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Saturday, July 31, 2010


My kids participated in a neighborhood parade.
Don't you think it should be mandatory for each neighborhood to have one, it just screams summer, don't you think? 

Madelyn had her first taste of an Otter Pop, can you tell whether she liked it or not?
I hope you are having a wonderful dreamy summer! 


Friday, July 30, 2010


Sunflowers are fun and an important addition to the backyard farm. Here is why everyone should grow them.

Beautiful - Sunflowers are beautiful. When the Illinois Blacksmith John Deere was choosing colors for his new plow, I bet he was looking at a sunflower. The deep green and yellow are synchronous as opposed to corn where the green and yellow are asynchronous. How can you look at a sunflower and not smile? One fresh sunflower makes a great centerpiece for the table. 

Colossal – Sunflowers are daisies on radioactive steroids. Here I stand next to my sunflowers. I am 6’4” tall. That biggest sunflower is over 9 feet tall. WOW! 

Attracts beneficials - A sunflower is a huge billboard to the pollinating insect world that says “EAT ME”. When you have sunflowers every pollinator knows where to go.  The morning feast in a sunflower head is entrancing. Go out early and you will be amazed at the bees, wasps, and ants all jockeying for position to get the nectar and in return pollinate the hundreds of stigmas in each head. You can stick your face right up to the flower to watch. The pollinators are so focused on their work that they don’t notice you. These same pollinators will go on to pollinate other plants in the garden.  When the flowers are gone and the seeds set, here come the birds that will also gobble up some of those pesky bugs in the garden. 

 Disease and insect resistant – There are not very many diseases or insects that bother sunflowers.
  Incredible roots – The roots penetrate several feet down in to the soil to add organic matter and improve the tilth. They can actually help break up hard pan and draw up that deep moisture.
Drought resistant - The deep roots make them drought resistant. We have not watered our sunflowers since they were a foot tall and this summer has been very dry. Note how brown the pasture is behind the sunflower stalks in photo 2.
Weed resistant – Because the roots are so efficient in collecting water, other plants can’t compete with sunflowers. Make sure you keep them a few feet from your other fruits and vegetables.
Windbreak - I have notices that they actually serve as a little windbreak for the garden. 

Harvest - Sunflower seed yield is incredible. Whether you or the birds eat them, someone will have their fill. Try this. Fill your cheek full of sunflower seeds. Then one by one crack each seed with your teeth and tongue. Spit out the hull.  Then move the kernel over to your other cheek. When you have processed them all, you will have a nice cheek full of kernels to chew up and swallow. It’s a lot healthier than chewing tobacco.
Josey Wells – Sunflowers remind me of my favorite Clint Eastwood line from the movie Outlaw Josey Wells -  “Yeah, well, I always heard there were three kinds of suns in Kansas - sunshine, sunflowers, and sons-of-b_ _ _ _ _ _.” 


Thursday, July 29, 2010

I've got an earwig, crawling towards my brain.........

I’ve got an earwig, crawling towards my brain……….
Not really, but how many of us have seen earwigs and cringed in horror. I have always been disgusted and even a little scared of earwigs. I think I have a few good reasons.

My disgust with earwigs started as a young boy. I remember sleeping in a tent in my grandma’s yard with my cousins Steffan and Cory. In the morning, some earwigs had crawled into our tent to escape the coming sun, and my older cousins proceeded to tell me that we were lucky that we woke up before the earwigs crawled into our brains. Needless, to say, I was not pleased by this idea.

Following this experience, my family rented a VCR from the local video store for the weekend. I cajoled my parents into letting me rent Star Trek the Wrath of Khan (my geekiness started early in life). There is a terrifying scene in that movie where Khan let’s a huge bug crawl in Chekov’s ear and burrow into his brain for the purpose of mind control. I immediately surmised that this must be the alien version of the earwig that was in my tent.

Fast forward to junior high (still a geek) and I recall listening to The Dead Milkmen’s song “Earwig.” The poetic chorus went a little like this “You got an earwig/It’s crawling towards your brain/and you got an earwig/the glorious pain.”

As you can see earwigs and I go way back and I am still horrified when I come across a gang of them. Luckily we don’t meet up very often since earwigs are nocturnal and I prefer to sleep at night. I also don’t find myself hanging out in earwigs favorite damp wet areas like mulch, cracks, organic debris, and crevices. Earwigs do however eat some of the same things I do like exposed fruits and vegetables, not to mention that they will eat the leaves and shoots of my garden plants.

How do we get rid of them naturally, just in case my cousins Steffan and Cory were right and they do have a habit of burrowing into our ears? Try the following methods.

1 Limit moist dark areas when you can. This is not always easy in a garden but it is easier to do around your house if you have a pest control problem.

2 Take a small cardboard box and poke holes in the side near the ground. Get the box wet and sprinkle with oatmeal. Set it out in the evening and empty the trapped earwigs the next morning.

3 Place some beer in a small jar and set the jar on its side in your garden. Earwigs will be attracted to the beer, crawl into the jar, and drown.

4 Roll up a magazine or newspaper and get it damp. Leave it in your garden in the evening. Earwigs will escape in to damp dark newspaper and you can then dispose of the newspaper in a sealed container the next morning.

If you follow these methods, you will reduce the amount of earwigs in your garden and around your home, thereby reducing the chance of one actually crawling into your brain.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Building Chicken Coops for Dummies

Look what's coming out soon! Building Chicken Coops for Dummies. Where was this book when we were trying to build ours? It hasn't been released yet, so I can't give it my stamp of approval, but I thought that I would get the word out to those of you looking to build.


If any of you do read it before I get a chance to, shoot me an email and let me know what you think about it. 


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Factory Food

by Dale

As I write this article, I am crunching down a luscious cucumber that I picked this morning. I love gardening, producing my own chicken and eggs, and going to the farmers market. I like making bread and chicken noodle soup from scratch. I like to get my food locally and I like knowing how it is produced. I like knowing the farmers I get my food from. Before Myron Martin was forced to quit selling raw milk, I liked to get to my milk from him. I love my job working for the University of Maryland to help farmers and teach students about agriculture. And every time I go to the grocery store and see the  incredible variety of meats and produce available at such low prices to 300,000,000 people in the United States and think about feeding 7,000,000,000 people around the world, I appreciate our factory food system. To help keep things in perspective, please watch the following video.

I realize this is propaganda from BASFAgro chemical company, but until we convince more people to grow their own food and improve our local food systems and production methods, we need to appreciate our ability to feed to so many with such scarce resources.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Mother of All First Aid Kits - week 3

Yes, yes, yes, it is P-Day again (preparedness day). We are on week 3 of making our Mother of All First Aid Kits. We know that as we are prepared we don't need to fear or stress. If you missed out on week 1 and week 2, just click on the links and start there!

Mother of all First Aid Kit Grocery List Week 3

Face masks-$2.82
Burn jell- $5.64
Chapstick- $.98

Total $9.44

Now, go write this down on your grocery list, your planner, iphone, hand, bathroom stall,  where ever, just make sure you write it down so you don't forget. What are you doing still sitting here? Get moving, go write it down.

Don't you already feel the release of fear and stress?


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Garden Talks in the Park

If you are in the Salt Lake area, you may want to consider going to these free garden talks! I'm going, maybe I will see you there. 

Garden Talks in the Park
Located at the southeast corner of State Street and North Temple
8:00 PM Wednesday, 28 July 2010

All about fruit trees, followed by an open diagnostic clinic (bring your problems). Please join the expert horticulturists for complimentary one-hour garden talks. The talks begin at 8:00 p.m. in June and July and at 7:30 p.m. in August. No tickets are required. All ages are welcome.

They have these each week, click here for the complete list.  

Friday, July 23, 2010

Balcony Makeover

Remember this ugly balcony?
The balcony door is the only natural light source for our living room and kitchen, and since I love natural light, I constantly have the blinds open and had to look at this eye sore each day. I decided that I needed to make some changes. We have an amazing view of the mountains and I wanted to be able to sit in the evening and drink my herbal tea and look out at my view. Previously all I had to look at was some bikes and dead plants.  I took a trip to the farmers market and the thrift store and here is the finished product. 
Come on in, I'll give you a tour.
Like I said, I wanted a place to sit and drink my tea at night and look at the beautiful mountains. I had previously bought this chair from a thrift store for $5 and painted it blue and cream for my house, but it looks just lovely on the balcony. If it looks like we are going to be here for a while longer, I am going to get a trellis and will grow peas up it on this wall. 

I bought the hanging plant from the farmers market for $4, what a steal! It has 5 basil plants in it and a rosemary plant.  The only problem was I didn't have anywhere to hang it. I bought the shepherds hook and attached it with wire to the railing.
I bought the 3 herbs from the farmers market for $4 each.
Sage, stevia, and lavender. 
I bought this old yeast box from an antique store and thought it would be really cute with some succulents. This was in my dark apartment kitchen and most of the succulents didn't make it, so I decided to give it a try outside with this grouping. I like all the different colors and textures in this corner. 
The unused pots got stacked next to the other plants. I liked the addition of more texture and color that it brought to the grouping.
Now to the middle section. The planters on the railing were previously laying on the floor of the balcony because they are meant to be screwed into a wood railing and I didn't know how to hang them. I ended up just using wire to attach them to the metal railing, and it has worked great. I planted impatiens in the planters to remind me to be patient in my search for a house.
I got this table, the lantern, and the 3 metal candle holders from the thrift store for a total of $11. I was going to paint the table, but once I got it home, I really liked the color of it.
This little corner still needs a little work, but the black eyed susan plant just brightens my day. One of the pots has the remains of a mint plant that my friend Tressa transplanted from her yard for me before she moved. I guess mint dies if you fail to water it for 3 weeks. I have tried to revive it, but I think it is a goner.
This is a raspberry shoot that I dug up from my old house. I'm hoping to keep it alive until we get to our new house. It will be a fun reminder of my first backyard farm. As you can see I have a little helper who likes to throw the dirt all over the patio.
 Which got her banished from the balcony.
But all is well.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

I’m going to be a Master Gardener!

 by Dale 

Master Gardeners is a program offered by the University Extension in most counties in the U.S. The purpose of the program is to train gardeners to be knowledgeable about gardening methods so that they can volunteer to train other people in gardening techniques. I am enrolled in the Master Gardener training course in Frederick County, Maryland. It is exciting and fun. The course runs from 6:00-9:00 pm on Wednesdays and from 9:00 am–3:00 pm on Saturdays through July and August. – 40 hours of instruction. We cover A LOT of material. The seminars are taught by University Specialists and Master Gardeners. They are all knowledgeable and interesting.  Here are some of the topics we cover:
  • Woody Ornamentals
  • Trees and fruits
  • Annuals and Perennials
  • Vegetables
  • Turf grass
  • Soils and fertilizers
  • Plant  propagation
  • Pruning
  • Diseases
  • Entomology
  • Weeds
  • Integrated pest management
  • Botany
  • Ecology
 We get great resource materials, take field trips, make presentations, and have to pass an examination. We commit to volunteer at least 40 hours a year to help others. Some of these activities include speaking at garden clubs, teaching seminars, staffing plant clinics, answers questions at the telephone bank, writing articles for newspapers and the internet, etc.
But the best thing is improving your own gardening techniques. I have gardened for years but I am amazed at how little I know and how much I am learning. Each seminar teaches me new ways to improve my garden. I would encourage everyone who wants to take gardening to the next level to enroll in the Master Gardener training program in your county. Just contact your local University Extension office. 

by Dale

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Have you ever had to make a big decision and just haven't had a really clear cut path to take? We have placed about 15 offers on homes, none of which have panned out in the last 6 months. A few have slipped right through our fingers, and 2 we lost out in bidding wars. One of the very first homes we looked at, and named "the dirty house" is getting close to completing the short sale process. We are in first position to buy the home. Today we went and looked at it for the 3rd time.  I'm saddened that people could let what was once a beautiful home become overcome with "stuff" and from neglect.  We looked at 3 other homes that are currently on the market as well to get a gauge for the value. After seeing them all, I'm still not sure as to what we should do.

House #1
Most expensive out of all we saw today. On and 1.17 acre, with a fenced pasture. Living room/kitchen were small. To get to the master bedroom you had to go through the master bath. SO, if I were in the master bedroom and someone decided to go to the bathroom, I would be stuck in my room until they were finished, then I would have to walk through their stink to get to the rest of the house. This was a no.

House #2
We saw this house a few months ago and I was really drawn to the cute porch and red door.  First time we saw it, the price was $40,000 higher, with the lower price it puts it back on the table. It is on an acre, smaller than all the others, and has an unfinished basement, and I'm not a huge fan of the floor plan. Like I said, this one is in the running.

House #3
We are in first position on this house. It is a pretty new large house. It is on a half acre, but for some reason it feels as if it is only about 1/4 acre. This house is at the top of our price range and I still haven't been able to see the inside of it, but have seen the pictures, therefore it is hard to make a decision on this one.

Then there is House #4 (the dirty house)
Michael and I have always been drawn to the street that his house sits on. I went for a drive out in this neighborhood a few weeks back and my heart ached to live in the neighborhood. It backs up to a little undeveloped hill and there is a ravine right behind the property. I pictured my kids with a stick and a little satchel exploring for hours. This house sits quite a ways back from the street making it so the backyard isn't very large for a 1 acre property and we would have to really utilize and be creative with the front yard. It is on an acre, it is one of the largest houses we have looked at, and the outside really has some cute features. It has a little rock turret on the right side, ivy growing on it, and a little courtyard as you walk up the front steps. The only problem is that it has about 15 people with ALL of their stuff in it. The carpets have been trashed, the walls are written on by children, doors have holes in them, walls have holes in them, and toilets are black.  Each time we have gone to see it, the owners plus about 5 other adults, and 4 kids in diapers are wandering around, it is hard to get a feel for what it would be like if it were my house. My heart says YES, save this house! But, my head sometimes screams RUN, THIS IS A DISASTER!

What do you do when you have a big life changing decision to make and you are torn between your heart and your head?


Strange Herbal Cures

by Michael 

Marisa has started going through a course to become a family herbalist. It has already helped our family’s health dramatically and I am a huge proponent of finding natural herbal cures to help with the many maladies that befall us in our time. The main approach that we are taking is one of prevention. According to what Marisa has learned, many of the health issues that we have are due to putting bad things into our body. We are trying to eat unprocessed natural foods more. We are making green smoothies for our children’s breakfast instead of fruit loops. We are using homemade soap made with natural ingredients.

Regardless of our belief in herbal health care, I still had to laugh out loud as I read through one of Marisa’s books, Herbal Home Health Care by Dr John R Christopher. With some of the cures I felt that maybe the cure was worse than the primary problem. Let me give you a couple examples.

Hiccups: According to the book, hiccups are often caused by eating or drinking too much too fast. The cure it gives is to try and relax and take a teaspoon of onion juice. Not thanks Dr Christopher. I think I will try to hold my breath instead, or maybe just live with the hiccups. The thought of drinking onion juice makes me throw up in my mouth. After that cure, I would have to find an herbal cure for upset stomach and vomiting.

Earache: The cure for earache is pretty simple. All you have to do is “lightly bake a large onion, cut it in half while warm and bind one piece of onion over each year. Hold bandage on with a nightcap and leave on all night.” Thanks Dr Christopher but I don’t know if I will be able to sleep with onions on my ears. Not to mention that no one has nightcaps anymore. Can you imagine what someone would think if I answered the door with a nightcap and onion earmuffs on? 

I am sure there are other funny cures out there. Let us know if you have heard of or used any.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Kick...kick....kick....that is me kicking myself. You know why? Because Michael and I had a brilliant plan a few years ago, but never did anything about it.

When I was at the farmers Market last week, I met some really great people with the same great idea Michael and I had a few years back.  Their company sets you up with your own little urban chicken operation.  With prices starting at $400 you get a tractor style coop, 2-3 hens, a feeder, waterer, 25 lbs. of feed, and an operation consultant.  Some people want the benefits of having their own flock, but just don't have the time or skill to get started.

If you are in Utah and want to get started with your own urban chickens, give them a call. They seem like really great people to work with! Check out their website at chickoopy.com.

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

The winner of the $25 gift card to Bubble and Bee Organic is.....Drum Roll Please....

lisawith4 said...
I've been trying to be more aware of what is in our health/beauty products. I'd love to try these items. Thanks for sharing.

Lisa with 4, just shoot me an email so I can get your email address and Stephanie from Bubble and Bee will send you the gift certificate!

Thank you Stephanie from Bubble and Bee for hosting this great giveaway!


Monday, July 19, 2010

P-Day First Aid Kit-Week 2

Woot Woot, it is P-Day (preparedness day) and I know that you are all extremely excited! Hopefully you have collected your items for Week 1 of the  Mother of All First Aid Kits and we are on our way to being prepared.  We know that as we are prepared we don't need to fear or stress. If you haven't started your very own Mother of All First Aid Kit, don't fret, just start today with week 1.

Mother of All First Aid Kit Grocery List- Week 2

Bandage $3.77
Butterfly closures $1.52
Neosporin $3.87

Total this week- $9.16

Now, go write this down on your grocery list, your planner, iphone, hand, bathroom stall,  where ever, just make sure you write it down so you don't forget. What are you doing still sitting here? Get moving, go write it down.

Don't you already feel the release of fear and stress?

Saturday, July 17, 2010