Part 2: Spring Lawn Care Tips

Galvanized watering cans are available in large and small sizes.

Water, water, water
In the last installment, I covered fertilizing. Once the fertilizer is in place, water the lawn. The ideal situation is to apply the fertilizer prior to a good soaking spring rain, but if you’re busy like I am you’ll likely have to create your own soaking rain with a garden hose and gentle spray nozzle on your own schedule. Water the lawn a few times in the days following fertilizing to help all the granules dissolve and leach into the soil to reach the roots. If there’s an extended dry period, make sure you keep up with the gentle soaking watering every few days.

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The Two-Paycheck Household (With One Wage Earner)

Editor’s Note: Country living isn’t always easy. Sherry Ellesson returns to our blog with an account of her past year, and some homespun philosophy that may help you through difficult times. We’re looking forward to hearing more from Sherry soon.

close up of Washington on dollar billHello, Lehman’s Friends – long time, no write!  In fact, I think it’s been more than a year since I contributed to the newsletter, and I’ve missed it.  In times past, I sent in ideas for curbing costs (that dollar bill fastened on the hot water faucet in the kitchen was an unusual one), edible landscaping, and even some fun with farm equipment; but last spring – in May, to be exact – I got a wake-up call that sobered even this eternal optimist. Continue reading

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Part I: Spring Lawn Care Tips

A well-kept lawn says as much about a person as good grooming, healthy looking livestock or pets, or a spotless fit and finish on his or her choice of transportation or home. I’ve heard it said that attention to details makes the man, but attention to the lawn can make the whole property.

View from porch

Summer lasts a long time. To keep a good looking lawn you have to be diligent in the upkeep, water during times of drought, and weed and take care of pests regularly. All that said, the most important time of the year for your lawn is spring.

Starting right now, there’s plenty to be done to improve the space between the road and the front door. The steps include having the right equipment, as well as an assortment of dethatching, aerating, fertilizing, watering, mowing and addressing problems with weeds and pests. In late winter or early spring I start assessing the entire lawn. I take a slow walk around and make a fresh note of dead spots and thin areas in the grass. I mow this lawn at least every couple weeks all summer long, and I have for the past two decades, but it’s important to mark the seasonal changes.

Next, I bend down and rake my hand through the brown stems. I part the foliage and look for matted undergrowth and piled up thatch which can hold in excess moisture and lead to grass-killing mold.

If you’re like me, and I suspect most landowners are, you started thinking about mowing grass with the first unseasonably warm day in March. But you don’t want to rush the season. Let the grass get a good start on the season’s growth before mowing that first time. Also you’ll want to make sure the grass is dry and the mower blades are sharp. Mowing a wet lawn, or with dull blades, can rip and beat the stems – resulting in unhealthy grass blades that can turn brown on the tattered ends.
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Time to Get Your Garden On!

Start Your Seedlings in 12 Easy Steps

Many gardeners seem to be intimidated by the idea of starting their own plants from seed. Most people I know have always gone to the garden shop to buy their seedlings in Spring. But, what if I told you that starting seeds is literally so easy a child could do it? And not only that, it’ll save you a ton of money as well! Not to mention that you’ll be able to grow any variety you fancy, and won’t be limited by what’s available in your area.

Follow these 12 easy steps, and you’ll never have to buy another costly nursery plant again! Continue reading

Behind The Scenes at Lehman’s: Get Growing!

Editor’s Note: This winter, our Facebook readers got a look behind the scenes at Lehman’s catalog and web department checking out new products for the holiday and spring seasons. That was well received, and so we’ve decided to feature a peek behind the curtain several times a year here in the blog too. This article features Glenda Lehman Ervin, our vice president of marketing. She loves to garden, and works it into her busy life in creative ways.

Every gardener knows that no matter how long you’ve been growing your garden, there’s always something new to learn. And whether you’re faced with an unfamiliar garden pest or are curious what variety of green bean thrives best in your climate, the best people to learn from are other gardeners.

“Every gardener I’ve ever met has been happy to share their secrets,” says Glenda Lehman Ervin, vice president of marketing at Lehman’s, and daughter of founder Jay Lehman. Continue reading

Part II: The Reluctant (Irish) Spring Cleaner

In my last post I confessed that I can live with a certain amount of domestic squalor right through the winter months.  But as Spring rattles the old double helix, my German hausfrau legacy surfaces, and berates me for my slovenly habits.

But given that there are plenty more interesting things to be getting on with – seed sowing, writing my blog, reading, cat grooming – I usually turn a deaf ear (that was inherited from the other side of the family) to that guilt-inducing siren call. Continue reading

When Freezers Fail, Canning Saves the Day!

When a hunter friend of ours had his freezer that was packed with venison go out, he decided to bless us with some of the thawed hunks of meat. Knowing my family would never be able to eat it all before it went bad, and that it wouldn’t be safe to re-freeze the raw venison, I decided to take the opportunity to experiment with my new pressure canner. And I was pleasantly surprised to find how easy it was to can my own meat!

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Part I: The Reluctant (Irish) Spring Cleaner

Bee Smith, our contributor from across the pond starts a discussion on how (and why!) she spring cleans her home. She and her husband have a beautiful little homestead in Ireland, growing much of their own food. —Editor

I was once listening to a radio broadcast of Irish woman poet Eavan Boland. She told of the story how she was giving poetry workshops to Irish women. At the end of the workshop she asked if they would go home and tell their friends, family and neighbours and tell them that they were poets. “Oh, no, now I couldn’t be doing that,” said one participant with a baleful look, “they’d be thinking I was the kind of woman who never washed her curtains.”

Dear Reader, I am a poet (amongst other things), and I do have a certain amount of self-recognition in that statement. Having come from a family that is very neat, tidy, domestically organised and clean, I seem to have inherited some rogue gene. It’s not that I don’t want to be more like them.  Continue reading

“Home Grown” Maple Syrup

Although the perception is that one must have a giant sugarbush, and lots of specialized equipment to make maple syrup, our blogger Lisa Amstutz tells how she does it in her back yard! 

I fell in love with the gigantic silver maple tree in my back yard at first sight. Several feet in diameter, it towered above everything else in the yard and had tree swing potential written all over it. The tree has lived up to expectations in that department. It has also provided cool shade on hot summer days and homes for many of the birds we so enjoy watching.

As if that wasn’t enough, my lovely silver maple literally has sugar running in its veins. While sugar and black maples make the best maple syrups, red and silver maples work well too, as does box elder. “Maple” syrup can even be made from certain species of birch.

Taps and bags on my silver maple.

Sugaring season varies every year, but it often starts at the end of February or beginning of March, when the nights are below freezing and daytime temperatures rise to around 40°, and lasts until the trees begin to break bud. During the last week in February, we finally got around to tapping our tree, a week or two after we started seeing bags and buckets on our neighbors’ trees.

It’s not difficult to make maple syrup. The supplies are inexpensive—I spent about $25 for two bags, holders and spouts that can be reused year after year. Some syrup-makers prefer to use plastic tubing and 5-gallon buckets or just hang a bucket or milk jug directly on the spout.

My husband drilled two holes in the tree—it’s large enough to support more than one tap—and inserted the spouts. We check the bags each day, and empty them into lidded buckets when they start to get full. Some people drink maple sap straight, as a spring tonic, but we like to make ours into syrup. Once we’ve collected enough sap to cook a batch, we’ll strain it through a cheesecloth and cook it down.

The biggest problem for many backyard syrup-makers is finding a good place to boil down the sap. It takes roughly 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup, which means that large quantities of water must boil off. If you try to do it on your kitchen stove, you’ll steam off the wallpaper and end up with a sticky mess unless you have a stellar ventilation system.

Getting sap right from the source!

Getting sap right from the source!

For our small quantities, we’ve found that cooking the sap on a hot plate on the porch works fine, as long as we keep a close eye on it. If you have more trees, you may need to cook it in a kettle over a fire or rig up an evaporator. The syrup is ready at about 66° Brix, or when it boils at 7.1° F above the boiling temperature of water. At that point, there’s nothing left to do but make pancakes and enjoy!

Besides its taste benefits, real maple syrup has the advantage of being all-natural—most commercial “maple syrup” brands have little to no actual maple syrup in them but rather a cocktail of corn syrup, preservatives, and artificial colors and flavors. In addition, maple syrup is one of the few truly local sweeteners available in northern climates.

Backyard Sugaring Book

Available online or at our Kidron store.

Of course, our one tree produces only enough syrup to whet our appetite for more, but it does make for a few wonderfully memorable pancake breakfasts each year. Even if you only have one or two maple trees in your yard, why not give backyard sugarin’ a try this year?

Swishing, swapping, donating – it’s all recycling

In challenging financial climates it may seem a bit heartless to put on the happy face.  But for the part of me that loves the earth and wishes to cherish her resources in good heart for generations to come, the recession seems to have a bit of a silver lining.

How To Sew A Button (And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew)

For those of us with parents or grandparents who lived through the Great Depression and World War II, make do and mend was a practical way of life.I daresay there are many of my generation who have cleared their deceased parents’ houses and bewailed the piles of carefully stacked jars, rewound twine – all those odds and ends that might come in handy but rarely do until have you have had a thorough clear-out! But we could heed that frugal practice and adapt it to 21st century lives.

Recently my friend Helga invited me to a Clothes Swap afternoon.  It was held in the Mountain Tavern on Slieve Anieran – or Iron Mountain in English – where the pub landlady also has an organic farm.  These parties are popping up all over the place.  In England they sometimes call them ‘swishing’ parties.  The idea is to bring clothes and accessories that you no longer fit into, or need and swap them.
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