Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Aphids vs. Insecticidal Spray/Soap

My garden is in full bloom and so are the bugs! While pulling weeds in our garden yesterday evening I noticed that a few of my Brussel Sprout plants weren't looking very perky. Upon closer inspection I saw what at first looked like a powdery mold covering the leaves. Looking even closer I noticed hundreds of tiny green monster bugs crawling all over the place. They truly do look like what they are commonly called.... "plant lice".

Photo Courtesy of
I didn't take any pictures of mine since I was in too big of a hurry to get the infested plants as far away from my garden as possible!

 3 of my 6 plants were infested and had to be pulled up. Hopefully I caught them in time to save the other 3 plants. Just to be on the safe side, today I will mix up some insecticidal spray to spray over the entire garden. What a disappointment. Unfortunately, I can't control mother nature or the tiny horrors she unleashes on my lush garden. But, I can try to prevent further attacks!

I try to stay as organic and clean as possible, so I think first I will try this Tomato Spray recipe. I found it online HERE This spray is not supposed to harm beneficial bugs like ladybugs.

Tomato Leaf Spray 

  • One to two cups of tomato leaves
  • Two cups of water
  • A strainer or cheesecloth
  • Spray bottle
To make tomato leaf spray, simply soak one to two cups of chopped tomato leaves in two cups of water. Let it steep overnight. To make the spray, strain the leaves out of the liquid using cheesecloth or a fine strainer. Add another one to two cups of water to the liquid and add it to a spray bottle.
To use the tomato leaf spray in your battle against aphids, spray the stems and foliage of the infested plant with the spray, paying special attention to the undersides of leaves, since that is where aphids most commonly congregate.
Caution: While this spray is very safe for humans, some people are allergic to members of the nightshade family. If you are one of them, use care in making and applying this spray.

If the tomato leaf spray doesn't work I will try the homemade insecticidal soap recipe I found HERE This spray may harm plant leaves if mixed too strongly and may kill beneficial bugs as well.

Insecticidal Soap Spray

1 to 2 tablespoons liquid soap
1 quart water

Combine ingredients in a bucket, mix, then transfer to a spray
bottle as needed.

Hopefully one of these will do the trick before I lose anymore of plants. Wish me luck!

This post is linked-up to:
The Backyard Farming Connection Hop 40
Encourage One Another Link-Up 94
The Homeacre Hop 27


Friday, May 3, 2013

Photo Friday! Meet the animals

I thought it would be fun to do a little photo post today. In addition to the chickens (Pearl, Betty, Foggy, Chicken Little, Saphira, Bones...and 4 that have yet to be named) and horse (Belle) that have already been featured in this blog, I'd like to also introduce the "house pets". We share our home, lives and love with these little furballs!

This is our pug "Sassy". She is 12 years old and is recently blind from diabetes which she has had for 1 year now.

This is "Missy". She is a 5 year old Rottweiler/Lab mix and the sweetest BIG girl you would ever meet. She thinks she is a little lap dog and needs a constant flow of attention.

And last but not least..."Oreo" our long haired domestic cat. She's shy and hides when we have visitors but loves her nightly massage at the foot of my bed.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Companion Planting and Square Foot Gardening

It's that time of year again. Time to get all those glorious, life giving, seeds in the ground. I'm taking a new approach to gardening this year. In years past, I have kept a garden mostly for hobby and because I love to see things grow and live. I've always enjoyed testing new plants. Can I grow this from a seed? I wonder if this will grow in my climate? Oooh I love these, I wonder if I can get them to grow in my garden even though they require sandy loose soil and mine is more clay? But over the last few years I have slowly migrated more toward gardening for food, not just for fun. I need my garden to supply me with enough food to enjoy and store for winter. I've been keeping a vegetable garden every summer for almost 10 years now and have learned many tips and tricks, and of course had a few mishaps along the way. This winter I spent some time researching companion planting. You can find many great websites and articles about it all over the internet.  I used this guide

Companion planting's purpose is to use certain plants abilities to benefit surrounding plants. Such as, tall plants to block the sun from more tender shade loving plants; plants to deter pests from certain veggies; and to help with nitrogen levels that some plants need more or less of. Also some tall heavy plants can serve as a live trellis for pole beans to climb, such as corn stalks or sunflowers. I was hooked on the idea of companion planting from the start! I learned about companion planting by first researching square foot gardening. The two together work in perfect unison.

I started inquiring about new ways to plant my garden after a poor harvest last year. I have a 21' x 25' garden area. I have always made long symmetrical rows, planted seeds in the mound and watered in the ditch. With the exception of my tomatos and pepper which have always just been planted with a watering hole built up around them. Through the first few weeks of watering the garden, the "ditches" became hilled in the center and sloped on the ends. Leading to too much water on the ends of each row and not enough in the center. I dug the centers out, just to have them fill in again within a week or 2. You can imagine my disdain when the growing season came to an end and I had vegetables only on the ends of every row. Not to mention the amount of weeds growing in the watering ditches because I had a lack of knowledge about mulching! Also, with  row gardening I always end up with too many of one thing and not enough of another. Maybe I only need 1/3 of a row of squash and 2 1/2 rows of corn, but hate trying to figure out how to plant more than one plant in each row without one blocking sun, or taking over the water supply, nutients, etc. So this year we are going to try square foot gardening. With 25 - 5'x5' squares I can plant many different types of vegetables with drip irrigation and plan them all out with companion plants. I hope this will save me on water wasting and help with weed control as I will be able to mulch and water each square individually. Plus have a small walkway between squares. (Did I tell you how hard it is the weed the very middle rows without killing all the surrounding rows plants?...yeah eventually I just gave up!) I hope this will simplify my gardening life just a little. I'll be sure to let you know how it's going. I plan on building my squares up this weekend and will post pictures when it's all finished.

This post is linked up to -
The Backyard Farming Connection Hop 30
The Homeacre Hop
Encourage One Another Wednesday Link-up 84
Green Thumb Thursday
Homestead Barn Hop 110

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Onion Project - Growing from scraps

A few weeks ago I noticed half of an onion in a bag in the fridge that was growing roots and had leaves started out of the top. Since I have never grown onion in any way, I thought why not give a try growing one from scraps. I know there are many things you can "regrow" from kitchen scraps (celery, garlic, carrot tops, etc). I have never regrown anything, so I decide to grow some green onions. I put the onion (still in the baggy) in my kitchen window sill and within just a few days I had beautiful green leaves pushing out the top of the bag. A few days later found an onion that had gotten lost in the pantry that was already growing leaves and decided to do the same with that one. Now I have 2 onions (1 half and 1 whole) growing on my window sill. Here is how the rest of the project finished out...

1. After the leaves started growing well. I removed the onions from the plastic baggies they were in.
2. I removed all of the skins from the bulb, being careful not to tear any roots off.

3. After finding that one of the onions had 2 bulbs, I separated these bulbs using a paring knife. Being careful again not to damage any roots.

  4. I filled a few extra pots I had lying around with a dirt and potting soil mixture. I planted the onions fully covering the bulbs with soil.

5. Now I can go out on my back porch and snip off green onions whenever I please, instead of running to the store to buy a bunch.
With this being my first experience with onions, (and regrowing scraps at all) I have no idea what to expect from here. I don't know if the plants will bolt (and if they do, should I save the seeds to plant next year?) I don't know how long they will provide me with these beautiful green onions. All I know is that I am excited that I've made it this far with my onion project and we will just have to wait and see what happens. Maybe I'll try garlic next....
This post is linked up to...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What season is it?

I don't think Mother Nature can decide! Just a few weeks ago I posted about how excited I was that Spring was finally making an appearance. And now this....

I should have known better than to get ahead of myself. We always have a late winter storm after the trees and bushes have started budding. Today is April 17th and it literally looks and feels like January 17th outside!
It looks like we'll be pushing the finishing of the chicken coop off for at least another few days. It's a good thing the older chickies still have 2 weeks left before they are ready to move out. We will surely need that extra time now. While we are on the subject of chickens, here are a few updates and pics of the girls...

These are 4 out of 6 of the BIG girls - 4 weeks old today!
White Leghorns and Ameraucanas

One of the LITTLE girls - 2 weeks old today
Buff Orpington

All 4 of the Little BO's. A little flighty because I forgot to turn off the flash! Oops!

We are having so much fun with these chicks. I'm just amazed at how fast they grow. They are getting better with being handled by us. The Ameraucanas don't mind being held and petted at all. The Leghorns are a little more timid and don't like being picked up, but they do ok once you are holding them. They are also doing much better with being pet on the back while inside the brooder. The little Buffs are still a little shy. They are ok once you have them, but huddle in a corner as soon as they see your hand in the brooder. The little ones still won't eat out of my hand... but the big girls love to. They run to my hand looking for a treat everytime they see it.
Sometime this week I will be putting all the chicks together for a test run. The 2 week old chicks have been in a seperate brooder. On Sunday while I was changing their bedding, the BIG girls had access to where the LITTLE ones were. 2 of the Ameraucanas kept going in to "check them out". They didn't peck at them or climb on them, just watched them. So hopefully they are big enough now to hold their own with the older chicks. They will have to get used to eachother since they will be sharing a coop and I know now is about the time that the pecking order will really start going into effect. Hopefully it all goes well and we don't have any pecking or bullying issues. I'll update again soon!
Linking up with-

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring is in the Air

I want to show off a few pictures from around our little homestead this week. The ground is coming to life and I love watching the Earth wake from it's long winter slumber. This is without a doubt my favorite time of year. Enjoy!
Strawberries pushing through last falls leaves

Buds ready to burst open on the Lilacs

One lone pansy waking from a long sleep

And of course... a pair of our baby chicks (1 week old today)

This post was linked-up to New Life On A Homestead's Monday Barn Hop

Monday, March 25, 2013

Baby Chickens

We picked up our little flock on Friday morning. We brought home 4 Silver Ameraucana chicks and 4 White Leghorn chicks. They are just the most precious little things. Unfortunately this morning we lost 2 of them. 1 each of both breeds. After racking my brains trying to figure out what happened I have decided I'm pretty sure it was from an unnoticed case of "pasty butt" in each of them. I saw the "pasty" as I was removing their remains them from the brooder this morning. The other 6 seem happy and comfortable. I'll just be watching their little fuzzy bottoms much closer the rest of the week. For the time being the chicks are in our house. We had planned on keeping the brooder in the garage but had an unexpected cold spell this weekend. Better safe than sorry. Our cat Oreo loves to sit on the table above them and watch. For the most part she ignores them. She can't get to them, so they aren't much excitement. Our lab mix on the other hand stares at them as often as she can. If we take the top off she is right there licking her lips. She worries me. We make sure to keep her separated from them when we're not in the room and at night. Here are a few pics of our little flock...

We started pulling apart pallets for the coop this weekend. We still have a few weeks before the chickies can head out into the world, so we are taking our time and building it right. We are using mostly pallet wood as it is free and a good way to repurpose it. I will post pictures of the build process as we get it started. I am so excited for this adventure!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Chickens Are Coming!

Finally, winter is coming to an end and I have something to write about!

Spring = Easter, Easter = Chickens (and bunnies, but not this year), and Chickens = Simple Life Homesteading.

I have wanted to raise chickens for years. Even long before I chose to live a simpler more self sufficient life. This year, I am doing it! I know that this will probably not be as fun and exciting as I anticipate it to be. I'm sure I will have to learn from many mistakes. I've been researching what I will need to buy and build. Raising chickens seems like a lot more work than I would have ever thought. To be honest, I kind of put them in the same "pet" category as cats. You know, mostly care for themselves, just give them some water and food, clean out their bedding every once in awhile and collect the eggs. Boy was I WRONG! I haven't even received my chicks yet and have already put way more time and effort into them that I imagined I would need to! My pullets will be here in a few weeks and I am working on securing a few rabbit cages to keep them in (in the garage, since I have to keep them at a certain temperature) until I get the coop/run finished. I had no idea I would need to keep the chicks warm, even in the house! Or that they need perches to sleep on (I really thought they slept in the nesting box or on the ground). I didn't know that they need gravel in their diet if they don't have access to dirt/rock or roam free. I also didn't know that racoons can open doors and windows!!! Oh the many new things I am learning. What I do know is that I will have farm fresh, antibiotic free, pesticide free, hormone free, eggs....less bugs, and a much more lively yard! I am excited to get started and to share this new journey!