Category Archives: Family

Reusable bags better Than Plastic? May Not Be As Good As You Think

If you can remember to take them to the shops, you might not find yourself at too much of an inconvenience, but they’re probably not that much better for the environment.
Cotton bags would need to be used 131 times compared with a regular plastic bag before they are better in terms of limiting global warming, according to the Environment Agency.

If shoppers reuse around 40pc of their plastic bags as trash binliners, that multiple rises to 173 times. So many reuses “seems very ambitious.”
Most cotton bags aren’t used anywhere near that much.
(Plastic)Bag bans lead many customers to start using paper bags. This in turn led to “greater landfill waste than plastic bags” in San Francisco, according to one study.

Reusable bags can be a refuge for all kinds of bacteria.
When researchers collected them from shoppers in California and Arizona they found “large numbers of bacteria were found in almost all bags and coliform bacteria in half”. 12pc of bags the researchers found Escherichia coli commonly known as E Coli that can result in bloody diarrhoea, and sometimes kidney failure or even death.

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Poison In The Garden?

Another Opinion: Some flowering bulbs can carry significant doses of pesticides that were used to produce them.

These chemicals may be systemic chemicals which infiltrate the plant from top to bulb root. Poisoning its sap so that any sap sucking, leaf or root eating pests are killed. No part of a plant is spared; these pesticides may also taint pollen and nectar. Meaning that beneficial insects, such as bees are also at risk of poisoning as they forage for food.

This collateral damage that is ringing alarm bells among scientists studying the effects of systemics on insects. The chemicals currently under intense scrutiny are those known as neonicotinoids, or “neonics”, which kill by targeting insects’ nervous systems.

Recent studies with both honeybees and bumblebees showed that they actually preferred food laced with neonics despite the fact that it caused them to eat less.
Neonics may move into your garden soil where they can persist for years. The only way I can prevent that is to stay pesticide free.

To prevent unwanted pesticides reaching your garden switch to planting only organically grown flower bulbs. Organic growing precludes the use of pesticides including neonics.

The Telegraph, by John Walker Read more

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Fall and Spring Clean-up – Feeding You Compost Pile

Simple pallet compost bin

Many Northern gardeners are nearing the time for their first frost. Time to clean up your garden removing old summer crops to ready your garden for it’s winter rest. Composting is an excellent way to dispose of all of your old garden plants and a good place to dump most of your kitchen food waste.

After your compost pile sets all winter, doing it’s job of converting plant waste into good healthy soil building compost, next spring you can till this into your garden soil improving both garden soil texture and adding much needed nutrients to your garden soil.

Composting a crash course: it’s easy, it’s a cheap way to enrich your soil whether it be flower and shrub beds or your garden plot.
Anything that has ever been alive can be composted. All that is needed is a place that is twice as large as your compost pile. If your very limited on space, you may want to opt for building or buying a barrel composter. I recommend a location near the back of your yard. Under the best conditions your going to have insect visitors at or near your compost pile.

Never try to compost any type of meat. Even when covered with compost materials meat eaters like dogs, cats, rats, wolf, coyotes, bears, skunks and other undesirables can smell the meat and will dig it out of your compost pile.

What can be composted? Anything that has ever been alive. Plant materials are most often what people compost but you can also compost all household garbage, vegetables, fruit, coffee and tea grounds, egg shells.
Don’t add meat and meat products to include fish, dairy products and dog droppings to your compost pile.
**Hint: Keep one of those plastic store bags handy in your kitchen to use as a compost bag and dump it into your compost pile once everyday or so. Then dispose of the bag as house hold waste.

United States EPA Wastes – Resource Conservation – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – Composting web site. You are paying for it so please use it as a good reference site. Composting will save you a lot of money buying fertilizers and your garden will be chemical free. Plants will grow better, faster and produce more while improving your garden soil year after year.

University of Missouri Extension has a very useful publication fact sheet covering:
Selecting a compost method
# Wire-mesh holding unit
# Snow-fence holding unit
# Wood and wire three-bin turning unit
# Worm composting bin
# Heap composting
As well as information on constructing your composting unit.

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Happy Fall gardening

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October Is Pumpkin Season

pumpkin bowl It is time to be searching for those perfect pumpkins. To make Jack-O-Lanterns, bread, muffins, pie, soup, fresh roasted seed snacks. University of Illinois – Pumpkins and more

Pumpkin Pie! Who knew? It seems that the origin of pumpkin pie occurred when the colonists sliced off the pumpkin top, removed the seeds, and filled the insides with milk, spices and honey. The pumpkin was then baked in hot ashes.

Native Americans dried strips of pumpkin and wove them into mats. They also roasted long strips of pumpkin on the open fire and ate them.

History of the Jack-o-Lantern originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed “Stingy Jack.” Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul. The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree’s bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years.

Soon after, Jack died. God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell.
He sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with it ever since.
The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern,” and then, simply “Jack O’Lantern.” Immigrants from these countries brought the jack o’lantern tradition with them when they came to the United States. They soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, make perfect jack o’lanterns.

Pumpkins are commonly used in ornamental displays in and out of doors, making breads, muffins, cakes, pies and soups as well as eating roasted pumpkin seeds. You can find a few tried and true recipes at University of Illinois – Pumpkin Recipes

100 Things to do with your Pumpkin

Pumpkin Nutrition
The bright orange color of pumpkin is a dead giveaway that pumpkin is loaded with an important antioxidant, beta carotene. Beta carotene is one of the plant carotenoids converted to vitamin A in the body. In the conversion to vitamin A, beta carotene performs many important functions in overall health.

Pumpkin Nutrition Facts
(1 cup cooked, boiled, drained, without salt)
Calories 49 ————–Protein 2 grams —————-Carbohydrate 12 grams
Dietary Fiber 3 grams ———Calcium 37 mg ——————-Iron 1.4 mg
Magnesium 22 mg —————Potassium 564 mg —————-Zinc 1 mg
Selenium .50 mg —————Vitamin C 12 mg —————–Niacin 1 mg
Folate 21 mcg —————–Vitamin A 2650 IU —————Vitamin E 3 mg

Fun Facts about Pumpkins
Pumpkin seeds can be roasted as a snack.
Pumpkins contain potassium and Vitamin A.
Pumpkins are used for feed for animals.
Pumpkin flowers are edible.
Pumpkins are used to make soups, pies and breads.
In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling.
Pumpkins were once recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites.
Native Americans used pumpkin seeds for food and medicine.

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Fruit Trees – Fall & Spring Is Planting Season

A rework, updated from my 2011 post ‘Plant The Best Fruit / Nut Trees Suited To Your Temperature / Chilling Hours Zone.’

Fruit Varieties for Milder Climates

No matter where you live, now is a good time to plant your fruit and nut trees, whether they be bagged in burlap, potted or bare root. Follow planting guides for planting your fruit and nut trees.
Dig a hole 2 times as wide and deep as your trees root ball. Take a little extra care and be sure your new tree is setting straight up and not leaning off to one side.
Caution: Do Not Plant your new tree too deep! Plant it at the same depth as it was in the field (if bare root) or if potted or bagged, no deeper than the bag or pot it is currently in.

Home gardeners have killed many more trees and shrubs planting them to deep than have ever been killed planting them to shallow. If planted to deep, they may look fine for the first year or so, but, then suddenly with out apparent cause die. In this case you have wasted your money, time and effort on an avoidable problem. Keep the trees crown at or above the soil line when planting!

Winter watering is every bit as important as summer watering. To the eye that new tree is totally dormant needing little care through winter months. That is a very wrong assumption, trees continue to grow and develop their root systems all winter to support all that new growth appearing in spring and summer.

Important Chilling hour in the simplest terms 1 chilling hour is when the temperature is warmer than 32 degrees and cooler than 45 degrees. There are other factors that you should also consider. Fruit trees chilling hour requirements vary greatly between fruit type and even between species of the same fruit / nut tree species.
Common fruit tree Variety chilling hour requirements: Chilling Hour Chart

Some fruit and nut trees may require few (low) chilling hour needs 150-200 hours to very long chilling hour requirements as much as 1700 or more hours.

If a fruit tree does not get the chilling hours they need, you may have trees that ‘Never’ produce fruit or trees that always bloom too early in spring time and have buds, flowers and fruit severely damaged or killed every year by late season frost and freezing weather. A safe bet is to plant the same type and variety trees you see in your area that reliably produce good fruit crops every year. Don’t be Shy, ask other growers what species and variety does well for them.

Fertilizing your fruit tree(s). Roger Cook (This Old House) said “Most people don’t know that fruit trees need different fertilizer than other types of trees. Most trees get a fertilizer with a 4-1-1 ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, potash. But giving that much nitrogen to a fruit tree will encourage it to put out a tremendous flush of vegetative growth with very few flowers and not much fruit.

A low nitrogen 1-1-1 or 1-2-1 ratio is better. Ideally, the nitrogen component should be half water insoluble, or slow release, and half water soluble. Water-insoluble nitrogen breaks down slowly and feeds the tree over a period of months. Compost or horse and chicken manure are great slow release fertilizers. Water-soluble nitrogen breaks down all at once when it comes in contact with water and gives the tree a quick spurt.

Fertlize fruit in the fall or winter, before they go into dormancy and can’t absorb the nutrients. Check with a local nursery or co-operative extension service for the best time to do this in your area.”

Fruit trees for northern gardeners.
University of Minnesota
University of Idaho
University of New Hampshire
University of Illinois
University of Maine

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Rabbits For Your Table – Getting Started

Many breeds of rabbits are produced commercially in this country. Some of the most popular breeds are:

Breeds Size Use Mature Weight (lbs)
Angora medium wool; meat 9-12
Californian medium meat 8-11
Champagne d’Argent medium meat 9-12
English Spot medium meat 9-13
Flemish Giants large meat 13+
New Zealand medium meat 9-12

Rabbits are classified according to their weight or hair. The weight categories are small (3 to 4 pounds), medium (9 to 12 pounds), and large (14 to 16 pounds). For meat production, medium-weight New Zealand Whites are considered to be the best, followed by Californians.

The market for Angora wool is small, and the wool is usually sold directly to individuals or organizations buying for mills.</p


The rabbitry should be an enclosed building that has proper ventilation, lighting, heating, and cooling systems. Heating cooling and ventilation are crucial because rabbits do not tolerate temperature extremes very well. You should maintain the herd on a year round schedule of 12 hours each of light and darkness to keep the rabbits breeding throughout the year.

Many different types of hutches can be used. However, all metal cages help prevent unsanitary conditions that can lead to health problems. Mature bucks and does should have individual cages that are at least 30 inches wide, 30 inches deep, and 18 inches high. Each cage should have a feed hopper and a watering system attached to the outside of the cage.

Nest Box

A nest box should be placed in the hutch prior to kindling (birth) to provide seclusion for the doe and protection for the litter. Nest boxes should provide enough room for each doe and her litter but should be small enough to keep the litter close together. During cold weather, bedding such as straw or wood shavings is also recommended.

Maintaining a sanitary operation will help you prevent disease. Earth and concrete floors are acceptable but require frequent cleaning. You should have concrete walkways between the cages and should remove accumulated manure at least four times a year.

Cages and nest boxes should be cleaned and sanitized after each use, and the hair should be burned off the cages.

Raising worms under rabbit hutches can be successfully combined in indoor operations or outdoor operations if the climate is moderate.
Worms will consume the manure and any spilled feed, which will eliminate some of the odor, waste, and labor associated with manure management while providing an additional source of income.
Composted rabbit manure may also represent an income opportunity for sale to homeowners.


Medium-weight breeds (9 to 12 pounds) are able to start breeding at 6 to 7 months of age, with males maturing one month later than females.
Because outward signs of heat are not always evident in mature does, you should follow a strict breeding schedule. One buck can service about 10 does but no more than two to three times a week.
Place the female in the buck’s cage for breeding. Never bring the buck to the doe’s cage because she will fight to protect her territory. Mating should occur immediately, and the doe should then be returned to her cage.

The average gestation period lasts 31 to 32 days. Twenty-eight(28) days after breeding, place the nest box in the doe’s hutch.
The average commercial litter consists of 8 to 10 kits. Forty eight hours after birth, you should observe and count the kits, removing any dead animals. Remove the nest box 10 to 20 days after birth. The young are weaned in about 30 days, so you can expect an average of five litters annually per doe.
Under proper management, a good doe will continue to produce maximum sized litters for 2 to 3 years.


Two types of nutrition programs are used for raising rabbits, hay and grain diets or commercial pre balanced pellet rations. Pellets meet all of a rabbit’s nutritional requirements and are more convenient than formulating a hay and grain ration.
Pregnant does and those with litters should receive all the feed they can eat in a day. Bucks and does without litters need 6 to 8 ounces of pellets a day.

Rabbits require fresh, clean water all day, everyday. Automatic watering systems offer a continuous water supply while reducing waste and contamination.
A doe and her litter need 1 gallon of water a day in warm weather. Rabbits also enjoy receiving small amounts of greens as a treat.

DIY – Rabbit Hutch – Building Your First Rabbit Hutch – Easy To Build Plans
DIY – Build A Rabbit Hutch – Raising Rabbits For Table Meat
Rabbit Hutches and Rabbit Cages
Rabbit Hutch and Little Known Rabbit Facts
Rabbits for Fun, Profit and Food – Hutch or Cage – Whats My Best Choice?
Hutches and Housing your New Rabbit
Raising Rabbits In The Cold Weather Of Winter
Rabbits – Record Keeping – Equipment And Supplies

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Happy Fall gardening

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Pea Patch – Southern Style

Southern peas, black-eyed peas, cow peas, purple hull peas and field peas are all names for the crop known worldwide as cowpeas. They are a member of the legume family and are actually a bean and not a pea.

Southern peas are a warm season crop requiring warm soil temperature (at least 60 °F) for the best germination and emergence.
Many pests and diseases will plague Southern peas planted into cool soils.
Plant four to six seeds per foot in rows. Plant seed 3/4 to 1-1/2 inches deep in rows 30 to 40 inches apart. The older vining type cultivars of Southern peas should be planted with only one to two seeds per foot.
Control weeds early in the season with shallow cultivation. Later the peas will shade out most weeds. Avoid cultivation after the plants begin to bloom.

Southern peas are self pollinating. Insects as well as wind are responsible for moving the pollen to achieve fertilization. Care should be taken when spraying for insect pests to avoid damage to pollinating insects.

Southern peas will produce an adequate crop on most soils but will perform better on fertile soils. Heavy(clay) or wet soils should be avoided.
In soils where Southern peas haven’t been grown before, improve nodule formation and nitrogen fixation with inoculation of the proper pea strain of the Rhizobium bacterium.

Fertilize Southern peas sparingly with 2 to 3 pounds of 5-10-10 fertilizer per 100 feet of row. The fertilizer can be applied seven to 10 days before planting or added in a band 3 to 4 inches deep and 2 to 3 inches from the seed. Caution: High fertility will produce excessive vine growth with poor seed yields.

Irrigation is normally not necessary. Southern peas are renowned for their ability to grow and produce under harsh conditions.
Read more

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Pea Patch

Peas come in two categories. (1) Cool weather types. (2) Warm weather types.

The Cool weather varieties thrive in cool weather and young plants will tolerate light frosts. Once germinated, peas adapt well to the cold, damp climate of early spring. Peas must be planted as early as possible in the spring to get a full harvest before hot summer temperatures arrive and put an end to production. Plant peas about a month prior to your last average frost date.
Note: For a fall crop, you’ll have to nurse the seedlings through late summer heat with shade and diligent watering and mulching until cool weather arrives.

Days to maturity listed on the seed packets are calculated from the date of direct seeding, but soil temperature determines how long it takes for pea seeds to germinate.
For example, if the soil is 40F(4.5C) degrees, pea seeds may take more than a month to sprout, while at 60F(15.5C) degrees or above, they take about a week. So, the days to maturity can be very misleading. Caution: Use this information only as a guide for determining early, midseason, and late varieties.

Peas prefer a fertile, sandy loam that drains well, but will tolerate most soils except heavy, impermeable clay. Work in plenty of compost to keep the soil friable. A pH level of 6.0-7.5 is preferred. Where soil is very acidic, apply dolomite or agricultural lime.

Cool weather varieties include but are not limited to ‘Garden peas’, English peas, Snap peas, Snow peas, Sugar peas, Sugar snap peas.

Sow peas thickly (many people recommend) planting in wide rows. Peas grown close together shade out weeds, keep the soil cool helping to increase yields, and make the most efficient use of garden space.
Simply broadcast the seed in the row, allowing the seeds to fall as they may, some even touching. Cover with an inch of soil in the spring or two inches of soil in the summer for your fall crop. Don’t thin the pea plants when they germinate.

Don’t over fertilize. Peas are light feeders and don’t generally require fertilizer. In fact, too much nitrogen will make the plants develop lush foliage at the expense of pod production and be more susceptible to frost damage.

Watering your pea patch. Water deeply once a week. Never allow the soil to dry out totally or you’ll drastically reduce pea production. The critical time for watering is when the plants are blossoming and producing pods. When pods are maturing in hot weather, water daily if needed to maintain pod quality.

Hints: Use Raised beds: to get peas in the ground and germinating as early as possible in the spring, raised beds warm up faster than the surrounding ground.

Legume inoculant? Like other members of the legume family, peas have a symbiotic relationship with Rhizobia bacteria that colonize the roots of the plants and help them ‘fix’ nitrogen in the soil. After soaking the seeds overnight in lukewarm water, drain them and sprinkle an inoculant over them just before planting. This will boost the pea plants and produce higher yields.

Using Mulch. Because peas’ feeder roots run shallow, mulch is essential to keep the soil around the roots moist and cool. When the seedlings are two inches tall, apply a mulch of clean straw, chopped leaves, or compost. As the pea plants mature, you can add more mulch as needed.

Using Support(trellis). All peas, even the dwarf varieties, grow best with support. Peas are productive and less susceptible to rot if given some support or, for taller varieties, planted along a fence or trellis. Interlace untreated twine between posts to act as a trellis. At the end of the season, just cut down the twine, pea vines and all, and toss on the compost pile. Use broken tree branches shoved into the soil of the pea bed to provide support for the ‘bush’ types.

To determine when to pick shell peas, check the pods. If the pod is round, has a nice sheen, and is bright green, it’s ready. If the seeds have made ridges on the pod and the pod is a dull green, it’s past its prime. You can pick snap and snow snap peas at any time, but they’re tastiest when the pods still have some play around the peas when you squeeze the pods.
Hint: Pick snow peas before the peas start to enlarge in the pods.

Pick pods carefully. Pea stems snap easily and the root systems aren’t very deep. If you are not careful, you can damage the plant or even pull it out of the soil. Use both hands one to hold the vine and the other to pinch off the pods.

Frequent harvesting will increase yields. When the harvest starts, spring or fall, pick every other day to keep the pea plants in production. Picking frequency definitely affects total yields. Pick any pods that are overly mature, if left on the vine they will decrease your yield.

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Kale – Eat Your Greens – They Are Good And Good For You

kale1 Kale is quickly becoming one of American gardeners favorite green vegetables. Lettuce and spinach are being replaced by Kale as a favorite fresh salad and cooked table green.

Growing Kale Kale likes Full Sun and grows best in a loamy soil with a neutral pH to slightly alkaline soil.
Kale is a hardy, cool season green that is part of the ‘cole’ cabbage family. It grows best in the spring and fall and can tolerate hard Fall frosts. Kale can be used in salads or as a garnish and is rich in minerals and vitamins A and C. You can plant kale anytime from early spring to early summer.

If you plant kale late in the summer you can harvest it from fall until the ground freezes in winter. Mix 1-1/2 cups of 5-10-10 fertilizer per 25 feet of row into the top 3 to 4 inches of soil. Plant the seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep into well-drained, light soil. After about 2 weeks, thin the seedlings so that they are spaced 8 to 12 inches apart. Water the plants regularly but be sure not to over water them. Mulch the soil heavily after the first hard freeze.
The plants may continue to produce leaves throughout the winter. Kale is ready to harvest when the leaves are about the size of your hand.
Pick about one fistful of leaves per harvest.

Avoid picking the terminal bud (found at the top center of the plant) this will help to keep the plant productive. The small, tender leaves can be eaten uncooked and used in salads. Cut and cook the larger leaves like spinach, remove the large tough ribs before cooking.

Store kale as you would any other leafy green. Put kale in a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator. It should last about 1 week.

Consider planting,
* ‘Vates’, which is a hardy variety and does not yellow in cold weather. It also has curly, blue-green leaves.
* ‘Winterbor’, which resembles the ‘Vates’ variety, and it is frost tolerant.
* ‘Red Russian’, which has red, tender leaves and is an early crop.

brusselkale Source BrusselKale
Fox news reports A new hybrid from U.K. vegetable breeder Tozer Seeds that’s a hybrid(Not a GMO) of two super trendy vegetables, Brussels sprouts and kale.
BrusselKale is set to make its North American debut in Toronto later this month.
According to Tozer Seeds, the leafy green vegetable gets its “fantastic flavor by combining the complex taste of the [Brussels] sprout with the mild, sweet ‘nutty’ taste of the kale.”
Note I have looked on Tozer Seeds web site and can’t seem to find this Brussels sprout/Kale hybrid listed in their catalog.



Big Grin … maybe next year we can get a tomcumber. A foot long tomato, cucumber hybrid. What a time saver that would be in making salads!

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Gardening – You and your dog

Choose the correct size container
dog planter

Choosing your veterinarian
Dog doctor