Garden Tip: Recycle Your Sunflowers

landing pad

Image by .B.P.M. via Flickr

One way to avoid purchasing expensive pre-made trellises and cages for your garden is to make your own from wood or bamboo, but those materials can also be quite costly these days. One alternative is to grow your own!

Sunflowers are not just a great source of beauty for you garden, but they can also be recycled into some pretty nice lightweight stakes.

For best results, I recommend planting the taller varieties of sunflowers. We have several different varieties of sunflowers growing throughout our property and most of our sunflower stakes are in the 5-7 foot range with some of them bearing a diameter of up to 2 inches.

I like the idea, but how do I turn my sunflowers into garden stakes?

Once the flowers have completed their bloom and the plants start to die, simply dig up the sunflowers, remove all the leaves, and then carefully saw off the root balls and let the stalks dry out a bit. The thicker stalks are obviously the strongest, but even some of the smaller stalks prove to be strong enough to help support lightweight vine-type plants in your garden. Keep in mind that sunflower stalks are not wood and they can be crushed or broken so it’s best to tie them to each other as often as possible in order to help distribute any weight that they will bear.

Continue reading

Hatching Chickens

For those of you that have always wanted to see a chicken hatch from an egg, we’ve got video of exactly that.

A few weeks ago my sister-in-law purchased an inexpensive incubator and acquired some fertilized eggs. With that, the great chicken hatching project was born. Out of about a dozen eggs, three have hatched and of those three, two have survived.

Here is a video of the second surviving chicken hatching from its shell. Cinematography and narration compliments of my seven year old son.

If you’re having trouble viewing the embedded video while using Internet Explorer, you can either try viewing this page with a different browser like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, or you can view the video at YouTube.

Have you ever hatched chickens? Leave a comment and share your learnings with us!

Five Reasons You Should Own Chickens

Hens in Missoula, Montana

Image via Wikipedia

Have you always wanted to raise hens for farm fresh eggs, but were afraid that your neighbors would turn you in? I used to be one of those people that just assumed that I could not legally own chickens because I lived in a residential area. Well a little research and 5 hens later, I now know that you don’t need to live on a farm or a ranch in order to raise farm fresh organic eggs.

Why would I want to raise chickens?

  1. First of all, once you’ve had farm fresh eggs, you’ll never purchase eggs from the supermarket again. There’s no comparison! I challenge you to a taste test.
  2. Owning laying hens will help improve the quality of your families diet. Farm fresh eggs are much healthier then store bought eggs. Store bought eggs are often weeks old by the time they are stocked.
  3. Another great reason to raise your own chickens is that not only will you get great tasting eggs, you’ll also get free fertilizer for the garden, and free pest control for the yard if you let the hens free range. Make sure to compost all the droppings and wood shavings after cleaning out the coop.
  4. Raising your own chickens means that you are in control of how your chickens are treated. Many chickens live out their lives confined to industrial environments. You have the power to give a few hens a better life.
  5. Chickens add great personality to your property. They’re hysterical and entertaining pets to own. I love watching my chickens roam around the yard, and so will you.

So I really might be able to raise chickens without owning a farm? How do I know for sure?

The best way to determine whether or not you qualify to own chickens and raise farm fresh eggs for yourself, is to check your city regulations. You might be surprised at just how many chickens you are allowed to own even though you don’t live out in the country on a poultry ranch.

So if you’re ready to get a few hens and start raising your own farm fresh eggs, than I highly recommend heading down to your nearest feed store. They will be able to set you up with everything you need to get started, and also help answer any questions that you might have. If you’re pretty handy with a saw and a hammer then I’m sure you can manage to build yourself a nice little coop and maybe even save a few dollars while you’re at it. If not, there are plenty of pre-made chicken coops out there for sale. Just remember one thing, the key to a successful chicken coop is easy access. You want to make sure that the coop has plenty of access that will make cleaning an easy chore.

Do you own chickens of your own? Leave us a comment and let us know about your favorite chicken stories.

New Hens For The Urban Farm

New Rhode Island Red hens added to the urban farmTwo weekends ago we picked up a couple more hens to add to the urban farm. This time we opted for two Rhode Island Reds, and once they’re ready, we’ll introduce them to our three Ameraucana hens.

Egg production already averages between one and two eggs a day with the Ameraucana’s. I’m hoping that the daily egg average will increase to somewhere between two and four eggs, in about six months when the Rhode Island Reds start producing. I’m also hoping that the Rhode Island Reds will continue to lay eggs during the winter when the Ameraucana’s tend to slow way down due to less available daylight.

Here are a few photos of how the Rhode Island Reds looked about two weeks ago when we first brought them home. It’s absolutely amazing how fast they grow and change.

After the first week, their wings and tail-feathers had grown about half an inch. Now, after two weeks, their wings are long enough for the little hens to take short flight, and almost all of their down feathers have been covered up by their exterior feathers. So far, it looks like the Rhode Island Reds will have markings equally as beautiful to the Ameraucana’s.

Do you have chickens? If so, leave a comment and let us know all about them.

Pioneer Memories – Family History

A farm homestead

Image by Powerhouse Museum Collection via Flickr

Here we are with yet another letter written in 1943 by one of my distant cousins, Mary Lee Parker, to her cousin Hazel Bolton whom is also a distant cousin of mine. In this letter, Mary Lee gives a general breakdown of some of the pioneers in her family and their experiences. She also retells the funny story about dish rag stew that we read about in one of her other letters. It must have been told a million times over the years. The loose grammar and spelling mistakes are preserved to help convey the full flavor of the letter.

Wichita, KS
April 30, 1943

Dear Hazel

Goodmorning Hazel, Margaret and Richard for I’m writing the three of you at once. hazel, meet Margaret and Richard; and Margaret, meet Hazel (she is your mother’s cousin Jessi’s daughter) and Richard, Meet both.

I also introduce to you all, this morning Deacon Thomas Parker who is our earliest American Parker ancester. He came to America in 1635 and settled at Reading Mass, twelve miles from Boston. There were thirtyfive of his decendants in The Revolutionary War; twenty seven of them were in the Colonial Wars and at least twenty eight fought at Lexington and Concord; and one was at Bunker Hill.

Continue reading

How Green Is Your Chainsaw?

An eco-friendly chainsaw that runs vegetable oil for bar lubricant. Photograph by Todd Bryan PhotographyIf you haven’t done so already, start now and convert your chainsaw into a lean, mean, green, machine. Not only will your garden thank you, but so will the environment.

For anyone that has ever used a chainsaw, you know that they require more then just fuel or electricity. Chainsaws require bar and chain lubricant in order to keep the bar and chain oiled. Since chainsaws rotate the chain at very high RPM’s, the bar and chain oil ends up being sprayed into the environment. Now just think about when you use your chainsaw in the garden, not only does petroleum get slung all over your fruits and vegetables, but much of the oil becomes atomized into the air that you are breathing. Well that’s a problem since it’s a well known fact that petroleum based oil is a carcinogen. If you can smell it, you can be sure that you are polluting your lungs.

So how can I make my chainsaw more environmentally friendly and safer to use in my garden?

Continue reading

Can You Learn From Your Electric Smart Meter?

Smart Meter
Image by Duke Energy via Flickr

What exactly is so smart about electric smart meters, and what can you learn from them?

Unlike, traditional electric meters, smart meters take advantage of a series of wireless technologies in order to communicate electric use data all the way from the residence to the power company. It’s with this advanced two-way communication that smart meters are able to provide such an array of benefits over traditional meters.

Traditional meters have analog dials that require employees of the power company to dispatch to each residence in order to collect electric use data. Not only are the dials difficult to read, but resource constraints often result in electric use data being estimated on the consumer bill. Smart meters also have a digital display that shows the electric use data as the actual numeric value, allowing for simple reading by the consumer. Electric use data is transmitted wirelessly and securely back to the power company in 15 minute intervals which equates to accurate billing for the consumer.

Continue reading