This post is in partnership with 3-IN-ONE® Lock Dry Lube. All thoughts and words are my own.
Whether you live in the city or out in the country, predators are always a concern if you have a flock of backyard chickens. Raccoons, foxes, coyotes, weasels, owls, hawks, and even neighborhood dogs have been known to attack chickens at night or in plain daylight, especially if they free-range and you’re not nearby to deter unwanted visitors.
By their domestic nature, hens are easy prey: They have few survival skills, rarely take flight, and tend to flock together so they’re easier to target in one fell swoop.
Rosemary, derived from the Latin word rosmarinus meaning “dew of the sea,” has long been known for its healing and cognitive benefits, seemingly helping with everything from hair loss to memory lapses.
The Mediterranean herb has been associated with memory for thousands of years, as evident in Shakespeare’s Ophelia where the eponymous character described various herbs and their powers: “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance…” (Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5)
But can rosemary actually improve memory, or is it merely folk medicine?
Update: I also have a corn-free version of my homemade feed! And for easy formulating, download the Garden Betty Chicken Feed Calculator to easily manage costs, calculate protein content, and custom mix your feed on the fly.
Several years ago, I started mixing my own soy-free, mostly organic, whole grain chicken feed. The decision to feed a whole grain diet — versus a commercially formulated diet — is a personal one based on what I believe is best for my chickens. Luckily, it also turned out to be an economical decision and a benefit to my own diet.
Homemade feed is not as expensive or complicated as you may have thought or been told. My small flock of chickens lays over a dozen eggs a week on a hippie diet of whole grains and leafy greens. Their feathers are soft and shiny, their personalities as perky as ever… so I must be doing something right!
I should know better, but it happens every year: I start too many seeds, feel uncertain about whether or not I planted enough, then realize I’m growing more than my family can possibly eat. And I don’t think I’m alone in this!
My eyes are much bigger than my stomach — and my garden — at the start of every season, and I inevitably end up with hundreds of seedlings that I scramble to find room for in any patch of bare soil.
Or sometimes, on the flip side, I don’t plant nearly enough of my favorite fruits and vegetables.
When we think of ground covers, we often think of things like grasses, sedums, and other fast-spreading, low-growing plants that cover or creep along the earth. Essentially, they function as living mulches to reduce weeds and retain moisture by blocking sunlight.
But in a vegetable garden, where I’m trying to maximize production of my land in a way that’s beneficial to the ecosystem as well, I sometimes feel like a layer of mulch — even if it’s organic mulch like compost or straw — is a wasted opportunity to do something more.
There’s no denying the importance of mulch: In addition to smothering weeds and conserving water, it reduces soil erosion and helps curb the spread of disease in a garden (by preventing soil from splashing back up onto the leaves). It also keeps the garden neat and tidy, and most organic mulches eventually break down and add nutrients back into the soil.
But is there a better way to mulch in a vegetable garden so you can fully utilize every square inch of growing space?
Yes! Try edible ground covers.
If you asked most people what color egg yolks are, they would likely answer yellow. Yolks have always been associated with the color yellow, which is unfortunate because backyard chicken keepers know better. Backyard chicken keepers know that yolks can and should be a bright, bold orange, and those bright, bold orange yolks are a sign of happy, healthy hens.
In an unscientific home experiment, I compared my pasture-foraging, insect-pecking, soil-scratching, whole grain-feeding chickens’ yolks to the yolks of both their “free-ranging” and factory-farmed counterparts.
The results were clearly visible: Yolks from my homegrown eggs were not only darker, but also fuller and thicker. Even the eggshells were denser and harder to crack.
But what’s the big deal about orange yolks?
No matter how many times I’ve seen it, the magic of germination still awes me as if it was the first time. I still don’t understand how bushels of juicy tomatoes will come from a single seed smaller than the diameter of a pencil eraser, or how specks of basil seeds will turn into a forest of woody, fragrant herbs that grow over 3 feet tall.
It’s amazing what happens inside a seed before and after it sprouts, and being witness to such a process — something you can only experience by growing from seed — is truly one of the wonders of life. The anatomy of a seed and seedling is something every gardener should know, and learning the science behind it will help you become a better gardener!
You can start seeds in almost anything these days… peat pots, seed trays, toilet paper rolls, newspaper rolls, paper towels, or even that good old-fashioned thing called the ground.
But have you tried starting seeds in eggshells? It almost seems like an urban myth, with rumors that it’s possible, but little proof of people who have actually done it successfully.
Well, I can say with absolute certainty that it works, it’s ridiculously easy, and yes, it’s even practical.
If you like to give your seeds a head start on the season by sprouting them on a sunny windowsill, you may be wondering right about now: why are they so spindly and stretching toward the sun? This isn’t a catwalk, ladies!