Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas chickens

We are all decorated for Christmas!! The most important part was decorating the coop of course!

I guess all the festivities caused one of the Easter Eggers to lay eggs out of joy!  We got our first blue egg, the one on the left is from a Silver Laced Wyandotte.

With all this festivities, we took Jaxson to see Santa for the first time.  What a festive time!

Laundry Detergent

Laundry Detergent is so expensive.  Especially when you have cloth diapers to do.  Daily.  Thankfully, it is super easy to make your own.  It took me about 45 minutes to make 5 gallons of Laundry Detergent.  I think it cost me less than $7. Pretty amazing savings.

Here are the ingredients you need:

Rules of 2:
2 cups of Borax
2 cups of Washing Soda
2 bars of Ivory soap (you can also use Fels Naptha, only use one bar)

You also need a bucket (of the 5 gallon variety):

First, Grate the soap.  You can use your food processor.  I did this while Jaxson was sleeping, so I grated this by hand:

I grated it directly into a pot. This save a step and a dish.  It's all about keeping it simple.

Cover the soap with water and bring to a gentle boil over low to medium heat.  Continue heat until the soap dissolves in the water.  Keep stirring so you don't burn the soap.  Another helpful hint, make sure you are using a large enough pot. I speak from experience: too small a pot and  it will boil over leaving an icky mess to clean up.  This is not simple.  

In your bucket, dump in the 2 cups of borax 

And two cups of the Super Washing Soda:

Dump in your liquefied soap.  Continue to add hot water to the bucket, using a whisk to stir as you go.  My sink has water that is hot enough to make this work.  Some may need to boil water.  You need it hot enough so that it is uncomfortable to put your hand in, but it won't burn you.

Fill this to the top.  Another helpful tip: Since you need to rinse out that pot, and you need to fill up your bucket, why not fill up the pot with hot water and dump that in your bucket? That's what I did, at least. A little two-for-one action.

Once that is filled and whisked you have your finished product:

Now we have a problem.  This is one heavy bucket.  Enter attractive man (AKA my husband, Chris) to carry it down to the washer.  

We store it using Aluminum foil as a lid.  I'm sure that there are more elegant solutions, but this is solution works for us.  When using it, you can fill up a regular detergent cup.  I would think its about half a cup.  Less works too.  

You may need to play with the amounts of ingredients depending on the hardness of your water.  You may also find that more or less detergent is needed for your needs.  

Monday, December 9, 2013

Homemade Peanut Butter

You can buy peanut butter in two ways at the grocery story, all chemically with added oils, salt and sugar.  Or you can buy the natural stuff.  It's $5 a jar and has some weird oil on top.  I actually don't mind the oil, but for about $2, you can makes your own.  You can add as much or as little salt in as you like. It is so easy.  I'm a little embarrassed to even post it.

First you buy peanuts.  I buy them in bulk.

I then fill my food processor.

I turn it on.

I check it too see how it's going.  It looks like it's still a little chunkier than I like.

So I turn it back on until get my desired consistency.

I put it in jars and put it in the fridge.  I'm not sure how long it keeps.  I have never had it go bad on me, I've had it in the fridge for over 4 months.

And most importantly, you must have your son taste test your peanut butter.

He seems to approve.

You are now done.  I find it odd that this does not have any separation of the oil, like the natural peanut butter does.  You can also add some honey or maple syrup to mix if you would enjoy a slightly sweeter peanut butter.

How easy was that!?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Planting Asparagus

In my package of trees I received, I got some Asparagus crowns (10).  I put them in the refrigerator until I had time to plant them.  I'm not sure if this is what I was supposed to do, but it made sense to me.  We will know in spring if I everything I did was correct.

The typical time to plant the crowns is Spring.  Well, I am not typical.  I also get excited easily.  And I like asparagus.  Put all these factors together and now I am planting them in fall.  From my understanding, it is okay to plant them Early Spring or Fall.  So here's what I did:

I grabbed the Maddox (for tranche digging) and my package of crowns:

I separated the individual crowns.  They are a year old.  Buying older Asparagus crowns instead of starting from seed will allow you to get Asparagus more quickly.   Also, Asparagus is a perennial which means we will get asparagus every year with limited extra work.

I dug a trench about 6 inches deep. I laid the crown in the trench and spread the roots out.  

Then, I sprinkled dirt over the roots.  Keeping the dirt loose, so that the asparagus can grow up easily.  If I were to plant them in Spring, I would sprinkle dirt about 3 inches deep.  Once you start to see the tops of your plant sprout through, add the remaining 3 inches of dirt.  Since it is Fall (almost Winter), I covered it up with all 6 inches of dirt.

After I planted all ten of the crowns in two rows I took a picture of the dirt for you to enjoy:

To the right of the trenches, you can see the pile of leaves.  I deep mulched the bed to feed the worms and to add nourishment to the garden during the winter.  Next year, I'm planning on using cover crops instead.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Our First Eggs

Yay!! Our old girls (two asides: 1 - by old I mean 6 months old, 2 - probably just one, right now) laid her first egg!! It was a long time coming.  I have read that they should start laying around 4 months.  Again, these girls are illiterate.  Or they just don't read the things I am reading.  Either way, I got my first egg on Sunday, December 1.

We can tell that the egg is not from the Easter Eggers.  They are supposed to lay colorful eggs.  Blue or Pink or somewhere in between.  This is a brown egg.  So it was either from Betty ( my old Jersey Giant, my favorite) or Psycho (Silver Laced Wyandotte)

In the picture below, the egg on the left is from one of our beloved chickens, the one on the right was bought from our Egg Lady.  You can see the size difference.  As the chicken grows and matures, the eggs she produces will get bigger as well.

Chris and I have not enjoyed our homegrown eggs, but Jaxson has.  He enjoyed our first egg as a bedtime snack.  And he seemed pretty happy about it. Chris and I look forward to eating our chickens' eggs as they come.  The picture is grainy, so my apologies, but the little man in it is so adorable.  That more than makes up for it. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Luscious Landscaping

Chris and I moved into our home last January.  We have been here less than a year, but we are making great strides to make it our own.

The first item on which we are focusing is the landscaping outside.  We started with my garden, and we took down a tree that was too close to the house.  (I started to learn how to use an ax)

Please forgive my stance.  I am learning.  

It is important to me to plant trees, as well.  They are pretty, provide shade and help reduce erosion.  What if these trees are beautiful flowering trees that also provide food?  I would call that a bonus!

This spring I planted two pear trees and a fig tree.  We got figs, and we don't expect to get any pears for a few more years.

This fall, I added to our wannabe "Food Forest".  We planted an almond tree, two apple trees, a grape vine and two Paw-Paw Trees (a native Pennsylvania tree).  The almond, apple and Paw-Paw trees were bare-root trees.  I will describe how to plant these at another times.  The Paw-Paw trees produce an oblong fruit that reportedly has a creamy texture with a banana, vanilla, custard flavor.  I am excited to confirm this.

My husband was told that Paw-Paws attract a rare type of beautiful butterfly.

We also wanted shrubbery for the front of the house.  I wanted something pretty, and I wanted something yummy.  Blueberries are beautiful year-round and super yummy.

I went through a mail-order company.  We got all of our trees and our blueberries at once.  It took us six hours to plant everything.

The blueberry plants looked like this when we got them:

Here's the red one by itself (you can see how the beautiful red the leaves turn in the fall):

Here's one that's still green:

Now, dig a hole.  I like to dig it a little deeper and wider than the root ball.  That allows the roots to spread out and grow without having to fight through compacted soil.  Fill the hole with water, so your blueberry plant can take a long drink.

Now, tip the potted plant upside down and catch it as it slides out of it's pot.  If it feels a little stuck, massage the sides of the pot to try and loosen it.

Now you have a very compact root ball.

Break that rootball apart so that those roots can flourish and run free and be happy!!  I gently use my thumbs to break apart the ball.

It will no longer be as firm, but it will be ready to grow!

Now place the plant in the hole that you dug.  Line it up so that the soil of the top of the root ball is inline with the top of the ground.  If you plant it too deep, you may kill the plant, plant it too shallow and the erosion of the roots may get it.  The depth does not have to be perfect.  

Now fill in around with the loose dirt and push out any air pockets with your palms.

Now you have a planted blueberry bush, but we're not done yet!  Blueberries LOVE acidic conditions.  You can add supplements and peat most and sand until you get the ideal soil conditions, but that doesn't sound very simple to me.  A trick to get big juicy blueberries (as told to me to my dad who was told that from and old blueberry farmer) is to add some old rusty nails around your bush. 

 They love the iron.  As they rust down the plants eat it up.  Sounds good to me!

I don't want to disregard their love of acid altogether, so I have access to pine needles which are very acidic.

I added that beautiful mulch around my blueberries.  When it composts down, it will help to acidify my soil without me having to buy too much of anything!