Another harvest is now in the books. We managed get everything cut before the hot and humid weather hit.
If you’re interested in buying lavender buds check out our online store for instructions. I have buds for sale by the pound and ounce.
Another harvest is now in the books. We managed get everything cut before the hot and humid weather hit.
If you’re interested in buying lavender buds check out our online store for instructions. I have buds for sale by the pound and ounce.
On Sunday, daylight savings begins, and we will be doing the final lap of winter before spring officially arrives on March 20th. Who is excited about this? We’ve made it through another winter!
The Spring Equinox is one of two days where the Northern and Southern Hemispheres will have equal daylight. It’s the official start of spring and the days are noticeably longer. But did my garden get the memo its time to wake up?
Late March and early April is the time when we see the first signs of spring in our garden. Tender wildflowers start to poke their heads above their winter blankets of mulch and leaves. Flowers like crocuses, violets, and tulips are usually the first to show their faces.
I wondered if the crocus had a story or a special meaning similar to the rose and other flowers? These questions led me down many rabbit holes, and who knew this small, pretty flower had so much passion associated with it.
The book The Secret Meaning of Flowers says the crocus means attachment, cheerfulness, exuberance, foresight, gladness, jovial, joy, mirth, the pleasure of hope, visions, youthful, and gladness.
In addition, I found an article that said “crocus” means thread, referring to the long, thread-like stamens. It also stated the word also derives from the Greek word Krokos because the plant gives us saffron from its stamens.
This flower also has several love stories originating from ancient Greek Mythology.
One version says Crocus was a young man and had an affair with a nymph called Smilax. He became bored and unhappy with the relationship, and the gods didn’t like his behavior and decided to turn him into a plant. Smilax turned into a beautiful yew tree known as a slow-growing tree with hard but flexible wood. Perfect for Cupid’s bow and arrow.
Another Greek version stated that Crocus killed himself because he was so grief-stricken when the gods refused permission for them to marry. The goddess of flowers, named Flora, took pity on the two lovers and turned them into plants so their love could bloom forever.
Then there is this version that says Smilax wasn’t interested in Crocus. But the ole’ boy wouldn’t take the hint to go away. In frustration, she turned him into a flower so she could have some peace and quiet.
Then we have the great Greek love story of Zeus and Hera (the goddess of women, marriage, and children). The story goes they were “enjoying each other’s company” so passionately that the river bank they were on erupted with crocus flowers.
Since then, these two lustful lovers have been associated with passionate love. In some parts of the world, crocuses bloom near Valentine’s Day and are the preferred “passion” flower rather than roses.
The Crocus species (Crocus Sativa) has medicinal properties grown commercially for saffron and seeds all over the world. So please, please, do not go out and start chewing on a crocus plant. These plants in our yards are poisonous!
c. Sativa has carotenoids that have been shown in clinical studies to inhibit cancer cell proliferation. Saffron helps reduce depression supports eye health and cognitive function.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), saffron is used for depression, shock, cramps from moon cycles, PMS, skin disorders, stomach weakness, and an appetite suppressant.
There you have it; when your crocus starts to pop its pretty purple flowers above ground, I hope you will remember they are flowers created by mad passionate love of one kind or another as well as a healing herb.
Chevallier, Andrew, Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, 2016; 89
Picture Credits: Google Images, creative commons license
Video Vlog on our garden for 2019. We have lots of changes in the garden!
It’s the end of May here in Connecticut, and how is your garden doing? Things here are painfully slow going here. We’ve had a wet, cold spring and in between rainstorms, we’ve been busy rebuilding the yard and changing some things around for easier maintenance. We’re not as young as we used to be and its time to transition the gardens into the next phase of its life. More perennials and fewer annuals.
To add insult to injury, this winter’s brutal polar vortex combined with the wet, cold spring has taken its toll on our garden. Many trees, flowering bushes, and lavenders didn’t survive. My hubby has been busy digging up the deceased and replacing with new softwood bushes and flowering plants. I’m amazed at the extent of the damage. Mother Nature can be so cruel!
I’ve been surveying the raised bed area and figuring out what new perennial herbs I can plant that will survive our crazy winters. My big experiment will be seeing if I can grow old fashioned big bush roses. I’m planting them in the largest raised bed we have. Winter freeze will be a huge concern since the beds are above ground. Will the roots overwinter in a raised bed? I don’t know, so stay tuned…
In the greenhouse, we ripped out the aquaponics system and reverted the 2 beds back to dirt. I planted more rosemary and experimenting with scented geraniums. The variety I’m starting with is “Rose of Attar”. The leaves really do smell like roses! If they survive the winter, they will be a wonderful addition to my herb garden.
The good news is, the time spent waiting for storms to pass and temperatures to rise has been productive. I’ve been working on the last bits of my garden book. It will be published sometime this summer titled “My Garden Journal” (although, the title may change…I’m currently playing with different titles).
I started journaling my gardens 20 years ago to remind me what worked and what didn’t from one season to the next. Gardening is a journey – your yard is an ever-changing ecosystem and I found that journaling gave me a higher success rate.
My personal journal evolved over time. It wasn’t fancy, just a list of plants and comments in the margins of how things went during the growing season.
However, when I was teaching children how to garden, I discovered by accident, my journals were a great teaching tool. My simple journal pages made the perfect outline for the curriculum I was creating. I took what I learned from these very talented students and reworked the format. The results were a simple easy to follow garden journal for children (and adults too!)
In addition to the journal pages, I also added other useful sections. For example, Parts of a Plant, Themed Gardens, How to Make Compost Tea and 10 Easiest Plants to Grow from Seed. These sections were designed to give young gardeners basic tools to be successful in their first years of gardening.
Here is the section from the book on the “10 Easiest Plants to Grow from Seed”.
Arugula is a small leafy green that has a peppery taste. It makes a perfect addition to salads and pasta recipes. To get ideas on how to prepare this green, do an online search. There are lots of recipes to pick from.
Arugula can be direct seeded into the ground and prefers to grow in cooler temperatures and is best grown in early spring and late summer into fall skipping the hottest part of the growing season.
Basil is an excellent herb to grow. Basil does not do well if direct seeded into the soil. Start your seeds indoors in small containers and then transplant outside when it’s warm enough.
When the plant gets big enough, pick the leaves off to add to a fresh tomato salad. Dry the leaves and save them for your herb and spice collection. There is nothing better tasting than homegrown basil in spaghetti sauce!
Basil prefers hot weather and full sun and best-grown late spring through the hottest part of the summer. Make sure the flowers are pinched off frequently for a bushier plant, which will produce more leaves.
If you are growing this plant in a container, water frequently. Plants grown in containers dry out quicker than plants grown in the ground or in raised beds.
Microgreens are 5 to 10 day old baby plants that you can harvest and eat. Don’t confuse them with sprouts which are seeds that have sprouted in water and then eaten. The difference is to grow microgreens you must plant them in potting soil or some sort of growing medium sprout them and then harvest the plant.
These baby plants are high in nutrition and can be grown on a kitchen counter with no sunlight. They are the perfect plants for a kitchen garden.
The easiest microgreens to grow are:
Cucumbers are a gardener’s summer favorite. Make sure you have plenty of room to grow these plants; they like to spread their vines everywhere. Do an online search
to learn how to save space by growing up. There are many ideas on how to build simple trellis’ using materials such as long sticks and twine.
Cucumber seeds can be direct seeded into the ground in late spring, or can be started indoors (early spring) in small containers and transplanted into the garden when it’s warm enough.
These are one of the easiest plants to grow, and you get a lot of beans in return for your work. They can be direct seeded in the ground late spring. Beans like to grow in direct sun and love hot temperatures.
When researching seeds, make sure you know which kind of beans you’re buying. There are bush beans and pole beans. Bush beans don’t need any trellising. Just plant and watch them grow and harvest them when big enough.
Pole beans need a trellis to climb on.
Green onions are tall, green and white stalks and they are fun to grow. Patients will be essential, because they may take most of the growing season before you can harvest them.
Green onions grow well in containers but need frequent watering during hot weather. They are a perfect vegetable to grow if you have a spot that has partial shade. Direct seed in early spring and keep watering. Onions take many weeks before they sprout. So be patient.
Onions also do well if left in the garden over winter. Once the garden bed is established, they will self-seed (the seeds drop into the garden bed after they flower), and new plants will grow the next season.
There are many kinds of kale to grow, so do your research on which varieties will grow well in your area. Kale likes cooler temperatures but will tolerate some heat if the plants are well established.
Kale is another plant that can be stared in early spring and late fall and will tolerate colder temperatures until a hard freeze or even snow. These can be direct seeded into the ground.
Dinosaur Kale is a good recommendation if you are looking for tender leaves, which are perfect for salads. If you want to grow big leaf varieties like Red Russian Kale, their leaves are perfect for making crispy kale chips – which are like potato chips. Yum!
Peas are another early spring and fall plant to grow and can be direct seeded into the ground. My peas never make it to the kitchen because I eat them right off the vine while working in the garden. They make a great snack!
These plants require something to climb on otherwise they will grow in a heap of strings on the ground.
There is nothing more satisfying than a fresh picked homegrown tomato! They are gardener’s pride and joy! Do your research on what kind, or color you want to grow. There are hundreds of varsities to pick from and you need to know the difference between an Indeterminate and Determinate tomato variety.
For beginner gardeners, I would recommend not growing tomatoes in the heirloom (or determinate category) until you are an experienced gardener. Heirloom tomatoes taste great but can be very temperamental if the plants don’t get an even amount of water and sustaining hot temperatures. They are also prone to disease and fungal problems.
If the plants get stressed this results in what is called end rot or blossom rot. The tomato is not ripe enough to pick but instead starts rotting on the bottom of the fruit and the falls off the plant. Once a plant starts producing rotten fruit the problem cannot be fixed. The plant must be pulled out of the ground and thrown away.
I recommend varieties like “Big Beef” or “New Girl” for a nice evenly round healthy tomato and are perfect for sandwiches or salads. These varieties are what is called “Indeterminate” hybrids and are not prone to disease or fungal problems.
There are smaller tomato varieties you can grow too. Grape and cherry tomatoes produce a lot of fruit and are fun to grow. Make sure you share with friends and family if you have too many.
Indeterminate Tomato: Tall plants that require staking for trellis and will keep producing fruit up until first frost.
Determinate Tomato: A bush variety that is low and compact and doesn’t require staking. These plants grow a certain number of fruit and then the plant stops growing and dies. Unlike the indeterminate tomatoes where the plant continues to produce fruit until it’s too cold. Heirloom tomato varieties are determinate plants.
I recommend you start your seeds indoors in small containers and then transplant into the garden in late spring. Do not direct seed into the ground the seeds will have difficulty sprouting. Tomatoes need full sun and plenty of hot temperatures.
Sunflowers are beautiful and can be a showy centerpiece to any garden. The good news is sunflowers now come in many different sizes. These are a perfect plant to direct seed into the garden.
There are shorter more compact varieties that produce multiple flower heads that are smaller. These are great for flower bouquets.
The tall varieties like Royal Hybrid produce one big flower and need lots of sun. Make sure your seeds are organic if growing these flowers for bird food and don’t spray your plants with pesticides or herbicides. Chemicals hurt the birds and wildlife that will live among your plants in the garden.
At the end of the season, cut the flower heads and dry them. The birds will appreciate a nice snack when there is little food to forage on during the cold winter months.
My path to learning how to grow Shiitake mushrooms has been paved with years of failure until about 3 years ago. I can now say that I finally have success and have enough confidence to begin to experiment with growing other strains and in different growing mediums, such as straw and wood pellets.
Many years ago, I thought it would be fun to grow mushrooms so I bought a-grow-your-own mushroom kit from a seed catalog. My rationale was that they were a fungus and mushrooms grew wild in my compost pile, woods and in our grass. How hard could it be? HA!
My first kit arrived in the dead of winter and I eagerly opened the box. I followed the instructions, put the box with the gooey bag of ick down in the basement and tenderly cared for it for months….and…. nothing happened. I was frustrated and felt like I had been suckered (not for the first time and probably not the last). I tossed the mass of ick on my compost pile and thought it was a waste of time and money!
Then one very hot and humid day in August while tossing scraps on the compost pile I spied a mushroom. I looked closer and I thought it was a shiitake and it appeared to be growing from that lump of white ick that I dumped months earlier. I was excited but I didn’t want to pick it just yet. I wanted to wait just a little longer to see if it grew bigger.
A few weeks passed and I was thinking that the mushroom should be more than ready to pick and I hoped that more had sprouted. I went out to the compost pile and it was gone – nothing. No white lump, no beautiful mushroom nothing but a pile of dirt and gravel. WHAT? I dug into the pile and there deep under the dirt and gravel I found a shriveled up dead mushroom. My neighbors heard me cry NOOOOOO! I was crushed.
A few years went by….One day I was out with our hiking club walking next to a member I hadn’t met before. We were chatting along and she suddenly stopped and said “Oh look! There’s a blah blah ish-a-toris something or another mushroom” (long Latin name). She bent down, picked it, took a bite and offered me a piece. As she stared and smiled at me, I was trying to find my lower half of my jaw as it was sitting on the ground. I thought… “Did she just do what I think she just did?”… “Uh- no thank you” I replied. I quickly gained my composure and I peppered her with questions on how the heck she knew that mushroom was edible.
I learned that she and her husband were wild mushroom foragers and that they learned this craft by going out and watching other seasoned mushroom hunters forage. She explained that wild mushroom foraging should be taught by a seasoned forager and should not be taught via books or the internet. There are too many poisonous mushrooms that look like nonpoisonous mushrooms and one mistake could be fatal. I quickly decided that foraging for wild mushroom wasn’t for me. Then I learned that she grew all kinds of mushrooms on her compost pile, logs, and wood chips, which she inoculated with mushroom kits.
Stop! Time Out! What did you say? She explained that growing mushrooms is easy if you have the right environment. I shared my tale of woe with my many attempts of growing mushrooms in my basement in the dead of winter and my hopes and dreams for a lonely mushroom growing in my compost pile from a discarded kit until it was killed…
She kindly explained that mushrooms like warm, humid shaded conditions and not cold dark basements. To grow mushrooms, you needed to replicate those conditions and my shaded compost pile in August just happened to be the perfect environment for that shiitake mushroom.
So why do those darn gardening catalogs only sell those kits in the dead of winter? She smiled kindly and stared at me…It hit me, O.K. I get it – there’s one born every minute…”S” stands for sucker…She laughed and explained that I needed to buy the spawn from a “real” laboratory that specialized in growing fungi. Oh…I said – there are mushroom laboratories??? I thought this was supposed to be easy…
Fast forward a year after my initial hike with the “Mushroom Lady.” A consultant from CT Department of Agriculture was doing a site visit for my farm certification. We were wandering around my property and he saw how much of it was covered in woods. He asked if I ever considered growing mushrooms. I had flashbacks of years of failed attempts growing mushrooms in boxed bags in my basement and of my conversations with the wild mushroom lady telling me I had to find a mushroom laboratory to get good spawn while she ate her way through our hike. I asked him if I needed to have a sterile room or some building to grow mushrooms commercially. He said no as there are mushrooms strains that grow well in the woods. Clearly I was missing something. He recommended that I do some research and think about it.
A year of research…I began to read books on mushroom cultivation. Who knew there were so many different kinds of mushrooms? I watched YouTube videos, read articles from magazines/blogs and I took a workshop on growing mushrooms. The class was packed and, after hearing similar stories to mine, apparently, I wasn’t the only one that had been suckered with those grow-your-own kits. I was not alone. I learned that the easiest and most successful way to grow mushrooms is to inoculate oak trees freshly cut into 4-foot lengths.
Months after taking that workshop and doing more research, I decided it was time. A farmer friend was kind enough to allow me to cut down several trees on his property. We hauled the logs back to my driveway and my husband (who was trying to be patient with me) hauled them to the back of our property and into the woods. On several cold spring days, we drilled, plugged and waxed hundreds of holes. It was a cold and sticky job and at that point, my husband was not- so- patient anymore and declared “No more logs!”
The logs were then put to bed on the forest floor laid out in sections. I was nervous because I didn’t know if this would work. But I was hopeful as I had done my research and felt confident that I did this right. It would be a year of waiting to get my answer. Was this going to be another failed costly experiment?
Nine months later, I was giving someone a tour of my farming operation and I took him out to the pile of logs in the woods. I spied a mushroom, then another and another! I became emotional as I tried to explain to my guest that I finally had shiitake mushrooms. I was having a moment…this was big!! However, my guest was not so sure about me and was probably thinking that I was a whack job. He soon left and I was alone in the woods carefully cutting my prized mushrooms and lovingly carrying them into the house to show my husband. I told him in a cracking voice, “It worked! It really worked!”
Hubby wasn’t impressed…
Then I told him the current price per pound for shiitake mushrooms at the market. His eye got real big and he said Oh! This year we will be experimenting growing in straw and wood pellets oyster, shiitake and winecap mushrooms.
Links to books listed are Amazon Affiliate Links. I get a small commission at no extra cost to you.
The Mushroom Cultivator: A Practical Guide to Growing Mushrooms at Home by Paul Stamets and J.S. Chilton
Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World by Paul Stamets
Fungi Perfecti – www.fungi.com
Mushroom People – www.mushroompeople.com
I’m always humbled and grateful when asked to speak about what I do here on Thompson Street Farm. This week I was the speaker at a local garden club here in town and I have to say what a wonderful group of ladies! I understand there are 5 garden clubs in town, and this particular club has been together for over 30 years. Can you imagine how much knowledge and experience there was sitting in that room! How cool!
After my presentation on growing micro-greens, a sweet woman asked about how I made my soaps. She identifies handmade soap to her childhood elderly neighbor, Mrs. Jones, peddling her soap door to door. Apparently her soap was extremely harsh that one lost a few layers of skin when using it. I’m guessing from the age of my new friend, “Mrs. Jones” learned how to make soap between World War I and the Depression. In those days, there weren’t a lot of choices for oils other than animal fats and other moisturizing ingredients – which explains the harshness of her soap.
Today there is a world of difference between commercial soaps and handmade. Technically commercial soap is not real soap but a detergent that is created from petroleum based products . Yes, the base ingredient in commercial soap is petroleum oil!
My Decision to make Handmade Soap
(Lavender Soap made with lavender grown on our property)
When I began researching how to make soap it was out of necessity. I had been purchasing a goat’s milk soap from an independently owned health food store for my daughter. My daughter had a stroke before she was born and as a result she is missing 80% of her right brain, so we had many health issues to deal with. She is also a beautiful redhead with extremely sensitive skin. It didn’t matter which commercial soap I used, her skin was as red as her hair and irritated – similar to the reaction to Mrs. Jones soap!
Perfumes were also a huge problem for my daughter. It is not uncommon for children that have severe brain damage to have an over-reactive sensory system. I can only explain it as standing in front of a speaker at rock concert 24 /7. The brain’s sensory system is on overload it can’t filter out and dial down what’s going on around them. If you stop and think about it, our world is pretty noisy. For Katie as a baby, sound, smell and textures was magnified a billion times over.
Its an understatement that the early days for Katie were painful – everything bothered her. For example, my husband loved Irish Spring Soap, but when he came near her she would become overwhelmed and started to scream and cry. We went through a period of time when I dumped every commercially made product including the toothpaste and toilet paper and we went O-Natural! Thankfully, Katie is much better thanks to years of therapy.
The Decision to Make My Own Soap:
(Pine Soap – pine needles are harvested from our own pine trees and now that I’m becoming a herbalist, I’m adding my own pine infused olive oil to this soap!)
When Wholefoods moved to town our small independent health food store went out of business and that ended my source for handcrafted goat’s milk soap. The good news is soap making had become popular and with YouTube at my fingertips, I decided it was time to take control of our soap supply and learn how to make soap.
When I started my research I had a basic list of requirements:
I knew I wanted my soap to have at lease 2 oils that were great for skin, olive oil and coconut oil. After weeks of research, my first generation master soap recipe was born and it was a Mediterranean inspired blend using 4 oils and raw goats’ milk.
During my research, I learned there is a minefield related to certain common ingredients in soap making. The biggest one is palm oil, and the atrocities associated to the destruction of rainforests to meet the worlds demand for palm oil.
I admit, my soaps are not for everyone, but I can honestly say I try to be socially conscious and intentional on where my ingredients are sourced. It is important to my daughter’s wellbeing and to me. I want to create a product that is safe; with no chemicals or preservatives.
New Sea Salt and Mineral Clay Inspired Soap with Avocado Oil
I have to say I have the best customers! They are intelligent, well-traveled and socially conscious and they are challenging me to take my social responsibility even further! Over the summer I heard a few concerns expressed about how canola oil is grown and processed. Canola oil comes from a plant called rapeseed and most of the crop grown in the world is from GMO seed. Since I refuse to use GMO vegetable seeds on my farm it was an easy decision to do the right thing and switch out that oil and substitute it for sunflower oil.
In addition, I did some more research on the benefits of sea salt and mineral clays in soap. Out of that research I created a new 4 oil sea salt soap using avocado oil. Avocado oil is rich in vitamins A, B, D, and E. Sea salt is known for its relaxing properties and is a natural detoxifier as well as some of the mineral clays that I use – Dead Sea Clay, French Green Clay, Bentonite Clay and Moroccan Clay.
So I say to my new” Garden Club Friend” – try my soaps, I think you will be pleasantly surprised just how good you will feel! Please check out my entire line of soap on website online store.
(Honey, Cinnamon and Carrot Soap – I purchase my honey from a local farmer. Although I might get brave and purchase a hive in the coming year.)
When I decided to convert our backyard into a micro farm, one of the requirements under our state’s agriculture law and USDA Regulations was to be recognized as a “farm” on both the state and federal levels. Qualifying criteria was to sell $2,500 of agriculture product and/or have livestock. As I was just starting out and didn’t yet have $2,500 of agriculture product sales, I needed to get some kind of livestock, which could include hooved animals, bees, chickens or rabbits.
Local zoning code requiring 2+ acres for hooved animals eliminated that option for me but, since I was in a “rural” zone, rabbits, chickens and bees were fine. I therefore decided on chickens because I could sell fresh eggs and then butcher the birds for meat when they stopped laying at around 2 years old. At least that was my reasoning when I presented my idea to my husband.
Fast forward 6 years later and they are still alive and even were given names “Henrietta 1 – 9” aka “The Girls”. One of them, a poor bird that was being brutally picked on by the brood was named “Sally” by my husband and became his pet. In addition, although I have lost several birds (which I will discuss later), not one of them has been eaten (by a human at least). All in all, the “Girls” truly have lived a charmed life.
If you are thinking about getting chickens, here are a few things I’ve learned over the years.
Spring is usually the time when hatcheries begin to sell chickens. If you are serious about getting chickens, make sure you purchase them from a good hatchery. Chickens carry a lot of diseases and federal law requires that chicks be vaccinated for a nasty viral disease call Marek’s Disease prior to sale. This is a virus that can kill off an entire flock and contaminate others. I was also surprised to learn that the vaccine wears off in 2 years, which is why most birds are butchered within 2 years.
The lesson here is that purchasing chicks from non-registered hatcheries can result in all kinds of flock failures so – “Buyer Beware”. According to University of Connecticut’s top poultry expert, genetics impact long term health and the Marek Virus is found in the genetic line of a particular bird family.
I recommend that you also check out a website called My Pet Chicken . I met the owner/creator, Traci Torres, while we were guests on the Colin McEnroe Show on WNPR CT Public Radio a few years ago and she is a wealth of knowledge on chickens. Her website offers great information and cool products for backyard chicken owners.
A recommended book is “Storey’s Guide to Chickens”.
Once you decide upon a breed of chicken, you’ll need some equipment to get them through the first weeks of life. Be forewarned that having chickens can be expensive in the beginning. As baby chicks need warmth and protection, a safe warm nursery will need to be created.
I picked my chicks up in early March when there was still snow on the ground and it was bitterly cold. Keeping them in the garage therefore clearly wasn’t an option so they ended up in my backroom where I could keep an eye on them. Then the circus began as EVERY critter in our household wanted to sniff, play or even eat our new babies!
Baby chicks make a lot of poop so be prepared to clean your box frequently. They need a box big enough for them, a warming light, a special size water container and baby chick feeder, all of which I purchased at my local farm supply store.
Moving into the Coop
Housing the chickens will depend on where you live. We have very cold snowy winters and thanks to the realities of Climate Change, we also experience extended days of hot/humid days of 90+ degrees. I wanted the coop to be predator proof so I decided to purchase one made by a local farmer, which cost me $600 (without roof shingles and unpainted). I added the shingles, stained the outside with weatherproof stain and, as we are now going on our 6th year, I’m so glad I did this.
The other consideration is not to overstuff your chicken coop with chickens. I had originally purchased 9 Rhode Island Reds and this coop was built for 6 chickens. It was a tight fit and I had to add another roost for them. Overcrowding a chicken coop is not healthy for the birds and can cause health problems.
Since we live in a wooded area we have all kinds of wildlife (i.e. – hawks, coyote, fox, fisher cat, raccoon, possum, an occasional black bear) plus local dogs and cats. As all are potential predators, we fenced in a large section of woods surrounding the coop to given the chickens plenty of room to roam while also protecting them from most of these critters.
My next blog posting will cover choice of bedding, general care and a few things my chickens taught us.
If you have cabin fever from all this snow and extremely cold weather come on down to the CT Flower Show and warm up by thinking about spring! Starting today through Sunday I will be at the CT Flower & Garden Show. I will have a sampling of my best selling soaps plus, lavender sugar scrubs, lavender body sprays and herbal salves.
PLUS! Show offer only! Interested in turning your backyard or small plot of land into cash? Off is only good during the show get $50.00 off my next full day SPIN Farming workshop March 14th from 9 – 4 in South Glastonbury. Show price $150.00 normally $200.00.
As a child growing up in California, I loved to hear the breeze through the Ponderosa pines. Because these trees are so tall (over 230 feet high), there is a distinct sound that I’ve not heard in any other forest that I’ve walked through. That airy sound of the breeze through the trees is what I miss most about my home state. Then there is the smell of pine, which makes me feel refreshed, calm and at peace.
Until recently I didn’t know that pine (all species) have medicinal properties which have been used for centuries by Native American tribes.
Native American’s have been using Pine Medicinally for Centuries
Native American tribes in this region used all parts of the tree for medicinal purposes. A bark decoction for coughs and colds was used by the Abanaki, Iroquois, Micmac, Mohegan and Shinnecock tribes. Bark was also used as a poultice for colds by the Algonquin and for cuts and wounds by the Chippewa. A pitch pine drawing salve was made by the Delaware and Ontario people just to name a few of its many medicinal uses. (HANE: Herbarium, pinus strobus L.)
Here in Connecticut we have White Pine which is a shorter scruffier tree than its cousin the Ponderosa. And, today, pine needles and bark are harvested and dried for use in teas, tinctures and infused oils. Pine resin is the golden jewel of the tree as it has incredible healing properties. White Pine has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, expectorant, diuretic, antibacterial, stimulant, antispasmodic and astringent properties.
Eating my first Pine Needles
Have you ever tasted a pine needle? After our last big snow fall, the sun came out and it was a beautiful day to go out for a walk through our woods to harvest pine needles for my pine soap and salve. I decided to try a needle. Honestly, it was nothing to write home about. It tasted like a pine needle. I had read pine needles are high in Vitamin C and boosts the immune system. I read that not every pine tree species tastes the same. The author encouraged readers to try different trees and go with the one you liked best. However, since I only have one species of trees on our property, what I tasted was what I tasted – pine and I’ll have to take her word that not all pine trees taste the same…
Making my First Batch of Infused Pine Oil
This was the fun part – after harvesting enough pine needles, I loaded up my crock pot and added my oil. As I turned on my crock pot, I was struck by a thought! How would a pine marinade work for chicken. I decided to adapt a recipe for pine needle salad dressing into a marinade. My husband is such a good sport about this stuff – I knew it wouldn’t faze him in the least. I was right – after 20 years of eating my “experiments” what’s a few pine needles with dinner.
The final results were OK – I think I would prefer the chicken barbequed to add a little natural smoky flavor with the pine marinade rather than baked. So I will try this recipe again when the weather gets warmer. However, my husband thought the chicken tasted great.
White Pine makes wonderful Soaps and Salves
I love working with pine. I’ve perfected my drying technique so the pine needles keep their beautiful green color in my soap. The needles also add a great natural exfoliatant, which is another plus. All the benefits of pine, plus a four oil soap recipe make a well balanced soap.
The pine infused oil is another bonus as it can be used in many applications such as salves which is moisturizing for extremely dry skin. The pine salve will also promote healing of small scratches, cuts, burns and other minor skin irritations. During these bitter cold winter months I need something like this as my hands take a beating. They get so dry and cracked (sometimes bleed) that the salve had been a perfect remedy.
I just love pine trees!