The Farmers Lamp

Introducing New Chickens to Your Flock

Rhonda CrankWhen introducing new birds into your flock, it can create a stressful time for the new birds, your established flock, and for you. The pecking order of chickens is very strict and they can be very cruel to one another, at least it will appear that way to you. You've heard the old phrase "hen pecked?" It's a real thing, and not just for men! :)

pullets in breeding yard 

Help Avoid Much of the Fighting

If you have the space, put the new birds in a separate yard beside your chicken yard letting the flock and the new birds be in each others view for two to three weeks. If you don't have that luxury, you can put your new birds on the roost at night when they are all fast asleep and let them wake up together. Then, if you can, separate your old birds from the new birds the next morning. Let the established flock free range or put your new birds into another pen, even if it is a temporary one in your chicken yard. This gives the new birds some time to get used to the yard and relax into their new home in peace. After a couple of nights of roosting together, they should be pretty used to one another and the fighting should be minimal.

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On our farm, I am blessed to have plenty of space. We have a unique setup that my husband built for me. You may not can see it well in this photo, but I have four side yards that connect to the "big yard" by a gate. Each one serves its own purpose. The ones on each end are breeding coops and the two in the middle are the rooster yards reserved for those roosters I keep just for breeding purposes. For more on why I keep the roosters separate, see our post on taming an attacking rooster. These yards all share a common fence so the chickens in the big yard can see the biddies or new hens and get used to them. They still do a little bossin' around, but it has never been anything that has caused damage to any of the birds.

As the young hens grow into maturity, the pecking order will change. If you take one out for setting a nest, the order will change, and it will change again when you bring her back in. I just stay out of their squabbles and let them work it out.

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When to Introduce New Birds

If I have allowed my hen to set, or if, for some reason, I order chicks, they are 3 months old before I introduce them. By this age, they are large enough and established enough to be able to handle themselves. I leave roosters from the same batch in the side yards until I'm ready to butcher. We butcher them when they are 4 months old.

Since the chicks will have been next to the big flock for so long, there is hardly any fuss. To introduce them to the coop and flock, I (meaning we) put them on the roost at night when all the birds have gone to sleep. My headlamp has a red light setting on it and I use this so as not to disturb them too much. A sleeping chicken is kinda like a zombie, they will let you do pretty much anything to them you want.

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I take them from their breeding coop into the big coop and place them on the roost. Gently and slowly so as not to wake them or the other birds. Once they have slept in the coop for two to three nights, they will know where they live and adjust well.

Problems May Arise

The only problem I have had with this is that they are so used to sleeping in the breeding coop house that they don't like the roost. They want to sleep in the bottom row of nests. To correct this, we went out that night, after they were all asleep and put them on the roost again. We had to do this for three nights before all of them were going to bed on the roost. It is a little work, but it is important for them to be sleeping together as a flock.

It isn't hard to introduce new birds, just a little time consuming. Remember, it is just as stressful for your existing flock to have their order upset so be sure everyone has plenty to do, eat, and drink and all should be well. This would be a good time to offer ACV Tonic for all your birds (3 to 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar to 1 gallon of water).

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Please share your experiences with introducing new birds to your flock by commenting below or using the Contact Me page on my website. Remember, I am here to help so always feel free to contact me with your questions and concerns.

Safe and Happy Journey,
Rhonda and The Pack

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What's In Your Seeds?

Rhonda CrankIt may seem hard to believe, but there are so many people who are unaware of the GMO seed and food issue. I personally know many people who choose not to ask questions or who refuse to put in the time for research. As with any important issue there are always those who accept the propaganda and like the ostrich, bury their head in the proverbial sand.

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Since you are reading this and other materials to help educate yourself, you are not one of them. There is a tendency in us to quickly become overwhelmed when learning something new and to simply forget about it. While the amount of information and the different arguments may be scary at first, the truth is simple. Man has once again tried to improve upon what didn't need fixing in the first place.

CountriesBanningGMOThere are many political arguments for the "experiment," but the truth is readily available for those who want it. There is a reason why more than 60 countries in the world have banned them, limited them, and/or required their labeling for use in their borders. Only the U.S. is pushing this seed catastrophe, but that is only because we are corporate run.

Less than 50 years ago, it didn't matter so much where you bought your seeds. If you were avoiding chemically treated seeds, it wasn't hard to find natural seeds, almost everyone sold both. A seed was a seed. Now, saving your own seed from non-GMO plants is one of, if not the, most important decisions a gardener makes.

Who Owns Your Seeds?

The old timers saved their own seeds or bartered their seeds with neighbors; they purchased very little. Since the Garden of Eden, we have known that fruits and veggies are good for us. We have never been told "Don't eat too many tomatoes," "Don't have more than one apple a day." So we have known that these seeds are vital to our health and well being.

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But now we have big government and companies like Monsanto, which is the largest of the companies responsible for GMOs, owning 90 percent of the seeds. They have sued farmers multiple times for saving crop seeds after they were accidentally contaminated by Monsanto's GMO seeds. The sad part, they won. They own the seed the farmer saved because their seed was in it. Farmers located near their "experimental fields" can no longer save their own seed.

Resources for Information

There just isn't enough time and space to discuss this issue in full, but if you have done any research at all, I am sure you have made your decision to avoid GMOs at all cost. You can check out my YouTube GMO Playlist for some videos to help get you started. You will see several from Dr. Jeffrey Smith. I would definitely suggest ordering his movie Genetic Roulette. We did and have invited our friends and family to watch it with us. You may also want to check out our article Is Your Food Really Organic? for more links and information.

We also have two boards on Pinterest to help others learn and keep informed about this problem: Non-GMO, Organic News and Info and Organic, Non-GMO Farming.

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Resources for Non-GMO Seeds

We save most all of our own seed. If and when I do order, there are few companies I have come to trust. I have found them to be reliable, friendly and helpful places to order seeds and supplies. Sifting through all the blah, blah, blah ... yada, yada, yada ... can be overwhelming, I remember. So here are the ones we recommend from experience. No, I am not affiliated with any of them.

1) Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
2) Wood Prairie Farm
3) Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
4) Seeds of Change

This list is not to exclude other companies offering organic, non-GMO seeds or supplies. We do business with the first two because we identify with their principles of business, concerns and goals. We have done business with and still recommend the others also. As always, I am careful about what and who I recommend to you because any good relationship is based on trust. Do you know of some other company you like to do business with? Please share with me.

For more information on seed saving, see our post Seed Saving Savvy. Remember, you can always get in touch with me by using the comments below or the Contact Me page on my website. I always enjoy hearing your ideas, questions and suggestions.

Safe and Happy Journey,
Rhonda and The Pack
The Farmer's Lamp

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10 Household Tips From My Great-Grandmother

Rhonda CrankI was 13 when my great-grandmother, Ma Horton, died. She was 85 years old. She left us with wonderful memories and many lessons for life. I have a rich farming heritage because it was just who they were and my grandparents taught me all their parents taught them. Now whether or not I remember it all is another story.

 

Granny as a child I wanted to share some of the household tips Ma Horton passed down to us. Her daughters wrote these tips down for those of us in the younger generations so we would have a written record of her wisdom and life. I picked the Top 10 that I use in my own home to share with you.

My grandmother as a child.

 

 

 

 

Ma and Pa Horton 

Pa and Ma Horton

  • Use an old toothbrush to clean the crevices of the handles of your knives, your can opener, and your hand grater. I use one to clean the tight places of my drain rack.

  • Boil away stuck on food from your pots by adding a couple tablespoons of baking soda to a pot half full of water and boil until the burnt on food loosens and floats.

  • Rub a little oil on your hand grater before use to keep food from sticking to it.

  • Make a paste of baking soda and vinegar and rub on the stove to remove stubborn stuck on food or stains. You may have to let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes. I use this to clean my sinks and tub too.

  • Popcorn will stay fresh and you will eliminate "old maids" if kept in the freezer. We don't eat a great deal of popcorn so this works well for us.

  • For a fluffier omelet, add a pinch of cornstarch to your eggs before beating them.

  • To quickly soften butter, place a heated pot over the butter dish for just a few minutes.

  • Always heat the pan before adding butter or oil to prevent fires or burning.

  • If your brown sugar gets hard, place a piece of bread in the canister with it to absorb moisture and soften it up. (I make my own brown sugar now, but I did use this one in the past.)

  • Rub a small amount of beeswax onto your dusting cloth to polish and dust at the same time. I do use beeswax to make my own dusting polish and if I am out of the polish, I just use the beeswax.

I hope you enjoy using these or at least reading them. Do you have helpful hints from your grandmother to share? Let me know, I enjoy learning more of the wisdom of the old ways.

Safe and Happy Journey,
Rhonda and The Pack

(It is cold here today)

Sleeping in the cold

Homemade Natural Remedies for the Flu, Colds and Their Symptoms

Rhonda CrankI don't know about your area, but the flu is moving around in ours. As a retired nurse, I can tell you that I have never seen any benefit to flu shots, medicines, or antibiotics for treatment or prevention of the flu or colds. The old timers did not run to the doctor for every little thing as most Americans do today. So what did they do? Some of the very things that we homeopathic people are doing today.

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Here are my Top 5 remedies for a cold/flu and their symptoms:

1) Hydrogen Peroxide: Putting hydrogen peroxide in our ears, is the first thing we do in our home when we feel "something" coming on. Using a dropper, fill the ear canal. Let it bubble until the bubbling action subsides – usually takes 3 to 5 minutes per ear. Once the bubbling action dies down, place a towel over the ear and turn over allowing it to drain while you do the other ear. When you've done both ears, gently use a cotton swab to remove any excess. We have been doing this since I was a little girl and it has proven very effective. If we are very sick, we do it once a day for the first three days of illness.

Just a note about this: In 1928, Dr. Richard Simmons, M.D., stated his belief that colds and flu viruses enter the body through the ear canal, as opposed to the nose and throat as most people believe. Of course, his findings were dismissed by the medical community. Then in 1938, German researchers had great success using hydrogen peroxide as a treatment for colds the flu. Since their data has been ignored for more than 60 years it is almost impossible to find.

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2) Flu and cold tea – A tea made with organic echinacea and roots tea – I use this one; 3 to 4 slices fresh ginger root; the juice of one lemon or 1 to 2 teaspoons organic, raw apple cider vinegar; 3 to 5 teaspoons raw honey, adjust according to your taste (I prefer less); 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon; and 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, adjust according to taste (again, I prefer less). This is also great for a sore throat.

Prepare your echinacea and roots tea. Some people make the tea without using this as a base, but we use it at our house. Add the ginger root to the simmering tea for the last 10 minutes of simmering. Once the simmering is complete, pour through a strainer into a large mug and add the other ingredients. Drink and feel better.

ReallyRawHoney3) Honey Cinnamon – Raw honey is excellent for anything respiratory: allergies, sinus, bronchitis, coughing. By adding cinnamon to it, you create a perfect anti-inflammatory treatment which strengthens your immune system. It is excellent at calming coughs, treating bronchitis, and soothing sore throats. Mix 1/2 to 2 teaspoons cinnamon in 1/2 cup honey, adjusting the cinnamon to taste. Take by the teaspoonful as needed, 4 to 6 times a day. You want to be sure not to use honey on anyone under 1 year of age.

MountRoseHerbsOils4) Essential Oil Inhalation – Rosemary, peppermint and eucalyptus essential oils are proven to soothe the bronchial tubes when you have bronchitis. They also open clogged sinus causing them to drain and can soothe coughs and aches. All of these oils have anti-bacterial properties. Eucalyptus has been proven to have antiviral properties, especially when inhaled. I boil some water and pour it into a large ceramic bowl. Add 3 to 4 drops of each oil to the water and stir. Then drape a towel over you and the bowl to keep the steam in and breath deeply. This is an old timey trick that was used especially for young ones with croop. Adjust the drops to suit your needs, but be careful that you don't add too many drops as the peppermint will burn your eyes and nose if it is too strong. I buy mine here.

I also keep with me a handkerchief with a few drops of these three oils on it whenever I am sick or around sick people. Taking a deep breath clears my sinuses, if I am sick. If I am around sick people, I believe it helps keep the germs away – silly maybe, but I am seldom sick.

5) Menthol Rub I can remember when I was sick as a child and having good ole Vick's Vapor Rub put on my feet along with a clean pair of socks. It is an old remedy that actually works. We don't use petroleum based products in our home any more so we had to find a natural alternative. This is the one we like best: 1/2 cup organic coconut oil, 2 tablespoons beeswax pastilles, I buy mine here, 20 drops eucalyptus oil, 15 drops peppermint oil, 10 drops rosemary oil, and 10 drops lavender oil, 5 drops tea tree oil (optional).

To prepare, put the coconut oil and beeswax pastilles into a medium-size jar. Place this jar into a pot of water and turn on medium heat until they are both melted. You could use a double boiler, but I don't have one so I use this method. Add the essential oil drops and stir well. Let the mixture sit in the jar, or you can pour into a smaller jar if you like, to cool and firm back up. I like to put mine in the frig and when it has set, put it into my mixing bowl and use the whisk attachment to whip it up. It really doesn't affect anything other than the texture, but I like whipped texture. Then I put it back into the jar and there you go.

You can adjust this to get the potency, smell and texture you like. More beeswax will make it firmer. If you need it for a small child, you should use about half the drops of essential oils. Also, you don't want to keep it near a heat source as it will melt easily. Remember to always dilute essential oils before putting them on your skin.

This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, these are just what we use for our family. I did not put hot toddy on the list because so many people don't like it. When I was a little girl, my grandmother had an unmarked brown bottle on the top shelf in her bathroom. We could see a peppermint stick in it, but did not know what it was for. When I was grown, I realized it was a bottle of whiskey with a peppermint stick steeping in it.

I don't keep a bottle steeping all the time like the old timers did, so I heat 1 to 2 ounces  whiskey in a pot with 1 ounce water. When it is just about to boil, turn off the heat and add a couple drops peppermint oil, a teaspoon or two honey, and sometimes a dash of cinnamon, just depends on how I feel. Let it all sit for about 10 minutes; then drink it and sleep.

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There are several more we could talk about: ear candles for earaches, baking soda and honey for throat irritation, and the fabulous elderberry to name just a few.

Unfortunately, in our day and age, I have to say that none of these statements have been evaluated by the FDA and I am not a doctor, so I am not prescribing these things for you. There now that we've covered that, I hope you don't have to use any of these this year. Like the old saying goes, "It's always better to be prepared for rain and it not come, than to get caught without an umbrella."

Be sure to leave your comments, your homemade natural remedies, or contact me with your questions or comments.

Safe and Happy Journey,
Rhonda

Reach me via email or on my website.

My Great-Grandmother's Recipe for Molasses Cookies

Rhonda Crank

My great-grandmother, Ma Horton, made the best Molasses Cookies. Her recipe is one of the most treasured in our family. Her house always smelled like cookies and coffee. My mother once shared with me that one of her favorite memories as a child was going to Ma's house because she would say, "Go look in the pantry and get you a cookie." Since they made their own molasses, it was an ingredient that she always had on hand. Ma Horton taught my grandmother this recipe, my grandmother taught me, and now I'm going to share it with you.

Before we get going with the recipe, I wanted to clear up something. You remember the flavor of your old family recipes and when you make them, they are never quite the same, are they? Well, there's a good reason for that. Our great-grandmothers and for most of my grandmothers' lives, there wasn't any question about the purity of their ingredients. In the recipe, you will notice I say things like organic flour, real salt, coconut oil, organic butter, things of that nature. I do this so that you will know the ingredients that I use to get the equivalents of the ingredients she had. See our post, Is Your Food Really Organic, for more discussion about why your grandmother's recipes don't taste the same when you fix them. You may also want to see our post about the importance of using natural baking soda.

Molasses cookies have a very distinctive taste and some people don't care for them. Probably, it is the ginger in them that people don't really like. As for me, not only do the memories make them good, but the flavor and texture are spectacular, especially with a pot of coffee ... yum! So put on a pot of coffee, make your own batch of Ma Horton's molasses cookies, and enjoy the warmth that fills your home.

Ma Horton's Molasses Cookies 

Ma Horton's Molasses Cookies

4 cups organic, non-GMO flour
1/2 teaspoon real salt – this means kosher or sea salt (I use this one)
2 teaspoons natural baking soda
4  1/2 teaspoons organic cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground organic ginger
1/2 cup lard (organic) or coconut oil, melted (I use this coconut oil)
1/4 cup organic butter, melted
1  1/2 cups non-GMO, organic molasses
5 tablespoons hot water
Organic, non-GMO sugar for sprinkling tops of cookies

1) Preheat oven to 425 F.

2) In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together with a wooden spoon.

3) When well blended, pour in the oil, butter and the molasses and mix well. Now add the hot water and mix well again.

4) Let the dough rest in your bowl for 1 full hour. This is a very important step so don't shorten the time.

5) After the hour is up, take out a small portion, I usually do 1/5 of the dough at a time. Using a rolling pin, roll it out to between 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch thick (I go closer to 1/8 inch).

6) Cut the cookies into round shapes. You can use a cookie-cutter, a jar lid, or a glass. Any dough left over after cutting, I roll up and add to the next portion. The last piece from the final portion gets shaped by hand and baked. We don't waste any of this delicious dough ... except for what I eat! :)

7) Place the cookie on a parchment lined cookie tray and sprinkle tops with sugar. Bake at 425 F for 7 minutes. Remove to cooling rack for cooling and enjoy!

  • This recipe makes about 30 cookies. It is easily doubled to make a larger batch.

  • For thicker cookies, don't roll out as thin.

  • You don't need to flour your surface to roll them out. The oil and molasses keeps them from sticking to the surface. Adding extra flour will change the texture of the cookie.

  • Be careful not to over bake, they burn easily.

Resting Molasses Cookie Dough

When I first started making these cookies, I thought I knew better than my grandmother so I skipped the 1-hour waiting. What a mess! The 1-hour waiting allows the baking soda to do its job and for the ingredients to set together well. You'll laugh at my cookie-cutter when I tell you that I use the ring to one of my canning jars to cut my cookies.

Thanks again for allowing me to share these family memories with you. I hope you and your family enjoy these cookies together over the holidays. Remember, I am always here to help you along on your journey, in any way I can .

Safe and Happy Journey,

Rhonda and The Pack

www.TheFarmersLamp.com

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The New Old-Fashioned Farmer

Rhonda CrankWe call ourselves New Old-Fashioned Farmers. Why, you ask? I'm so glad you did. We call ourselves this because we farm the way my grandparents taught me, like their parents taught them, in manner that is, since we farm in a modern, tech filled world. Balance is the key to life. We have found a balance that works for us between the old ways of my great-grandparents and grandparents and the modern tools available to us.

When our grandparents and great-grandparents were young and gardening, they didn't have some of the concerns we have today. Their seeds were natural, organic seeds just because that's what they planted, those are the seeds they harvested, and the cycle repeated itself. They would never believe the things that we have to face or make decisions on. Like planting non-GMO, organic, heirloom seeds; how to fertilize organically; how to enrich stripped soil that has been abused; or even how much we want to depend on the grid; how much technology do you want on your farm ... on and on we could go.

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Every farmsteader/homesteader, whichever you prefer, has to find the balance for themselves, their farm, their family. Some try to say that you have to meet certain standard to be able to call yourself a farmsteader/homesteader. This is just simply not true.

Some of us, and I often wish I was one of them, are completely off-grid. They live and work the way people did 75 to 100 years ago. You won't read much about them because, well, they're off-grid.

Some are like me, in the middle. We use the same farming principles that our grandfathers did, while using tools like planters, chainsaws, wood splitters, broadforks and others they did not have available. Yet we do this with common sense and a goal of self-sufficiency while being stewards of our land, not possessors and users. We prefer to use the old timers' ways of fertilizing and soil maintenance. It works, it is good for the food, good for the soil, and good for us!

Chainsaw We Use on Farm 

There are still those others who use every modern convenience available to them. They use heavy equipment, technologically wired devices, and are heavy grid feeders. While they are the polar opposite of the off-griders, no one can say they are wrong for farming their way.

One of the most remembered things my grandfather taught me is, "There's as many ways of gettin' a farm job done as there's farmers. Ya gotta be willing to listen, help, and learn from 'em, even if it's just to see what not to do." He enjoyed coming to our farm and driving the "big" tractor. He never used a tractor on his farm. He preferred his mules and oxen. He did use a power saw, a rototiller, and in the 1960s he started using some sort of welding system. No one in the family remembers exactly what it was, but I do remember it used a large tank and we were never allowed to touch it.

Papa Training Oxen 

So, we call ourselves new old-fashioned farmers because we are in the middle. The main thing is to find that balance in your life. When we are balanced, it is contagious to others. They will ask and want to learn from you. Sharing, caring and passing on the ways of farmsteading so that the next generation can provide food for their families; isn't that what it's all about?

Where do you fit in on the spectrum? Have you found your balance? Your place in the farming world? Isn't is rich, powerful, and intriguing to live this lifestyle?

Safe and Happy Journey,
Rhonda

Sunrise on Farm

Tips for Beginning Gardeners

Rhonda CrankBeginning a garden is to embark into a world full of joy, excitement, and reward. For those of you who are just beginning to garden I say, "Welcome! Enjoy your mistakes, learn from them." As my grandfather told me, "The basics are the same for everyone, but we all have our own way of gardening." Don't be afraid to try and fail, learn and implement the lessons in your next garden. There is a great deal of information available to you, especially with the Internet, but that can be kind of daunting. I suggest finding a resource or two that you can identify with and trust. If you don't have someone in your family who is a gardener, the best thing to do is to find a local farmer and learn from them, you can start by visiting your local farmers' market. Most of us are happy to share our knowledge with someone who truly wants to learn.

Me in the garden

Overview of Garden

I was fortunate to be born and raised a southern farm girl. When we are raised in a certain way, we tend to forget that not everyone knows what we know. Expecting a beginning gardener to know what we have learned over a lifetime, is like expecting me to go to Atlanta International Airport and know my way around! With that scary thought in mind, there are a few tips I have learned that I would like to share with you. Hopefully, these will enhance your gardening experience.

  • Have a "go to" person or book – My grandfather and grandmother taught me everything their parents taught them about gardening. I am so blessed to have had them as my grandparents. Try to find a local farmer or family member to help you.

  • Keep a journal – My system is simple, I use a spiral bound notebook. You want to record your garden layout – what you plant, where you plant it, and when you plant – a kind of sketch of your garden. Keep track of what you ordered and from whom you ordered or purchased it. At the end of the season, write down which variety you and your family liked best, which produced best, things like that. This will help you with your crop rotation and keep you from ordering something you did not like, something that did not perform well, or from a company you did not like doing business with.

  • Save your seeds – While some people say this isn't necessary, I strongly disagree with them. Finding a seed company who has heirloom, non-GMO seeds, is not as easy as it used to be. If  we don't have our own seeds for something, we order from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Wood Prairie Farms. While I wouldn't hesitate to recommend these, you may find others you prefer using. It isn't a hard task to save seeds from most of your plants. See our post on seed saving.

  • You have to "visit" you garden every day – Some days may not take more than 10 to 15 minutes. Other days, you may spend an hour or more, depending on your garden size. You should pull weeds or hoe them, check for signs of bugs or worms and deal with those, check for ripe fruit, hill potatoes and corn, just generally take care of whatever you see needs to be done.

This isn't a complete list of course, but these are food for thought. You can find more information on our website, or you can always get in touch by email, or the Contact Me page on the site. The most important thing I want to say is, "Enjoy your garden today." Be sure to share some of your own lessons, tips, and tricks in the comments.

If you are on Pinterest, check out my garden board "Let's Talk Dirt."

Safe and Happy Journey,
Rhonda and The Pack

The Pack on a cold day

The Pack on a really cold day here – 24 F outside