Will Alternative Gardening Methods Work For You?

Allison Geraci is a recent graduate of Kent State University’s Zoology program, and has an interest in native plants and restoration of native habitat–and how that works for plants, animals and people. This is the first in a short series of articles looking at native plants and plant habitats that she’ll be writing for Country Life this summer.

Going Native?
In today’s world of industry and technology, there is also a trend, a yearning to get back to the land: to be out in the fresh air, green grass, getting dirt on your hands. The weather has finally broken in my area of northeast Ohio, and I’m hoping the ground will be ready for planting soon, as things dry out. These days the majority of what is planted in our gardens comes from foreign areas and is planted in native soil. (Foreign meaning any plant not native to your region, not necessarily plants from other countries.) Continue reading

American Gardeners Seeing Some Green!

Kendra, NC-TN Mountains

These Black Cherry Tomatoes made their appearance April 4 for Kendra!

These Black Cherry Tomatoes made their appearance April 4 for Kendra!

We’ve enjoyed a good rain, and the seedlings are thriving. My carrots are just emerging from the soil, and are finally making an appearance among the radishes in the garden.

The lettuce is also making its first showing, safely covered with chicken wire to keep the cat from scratching in the bed. I was excited to find my Black Cherry Tomatoes sprouting indoors recently. The seedlings are now warmly growing under fluorescent bulbs on my kitchen counter. Continue reading

8 Fun Uses For Strawberry Baskets

Sure, our Old-Time Poplar Strawberry Basket is great for collecting strawberries–shoot, they’re great for collecting any kind of small produce. But what if you have a few extra? What can you do with them?

Well, in my case, #1 on the list has already happened. I needed a couple of small Easter baskets for the daughters of friends, and I had a few of the strawberry baskets handy. And that got me to thinking…and I came up with eight other uses for these handy baskets.

1. Small Easter basket–see photos below!
2. Take-away party favor: you won’t need a box.
3. Place card: At picnics, include napkins, flatware.
4. Gift box: Great for odd-shaped small items. Decorate it!
5. Hair stuff box: pony tail elastics, hair bands, bobby pins, etc.
6. Craft supplies container–look in the background of the photos.
7. Pencil cup: I’d line it with fabric; great for deep desk drawers.
8. Container for small toys; use for children or to corral pet toys

A last minute flash of inspiration:  Use the basket as a base for a giant pincushion! (I’m making one of these now, and will post the how-to and photos when it’s done!)

Real Butter, Real Food, Real Life

Alison and her husband Jacob.

Alison and her husband Jacob.

This might be the coolest blog post I’ve written in a long time, if not ever. It’s all about the magical, real essence of butter.

What led me to write about butter? Well, it’s been a journey to say the least.

Like many others, for the longest time I thought buying items at the grocery store labeled ‘fat-free’ was actually benefiting my body. Turns out, that’s not so much the case.

It wasn’t until I was assigned a project to work with a local gardener in the area where I learned differently. She feeds her family with vegetables grown from the garden in the backyard and foods from her cows from the field. She told me that if I’m eating butter from a plastic container, I might as well be eating the container itself. That’s how close the ingredients in each are. It resonated with me, so I started to use only buy real butter–wrapped in paper! Continue reading

Foundling Songbird Assistance Guide Makes Point With Humor

Artist Rosemary Mosco is the creative force behind the bird comic site birdandmoon.com. She graciously agreed to share this guide on handling foundling songbirds with us–with a little twist you might not expect.ifyoufind_rmosco

It’s Party Time! Join Us for Jay’s 85th!

Isn't the bobblehead adorable? Looks just like the man himself, down to the glasses.

Isn’t the bobblehead adorable? Looks just like the man himself, down to the glasses. The figurine is dated 2014.

We’re having a great time celebrating a milestone birthday: our founder, Jay Lehman is 85!

We’d like you to join the party–and we have some great prizes to share with lucky winners.

Who wouldn’t want to win this great Jay commemorative bobblehead?

Continue reading

The PotMaker Makes Seed Starting Simple

The PotMaker

Make biodegradable seed starter pots easily with The PotMaker from Lehman’s in Kidron, or at Lehmans.com.

Today’s article comes to us from Ann VerWiebe, a staffer at 89.7 WKSU, a service of Kent State University. We’re proud to help support public radio, and were thrilled when Ann jumped at the idea to test one of our products. Ann’s an avid gardener, crafter, sewing maven and all-around creative person.

This winter in Ohio has been tough and persistent. Even now, weeks after it has officially turned to spring, we can’t be sure we’re passed the final frost of the season. I decided to force the issue by starting seeds on what is commonly known as a “sunny windowsill.”

I used the PotMaker to create tiny starter pots. What’s really great about this product is that it allowed me to easily – and cheaply – make something that can be planted directly in the ground once my seeds have sprouted. The simple strip of newspaper used to make the pot biodegrades in the earth without disturbing the roots of the seedling during the transplanting process. Continue reading

Bio Blocks® Turn Up Trumps At Farmer Hannah’s

Our off-grid farmer, Hannah Breckbill, is still working to keep a consistent temperature in her woodstove-heated greenhouse. Her northern plains location means that nights still get pretty chilly, even in April. We sent her some Bio Block® Heating Blocks to see if they can help.

Bio Block® Heating Blocks from Lehmans.com

Made in Ohio by a family-owned business, Bio Block® Heating Blocks are handy and efficient, and available at Lehmans.com.

The problem with wood heat is that it’s inconsistent.  Sometimes your wood is wetter, or dryer… there are usually some funny-shaped pieces so you can’t pack your stove all that consistently.  Firewood is also hard to transport efficiently, in my experience.  On the other hand, wood has perks: it’s relatively inexpensive (very inexpensive if you cut it yourself!), it provides a really satisfying and cozy fire, and it comes from current solar energy, rather than fossilized sunlight—meaning that it is carbon-neutral. (Fossilized sunlight: oil, natural gas…carbon-based fuels.)

I had the opportunity to try out some Bio Blocks® the other night in my greenhouse’s wood stove.  Bio Blocks® are made of compressed hardwood waste. The company is based in Wayne County, Ohio, near Lehman’s. Continue reading

American Gardener Tim Takes 2014 Plan from 2013 Garden

One of our American Gardeners, Tim, isn’t a stranger to Country Life. He’s the man behind the title “Prepper Dad”, and has shared his common-sense ideas about preparing for emergencies. One of his biggest ‘to-do’ items is growing and preserving his garden’s produce. Last year, he canned and froze hundreds of containers of veggies, fruit and herbs from what he calls “the small garden.” He’s shared some pictures of that project as he prepares for gardening in 2014. “This has been the longest winter in a long time, I’m telling ya,” he says. But he’s readying sprouts and seeds, some of which are the varieties included in the American Gardens project. And he’s looking forward to a bigger garden in 2014.

the garden just after planting peas and lettuce in back left corner, 160 walla walla and texas sweet onions in row on left edge up to near left, first saturday in april. Strawberry patch in center back still overgrown and un-netted. Rest of area freshly scraped of weeds by a hoe and the soil loosened an broken up by hand with a garden fork. about to spread 3 bales of straw 6-8" deep over whole area but 1/2" deep in onion bed. Shallow roots and bulbs need light and water to grow

The beginning…
The garden just after planting peas and lettuce starts in back left corner, 160 Walla Walla and Texas sweet onions in row on left edge up to near left. This is the first Saturday in April 2013.

Strawberry patch in center to right back still overgrown and un-netted. Rest of area freshly scraped of weeds by a hoe and the soil loosened and broken up by hand with a garden fork. Shortly after this photo, I spread 3 bales of straw 6-8″ deep over whole area but only 1/2″ deep in onion bed. Shallow roots and bulbs need light and water to grow!

the peas on April 12, two weeks old & about to get 2nd and last shot of miracle grow. Used twine from TSC to make trellises for vines to climb. had to cover with bottomless milk jugs twice to save lettuce ftom frost.

The peas on April 12, two weeks old & about to get 2nd and last shot of liquid fertilizer.

Used twine to make trellises for vines to climb. Had to cover lettuce with bottomless milk jugs twice to save the lettuce from frost. It got really cold in April last year, but it’s colder this year! Continue reading

15 Ways to Transform Your Canning Jars

It’s no secret. Canning jars are for more than canning. They’re super useful around the house and great for when you need a simple, inexpensive decoration. We’ve put together a list of our favorite uses for these jars.

Put flowers inside the jars and tie ribbon or twine around the rims for centerpieces. For more color, you can paint the jars.Canning Jar Vase

Continue reading