Cornish cross v2.0 and Chicken plucker v3.0

We raised up some cornsh cross chickens this spring.  The last time we raised cornish cross was almos the last time ever for raising them, for me anyway.  They were disgusting.  Absolutely disgusting.  We raised them up in a chicken tractor, ala Joel Salatin, but on a smaller scale.  I’m not sure if the tractor was too small, moved too little, or who knows what but they spent all their time laying around eating and pooping.  They were covered in their own shit when we went to butcher them  The smell was just down right nasty enough to make you gag when they hit the scalding water.  I refused to do them again like that, in fact, I couldn’t even eat the meat and ended up giving it away.

Enter learning about fodder, fermented feed, and paddock shift.

After the dog attack and slaughter of most of my flock of laying hens I ordered some more this spring, buckeyes of course.  I love my Buckeyes.  I’m impatient, so wanted to get them ASAP in the spring, however the only way that was going to happen was if I ordered minimum of 15.  I definitely did not have room for 15 laying hens so I decided to order 5 sexed pullets and 10 meat birds to try out things I had learned about raising meat birds.  I lost 2 of the meat birds in the first couple days after they came in the mail (they sent 11 meat birds) but raised up 9 happy, healthy, non-smelly , running around, sumo wrestler meat birds.

How did I do It? In my suburban >. 3 acre back yard,  no less?

Half their daily ration was fodder, the other half was fermented chicken feed from my local(ish) feed mill, soy free and organic of course.  They went outside during the day starting at 2 weeks old, and at 3 weeks they were outside full time.  They were shifted around my yard every couple of days until they were 4 weeks old and then they were put in the rabbit barn (at night) where they roosted(!) on the hay bales in there.  I had no idea meat birds wanted to roost!  Every week a new part of the intensively planted “pasture area” was opened up to them for scratching, pecking, and running around.  Yes, I said running.  Did you know Cornish cross could run?  They are fast little boogers too!  They look like little sumo wrestlers running around the yard.  I should have taken some video, it was super cute to watch.  They had solid, normal looking chicken poops, no diarrhea at all.  No poopy feathers, no smell to their bedding, no smell at all, not in the brooder, not in their coop, just none.  These were real chickens. They acted like real chickens.  I really enjoyed having them around.

We butchered them just before 10 weeks old, however we could have done it at 8 weeks and ended up with the same weights,  they didn’t grow at all between 8 weeks old and 10 weeks old ( i weighed them live the same way I weigh my rabbits: a cloth bag and a fish/luggage hanging scale.)  Carcass weights were 4.5 lbs on average.  Very nice beast size and huge thighs.  The meat was tender, juicy, and so flavorful.  Completely amazing.   I used 2 bags of chick starter (100lbs) and around 50lbs (maybe, it’s hard to tell, I grow so much fodder for all the animlas) of mixed wheat and barley for fodder, however this was split between the 9 meat birds and the 5 replacement layers so it wasn’t just the meat birds that this amount fed.  Man, they loved their fodder.  I fed them enough chick starter in the morning around 9-10am that by late afternoon they had some, but not a lot, left, and by evening they were empty.  In the evening they got their fodder.  They spent 90% of their day pecking and scratching and dust bathing, basically just being chickens.

I am extremely happy with my results of raising these Cornish cross birds and will be doing it again in the future.  I really, really enjoyed having them around,  and in fact,  kinda miss the funny little clowns.   I’m curious to be a bit more scientific on charting how much I feed them since the 5 replacement layers were added in on the feed cost.  It was crazy to me how much bigger the Cornish cross were then the buckeyes at every stage of growth.  Heck at 10 weeks one of the roosters from the Cornish cross started crowing!  I must have stood there with  my mouth hanging open for 5 minutes the first time I heard it.  I think it was the same rooster that was starting to get mean.  Next time I will butcher at least a week earlier, probably two, if the grow out rate is the same.

We used the drill chicken plucker , modified to not fly off the table like before, to pluck the birds:

All of the information about the modifications are in the video.  It worked great!

-Fin

Feeding Chickens

I’ve been changing the way I’m feeding my chickens over the last couple months.  While I was doing my research on fodder systems for the rabbits I realized that I could feed my chickens fodder as well.  It was a bit of a revelation to me, I just hadn’t thought about it before.  The reading I’ve been doing seems to say that they like sprouted feed a bit more then actual fodder, so that’s what I’ve been doing for them.

My system looks like this:

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It’s just shoe boxes stacked on top of each other.  Each one has holes drilled into the bottom on one side.  I water the top one and the water trickles down to the bottom, empty, box.  I alternate the side the holes are on in each box so the water has to flow the length of the box on the way down.  The lids have a hole in them so the water can flow through:

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Each box has 1/4 cup wheat, 1/4 cup barley, and 1/4 cup peas.  I have eliminated the peas starting today, since they don’t eat them.  I’m not sure why they don’t seem to like them, but they’ve been picking around them for a month now, so I don’t think they are going to start eating them any time soon.  I am feeding 5 chickens right now, 3 hens and 2 “hens” that started crowing today.  I will be feeding 3 chickens very soon….

Since I will be going down to 3 chickens in a couple days, I have started putting 1/4 cup wheat and 1/4 cup barley in to soak:

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I soak the grains anywhere from 6 to 12 hours, I haven’t noticed any difference in growth depending on time I’ve soaked them so I don’t worry about it too much.  I stick the grain in in the morning, and rinse it really well in a strainer in the evening:

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It rotates through the system and on day 7 it looks like this:

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This is when I feed it out to the chickens.  I have tried various days of sprouting up through fodder, and my chickens seem to eat day 7 sprouts the best. 

I also feed the chickens fermented feed:

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This is organic layer ration.  It is a mixed grain feed that I get from Thayer Feed and Seed.  I didn’t care for it too much when I was feeding it out dry to the chickens.  It seemed like it was ground too fine, and almost seemed to be dust to me.  Now that I am fermenting it it seems to work really well.

I started my fermented feed with kefir whey.   I have an ongoing milk kefir culture that I drink as well as feed to the animals so I strained out the whey and mixed it with some of the layer ration and water, then left it to ferment for two days.  Every day I feed out about 4 cups of the fermented feed, add 2 cups of dry layer ration, some water, and stir.  It seems that the two cups of layer ration I put in there turn into about 4 cups of fermented feed. 

The chickens really like the fermented feed.  They took right to it.  I have noticed a reduction in smell in the coop, not that it smelled to begin with, but it smells like nothing now.  They also get scraps from the house, occasional kefir, and alfalfa scraps from the rabbits.  They have a big area to free range in, as well as having access to the whole garden during the winter.  I’m not sure how much nutrition they are getting out of free ranging in the winter, but they sure do like to get out and scratch around.  I’m dumping all the rabbit cage stuff into the garden as well, and they like to pick out the grains and fallen alfalfa from there as well. 

I’ve been reading a thread on backyardchickens.com about feeding fermented feed to Cornish cross meat birds.  It is supposed to make them better able to absorb the nutrients in the feed and therefor grow better, move around better, and not sit around in a pile of their own poop, so there for reducing smell.  I am excited to try it, I refuse to ever again butcher meat chickens that smelled like our last batch of Cornish cross…..I couldn’t even eat them, I kept smelling that smell, even though no one else could.

After our dog died this year we got a female aussie.  She was fine with the chickens right up until she wasn’t…..she ended up killing all but three of my chickens.  We re-homed her,  I can’t have a dog that kills my stock.  Right now I have 2 Buckeye’s and 1 Black Marans…..as well as two “hens” we held back from our last heavy meat bird order, that turned out to be roosters.  I saw one of them crowing today.  So, today I ordered 5 female Buckeye’s and 10 Cornish cross meat birds, they will be delivered the week of March 17th, from Meyer Hatchery.  I will be raising my new girls in the house so I have pet laying birds, which I want, being just a backyard flock.  I like my super friendly birds, and I’m in love with the Buckeye’s.  The Cornish cross will be an experiment to see if I can raise them on fermented feed and get a better smelling free ranger with a heavy breast.  I don’t mind the Cornish cross as meat birds, but man I can’t stand the smell!!!!

-Fin

Lies, Damn Lies, and Marketing

Sprouts Logo

Many in the KC metro area might have noticed the press a new grocery store is getting. "Sprouts" recently opened a new store in Overland Park, right off 135th street. Reading the newspaper articles, description, and marketing, I was really excited to see this store go in. After all, Fin and I make an effort to buy local / organic produce when possible. I mean, look at their advertising materials:

Terms that might catch your eye:

  • independent
  • natural
  • farm-fresh
  • natural, organic
  • non-traditional
  • farmers market-type

Now, as this store bills itself directly as a "farmers market", it would stand to reason that they'd have local brands correct? No doubt, they'd have a heavy focus on organics? Wrong.

Sprouts largely stocks items from their own house brand. While marketing materials may indicate "grass fed" beef, or "organic", a significant amount of the produce and meat doesn't fit the advertised bill. True, they have large sections of organics. But, immediately under the HUGE stylized "Organic" and "Local" signs are conventionally grown products from your usual suspects of industrial agriculture. They DO have a large organic section, located in the middle of the store. Helpfully, every single piece of organic produce has a friendly "Organic" green sticker attached, thus advertising your concern for the environment, health, and reducing pollution. Just don't forget to throw it away… er.. recycle it before eating.

This store is located in a convenient location for me, so I wanted to check for a few key staples I'd expect at a "farmers market", namely, locally grown produce and brands. While it's possible they sold out, miss stocked, (or I flat out missed seeing them), I was unable to locate:

  • Shatto milk
  • Boulevard Beer
  • Good Natured Family Farms Meats

Really, what I saw out Sprouts was a minimal presence of local brands.

Generally, this would be my default expectation in a modern grocery store. However, the fact that Sprouts advertises itself as a "neighorhood farmers market", the dirth of local brands and farmers borders on false advertising.

If you look carefully at the advertising materials and information provided by Sprouts, its very clear that their produce is no more gauranteed "Local" than buying the exact same thing at ANY grocer in the KC Metro.

Now, if you want to locate, actual local produce, it's not hard to drive a few blocks down to Hen House, where you can find "Good Natured Family Farms" products. While Fin and I keep shopping at traditional grocers down to a minimum, we've been fairly pleased in dealing with HyVee as another alternative. They might be a big chain (about the same size as Sprouts really), but they have both local and natural foods sections. The managers are also open to suggestions on carrying new local brands or organic products.

Yes, it's possible to put your dollar behind local and sustainable produce without shopping at the newest FAD super market.

If you really want a "neighborhood farmers market" experience, visit KC Food Circle to see what's going on locally. Even in the dead of winter, there IS farmers market activity going on.

I may still stop by Sprouts for picking up random odds and ends, but its definitely not "local" food, and doesn't rise to the selection of organic and natural products as Whole Foods. Sprouts is nothing more than a new grocery chain trying to move into our area… And so far, I'm NOT impressed.

— Fate

Fodder Growing System

I’ve done a LOT of reading on growing fodder for about a year now.  I had intended on getting it set up to try just as the weather got cooler, however, life got in the way, as it often does.  We had some roofers put a new roof on my grandmothers house….which turned out to be a seriously frusterating experience.   Then a week later, my grandma died.  Its been a pretty rough fall.  I’ve been growing fodder for about two-three-ish months now, and I have to say, I am a convert. 

Here is my system setup:

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It’s set up in my laundry room, which is hard to take pictures in, due to the fact that there is a freezer sitting right where I should be standing for the best camera angle.  There is one more shelf on top there that you can’t see in the picture.  It has tomorrows fodder in it.  I take 11 days to gow out my fodder, some people take less time, but my house is fairly cold so it takes me 11 days.  Each shelf is tilted so the water runs into the shelf below, back and forth across the boxes.  There are holes in one side of the boxes for drainage, like so:

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I got these boxes from Home Depot for 97 cents each.  They are your basic shoebox sized boxes.  They are also sold at Big Lots and Lowes for within pennies of the same price.  I recommend getting all your boxes from the same place, since each store varies slightly on the box shape.  The ones that I got from Big Lots were a bit rounder then the ones from Home Depot.  The rack set up is just cobbled together from stuff I had laying around here at home.  I am seriously thinking about building a rack out of PVC, however, just to get all the dementions right and facilitate drainage.  The wire racks sometimes hit the holes that are drilled into the boxes just right so they don’t drain perfecty into the box below, making a mess.  There is a big tub I got from Wal-Mart to catch the water below.  I don’t recirculate the water in my system, the bottom bucket is for catching water only.  You can set up a system with a pump to water it for you on a timer, I just haven’t since I have great results just watering once a day.  I use two gallons of water daily in my system.  I dump the water outside, so its not wasted by pouring it down the drain. 

This is how I start:

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I do 2 boxes for the rabbits, and 1 box for the chickens.  The chickens system is set up slightly different then the rabbits, since I feed them more sprouts then fodder, and I will be discussing their system in my chicken feeding post.  The boxes contain 1/2 cup peas, 1/2 c wheat, 1/2 c barley.  I was sprouting each grain separately, however, I had a problem with the peas molding around day 9-10 as well as terribly slow growth, when I started doing them together the mold problem was eliminated,  however they still grow really slow compared to the wheat and barley.  I will be eliminating the peas when this bag is gone, the rabbits don’t like them dry, the chickens won’t eat them sprouted, and they mold too easily.  It’s just not worth the cost.  They are twice as expensive as the wheat and barley, and a much bigger pain in the ass.  I’m concerned they will lead to mold in my system again, so I am keeping a close eye on things.  I may try recirculating the water when I am out of peas and see how that works for me.  I probably won’t up the amount of wheat and barley to make up for the loss of the peas, they produce most of the mass of the fodder I am feeding out as it is. 

I put my grain in the box, fill it with water, and let it set soaking for anywhere from 4-10 hours.  It’s usually around 6 or so hours that it soaks, but I really don’t make a big deal about how long it is in there.  I set it up in the morning, and drain and rinse them in a strainer in the evening when I am feeding the rabbits.  I don’t use any bleach or vinegar in the soak water,  some people do,  but I haven’t seen a need.

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I make sure to rinse the grains really well at this stage.  It helps to prevent mold by getting rid of the chaff and dust that would cause thing to clog up.  The grains put off quite a bit of starch in this stage so rinsing it well helps the system to stay cleaner in the long run, also reducing your chances of mold.  From here they get put into one of the boxes with holes and then put in the bottom of my growing rack.  They move from the bottom to the top, over and up day by day. 

Here is day one (bottom right) two (bottom left), three (top right) and four (top left):

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Here is day five (bottom right), day six (bottom left), day seven (top right) and day eight (top left):

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Here is day nine (bottom right), day ten (bottom left) and day eleven (both top):

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You can see there is a very dramatic greening up in the last half of the growth cycle compared to the first half.  They spend several days growing roots, then they put out the green sprouts. These grow under one two bulb florescent light fixture in the ceiling of my laundry room, there isnt any other lighting, and no windows.  I’ve tried putting them outside on the days that its nice out, but it seems to make absolutuly no difference in growth so I’ve stopped doing that. 

Here is a picure of the mat of fodder taken out of the plastic shoe box:

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The mat of roots:

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The peas are kinda weird, they grow wildly through out the mass.  Some even down, as you can see. Here it is from the top, you can see the pea shoots look different from the wheat and barley, which look similar:

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I feed this amount, roughly, per rabbit (normal sized pack of playing cards for size reference):

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The dry weight of the grain I am putting into the each shoe box weighs 9.5 oz.  The fodder I am getting out weighs 3lbs 8 oz…..thats almost 6 times the weight of the dry grain!  I know there is alot of gain in moisture, however, there is a huge gain in avaliable nutrients as well.  This link is to a fodder thread on backyardchicken.com that has alot of growing information as well as nutrition information on fodder vs. dry grains as well.  Its geared toward chickens, but I put it to use for my rabbits. The current issue of Backwoods Home Magazine has a good article about growing fodder as well.  The author of that article has posted in the backyardchickens.com thread that I linked to.

Overall I am pleased with my fodder experiment.  I will be continuing to grow and feed out fodder to my rabbits in the future.  Just seeing how much they like it, and how good they look, is enough for me.  It dosn’t take me more then 10 minutes a day to do everything that needs to be done with my fodder system.  I’m sure I could figure out ways to automate it more and spend even less time on it.  There are some really awesome commercial systems out there for growing fodder, but they start over $1000 and just go up from there.  I have about $30 into my system right now, and that whole cost is from the boxes that I bought to grow in.  Everything else I had laying around the house.  I actually started my experiment in planter flats, like you see in commercial green houses, however, that just produced way more fodder then I needed.  It was taking me several days to get through one flat of feed.  Two of the shoe boxes seem to be perfect for my needs at this time. 

The barley seems to be harder to find for some people then the wheat does.  I can say that in my experience the wheat and the barley both seem to grow at the same rate, with the same ease, and are loved by the rabbits equally.  I haven’t tried oats, everything I’ve read seems to point to them being really hard to get to sprout, and easily mold.  I may do an experiement with them in the future, just to see for myself, but for now wheat and barley seem to be the way to go.

-Fin

Meat Rabbits

This year I  added meat rabbits to the mix.  It’s something I was intending on doing,  however, I mentioned it to a friend of mine and she said “Great! I was looking to get rid of a couple of my rabbits that I just can’t justify keeping.  Can you pick them up Monday???”

So, I got meat rabbits.

Isn’t that how things seem to go?  You decide to try somthhing, and no matter if you are going to go about it fast or slow, it always seems to immediatly plunge into high gear.

Or…….Maybe thats just me?

She gave me her best producer Mrs. Clause (getting older and she has replacements already out of her), her buck Jazid (she got a new one that she’s breeding to and couldn’t justify the cost of feed to keep him around) and then sold me an up and coming doe which I named Lucky (lucky to not be eaten).

Mrs. Clause (New Zeland):

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Jazid (Californian):

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Lucky (New Zeland x Californian):

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Now, Lucky is fat.  (Jazid is a bit “fluffy” as well.) Totally my fault.  Its hard to judge rabbits conditions when you are new to them and don’t have many to go by.  I was going to breed her last week when I rebred Mrs. Clause, but its not a good idea to breed fat rabbits.  They tend to have one large baby and that’s it, which isn’t good for them…..so I’ve been told anyway.  I have her on a diet and plan to breed her as soon as she looses some weight.

I also recently got another doe and I named her Percephone (New Zeland x Californian):

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I will probably get one more Doe and then be done.  I am looking to breed enough rabbits for meat for Fate and I, my bother, and my parents.  I really like rabbit meat so I’m looking forward to my first litter to grow out.

First Litter (Mrs. Clause x Jazid):

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Having meat rabbits has been a real learning experience.  I will be doing a few posts in the future about how I am feeding them, as well as how I am housing them.   I have plans for grow out pens this spring, the litters will be pasture raised.  That dosn’t make much sense right now though since everything is brown and the ground is super muddy.  These guys are growing out in cages, but are being fed fodder, I will be explaining my setup in my next post.

-Fin

Some Things from Around the Web

A couple of things have caught my eye in the last couple days and I wanted to share:

1.  Someone Worked Very Hard To Make That “Natural” Piece Of Lunch Meat Look Imperfect

Just goes to show you what I’ve always said:  the perception of your enjoyment in food is 50% how it looks,  30% how it smells,  and only 20% how it tastes.  Here is another good example. 

2.  KIDS BRUTALLY VANDALIZE MAN’S FAMILY HOME — BUT NOW HE’S THE ONE FACING JAIL TIME

This one just makes me crazy.  I hope it works out okay for that guy. 

3. Waldo Farmers Market

I’m glad to see more farmers markets out there that aren’t just on the weekends,  this one is on Wednesday’s.  This one is also a bonus because it’s in the parking lot of one of my favorite stores: Habitat for Humanity ReStore.   I shop there for all kinds of different things to fix up the house.

4.  Bad Seed Farmers Market

This one is open on Friday’s.   This is where I found Parker Farms,  which is where I get all our meat from,  that we don’t raise ourselves.

I’ve been sick now for almost two weeks.  It seems like I caught the flu,  then caught a head cold.   I’m assuming they are the same illness,  but it sure seems like they have been two separate things.  I’m so ready for this to be done with.  Something I’ve discovered that I do want to share: generic mucinex in NO Way compares to the brand name stuff.  The brand name stuff is SO MUCH better!  I sure won’t be buying the generic again. 

-Fin

A slow start to a modest garden…

My second year of gardening at my house.  These are two different examples of hugelkulture beds.  Both are heavily mulched on top to help trap additional moisture and reduce the need for watering.  Due to the extended cold and then excessive rain (and some illness on Fin's part), things got started a little late this year.  Either way, the greens are starting to come up, even if they are a little late.

 

The side bed:  Upper left is some type of Kale that regrew from last year.  Other than that, it's all carrot tops that you can see at the moment.  There is Romaine lettuce planted throughout, but that is only visible up-close as tiny sprouts.

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The Raised Bed: Two types of tomatoes in the cages on the left, next to that is a row of okra, and the rest of the bed is 3 different types of squash.

The holes you see nothing growing in either didn't germinate, or they were plucked by the birds and died before I could replant them.  Damn birds.  We'll be reseeding shortly where necessary.

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One of my favorite plants in my yard will be blooming again soon:  My Yucca plant!

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Hopefully Fin will come by and post the specific plants in the comments, because I can't remember them off the top of my head.  Either that, or I will edit this post tomorrow.

Water Bath Canning – Part 2

If you missed part 1 about water bath canning earlier this week you can find it here.

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Ah,  the tools of the trade.  I think this is the canner I have,  although I bought mine at an estate sale about a year ago for less then $5,  so I’m not sure that’s the exact size.
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I regularly see them at estate sales and thrift stores for $5-$15 so I don’t know if I recommend buying one new or not.  It should come with the metal rack you see there though,  otherwise if you have to buy a new one it kind of defeats the frugality of buying a used one.  I almost never see just a rack for sale without the canner,  I’m guessing they don’t hold up as well,  get rusty,  and then get trashed.  Be sure to examine the canner you are considering buying for rust on both the canner and the rack.  Don’t buy it if there is rust present,  trust me,  another one will come along before you know it that won’t be rusty (and probably cheaper too!) and you will regret buying the first one you saw.

I highly recommend getting a wide mouth funnel even if you don’t can a day in your life.
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I have at least 3, maybe more,  and I constantly use them.  They come in handy for filling glass jars with left overs,  dry goods,  or really just about anything.   This is something that gets used in my kitchen on a daily basis.   You can find them at estate sales and thrift stores as well,  usually in the $. 25-$2 range.   I’m currently looking for a stainless steel one,  but no luck so far.  I do run mine through the dishwasher (top rack only) on a regular basis,  so even though this one says hand wash only,  I don’t.  Honestly, if something truly is hand wash only it doesn’t make it long in my kitchen.

I would definitely recommend getting a jar lifter.
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Yes,  you could probably use a pot holder or a towel to remove the jars from the pot,  especially if you use the metal rack to lift them out of the water,  however,  I found the jar lifter to be very helpful in getting a secure grip on the jars while moving them from the pot to my counter to cool.  You actually hold onto the flat pieces,  which are rollers,  and the rubberized side is what grips the jar.   The rollers on the handle give you a far more secure grip on your jars then you would expect.  I really felt that it was worth the money.   I got mine at Ace Hardware,  since I never see them for sale at thrift stores or estate sales,  though maybe you will have better luck then I did.

My next purchase will be a magnetic canning lid lifter.
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I used a pair of tongs,  which worked okay,  but was a bit more of a pain then I would like.   Your supposed to have a small pot of water sitting on your stove just under boiling to heat your lids to sterilize them and also heat the rubber ring to make a good seal.  The magnetic lid lifter helps in getting the lids out of the hot water much easier then the tongs.  I found it hard to just grab one lid at a time with the tongs,  so I’m hoping this little doodad will help with that.  It also serves as a device to run around the inside of your jars to get rid of any air bubbles inside before you place the lids on.   I used a plastic knife (don’t use metal to remove the air bubbles,  it can scratch the glass and cause the jar to break) this time,  but it would be nice to have a 2 in 1 tool in my canning supplies.

Of course you need jars.
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Now,  I don’t think I have ever bought a case of new jars.   I get almost all of my jars from estate sales, and occasionally you will find them at thrift stores.   I try not to pay more then $. 25/jar, unless it is a bit unusual.  Often I can find them for $1-2/box (of 12.) When buying used jars to can with it is very important to check the top lip of the jar to make sure it’s smooth.  Any chips or scuffs in the glass will lead to a failure to seal,  and so make the jar useless if you are trying to can with it.  If you are just using it for dry storage,  it will work fine,  but I prefer to pass on any jar that’s flawed,  there are plenty of perfect ones out there,  no sense in giving yourself room to fail while canning if you forget to check for perfect jars.

Finally,  you need lids and bands.
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The band’s can be used over and over,  the lids can be used for canning only once.   They can be used for dry storage over and over though so it’s worth holding on to them.  Usually when I buy jars they come with the band’s already so I only have to buy the lids.
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They also make reusable canning lids.
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Now,  I’ve never tried them,  and from the Amazon reviews it seems like you’d either love them or hate them.   They are on my list of things to get,  however,  I don’t have any yet.

If you want to use your jars for dry storage I would definitely recommend getting a foodsaver.   They make an attachment to use with jars to suck all the air out.

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This is great for things like chips to keep them from going stale so fast.  It’s NOT a replacement for canning things like jelly for long shelf life,  this is just to remove the air,  like with foodsaver bags.

This is all the supplies I have or want for canning,  next up is to actually can some jelly!

– Fin

Flower Bed Update

Well,  it’s starting to fill in:

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There at the end I put some day lilies that my parents gave me,  they seem to be bouncing back from waiting nearly two weeks for me to plant them.  I planted a mixed pack of sun flowers on the left and nasturtiums on the right all the way up the bed.  Right in front of the day lilies I planted some sage in the middle and thyme on the edges.  Then I just dumped in several mixed packets of flower seeds to fill in the rest.   Mostly annuals,  but some perennials as well. 

I do see some weeds coming up mixed in with everyone but I see a lot of stuff I recognize as flowers that I planted.   I am looking forward to seeing it in another month or so when it starts to bloom. 

My rose bush has gone all kinds of crazy this year too:

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I didn’t do anything special to it so I have no idea what is going on but it looks nice and smells wonderful too.   I did tie it up so it’s not laying on the ground a couple days after I took this picture.  I’m hoping that it doesn’t break if we get some good winds here.  I tried to be careful about the way I tied it to keep that from happening,  but only time will tell. 

I’m having some issues with germination of my seeds in the garden again this year.  It’s gotten frustrating for me to have such poor luck for two years in a row.  It’s making me wonder if I have some issue in my garden I don’t know about.  I am guessing my problem this year is a combination of the colder then normal spring and all the rain we have gotten making the seeds not germinate before they rot.  It’s just frustrating.  I know some of the seeds I’ve planted are older seeds,  but some are new this year too so it’s not just that. 

I’m replanting some stuff yet again here this week,  the weather is supposed to warm up and stay warm for a bit.  Hopefully that will solve my germination problem.   I’m just not sure what to do if it doesn’t.  I’m not planning on giving up on gardening,  but I sure do wish it was less frustrating some times!

The other issue I am concerned over is a lack of pollinators I’ve seen in the garden.  I’ve planted tons of flowers as usual to lure them in and I’ve still seen none so far in my garden.  I did see a couple big bees at my parents house last week finally,  but none here.  I’m hoping the weather is affecting them too and I will start seeing them as it starts to warm up.

-Fin