Apr 25, 2019

Grandma's Tips for Using a Clothesline

How to Use a Laundry Line
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information.

When I was a kid, every summer my Dad and I went to a magical place called Missouri. Now, maybe you don't think Missouri is magical (though you might understandably think it's beautiful), but as a child, I sure did. It was the place where Grandma lived, and it was a radically different world from the suburban California where I spent my early years. It was a place with summers that lasted forever, sweet tea, a hand pump in the front yard, and Grandma's huge, musty basement with a huge musty bed for my cousins and I to sleep in. Plus cows in the nearby pasture. And a pond to fish in and a "crick" to play in. And my Grandma's clothesline.

It might seem strange that, at a tender age, I was fascinated by Grandma's clothesline. Certainly part of my interest was that I didn't know anyone else who used one. And I loved the way Grandma hummed as she pulled pins from her apron and hung my summer shorts on the line. In other words, clotheslines hold good memories and romantic notions for me.

But there are plenty of down-to-earth reasons to have and use a clothesline on the modern day homestead, whether that's in the city or in the country. I love that my clothesline takes my household chores outside. I also appreciate that it conserves electricity and saves money while eliminating static cling (and the need for fabric softeners or dryer sheets).

Today, the art of hanging clothes isn't known to many people. However, I still remember a few tips from Grandma.

Setting Up the Clothesline

At its simplest, a clothesline is just a rope connected to two poles. Those poles should be sturdy, though, because one load of wash that's been spin-dried in the washer weighs about 15 to18 pounds. There are three basic choices for the rope itself: Plastic, nylon, and cotton. Plastic clothesline  is stretch-resistant and inexpensive, but clothespins and fabric tend to slip from it. Nylon clothesline is mildew-resistant and strong, but again, it's quite slippery, making it harder to securely hang the laundry. Cotton clothesline is traditional, and although it might be counter-intuitive, seems easier to clean than synthetics. It's also not slippery.

How long should your line be? One load of laundry requires approximately 35 feet of clothesline. Don't make the line longer than this (unless you have a double pulley line) because it will sag significantly.

Where you put your clothesline matters, too. Don't place it near trees - because trees can have ticks and ticks can jump onto your laundry and then onto you. Trees may also leave debris (leaves, seeds, and so on) on your freshly washed laundry.

Generally speaking, you don't want the clothesline in full sun, either, because all that sunshine fades fabric and causes it to wear thin. Open shade is a better option. On the other hand, Grandma taught me that if your whites are looking dingy, a good hang in the sun will help brighten them.

Sometimes indoor drying is the only option. In cities and suburbs, for instance, there are sometimes ordinances against hanging laundry outdoors. Or maybe someone in your household is allergic to pollen - in which case an outdoor line may lead to clothes that cause misery. In rainy climates, indoor clotheslines may also be best.

Which brings up a good point: You don't have to use a clothesline to air dry clothes. For years,  I hung clothes on hangers and hooked them over the shower stall or on the edges of doors. It didn't look pretty, but it sure got the job done.

And while you're setting up, be sure to purchase some good clothespins (like Kevin's Quality Clothespins). There are an awful lot of cheap, China-made clothespins on the market. Many of them, such as those found at The Dollar Tree or Walmart, might be fine for crafts, but they just don't hold up well for laundry. They also tend to have rough edges that can snag fabric. It's smarter to buy clothespins that are a bit more expensive, but do a better job.

Prepping the Wash 

When I mention line drying clothes, people often remark how they hate stiff garments and linens. This is easily remedied, though. Just add about 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar to the wash and your clothes will dry softer. If you use a modern washing machine, pour the vinegar into the fabric softener chute and it will only enter the wash tub during the rinse cycle - perfect! If you have an older machine that doesn't have a softener chute, you can either catch the last rinse cycle and add the vinegar manually, or (less effectively) you may add the vinegar at the beginning of the wash.

Another cause of stiffly-dried clothes is using too much laundry detergent. I recommend using less detergent than suggested on the box; Consumer Reports claims that too much laundry detergent leaves behind lint and soap deposits, which can lead to mold and restricted filters, which in turn can result in mechanical failures.

Finally, the sooner you remove laundry from the washing machine, the better. Letting wet clothes sit not only makes them musty-smelling, but makes them a whole lot more wrinkled, too.

Hanging Up 

To prevent soiling freshly washed laundry, it's best to wipe down the clothesline before each use. Grandma kept an old washcloth handy for just this purpose.

When she hung the laundry, Grandma always gave each piece a good snap in the air to help remove wrinkles. She also took the time to un-crinkle wadded up clothing, like pant legs, shirt sleeves, and collars. Once again, this helps make wrinkle-free laundry (and if you're like me, the last thing you need to do is add another item - in this case, ironing - to your chore list).

It's helpful to hang like items together, since it saves time when you're folding and putting away the laundry. For example, I'll often hang all my son's clothing together on the line, followed by my daughter's clothing. Or I hang all the towels, then all the socks.

A little care in hanging clothes goes a long way toward having line-dried clothes that look wrinkle-free. Not everyone agrees on the best way to hang laundry, but Grandma taught me to hang shirts and pants from the hem. Other people tell me they prefer to hang shirts right side up with clothespins in the armhole seams. Another option I sometimes use is to place shirts on a hanger and hook the hanger onto the clothesline (which saves space, too).

You can also save space on the laundry line by hanging smaller towels on one another. For example, hang one washcloth on the line, then use clothespins to attach another washcloth to the first, and so on. In addition, I often overlap items. For instance, my placemats overlap each other slightly, so I can use three clothespins to hold up two placemats, instead of four. Some people also like using store-bought sock hangers (like this one) to save space; you can use them for washcloths, too.

Whatever you do, always hang items securely or they may end up on the ground, filthy. When in doubt, use more clothespins instead of fewer - especially with heavy items. When I hang bath towels, for instance, I fold them over the clothesline almost to the halfway point and use four clothespins to keep each in place. Yes, they take a bit longer to dry this way, but they don't fall off the line, either.

Removing Laundry 

Once the laundry is fully dry, Grandma removed each item, then snapped it in the air. This flicks off any little bugs that might cling to the laundry. Then she folded each item as she put it in her laundry basket. This - again - helps prevent wrinkles (do I seem preoccupied with that?) and saves time.

I'm thankful to Grandma for introducing me to her clothesline. Through experience, I've learned line-drying laundry isn't difficult - I even find it relaxing, as Grandma did. I hope you'll consider reaping the benefits of a clothesline, too.

Apr 12, 2019

69 Keto Easter Recipes

Low Carb, LCHF, Keto Easter Recipes
For many people, sticking to a healthy diet is most difficult during holidays. We Americans tend toward indulgence; we think, "Oh, I need to treat myself once in a while!" We also associate so many traditions and warm thoughts with special-occasion food. And while some people may be able to cheat on their diet come Easter, many of us who use keto therapeutically cannot. And that's okay - because keto food is delicious! And as I like to remind myself whenever I'm a little tempted to stray into carby things:

"No food is worth being ill for." 

So whether you choose keto to treat an autoimmune disorder (as I do), diabetes (also as I do), Parkinson's, heart disease, cancer...or simply because you feel so much better eating this way, let me offer up a few recipes to help you get through the Easter season without feeling deprived. I've even included links for creme-filled and peanut butter eggs!

For more tips on getting through social occasions and the holidays while eating keto, click here.

Bunny dip, courtesy of That's Low Carb?!

Low Carb Bunny Dip (serve with celery, slices of cucumber or zucchini; pork rinds; small chunks of cooked bacon; or the sour cream crackers, below.)

Keto Sour Cream & Chives Crackers

Keto Deviled Eggs with Avocado

Best Ever Deviled Eggs

Jalapeno Bacon Bombs

Edible Marbled Easter Eggs

Bacon Wrapped Avocado

Main Dishes

Low Carb Ham with Maple Glaze 

Rosemary & Mustard Baked Ham 

Pressure Cooker Ham

Rack of Lamb with Macadamia, Garlic, & Parsley Crust

Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb


Low Carb Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns II
Cauliflower "Fauxtato" Salad, courtesy of Ruled.me.

Low-Carb Greek Tsoureki

Keto Easter Bubble Buns

Keto Bread Rolls

Keto Pull-Apart Rolls

Garlic Parmesan Knots

Low Carb Easter Pull-Apart Bread

Keto Cheddar Cheese Straws
Brussels Sprouts with Creamy Parmesean Sauce.

Other Sides

Skillet Brussels Sprouts with Parmesan Sauce

Cheesy Brussels Sprouts Bake 

Low Carb Green Bean Casserole

Low Carb Green Bean Casserole II 

Green Beans with Onions & Bacon

Creamy Good Cauliflower Mac and Cheese.
Cheesy Cauliflower Mash

Instant Pot Deviled Egg Salad

Low Carb Scalloped "Potatoes"

Turnip Fauxtato Salad

Radish Fauxtato Salad 

Cauliflower Fauxtato Salad

Cauliflower Au Gratin 

Bacon Cauliflower Salad (omit sugar or sub keto-friendly sweetener)
Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce, courtesy of Low Carb Maven.

Cauliflower Mac & Cheese 

Creamy Broccoli & Cauliflower Rice

Low Carb Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce 

Bacon Wrapped Asparagus

Crispy Asparagus Fries

Creamed Spinach

Desserts and Treats

Sugar-Free Marshmallows  

Sugar-Free Peeps

Keto Peanut Butter Eggs  (If the shape doesn't matter to you, this Reese's like recipe is even easier.)

Low Carb Creme Filled Chocolate Eggs 
Creme filled eggs, courtesy All Day I Dream About Food.

Buttercream Eggs

Almond Joy Easter Eggs

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Eggs

Keto Pound Cake

Low Carb Strawberry Shortcake Cake

Keto Individual Strawberry Shortcakes 

Low Carb Strawberry Trifle

Low Carb Strawberry Mousse Tartlettes
Individual strawberry shortcakes, courtesy of Ruled.me.

Keto Strawberry Pie

Low Carb Strawberry Lemonade Pie

Low Carb Strawberry-Topped Cheesecake

Chocolate Strawberry Low Carb Cheesecake

Keto Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Low Carb Carrot Cake Bites 

Keto Carrot Cake 

Low Carb Carrot Cake

Keto Carrot Cake Cheesecake
Sugar Free Jello, courtesy of Maria Mind, Body, Health.

Keto Carrot Cake Ice Cream 

Low Carb Easter Egg Nest Cookies

Keto Banana Cream Pie

Low Carb Lemon Cream Pie

Keto Lemon Meringue Pie

Low Carb Lemon Cheesecake

Low Carb Berry Cheesecake

Healthy Sugar-Free Jello

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Mar 28, 2019

How to Test Garden Soil

How to Test Soil pH, NPK
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

When someone tells me they have a black thumb, one of the first things I ask is what type of soil they have in their garden. Almost inevitably, they either give me a blank stare or a shrug.

In the excitement of starting a new garden, it's easy to get caught up in seed catalogs and grand gardening dreams - but for any garden to succeed, you must first do two things: Determine what type of soil you have, then test it. That is the chief key to having a so-called green thumb.

This said, there's no need to test your garden soil every year. Most extension offices recommend testing every five years or so, unless you notice growth problems in your plants. The best time of year to test soil is in the fall, but it's acceptable to test in the winter (as long as your soil isn't frozen) or even in early spring. However, it takes time for soil amendments to do their work; the sooner you test, the sooner the amendments can do their thing and the sooner you can have a thriving garden.

Different Soil Types

Clay soil is made of tiny, densely packed particles. Clay is less than ideal for gardening because water won't drain well from it (which can lead to plant rot) and may also take too long to reach plant roots (making them die of thirst). In addition, clay can prevent plants from spreading their roots - and plants without strong root systems are plagued by ill-health.

Sandy soil has - you guessed it - lots of sand in it. This can be beneficial, except that pure sand has no nutrients to feed plants and, since water drains away quite quickly in sandy soil, plants may not get enough to drink, either. On the other hand, some sand in the soil helps keep plants from getting soggy and rotting.

Loamy soil is a mixture of silt (which is particles that are between the size of sand and clay), sand, and clay. It's ideal for gardening; it retains the right amount of moisture and nutrients for plants.

How do you know which category your soil falls into? The simplest test is to sprinkle water on the ground, making the soil moist, but not wet. Scoop up a handful, squeeze it, and open your hand. Does it crumble when gently poked? Then the soil is loamy. Does the soil retain its squeezed shape even after a gentle poke? It is clay. Does the soil crumble the moment you open your hand? It is sandy.

It can also be helpful to test the drainage of your garden's soil. To do this, dig a hole one foot deep and about 6 inches wide, then fill it with water. Allow the water to completely drain. Fill the hole with water again, but this time, pay attention to how long it takes for the water to completely drain from the hole. Well-draining soil drains 1 or 2 inches of water per hour. If the soil drains more slowly, it either has rocks blocking water drainage or is high in clay. If the latter is the case, work compost and other organic matter into the soil.

If the soil drains more quickly than an inch an hour, it's too sandy and adding organic matter will also help.

Testing pH

Next, you need to know the pH of your garden soil - how acidic or alkaline it is. If the pH is too high or too low, your plants will not be healthy. For example, potatoes grown in soil that's too alkaline tend to get scab and other diseases. And while potatoes do like slightly acidic soil, if they are grown in soil that's too acidic, they simply don't thrive and could potentially die.

A pH of 7.0 is considered neutral; 0 means the soil is highly acidic; 14 means it's highly alkaline. In general, food crops prefer soil that has a pH of 6.0 - 6.5, but a range of 6.0 - 7.5 is considered acceptable for most vegetables. Many berries prefer a range of 5.0 - 7.0 and acid-loving blueberries prefer the pH to be 4.0 - 5.3. See the chart at the end of this post for more specific guidelines for common food crops.

Other Tests to Run

In addition to knowing what type of soil you have and what its pH level is, you should test the soil for basic nutrients, commonly referred to as "NPK."

"N" stands for nitrogen, which is the nutrient that makes plants grow rapidly, putting on many leaves. Lack of nitrogen in the soil results in plants that grow slowly, turn yellow, and drop leaves. Too much nitrogen in the soil causes too-rapid growth that results in weak, spindly shoots.

"P" stands for phosphorus, which helps plants grow healthy root systems and is especially beneficial during blooming and seed setting periods. Too little phosphorus leads to purplish stems, dull green or yellow leaves, and potentially no blooms. Too much phosphorus reduces a plant's ability to use micronutrients (especially zinc and iron), which leads to poor growth and even plant death.

"K" stands for potassium (sometimes called potash). It helps plants form chlorophyll and can aid in fighting disease. If soil lacks adequate levels of potassium, plants may appear generally sick, have small fruit, and/or older leaves that turn yellow. Too much potassium in the soil reduces a plant's ability to use other nutrients.

How to Test Your Soil's pH and NPK 

There are a few ways to test your garden soil's pH and NPK. One is to purchase a soil meter (like this one). A huge benefit of buying this tool (which generally sells for around $30 - $60) is that it's reusable year after year. Just stick the prongs in the soil and BAM! you have a reading. However, to remain reliable, it should be recalibrated every year, which usually includes purchasing recalbration liquid.

Another way to get your soil tested is to send a sample off to a laboratory. This typically costs $40- $100; you can find regional labs that will do garden soil tests through your local extension office. (Find your local extension office here.)

Another method (and the one I currently use) is a home testing kit (like this one). For about $25, you can buy such a kit at a local garden center or online. Kits give you everything you need to test your soil multiple times.

Generally, professional laboratory testing is considered the most accurate, but for the average gardener, any of these methods is accurate enough to prove useful.

DIY Soil Testing with a Kit 

Although I keep meaning to buy a meter, I typically use a home test kit when I need to test my garden soil. To give you an idea of how easy it is to test your own soil, I'll walk you through the steps I took last fall when I tested the soil in my greenhouse. (When we moved to our homestead three years ago, I knew my small, unheated greenhouse had terrible soil, and while I've been adding lots of organic matter to it, I could tell by the state of my plants that I needed to test the soil to determine more precisely what the soil was lacking.)

I chose to use a RapidTest kit, which I've used in the past with good results. My directions and the photographs accompanying this post focus on this brand, but whatever test you choose to use, please read the instructions carefully - and follow them exactly.

I began with a pH test:

1. First, locate the tube or container used exclusively for pH testing. In my test kit, it is clearly marked and color-coded. Remove this testing container's lid.

2. In the garden soil, dig a hole that's about 4 inches deep. Remove a small amount of soil from the bottom of the hole. Throughout this process, be sure to never touch the soil with your hands.

3. Fill the testing container with soil to the fill line.

4. Find the bag that contains the color-coded capsules meant for pH testing. Carefully separate the two ends of the capsule and pour the powder that's inside into the testing container.
5. Using the dropper included in the kit, fill the testing container to the water line using distilled water. Do not use tap or well water, which may skew the results.

6. Put the lid on the testing container and shake well. Set the container aside for one minute, or until the soil fully settles.
7. Examine the container and compare the color of the water/soil mixture to the color chart on the side of the testing container. Find the color that's closest to your results and note the corresponding pH. When comparing colors, use natural daylight, but not direct sunlight. My test results show that my greenhouse soil is a bit acidic.

Next, I tested NPK:

1. In the garden soil, dig a hole that's about 4 inches deep. Remove soil from the bottom of that hole, never touching it with your hands.

2. Fill a freshly washed, large bowl or jar with 1 part soil and 5 parts distilled water. (Tap or well water may skew the test results.) Stir or shake thoroughly for at least one minute.

3. Allow the mixture to completely settle. This will take at least 10 minutes, but could take up to a day.

4. Find the testing containers that are marked N, P, and K. Remove their lids. Find the corresponding capsules and make sure you use the correct ones for each testing container. (With my kit, the color of the capsule matches each testing container's lid.)

5. Using the dropper included in the kit, fill each container with the water and soil mixture, to the marked line. For the most accurate test results, don't allow any sediment to get into the testing container and don't disturb the sediment in the bowl or jar you've used.

6. For each container, separate the ends of the corresponding capsule and pour the powder into the correct testing container.

7. Place the lids on the containers and shake well. Set aside for 10 minutes.

8. Compare the liquid portion in each container to the corresponding color chart to discover whether levels are good, deficient, or excessive. When comparing colors, use natural daylight, but not direct sunlight. As you can see from my test results, the soil in my greenhouse is depleted in everything!

What to Do About Imbalances 

If you send your soil to a lab for testing, your results should come back with recommendations for amending your soil to cure any imbalances. If you use a DIY kit or meter, it should also come with instructions on amending. But here are some general guidelines.

To make soil more acidic: Amend with sphagnum peat, iron sulfate, or elemental sulfur (a.k.a. "flowers of sulfur” or "micro-fine sulfur"). Do note that sulfur can kill beneficial microbes in the soil. After adding sulfur to the soil, re-test in 40 - 60 days. You may also wish to add the following, which will, if added over a period of time, add acidity to soil: pine needles, woodchips, and rotted leaves or leaf mold,

To make soil more alkaline: Amend with lime; after adding it to the soil, re-test in 40 - 60 days. Over time, if you periodically add them, the following will also help make soil more alkaline: bone meal, ground eggshells or clamshells, and small amounts of hardwood ashes. Note that making acidic soil more "sweet" for garden plants is a long-term project; you shouldn't expect just one treatment to do the trick.

To increase nitrogen: Amend with alfalfa meal, blood meal, shellfish meal, or ammonium sulfate.

To increase phosphate: Amend with bone meal or shellfish meal, or rock phosphate.

To increase potassium: Amend with greensand, rock phosphate, or potash-magnesia ("Sul-Po-Mag").

To improve clay soil: Amend with sphagnum peat, greensand, biochar, compost, and aged manure. To improve sandy soil: Amend with sphagnum peat, compost, and aged manure.

Always check your soil test instructions for details on how much of any given amendment you should apply to your garden soil. You can add too much of a good thing! When re-testing soil after adding amendments, expect only small changes in pH - typically, 0.5 to 1 unit, tops. Don't add more amendments to change pH without waiting 5 - 6 weeks between applications.

Optimal Soil pH for Some Common Edible Plants 

Apples 5.0 - 6.5
Blackberry 5.0 - 6.0
Blueberry 4.0 - 6.0
Lemon 6.0 - 7.5
Orange 6.0 - 7.5
Peach 6.0 -7.0
Pear 6.0 - 7.5
Pecan 6.4 - 8.0
Plum 6.0 - 8.0
Raspberry (red) 5.5 - 7.0
Asparagus 6.0 - 8.0
Bean, pole 6.0 -7.5
Beet 6.0 - 7.5
Broccoli 6.0 - 7.0
Brussels sprouts 6.0 - 7.5
Cabbage 6.0 - 7.0
Carrot 5.5 - 7.0
Cauliflower 5.5 - 7.5
Celery 5.8 - 7.0
Chives 6.0 - 7.0
Cucumbers 5.5 - 7.0
Garlic 5.5 - 8.0
Kale 6.0 - 7.5
Lettuce 6.0 - 7.0
Pea, sweet 6.0 - 7.5
Pepper, sweet 5.5 - 7.0
Potatoes 4.8 - 6.5
Pumpkins 5.5 - 7.5
Radishes 6.0 - 7.0
Spinach 6.0 - 7.5
Tomato 5.5 - 7.5

This post featured at Simple Life Mom's Homestead Blog Hop.

Feb 26, 2019

My Dad

I apologize for being so absent here and on social media. As those of you who follow this blog on Facebook know, last week my father came home on hospice. My husband and I spent six days taking caring of him, which was our great privilege. On Thursday, he passed away.

He did it on his own terms. He wanted to be at home, in his recliner, and he hoped he's pass in his sleep. All of that came true. Best of all, he accepted Christ as his Savior before passing.

Dad started life as a poor share cropper's son, living in Missouri. In fact, one of his great passions began when he was plowing the field with shoes so worn out, they were full of holes. Something sharp poked his foot, so he stopped plowing and discovered an arrowhead in his shoe. From then until his last year, he gathered a huge collection of Native American artifacts. We still have that original arrowhead.

He was smart as a whip, too. He went to a one-room schoolhouse, but skipped several grades. College was unaffordable and since he knew he'd be drafted, he joined the Army Reserves. Here, he seized the opportunity to get more schooling, choosing to become a surveyor. After the Army, he went into carpentry, and took night classes so he'd understand the stuff the boss knew, like how to read blueprints.

A job offer lured him away from Missouri all the way to California. The ocean didn't impress him, but he could live cheap near the beach. However, the company that had hired him was going bankrupt and couldn't finish a certain big job they were contracted for. The large construction company that had hired them allowed them to bow out, "but you'll need to give us your foreman," they said. That was dad. This lead to a decades-long career for that big construction company where he became the guy in charge of building shopping centers, hospitals, and a marine life center. When he finally retired, he was so beloved, the company said they'd send him on a trip anywhere he wanted to go.

Probably to their surprise, he told them he wanted a fishing trip in Russia. Off he went, along with a translator, bear hunter (just in case), cook, guide, and a Soviet-era helicopter to bring them in and out of the wilderness. He continued to travel to most of the national parks, Alaska, and Belize, despite the fact that he'd been diagnosed with leukemia and was given 7 to 8 years to live.

Over 20 years later, he was still going strong. Until the past two years. It was getting harder to control his leukemia, and he was suffering other illnesses, including a persistent, debilitating cough that made life difficult. And when all his sisters died, leaving him the only living sibling, he just felt ready to go.

Over and over and over again, his friends and acquaintances tell me how much they loved him, how he'd drop everything to help others, and how his quirky sense of humor had them rolling with laughter. (One couple told me their little girls - now grown - cherished the napkin fights he always started after dinner. They took to calling him "Uncle Too-Bad" because he liked to jokingly tell people "well, that's just too bad!")

Before he died, Dad told me he'd had a good life and felt at peace about passing to the next life.

I'm not sure when I'll be back to blogging, but it will happen eventually. While I'm gone, remember to tell everyone you love them, and to learn as much about your loved ones lives as you can. Someday, you will cherish those memories.

Feb 8, 2019

Weekend Links

We have snow!
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. "
James 1:17
* We finally got our share of the snow! Oh, it's nothing compared to what some of you are getting, but four inches of snow is a BIG DEAL where I live! My kids love it, of course, but I confess I'm having the best time watching the animals react. Our two male cats keep trying to come inside. (And yes, they have plenty of warm, cozy places to stay that are not our house.) Our female cat, ever the huntress, just sees it as a grand opportunity to find new prey. Our youngest hens have never seen snow before and they keep hopping around the snowy part of the chicken run. The older ladies hardly seem to notice the snow. And the rooster? He'd rather stay in the hen house all day. Most fun is the dog. He loves snow! He goes outside and plays all day and when he gets tired, he sits in the snow to rest. No way, no how is he coming in until we make him!

* Thank you to everyone who picked up a copy of The Ultimate Dandelion Medicine Book! It was #1 in Herbal Medicine and Alternative Medicine and #7 in Health on Amazon and has all 5-star reviews. Now I'm hoping you will all GO LEAVE A REVIEW! Hahaha! But reviews make all the difference in Amazon helping new readers find books! By the way, I also started a Facebook group that's entirely devoted to using dandelions as food and medicine. Join us!

* While the kittens were recovering from their spay and neuter, they lived in my canning kitchen. And since they got into and on everything, it was too unsanitary to use for food preservation. Now they are healed and living outside, so I fired up my canner and freeze dryer. First, I tackled some meat in the freezer. Around Christmastime, I bought ham and turkey for 99 cents a pound - about as cheap as they get around here. I cooked the ham and we ate two meals off it, then I made ham stock and canned it, along with some ham meat. Then my husband smoked the turkey, we ate two meals off it, I canned stock from the bones, and I freeze dried the rest of the meat. When reconstituted, it tastes just like it would fresh out of the smoker!

The turkey before freeze drying...
and the turkey after freeze drying.

I also had about 80 eggs from our hens in the fridge, so I decided to try freeze drying them. I whipped the eggs to combine the yolks and whites and popped them into the machine. Now they are shelf stable for over 20 years and can be used to cook scrambled eggs, or for baking. I love my freeze dryer! (Learn more about it here.)
Eggs going into the freeze dryer...
and eggs coming out of the freeze dryer.
* I recently finished this novel, Between Two Shores, by one of my favorite modern novelists, Jocelyn Green. It's a straight historical (not a romance) and I LOVED it! Totally refreshing and so moving, too. I highly recommend it.

* Recall on peaches, nectarines, and plums. 

* Tyson chicken nugget recall.

* Are measles making a come-back where you live? Do you know the signs and symptoms of measles? 

* This will be controversial, but it's worth reading. Why getting the measles vaccine may help prevent other childhood diseases.

* The beauty of God's creation is highlighted in these microscopic images of seeds.

* Love pickles? Then you probably should try dehydrated pickle chips!

* How to make garden fertilizer with comfrey "tea." 

* 6 fruit crops you can propagate from cuttings.

Oldies But Goodies:

* Foraging for Chickweed

* Why & How to Prune Blueberries for a Better Harvest
* Why I Don't Watch HGTV (and Maybe You Shouldn't Either)

Feb 5, 2019

4 Things I Wish I'd Known about Backyard Chickens

What I Wish I'd Known about Raising Chickens
I grew up with a pet chicken and have now consistently had a laying flock for about seven years (barring a short period of hen-lessness when we sold our suburban home and moved to the country). I vividly recall trying to convince my husband that having backyard chickens in the suburbs was totally do-able - and worth doing. He was difficult to persuade, but now he might be even more pro-chicken than I am!

So, needless to say, we think chicken-keeping is worthwhile. Still, if you've never had chickens before, there may be some surprises in store for you. Here are some things that surprised me when I first started keeping chickens as an adult.

1. Some hens lay a lot less than others. Actually, I did know this before I got my first flock of hens, but it took a while for me to realize just how dramatically the choice of breed affects egg laying. For example, we once had a neighbor who chose fun, fancy-looking hens, and even though they were in their prime, they only laid one egg a week. On the other hand, the chickens we kept at the same time (which were Plymouth Rocks) typically laid an egg a day. At one point, we also adopted some fully-grown Silver Wyandottes; they were sweet, mellow hens, but they weren't nearly the layers our slightly more ornery Plymouth Rocks were. (Nowadays, we're loving our Australorps; they are sweet and gentle, but excellent layers.) So before you buy, be sure to check out a good chicken breed comparison chart that offers an idea of how well each breed lays.

2. Free range birds lay fewer eggs than birds in a smaller run. At least typically. We started out with hens in a small run, letting them free range for perhaps an hour or two most days. Six birds laid six eggs a day. Then we expanded our run, and suddenly the egg production dropped to just four eggs a day. This isn't uncommon. Chickens expend a lot of energy scratching around, and may receive less balanced nutrition if they don't eat much feed; hence, they lay fewer eggs. On the other hand, hens that are given high-quality land to free range (i.e., there are lots of different kinds of bugs and plants for them to eat) produce healthier eggs. Click here to read more reasons why we no longer free range our hens.

3. You really don't have to buy store bought eggs again. It's common to read that despite having backyard hens you'll still have to buy some store-bought eggs. Assuming you don't have severe restrictions on the number of hens you're allowed to have, and assuming you don't have a huge family, this simply isn't true. Choose your breed carefully, selecting excellent layers. Keep in mind how many eggs you currently use before determining how many hens you keep. Plan to store extra eggs in the fridge; if you don't wash them before storage, they last for at least 6 months in the refrigerator. Or, freeze extra eggs instead. Then, when your hens begin molting (and therefore stop laying), you'll have plenty of eggs in the fridge or freezer to last until they begin laying again.

4. Backyard eggs are actually cheaper than store bought. Again, before we got our flock, I'd read repeatedly that keeping chickens wouldn't save us money on eggs. This definitely wasn't true; read about our .06 cent eggs here.

A version of this post originally appeared in August of 1012. This post featured at Simple Life Mom's Homestead Blog Hop.

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Feb 1, 2019

FREE - The Ultimate Dandelion Medicine Book

https://amzn.to/2WugjaEFor a limited time, my new book The Ultimate Dandelion Medicine Book, is free in Kindle format. Grab it while you can!

In it, you'll discover a wealth of information on how the common dandelion has been used since ancient times, and how science is confirming it's high medcinal value. The book also teaches proper dosing and offer recipes for using the flower, leaves, stems, and roots for health and medicine.

Here's what some readers have said about The Ultimate Dandelion Medicine Book:

"Ms. Seleshanko had done a wonderful job of pulling together medicinal recipes for numerous types of health problems. I was impressed with the background information relating to the subject and have begun looking for dandelion products in the store until I can harvest them on my own in the Spring."
         Mr. Bill

"I was so pleased to get Kristina’s sequel to The Ultimate Dandelion Cookbook! She has a knack for explaining scientifically-dense information in user-friendly language, and for giving modern folks practical information on traditional ways of doing things."
          Suzannah Doyle

"If you are looking for an herbal/wildcrafting book that's informative and covers every aspect of a single herb that can help your health in so many ways then look no further!"
          CJ's Olde Thyme Farm 
Take a peak inside the print version (which is black and white; the Kindle version is in color):

You'll find both the print and Kindle version of The Ultimate Dandelion Medicine Book here.

Jan 29, 2019

Winter Sowing Q & A

Winter sowing is by far my favorite method of starting seeds for my vegetable or flower gardens. It's so easy, so cheap, and so effective, producing hardier seedlings than other seed-starting methods do. If you want to know the simple steps required for successful winter sowing (yes, even if it is snowing, you can start seeds right now!), either check out my ebook Starting Seeds (which covers multiple methods of seed sowing) or click over to this post that gives step-by-step winter sowing directions.

I've been touting winter sowing for many years, and over those years, I've consistently heard a handful of questions about the method. So I finally made a video to answer them!

Do you have other questions about winter sowing? Or gardening? Or homesteading? Or homekeeping? Please leave a comment with your question and I promise I'll answer.