Tag Archives: sustainable living

Planting Tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of the most versatile plants a garden can have so ensuring a high yield is worth some extra precaution with your planting methods. Setting up tomatoes to be successful initially will result in less work and more fruit as the plant matures.

Starting from Seed

It is important to use seed that has been preserved properly. If seed has been dried with proper methods it will have a natural fungus on it that will aid the plant in being resistant to disease. If you have a natural source for your potting soil it will likely have mycorrhizal fungus in it. Mycorrhizal fungus is a symbiotic organism that assists plants in absorbing nutrients and water. If your tomatoes are lacking in nutrients not only will they not grow properly they can be susceptible to disease. If there is any question about whether your soil contains mycorrhizal fungus you should add the fungus when plant your tomatoes.

From Pot to Garden

It is beneficial to your plants to “harden” them off before setting them into the ground. To do this begin exposing your greenhouse plants to the outside in the warm parts of the day, with each exposure being longer until you are leaving them out at night. Before planting be sure you have the supplies you will need.

  • Hoe and Shovel – Tomatoes need a deep hole with dirt pulled up around them.
  • Dried Egg Shells or Organic Calcium
  • Organic Fish Fertilizer   

The Hole

Setting up your hole is the most important part of planting successful tomatoes. You will want the hole to be roughly two times the height of your tomato. That sounds excessive; but, you will need room for the additives and to sink your plant almost to the top leaves. At the bottom of the hole crush up a small handful of dried egg shells or calcium and drop it in. Then if you are using solid fish fertilizer drop the recommended amount into the hole with the calcium. If you are adding mycorrhizal fungus be sure to put that in as well.  Fill the hold until you can place the tomato into the hole with only the top three branches of the stem being level with the top of your ground.

Placing the Plant

In the pot, tomato plants may look large and fruitful so it can be disappointing if you plant them with proper depth as it will make your lush plants seem very small. Tomatoes will root out along the stem if the stem is underground resulting in a much larger root base for nutrient and water collection. So to give your tomatoes the best start they must be planted as deep as possible. Prune all of the lower stem branches leaving the top three. If you do not prune before setting it can cause rot and disease in your plant. Set the plant in the hole and gently fill in the dirt being sure to crumble any clods and remove any rocks that might cause air pockets or impede root growth. When you get to the top gently hand pat to secure the plant.

Water, Mulch, and String

Depending on the dampness of your soil, and imminent weather, will determine if you water heavily. Tomatoes do not like excessive water; but, they do need some to ease root shock. If you are using liquid fish fertilizer you need to apply that after getting your plants set. As soon as possible you will want to mulch around your tomatoes with straw or hay. Mulching helps retain water,  keeps the dirt from packing, hinders weed growth, and it promotes “good bugs” that will eat the bugs that will eat your tomatoes. There are all sorts of ways to string your tomatoes. I have had almost equal success with cages, stakes and twine, or using fence panels. When considering what to support your plants with take into account the breed of tomato. If your plant will be producing large tomatoes you will need a stronger support system.   

Milk Storage for Everyday Use and Soap Making

The reliability of milk when you are getting that milk from your animal is vastly different than purchasing it from the store. Most animals have a peak in milk production for a time after giving birth and that production wanes as time goes on. When milking your goat or cow you will come to a point where you question the efforts put toward milking. At some point your nanny or cow will need to be “refreshed” or  bred again. There may be a point in your food pursuits that you will find yourself out of milk. If you have a freezer you can store that milk for later use. Here are a few tips that were gleaned from my doing things the “wrong” way before I figured out some more effective methods of milk storage. And as with all things; this is only one way to store milk, there are better ways out there.

Refrigerator Storage for Everyday Use

For refrigerator storage and regular usage of milk I have found wide mouth mason jars to be the most effective milk storage method. Glass cleans well and the wide mouth jars are much easier to wash than the regular mouth jars. I try not to use very much plastic because of the health hazards involved with plastic. You need to be conscientious about rotation of your milk in the refrigerator. Develop a system for rotation so you are always using up the oldest milk first. I also use my excess milk to make hard cheese that I wax and store in the cellar for hard times. Glass in the refrigerator is a good option; however, the freezer is very different. Just think back to basic science; liquid expands when it gets cold and glass gets brittle when its frozen.

Freezing Milk for Soap and Lotion

I hate being mid winter, without an animal in milk, and a strong desire to make some soap. So I freeze some of my goat milk to save  for making soap and lotion. For cold process soap, having milk that is partially frozen is beneficial to the outcome of your soap so I like to have it frozen anyway. There are times when you may not be able to drink your goat’s milk. If your goat has issues with a worm overload and you have to medicate the goat you will need to withhold milk for seven to ten days. Rather than throwing the milk out you can save it for soap and lotion. Milking is a lot of work to have to throw out the results of that work.

I try to use as little plastic as possible so I store my frozen milk in aluminum foil. To do this you must use a two step process. I measure out the amount I need for my soap recipe and pour it in to metal bread pans and put them into the freezer. The metal bread pans are somewhat pliable making the removal of the milk cubes easier. Once they are frozen solid I wrap the frozen milk in aluminum foil and place it back into the freezer for later use.

Caring for Baby Chicks

There are few farm animals in their baby stage that are more adorable than baby chickens. And unlike some animals they are completely worth the effort as they provide not only meat and eggs; but, pest control and entertainment. Good care of your chicks from the start will ensure you get the most value out of your flock. As with any agricultural venture, there are multiple ways to successfully raise chickens and you must find what methods best suit your situation.

Habitat

Before you purchase or hatch your chicks you must have a habitat prepared for them. One of the most harmful dangers to new chicks is temperature and moisture. Chicks need to be kept in around 80 to 90 degree heat and they need to be dry. We put heat lamps over ours. You will know if they are too cold when they huddle up under the lamp. And you will know when they are too hot if they are all bunched up away from the lamp or if they are panting. If they are panting and lethargic they are in real danger of overheating. When your temperature is right the chicks will be running in all directions. When your chicks start to develop feathers you can begin to reduce the heat. Chicks need a good bedding under them to keep them dry. A layer of wood shavings or hay will soak up their droppings and mess, keeping them dry. You will need to change their bedding frequently depending on the size of the habitat versus the number of chicks.

Water

Chicks need a lot of water to drink; but, not water on them. You will need a watering system that does not allow the chicks to accidentally submerge themselves or each other. It helps to think of these little guys as being exactly what they are…babies. If there is a puddle of water just about any baby will be drawn to it and in it if not stopped. To prevent pasty butt, a clogging of the waste vent, you can add a few tablespoons of organic apple cider vinegar to a gallon of water.

Food

Babies need baby food. Before you get your chicks you will want to purchase a feeder and chick starter. In a pinch you can feed your chicks out of a small bowl; however, a feeder will make the starter last longer. Chicks like all babies make messes and they will make messes in a bowl of food making you have to replenish it more often than you would with a chick feeder. If you are creative there are all kinds of ideas out there to make your own feeding and watering system; but, if you purchase it the price is fairly low. I like to sprinkle a little bit of grass and weeds around the habitat so my chicks begin to learn how to forage. We have pasture raised chickens which means that our chickens have the run of the entire farm so they forage all day for bugs and greens.  

Handeling

Holding babies and the desire to touch things that are soft make handling your chicks almost impossible to resist. In the first few weeks you should try not to handle the chicks too much and use great care not to drop them. Do talk to them though, especially when you feed them so they are trained to come when you feed them. Chicks will imprint on whoever raises them. Enjoy your babies, they will grow fast.

Some helpful websites:

http://www.backyardchickens.com/ : This site is full of information for all things chicken related.

https://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/chickens.html : This is the hatchery that I order from.