What To Buy At The Farmer’s Market: December

What To Buy At The Farmer’s Market: December

Can you believe it’s almost winter? I am not ready for the nice fall weather to go away!

December can be a tricky month for shopping at the farmer’s market, depending on where you live. If you live somewhere that gets FREEZING cold in the winter, like I do, you’ll be lucky if you can even find a farmers market.

If you live in a state with mild winters (lucky you) then you’ll likely have a lot more options available in the winter months. So this month I decided to divide up the farmer’s market guide into colder winter states, and warmer winter states.

Our warmer winters states are places like Arizona, Southern California, Florida, and parts of Texas and Louisiana.

While our colder winter states should cover places with cold winters (but not crazy winters). If you’re in Alaska, you’re definitely going to have different options than Kentucky, so keep that in mind.

This is a very GENERAL guide. Just to show you what to keep an eye out for. If you want to know exactly what’s in season in your area, I suggest you use The Seasonal Food Guide.

You can put in where you live and it will tell you exactly what fruits and veggies are in season in your area.

But let’s get going! Here is your farmer’s market guide for December!

Colder Winter States

If you’re freezing cold all winter like me then this part of the list is for you!

Potatoes

Now you’re probably not going to find fresh potatoes in December. But many farmers (at least where I’m from) store potatoes in root cellars, so that they can sell them through the winter. So keep an eye out for some locally grown potatoes in December, so you can make mashed potatoes!

Sprouts

I love using sprouts in my meals. They’re perfect for adding on top of salads or putting on a sandwich!

Turnips

I’ve never been a huge fan of turnips, but this year I’m thinking I’ll have to try this yummy recipe for pan-roasted turnips!

Winter Squash

Winter squash stores well, so you’ll probably be able to find winter squash throughout the season. Which is perfect because winter squash is yummy and good for you!

Some recipes I’m looking forward to trying this year are:

Radishes

If you’re lucky you might still find some radishes in your area in December. I’m looking forward to trying this garlic roasted radishes recipe!

Sweet Potatoes

I didn’t realize how much I loved sweet potatoes until about a year ago. Now I love using sweet potatoes in my recipes! One of my favorite ways to use sweet potatoes is in soups like this sweet potato and sausage soup recipe!

Radicchio

Radicchio is a new one for me! I’ve never tried it! But I’m looking forward to trying this recipe for Radicchio Salad with Green Olives

Carrots

Carrots are definitely one of my favorite vegetables. I snack on them while I work! I love eating carrots with Homemade Ranch Dressing!

What to do in your garden in April

Broccoli

Broccoli is also a dinner staple for me. I love steaming broccoli for a simple side dish to go with my meals. You can also try this yummy Cream of Broccoli Soup Recipe!

Citrus

Obviously, this is not in season locally if you live in an area with cold winters. But I highly recommend trying to find citrus grown from an area near you at the grocery store.

Citrus starts coming into season in December which means that if you buy citrus grown in the U.S. at the grocery store it’s going to taste better this time of year!

Spinach

You may be able to find some spinach in your area in December. Especially if there’s local farmers that are using cold frames. I’m excited to try this bacon spinach salad this year using the bacon I get from Butcher Box.

Warmer Weather States

Now things are a little bit different for those of you who live in states with milder winters. I’m talking about you California, Florida, Texas, Hawaii, Louisiana, and Arizona. All the rest of us are jealous of your nice, mild winters.

There are probably going to be much different things available in your farmers markets than in the rest of the country.

Obviously this depends on where you live in the state as well (Northern California won’t have the same produce as Southern California).

Now there’s probably a lot more produce available than what I’m listing here, but these are some of the main items you’re going to find in the farmer’s markets starting in December if you live somewhere with a milder winter.

Citrus

I’m jealous of all y’all that have locally grown citrus at your farmers markets. Citrus is in season in December, so look for oranges, grapefruit, pomegranates, tangerines, clementines, and lemons.

You can use some of those yummy locally grown oranges to make this yummy Fresh Orange Smoothie Recipe!

Apples

Y’all know I love apples, and in milder winter states there are likely to still be some local apples around.

Carrots

Like I said before I love carrots! Look for fresh, locally grown carrots at your local farmer’s market and make some yummy Homemade Ranch Dressing!

What vegetables can you grow in cold frames? Plenty! Here's your go-to guide!

Broccoli

Also look for broccoli at your local farmer’s market! I love it, and it’s the perfect side dish for dinner! <!– Default Statcounter code for -buy-at-the-farmers-market

What To Buy At The Farmer’s Market: December


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What Do Chickens Eat?

What Do Chickens Eat?

A frequent question I get is what do chickens eat, and the answer is pretty much anything (my Araucana chicken will eat me out of house and home if she could!)

 

But, there’s definitely things you should feed them and things you SHOULDN’T feed them. So today let’s talk all about what your chickens should and shouldn’t be eating.

 

We’ll also debunk some myths about what chickens eat. So let’s get started!

 

 

It’s incredibly important to give your hens a high-quality, varied diet.

And in order to be able to do that you need to know what chickens eat. Plus providing your chickens with a high-quality, nutritious diet means that you will have great tasting eggs!

 

So, what do chickens eat?

My chickens aren’t super picky. Honestly they’ll eat ANYTHING. But I like to ensure that my chickens are getting the nutrients that they need, so here are some of the things that I think are the best things to feed your chickens.

 

Layer feed

Layer feed is the cornerstone to any good diet plan for your hens. It contains all the nutrients they need to be healthy – laying eggs is taxing on a hen’s body, and the protein and nutrients it requires must be replenished.

 

Once they start laying eggs, you should feed them a high quality feed with at least 16% protein daily. You can make your own feed using my recipe here or opt for a commercial feed.

 

You might find that your hens will gobble a pelleted layer feed and refuse to eat a mash (or vice versa) – that’s okay. My Araucana chicken LOVES her mash – chickens are funny creatures and have their preferences just like we do.

 

Herbs

Herbs are really important for chickens because:

1. Chickens love them

2. They provide important nutrients

3. They can also provide some environmental activities for your chickens in their run.

 

I just made a DIY Herb Pot for my chickens and they absolutely love it!  

 

what do chickens eat araucana chicken

 

Some of my favorite herbs that I use for my chickens are peppermint, oregano, and sage. Oregano has antibacterial properties, so it promotes cleanliness in your coop. Studies have also shown that oregano helped chickens to be healthier and lay more!

 

Garlic is great to add to feed – in studies, it’s been shown to boost immune systems in humans and animals alike.

 

I also love using peppermint because it smells SO GOOD! And it also can help keep insects away from your chickens, and possibly help maintain a healthy respiratory system.

 

Sage is one of my go to herbs for healthy digestive systems. It smells great like peppermint and my chickens love to peck at it. In studies, it also reduced internal parasites (wormwood and chili are also great options.)

 

Fruit

Fruit can be great for your chickens because there’s lots of vitamins and minerals. Grapes, apple flesh (see below for more about apples), pears, raspberries, strawberries, etc are all great for chickens.

 

Just keep in mind that some chickens won’t want fruit – mine don’t seem to be too partial to fruit (Hawk, my Araucana hen, really loves her black soldier fly larvae).

 

Like anything else, fruit should be fed in moderation since too much of anything can be harmful for your chickens. I normally make sure that when I’m feeding my chickens “table scraps” (i.e. leftover fruits and veggies) it doesn’t exceed more than 10% of their diet.

 

Leafy greens & vegetables

Chicken do like leafy greens – some go-to leafy greens are lettuce, kale, spinach, arugula, etc. Every year we grow our hens their own special greens garden by broadcasting seeds into a raised bed and then harvesting as needed.

 

I don’t suggest letting the hens have access to the garden 24 hours a day – they’ll shred it to bits in no time flat.

 

You can also grow greens and herbs in their coop, but give them limited access with a DIY grazing box, which is VERY easy to put together and durable – ours has lasted us several seasons.

 

There are some leafy greens you should avoid feeding backyard cchickens, but we’ll talk about those later!

 

By and large, your chickens can eat any vegetables you do – keep in mind that cooked, soft vegetables might go over better than raw. However, cooked veggies typically don’t have the same amount of nutrients as raw, so one option is to ferment your vegetables for 3-7 days so they get soft without losing nutrients.

 

Fermented vegetables are also super healthy for hens because they have beneficial bacteria such as lactobacillus which can help balance their digestive system and possibly lower their pathogen load. In studies, hens fed fermented foods had lower incidences of salmonella in their systems.

 

Sprouts & Fodder

My chickens LOVE to eat sprouts. And sprouts are so easy! Sunflower sprouts are simple, although you can sprout wheat, oats, beans, etc.

 

Chickens love them because they’re fresh greens plus seeds, and they love picking at both. They’re also extremely nutritious for chickens since a seed is full of all the vitamins and minerals required for the seed to generate new life.

 

To learn how to sprout seeds, here’s a tutorial for sunflower seeds.

 

Fodder is also something chickens eat – it’s basically sprouting seeds, but allowing them to grow into a grass or actual plant. Learn about growing fodder for chickens here.

 

Eggs

There are many myths about feeding your chickens egg shells, but egg shells are a great source of calcium and protein for your chickens and they are totally fine to eat them.

 

Cooked eggs are best – as you know, raw eggs carry a chance of pathogens, and you don’t want your hens transmitting bacteria to each other accidentally or reinfecting themselves.

 

You can scramble the eggs – just make sure they’re cool before giving them to your chickens.

 

Eggshells are also great for chickens & an easy source of calcium. Again, dried, toasted eggshells are better than raw.

 

Insects (live & dried)

One incredibly important aspect of your chickens diet is ensuring that they get enough protein. Chickens require a lot of protein to lay eggs and have healthy feathers, among other things.

 

And one thing chickens LOVE to eat are dried insects such as Black Soldier Fly Larvae and mealworms.

 

You can either mix in mealworms and black soldier fly larvae into your chickens feed to help them get the protein that they need or feed them separately – just be prepared to be jumped on when your hens see the bags!

 

I have an entire article here about how you can raise your own Black Soldier Fly Larvae or Mealworms for your chickens. I mix in mealworms and black soldier fly larvae into my chickens feed to help them get the protein that they need.

Meat

Yep, when asking yourself “what do chickens eat?” you might not think of meat. Remember, chicken are omnivores, so they will eat other animals given the need and opportunity.

 

In fact, my Araucana hen will attack baby mice or frogs as sport. You might find that if your hens are protein deprived, they’ll start going after other animals to rebalance their nutrient deficiency.

 

You can also feed meat as a treat. Our hens go bonkers over local crawfish:

 

What do chickens eat araucana chicken crawfish

What to avoid feeding chickens:

Feeding chickens isn’t too complicated, but there are some things that you should avoid feed them. I have a full article about what not to feed chickens right here, but here’s a brief list (not comprehensive):

 

  • Dried or undercooked beans
  • Moldy food
  • Apple seeds
  • Pits from stone fruit such as peaches, avocado, nectarines, cherries
  • Dry rice
  • Undercooked/raw potatoes
  • Potato skins (cooked and raw)
  • Rhubarb
  • Excessive amounts of beet leaves, swiss chard, spinach (contain oxalic acid which can be poisonous in large amounts).

 

So now let’s talk about some of the feeding myths that I hear ALL the time.

 

Feeding myth #1: It’s okay to let chickens forage 100% of the time.

Sure, if you want scrawny birds that don’t enjoy human interaction. Chickens can survive foraging on their own, but letting them forage can be detrimental to their egg production and temperament.

 

I’ve let my chickens forage for 100% of their food in the past, but I noticed that my hens weren’t as healthy and they didn’t lay nearly as many eggs. You can let your chickens forage, but I recommend that you still supplement their diet with layer feed, so that your chickens stay healthy.

You also run the risk of losing birds to predators when you let them forage 100% of the time, so I just don’t risk it anymore.

 

Feeding myth #2: Citrus is poisonous to chickens

It’s not, it’s actually healthy for them. See this article here to learn more about why citrus is actually good for your chickens.

 

My chickens won’t even touch it when I give it to them, but it’s not poisonous and it has health benefits for your chickens. If you want your chickens to have the health benefits of citrus, you can always add a little to their water.

 

Feeding myth #3: Letting chickens eat eggs is cannibalism or will turn them into cannibals.

This one is just not true. I don’t know who started this vicious rumor but it’s BS. Allowing your chickens to eat eggs is actually good for them and I do it all of the time.

 

Just be sure to cook the eggs since pathogens such as campylobacter and salmonella have a chance of passing into the egg and you don’t want your chickens to reinfect themselves.

 

Still wondering “What do chickens eat?” What are your chickens’ favorite things to eat? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

11 Essential Oils You Should Never Wear In The Sun

11 Essential Oils You Should Never Wear In The Sun

It’s summer, so let’s chat about essential oils you should never wear in the sun.

 

You’re probably thinking “What? I thought oils were safe….” And they are. BUT like anything in life, you need to use them the right way.

 

I learned this lesson the hard way (luckily, I caught myself in time).

 

Certain oils contain furanocoumarins, which is a long scary word for a naturally-occurring chemical compound that some plants produce as part of their defense mechanism.

 

These essential oils have a chemical reaction to UV light which can potentially result in some pretty serious skin problems, including:

  • severe redness
  • darkening
  • swelling
  • blisters

 

The effects are uncomfortable, and can last for weeks:

 

There's 11 essential oils that are dangerous to wear in the sun. Here's a detailed list and how to use them safely!

Image via Wikimedia Commons

 

In this article, I’m going to show you which oils you shouldn’t use before you head outside to work in your garden or care for your flock. I’ll also show you how you can safely use them if you DO want to use them before going outside.

 

11 Essential Oils You Should Never Wear In The Sun

Before we get started with our list, sometimes some of these oils are ok to wear in the sun depending on how they were distilled (cold pressed, steam distilled, etc).

 

For the sake of simplicity, I’m not going to get into all that in this article. Just generally understanding which oils you shouldn’t apply before going into the sun makes it easier to remember what’s safe and what’s not.

 

If you want to use any of the oils in the list below, just do it 12 hours before you go outside, or keep the area of application completely covered. It’s simple enough to do.

 

Here’s the list of oils you should avoid outside:

  • Bergamot
  • Orange
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Grapefruit
  • Kumquat
  • Cumin
  • Tangerine
  • Mandarin
  • Petitgrain
  • Rue
  • Lemongrass

So You Want To Use One Of These Essential Oils You Should Never Wear In The Sun…What Now?

I personally didn’t follow my own advice one day (honestly, I used a blend and didn’t read the label – whoops!) and walked outside to feed my rabbits.

 

After a few minutes I noticed my neck and throat were getting kind of hot….much hotter than they should have. That’s a sign that phototoxicity was setting in – and it happened on my body after only just a few minutes. Not good!

 

I ran inside and checked the blend, and sure enough, orange was listed on the label.

 

To stay safe, after applying one or more of the oils listed above, you should stay out of the sun for at least 12 hours.

 

If you accidentally applied one of these oils, or really need or want to use one, and plan to go outside, just make sure you keep the area covered. Applying it to a place under your clothing is an option, and you can apply it to the bottom of your feet if they will remain covered.

 

If you’re going to be outdoors without shoes, you’re running the risk of feeling really, really hot, and possibly really uncomfortable. So, learn from my mistake!

 

Use your best judgement and stay safe. I want you with all your skin on.

Control Pests In Your Garden Organically With Essential Oils

Control Pests In Your Garden Organically With Essential Oils

If you use essential oils in your home, you can also use them to rid your garden of unwanted pests that will try to steal your harvest.

 

At least, that’s what we do.

 

Nothing is more frustrating than to spend lots of time and energy trying to grow cabbages than to go out to your garden….only to find leaves full of holes and sprinkled with tiny green cabbage looper eggs. Grrr…..

 

Oils are great to use in your garden because they’re organic, all-natural, and they WORK.

 

Particularly if you make a homemade insecticidal soap, you only need a drop or two – so they’re also economical.

 

Most basic essential oils cost $0.08 a drop, so you can spend a lot of money on commercial organic pest control….or you can save a few bucks and make them yourself.

 

In this article, I’m going to show you how to use essential oils to deter and get rid of bugs, freeloading insects, and vegetable munchers in your garden.

 

A Word About Purity

Before we get started, let’s talk about purity for a minute. Everyone has their own favorite brand of oils – so we won’t cover particular brands in this article.

 

However, I advise buying from the manufacturer directly, and not from a 3rd party source like Amazon. It’s very, very easy to pop the top off oils and replace them with an inferior essential oil – or something that doesn’t even resemble an oil, but smells like the real deal.

 

The last thing you want is to spend a lot of time and effort growing your garden, only to dump a bunch of toxins on them unwittingly.

 

Bottom line: Buy from a trusted source, just be sure the oil is pure, and the oil in the bottle is as advertised.

 

Ok, moving on….

 

How Do You Know Which Essential Oil To Use?

If you’re new to oils, or aren’t sure which one will most benefit your garden, determine which pests are bothering your garden.

 

Then, using the chart below, figure out which oil will best repel them.

 

If more than one pest threatens your plant, or in insect AND a fungus are causing trouble, then it’s perfectly fine to add more than one oil to water, to a rag, or to a container.

 

 

What Are The Go-to Oils?

There are a few essential oils that are go-to oils that will work against MOST garden pests. They interfere with your pesky visitor’s biological systems (each oil effects a different part of the insect’s body), causing them to leave the scene to save their lives.

 

Orange essential oil

If you want a go-to oil for killing insects, then orange is a good choice, since it works to destroy the exoskeletons of bugs.

 

Cedarwood essential oil

A second option is cedarwood, which is believed to interfere with their neurological capabilities.

 

Peppermint Essential Oil

If you don’t yet have pests in your garden or just want to deter them, then peppermint oil is a good option. It’s strong smelling, and garden pests will turn around and find an easier target for a snack.

 

Pest Repelled By
Ants Peppermint, Spearmint, Wild Orange, Cedarwood
Aphids Peppermint, Spearmint, Cedarwood, Wild Orange
Beetles Peppermint, Thyme, Wild Orange, Cedarwood
Caterpillars Rosemary, Cedarwood
Cutworms Thyme, Clary Sage, Cedarwood
Fleas Lavender, Lemongrass, Peppermint, Wild Orange, Rosemary, Cedarwood
Fungus (e.g. Powdery Mildew) Melaleuca, Wild Orange
Lice Peppermint, Spearmint, Cedarwood
Rabbits, Mice Peppermint
Slugs/Snails Cedarwood, Douglas Fir, Peppermint
Squash Bugs Peppermint, Wild Orange, Cedarwood

 

 

Insecticidal Soap

Commercial insecticidal soaps work by dissolving the hard external bodies of insects, and you can make your own at home with liquid castile soap and orange essential oil.

 

These soaps are effective against aphids, thrips, mites, immature leafhoppers, and whiteflies.  Just remember that insecticidal soap is only effective if they come in contact with the insects while the soap is still liquid; it won’t work after it dries on the plants.

 

To make your own, combine 5 tablespoons of pure castile liquid soap to 2 quarts of water. Add 5-6 drops of orange and cedarwood essential oils. Combine thoroughly and use immediately.

 

9 Essential Oils To Repel Insects Naturally (And Get Your Yard Back)

9 Essential Oils To Repel Insects Naturally (And Get Your Yard Back)

It’s summer…and it’s buggy. This time of year, the heat and humidity are bad enough, and I break out my go-to essential oils to repel insects when we’re outside.

 

(This article is based on my new book Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Gardening. Grab it on Amazon here!)

 

I have another recipe where you can use herbs, but I’ve found oils work better because they’re concentrated plants in a bottle – so much more powerful than just the herbs themselves when it comes to insects.

 

Because they’re weaker than oils, if you spray yourself with an herbal solution, it will dissipate faster – so you’ll need to spray yourself again and again. With oils, I found we only need to do it once or twice while outside.

 

In this article, we’re going to talk about recipes you can make at home that you can use on yourself and your family to keep bugs at bay.

 

The bugs we’ll discuss are:

 

  • Ants
  • Flies
  • Wasps/Hornets
  • Mosquitoes
  • Ticks

The Go-To Essential Oil For Killing Insects

Yes, there is a single one you can depend on (although there’s more you’ll want to use). Orange essential oil kills insects because it destroys their exoskeletons. In any recipe you make yourself, be sure it includes orange essential oils.

 

A word of note: Citrus essential oils, in large quantities, can harm your cats because it interferes with their liver. (It’s fine with other animals.) If your kitties hang out outside a lot, then don’t spray orange unless you can be sure your kitties will not be outside for 24-48 hours. Use any of the other alternative oils we talk about in this article, and just make sure there’s good circulation.

 

Ants

I hate these buggers. They’re arrogant insects, thinking they can get into whatever sugar I leave on the counter and invading my home whenever suits them….but there is hope.

 

The BEST I’ve found to repel ants is cinnamon oil.

 

Because it’s so strong, it interferes with their neuroreceptors and they can’t send signals (by pheromones) back to their nest to come grab whatever goody they’ve happened upon. It unnerves them, and they leave the scene rapidly.

 

It’s satisfying to watch the insects scurry away.

 

You can apply cinnamon directly to the area you want the ants to leave, without dilution, or you can dilute 10 drops in 8 oz of water or rubbing alcohol. Shake before use, and spray away.

 

If you plan to spray it directly ON the ants, also mix 10 drops of orange essential oil into the spray bottle. (If you’re allergic to cinnamon oil, you can use any of the oils listed above as an alternative).

 

If you plan to spray it on yourself, dilute it with carrier oils like coconut or sweet almond, or dilute with water or alcohol. Cinnamon is a “hot” oil, meaning on people with sensitive skin or children, it can cause skin irritation. Be safe.

 

Flies

I hate flies even more than ants. They’re just as annoying insects, except they ACTIVELY try to get in your face.

 

I have a great article with my favorite recipe to get rid of flies with essential oils here. It’s the best recipe I’ve found, and it actually works. It includes lemongrass and eucalyptus (which have many more uses than fly spray, by the way).

 

Wasps/Hornets

 

  • Mint
  • Eucalyptus
  • Citronella

Mix 8 drops of any of the above oils with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil or any other oil you love. Rub it on your body to keep the suckers away.

 

In this article, I show you how to eliminate wasp nests with liquid castile soap – You can also add the above oils along with orange to the castile soap mixture to kill ‘em dead.

 

Word of warning: You don’t want to use the orange essential oils on your body to repel wasps  – it will ATTRACT them since it smells sweet (wasps are attracted to sweet smells), and it can trigger photosensitivity (potentially causing some nasty burns) if you plan to remain outdoors.

 

(Orange is otherwise VERY safe to use – just avoid it on areas that will be uncovered if you plan to be out in the sun for a while.)

 

Mosquitoes

Summertime is mosquito time on our farm. With all the poop we have, the rotten insects LOVE to build nests and breed….and freeload off our livestock.

 

Whenever we go outside, I grab my purple spray bottle containing the following oils (in equal parts, mixed with 8 oz of water). As a bonus, we all smell better.

 

Citronella : Everyone knows that citronella repels mosquitoes, and it’s my go-to oil to repel ‘em. You can mix it (in a roller bottle) with any of the oils we discuss below for a more powerful solution that’s convenient to put on.

 

Eucalyptus: Eucalyptus oil has been used since the 1940s to repel mosquitoes, and is approved by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as an effective ingredient in mosquito repellent.

 

Lavender: Lavender essential oil is great for relaxing and smelling good, but did you also know it can repel mosquitoes? Lavender can also be used to support healthy skin!

 

Ticks

Ahh…ticks. The lovely buggers that gave me lyme disease about 10 years ago. That was not fun…lots of yogurt, since I couldn’t eat anything else while I recovered.

 

These days, our chickens do a pretty good job of keeping the population down (yet another bonus to keeping a backyard flock), but if you plan to go camping or take a walk in the woods, here’s some essential oils you can put in a roller bottle or a spray bottle (along with water or alcohol – rubbing alcohol stays on longer) to repel the dirty insects.

 

You can mix and match 8 drops of oil with 8 oz of water or alcohol:

 

  • Rosemary
  • Lemongrass
  • Cedar (cedarwood oils)
  • Peppermint
  • Thyme
  • Eucalyptus

 

The CDC has even said that the above are safe essential oils to repel insects (specifically ticks!)