Country Living e-zine: Square Foot Gardening, Solar Drying and Breaking in your Cow


This Month's Quote:

There seem to be but three ways for a nation to acquire wealth. The first is by war, as the Romans did, in plundering their conquered neighbors. This is robbery. The second by commerce, which is generally cheating. The third by agriculture, the only honest way, wherein man receives a real increase of the seed thrown into the ground, in a kind of continual miracle, wrought by the hand of God in his favor, as a reward for his innocent life and his virtuous industry."

~ Benjamin Franklin

Country Living e-zine Editorial :

This is the month of witches and goblins so we wish our readers Happy Halloween! If you are into pumpkin carving, some time back I wrote an article on this very subject, and just put it into the main website, so you will be able to access it through our latest postings.

We are thrilled to see so many people sign up for our newsletter of late, and we welcome all those new readers. We hope that you will enjoy our issues, and visit our website for new material which is added almost daily.

Due to the fact that people are constantly asking us farming and homesteading questions which in the past we answered privately, we have a new page called "Ask a Question". Now we will answer the questions to the best of our ability and you the readers will be able to see the replies. If you want to add anything to the replies, feel free to do so.

Remember to add anything to our website in the form of contributions all you have to do is to know how to use a keyboard and type. There are no other skills necessary.

We also have a new contributions page where you can submit your own natural beauty recipes. We hope to see a lot more contributions this month.

Finally, some great news for our UK readers. If you purchase any books from our website through between now and the 1st of January, 2010 all your purchases will be sent to you as Free Delivery! There is no limit to your purchases or threshold of purchase price. However, FREE Super Saver Delivery excludes third party sellers where the product is not dispatched by Amazon. We do think that this is a wonderful chance to get some of those Christmas stocking gifts in and save while you can.


Some of the new pages that you may have missed: See our page on:

7 Easy Steps to Making Cheese

How to Make Buttermilk.

Natural Pesticides & Insecticides.

Farming Jobs in Canada

Farming Jobs in South Africa

Homemade Beauty Recipes

How to Carve a Pumpkin

This Month's Articles: 1) Square Foot Gardening

Mel Bartholomew is a man how has been attributed to creating a different method of planting vegetables and flowers, and that is not in rows, but in squares. Thus, the term Square Foot Gardening for such a method of planting. However there is far more to this way of planting other than how you plant your plants, and to quote Mel about his method he says, "Square Foot Gardening is a new way to garden in less space with less work."

So what exactly is Square Foot Gardening?

  • Plants are planted in squares rather than rows.
  • The squares are in multiples of 12 inches x 12 inches - the total measurement being 1 square foot.
  • The squares are arranged so that you never have to stretch more than 2 square feet to reach your plants.
  • As a result, you never have to walk on your garden, which prevents the soil from becoming compacted.
  • Once your beds have been created, there is no need for any further cultivation.
  • The number of plants per square foot will vary due to size and spread.
  • Crop rotation and companion planting are to be encouraged.
  • All climbing plants are trellised, further optimizing the use of space.
  • It is a popular concept for raised bed gardens, especially for those who don't want to bend all the time.
  • The sets of squares are separated by pathways.

    Square Foot Gardening vs Conventional Gardening

    Often we start off with good intentions of having a vegetable garden. But soon we find we don't have the time to dedicate to these plants that are soon overrun with weeds and pests. Square Foot Gardening is the answer. According to Mel, by using this system you will save 80% of your space, time and money normally needed to garden, and in addition your results will produce a better harvest that is continuous with less work.

    Square Foot Gardening: Planting the Seeds

    With this method, no longer are we left with a surplus of crops we don't know what to do with, nor do we end up thinning out crops which results in further wastage. Instead each square is planted with exactly the right number of seeds that you will be harvesting. For example 4 seeds of lettuce in one square foot of garden is all you need to harvest 4 lettuces at the end of it. If you want to harvest more lettuces you will plant accordingly. But at the end of the day, you only plant the number of seeds that you want plants.

    However, no one family would ever end up eating more than 4 lettuces a week. So what one needs to do is to validate what you plant, and make sure that you plant successively to extend your harvesting season. This is done by planting another 4 seeds a week or two later. That way you can eat what you plant, without ending up with a glut.

    The essence of this method is that when you plant your seeds you space them according to the final thinning spacings on the seed packet. So if the seeds should be thinned out at 5 cm each, this is where you plant each seed, and only one seed, and they are placed in the square foot and planted the same distance apart in all directions.

    Square Foot Gardening: How Many Seeds Per Square?

    How many seeds will be determined by how big your plants will grow, and how much space they need to mature. Onion, carrot and radish seeds need only 3 inches around them to mature, allowing you to plant 16 plants in such an area. Whereas, spinach and bush beans need 4 inches. Therefore, only 9 plants can be planted per square foot.

    16 squares a grouped together forming a 4 foot by 4 foot block, thus allowing accessibility from all sides, and preventing the need to trample through your veggies to weed and maintain them. With an average of 8 plants per square foot, this means that with a 4 foot x 4 foot frame you would be planting 130 plants.

    Square Foot Gardening: So What can you Plant in Each Square?

    16 radishes 16 carrots 16 onions 9 bush beans 9 spinach 9 beets 9 garlic 8 peas 4 Swiss chard 4 lettuce 4 parsley
    1 cabbage 1 broccoli 1 cauliflower 1 green/red pepper 1 eggplant 1 potato 1 corn
    1 tomato 2 cucumbers 1 musk melon 8 pole beans

    Square Foot Gardening: Planting to Extend the Harvest

    With nearly 2000 seeds in the average lettuce seed packet one really doesn't need to plant the whole packet if you are growing lettuces for the average family, as you would never get through that many lettuces in a season. Therefore it stands to reason that the best method is to plant successively to extend the harvest period. This is done by leaving some of your squares vacant for a week or two and then planting them with more seeds of what you have already planted.

    Square Foot Gardening: Companion Planting

    I am a great advocate of companion planting and in this system you can easily plant those plants near your crops that will protect them. Marigolds, garlic, chives, onions and nasturtiums are just some of the plants that you can plant to deter bugs and beasties in your garden.


    Always choose top-grade unblemished fruit, vegetables and herbs for your wine making.

    Flowers or leaves of herbs should be stripped from the plant, placed in a container and bruised with the back of a wooden spoon before boiling water is added to them.

    Once your mixture is transferred into the fermentor, shake the fermentor vigorously to get plenty of oxygen into solution. This will help the fermentation process, and is the only time oxygen should be introduced into the brewing process.

    Before adding the yeast, make sure the temperature of your mixture is between 70-80°F. Too cold and the yeast will take too long to begin fermentation, too hot and the yeast can be killed.

    Softer fruit like strawberries and blackberries will take less time to steep than hard fruit like apples.

    This Month's Articles: 2) Keeping Ducks

    People keep ducks for different reasons. Some for breeding, others for meat or eggs, or both. Others may not even know why they keep ducks, except for the pleasure they bring to the family and their farms.


    Keeping a duck is like any farm animal, you have to give thought to where they will be housed, their safety from predators during the day, swimming facilities, food and health, and any offspring that might come about during their duration.

    Photo courtesy of Cepheus


    There are many types of ducks about and as a novice duck owner-to-be you are probably overwhelmed as to which breed will best suit. Ultimately, your choice will come back to the question you should be asking yourself, right from the start; "Why do I want to keep ducks?" If it is eggs you are after you can't go wrong with the Indian Runners which are probably the best egg-laying ducks around. They lay around 225-330 eggs a year. Others will say that the Campbell (Khaki) duck is the better layer, but they are probably even in egg production. The Campbell is a placid bird with fair mothering instinct, whereas the Indian Runners are a little nervous but make excellent mothers.

    If you are looking for meat birds Aylesburys, Pekins, Rouens and Duclairs make good table birds weighing in at 4-5 kg for an adult drake. Pekins are the fastest growing bird out of the 4 and Pekins and Aylesburys are the only 2 breeds that produce white meat. As a dual-purpose bird the Aylesburys win hands down, producing about 170 eggs a year and have the advantage of having a placid nature too. However, Orpingtons, Blue Swedish, Muscovies, Saxonys, Cayugas, Appleyards and Crested ducks can also claim the title of good dual-purpose birds.

    Another factor to the breed will be how much space you can offer your ducks. If space is a premium then you should be looking at smaller breeds like Elizabeth ducks, or the Black East Indians. There are also bantam ducks now, the Silver Appleyard is one such example, as is the Miniature Crested duck.

    A word of warning about bantams - because of their light weight they are great fliers and any new birds should be either clipped/pinioned/ or placed in a covered pen until they settle. They are also best bought as pairs as single pet females often fly in spring to find a mate. It is wiser to buy them as ducklings. As they grow up in familiar surroundings they are less likely to fly away as adults.


    Ducks are great foragers and are quite happy to eat the snails and bugs in your garden. Unlike chickens they won't destroy your flowers or your vegetables although they may nibble at your new pea shoots and seedlings and other leafy crops. However, if you can put up with that, the advantages of having them there in your veggie patch eating cutworms, caterpillars, slugs and snails far outweighs the slight damage to your veggies by having them there. In addition, they will be leaving behind their manure which is high in nutrients and nitrogen which will go back into the soil.

    They will also have a go at eating any fallen fruit in your orchard and this is a good thing too, because any fruit flies that may think of laying eggs will soon be preyed upon by your resident ducks.

    However, foraging for food is not enough for a duck if you want it to be a good layer, and to be a fat bird for your table. You will need to feed your birds twice a day; early morning and late afternoon. Give each adult bird 180-200g of a good grain mix. This can consist of corn, wheat, barley and flaked oats. All will be warmly welcomed by your ducks. From time to time add cut up spinach and leafy greens to their diet if they are not getting that already from your veggie patch. Stale bread can also be given as a treat from time to time.


    Ducks are waterfowl and need a pond or a bath of water to dip themselves into every day. In fact, ducks spend about 80% of their time on water and those that don't have access to water start showing abnormal behaviour. Not only that, but a duck that doesn't have access to water to clean its eyes on a regular basis will go blind.

    Make sure that they have enough water to swim and play in, and where possible it should be cleaned out once a week and filled up again with clean water. Sinking an old plastic clam sandpit that your children have out grown is one way of recycling and providing water for a couple of ducks.

    However, any pond built for your ducks must be constructed in such a way that all ducks and ducklings can get out easily. Therefore slanting the clam sandpit slightly allows for the ducks to get out safely. If ducks are unable to get out of the pond that you have created, they will tire themselves in trying to get out, and will in fact drown.


    Foxes are a duck's worst predator and housing should be constructed in such a way that your ducks will be safe at night. This means that any fencing should be high enough to prevent a fox from jumping over or even climbing over - yes foxes can climb fences! And the fence should be buried at least 15-20 cm below the soil line to prevent him from digging his way into the duck pen.

    The house should be sturdy, well-ventilated but not draughty. It should be water-tight and the opening should be facing away from the prevailing weather. Litter should be placed on the floor and removed once a month and included in your compost heap. Nesting boxes can be placed whereby they can be opened from the outside, which is very convenient for those collecting the eggs. Unlike chickens, your ducks do not need perches.


    Occasionally ducks fall ill but it is really unusual in keeping backyard ducks. Most of the time problems arise when water has been allowed to go stagnant, when they have been fed rotten food scraps, haven't been fed the right diet, been wrongly dosed for worm medication or have been bitten by snakes, or stung by bees, wasps, spiders or ants.

    To prevent your ducks from getting worms add a small amount Condy's crystals in the duck's drinking water once a week. The crystals line the gut of the duck preventing any parasites from sticking to it. Another excellent additive is a capful or two of cider vinegar. However, if you are adding cider vinegar to the water, make sure that the water is in a plastic container, and not a metal one, as the vinegar will cause the metal container to leach. A small amount of garlic given to your ducks from time to time is also a preventative against worms and parasites.

    Your birds should be housed in sanitary conditions that are well-ventilated but not draughty. They must be released from their duck house every day. These should be cleaned weekly. Like all birds they can also be susceptible to mites and worms, and should be treated for these accordingly. Any serious illness should be attended to by your local vet.

    How to Make a Wooden Compost Bin

    For those of you who have the space, a large wooden compost bin is perfect for 3 stage compost processing. For those of you who are serious about being organic farmers and gardeners, you cannot do without compost to enrich your soil and provide the nutrients for healthy growth.

    The downside of composting is that it can look an unholy mess. That is why we have provided plans for you to build your own compost bin to keep those yards tidy and to make composting easier. With removable slats the compost can then be removed with ease and the slated sides allow for necessary air-circulation.

    MATERIALS for a 3 Bay Compost Bin: 270cm x 150cm

    Use treated pine for the total construction, and when finished cover your compost with a piece of tarpaulin or a sheet of fiberglass.

    Wooden slats for side walls and dividers: 28 wooden lengths 150 cm long x 10 cm wide x 4 cm deep.

    Wooden slats for back walls: 21 lengths of 90 cm long x 10 cm wide x 4 cm deep

    Removable slats: 21 lengths of 70 cm long x 10 cm wide x 4 cm deep

    Posts - 8 lengths of 156 cm x 15 cm x 15 cm

    Grooves - 12 lengths of 150 cm x 5 cm x 4 cm

    Spacer Blocks - 42 blocks of 15 cm x 5 cm x 4 cm

    Quick-Setting Concrete


    Dig out soil to make post holes, 30 cm square. Sink the posts by 15 cm. Fill the holes with quick-setting concrete.

    Once the concrete is hard, nail the slats onto the outsides of the posts, leaving a gap of 4 cm between slats to allow air to get to your compost.

    To make the grooves for the removable slats, nail two boards on to each inside face of the 4 front posts, leaving a 5 cm gap between the two boards to allow for the slats to move up and down with ease. Nail two boards either end of the two middle posts, and on the inner sides only of the two outer posts, again with a 5 cm gap.

    To make the moveable bars, fix 2 spacer blocks to the undersides of each wooden bar.

    Your finished compost bin will have 3 compartments. The first bin is for the roughly chopped vegetation that needs time to break down. Once it has reduced considerably in size move it over to bin number 2. Fill the first bin with new compost. Once bin 2 has reduced in volume even further, place in the last bin. Soon this will be the rich and friable compost that you will use on your garden.

    Recipe for the Month: Country Wine Recipes

    Here are some tried and tested country wine recipes made by farmers' wives in the English countryside. The beauty of these wine recipes is that you can make them at home with no specialized equipment.

    Crab Apple Wine

    Put 1 gallon of sliced crab apples into a gallon of water, and let them soak for a fortnight. Strain and add 3 lbs Demerara sugar to each gallon of liquor. Stir well and frequently until fermentation takes place, which should be in a day or a day and a half. Leave for 3 days, and then put wine into cask or jar. Lay muslin over the opening until the hissing noise has ceased. Then cork tightly, and bottle after 3 months. This wine improves with keeping

    Blackberry Wine

    Place alternate layers of ripe blackberries and sugar in wide-mouthed jars. Allow to stand for 3 weeks. Then strain off the liquid and bottle; adding a couple of raisins to each bottle. Cork lightly at first and later more tightly. Nothing could be less expensive and the wine will keep in good condition for a year, having a flavour like that of good port.

    Dandelion Wine

    3 quarts dandelion flowers

    1 gallon water

    3 lbs. sugar

    The rind and pulp of 2 lemons and 1 orange

    1 oz wine yeast

    1 lb raisins

    The flowers must be freshly gathered and removed from their stalks. Place in a large bowl. Bring the water to the boil, pour over the dandelions, and leave for 3 days, stirring each day. Cover the bowl with muslin. After the third day, add the sugar and rinds only of the lemons and orange. Turn all into a pan and boil for 1 hour. Put back into the bowl and add the pulp of the lemons and orange. Allow to stand till cool, then put in the wine yeast. Let it remain covered for 3 days. Now strain and bottle. The bottles should be not quite filled, and the raisins should be divided equally among them. Do not cork tightly until fermentation ceases. If this wine is made in May or June it will be good to drink by Christmas.

    I will be putting up quite a number of country wine recipes next month, so please check back regularly to get the rest of them.

    Well, we hope that you have enjoyed reading the latest issue of our e-zine, as much as we had fun writing it. We also hope that you will stay with us for a long time, visit our web site for updates, and feel free to contribute to the many forums we have created especially for you.

    Until next time!
    Philip & Kathryn Bax

    Country Living and Farm Lifestyles
    Your Gateway to Rural Dreams! Visit us for Country Crafts, Country Decor, Country Cottages, Farm Shops, Farming & Gardening Articles and general issues dealing with Rural & Country Life.

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