If your plants could talk they would ask for Buckaroo Organic Worm Castings.Read more
Laughing Crow & Company Flower & Fiber Farm has new digs!
Two months ago, we bought an adorable five-acre farm and are currently starting all the flowery things from scratch (yikes!). While our little family farm may never technically be empire-sized, we certainly aim to produce flowers of empire quality.
This is where our fabulous friends at Sanctuary Soil come in. This California-based organic soil company dumped a big, delicious pile of their Empire Builder soil into one of the flower fields. We are hard at work this fall to get our first flower beds ready to rock in the spring of 2019!
Sanctuary Soil is a brand of California Soils, which the largest producer of organic worm castings in North America. Perpetual, cutting-edge research has them producing top-tier soil products including:
Every one of their products are held to the highest agricultural standards, with several being certified organic (OIM & OMRI listed).
We chose to start our flower beds with sustainable and nutritious Empire Builder. This is a masterful blend of coco coir, sphagnum peat moss, composted forest product, worm castings (WORM CASTINGS are already inside, ya’ll!), coco chips, lava rock, pumice, perlite, gypsum, langbeinite, sea bird and bat guano, fish bonemeal, feather meal, bonemeal, limestone, greensand, alfalfa meal, kelp meal, glacial rock dust, azomite, soybean meal, and rice bran.
By the way, we think Sanctuary Soil’s Empire Builder is the right one for our flower fields, but this blend is not just a one-trick-pony. Empire Builder is perfect for grow bags and both indoor and outdoor pots, too! We’ll be sure to post about our organic super-soil journey as the flower farm takes shape in the coming months.
Gardening in the suburbs in some postage-stamp garden areas forced me to get creative when it came to suburban vegetable farming. But you know what? Even now that we live on acreage, I still enjoy using small-space gardening techniques because it's just plain practical! Vegetables have zero bias when it comes to their garden home. Use these tips to help vegetables thrive in your small-space garden.
Try vertical vegetable gardening.
Integrate veggies into the existing landscape.
Plant intensively (closer together than normal).
Take advantage of dwarf vegetable varieties.
Try succession planting.
Plant inside soil bags that are placed on top of cemented areas.
Plant dwarf fruit trees.
Try columnar apple trees (narrow, bottlebrush-growing habit).
Plant multi-grafted fruit trees (several fruit varieties on a single tree).
Use espalier techniques (pruning a fruit tree into a shape against a wall).
I have a few more small-space gardening tips over at Fix.com, Small-Space Gardening Tricks & Tips.
By the way, fruit trees are perfectly appropriate for small space gardens, as well! Keep your eyes open for the dwarf varieties as is illustrated in this infographic by Insteading.com.
It's unusual for us to put guest posts up on our blog. However, our gorgeous state battles countless fires each year. I will tell you that many (many) of them are either unintentionally set and sadly, sometimes intentionally set by humans. Please, please think about what you're doing out there and report any suspicious activity. Growing up in California, Smokey Bear has been a part of my life as long as I can remember. It's my great pleasure to bring you Smokey Bear's message by Renee Kemper on sound fire-prevention advice.
Right now, California, along with 6 other states are fighting wildfire battles. Some worse than others – but all very scary and so devastating.
We have all heard the message of Smokey Bear – he has been telling us to prevent fires for 72 years now. His message is just as important now as it was back in 1944.
Smokey Bear’s message about wildfire prevention is the center of the longest running and one of the most successful PSA campaigns in our nation's history. Although progress has been made, accidental, human-caused wildfires remain one of the most critical environmental issues affecting the U.S. the Soberanes fire, in California, is a perfect example. This fire was caused by an abandoned campfire. And that one single person, who either did not know or was being careless, caused acres and acres of destruction.
Coinciding with Smokey Bear’s 72nd birthday, the Ad Council, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), have launched a new series of public service advertisements (PSAs) created to help prevent wildfires nationwide by increasing awareness about less commonly known fire starts.
When camping, take care when using and fueling lanterns, stoves, and heaters. Make sure lighting and heating devices are cool before refueling. Avoid spilling flammable liquids and store fuel away from appliances.
Do not discard cigarettes, matches, and smoking materials from moving vehicles, or anywhere on park grounds. Be certain to completely extinguish cigarettes before disposing of them.
Follow local ordinances when burning yard waste. Avoid backyard burning in windy conditions, and keep a shovel, water, and fire retardant nearby to keep fires in check. Remove all flammables from yard when burning.
Although most of us don’t behave this way intentionally, each year we learn of devastating wildfires caused by careless behavior which can impact millions of acres of forest and thousands of homes. Although four out of five wildfires are started by people, nature is usually more than happy to help fan the flames.
How else can you help? Be smart when you go outdoors! Show your commitment to wildfire prevention. Join me in taking the Smokey Bear Pledge!
- To use caution and common sense before lighting any fire.
- To understand that any fire I or my friends create could become a wildfire.
- To understand and practice proper guidelines whenever I or my friends create a fire outdoors.
- To never, ever leave any fire unattended.
- To make sure any fire that I or my friends create is properly and completely extinguished before moving on.
- To properly extinguish and discard of smoking materials.
- To be aware of my surroundings and be careful when operating equipment during periods of dry or hot weather.
- To speak up and step in when I see someone in danger of starting a wildfire.
One Saturday morning several years ago, my husband and I were cruising about town looking for a score on what other people didn't find useful anymore. At one of the yard sales I spotted one of those spice racks that attach to the inside of a cabinet door. To most people it was just a forgotten spice rack, but I saw a vertical garden planted with herbs and spices.
I claimed it for a mere $3 bucks and a vertical garden was born.
Spice Rack Planter Materials:
- 1 Spice rack
- 1 Roll of burlap
- Potting soil
Recycle the Tossed out Spice Rack as a Vertical Garden Planter:
1. Cut 2 pieces of burlap in 9 1/2" x 24" strips for each shelf/basket. Line the shelves by placing two pieces of burlap sown inside each shelf.
2. Fill the shelf baskets (now lined with burlap) with potting soil.
3. Plant herbs, strawberries, lettuce, annuals, succulents, or whatever strikes your fancy.
4. Once all of the shelves are planted, fold the burlap on the short sides of the shelves down and tuck it into the corners of the baskets. This creates a nice, little pockets which keeps the soil in place. If you happen to be handy with a sewing machine and also no lazy (it's that last part that always nails me), you can sew those sides to make planter pockets.
5. Water your spice rack planter gently until the soil is thoroughly moistened. It can take a few minutes for new potting soil to become soaked through.
Our vertical spice rack planter became the cover of my book, Vertical Vegetable Gardening (Alpha Books), and we had it for three years until I passed it onto a friend when we moved. It lived on our back deck where it received only morning sun. It was probably the best spot for it because the baskets are quite shallow and the entire unit dried out pretty quickly.
Situated in that spot, I lightly watered it every other day. But if it was getting more sun I would have done it everyday. California life, folks.
My spice rack planters was seasonal as far as plants went and rather limited in its usefulness. The burlap, plants, and soil will need to be replaced the following year. That said, some plants grew very well in the baby baskets and it's a pretty cool recycling example.
You just can't expect to feed the family this way. Unless you're all about "less is more." Than this would for sure be more (heh).
Plants that liked in this shallow vertical planter are usually a bit drought-tolerant and short-rooted. Herbs, alyssum, baby tears, strawberries, and succulents all did well in here.
I have been asked many times if this was actually enough room even for a true herb garden? My answer is not in the traditional sense, depending. We use a lot of herbs in the kitchen. Thus, this little upright unit was constantly being harvested, which left plenty of room for new growth, but sometimes we annihilated the darlings to the point where they couldn't recover. So I consider this vertical garden to be an accent garden, if-you-will.
Chicken-keeper extraordinaire, Janet Garman, knows her birds. There's a lot of animal knowledge tucked tightly under her belt. Janet not only holds a degree in animal science, but is a retired feed store owner, as well.
For this small business owner, baby chicken sales didn't end after the cash register drawer closed -- not by a long shot. Come spring every year Janet helped those purchasing chicks for the first time and would kindly share her chicken raising wisdom again, and again, and again.
So much so that she did what any smart, business-minded homesteader would do. She decided to make her first-hand, chicken-rearing advice available 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year by writing a book especially for new chicken keepers.
Chickens from Scratch starts at the very beginning: where to purchase chicks; what you'll need what you'll need to set up a brooder box; which chicken breeds might suit you best. Following those topics is what to expect from your baby birds during the early days such as pecking each other and poopy butts. Janet talks about chicken growth, feather development, egg laying, nest boxes, and broodiness so that you'll know what to expect.
Introducing your growing flock to older chickens, basic food, water, and shelter, and molting (naked chickens) comes next. Chickens from Scratch touches on other questions about treats and supplements for your flock (including what not to feed them), as well as common ailments such as mites, bumblefoot, and predators. Janet also includes a first-aid supply list to keep around the barn.
Pick up Chickens from Scratch: Raising Your Chickens from Scratch to Egg Laying and Beyond by Janet Garman the same day that you purchase your baby chicks. It doesn't claim to be a complete encyclopedia of chicken keeping. However, for anyone starting their first laying flock, Chickens from Scratch, is the guide you need to gain confidence and start your chicken-keeping journey.
You can follow Janet's homesteading adventures at her info-loaded website Timber Creek Farm.
Author: Janet Garman
Publisher: Author House; January, 2015
Pages: 80 pages
I was sent a copy of Chickens from Scratch for review purposes. However, all of the opinions written here are mine.
You may or may not know that husband-extraordinaire and I have five Sugar Babies (grand kids), which we hope are going to be the next generation to love farm life. We're steering them that way anyway -- and we'll see what sticks.
Just like our kids when they were young, chickens are a big fascination for my sugars here on the flower farm. What we didn't have at that time when my kids were young and in 4H was a seriously fun and well-written chicken book designed just for them.
Melissa Caughey of Tilly's Nest has an uber-cool book called A Kid's Guide to Keeping Chickens that you really need to get your hands on if you have chicken-loving kids around your place, too. (Read my full book review here at About Homesteading.)
Aside from great guidance for kids on chicken care, Melissa's book is also loaded with all kinds of DIY projects, recipes, and crafts. Crispy Treats is one example of a snack that's easy for kids to whip up in the kitchen for their feathered friends.
Crispy Treats for Chickens (by Melissa Caughey)
- 2 Cups of puffed rice or wheat cereal (sugar-free)
- 1 cup cracked corn
- 1 cup of sunflower seeds (for birds)
- 1/2 cup of water
- 3/4 cup of flour
- 1 package of unflavored gelatin
- 3 Tablespoons of honey
- Cooking spray
1. Lightly coat the bottom of a 13 X 9 inch pan with cooking spray.
2. Mix the cereal, corn, and sunflower seeds into a bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the water flour, gelatin, and honey together.
4. Add the dry ingredients (the first bowl) to the wet ingredients (second bowl). Mix them together with your hands.
5. Pour the mixture into the baking pan and spread it out evenly.
6. Cut into four even pieces.
7. Let them dry and harden in the pan overnight before you give them to the flock.
8. You can place it in an outdoor bird suet feeder or just in their food pan.
My copy of A Kid's Guide to Keeping Chickens has been handed off to my sugar babies, but I also get to give one away to one of your kids or grand kids!
Super simple entries here ~
Congratulations, Ana McGowan-Sissom!
Here at Laughing Crow,we raise Angora rabbits for their delightfully scrumptious wool. But guess what else we can't get enough of? You guessed it -- their poop.
Time and time again, rabbits have proven themselves an ideal livestock for small farms. They require very little space, only basic equipment, are easy to care for, and have so much to offer in return. Even suburban and urban homesteaders find small-scale rabbit keeping an easy endeavor.
Rabbit raising requires little financial resources and most specialized equipment is unnecessary. They can provide meat and fiber (wool) as well as companionship or keep you in the show ring (yeah, rabbit shows are kind of a big deal). But one of the most valuable by-products that this small livestock supplies is top-of-the-line manure for your garden and compost piles. It’s also an excellent medium for raising fishing worms!
In my opinion, there’s literally no manure better for the garden than rabbit poop and they have a distinct advantage over other animal manures. Manures such as horse, pig, cow, and chicken require many months to compost properly until they can be added to the garden bed; rabbit poop is the only manure that can be added directly to the garden without fear of burning your plants.
As far as how the manure is applied, there are two different schools of thought on this:
1. Some gardeners apply the poop-pellets directly to the soil next to the plants and swear by this system.
2. Others are more cautious about potential pathogens and prefer to add it to the compost heap to break down completely before using it. This is especially important if you're adding it to food plants such as tomatoes.
I hope I didn't freak you out when you thought you were heading to my old site, A Suburban Farmer and landed here instead. The truth is that writing on the many websites and blogs that I have been for so many years is killing me. And not in a good way. (Example of a good way: losing rear-end poundage from writing on so many sites = writing for more sites, not less. Sadly, this wasn't the case.)
I wrote on A Suburban Farmer to share our modern homesteading adventures with anyone who was sitting around painting their toenails or what-not and had some time to kill. I'm still going to be doing that...just here instead of there.
Husband-Extraordinaire and I have a small business that we run together called Laughing Crow & Company. We sell hand-painted, reclaimed furniture that is amazing and joyful (did I mention colorful?). We also have handmade aprons, artisan teas, and botanically dyed silk fashion scarves, too. Angora rabbit fiber will make its debut soon for the hand-spinners that swing by.
This year will be our first growing and selling local, organic cut flowers from The Flower Farm at Laughing Crow, which that has rather quadrupled our work load. So, it just makes good sense to chat about everything right here at our farm business site.
Thank you for showing up & I hope you enjoy what we're doing here at Laughing Crow.