Biting bugs are the worst. But I would argue that the majority of commercially available bug sprays and lotions are even more horrible.
I work outdoors a lot and mosquito season is just beginning. I always seem to forget how infuriating it is to try and get things done outdoors when you’re constantly swatting at these whining pests. Not to mention they can carry dangerous diseases.
However, the thought of smearing myself with pesticide cream or who knows what else gives me the creeps. I had to figure out a better solution, luckily the answer is easy, effective, cheap and natural.
Two ingredients: witch hazel and lemon eucalyptus essential oil.
I usually put a few tablespoons of witch hazel into a small glass jar and then add about 12 – 24 drops of essential oil. You can also pour it into a small spray bottle. Shake well before each use and then just rub into any exposed areas, including your face. It has a light, lemony smell and leaves no residue. In fact in the off season I will sometimes use this concoction as a refreshing toner! Mosquitoes will give you a wide berth when sporting this stuff.
Cheaper than commercial sprays, lasts forever and the witch hazel helps extend the oil and also thin it out to help avoid skin irritation for those that are sensitive. Win-win!
Leucanthemum vulgare is an iconic perennial flowering herb that is native to Europe but can be found all over the world. It’s also called the dog daisy, common daisy or moon daisy and can be seen in fields, woodlands and along roadsides. It has serrated to dentated dark green leaves and spreads via rhizomes.
I have a large patch of this in my rabbit forage field and the bunnies always go for these juicy stalks first when they get their daily bundle of wild grasses. The dead nettle has died down for the most part and so the oxeye daisy makes for much of their non-grassy forage this time of year, now that it is getting hotter.
The young leaves of this herb can also be used in salads, and the dried leaves have a bitter and tingling flavor similar to that of valerian. The immature flower buds can be marinated and used like capers, which is what I’m preparing today. They have a unique, delicate sweet and spicy flavor that complements many dishes such as smoked fish, salads, pates and sauces.
You must select tightly closed flower buds to ensure the best flavor and that no bugs have made their way in. Then take 1/2 cup apple cider or wine vinegar and 1/2 cup water mixed with 1 tablespoon sea salt and use to cover your flower buds in a glass jar or ceramic crock. Refrigerate and they will be ready to use after three days but will keep in the fridge much longer than that.
These flashy little plants showed up in my bee yard completely out of nowhere. I’m sure nobody planted them but I have seen them growing in my neighbor’s yard a couple of houses down. A quick search shows it to be an invasive plant, but it’s also edible and has medicinal qualities.
The bitter, pungent leaves, which are high in vitamin C are great in salads as the plant is closely related to arugula. The flowers are aromatic, but only in the evenings. It is purported to induce sweating, promote urination and loosen a cough. When in flower, it is said to be a gland stimulant and aphrodisiac. It’s also a great nectar source!
Plants need calcium, especially things like tomatoes which will suffer from blossom end-rot without sufficient amounts.
I save all my eggshells and my birds generate about 5 to 10 pounds worth per year. I dry them, crush them and every spring I spread them all over my gardens. Today was eggshell-spreading day! There are usually none left over, but when there are they get fed back to the birds who love them.
I really appreciate that I don’t have to purchase bone meal, which is a by-product of the beef industry. It’s nice using fertilizers that are generated right here on the property and it saves me money. I don’t bother crushing them to a powder, I just do the best I can and they decompose over time.
It’s a myth that eggshells will prevent slugs in your garden. Tests have shown that they actually attract them! If slugs are a concern for you, turn your eggshell into the soil so they’re covered. I don’t bother with this because my ducks eat most of the slugs around here and I like the way the shells brighten things up.
The long cold winter is finally giving way to warmer days and the garden is slowly coming back to life. Whenever I spend time out in the garden I have my little furry companions out to help me. They’re so cute!
The valerian near the chicken coop is going to be huge this year, I can tell. The lungwort is blooming, the lupines are pushing up with their star-shaped leaves and the rhubarb has definitely multiplied!
Here are a couple of pots of wild mint that I harvested down at the river last year, don’t know what kind exactly but glad they made it! It has a fresh, mild minty flavor.
Of course, not all the girls wanted to join me in the garden today, this little one was content to lounge inside on her heated cat bed until my photo-taking woke her up!
I like plants, especially unusual ones. This year I started a lot of ornamentals from seed, and one of them was the castor bean plant, which has been designated by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most poisonous plant in the world.
The danger comes from the seeds, which contain a protein called ricin. It only takes about three seeds taken orally to kill a human adult. Of course, it’s also the source of castor oil which is used medicinally for many things.
It might be a killer, but this plant is also highly interesting to look at. It’s sensitive to frost, so acts like an annual in this climate and grows extremely quickly, forming gigantic red and green leaves, small flowers and spiky seed clusters. I have one plant in the ground which will probably die back soon, but I also planted one in a pot so I could bring it inside and try to keep it alive over the winter. Should be interesting.
I was joking around in a previous post about how hard it is to find cheap wood chips around here this year, and how I was pretty close to buying my own wood chipper and putting up an ad for tree services!
Well it turns out that is exactly what has happened. Today I bought myself a used chipper and soon I will be pestering neighbors for their tree trimmings. Can’t wait!
My trio of garden beds are finally complete, and just in time too. I now have an empty compost pile and the entire chicken pen floor has been dug out at least a foot deep.
I keep trying to get cheap wood chips from local tree companies for the pathways and chicken pen, but it seems everyone else has the same idea and I’ve had zero luck. The cheapest I can find them for sale is $20 a yard plus $100 delivery, which would make a single truckload cost around $400 and I’ll probably need two to last me the year. I’m pretty close to buying my own wood chipper and putting up an ad for tree pruning services!
Everything I planted in the first bed is really taking off and if you scoop any of the material out it’s totally chock full of worms. I have one of my young does living over the unfinished beds while I work on them so she can fertilize. Once winter rolls around again I’ll probably try to install rabbit cages over every bed. Might as well get the manure where you want it without the shovel.
I also potted up my baby tomatoes today. I had three out of the four varieties I planted germinate well, even the old Prudens Purple seeds from 2008! When I told the seed company about it, they said tomato and pepper seeds can last a decade or more if stored in cool, dry conditions. Wow!
The lacinato kale is also feeling frisky and setting flowers. I’m looking forward to another boatload of seeds like last year, this will be my second variety. Kale is such a workhorse in the garden.