Family Farm

Family Farm

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Winter Potpourri Recipes & More...

Pine cone potpourriSpice up your hospitality and generosity this winter with a few festive potpourri fragrances.
Use all-natural ingredients to combine the scents of the season and fill the air with cheer.

Pine Cone Potpourri

The holiday season is a perfect time to make potpourri for your home or for gifts. Try this simple and festive recipe from A World Of Plenty:
8 pounds of pine cones
3/4 ounce bayberry fragrance oil
1/4 ounce cinnamon fragrance oil
1/4 ounce clove fragrance oil
1/4 ounce orange fragrance oil
Fill a trash bag a little over half full with pine cones. Drop the oils in over the cones, and mix them in the bag so that the oils are distributed evenly over all the cones. Fasten the top of the trash bag and leave the pine cones for a couple days to pick up the scent of the blended oils.
You can add cinnamon sticks, pine boughs and flower pedals to the mix to add more fragrance and color to the potpourri.
“Display in decorative baskets or bowls along with, for color and variety, long cinnamon sticks, tangerines orpomegranates, cedar tips, or your own cut evergreen tips. Or keep by the fireplace and toss in for a quick burst of scent.”

Holiday Herbs

This potpourri recipe from the Herb Companion is a little more intensive than the pine cone recipe, but it makes a potpourri from dry ingredients, which creates a “mild, sweet, almost candylike scent.”
4 cups of rose petals
2 1/2 cups lavender flowers
2 cups each anise hyssop flowers, flowering tops of peppermint, pink rosebuds, oakmoss, and sweet woodruff leaves
1/2 cup each allspice berries, aniseed, and cloves
1 cup each cinnamon chips, rosemary (or substitute pine or fir needles), holy basil tops (or substitute sweet Annie or increase the aniseed), and chopped calamus root
1 vanilla bean, chopped in 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon tangerine fragrance oil
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon fragrance oil
1/4 teaspoon pine or fir fragrance oil
Combine the dry ingredients together and stir them gently until mixed, then add the fragrance oils the the mixture. Let the mixture rest in sealed jars for at least two weeks.
Display your potpourri in a large glass jar or a basket, or give your potpourri as a gift in a jar or tin. You can also fill sachets with your potpourri to spread the scents in your closets and drawers.

35 Pest and Disease Remedies

Turn to your pantry and medicine cabinet for simple solutions to common garden problems

Check out:

Dill Pickle Chips

Dill Pickle Chips

3/4 to 1 cup of beer
2 eggs
1 -2 cups of flour
Cholesterol free oil

Pour oil in a large skillet until the oil is about 1-2 inches up the side of the pan. Heat oil to 350 degrees.

Strain pickles in a small colander.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the yolks and 3/4 cup of the beer. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Whisk in enough flour to form a batter. If the batter is too thick add the remaining beer to thin the batter.

Dip pickles one at a time using tongs into the batter and then place in the heated oil.

Fry pickles for about 2 minutes flipping the pickle after about 1 minute.

Place pickles on a plate lined with paper towel and then season with salt. Serve with Ranch Dressing.

photo and recipe~

4 Tips for Greener, Cleaner Laundry
Green LaunndryFor some people, transitioning to a sustainable lifestyle is something you do step by step. Though we should, not all of us have achieved that bottom line level of efficient, low-waste living.
Not all hope is lost, though: we can each still be working toward a more natural, sustainable lifestyle every day. Instantly jumping to carbon neutral may be impossible, but working toward that goal is something we can start right now.
So let’s visit the laundry room.
It is in there that you’re going through hundreds of gallons of water, tons of electricity, waste and plastic, and time. Laundry is awfully demanding. Despite that, if you’re looking to green this practice and save a few dollars, check out these four simple tips:

Number 1. Wash in Cold

First up, wash your clothes in cold! Many people are concerned about the efficacy of washing when it’s in cold but rest assured, washing your clothes in cold is just as effective as washing your clothes in warm water. Unless you are trying to get out grease, heavy oil, or tough stains, then there should be no problem (and you should probably work on those individually anyways!).
On top of working just as well, washing in cold is also great from the environment. Check this out: washing in cold water for a year equals the same carbon emissions as 164 miles of driving while washing in hot can emit as much as 3595 miles of driving, depending on your rig. That’s a notable difference.
Finally, washing in cold means less energy used. This means an electric bill with fewer dollar signs. Good for the planet, good for you – good idea.

Number 2. Wash when Full

Next up, be sure to wash when you have a full load. This should, by all means, go without saying – why waste resources? Washing when full means washing less often, reducing time spent on loads, and means more efficient use of detergents and cleaners. Fill up those washers and save those dollars!

Number 3. Wash with Health in Mind

While we’re on the subject of cleaners, be sure to choose the right ones! Being green doesn’t just mean you need to efficiently use your resources like water and electricity. It also means you need to be mindful of what you’re putting back into the environment. Unfortunately, many of the detergents and cleaners on the shelves might not have what Mother Earth deems “healthy.”
Bottom line: keep your eyes peeled for surfactant nonylphenol ethoxylate (also known as NPE), phosphates, and harsh bleaches. Instead, go for brands that use natural alternatives, no dyes or fragrances, and nothing harsh for your skin.

Number 4. Low Heat or No Heat – Use the World!

Finally, when it comes to drying, you want to minimize the time spend using your actual dryer. Why? Dryers require a ton of energy, adding a chunk to the CO2 emitted by your washer. The funny this is that you often do not even need a dryer! Plan your washes around the schedule of the sun – by doing that, you can string your clothes up and let the natural warmth from our star do the drying. This can save you hundreds in energy expenses every year and you even get that natural scent in your clothes!

Fresh Homemade Mozzarella cheese – In 30 Minutes

Fresh, Homemade Mozzarella Cheese

I recently decided to try my hand at home cheese making with friends, and it came out delicious!  I’ve been making yogurt cheese and kefir cheese, which simply require straining the yogurt of kefir, but this was my first “real” cheese.
I used the “30 Minutes Mozzarella Cheese” recipe from Ricki Carrol’s book “Home Cheese Making“.  Ricki also features this recipe on her website at

Fresh, Homemade Mozzarella in 30 Minutes

1 1/2 level teaspoons citric acid dissolved in 1/2 cup cool water
1 gallon pasteurized whole milk (raw milk from a safe source or even powdered milk may be used – see Ricki’s site for directions)
1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet (or 1/4 rennet tablet) diluted in 1/4 cup cool, unchlorinated water
1 teaspoon cheese salt (optional)
1.  Gently bring the milk up to 55 degrees F in a large, stainless steel pot.  While stirring, add the citric acid solution to the milk at 55 degrees F and mix thoroughly.
Note:  You may use skim milk, but the yield will be lower and the cheese will be drier.
2.  Heat the milk to 90 degrees over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Remove the pot from the heat and gently stir in the diluted rennet with an up-and-down motion for 30 seconds. Cover the pot and leave undisturbed for five minutes.
3.  Check the curd.  It should look like custard, with a clear separation between the curd and why.  (If the curd is too soft or the whey is too milky, let set for a few more minutes.)  Cut the curd with a knife that reaches all the way to the bottom of your pot.
4.  Place the pot back on the stove and heat the curds to 105F, gently moving the curds around with your spoon. (Note:  If you wish to make this cheese without a microwave, directions can be found here.)  Remove from heat and continue to stir slowly for 2 to 5 minutes.  (Stirring for 5 minutes will result in firmer cheese.)
5.  Scoop out the curds with a slotted spoon and put into a 2 quart microwaveable bowl.  Press the curds gently with your hands, pouring off as much whey as possible.  Reserve the whey.  (You can use it to make ricotta cheese.)
6.  Microwave the curds on high for 1 minute.  Drain off all excess whey.  Gently fold the cheese over an over (as in kneading bread) with your hands or a spoon.  This distributes the heat evenly throughout the cheese, which will not stretch until it is too hit to touch (145F inside the curd).  Rubber kitchen gloves are very handy at this stage.  To make this cheese without a microwave, visit Ricki’s site.
7.  Microwave two more times for 35 seconds each; add salt to taste after the second time. After each heating, knead again to distribute the heat.
8. Knead quickly until it is smooth and elastic. When the cheese stretches like taffy, it’s done. If the curds break instead of stretch, they are too cool and need to be reheated.
9. When the cheese is smooth and shiny, roll it into small balls and eat while warm. Or place them in a bowl of ice water for half an hour to bring the inside temperature down rapidly; this will produce a consistent smooth texture throughout the cheese. Although best eaten fresh, it can be stored in the refrigerator at this point.
Note: If you are using store-bought milk, and your curds turn into the consistency of ricotta cheese and will not come together, switch brands of milk. It may have been heated at the factory at too high a temperature.
Yield:  3/4 to 1 pound from 1 gallon milk
Update:  After experimenting a bit more, I found you can also pull this into strips or strings (think “homemade string cheese”).  Pull the strips, drop them in the water to cool, then pack them tightly in a pyrex container or wrap in plastic wrap (I prefer pyrex).  They’re not as pretty as the store bought ones, but they work just the same.
homemade string cheesehomemade string cheese recipe
Although the original recipe recommended storing the cheese in water, I prefer storing it in a tightly sealed container without water. Water storage makes the cheese soft and washes out the salt.

Ricotta From Heaven

(also from Home Cheese Making)
Fresh whey, no more than 3 hours old, left over from making hard cheese
Directions (other options available at
1.  Heat the whey in a pot until foam appears,  This usually happens just prior to boiling; if the mixture boils, it will taste burned.
2.  Turn off the heat; let the whey set for 5 minutes.
3.  Gently skim off the foam and place the whey in a colander lined with butter muslin.
4.  Let drain for 15 minutes, then refrigerate.  This ricotta will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator.
Yield:  About 1/2 pound per gallon of whey
*Note – I later read that the 30 minute mozzarella whey is not recommended for making ricotta (it says this in the cheesemaking kits), but mine works just fine.  I’m glad I didn’t read that I wasn’t supposed to do it before I did it.
We ate one batch of mozzarella fresh, and then I made more to put on homemade pepperoni pizza.  :-)   It was delicious.
The ricotta was lovely, too.  Very smooth and creamy, and just a tiny bit sweet.  I think it would be great in homemade lasagna.  The leftover whey can be used for fermenting vegetables, such as beet kvass, or you can chill it and add some flavored drink mix for a nourishing beverage.  My kitties like to drink it plain.  I warm it up for them on cold mornings.
I’m looking forward to trying other cheese recipes, but these were great ones to start with – very quick and easy.
Another family favorite that may be even easier, although it takes a bit longer, is fromage blanc.  Fromage blanc is a soft white cheese that is great as a spread or dip.  (Or for topping spuds – yum!)  It can also be used in cooking.The recipe only has five steps – that’s it!  Learn how to make fromage blanc in this post.

Produce You Should Never Put In The Fridge

Check out this article for more info:

Monday, March 12, 2012

Our chicks...

It is time to move the girls out of the kitchen and into a bigger brooder!!!

2 Months, 5 Days Old...

Everything is being chewed...sigh...

Selling Your Eggs

So now that the three chickens you originally raised just to provide your family with enough eggs to eat has turned into 25 laying hens because you just HAD to have one more breed, egg color or some of those adorable chicks from the feed store last spring...what do you do with the all those eggs?

Now that we're getting more than a dozen eggs EVERY DAY I finally broke down and stopped hoarded all our beautiful eggs and started giving some away to friends, family, neighbors, our UPS man, mail carrier, the woman at the dry cleaners and the garden center manager.

My husband has also sold a few dozen to his co-workers and I was thinking of setting up a booth and selling some at the local farmers market this spring. But what are the regulations for selling eggs from backyard chickens ?  I had no idea. I decided I needed to find out before I sold any more or got involved with the farmer's market.

Here's what I found out:

You do not need to register with any state or federal agency, pasteurize your eggs or use any special wash on the eggs you sell as long as:

- you sell  only your own eggs from your chickens
- you sell your eggs only at your house or farm, through home delivery or at a farmer's market
- you don't grade (AA, A or B etc) or sell your eggs by size
-the eggs are fresh and UNwashed
- you don't label your eggs as 'organic' (you can't use the term 'organic' unless you have been certified under the National Organic Program' standards which is a rigorous process)

You will also need to check with your own state department of agriculture to be sure you are complying with the local health and sanitation requirements.  You can start with your local extension service or google 'egg laws' for your state.  They vary state to state.

For example, Virginia's 'Egg Law' applies only to those selling more than 150 dozen eggs a week, all others are exempt from any further regulation.  However, if you sell eggs at a farmer's market (regardless of how many or few sold), then all eggs must be clean, held at 45 degrees or lower and cartons must include a label with the seller's name and address as well as the word "Ungraded" and the following:

Safe Handling Instructions:  To prevent illness from bacteria:  keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly. 
    ~Interestingly enough the term “fresh eggs” may NOT be used on ungraded cartons of eggs (and may only be used if graded eggs meet the requirements of Grade A quality or better)~

    Once you have made sure you know the rules and are complying with them, you will need cartons in which to package your eggs for sale.  Purchasing new cartons is a good idea because many states prohibit the sale of eggs in used cartons.  I love the retro 3x4 cardboard cartons and clear plastic break-apart cartons from  

    A business card with your name or your 'farm' name and phone number for customers to call to re-order attached with a colorful ribbon makes for a nice hostess gift (although if you are selling to friends or door-to-door you  aren't required to attach any kind of card or print anything on the carton  or label unless you so choose).

    You will want to put a sign out on your mailbox advertising that you have eggs.  One with a hanging 'chalkboard' makes it easy to advertise your price or tell customers when you have eggs for sale and when you don't.  

    You can easily make one yourself or purchase one here:

    I feel better knowing that the laws are, but I think I will still keep giving away most of our extra eggs to friends because they seem to enjoy them so much.

    But at least I have stopped being an 'egg hoarder'.  I guess admitting it was the first step...

    Quick Orange Peel Vinegar Cleaner!

    Orange peels, vinegar in a quart jar, let sit for 10 days or so...strain out the liquid and use as an all-purpose cleaner. Easy, cheap, natural, smells good!

    Garlic: {Kitchen Q&A}

    This week’s Kitchen Questions & Answers is all about garlic: Do you know the difference between garlic powder and garlic salt or how to quickly peel a lot of garlic cloves quickly? Would you like to learn how to make your own garlic salt? Or how about a handy kitchen tip for removing garlic smell from your hands or how to fix a cooked dish that has too much garlic in it? These questions and more are answered below…
    A Bulb Of Garlic With Peeled Cloves
    A Bulb Of Garlic With Peeled Cloves
    1. What are some garlic equivalents? 1 medium clove garlic = 1 teaspoon minced garlic = 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt = 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic = 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder. (see note below about garlic clove size–halve if small clove, double if large clove).
    2. What does a clove of garlic equal minced? 1 small clove = 1/2 teaspoon minced; medium clove = 1 teaspoon minced; large clove = 2 teaspoons minced (these are approximate measurements).
    3. How should garlic bulbs be stored? Garlic should be kept cool with good air circulation (don’t refrigerate it and don’t lock it up tight in a plastic container). Keep a bulb or two in a small bowl or basket on the kitchen counter if you use it daily, the rest can be stored in a basket in a cool, dark pantry to help the garlic last longer.
    4. How can I store minced garlic? Put it in a small glass jar then cover with olive oil and refrigerate (use within the week). If you want to make big batches of minced garlic you can freeze the batch by putting it in a small ziploc freezer bag, patting the garlic down into a thin thickness and to remove all the air, then freezing it. Remove frozen pieces of minced garlic as you need by breaking off a chunk.
    5. Can you freeze whole bulbs of garlic? Yes you can! Freeze whole, unpeeled bulbs of garlic in a freezer bag then remove cloves as you need. You can also separate the cloves before freezing or place peeled cloves in an empty icecube tray, cover each with olive oil, freeze, then pop them out and freeze in a large bag or airtight container–grab a cube when you need it.
    6. How do I fix too much garlic in my recipe/dish? Mix 1 teaspoon of sugar with two teaspoons of vinegar then mix with 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of water. Mix well then SLOWLY add to your cooked dish until you find an agreeable level of garlic taste. Just mix this in a little at a time since you may not need much!
    7. How do you roast garlic? Roasting garlic is very easy to do and it’s delicious in mashed potatoes, on meat and vegetables, slathered on bread and used in many other dishes. To roast garlic, see How To Roast Garlic & Recipe Tips.
    8. Is there a way to make my own garlic salt? Sure! Homemade Garlic Salt: Grind dried garlic in a food processor until it’s a fine powder, measure then add 4 parts salt to one part garlic powder and mix for 2 seconds. Store in an airtight container.
    9. What is elephant garlic? Elephant garlic is a lot bigger than regular garlic but its taste is more subtle. If you prefer a hint of garlic taste in recipes rather than the full flavor, try substituting regular garlic with elephant garlic. Did you know elephant garlic is actually from the leek family? Source: Growing Garlic: Tip Sheet.
    10. What’s the difference between granulated garlic and garlic powder? Granulated garlic has a coarser consistency/texture than garlic powder but they’re both made from ground, dehydrated garlic.
    11. What’s the difference between garlic powder and garlic salt? Garlic powder is ground, dehydrated garlic and garlic salt is garlic powder with salt added. If you wanted to substitute garlic salt for garlic powder in a recipe, you can do so but be careful about adding any more salt to the dish (taste first). If you want to substitute garlic powder for garlic salt, reduce the amount and add a bit of salt–you’ll have to do this by taste. See the equivalents listed at the top.
    12. What’s the difference between a bulb of garlic and a clove of garlic? The garlic bulb is the whole garlic “plant” while cloves of garlic are the individual garlic pieces found within the bulb.
    13. Any tips for removing garlic smell from hands? Here’s a few: Remove the smell of garlic from hands by rubbing your fingers over a stainless steel spoon (from More Kitchen Tip Quickies). You can also rub a couple crushed crackers between your hands to remove the smell.
    14. How do you peel garlic cloves? For big batches dunk garlic cloves for about 10 seconds in boiling water then strain and dunk in ice cold water. The cloves should pop out of their skins easily. If it’s just a few cloves you need to peel, cut off one end of the garlic then peel off the skin with the blade of the knife. If the recipe calls for minced or crushed garlic, just smash the clove with your knife and you’ll be able to pick out the skin easily.

    25 Cooking & Baking Tips – Timeless Wisdom Collection

    These tips for cooking and baking are from a large collection of tips I’ve gathered together from a variety of books and magazines from the 1940s and 1950s…most of these are quite unique I think since I don’t recall coming across them before.
    1. Cooking & Baking Tips - Tipnut.comSift flour as it is being emptied into the container. As most recipes call for sifted flour, this will save much time.
    2. Ease graham cracker crusts from the pan by dipping the pie pan in hot water before slicing and serving.
    3. Keep a tin of orange concentrate opened in your fridge and ready for use. Sneak a spoonful into your sweet sauces, icing for cakes, lemon cake mix, fresh salads and ever so many recipes and watch them take on a tang.
    4. Red cabbage will keep its red color if cooked with a bit of vinegar added to the water; add when cabbage is partially cooked.
    5. French toast is made crisper by adding a tablespoon of flour to the egg and milk mixture.
    6. Instead of deep frying croquettes, place them in a greased pan and bake; just as good and much more digestible.
    7. Bacon drippings are valuable–save them. Use as seasoning for vegetables; as a basis for soups and white sauces; to add meat flavor to scalloped dishes; for frying eggs, French toast, potatoes, etc.
    8. A dash of ginger added to chocolate icing gives a delicious, unusual flavor.
    9. Juice from pickled fruits such as crab apples, peaches and pears is wonderful for basting smoked ham.
    10. For a variation in meat balls, add chopped apple to ground meat along with other seasoning, roll into small balls and simmer in tomato puree, seasoned with sage.
    11. Boiled icing will keep soft if a scant teaspoon of vinegar is added with the flavoring.
    12. Add one of the following to the room temperature egg whites for the highest meringue: add a pinch of baking powder; add a pinch of salt; add a generous pinch of baking soda.
    13. A teaspoon of celery salt added to cracker crumbs in which oysters are rolled before frying improves their flavor.
    14. If you can’t find either fresh or dried dill, use 2 or 3 tablespoons of dill seed to each quart of pickles.
    15. When you get through with a tea ball, empty and clean it, then use it to hold onion or other seasoning for flavoring soups and stews.
    16. Something new in frosting! For a white or yellow cake, put 2/3 cup chopped dried apricots (well washed) in the frosting. Flavor with 1/4 teaspoon each of almond and lemon extract as well as the usual teaspoon of vanilla.
    17. If whipping cream won’t thicken, add some instant vanilla pudding powder.
    18. Heavy muffin papers set in muffin tins make excellent gelatin molds. Serve in papers or remove by placing muffin tins in warm water for a few minutes. Top with a cherry or peach slice.
    19. A little crushed or diced pineapple is delicious added to savory stuffing used for roast.
    20. Pastry will be flakier if you include 1 tblsp. orange or lemon juice as part of your liquid.
    21. Diced fruits for salad or desserts can be kept from turning dark by covering them with grapefruit juice.
    22. Once an onion has been cut in half, rub the left-over side with butter and it will keep longer.
    23. Leftover onion will keep much longer then the root is left intact – use top part first.
    24. Leftover eggnog makes a lovely sauce for vanilla ice cream or cake. And mixed with rice, it makes a tasty rice pudding. Just substitute it for the milk in your recipe.
    25. Popcorn should always be kept in the freezer. Not only will it stay fresh, but freezing helps eliminate “old maids”.
    More Tips:

    Sunday, March 11, 2012

    Clothespin Plant Labels

    If you run out of labels when #sowing those #seeds, clothes pins are handy in a pinch, pardon the pun.

    13 herbs to grow in your kitchen, with tips on getting started and keeping them growing

    13 herbs to grow in your kitchen, with tips on getting started and keeping them growing

    herbs.jpgView full sizeIf you love what fresh herbs can do for food, you can still keep that flavor at hand and satisfy your cravings when you grow them indoors. There are a surprising number of herbs that will thrive as indoor plants. All it takes is a bright space, a few well-chosen varieties and a spirit of adventure.

    To ensure success, it's usually best to start with healthy plants rather than seeds, especially at this time of year. Established plants put you months ahead (sometimes even a year) compared with plants started from seeds, plus they offer you a wide range of varieties for growing indoors.

    Getting started

    You'll need a bright space, such as a large sunny window, a sunroom or a room with skylights. Choose a location with temps between 55 and 75 degrees with good air circulation. The area next to a window may be too cold for some herbs in winter.

    Most culinary herbs grow best with at least five to six hours of bright light; mint, parsley and chives do fine with four to five. Keep in mind that natural light is more limited and less intense in winter. Other factors to consider when choosing your location are nearby trees that cast shade, a roof overhang or a patio roof. If plants start to look leggy you may need to move them to a location with more light or supplement with grow or fluorescent lights.

    Selecting containers and soil

    Almost any pot or container at least 6 inches or larger can be used for growing herbs as long as it has drainage holes. Choose the largest pot possible to provide more room for growing roots, which will give you a bigger plant to harvest from.

    Use a fast-draining potting mix as garden soil will compact in containers and smother plant roots. Look for a premium mix that includes lightweight ingredients such as perlite or vermiculite to help loosen and aerate the final mix.

    Growing tips

    Water needs will vary depending on the size and type of plant, the size and type of container, and the time of year. Plants are dormant or growing less actively during winter when light levels are lower and therefore require less water. Allow the soil to dry slightly for most herbs; keep the soil slightly moist for basil, chives, mint and parsley. The best way to tell when a plant needs water is to stick your finger one inch into the soil. If the soil feels dry, it's time to water.

    Once herbs start actively growing in spring, you'll need to feed them with a liquid fertilizer every four weeks. Or, oganic fertilizer granules that you scratch into the soil surface every other month can be used instead of a liquid fertilizer.

    Keep your indoor herb garden growing strong by checking plants each year and replacing those that are short-lived or have become woody. And don't forget the best part, which is harvesting and using your indoor herbs.

    -- Kris Wetherbee

    13 culinary herbs worth growing indoors

    Herbs grown indoors are usually less productive than outdoor plants, but they'll still give you plenty of fabulous flavor for your favorite dishes.

    1. Basil (Ocimum basilicum):
    Grow as an annual or short-lived perennial. Try 'Genovese' for classic aroma and flavor; 'Lemon' for a hint of citrus; 'Spicy Globe' for compact growth (8 to 10 inches tall); or 'Siam Queen' for unique, spicy flavor.

    2. Bay (Laurus nobilis):
    Grows slowly at first but will eventually form a bush or small tree that can be easily trained into formal shapes or a topiary. Get a head start and purchase a young 1- to 2-foot plant.

    3. Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium): Also known as French parsley, this annual is similar in appearance and taste, with delicate overtones of anise. To harvest, snip the outer leaves and stems, or gather a bunch of sprigs together and cut off an inch or two above the soil.

    4. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum):
    A grasslike perennial herb with a delicate onion flavor. 'Grolau' chives is a prolific producer for windowsill growing. Garlic chives (A. tuberosum) has a mild garlic taste. Cut small bunches of leaves back to the soil level when harvesting to keep new ones coming.

    5. Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum): Also known as Chinese parsley, this short-lived annual has a distinctive parsley/sage/citrus-like flavor. Best started from seed. Grows quickly, but once harvested it does not regrow. Extend your harvest by growing three pots at different stages (seeded, intermediate growth and ready to harvest).

    6. Dill (Anethum graveolens): Aromatic annual best grown for its leaves when grown indoors. Sow several pots at different stages (like cilantro) for a continual supply. 'Fernleaf' dill is a compact variety ideal for growing indoors.

    7. Marjoram (Origanum spp.):
    This Mediterranean native belongs to the oregano family, but its flavor is distinctively sweeter and more delicate. Sweet marjoram (O. majorana) is often grown in pots indoors; Italian marjoram (O. x majoricum) is similar but with an exquisite blend of sweet and spicy.

    8. Mints (Mentha spp.): Peppermint (M. x piperita) and spearmint (M. spicata) are good choices for growing in pots. 'English' mint is a well-behaved variety of spearmint. Be sure to give mint its own container as it can easily overtake other herbs.

    9. Oregano (Origanum vulgare ssp. hirtum): Greek oregano delivers true authentic oregano flavor, growing to 12 inches in pots; 'Kaliteri' (O. vulgare 'Kaliteri') is a Greek strain that is spicy and flavorful without being too bitter. Harvest leaves often to encourage new growth. Oregano remains productive for up to two years and should be replaced when plants become woody.

    10. Parsley (Petroselinum spp.):
    Both Italian flat-leaf (P. crispum var. neapolitanum) and curly-leaf parsley (P. crispum) excel when grown indoors. The Italian variety of this biennial herb is often favored for its robust flavor. Cut the outer leaves when harvesting. This will spur new growth from the center and keep parsley remaining productive for several months or more.

    11. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): This perennial comes in both trailing and upright forms. 'Blue Boy' is more compact than regular rosemary. For best flavor, choose a more compact upright variety such as 'Taylor's Blue' or 'Salem.' Even though rosemary enjoys drier conditions, it's imperative that the soil is never allowed to dry out completely or the plant may die.

    12. Sage (Salvia officinalis):
    For container growing, try 12-inch-tall dwarf sage (S. officinalis minimus), or nonflowering 'Berggarten,' a vigorous but compact low-growing culinary strain. Dwarf garden sage (S. officinalis 'Compacta') offers the same flavor as garden sage but grows only 10 inches high.

    13. Thyme (Thymus spp.):
    Lemon thyme (T. x citriodorus) and French thyme (T. vulgaris 'Narrow Leaf French') are excellent culinary varieties. Change it up with creeping 'Oregano' thyme, with its great thyme flavor and oregano undertones.
    Related topics: container garden, herbs


    New pics of animals on the farm and at work this Spring!

    Our new pup Tanner: a Heeler/Border Collie Mix

    A few new chicks: Red Laced Blue Wyandottes and Sicilian Buttercups

    Mixed Bantams

    Ameraucanas and Black Australorps

    Baby Ducklings...

    Fresh Summery Scented Bedding Year Round: {Tip Sheet}

    Winters are pretty cold here in Canada so windows are kept shut and clotheslines hang empty for months, but there are a few tricks us Northerners have that help us enjoy fresh, fragrant bedding year round (with no nasty chemicals or expensive laundry products).
    Beat Those Stale Winter Blues With These Tips
    Beat Those Stale Winter Blues With These Tips
    One of the things I miss most in winter is flinging open the bedroom window, stripping the bedding back and letting nature freshen up my bed linens naturally with sun and fresh air. But this list offers options that are just as easy and will provide a fragrance filled sleep year-round.
    Herbal Lavender Dryer Bags
    Try these easy to make dryer bags filled with lavender buds, they provide a natural moth repellent, sleep aid and a natural antibacterial.
    Perfect for lavender scented bedding, these are very easy to make and Bonus! you can skip the commercial dryer sheets when combined with a vinegar rinse (1/4 to 1/2 cup per load).
    Easy Trick Using Essential Oils
    • Directions: Fill a small spray bottle with water then add several drops of essential oil (lavender, mint, whatever you like). Shake then spray a clean white washcloth with the water/EO solution until lightly damp, toss in the dryer with the wet laundry. Scent will transfer to the bedding, lovely!
    Lavender Buds Vinegar Rinse
    Use this recipe for making a lavender vinegar suitable to use as a laundry rinse and fabric softener (as listed here on Tipnut: Lavender Vinegar Recipes):
    • Handful of Lavender Flowers and 1 Pint White Vinegar
    • Directions: Combine lavender and vinegar, seal and let sit for 6 weeks before using. Strain. Use about 1/4 cup in the rinse cycle, increase up to 1 cup per load if stronger scent is desired.
    Scented Vinegar Rinse (Essential Oils)
    Use this recipe (as listed here on Tipnut: Frugral Fabric Softener Recipes & Dryer Sheet Tips):
    • Using 1/4 cup vinegar in your laundry’s rinse cycle keeps clothes soft. You can set aside a vinegar jug just for laundry and add about 2 dozen drops of your favorite essential oil to the vinegar if you’d like (or as much EO as you feel necessary).
    Scented Laundry Booster
    • Fill a plastic container with baking soda then add a few drops of essential oil to preference (start with about 2 drops per cup). Stir well with a wooden stick or spoon (not one used for cooking). Seal the container and set aside for two weeks.
    • After two weeks use it as a laundry booster (1/2 cup per load in the wash or rinse cycle–your choice). Do not add any commercial fabric softener.
    Homemade Scented Fabric Softener
    The fragrance is light once bedding has dried and you can increase the amount of essential oils if it isn’t strong enough for you. Choose your favorite scents and add 1/2 to 1 cup of this mixture at the start of the rinse cycle:
    • 1 cup baking soda, 1 1/4 cups warm water, 8 cups white vinegar, Essential Oils of your choice.

    Tips & Tricks

    Mattress & Linen Freshener
    • Using your blender, grind until fine 1/2 cup of dried herbs (try mint, lavender, lemon balm, etc.).
    • Mix ground herbs with 1/2 cup baking soda.
    • Sprinkle mixture lightly over mattress pad or cover then top with clean fitted sheet.
    • Spread mixture more heavily on top half of bed where upper body rests to enjoy a consistent fragrance.
    Here’s another recipe you can try…
    Pixie Dust
    1/2 cup baking soda
    1/2 cup cornstarch
    1 1/2 tsp ground orange zest (dried)
    10 drops of your favorite essential oil
    • Blend all ingredients together in a blender then pour into a large shaker. Sprinkle on bed linens as needed.
    Scented Starch For Linens
    You can substitute the lavender EO in this recipe for any fragrance you like. Recipe Source: Storybook Woods:
    • Dissolve 1 tablespoon cornstarch in 1 pint cold water. Add 6 drops of lavender essential oil. Place in a spray bottle. Shake before using.
    Fresh pressed linens, nicely starched, and lavender scent wafting in the air. Nice!
    Homemade Linen Sprays
    Source: Hallmark Magazine
    Source: Hallmark Magazine
    Combine vodka (which is also a disinfectant), distilled water and fragrant oils to make these lovely linen sprays. Here are three easy to mix recipes from Hallmark Magazine (no longer available online):
    Pour 2 TBS 100 proof vodka into a 16 or 32-ounce spray bottle then add the following:
    • Jasmine Bergamot: 1 teaspoon jasmine oil and 1/2 teaspoon bergamot oil
    • Lavender Sandalwood: 1 teaspoon lavender oil and 1/2 teaspoon sandalwood oil
    • Vanilla Ginger: 1 teaspoon vanilla oil and 2 drops ginger oil
    Directions: Top the vodka and oils with distilled water, cap and shake to mix. Spray linens as needed, shaking bottle lightly before each use.
    Herbal Sleep Pouches
    • Insert the herbal pouch inside your pillowcase at night to help relax and fall asleep easier. To help the herbs last longer, store the pouch in a ziploc bag during the day and place in a drawer out of light, take out and insert in your pillowcase each night. Squeezing the pouch a bit before use will help too.
    • Details to make these herbal pouches can be found here on Tipnut: Homemade Herbal Sleep Pouches. These are also called “Dream Pillows”.
    Linen Closet Sachets
    • Directions: Mix 50/50 dried lavender and lemon balm and fill cotton fabric or cheesecloth sachets. Tuck sachets into clean folded linens. These will scent the linens while being stored and can be used repeatedly. Lavender and lemon balm together is a very calming and relaxing mix, perfect for bed linens.

    Sleep Easy Suggestions

    When scenting your bed linens, it’s tempting to overdo it since you’re likely choosing your favorite fragrances. However, a light application is preferable since headaches and stuffiness may occur if fragrances are too strong (you’ll be sleeping on the linens for hours at a time). Strong smells may also keep you awake rather than ease you into a peaceful sleep.
    What To Use
    Choose scents that are pleasing to you and help you relax rather than those that perk you up. Your sleep will be more peaceful and less restless. This is especially helpful for those suffering from insomnia or who have regular trouble falling asleep. Some suggestions:
    • Lavender
    • Lemon Balm
    • Lilac
    • Rose Petals
    • Peppermint
    Peaceful Sleep Mixes
    Lavender is commonly recommended as a home remedy for sleep since it’s thought to be effective in inducing a calm and peaceful rest. It’s also suggested as an excellent repellent for dust mites, so it’s a great choice for linens. Most of the mixes I have collected include lavender…
    • Lavender, Lemon Balm
    • Lavender, Rose Petals
    • Lavender, Rose Petals, Thyme, Rosemary
    • Lavender, Rose Petals, Jasmine
    • Lavender, Peppermint
    • Lavender, Lilac
    • Rose Petals, Lemon Balm, Chamomile
    When using dried herbs and flowers to fill sachets and sleep pillows or scent bedding, choose those that are pesticide free for best results. Here are several sachet patterns and tutorials to get you started.

    Chicken wire + frame = no more lost earrings!


    Plastic Milk Bottle Plant Containers!

    A great GARDENING project for KIDS! Plastic milk bottle = FUN plant container! Here's How!

    Leaving Your Fresh Eggs Out to Enjoy!!!

    Don't hide your pretty eggs in the frig. Leave them right out on the counter in a basket or bowl. As long as you don' wash them (the natural 'bloom' is what keeps out air and bacteria), they will keep for several weeks unrefrigerated. If you're unsure if they're still safe to eat, just pop one into a glass of water. Toss any floaters, the rest are fine.
    And folks, don't "wash" your eggs with mineral oil or other cleaners. Eggs are very porous and will absorb easily. If they are dirty, a little warm water and a bit of olive oil will keep them nice. Whatever you put on them will absorb into the egg! They have their own natural protectant with the shell :) (Trish)

    Cute Outdoor Chalkboard!

    We LOVE the idea of an OUTDOOR chalkboard! This one is DARLING! Here's How! ♥♥♥

    Dying Easter Eggs...Naturally

    Dying Easter Eggs...Naturally

    It's almost Easter.  And Easter means colored eggs.  Of course if you have some colored egg-laying chickens, you don't need to worry about dying eggs for Easter, but since this is our first spring having white duck eggs, I wanted to try some.  I decided to experiment with natural ingredients for the dyes instead of using either food coloring or Kool-aid.

    Its was so easy and the results were glorious as you can see !  

    Here's the method that I used and then some suggestions for ingredients to use to achieve an assortment of beautifully dyed eggs.  The beauty of this method is that you hard boil and color the eggs in one step.
    I started with a bowl of white duck eggs (although you can use white chicken or goose eggs also) and rinsed them in warm water, scrubbing gently to remove the bloom.  

    Then I placed a few eggs in a small pot in a single layer and covered them with water, adding 1 Tablespoon white vinegar per Cup of water, along with whatever I was using as coloring agent, brought the mixture to a boil and then simmered for 15-20 minutes, checking the color intensity after 10 minutes.
    ~eggs simmering in onion skins~

    ~eggs simmering in beets/stalks~

    When I had achieved the desired color, I removed the eggs gently and placed them in a plastic egg carton to dry.  I poured the remaining water mixture (except the onions,coffee grounds and wine) into a large bowl to give to the chickens when I was done.  

    When the eggs were dry, I rubbed each with a cotton ball dipped in cooking oil and then buffed gently with a clean paper towel to give them a beautiful shine.

    These are the colors I got from various common food items:

    I didn't use any water, but instead covered the eggs with the cranberry juice (fresh or frozen cranberries would also work - I just didn't happen to have any) and added 1T white vinegar per Cup of juice to get a nice rosy pink.

    I added two sliced fresh beets and stalks to enough water to cover the eggs (canned beets would also work)  for a beige color.

    Onion skins produced an orangish color. One egg came out after about 10 minutes, the others I left in for 20 minutes for a contrast in colors. (I discarded the skins when I was done)

    I added a few Tablespoons of turmeric to the water and white vinegar for cheery yellow eggs.

    A handful of fresh spinach leaves added to the water/vinegar produced pale green eggs.

    Fresh blueberries, mashed and added to the water and vinegar produced gorgeous blue eggs.

    Again, no water, just boiled the eggs in wine and added 1T white vinegar per Cup of wine
    (the wine I discarded when I was done) and got a pretty purplish color.

    I brewed a pot of strong coffee, putting the eggs right into the carafe while the coffee was brewing, and then leaving them to steep for 10 minutes for the lighter tan and 20 minutes for the darker color. I discarded the coffee when I was done.

    I ended up with a beautiful assortment of naturally dyed eggs ...

    and the chickens got a nice fruit and veggie soup mix to enjoy.

    Try these ideas or others - such as pomagranites, carrots, or other types of greens.

    Happy Easter ...

    from the Ducks !
    ~stock photo~

    You can also use blown eggs so they will last indefinitely.