame that creates a very sturdy container.  This allows forklifts to be used to move them and allows them to be stacked several high during transportation.

Depending on what you intend to use the tote for depends on the type you will need to find.  Most things on a homestead or farm require a food grade tote.  Totes that held oil or some sort of solvent are often the easiest to find but are not recommended for use if you plan to store something in them your or an animal is going to ingest.

If your tote contained a food product there is a very easy way to clean them out.  Put half a bottle of Dawn dish soap in the bottom and fill the tote up with water.  After is is 100% full drain the water.  Next, put 2 pounds of baking soda in the bottom and fill it up and drain it again.  The soap will cut and remove the sugar or whatever was in the tote and the baking soda will neutralize the soap.  We used this process when we cleaned a tote to hold maple sap and it worked great.

We first came across the IBC tote when researching aquaponics.  We plan to set up a good size backyard aquaponics setup in our greenhouse once it is complete.  IBC totes appear to be the standard method of construction for the backyard aquaponics.  The general construction method requires cutting the IBC’s into two pieces.  The shallower top portion becomes the grow bed and the larger bottom portion is the fish tank.

Another popular use for IBC totes is rainwater collection.  A 55-gallon drum is great, but the can fill in just a few seconds with a good spring rain.  With the ability to stack totes up to 3 tall, when full this arrangement allows someone to store over 800 gallons of water in a 40″ X 48″ footprint.  There are many how-to articles out there, but this is one of the best I have found and it includes a parts list of everything needed.

 

The other uses for IBC totes are limitless.  There are instructions online to turn IBC totes into livestock waters, waste oil containers, compost bins, chicken coops, mushroom grow beds, dear blinds, hot tubs, I had a guy buy one from us that he turned it into an oil change catch tray for his tractors.

We have a plan to turn one of the more beat up totes into a permanent dust bath for our chickens.  Two more will be centrally located by the well in the garden as a water tower. Then there is a third that lives in the woods by the maple evaporator used to store maple sap.  Once we get the aquaponics system up and running I am sure we will find even more fun projects for these forklift size building blocks.

Phenology or Old Farmer Wisdom

I love old time farm sayings like “plant potatoes when the first dandelions bloom” or “cut in June will come back too soon, cut in July will surely die.” Long before we had the internet and hundreds of gardening books to read, these sayings were handed down from parent to 34e3d30f726dfe2cab922fc448731c51child and guided the yearly planting and harvesting. It turns out these sayings are accurate much of the time and the official name for them is Phenology. Many universities have devoted years to studying the validity of these sayings.

Events in the ‘natural calendar’ can be used to guide planting times in the vegetable garden or on the farm. The study and observation of seasonal events and their correlation to plant, insect, and animal life is called “phenology,” from the Greek for the “science of appearances.” Trees, shrubs, and flowers are sensitive to temperature and day length and develop on a regular schedule based on local conditions. It only makes sense to use these natural indicators to know when the weather is right for planting. Observations made over many years have led to some fairly reliable conclusions. According to the National Phenology Network“Phenology is nature’s calendar—when cherry trees bloom, when a robin builds its nest and when leaves turn color in the fall.”

The life cycle of the comLilacmon lilac is an often used guide in Phenology studies and garden planning and planting. The leafing out and progression of lilac blooms (from bud to flower fade) can aid the vegetable gardener from year to year. For example, after years of observing the lilac, naturalists have concluded that it is safe to plant tender bean, cucumber, and squash seeds when the lilac is in full bloom.

Here are some of the most common sayings

Vegetable Garden Crop Planting Phenology
Beans: Plant beans when lilac is in full bloom, also cucumber seeds and squash seeds.
Beets: Blooming crocus are your cue to plant radishes, parsnips, and spinach.
Broccoli: Plant broccoli when lilacs first begin to leaf out and dandelions are in bloom.
Brussels sprouts: Plant Brussels sprouts when lilacs first begin to leaf out and dandelions are in bloom.
Cabbage: Plant cabbage and cabbage family crops (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards) when lilacs first begin to leaf out and dandelions are in bloom, also beets, carrots, lettuce, and spinach.
Cabbage for spring: Plant spring cabbage in fall when mock orange is in full bloom
Collards: Plant collards when lilacs first begin to leaf out and dandelions are in bloom.
Corn: Plant corn when apple blossoms begin to fall and when oak leaves are the size of a squirrel’s ear.
Cucumber: Plant cucumber seeds when lilac is in full bloom and when the blooms just start to fade, also bean seeds and squash seeds.
Eggplant: Transplant eggplant when irises bloom and daylilies start to bloom, also melons and peppers.
Hardy, cool-season spring crops: plant hardy crops when plum and peach trees are in full bloom.
Peas: Plant peas when daffodils and forsythia are in full bloom.
Potatoes: Plant potatoes when the first dandelions bloom.
Squash: Plant squash seeds when lilac is in full bloom and just as the blooms fade, also bean seeds and cucumber seeds.
Tomatoes: Plant tomatoes when day lilies start to bloom or lily-of-the-valley plants are in full bloom or flowering dogwood are in bloom.
Perennials: can be planted when the maple trees begin to leaf out

Vegetable Garden Pests Phenology
Apple maggot moths are at their peak when Canada thistle blooms; protect apple fruits.
Mexican bean beetle larvae appear when foxglove flowers open.
Cabbage root maggots are active when wild rocket blooms.
Japanese beetles arrive when morning glory vines begin to climb.
Squash vine borers are at their peak when chicory blooms; protect pumpkin plants.
Tent caterpillars are hatching when crabapple trees are in bud; begin caterpillar controls.

While not totally foolproof, following nature’s clock helps us tune in to the rhythm of life around us. Accumulating notes on insect indicator plants in new-pages-of-worlds-most-mysterious-book-are-seen-for-the-first-time-27281-1-590x812your own garden over several seasons paves the way toward being a much more effective manager of pests that plague your garden year after year. This can help eliminate time wasted looking for pests that have yet to become active, and remind you to check plants closely when they are scheduled to be a certain insect’s next main course. As we wait on spring, we are wise to keep our eyes open and pencils handy to better understand the Phenology of our one-of-a-kind gardens. Consider the Chinese proverb, “Spring is sooner recognized by plants than by men.”

What are some signals where you live? I know that I am going to plant a lilac bush this spring so I can start being more cooperative with my natural world!

Resources
Growveg
Farmers Almanac
Harvesttotable
usanpn
Beineke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Is It Really Necessary to Fence Your Apiary?

 

When beginning beekeepers run through the list of necessary equipment, their thoughts naturally turn to bee boxes, smokers, and protective clothing. That’s why it may come as a quite a surprise to find that proper fencing is just as important as all the other tools and trappings. Fencing serves two distinct purposes in beekeeping — and your particular situation may call for a specific type of fencing.

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Bees tend to travel in a straight path to their hive — anything that gets in their way is a potential target for a collision or stinging. The easiest thing a beekeeper can do to avoid this issue is to locate their bees away from heavily trafficked areas and surround the beehives with solid fencing. A fence lessens the chance that a bee will accidentally crash into someone walking nearby by redirecting their flight path upwards and above the heads of most humans.

It’s important to build the fence before bringing in your bees. If you do so after they’ve settled, you’ll have to wait a few days before you’ll see higher flight paths.

A solid fence can also give your neighbors peace of mind. Large accumulations of stinging insects have the understandable effect of making people nervous. Those who aren’t keen on the idea of you keeping bees can be a nuisance, so building a fence that conceals your hives can be helpful in creating an “out of sight, out of mind” situation.

To Keep Out Predators

Bees have many predators, but luckily, most can be stopped by adding various protective features to your bee boxes. However, there are two predators in particular that have to be stopped before they ever make it to the boxes.

Raccoons are clever little creatures, and if they set their mind to getting into something, they are often successful. Expert climbers and proficient at opening latches, raccoons are completely undeterred by standard fencing. To keep these adorable troublemakers from destroying your combs, you’ll need to add electric wires to your existing fence. Starting six inches from the ground and about eight inches away from your solid fence, install two or three wires at an interval of four to six inches.

For beekeepers in forest environments, bears will be your number one enemy. Like raccoons, anything short of an electric fence won’t keep them out. It’s a good idea to install your electric fence early in the season, as it’s much easier to keep bears away from hives before they’ve had a taste of what’s inside.

To keep bears out, you’ll need a seven wire, 54″ high fence. You’ll need to give the local bear population a quick tutorial of the fence by baiting it with peanut butter, bacon, or fish. This will prompt them to touch the wire with their nose or tongue, and get a shock. Bears are incredibly intelligent, and have a long memory, so a psychological barrier will easily keep them from decimating your hives.

Fencing your apiary isn’t so much an option as it is a necessity. From redirecting your bees’ flight path to preventing bears from munching on your brood nests, a fence can be one of your greatest assets.

Liz Greene is a dog loving, beard envying, pop culture geek from the beautiful city of trees, Boise, Idaho. You can catch up with her latest misadventures on Instant Lo or follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene.

The Low-Tech Approach to Mulberries

Spring will be here before you know it and the first season on our homestead is Mulberry season.  The purpose of this post is to go through the process we use to use to juice our berries.  It was a messy process, but not too difficult.  This is what we consider the low-tech approach.  We have started using a food mill, but if you want to process berries on the cheap, you can do it with almost no tools.

We normally juice the first few sets of berries that come out of the tree due to all the debris that drops with the first few shakes of the tree.  Because of the way juicing works you do not use any of the pulp so if there are a few little leaves and things still in with the berries that’s OK you will not use that stuff anyway.

First we fill the tub with the berries with water.  This will cause most of the gunk to float.  The really good berries will sink.  Next we skim the floating berries off of the top of the tub.  Then picked out the big sticks and gunk.

Mulberries 1

We used a frying skimmer for this process

After you have the berries you are going to juice ready to go, put together the rest of the juicing gear. You will need gloves, this is very very important unless you want to look like Barney.

 

Mulberries 2

The smashers!  Yes, I understand this is kind of a creepy picture…

 

Next set your splatter screen on top of a big pot like so

Mulberries 3

Then lay out your cheese cloth folded over a few times

Mulberries 4

Now it is time to squish some berries! Put a scoop of berries on the center of the cheese cloth and pick up all four corners. Then start to squish out the juice thought the mesh screen and into the pot.

 

Mulberries 8

This is why we use the mesh strainer.  As you continue to squish seeds will start to get loose.

 

 

After you have squished all the juice out throw away the pulp or give it to your chickens.

Mulberries 9

Then put the juice in a container for storage in the fridge until you need it. We made all of our juice into jelly. I like using Mason jars to store the juice.

Mulberries 10

Now sit back and admire all of your hard work! It takes four cups of juice to fill a jar and about 12 cups of berries to get that much juice!

Mulberries 11

Our current process has not changed much, but now we use a food mill to juice and separate the seeds, pulp, and leaves from the juice.

Older posts

© 2017 Woodhaven Place

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑