A Dress-Your-Lawn-Ornament Creation Story


outsider art sculpture

A handmade, life-sized Trumpet Man stands in our flowerbed near the street. One of his steel hands clutches an old dented trumpet, the other holds a wine bottle. He was made by my son Kirby, who has taken no art classes yet taught himself to weld and used those skills to create this utterly fantastic piece of art in an afternoon. Kirby says he measured his own torso and limbs to get the correct proportions. What he’s created is not only proportional but full of personality. Trumpet Man reminds me of a blues player standing on stage, fully present in that pause before the performance begins. It’s a powerful piece of outsider art and I love it.

I’m also a silly person right to the core and Trumpet Man makes it too damn easy to express that silliness. During the summer he wears a fedora, tilted at an ever more rakish angle as the weeks go by. At Christmas time I give him a Santa hat. Through the depths of winter he sports an old scarf that blows around in the wind with cheerful zest. My favorite look for him is a Viking helmet with horns (something my daughter assures me is not historically accurate).

outsider art, Viking hat

I won’t apologize for my delight in dressing him up, but there’s some history* behind this. I say Trumpet Man is an edgier version of the dress-your-lawn-ornament-goose thing that continues in some Midwestern lawns. In our area, there are Amish produce stands that still sell handmade outfits for these geese. They’re available online too.

lawn goose

Not kidding. Seasonal goose outfits are still a thing around here. mileskimball.com

I may actually know the creation story behind putting clothes on yard adornments.** Settle back my dears and I shall tell you.

In a Cleveland suburb in the 60’s, a nice modest family lived in a nice modest house. Their children rode bikes, played with neighbor kids, graduated from local schools, and went off to make their way in the world. One of those grown children was a nice young man who ended up working in an Asian country. When he came home to visit he brought gifts from the land where he lived. The gift he gave his parents was a large stone Buddha meant to be placed in the yard as a blessing.

His mother was uncomfortable putting it outside. Maybe this had to do with the preponderance of Catholic neighbors. Maybe this had to do with the utter foreignness of Buddhism to 1960’s suburban Ohio. Maybe she was uncomfortable with his nudity.

The statue wore little more than a robe, open at the chest. Surely he was too exposed to the elements. Surely he was embarrassed to find himself in so conservative a neighborhood. What did she do? She made Buddha some outfits.

He wore a yellow slicker and yellow rain hat in spring. He had a straw hat and t-shirt in summer. He sported a sweater with the local team’s insignia in the fall. Naturally he wore a Santa outfit in the winter.

She didn’t see anything wrong dressing the spiritual founder of a 2,500-year-old religion this way. She was treating him like a member of the family. And that bit of kitsch, my friends, may have been reborn as Dress-Your-Lawn-Ornament geese. Samsara baby!

Not THE statue, but you get the idea.

Not THE statue, but you get the idea.


*There’s a much longer history behind lawn ornamentation if you count garden hermits.  These were, believe it or not, living people paid to dress like druids and live as unwashed hermits on wealthy estates.

**A friend told me this story years ago. To my chagrin, I’ve forgotten who.

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Year Round Indoor Salad Gardening, Fuss Free

From seeds ….


to sprouts.

to sprouts.

I’ve grown sprouts for decades, mostly when I need sprouted mung beans for stir fry or sprouted broccoli for a healthy smoothie. You’ve probably done this. It requires nothing more than a mason jar, some seeds, and a sock stretched over the opening. (Or a straining lid)

I’ve also grown microgreens. Basically they’re adorable little miniature arugula and Swiss chard plants grown in trays under grow lights and harvested so early it feels murderous to cut them down.

Then I encountered a process that is halfway between sprout and microgreen, yet is ridiculously easy to grow.

The process was developed by gardener Peter Burke, who loved greens but found his busy schedule didn’t give him time to fuss with grow lights, heat mats, or greenhouse enclosures. He didn’t give up. After many experiments he discovered a technique to grow fresh greens any time of year.

Burke calls these nutrient-packed tender greens “soil sprouts.”His method provides a harvest of salad greens in a little over a week with almost no work.  Staggered plantings can provide several pounds of fresh greens every day. You don’t need a south-facing window, in fact to grow the firm stems of these plants you need to start them in the dark.

Inspired by his new book, Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening: How to Grow Nutrient-Dense, Soil-Sprouted Greens in Less Than 10 days, I gave it a try. I used potting soil I had in the barn, loaf pans I’d brought from my parents’ house, and some old (I mean old) seeds I had abandoned in our refrigerator crisper drawer for a few years.

I was pretty sure the seeds were too old to sprout and the area I’d chosen was too cold. I violated one of Mr. Burke’s rules, sneaking in an extra dose of water on the second and third days. The seeds were slower to sprout than his timeline predicted, but then again, I was using old seeds in a cold bedroom. To harvest I cut them close to the soil using kitchen scissors, sprinkling these nutritious pea, radish, and broccoli sprouts over our salads. What great salads— fresh, alive, and scrumptious.

Then I violated another of Mr. Burke’s rules, leaving the more slow-to-sprout seedlings where I’d planted them. In another few days I had more soil sprouts to cut. I replanted several trays, but still couldn’t bear to toss out the soil that was still sprouting with my first plantings. Instead I’m letting a few of them grow (again, in violation of his rules) well past the point where they should have been cut. They’re still flavorful, offering wonderful texture and complexity to winter salads.

Thanks to my not-so-well-behaved experiments, I bought several of his books as gifts for friends who are as garden-crazy or health-crazy as I am. They too think he’s on to something. You’ve got nothing to lose giving his methods a try. I suspect you’ll be a soil sprout aficionado too.

If you’re interested, you’ll need seeds to sprout, potting soil, compost (we used well-rotted cow manure from out back),  kelp meal, some paper (newspaper, paper towels, whatever), and some trays (even a baking dish) to plant in. I bet you’ll be surprised how easy this is and how delightful these soil sprouts are in a stiry-fry, salad, or wrap. Let your windowsills come alive!


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Praying Kind


Praying Kind


I’m not much for church-y praying.

Especially the kind where you say

somebody else’s words,

expecting them to snag off you

like a match

dragged across the sandpaper

of your particular circumstances

so as to flare right up to heaven,

lighting your miseries

for some of God’s attention.


But when a siren’s whine cuts close

I can’t keep myself from passing words through

my chest to add whatever holiness I possess,

saying “oh Lord give em strength,”

before turning back to shelling peas

or stacking firewood.


And I think it’s like prayer

to farm, mindful

that plants and animals

need to be exactly what they are,

seeing as nature is God drawing circles

for us to learn the shape of things.


Still, when I pass a big dairy farm

where hundreds of cows never walk in sunshine,

never eat green grass

growing so close they can smell it,

never get to suckle their calves,

I put in mind the quiet peace

of our own cows on pasture,

and I send that peace out

to every confined creature.

If that’s prayer,

then I’m the praying kind.



Published in the poetry collection, Tending.

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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 head over to Elements Gallery in Peninsula where they carry out honey.

Bit of Earth Farm honey


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 , , , , , | 5 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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