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Bug Jugs, Homemade Herbicide, Garden Dust

If you're a backyard orchardist and garden enthusiast here are three recipes to keep your fruit trees pest free, kill weeds, and repel cabbage worms. Best of all - the ingredients are right in your kitchen or available at a garden center.

'Bug jugs' protect fruit trees by trapping apple maggots and moth larvae. The weed control recipe is a safe herbicide that controls vegetation around young trees and kills garden weeds. And the third recipe for garden dust effectively controls cabbage worms and larvae. These recipes are safe to use around kids, pets, and pollinators.

Insect Traps for Fruit Trees

Fruit trees need special care; pruning, dormant oil, weed suppression and pest control. Here's a solution that's a safe and effective control to protect fruit from pest damage.

Safe, Alternative Pesticide and Herbicide Recipes

Bug Jugs

  • clean gallon jug
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 banana peel
  • enough water to fill the jug 1/3 full

Tape the cap to the bottom of the jug (for easy disposal because the jug will be full of gross, dead pests). Place the banana peel inside the jug, add the remaining ingredients.

After the blossoms are set hang one jug per inch of tree diameter. Use wide twine or a soft cloth tied through the jug's handle to hang them. Don't use thin string or fishing line because it cuts into the tree's protective bark.

Weed Control

Eradicate and control weeds use the following recipe, It's is very effective and with a few precautions it's safe to apply.

Homemade Herbicide:

Mix all the ingredients together. 20% vinegar is available at farm and garden supply stores or through online retailers. 

Wear gloves and eye protection, 20% vinegar can burn on contact.

When applying  in small areas, or to kill weeds in close proximity to desirable plants, use a dish sponge wand filled with this solution. Wipe the leaves of undesirable plants.

For larger areas use with a garden sprayer.

Apply in dry, warm weather. A second application may be necessary for tougher weeds.

Be careful - this mixture will kill all plants, both desirables and weeds.

Safe, Alternative Pesticide and Herbicide RecipesControl Garden Pests

The final recipe is for controlling garden pests, especially cabbage worms.

Garden Dust

  • 1 cup Diatomaceous earth or all-purpose flour
  • 3 TBS Cayenne pepper

Sift the ingredients together and apply with a garden duster or use a screen sifter (your kids sandbox sifter works great for this) dust plants in the morning while they're wet with dew.

Diatomaceous earth is available at garden centers, farm supply stores and online. It will repel a larger variety of pests than household flour, but we've been successful using both.

Apply this mixture a couple of times per week or after it rains.

These three recipes are a practical and powerful alternative to harsh chemicals.

Happy Gardening!

 

Happy Earth Day!

 Actively participate in healing the earth.
Here's what you can do:
  • Don't use pesticides
  • Don't use herbicides
  • Plant bee friendly plants
  •  Permanent pastures cool the earth and prevent erosion
  • Support Grass-based farms
  • If you're buying non-dairy milks; almond, soy, cashew, etc. buy organic
  • One grass-fed steer has the power to heal the earth

Bee Deaths- A Lethal Combination

Bee expert Reed Johnson of The Ohio State University, with support from the Almond Board of California, determined the cause of bee deaths in about 80,000 colonies brought in to pollinate almond trees.
The deaths and deformed brood were caused by a combination of fungicides and pesticides. Each product was deemed "safe" for honey bees.
However, when combined, these products turned lethal. 5% of the bees brought in to pollinate the 2014 almond crop died.
Bee Deaths - A Lethal Combination

One person can make a difference. Be the one!

What is your state doing about factory farms?Great News for Iowa!

Iowa currently has over 10,000 factory farms.  A new bill presented in The Iowa House of Representatives, House file number 203 by  Sharon Steckman (D-53).  proposes a moratorium on new and expanded factory farms.
State senator Claire Celsi (D-21) is introducing companion legislation in the Iowa State Senate.
In Iowa over 750 waterways are impaired due to factory farms and chemical run-off.

Show support for this bill by telling your state representatives that Iowa's environment, and your family's health, is a priority.

Here's More great news...
The Rodale Institute is a pioneer for organic farming methods. They are opening the Midwest Organic Center at Indian Creek Nature Center in Marion, Iowa this summer. They will have an outreach and education center. The Rodale Institute is a great resource for organic farms and farmers transitioning to organic practices.

Organic Farms

 There are 723 organic farms in Iowa, ranking it 5th in the nation. 
Forest Hill Farm is proud to be an Iowa organic farm.
We're committed to the health of the land, livestock and you, our customers.

 

 

 

They're Back....

NIMBY stands for Not In My Backyard. Well, if not in my backyard, then in whose backyard should confinement feedlots go?

Construction at Walz Energy is starting up again. Energy is a misnomer, it's actually a giant feedlot. They are marketing themselves as an energy company, though. Last spring I wrote about the 10,000 head cattle feedlot in Monona, Iowa. This is a LARGE CAFO facility with plans to feed 10,000 head per cycle, with two cycles scheduled per year.
Public hearings expressed great concern about air quality, water quality, and the impact on neighbors. The Walz family operates a small feedlot at the same location. In the summer the stench is over powering and triggers my gag reflex.
Your right to extend your fist ends where my nose begins...
Believe me, the stench of 10,000 cattle in a feedlot will definitely extend beyond the feedlot's reach and hit your nose.
The liquid manure storage lagoon has a capacity of nearly 39 million
gallons.
  • How Much is 39 Million Gallons?

  • 59 Olympic swimming pools
  • The moisture from a 1 inch snowfall over 14,364 acres
  • 750,000 gallons of water flows over Niagara Falls every second, 39 million gallons equals 52 seconds of water flow over Niagara Falls.
In the fall of 2018 the project was shut down and a fine imposed after water quality in Bloody Run Creek was impacted by run-off.
Remember, Iowa's waterways are some of the worst in the nation. Iowa's creeks and streams are polluted with nitrates, chemicals, and animal waste.
Does the Iowa DNR care to prevent further contamination of waterways in the state?
Despite opposition construction is resuming. This spring Walz Energy will submit a revised nutrient management plan (NMP), The DNR requires that a public notice be published, giving ten days to review the NMP and request a public hearing.
Joe Sanfilippo, supervisor of the DNR's environmental field office in Manchester, Iowa say's he is impressed with the contractor, “I think they will be capable of properly bringing the project forward.”

What Can You Do?

Today this facility is in my backyard, in the future, a similar facility might be in yours.
Express your concern with the DNR, local authorities, and environmental groups.
Money talks, vote with your dollars. Don't support CAFO's.
Stop buying conventionally raised beef, pork, and poultry.
The cost is MUCH higher than the price in the checkout line.
Are You A NIMBY?

The Power of One Grass-fed Steer

  • 1 grass-fed steer prevents soil erosion
  • 1 grass-fed steer builds soil’s organic matter
  • 1 grass-fed steer improves soil’s water retention
  • 1 grass-fed steer, when MIG grazed, reverses desertification
  • 1 grass-fed steer prevents 8 pounds of phosphorus from entering waterways
  • 1 grass-fed steer feeds four families healthy meat and heals the environment
  • 1 grass-fed steer removes up to 20,000 pounds of atmospheric carbon from the air
  • 1 grass-fed steer keeps 100 pounds of nitrogen from polluting streams, rivers, and lakes
75% of all grass-fed beef sold in the United Stated is imported. Buying local grass-fed beef supports farmers and restores the environment where you live.

Now, from the power of grass-fed meat to superbugs ...

The latest tests by federal scientists found that nearly 80% of supermarket meat had antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
“Consumers need to know about potential contamination of the meat they eat, so they can be vigilant about food safety, especially when cooking for children, pregnant women, older adults or the immune-compromised,” said Dawn Undurraga, Environmental Working Group’s nutritionist and author of the report.
Those bacteria were resistant to at least one of fourteen antibiotics tested for by the Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System, a federal public health partnership.

Now, Let’s Talk Corn...

Genetically engineered corn seed is “stacked,” with traits. There are three levels of “stacked” corn. Each stack is either; corn borer resistant, rootworm resistant or herbicide resistant. A double stack has two traits, a triple stack has all three.
GMWatch reported that rats fed triple stacked corn developed leaky stomachs.

Now, It's Your Turn...

Put the Power of One Grass-fed Steer to work for you. Feed your family healthy meat that repairs the environment and heals the earth. Avoid products that cause harm to your family and the area you live in.
You have the Power to improve your diet and the earth!

Bird and Flying Insect Populations are on the DeclineWe haven't seen a Red Tailed hawk on this farm in three years. Where have they gone? The barn swallow numbers are declining, too. As a matter of fact there are fewer birds in the area. Their numbers have declined in the last few years. The peripheral area surrounding the timber, where the brambles and wild flowers are abundant, is prime nesting ground. The wild turkeys and pheasants are thriving but the local and migratory bird numbers are dwindling. Bird and Flying Insect Populations are on the Decline

Is Your Windshield Clean?

David Kline, editor of farming magazine has noticed a scarcity of flying insects. He doesn't drive a car but asked drivers if they've noticed a difference. We've noticed. When we take a drive through the countryside the windshield stays clean, not bug splattered. We use to buy special washer fluid to get rid of the bug goo, not anymore.

Here in north east Iowa the helicopters and small planes (the aerial applicators) are unleashing insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides over the crop fields. Our farm is on the Sensitive Crop Registry to protect the bees we raise and our organic status. The sprayers don't fly over our farm which is a contentious issue for some in the area.

The next time you take a drive notice the windshield. If it's clean think about the possible causes and consequences. Why are the insects and birds disappearing? New studies show the negative effects agricultural chemicals have on developing brains, children's health, behavior and immunity. PLoS ONE links agricultural chemicals to the Decline of flying Insects

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Celebrate Bees

In the early spring, when the apple, peach and cherry trees are blossoming I keep the bees interested in pollinating the fruit trees by cutting the grass very short. This keeps the dandelions down until after the trees have finished blooming. It’s my trick to get bigger fruit crops.

Later in the spring there are still plenty of dandelions to keep the bees happy . And there's a variety of clovers and flowers planted for the bees, too.  It’s a pollinator paradise.

Bee FriendlyCelebrate Bees

On a trip to Seed Savers Exchange I bought Blue Boy Bachelor’s Button, Lambs Ear, and Heritage Farm Poppy seeds. The bees love these.

On our farm the pollinators are safe from  pesticides and herbicides. We’re an organic farm, it’s all about health and quality of life.

Recipes to Help Both You and the Bees

Honey Lemonadecelebrate bees

This lemonade is a great energy booster. Not only does it taste great it helps the honey bees and your local beekeeper.

  • 1 cup Fresh squeezed lemon Juice (if you don’t have a citrus juicer this one works great)
  • 1 cup local honey (support a local beekeeper, don’t by commercial honey, It's probably not be real honey, anyway)
  • 6 cups water
  • Put the honey and lemon juice in a blender and mix at high-speed for one minute.
  • Pour into a pitcher, add  water and ENJOY!
  • You can add fresh fruit, raspberries or strawberries taste great. Adding ginger or mint is an extra tasty treat, too.
  • Meyer lemons make this even better, they’re sweeter than regular lemons. When they’re available buy them in bulk and freeze the juice.

Bug Jugs and Bee Safe HerbicideCelebrate Bees

Plant bee friendly gardens and keep them pesticide free. These recipes protect your fruit trees and kill weeds without using glyphosate.

Save the Bees!

 

 

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How to Improve Soil Nutrients

Salt the Earth

I spent the last couple of days getting the garden ready. The asparagus bed, pumpkin patch, vegetable garden and orchard trees have been salted to Improve Soil Nutrients.

I read about how to improve soil nutrients and the benefits of sea salt for boosting trace elements in an article from Acres USA, January 2003. This winter I re-read the book Sea Energy Agriculture by Maynard Murray, M.D.

Dr. Murray presents evidence of the declining trace elements of soil. When commercial fertilizers are applied only the basic elements are returned to the soil. The abundance of these; nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and lime initially increase crop yield, however, they block uptake of necessary elements.

The science behind Sea Energy Agriculture is that the chemistry of sea life is naturally disease resistant and nutritionally superior. Sea salts added to soils are properly balanced between trace elements and sodium chloride. The application rate is important, too. The application is reasonable to restore the soil’s missing elements without rendering it useless like Carthage after the Romans salted the earth.

The best defense against disease is good nutrition. That nutrition starts in the soil. Plants take up the minerals which are then distributed to the end consumer whether human, livestock or wildlife. These end crops are nutrient dense and superior in trace elements.

In the past I’ve tried getting the geese to weed the asparagus beds. Instead of pulling out the grass they pulled up all the strawberry plants in the next bed over. This year I’m experimenting by using a high rate of Redmond Salt  to kill the grass in the asparagus bed. The heavier application won’t hurt the crop, instead it will restore elemental nutrients while inhibiting the invasive grasses.

Both  SEA-90 and  Redmond Salt are certified organic (OMRI listed). The difference is where the sea mineral solids are sourced. SEA-90 is from an estuary where sea water is captured and dried. Redmond salt is sourced from deposits in Redmond Utah.

As an experiment both products are being applied separately to the orchard trees and garden. Here on the farm there are two areas with heirloom apple trees, two areas with peach trees and one group of cherry trees of three different varieties. I don’t know whether the difference between the two products will be significant, we’ll find out at the end of the growing season.

Redmond salt is sold by a local supplier, which is convenient. There aren’t any SEA-90 suppliers in our area so I bought enough for half of our vegetable garden and half of the orchard trees through Amazon.

Last fall the pastures were salted with Redmond salt, 50 pounds per acre, to improve the balance of the soil.  This spring we’ll repeat the salt application. We’ve seen great promise in pasture growth using sea solids and the livestock prefer grazing the fields where it’s been applied.

How to Improve Soil Nutrients
Peach Trees

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Organic Certification...Done

Organic Certification
Forest Hill Farm's organic certificate

There are 19,474 organic farmers in the United States. We're proud to be one of them. If you think about it there aren't even enough of us to fill a football stadium on any given Sunday. We're a small group who share our customer's appreciation in healthy living. We value the environment more than the bottom line and believe the health of water, soil, and wildlife are our shared responsibility.

Every year I look forward to our annual organic re-certification visit. Our inspector is great, his name is Gary.  He's a wealth of information and very pleasant to visit with.

 Gary  shared a link to a video featuring Roy Thatcher. Gary inspects Roy's organic farm, too.

I appreciate Roy's hard work and ethics - especially regarding quality. While most farmer's biggest concerned is yield, organic farmers greatest concern is quality. We do our absolute best to provide products that are good for our customers and of the highest quality. I couldn't have said it better myself,  thanks, Roy!

Enjoy the video.

Sometimes, I forget....

...I forget what store-bought eggs taste like, how pale the yolk is.

...I forget that store-bought chicken doesn't have flavor, that the flesh is pale, the texture rubbery. Pastured poultry is superior to conventionally raised in every way.

pastured poultry
pastured poultry

...I forget that pasture raised pigs don't smell bad, the meat is tender, juicy, and the fat is beneficial.

...I forget that most families don't cook with lard. They've never tasted homemade pie crust or biscuits.

...I forget that walking out your front door to pick cherries, raspberries, gooseberries and apples, from the trees you've planted, is a luxury. It's a special benefit of arranging your life differently than most people choose to do.

raspberries
raspberries

...I forget that fresh garden produce is a choice. It's trading your time, planning, and labor in exchange for a plentiful harvest.

I forget that there's nothing sweeter than homegrown peaches or the sight of baby ducklings chasing after a bug.

I forget that most livestock producers don't believe in the restorative powers of MIG grazing. Instead of planning a grazing program they allow their animals to forage randomly. This creates a barren pasture, soil depleted of nutrients, and not enough organic matter or cover crop to control evaporation. These poor decisions, made by many farmers, are a choice. A choice that negatively impacts water quality, wildlife, and climate.

There have been several visitors to the farm recently who've enjoyed the beautiful views and learning about grass based farming. Many of them recall memories of their grandparents farms which were like ours in many ways.

Their grandparents had pigs in the pasture and chickens pecking in the yard. Small orchards provided fruit and cider. Large gardens fed the family and everyone worked together. Picnic tables were sheltered under shade trees where cool breezes relieved the heat of the day.

Sometimes I take for granted that each day is my own. I'm greeted by beautiful surroundings with the people I love and the life we've chosen. Our farming practices are intentionally organic.