How To Sweeten Your Gift-Giving

Handing it over with a smile, naturally, sweetens any gift. But you can give literal sweetness too. With honey.

Give a jar of honey as a stand-alone gift or pair it with just about any present.

~Wrap up pillowcases and give with honey, wishing the recipient sweet dreams.

~Wrap up a book and give with honey because knowledge is sweet.

~Wrap up a housewarming present along with honey, saying “May life here be golden.”

~Wrap up a wedding gift and give with honey because, like true love, honey is good forever. (True! Well, at least the honey part.)


If you live in the Northeast Ohio area, consider buying raw local honey from us at Bit of Earth Farm. We have it available in standard half pound and pound jars, bulk half gallon jars, and charming cork-topped Muth jars. Pick up in here Litchfield or, if you’re not too far, we’ll deliver.a


Find out all need about our honey and pricing here.

And consider the following special honey and poetry book pairing: 

WELDON cover oct 25 (1)


With any purchase of honey, we offer a reduced price of $10 on Tending, a poetry collection written here on Bit of Earth Farm (available on Amazon for $14). Happy to sign your copy!

“Laura Grace Weldon employs radical empathy to enter into the hidden lives of rutabaga, cows, the neighborhood bully, and the beating heart of life itself. Playful, curious, sensual, she aims to open the reader’s eyes and heart.” ~Alison Luterman, author of See How We Almost Fly and The Largest Possible Life



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Best of the Net: Poultry Raising Hacks

best DIY chicken and duck raising advice

Edgar Hunt, artist

It’s impossible to keep up with all the online advice about raising poultry. It’s harder yet to filter questionable ideas from solidly good ideas. I sifted through over 100 sites to come up with the most useful hacks for a recent article and found dozens of fantastic ideas. Here are a few of the best.

Feeding frugally

The Garden Coop: build grazing frames to give chickens access to fresh grasses.

Attainable Sustainable: keep a vermicomposter to add protein, let chickens scratch in compost, and other ideas

The 104 Homestead: make a solar trap to collect insects

The Ozark House: sprout seeds to grow nutritious fodder, clever way to maximize grain

Bit of Earth Farm: invite friends and neighbors to save garden waste (like giant zucchini) and seasonal decorations (like Jack o’Lanterns) for your flock


Making stationary coops and chicken tractors  

The City Chicken: all sorts of coops fashioned from things like a broken tent gazebo, dog kennel, and construction scraps.

Backyard Chickens: coop from an unused shed

Fresh Eggs Daily: converting a dog house to a coop

Instructibles: duck house made from a cable spool


DIY chicken chunnels 

Suburban Homesteading: chicken chunnel ideas

Homestead Lifestyle: chicken chunnel tutorial

Chicken Tunnel Man: permaculture use of chicken chunnel


Making temporary pens  

Attainable Sustainable: create a pen from an old table using cable ties

Backyard Chickens: turn a trampoline frame into a pen

Make a waterer

Natural Chicken Keeping: make a waterer from a glass canning jar and glass dish

BackYard Chicken: use watering nipples for a mess-free waterer that fills outside the fence.

Farm Folly: build a large automatic waterer that doesn’t have to be refilled often

Eric Seider: set up a reservoir with a float valve to keep the water clean

Frankie Makes: modify a five gallon waterer for ducks

Make a feeder

Backyard Chicken Lady: make a feeder out of PVC pipe

Bless This Mess: use five gallon pails for both feeder and waterer

Backyard Chickens: build a feeder out of plywood

cheap hacks for raising chickens and ducks

All this research ended up in a longer article you can find by clicking HERE

Click to Enlarge Image

Raising Chickens and Ducks With Ingenuity and DIY Hacks

Posted in chickens, ducks and geese, frugality | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

October Glories

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” ~Albert Camus

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. George Eliot

Every month is lovely in its own way, but none is more perfect than October. A cool breeze carrying the season’s scent while geese fly overhead, bees hum around the last flowers, and weeds wave their final farewells. Best of all, the soul nourishing sight of bright leaves against vivid blue skies.

Here are a few glories we find here today.


Lovely fungi sprouting on the path to the barn.

“Fungi are the grand recyclers of the planet and the vanguard species in habitat restoration.” Paul Stamets

Lovely shrooms sprouting on the path to the barn.

One can never have too much basil on hand.

One can never have too much basil on hand.

Last of the basil growing in pots on the porch

Parisian round carrots.

Parisian round carrots.

and two big pots of carrots, waiting to be nabbed for a snack.

TRumpet Man made by Kirby Weldon.

Trumpet Man made by Kirby Weldon.

Trumpet Man,  wearing a new hat.
A few moments of gathering, soon to become dinner.

A few moments of gathering.

The garden, still brimming with possibilities, some for tonight’s dinner,

Red Kuri squash

Red Kuri squash

and some for the season to come.

Brussels sprouts, hiding under sheltering leaves.

Brussels sprouts, hiding under sheltering leaves.

This time of year harvesting is easy,

Squash still maturing on the vine.

Squash still maturing on the vine.

especially because there’s no pressure to pull a single weed.

I'm the only one here who likes nasturtium flowers in salads.

I’m the only one here who likes nasturtium flowers in salads.

Some flowers are still happily blooming,

It's all about the seeds now.

It’s all about the seeds now.

others are lovely in old age.

There are frost warnings. They give me a good excuse to spend time outdoors picking the last of the rainbow chard, beans, and other tender vegetables. Such bliss.

I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne






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Cooking For Chickens

cooking to make nutrients accessible for chickens

I tend to snort when I see posts like “10 Enrichment Ideas for Chickens.” Apparently others find the topic less snort-worthy; Google shows 907,000 results for the search “bored chickens.”

Yet here I am, cooking for chickens.

No, I’m not standing at the stove in a vintage apron whipping up a Vegetable and Goat Cheese Terrine to offer my pampered poultry. But I am checking on a big pot of food I’m cooking for our birds.

Wasting nutrients bothers me. There’s very little food tossed out in our house. Many leftovers go to the animals. So do garden flubs like cracked tomatoes, giant cucumbers, and strawberries with bug bite marks. But some foods aren’t chicken-friendly unless they’re cooked.

Most of what I cook for the birds are potato peels.  Chickens can’t eat them raw. (And they shouldn’t eat any potatoes, raw or cooked, that have a hint of green. The color indicates the presence of a toxin called solanine.) But they happen to love cooked potatoes. After cooking potatoes for my family, I use the same starch-rich hot water to boil the peels for them.

I also save onion ends, rutabaga peels, and carrot peels to boil. Our chickens largely avoid these vegetables in the raw state, but gobble them up once they’re cooked.

I cook other fowl things too.

Like any creature, chickens lose interest in a particular food if given it too much of it. During our yearly applesauce-making marathon the chickens eagerly eat peels from the first bushel of apples we process. Once we’re onto the second bushel they ignore the peels completely. So I save the rest of the peels and cook them the next day. Those tender cooked peels somehow renew their gustatory enthusiasm.

When I cleaned out the pantry I found packages of pasta bought years ago at an Asian market. I’m the only one in this family who likes clear mung bean noodles or greenish yam noodles tossed in a stir fry, but I’m trying to limit refined carbs these days, so I’ve been clearing out the backlog by boiling these noodles every now and then for the chickens.

I’ve also unearthed legumes I grew and dried years ago.  Probably not viable as seeds, but great to cook into soft and edible food for our fowl friends.

So, yes, I’m cooking for chickens. It feels productive, even satisfying, to turn uneaten nutrients into something edible. Besides, I find a warm pot bubbling on the stove adds a little welcome heat to the house on these chilly evenings. But….



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Biggest Change Yet

About once a year my daughter Claire asks me to lop a few inches off her long hair. We stand on the back porch where I brush it, always telling her that it glows gold and bronze in the sun. I inexpertly trim away the length she requests. Then, without a moment’s ceremony, we toss the locks over the porch rail onto the grass.

There they are scattered by the wind and washed by the rain. Some strands may end up woven into bird nests or fluffed around baby bunnies. Some surely return their carbon, nitrogen, and other constituents back into nature’s elaborate cycles. With the little I know about science I think of the sugar snap peas that Claire picked off the vine to eat, thereby contributing nutrients to the hair we just cut off, now tossed back onto that same land.

Claire has been, all the years we’ve had animals, the main person who made our little homestead work. She went out back several times a day no matter what the conditions: blizzard, extreme heat, driving rain, floods. She did this whether she was sick or studying for college exams or volunteering all day. She fed and tended livestock. She cleaned barns, spread manure, hauled feed, and led our steers on their final long walk. She paid close attention to the flora and fauna around her with her the aliveness she brings to everything. (For a glimpse, here are some of her pictures.) Perhaps those thousands of hours outdoors were part of what inspired her to major in biology.

Claire vowed to stay here until the end of her beloved cow Isabelle’s life. A woman of her word, she did. This week she has moved into her own lovely place with room for her many aspirations. We’re completely thrilled for her.

Her dad and I are now the ones heading out back several times a day in a pale imitation of Claire’s steadfast determination. Each time I walk past the last few strands of her hair on the grass I pause to see it glow gold and bronze in the sun.



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August Idyll

Bringing summer indoors.

Bringing summer indoors.

Ah, the quiet heat of August. At this point in the summer I no longer care about weeding. I tell myself weeds are improving the ground (they are, really) and shading our sun-parched soil.

Besides, we have to muster up the energy to start canning soon.

Daily tomato pickings.

Including these cheeky ones.

We’re eating lots of kale, chard, new potatoes, and cukes. Powdery mildew is already rampaging through my squash plants, but they’re still producing a few zucchini here and there.

Beans. So many beans!  We’re eating them in salads, stir fries, and making them into dilly beans. Some I leave on the vine to mature so I can shell and dry them for winter use and for next year’s seeds.

Here’s today’s haul, ready to turn into supper.

Every year I make fresh new gardening mistakes. This year a few rows of seedlings kept washing away in all our spring storms. I’d grab some seeds and start over, often in haste, not always keeping track of which row I was replanting with what. That explains why we have (ahem) three substantial rows of rutabagas. Yeah, we’ll be eating lots of those.

Milkweed is doing its caterpillar-luring thing.

Sunflowers are popular with pollinators.


Make that doubly popular.

Queen Anne’s lace is bobbing and curtsying in the wind.

The noble thistle is doing its bristly best to improve the soil.

And I’ve given up pulling Joe pye weed. In part that’s because they grow deep roots very quickly, making them practically impossible to pull out. I’ve decided they’re wildflowers and enjoy their lovely blooms.

While watering yesterday I happened upon this malva, overlooked and nearly parched to death. I’m heartened to see that, even though its leaves are reduced to lacework, it’s still budding and blooming. Nature is full of hope. (Yes, I watered it!)

In my opinion, the best way to spend time outdoors in August is by reading on a shady porch or under a friendly tree, cool glass of something at hand. That’s where I’m headed. Right. Now. Hope you are too.

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Grass Knows Something

All things in nature are alive with intelligence we cannot entirely comprehend.

Inspired by reading the work of naturalist naturalist Henry Beston, I wrote an article asking why we place animal kingdoms below us. My piece, titled “Are You An Anthropocentrist?” is packed with facts but doesn’t truly get to the heart of what I hoped to say.

I found that heart.

It beats resoundingly in a deeply wise essay by Canadian author Luanne Armstrong. She puts into words, beautifully, what I so often think about as I observe the living world around me.

Grass is not only alive, it is responsive, and in its grass way, aware. Grass, mowed, turns into lawns, but given a chance, it will spring up and go wild in a very short time. It will cover sidewalks, parking lots, and walls. People rarely notice grass and yet they walk on grass all the time. They sit on it, lie on it. How many look down and see that the grass is alive?

Current research indicates that grass knows something. The smell of mown grass, which to the human nose seems so pleasant, is actually the smell of pheromones sent out by the grass. It is threatened, calling to pollinating insects. But we don’t hear it as that because we don’t know.

The grass is alive, I can say. But then I stop. What do I mean? Does the grass have consciousness, emotions, intelligence? I can’t tell. How to translate the grass? The grass looks inert but it is always moving. It grows, changes, exudes pheromones, and sends out root tendrils that find cracks in the strongest concrete. If I lie on the grass, does the grass say hello back from within its grass aliveness?

I may never truly know but it doesn’t matter. The realization of the aliveness of the non-human is the crack in the paradigm, a shift from understanding nature as passive, unfeeling, and mechanical, to seeing the non-human all around us as aware, a huge something in which we, as humans, participate but can never control, that we can study, become aware of, learn about and find many patterns of translation.

Read her entire essay here.

And check out Ms. Armstrong’s recent book, The Light Through the Trees: Reflections on Farming.

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