Sunday, January 24, 2010

A service available to you I bet you didn't know about.....

It's hard to believe that a week passed by so quickly and I didn't even know it. I guess being busy is a good thing. If only I got paid for all of it! I am really looking forward to my vacation in a week!

While reading some articles on one of my favorite websites I ran across a list of tasks that are suggested to do in the spring. One of the tasks is very familiar to me but it is also something that few people know about, even in this small, rural county.

Soil Sampling!

There are folks in your county who are there for a specific reason and who's services sometimes are under utilized. They are your local county Extension Agents and in our county, our Ag. Extension Agent is all but under utilized! For more urban areas though, the local gardener or small hobby farm owner doesn't think about this county office. Yes, even urban areas have an Ag. Extension Agent! Maybe a couple of them!

Your county Ag. Extension Agent can do a whole host of things for you but I have our local agent on speed dial (and in my email address book) primarily for 1 reason and that is to answers to my questions! He is full of answers and has a lot of resources at his disposal. Both my husband and I went through Master Gardener training and our Extension Agent lead those classes and is there for us if we need him.

One service however that they offer is soil sampling. Simply put, extension will provide you with a bag (or bags) to place randomly selected soil samples to be sent to a local university for evaluation. Once completed, you'll get the good and bad of your particular soil, if you need nutrients, how much to amend your soils, etc.

Generally you want to take soil samples for specific reasons, that is, for your lawn, for your garden, for your flower beds, etc. Take a garden scoop of soil from the areas you want to test and put them in a clean bucket, then mix it all up. That is, if you want soil samples for lawn, take a scoop from one side of your yard, then the other and perhaps the back or several areas around the section that isn't doing what you think it get the idea. From that mix, fill your bag and seal it. Then take it back to extension. If you want to soil sample your garden, take scoops from several places in your garden, mix those up, fill the bag with the mix...

Sometimes your Extension Agent will suggest that you mail it or sometimes they mail several at a time when they get enough to fill a box. I have even given bags to people as a gift telling them if they take the samples and call me, I'll pick them up and have them processed. Generally there is a charge but this is a very low-cost way to make sure your plants have exactly what they need to produce self-sustaining food and lots of it.

When you get your results, find the Extension Agent for a 5 min tutorial on reading the results. They'll explain it and get you on the right path to amend your soils.

I am amazed that even in our rural community many do not know that our local Extension office can provide resources to their problems in their gardens. That's why they are there folks....and for the over-extended Extension Agent, they'll outsource some of their questions to their Master Gardeners.

Along with making sure tools are in good shape, starting spring veggies from seeds, building additional cold frames, and all the other little tasks we do before we get started, this year add to that pre-spring list soil sampling.

It will make a lot of difference.



Sunday is "farm day." It's the day we get ready for the work week ahead and most of the time is the day I can tend to garden and farm tasks that I might not be able to do any other time.

Today, farm day took us to the little community of Yorktown 40 miles to the west of us to pick up burn barrels. Living rural we don't have the luxury of trash pick-up and for some, a local dumpster is the trick. For us, we recycle a ton of stuff and only have a little left over, or about 1 30 gal bag not quite full a week.

Sometimes, when it is dry, the county has a burn ban where you can't light off your garbage or limbs, etc. And, in order to burn safely any time of the year, you use metal 55 gallon drums with the tops cut off and then laying either doubled up chicken wire or any wire mesh over the top as it is burning. We never burn if there is any wind.

We needed new ones and put the word out. One gentleman in our county provided us with 2 and another friend in this little community in Yorktown provided us with 2 more. These will last for a long time.

We recycle all tin cans (for seedlings), almost all the plastic bottles for a variety of uses, all plastic containers (also a variety of uses), glass, aluminum cans, and some Styrofoam meat trays for other uses. ALL paper products from junk mail to cereal boxes are shredded for compost or animal bedding except for toilet paper and paper towel cores that we use to create seed holders.

The local recycle center will take most glass and some plastic so if we are overloaded we can haul it there. Glass bottles can be used for flower garden edging by flipping over and burying 80% of it.

While we were in Yorktown we stopped by the chicken breeder and bought 12 little Cuckoo Maran chicks at $3 bucks a piece. We had hoped he had more Americanas but these are even cooler as they produce a dark, chocolate brown egg and he said they do produce an abundance of eggs.

How sweet chicks are! So, we increase our chickens. Will provide pictures later.

Guess we'll be vamping up our coop during my vacation.....and finally finishing it!