Monday, March 12, 2012

Starting the Garden

I have taken a couple of days off work and since today and tomorrow are supposed to be optimal days for planting root crops I hoped to get some good garden time in.  Yesterday was so warm and sunny here that I began preparing the garden bed and the pots on the deck for planting.   A little Wren came by to perch on the deck rail and watch me for a while.

Most of the garden was covered with this - Dead Nettle.  I pulled and dug - it's surprisingly tenacious.  The rake and hoe didn't remove it.   I found a couple of leftover beets and onions from last year, and some Chervil had reseeded.  Today, I got some more beets in before it started to rain. 

I'm hoping it will stop raining so I can put in white turnips, carrots and several kinds of radishes, but in the meantime, I'm starting seeds indoors.  Here is how I do mine.  At Wren Cottage I repurpose things almost as often as I recycle.  The cat litter I use comes in big plastic jugs. 

Not very 'green' but they don't like the kinds that come in bags.   I recycle most of them, but they also are very useful in the garden.  When I'm ready to start seeds, cut the top off:        

Then slit the corners down about 2 inches, like so, so the top will push back onto the bottom  ...... and use the bottom of the jug to start seeds.

I happened to have some "Jiffy' seed starting disks on hand, but you could also fill the bottom part of the jug with seed starting mix.  

I soaked the disks in warm water to expand them, then - because they are waterlogged - I allowed them to drain.    Add the seeds to the expanded disks, then return them to the jug. 

The top keeps the cats out, and with the cap off, extra moisture can escape. A tip sheet from a seed supplier I bought from said to sprinkle cinnamon on the soil to battle or prevent 'damping off' - the biggest threat to seeds started indoors.

By cutting bottom off of the jugs instead of the top, they make great cloches for covering seedlings freshly set in the garden.  I have a lot of trouble with Robins in the Spring, biting off or pulling out my seedlings, but these really do the job at allowing the seedlings to grow large enough for the birds to leave them alone.  

Not all things need to be started.  These strawberries never completely died back, and now are growing back like gangbusters.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Reverse Chicken Math

You know chicken math - you go looking for one of something and come home with five - sometimes not even what you were looking for?  Well....I went to a poultry swap in Paris KY this morning, and found a new home for my rooster!!!!   I didn't even get the cage onto the the ground before a man and a teen aged boy came over to ask about him.  While we were talking, two young girls came up.   I was explaining how I had raised Francis from an egg, how he had always been handled and never been aggressive, when the girls started saying "can we have him Papaw, pleeeeeease?"   I questioned them all carefully, made sure they have other chickens, were experienced chicken keepers, and what kind of home he would have.  In the end we  all got the deal we wanted - I was sad, but relieved, too. 

Goodbye, sweet prince! 

One of the ladies in CLUCK bought her bantam Cochins from a man who brings them to this swap, and I was hoping he would be there, but he wasn't, and no one else had Cochins.  There was nothing else there I wanted, or at another swap in Winchester I stopped at on the way home.   I actually came home empty-handed!!  With Francis gone, I now have room for at least one more girl, but I'll have to keep looking.  

From a sadder, quieter Wren Cottage .....

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Home-made "Beauty" Products - and More

I have made a few different 'home-mades' recently that I like, and wanted to share.   There are many websites and blogs that give directions for these, so it's hard to know who to credit: 

Home-made lip balm
I really like this one.  This recipe makes enough for twelve 'chapstick' tubes.  I used 3 - 2 oz. jars, purchased at Good Foods Co-op , and an empty small mint tin for a purse-pack.   If you prefer tubes, they, along with some of the ingredients, can be purchased here - Mountain Rose Herbs.               

What You'll Need:

2 tablespoons beeswax (about 1 oz) 
(note - beeswax pastilles are far easier to use and measure than grating beeswax bars)
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons shea butter

12 lip balm containers - or equivalent  in jars
A dropper ( I used a teaspoon to fill my jars) 

What to Do:

1. Melt coconut oil and shea butter, in a small pan over low heat. Add beeswax melting the ingredients together. Add your essential oils here.

2. Using a small medicine dropper, pour the melted liquid into your lip balm containers. Add a few extra drops to the top after filling each container as the ingredients will shrink as they cool.

3. Cool completely to harden. Cover with cap and decorate or label if you'd like.

Homemade Body Butter

1/2 cup shea butter
1/2 cup coconut oil (unrefined)
1/4 cup apricot or almond Oil
2 tsp grated beeswax
Vitamin E oil (1 capsule)

Stir all ingredients except vitamin E over low heat until melted.  A double boiler (a glass or metal bowl set over a pan)  helpful.  As it cools but is still pourable, whip with a whisk several times to incorporate some air and keep it soft and spreadable. Pour into a jar.  (I filled one 8 oz jar)  You could also add herbs or essential oils if you want.

Coconut oil as a makeup remover and moisturizer
If you are not familiar with coconut 'oil,' it is a food oil, and can be found in any 'health-food' or well-stocked grocery store.  Solid white at room temperature, it has an extremely low melting point, and liquefies instantly at body temperature. 
I bought waterproof mascara by mistake, and went to the internet a to look for a natural way to remove it, without having to go to the store. Many places recommended olive oil, and I know it is supposed to be good, but when I saw one place recommend coconut oil, I thought I would try that. I worked great.  I don't use foundation makeup, but it is highly recommended as a makeup remover and general moisturizer.

 I also bought some coco butter when I bought my shea butter.  It is tan in color, smells strongly chocolaty, which may be good in some things, but since I don't want to go around all day smelling like a Hershey bar, I prefer the shea butter. 

By using natural products when we can, we know what is in the product.  My Mountain Rose ingredients are far from local, but they are unrefined, organic, often 'Fair Trade' and lets not forget - no animal testing!! 


Things are beginning to grow on the Wren Cottage Urban Farm.  In fact, some things never stopped!  Because of the unusually mild winter, kale and Brussels sprouts never did die back.  That has also allowed some weeds to run rampant.  I've got some sort of lamium covering half the garden bed.  

Sometime in February - I didn't even write the date down - I threw a few radish seeds in a pot.  This is what I found yesterday -

Radish seedlings!

It remains to be seen if the seedlings will survive, but this, and what I am reading, have convinced me I'm waiting way too long to plant some crops.   Those crops that love cool weather need to go in very early, and since several of my crops will be grown in pots, they will be warmer than the earth, so I should be able to get them in sooner than the garden-grown ones.   

This should also allow me to 3-season garden:  Very early crops such as peas, radishes, beets, turnips, etc. in the Spring, some of those, such as peas, will come out in time for Summer crops - beans, tomatoes, peppers, then in the Fall repeat some Spring crops, and plant for very late harvests into Winter. 

I also thought I would try the old-fashioned, Farmer's Almanac method of planting according to the phases of the moon: this link is informative, but I found it a bit difficult to tell just what date I should plant.  This one on the other hand, says what to plant and when.   According to that, I should/could have planted peas, and lettuce this weekend.  Yesterday would have been fine for that - sunny and temps not bad for being outside.  But I was tied up doing a spinning demo for the Lexington Arts and Science Center at the Kentucky Crafted event at the convention center.  That was good for us though, we talked to tons of people about the upcoming Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival and our session went 2 hours overtime!! 

Today however, looks like this - intermittent snow flurries, and cold!    I don't really want to be out digging and planting - so I will just have to wait until later to get the peas in.  I have started leeks inside, and could start some other seeds so the day won't be wasted, garden-wide.  

Lots of budding going on.  This is apple mint.  

That's all for now from Wren Cottage ....