Coming Out of Dormancy

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This is how I feel. Like a flower just aching to burst into bloom. It’s been a while since I’ve written, I guess I’ve been in hibernation. But, though it is only February, the world is coming back to life, and I’m coming right along with it!

I finally had the opportunity to spend some time in my central medicinal herb garden this afternoon and it was such a profoundly refreshing experience that I had to share it. I thought a good many thoughts and here are just a few of them.

My primary purpose was to clear out at least the edges so that last year’s perennials (and hopefully some self seeding annuals as well) could begin to recover from their own long winter’s nap. As I cleared, I came up against a typical quandary for a “natural” gardener like myself. many of the “weeds” that I was clearing away with their intensely netted webs of roots, are actually medicinal herbs themselves! There was chickweed (highly nutritious and useful for healing skin conditions and easing bronchial distress), and yellow dock (a wonderful liver tonic) in the way of my Valerian (calms anxiety and gives rest to insomniacs) and my hyssop (immune system booster). So how do we choose? Why is one herb more deserving of the space than another? Mostly, I’d say it is a matter of effort. I intentionally planted the Valerian and hyssop, while the other plants (not really weeds at all) volunteered to come up there. Also, the Valerian and Hyssop will never choke out the chickweed and yellow dock, but the reverse is not necessarily true. So weed I did, and ruthlessly at that.

My secondary purpose was to get this aging body moving! Pulling out the strawberry hoe and using my muscles to achieve a goal just plain feels good, and without the fusty aroma of a gym!

And last but certainly not least, there was the silence. Oh the blessed silence. Of course there were sounds, there were songbirds singing, Guinea fowl “potracked” nearby, neighbors conversed, and naturally there was the sound of that hoe breaking through to the precious soil. It was more of a spiritual silence, away from the distractions of this computerized world.

I hope you have a piece of soil for yourself. Whether it be a garden, a small square of land in front of a walk up apartment, or even a five gallon pail full of purchased soil, plunge your hands in and see what you find. You may just discover that you’ve been more asleep than you thought. Let that piece of soil bring you back to life too!

 

One of our best friends!

 

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Plantain is popping up everywhere! Check your front lawn, check next to the sidewalk, check … well … almost anywhere in the great outdoors. And when you find it please don’t kill it. It may look like a weed, but in reality it is a whole medicine cabinet! Not only do its leaves fight infections and rashes; but its seeds, when they arrive in mid to late summer, promote the healing of the digestive system, much the same way Mucinex would! Love your plantain, cherish it, and learn all of the wonderful properties of this most humble of spring “weeds”!

Fresh Eggs for only $2?

This is one of our (all of us) favorite signs to see on the side of the road. The imagination ranges from images of a peacefully foraging flock in a classic barnyard to the thought of two eggs over easy alongside some fluffy sausage gravy on fluffy buttermilk biscuits with a strong cup of coffee. I hope to persuade you that the “Fresh Eggs” sign should say $3.00 and we should be proud to pay our neighbors a fair price for their farm produce. Not only would you ensure that your egg provider continues to keep a flock but you are making a direct investment in local food security.
Part of why we like to see eggs, rabbits, and tomatoes for sale on the side of the road is it comforts us to know that some of our personal food chain is less than 2500 miles long. Some food is being produced locally without multinational agribusiness control. What we often forget is the 17 degree night when someone went out to check that the animals were snug or the 98 degree day the tomatoes needed hoeing. However there is a more compelling reason to pay fairly for our eggs. They cost that much. Check at your local grocery and you’ll find the cheapest factory farmed eggs available for $2.15 per dozen if you buy 5 dozen at once. Cage Free eggs which is simply a different version of factory farming cost $3.00 per dozen and organic eggs cost $4.50 – $5.00 per dozen. Now let’s look at what it costs to keep a flock.
Groundwell Farm Agricultural Research Mission (GFARM) has compared industry standards for feed consumption by layers to actual figures for a midsized layer flock (Plymouth Rocks) and found consistent results. At current prices of $14.20 including tax for 50 pounds of layer feed, eggs cost more than $1.50 per dozen from average size hens. A midsize hen eats 3 pounds of feed per week. This means a 50 pound bag of feed will feed a layer for 117 days. If the hen laid one egg daily which is possible for part of the prime of a layer’s life, that would be 9.75 dozen eggs and they would cost $1.46 per dozen. That is only for feed. Other costs include housing, chickens, feeding roosters and young non-laying birds, healthcare, fencing, feeders and waterers, etc. Clearly the eggs are actually costing more than $1.50 per dozen, however many small farmers and homesteaders have resigned themselves to the “market not bearing” a real price for their produce. Let’s give the encouragement local farmers need to keep some food production local. Next time you buy $2.00 eggs, pay $3.00 and when they ask why say,” because I really like knowing you have such fresh eggs available on my way home.”

For the Growers

GFARM compared feeding commercial layer crumbles to layer pellets in a hanging feeder and found that pellets result in close to 10 percent feed savings simply by limiting waste. We encourage you to see if this helps you realizing that your feeder type or the habits of your layers could produce different results. Until next time, keep on growin’, keep on growin’.