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Raised in a Barn…

Day-to-Day Life of a Country Mama

Shelling out Protection 

If you’re having trouble with slugs and snails, don’t jump for the chemicals. There are a some simple tricks to try. Here are the two that I know about. 

The first came from Mama and her strawberry patch. Slugs were eating her strawberries. She made traps for them by filling shallow dishes (I think I remember them being the saucers from an old dish set) with beer. The smell of the beer attracted the slugs, then they would crawl in and drown. 

The one I’ve heard about more recently comes from one of the gardeners I talk with at the farmers market. He puts a line of crushed egg shells around the border of his garden to deter snails and slugs. Both don’t like crawling over the jagged edges, which cut them up if they do. The plus side to this method is that rain doesn’t easily effect the shells. 

I hope theses ideas help you in your organic pest control. As a side note, I inherited a whole book on the subject from my grandma. I’m looking forward to reading it and passing along information as I try things. 

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Garden Progress

Between crazy weather and crazy schedules, I’ve been attacking the garden whenever possible. I have made some good progress. I put in three more posts to grow green beans on. I’ve planted seed for the green beans, three varieties of squash, cilantro, and basil. I also cleared more grass for expanding the garden. 

I transplanted three varieties of tomatoes and my parsley. Unfortunately, I had a lapse in memory on how long it had been since I moved my starts back and forth to acclimate. Over half of my tomato starts went into shock over it. Luckily I didn’t put them all out at once. Needless to say, I will spend the weekend and beginning of next week getting the rest of my starts acclimated. 

Despite the cold snaps, my Titan sunflowers are looking good. My broccoli is still puttering along. I even noticed a few corn sprouts were up yesterday when I was watering. I’m very excited that the garden is coming along pretty well. Maybe we are finally past the weird cold snaps and snows so everything can get to growing. 

Whirlwind Month

I’m so sorry I haven’t been posting much. There has been so much going on that I’m just trying to keep up! We have been looking after the farm while my folks have been traveling and dog-sitting while my brother’s family takes a trip. They should all return tomorrow just in time for the market season to start. One market opens this week and the second opens next week. 

Needless to say all this plus the usual and revamping the basement (not to mention Travis’s work restoring his mustang) has kept us extremely busy. Some unexpected cold weather did cut down on the work I could do in the garden. I put off transplanting or planting anything, but I’m hoping towards the end of the week I can do some more. 

One of our weird cold weather spells involved a snow early Saturday morning. In defiance of this, the sunflowers I’d planted are coming up. A couple had sprouted before the snow and are just fine. In fact, when I checked them yesterday, most of them are up. Hopefully, it stays warm enough from here on for the garden. 

Repellent Plants

It’s important to learn from previous years when planning your garden. I have been making adjustments for this year and I’m already taking notes for things to do differently next year. 

One such note is for additional seed varieties, but not for crops, for repellent plants. Used to, I thought that marigolds were the only one. I discovered in my reading this winter there are many varieties of repellent plants. Marigolds are a good all-purpose repellent, but for some pests you need a more specific plant. 

Following are two photos of a chart of repellent plants from the Garden Way Publishing Bulletin Gardening AnswersIt’s a pretty impressive list! 

Some plants do their protection work as decoys. I have heard that certain beetles which feed on vegetable plants prefer munching on marigolds when given the option. So marigolds can provide twofold protection. 

I have not had time yet to do farther research into these varieties, but I’m excited by the prospects. I hope to do some investigating and learning where I can get seed or at least plants for what I need. Strong plants are the best pest defense, but it couldn’t hurt to have a repellent partner for them!

Picking Dandelions

I noticed there were a good number of dandelion blooms in our yard. I figured it was time to start thinking about making dandelion jelly again. 

I didn’t think we would get near enough on one round of picking so I looked up the recipe. Since it calls for making a tea from the flower petals and then using the tea to make the jelly, I think I’ll be able to make a batch of tea and freeze it for a week or two until we can make another batch to make up the needed amount. 

Yesterday, after the girls woke up from their nap and I checked the recipe, we bundled up since the wind was cool and headed out. I carried a container for the flowers and pulled Caroline in a wagon. Savannah and I started on one side of the yard and systematically worked our way around the house. Travis was even able to join us for a while. Savannah had so much fun spotting and picking the flowers. She was very proud to carry the container in to show Travis how many we had once we were done. This really was a great activity to share with her at this age (3 years old). 

Later, I separated the yellow petals from the green parts with help from Travis. We probably ended up with a cup and a half. (We need 4 cups for a full batch.) Right before bed, I poured boiling water over the flower petals in a metal mixing bowl so it could steep over night per recipe suggestion. I look forward to us doing this again to get our full amount. 

Washer Drainage

We recently had a problem with our washing machine’s drainage leaking in the basement. The way my grandpa routed it when he built the house is complicated. Instead of trying to figure out how to reach the section that was leaking, we decided to change the drainage completely. 

Travis found a blog showing how someone connected the drain hose of their washer to a garden hose. He switched it over for me and now we can connect up hoses to run the water to whatever needs it. It’s going to be a lot more useful than a fixed drainage line. 

This is a great way to conserve water. It is also one of the easiest adaptions I have seen for reusing gray water. Remember to consider what washing agents you are using before using this system though. Below is the link (hopefully I did it right)!

http://mark.koli.ch/cadrought-washing-machine-drain-to-garden-hose 

Garden Update

Here is one big update on the garden. The starts are still thriving in my window, and I hope to be transplanting them in a few more weeks. The broccoli starts I moved outside are still alive, but not doing much. I may try working some compost in around them in case they just need added nutrients. 

I’ve planted carrots, spinach, leeks, corn and sunflowers in the garden so far. I can’t wait to see sprouts coming up. We are just passing our estimated last frost date. That means I’ll be waiting a little longer to plant a few varieties. I salvaged a cedar post and have set it to grow beans on. It was the right height for fencing, but tapered down too narrow. I’m hoping to collect some more as Papa works to clear some brush on the farm. 

The peach trees are beginning to bud as well as the new rose bushes! (I was so relieved.) A little longer and I will be setting my hanging plants and banana tree back out. Still lots to do, but we’re making progress!

Spring Cleaning

As usual, a good part of this March has been spent spring cleaning. I went through the baby clothes we’re storing and thinned out our supply a little. My brother and his wife just welcomed their fourth child, a little girl, so I am letting them pick through it before I pass it on to some other friends and finally to the thrift store. I’ve already hauled off a load from Travis and I sorting through our closets. 

This was all making room so we could reposition some furniture downstairs. Many would probably say I’m over-planning because we did this now so we will have readily available space for bunk beds. Once the girls get a bit older, they will get to move into the basement room. The consolidation and furniture shift really made a difference. 

One way I was cut down one storage space was putting the baby clothes we kept in vacuum storage bags. I only had four, but they handled helping me fit the clothes Caroline has already outgrown in the space I needed them in. I’m hoping to get some more for the next sizes. 

Spring cleaning will probably continue through the end of March here and there. Good luck to all the others fighting the battle!

Bread Trouble

I have tried and tried and tried on my bread, but the middle always ends up with a big air bubble surrounded by a doughy border. The rest is great, but at best I loose a third to half my loaf to it. I am beginning to wonder if I’m still not working enough flour into it due to rushing. It takes a lot longer than the 10 minutes my grandma’s recipe states to bake so this is my best guess. I’m thinking the dough is too heavy and not kneaded properly, which is leading it to bake improperly. Do y’all have any suggestions?

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