All posts by Chris

DIY Natural Laundry Soap

Now, if there’s one thing that soap making has gotten us into, it’s researching better ways to do things. That leads us to several different forums and websites about soap and soaping.

A while back, we (I) ruined a batch of lard soap with too much [easyazon_link identifier=”B0084UUG16″ locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]lye[/easyazon_link] or something. It became brittle almost overnight, and was breaking into pieces when I tried to cut it in 24 hours. We put it in a box and stuffed it away until our [easyazon_link identifier=”B00CL6TORG” locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]litmus strips[/easyazon_link] came in, several months later.

It turned out that the pH was well within the safe range, so we went on some soap making forums looking for how to rebatch the soap into something useful.

While looking through other threads on the same topic, we noticed a lot of people giving their recipes for laundry soap, and recommending that the doomed loaves get turned into that.

Huh. We remembered that our friend Jane had said that she turned her lard soap into laundry bars and grated it into the wash with a cheese grater.

We hit the thrift store and bought a [easyazon_link identifier=”B000SSTV8Q” locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]cheese grater[/easyazon_link], but it turned out to be way more bloody and labour intensive than either of us was comfortable with. I mean, knuckles aren’t vital to staying alive, but we have grown attached to ours, so we decided that maybe homemade, natural laundry soap wasn’t for us.

But, wait. We had already purchased the [easyazon_link identifier=”B01BOM9OE0″ locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]washing soda[/easyazon_link] and [easyazon_link identifier=”B0175S6K4E” locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]Borax[/easyazon_link] from Amazon, so we had to find a way to do this. We try to not be wasteful, and we really don’t have a use for two kilograms of both washing soda and Borax.

Earlier this year our blender calved and we found this baby at the thrift store, so we got it out to give it a try.

bullet

I threw a few of the brittle chunks in and it completely powdered it, so I threw a bunch more in with some soda and Borax.

Not so good with more than two cups in it. I’m glad we didn’t buy it at full price, because it just can’t handle the job. It does work amazingly well at small batches though, so we keep it for finishing off the powder and mixing.

[easyazon_link identifier=”B00U0SSD4M” locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]Enter the Ninja[/easyazon_link]

ninja

This baby has a ton of soap busting power, plus Gerri loves it for actual cooking related work. We picked it up off of our local buy and sell group on Facebook, and we totally agree that it is worth the full price that we would have had to pay [easyazon_link identifier=”B007TKLFLM” locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]RIGHT HERE[/easyazon_link]. If you look, there is/was a refurbished model that is less than we paid for a used one.

Anyhow, this machine is amazing for a lot of things, but busting soap into powder isn’t one of them. I think it’s because of the round blade/square hole situation, but it just doesn’t do the job very well. It does this though, which, if you have ever thrown a bunch of soap bars and chunks into a blender, should impress you.

ninjachunks

It’s now time to start throwing it into the Bullet with the washing soda and the Borax, to create this fine example of our latest batch of natural laundry soap.

bulletpowder

We found that a great mix is to use 1/3 soap, 1/3 washing soda, and 1/3 Borax blended together as evenly as you can. It cleans just as well, or better than any commercial detergent we have tried.

From what I have read, you can pretty much use any kind of bar soap for this, so we used a whole bunch of different soaps in this one. There were trimmings from probably every batch we’ve made, plus some whole bars of the plain lard soap and messed up batches. Next time we will probably use the bowl full of endsies that is in the washroom, and whatever other scraps we have by then.

All in all, we had five cups of bar soap which made 15 cups of laundry soap. We use between two and three tablespoons per load, so this batch should last us for 90 or so loads.

Not bad for a couple of hours work and maybe $5 in material.

For us, because it was all soap that would have been written off as bad batches.

If you have to buy the soap, then you need to factor in that cost as well, but even if you bought some bars of lard soap out of our cheap bin for $3, (or better yet, make your own) it would probably still work out cheaper than Tide and at least you know what you’re using.

Anyways, we have really enjoyed switching over, and thought we would share something that has really changed our lives for the better. I hadn’t really thought of writing this, but then our eldest was throwing her things in the wash the other day and asked if this was our own laundry soap.

Gerri replied “Yes it is.” then added “That’s all we will be using from now on.”

I was expecting to hear a groan, but she just said “Cool!”.

That’s when I knew we were on the right track, and that the track needed to be shared.

Chris

Hey, Thanks A Bunch

I got a wonderful email today from Amazon.ca telling me that they had deposited a payment into our account. Wahoo!

As we’ve mentioned before, if you go through any Amazon link on this site and buy anything from Amazon within 24 hours of clicking through, we get a referral fee from Amazon.

You can learn more HERE.

Well, some of you have done this, and we just wanted to thank you for that.

It’s not going to make us rich or anything, but if the monthly amounts keep going the way they have been, the money earned will be enough to pay the web hosting fees for the year.

That’s a nice savings, and it is appreciated. The way we look at it is that every little bit helps, and we don’t want to take anything for granted. I just wanted you to know that it means a lot to us, and the money is actually going somewhere that is really helping out.

So thank you. Thanks for clicking and putting a bit of dough back in our wallets, but most of all thanks for stopping by. We really love hearing from you, and because we are horrible at keeping in contact with our friends, this is generally the only way we do it.

Hopefully that doesn’t make us bad people, we just get caught up in life, and time gets away from us. It’s not that we don’t want to talk to anyone.

You understand, right Mom?

Anyhow, the mealworms and the composting worms are doing fantastic, and the chickens are good, but Red keeps laying eggs while roosting. I went out at about 5 AM and put her in a nesting box, and when I opened the coop at 7, she had a beautiful little egg that wasn’t smashed on the floor, so I will keep doing that until she learns, I guess.

We are also looking into black soldier fly larva, sprouting grains, and aquaponics for the future, so that’s pretty exciting. For me. I’m a real nerd when it comes to this stuff.

Chris

 

A Whole New Life

This was the living quarters for four hens, two days ago.
This was the living quarters for four hens, two days ago.

First off, let me say that I fried my [easyazon_link identifier=”B01578ZKPO” locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]PC laptop[/easyazon_link] with a glass of mead about a week ago, so I am now using Gerri’s [easyazon_link identifier=”B002QQ8918″ locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]iMac[/easyazon_link] to write posts.

It’s definitely a learning curve, but I will persevere. I’m just warning you because I can’t figure out how to resize photos, so things might get a little wonky.

So this is a photo of one shed with a lean-to built onto it from last year, before we moved in.

coop5

We scoop a lot of free wood from the dump, so when we decided to use the shed as a chicken coop, there was some cleaning to do. After pulling all of the stuff out of there, this is what we were left with. The only money we had to spend was on the wire, and it came to less than $25, so we were pretty happy about that.

That trailer is a whole other project that is finally happening.
That trailer is a whole other project that is finally happening.

I bought a couple of 8′ lengths of [easyazon_link identifier=”B000I1MA36″ locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]hardware cloth[/easyazon_link] and cut them to size. There wasn’t many [easyazon_link identifier=”B00002X2HH” locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]square[/easyazon_link]angles in this project when I started, and the [easyazon_link identifier=”B001QINT6M” locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]hardware cloth[/easyazon_link] is more square than Erkel, so I used a bunch of the dunnage wood that I collected last summer for the worm boxes, to make things look straight.

It also really helped to strengthen and stabilize the wall and wire.
It also really helped to strengthen and stabilize the wall and wire.

The ceiling was already there, because there was a lot of stuff already being stored up there on some sheets of plywood that had already been pulled out of that camper trailer.

I might try a small rainwater containment with those eavestrough ends and downspout. I assume chickens will drink rainwater.
I might try a small rainwater containment with those eavestrough ends and downspout. I assume chickens will drink rainwater.

After all was said and done, it looked like this.

That hole was already in the wall, so I decided to leave it alone and build a ramp up to it. They seem okay with that.
That hole was already in the wall, so I decided to leave it alone and build a ramp up to it. They seem okay with that.

I plan on doing more perches out here, because they seem to like them a lot. It seems that the higher, the better. I guess that it has to do with predators. For some reason, I think I have heard that somewhere.

From there I went inside the shed and did this.

Because it will be heated all winter, We will be keeping the worms out here under the bench.
Because it will be heated all winter, We will be keeping the worms out here under the bench.

The bench was initially built out of the worm box wood, to set the worm boxes on, but I think that holding the [easyazon_link identifier=”B005CEQYJK” locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]nesting boxes[/easyazon_link] is a better alternative. I am going to have to move the feed sacks and put their [easyazon_link identifier=”B0070R9M4Q” locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]water[/easyazon_link], [easyazon_link identifier=”B000MD59TC” locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]oyster shell[/easyazon_link], and [easyazon_link identifier=”B006ZJHDO6″ locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]food[/easyazon_link] under the top shelf, because they seem to congregate up top and that makes for a messy dining room.

This can be observed in the photo of their dust bath.

I thought it would be nice to give them a dusty bit of dirt and shale to enjoy throughout the winter months.
I thought it would be nice to give them a dusty bit of dirt and shale to enjoy throughout the winter months.

My friend is going to give me a bale of hay to use instead of shavings, because she tells me that they love to peck at the seeds and bugs that get into it. I’m sure it is also better nest building material for them, but don’t quote me on that.

Speaking of nests, we have started getting some of these.

These are the ones that seemed good. There were a few more that had either very weak shells, or no shells at all.
These are the ones that seemed good. There were a few more that had either very weak shells, or no shells at all.

They are small, but I’m told they will get bigger, and stronger. I hope so, because Red had a broken one with just a membrane under her this morning. She was acting pretty weird last night, and I was a little worried about her, but after giving her a few hugs this morning, she got right back into her routine.

I’ve been letting them run loose when I’m home, which is all the time while I’m laid off, and we really enjoying having them trotting around the yard, posturing for bossiest hen position. The dogs don’t even bother them anymore, and seem to really enjoy following the girls around.

It could be because of all the nutrient rich poop that seems to appear out of nowhere. For some reason, they will not stop eating it. Not only does it bother me because of the whole [easyazon_link identifier=”B00F4PETMG” locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]poopy breath[/easyazon_link] factor, but we got the chickens to fertilize the lawn.

Ah well, one thing at a time.

Chris

P.S. We’re always open to new ideas in our endeavour for a simpler life. If you have anything you’d like to share, please feel free to comment on here, or in our Backyard Homesteading community on G+.

A Couple Of Updates

It’s been pretty busy here this summer with the chickens, [easyazon_link identifier=”B00F540B5K” locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]worms[/easyazon_link], mealworms, soap, and both of us working full time, so it’s been hard to get in here to post anything.

I guess I can start with the surprise [easyazon_link identifier=”B00WM6BIMO” locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]apricot[/easyazon_link] trees.

It's possible that these trees are frauds
It’s possible that these trees are frauds

We were told that the three fruit trees in the yard were supposed to be ornamental pear trees or something like that, but last summer one produced some measly plums, and this year the other two produced two different breeds of apricot.

Needless to say we were surprised and excited. We have been picking up grounders for jams, sauces, and [easyazon_link identifier=”1629145866″ locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]liquor[/easyazon_link], because the trees are quite shaded and the only fruit ripening was twenty feet in the air and out of reach for our little [easyazon_link identifier=”B0014E7J9Q” locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]stepladder[/easyazon_link]. This fall they will be getting a pretty severe hack job to get them to a manageable level, but until then we will try to make the best use of their bounty.

We have also registered Dirty Bird Soap with the province, and will be applying for a business license with the district this week.

This means that we are really loving it, and plan to keep at it as long as we can be creative and viable. It’s not something that we are planning on getting rich with, but when we are retired and self sustaining, it will definitely help us out with not having to work as a Walmart greeter to make ends meet.

Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it would mean that we would have to be close to a Walmart, and who wants that in their life?

These will be getting cut shortly and getting themselves prepared for your armpits
These will be getting cut shortly and getting themselves prepared for your armpits

After a great couple of Saturdays at the Hudson’s Hope Farmer’s Market, we had to spend this weekend making seven batches to play catch up with. We have run out of a couple and almost ran out of a few more.

This isn’t a complaint, it’s excitement that you feel coming through these words. We get pretty stoked up about how our creations are received, so we were pretty much vibrating as we churned out the loaves this weekend.

The top shelf is Wildfire. So far it's our best seller, so we made two.
The top shelf is Wildfire. So far it’s our best seller, so we made two.

Notice how light our [easyazon_link identifier=”0987472275″ locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]canning shelves[/easyazon_link] are looking? That’s getting remedied right shortly, because we hit up the Okanagan fruit lady for twenty pounds each of peaches, roma tomatoes, and black plums.

Here’s what most of the peaches look like now.

There was a bit of shrinkage
There was a bit of shrinkage

We’ll finish the tomato sauce tomorrow, and the plums should be ready in a few days, so that will give us a couple of nights for soaping, gardening, and maybe even eating a couple of meals this week.

That’s pretty decent, if you ask me.

All in all it was an exhausting weekend of soap, rendering [easyazon_link identifier=”B0009IG124″ locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]beeswax[/easyazon_link], canning and trying to manage the rest of life, but as I sit here in this filthy kitchen, typing out this post and staring at what will garnish a lot of [easyazon_link identifier=”B00LGLHUA0″ locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]bowls[/easyazon_link] of ice cream this winter, I can’t help but to smile and dream of when I can be this kind of rushed every day.

When you have the right partner in crime, every day is an adventure.

Happy Canada Day! I know it's a bit late, but this is where we were.
Happy Canada Day! I know it’s a bit late, but this is where we were.

Have a great rest of your summer,

Chris

P.S. Look how big the baby [easyazon_link identifier=”B00GFZLWWY” locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]mealworms[/easyazon_link] are getting.

For reference, the outline is a slice of potato.
For reference, the outline is a slice of potato.

What A Year

Yeah, it’s been a year since we packed up the Cool Bus and moved to Hudson’s Hope, BC.

A year ago, our yard looked like this.

Minus the swing set
Minus the swing set

Note the lack of garden, chickens, and big composter. We were really starting off our homestead with bare bones. There were two black compost units there when we bought the place, but one was missing a lid and both were dried out ant condos. We started composting everything, and with some heat, weeds, and a garden hose, we got them to producing some nice, dark compost by the fall.

This is what the backyard looks like today.

yard2016

Yeah, there’s some brown patches from where I left the trailer for too long, but I’m hoping that the chickens will help to  get things green again.

Speaking of the chickens, here they are.

Upgrades for the tractor are coming.
Yeah, I ended up getting two more. They seemed lonely as a pair.

I’m going to add a couple of nesting boxes on one side and keep the main box as a roosting/dining area. I added wheels from an old lawn mower at The Share Shed and a handle, because I think dragging it was going to start wrecking things.

We also built some raised bed garden boxes, and there’s stuff in them now.

It's not well planned, but we threw in whatever was free or cheap that we came across.
It’s not well planned, but we threw in whatever was free or cheap that we came across.

We have been hitting Walker Greenhouses for their half price vegetables, and we also got some plants from The Rustic and the Social Responsibility club at the school. Everything is growing well, except for the jalapenos, but I think I planted them in too much shade.

This is part of the front garden. We dug up and sifted out a whole bunch of lilies from it, and next year the rest are going.

Most of these were free from Jane, our egg lady.
A lot of these were free from Jane, our egg lady.

We moved one of the [easyazon_link identifier=”B00FWN9QJQ” locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]composters[/easyazon_link] from the back to the front, because it’s nice and sunny in the afternoons there. In the spot we moved it from, we put in our soap drying rack that we don’t need anymore and wrapped some [easyazon_link identifier=”B000BWY7Z6″ locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]chicken wire[/easyazon_link] around the open spots.

Waste not, want not.
Waste not, want not.

I was getting tired of throwing the spruce needles and dog poop over the fence, and saw that the David Suzuki Foundation says we should compost it, so this will be used for yard rakings; dog, chicken, and hamster poop; and any dead animals or birds that we come across. We just can’t use the compost for any edibles, but that’s okay, we can spread it around the yard to replenish the soil and work it’s way back into nature.

We have also started a soap making company; started breeding Red Wigglers, European Night Crawlers, and mealworms; and adopted a second dog named Dover.

Before and after losing a much needed twenty pounds.
Before and after losing a much needed twenty pounds. A lot of that was grey matter.

When we got Dover, we knew he was a sweet dog, but we didn’t know that it was his only redeeming quality. He is quite possibly the least intelligent dog that I have ever met, and we have to rub antiseptic on his gums once a week to prevent his teeth from falling out. I think he was pretty badly neglected, health-wise, and I’d say from his head shyness, he’s been booted around a bit.

I mean, when it takes a month to learn how to sit, there may have been a few hits to the brain. Nevertheless, we still love the poor wretch, and we will keep putting up with his incontinence until it ruins the floors.

Also, we both found gainful employment and there have been some academic accolades for the kids, so all in all, I think we have had a pretty productive year of semi granola-ism.

Next year we will maybe start scoping out some property.

Chris

Cute Chicks And Dumb Boys

Well, I brought our new girls home todayyesterdayrecently.

I think the one on the left is a Barred Rock and the other is a Rhode Island Red, but could use some verification.
I think the one on the left is a Barred Rock and the other is a Rhode Island Red, but could use some verification.

I guess they aren’t chicks still, but I already had the title in my head, so I misled you. Sue me.

I have to tell you that I am in love with the [easyazon_link identifier=”151524458X” locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]Barred Rock[/easyazon_link]. She absolutely melted my heart when I closed them up for the night.

I didn’t realise that they roosted when they are this young, or at all when they are laying hens. I just assumed that they nested, so I put a bunch of shavings in the box and left them to their own devices. When I went out at dusk to lift the ramp and close them in, they were sitting on the edge of the [easyazon_link identifier=”B007BVLJ7O” locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]water dish[/easyazon_link] and teetering.

They looked so disoriented that I felt sad for them. I started stroking them and then the Barred Rock climbed onto my hand and up my wrist. I wasn’t sure what she was doing, so I just let her go. She then nuzzled her head into my armpit and seemingly fell asleep.

I felt so happy that I was contemplating taking her in and letting her sleep in the bed with me, but then I remembered my mom telling me about this. (It’s only thirty seconds long. Go ahead.)

Remember [easyazon_link identifier=”B004SGWYXS” locale=”US” tag=”granligh-20″]The Waltons[/easyazon_link]? I wish they made shows like that still.

She remembered it as Jim Bob, and she used to laugh so hard about how gross it would be to have a chicken pooping in your bed all night. (It’s fine when she does it, but when it’s a chicken, that’s gross.) 😉

Anyhow, I didn’t take her to bed, but I did make them a roost the next morning.

We're still working on names. I picked Mary Ann and Ginger, but we have to have a proper vote.
We’re still working on names. I picked Mary Ann and Ginger, but we have to have a proper vote.

You know, when I was a kid, I hated our chickens. I only remember the dirty, overweight, white meat birds, but I know we had Banties, pheasants, and quail for sure. I don’t remember any of them being as friendly as these two, but that could have been that they sensed my surliness at having to clean out the coop.

I don’t know why I hated doing it so much, but I know I did. It was probably an hour job, but I think I dragged it out over a few days. I guess it was because I was a spoiled rotten a–hole back then. I must have thought I was too good for that job, but I know now that I wasn’t. It’s funny how the realities of life and time change a person’s attitude.

Well, I know it’s very late, but I’m sorry Mom and Paul. I promise I will care for these better than I did for yours.

I’m also sorry that I didn’t see your vision in raising our own food. It was hard to see that growing things for ourselves and caring about what we nourished our family with didn’t mean that we were poor.

It meant that we were smart.

Now that I’m trying to eat as healthy as I cana bit healthier than I was, I see these things a lot clearer, especially when we’re trying so hard to make ends meet. I’ve really come to appreciate the lessons you guys taught me, so long ago.

I also wish that I had realised the happiness you could get from chickens, and the different personalities that they have. I’m pretty sure that I’m not going to mind looking after these girls at all.

The little salt and pepper lady is very loving and sweet. She seems to step aside and let others go first, and I’ve really taken a shine to her. I can feel her nervous tension release a bit when I hold her tight, and it makes me feel like I can make her life easier than it could have been. I think that she will be the broody one, if there is one, and I predict that should a rooster sneak in there some day, she will make a great mama hen.

I'm the king of the castle...
I’m the kingqueen of the castle…

The redhead has a really spicy flare to her. She is adventurous and tries to get her head out every time I open the door. I see her eyeing up the great big world and wanting to be out in it. Also, she has so far lightly pecked my partially blackened fingernail, my nose and my arm when I was petting her sister. It wasn’t hard, like say a [easyazon_link identifier=”B00AWQENKU” locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]glass Coke bottle[/easyazon_link], but I noticed her doing it and wondered if it wasn’t a warning. She doesn’t do it when I pet her, so I don’t think it’s from fear.

Do you remember earlier, when I said that I wanted to name them [easyazon_link identifier=”B0050MB5AC” locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]Mary Ann and Ginger[/easyazon_link]? I’ve changed my mind. I think I want to name them Pat and Brenda. It’s just as fitting, and it will mean a lot more to me.

Now if I could just find a golden feathered cockerel. 😉

Chris

P.S. I originally named this post, because of the way the dogs were acting since I brought the birds home, but it turned into me being the dumb boy.

They were definitely curious, but mostly they seemed insecure. I figured I was imagining things, but I woke up like this in the morning, and I knew that something was up.

Dover is well camouflaged in the duvet. Blue wants to stand out everywhere.
Dover is well camouflaged in the duvet. Blue wants to stand out everywhere.

I guess there’s only so much “How are my pretty girls?” that a dog can take.

P.S.S. Sorry for the vague, personal jokes, but Pat is my mom, Brenda is my aunt, and the cockerel is my uncle Keith.

Trouble In The Worm Bin

So, as you may remember, I have a few different kinds of worms. No, not pinworms and tapeworms. I’m talking about [easyazon_link identifier=”B00GFZLWWY” locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]mealworms[/easyazon_link] and [easyazon_link identifier=”B01AMVGTXS” locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]composting worms[/easyazon_link].

[easyazon_link identifier=”B00144DJE0″ locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]Red Wigglers[/easyazon_link] and [easyazon_link identifier=”B01AMUSCKC” locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]European Nightcrawlers[/easyazon_link] are the composters, and so far the Euros have far outdone the wigglers as far as breeding and composting goes. That might have something to do with me though, as I have sort of messed up with their housing arrangement.

Pretty roomy digs.
Pretty roomy digs.

I took them out of the plastic bin they were in all winter, and put them back in the bin they started in. The trouble is that the wooden bin is far too big for the amount of worms I havehad. I say had, because I got a bit of an infestation of mites, flies, and rove beetles. I was trying to keep the paper and food moist and out to the edges, but because there is four square feet of space, but only nine square inches of worms, I was overfeeding and while everything was good in the centre, the outsides dried up and the food went moldy. This attracted a totally different bunch of pests to the bin. Some of which caused the worms to do not quite as well as they could have, had I thought things through.

The one that was the scariest looking, was the [easyazon_link identifier=”9546422940″ locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]rove beetle[/easyazon_link] larva. It turns out that it’s not scary, but if I was a worm, I think I wouldn’t want it lurking around my place.

rove beetle larva
Now you see why I was frantically crushing them when I found them. Right?

Now, I hadn’t seen any of the adults, so I wasn’t aware of what this thing was, and went on several insect identifying websites looking for a clue.

Absolutely nothing. I caught one and pinned it to some cardboard to get photos of it, but after I sent them off to the various sites, I saw a picture and realized that it was larvae that I was smushing all over the place.

Larvae that were probably helping me out by eating the ticks and stuff, instead of the worms.

You live and you learn.

I did harvest the castings from the Euros. I got over five pounds of this.

 

Yes, I get excited about poop.
Yes, I get excited about poop.

I promptly mixed it in with some peat moss and then mixed that into the gardens. I then harvested over a hundred pounds of strawberries from the newly fertilized plants.

That was all true, except for the strawberry part. There are lots of flowers and some little green berry nubs on there though. Everything is doing great, but the jalapenos aren’t getting much growth yet. Maybe they won’t, but I see them opening up a bit and possibly some little flower buds coming out, so I cling to hope.

We’ve decided that we won’t sell any more worms until we have a healthy population and are getting our compost needs met. We want to get our soil as healthy as can be, and when that happens we can look at branching out. The organic matter alone is worth what I paid for the worms, and you can really tell from the way things are taking off for us.

We have lots of excellent growth in the gardens, we aren’t throwing out any organic waste, and if I ever decide to go fishing, I won’t be paying $7 for a dozen worms. (Yes, it’s really that much.)

The other plus side is that I really enjoy being a worm rancher. It totally relaxes me, and it keeps me on my toes. I’m always researching about them, and I think that everything you can learn about your future is probably the best investment you can make with your time.

Researching led us to John, and he has got us fired up even more for growing our own food. Check him out and if you like him, subscribe to his channel. We try to watch a couple of videos a day.

He really does teach you a lot about all sorts of things related to growing your own food. I learn something new every day.

Chris

The Chicken Tractor

I’m not sure why they call them that. Maybe I should figure out a wheel system for it.

So, I bought a roll of [easyazon_link identifier=”B006GIWQXE” locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]chicken wire[/easyazon_link] and four [easyazon_link identifier=”B00LGKN6E0″ locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]hinges[/easyazon_link] at the hardware store, but everything else in this contraption was free from either scrap piles in the bush or the Share Shed.

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All together it cost about $35 with taxes and everything, so that’s definitely affordable enough. I just designed it in my head, thinking of what I had on hand.

I just realized that I forgot to put a door on the outside to change food and water.

Doh!

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Look at my fancy walkway opening system. I hope it works alright when chickens are in there. For all I know, they love to peck [easyazon_link identifier=”B00DCCO1DK” locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]string[/easyazon_link].

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These are where they will eventually lay eggs this fall. I hope. I have to figure out how to arrange nesting. Do they need their own boxes, or will they just kind of build a cluster of nest and share it.

I don’t know how they act in the wild, so these are things I need to Google.

Chris

Ladies And Gentlemen…The Beetles!

I'm easily excited.
I’m easily excited.

Now, you may notice a big difference between these two [easyazon_link identifier=”B01BWB578U” locale=”US” tag=”granligh-20″]Darkling beetles[/easyazon_link]. Colour is probably  the main one.

They are white when they turn from pupa to beetle, and will darken over time.

You may also notice that the darker one has dust all over it’s back. That,s because it’s crippled and I am constantly having to flip it back onto it’s feet so it can drag it’s club foot and busted up wing around the enclosure.

That was the first beetle, and it came from a pupa that was in a container from the pet store. It was very small, but it was my first one, so I didn’t know any better. I just kept it, and figured that it would breed with the other small ones that came from the store.

They all dried up to husks.

Not [easyazon_link identifier=”B00005JM02″ locale=”CA” tag=”chathetop0f-20″]Nemo[/easyazon_link] though.

I named him/her that, because of the lucky wing/fin. I know it is on the wrong side, but it’s still pretty lucky. I have kept the little waif alive by turning it over and making sure it’s near the easy to digest food and the moisture source. I also introduced it to the fine looking specimen beside it.

I hope they get along. I would hate to think of Nemo struggling through life, all gimbled up, and then dying with no real friends. Who wants to be teased and picked on by all of the strong, healthy beetles, after already dealing with several physical deformities? Nobody, that’s who. Well, I’m not going to let that happen in my mealworm farm. Not ever.

I’m only kidding. They are going to breed and then die, or in Nemo’s case, just die. I can’t imagine he’ll make it another day, and if he does, who wants to mate with a small, weakened, husk of a beetle? I’m pretty sure that only the strong survive in the insect kingdom.

I probably should have let him stay on his back and not interfered with nature, but I’m pretty sure I put nature in a tailspin when I started this “farm”. I am breeding another living thing for profit, and when/if I get the chickens, as a source of protein for my eventual breakfast orbs.

I don’t think that I could have let the wee beggar die on it’s back. I don’t think I could let anything die like that. I doubt that these beetles have the capacity for anything, except for eating, breeding, and dying, but I could be very wrong. If I am, I hope he sees that I tried to help and doesn’t bite me in my sleep.

I hope I’m not though, because I would feel pretty bad to know that all they wanted to do is find a loaf of French bread and contemplate the meaning of life with some other snooty intellectuals and maybe ruminate on what it means to be a beetle in today’s bleak world of insect farms and protein smoothies.

Either way, I hope I can get $3.50 for a fifty pack of the dumb ones. I might throw in some French bread and sell the ones that are eating it for $4. You know, because they are better than the others. Hey, give me $8 and I’ll throw in a bar of soap. 😉

Oh yeah, check out dirtybirdsoaps.ca if you get a chance. If you have tried any of our bars, and you see them on the site, please leave a review for us. It would mean a lot. Probably.

Okay, I admit that I don’t know much about the commerce part of the site. We would still appreciate the review though.

Chris

On Your Marks, Get Set, PUPATE!

So I have been pretty obsessed with my mealworm farm since I started it. I just love hanging out with the worms for what seems like hours. It is relaxing to watch them do their little mealworm thing.

So far I have $68 invested in them, and hours of time, including the plethora of YouTube videos out there on the subject, so I am paying a lot of attention to them to see if they are progressing at all, and so far in the last few days, there have been several morphs into pupae.

Hurry up and be beetles already.
Hurry up and be beetles already.

This is very exciting for me, but not as exciting as what happened tonight.

I got to watch one of the larvae morph, right in front of my eyes. One minute I was holding a mealworm on the broken piece of drink tray, and a few minutes later I was staring at a creepy, white pupa.

I had seen it several times in time lapsed video, but this was the first time I got a chance to witness it. It was so special to me, that I am going to name him/her Katniss. I can’t wait to watch them grow up and lay/fertilize 350-500 eggs and then die a husk of the beetle they once were.

Then, as a memorial gesture, I will sell their babies to someone with a lizard or bird to complete the circle of life.

I should be able to make $20- $30 back off of them, and I’ll keep a few for the impeccable bloodline to keep on going. I sure wouldn’t want to be the reason for the lineage to be stopped.

That’s my great post for this week. Sorry it’s so boring, but I have been busy with the Dirty Bird Soap Empire Facebook page and website. Not to mention making a lot of soap, getting it ready for market, and slamming the van door on my finger. Thanks codeine!

It looks a lot better than it did a few days ago.
It looks a lot better than it did a few days ago.

That was one of those things that you regret immediately and also days later. If you are ever thinking about slamming a door on your finger, I would advise against it.

Chris