Ask a Homesteader: Dear Jessica…
Welcome to our very first edition of Ask a Homesteader. I’m so excited to see all the wonderful questions pouring in. Let’s get started shall we…
Dear Jessica, what is the best way to get rid of ornamental Ginger? If I remove what I can then cover it with paper etc. will that be enough? – Christine from Sydney
Hi Christine! There are several types of ornamental ginger, but all of them can be bad news to your garden if they are allowed to grow unconstrained. The first thing you’ll want to do is remove as much as you possibly can. Soak down the area the ginger is growing before getting started. The moisture will prevent bits of the root from breaking off (because even the tiniest bit of root could cause new ginger to grow). Pull up as much of the root as you can while using a trowel to loosen the soil.
Once you feel confident you’ve gotten as much out as you can, spray liberally with a natural herbicide (here’s a good recipe for making it or you can buy one like this). You will want the area to be well saturated. After that, cover with a thick layer of cardboard or black plastic. This should take care of your ornamental ginger.
It should be mentioned that this is not a plant you want to toss in your compost bin.
Dear Jessica, is it too late in the Midwest to grow peas? – Syndie from ???
Hi Syndie! Peas are one of my favorite vegetables because you can plant them almost any time during the growing season. They are frost tolerant so they can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring and summer crops will thrive through a light frost or two. We stagger our plantings so new seeds are going in the ground every few weeks from spring to mid-August.
The reason we can plant so late into the season is because our peas are grown in partial shade and we don’t get too much extreme heat. Both of those factors take care of the one thing peas hate: extremely high temperatures. If you are in the northern midwest, you are good to go. If you are in the southern midwest, go ahead and sow your seeds in an area where the peas will be sheltered from the beating sun.
Dear Jessica, what combination of hay seeds should we plant in our field for sheep? – Kim from Michigan
Hi Kim! I’m no sheep expert (I have goats who prefer to browse instead of graze), but thankfully I have some wise friends. Timothy grass is a good economical choice, but it’s a one hit wonder. Once they’ve gnawed it down, it’s done for the season. Baraula is a great all around grass seed that seems popular with several of my shepherding friends.
Now again, I’m not a sheep person, but if you are using a rotational system where you plant gardens in the sheep pasture after they’ve cleared it, I think legumes rock. Legumes may also be a great option if you are trying to improve soil conditions for future pasture. They are the soil fixers of the world. Hula New Zealand Clover is an excellent option (though there seems to be concern from a few farmers that use it about it causing bloat – others say they’ve never had a problem). Bird’s Foot Trefoil is another excellent legume option this is non-bloating if that’s a concern for you.
Dear Jessica, I’ve been wanting to get some laying hens for awhile now and I was wondering if I made the run big enough if I can put my two 3yr old male rabbits in with them. They would have their regular hutch attached for bed and chickens would have a separate laying area attached to the run. – Lisa from ???
Hi Lisa! I’m all for maximizing the way I use my space, but I have a couple concerns. The first is that I fear the rabbits could be picked on. Granted, there are some very docile chickens and some very “hopped up” rabbits, bit I think the two would not really mesh well. Having said that, my friend Terry from HenCam has been doing it for years without much incident.
A few other things to consider before diving in to cohabitation: chicken feed is not good for rabbit diets. You would need to keep the chicken’s feed somewhere that they can access it, but the rabbits can’t. Rabbit feed isn’t bad for chickens, but it might be expensive if they decided to eat it instead of their own food. Also, rabbits are quite sensitive to cocci (a parasite that can be found in chicken feces that can cause intestinal disease) so cleanliness of the common area is going to be very important.
Dear Jessica, can you pasteurize milk in a pressure canner? – Linda from West Virginia
Hi Linda! If you can milk for long term storage (which is a good option if that’s what your goal is) it will be ultra-pasteurized. The heat of the pressure canner will kill off just about everything, but you will still have milk, so it’s a trade-off.
It’s worth mentioning that pressure canned milk cannot be used for cheese making since the heat destroys the integrity of the calcium which prevent curdling. If that’s okay with you, my sources inform me that you want to can at 240º with 10lbs of pressure for 25 minutes.
Do you have a question for the homesteader? Email me at [email protected] with DEAR JESSICA in the subject line.
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