5 All-Natural, Inexpensive Ant Repellents You Already Own

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5 All-Natural, Inexpensive Ant Repellents You Already Own

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Ah, spring! It’s a beautiful season, marked by the arrival of things we greet joyfully: longer days, warmer temperatures, much-loved perennials poking out of the soil, and fully stocked garden centers. But spring also sees the return of some things that we don’t greet with as much joy. Like ants, especially when they make their way inside our homes.

Ants hibernate over the winter. Just like bears, they gorge on food in the fall. Their bodies survive off those stored nutrients over the winter. And then, just like bears, when warmer temperatures arrive, ants emerge from their nests seeking food. In those early spring days, when the nights are still chilly, they also look for a warm place to spend the night.

Discouraging Ant Visitors

Ants communicate with each other by secreting pheromones (natural bodily chemicals created by mammals and insects). When an ant locates food, it will create a pheromone trail for other ants to follow to the food source. Because tiny ants can squeeze through minute crevices, it’s often difficult to figure out where they are entering the house so that the entrance can be sealed. If you don’t know where to block them from entering, ants will continue following the pheromone trail into your house.

Keeping your home free from food debris will deter ants from visiting. They are especially attracted to sweet foods, like fruit, fruit juices, honey and sugar. Keep your counter and table surfaces clean, your floors swept, and your compost and trash bins tightly covered. Ants also need water. If they seem to be coming in for a drink, remove or relocate that water source (e.g., pet bowl).

Check the exterior of your home and caulk up any noticeable crevices. If you don’t have caulk on hand or the hole is very small, you can use petroleum jelly, which will hold its seal for about a year.

Natural Ant Repellents

If you’ve removed their food and water sources, and have sealed any noticeable entrances, but you still have ants indoors, there are a number of cheap natural repellents that you can use.

1. White vinegar or lemon juice

Vinegar and lemon juice both disrupt the pheromone trails, making it difficult for ants to know where to go. Mix one part white vinegar (or one part lemon juice) with one part water. The solution can be sprayed around the area the ants congregate and/or their suspected entrance, or it can be applied to a cloth so that those surfaces can be wiped down.

2. Essential oils

A number of different essential oils may deter ants from coming in, including eucalyptus, cinnamon, clove, tea tree, peppermint, neem and citrus oils. Like vinegar and lemon juice, essential oils disrupt the ants’ pheromone trails. Citrus oils have an added benefit: because they contain d-limonene, they’re toxic to ants.

5 All-Natural, Inexpensive Ant Repellents You Already Own Essential oils may be applied by swabbing the area with an oil-soaked cotton ball, or by spraying. Some online sites suggest mixing 10 drops of essential oil to one cup of water; others suggest mixing equal parts essential oil and water. Personally, I would probably start with 10-20 drops of oil to about ½ cup of water, and if that didn’t seem to be working after a few days, I would add more essential oil.

Heather at mommypotamus.com suggests putting vodka into the spray, too, which will help keep the oil and water from separating. Her “recipe” calls for ¼ cup of water, ¼ cup of vodka, and 30-40 drops of essential oil.

3. Spices

If you don’t have essential oils on hand, you can use similar spices, such as ground cinnamon, ground cloves, dried mint, cayenne pepper, black pepper, salt, bay leaves, or garlic powder. Just sprinkle where needed.

4. Food grade diatomaceous earth

While DE has health benefits for mammals and plants, it is toxic to insects that have exoskeletons, including ants. The sharp edges of DE particles damage the waxy coating on ants, and once that happens, DE dehydrates the insect.

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To use, just sprinkle it where ants travel and/or congregate.

5. Soap and water

Soap creates a coating on insects which makes it impossible for air to reach them, and as a result, they suffocate. Make a spray by combining ¼ cup of dish detergent with 1 cup of water. It’s best to spray ants directly.

In general, ants are beneficial in the garden. They aerate soil, pollinate plants and distribute seeds. Also, ants are not herbivores and usually don’t damage plants, but they do prey on other herbivorous bugs that may be chowing down on your plants. Wherever possible, it’s best to leave outdoor ants alone. However, if they’ve built an anthill very close to your house, and are entering it, it may be best to kill off the entire colony by dousing the hill with a pot full of hot soapy water.

There are many other suggested natural ant repellents. Some, like coffee grounds and cornmeal, are reported by some online sites as being ineffective. Others, like borax, are not recommended to use around small children or pets. If you’ve had success with any natural ant repellents, please let us know in the comments below.

How do you get rid of ants? Share your suggestions in the section below:

Spring Family Prepping Activities

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Spring Family Prepping Activities Each season offers unique opportunities for learning and practicing survival skills. Prepping activities is something that can be done by the whole family and easily turned into a game. The children may not understand that having a race to break down your tent and get it stowed away is actually practicing …

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Spring on the Homestead – A Busy Time Of Year!

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Spring on the Homestead – A Busy Time Of Year! Austin Martin “Homesteady Live“ Audio in player below! On this show we catch up with you all! It has been a busy spring on our homestead. Usually, winter leaves us all sitting inside our homes, by a fire, dreaming of all the new things we want … Continue reading Spring on the Homestead – A Busy Time Of Year!

The post Spring on the Homestead – A Busy Time Of Year! appeared first on Prepper Broadcasting |Network.

The 5 Best Herbs To Stop Spring Allergies

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The 5 Best Herbs To Stop Spring Allergies

Butterbur. Image source: Pixabay.com

If you are one of the millions of people who suffer from springtime allergies — sometimes called hay fever — then you already know that finding the perfect solution means finding ways to treat those annoying symptoms, rather than actually “curing” the problem.

Our ancestors used herbal remedies for thousands of years before the first commercially made anti-histamines were available.

I’m fortunate in that I have no known allergies to anything. My husband, though, is not so fortunate. But he did find a solution that seems to work remarkably well after following the recommendation of an old-timer who grew up in our area. (I’ll fill you in on that at the end of this article.)

Here are five herbs that are known to help bring relief from those springtime allergies:

1. Stinging nettle

If you have ever touched one of these plants (and I have), then you are probably thinking this idea is crazy, but I’m not suggesting that you eat fresh leaves! This plant, besides being rich in vitamin K and beta carotene, has been shown in studies to help relieve allergy symptoms almost as well as the usual prescription medications. You should start taking freeze dried supplements a few months prior to allergy season arrives in your area for best results.

2. Butterbur

Like stinging nettle, butterbur has been used for ages to help relieve allergy symptoms. This little plant opens airways to improve breathing due to its ability to inhibit leukotrine, which causes swelling of our airways. Butterbur also is said to work as well as drugs like Zyrtec, but without making you feel sleepy. Consume butterbur supplements a few months before hay fever strikes.

3. Tinospora cordifolia

Tinospora cordifolia.

Tinospora cordifolia.

Also known as guduchi or moonseed, this plant, native to India, has been used to treat hay fever symptoms for perhaps thousands of years in its homeland.

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The heart-shaped leaves of this plant have been reported to stop sneezing, itching, runny nose and watery eyes. The supplement is usually sold as a tablet and unlike other herbal supplements, you can take it just a week or so, or even when symptoms start, to find quick relief.

4. Ginkgo biloba

Although you might think of this as the energy herb, consuming this supplement also has been shown to help manage allergy symptoms. Ginkgo biloba works as a natural anti-inflammatory and also contains several antihistamines, which makes it a natural when it comes to stopping those allergy symptoms.

5. Reishi mushrooms

Sometimes called the mushroom of immortality for its numerous health benefits, Reishi mushrooms have been used as medicine by the Chinese and Japanese since ancient times. These mushrooms act as natural antihistamines due to the high level of compounds called lanostan, which inhibits the release of certain chemicals in the body. Reishi isn’t the type of mushroom you want to eat with a meal, however, as it is very woody and hard. The recommendation for allergy relief is to consume a supplement with 1,000 mgs three times each day.

Now, let me tell you what actually worked for my husband. I did not include it in the list because, technically, it’s not an herb.

I live in a secluded part of the mountains, among wonderful pine trees, oak trees and tons of wildflowers. While they don’t bother me, they certainly do bother my husband. An old-timer who has lived here all his life told him that he used to have allergies when he was young. However, he was given local honey when he was a youngster and he never had a problem with allergies again.

It seems as if everyone here raises bees, so getting local honey isn’t a problem. My husband took one tablespoon of raw honey from the local beekeepers here every single day. (He switched providers every time he finished a jar to ensure he would get a good mixture of wildflower honey.) It probably took a year, but one spring, he noticed that he hardly sneezed and had no other reaction to the pollen.

I’m not a doctor, but it only makes sense that this worked because he allowed his body to get small doses of the pollen and, over time, he developed an immunity or resistance to it.

I’m certain that if we travel and he encounters pollen from other plants that aren’t indigenous to our part of the world, his symptoms will return. However, for now, isn’t this a sweet little trick to stop allergies where you live?

What advice do you have for stopping springtime allergies? Share your tips in the section below:

Frost-Tolerant Vegetables You Should Be Planting Right Now

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6 Frost-Tolerant Vegetables You Should Be Planting Right Now

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During early spring, the urge to get out in the garden and start planting almost becomes overwhelming.

Stores are stocking up on gardening tools, and seeds are luring me in with the promise of a bountiful harvest. I take full advantage of the warmer climate where I live. But if you live up north you may be hesitant, knowing winter may still throw a few frosty nights at you.

Go ahead and get your gardening gloves out; you can avoid pre-season garden blues by planting frost-resistant plants this spring.

Here are a few ideas:

1. Peas

Snow peas, snap peas or other varieties are easy-to-grow veggies that do well in early spring. With their large seeds, they’re perfect for even the smallest hands to plant. Useful for getting restless kids (and grandkids) out of the house and into the yard, peas do well in early spring – even with a late frost. They’ll grow as vines or bushes, and can take up to 65 days to mature. Plant more than you think you’ll need – the harvest seems to disappear with these easy-to-reap veggies that are loved by both grown-ups and kids alike.

2. Spinach

Baby spinach is a quick sprouting addition to an early spring garden. You can harvest in as little as three weeks, giving you small, tender leaves to use in salads and cooking.

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Spinach is frost-resistant, but seems to thrive when grown under cover, so consider using a garden cover the first few weeks after planting. To help prevent loss from frost, plant spinach close together and harvest early. Plant a few varieties to have an assortment of greens from which to choose.

3. Chard

6 Frost-Tolerant Vegetables You Should Be Planting Right Now

Image source: Pixabay.com

Another type of green that grows well in early spring, chard gives your garden a sneak peek at the bursts of color that warm weather brings. For a beautiful display, add yellow, red or white varieties to your planting rows. Sow seeds close together, and then harvest young growth to thin the seedlings. Some chard is available for harvest within 25 days, while others can be grown longer to reach full size. Use chard fresh, toss some into a blender for a nutritious smoothie addition, or cook leaves for a delicious addition to soups.

4. Beets

Beets thrive with cooler weather, and seem to do best before the ground heats up. You can plant beets up to a month before the last frost. This prevents their roots from becoming woody, and it gives them a sweet taste. Beets mature in 60 days and should be approximately two inches wide at harvest. Plant seeds three to four inches apart for optimal growth. Their lovely greens add bright stripes of green to your garden.

5. Carrots

Perfect for locations with heavy soil, carrots take longer than most vegetables to germinate. Sow carrot seeds directly in the soil, but plant more than you will need, because germination is spotty. Get them in the ground up to a month before the last frost, and then thin out the seedlings when you start to see leaves appearing. This is another fun plant to send your kids out to harvest, but don’t be surprised at their abnormal shapes. Depending on your soil, it can split the roots and produce funny-looking carrots that taste delicious!

6. Lettuce

Lettuce can be hard to germinate, so for best results, start some indoors and then transplant seedlings in early spring. They can be moved to your garden up to six weeks before the last frost. Sow additional seeds around the transplants for succession plants, giving you a season-long supply of lettuce. Cover the seeds with a light soil. Harvest leaves when there are enough on the plant for continued plant growth.

Don’t let the fear of frost keep you from getting a head start on your garden. Use cool weather-friendly plants to ease into spring, and enjoy the tender produce your garden will grow before hot weather sets in.

What frost-tolerant or frost-resistant plants would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

Grid-Free Climate Control: 3 Innovative Ways To Keep Your Home’s Temperature Comfortable

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Grid-Free Climate Control: 3 Innovative Ways To Keep Your Home's Temperature Comfortable

Spring is perhaps the best time of the year to experiment with super-efficient heating and cooling systems, since the temperature can flip from chilly one day to warm the next.

However, another reason why spring may be a good time to get those systems up and running is because temperature swings can strain our AC systems. Allow me to explain. Much like automobiles, the stopping and starting of the AC motor — again and again — consumes lots of energy and also can lead to earlier-than-expected repairs. This is especially true for homes that have a heat pump on their system.

But there are innovative, off-grid, eco-efficient ways to stay comfortable during spring, no matter the temperature. And all three can run without the grid:

1. Compost hot-water system

Whether the idea came from a Ph.D. in engineering or a backwoods farmer with a huge amount of creative common sense, I wish I could shake that person’s hand for inventing the compost water heater. The system is set up by winding a heat-capable hose through the compost pile, and then routing it back into the building that requires hot water.

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Hey, it’s no secret that compost generates heat. Heck, when piles of hay and mulch are left alone, they can spontaneously combust. So, why not put that kind of thermal energy to work? Chances are that you probably have a compost pile somewhere on the homestead, right?

 

 

2. The 5-gallon bucket swamp cooler

For those of you who live in the west or southwestern part of the U.S., you’re probably well-acquainted with the concept of the swamp cooler. When water evaporates, it will expend a tiny amount of energy and remove heat in the process – similar to how our sweat glands work. That’s how swamp coolers work.

Obviously, this system doesn’t exactly serve those of us who live in traditionally humid summer climates, but there’s one extremely handy way to harness the science of a swamp cooler and combine it with a ridiculous level of portability. And since this thing will make even a small solar panel array barely break a sweat, I figured the bucket swamp cooler made the cut.

 

 

3. Improvised geothermal climate control

And last but not least, I give you the whole kit-and-caboodle: the improvised geothermal climate control system. This one will also require low-wattage pumps and fans, but again, solar panels ought to do the trick with this one, as well.

The system essentially works like this: Even just a few feet below the ground, temps tend to settle at around a brisk 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit, holding steadily all year-round. In fact, if you’re able to dig deep enough, temps even can approach freezing. That’s why, for this particular system, the climate-control magic is derived from its subterranean water supply. In its most basic form, the system uses cool underground water from your homestead’s well to get the job done. To learn more, check out this great article.

All you need to do is move a little water and air, and the earth itself can take care of the hard part.

Have you experimented with any of these systems? Share your tips in the section below:

Be Prepared For A Downed Grid. Learn More Here.

Spring, the Liver,and Seasonal Allergies

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Spring, the Liver,and Seasonal Allergies Cat Ellis “Herbal Prepper Live” Audio in player below! After a long winter, spring has finally arrived, bringing with it springtime allergies. Predictably, the very popular topic of “liver cleanses” is hitting the blogosphere at this time of year as well. What you may not know is that liver function … Continue reading Spring, the Liver,and Seasonal Allergies

The post Spring, the Liver,and Seasonal Allergies appeared first on Prepper Broadcasting |Network.

Seed-Storage Tips You Won’t Learn At The Big Box Store

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Seed-Storage Tips You Won’t Learn At The Big Box Store

Image source: Jacki Andre

 

It’s here! It’s spring! It’s time to start breaking out the seeds!

If you’re like me, you probably spent at least some time this winter browsing through seed catalogs, creating wish lists, and making scale drawings of your garden to make sure that you have space to grow everything you want to. But before you buy seeds and start planting, it’s a good idea to take stock of your existing seeds and make a plan. Which seeds need to be started indoors, and which ones should be sown directly? When should they be planted? Are the seeds you saved from last year viable?

Taking Stock: Stored Seeds

Start by looking for seeds that you have stored away. I, for one, am bad at figuring out how many seeds I need and I usually have a lot left over after planting. You might be surprised at how many seeds you already have on hand — and using those up could provide a nifty little cost savings.

Testing the Germination Rate

If you’re using stored seeds, start with a germination test. Simply put, you want to figure out if the seeds will sprout. Seeds don’t have an expiration date, but many do lose their viability after awhile. If only a small percentage of your stored seeds sprout, you don’t want to waste time planting them and waiting for them to come up.

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Seed-Storage Tips You Won’t Learn At The Big Box StoreIt’s simple to figure out the germination rate. Layer a few paper towels and thoroughly moisten them. Space out ten seeds of any one cultivar on the wet paper towel and then fold it up so that the seeds are covered. Place the folded paper towel in a clear plastic zip-top bag. Keep the bag in a warm, bright spot. Check on it every few days to make sure the paper towel is still moist and to see if any seeds have sprouted. It can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks for the seeds to sprout.

If 9 out of 10 seeds sprout, that’s a 90 percent germination rate, and those seeds are good to plant. If you get a 50 percent germination rate, you can still plant the seeds, but you might want to sow twice as many as recommended (such as four squash seeds to a hill instead of two) to make up for the ones that won’t sprout. If the germination rate is very low, it’s better to source different seeds.

Starting Indoors vs. Direct Sowing

Some seeds need to be started indoors, or their produce just won’t be ready to harvest prior to fall frosts. Other seeds do best if sown directly into the garden. Still others can be started indoors or sown directly. It’s a good idea to start by sorting your seeds into three separate piles: “indoors,” “outdoors” and “either.” Once you know where to sow them, the next step is to figure out when.

Determining Planting Dates

Your last frost date is the key to figuring out when to plant. There are a number of interactive calculators online that indicate your exact last frost date, such as this one at The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Next, read the seed packets or do some online research to find out how long before the last frost date the seeds should be planted. Then count backward from your last frost day to determine the best dates to plant each variety.

Tips for Organizing Seeds

Seed-Storage Tips You Won’t Learn At The Big Box StoreA simple seed organization system takes only a few minutes to create, but you’ll be able to use it for years to come. Remember that whichever organization system you use, seeds should be stored in a cool, dark, dry location, which has little temperature fluctuation.

Charts/Tables

One of the simplest tricks is just to make a written list of the seeds you usually sow and their planting dates.

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The list can be stored with your seeds in a shoebox or large zip-top bag for future reference.

Seed File Box

My own favorite seed storage idea is to use a small box as a filing system. Each file divider indicates the planting date, whether the seeds should be sown indoors or outdoors, and a list of seeds that should be planted on each date. That way, it’s quick and easy to determine if I have all the seeds I need for each round of planting.

Seed Journal/Book

My mom used a photo album with plastic sleeves to store her seed packets. Using an album with an area for notes is genius, because you can jot notes about each seed variety beside the packet to keep track of germination rate, planting locations, yields, etc. The album can be organized in any way you choose, but I do like the idea of sticking to planting dates so that by flipping through the album, you sequentially see which seeds to plant next.

Do you have tips for organizing seeds for spring planting? If so, please share in the comments below.

WILD EDIBLES of Spring ! Foraging for your CAMP MEALS

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This article was originally published by Tara on backroadramblers.com

Happy Spring, friends! Here in the Northeast US, our snow is finally melting away, the maple sap is running hard, and the sunlight is casting a beautiful glow well into the evening. All of this is a delightful reminder that the earth is waking up and that camping season isn’t far away! Spring camping is a great way to shake off those winter blues.

Spring is also a great season to harvest wild edibles to liven up your campfire meals. Our kids have always loved searching for dinner on our hikes through the woods, and over the years, we’ve learned a lot about foraging and what tastes good. I’ll be the first to admit that we’ve had some culinary disasters after foraging at camp, but I’m not going to share those with you. Instead, here are some of our favorite wild edibles for spring and how to prepare them as part of a tasty camp meal.

Resources for Harvesting Wild Edible Plants

If you’re interested in foraging for wild edibles, the first thing you need is a good field guide. We’ve been using the Peterson Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants for years and years, and we usually keep it in the car so it’s always handy on road trips and other adventures. We also really love Healing Wise by Susan Weed, but it’s less of a field guide and more of an overview of amazing plants.

Harvesting wild plants may seem scary or daunting at first, but most of the plants in this post will never be confused with something poisonous, and they are quite easy to identify. Once you are comfortable harvesting, cooking, and enjoying a wild edible plant, you’ll never forget it.

Wild Greens to Harvest in the Spring

When the days get longer and warmer, I start to crave green veggies in a big way. Luckily, even if we’re packing dehydrated meals for backpacking trips, we can usually find enough wild greens to make a pretty awesome salad. These greens are delicious raw in salads or sandwiches, and most can be added to soups, sauces, and other cooked meals.

  • Dandelion greens – The original spring tonic, these bitter greens are best
    picked young, which means early spring in the Northeast. Our favorite way to eat dandelion greens is in a mixed wild green salad, but we also enjoy them sauteed with extra garlic. Mark Bittman’s recipe is our favorite.
  • Watercress –  A fancy staple for high tea, watercress is abundant in marshy streams and other bodies of
    water throughout the United States. It’s a member of the mustard family, and is widely cultivated for its lovely, mild flavor. Look for a floating plant with three to five oval-shaped leaflets. In the spring, watercress displays clusters of white, four-petaled flowers. It is delicious in raw in salads and on sandwiches.
  • Stinging nettles – Our kids called them “Cat Scratch” when they were little, and you do have to be careful when harvesting nettles. If they come in contact with your skin, you’ll have red, itchy welts for a few minutes afterwards. Wear long sleeves and gloves for protection. Nettles are best
    harvested in early spring, when the stalks are less than a foot tall. Eventually, they will grow to more than five feet tall, and at that point, you should only harvest the tender tips. Store nettles in a bag to keep them from stinging you while you’re hiking. When you get back to camp, cook them with a few tablespoons of water and a little salt — they will no longer be able to sting you. Our favorite recipe is this tasty omelette from Nourished Kitchen.
  • Violet leaves and flowers – Violets are one of the first sweet treats to pop up in the spring. They grow in the temperate parts of the northern
    hemisphere and are easy to spot in grassy areas or woodlands. The flowers come in purple, white, yellow,and pink, and are really tasty mixed with other greens in a salad. The leaves are heart-shaped, with a peppery flavor, and best eaten raw. They’re a bit mucilaginous (slimy) and may be an acquired taste for some (me).
  • Garlic mustard – This prolific plant is actually wreaking havoc across much of the country. It’s an invasive species that grows so dense in woodland
    areas, that other plants aren’t able to grow there. Harvesting and eating garlic mustard will only put a dent in the population if you pull out the whole plant (root and all) before the flowers go to seed. Luckily, garlic mustard is super delicious. Eat it raw, in soups, or make garlic mustard pesto. 

More Wild Edibles To Harvest in the Spring

Now that you’ve got your salad fixins, here are a few more woodland delicacies that you can harvest in the spring. The next three wild edibles are like the fine wines of the forest — sought after delicacies that have very definite seasons. The best way to find them is to ask locally about harvest seasons.

Fiddleheads

Fiddleheads are the unfurled fronds of the ostrich fern, and they’re only available for a couple of weeks in the spring. Once they start to leaf out, they’re no longer fit to eat, so timing is everything. Fiddlehead ferns grow in moist, wild forests all over New England. In Vermont, they start breaking ground in early April.

You can’t eat all ferns, so make sure to positively identify the ostrich fiddlehead with your field guide. Ostrich fiddleheads are deep, bright green, with a brown papery covering. One tell-tale sign that you’ve got an ostrich fern fiddlehead is the deep groove on the inside of the stem.

Cooking Fiddlehead Ferns

In order for the fresh, grassy flavor to shine, simple recipes work best. Boil clean fiddleheads in salted water for five minutes. Drain them well, then saute them with butter or oil, some garlic, and some salt and pepper. Serve them with your favorite camp food – burgers, steaks, or hot dogs on a stick.

Ramps

Ramps are a wild perennial native to northeastern North America. They’re also known as spring onions, wild leeks, or wild garlic. The whole plant is edible – root, stem, and leaf, and they’ve got an incredibly delicate flavor reminiscent of their closest cousins.

The harvest season for ramps lasts about a month, beginning in April or May, depending on where you live. Ramps grow in moist, fertile woodlands, and are often the greenest plant on the spring forest floor. The leaves grow six inches tall, and are quite broad, resembling lily-of-the-valleys. When left to grow undisturbed, ramps will grow a lush, expansive carpet. You can use ramps the same way you use onions. Our favorite way to cook them is to grill them over our campfire and toss them with our foraged wild greens.

Morel Mushrooms

In Vermont, they say to start looking for morels when the oak leaves are the size of a mouse’s ear. These delightful little mushrooms are tricky to find, and once you’ve found a patch of your own, you tend to keep it secret and return to it year after year. Morel hunting is a passion for many foragers, and fun way to spend the day for others. We fall somewhere in between on that spectrum, spending between three and six hours each year foraging for morels.

No other mushroom looks quite like the morel, and they are very easy to identify (but very hard to spot on the ground).  In Vermont, we start looking for them in early May. Hunting for morels is a bit like searching for buried treasure, and the best way to find them is to forage with an experienced morel hunter. If you find one morel, there’s bound to be more nearby.

Cooking Morels

Morels are magnets for dirt and bugs, so before you cook them, slice them in half and soak them in cold, salted water. Pat them dry and add them to a pan of hot oil to sear and brown them. Once they’re nice and brown, turn down the heat and add a chopped onion (or ramps) to the pan. Cook for five minutes and then add a pat of butter, a squirt of soy sauce, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve with rice and a big wild green salad.

I hope this post has gotten you excited for spring hiking, camping, and foraging. Time to shake off old man winter and discover the bounty of the natural world.

 

Source : backroadramblers.com

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15 Slow-Growing Seeds Smart Gardeners Start In March

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15 Slow-Growing Seeds Smart Gardeners Start In March

Image source: Pixabay.com

Is it spring yet?! As the days stretch out longer, and temperatures become increasingly mild, we start to feel the tug of the garden.

Many areas are still experiencing frost in March, but most of us can start planting seeds. Whether or not you can go ahead and start seeds depends on a number of factors, including your hardiness zone, your last frost date, which seeds you aim to plant, and whether you intend to start your seeds indoors or out.

Determine Your Last Frost Date

Your last frost date is important. It will help determine when to plant your various seeds. While information specific to our hardiness zones gives us a rough idea of our last frost date, it’s best to use an interactive calculator, like this one at The Old Farmer’s Almanac for a more exact date.

Sort Your Seeds

There are basically three types of seeds: 1) those best sowed directly into your garden; 2) those that can be sowed directly or started indoors; and, 3) those that most people should start indoors. Start by sorting your seeds into these three groups.

Seeds to Sow Directly

For a variety of reasons, some seeds do best when sowed directly into the ground. Some don’t transplant well. Others are cool-weather crops that can handle light frost and flourish in cooler temperatures.

Need Non-GMO Seeds? Get Them From A Company You Can Trust!

If you have any of the seeds listed below, pull them out and put them aside:

  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Dill
  • Carrots
  • Cilantro
  • Corn
  • Onions
  • Parsnips
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Rutabaga
  • Turnips
  • Leafy greens, including lettuces, arugula, kale, spinach, collard greens, mustard greens, chard

15 Seeds That Should Be Started In March

Some seeds must be started indoors in most parts of the country — otherwise their fruit may not come to maturity before fall frosts. If you have any of the seeds listed below, pull them out and make a second pile:

1. Basil

2. Broccoli

3. Cauliflower

4. Celery

5. Eggplant

6. Kohlrabi

7. Mint

8. Oregano

9. Peppers

10. Tomatoes

Seeds That Can Be Started Indoors or Out

While some seeds do perfectly fine when sowed directly into your garden, you also can start them indoors in order to get a jump on the growing season. It’s great to be able to enjoy some vegetables earlier in the summer. Plus, you also can stagger your planting by putting out transplants at the same time as directly sowing seeds of the same variety, so that your harvest lasts for several weeks.

The All-Natural Fertilizer That Doubles Your Garden Yield!

On the flip side, it can get daunting to find enough space, lighting, and time to look after large numbers of seedlings. Plus, don’t forget that you’ll need to haul your seed flats in and out for a little while, too, to harden off your seedlings before transplanting. Consider how many seedlings you must start indoors, plus the pros and cons listed, in order to decide whether to start any of these seeds indoors, too:

11. Cabbage

12. Cucumbers

13. Melons

14. Parsley

15. Squash – summer and winter, including zucchini

Determine Planting Dates for Indoor Seeds

Now that you know which seeds to start indoors, the next step is figuring out when to do it. Using the information on the seed packages, count backward from your last frost date to determine when to start your seeds. For example, some vegetables, such as broccoli, should be started 10 weeks prior to the last frost date. Cherry tomatoes should be started nine weeks prior, and full-size tomatoes eight weeks prior.

Have you started seeds indoors yet? When do you start them? Share your gardening and growing tips in the section below:

Bust Inflation With A Low-Cost, High-Production Garden. Read More Here.

6 Ways To Maximize Your Raised Bed Garden This Year

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6 Ways To Maximize Your Raised Bed Garden This Year

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Sitting inside, pouring over gardening magazines, and dreaming about my spring garden, I envision acres of land covered in lush, green plants. Each row is teeming with fruits or vegetables, and my family is awed by the bounty of supplies that our garden provides.

When I step outside and face the reality of my yard, however, reality comes crashing back. I don’t have acres of land to work with, and my expanse of lawn is stopped abruptly by the fence that divides my yard from my neighbors (all three of them). To make matters worse, the “dirt” in my yard is more accurately called sand and doesn’t seem to want to grow more than weeds. How can I still achieve the garden of my dreams? With raised beds.

Using raised beds, I can still have rows of plants; they’re just contained in smaller areas.

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Here are six ways to maximize your raised bed garden this year:

1. Shapes matter

To maximize the space, think rectangle instead of square. Using long, rectangular boxes allows you to easily reach all the plants without having to leave pathways for walking. The benefit? You can fit more plants in your box. Use raised beds that are no more than three feet wide for maximum gardening ease.

2. Location, location, location

If you live in an area where good soil is hard to come by, raised beds allow you to grow plants anywhere. By mixing your own soil, you can grow a bountiful garden in your yard, on concrete patios or elsewhere. Place your raised bed in an area that receives full sun, has easy access to water and is safe from outside forces such as pets, running children or lawn mowers.

3. Spacing

Instead of long rows of plants with spaces in between, stagger your planting rows. A traditional garden uses planting squares to help guide your planning. In your raised bed garden, think triangles. Stagger the rows so that the plants in the second row are in between the plants in the first and third rows, forming triangles. This creates a fuller garden, giving you more production capacity.

4. Companion planting

6 Ways To Maximize Your Raised Bed Garden This Year

Image source: Pixabay.com

As you’re developing your garden plan, follow the lead of Native Americans and use “sister” crops. Planting corn, beans and squash together allows the cornstalks to support the beans, while the squash grow happily in the shade provided. Find other compatible plants to group together to provide an assortment of produce. Some other “sisters” are: tomato, basil and onion; carrots, onions and radishes; celery and beets.

5. Succession planting

Want the benefits of your garden to last all season? Plant in cycles. You can capitalize on fast-producers like lettuce by planting a new crop after your harvest. Replace the lettuce with peppers to keep your garden producing longer.

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For even more production, stagger plant dates by using transplants. Grow seedlings by starting them indoors at varying dates. Add plants to your raised bed at two or three week intervals to ensure a continuous supply of produce.

6. Think vertical

Even if you don’t have a large area of ground, your garden can still produce an abundance of food. Just grow up instead of out. Train cucumber and squash to grow up on stakes or trellises. Plant vining crops along one side of your raised bed with sturdy poles, or in the middle using trellises to provide shade or support to other plants.

Are you planning your spring garden? Maybe you’ve decided to try a raised garden bed this year, or you’ve done raised bed gardening in the past, but haven’t been happy with the results. Using these simple tips can help you maximize your raised bed, giving you and your family a rich harvest that can last year-round.

What advice would you add on raised bed gardening? Share your tips in the section below:  

Are You Making These Common, Avoidable Gardening Mistakes? Read More Here.

5 Wise Ways To Use The Last Few Weeks Of Winter (No. 2 Is The One Everyone Forgets!)

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5 Wise Ways To Use The Last Few Weeks Of Winter (No. 2 Is The One Everyone Forgets!)

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Transitioning from winter to spring is an exciting time around our homestead. We have used these last few months to research and plan new ideas to incorporate on our land throughout the coming growing season. Right now, we are seeing the last remnants of snow and ice melt away, creating a soggy mess of our land, but there are still plenty of things we can do inside to prepare our homestead for the busy spring season.

Using these last few weeks of winter to prepare for spring weather allows us to work efficiently during those first weeks of spring when life around the homestead becomes increasingly busy. As with any project, creating a plan, even if it is a simple list, enables us to establish what needs finishing before the weather breaks and it helps us take full advantage of the warm winter days that come our way. So, what will we be doing to ensure we are using these last few weeks of winter wisely?

1. Preparing for seeds.

This year we are going to use newspapers saved by neighbors, family and friends to create seedling pots. Cutting and folding enough pots for the seeds we are planning to start indoors this year will take some time, but the materials and labor are free. Additionally, using newspaper pots will allow us to place the whole thing into the ground. No chasing down plastic seedling trays blown about by the wind or finding a place to store them in the offseason. If you are using traditional plastic seedling trays, use this time to clean them, inspect them and replace them if necessary. Or consider newspaper pots!

2. Implement maintenance.

Now is the time to be sure your tools, mechanical and otherwise, are in sound, working condition. For hand tools, sharpen the edges, oil the blades and repair or replace splintered or broken handles. Sharpening the blades of mower decks, tillers, plows and other implements now will allow spring ground-breaking to get off to a smooth start.

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5 Wise Ways To Use The Last Few Weeks Of Winter (No. 2 Is The One Everyone Forgets!)

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In addition to the array of outdoor tools that need to be maintained, sharpen and oil your scissors and knives. Sharpening butchering tools in these last few weeks of winter will save you time during the busy harvest season.

3. Stocking up on the essentials.

If you produce your own soaps, detergents and other household products, stocking up now will ensure you make it through the busy spring and summer months without setting aside precious time to whip up more. Estimate the amount you will need to have on hand until after harvest, and set aside a day to complete multiple batches. This is also the perfect time to rotate food storage supplies while cleaning and reorganizing, if necessary.

4. Preparing soil amendments.

Not all of the prep work can be done indoors, so take advantage of those warmer days in the last weeks of winter to work outside. Enrich garden soils by adding a top layer of compost to the rows. This will allow the compost to begin breaking down before you till it under in a few weeks. If you are planning on adding new raised beds, begin marking off dimensions, or even start constructing them, weather permitting.

5. Building and fence maintenance.

Inspect your outbuildings and fencing for damage due to wind, ice buildup or other weather-related activity. Wet winters can cause wood rot, as well as mold and mildew issues if the temperature remains above freezing for long. Repairing buildings and fencing now will ensure there are no untimely accidents later due to escaped inhabitants or ruined food supplies.

What would you add to our list? Share your tips in the section below:

Bust Inflation With A Low-Cost, High-Production Garden. Read More Here.

Snakes Are Out & About. Take Care!!!

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A coastal taipan. Photo: Richie Gilbert
Toddler ‘dies for six minutes’ before being revived by paramedics after being bitten by taipan snake three times.

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11 Late-Summer, Quick-Growing Vegetables You Gotta Plant NOW To Beat The Frost

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11 Late-Summer, Quick-Growing Vegetables You Gotta Plant NOW To Beat The Frost

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If spring and early summer somehow slipped past without you getting all the vegetables planted that you wanted to, you are not alone. Life happens on its own schedule, and when one of the kids takes sick or the boss needs you to work overtime during planting season, it can interfere with your high hopes and well-laid plans.

But take heart—it is not too late. Depending on your growing zone and how many days you have left before frost, there are up to 11 vegetables you can still plant, from seed, and eat this season.

Where I live in Zone 4, we usually expect our first frost about the third week of September. That means I can plant all eleven of the following vegetable choices right up until late July.

If you have 60 or more days left of your growing season, you can plant the following:

1. Radishes. Almost all cultivars of radish can be grown in under 60 days. Most of them mature in half that time. Summer radishes are great plain, on salads, and braised in a buttery syrup. Even winter storage and daikon types are generally 60 days or less.

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2. Kale. This healthful favorite can be grown to full maturity in 60 to 75 days, depending on your conditions and the specific cultivar. From salads and stews to smoothies and sautes, nothing beats fresh-from-the-garden kale.

3. Peas. Mid-to-late summer is the perfect time to plant peas for a fall crop. They do not like high heat, and planting now will allow them to grow in relatively cool conditions. Most varieties are ready to harvest at between 50 and 60 days. Eaten in or out of the shell, peas are a wonderful addition to any meal.

11 Late-Summer, Quick-Growing Vegetables You Gotta Plant NOW To Beat The Frost

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4. Cucumbers. Many cucumber cultivars reach maturity from seed in 60 days or less. Cukes vary widely, from as few as 49 days to nearly 70. There is at least one cultivar in each type—pickling, slicing, beit-alpha, and Asian—with a short growing season. Plant now for that one last cucumber sandwich before the first fall frost!

5. Summer squashes. There is a delightful array of zucchini, yellow and patty pan squashes that can be grown in a very short time. Some cultivars reach harvestable size in an astonishing 40 days. The culinary delights of summer squashes are practically limitless!

6. Carrots. Many varieties of summer carrots reach maturity in under 60 days. Short and round, long and skinny, thick and blunt—there are some short season cultivars in every shape. Storage carrots can take a little longer, some up to 85 days, so be sure to read the packet or catalog information.

7. Beets. This amazingly diverse vegetable can produce delicious edible greens in just over a month, and can reach full maturity in well under 60 days. I thin early beets and use the tiny pulled seedlings on salads and wraps. Later, the larger greens are great cooked and topped with butter. Mature beets are excellent pickled, pan-fried, or in baked goods. Most beet cultivars are harvestable in under 60 days, including classic reds, striped Chioggia types, and mellow golds.

11 Late-Summer, Quick-Growing Vegetables You Gotta Plant NOW To Beat The Frost

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8. Swiss chard. This hardy vegetable is able to be harvested as tender baby greens in as little as four weeks after harvest and reaches full maturity in under 60 days. Beautiful and delicious, chard comes in a rainbow of colors from greens and yellows to reds and golds, packs a powerful nutritional punch, and will make you glad you planted it right now.

9. Non-heading broccoli. Sometimes called “broccolini,” this fast-growing brassica variety is ready for harvest in under 60 days. The entire plant—flowers, stalks, and even leaves—can be enjoyed raw, steamed or stir-fried.

10. Beans. Most bush beans meant for fresh eating, such as green beans, wax beans and haricot verts, are ready for harvest in 60 days or less. If planting pole beans instead, check the package—a few can be grown in a short season, but pole beans often require a medium-to-long season. Perfect for fresh eating, pickling, salads, steaming and roasting, easy-to-grow beans are an excellent last-minute choice for getting the most out of your backyard garden.

11. Greens. Almost all greens are mature in less than 60 days. Spinach, depending on the particular cultivar and growing conditions, is ready in as little as a month. Lettuces take a little longer. Asian greens such as Chinese cabbage, mizuna and mustard greens, and pac choy range from six to eight weeks to maturity. Collard greens take a little longer to fully mature, but as with any greens can be picked and eaten earlier if preferred, or if needed to beat an early frost.

An additional bonus with kale, spinach and a few other greens is that they will survive frosts, to some extent. They will not continue to grow afterwards, but will remain viable in the garden, making them able to be planted and harvested even later.

As you can see, there is still plenty of opportunity this season to grow a nice selection of tasty nutritious vegetables for fresh eating and preserving. It is time to dig out those seed packets and get ready for late-summer bounty.

What vegetables would you add to our list? Share your suggestions below:

Bust Inflation With A Low-Cost, High-Production Garden. Read More Here.

14 Awesome Hacks To Really Up Your Gardening Game This Spring

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14 Awesome Hacks To Really Up Your Gardening Game This Spring When it comes to gardening I need all the help I can get. Last year I planted my veggies around this time because the weather forecast was in the 60’s with some showers. As soon as I planted them the wind picked up and …

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4 Miraculous Warm-Weather Uses For Cintronella Oil

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4 Miraculous Warm-Weather Uses For Cintronella OilEvery year, at the beginning of spring, I find myself searching through my essential oil stash for citronella essential oil. It has so many natural and practical uses during the warm seasons that I could not imagine going without it. I use citronella essential oil for everything from spring cleaning, to candle making, to homemade bug repellent, to combating exhaustion.

The soft and sweet lemony, grassy scent of citronella essential oil creates the ambiance of the outdoors and for me, brings thoughts of spring picnics, fresh cut grass, and relaxing summer nights. Because of this, citronella essential oil in the use of aromatherapy is perfect for the relief of stress and tension caused by busy days when you cannot seem to find the time to get outdoors.

Citronella grows naturally by the sea and is native to Sri Lanka, Java and the Seychelles, where the locals extract the essential oil from the freshly dried tropical grass. Traditionally, citronella leaves were used as a poultice for fever, pain and to speed healing. Today, it is mostly used as an antiseptical and germicidal cleaning agent, a natural deodorizer and a natural insect repellant.

Learn How You Can Make Powerful Herbal Medicines, Right in Your Kitchen!

To help you get started with the many uses of citronella essential oil, I have added some of my favorite ideas, tips and recipes. Some recipes include other essential oils to help aid with the effectiveness of the blend.

1. How to create your own all-natural insect repellant

Are you opposed to using harmful, unnatural chemicals such as Deet, which is found in mass produced spray repellents like OFF? Then try this:

  • 25 drops citronella essential oil.
  • 15 drops lavender essential oil.
  • 15 drops tea tree essential oil.
  • 4 tablespoons of sweet almond carrier oil, or add to two fluid ounces purified water in a spray bottle (shake well before each use).

Massage on, or spray the mixture onto exposed areas of the skin and clothing before heading outdoors. Take the insect repellant with you on hiking trips or outdoor events, and reapply as needed.

2. How to create your own all-natural-insect repelling homemade candles

Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

Many of the commercially sold citronella scented candles just do not work. The reason is that a store-bought candle labeled “citronella scented” might be scented synthetically, having none of the natural citronella essential oil necessary to repel insects. To ensure the inclusion of all-natural, effective ingredients, it is best to make your own citronella essential oil-based candles.

What you will need:

  • Glass jars. Be creative, as there are many shapes and sizes from which to choose.
  • Wax wicks.
  • Bees wax or soy wax.
  • A melting pot — either a double boiler or a mixing pot atop another pot.
  • Citronella essential oil.
  • Natural dye or crayons for added color.
  • Scissors to cut down wicks.

Begin by measuring out and melting down your wax. I would recommend melting the wax in a double boiler or a mixing pot nestled atop a pot of boiling water.

Stir in the citronella essential oil. I use roughly five drops per cup of melted wax. You can add more drops for a highly scented candle, or fewer drops for a lightly scented candle.

Stir in a colored crayon or two, or add natural dye, to add color.

While melting the wax and adding the essential oil and coloring, you should slightly warm the jar either in your oven or the microwave. Doing so will prevent cracking while pouring the hot wax into the jar. Also, this helps to ensure that the wax will cool evenly.

Place the wick into the jar. You can attach the top of the wick to a pencil and balance the pencil across the mouth of the jar to help keep the wick centered.

Slowly pour the melted wax into the jar.

Let the wax completely cool.

Cut the wick down.

Light the candle and enjoy.

3. How to create your own all-natural-antibacterial household cleaner and deodorizer.

Instead of using store-bought, chemical harsh cleaners, citronella essential oil can be used to create an all-natural, effective household cleaner. Using a chemical-free cleaner ensures the safety of the entire family and is environmentally friendly.

Mix equal parts purified water and white vinegar to a spray bottle. Add citronella essential oil for the desired potency according to the size of the bottle.

Image source: Pixabay.com

Spray and wipe down eating surfaces to cleanse and to kill bacteria and germs.

Use as a bathroom cleaner, too.

Spray in any areas that need deodorizing, such as garbage cans.

Citronella essential oil cleaning spray also helps to ward off bugs, so you can safely spray this blend around doorways, baseboards, onto screens and window sills.

4. Use of citronella essential oil for aromatherapy.

Use a humidifier, air diffuser or oil burner to add the molecules and scent of citronella oil to the air inside your home.

The inhalation of citronella essential oil can ease the mind by helping to calm anxiety and mental overload. The scent also helps to support the spirit and can help with exhaustion.

Of course, using this method of aromatherapy also will ward off unwanted insects, as they hate the scent of citronella.

Citronella essential oil can also be combined with other essential oils of your choosing to create wonderful scents for your homemade candles, cleaning sprays and for aromatherapy purposes. I enjoy adding neroli and other citrus-based scents to my blends. Sweet orange, bergamot, peppermint, patchouli, spearmint, sandalwood and myrtle essential oils all blend well with citronella essential oil. Try adding your favorite essential oils to citronella essential oil to create your own personalized scents.

How do you use cintronella essential oil? Share your ideas and tips in the section below:

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22 Cool DIY Spring Crafts for Kids to Make

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22 Cool DIY Spring Crafts for Kids to Make Everyone is feeling the crunch on their pocketbooks and are looking for ways to still maintain the lifestyle they are used to while not spending as much money as they used to. If you have children, the tightened budget can be especially harsh and as summer …

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Ponds 101: What You BETTER Know Before You Start Digging

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Here’s What You BETTER Know Before You Build Your First Pond

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Warm weather has arrived, and along with the sunny weather often comes a to-do list of projects. If you have been looking for a project to work on this year, why not build a pond?

We will get to the “how-to” in a moment, but first let’s explore the many benefits of a pond. Beauty, after all, isn’t the only benefit of a pond.

1. They benefit the local wildlife

Various species of wildlife benefit from ponds, even a small one. Ponds attract beneficial insects, serve as a water source for different animals, and can act as a haven for various amphibians and small reptiles. Birds love to have a clean source of bathing water, especially if you have a tempting waterfall feature.

Many species of amphibians are declining in population, especially in urban areas where pollutants containment water sources. You can help support these animals and offer a place for them to reproduce, even in a small pond.

2. Insect pest populations will reduce

Here’s What You BETTER Know Before You Build Your First Pond

Image source: Pixabay.com

Visit any pond and you will see various flying insects around, such as damselflies and dragonflies. These insects, as well as many others, will help control pest insects like mosquitoes. It’s somewhat of a misconception that ponds equal mosquito problems. Rather, it’s poorly managed ponds that are a problem. Take measures to prevent mosquitoes in your pond and your predatory insect friends will help control the rest.

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Mosquito larvae will be eaten by the larvae of these beneficial predatory insects. And don’t forget that having a pond will attract frogs and toads, both of which will further keep mosquito populations down.

3. Ponds can function as an emergency water source

Ponds are ideal as a source of water in an emergency. You will need to properly sterilize the water prior to drinking and, depending on the size and type of your pond, it may not be a permanent source of water. But it will still help in an emergency/survival situation.

4. Ponds support additional food sources

You can increase the variety of foods on your table with a pond. Raising fish is often the most popular choice, naturally. The type of fish you can raise will depend on your location. For example, warm climates could raise tilapia while those in cool climates will be better off with bass or crappies.

Aside from fish, you also can grow edibles like rice, watercress, water chestnuts and cattails. The majority of these edibles will grow very well in a healthy pond without requiring any labor from you.

5. You will get free fertilizer for your garden

Fertilizer from your pond can come in the form of green fertilizer and liquid fertilizer. Natural algae and other plants often work very well as a green manure, much like how you’d use cover crops. You can use the water from a large pond that has a healthy population of fish and plants to fertilize your garden beds and potted plants.

What Type of Pond Should I Build?

There are a few different ways of creating a pond, but when it comes to a backyard pond there are two main options: pre-formed plastic pond liners and flexible pond linings.

Here’s What You BETTER Know Before You Build Your First Pond

Image source: Pixabay.com

Pre-formed pond liners are a rigid piece of plastic – think of a kiddie pool – which you set into the ground or use above ground. You can order these liners online or find them at construction stores. Pre-formed liners are easy to use but you are limited in terms of shape, length and width.

Flexible plastic lining comes in large rolls and various sizes in thickness, depending on what the pond will be used for. The great thing about using flexible lining is that you have virtually no limits for the shape and size of the pond. These liners are also less expensive but will require someone else or multiple people helping you.

Overall, flexible plastic lining is the ideal choice for large ponds or those who have a very specific shape of pond in mind. Pre-formed pond liners are a good choice for someone who wants a micro- to small-sized pond.

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There are alternatives to pre-formed liners and plastic linings. For example, if you only want a small pond, you can sink a stock tank into the ground. Some people who have a heavy clay soil may be able to get away with not using a pond liner at all. Similarly, if you have good soil just adding more clay can help.

Where Should the Pond Be Located?

Before you start digging, you need to carefully decide where the best location for the pond will be. When you select an area, ask yourself:

  • How much sun will the pond get? Ideally, a pond will get partial sun — roughly eight hours a day.
  • Is the ground flat or sloped? Either works, but a pond on a slope will give you the best opportunity to do features.
  • Do you want to add water features like a cascade? Take these into account and whether you’ll need/want pumps to move water.
  • What is the soil like in the area? Even if you’re using pond lining, a heavier soil with a lot of clay will keep the shape better than sandy soil.
  • For large ponds in rural areas, do you have to worry about large mammals walking in the pond? Moose, deer, elk and livestock like cattle may walk through the pond and tear/puncture the pond lining. Be sure to choose the heaviest lining possible.
  • How deep do you need the pond to be? Any pond should be an absolute minimum of 18 inches deep. Keep in mind that if you plan to overwinter fish you will need more depth, especially if you’re in a cold climate where the water will freeze. If you experience freezing temperatures, you will need a minimum depth of 3 feet just for medium-sized koi to survive.

How to Dig Out the Pond

Here’s What You BETTER Know Before You Build Your First Pond

Image source: Pixabay.com

Digging out a pond is done either by hand or with earth-moving equipment. If you are planning on digging it by hand, be forewarned that it’s probably going to be much more difficult than you think. If you’re planning a small pond that isn’t very deep and you’re in good shape, go ahead and use a shovel. There is something very rewarding about digging a pond by hand. Deep ponds that are medium or large in nature will require earth-moving equipment.

If you have experience, you can rent a CAT or similar equipment. If you have no experience, it is best to hire someone – especially if you are planning a very deep pond. You also need to take into account where all that dirt is going to go. For large ponds, you will need to use a backhoe to move the dirt.

Be careful if you happen to live in an area that requires permits to build a pond or if you plan to divert a local creek into your pond. Always check your local laws just to be sure.

Where to Go From Here

If you are planning a large pond, I highly recommend checking out these websites and books for more information. These resources also will be useful for those who are building a small pond in their city backyard, though some of the content may not apply to your exact situation.

Feel free to write your experiences with building ponds, or simply share your own ideas for your future pond in the section below!

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8 All-Natural Ways To Rid Your Home Of Ants (And Keep Them From Returning)

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8 All-Natural Ways To Rid Your Home Of Ants (And Keep Them From Returning)

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For most people, spring is a welcome sign. Days get longer, the temperature starts to rise, and the trees bloom.

But sometimes the spring bloom brings unwanted pests into our living areas. One such pest is the ant.

Made up of colonies ranging from thousands to millions, ants vary in color, from black to red to green, and even metallic. In North America, the most common household ants are the carpenter ant, odorous house ant, and pavement ant.

In order to effectively get rid of ants, you first have to know how an ant colony works. Ant colonies are made up of a queen, surrounded by fertile males called drones. The drones and the queen mate to create the eggs that turn into worker ants, soldier ants, drones or queens. The worker ants are female and begin their lives caring for the queen and the young. They then graduate to digging, nest work, or defending the nest and foraging. Mixed in with these worker ants are soldier ants that protect the colony and other worker ants during foraging. The ants work together as one unit, all trying to support the colony.

Now that you understand how an ant colony works, we can determine the most effective ways to get rid of ants. Here are seven all-natural ways to get rid of ants:

1. Boric acid (borax) — The best way to get rid of ants is at the source. If you destroy the queen or queens, the ant colony will relocate to another colony. One way this can be done is through the use of boric acid. Mix boric acid with sugar and put it next to or on the ants for them to consume. The worker ants will eat some of this and transport it back to the colony to share it with the rest of the colony. If you have pets, keep them out of the area until the mixture is consumed.

2. Diatomaceous earth – This incredible all-natural powder can work wonders in getting rid of not only ants but other crawling bugs in your home. It causes them to dehydrate and die. Sprinkle it wherever you see ants — on cupboards, cabinets, window sills, in between crevices, behind baseboards, around plumbing or wiring holes in walls and very lightly on carpets and rugs (leave 3 days and then vacuum).

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3. Peppermint oil – Peppermint oil is great to use if your goal is not to kill ants, but to deter them from entering an area. The way peppermint oil works is it breaks up the scent trail that ants leave behind, thus discouraging the ants from coming back. To apply peppermint oil, put five drops on a cotton ball or swab, and gently rub on areas the ants have infested. Repeat the process for a few days until they are gone.

8 All-Natural Ways To Rid Your Home Of Ants (And Keep Them From Returning)4. Tea tree oil – Great for deterring small pests like ants, tea tree oil can be used similarly to peppermint oil. Apply to a cotton ball or swab and rub baseboards where ants are seen. Don’t apply tea tree oil to kitchen surfaces.

5. Clove oil – Clove oil can be very effective against ants. Because it has a warming, spicy nature, it is known to not only deter ants, but also to kill them. Many natural commercial insect repellants use clove oil in their products. To apply, mix 35 drops with four ounces of water or vinegar and spray where needed.

6. Lemon juice – Another deterrent and readily available solution is lemon juice. Used to mask their chemical trail, ants hate citrus. Lemon contains d-limonene, which is toxic to ants. A simple method is to squeeze a lemon on a paper towel and wipe down the insides of window and door frames. Repeat for a few days until ants are gone.

7. Cayenne pepper – This is great for deterring pests and if put directly onto ants, it essentially burns them alive. If put into a line across their entrance point, they will not cross it. If you can find the colony, you can pour a mixture of cayenne pepper and hot water into the ant’s entrance to the colony. This will make the colony unlivable.

8. Garlic oil – Another deterrent is garlic, either in oil or clove form. It is effective in masking an ant’s scent trail, and also great for using on plants, as it deters pests from eating your fruit trees or berry bushes.

No matter how you decide to handle your ant problem, you can rest assured that the all-natural solutions above will help you get rid of them.

How do you get rid of ants in your home? Share your advice in the section below:

Harness The Power Of Nature’s Most Remarkable Healer: Vinegar

Must-Do Spring Gardening Preps You May Have Forgotten

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Must-Do Spring Gardening Preps You May Have Forgotten

Image source: Pixabay.com

If you live south of a certain latitude, your garden is already in the ground and your growing season is underway. Many of us up north, however, are still digging out from a winter’s worth of snow and ice. Planting even cold-hardy crops such as peas and spinach might require a drill or chisel to loosen the topsoil, if we could get to it at all.

Even if you can’t get your hands in the dirt quite yet, there are plenty of things you can – and should – be doing right now.

In order to hit the ground running when spring does arrive in your region, it is a great idea to have all your planning, decision-making, inventorying, purchasing, preparing, repair and maintenance jobs done. Here are a few details to help you set up your own to-do list to maximize your pre-season readiness.

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Envision this year’s garden. Many gardeners add on, rearrange and tweak the layout every year. I usually draw it out on paper. Some of the things I try to keep in mind in this endeavor include:

  • Can it be easily accessed when needed? Some people keep a “kitchen garden” near the house which contains often-used plants such as herbs, lettuces and cherry tomatoes, so they can run out and grab what they need for meal preparation.
  • Try to keep the plants most appealing to hungry wildlife in spots least accessible to them, or in areas you are most able to protect. When planning the vegetables for my plots furthest from the house, I try to avoid deer favorites. When planting corn, I make sure it is in a location near one of my fence chargers – that way I can electrify the fence when the corn is ready for harvest and prevent raccoons from beating me to it. Crops that attract ravenous flying pests need to be placed in an area conducive to netting or row cover.
  • Remember the needs of pollinators. Include plants that will draw them in without causing discomfort to you or others enjoying the garden.
  • Consider companion planting. Certain plants do better in close proximity to others. For example, the combination of beans, corn and squash is often said to be desirable.
  • Think about soil depth and composition. Plants that need more acidity will not do well in the section where you have discarded wood stove ashes, and a very long root crop such as parsnip will need deep, rock-free soil for proper growth.
  • Try to move things around year-to-year. Different families of vegetables use different soil nutrients and leave the rest. Placing tomatoes or rutabagas in the same spot year after year could result in diminished yield or quality.

Once your plan is in place, buy the seeds you need. Do not procrastinate on this point. Many seed catalogs sell out early, particularly the smaller and local ones. If you have not ordered your seed packets, do it right away. If the ones you want are already sold out, do not despair. High-quality local seed selections are often available for resale at small commercial greenhouses.

Order Your Spring Seed Catalog Right Here!

Remember that some of your vegetables should be planted from seed and other varieties need to be started ahead of time indoors or in greenhouses. Some can be done either way, depending upon your local conditions and personal preference. Know which is which and be ready for implementation. You can start your own seeds, or buy them all started from a greenhouse.

Must-Do Spring Gardening Preps You May Have Forgotten

Image source: Pixabay.com

If you do plan to start your own, remember that leeks and long-day-length onions should have already been started in February or March for the best possible yields. Other vegetables can be started now or later in spring.

Inventory your supplies. If you are starting your own seeds, make sure you have all the plug trays and soil you need. Check out your lights, bulbs and mats, and repair or replace as needed.

If you use row cover, plastic mulch, greenhouse plastic, landscape fabric or any other materials which are reusable but do not last forever, take a look at your collection right now. If there are rips you forgot about or if you discover mice did damage to it over the winter, you will want to replenish your supply early while there is still a good selection available in stores.

If you are still waiting for the ground to thaw, now is a terrific time to get your garden tools out and look them over. Sharpen, repair and replace as necessary.

If you are able to access your gardens at this point, get busy outside.

  • Clean out leaves and debris.
  • Do soil testing if you did not do so last fall. Many people prefer fall testing so that any amendments can be made ahead of time, but a spring test is better than no test.
  • Add compost and amendments as needed.
  • Repair raised beds and garden structures as necessary.
  • Get fences, posts and climbing trellises in good working order.
  • Shore up greenhouse and tunnel structures. Tighten tubing, replace plastic coverings and ensure heating and cooling components are ready to go for the season.

Few undertakings are more rewarding than growing your own food, but every climate has its particular challenges and advantages. If you want to grow vegetables but live up north, do not let that slow you down. Get organized, stocked up and busy now for a wonderful harvest season down the road.

What would you add to this list? Share your ideas in the section below:

Every Spring, Gardeners Make This Avoidable Mistake — But You Don’t Have To. Read More Here.

Spring Gobbler Season

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Spring Gobbler Season
James Walton “I Am Liberty

Spring Gobbler SeasonThe days are getting longer and the weather getting warmer. There are many of the telltale signs that spring is upon us. You’ll see sprouting kale and hear chirping chickens on the Liberty Homestead. For many of us though that familiar gobble of the horny spring long-beard is another sign that the evil winter has finally come to an end.

In celebration of Spring Gobbler season starting Friday we are going to have Andy Gagliano of the Turkey Hunter Podcast (http://iamturkeyhunting.com/) Love the site name by the way. There are people you run into who have just hit the highest level of their passion. Never get to far from these people. They are the most interesting and the most enjoyable people to be around. This is Andy Gagliano and his passion for Turkey Hunting.

We are going to talk about the spring woods. We are going to talk about scouting. We are also going to talk about turkey hunting. What you will have is a person who is completely ate up with his passion and to me that is the best guest you can find. This was on a very short notice as most of my guests are. That being said I implore you to come on under the I AM Liberty tent and enjoy the show.
Visit I Am Liberty website HERE! 
Join us for I Am Liberty “LIVE SHOW” every Friday 9:00/Et 8:00Ct 6:00/Pt Go To Listen and Chat

Listen to this broadcast or download “Spring Gobbler Season” in player below!

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The post Spring Gobbler Season appeared first on The Prepper Broadcasting Network.

4 Medicinal Plants Growing Like Weeds Right Now

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Wild garlic (pictured) has hollow leaves; wild onion has flat ones. There are similar plants that are harmful to eat. These two edible ones smell like garlic or onion when you cut them.

Wild garlic (pictured) has hollow leaves; wild onion has flat ones. There are similar plants that are harmful to eat. These two edible ones smell like garlic or onion when you cut them.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

I’m baaack. I’ve been moving and have taken some time off blogging. But now I’m ready to go.

My new home is out in the Southern countryside, way outside a city, and I’ve just started exploring the property. What I’m finding is a virtual pharmacy of medicinal plants. Some I can use now. Others, maybe if I had no access to anything better.

1. Wild Garlic

The one I like the best for now is wild garlic (Allium vineale), an invasive plant that grows in most states. While you might think of this is as an unsightly weed (and it is), the bulb and leaves can be eaten just like the store-bought variety. But do make sure none have been sprayed with poison lately. For that reason I’m avoiding the plants close to the road.

Garlic is rich in antioxidants and helps bolster your immunity against viruses and other germs. It also has a mild effect on cholesterol levels, helping lower them. But it can thin the blood, so watch out if you easily bleed or are taking a blood thinner.

2. White Pine Tree

I have an abundance of pine trees. Steeping a bunch of fresh green pine needles in water for five minutes makes a unique tea loaded with antioxidants, vitamin C and vitamin A. The horrible disease scurvy is rare these days because we have access to foods with vitamin C. But if we didn’t, pine needles could be a lifesaver.

The needles also contain a bit of shikimic acid, which is the prime ingredient in the antiflu medicine Tamiflu (oseltamivir phosphate). OK, drinking enough pine needle tea to equal even one Tamiflu dose is close to impossible, but if it’s all that’s available who knows? It doubt it will hurt. That is, unless you pick the wrong type of pine tree.

Needles from some types of pines are poisonous. These include the ponderosa, lodgepole, juniper, yew, and several others. The type that seems to be cited and safe is the white pine. But again, as with the poisonous ones, there are plenty other nonpoisonous ones. The point is, as with any wild plant, know what you’re ingesting, and avoid it completely if you have doubts.

As with the garlic, I’d avoid any near a road or anywhere that could have been sprayed recently. And avoid them completely if you might be pregnant. They’ve been linked to miscarriages. Just for safety I’d avoid them if you’re breastfeeding and limit the amount of or avoid giving the tea to small children.

A gum ball from a sweet gum tree.

A gum ball from a sweet gum tree in my yard.

3. Sweet Gum Tree

Sweet gum trees grow mainly in the East and South and in California. If you live in one of these areas, you know them as those trees with the horrible thorny “sweet gum balls” that fall and cover the ground in a prickly mess.

The seeds inside the balls contain a small amount of shikimic acid. In fact, a variety of the tree found in China contains a lot more of the stuff—so much that it is refined to make the actual Tamiflu. Apparently Native Americans used to chew sweet gum tree sap, and I’ve heard of people using a twig as a toothbrush. It’s supposed to be good for your gums (the gums around your teeth, in your mouth; the wording can be confusing). Like the pine needle tea, I’d not give much to children and avoid it completely if you are breastfeeding or might be pregnant.

4. Dandelion

Another weed I have plenty of is the dandelion. It seems to grow about anywhere it wants to in the yard. The leaves are delicious in salad, but don’t eat too much. They can have a mild laxative affect. Good if you’re constipated of course. Again, avoid any that might have been sprayed.

The plants I’ve mentioned are just the ones I’ve noticed at first glance of the property. I’m sure there are many more.

What about you? What wild plants in your area have medicinal uses?

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Cattails: How To SAFELY Harvest And Eat Nature’s 4-Seasons Survival Plant

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Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

A lot has been written about cattails, although the focus often tends to be on warm weather months. But I’ve harvested and eaten this remarkable plant throughout the year.

Still, don’t be tempted to yank out a young cattail shoot and start munching away. The cattail may be safe, but is the water it was growing in safe?

Cattails tend to grow in swampy waters, ponds, lakes, creeks and even ditches. The caution is that many of these bodies of water are rife with aquatic microbes — from amoebas to microscopic parasites — carrying everything from giardia to typhoid. It is one thing to get sick at home and drive over to the doctor or a hospital, but it’s quite another to develop amoebic dysentery in a survival situation. There are simple ways to avoid this but the telegram is: Don’t eat an unwashed section of cattail that has been immersed in any body of water.

And Now The Good News

You can use many parts of the cattail in a survival situation, across all four seasons. There are extremely few plants that can fulfill that level of nutritional, medicinal and functional value from summer through winter. Remote survival environments can often present you with cleaner, safer water, as well.

Let’s examine how it can be used, season by season:

SPRING

As a food source:

From a survival food standpoint, the best parts of a cattail to harvest include the spikes (the emerging plant) in early spring, the spike-shaped shoots throughout spring and early summer, the yellow, pollen-covered heads at the top of the plant mid-spring, and the roots (although the roots are better and bigger as they mature into winter).

Learn How You Can Make Powerful Herbal Medicines, Right in Your Kitchen!

The spikes or emerging plants can be found poking above the water or just beneath the surface. The spikes actually look like a very large leek with a white base extending two to five inches and a long green stalk leading to the early fronds emerging at the top of the plant. I also save the roots at this time, but we’ll get to that later.

Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

I cut the first six to eight inches from the base and collect them. These need to be rinsed in fresh water and ideally, soaked in vinegar for 10 to 20 minutes. Vinegar is a natural antiseptic and will help to kill and remove any bacteria. Rinse them again in cold water or just enjoy them with their vinegar flavor. In an extreme survival situation where you have no resources, you can always roast them over a fire to kill any bacteria.

You might also spot some shoots emerging from the stalks. These show up in spring and continue into early summer. They’re usually above the water line and are triangular in shape. The base is white and you chew the end like a potato chip or strip it with your teeth like an artichoke petal. I’d still give them a rinse if you can, even though they’re above the water.

Some people say the seed heads at the top of the plant can be boiled and eaten like sweet corn. I tried it and didn’t like it. Maybe I should have tried it sooner in the spring, but if I’m starving I’d give it another try.

The roots

Regardless of the time of year, the roots are an excellent source of starch, like potatoes. You need to peel the roots first like a potato, rinse them well and then let them dry. Some sources suggest that you can eat the roots raw. You can eat anything raw, but cattail roots present a very fibrous texture and uncooked can give you stomach and intestinal distress.

Once they’re dry, they’re often pounded into a flour. You can also cut the roots into pieces and crush the root in some water on a board. Drop them in water and the starch will sink to the bottom. You may have to rinse and repeat. That sounds like something you’d find on a shampoo bottle, but you need to do it, followed by carefully allowing the starch slurry to dehydrate. What you’ll end up with is a flour that can be used to bake breads and biscuits or to make pancakes.

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It sounds like a lot of work, and it is. I prefer to peel and wash the roots and roast them over a fire and then chew them. You can always roast them on the end of a stick. You’ll have to spit out the fibers as you chew.

Functional value

The functional value of cattails in the spring is somewhat limited, only because the immature plants are small in size. That’s because the long fronds of summer and fall that can be used for weaving, cordage and other uses are undeveloped, as is the rest of the plant. However, the dried and dead stalks from the previous season can be used as tinder for starting a fire.

SUMMER

As a food source

In summer, the cattails are beginning to mature but there are still some shoots emerging on the sides of the stalk. The roots are also good, and the same approach applies that we described for spring roots. The seed heads will begin to present pollen in summer, and that can be mixed with the flour from the roots. You can carefully shake the pollen into the flour from the seed head, or cover it with a bag and shake the pollen into the bag.

Functional value

Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

If you take the time to practice a bit, you can learn to weave cattail fronds into just about anything, from baskets, to a hat to protect you from the sun, to cordage, but weaving the fronds into rope is better done in the fall, when the fronds have matured and are tougher and more fibrous.

FALL

As a food source

The roots are now your primary foodstuff and are prepared the same way. They’ll be larger so you can harvest less to get more. The seed heads now have the appearance of a brown corn dog.

Functional value

The cattails have now matured to a tough, fibrous plant. You can still use the fronds for weaving, and now is when the fronds make the strongest cordage.

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What you’re going to be doing is a basic braiding process of overlapping three or more strands of cattail fronds. You’ll need to add in additional pieces as you go to splice in new fibers. Sometimes you can actually tie small knots to make a better connection from splice to splice. Watch this video to understand this step better:

Story continues below video

 

 

You’ll also notice that the seed heads are releasing puffs off fluff. This is an exceptional tinder, and the interior of the seed head will still be dry even in wet weather.

WINTER

As a food source

Roots are at their peak. The seed heads will have gone to seed in pieces of fluff. The stalks and fronds are starting to turn brown. Prepare the roots as before.

Functional value

The seed heads, stalks and fronds have now turned brown. This offers numerous fire-starting and insulation possibilities. The fronds can still be woven, and the seed heads continue to offer excellent tinder in addition to the dry, dead stalks and fronds. Cordage can still be made, but the strength will not be as dependable as fully green and mature fronds.

The seed heads in early winter will be loaded with fluff and can be used as insulation. If you collect enough, you can stuff a T-shirt to make a pillow. The stuff is a real mess if it’s not contained, but in a true survival situation it can be dumped into boots or gloves, adding insulating layers. It’s also highly absorbent if you’re trying to dry out those boots or gloves.

Final thoughts

If you know of a source of cattails, then go out and collect a few and get to know the plant.  Depending on the time of year, try some of the suggestions covered in this article. I’ve had a lot of fun sitting on the back porch with my kids and teaching them how to use cattail fronds to weave a basket or make a length of rope. It makes me feel good to know they’re learning some new skills for self-sufficiency and survival thanks to the humble cattail.

Do you know of other survival uses for cattail? Share your suggestions in the section below:

Harness The Power Of Nature’s Most Remarkable Healer: Vinegar

10 Fast-Growing Spring Vegetables You Can Harvest In About 30 Days

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10 Fast-Growing Spring Vegetables You Can Harvest In About 30 Days

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

We live in a day and age where instant gratification is the norm. Therefore, when it comes to gardening, sometimes we want and expect the same.  Unfortunately, as a general rule, you can’t speed up the natural world.  Plants live and die by the seasons, day length, sunlight and climate. That leaves us gardeners sowing seeds, planting plants and ultimately waiting in order to reap the rewards of our efforts.

Most vegetable gardeners know the great joy and excitement when they finally harvest and taste that first ripe tomato of the season. Fortunately, not all vegetables take so long to mature and produce a harvest. But if instant gratification is more your speed, try planting some of the following fast-growing vegetables in your garden this year. You’ll be eating fresh and tasty homegrown produce in no time!

1. Radishes. For the fastest-growing radishes you’ll want to stick with spring radishes. I’ve had great success with “French Breakfast” radishes in my own garden. These are seeded directly in the garden in the spring and take about a month to mature. You can even eat the tender radish sprouts in salads or on sandwiches if you need to thin your crop, or if just can’t wait the full month until the root is mature.

2. Turnips. Spring turnips have really taken off in popularity the past few years, and for good reason. They are tender and sweet and can be eaten cooked or raw. “Hakurei” and “Tokyo” turnips are two of my favorite varieties, both taking about a month to mature. Don’t forget about those turnip greens! They are delicious tossed into soup or sautéed in a bit of butter on the stove.

Need Non-GMO Herb Seeds For Your Spring Garden? Click Here!

3. Salad mix. Salad mix is a great option for fresh salads all spring and early summer long. If you are looking for the fastest producing mixes, choose those containing only leaf lettuce. With days to maturity right around one month, and the ability to harvest multiple times from one seeding, salad mix is a win-win choice!

10 Fast-Growing Spring Vegetables You Can Harvest In About 30 Days

Image source: Pixabay.com

4. Kale and other leafy greens. When choosing quick-growing leafy greens, the options are many. Baby kale, Swiss chard and arugula are a few of my favorites. These are also crops that you can harvest and let regrow for multiple cuttings. Days to maturity depend on specific varieties, but tend to average around 40 days at their baby size. If you don’t get around to harvesting them when they are young, they are equally delicious fully grown.

5. Green onions. Many people would agree that no meal is complete without a touch of onion. Come spring, green onions are a go-to allium available fresh from the garden. If starting these from seed, you can seed about 10 seeds per transplant cell to make for easy harvest of a full bunch when the time comes. Beth red and green varieties are available, with days to maturity averaging about two months.

6. Snap peas. A favorite of many a spring gardener, snap peas taste as sweet as candy when harvested at their peak of freshness. In some climates, you can manage both a spring and fall crop, but they always seem to taste a bit sweeter in the spring. Most varieties will need trellising and will mature in about two month’s time.

7. Spinach. Spinach loves cold weather and can even be over-wintered in some locations. Sold in both smooth and savoyed leaf varieties, spinach takes about a month and a half to reach harvest size. This is another green that can be harvested multiple times from the same plant, and will continue to regrow until the temperatures get too hot.

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

10 Fast-Growing Spring Vegetables You Can Harvest In About 30 Days

Image source: Pixabay.com

8. Bush beans. Bush beans are a great season long garden choice, performing well in spring, summer and fall. “Provider” bush beans are my personal favorite for consistent and productive yields. Bush beans do not need trellising, but they do benefit from regular harvesting to maintain productivity. If you end up with more beans than you can eat, they are easy to freeze for future use. Days to maturity for bush bean varieties averages about a month and half.

9. Baby carrots. So much tastier than those found in the grocery store, baby carrots such as the variety “Napoli” take about a month and a half to reach maturity. Spring and fall carrots will taste the sweetest, and seed germination is much easier to achieve in cooler temperatures. With that being said, once germinated, carrots are able to grow all season long.

10. Pickling cucumbers. Not only are pickling cucumbers great for making pickles, but they are equally tasty sliced on sandwiches and into salads. Pickling cucumbers take about two months to reach maturity, and prefer slightly warmer soil temperatures, making them great for summer-long harvests. Many pickling cucumbers do not require cross-pollination, making them great options for balconies and greenhouses.

It’s obvious from the above list that options abound for quick-growing garden vegetables. While there’s nothing tastier than waiting for the first taste of a vine-ripened summer tomato, with proper seed and transplant selection, you can be feasting from your garden in virtually no time!

What fast-growing vegetables would you add to this list? Do you have any other advice? Share your tips in the section below:

Every Spring, Gardeners Make This Avoidable Mistake — But You Don’t Have To. Read More Here.

5 Frost-Resistant Vegetables You Can Plant Super Early

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5 Frost-Resistant Vegetables You Can Plant Super Early

Khol Rabi. Image source: Pixabay.com

The days are getting longer, snow is disappearing from the garden and the air is rapidly getting warmer. You’ve spent your dreary, winter days planning this year’s garden. Are you feeling the gardening “itch” yet? If you haven’t chosen which vegetables yet to grace your garden this year, here are five hardy vegetables you can sow outside soon – if not right now.

The soil may still be a bit hard, but if it is workable, then dig and add a layer of compost or manure to the garden. This doesn’t mean scrape the ice and snow off if there is any still there. If you still have snow and ice on your garden, you will need to wait a bit.

If all is well, then begin planting. Remove any weeds and other plant debris you may find. If you are planning to plant any produce that requires stakes or supports, add the supports now. Place a cover over your garden to help protect and warm up the soil before planting.

Check for any pests, especially slugs, as the weather continues to warm up during the month.

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If you want to try something new, raised garden beds save your back from the hard work of bending to till and dig. These beds heat up quicker than traditional gardens in the springtime, but they still need to have good soil and drain well.

Ready to plant?

Here are five popular and healthy choices for your March planting. They are all hardy, and can be planted outside to enjoy during the spring and summer.

1. Spinach. This cool-weather plant can take about six weeks to grow from seed. All you need to do is loosen the soil before planting. You also can prepare the soil for this vegetable in the autumn if you want to save time in the spring. Spinach likes moist soil, but not soggy. When the plants start to grow, you will need to thin them to prevent overcrowding – a big “no-no” with spinach. You’ll need to buy fresh seeds every year, as spinach seeds don’t seem to store well. This green vegetable is full of vitamins and can be used for salads, main dishes and cooking.

5 Frost-Resistant Vegetables You Can Plant Super Early

Image source: Pixabay.com

2. Leeks. Here is another tough, hardy vegetable you can plant now. Leeks need well-drained soil with organic matter to protect and boost health. They like a sunny, yet sheltered spot. Planting now will allow you to harvest leeks at the same time as you do onions. You will need to break up the soil before planting and the seeds need to be spaced about an inch apart (one to two centimeters.)

3. Turnips. Known as a root-vegetable, turnips are easy to grow. They are full of nourishment, with many minerals and carbohydrates. Turnips grow well in cool, moist soil, and they mature in about six to 10 weeks. You don’t need too many seeds. Plant them by sparsely sprinkling the seeds in a row. Cover with a thin layer of dirt and add a little fertilizer before watering. Turnips should sprout within a week. Water during any dry weather. You can harvest turnips when they are about the size of a golf ball.

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

4. Spring onions. This type of onion should be planted in a part of the garden that isn’t waterlogged or still frozen. Pick a spot in the garden that gets a good amount of sun and break up the soil. Rows should be shallow, and you simply drop the seeds into the rows. Add some sort of fertilizer to give plants a boost. By planting spring onions now, you will get a crop in June and July. They can be enjoyed raw or in salads. You can even use them as a substitute for other onions.

5. Kohl Rabi. Here is a fun-looking, hardy vegetable that seems to thrive in cool temperatures. Kohl Rabi grows well in temperatures of 40-75 degrees Fahrenheit, or 4-23 degrees Celsius. It needs 45-60 days to fully mature. Kohl Rabi likes full sun and handles frost well. You will want to plant this vegetable half an inch (one and a half centimeters) deep, in a thin row until plants are five to eight inches apart. The soil needs to be moist. Use compost on the garden bed. You’ll notice Kohl Rabi is sweeter than cabbage. It stores very well in the refrigerator for one week, or up to two months in a cool place.

There are so many other vegetables you can enjoy as well. Choose your seeds, wake up your garden and get planting.

What vegetables would you add to this list? Share your thoughts in the section below:

Every Spring, Gardeners Make This Avoidable Mistake — But You Don’t Have To. Read More Here.

7 Ways To Keep Raccoons From Invading Your Homestead

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7 Ways To Keep Raccoons Off Your Homestead

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

Raccoons may look cute, but don’t be fooled; they’re tenacious and destructive pests that will readily eat your crops, make a mess of your gardens, and kill your chickens. Raccoons can grow up to 30 pounds, overpowering many medium-sized guard dogs. Their sharp teeth and propensity for carrying disease can make them a direct threat to your family, since raccoons will viciously protect nests and feeding sites.

Raccoons build nests in the spring, and love to find ways into your house and outbuildings, near abundant sources of food like your garbage cans. Before spring hits, consider raccoon-proofing your property to dissuade these invaders from moving in.

In the wild, raccoons build their dens in crevices like hollowed trees or brush areas. Although nocturnal, they adapt very well to suburban environments, where they can make a den under a deck, or in chimneys, crawlspaces or outbuildings. Raccoons can tear holes in buildings, too, removing shingles or duct openings to get indoors. Once inside, the raccoons and their young will create a lot of damage, tearing up insulation, damaging floors and staining areas with urine. In the yard, raccoons will tear plants up to look for food. They like to eat corn and fruit near harvest, as well. Most disastrously, they will steal eggs from poultry, killing the birds if necessary; in a single night, a raccoon can decimate a small flock of chickens or ducks.

Seamazing: The Cheap Way To Re-mineralize Your Soil

Most raccoons have their young in the spring, with up to six kits born at a time. Young raccoons live with their mother until they are about a year old, when a new litter is born. Raccoon populations can grow very quickly where there are food sources and places for dens.

How to Keep Raccoons out of Your Yard

There’s no surefire way to keep raccoons off your property, but there are a few measures you can take to prevent a large population of raccoons from taking up residence in your yard — and to prevent raccoons from constructing dens in your home or outbuildings. Here are a few:

1. Seal up possible den sites. Thoroughly inspect your property for gaps and holes that can allow raccoons access to your attic, crawlspace or outbuildings. Most raccoons can gain entry through any opening three inches in diameter. Secure the entry points by installing chicken wire or metal sheeting covering the openings. Seal pet doors at night.

2. Eliminate outdoor food sources. Birdseed, pet food, animal feed and stored food can all attract raccoons to your property and help them make a home. Lock up or eliminate all outdoor food.

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7 Ways To Keep Raccoons Off Your Homestead

Image source: Pixabay.com

3. Cover your garbage and compost pile. Use a garbage can with a heavy, tight-fitting lid, or strap the lids down with bungee cords. You also can keep garbage in a garage or outbuilding until it is time to take it out. Compost can be contained in a box with a lid that locks, to keep raccoons from making a mess of it.

4. Build a strong fence. Especially one around garden areas. If you have a bad infestation, you may want to consider an electric fence: high voltage, low amperage is the safest option.

5. Use repellents. While there is no fail-safe raccoon repellent, you can keep raccoons from a small area using motion-activated water sprayers. Don’t use ultrasonic devices; these typically do nothing except annoy your neighbors. There is a fluid commercially available, made from secretions from the glands of male raccoons, which will drive females with litters out of an area in some cases. Raccoons also dislike the smell of ammonia; this can be used to drive raccoons from an interior space or keep them from garbage areas.

6. Trap and relocate. This method is particularly effective for relocating litters of raccoons, as trapping the young is easier than trapping adult raccoons. If you locate and trap the young, you can use them to trap the mother before relocating the entire family. It is also possible to trap adults on their own and relocate them to a forested area far from urban property.

7. Get a guard dog or scare them off. Some people have success with scare tactics, such as chasing raccoons with brooms, or yelling, or leaving the radio on in outbuildings, or even keeping guard dogs. Be aware that a cornered raccoon will attack, so use these methods with extreme caution. However, being a nuisance around a raccoon’s litter will likely cause the mother to relocate her babies to another area, so it may be worth a try in those cases where a den is already set up.

When dealing with a pest as intelligent and adaptable as raccoons, vigilance is necessary. The best prevention is maintenance around your property. Monitor your property for signs of raccoons and act immediately to discover nesting sites and food sources and cut them off. Raccoon-proofing is well worth your while; keep these destructive and potentially dangerous animals from wreaking havoc on your home and yard.

What advice would you add on chasing away raccoons? Share your tips in the section below:

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Spring fever yet?

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Spring fever yet?
DJ Cooper “Surviving Dystopia

Spring fever yet?If you’re like me spring fever is in full swing about now. Every time I look out the window at the pitiful lonely garden space, I just want to go throw some seeds at it or something. The yearning for the spring time air for even the hardiest of winter lovers is setting in. I hear the birds chirping their spring come quickly songs and even seen a couple of the mice outside the house too.

Listen in this week or better yet come chat with us LIVE!
Let’s talk about spring and all the wonderful and work related things that comes with this season of rebirth.

2-24-16 potsFrom frost dates to which seeds should be sown outside and which should be started inside, and for that matter how many weeks ahead, there is indeed a whole lot of planning going on around the homestead.

2-24-16 spring_chick_and_daffodilsSpeaking of planning, I am planning to add some baby chicks here in a few weeks and it is certainly still a little cold for these little cuties to be outside yet, so plans must be made for them as well.

Anyone who gardens knows that gardening starts long before we actually put plants into the garden and this week is a good time to start thinking about some of the things to get a head start on our garden and springtime homestead chores. With some planning one might find in the future, an abundance of perennials that pop up all by themselves. Even these need a little spring time sprucing and feeding.

2-24-16 photo-originalConsidering bees? Now might be a good time to do some study on the subject because they are still sleeping. Come spring you will need to be ready for the hungry hoard buzzing about looking for some tasty flowers to start gathering nectar from. Late spring is when you can often times find a swarm in need of a home.

There are many things besides your garden waking up in the spring. We can both stave off the winter blues and be one step ahead in time for the spring plant. Our show this week will examine some of the wisdom, DIY and homestead hacks I found while lurking about in my spring feverish state.
Next week: Off Grid Money Making.
Surviving Dystopia Blog:www.survivingdystopia.com

Join us for Surviving Dystopia “LIVE SHOW” every Wednesday 9:00/Et 8:00Ct 6:00/Pt Go To Listen and Chat

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5 ‘Get Ready For Spring’ Chores You Better Do Before Winter Ends

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5 'Get Ready For Spring' Chores You Better Do Before It's Too Late

Image source: Pixabay.com

The fields lay dormant, the animals are less active and the earth is at rest. For most, winter on the homestead means daily chores may take longer to complete each day, but there certainly are fewer of them to tend. Although that does leave plenty of time for dreaming, planning and even relaxing, there are numerous things that can be done in the final few weeks of winter to make for an easier spring on the homestead.

Here are five items to put on the checklist for the end of the winter season.

1. Create an action plan.

Where should the homestead be by the end of the year? Start by brainstorming ideas and putting them in writing. Prioritize the few that need to be accomplished this year and, for the moment, save those that should be put off. Think realistically. Multiple large projects may seem feasible, but could lead to burnout or worse yet, be completed with less-than-quality work. From gathering materials for a building project to ordering spring chicks for increasing the backyard flock, getting a plan in place is essential for a smooth spring.

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In this planning stage, consider negotiating bartering agreements for skilled labor that needs to be done on the homestead or for supplies that are not locally available.

2. Evaluate the property.

Looking to increase the garden plot, the orchard or the fields this coming year? Map out the locations and evaluate the potential yield as a result of the increased areas. Some areas can serve dual purposes with careful planning. Use these winter weeks to read up on effective land-management strategies that will increase the production of the existing property when appropriately utilized.

Seed orders will be arriving soon, so be sure to have the potting shed or potting area ready to go. This includes performing necessary maintenance on grow lights and other greenhouse apparatuses. Cold frames should also be prepared for use. This is the time to check trellises, tomato cages and other gardening tools. Make repairs, sharpen shears and replace these items if necessary.

3. Rotate stored supplies.

5 'Get Ready For Spring' Chores You Better Do Before It's Too LateHaving a ready supply of food and other necessities is a trademark of self-sufficiency, but rotating these supplies is sometimes neglected. There are few things more discouraging than having to dispose of supplies that are no longer fit for use on the homestead. Inventory the food storage areas, including all pantries, root cellars and freezers. Plan the next few months’ worth of meals using foods that will be replenished with this year’s harvest. While completing the inventory, take time to clean the storage areas thoroughly before they are refilled.

4. Work ahead.

In the busy months of spring, summer and fall, it is often difficult to find time to replenish homemade goods that are used throughout the year, such as laundry soap, cleaning solutions, medicinal ointments and other products. The slower months of winter present the perfect time to work ahead and leave the stress of adding one more item to the to-do list behind. Estimate the needs of the household and start from there. Keep careful records of what product was made, including the amount produced, and also note when it runs out in order to plan more accurately for the following year.

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Clothing needs can also be addressed early to avoid hassle during the busy summer months. Reinforce buttonholes and knees, and replace worn-out clothing items by purchasing or making ahead for the warm summer months.

5. Perform seasonal maintenance.

Seasonal maintenance is a normal part of the home life; however, nonessential repairs are often left for those days when the problem is no longer bearable or nothing else more important fills the time. Patching and repainting drywall, mending frayed linens, tightening door handles, oiling hinges, and reinforcing loose handrails all add to the comfort of home but are often neglected. Even repairing or replacing the screening material on removable window screens and doors will save valuable time.

The above-mentioned items are certainly not the only things to consider doing in these last few weeks of winter. Any work that can reasonably be done ahead is work that should be done now, leaving more time for the necessary work around the homestead in the busy spring months.

Related:

10 Winter Activities Guaranteed To Boost Your Homesteading Skills

The 3 Best Livestock For New Homesteaders

What would you add to this list? Share your suggestions in the section below:

Discover The Secret To Saving Thousands At The Grocery Store. Read More Here.

Spring is near

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Spring is just around the corner, I am noticing the oak trees, which keep their leaves all winter long, are beginning to turn, they fall off and are replaced in very short order. Most other locations, the leaves turn in fall/autumn, but not our oak trees. I am also noticing the other trees, which have lost their leaves are starting to bud, just little bumps on the branches right now, but will soon bust out into a riot of bright green leaves.

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Another sign of spring is the days are getting longer, something I appreciate, I find I can get more done during the daylight, when it gets dark, I just want to crawl in bed and relax.

I am looking forward to the green grass and spring flowers, I love taking pictures as I drive all over west Texas doing merchandising, I get to see some very pretty country, much of it is harsh and hard, but there is a beauty if you are willing to look. I am building up a portfolio of pictures I can use for making cards, (greeting and post cards), mainly to sell to the tourists who pass through on vacation, also to sell to the locals who wish to see something pretty all year long.

The SkyCastle is growing, slowly, but still moving along. PB has been working on the room under the house, we are built on a hillside, so the front of the ground floor room is tall, but as it goes back, the “floor” slopes up, so PB has been digging out the floor, one section at a time, then pouring concrete walls to support the back of the house. Once it’s complete, it will be our bedroom, it will be partially underground with thick concrete walls, there will be two doors but no windows. The idea is to have a protected space that is easy to heat in winter, and stays cool in summer. It will also free up the room we use as a bedroom now, we can use it as a dining room or perhaps even another bedroom when we have overnight guests.

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The other project around here is the lawn tractor, PB is working on making it a half track vehicle, it will be better able to get up and down the steep and rocky terrain, and to help preserve the land. Regular tires tend to dig ruts in the dirt, smoother tires can’t get a good hold, and aggressive tires tear up what they go over. You can see the teaser article about this here: http://www.off-grid.net/56795-2/.

A couple of weeks ago, PB hurt his knee on a ladder, the hardest part about this injury was keeping him off that leg, he wants to work, he needs to do chores, but every time he used that leg, it hurt, a lot. It is healing now, with the help of ibuprofen and a MSM & glucosamine supplement. He isn’t complaining about the pain as much now, which is a good thing.

That’s about all for this blog update, if you have anything you would like to know, any questions you would like to ask, feel free to post them in the comments below.

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Spring, getting prepared!

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Spring, getting prepared!
James Walton “I Am Liberty

Spring groundhogIt seems like every warm day in Winter is brings such a deep hope of whats to come. I don’t know about you but I experience winter fatigue about 3 days into the season. Not really. After the holidays though I do begin to climb the walls. I like to be outside and have the option to go and see and do. I love all the great things associated with Spring and its coming. The days are getting longer and I cant wait till the days are warmer.

2-22-16 GardeningWhat types of things are you planning this Spring and Summer? I want to hear from listeners and chat room folks about what you are working on for the spring and summer. I have some very clear and exciting projects that I am going to be working on and I would like to talk about them as well. Also what things didnt work for me last spring.

2-22-16 apple_tim_cookThere is a lot of news as well. I would liketo talk about the Tim Cook issue and get your thoughts on apples CEO and his decision not to forge his way into the terrorists cell phone to get information. This issue speaks to a lot more than just what is happening in this nation but all over the world.

Tom Locke: Surviving America is going to be out on February 26th! This is an incredible story about battling domestic terrorism and not turning our backs on fellow Americans, regardless of religion. Get your hands on this great book that will be available in almost a week.

Dont miss this episode of I AM liberty we are going to have a great discussion about getting motivated for the warm weather and how to take advantage of it.
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Self Reliance Weekly Report: Planning for Spring

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This week’s Self Reliance Weekly Report is all about getting ready for spring.

It’s here: that time of year when it’s still winter, but the anticipation of spring is in Read the rest

The post Self Reliance Weekly Report: Planning for Spring appeared first on The Organic Prepper.

Spring gardens!

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Spring gardens!
Brett Bauma “Makers On Acres

Spring gardensOn the next episode of the Makers On Acres Tech, Build and Grow show we are going to be discussing preparing for our spring gardens!

On the last episode I talked about indoor gardening, but now is also the time we need to be focusing on and planning our spring gardens and getting ready to produce some food!

1-30-2016 3483926142_fec5aa45f5_bWhat can we really do in February to prepare our gardens? We can be doing a lot of little things that will help set us up for success when we hit the garden hard in the spring. Many times we sit through the winter planning in our heads “The Great Garden” for this year, and when the time comes we get overwhelmed and under produce with poor results.

1-30-16 5268691633_6e90cfcf11_bI will be discussing a few projects that we can all do to get ready and have our plan in effect for a productive and abundant garden this spring. Don’t waste the precious down time. Before tuning into the upcoming show I suggest that you listen to the archive episode from Saturday the 23rd of January about indoor gardening, as some of that show will be helpful when I start referencing seed starting and plant propagation for our spring gardens.

I will also be discussing some building projects and other labor tasks that we can knock out now to make our garden start that much simpler this spring! Be sure to tune in and spread the word!
Makers On Acres:Website: http://makersonacres.com/
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7 Health-Boosting Indoor Herbs You Should Grow This Winter

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7 Health-Boosting Indoor Herbs You Should Grow This Winter

Basil. Image source: Pixabay.com

With several months until spring arrives, it will be a long while before most of us can harvest anything from our gardens. Fortunately, there are a number of herbs that we can grow throughout the winter that can provide not only a bit of the greenery that many of us miss this time of the year, but can also help to keep us healthy all winter long.

The following are just a few of the herbs that you can grow indoors during the winter.

1. Aloe vera

Aloe has a legendary reputation for healing burns and sunburns. Because it contains compounds that promote rapid healing and tissue repair, it is also useful in helping the body to heal from insect bites and stings, rashes, eczema, acne, skin ulcers, and skin inflammation due to poison oak and poison ivy. Other uses of aloe include arthritic pain and bursitis, and soothing inflammation.

How to grow aloe indoors during the winter:

Without A Doubt The Best Kept Secret In Indoor Self-Reliance Gardening…

Aloe does best when located near a sunny south-facing window. It prefers well-drained soil and moderate watering. Aloe is not frost-tolerant, so be sure to protect it from chilly drafts.

2. Holy basil (tulsi)

Holy basil is classified as an adaptogenic herb (a special class of herbs that helps to bring overall balance and restore vitality to the body), so its uses are almost endless. It has traditionally been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years as an overall body tonic that works especially well at protecting the brain, nervous and respiratory systems. Holy basil can be especially helpful when doing any sort of detoxification protocol.

How to grow holy basil indoors during the winter:

Holy basil is easily started from seed in soil that is above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It is quite sensitive to cold temperatures, so be sure to keep it in a sunny place where it will not be subjected to cold drafts. Pinch off the flowers to encourage the plant to put its energy into leafy growth that you can use for making tea or other herbal remedies.

3. Parsley

Image source: Pixabay.com

Parsley. Image source: Pixabay.com

Parsley is rich in chlorophyll, vitamins and minerals that can help to treat iron deficiency, anemia and fatigue. It is a useful herb for supporting bladder and kidney health, and also helps to dry up mother’s milk during the weaning process. It makes a tasty addition to fresh salads, and helps to freshen breath. Parsley goes well with many beef, poultry, fish and vegetable dishes.

How to grow parsley indoors during the winter:

Parsley needs at least six hours of sunlight, and a temperature range of 55-75 degrees Fahrenheit to grow successfully. Water it about twice a week, or whenever the soil feels dry.

4. Oregano

Oregano adds wonderful flavor to Italian and Greek dishes. It can help to battle stress and irritability, as well as insomnia due to tension and stress. Oregano is a good herb to help support the immune system when faced with bacterial or viral infections.

How to grow oregano indoors during the winter:

Oregano needs 6-8 hours of sunlight each day, a temperature range of 55-75 degrees Fahrenheit, and well-drained potting soil. Water when the soil feels dry, about once per week. Do not overwater, as too much moisture will cause the roots to rot.

Frequent trimmings will lead to bushier, healthier foliage.

5. Chives

Chives are an easy-to-grow herb in the onion family that can be used in a variety of dishes and culinary applications.

How to grow chives indoors during the winter:

Chives require 4-6 hours of sunlight per day, and a temperature range of 55-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Water the plants twice per week, or when the soil feels dry.

6. Peppermint

Mints are notorious for vigorous growing, making them an excellent candidate for growing in a container throughout the winter months.

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7 Health-Boosting Indoor Herbs You Should Grow This Winter

Peppermint. Image source: Pixabay.com

Peppermint is one of the first choices of herbs when digestive comfort is needed.  It can help to relax muscles and reduce stomach cramps and spasms. Its scent can freshen breath as well as a room. It can be used as a disinfectant, a headache reducer, and a pain reducer for bee stings, burns and toothaches.

Peppermint contains many vitamins and minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, and serves as a tasty addition to many dishes, including blender drinks, soups, salads, pesto sauces, and can be used to prepare red meat dishes such as lamb.

How to grow peppermint indoors during the winter:

Peppermint is easily grown in a pot from cuttings. It prefers rich, moist (but not too wet), and well-drained soil, should be placed near a sunny window, and kept at a temperature range of 55-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Water when the soil becomes dry to the touch.

7. Sage

Sage is a great herb to have on hand during the winter since it goes well with poultry dishes, especially during the holiday season.

As a bitter tonic for the liver, sage aids the digestive system in the digestion of fatty meats. It is a good herb to help rebuild vitality during long-term illnesses, can help to support healthy hormone balance, and assists in supporting the immune system when battling colds and the flu. It also works great as a sore throat spray or gargle.

How to grow sage indoors during the winter:

Grow sage near a window that receives six to eight hours of full sunlight per day, at a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  Keep it away from drafts, and water as needed whenever the soil surface feels dry.

What herbs would you add to this list? Share your herb-growing-advice in the section below:

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A Cheap and Easy Way to Extend Your Growing Season

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Want to eat fresh home grown greens all winter long? This video shows a cheap and easy method for extending your growing season into the winter months.

This simple structure is a low tunnel. Low tunnels are called by different names in different regions. I’ve heard them referred to as a hoop houses, cloches, and cold frames. Those terms get the point across, but each each of them technically refers to something else. So for the sake of clarity, we’ll call this a low tunnel.

Components of a Low Tunnel

The structure is a simple series of hoops. I’ve seen people use PVC pipe, PVC electrical conduit, steel rebar, cattle panel, and flexible fiberglass rods (like tent poles). In my opinion, the best option is PVC – unless you have one of the other materials on hand already. A 10 foot length of 1/2 inch schedule 40 PVC pipe typically sells for under $1.50 – so it’s affordable. PVC electrical conduit is about the same cost, and it should last longer out in the elements.

My favorite method for securing the posts is driving a piece of rebar into the ground and fitting the PVC over the rebar, as is demonstrated in this video. (It’s comical to think that you could drive rebar 2 feet into the ground in my area – solid rock down there – we use pieces that are about 1 foot long, and we can usually get them about 8 inches deep.) I have also seen many people use pipe straps, screwed into the sides of their raised beds. I think the rebar method is better – especially if your beds are a few years old and the wood has started to break down. And, the rebar method can be done on any bed or row, even if there is no frame.

The final element is the cover, and this is where I’ve heard a lot of debate about which material is best…

Plastic versus Cloth as a Low Tunnel Cover

There are two common options: plastic or cloth.

Plastic sheeting allows light in to the plants, but it doesn’t allow for any air circulation or water penetration. Water may not be an issue if you’re protecting a bed that has drip irrigation installed. But because there is no air circulation – plastic is prone to overheating the tunnel on sunny winter days. If you use plastic, you need to remove or ventilate the tunnel appropriately to avoid smothering your plants with hot, humid air.

Cloth is a better option for air circulation, and water penetration. Floating row cover is a cloth material made of woven synthetic fibers that allows hot air out and allows water in – while providing insulation and light penetration similar to that of plastic film. In my relatively warm and dry climate, cloth row covers work very well for low tunnels. Be careful about using old sheets and blankets in wet weather – those can absorb water and they can actually cool the air as that water evaporates.

A couple of tips and pointers:

Climate: Take your climate into consideration when choosing the material you use to cover the tunnel. Where I live, I need to take advantage of every drop of rain that I get – so I use cloth instead of plastic. If you have abundant winter rains and you need to regulate the soil moisture – plastic might be a better option for you.
Integrity: If your low tunnel is very long, or if your garden gets a lot of wind in the winter – consider using an additional length of pipe across the top, length-wise, for structural integrity. Fix it to the hoops using twine or zip-ties – not pipe fittings.
Staples: In the video above, they staple the plastic to the raised bed frame. I would skip that step, and use rocks or bricks to weigh the plastic down instead. You’ll extend the life of the cover and make it easier to ventilate on warm days by avoiding the staples.
Lights: You can use a string of Christmas lights inside the tunnel for added warmth. If you do this, you will want to use the old school incandescent lights. The newer LEDs are more efficient, but they don’t offer much warmth. In this case, you want less efficient bulbs that use more energy, and generate more heat.
Survival Blankets: You can add a survival blanket on top of your cover for extra insulation on very cold nights. Face the shiny, aluminized side down – and remove the blanket to let the sun warm the soil again on the following day.

Check out this PDF from the Colorado Master Gardener Program and the Colorado State University Extension. They tested a low tunnel with 4-mil plastic sheeting, a survival blanket, and a 25 light string of C-7 Christmas lights. With all three of these measures in place, they consistently raised the temperature inside the tunnel between 18 to 30 degrees. You can read or download the PDF here: Frost Protection and Extending the Growing Season.

To see some more creative ways to add heat inside a structure during the winter, read these two great articles from our writing contest. This one is technical: Mad Scientist Works For Greenhouse Heating Independence Down To -25F, and this one is practical: Saving Heat in a Small Winter Hoop House.

If you want to eat fresh home grown greens this winter, but you don’t want to build a structure… Here’s a much smaller scale solution that you can put into place right on your kitchen counter: Grow Sprouts and Microgreens Indoors All Winter Long.


Thanks to Natalie Donnelly, John Garlisch, and Nissa Patterson of the New Mexico State University – Bernalillo County Extension Service, for the nice video.

Thanks to David Whiting, Carol O’Meara, and Carl Wilson of the Colorado State University Extension for the PDF Frost Protection and Extending the Growing Season. Their original post can be viewed here: CMG GardenNotes.

 

Spring: Not Just For The Birds! For Moose Too!

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Sometimes we forget that with the spring sunshine and birds, come the wild animals.
Like the moose.
They come out looking for food, warmth and salt. The warmth and salt they find on the roads, dangerous though it may be.

Have you ever seen a wild moose? Ever seen one up close?

They are much bigger than we think, being mostly leg, and frequently moose vs vehicle encounters have catastrophic results for both vehicles and moose.

Fortunately this one lived to wander another day.

This photo was taken by Tanner Davieaux on the Searchmont Highway (#556) near the Ranger Lake road cut-off while he was staying at a delightful local B&B, Austin’s Wilderness B&B
Our thanks to Tanner and Austin’s for the photo!

We’d love to hear about your encounters with all things wild. Tell us all about it in the comments below!

50 Birds Can’t Be Wrong

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For all the complaining I do about winter and cold and how tired I am of splitting wood, I have been lucky enough to watch our local bird population grow slowly.
This past week I’ve seen an increasing number of grosbeaks, purple finches, doves and an assortment of swallows. It helps that a neighbour a kilometer down the road has a cluster of bird feeders.
Spring is on it’s way, slowly but surely.
All those birds can’t be wrong, can they?