Get rid of your cabin fever or winter blues – visit Little Red Hen Home Comforts for their February sale!  Stop in to see the fantastic assortment of quality refurbished furniture, linens, home decor, dishes, vintage ware, gift ware, and more!  Grab a cup of coffee and visit for awhile – Little Red Hen is a pocketbook and kid-friendly shop!

Open February 25 through February 27th from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day.

Thursday and Saturday morning – Complimentary hand or shoulder massage by certified massage therapist Shari Seifert.

This is just a sneak peek, there is tons more!  Come check it out and bring a friend!

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apple tree bounty

Okay, I know they LOOK like something is wrong with them.  Like maybe they have a bad case of the powdered mildews or something.  But really, they are SUPPOSED  to look this way – because they have been treated with a new, inovative, natural bug spray.

It’s called Surround, a powdered kaolin clay that is mixed with water and sprayed onto the apple trees to repel apple pests such as plum curculio, apple maggot,  and codling moth.  Once the spray has dried, a fine layer of clay residue remains on the apples;  when the pests come to lay their eggs  they are deterred by the clay residue which sticks to all parts of their body.  Then they leave to find a better place to make more pests.

This is the first year we are trying it, and so far it seems to have controlled the pests extremely well.  The clay residue easily wipes or washes off of the apples.  We are so excited to have a bounty of chemical free apples this year!

What natural treatment have you used to control apple pests?

An interesting article about organic food by TIME, sharing the obvious and hidden benefits of food raised organically.  Take a moment to view this slide show about What The World Eats.

Article here.

Slideshow here.

1.  Read packet information for seed starting directions:  how many weeks to start before last frost, temperature needed for germination, and how many days to germination.  Keep a journal of what varieties you started on what date, and how long it took until germination occurred.

seed starting seed packet
2.  I use recyclable, disposable aluminum lasagna pans to start my seedlings, they will last a number of years before you have to replace them.  Poke holes in the bottom for drainage.

seed starting pan with holes
3.  Use a seed starting mix to start your seeds.  Seed starting mix is sterile and will help prevent damping off disease, and the light texture aids in germination and rooting of the seeds.  Add warm water to your seed starting mix, approximately 1 to 1½ cups of water to four cups of starting mix.  Mix thoroughly to get soil evenly moist, it should be damp but not soggy; you should be able to squeeze out a few drops of water when you squeeze a handful.

planting seeds starter

4.  Fill your tray almost to the top, patting down to make a firm layer of soil.

seed starting fill tray
5.  Make shallow rows in soil about 1 inch to 1 ½ inches apart; using a pen or pencil push down to make an indentation.

seed starting making rows
6.  Cut open seed packet, and evenly distribute seeds in the rows; for very small seeds hold the packet sideways while lightly tapping the top with your finger to control the flow of the seeds.

seed starting planting seeds
7.  Read packet information to find out whether the seed should be covered with soil.  Some require covering and others do not,  and it will affect the germination of the seeds.  If the seeds require covering, cover with a fine sprinkling of DRY seed starting mix, then press firmly so soil makes good contact with seed.

seed starting covering rows
8.  Lightly mist rows of seeds, both covered and uncovered.

seed starting misting rows
9.  Label variety of seeds on outside of tray.

seed starting labeling rows

10.  Place a well fitted cover over the tray, or place tray in a clear plastic bag and seal.  Place in a warm area (not in direct sunlight) to germinate, unless your packet directions specify otherwise.  I place mine on a shelf with a florescent shop light above it; the lights give off a little warmth that speeds germination.  I use one cool florescent lamp and one warm florescent lamp, I read once that using both will benefit the seedlings.

seed starting under lights

Most seeds require about 70 degrees to germinate, and every seed variety has a different time length to germinate.  I try to plant seeds together that need the same germination temperature and have the same length of germination time.
11.  Monitor for moisture; you should be able to see moisture on the cover and the soil should appear damp.  If watering is needed, always water from the bottom, and don’t over water to prevent damping off disease.

seed starting moisture cover
12.  Remove cover when most of seeds have sprouted.  If growing under lights (florescent shop lights will work fine, no need to invest in expensive grow lights), keep the lights just a few inches above the seedlings, this will produce stockier plants.  Set a timer to deliver at least 12 hours of light per day.  If growing on in a window, choose a bright window that receives a lot of daylight.   Monitor daily for moisture.  Transplant when seedlings have 2 or more true leaves to individual pots.

I came across this interesting video highlighting a growing season at a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  Richard Hoffman, a filmmaker,  compiled this video from 20,000 still photo images he took recording his journey from a passive observer to an active participant with his local CSA.  It is a beautiful story of Richard and his family reconnecting with the land, their food, and their community.

Watch Fridays at the Farm here.

Winter sowing is a fairly new method of seed starting for seeds that require a cold period to germinate, such as Delphinium or Aquilegia (Columbine).  This method can be done in January, February and March.  Click here for a seed list of plants that should work well for winter sowing.

Materials needed:
Clean, used plastic gallon milk containers, or bakery clam shells
Potting soil or Seed starting mix
Scissors
Clear Duct tape
Labels
Permanent Marker

1.  If using a milk jug, cut it in half, leaving one inch uncut right below the handle for a ‘hinge’.  Cut several slits in the bottom for drainage.  Discard cap off top of jug.
2.  Add water to dampen your potting soil; moist enough that when you squeeze a handful it will clump together.
planting seeds starter
3.  Fill the bottom of the milk jug with the dampened potting soil to a depth of 3 or 4 inches, pressing the soil firmly to pack.

planting seeds in milk jar
4.  To make rows, using a pen or pencil, press firmly into soil to make rows. (This is optional.)

planting seeds making rows
5.  Evenly distribute seeds onto soil or in the rows; for very small seeds hold the packet sideways while lightly tapping the top with your finger to control the flow of the seeds.

planting seeds
6.  Spread a thin layer of dry seed starter over seeds; skip this step if the seeds require light to germinate.
7.  Press down soil firmly over seeds to establish good soil contact with the seeds.
8.  Lightly mist the entire top of the soil.

planting seeds spritzing
9.  Place a label inside the container.  I make mine from old plastic window blinds.

planting seeds adding label

10.  Using clear duct tape, tape top and bottom of milk jug together.  Label the outside of the container with a permanent marker.
11.  Place the jugs outside on the east, south or west side of your house; not in a protected area, making sure that rain or snow can reach the containers.

planting seeds placing outside
12.  Watch containers for adequate moisture, condensation inside the jugs indicates enough moisture.  If the soil appears dry, mist gently to moisten. As the weather warms up, check for germination and growth of plants.  Cut extra holes to ensure plants do not overheat, and to help with the hardening off process.  Around mid-May the covers can be completely removed, provided germination is complete.

I am trying it for the first time this year with a few perennial varieties of Delphinium and Columbine, and annual snapdragons.  I will share the progress and results of how this new technique worked for me.

Update:  this technique worked well, I think I would have had more success if I had used potting soil instead of soil starting mix.  The soil starting mix is lighter and dried out fairly quick, I believe potting soil would have held moisture better and needed less watering.  Next year I will try some on the north side of the house, I think they dried out to quick on the south side.

Mountain Rose Herbs was recently awarded the 2008 Co-Op America Peoples Choice Award for Green Business of the Year.

And why is Good Thymes Bath & Body excited about this?  Because Mountain Rose Herbs is our supplier of organic herbs used in our natural bath and body products!  When we discovered Mountain Rose Herbs a few years ago, we were absolutely amazed at the quality and freshness of their herbs, plus the prompt shipment time.  We can truly vouch that their products and service are unsurpassed!  We also appreciate that they offer their herbs in large or small quantities; it helps us to insure product freshness, which is what we are all about.

Mountain Rose Herbs also has a wonderful selection of spices, teas, essential oils, and other supplies.  If you enjoy making your own tea blends, they have all the supplies you need here.

Living on and running a certified organic farm ourselves, we can fully appreciate the meaning of the award that Mountain Rose Herbs has earned!  We are proud of them, and proud to say we have been happy customers of theirs for years!