DSC08753watermarkSo, the larger your garden, the more weeds, right? I have a large garden, but I don’t own a tractor, so I still tend to plant more along the lines of the square foot gardening method rather than the traditional “x spacing between each plant, x spacing between each row”. Those back of the seed package guidelines, by the way, are based on spacing if you DO have a tractor. I can get a lot more plants into a lot smaller space this way, which makes my life easier and gives us more pasture for sheep forage as well.

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Before

The trick to staying up with weeds is to get them when they are very young, called the “thread stage”. This is when the roots are about the diameter of a thread, and are easy to sever just under the soil, effectively killing them before they become Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors and start to take over the garden (not to mention keeping it from going to seed and throwing thousands of seeds around). You don’t need to remove each tiny seedling. Sever the thread root, and it will shrivel up and die on the spot without removal. Needless to say, keeping up with this is critical, because in just a few days, weeds can go from “that doesn’t look bad, I’ll get back to that on Thursday” to “Oh my God, how did this happen, I can’t even see the carrots in there”.

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After

I love my stirrup hoe, also called a Scuffle hoe or a Hula hoe. Its great for keeping the sides of the rows weeded, without having to resort to pulling out the tiller again. It’s perfect for weeding at the thread stage, and makes quick work of small weeds. But because of my plant spacing, and rows that aren’t always as straight as they could be, and lack of accuracy with the hoe, I sometimes do damage to the plants I want to keep, trying to use a stirrup hoe between garden seedlings. So I still end up doing a lot of hand pulling (and have the cracked skin dirt line along my right index finger all summer long to show for my efforts).

Recently, I was telling my husband that we needed to make our own hand tool that was like a stirrup hoe, but slightly smaller across, for work in small tight spaces. We looked online, and didn’t find anything similar. We have a friend who does metal work, and I was going to ask him to attempt something for me. But as is our custom, we also spent a lot of time thinking about what we already had laying around that could be modified to work. Metal strapping? A pastry cutter from the thrift store? And then my husband, brilliant man that he is, thought about using an old shedding blade we had around from when we used to have horses. These tools are meant to take off the undercoat when a horse is shedding their winter coat, and come apart at the handle so you can cover more area. They have shallow teeth.

DSC08777watermarkHe bent it into more of a box shape in short order, and I tried it out. And I’ve got to tell you, this is just about the best small space weeding tool EVER. It makes quick work of small seedlings, the teeth of the tool literally hooking them and ripping them out of the ground (very gratifying, I’ve got to tell you). It works well unless the soil is soaking wet. I’ve since covered a lot of ground with this beauty in the last week or so, and I don’t know how I ever lived without it.

I have a garlic/onion bed in my side yard this year. It’s about 25 ft by 4 ft of garlic and onions, in four rows. I weeded the entire thing with this tool, also taking time to hand pull some larger weeds and feed weed treats to Kenny the ram and Fawn the goat through the fence (they were very interested in my work). It took me all of 20 minutes. And I was kind of taking my time. And I was working around some pretty small onion seedlings.

DSC08752watermarkThese blades can be found at most feed stores for less than 10 dollars. Some have teeth on both sides. They all come apart at the handle, but I’ve never once used them that way, on a horse or otherwise. You can bend them to be as wide or narrow as you need. Give it a try. If you are like me, you’ll love it!

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My work is done here!

Oh, and if some entrepreneurial person out there decides to go after this and market the bent ones as the latest greatest garden tool, know that we thought of it first, and I want a 10% cut, gross, not net. :-).

Miles Away Farm Blog © 2015, where we still have a lot of weeding to do, but it is SO much easier than it used to be.

Robin Eggshell Find

I always feel a bit like a small child who has found a small miracle when I find one of these. From a just hatched robin nest, no doubt.

Today was a perfect day to be a farmer, and a homesteader, and a business woman, and a human alive on the planet. Read the rest of this entry »

LiquidSoap

Coconut, Sunflower and Castor oil. A nice combination.

For those of you with no interest in making your own liquid soap, you can stop reading now. Next week we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programing of gardening, homesteading and cute animal pictures. Wink.

Edited 4/25/15 to add: This blog is MY opinion and MY experience with liquid soapmaking. I’ve had several readers point out that they have had different experiences from mine (with adding salt to thicken, and with the Soaping 101 glycerine liquid soap video, for example). Please note: YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY. Feel free to experiment! Please share your differing experiences and understanding of the chemistry in the comments. That’s how we all learn from each other. This isn’t meant to be the final word on the subject. It’s just my own personal understanding and experience.

Questions about how to get started with liquid soapmaking come up a lot on some of my soap making groups, and I remember how hard it was to get a handle on it all when I started making my own, despite the fact that I’d been making cold process bar soap for years. I find myself writing out long-winded answers over and over again. So I thought I would do a bit of a brain dump on some of the fundamentals to get new liquid soapers started. Note: what this is NOT is a step by step guide to making liquid soap. If I were going to do that, I’d write an ebook. Also, apologies for lack of pictures. This is mostly an informational post. Read the rest of this entry »

DSC08718watermarkI used to just buy bags of potting soil at the big box stores. Then I graduated to starting my own seeds, and had to search high and low for “seed starting mix”, which is finer grained than “potting mix” and less common. Then I started to really get serious about seed starting (I currently have about 50 flats of seedlings in my greenhouse) and buying seed starting mix just wasn’t a financial option any more. Read the rest of this entry »

American Blackbelly Triplets

Cocoa’s Triplets. Because she is half Soay sheep, her babies tend to have more variation in coloring.

Babies. Boy do we have babies. We have 12 ewes of breeding age, and we ended up with 21 lambs, born from March 2nd through March 23rd. Five sets of twins, two sets of triplets(!), and 5 singles. We weren’t expecting the triplets. One mama, Cocoa, is doing just fine with her three, but the second mama, Maggie, has rejected one of hers. So we have one bottle baby. Of the 21 lambs, 17 of them are male. SEVENTEEN. Seriously?! We have no idea why our sex ratio is so skewed, though something very similar happened the first year we had lamb babies (10 out of 13 were male), and they too were also all born in March. Read the rest of this entry »

StackedEnchiladaCasserole2

OK, so getting it out of the pan intact is a challenge. But it all tastes good.

I can’t remember where I first saw this recipe. Probably an old subscription to Cooking Light or Eating Well. All I know is that it is super easy, super adaptable, inexpensive to make, relatively healthy and very satisfying to eat. It comes together in minutes, unlike traditional enchiladas, with all that messy rolling. If I had to pick just seven dinners to make once a week for the next year, this would probably be one of them. Read the rest of this entry »

DSC08493watermarkWe’ve been working on a lot of spring projects as we wrap up February and move into beloved March. The break is over. Let the craziness of spring begin.

When we moved into this house, built in 1995, it had a front and back deck. The inspector mentioned in his report that both of them needed to be replaced. Well, not only was that obvious (you could see the wood rotting away in places), but in an effort to bring new life into them in order to sell the house, they had been painted a color that I can only describe as mauve. They were poorly designed, not to our taste, and downright hideous. But…so were a lot of things IN the house. Like every single light fixture, and the 1970’s wood stove, complete with orange and avocado green tiles. So it has taken us some time to get to the decks. But this winter, my sweet sweet husband tore off the old front deck (some of it literally using his foot), put in new piers and framing, expanding it considerably, and when the weather and money permitted, worked on getting the new decking in. This one is even attached to the house with actual concrete anchors rather than just nailed into the siding. Read the rest of this entry »

Ready for the Smoker

Ready to go into the smoker. Note the pork belly hangers are actually old wire hangers, trimmed down by my sweet husband at my request, so I could get 4 bellies in the smoker at once vertically, rather than on racks.

Way back in July 2010 (wow, I’ve been writing this blog for a while!) I wrote a piece on curing your own bacon. And its a good post, and reliable and solid advice. However, in the last 4 years I’ve amended how I cure my bacon a bit, after buying Michael Ruhlman’s book Charcuterie (Charcuterie is defined as all things relating to preserved meats). One of the things we noticed about the original cured bacon recipe is that it tended to burn easily in the pan. I attribute this to the large amount of sugar in the cure. I’ve also come to realize that a little bit of nitrite in your meat (like cholesterol) is not the end-of-the-world, cancer causing scourge we once were led to believe. See this fantastic rant by Ruhlman on the No Nitrite hoax in natural food markets or this more recent piece by Chris Kresser on why bacon isn’t the enemy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Carrots. Healthy, nutritious and cheap.

I recently ran across an article in my Facebook feed, about a reporter taking the “Food Stamp” challenge. He attempted to eat only what he could purchase with the “average” food stamp allotment for an able bodied adult with no dependents, which is $29.69 a week. I had a bit of a rant about it on my personal Facebook page, pointing out that SNAP (the new name for food stamps) stands for SUPPLEMENTAL Nutrition Assistance Program. It’s not meant to be your sole source of nutrition if you are an able bodied adult. I also pointed out that the reporter had made some poor food choices, such as prewashed salad greens and nutritionally empty white bread. I proudly claimed that while it would be tight, I could certainly do much better nutritionally, and that I could ABSOLUTELY feed myself for $30 a week. Read the rest of this entry »

Welsummer Rooster

My Welsummer rooster Cray. He’s just recently finished his molt. Isn’t he gorgeous?

I’ve been raising chickens since about 2002. I grew up with chickens when I was really little, and it took me about 30 years to be able to get back to it. But with the exception of the year we moved from Colorado to Washington, I’ve kept chickens for the last 14 years. This was BEFORE the proliferation of back yard chicken raising blogs, websites and books. I bought a copy of Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, my husband built a coup (which was also a dog house/pen – they shared a dividing wall – which helped keep the chickens safe from predators but also safe from the dogs at night). I talked a bit about all of this here.

It’s really only been in the last few years that I’ve raised chickens with more of an eye to getting them to pay for themselves by selling the eggs. Here is a brain dump of factoids I’ve learned about raising chickens over the last 14 years, all in one place. Read the rest of this entry »

Jennifer Kleffner

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