Friday, January 30, 2015

Something's up

The other day was our big shopping day.  We headed out to pick up feed, household items and some grocery.  Even a a couple of stops at the thrift store and a craft/fabric store.  Nothing special about the trip but I did make some observations while out.

I like to observe the shopping habits of people when we venture out.  Meaning, what are they buying.  And to make a mental note comparing prices from the last trip out.  At Christmas.... well, actually about the week before Thanksgiving.... people became extremely irritable and rude.  And that attitude continued on throughout the holidays.  And as Christmas came closer, people were still shopping and purchasing crap stuff. The parking lots were fairly packed but I would not say that all appeared to be successful shoppers.  It was almost like they were wandering around buying things because they 'had' to since it was going to be Christmas and who the heck wants to show up empty handed or, worse yet, show up with a homemade gift!  (If you're on my list, you're getting homemade! So get over it.) :-)

Now let's jump to my most recent outing.  With the dropping fuel prices do you remember these type of headlines?

Sliding Oil and Gas Prices Give Americans More Money to Spend
(NY Times, Nov 2014)

Pump Prices Prime Economy for Growth - Sharply Lower Gas Costs Promise to Give Boost to Consumer Spending

From what I'd seen on my recent outing I don't think those messages got to the consumer, that we now suddenly have a boat load of cash and we should be spending it.  For example, the parking lot at Walmart was pretty empty.  We easily crossed the thoroughfare without having to make a run for it else get run over.  It is usually a pretty busy place.  The people inside were doing most of their shopping in the grocery part of the store and not spending their dollars on 'stuff'.  There was no one in the prescription line except for the drop off area.  Not many 'shoppers' but people who knew what they were looking for.  And most had shopping lists with them. The majority of carts in the check out lines had practical items and not 'stuff' (like tv's or the tacky Valentines Day garbage that is out now).

All of the stores we went to were in a similar state of affair. Unusually quiet for the end of the month.  I don't like shopping at the beginning or end of the month because of the masses that usually are out during this time, but it sure didn't occur on this trip.

So the pundits assuming that the low fuel prices would stimulate the economy by people spending that extra cash are flat out wrong.  It sure isn't happening here.  People don't have the ability to spend like they once could (like they had that ability within the past several years).  So where is that 'extra cash' going?  Bills? Savings?  Just trying to 'survive'?

Something sure does not feel right.....

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Frosty weather

Been under the weather of late with a lingering cold.  The boys came down with the crud the day before Christmas Eve and it has morphed its way through the family.  And to add to the fun we've been busy with snow/ice/rain/mud and a combo of everything in between.  We've had about two or three days of sunshine since then.  The inversion is hanging on creating some nasty conditions and lots of hoarfrost and ice.  The past week, or so, has reported some terrible car wrecks on the local interstate and side roads.  I'm glad we don't have to commute to work on a daily basis nor do the kids need to take a bus to school.

Hoarfrost is an oddity where it can make objects about the yard appear like they have suddenly developed hair.  But its beauty is deceiving since it really means that conditions are hazardous.  Black ice and very cold conditions exist.  Double layers of socks and clothing.  And with a couple of days of dense fog it sure can grow.  Even the animals had it on their whiskers and fur.


But despite the wintry weather all is not lost.  Most of the seed orders have been made and soon I will be starting seedlings in the greenhouse.  The bags of seed starting soil have been thawed out and are ready to go.  The stores don't have bags of soil out yet so last year I purchased a few extra bags during their end-of-season sale to hold over for the following spring since I was anticipating getting a better jump on starting the plants that need a longer growing season.

But my pre-season gardening adventure won't end with seed starting.  I will also be taking out my diagram of the garden from last year (and the year before) and start a new one for this year, paying attention to crop rotation.  Meaning I won't plant seeds/seedlings from the same family in the same spot.  For example, I won't plant potatoes or peppers where the tomatoes grew last year.  Crop rotation will help prevent disease or pests from re-occurring in your gardens.  The extension office from the University of Wisconsin has a nice little write up on it here.

Even if you don't have a lot of space or think you don't have enough space for a garden, look up container gardening, pallet gardening or small space gardening.  You'll be very surprised what you can grow and there are many varieties of plants and vegetables that don't need loads of space or full sun.  I have grown tomatoes and raspberries successfully in containers.  Many kinds of lettuce and herbs can be grown in containers.  So get online or pull out those FREE seed catalogs and see what kinds of compact plants they have available.  Go to your local library and check out what books they have there on the subject of small space or container gardening.  Spring will be here before you know it.

Oh, and please do remember when you're creating your list of seeds to grow vegetables that you like and take note of what will store well in the conditions you have.  Try to purchase open-pollinated seeds, too, so you can save some after your harvest.  Request your free seed catalogs.  Most seed catalogs will tell you whether that squash is a good keeper or that cucumber is good for making pickles.  Jot down notes and keep those old seed catalogs.  They have a wealth of information in them.  Now is the time to start preparing your outdoor gardens.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Wood ash

Oh, what to do with the ashes from the fireplace?  Some people like to add it to their gardens but there is only so much you can add to it without disrupting the balance of things since adding too much wood ash can alter the pH of the soil.  If you have acidic soil (pH of 5.5 or lower) or slightly acidic soils (pH around 6 or 6.5) then the addition of wood ash to your garden soil would actually be beneficial. (You can find home-use soil test kits at your local garden center.)  But if it is neutral or alkaline (higher than 7) then it is suggested to find a better place to dispose of it.  How about the chicken run?

If you own chickens, dump it into the dry part of your chicken run where your birds dirt bathe.  Your chickens will greatly benefit from the wood ash in their bathing spots.  It will help keep poultry mites and lice at bay since those pesky critters don't like the dirt and ash.  Poultry mites, if you aren't aware, are blood sucking parasites that will severely affect your birds health and can result in their death if left untreated. 

Be sure that the wood ash is from untreated (chemical-free) wood or lumber, nail-free and that the ash does not have any hot coals.  I DO NOT recommend adding ash to the inside of any coop or structure.  A missed hot coal can set your coop on fire or injure your birds.  If you do feel the need to dust the inside of your coop, please DO NOT add firewood ash.  We use a product called Prozap Garden and Poultry dust for inside the coop or on your birds.  Just be sure to wear a mask, goggles, protective clothing (such as long sleeve shirt and jeans) and some gloves since dust can be propelled by a flapping bird who does not like you dusting her rump and arm pits.  Another person holding the bird helps a lot, too.

But if you have some excess wood ash from your winter fires, consider adding it to your birds' dirt bathing spots to aid in your maintenance of your chicken flock.  They will thank you for it later with some nice tasty eggs.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Gardening time

Yes, winter is perfect time to start planning your gardening adventures!  If you haven't done so already, get online and request your gardening catalogs!  Spring will be here before you know it.  Besides, if you are going to grow slow germinating plants such as peppers or luffa gourds, you will want to start NOW.  Get those heat mats, seedling soil, seeds and seedling start trays out.  Yes, you want to start them now especially if you live in short growing season areas.

You can also order seeds online, too, but I would still request the free catalogs to have the growing information at hand on the different varieties.  Oh, and if you don't know if a certain variety is open-pollinated (meaning you can save the seed and it will be true to variety) then search on the internet.  Not all heirlooms are open-pollinated.

Here's a few of my favorites.

Baker Seed catalog
Johnny's Seed catalog
Seed Savers Exchange catalog
Sand Hill Preservation catalog  (Email for print catalog)
Potato Garden catalog
Fedco trees
Territorial Seed catalog
Bountiful Garden catalog
Sow True Seed catalog
R. H. Shumway

Burpee catalog
Park Seed catalog  (top right of page has free catalog request pop up link)
(just a note:  I had some seeds that I purchased in 2009 from Park Seed and did not store them properly.  In fact, I kept them in a closed coffee can in the garage where the summer temps would easily be near 100F or more.  I planted some of them the past couple of years and I would say that at least 95% of those seeds sprouted and performed quite well.  I have not been disappointed in their quality).
Gurney's catalog (another pop up link)

Sustainable Seed Co.  (Only an online catalog - no print catalog but seed quality/customer service is very good)

Horizon Herbs - email for print catalog (Their book "Making Plant Medicine" by Richo Cech ... highly recommended)

Grow Organic (Peaceful Valley)

Sunday, December 28, 2014


Yup.  More snow.  Not the heavy wet snow we had over Christmas but the light fluffy kind. Sure beats the rain we had over a week ago.  Nearly 4 inches of rain came down making the creeks overflow their banks and flood nearby fields and roadways.  The cows all had made requests of snorkels, masks, water-wings and floaties.  The duck and goose thought we were all a bunch of complainers and whiners.

But Christmas Eve day a change in the weather pattern occurred and we finally got some snow.  A couple of days of warm temps melted quite a bit of it and then the winter weather advisories started to roll in again.  Yesterday the snow was to start again.  Nothing major, per the weatherguessers, just a bit of snow but to be cautious, if driving, for some boughts of heavy snowfall.

After it was all said and done, we received nearly 8 inches or more of the white stuff in some areas.  And it snowed more than was expected.  At 9:30 pm last night I went out and swept the snow off the greenhouse roof.  Not that it would cause any problems because I can simply uncover the plants and let the heater do the work of warming up the ceiling.  But it was bugging me and I knew if I didn't clear it off that I'd be up most of the night thinking about it anyway.  But it was just as well that I did since there was another 2 inches of snow by morning.

It was a lovely morning.  All quiet (except for a few muffled crows from the roosters in the coop and the quail over by the creek) so a stroll around the yards to look at the scenery and to snap some pics before the dogs and all the critters go romping around.  Disturbers of the peace.

major disturbers of the peace
WE DO NOT LIKE SNOW!!!  Make it go away!
Oh, and what goes good with a nice cup of hot tea after all the chores are done and some mischief and mayhem in the snow..... fresh out of the oven sticky buns (made from a King Arthur Flour recipe book but a similar one can be chosen from this link).

So, for those of you who still haven't had their snow fix for the year, please enjoy.

snow on top tire (two are in the stack, you see the top one)

thank you for sweeping a path

Do you know what time it is?!!  You're late!

Fence quail

Snowy California Quail

Oregon Junco - we only see them in the winter
I've waited TWO winters for this day to do some sledding....
but the ground is just way too flat

problem solved.... DOG POWER! :-)