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This is the time of year for baby bunnies

This is the time of year for baby bunnies; you may find a nest right in your own backyard or front-yard in my case. Due to the natural habitat of rabbits being depleted, it is not uncommon for the mother rabbit to make a nest under the sod/grass in your lawn. If you happen to see a bunny or signs of its presence than you are more than likely to have a nest close by. If a nest is in your yard, you will see a dead patch of grass..(when the mother lifts the sod, the grass dies) the mother rabbit will make a burrow (basin shaped), and will use a variety of materials that she will find in her environment to line the nest. After having her litter, she will cover the nest and baby bunnies with the sod. Mother rabbits are very clever at reapplying the sod  to the natural contours of the ground; it is very difficult for predators to detect a nest.

I have a New England Cottontail, that visits my yard frequently. At the time, I wasn’t sure if it was Peter or Penelope who was stopping by; I would see the bunny near the chicken coop grazing on clover, and I thought if there was a nest it would probably be around that area. My family took extra precautions and some areas were completely avoided while mowing the lawn and weed whacking as to not disturb a rabbit’s nest in the backyard. I never thought that a nest would be in the front-yard, especially with all the traffic/activity of us going in and out of the front door, and my cat, Bear,  lounging daily underneath the shrubs in front of the house.  I am just baffled that the mother rabbit would choose that location for her nest.

The best thing anyone can do when they find a nest is to not touch the baby rabbits. You do not want the mother rabbit to reject her litter because of human contact. It is also important to know that the mother only feeds her offspring twice a day. She will intentionally stay away, to prevent predators from discovering the nest. Even though it appears that the mother has abandoned the little ones, usually it is not the case.

The population of New England Cottontail has dwindled, due to their habitat being destroyed. It was once very uncommon to see a rabbits nest in a yard. They normally would  build nests and raise off-spring in brush, but due to their environment being destroyed and developed they have adapted to building nests in open spaces. The conversationalists have recognized the depleting numbers of this species and have several programs to restore their population: http://www.newenglandcottontail.org/conservation/

We can do our part by keeping the nests that we discover as safe as possible, while leaving the nest in its natural surroundings.  It only takes approx. three weeks for the little ones to leave the nest. If we can keep the nest safe for that short period of time then we are helping with the New England Cotton tail long term survival.

 

 

 

Marigolds, the Gardener’s Friend

February is the month to start planting some seeds indoors. It’s always a good idea to start a batch of Marigolds along with your early planting of  vegetable seeds.These small flowers are a natural bug repellent, and will aid in preventing the intrusion of insects that will attack your vegetable garden.

If you start the seeds early, you’ll get more bang for your buck. The cost of starting your own seed packet versus buying a flat of plants ,you end up saving several dollars. The reason you need to start the flower seeds early, because it’s the blossoms that are the bug repellent. You will want the flowers in full bloom, when you plant them with the young vegetable plants.Marigolds are a hardy annual plant; they don’t require any maintenance once their planted in the ground. These flowers thrive in full sun, and will tolerate the hot summer heat.

Marigolds will repell tomato horn worms, squash beetles, and a variety of other garden insects. It’s beneficial to plant the Marigolds between the tomato and squash plants for this reason. This will help maintain your organic garden without the use of chemical pesticides.

Have you been bothered by black gnats or mosquitos, when you were in your garden weeding, harvesting, or doing other garden work? Marigolds will repell those bugs too. Remove a couple blossoms from the plant, and smear it on your skin. It will leave  yellow streaks, but it will wash off easily. Reapply the Marigold blossoms as necessary. It’s safe for both adults and children, it’s an all natural, non toxic alternative to the harsh bug sprays.

Marigolds have multi benefits to the garden and the gardener. Besides repelling the insects, its cost effective by saving the gardener money, no need to buy pesticides or harsh bug sprays. Starting the seeds early, there is also no need to purchase the plants, that too is a saving for you. Happy Gardening!

Planning and Preparing for your First Chicken Flock

Everything starts with an idea right? Now that you decided on starting a flock, the next step is to plan. The many questions you need to ask your self: Do I have enough space for a small or large flock? How many chicken’s do I want in my flock? What kind of breed of chicken? What kind of chicken coop/hut do I want?  The purpose of this blog is to have you start mulling over these questions. Planning ahead always ends with good results.

Both Google and Pinterest have a vast amount of  information about the different breeds of chickens. Look in your area for Farming Co-op stores, the one in my area has a large selection of chicken breeds you can preorder. Youll want to decide at this time how many chicks you want? How big do you want your flock? I recommend that beginners start with 1/2 dozen chicks. It’s a small flock, but it will be easier to handle , while you go through the trials and tribulations of raising them. There is a large learning curve the first year, figuring out what works and what doesn’t. I’m hoping that my blogs will prevent any trials and tribulations you would have experienced.  The Farming stores like Farmers coop and Tractors Supply usually start taking preorders in February. This would be a good time to decide on the breed and size of your flock, then place your order. Tractors Supply will also have shipments of chicks that you can purchase without preordering, there is a benefit to this, you can see the chicks before buying them. You are able to pick the strong and active chick. They have limited breeds available, but by choosing the chicks individually, it raises the odds of a healthier flock.

The set up for six clicks is simple. I suggest a large plastic bin that you can purchase from Walmart or Family Dollar Store. You can reuse this “çhick bin” every year .My daughter  keeps the chicks in the bin until they start growing their feathers, then she puts them in the coop/chicken hut. The bin needs to be large and deep so they cannot jump out of the bin. You’ll also need shavings to put at the bottom of the bin, a heating lamp, and food &water containers.The chicks will need to be kept in a warm, dry place. Oh and when they get bigger , you may need to put a screen or mesh material across the top so the chicks don’t escape. Once the chicks are all set up, all you’ll need to do is feed & water them and change the shavings every few days.

The last thing is deciding on the coop/chicken hut. Here again the size depends on the size of your flock and the space you have available. Tractor Supply ; for example, has a variety of different styles you can purchase or you can build one yourself.  We chose to have one built, by my father ,that would hold a dozen chickens.

Eventhough, the chicks will be fine in the bin for a couple of months, a coop/chicken hut needs to be completed by the time their ready to be outside.They will get noisy and smelly and cause a ruckus, if their in the bin longer than necessary. Once you have answered the questions, I mentioned above than your planning is complete for your flock of chickens. The next step is turning your plan into action. Chickens are relatively inexpensive to raise, the biggest expense is the coop/chicken hut ,but if you plan on having a flock for several years the coop will pay for itself. Happy Farming!

 

 

 

 

The benefits of recycling your wood ash

Many of us heat our homes with a wood unit, wood stove, and/ or  a fireplace during the winter months. Ever wonder what to do with the wood ash, that you’ve cleaned out of your wood burning unit? There are many useful benefits. Wood ash is very environmentally friendly, and can be used to neutralize soil, block garden pests, used for a chicken dust bath, and spread on ice for traction.

Wood ash consists of Calcium Carbonate mostly, approximately 10% potash, and less than one percent phosphate with trace elements of iron, manganese, zinc, copper and some other heavy metals. It is  naturally Alkalinic, and can be used as a liming agent for your garden.It is water soluble and will spread through your soil instantaneously, and it will have an immediate affect on the soils PH levels.

First, you want to test your soils pH level, before applying wood ash. You do not want your soil too alkaline. Some vegetables, like tomatoes,need the soil more acidic and if the soil is too alkalinic, it will affect their growth. Wood ash should be used sparingly. A well neutralized garden is a healthy garden, for all vegetables.

Spreading wood ash on your lawn will naturally repel slugs and snails. Do you have issues with moles and shrews?  Well, you’ll also  be getting rid of the moles and shrews too, because your eliminating their food source of the slugs and snails. Your grass will also be more lush and green, because your neutralizing the soil in your lawn.

Wood ash can also be used for a chickens dust bath. It’s  a natural antiparasitic, and will suffocate mites, lice, fleas, and ticks. Chickens will probably peck and nibble on the wood ash,  it’s non toxic and in fact has nutritional benefits for chickens. It contains calcium and trace elements that they need in their diet.

Lastly, wood ash can be used on ice. It’s an alternative from using salt, and it’s free to use if you have a wood burning unit at home. By spreading wood ash  generously on slippery steps, walkways, and driveways, it causes a traction and can prevent injuries from slipping and falling on the ice.

Wood ash is a natural substitute for many things. It is environmentaly friendly and free to use if you burn wood. It’s a great savings.