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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Readers Question: Balancing Chickens

We are currently caring for our sons two chooks whilst he is overseas. We have done this a number of times previously and fondly refer to the girls as our grand-daughters. This time whilst one chook is fine and healthy and laying the other chook is molting and displaying signs of balance loss. She appears to stagger to the side and has also been seen to go backwards whilst trying to forward.

Any ideas or suggestions regard this behavior would be greatly appreciated.
~Jeanette & Jim

If you have any answers or suggestions for Jeanette & Jim, leave a comment.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Cheat Sheets Winner

The winner of the Paint Color Cheat Sheets is Stephanie who said, "We also just purchased a house and will need to paint EVERYTHING! Thanks for the great giveaway!" 

Congrats Stephanie! Send us some pictures of your progress.

Memorial Day

Take some time today to remember those who died for us.

Decoration Day

Sleep, comrades, sleep and rest
On this Field of the Grounded Arms,
Where foes no more molest,
Nor sentry's shot alarms!

Ye have slept on the ground before,
And started to your feet
At the cannon's sudden roar,
Or the drum's redoubling beat.

But in this camp of Death
No sound your slumber breaks;
Here is no fevered breath,
No wound that bleeds and aches.

All is repose and peace,
Untrampled lies the sod;
The shouts of battle cease,
It is the Truce of God!

Rest, comrades, rest and sleep!
The thoughts of men shall be
As sentinels to keep
Your rest from danger free.

Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours.

                              -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Array of benefits make growing produce at home popular

by Ryan Halston - Guest Writer

Making the choice to grow your own crops, fruits and vegetables is a decision that’s seemed to become more popular along with the “going green” movement. The shift towards being more holistic and putting control over consumption into your own hands has seemed to taken place in the past decade or so. Even if you haven’t made the switch to growing some of your own crops at home, there are a number of benefits that could help to sway the decision. 

Price is often the number one reason that people decide to make the switch to gardening crops and food at home. For example, one packet of seeds is generally less than a grown fruit or vegetable. Sometimes, the price of a pack of fruit or vegetable seeds can be less than the price of one or two of the actual food. For the money that’s being put towards fruit and veggies, there is a lot more bang for the buck in growing at home. 

The affect that growing your own food at home can have on health is excellent. When you grow your own food at home, you can control the use of chemicals that are sometimes rampant on food. There have been instances of pesticide, bisphenol A, melamine, and even asbestos exposure in some cases. Growing your own food at home allows you to oversee any pesticides or problems that may occur with the crops, keeping any possible health risks to a minimum. 

The taste and enjoyment of growing your own food is another major benefit of investing in your own gardening practices at home. Taking out any type of delivery and shopping system, growing food at home allows for the highest amount of freshness within the food. Instead of being picked and stored for weeks, then put on a shelf at the grocery store, the fruit or veggie can simply be picked whenever you feel necessary. 

A simple first step of growing a few small items like berry plants or fruit trees can be a great help. These types of plants will live for a long period of time, grow, and keep producing. This is not a project that has to skyrocket overnight, as a garden can be built up through time as you become more comfortable with growing produce. Luckily, with the influx of people trying out their own gardening and produce at home, there are a number of outstanding resources out there to help guide any newcomers in growing their own produce. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

My Square Foot Gardens

By Von Christensen- Guest Writer and Avid Gardner

I created two new Square Foot Gardens this year, 2011.  My first two sections of the gardens are with treated wood and/or seasoned wood.  The completed garden box is approximately 35 inches tall and 4’ x 4’.  I placed weed cloth over the grass, and then added large rocks for about 26” and a layer of sand, another layer of weed cloth and about 9 inches of my special soil (a third part compost, third part of vermiculite and third part of peat moss).  I divided my garden into squares and planted.

My front garden is planted with eight squares of bush beans (half yellow and half green).  I can plant nine seeds per square; thus 72 plants.  I planted one square with carrots, 16 plants.  I planted one square of swiss chard, 4 plants; one square of cucumbers; and 5 squares of potatoes or 20 plants.  So my front garden contains 113 plants.  I will water with a drip system (when it quits raining).
Planting potatoes in my garden is interesting.  I dig a hole in my square and take almost all the soil out.  I then place four cut potatoes with their eyes pointing to the sky and cover with just enough dirt.  When their leaves start to show through the soil, I cover them again with my soil.  This process is continued over the next few days until the square is completely filled again.  I do this because the potatoes will grow up along the stem and I can then “pick” the potatoes instead of  “dig” them as is done in regular dirt gardening.  I also plant baskets and tubs with potatoes and use this same process.
In my back SFG I created a mini greenhouse.  My soil doesn’t come to the top of the garden so my plants are about 15” from the top.  Next I planted my tomatoes and put cages over them and secured the cages with rebar on the outside of my gardens.  Because of the rain and colder weather we are having I put heavy clear plastic over the cages, thus creating a greenhouse to keep my plants warmer at night and let what sunshine there is to come in during the day.  When it gets hotter and stops raining, then I will remove the plastic and off they will grow.
I planted six tomato plants (I always purchase tomato plants from Costco as they are healthy and large); one bush cucumber, two pepper plants.  I still have 7 more squares to plant.
I  also planted potatoes in two large 5 gallon pots placed in the flower garden out back and a half wooden barrel.  I can gather the potatoes with my hands rather than dig them out in the fall.
I plan to use this greenhouse method in the fall to create a longer growing season.  With the plastic on during the day (temps not higher than 70 degrees) I will be able to create my greenhouse effect.

By Von Christensen- Guest Writer

Friday, May 27, 2011

Microgreens: Healthy Fast Food

My thoughtful brother and sister in law bought me Country Wisdom and Know-How for my birthday. It was a thoughtful gift and I really appreciated it. However, it was one of my favorite books already and we have used it as a sort of backyard farming guide for years (see link above for review). I returned it to the book store and bought another book that I have had my eye on for a while. Microgreens: A Guide to Growing Nutrient-Packed Greens by Erik Franks and Jasmine Richardson.

I haven't grown microgreens yet but I plan to use this book to help me start. my love for them started when I first had a pea shoot salad at a restaurant. Microgreens are vegetables in their very early stages. They are the stage a plant goes through after sprouting and before becoming baby greens. Microgreens are planted and then harvested usually within 4 to 10 days after sprouting. You cut the tips off of them and you have mini vegetable leafs that go great in salads, on sandwiches, and in meats. They are extremely flavorful and all the rage in fancy schmancy restaurants. They are packed with nutrients and even taste healthy and fresh. My main goal in learning how to grow them is to supplement my winter foods with fresh microgreens throughout the cold months. They can be grown indoors under lights, or outdoors using extremely small and limited areas. The image below is from the book.

I haven't had a chance to read all of the book yet as I have spent all my free time recently preparing a garden bed and trying to survive beekeeping for the first time. I plan on doing a review of the book once I have finished it but in the meantime I wanted to share a quote from the book that I really liked.

As human beings, our roots lie in the soil. Although many of us have forgotten this important link over the past few generations, our connection with nature is so ancient and fundamental that it cannot be completely disregarded. If while we are eating we pause for a moment, we can easily follow our food back to the plants, the animals, the soil, and even the wind, rain , and sun. All of these things have their confluence on the farm. here is no avoiding that the health of the earth and the health of human beings are intimately tied. 

Have you had microgreens and if so what did you think about them? Have you grown microgreens? What did you find worked for you? Any feedback, experiences, or opinions on microgreens would be very appreciated.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Gone With the Wind

Living on the frontier has it's benefits and it's drawbacks. We love the unobstructed view of the mountains, the amazing sunsets, how quiet it is at night, that we can walk out our backdoor and go for a hike or go mountain biking, we love watching the antelope, and we love that we can see so many stars at night.

All these benefits come with some drawbacks though. One of the drawbacks are the extreme gusts of wind. It was terrible last night and kept us all up for about an hour. See this trampoline, it ended up in our yard, and it belongs in the yard of the cute yellow house.
If the wind can do that to a trampoline, just imagine what it can do to my garden! 

No need to imagine, this is what it does to my garden.

Saturday we got our garden planted, Sunday we had hail. Luckily most everything survived. Monday morning I was on my 5:30 am run with my friend Heather, I was telling her how stressed I was about my garden.  She told me about what she does to protect her garden.

Her husband is the principal of a local high school. After the lunch cooks finish cooking, he collects all the large empty food cans and brings them home. She then opens the bottom of the can leaving about 2 inches of the bottom connected to the can. She places a can over each plant and pushes it into the ground a little so it won't blow away.

The little plant can still get sunlight, but has some protection against the wind. 
For the smaller plants, if you get hail, you can flip the lid to protect it from the hail. 

Her husband was so nice and brought some home for me too! 

The result.....a trashy looking garden. But, hopefully we will have some plants that can survive the elements.

What are your tips for protection against the wind?


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Review and Giveaway

Does picking a paint color put you in a panic? Do you stand in the paint section debating over a few paint chips for hours?  Do you have all white walls, and wish that you could find, the perfect shade of green, yellow, or red? Or maybe you are like me, you have no problem picking a color,  but once you do and have a room painted, you sometimes find that it is a shade or two off of what you were hoping for.

If you fit in one of those categories, I will suggest Paint Color Cheat Sheets.

It is a quick read, and a great resource.  It lists the very best colors from Sherwin Williams color wheel (which I love). The cost of the Cheat Sheets is about the same cost as a can of paint. So, if you struggle with colors, in the long run it will save you money by eliminating the need to re-buy and re-paint.

The brains and talent behind the Cheat Sheets is giving away a digital copy to one lucky backyard farming reader.

To enter this giveaway, all you have to do is leave a comment!!! 
(It isn't mandatory, but I would love to hear what you would like to paint as well. )

Giveaway will close this Friday at midnight.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sideways glance: One way to plant tomatoes

By Jennifer

Quick! Raise your hand. Straight up! From shoulder to fingertips.

OK, now lower your elbow and make an L. Is your hand still raised, fingers still pointing up?
You betcha. And what's more, you've just demonstrated how I planted my tomatoes: Sideways.
My tomato seedlings this year grew extremely leggy. It wasn't really my plan. I started them indoors under lights in their little black plastic pots, then dutifully rotated them to the patio to harden off before advancing to the garden. In a fit of energy I took apart my light rack and put it away. That was before a day of cold, dark, wet yuckiness.

I brought the seedlings back inside, thinking the sun'll come out tomorrow -- no need to set up the grow lights again. No such luck. The cold day lasted more than a week, and the indoor hostages grew gangly stretching to find light.

Actually, I think these tomatoes may be stronger for it. When it finally warmed up and dried out somewhat, I introduced the tomatoes to the garden. For each I dug a hole about 8 inches deep and set the plant in on its side. Think of the root ball as your shoulder in our earlier exercise. Your tomato plant arm is outstretched. Holding the plant mid-stalk, I carefully made an elbow and held the plant upright as I filled the hole with dirt, bringing the soil level to about an inch below the lowest leaf. Most of my tomatoes were longer from shoulder to elbow (the horizontal section) than raised forearm.
Here's a close-up of a tomato stalk. 

See all those little bumps? Those are root buds. This plant had seven inches worth. By burying so much of the stalk sideways in the ground, I've given my tomato plants a chance to develop incredibly strong root structures. This will pay off later in their ability to withstand wind and water stress. I hope they will grow as eagerly as a know-it-all student. "Pick me, pick me!"
What are some of your planting tips?

Monday, May 23, 2011


The prettiest tree on our property happened to be placed right over our poo tank. Apparently that is a big "no no".  We called a neighbor of ours to see if he had a chainsaw and he came right over to do the dirty work for us. 

Man I love this neighborhood!

The blade wasn't quite sharp enough so we regrouped after dinner to finish the job. 

(Before we even owned the house)


Good bye beautiful tree, you will be missed! 


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Holy Cow!

Check out this article on raw milk.

Herbal Remedies offer hope as the new antibiotics.

Environmental Stewardship.

10 ways to save your yard in a drought.

5 Reasons High Fructose Corn Syrup will kill you. 

Check out this double yoker that my friend Megan found in her chicken coop. OUCH!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Chicken Waterers 101

Key to the good health of chickens, both broilers and layers alike, is a constant supply of clean water. Inadequate water can stunt the growth of broilers and reduce egg production. So it is important to have a watering system that meets the needs of the chickens and is also easy to maintain in terms of refilling and cleaning. Water is easily “fouled” with chicken manure. It is important that the system avoids this and is easily cleaned if it does happen. Watch below as Dale explains that advantages and disadvantages of the watering systems that he has used through the years. We would also appreciate your experiences. If you would like to explain your system, please comment below. We also welcome any questions. If we can’t answer them, there is probably someone reading this blog who can. 


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Projects That Get Out of Control

A lot of projects on a backyard farm start small then get out of control. Watch how a $10 kiwi plant from Lowes explodes into a major project involving time and money.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Of Pasture Walks and Garden Walks – Part 2

By uncle Dale

Our agrarian culture is long gone. Or is it? There are over 700 people following this blog. There are tens of thousands who want to reconnect with their food sources. We can bring our agrarian culture back – right into our towns and cities. Here is how to do it in 2 steps.

Step 1. Grow food this year. It is early May and a perfect time for planting seeds or transplants. Anyone can do this – in your window, on your terrace, in your backyard, in your front yard, in that vacant lot down the street. Become a farmer now! When people ask what you do, you will say “I am a school teacher and I am a farmer” or “I am an office worker and I am a farmer” or “I am a _______________ and I am a farmer” You fill in the blank with whatever your do and then tell them how you farm. 

Step 2. Join with other backyard farmers and conduct garden walks. Read my article on pasture walks to understand what I am talking about.  Take turns going to each other’s gardens. Start with prayer to thank Heavenly Father for our sun, rain, and soil to grow food. Then walk your garden and explain your farming methods to your fellow backyard farmers. Answer their questions. Ask for their suggestions. Really pick each other’s brains on how to improve production. Share seeds and produce. End the garden walk with a wonderful dinner made in your own kitchen created from your garden produce. If you need recipes for your garden produce then click here

Let’s bring back our agrarian culture and values into our homes, towns, and cities. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Nice Soft Bed

In a previous article I let you know that our soil is not ideal for gardening. Marisa and I knew we would have some work ahead of us when we moved in. After all, we live in the high desert of Utah and lush gardens aren't the thing that one thinks about one hearing the word desert. Here is what we did to prepare our first plot. Hopefully there will be many more like it.

Here is the before picture of the garden area.The first order of business was to till this area up and loosen the soil.

As discussed in a previous article, we had someone deliver a load of mink poop that had been composted with pine shavings for 3 years. 

 Marisa called her brother ( a landscape architect one of our contributors) Cameron  and he gave us the equation to figure out how much compost we would need. Our first plot is 15 ft x 25 ft which is  375 square feet. We decided that we wanted 6" of compost. Using the information on yesterday's post we calculated how many cubic yards we needed to add. (375 square feet *.5)/27=6.94 square yards of compost. This seems like a lot of compost, a but we considered it an investment that would pay off. Then we loaded the compost into our wheelbarrow and added it to the tilled garden area. Using a rake we spread it out about 6 inches deep throughout.

Next we tilled the 6 inches of compost in. We are trying a wide row method in this plot. Our rows are 2 feet wide and since we have a lot of space we made rows that were about 10 inches wide. We raked all the dirt from the paths into the raised rows so they are about 6 inches higher that the surrounding area.

Our goal with this plot is to refrain from tilling. Now that it is dug up and loose, we will probably just continue to add mulch and compost as our backyard farm produces waste. As we add this material our expectation is that our soil will get better and better without having to be tilled up each year.

As a side note, it is still pretty cold at nights here in Utah so we haven't planted our starts for fear of them being damaged. Where are you in the process of getting your gardening?


Monday, May 16, 2011

Getting the Garden Ready

Maybe you're asking yourself, how much can I plant? How much area do I need? How much of that monster pile of compost or soil to I actually need?

To determine how many plants you can fit use formula: 

Square footage x Spacing factor = quantity of plants

Let's take for example, I have a garden area that is 8 feet wide and 20 feet long. I'm interested in planting some squash and cucumber. According to the seed packet or pot they should be planted at 18" on center.

160 square feet (8x20) x .42 (spacing factor) = 67 total plants

If you've ever been to a mulch or soil yard, it can be very intimidating to guess how much of the huge pile you want in your pickup truck or trailer. Use this formula to gain some confidence in your numbers. (You might want to ask if they deliver...compost mixed soils and especially sand are very heavy. I have compromised the suspension in my pickup truck trying to be overly ambitious!)

Use this formula for cubic yards of mulch, soil, compost, etc.

Square footage x depth factor = cubic feet/27 (3'x3'x3') = cubic yards

We will continue with the example as above. My native soil is pretty pathetic and I want to till in some compost to amend the soil. (This is a great way to get your plants adapted to the native soil. It will provide nutrients for establishment and allow the roots time to strengthen before they enter the native soil.) A healthy 6 inches of compost will be adequate for me to till in this season.

160 square feet (length x width) x .5 (depth factor) =80 cubic feet / 27 = 2.97 cubic yards of compost.

Happy Backyard Farming!


Red Rock Relay-Moab

This weekend I survived a 70 mile relay race through beautiful Moab. I ended up running 10.5 miles of the 70.  This is a picture of me and my cute team, The Red Rockettes. There were 5 beautiful dancers...and then there was me that can't even clap to a beat. This biker wanted a picture of us with his bike, fun huh? That is me on the very left.

Did you have a good weekend?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Hardening Off

This week we have been hardening off our plants.

What is that you may ask.

Your plants up to this point have had a cushy life. The temperature, humidity, and moisture, has been closely monitored. They have not experienced full sun, wind, or changing temperatures. Hardening off is the process of slowly getting them used to the environment they are going to move to. A typical hardening off at our home may go like this:

Day 1: Move plants outside in the shade for 2-4 hours on a nice day.
Day 2-5: Move plants outside for 2-4 hours in the shade and one hour in the sun making sure the weather isn't too cold or snowy.
Day 6-7: Move plants outside for 2-4 hours in the shade and 2-4 hours in the sun.
Day 8-10: Move plants outside for 2 hours in the shade and 6 hours in the sun.
Day 11-12 Move plants outside for 8 hours in the sun.
Day 13-14 Leave plants outside all day and all night in the area they will be planted. Be sure that the weather overnight won't be too cold or windy.

I won't get to take advantage of the great weather we are supposed to have this weekend. I will be running a 70 mile relay race in Moab. 

What are you doing this weekend?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Big Day

Saturday was the big day. Bee pickup. The day that we officially became bee keepers. It was 20% thrilling, 80% terrifying. 

In January we ordered a 4 lb. package of bees from Knight Family Honey with some Christmas money we received. How do you weigh a package of flying bees? Your guess is as good as mine!

We show up at the warehouse and walk into a swarm of people and bees. Apparently one of the packages busted open and pounds of bees were on the loose.  As the bees were buzzing in my ear and on my 2 year old daughter, it was a struggle to stay calm. The man working there told me not to worry, they were just like flies. Right! Flies that sting!  At that moment it was also hard to remember why we were doing all this.

When we got to the car, LUCKILY we realized that the OUTSIDE of the package we were about to drive away with had bees on it. Can you imagine getting in the car driving away and having 30 bees loose in the car with your daughter strapped in a car seat? I think it would have put me over the edge.

We were all set, the boxes were ready to go, we just needed to dump the bees in the box. 
Michael had to take a few Lamaze breaths before he started.

He took the lid off and took out the queen.  Nice to meet you, Your Highness.

Michael then rubber banded the captured queen to one of the frames so that all the knights in shinning yellow and black armor could rescue her.

Next order of business,  dump the bees in the bee box.

A close up for you,  in case you aren't grasping what is going on here.
Are we out of our mind?

Yup, completely crazy.

He then carefully put the remaining frames in the box trying not to squish any of the bees.

We have a syrup mixture in the top box, which they will drink from for the first month.

Once it was all over and done with, we were pretty pleased with ourselves. Nobody got stung, and all the bees made it safely into the hive. Well, all but a few casualties.

Michael will check them weekly for a while, then he will start checking on them monthly.