Saturday, April 28, 2012

Outside the Box, Inside a Nutshell

First off, I know that many of you read this blog because you are already self sufficient or at least already on the path to join the ‘movement’. It seems that, lately, with all that’s been going on in our world, folks are beginning to realize that in truth the only people you should rely on are yourself and your immediate family.

Now, this is not meant to be a ‘doom and gloom’ statement. It’s meant to open your eyes to the beautiful life and bounty that self sufficiency can provide. There is a certain amount of freedom in knowing that you have provided for your loved ones and that you have done it yourself.

When I was a kid, back in the 70s, we had a very small garden and a few fruit trees that provided a little bit of food. We took one major shopping trip each month and we bought things like milk and eggs locally. We even had a guy who lived about a mile behind us who let us scrape fresh maple sugar off the top of his vats.

Back then, I was ashamed, more often than not, of how ‘poor’ we were. I was the oldest of three at the time and somehow I still managed to own mostly hand-me-down clothes. I had maybe two pair of comfy socks but all the rest had those uncomfortable bunches in the toes and on the heals where my mom had sewn up the holes. At least once, and usually twice, each week we would have leftover night. All the unfinished food we had went into a pie, a casserole or a stew.

As we all know, hindsight is 20/20. Today I see the value in all that. Except the sock thing. Honestly I will never sew a sock to be re-worn unless it is an emergency. I so hated those things. I can find other uses for them. Anyway, today it’s society that is ‘poor’. I don’t know the dollar number of what we lived on back then but I’m willing to bet that I live on not too much more than that now. Only now it’s called frugal.

Ironically, it’s still outside the box of most folks comfort levels. But, here’s the nutshell ~ reread the third paragraph above. Tell me, in all honesty, how simple is that?! I am now grown with a family of my own and a home of my own. I am growing a garden that will be large enough to provide most of our veggies and, I hope, enough extra to be able to barter for eggs, milk and meat. Next year, I plan to have chickens and maybe some rabbits. I have also discovered that, to those pies, casseroles and stews, I can add pizza.

I live in a small town about 40 miles from a major city and 25 miles (both one way) from a town with a grocery store. We do have a small market in our town but they don’t have a large selection. They do, however, provide local meat, which we absolutely love. The cows we heard mooing over at the edge of town last week are the hamburgers we will be eating next week.

We live outside the box and in a nutshell and we love it. There is a certain serenity to it. I could never live in a big city again. These days, when we take our monthly shopping trip into town, I almost feel sorry for the folks that have to deal with that hustle and bustle all the time. Out here, life is slower, fresher and involves so much less stress that I don’t know how I dealt with it all those years living in a city.

I’m not saying you have to move to the country to enjoy this peace. But, you do have to change your mind. Even some of the folks in my small town have not figured out that ‘change’. I walk everywhere. Anything I need is within about five blocks of my house. Ironically, in all the walking I do, the only others I see walking anywhere are the kids. The parents almost all drive. I don’t get that. I certainly understand a little bit of laziness or pouring rain or zero degree temps or even thirty mile per hour winds, but ALL the time? This is one of those ‘mind changes’. Walk if it’s nice out.

Those of you who live in the cities can enjoy almost the same life that I do. I mean, you’re in a city and most of what you need is most likely within a half mile of your home. You can still grow veggies in containers and on balconies or porches. If you’re in the suburbs, you can do the same or even have a small garden or greenhouse in the back yard.

All of this can help add to peace of mind in that you have food available to you at all times. If I were to lose power, I could last at least two months with the food I have right now. That does not include what is sprouting and growing as we speak. Once the garden is back to producing and I can get back into canning, I will have at minimum six months worth of food and most likely about a year’s worth. All without a huge amount of effort and almost no stress at all.

You can learn quite a bit about this life of self sufficiency that I enjoy with all my heart by joining my group on Facebook called “Kaya Self Sufficiency” or by ‘liking’ my community page of the same name or by simply following this blog. I also have a website (once again, same name) where you will find many good books on the subject and a page full of links to other companies that can help you get a start. You will also see some of those links on either side of this blog. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

My Hugelkultur Experiment

This is my first test run using Hugelkultur. It is basically a self composting, raised bed, lasagna gardening process. We added concentrated fish poop and a fertilizer to the process because we wanted to kick start it but those two steps are entirely up to your preferences.

We are going to try an experiment using half the bed. We’re using heirloom, non-GMO seeds and we will harvest what we need and let the rest go back to seed under a layer of straw for the winter. It’ll be sort of a ‘One Straw Revolution’ / ‘Seed To Seed’ process and we may utilize a low tunnel if we can swing it by then.

And now, without further ado:
Step One ~ 4x15 pit started

Step Two ~ Pit finished, about 18-20 inches deep

Step Three ~ Line bottom with paper

Step Four ~ Add logs, branches, sticks and twigs

Step Five ~ Add yard waste, wood chips and light layer of soil

Step Six ~ Cover with layer of straw, about a half a bale

Step Seven ~ Add small amount of wood chips and sprinkle with fish poop. We used a concentrate, mixing two tablespoons with a gallon of water.

Step Eight ~ Add more soil and sprinkle with fertilizer. We used a cow manure compost.

Step Nine ~ Finish mounding the rest of the soil

Step Ten ~ Transfer seedlings and take pictures for next blog as they grow

Too be continued………

In the mean time, please feel free to join my Facebook group, visit and ‘Like’ my new Facebook community page and check out my website. Conveniently, they are all called “Kaya Self Sufficiency”.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

All Natural Mosquito Genocide

Spring is one of my favorite seasons (I have four favorites) because I get to see and help life come back to a desolate landscape. I love planting seeds and watching them become beauty and food.

Spring also happens to be one of my least favorite seasons (I also have four least favorites) because one of the forms of life that renews itself is those annoying little insects that will never leave you alone unless you kill them.

It’s those blood suckers that we’re going to talk about today, or rather, how to get rid of them. You may know me well enough by now to know that we’re NOT going to use some unpronounceable chemical compound that they will build up immunity to. We’re going all natural! Surprise!

Mosquitoes are everywhere and are a problem for most people. Once upon a time, I was all but immune to them but over the past few years their effect on me has gotten worse. There are many chemical repellants and killers out there but I have yet to find one that works well. As a result, I have given up on the chemicals and decided to use the natural ways to get rid of them.

Your Yard

The very first thing you should do is eliminate or completely seal any standing water on your property. They lay their eggs along the water line. As the water evaporates, the eggs will dry out. Once they get rehydrated, they hatch and begin their war against you and your family.

The next step is to plant things around your yard that naturally repel mosquitoes. I use primarily marigolds. They get planted mostly in moveable containers so they can go where I go. I also plant some around my garden and in flower beds near the doors to my house.

The following is a list of many of the assorted plants that can help reduce the mosquito population in your little kingdom. Make sure you research these if you want to plant them. They have different natural climates.

Cultivated Plants That Repel Mosquitoes
·         Beebalm (Horsemint)
·         Catnip (Nepeta cateria)
·         Citronella (Cybopogon nardus or Citronella winterianus)
·         Citronella Grass (Cymbopogon nardus)
·         Clove (Syzygium aromaticum)
·         Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp.)
·         Flossflowers (Ageratum)
·         Garlic (Allium sativum)
·         Lavendar (Lavandula angustifolia)
·         Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
·         Marigolds (Tagetes spp.)
·         Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
·         Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
·         Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)

Wild Plants That Repel Mosquitoes
·         Cedars (Thuja spp.)
·         Nodding onion (Allium cernuum)
·         Pineapple weed (Matricaria matricarioides)
·         Sagebrush, Wormwood, and Mugwort (Artemisia spp.)
·         Snowbrush (Ceonothus velutinus)
·         Sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina)
·         Vanilla Leaf (Achlys triphylla)
·         Wild bergamot (Mondarda fistulosa)

You can also use a garlic spray to rid your domain of the insects that are multiplying in moist areas of the yard. Aside from mosquitoes, this includes ticks, flies, mites, and fleas as well.

To make a homemade garlic spray, peel 3 garlic bulbs. Pulverize them by blending them thoroughly. Strain the juice into a cup. For every 1/4 cup of garlic juice, mix 1 cup of water. Pour the liquid into a sprayer and use it to coat all areas of the yard.

Mist the garlic solution on the yard and coat the lawn completely. Once the insect invasion begins, repeat the garlic treatment once every four days for about seven weeks. This spray not only repels these monsters, it can suffocate and kill adults and their eggs.

Do not spray excess garlic juice on the lawn, since it sometimes causes bare batches and burnt grass. Also avoid spraying garlic directly on plants, flowers and leaves.

Your Body

There are many different mixtures you can make using essential oils for your natural insect repellent. These oils don't mix with water, so you'll need to add them to other oils or to alcohol. Make sure you use an oil or alcohol that is safe for your skin as most oils are potent and can cause irritation or other reactions if you use too much. If you are pregnant or nursing, do not apply any insect repellent, natural or otherwise, until after you've consulted with your doctor.

The following oils are safe when used externally, but should never be taken internally without consulting a professional.  Pennyroyal, for one, is seriously toxic if ingested. These should be mixed 1 part essential oil with roughly 15 parts carrier oil or alcohol. The essential oils that work well against mosquitoes are:
·         Bergamot
·         Castor
·         Cedarwood
·         Cinnamon
·         Citronella
·         Eucalyptus
·         Jojoba
·         Lavender
·         Lemongrass
·         Pennyroyal
·         Peppermint
·         Tea tree

Carriers for these oils can be:
·         Almond oil
·         Jojoba oil
·         Olive oil
·         Sunflower oil
·         Vodka
·         Witch hazel
·         Aloe Vera gel

Here is one suggested base recipe.
Mix the following:
·         1/2 ounce citronella oil
·         1/4 ounce lavender oil
·         1/8 ounce pennyroyal oil
·         1/8 ounce tea tree oil
·         1/8 ounce jojoba oil

Do not use this base directly on your body while undiluted. To make an oil that can be used on your skin, add 16 ounces of jojoba or almond oil to the base oil mixture and mix it up well. To make a spray, add 16 ounces of vodka to the base oil mixture. Pour it into a spray bottle and shake well before using.

Rub or spray the mixture onto skin or clothing. Always avoid the sensitive area around your eyes. You will need to re-apply this repellant after an hour or so and after swimming or exercise. Any unused mixture you have left should be stored in a dark container away from heat and sunlight.

I hope I have shared with you what you need to do you part in waging the only war I truly agree with.

I would like to welcome you into my Facebook group, Kaya Self Sufficiency, and invite you to visit my website, also called Kaya Self Sufficiency.