Sustainable Dreams

Armadillos can be destructive

Armadillos, as cute as they are can destroy a lawn over night.

They eat ants and bugs in the ground. "Strong legs and huge front claws are used for digging, and long, sticky tongues for extracting ants and termites from their tunnels. In addition to bugs, armadillos eat small vertebrates, plants, and some fruit, as well as the occasional carrion meal." - National Geographic

I have never seen an armadillo until I moved to Alabama. They really are a unique little creature, and appear harmless because they are so cute and care free.

I sat out on the porch this night and heard this guy rustling around in the weeds, so I went in to get a flashlight and when I returned, he was right there in front of me. I walked down the steps right near him and he just went about his business with no care in the world. This is the very first time I ever seen one and I was in awe.

The next morning, the yard had holes everywhere. The critter must have been hungry because both front and back yards were littered with destructive little holes. My suggestion if you care about the holes...get rid of them either by live trap or other means because I hear they do no favors in gardens either!

How to measure the value of fire wood so you're not over paying

When you purchase fire wood, the official measurement used is "cord." Unfortunately, the methods and terminology used by individual dealers varies, so the actual amount of wood will vary as well. Here is a guide that will help you determine which dealer gives you the most for your money.

A full cord of wood will measure 4 ft. high, 4 ft. wide, and 8 ft. long. Generally though, you wont be buying 4 ft. long pieces of wood for heating. The standard cut for fire wood length is 16 inches. Terms used by dealers to sell it this way are face cord, stove cord, or furnace cord and the width of it is what the cut is (16 inches). The sales method used is only one third of a full cord.

With that in mind, to determine what the cost of the full cord would be when being sold as face cord, stove cord, or furnace cord, you would take the average length of wood which for this example we will say 16 inches, divide this length into the standard full cord length of 48 inches (4 ft.), and multiply by the price. So if Joe Schmo sold a facecord for $75, and the average length of wood cuts were 16 inches, it would look like this:

48 ÷ 16 = 3 x $75 = $225/full cord

Lets say the next dealer sells a face cord for the same price of $75, but his average sized cut is 12 inches. It would look like this:

48 ÷ 12 = 4 x $75 = $300/full cord

  • It is in our best interest to carry a tape measure when comparing prices of firewood dealers. 
  • Try to avoid purchasing firewood in other units such as pick-up truck loads or anything but the cord units because it is difficult to determine the actual value of the wood.
  • Don't order firewood by phone, or online. You want to see and measure your load for true comparison.
  • Keep in mind, the smaller the wood is cut for you, the more it will cost because of time and labor put into it. You'll pay more for convenience, so if you have the time and resources to split and or cut wood further yourself, you can save a bit of cash buying larger sized wood.

Raising Chickens: Hens and Molting

Every year, chickens molt. They lose their old feathers and gain new ones. That usually means they also stop laying eggs during this time. Those hens that do continue to lay eggs will have an extended molt time.

There are both early and late molters. The early molters will only lay for a period of a few months before they molt, and they aren't the best layers. Their feathers during molt will look a little better than the late molters. The late molters will lay for a year or so before molting, and they are your best layers. Late molters will have rougher looking feathers during molt than the early molters.

The loss and regrowth of feathers is consistent, so it is not difficult to notice when it occurs and whether each is an early or late molter. Early molters will lose only a couple feathers at a time and may take 4 - 6 months to molt. Late molters have a shorter molt period of  2 - 3 months and shed their feathers quickly. Late molters will produce again quickly because the shedding and regrowth of feathers happens at the same time thus shortening their molt period.

The order that feathers are lost will always be the same as follows:

  • Head
  • Neck
  • Breast
  • Body
  • Wings - The outter or primary flight feathers are lost first from the center followed by the secondary flight feathers. Late molters will lose primary feathers in pairs or groups and early molters will lose one at a time.
  • Tail

What is permaculture

As the world continues to change in so many negative ways, many of us are gaining a mind set on survival, and being more earth friendly. We want to learn how to live a natural life where we dont have to depend on multibillion dollar corporations that poison our world and rape our bank accounts.

"Simply put, permaculture is a design science that is rooted in the observation of nature. It’s a positive, solution-based way of thinking, using a practical set of ecological design principles and methods. Permaculture principles provide a way of thinking that enables people to provide for food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs."

My family currently rents our home.  The land we have to work with is very limited, but still a nice set up for a beautiful, edible garden space and a few chickens.

I have always desired a "live of the land" kind of life where we at the very least, could supplement our food costs with our own fruits, veggies, and animals. With that said, I absolutely cannot have larger or many animals in this rented space because of where its located and the fact that I do not own it. This makes my time here a good opportunity for learning the permaculture ropes before we move onto our own land when our youngest child goes off to college in 2 years.

I have posted my supplies needs on a couple of local websites, asking for the opportunity to gather supplies free of cost for cleaning up or disassembling in exchange for the sustainable project supplies. So far, I have been given a bunch of landscape timber and wire fencing. Everything in this rented space will have to be movable, so it will add an extra element to our initial project, but I am still excited for it all.

How to grow strawberries from seed

Strawberries are a perennial plant that will produce fruit year after year after the first year of growth. I wont get any fruit this year, but the growing process is no less important to bring up healthy plants. Below, I have included step by step instructions for starting your strawberries from seeds.

10 Strawberry Recipes You Will Love

Ive discussed my wishes for a self sustaining perennial garden in previous posts. Although it may take me a few years to achieve, I am slowly growing my options. It is very important that before I go too far, I must learn about each edible I grow for an acceptable success.

 When I purchased my seeds online from various companies via Amazon, it was later than I hoped for, and I wasn't ready when it was time to plant, but I managed to scrape enough resource with little cash as I could to get some seedlings started. Unfortunately, my strawberry seeds were last to arrive, so I am just now beginning to seed them into pots that I will leave outside in the sun since Spring has sprung :)

Step 1

Some strawberry seeds need to be cold treated prior to germination, so make sure to check the specific requirements for the type of strawberries you grow, before you plant them indoors.

If necessary, cold treat your seeds by wrapping them in plastic and freezing them for a minimum of 2 weeks, but try to give them 30 days.

After freezing, transfer your seeds to the refridgerator for 4 days to a week. then move them again to a cool but slightly warmer place for a few more days until they reach room temperature.

Pay close attention to the variety you use as well as whether or not the nursary may have already cold treated them. Skip this step if they have already been cold treated.

Step 2

Using soiless planting medium such as Kempf Compressed Coco Fiber Growing Potting Mix 11-Pound Block, Medium, and seed trays such as 720 Cells Seedling Starter Trays for Seed Germination +5 Plant Labels (120, 6-cell Trays)

Fill seed trays 3/4 full with soiless planting medium.

Step 3

Spread 3-4 seeds over the top of the growing medium of each cell or container. Cover with a thin layer of growing medium and water.

Cover the trays with plastic after they are seeded and watered.

Step 4 

Keep seeded trays in direct sunlight or use grow lights. 

Turn the plastic regularly to avoid too much condensation build up, but be sure to keep the growth medium moist at all times.

I use a spray bottle to wet the surface of seedlings so as to not over water.

Step 5

Once the second set of true leaves comes in, sort the weak plants out and transplant the stronger, healthy plants into bigger containers using good potting soil such as Espoma AP2 Organic Potting Mix, 2 Cubic Feet

You may also plant them in your garden at this stage as long as all danger of frost is over.

How to grow tomatoes from seed

Tomato seeds should be germinated inside, approximately 6-8 weeks before the last frost date for your area.
Select a fresh source for all of your seeds. If your seeds are old, the germination rate dwindles. Try to always get seeds at 1 or 2 years. Packaging and storage of seeds is as important as the age of the seeds, or more so.

Step 1:

***A commercially prepared seed starting mix, usually a combination of peat moss, vermiculite and per lite, is recommended.Using soiless growing medium such as American Educational Growing Medium, 20lbs or Nature's Footprint 650gm Coconut Coir Brick, Medium, fill some seedling containers 3/4 full. Use containers that have drainage holes so the soil can drain excess water. 720 Cells Seedling Starter Trays for Seed Germination +5 Plant Labels (120, 6-cell Trays)

Step 2:

Thoroughly wet the growth medium and leave it over night to be sure it has an equal distribution of moisture. The mix should be damp like a sponge after wringing it out. Not too wet and should not have dry spots.

Step 3:

Plant seeds 1/8 inch deep into prepared trays. You may put seeds very close, as the seedlings will be separated as soon as they grow their first true leaves.

Press growth medium a bit to firm up the medium over the seed.

Cover seeded trays with plastic to keep moisture in.

Step 4:

Light is not necessary for germination, but the trays must be kept in a warm place, and not outside at this stage.

Move trays into sunlight (sunny window) as soon as you observe them beginning to sprout. They will reach for the sun and grow quickly.

A heated greenhouse is ideal. Otherwise use indoor grow lights or direct sun windows. If you use grow lights, keep them on the seedlings 16 hours/day.
First true leaves

Step 5:

Watch your plants as they grow. First will develop 2 soft leaves or cotyledons. These are not the first true leaves as they will die when the true first leaves come in.

Once the first true leave are developed, it is now time to transplant each seedling into a bigger container. The plants do well with this extra step as they are able to grow a stronger root system.

Plant each seedling deeply, shortening the height of the seedling.
You may use diluted down, light fertilizer at this time if necessary.

Lots of sunlight...Don't forget!!!

Step 6:

Introduce the plants to outdoor conditions slowly. This is called "hardening off". If it is not done slowly your plants may be shocked.

The longer the plants remains indoors, the harder it will be to healthily incorporate them to the outdoors. Avoid full sun and wind when you first move them outside.

Once your plants stabilize after transplanting, even a bit before depending on growth, begin strengthening your plants by slowly introducing them to the outdoor environment. Put them outside in a make shift green house or just on a sunny patio during the warmest parts of the day. Bring them back inside when the temperature drops each time. Doing this will harden off your plants and make them stronger to gradually get used to the elements of being outside.

If really cold weather is in forecast <40F (4C), it is best to bring the plants back inside. Freezing temperatures will destroy your plants (and it happens fast).

Step 7:

When, and only when all danger of frost is over, transplant your young plants into larger containers or directly into the ground. Either method you choose, they should be place outside and planted in fertile, loose soil.