New Arrivals In New England

Kathy's daughter with one of the new arrivals.

Kathy’s daughter with one of the new arrivals.

Our chicks have arrived! Like all new mamas, I believe my babies are the cutest things ever.

In a perfect world, our new chicks would be the natural result of having a roster and some broody hens around our little homestead. But alas, my world is not perfect. We live on a lovely little street in the middle of a New England village and our neighbors, dear as they are, would not appreciate a 4:00 AM wake up call, courtesy of “Chanticleer”. So my chicks came to us from McMurray Hatchery via the United States Post Office.

We placed the order on a Thursday and got a call from our Post Master at 7:00 on Monday morning telling us that our package had arrived. I could hear them peeping away in the background. It was a quick trip across the street to fetch them home. One might think that a box of 15 chicks would be large, but in truth the whole thing is smaller than a breadbox. It was hard to get Phoebe out the door to school Monday! The tiny things kicked her mothering instincts into high gear and she was loath to leave them with us.

We were all set for the chicks, which need very little the first few weeks. They need bedding, and we used wood shavings for that. Shredded paper works well too. You just don’t want anything dusty as that can cause breathing problems.

Starting from scratch with chickens? You need Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens in your library! In stock now at Lehmans.com.

Starting from scratch with chickens? You need Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens in your library! In stock now at Lehmans.com.

Then there’s starter feed. Chicks from the hatchery have been medicated so we got an unmedicated feed. If we had hatched them at home we could have gone with a feed that contained antibiotics to protect against the many poultry diseases that float around each spring. Water is very important too. You need a waterer that keeps the water clean and prevents the chicks from drowning.

As important as water is heat. In the natural world, the chicks would spend a good deal of time under their mother’s warm body. We keep a hanging heat lamp in the coop. If the chicks are cool they will huddle under it; if warm enough they will move away.

Our nursery coop is a re-purposed mesh playpen. The babies will graduate to the outdoor coop eventually. It has to be consistently warm enough outside, and they need to be a lot bigger.

Once they’re outside, the chicks will switch from starter feed and move on to ‘real food’.  A good deal of their diet will come from bugs and grass and whatever table scraps we give them. Chickens are very partial to cheese and cantaloupe. We’ll also supplement with some laying mash.

Chicken EncyclopediaIt’s important to choose a breed that meets your family’s needs. We live in a place with sub-zero winter temperatures. We are also a family farm and there are always children running around so temperament matters. (We handle our birds a lot.) Our last flock was so friendly that they would let us pick them up without any fuss. We chose to go with Buff Orpingtons this time. They are a beautiful bird and quite hearty, with a mellow temprament. They’re also a good dual-purpose bird should you decide to raise some meant for the table.

Easily moveable, this coop will keep your birds secure. Click on the picture for more details.

Easily moveable, this coop will keep your birds secure. In stock now at Lehman’s in Kidron and Lehmans.com. Click on the picture for  details.

It’s important for chickens to have a coop. I do love the fancy chicken tractors but we had a decent shed already so we used that. A good coop is not too large. It needs good insulation but ventilation is even more important. Most important: it must be predator proof. Hawks, foxes and fisher cats are all problems around here. Dogs and rats will kill chickens too. We dug a trench and buried chicken wire to keep an animal from burrowing under.

Our chickens are free range. They have a small yard to use once they leave the playpen, and when they are closer to full-grown, then they’ll graduate to the rest of the outdoor space. Since we let them roam the yard, our garden does need to be protected. Chickens can devastate a tomato patch in an afternoon.

Phoebe and Big ChickensOnce these 16 chickens begin laying we can count on over a dozen eggs each day, plenty to keep the two families who share this flock in eggs and leave some for selling, trading or preserving for winter. It’s not just the eggs I love. I think helping to care for animals is good for kids. My daughter, Phoebe, knows that the chickens must be cared for each day, even before we eat. She knows how important it is to check their water, especially if it’s hot and she knows that they need to be closed in at night. Gathering eggs is one of her favorite activities.

Safety Lessons From The Woodlot

Homeowners who heat with wood can be divided into two groups: those who need to get outside this time of year and cut wood for next winter, and those who need to get outside right now and cut wood for this heating season. In the early years I often found myself counted among the latter. Nowadays I try to be better prepared.

Either way, when you head to the woodlot it pays to have a properly maintained saw, the necessary safety equipment and gear, and the know-how to stay safe. You’ll want a good-running saw of ample size to get the work done, the hand tools to keep it cutting well, and some rugged and safe clothing and safety gear.

First, let’s start with a checklist of needs (and a few wants that can make the job easier and safer). Continue reading

Butter In A French Press: Hacking a Recipe!

French Press Coffee Maker

French Press Coffee Maker: Holds 32 oz, heat-resistant handle and lab-quality glass. In stock now at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Editor’s Note: Today’s blog contributor, AD Moore, is a potter, and as a hands-on artisan, tends to think out of the box. Thanks, AD, for your contribution that fits both our Recipe of the Week and LehmansHacks features!

I got my idea to make butter in a French Press Coffeemaker from watching a video on Youtube about how to make butter by shaking heavy cream in a jar.

I did try the jar shake method, and it does work, although your arms will certainly hate you for it in the morning. It’s easy to make butter with fresh cream in something the size of a baby food jar, but if you need quantities of fresh, homemade butter, you need a better way! Continue reading

Create A No-Waste Kitchen

In a time when money is tight and the price of real food continues to climb, I think all of us are trying to find ways to save money on our grocery bill while still eating nutritiously and getting the most out of the food we have.

Here are some ways I have found to make good use of what most people would consider garbage–food past it’s best. By turning leftovers into chicken feed, rich garden compost, and a nutrient-dense broth, you’ll not only be getting the most bang for your buck, you’ll also experience the pride that comes with taking part in a truly sustainable lifestyle. I have multiple uses for some items, so if one ‘greencycle’ method doesn’t work for you, perhaps another alternative will. Continue reading

Worm Farmer? No, Worm Geek!

Sturdy, waterproof and portable, the Worm Factory® 360 adds productivity to your garden.

Sturdy, waterproof and portable, the Worm Factory® 360 adds productivity to your garden.

I am now officially the geekiest person you know. A friend just called telling me all about her new car. It sounds very nice and I was polite about it but the whole time she was talking a little voice in my head was saying, “But I have WORMS!”

I’m so excited. I have had the Worm Factory® 360 worm farm for a few months but I could not find any worms. A dear friend finally located a man with worms to spare and they have arrived and I’ve settled them in.

The bed was all set for them and they are happily munching away on crushed egg shells, coffee grounds, lettuce leaves and newspaper. At least I assume they’re happy. Worms are not much for emoting. Continue reading

Recipe of the Week: Sweet And Easy Southern Style Tea

Great water, anytime! The Berkey Light Water Purifier cleans 4 gallons of water per hour. At Lehmans.com or Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio.

Great water, anytime! The Berkey Light Water Purifier cleans 4 gallons of water per hour. At Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

In about six weeks, I’m moving from Amish Country to Sandhills of North Carolina. So I’d thought I’d take a swing at what friends in the new town call the ‘champagne of the South’, sweet iced tea.

There are easy ways to get it:

1. Buy pre-made, pre-flavored sugar syrups, and portion them into your tea. However…you don’t know what’s really in those, do you?

2. For mint fans, pick up a few bottles of Menno Tea. It’s ready to drink, in sanitary glass bottles. I can tell you the five all natural ingredients in it: brewed tea in purified water, sugar, natural mint flavor, natural lemon flavor and citric acid. Continue reading

This Year’s Garden Can Be The Seed For Gardens To Come

Start your plants right! Easy to follow instructions for building cold frames. In stock now at Lehmans.com or Lehman's in Kidron, OH.

Start your plants right! Easy to follow instructions for building cold frames. In stock now at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, OH.

Spring is here, and garden planning is in full gear. If you’re like me, your countertops, cold frames, or greenhouse are overflowing with little seedlings getting ready for their new home outdoors.

Every year I try growing something new from seed. And every year I manage to find some way to kill my tender plants before they even make it into the ground. It’s terrible, really. And I as I sit mourning the loss of weeks of nursing my plants from seed to seedling, I contemplate whether I should try to start more from seed, or just buy replacements at the local nursery.

This year is proving to be no different. I’ve already annihilated about twenty beautiful cabbage and broccoli plants. And I’m not gonna lie. I just might break down this year and buy plants… even though it totally feels like cheating. Continue reading

Don’t Get Bugged: Get Control Naturally

It’s something that many of us in rural areas cope with in springtime–an invasion of ants!

Keep it to hand, and outsmart pests! In stock now at Lehmans.com.

Keep this book to hand, and outsmart pests! In stock now at Lehmans.com.

Dori Fitzringer, a frequent contributor to this blog notes, in a recent email:
“All winter I have waited for spring.  The flowers, fresh breezes drifting in open windows. Here in the mountains of North Carolina, spring is always beautiful.

But with the lovely sunshine of spring comes those pesky little black ants.  Ants – in the sugar, around the sink, crawling on your counters. Those tiny black ants are carrying who-know-what from one place to another.

I try to stay to natural solutions for pest control.  The natural repellant I have had the best success with was cinnamon.  But ants are smart little pests and soon figure out that the cinnamon is harmless to them and came back!”

Dori had to take further measures, and says, “If in doubt about using stronger or other insecticide products I would recommend contacting a professional.”

The Waspinator

The Waspinator: this faux wasp nest keeps real wasps from settling in your barn or on your porch. In stock now at Lehman’s.com or Lehman’s in Kidron.

And, thanks to the magic of Facebook, a professional was available!

Dr. Richard Lobinske, currently the director of a hazardous waste control program in Florida, was happy to share tips from his prior career in public health pest control. With a PhD in Entomology, Lobinske had several suggestions on natural alternatives for those of you who may be struggling with a spring ant invasion.

In the Facebook conversation that started with a question on keeping ants under control at a campsite, he was asked about the efficacy of cucumbers to discourage ants. “Cucumbers might discourage ants, but will probably attract other critters,” he said.

He also noted that boric acid is an active ingredient in treatments often sold at stores, and that tea tree oil is the basis for the insecticide called ‘Neem’, and that using ant deterrents like “baby powder and chalk are similar to using diatomaceous earth.”

Boric acid and talcs (line marking powders, baby powder, chalk) and diatomaceous earth can all be taken by worker ants back to the nest, which exposes the colony to the materials. Essentially, these items all interfere with ant metabolism, and cause scratches on the insect’s exoskeleton, and the ants gradually die off.

Lobinske’s most important point was this: “Unless you put a complete repellent barrier around your house, ants have an amazing ability to bypass spot treatments.”

A single bat can consume 500 mosquitoes and other insects in a single hour. Encourage them to feast at your place with our solid cedar bat house. In stock now, click here!

A single bat can consume 500 mosquitoes and other insects in a single hour. Encourage them to feast at your place with our solid cedar bat house. In stock now, click here!

Using natural remedies to discourage ant and other insect pests can be effective. Here at Lehman’s, we have effective natural and physical deterrents here, including our ever popular leather flyswatter, our plant-based 3-in-1 Garden Spray, and our Ohio-made bat house. If you’re having a insect pest problem, we have ways to help you get it under control, indoors and out!

Our Lamb Cake Tradition

Editor’s Note: Galen Lehman’s essay has proved to be one of our most popular articles. I’m certainly hoping to make a lamb cake part of my family’s next Easter celebration. Hope you are too.

For almost 50 years, my wife’s mother made a lamb-shaped cake every Easter. A lamb was the perfect thing for our Easter dinner. Or (since spring is lambing season), a simple spring celebration! It certainly became an important part of our family tradition. So important, in fact, that it has become a favorite birthday cake for the less-than-5-years-old set.

Our daughter celebrated her first birthday with our famous lamb cake.

Over the years, decorating that lamb cake became a huge highlight of the Holy Week events for my wife and her brothers and sisters. Last year, my mother-in-law, a very special woman I loved as much as my own mother and dearly miss, went ahead of me to a better place. But she left us all with many fond memories of her. And, the tradition of decorating the Lamb Cake has been passed from her kids to her grandchildren to her great-grandchildren.

Along the way, just exactly HOW the lamb cake is decorated has acquired a whole set of its own family traditions.

For example, everyone our family knows that the lamb’s nose must always be a Continue reading

Recipe of the Week: Better-Burger-Buns

If you like Monopoly, you'll love this down-on-the-farm property trading game. At Lehmans.com or Lehman's in Kidron, OH.

If you like Monopoly, you’ll love this down-on-the-farm property trading game. At Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, OH.

Every year, we pack up kids and grandkids and head to a local hotel with an indoor swimming pool and a decent restaurant. We spend the week eating, swimming, reading and playing board games. It’s a welcome break from the will-winter-end-downeast-blues, that trying time of the year when the holidays seem distant, and it’s just a little too soon to start sugaring.

Continue reading