Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Coffee and Your Health- Good News!

I love my morning Coffee...
sometimes I can't wait to 
go to bed just knowing
 I'll be sipping my dark
 nutty and creamy 
coffee in the morning!
                                (No Sugar, only half and half) 

 Say it’s so, Joe: 
The potential health benefits -- and drawbacks –- of coffee.

According to:
WebMD: Better information. Better health.

10 Health Benefits of Avocados

I can live with Avocados and all their health benefits...

Yes, everyday if I must! SRN

Eat This!  Health Food and Nutrition for Optimal Health
benefits of avocados

How to Ripen an Avocado

Ripening an avocado can be done in the same way that you ripen bananas.
Place the avocado in a paper bag with an apple, banana, or tomato.
Fold the bag closed and leave it to sit on the counter overnight.

The ethylene gas in the other fruit will cause the avocado to ripen in about 24 hours.

If you don't have other fruit to put in the bag with the avocado, you can put it in the bag by itself and it will ripen, but not as fast as if you'd put the fruits in with it.

Another method for ripening avocados is to bury them in a sack of flour overnight or place them in a paper bag with some flour. I haven't tried this method but many people swear by it.

Happy avocado eating!

Benefits of Honey

benefits of honey image

Don't you just want to pick up one of these honey cones and take a bite! SRN

benefits of honey image

Diabetic's and Honey...

Is Honey Allowed in Diabetic Diet?

I've never been a big honey lover until recently. 
I bought some honey from a gentleman 
up here for my husband. 
I tried some and fell in love, 
it's amazing. But being Diabetic 
I'm pretty sure it's on the,
"Don't Enjoy List"
diabetic diet image

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How to buy a good Avacado all the time...

OK lets try this again... Love this!

Ever wanted the perfect Avocado to make some yummy dip or just to add to your sandwich so off to the store you go, happy to find what you think is the perfectly ripe Avocado, you get home cut into it only to find more of it is black than green. No guacamole today...

Well according to Erica, this will give you a great pick every time :)

How Long Will Your Seeds Last?

I really enjoyed this and learned some great tips! SRN


 I keep getting this question emailed to me over and over again, asked in slightly different ways.

In my article about Long term Seed storage I explain how thoroughly dry seeds may be frozen, for really long term storage. See the Related Article section below for details.

All of my estimates for cool dry seed storage times in this article have been compared to reliable sources, like my favorite seed saving book Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth, other books and information from various State Agriculture Schools.

We don't sell any 'magic seeds'. How long seeds last in cool, dry storage conditions is controlled by the crop itself. Onions, parsnips, and lettuce only have good germination rates for one year. Carrots, leeks and chives seed should still grow for two or three years.

 Self sown Lettuce Plants
Red lettuce plants
Onion plants
For seeds like these with the shortest shelf life, I recommend buying new packets on a regular basis. They will not be that expensive at a high quality seed company. Check the links below to find reliable sources. I am sure there are others too. Watch out for discount seed companies with 'tabloid' like catalogs. They may offer older seed which would be fine for that year, but not to store.

Red lettuce
I also noticed several companies selling 'garden seeds in a can' which include some short lived seed varieties. There is no magic way to keep onion seeds for ten or twenty years. Some seed canners claim the amount of seeds they include will plant a very large garden. Well, that depends on how closely they plant their seeds.

Very wide spacing can greatly exaggerate the planted area. If you already grow a large garden, you will know what you want to plant. If you don't, you would be much better off to start small so you can learn how to garden. Think about each kind of vegetable seed they offer. Ask yourself, if I was really hungry, would I want to eat radishes, watermelons, and cucumbers? How much lettuce and string beans would I plant? If I am gardening by hand, or with limited amounts of fuel, how much space would I give to crops like those?
Others claim you may open a large can of seeds and plant some each year. I guess you could. It would be safer to have your seeds sealed and stored in amounts you would actually plant each year. Often the claim is made that since all the seeds in the can they sell are open pollinated, you may save your own seeds forever more. In a way that is true, but each kind of seed is saved a little differently, and it will take a number of years to learn how to save each kind reliably. Start with the most important crops, not a big variety pack! To learn how to save your own seeds,I like the information at the International Seed Saving Institute, ISSI in the links below.

Our Garden Security Collections include reasonable amounts of seeds. 25 Squash and 25 Pumpkin seeds will plant 5 hills of each, and we harvest about 10 of our squash or pumpkins from each hill. That is roughly the main dish for 100 family meals. In a new garden, your yield may be less. Some companies include hundreds of squash and pumpkin seeds. This helps them claim the collection they sell will plant a huge area. Rows of field pumpkins and winter squash are often planted 20 feet apart. Our dry beans and corn seeds are offered in balanced amounts to be served together for complete protein meals. We offer both earlier and later harvested crops. Our collections can be planted in a reasonable size garden which can be maintained with hand tools. As you learn more about growing these crops, you can double the size of your garden each year. At first you will need to have some other sources of food. No one becomes a successful gardener in one or two years. By starting with these carefully selected varieties, a beginner can grow a lot of food. We learn and try new things every year and so should you.

Another thing I should point out about the large seed collections in a can is that many kinds of seed will cross pollinate. They will give you some sort of hybrid mongrel crop seed. For example, Swiss Chard and Beets are in the same family and would cross. If you saved seeds from your Swiss Chard, some of them may try to form a bulbous root like a beet. What is that going to taste like? Will it keep in a root cellar for months like beets? Who knows. The seeds will be randomly crossed, not an intentional hybrid with predictable results.
There are four major families of Squash. The Pepo group includes zucchini squash, yellow summer squash (like crook neck), Acorn squash and pumpkins. You can only produce true seed by growing one variety from each group at a time. Our Waltham Butternut squash is in the Moschata group, and will not cross with our pumpkins. We choose the Waltham because it keeps the longest of any winter squash. Our Sugar pumpkin was chosen because it is sweet and small enough size to cook and serve for one meal. Field pumpkins are mostly for decoration, and take up a lot of garden space. Summer squash is nice, but Winter squash and Pumpkins keep for months. You can grow them all to eat the same year, but the seeds inside your fruit will have crossed if more than one variety from each of the four groups is grown. Next year, planting those new seeds you saved will result in various hybrid combinations. Who knows how they would taste or if they would keep.

Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage are in the same family. Since cabbage can be harvested over a long period and keeps, we chose both early and late varieties. Compare the food in one head of cabbage to the food in a head of broccoli or cauliflower. If you are hungry, which one would you grow? Once you add broccoli or cauliflower into the mix, you have to watch out for all of these crops cross pollinating.

Another example of how little these people know about saving seeds is to offer several varieties of the same crop. If you grow more than one variety of tomato, they will cross pollinate, and you will no longer have seeds to collect for each variety. Unless you carefully choose crops which pollinate at different times. For corn, read my Corn is King article. It contains information about how we choose two varieties which tassel out at different times.

Corn in early August
Corn Tasseled out
Corn Stalks and Silk
Before we decide to offer a variety of seed, we research all these problems. We don't offer seeds in our collections which will cross. Beans are self pollinating, so it is safe to grow different varieties. String beans contain almost no calories or protein. Consider them to be a weight loss diet vegetable you may enjoy. Shell beans eaten in the soft immature stage later in the summer do have some calories, but like sweet corn, the protein has not formed in the food yet. Our collection includes only beans which can be raised to full maturity, when they will contain protein. Two of them are dual purpose beans. Provider Beans can be repeatedly picked as a string bean, and will keep producing pods. Later in the Fall, they mature and dry to save as seed or a nice baking bean. Some of your French Horticulture Shell bean plants can be left to mature for additional baking beans as well as for seed.

I am suggesting that you think through all the claims being made by others. Think about the foods you will really need to eat. They are sources of calories, like root crops, grains and Winter squash and pumpkins, and dry beans for protein. Remember a wise saying, If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Wintered over spinach 3
Wintered over spinach 2
Wintered Over Spinach 1

Mature Spring sown spinach 2
Mature Spring Spinach 1
Pumpkin Patch
We offer large economical paper packets of Beets, Spinach, Early Cabbage and Late Cabbage. They are easy to grow, and can be harvested over a long period of time. These seeds keep about four or five years. Our Butternut Squash and Sugar Pumpkins are available in paper packets. They should last six years in cool dry conditions. We have added new varieties of seeds offered in paper packets too.

Young beets
Spring sown spinach
Beets about half grown
For the longest keeping seeds, five to ten years or more, we offer seeds sealed in foil pouches. This includes Our Garden Security Collection, Our Garden Bean Collection, and two small grains. Hulless Oats and Rye. These have been carefully dried and a desiccant packet has been added. They are properly prepared for even longer storage in your refrigerator. In your freezer they will last much longer, like Grampa Neff's beans, which were frozen for 22 years before we planted them in our 2007 garden.

Indian Corn in Mid July
Dry and Shell Beans
Grampa Neff's Beans
When we choose which kinds of crops to offer seeds for, we look at several factors. Is it it easy and reliable to grow? Can it be harvested over a long period of time? Will it store without a lot of equipment? Will it be an important part of our nutrition? If it will cross pollinate with other crops, which of those is the most important kind to grow?

For example, carrots, parsnips and beets are all root crops which can provide calories. Only beets have edible tops to harvest during the summer. They are easier to grow, and the seeds keep longer in storage too. We chose to offer them first. That is not to say you shouldn't grow the other two, it just that beets have advantages over them.

Detroit Dark Red Beet
Pepper plant

Tomato Plants
Tomato plant after recovering
Tomato plants just set out
We always grow tomatoes and peppers. Nan starts them very carefully indoors weeks before they can be set out in our garden. They need both artificial heat and light in our climate to grow into transplants. The harvested fruit must be frozen, canned or dried, so we need equipment and fuel to do that. We love these food crops, but if times were really difficult, we might not be able to start the plants or keep the harvest. We have chosen the very reliable Beefsteak Tomato seed to offer in paper packets. It is early ripening for a good sized slicer. Harvests are large for preserving too. We get about a bushel per plant in an average year in Connecticut. Because tomatoes cross pollinate, you must choose only one variety if you want to be able to save your own seeds.

Canning Tomatoes 3
Canning Tomatoes 2
Canning Tomatoes 1
Asparagus makes a nice permanent bed to be harvested for many years to come. Growing asparagus plants from seed is a very complicated task. It takes between three and five years before you will get your first harvest. The seeds need soil temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees for about two and a half weeks to germinate, and then they need to be moved into full sun. Our temperatures are much too unpredictable here in New England for that without some thermostatically controlled source of heat. If you want to specialize in it, it could be a Cottage Industry for you, but it is not a skill I would spend a lot of time mastering for my own garden. Once you buy crowns and set them out, you will be able to harvest them for 20 years or more.

Our Home
Wheel Horse Cultivating I
Our Barn
It was practical considerations like these which led us to choose the crops we sell seeds for. We plan to continue to offer more varieties. We sell important food crops, which are harvested at different times of the year, or stored for Winter. They are all easy to grow. Our life long interest in Homesteading, and more than 25 years of experience on our farm here has taught which varieties really are more important.

Monday, May 28, 2012

No Drip spout!!!

 How Clever is this!
Rebecca Lynn shared When the Dinner Bell Rings's photo.
I saw this on the internet. It's made from a 2 liter soda bottle and hung on a spigot to prevent drips on the floor when entertaining or preparing drinks for kinds.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

8 Ways to Eat and Enjoy Dandelion

We love dandelions at our house. 

Very informative article... SRN

Taraxacum officinale ~ Dandelion

I love and appreciate dandelion.  As an herbalist, I know the many ways dandelion can benefit your health, it’s one of my favorite herbs.

Yet, until I became interested in homesteading, I can’t say that I ever considered ways to eat and enjoy dandelion.  I had no idea what I was missing!  Our fore-mothers made regular use of foraged herbs and were skilled in identifying what was edible and what wasn’t.  There was no “organic section” and many times, no grocery store to depend on back then.  I am often in awe of how intelligent and skilled the women of past generations really were.

Untreated dandelion is plentiful in my area, why not look for a way to use it?  Every part of the plant can be used, it’s organic and full of vitamins and minerals!  (When harvesting dandelion, look for young ones.)

When I look out back at acres of the stuff, I can’t help but wonder how to make use of this free and organic food source!

Dandelion includes:

One of the richest sources of beta caroteneof all herbs (10161 IU per 100g, which is
 338 percent of the RDA) Numerous flavonoids,
 including FOUR times the beta carotene of broccoli;
 also lutein, cryptoxanthin and zeaxanthin
Possibly the HIGHEST herbal source of vitamin K 1
providing 650 percent of the RDA Vitamins, 
 including folic acid, riboflavin, pyroxidine,
 niacin, and vitamins E and C Great source of minerals,
 including magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese, 
and iron Leaves rich in dietary fiber,
 as well as a good laxative.

Dandelion leaves can be used in salads, soups, juiced, cooked the same way as spinach, or dried (with flowers) to make dandelion tea. The root can be dried and roasted and used as a coffee substitute, and the flowers can be used to make dandelion wine.  (The greens can be sauteed with olive oil and onion to add to eggs for a wonderful frittata! KM)
Dandelions are known for the following therapeutic properties:
  • Laxative and diuretic; useful for premenstrual bloating and edema.
  • Normalizing blood sugar and cholesterol (dandelion root).
  • Tonic; appetite stimulant and a good general stomach remedy.
  • Liver cleanser; remedy for liver and gall bladder problems ( I have personally used dandelion root to keep my grumpy gall bladder under control).
  • Agent for treating burns and stings (inside surface of flower stems)
  • Leaves are known to help with anemia, again, personal experience speaking. KM.
Dandelions also have antiviral effects so may be useful in combating herpes and AIDS. For more information on the nutritional and medicinal properties of dandelions, go to this article by Leaf Lady.  
Be careful not to confuse dandelion plants with Hawksbeard, which can look very similar. Hawksbeard won’t kill you, but it certainly doesn’t offer the great nutritional benefits of dandelion. Here is a video showing how to tell them apart.  (source)

In my quest to make dandelion our latest culinary delight, I found more ways to eat and enjoy dandelion that you can shake a stick at!  Here’s a few…
* Batter Fried Dandelion Blossoms (my neighbor recommends this!)
Have YOU ever eaten dandelion?  Do you have a favorite recipe or story about it to tell and share?

Acorns have been tested and found to be possibly the best food for effectively controlling blood sugar levels.

Move over Yule Gibbons
Shared on FB by:The Self Sufficient Chick
Acorns have been tested and found to be possibly the best food for effectively controlling blood sugar levels. They have a low sugar content, but leave a sweetish aftertaste, making them very good in stews, as well as in breads of all types.

Ground, leached acorn meal, ready to dry. The bitterness is gone.
They are rich in complex carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins while they are lower in fat than most other nuts. They are also a good source of fiber.

An additional benefit from eating acorns is in the gathering. Acorns, although they “fall from trees,” must be picked and processed before eating, which requires a walk, then bending and picking up. All of these are good exercise. In fact, that is why many “primitive” foods are so healthy. They require exercise just to put them on the table, not just a short trip to the convenience store or fast food joint.

One of the first things I learned as a little girl harvesting acorns was that they tasted awful. Unfortunately, many acorns do taste bitter. This is because they contain tannin, a bitter substance in oaks which is used to tan leather. Real pucker power here. Some varieties of acorns contain more tannin than others. They range from the Emory oak of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, which is so mild it can be used without processing, to some black oaks with very bitter acorns, requiring lengthy processing to render edible.

Generally, the best acorns to harvest are those of the white oaks, such as the swamp oak, Oregon white oak, and burr oak, as they contain less bitter tannin. Luckily, nearly all acorns can be made usable with natural processing which renders them nutty and sweet.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Caring for your poultry in hot weather...

 Very Helpful share from "Backyard Poultry" SRN

 It's Hot Out There: Caring for Your Poultry in Hot Weather

By Dave Anderson, President
American Poultry Association
As summer approaches, it is a good time to think about protecting our birds from the extreme heat we can expect over the next few months. Heat can have a very detrimental effect on birds. Poultry do not sweat to provide cooling. Instead, they are cooled by blood that flows through the comb and wattles. As the warm blood circulates through the comb and other head appendages, it is cooled and returns to the interior portion of the body. In extreme heat, the head appendages cannot provide enough relief and the bird can die or, at the very least, become unproductive. I have actually witnessed birds suffering from heat stroke and it is not a pretty sight.

Shade and plenty of fresh water are a must in summer. Birds can withstand some very extreme temperatures if they are shielded from the sun and can cool off via the intake of water. In addition, they love to take dust baths and work the cool dirt particles into their feathers. It is amusing to watch birds with access to dirt lie on the ground and develop a hole by ruffling their feathers and digging with their claws. This not only helps keep them cool but also aids in controlling lice and mites and other parasites.

I provide fans for my birds that are housed inside and do not have access to dirt. The fans move the air which results in a cooling process. I also make sure they have fresh, clean water at least twice a day and are not exposed to direct sunlight.

A mix of Fawn Runners, Mallards and Crested Cayugas. Photo courtesy of Anna Micciulla, North Carolina.
Offering waterfowl a place to submerge themselves is not only a nice way to cool down in the summer heat, but is essential to allow them to clean their bills and eyes. Options can be as basic as the kiddie pool above or as fancy as the pond below. Top: A mix of Fawn Runners, Mallards and Crested Cayugas. Photo courtesy of Anna Micciulla, North Carolina. Bottom: Pekin ducks. Photo courtesy of Heidi Mason, Florida.
Pekin ducks. Photo courtesy of Heidi Mason, Florida.
Waterfowl are easy to care for in the summer. If they have shade and a nice pool to jump in they are happy campers. I use the small wading pools that are sold at K-mart and other similar stores. They are easy to empty and clean and provide enough water for birds to submerge themselves. It is always fun to watch them play in the water right after the pools have been filled.

Direct sunlight also has a negative effect on feather condition and can render birds unshowable until they have gone through a molt. This is particularly true if you live in an area that has high heat and low humidity. Low humidity dries out the feathers and they become brittle and more susceptible to breakage. The males of many white breeds and varieties will sunburn readily; especially if they do not possess the "silver white" gene that is often discussed in discussions of poultry genetics. The color on non-white birds such as buff or partridge, will fade rapidly and not return until a molt is complete.

In summary, birds need extra care and attention in summer just as they do in winter. If you want to keep them in production and in show condition, it is imperative that they have continuous access to fresh water and shade and minimum exposure to direct sunlight.

To learn more about the APA please visit their website at or contact the APA secretary, Pat Horstman, via telephone at (724) 729-3459 or e-mail

Preparing a Dust Bath

A dust bath can be as simple as an area of the yard where the birds have worn the grass away and only dirt survives, but providing additional ingredients can offer your birds even more pleasure. The most desired materials for a dust bath are sand, dirt and sifted wood ash. Many people feel the wood ash also helps prevent fleas and other bugs from moving in on the birds’ feathers.

Create a frame for the bath contents with wood or use an existing container such as a kiddie pool, kitty litter box, dish pan, or unused sandbox. The depth of the area only has to be deep enough to retain the dirt mixture.

Mix well equal parts dirt, sand and sifted wood ash. The wood ash needs to be sifted to remove small lumps of charcoal that can damage feathers. Place dust box in shaded area, near feeders/Waters.

Providing your birds with a dust bathing area has the (hopefully) added benefit of keeping them out of your garden beds.—Ed.

The Cool Coop


Housing can be cooled down by increasing air circulation. Open doors and windows to generate a breeze, or install a fan. Among the least expensive fans is a variable-speed paddle or Casablanca fan. Be sure the coop is properly vented so hot air doesn't get trapped against the ceiling.

Hosing down the outside walls and roof improves cooling through evaporation, as does occasionally misting or fogging the chickens themselves. Take care not to mist so much that the water puddles. Mist only adult chickens and only when the temperature is above 95°F and the relative humidity is below 75 percent. Cooling won't occur if the air is already so humid no more water can evaporate. Mist only when the fan is running or air circulation is otherwise sufficient to dry your birds.

Chickens that have no shade tend to stay indoors, where the air circulation is not as great as it might be in a shady outdoor area. Shade is particularly important for dark-colored birds, which don't reflect sunlight as well as white and light-colored birds and therefore are more susceptible to heat stroke.
—Gail Damerow, "Help Your Chickens Beat the Heat," Backyard Poultry,