Below I am answering all of the questions I got back from a survey I sent out. Thank you so much if you participated, and if you would still like to take the survey you can find it here.
There are more questions I received about gardening, raising chickens, homesteading, etc. that will be answered in a course I am creating that will be a Beginner’s Homesteading Course. So I’ll be keeping you updated on the process of that.
Question 1.) I’ve recently introduced 5 new hens to my flock. I kept them in a large cage in the coop for 5 days then opened the door and let them come out as they were ready. Since getting the new hens, when I go to collect eggs, they’re pecked open in the nesting box. I’m only getting 1-2 per day since it’s turned cold, but I now don’t get any! I have 9 hens. What could be causing this?
If the eggs are broken when you go to collect them there are a few things that could be causing it. You could have a hen or multiple hens that are eating eggs which is really hard to stop them from doing.
I’d keep an eye on them if possible and see if you notice a hen pecking at the eggs.
If so, the best thing to do is remove her from the flock. You could also put golf balls in your nesting boxes so that when she goes to peck it will be a hard object and could potentially train her from not pecking eggs in the future.
I have also heard of poking a hole in an egg, draining out the yolk and egg white, and then filling it with mustard. Supposedly chickens don’t like the taste, so when she pecks at that egg and tastes the mustard it should deter her from continuing to do it.
The other problem could be that their egg shells are weak and so they are just breaking easily. This is due to a lack of calcium and you can easily fix it by feeding them oyster shell. I have an article all about it if you click here: The Benefits of Feeding Chickens Oyster Shell
Then the reason for them not laying currently is due to a lack of daylight. Hens need 14-16 hours of light per day to continue to lay eggs. You can add a light to your chicken coop to keep them producing throughout the short days of winter.
I have an article that will talk all about what you should do here: The Benefits of a Chicken Coop Light
Question 2.) My berry plants. The leaves have yellow and red spots. What are your thoughts? (blackberry,boysenberry and marionberry.)
This sounds like it could be Rust Disease which is a fungal infection that usually appears during winter and spring, under wet conditions. I found two articles that are helpful and go more in depth about it here:
Question 3.) What are the best chickens for 8 year old boys to raise?
All the chicken breeds I raise are known for being friendly and so they would be wonderful for kids.
My favorites are:
- Buff Orpingtons
- Light Brahmas
I also have this article 5 Best Chicken Breeds for Beginners which goes more in depth about each breed and will help you decide on what breeds would be best.
Question 4.) How big is your farm and do you hire people? How do you hire people?
I live on about 40 acres and my family farms walnut trees but the area where my chicken coop is and where my vegetable garden is planted takes up a little less than 1/2 an acre.
I have 8 raised garden beds that are each about 8′ x 4′ in size. Then I have a large area about 400 square feet where I have long rows to plant tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, winter squash, etc.
I don’t hire anybody to work with me, at least not currently.
Question 5.) Are you knowledgeable with ducks?
Unfortunately I am not very knowledgeable with ducks. I have always wanted to have ducks but have not.
I have received quite a few questions about ducks though and so as I learn more I hope to have some articles up about raising them.
Question 6.) When to plant seeds and which to plant at what time.
I have two articles that are helpful with this, this first is 11 Plants That Are Best to Direct Sow and they are all vegetables that should always be planted by seed.
The next article is Plants to Transplant and Direct Sow in the Home Garden which lists plants that you can plant as both transplants or by seed.
The next resource is my Free Vegetable Garden Schedule which I explain in detail in that article and it will allow you to sign up and get the free download sent to your email.
I also have an article How to Succession Plant in Your Vegetable Garden which goes over how often to plant each vegetable and there is another free download available in the post with a schedule of how often each vegetable can be planted.
Just note that depending on your gardening zone, you may not be able to plant all vegetables as often as it says.
For example, to get a continued harvest of broccoli you can plant it every 2-3 weeks. But if your climate is too warm it will only do well in late fall or early spring when the temperatures are cooler.
Question 7.) I would like to start an herb garden and know which ones can be grown in the house in the winter and more recipes using herbs – Love your site, would love to see more pictures, – thanks so much and happy new year.
Herbs are so fun and easy to grow. Currently out in my garden I have thyme, oregano, lemon balm, sage and mint still growing great through the winter.
They are all very cold hardy.
Other cold hardy herbs include: catnip, tarragon, and parsley.
So you can plant those outside and let them be all year or you can dig them up and keep them indoors in a sunny location throughout the winter.
Other herbs such as basil and cilantro won’t survive the cold frosts so those can be kept in a sunny location indoors in the winter and then plant them outdoors as the weather warms up.
When keeping your herbs inside it’s important to pay attention to light, temperature, and water. They will do best with at least 6 hours of light per day, a temperature of about 60-80 degrees F. and moisture especially if your house is dry.
So in addition to watering them you can mist them with water here and there as well.
I have this post Create Your Edible Garden With Herbs which may be helpful to you if you plant any herbs outdoors.
As I get more recipes up about using herbs or planting herbs I will be sure to link to all the articles.
A couple tips for using fresh herbs include:
- If you are using dried herbs add them in at the beginning when the dish is cooking and if they are fresh add them in at the end.
- To help preserve fresh herbs, wrap the stems in a moist paper towel and then place them in a ziplock.
This article from Taste of Home has some great information about using herbs as well some great recipes to check out.
Question 8.) Garden amendments, garden timing & specific plant varieties that work in 9B (Sunol)?
For posts specifically related to gardening zone 9b, I have these two articles that should be helpful:
As far as garden amendments, I will sometimes mix in horse manure to my garden boxes because it is not as strong as other manures such as chicken or cow manure.
But it’s better to mix in a good quality compost. I found a local company that makes a great compost and it’s really cheap to buy in bulk.
So this last year when I redid my garden boxes I filled them with half compost, half fill dirt.
Depending on the quality of your soil you may not need to add in any amendments though.
For the timing of your garden, the best thing to do is have a schedule of when everything needs to get planted by seed or by transplant.
My free garden schedule is a great resource that will tell you when each plant should get planted.
Question 9.) Do I really need a liner inside raised garden bed?
No it’s not mandatory to have a liner inside a raised garden bed.
Depending on what your raised garden bed is made out of, a liner can help to prevent it from rotting though.
If your raised beds are on the ground and are made of good quality material a liner isn’t needed.
Sometimes people put a liner underneath the garden bed to help prevent weeds and rodents, but I have found that the liner eventually rots away anyways.
Question 10.) Getting rid of poison ivy and poison oak.
If you are referring to getting rid of the plant itself, I found this article from the Farmer’s Almanac that has some good tips for getting rid of the plant.
It talks about removing the entire plant and disposing of it in plastic bags to ensure it doesn’t spread.
Plus gives advice for killing the remaining vegetation with a mixture of salt, vinegar, and dish soap or by pouring bleach on the plant.
If you’re looking for a good solution to get rid of the poison oak or poison ivy from your skin, the product I always use is called Tecnu and it works really well.
Question 11.) Making a living from my one acre ranchette. Thank you.
The first couple ways that I recommend for you to make money are by selling your vegetables and eggs, which are both more likely to allow you to save money and break even on any costs.
Unless you have a huge operation it can be difficult to make a great income from that alone.
I sell enough of my chicken eggs that I break even on feed and sometimes make a little money.
But the thing I recommend that will allow you to make the most income is by starting a blog!
There is so much potential and opportunity in the online world and I’d love to help you get started if you are interested. Just send me an email to [email protected] and I can talk to you more about it!
Having a blog is what has allowed my to stay home and work in my garden and with my chickens, as well as still be able to work on multiple cattle ranches.
Question 12.) Interested in composting, fermentation, companion crops, native plants, attracting pollinators, bees especially.
I am hoping to get more into composting and fermentation this year and as I do more with it I will be sure to share everything I learn.
There is a book called High Yield Vegetable Gardening that I highly recommend. It covers all areas of gardening and I am constantly referring back to it.
A couple crops which are great companion crops include:
Tomatoes with basil, carrots, onions, parsley, and spinach.
Peppers with basil, onions, spinach, and tomatoes.
Green beans and corn.
Cucumbers with beans, celery, and radishes.
Then to help repel pests, marigolds should be planted amongst all vegetables.
The best way to find native plants is to go to your local nursery and ask if there is anybody that is an expert in that area.
Or get a book about native plants in your area and start planting them in your garden to test out what does best for you.
When it comes to attracting pollinators, there are lots of plants that are great to have around such as:
- Butterfly Weed
- Bee Balm
Try to have a variety of plants that flower from early spring all the way to late fall so you can keep the pollinators around for as long as possible.
Planting wildflowers that are native to your area is also a great way to get the bees and pollinators to come around.
Question 13.) I know I live near you, do you accommodate random people showing up asking questions?
If you happen to live close by I’d love to plan a time to meet up.
Just send an email to [email protected] and we can discuss further details.
Question 14.) How to manage feral cats in my home and garden.
Cats are pretty mischievous and probably one of the more difficult animals to keep away haha. But there are some plants and scents that cats don’t like which can help to keep them out of your garden and yard.
Cats don’t like lavender or rosemary so they are great plants to grow around the perimeters.
You can also cut up oranges and lemons and put them out in the garden because the citrus scent is suppose to repel cats.
You can also make a mixture of rosemary and water and spray it anywhere you don’t want the cats to be and the scent should help to keep them away.
This article from Gardening Know How has a helpful article about keeping cats out of the garden.
Question 15.) Cheap animal control in the garden – stopping wild rabbits and birds from getting to my crops without having the expense of building fences.
There a few things you can do that may help.
One idea is to keep a dog outside around your garden, they are likely to scare off both the rabbits and the birds.
You can use a product such as Garden Rabbit Repellent which can be sprayed on plants and all the areas where you don’t want rabbits to be.
For the birds, you can put up bird netting over the plants that you don’t want bothered which is pretty inexpensive.
You can also put up stakes with shiny material attached that will wave in the wind which will help to scare the birds away.
Question 16.) I live in an area with great resources where manure, oyster shells, fresh hay and straw are available. Farm to table restaurants and farmers markets to sell products to, but I think I will have to network and or blog to successfully sell products.
A blog is an amazing way to market yourself and any products you currently sell or would eventually like to sell.
A blog is an extremely low start up cost and has the potential to earn a full time income even if you are not selling a product.
I would love to help you get started and help you out in any way that I can. Send me an email to [email protected] and we can talk about all the details.
Question 17.) Monthly garden tasks for those in 9B zone.
I currently have two articles that are helpful for those in zone 9b which include:
I now have so many audience members who are in zone 9b as well and so I am working on getting month by month garden tasks together and as soon as I have them published I will be sure to link to them here as well as email about it.
Question 18.) Financing projects.
If you have more details about exactly what you need help with as far as financing projects that would be great.
But I will help talk about financing as best I can.
First off, it is perfectly okay to start small or to have imperfect.
My garden and chicken coop has expanded and improved every year for the past 15 years.
My chickens used to just live in an old horse trailer, then I got a coop made that pretty much just consisted of some 2×4’s and chicken coop wire, and now I finally have the chicken coop of my dreams.
But I always think it’s best to get the chickens or grow the garden with whatever resources you have available and then save up to eventually build or create what you want.
Then there are ways to help save money and make money on your homestead no matter what the size is to help with paying for the projects.
You can sell your vegetables and eggs. Which usually can be enough to at least pay for your chicken feed and cost of vegetable plants/seeds. Plus sometimes a little extra.
My favorite way to make money on my homestead/little farm is with my blog though. It is a very low cost business to run and has amazing potential.
If you would like to learn more email me at [email protected]
Question 19.) How to grow a small and easy herb and flower garden for my chickens and me.
I have an article Create Your Edible Garden With Herbs that will help teach you about designing and setting up your herb garden but I have many more ideas for articles herb related that I will soon have published.
But I absolutely love growing herbs because they are so easy and they are great for your chickens health.
A few cold hardy herbs that will survive the cold frost of winter include:
- Lemon Balm
Then in the warmer months I love to grow basil, chamomile, and cilantro as well.
Of course there are so many more wonderful herbs you can plant, but these are just a few of the ones that I love to have planted.
If you scroll up to Question 7, I talk about keeping herbs indoors during the winter.
As you are planning out where to plant your herbs, some can grow well in full sun such as rosemary and lavender, but most do well in partial shade especially if you have really hot summers.
For example, cilantro will quickly bolt and go to seed when it is in full sun and the heat so I have found that it does best for me in the shade.
Then certain herbs like mint, lemon balm, and chamomile should only be planted in pots because they spread like crazy and are really hard to keep under control if planted straight into the ground.
Question 20.) Seed saving and plant germination.
When it comes to good plant germination, it has a lot to do with planting at the correct time or by creating the right conditions.
When you are starting vegetables by seed, moisture and warmth is key, as well as using a good seed starting mix which is different than just potting soil.
You don’t want your soil to be too wet because it could cause your seeds to rot, but they need to be moist.
If you find that they are not germinating within the estimated amount of time it is likely that they are not warm enough and so you can place the pots or seedling trays on seedling heat mats or bring the pots indoors where it is warmer.
I have a post How to Grow Tomatoes in Pots from Seed which is really helpful.
Then when it comes to saving seeds I have this post How to Save Pumpkin Seeds for Growing which will talk about how to do it step by step, and you can follow the same process for saving other vegetable seeds as well.
Thanks so much to all of you who participated in my survey.
If you didn’t participate, you can find the survey here and I’ll add questions to this post, answer problems and questions in blog posts, products, emails, etc.
If there is a any questions you have, feel free to comment below, or email me at [email protected]
There are many more homesteading related questions and concerns that were asked about in my survey and I am taking them all into consideration right now as I am creating my Beginner’s Course to Homesteading and an Ebook about gardening.
So I will keep you updated throughout the process.
Thanks again for your participation in my survey!