7 Dangerous Canning Mistakes You Are Making

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Each day, I see articles floating around encouraging dangerous canning mistakes that could cause someone to get sick. If you happen to make one of these mistakes, you might regret it.

Canning is fun and exciting. There is something so refreshing and rewarding about seeing shelves of brightly colored jars. It feels even better when the jars are full with produce you grew throughout the year. A lot of hard work goes into those canning jars.

The last thing you want to do is make a dangerous canning mistake that could lead to you or a loved one getting sick. So, I want to go through some of these canning recommendations that I see frequently.

Before I get started, I know someone will think or say “well, my grandparents did it and they lived.” That is probably true. Chances are your grandparents and great-grandparents did some of these dangerous canning mistakes.

But, we know better now.

Scientists, through extensive studies, have created safety recommendations that ensure what you are canning doesn’t contain dangerous bacteria. The National Center for Home Food Preservation is one of those research institutes that are taking the time to make the safety recommendations.

Cases of poisoning and death from bad canning is rare; that is true. But, it happens! In 2015, an Ohio church potluck experienced a botulism outbreak that caused one death and 20 illnesses. The outbreak was due to badly canned produce. It happens, and you don’t want it to be you or your family that falls victim.

So, let’s take a look at the mistakes you want to avoid.

Mistake # 1 – Flipping Jars Upside Down to Seal

Unfortunately, I still see people recommending this route for sealing jars. It is true that your lid will probably seal, but that doesn’t guarantee it is a solid and secure seal. The jars might seal at first, but later come unsealed. Then, the food will spoil without you realizing.

The biggest reason you don’t want to make this mistake is that the liquids aren’t at high enough temperatures to kill off dangerous spores in the food. One of the reasons that you immerse the jars into a canner is to kill off bacteria. You want the temperature to be so high that no mold can continue to grow.

Mistake # 2 – Reusing Lids that Are Meant for One Use

I know; no one wants to buy lids for each jar. However, the lids you buy from Ball or Wal-Mart aren’t meant to be reused. There is an exception to this rule – Tattler Lids. These lids are more expensive, but they are meant for multiple uses and worth the investment. If you use the wrong lids multiple times, your seal won’t be secure, and your food could spoil. Seriously, no one wants that to happen.

Mistake # 3 – Canning Untested Recipes

Developing your own canning recipes is hard and risky. Using old recipes is also dangerous. You want to make sure you have the right level of acid, the right headspace, processing time and more. I highly recommend that you use reputable recipes. When I first started canning, I purchased the Ball Canning Book. Their new book called – The All New Book of Canning and Preserving – has 300 recipes. It is a wonderful resource with safe canning recipes.

Mistake #4 – Using Paraffin Wax to Seal the Jars

Please, if the recipe tells you to use wax to seal the jars, walk (or close it) away immediately. I understand the idea behind it. The wax is supposed to create a secure seal to keep air out and stopping the growth of bacteria, supposedly. I know that my grandmother talked about doing this when she was younger.

Just like flipping the jars, using paraffin wax doesn’t destroy the bacteria and spores already inside of the food. You can’t guarantee the food is safe, so stick to the lids and rims!

Mistake #5 – Canning Milk, Butter and Flour Products

You might see cream of mushroom canned in the stores and assume you can safely can it at home. The answer is a huge NO. Why? It is because companies create their canned goods at a much higher temperature than we could ever generate in our homes.

One of the most common mistakes I see is an article floating around recommending canning butter by ladling melted butter into jars and flipping them over. There is a whole lot of wrong going on there.

Butter is a low acid food, which means it has to be pressure canned! Botulism loves lower acid, so it can thrive in that environment. The same goes for milk. You cannot safely can milk by heating it and putting it into jars. As it stands right now, there are no safe ways to safely can milk and butter.

The same goes for flour products. You might want to can chicken noodle soup, but it isn’t possible to do at home what they do in large factories. Instead, opt to can chicken soup and add the noodles later.

Mistake #6 – Not Checking for Air Bubbles

It might seem like a silly step. Do air bubbles really cause a problem? The answer is yes, they do. You can run the tool included with your canning set in your jar or use a sterilized butter knife. Air bubbles can give space for spores and bacteria to thrive and live. The step takes 30 seconds, just do it!

Mistake # 7 – Using a Water Bath Canner for Low Acid Food

The last mistake might be the biggest and most dangerous. It is a pet peeve of mine. There are dozens of foods that you cannot safely can in a water bath canner. The difference comes from the acid in the food. The higher amount of acid, the less likely botulism can survive. Foods that have a pH level of 4.6 or HIGHER need to be canned in a pressure canner.

This means your produce in the garden, such as green beans, carrots and corn, must be canned in a pressure canner. If you are canning soups or meat, a pressure canner is necessary. If you opt to use a water bath canner instead, the temperatures will not be high enough to kill off the botulism spores. Even if you boil the jars for hours, it still isn’t enough.

Jellies, jams and pickles are meant for water bath canning, not your produce, meats or soups.

 

I hope you aren’t making one of these 7 dangerous canning mistakes. If you are, remember that once we know better, we do better. Now that you know the method is unsafe, you can change and ensure your family eats only safely preserved foods.

Easy DIY Dryer Sheets

When we began our journey to a natural lifestyle, I wanted to switch everything to homemade. I knew eliminating everything quickly would overwhelm me, so I started small. One of the first things I made by myself was DIY dryer sheets.

Why dryer sheets? There is a lot of chemicals in those store bought dryer sheets that aren’t good for your body. They can seep into your body from your clothes. It is actually quite scary. For example, dryer sheets contain sodium lauryl sulphate, which is an industrial degreaser. When this chemicals breaks down, it release 1,4-dioxane, which is believed to be a human carcinogen. There are studies that show 1,4-dioxane leads to cancer in animal studies. That’s scary! I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to expose my children to these chemicals.

Of course, there are chemicals everywhere, but one step at a time is a great idea to follow. So, how do you make homemade dryer sheets? I promise it is easy!

How to Make DIY Dryer Sheets

You will need:

  • Fabric cut into squares or rags
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • glass jar that closes, such as a mason jar
  • 10-12 drops lavender essential oil (or whatever scent you want to give your clothes)

Remember, these dryer sheets will not reduce the static in your clothes. Dryer balls are a great choice if you want to reduce the static. These dryer sheets will just add a lovely scent to your clothes.

  1. Cut the fabric into strips or fold the rags. Put them into your glass jar. I was able to fit around 15 fabric squares into my mason jar.
  2. Mix the 1/2 cup of white vinegar with 10 to 12 drops of your selected essential oil. I like lavender, but combinations of lemon and tangerine, lavender and chamomile or spearmint would be yummy.
  3. Pour the essential oil and vinegar mixture into the glass container with the fabric. Close it up and shake.
  4. When you are ready to use these dryer sheets, wring them out and add four to five fabric squares per load. When the dryer is done, just put them right back into the jar.

How simple is that? The process takes 10 minutes at most, and you are protecting your family from harsh chemicals along with saving money. Nothing is better than that.

Have you tried homemade dryer sheets? Let me know what you think of them!

 

Creating Your Successful Suburban Homestead Dream

Homesteading in the suburbs can feel like an impossible feat. You have dreams of living off the land, raising your own meat, and being self-sufficient. How is doing any of this possible when your neighbors are close?

I understand; I felt this way for a long time too. When we purchased our house on a single acre, that was all we could afford. Land is expensive here with the booming fracking industry. No one wants to cough up land unless it is for a small fortune.

When the homesteading bug bit me, I felt frustrated. I couldn’t accomplish anything with an acre! My husband encouraged me to look at what other people were doing to homestead with an acre. I purchased the Backyard Homesteading book and started surfing Pinterest – isn’t that what everyone does when they feel frustrated?

To my surprise, there are hundreds of suburban homestead articles, and all of them made me realize one thing. I could do this, and you can do too.

A few years later, we are still slowly working on our homestead. Each year, we add something and learn something new from the year before. Homesteading is a personal growth process as well, one that I didn’t expect.

If you are ready to start your suburban homestead dreams, here are my top tips.

Take a Look at Your Land Attributes

Instead of looking at the size as a hindrance, look for the positive features. For example, our front yard is a quarter of an acre, and it receives full sun. It is flat with rich soil, the ideal spot for our garden. I tried to garden in our backyard, but I gave up after a few years. The neighbors might think that turning my front yard into a garden is strange, but it works.

We also have maple trees on our land. We have a hill on our property, which is perfect for sled riding. The back of our property has a spring, heavily wooded area and plenty of shade. What does your property have going for it?

Focus on One or Two Tasks at a Time

If you’re like me, it is tempting to start everything at one time. You want to plant a quarter acre garden, buy goats and chickens, plant a fruit orchard and berry patch, grow culinary and medicinal herbs, and sell at a farmer’s market. Ambitious, much?

Unfortunately, that’s not practical or smart. You will get burnt out quickly. Instead, pick two tasks you want to focus on for that season of the year or even that year. Do you want to get started with vegetable gardening? Build and plant two to four raised beds. Don’t immediately plant 16 or more. Gardening takes a lot of work and practice. Start small and grow.

Do you have the space for chickens? Start off with a small flock. Yes, you will want to buy all the chickens. Learn how to take care of a small flock first.

Don’t Go into Debt for a Suburban Homestead

This one is huge. Debt is a hindrance. We are in the process of paying off our debt. It is unwise to add more debt to your household during the creation of a suburban homestead. Learn how to do things creatively and cheaply, or save up the cash until it is feasible.

Focus on Skill Building

Homesteading is more than just gardening and raising animals. It involves the developing of skills that encourage living a more self-sufficient lifestyle. What type of skills can you develop for your suburban homestead?

·         Learn how to crochet, knit or sew.

·         How to preserve the harvest through canning, freezing or dehydrating.

·         Starting seeds inside of the house.

·         How to forage for wild greens and herbs.

·         Using dried herbs (purchase online until you can grow them) to make herbal remedies, teas, infused oils and more.

·         Make your own cheese.

·         Bake from scratch.

·         Make your own soaps and personal products.

One of the key things about homesteading is that you want to avoid going to the store as much as possible. You are going to use up what you have, or learn how to make it yourself. Why buy cheese at the store when you can make it at home? You might be thinking, how does that help my homestead? When you can get a milk goat or cow, you already will have the skills to start making cheese or processing the milk.

Make Goals and a Plan

This part is huge! Life without goals and a plan is hard. Homesteading without them is even harder. How do you decide where to expand unless you have a specific goal in mind? Here are a few examples.

·         You set a long term goal to produce half of your grocery needs in five years. Each year, you add something new to reach that goal. Each year, you expand your garden, add more chickens, raise meat rabbits, make space for a goat, plant an orchard, and more. A plan allows you to figure out what you need to do each year to meet this goal.

·         You might want to produce more of your own energy and cut out the middle man. So, you have to learn the laws for your city and start investing in solar panels. You might want to purchase and install a wood burning furnace. If you have a spring on land, you might decide to dig a well. A plan is essential.

Get Your Neighbors Involved

Unlike country living, life in the suburbs involves neighbors within close proximity. You can view this as a hindrance or a benefit, depending on your attitude and outlook. Our one neighbors catch our rabbit that is an escape artist. That’s something, right?

Your neighbors can either support or destroy your dreams, so get them involved. Sell them eggs first. If your lettuce bed is overflowing, tell them to come out and pick some. Give them surplus zucchini and tomatoes. Show them that having a small homestead isn’t an annoyance; it benefits everyone.

Hopefully, your neighbors will be interested in joining as well. If so, you are in luck. Starting a neighborhood cooperative is a dream for me. Instead of everyone having the same things, you each trade and swap. I might have a huge flock of chickens, but you have multiple hives of bees. I give you eggs; you give me honey. If your neighbors are interested in what you are doing, don’t hesitate to talk to them about getting involved!

Expect Failures and Setbacks of a Suburban Homestead

As with any dreams and plans, you should expect setbacks and failures. Last year, almost my entire crop of tomatoes died. That hurt and I had to buy multiple bushels of canning tomatoes from my friend. Two years ago, almost an entire flock of chickens were killed by a pack of raccoons. That was a huge setback.

We can mope around, or we can just roll with the punches. Through the hard times and setbacks, you will learn. We learned our chicken coop was not predator proof and adjustments had to be made.

 

Homesteading in the suburbs isn’t impossible. Just like homesteading in the country, it requires planning, lots of hard work and time invested in making it work. With some ingenuity, creativity, and dedication, you can make your suburban homesteading dreams come true, slowly and steady.

 

Step-by-Step Guide: Freeze Fresh Cabbage Heads

For a long time, I avoided growing cabbage because I felt like I couldn’t use it fast enough. We love stuffed cabbage rolls and cabbage roll soup, but we can’t eat a whole garden of cabbage in a few weeks! Sauerkraut isn’t a family favorite. Then, one day I learned that you can freeze fresh cabbage heads, and my world changed.

Yes, it is possible! Learning how to freeze fresh cabbage heads is easy. It takes a few hours, so I suggest doing it on a day you aren’t super busy. However, most of the time is when the cabbage has to drain or soak.

Here are the steps! You aren’t going to believe how easy it is.

How to Freeze Fresh Cabbage Heads

First, you have to harvest the heads. That is very easy, taking 30 seconds per head at most! Then, I bring them inside. After they’re inside, I take off the four to five leaves. Then, they need to soak in water, typically for at least two to three hours.

Even if you think your cabbage was pest free, there is a good chance a few slugs or cabbage loppers found their way into your cabbage heads. I move the heads around in the water. Soaking kills the slugs inside of the heads. See this little buddy who thought catching a ride was a fun idea? He was wrong!

After the heads soak, take them out and let them drain for a bit. Next, you need to cut them into quarters. It is important that you keep the core inside of the cabbage. Without the core, your leaves are going to fall off in the water. You don’t want that to happen; trust me.

While you are cutting up the heads of fresh cabbage, you need to get a large pot of water boiling on your stove. Also, full up a side of your sink with ice cold water. You are going to blanch the heads by moving them from the boiling water right into ice water, which abruptly stops the cooking process.

Once the water is at a rolling boil, put the cabbage heads in. My pot fits three to four at a time. Let each head come to a boil for 3 minutes then move them directly to the ice bath. Continue this process until all of the heads are blanched.

After blanching, make sure all of the cabbage heads are cool to the touch. I drain out all of the water and let them sit in the sink or a colander for a few minutes. It helps drain out all of that excess water! I give each of the cabbage heads a bit of a squeeze to help get out the water.

Now it is time to get them into their freezer bags. If you have a food saver, this task is perfect for it. We don’t, so I stick three in each bag. Make sure to squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible. Then, add a label with the date you froze them!

 

Freezing fresh cabbage heads is easy! If you want to have fresh cabbage later in the year, this is the perfect way to preserve it. We use the heads throughout the winter for hearty dinner meals and soups.

How do you preserve fresh cabbage?

Zucchini Shrimp Pasta

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My garden is overflowing with zucchini. I harvested three today. We tend to eat so much zucchini that we get sick of it by the end of the summer. There is only so much you can eat fried zucchini.

I recently purchased a vegetable spiralizer. Why did I wait so long to invest in this amazingness? Zucchini makes a wonderful substitution for pasta noodles, with way less carbs. While I don’t abide by any diet that is too low-carb, I know that it is better for my blood sugar. Plus, it’s green noodles – isn’t that fun?

I have trouble getting my kids to eat vegetables. I know I’m not the only parent who struggles with this! My middle child loves shrimp, and he was willing to sample the zucchini. That is a win for this mom! Next, I want to try it with regular spaghetti sauce.

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Zucchini Shrimp Pasta

An easy and healthy dinner (or lunch) dish!

Course Main Course
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 20-30 tail-off devined shrimp
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 medium-sized zucchini
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Unthaw your shrimp in warm water.
  2. Using your spiralizer, create noodles from your two medium sized zucchinis. You can use more or less, depending on how many people you are feeding. If the zucchini is too large, you may want to peel it first because it tends to have firmer skin as the fruit gets larger.
  3. Put the butter into the pan and let it melt. Add in your zucchini and let it cook for two minutes, stirring. Season with the garlic, salt and pepper.
  4. Add in the shrimp and let cook for three minutes. You don't want to overcook the shrimp; it will become too chewy!
  5. After the shrimp and zucchini noodles are cooked thoroughly, remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the parmesan cheese.
  6. Serve and enjoy!

 

How to Harvest a Cabbage Head in 30 Seconds

Cabbage isn’t a vegetable I always loved. When my parents made cabbage rolls, I gagged, internally and externally. Throughout most of my childhood, I turned my nose up to every cabbage dish that graced our kitchen table. As I grew older, cabbage didn’t seem so bad as it was when I was younger. Now, I love stuffed cabbage rolls or corned beef and cabbage.

                Our cabbage always reaches the scale of gigantic. Sometimes, the heads are larger than my kids’ heads. It is comical to watch them carry the heads into the house after harvesting.

                Most cabbage plants take 80 to 180 days to mature. If you planted them in March, you could expect to harvest between June and August, depending on the variety you selected. One year, I planted Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage, which was ready around 65 days after planting!

How to Harvest a Cabbage Head

1.       Watch the tightness of the cabbage. When you are out in your garden, gently squeeze the heads. You’ll notice that they will gradually get firmer. A tight cabbage head is a sign that it is ready for harvest. It is important that you check your cabbage head frequently for readiness. Excessive rain or overwatering could cause mature heads to split; then you lost a harvest.

2.       Look at the size of the cabbage head. It is harder to use the size as an indicator of readiness. Some varieties are naturally smaller than others. It should be at least the size of a softball before you consider harvesting. The base should be at least four to ten inches wide.

·         Elongated Chinese, or Napa, cabbage should be harvest when the head is nine to 12 inches tall.

·         Leafy cabbage is better to harvest leaf-by-leaf because they will not form a tight head.

·         Leave two to four of the wrapper leaves around the head to prevent the cabbage head from drying out.

 

3.       Time to harvest. Once you think the cabbage head is ready, bring your knife out to the garden. Find the base of the cabbage head. Using your knife, cut through the stem. You should leave the stem and leaves underneath the head in place because there is a chance a second head will grow! However, if you planted cabbage in the fall, you’ll only get one head. Cabbage planted for a spring or summer harvest can grow two, three or even four heads!

4.       Store the cabbage. You can use it immediately; cabbage rolls anyone? You could make sauerkraut, freeze the cabbage head or store them in the refrigerator. Make sure the heads stay in a cool, moist location for longevity. If you do so, cabbage stores for three to four months.

Harvesting cabbage is extremely easy. All you need is 30 seconds, and you’re done! If you plant cabbage for the fall, there is plenty of ways to store it long term. Who doesn’t want fresh cabbage for the New Years? Tomorrow, we will talk about how to freeze fresh cabbage. It is one of the ways I preserve it for the long term!

What is your favorite way to eat cabbage? Let me know in the comments!

Why Does Acidity Matter for Canning?

While canning jellies and jams are one of my favorite activities, it is important to understand how to do so correctly. There are a lot of misunderstandings about what is safe for canning. Today, we are going to look at why acidity matters for canning.

The Role of Acidity in Canning

I get a lot of questions from friends and family about canning. Many people don’t understand the role of acid in canning. The fact is that you cannot can every single fruit out there if you plan to use a water bath canner.
To be considered safe, the fruit you selected must have a pH scale of 4.6 or lower. The lower the number, the more acidic! Why is acid important? Botulism cannot grow and thrive in an acidic environment. To safely can your fruits in a water bath canner, the acid must be present.

Foods that are lower in acids, such as meat or vegetables, must be canned in a pressure canner. Their pH level is higher than 4.6. A pressure canner heats the food to a higher pressure, ensuring all bacteria spores are killed, including botulism.

When canning jellies and jams, acid plays another role. It helps to set and gel. If you want to have an enjoyable, safe jelly or jam, you need acid!

What Fruits Aren’t Safe?

Luckily, most fruits are acidic, such as apples and strawberries. The fruits you cannot water bath safely due to low acid are bananas, figs, melons, dates, and papayas.

Tomatoes, which comes to a surprise for many people, can be borderline. They are considered a low-high acid food. If you don’t want to can your tomatoes in a pressure canner, try adding a form of acid, listed before.

Can You Increase the Acidity?

Sometimes, fruits will vary in acidity. For example, an overripe apple has less acid than an under-ripe one! There are a few ways you can fix your pH level.

·         Add some under ripe fruit to your recipe. For example, if you are making applesauce, add some under ripe green apples. If you are making strawberry jam, add some under ripe strawberries, which also contains more natural pectin!

·         Try adding 1 TBSP of lemon juice for each cup of fruit. If you are making strawberry jam with overripe strawberries, you would need 4 TBSP of lemon juice for 4 cups of strawberries.

If you are curious about the pH level of your selected fruit, click here for my free chart! It contains the pH level of most fruits.

 

 

20-Minute Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits

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Our family LOVES biscuits. I’m sure that my kids consider biscuits a separate food group. If I make biscuits for breakfast, lunch or dinner, they disappear off of the table before anything else. Buttermilk biscuits just happen to be a huge favorite, above all other choices.

Years ago, I made it my quest to discover a homemade buttermilk biscuit recipe that I loved. Purchasing the refrigerated cans in the store is expensive, and it is full of unnecessary ingredients I don’t want to feed my kids.

Finally, after a lot of trial and error (which my kids appreciated), I found the perfect recipe. The baking time was short, so I could pop them right into the oven while cooking dinner. I didn’t have to knead the dough for hours, and there was no rising time since it is a yeast-free recipe. Whenever we have the urge for biscuits, I can make these in a jiffy.

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20-Minute Buttermilk Biscuits

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 1/4 TSP baking soda
  • 1/2 TSP salt
  • 1 1/2 TBSP Sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk - if you don't have buttermilk mix 1 TBSP of white vinegar with one cup of milk. Allow it to stand for a few minutes. Perfect substitution!

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Mix all of the dry ingredients together, which are flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar.
  3. Cut the butter into small cubes. Put them into the dry ingredients. Using your hands or a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until it forms into a coarse-like crumb.
  4. Stir in the buttermilk.
  5. Once thoroughly mixed, turn the dough out onto your floured countertop and knead gently. Roll the dough out, ensuring it is 1/2 inch thick. Using biscuit cutters, cut out the biscuits. You may have to roll the dough out again a few times.
  6. Place the biscuits on a greased baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Eat warm!

Why You Need a Broody Hen

I love a broody hen. I know there are dozens of websites that tell you how to break a hen from her broodiness. You won’t find that advice here!

For years, I purchased chicks from the local farm stores. I even attempted to make our incubator and hatch eggs, which didn’t turn out so well. We did great raising chicks, but our last batch lost all of them. It was heartbreaking!

Then, one spring morning, I opened the coop door and discovered a line of hens. You can imagine my surprise! Our hen, Violet, was causing a backup because she decided to lay on a clutch of eggs. You see, no matter how many nesting boxes we provide, our chickens tend to want to lay in the same one. They developed some invisible schedule that worked wonderfully until Violet changed her plans.

At first,  I wanted to stop her, but then I started thinking. There are a few benefits to a broody hen. Let’s take a look.

Broody Hens Create a Sustainable Flock

Raising chickens is supposed to provide your family with the best food and save you money. You may also want to make money by selling eggs. Why would you want to spend money purchasing new chickens each year?

Hens won’t lay eggs all of their lives. At some point, hens go into retirement, or so I call it. They may sporadically lay eggs, but the production greatly slows down. You will need to add more chickens to your flock to continue producing enough eggs for your family and to sell.

If the farm store disappeared tomorrow, how would you continue to have a flock of chickens? After your last hen went into retirement, you might have a stocked freezer but no fresh eggs. Broody hens are the key to a sustainable flock of chickens. Without their natural instinct to hatch eggs, your flock will always require you to purchase chicks.

Broody Hen Does It Best

You might be an excellent chicken farmer, but you’ll never be as skilled as a hen. A mother hen knows best. When hatching eggs, she knows how to rotate the eggs. She knows how to keep them the correct temperature. Some hens also can recognize when an egg isn’t viable and will remove it from the clutch.

Once the chicks hatch, you don’t have to worry about keeping the brooder at the correct temperature with heat lamps. The mother hen provides all of the necessary warmth for her chicks.

The hen will teach her chicks everything there is to know about life outside of the egg. One of my kids’ favorite memory is watching our first chicks learning how to forage while mimicking their mother. It was a beautiful lesson about the cycle of life.

It is a Learning Experience

As a homeschooling mother, I always look for ways to teach my kids. Watching a broody hen do her job and hatch eggs is an educational experience for children. We count down the days on the calendar and wait in anticipation. Broodiness is a beautiful life lesson.

Broodiness Should be Desirable

If your goal is not to create a sustainable flock, broodiness can be an undesirable trait. Their natural instinct is considered a negative, so chicken breeders opt to breed chickens that are less likely to go broody. They pick hens that never go broody and continue the process, weeding out the natural instinct they are meant to have.

Our plan involves a flock that will continue to grow without the need to go purchase chicks anywhere. Nature designed chickens with the broody instinct for a reason. We love to embrace nature’s intentions.

Do you allow your hens to go broody? I would love to hear your experience!

 

 

 

Hand Pollinating Male and Female Zucchini Flowers

As your zucchini plant grows, you’ll notice lovely orange and yellow flowers. These flowers are essential to produce the fruits you desire. For years, I had NO idea that each flower has a specific gender! Zucchini flowers are either male or female.

Hand pollating male and female zucchini plants

You might think this information is useless, but you’d be wrong. Pollination is ESSENTIAL for the formation of zucchini fruits. This story is the tame version of the birds and the bees.

Bees and other insects take the pollen from the male stamen and move it to the female stigma, pollinating the plant. Pollen sticks to the bees legs and, as he lands on the female flower, the pollen arrives. After pollination, the fruit starts to grow.

Aside from pollination purposes, the male serves little purpose. You can flour them up and deep fry for a delicious snack!

Distinguishing Male and Female Zucchini Flowers

The male flower has a single, long stamen in the middle of their blossom. It is covered with pollen. If you sneak up, you might find bees there. I found a bunch this morning on my zucchini plant!

The female flower is a bit different. Inside, she has multiple stigmas. The base of the blossom is wide, called the ovary. This area produces the zucchini after pollination.

The base of the male flower blossom is a long, slender stem. The long stem allows them to stand out on the plant more, attracting the bees faster.

Female zucchini flowers tend to stay closer to the base of the stem. Remember, they are going to produce the fruits soon. If they were high up in the area, the weight of the zucchini would cause the stem to break.

How to Hand Pollinate Zucchini Plants

Why does all of this information matter? It matters because you may notice that there is no fruit on your plant. If that happens, you may have a pollination issue. With the right information, you can hand pollinate zucchini flowers. Here are the simple steps.

1.       Identify the male flower. You need first to find a wide open male flower. I always check in the early or mid-morning.

2.      Identify the female flowers. Female flowers open for one day, so it is important for you to check daily! Once you find an open female flower, the fun needs to begin.

3.      Use a Q-Tip. Your first choice is to take a q-tip or cotton swab and rub it along the stamen. Doing so will collect the pollen. Then, go over to the female blossom and gently rub the swab inside of the stigmas at the inside base of the flower.

4.      Remove the Male Flower. Another choice is to cut one of the male flowers from your plant. Then, rub the male flower stamen inside of the female flower.  You can see an easy video here.

Now you successfully hand pollinated a zucchini flower. For years, I had no idea that there was a gender of flowers! It wasn’t until I watched an episode of Alaska: The Last Frontier did I realize that there was something I missed. Eve, one of the main people on the show, had to hand pollinate her zucchini plants. Now, I know what to do if my plants aren’t producing the fruit needed!

Have you ever hand pollinated a zucchini plant?