Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Making Seed Tape

Hello Fellow Homesteaders!

If you follow my Facebook page, you know I have been working on seed tape. This is the first year I'm trying this out. I am using this for the small seeds that can be directly sown into the ground close together, like root veggies. Let's face it, doing this with corn would sort of be pointless, but I'm sure you still could if you were that ambitious! But for very small seeds, like carrot seed shown here, it can really save on your back and the amount of seed you use. This just looks like a bowl of dirt the seeds are so small! (Of course, there is a bit of dirt in with it, but I promise, there are seeds in there too!)

This is just one of many methods to make seed tape.
1. You'll need toilet paper, 2-ply is most versatile, but you could also use a very thin 1-ply for smaller seeds and a thicker 1-ply for bigger seeds.
2. A bit of flour
3. A cotton swab or toothpick
4. Tweezers
5. Some seeds
6. Some patience!

Take the flour and mix just enough water with it to make a paste. This is the glue that you will use to keep the seeds attached to the TP. You want to be able to easily dab it onto the TP without tearing it, but not so watery as to ruin the seeds. I made mine about the consistency as white school glue.

Then I got my yardstick and rolled out a length of TP. I looked at the back of the seed packet for seed spacing. I plan on thinning my plants, so I put the seeds closer together. These are beets seeds to be planted 2 inches apart and thinned to 4 inches when the plants are growing. I use the intensive gardening spacing, so I ignore the space needed between rows. I placed a dot of glue every 2 inches and had enough room to make 2 rows on a sheet of TP. Then I carefully placed a seed on every dot before the glue dried out. Beet seeds are easy since they are bigger. When I did the carrot seeds, I used tweezers since they are so teeny and hard to get a hold of. For bigger seeds, like beet seeds, I use thicker TP or 2-ply. For smaller seeds, like carrot seeds, I peeled the layers of 2-ply apart and just used one side.

Place another length of TP (or the other half of the 2-ply if you separated them) over the top when you are done placing your seeds. You may want to add some extra glue here and there to hold the 2 pieces together. OR you can also just make one row of seeds on the paper and fold it over lengthwise. This would be ideal if you are making traditional garden rows instead of using intensive spacing.

Then I labeled my seeds, including the variety if I'm planting more than one kind. The carrots here are Danvers Half Long abbreviated DHL. I placed them out to dry, picking them up every so often to be sure I didn't glue them to the table. You could use parchment paper or something like that under them to keep them from sticking also.

When they are all dry (I let them dry overnight just to be safe) I fold them and put them in a container to keep them dry until I'm ready to plant them! When that time comes, just place the amount of seed tape in the space you want and cover it with the appropriate amount of soil for the type of seed you have. For instance: beets need to be planted 1/2 inch down, so I would cover the seed tape with a layer of soil 1/2 deep. Easy peasy!

I can't wait to try these out! It's very tedious to make these but it will all be worth it if it saves me some time and some sore back muscles during planting season. It's also a nice way to break up the monotonous winter. As long as these are kept dry, they should last as long as the seeds do.

Obviously you wouldn't want to do this with seeds you want to start indoors or seeds that need to be spaced very far apart (like squash or broccoli.) Root vegetables, leafy greens, and onions are great candidates for this method. Let me know if you try it out and how you like it!

Happy Gardening!

Jen Hen

Sunday, February 1, 2015

My Eczema Ointment Experiment

Hello Fellow Homesteaders!

If you follow my Facebook page, you've seen me complain about Stitch's eczema flare-ups. I have used some very nice store-bought cream and some home-made salve bought from another homesteader that worked very well. But, being the homesteader that I am, I really wanted to find a way to make a good salve myself. I wanted it to be thinner and cost effective so I could use it more like a lotion over his whole body since his skin tends to be pretty scaly all over. (Ironically enough, his diaper area is always clear.) So, I started searching for home remedies for eczema and came up with several helpful links. I took these ideas and combined them to come up with my own concoction with what I had on hand and it is working well! I use it on him everyday and it has seemed to do the trick.

One of the first things I found was a recipe for Lemon-Balm Oil. I had a lot of dried lemon-balm, so I made this to use as my base. First I crushed up the leaves I had harvested and dried last summer. This bottle was full. (Like my fancy label? Hey, at least it's functional if not pretty...lol!)

I don't have a double-broiler, so I made my own with a small pan and a flat bowl.

Here I added some extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil. I probably would have used all coconut oil, but I was almost out.

And here it is after simmering for about 3 hours. It really added a great fragrance to the rest of the house too!

Then I read a great list of remedies HERE that included chamomile tea. I only had 2 bags left and I decided that if I could make lemon-balm oil, then perhaps I could make chamomile oil too. I made it the same way. I realize now that I probably should have taken it out of the bags first, but it still seemed to work.

Next, I strained everything and, on a whim, decided to add some lanolin while it was still hot. I had quite a bit of lemon-balm oil, so I have another jar full of that by itself.

After it cooled, I added some lavender oil and vitamin E oil to the mix. (Alas, I didn't measure it, just poured some in.) I put the lid on it and put it in the fridge to help it harden up a bit. (The scratches on the lid are there to show that I've already used this lid for food preservation canning so I won't try to use it for that again. I like to keep my old lids around for dry storage and crafts but do not want to get them confused with my new lids for canning.)

It's a lovely dark green color! Makes me feel very crunchy! This came out softer than I would have liked. I wish I had some beeswax to add to it, or perhaps I could have used all coconut oil to make it more firm. Either way, it did come out soft enough so that I could use a thin layer over his whole body with little effort. This little jar should last us quite awhile.

So, there you have it! I hope to have some calendula flowers saved this year and perhaps I will add that to the next batch. There are several options that you could use in something like this and I really like that. I prefer to use the things I have on hand instead of having to buy a bunch of specialty ingredients and having several options makes that easier. Do you make your own oils and salves? If so, share your link in the comments! I love home-made items!

Happy Homesteading!

Jen Hen