Wouldn’t gardening be far easier and infinitely more enjoyable if you didn’t have to turn the soil and break your back every spring? Each of us has been there and done that! After all, that ritual is what conventional gardeners have taught and passed down from generation to generation.
Cheryl Magyar / Insteading
In the search for a better way to garden, one will eventually stumble upon Masanobu Fukuoka and his trials with no-plow farming. Incredibly, it works — not just for rice, but for staple garden crops too! Let nature do most of the work, and you will be rewarded with an abundance of veggies and greens to preserve for winter and eat in season. Just follow some simple rules:
Don’t cultivate the soil – keep the layers intact!
Never use chemical fertilizers – add only a modest amount of compost.
Mulch, mulch, mulch – remove (or harvest) “weeds” only when necessary.
Forget about pesticides – go organic and embrace the concept of “do-nothing” farming.
The concept of no-dig gardening is still in its infancy. It dates back to the 1940s and was inspired by F.C. King and his book “Is Digging Necessary?” A few years later, the book was followed by another work published in the U.K. titled “Gardening Without Digging.”
Since 1982, Charles Dowding has been growing and raising no-dig gardens in the U.K. with amazing results. The technique has been tested by unconventional gardeners around the world, and we think that no-dig gardening is a productive and efficient gardener’s dream-come-true.
What Is a No-Dig Vegetable Garden?
In a no-dig garden, the soil is free to exist with minimal disturbance. There may be times when you need to use a spade to plant horseradish or to remove root crops at harvest, but in general, the soil remains untouched.
Cheryl Magyar / Insteading
Once your no-dig garden is established, yearly maintenance (such as spreading a very thin layer of manure or compost at the beginning of the season) will provide food for worms and other creatures in the soil. Plants absolutely love undisturbed soil and will thrive in a no-dig garden.
With generous layers of mulch, your no-dig garden will retain moisture very well. So much so you may not even need to irrigate, depending on your climate of course. Mulch also discourages the growth of weeds as they need plenty of sunlight to grow. Weeds germinate less in undisturbed soil and are easy to pull out when you meet them.
Cheryl Magyar / Insteading
No-digging ensures that the soil structure stays intact, thus allowing the soil time to heal. No-dig gardens also stay very fertile, because the topsoil is protected and allowed to build nutrients. Fertile soil promotes healthier vegetables and fewer pests as the decomposing organic matter becomes rich compost. In return, this compost attracts beneficial micro-organisms in a positive feedback-loop system.
Choosing a Location for Your No-Dig Garden
If you have an existing garden that receives plenty of sunlight, it is beyond easy to convert a conventional garden to a no-dig. Simply cover the exposed soil with both green and brown material, and then plant as usual by folding back the hay (or other layers) where necessary.
As far as garden layout, anything goes. Keep it contained in a rectangle, go full circle, or let it spread as it will. If you have any kind of vines, they will inevitably escape. Fences may help in some circumstances, and you can always guide your wandering tendrils back as you see them reach out for more space.
Cheryl Magyar / Insteading
Size-wise it is entirely up to you. Is your no-dig garden a hobby, or are you going all out to provide food for yourself? It is often better to start small and grow year by year as you find out what’s possible for you and your land. Some flowers may need about six hours of direct sunlight a day while others will prefer partial shade — though that can be created if needed.
Depending on your climate, watering may be a concern. If so, make sure that you will be able to irrigate when the rain doesn’t fall. The best thing about a no-dig garden is that you are creating the quality of soil that your plants need as you go season after season. Rather than focusing on your current soil quality, imagine how greatly it will improve over time.
How to Build a No-Dig Garden
To get your no-dig garden started, follow four simple steps.
1. Select a Location for Your No-Dig Garden
2. Add a Layer of Mulch
Spread the mulch over your garden approximately 2 to 5 inches deep. Straw may be used if you have it, but it will break down more slowly. The goal here is to build soil throughout the season or “lasagna gardening” (because of the layers).
Cheryl Magyar / Insteading
There are two or more sides to every story. Some say to mulch in fall and others say spring. In our experience, spring is the best time to spread mulch. We like to use leaves, hay, and dry grass clippings as natural mulch.
Although you can mulch directly over grass, it may take a while and will require lots of patience. As an alternative, place wood boards over the grass to make the grass and weeds to die back before you mulch.
3. Add a Layer of Nitrogen-Rich Material
Besides the carbon-rich material that is laid down over the soil, you will also need to add nitrogen-rich material such as fresh grass clippings, kitchen scraps, or even green weeds that have not yet gone to seed.
4. Plant Your Seeds
Once planting commences, simply pull back the mulch where you would like to plant and sow your seeds accordingly. Depending on the age of the garden, you may need to scratch the surface of the soil just a bit to plant smaller seeds. You can also try Fukuoka’s approach and plant directly on top of the soil, or mix the garden seeds with a small amount of clay.
Cheryl Magyar / Insteading
Onion sets can be planted by using a stick or curved piece of wood. Remember, onions only need to be planted 1 inch under the soil, so don’t work harder than needed!
What to Plant in a No-Dig Garden
In our temperate climate with moderate rainfall in northern Romania, we’ve had no-dig gardening success with the following:
Cheryl Magyar / Insteading
In Romania, it is often too cold for tomatoes and cucumbers, though those crops can grow extremely well with no-dig gardening. However, we always recommend planting what grows well with minimal input. This may mean learning to eat outside your comfort zone at first — such as eating your “weeds.” You may even take to foraging your no-dig garden for additional nutrients in your diet.
Cheryl Magyar / Insteading
The common weeds we consume either as fresh greens or in tea throughout the summer (and dry for the winter), are goosefoot (Chenopodium album), dandelion, stinging nettle, raspberry leaf and cane, elder flower and wild hops — the green shoot tips and later in the season, their seed cones.
Other Plants for Your No-Dig Garden
You can also plant perennials such as strawberries and rhubarb, herbs, and other edible flowers. Cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus) attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. As such, they are a great addition to any garden.
Cheryl Magyar / Insteading
These flowers are edible and they bring about a wonderful memory of summer when adorning a winter cake with the dry petals, but make sure to research your native flora before planting.
How to Maintain a No-Dig Garden
Forget about the spade. Remember to layer instead! Throughout the season, add mulch under plants where it has become too thin, or where unwanted weeds are starting to grow. After you harvest your vegetables, all you have to do is add a layer of manure for winter preparation, and then top with another layer of hay. Let the rain and snow water break down the mulch. It is really as simple as that to work with nature, not against it.
Cheryl Magyar / Insteading
Now go forth and harvest the incredible abundance from your no-dig garden. Then adopt a strong sense of self-reliance, and learn how to dehydrate, preserve, and store your amazing crops. Let your neighbors be amazed that you can grow more than they do with half of the work!
It’s not magic, though sometimes it seems that way. Are you ready to put an end to digging once and for all?
Cheryl Magyar is an environmental freelance writer and sustainable life designer with a passion for growing food locally and organically — meat and vegetables alike. She lives with her husband and homeschooled daughter in the hills of northern Romania. Without a car, a fridge, or running water on their homestead, they have come to love the ways of old, and embrace sustainability. Read more of their stories and poems inspired by the environment at Forest Creek Meadows.
We were standing in front of my mother’s profuse garden of rosebushes. She loved her roses and was always adding a new color to the collection. “That’s a new one, isn’t it? Why is the flower all green?” I was convinced there had to be something wrong with it. A green rose? Really?
“Because it’s a green rose,” Mom explained. “A chartreuse rose is one of the heritage roses. I think it adds a little balance to my colorful collection, don’t you? And, it blooms earlier than my other roses.”
“Why a green rose?” I had to ask. Everything else was green, so why would one want to have a rosebush with green flowers?
Mom laughed softly. “Well, if you look closely, you’ll see that the petals are really modified leaves. Actually, what appears as petals are not petals but sepals, which are green. This is one of the oldest roses of all, a wild rose. I wouldn’t have a complete rose garden collection without a green rose, now would I?”
“I suppose not.” I bent forward to look more closely. Taking a deep breath, I wrinkled my nose. “It smells peppery.”
“Minimally,” Mom agreed. She was not finished with her discussion. “The green rose is also very symbolic.”
“Really?” I stood up again, and allowed my eyes to study the expansive collection of rosebushes starting to bud in preparation for an explosive collage of color.
“Yes. Green roses are a sign of plenty, of abundance, and bounty. It also suggests cheerfulness and new beginnings, a symbol of good tidings.” She paused to let her comments sink in. “I think it’s also pleasing to the eye and symbolizes self-respect and good health. It makes a good rose for St. Patrick’s Day, don’t you think? Especially with all that magical symbolism attached to it.”
“Hmm! Perhaps I should get one for my rose garden.” But first, I thought to myself, I’ll do more research. I already knew what grew well in my mother’s garden, didn’t always do so well in my garden farther north. In the meantime, I would enjoy my mother’s green rose when I came to visit.
I was fascinated with the information I found on the green rose. It’s actually one of the oldest examples of flowers, and demonstrates what flowers looked like millions of years ago before they mutated into the fascinating colors we see today.
The entire process of mutating their leaves into glorious colors was a way to make themselves irresistible to insects, birds, and other pollinators, including humans. So, those colorful flowers you love with a passion are really colored leaves.
The green rose traces its lineage back to the old China roses, known by its botanical name, Rosa chinensis ‘Viridiflora’. Hardy and growing to a height of 2 to 5 feet, the green rose will grow and bloom from spring until autumn. In the mid-18th century, the green rose or chartreuse rose was cultivated for its unusual appearance.
Unlike other varieties of roses, the green rose doesn’t have any petals only sepals, which, of course, are green. It wasn’t very popular, due to its lack of vibrant colors and the fact that it was incapable of attracting pollinators because the green rose is asexual. It has no pollen, and it can’t produce rose hips.
In fact, when it was shown at the 1856 Paris Exposition Universelle, one horticulturalist described the green rose as “a little monstrosity or an error of nature.” London’s Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette were even more damaging with its description: “a green-eyed monster like this is not inviting.”
The green rose’s initial negative reception didn’t deter gardeners from including it in their rose collection. Consequently, it continued to flourish. In fact, it was significant in the Underground Railroad during the mid-1800s, or so folklore suggests. Underground conductors wore a green rose as a symbol of their dangerous mission to help escaped slaves.
With so many positive attributes to this unique rose, it was no wonder my mother wanted it in her rose garden. Even though the color green also carried the negative association of jealousy and envy, there were far too many positive associations to make the solitary negative one an issue of concern. After all, a green rose among a maze of multi-colored roses has a calming effect. It suggests balance and tranquility, peace and order. And, when St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner, the green rose is another way to add a little green and its positive attributes, to March 17.
When the weather starts to get warmer, lots of people enjoy feeding waterfowl at local parks, lakes, and ponds. Unfortunately, we have all been making a common mistake by tossing them bread and other flour-based products! In this article, I will explain why we shouldn’t be doing that, and what is actually safe to share with our feathered friends.
What To Feed Ducks And Other Waterfowl
While it may be bad to feed waterfowl bread and flour products, there are things you can feed them.
If you wish to continue feeding the wild birds in your area, avoid overfeeding, and try to feed less often so as to not offset their natural order. Also, be sure to chop fruits and veggies into small bits and avoid any medicated feed!
What Ducks And Other Waterfowl Eat Naturally
Before we go any further, I’d like to list some foods waterfowl eat naturally on their own. Waterfowl are foraging creatures, and they eat a variety of foods found in the wild. Water birds are omnivores. Do note, though, that this list only covers ducks, geese, and swans.
Artificial feeding can cause harmful effects on the environment and animals, especially if we feed them the wrong sort of food. Here are a few other reasons why feeding waterfowl can be harmful.
Waterfowl are nomadic creatures. When we feed them too often, it throws off their migration patterns because certain plants that they eat bloom ‘in season’ only. So when the plants are almost gone, they travel to their new spot. Feeding them causes them to stick around longer than they naturally would.
It may be nice to see wild animals coming up to visit us, but it can cause unnatural behaviors. For instance, if I were to visit the park regularly with my dog that’s friendly with other animals, and feed the ducks with my pet nearby, it may cause the ducks to become too trusting of dogs. This can have a negative impact because if waterfowl begin to trust dogs and encounter a dog that’s less than friendly, the consequences can be deadly. That’s just one example.
Cumulative effects are defined as “effects on the environment which are caused by the combined results of past, current, and future activities.” Let’s say we are feeding wild ducks, and we (more often than not) toss out too much bread. The leftover bread the waterfowl don’t eat, sinks to the bottom of the body of water. There it starts to mold which causes damage to the ecosystem.
Feeding waterfowl bread and flour products has the potential to cause numerous diseases to these beautiful creatures. I’ll go more in depth on that subject later on in this article.
Why Not Bread?
You will see photographs in magazines and even scenes on the big screen where people feed ducks and geese bread. These scenes are deceiving! Sure, the ducks and geese will eat and even enjoy it, but bread to waterfowl is the equivalent of junk food to humans.
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Diets that are high in calories, carbohydrates, and protein, and low in nutrients, can cause a condition known as Airplane wing or angel wing. Angel wing is an incurable wing deformity that can result in birds being flightless. This disease causes the last joint on the bird’s wing to become distorted, and the end feathers stick out laterally (sideways) rather than lying flat against their body. As a result, they can’t fly.
Though it can be reversed in ducklings and other baby waterfowl, angel wing is irreversible in adults. High protein diets can cause the wing bones to grow too fast which makes the wing too heavy. The extra weight on the wing then causes twisted joints.
Waterfowl and wild birds are beautiful and it can be relaxing to sit and feed them! That said, if you’re going to feed them, please be responsible and smart about it. We don’t want to cause harm to the environment or the wildlife that lives there.
If you reside in a region where the temperature drops below freezing, you know firsthand the dangers of ice accumulation. When the winter winds blow, temperatures drop, and the rain turns to sleet or snow; driveways, sidewalks, and steps become hazardous.
Anti-icing products help prevent snow and ice from bonding to steps, sidewalks, driveways, and roadways and are meant to be applied hours before a predicted snow or ice storm. De-icing products break the bond of already existing ice and snow.
Although there are a host of useful commercial de-icing products available, they can be expensive and are potentially harmful to pets, plants, and paved surfaces. That said, there are a variety of cheap, eco-friendly ice melts available for your home.
Some eco-friendly, homemade ice melt solutions include:
Rubbing alcohol and dish soap
Wisconsin cheese brine
Some store-bought ice melts include
Eco-friendly liquid anti-icing products
Read on to learn more about how to de-ice your sidewalk and driveway to protect you and your family from a potentially dangerous fall.
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For a quick fix, a mixture of rubbing alcohol and Dawn dishwashing liquid does the trick. The basic recipe is 5 to 10 drops of Dawn and 1 ounce of rubbing alcohol per quart of warm tap water. Make up a quart of the mixture, and use a spray bottle to quickly de-ice small areas, or mix several gallons and pour over more extensive areas as needed. The solution works well and will not harm vegetation adjacent to the treated area.
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The innovative folks in Wisconsin have come up with another unconventional de-icer proven effective: cheese brine. Cheese brine is applied to combat ice buildup on public roadways in several counties in Wisconsin. If you make your own cheese, save the brine and apply it to slippery iced-over spots when the winter winds blow.
Baking soda is a tried and true trick used to melt ice on slippery walkways and steps. Similar to salt, baking soda lowers the freezing point for ice accumulation to accelerate the melting process. Baking soda is less alkaline than table or rock salt, so it won’t damage concrete or bricks as salt can.
The most commonly used anti-icing/deicing agents are common table salt, Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate), sodium chloride (commonly known as rock salt), magnesium chloride, calcium chloride, potassium chloride, and calcium magnesium acetate.
When applied to slippery surfaces, the salts mix with water from accumulating snow and form a brine that lowers the freezing point of the pavement. Sand is often mixed with these salts or chloride concentrations to increase traction.
If you choose to de-ice with salt, make sure to keep in mind that accumulation of salts and chloride reduces soil fertility and permeability while increasing density and alkalinity. The resulting adverse effect on the chemical properties of soil saturated with salts and chloride concentration impacts the soil’s ability to retain water — an essential factor in erosion control as well as plant growth.
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Sand, granite chips, kitty litter, sawdust, or coffee grounds sprinkled on slippery surfaces won’t melt ice but will provide traction that helps prevent falls. The most environmentally friendly traction agent is bird seed. Not only does it add good traction, it also provides feed for birds and domestic fowl that may have difficulty locating a food source during a winter storm.
When the highway is too icy to make it to the store safely, you likely have fertilizer stored in the shed. Alfalfa meal, urea, and ammonium sulfate found in fertilizer mixtures will help melt ice. This is a temporary solution and should not be used throughout the season as the properties of most fertilizers, while effective in melting ice, can burn vegetation and erode concrete.
Eco-Friendly Commercial Ice Melt Products
In addition to homemade ice melts, there are a variety of eco-friendly options you can purchase online or at your local home and garden store.
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If you’re looking for a product that melts down snow and ice while enhancing surface traction, consider applying a commercial granular anti-icing blend of natural minerals such as Ice Slicer. Available for purchase online, this environmentally friendly, noncorrosive product is a homogeneous blend of calcium, sodium magnesium, potassium, sulfur, iodine, iron, copper, zinc, manganese, and phosphorous that is effective in melting snow and ice to 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Nontoxic, pet-friendly antifreeze, which substitutes harmful ethylene glycol for propylene glycol, is safe to use to melt ice accumulations on steps and sidewalks. Available at local home and garden shops or online, non-toxic antifreeze is sufficient for melting ice to temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
That said, never use standard automotive antifreeze containing ethylene glycol to melt snow and ice. While it is useful for melting ice, ethylene glycol is extremely poisonous and can kill family pets that are attracted to its sweet taste.
If you have large areas around the homestead such as driveways or livestock loading ramps, consider buying an environmentally friendly, liquid anti-icing agricultural product. These de-icers are derived from a renewable source such as fermented grains, or the processing of sugars such as beet or cane sugar.
“Beet Heet,” available at local feed supply stores or online, is a bit more expensive than homemade solutions but provides ice control for large areas where the environmental impact is a significant concern. Carbohydrate-based de-icers are effective to minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit.
A Word of Caution
If you are an organic gardener with concerns about protecting our precious planet, it is best to avoid all commercial anti-icing/de-icing products. Many commercial mixtures incorporate ferric ferrocyanide or sodium ferrocyanide as anti-caking additives. Cyanide damages the environment when it is leached into ground or surface water. Other noxious chemicals found at trace levels in some commercial de-icers, include mercury, lead, and arsenic.
Avoid using sand on sidewalks and roadways located in spots where spring rains can wash it into storm drains, ponds, streams, lakes, or wetlands. Sand clouds the water, can smother aquatic life, fills in natural marine and wildlife habitats, and can pollute waterways with contaminants like grease and oil.
Anti-icing/de-icing products, whether a homemade mixture of simple household ingredients, salts, or include chemical additives, can cause damage to carpets and wooden flooring. To protect the integrity and beauty of your home, be sure to remove winter footwear while standing on a floor mat or in an area with flooring that can stand up to a wet, muddy mess.
When you think “duck” what image do you see? I bet for a majority of people, the endearingly chubby, orange-billed and white-feathered barnyard duck leaps (or rather waddles) into your mind’s eye. That duck is the Pekin.
This duck breed is by far the most popular of the domesticated duck breeds, and its popularity has worked into a culture that is far from the homestead. Whether Donald Duck or the Aflac duck of commercials, from the fuzzy yellow ducklings in coloring books to The Story About Ping, Pekin ducks can be found pretty much everywhere you look.
Of course, there’s far more to Pekin ducks than pop culture. For the homesteader looking to raise a healthy source of meat or eggs, build a lively population for the pond, create a reliable source of ready-to-apply fertilizer, or simply enjoy the delightful antics of these silly poultry, Pekin ducks are a fabulous addition to the family.
Here’s what you’ll need to know to get started with your own flock of Pekins.
Pekins came into the United States in the 1870s. They butted the dark-feathered Cayuga out of the dinner plate limelight because their white feathers resulted in a more attractive finished carcass. Ever since then, these talkative, heavy-bodied ducks have been the premier meat duck. In fact, more than 95 percent of duck meat consumed in the U.S. are Pekin ducks.
These are among the largest of the domesticated ducks with males reaching a hearty 10 pounds and females weighing 8 to 9 pounds at maturity. Females are decent egg layers too, producing around 150 absolutely giant eggs a year. Don’t expect them to hatch their own eggs, though. Pekins are typically not broody, so you need some other way of incubating eggs for the next generation.
How To Get Started Raising Pekin Ducks
Generally, folks get started with ducklings, and you could have no cuter addition to the homestead! Be sure to get more than one duck when you come home from the hatchery — ducks are social animals and even form friendships.
Additionally, ducklings are very difficult to sex so if it’s eggs you’re after, you may need to buy four or five to ensure you have enough females in the end. Once they start making adult sounds (in about 10 weeks) it’s much easier to tell who’s who. Hens quack (and quack LOUDLY). Drakes make quieter, husky sounds.
How To Care For Pekin Ducklings
The ideal setup and housing for ducklings is detailed very well here. As you’ll see, the final housing for free-range flock doesn’t need to be nearly as fancy as a chicken coop — just airy and dry-ish. Additionally, ducklings are MUCH messier than chicks. As waterfowl, they have no compunctions about taking that nice fresh water you just gave them, and turning it into a poopy, food-filled slurry within five minutes.
Maintaining fresh, clean water and dry bedding will be a big chore with your ducklings, but hang in there! They’ll be outdoors soon enough, and all your hard work will be worth it. In the meantime, their soiled bedding makes great compost — so take the mess in stride.
Once you have your birds, get ready to watch them grow. Pekins grow fast, and within seven weeks, those little peeping balls of fluff may be well over 7 pounds.
Ducklings can be raised outside in mild weather within confinement, provided they have a dry, sheltered area to sleep at night and during wet weather. Some people give their ducklings outside excursions starting at 3 weeks old but in any case, without a watchful hen, you need to be the one to keep them safe.
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They won’t be waterproofed and able to stay warm until they have feathered out, so as long as they are fuzzy and cute, keep them out of the rain and cold. You can allow them to swim in a kiddie pool or the bathtub every now and again after about 5 weeks, but you will have to help them. Like human kids, ducklings will swim until they’re too tired to get out on their own.
Once they have adult feathers, however, they will be good to go for the wide-open world. Some folks have ducks share the coop with their chickens, but in this homesteader’s opinion, it’s best to keep them separate especially if you have drakes. They may try to mate the chicken hens with fatal results. Their hardware is a lot different from a rooster.
What To Feed Pekin Ducks
I wrote a long article about what to feed ducks — and you can find it here! The short answer to this question is that ducks love greens, grains, and grubs. If they have access to forage and the bugs hidden alongside, they will be absolutely fine with some simple birdseed in a pan they can visit from time to time.
Just make sure you don’t give your ducklings medicated chick food because they’ll overdose on it. And don’t give your adult ducks white bread or junk food.
Life With Pekin Ducks
Pekins are hilarious. They’re calm tempered and personable, especially if you spent a lot of time with them as ducklings. As dabbling ducks, they love spending time at the edge of bodies of water or puddles, ruffling around in the mud for tasty bits. Pekins are a great choice for free range as they are too heavy to fly and do very well on forage.
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Just be sure to keep an eye on them and provide them a safe shelter at night (ducks are very vulnerable to passing dogs). Ducks can be trained to come back at night. I have a call just for mine, and usually accompanied with the sound of seeds shaking in a jar. This is especially nice if you’re collecting eggs in the morning. Having the ducks confined makes finding the eggs a lot easier. They don’t even need nesting boxes. Just some nice clean hay will make them happy.
Drakes can have a very high, erm, libido, so make sure your breeding flock has a healthy male-to-female ratio. A single drake can handle 10 to 12 females on his own, and if you have a small flock with multiple males, you may need to make some hard choices and get rid of all but one. These Don Juans of the bird world can mate a female to death if he takes too much of a liking to her. We had to butcher one of our Pekin males for this very reason.
These birds can live up to 12 years. If you decide to keep them as pets, they will provide you with a life of silly companionship. Check out this vineyard’s pest management system, duck style:
A vineyard employs 900 ducks - YouTube
And as a bonus, droppings are amazing fertilizer. Unlike chicken poo which needs to be composted before application, your gardens can get a dose of duck doo doo straight out the chute and grow amazingly as a result. Ducks also don’t scratch like chickens which means they can be great garden guards once your seedlings have gotten past the tender stage.
An Important Note About Easter Ducklings
When Easter comes around, the market for Pekin ducklings temporarily soars. Folks think it’s cute to gift these fuzzy yellow ducklings to their kids as a part of the holiday. Listen, I know ducklings are adorable. That’s part of the joy of ducks. But ducklings are actual living creatures and not toys for a child who has an attention span of 3 seconds.
The duckling who peeps adorably out of the Easter basket is also going to poop on everything, need daily care, and have access to the outdoors. It will grow into a large duck that is probably not legal in a suburban community, and the fate for most of these ducklings is premature death. If they don’t die from being roughly handled by children or eaten by the family dog, they often end up abandoned at the city park’s pond, or left at animal shelters that aren’t equipped to care for them.
Since Pekins are too heavy to fly and lack some survival instincts, they will not thrive like wild ducks. Also, most animal shelters are already pushed to their limits with the unwanted litters of kittens and puppies that come in the spring.
If you aren’t ready to offer these ducks what they need for their lives or to teach your children how to raise animals well, you have absolutely no business picking up Easter ducks at the feed store. It’s a short-sighted, selfish gift. Leave the ducks to folks who actually want them long term.
They are wonderful animals and deserve a good life. I truly enjoy having Pekin ducks as a part of my homestead, and I bet you will too. Do you have any personal tips or stories about your own flock? Let me know in the comments.
A staple in homestead gardens, garlic is easy to plant, easy to maintain, easy to harvest, and transports and stores well. With a little effort, homesteaders can grow garlic for home consumption and a supplemental cash crop.
Garlic: fresh, pickled, dehydrated, packed in olive oil, or used to season savory edibles, is always a big seller at local fresh markets.
The six best ways to store garlic include
Stocking garlic long term in a cool, dark place
Preserving garlic in olive oil
Roasting garlic in the oven
Read on to learn a bit more about garlic and how to store it in a variety of ways to get the most out of your crop or farmer’s market purchase.
Long-Term Garlic Storage
In order to get the most return out of your harvest, store garlic bulbs in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. Garlic stores best in a dark space with good air circulation at about 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Hang garlic bulbs in a mesh bag or store them in a loosely-woven basket.
Harvest or purchase garlic bulbs that are firm and fresh. Avoid bulbs that have sprouted or with cuts, bruising, or soft spots. In addition to storing garlic in a dark, cool location, you can also freeze, dehydrate, pickle, roast, or preserve garlic in olive oil.
Freeze Garlic To Preserve Freshness And Flavor
One of the easiest ways to store garlic for home consumption is in the freezer. Garlic does not have to be blanched before freezing. Spread out peeled garlic cloves on a cookie or baking tray and freeze for 20 to 30 minutes.
Transfer the frozen cloves to airtight freezer containers, or store in freezer-proof storage bags. Return the packaged cloves to the freezer and the garlic cloves will stay fresh and flavorful for up to 12 months. When stored this way, it is easy to grab a clove or two as needed for seasoning soups, sauces, and salsa just as you would use fresh garlic.
Preserve Garlic In Olive Oil
To store garlic in olive oil, peel individual cloves and submerge them in oil in glass containers with airtight lids. This is a great way to store garlic. If you want a mild flavor, use a teaspoon or more of the oil for cooking or salad dressing. If you seek a stronger garlic flavor, remove a clove or two from the oil, and their flavor will be as aromatic and flavorful as if it was fresh from the garden.
Garlic may also be finely chopped or pureed in a blender and mixed with one-part garlic to two-parts extra virgin olive oil. Store garlic preserved in olive oil away from sunlight in a cool place, or store it in the refrigerator.
Roast Garlic In The Oven
If you’re blessed with an extra crop of garlic, but lack time to pickle or can it, roasting and freezing garlic bulbs is the fastest way to process the harvest. Roasted garlic presents a more mellow flavor than fresh garlic. Try it as a tasty spread on bruschetta, toast, sandwiches, appetizers, baked potato, or added to your favorite pizza topping.
Roast garlic in a glass casserole dish coated with extra virgin olive oil. There is no need to peel the bulb. Bake bulbs at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 35 to 40 minutes, or until they are soft and golden brown. Remove the roasted garlic from the oven, and allow it to cool. Once cool, cut the top off the bulb and gently pinch to release the now soft cloves.
Store roasted cloves in small, airtight freezer containers. Because of the high olive oil content, it’s easy to scoop out the frozen roasted garlic as needed.
Dehydrating garlic is easy. Thinly slice peeled garlic and place the slices on a dehydrator tray. Set the dehydrator on low and let the garlic dehydrate for 10 to 12 hours.
Set the temperature to 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 1 or 2 hours or until crisp and dry. Dehydrated garlic keeps up to 12 months when stored in an airtight container.
Pickle Garlic In Vinegar
Garlic is an integral ingredient in many pickle, chutney, flavored vinegar, sauce, or salsa recipes. It’s fun to experiment with fresh herbs and garlic to create an enhanced version of your family’s favorite dish. Here’s one of my favorite variations for pickled garlic.
Sweet And Spicy Pickled Garlic
3 cups garlic cloves, peeled
2 quarts water
3 cups white vinegar
1 cups granulated white sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon dried chili pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
In a 3-quart saucepan, bring water to boil.
Add garlic cloves, reduce heat and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes or until cloves are slightly tender.
Remove from heat, drain, and pack garlic into hot half-pint canning jars, filling to within a one-half inch from the top.
In a saucepan, combine honey, vinegar, salt, sugar, and spices.
Bring mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Ladle hot mixture over garlic, allowing a one-half inch of head space.
Wipe rims with a soft cloth dipped in boiling water.
Center the lids and screw on bands until snug.
Types Of Garlic
A cool season crop, garlic is a member of the Alliaceae (lily) family which is the same family as leeks, shallots, and onions. A hardy perennial that will winter over well, garlic produces an abundant crop each season. However, it is most often cultivated as an annual because it is normally harvested during the first season of growth.
There are two types of garlic: hardneck and softneck. Hardneck varieties tend to bolt in late spring, developing tall, flowering stalks also known as scapes. Tiny aerial cloves, known as bulbils, appear at the tip of the scapes.
Hardneck garlic is winter hardy and tends to produce larger cloves, but it does not store dry as well as softneck varieties. Hardneck garlic is, however, a great choice if you plan to sell your crop at the market or can, pickle, freeze, or dehydrate the harvest.
Choose softneck varieties if you plan to craft garlic braids and wreaths, or hang your garlic in dry storage. Hardneck garlic, with a stiff central stalk, will break and shatter the bulb if you attempt to braid or twist it.
History Of Garlic
Native to Central Asia, garlic was once considered a sacred plant and treasured for its impressive medical properties.
Today, the pungent plant is valued more for its zesty flavoring properties and is widely used in a diverse array of dishes in cultures worldwide. Garlic is still highly prized for its medicinal qualities including antioxidant and antibiotic effects. It also helps reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Kat Shereko / Insteading
In China, many people consume as many as 12 cloves of garlic a day to maintain good health. Bangladesh, China, and India are the world’s largest producers of garlic. China produces more than two-thirds of the world’s garlic with more than 467 million pounds exported in 2016.
The Biggest Importer Of Garlic
Although introduced in the early 1700s, garlic did not gain popularity in the United States until the 1920s. Today, U.S. annual consumption per capita per year, is approximately 2 pounds. Since 1998, the U.S. is the world’s leading import market for fresh garlic. We love the stuff! In 2017, the U.S. imported 198 million pounds of fresh garlic and 141 million pounds of dried garlic valued at over 305 million dollars.
When you first bought your house, the kitchen might have been the selling point. You loved the open layout, the large island for entertaining guests, the wood floors, and the sleek countertops. Then 10 years later, you find yourself wondering what happened to that gorgeous kitchen you fell in love with.
Though there might be a few reasons why your kitchen isn’t quite what it used to be, chances are the countertops have something to do with it. If you don’t feel like spending the majority of your kitchen remodel budget on countertops, there are a variety of DIY countertop projects available online.
Whether you’re doing a total home remodel or want to freshen up your space, DIY countertop projects are affordable and can completely change the feel of your kitchen and bathroom. And if you don’t consider yourself the handiest person, that’s fine! There are plenty of projects out there that are designed for the everyday person who wants to save money on their kitchen remodel.
Most DIY countertop projects feature materials like wood and concrete, though there are some more complex projects that utilize epoxy and recycled glass. As with any DIY project, the cost is really going to depend on the type of materials you’re using. In general, DIY countertops can cost anywhere from $50 to $300. Most of the projects on this list cost under $100 which is far less than what you’d spend on just the labor of having someone else install countertops for you.
If you’re looking to save some cash and create a one-of-a-kind countertop, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite countertop projects that a newbie DIYer or advanced carpenter alike can appreciate (and complete).
Similar to the butcher block countertops, this herringbone design utilizes a number of wood slats and looks quite sleek with a dark stain. The builders of this countertop mention the design is mainly for decorative aesthetics, and they wouldn’t recommend using it in the kitchen.
Before you take that big jar of pennies to the Coinstar machine, consider what else they can do for you. Like being the decorative material you use in a countertop! This penny countertop is definitely a unique choice and will cost you literally, pennies.
For a quick fix for an ugly countertop, consider using contact paper. Though this isn’t a totally permanent solution, it will take your countertops from bland to brilliant. In this video, marble contact paper was used to create a more modern finish.
One of the most popular countertop alternatives to expensive granite is concrete. Concrete is much more affordable and the finished product is durable. Plus, there’s something about concrete that brings a modern industrial feel to your space.
For a farmhouse counterop with a bit of a glossy finish, consider this wood countertop that’s sealed with epoxy. Though this project utilizes 2×8’s from the hardware store, you could give it a reclaimed twist with the use of scrap wood.
When you’re planning your garden for the upcoming spring, you may find yourself quickly running out of space in your yard, garden beds, and hanging planters, but who says you have to pick and choose what plants you want just because your yard is full? The deck, patio, and front porch are all free for the taking!
Regardless of whether you’re planting spring flowers, bulbs, or small trees, large planters let you expand your plant collection without taking up precious space in your yard or vegetable garden. Aside from providing you with plenty of extra gardening space, many large planters are quite beautiful and add a subtle touch of decorative flair to your outdoor area.
The price of large planters can vary greatly. The planters on this list cost between $20 and $900. Price typically depends on the size of the planter, the manufacturing materials, and whether it’s a set or just an individual planter.
Check out some of our favorite large planters to expand your garden and add a pop of color to your deck and patio.
4-Piece Terracotta Planters Set
This set of four large terracotta planters features blue, brown, and green tones and a beautiful glazed finish. Each planter is handmade, resulting in a finish that is one of a kind. These planters have pre-drilled drainage holes and are intended for outdoor use only.
Standing 3 feet tall, this mixed wood planter is made out of sustainably harvested hardwood. Handmade to order in Nicaragua, these planters have a unique textural feel that make them quite eye-catching.
Made from a combination of recycled resin and natural stone, this marble style planter features a drainage hole and is light enough to be easily moved. At 20 inches tall, this planter is large enough to support smaller indoor trees.
Hand-painted and made out of fiber clay, this planter is 16 inches tall and has a pre-drilled drainage hole. The metallic geometric details complement the white planter making it a modern piece perfect for your current decor.
Available in three heights of 28, 22, and 18-inch options, this galvanized steel planter is protected with a scratch resistant powder coating. Styrofoam insulation on the inside helps plants stay healthy in both cold and warm climates.
Available in dark brown, black, deep blue, and white, these traditional style terracotta planters are 28 and 20 inches tall. Intended for outdoor use only, these heavyweight planters are incredibly durable.
This set of botanically inspired planters include options for 17, 16, and 14-inch tall planters. Crafted out of metal with an iron-inspired finish, these planters have a combination of gray, brown, and light green details.
Available in a variety of different sizes, these large fiberglass planters are well-suited for both indoor and outdoor use. Though the handmade fiberglass material is industrial quality, it’s still lightweight and easy to move.
Crafted out of fir wood, this square planter box is lined with black fabric and the bottom is made of planked wood to allow for drainage. A yellow finish brings some bright and cheery feels to your deck.
This large hanging planter is available in rust, hammered copper, and burnt copper finishes. Made out of iron, this planter is intended to rust to a patina finish. Featuring drainage holes and an included hook for mounting, this quality piece of craftsmanship is made in the USA.
This gorgeous oversized planter is made in Mexico and features a floral hand-painted design. Do be warned, however, that this pot is not frost or humidity proof and should be stored indoors during the winter.
I am the do-it-yourself type. Why hire someone to do it if you can do it yourself? This is my mantra, and part of the reasoning behind this mentality of mine is saving money. I am not cheap, but I am frugal. The main reason I enjoy tackling all sorts of projects is the experience you can gain from it. I find it enjoyable to try new things!
This mindset has made for an interesting and experience-rich life thus far. Call me crazy, but I truly enjoy tackling all sorts of daunting challenges. This is likely why I decided it would be fun to grow practically all of the flowers for my sister’s wedding a couple of years ago.
My sister, Sherry, is my mini-me not only in looks but in our willingness to try new things and our love of a good deal. Sherry is even more frugal than yours truly! That is likely why she said, “Go for it!” when I asked her if she would like me to grow the flowers for her wedding.
Melissa Hartner / Insteading
Well, almost all of them. She felt more comfortable hiring the local florists to create the bouquets that she and her bridesmaids would carry. That left me responsible for centerpieces for about 50 tables! The wedding was scheduled for the end of August, so I decided zinnias, dahlias, and wildflowers would be beautiful and dependable flowers to grow.
The next step was asking my dad if he would be willing to let me take over one of his garden beds for the flowers. My garden at home wouldn’t be big enough, and everything grows better in my dad’s garden anyway. His green thumb outshines mine (and he approved the idea)!
Planting the Wedding Flower Garden Bed
We discussed our plan in the winter months and when spring finally arrived, Sherry, my dad, and I all gathered together on a beautiful Saturday in May to prepare and plant the garden. Preparation included tilling compost into the garden. We happened to have aged duck and chicken manure, so that is what we utilized.
The garden bed was roughly 10 by 20 feet. My dad kindly purchased the seeds and as I recall, he had around 15 packages or so. We created 5 or 6 very straight rows. Very straight thanks to my dad who has it down to a science. When left to my own devices, my rows are quite crooked and haphazard. In my home garden, no big deal, but that wouldn’t fly in Dad’s garden!
Melissa Hartner / Insteading
We followed the directions on the back of the seed packets for how deep to plant the seeds and how far apart they needed to be. It was a time-consuming process, but quite enjoyable thanks to the company and gorgeous weather.
Once all our seeds were planted, we gave the garden a good soaking with the garden hose. Throughout the summer, my dad and I tended to the garden which entailed weeding and watering. My dad did the bulk of both because he enjoys weeding. Strange, but true! When the flowers began blooming in July, the entire garden was breathtakingly beautiful! It proved to be a favorite hangout for the neighborhood bees and butterflies.
Cutting and Preparing the Flowers
When the big day finally arrived at the end of August, I set my alarm for 6 a.m. and was at my parents shortly thereafter armed with lots of 5-gallon buckets, large coolers, and a pickup truck. I enlisted the help of my wonderful friend, Tracy, who had formerly worked in a flower shop, to help me gather all the flowers and arrange them in vases.
Donned in mud boots and raincoats, we spent hours cutting flowers. We also had my dad (and a few awesome relatives who were in town for the wedding) join forces with us in the garden. It was a real family affair! Their help was much appreciated and indispensable.
Melissa Hartner / Insteading
With flowers in tow, we headed to the venue. Once there, we sprang into action trimming flowers with scissors, filling vases with water, and arranging the flowers just right in each vase. I originally thought just Tracy and I would be dealing with the flowers, but thankfully, the same relatives who helped in the garden also helped cut and arrange the flowers. My cousin even ended up heading back to the house to bring back more flowers when we realized we were a bit short!
We spread a tarp on the floor where we cut the flowers which made clean up a breeze. Not only did we fill every vase, we also used the flowers to place around the amazing cupcakes my aunt made for the wedding. They looked stunning!
Melissa Hartner / Insteading
If you like the idea of growing flowers for a loved one’s wedding (or your own), but don’t have the time or space to do it, consider reaching out to your local CSA (community supported agriculture). They may be willing to grow the flowers for you and allow you to come out and pick them to put together the bouquets on your own.
There are quite a few farms set up exactly this way, and it’s always nice to keep your dollars local and support local growers! You’ll save money and have fun hand selecting your very own flowers! Costs will depend on each farm or CSA, but will likely be cheaper than hiring a florist and having flowers shipped in from across the country and arranged for you. The average couple in America spends $1,400 for wedding flowers!
Melissa Hartner / Insteading
You can also purchase flowers from your local farmer’s market. That’s what a friend of mine did for her small wedding and her bridesmaids arranged them in vases the morning of the wedding. You don’t have to be a florist to create a beautiful bouquet of flowers. All it requires is an eye for beauty and a little creativity!
My sister was very happy with how beautiful the flowers turned out and very grateful for how much work went into making it happen! I realized that even a do-it-yourselfer like me still depends on others to make grand things happen!