Thursday, December 26, 2013

Homemade biopod for Black Soldier Fly Larvae.

I finally took the plunge into raising chickens without commercial feed.  It was always my goal but my flock grew fast and commercial feed seemed like the only option.  Over the summer however we lost several hens to wildlife and the flock that was left decided they no longer wanted to stay in their blocked off 2 acres but would rather be up near the house causing lots of mess and damage to the gardens.  I locked them up in the coop for a month and went to work on solving the problem and during that period of eating only commercial grain feed I saw a huge change in our eggs as well as the behavior of the birds.  The eggs yolks quickly went pale yellow and 2 of my older birds seemed to age very quickly.  One even died during that period.  It may be a coincidence that my older hens started showing real signs of old age at that time but either way it felt very unnatural to me so I ditched the feed and started down a new path.

I'm now feeding the chickens what we have available and supplementing with food from the kitchen when there isn't enough in the garden or with resources in the yard.  We live on a creek so I have been blessed with the ability to feed them bait fish that are very easy to catch and duckweed which is high in protein.  The duckweed is all full of snails, minnows, and lots of other water creatures so the chickens love the excitement of finding treasures when I toss a net full into the coop.  The other sources of food are from house scraps and garden scraps.  I recently harvested most of the sweet potatoes and all the ones that were too damaged for human consumption were boiled up and bagged to feed the chickens for the next several months.  When we are busy and scraps are light I have been supplementing with things like oats, flax, chia seeds, rice, rye seeds, and quinoa.  Sometimes I add a little water to make the portion larger.  The chia is great at expanding and acting as a filler to this homemade feed.   It has only been about a month but the cost seems to be reasonable so far.  I purchased these items in bulk at Costco for my family to eat and have used very little so far.  I have had to supplement a bowl full about every other day for 10 chickens. 

This is all an experiment so I'm learning as we try this out but so far our egg yolks are back to a dark yellow color and that is with just a small amount of outdoor space, that is mostly dirt, to roam since the chicken run is still under construction.  I am however foreseeing a problem in the near future with a protein source as the weather gets colder.  The bait fish and duckweed will be gone soon so I'm trying out a new vermaculture technique that I read about online.  Raising Black Soldier Larvae for chicken feed.  It seems to be popular in the aquaponics community but could also be a cheap and easy source of protein for chickens as well.  Here is one site all about the Black Soldier Fly. 

I made a quick video instead of pictures to show you how I created my biopod for Black Soldier Fly Larvae.  I will keep you posted on how it works! 

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pillow Case to Market Tote Turtorial

This Christmas I wanted to make market totes for friends and family but I am strapped for time so I needed something that I could whip up quickly.  It was important to me that they still be beautiful and well made however.  This is what I came up with.

Here is a quick tutorial if you want to make your own Market totes.

What you will need:

Pillow cover:  I purchased these burlap like covers from Hobby Lobby for $5.99-$6.99 and was able to use the 40 % off coupon.  

Pre made flowers or fabric scraps to make your own flowers:  I purchased some pre made flowers and decorative grommets to add to my homemade flowers from Hobby Lobby.  I chose to do homemade flowers with most to keep the cost down.  

Trim for straps: The ruffled burlap with diamond trim came from Hobby Lobby, you can use any durable trim.

Good glue:  I use E6000 anytime I'm gluing fabric.

Step 1: Open the zipper and flip the cover inside out.  Using a seam ripper, carefully pull out the seam along what you want to be the top of the tote.

Step 2:  Cut off the side housing the zipper about an inch along the entire side or bottom removing the zipper and cutting a seam along the entire side that is even.  Keep the zippers!  You can reuse them!

Step 3:  Sew the side where the zipper was removed using a 1/2" seam allowance. I surged all the sides for extra reinforcement since these are designed for the market but that's not necessary.

Step 4:  Create the bottom corners by pinching the side seam down to the bottom seam and stitching across about 1.5" from the corner.  This will square off the bottom corner.

Step 5:  Create the top seam. Since I was going for the rustic look I serged along the rim then folded over and ironed flat. For a cleaner look or if you don't have a Serger then you will want to fold over and iron the top 1/4" then fold over another 1/4" and iron flat. This will give the top a clean finished look.

Step 6:  Pin and sew straps in place.  I didn't take enough photos on this but after you pin your straps to the wrong side you will want to sew them in place using a double stitch or making two stitch rows so they will hold up when weight is added to the tote.

Here is a picture of the top finished with the trim sewn to the inside of the tote.

Step 7: Top stitch along the entire top rim.

Step 8:   Add flowers, bows or anything else you feel is beautiful to the front using the E6000 glue or hand stitching them in place.

To make flowers:  I took fabric scraps and frayed them and used vintage lace and trim scraps to make my flowers. I make flowers by adding a gather stitch then while I pull the thread and gather I work the fabric in a circle.  To hold it all together I put it under my machine for a quick stitch in the center.  If it didn't come out the exact shape I was looking for I hand stitch it to shape it a bit.  I then took off the metal grommet parts of my decorative grommets and glued the decorative front of the grommet to the middle of the flower.  My goal was quick and rustic chic so there was no need for perfection with these totes. If you are interested in more details on making flowers This is a great tutorial and the flowers are beautiful!


I hope this  tutorial allows you an easy way to bless loved ones with your gift sewing!

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Monday, December 9, 2013

From the garden to the table.

We are back in a season of having food to harvest from the garden daily. This is what makes gardening so addictive for me and keeps me moving along in our plan to turn our 150' by 60' front yard into a completely edible landscape. The more food we harvest and eat the more food I want to plant. Snacks like roasted radish disappear as busy hands walk by and grab a few as a snack leaving me back in the garden planting hundreds of seeds so we can have these delicious snacks everyday!

Sweet potato rings, fresh eggs, grapefruit, and orange juice. A common breakfast this time of year.


These are luffa gourds.

The garden is still in the early stages of soil fertility but the food is growing. I use an all wood chip covered garden plan and work in chicken compost, worm compost, and follow the permaculture idea of chop and drop to increase soil fertility. I'm not sure if it's the best method and I know there is debate on wood chips but we grow food, alot of food considering I started this garden just a year ago and don't water or use any synthetic fertilizer or pesticides.

green beans, oregano, peppers, eggplant, romaine lettuce, icicle radish, cabbage.
Oregano and green beans.
Broccoli, collard greens, lemon grass, and tea roses.
Luffa gourd ready to harvest.
butterfly plant covered in aphids keeping the aphids from harming food.

Super sized navel oranges.

It's hard to tell the oranges from grapefruit.

Cooking is not my favorite activity so the things I create with our food are simply no recipe meals but they are still delicious!

Roasted radish; cut radish and oregano, coat with olive oil, cook 425 until lightly brown.
Cow peas cooked in with quinoa.

quinoa with herbs, parsley, onion, tomato, and broccoli.  A garden medley.

Roasted peppers, potatoes, and sausage.

Happy gardening!

Job 12:8 Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you;
And the fish of the sea will explain to you
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