Tuesday, April 30, 2013

DIY Wood Pallet Potting Bench

Did you know you can make an adorable, functional potting bench from leftover (and usually free) wood pallets? Yes, you can!

My husband found this idea and ran with it-- his work has several leftover and free wood pallets each week, so he grabbed about 3-4 and brought them home. The only portions he had to purchase new were a couple of wood 2 x 4's, which we aged with a solution of vinegar, steel wool, and coffee grounds to match the rest of the wood.

The potting bench in progress:

The finished potting bench:

We will use this piece for much more than potting and caring for plants and seedlings. Since its home is on our screened-in-porch, it will be used to store coolers on the bottom shelf, act as a bar/buffet for parties and gatherings, and  will be a great place to attempt messy projects that we'd rather not try indoors. Most of all, it will be a great one-stop center for all of my gardening and planting gear that I don't want to keep in the shed!

If you are handy with a saw and building stuff like my hubby, click here for some instructions.

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Monday, April 22, 2013

We have a BROODY!!!!

We FINALLY have a broody hen! Yay!! After many weeks of waiting and letting the eggs pile up, Pennyroyal ("Penny") has gone broody. I knew it was for real when at night when the other chickens were coming in, she was grunting and making high-pitched warning sounds while fluffing out her feathers over her eggs. The rest of the chickens kept their distance--and for good reason!

After a couple of days we moved her to the brooder's coop where she will be able to sit on, hatch, and raise  her baby chicks in peace without the interference of the other chickens (who can potentially cause harm). We also made sure she has a small feeder and waterer close to her nest so she won't have to get up much to keep herself nourished.

We are so fortunate to have a broody, because now she will do most of the work for us! However, there are still some things to remember when you have baby chicks even with a mama hen:

1. Make sure chick feed is available at all times and water is clean.

2. After about a week, remove all the other eggs that didn't hatch underneath mama.

3. Check to see if all the chicks can fit underneath mama- if not, they may need a lamp for extra heat.

4. Introduce treats very slowly to the babies and don't give too much. Last time we had a broody, I gave mama some blueberries cut up into teeny tiny pieces and some shredded cheese occasionally. She was soooooo excited for treats and clearly voiced to her babies how good they were. The babies would rush over every time and fight over the pieces- mama usually doled them out or showed the chicks how to eat the treats :)

5. Check in on mama and babies as often as you can. Its important that they remain safe and to avoid any problems you will have to keep a close eye on them.

6. Allow mama and babies to go outside to free range while supervised (by you). Mama needs a chance to teach babies how to forage, take a dust bath, and catch bugs! 

7. After about 4-6 weeks or so, try separating mama from the babies for a little while. See if she pitches a fit or if she is happy to be back with the other grown ups in the regular coop. It may be time for the babies to grow up the rest of the way on their own.

We plan to keep our chicks in the brooder coop until they are almost grown and can go into the other coop with the rest of the flock. They will still be able to socialize with the other chickens due to the adjacent pens.

Our broody is hunkered down for the long haul- her chicks will hatch out in about two weeks!!  Do any of you have chicks yet?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Using the Forest's Free Resources (edible or not)

How many of you have heard of cultivating an edible forest (or perhaps gleaning from its yields if you already have one)?

I have been trying to learn what edible or medicinal wild plants, nuts and berries are growing in our region that we could potentially harvest from the wooded land that surrounds our property. I love foraging. I think it's so cool to identify the useful plants growing right under our noses.

Here's what I've found so far:

  • Lots of hickory nuts.....

  • Wild poke weed. The only parts that are harvestable are the baby greens. Once the stems have turned a pinkish red color, the plant is already too mature and very toxic if eaten. The greens are quite good sauteed or with soups or stews.

  • Chickweed. Chickweed can be used for a variety of medicinal purposes. It can also be eaten as a nutritious addition to salads. 

  • Wild onions (use them like scallions)

  • Dandelion greens

  • Other Greens. I'm not sure what this is but we have several patches of it growing in our yard. It grows in clumps. Anyone have any ideas? 

There aren't as many wild berry bushes and vines as I'd hoped, but I did find a few that might yield something for us as long as we can get to them before the birds do.

We have found lots of plants in our woods that we are using just as much even though they are not edible. For instance, we kept finding these growths of some type of bushy ornamental grass. It was all over the woods in our yard, grows well in shade or sun, and seems to like our soil conditions, so we dug up several of them and planted them all around our house as free landscaping!

We also have done this with wild fern, which is beautiful and grows all over our woods. Fern is also great for adding to flower arrangements and for decorative use, such as botanical framing or pressed leaves for artwork.

Additionally, BJ uncovered tons of native rock and stone that was dumped and covered when our house was moved and put upon its new foundation. He dug it up and has been using it as a nice border for the flower beds. More free landscaping!

A great article on creating an edible forest or working with a semi-existing is located here. Do any of you have a type of edible forest or plan on growing one?

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