Country Living & Farm Lifestyles E-zine

Issue 6

Quote for the Month:

"Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings." ~ Victor Hugo

Editorial :

Welcome to Country Living and Farm Lifestyles' sixth e-zine.

We hope that 2009 will be a good year for you all, despite the economic uncertainties that have begun to plague countries and their citizens across the globe. It certainly is unsettling times. And yet, in the face of adversity, one should look for the positive. This is the time to rise to the challenge in living life frugally. See our page for some ideas. It is also the time to start growing your own fruit, herbs and vegetables where you can, for fresher, cheaper and insecticide-free produce. It is also the time to live more simply, getting rid of the clutter and excess one tends to carry when times are good and more lucrative.

More and more people are trying to cut costs and looking at ways to do so. As a result, we have developed several new pages for our readers to this effect. We have information on how to milk a cow, Making Yoghurt and some recipes for you to try, how to make lye from wood ash, making soap and soap recipes.

We have also revamped our farm forum in the hopes that the 70 odd subscribers to this magazine will get to know one another through this forum. The forum has been outsourced and we encourage you to use it, even if it is to introduce yourself and tell us what you farm, or what your interests are.

This Month's Articles: Feed the Birds


This winter has been particularly cold in some countries, and although the wildlife and birds will survive without your intervention, by putting food out for the birds will encourage them to visit you on a more regular basis. Half the fun in feeding these birds is that you never know what variety of bird will visit next.

There are some drawbacks to feeding wild birds that you should be aware of before you start. The first one being that if you have cats, or there are cats in the neighbourhood make sure that you are not indirectly feeding the cats. If you find that you are, it is best that you don't feed the birds, or you modify your nets and feeders so that they are not accessible to cats. The other problem you may encounter is that if there is a lot of grain lying around you may also encourage rats. Placing a PVC sleeve over any stake you may have used where you hang your feeders from will make it too slippery for either cats or rats to access.

Having gotten that out of the way, feeding wild birds is one of life's pleasures whether one lives in the country or not. You may decide to buy a bird feeder from a commercial supplier, or you can quite easily make one out of old orange bags, onion bags or similar material. Know, however, that different types of birds feed at different levels. Therefore, if you wish to entice a variety of birds it then makes sense to place the feeders at ground level, at tabletop level, and have feeders hanging from trees. In any event, always make sure that where you place them is in a sheltered position near trees and shrubs where they can fly to safety, if necessary.

Peanuts, Niger Seed (Thistle Seed), Millet and Sunflower seeds can all be used to feed your birds. Black-oil Sunflower seeds will attract the greatest variety of birds to your garden. Take care not to overfeed in the beginning as you don't want the seed to spoil and make your feathered visitors ill. Increase the amount when your bird flocks increase. You can use the orange bags stuffed with suet, which you can get from your butcher, and hang these up in the trees during the colder months. Never feed them suet in the warmer months as it will spoil and go rancid very quickly. Suet will attract woodpeckers and other insect-eating birds. And for those of you who live in frost-free areas and want to entice hummingbirds into your garden, you can leave some saucers of sugar water around. On a tabletop where you have some slices of fruit and some mince meat, this will also bring feathered friends. Orange halves, apples, melons and grapes are firm favourites.

Bird seed can be bought commercially or you can make your own. The problem with a lot of commercial seed is that often it contains seeds that are cheap and used as 'fillers' that are not sought out by the birds. When the birds arrive they will pick out the sunflower seeds and the millet and leave the oats, buckwheat etc. which is then rather a waste. You can make your own birdseed quite easily. The ratios for a small quantity to start with would be; 1 cup white millet, 1 cup cracked corn and 2 1/2 cups black-oil sunflower seeds.

If you do start to feed birds from your garden, you will certainly attract a number of visitors. However, they will also expect to be fed on a regular basis and will look to you for their source of food before foraging elsewhere. So if you start, it will be for the long term.

Feature of the Month: Companion Gardening

The idea that some plants have a beneficial effect on others growing nearby and other plants have a detrimental influence is an ancient one that was seen during the times of the Romans, and perhaps even before then. Although many will disregard companion planting and see it as old wives' tales, many plants do defend themselves against insects by being poisonous to them or developing a strong scent that frightens them away, and it is possible that a plant growing close by might benefit from being in this bug-free zone. So, although companion planting is also mixed up in folklore, there is also an element of fact.

For example, French marigolds (Tagetes patula) secrete an enzyme or a hormone into the soil that deters nematodes from infesting their roots, and it does seem that tomatoes or other nematode susceptible plants growing as neighbours will be protected. It may be significant that most of these beneficent plants are strongly aromatic.

Many times, planting certain plants together is also for practical reasons. Planting lettuce next to corn means that the lettuces can be shaded during hot summers. When you plant cabbages in the late summer, at the same time, and in the same bed, you can also plant garlic. Where cabbages will use of a lot of nutrients, and where the cabbages will be harvested in the autumn, the garlic will continue growing until the following summer resulting in good crops for both. Chives and onions planted near carrots will help also deter the presence of carrot rust flies.

Radishes when planted next to Chervil benefit from the shade the herb casts, and the result is lovely juicy radishes that are not woody at all. Beans are heavy feeders and therefore it is advisable to companion plant it with something less greedy. Therefore mustard is a perfect companion.

The common dandelion that some see as a scourge in the garden should think again. It is now known that dandelions attract pollinating insects. Furthermore, they also release ethylene which is a gas that encourages fruit setting and fruit ripening.

Herbs too have been known to repel certain insects. Nasturtiums are great for repelling white fly, southernwood for repelling the cabbage butterfly, tobacco for flea beetles, catnip, coriander, nasturtiums and tansy for getting rid of the Colorado potato beetle, and catnip and nasturtiums for repelling the green peach aphids.

Good Companion Plants

• Basil with tomatoes, asparagus, beans, grapes, apricots and fuchsias

• Beans with potatoes and sweet corn

• Borage with strawberries

• Chives with carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes

• Citrus with guavas

• Cucumbers with potatoes

• Garlic with roses, apples, apricots and peaches

• Geraniums with grapes

• Grapes with mulberries

• Horseradish with almost any fruit tree

• Hyssop with cabbages and grapes

• Irises with roses

• Leeks with celery

• Lettuce with carrots, onions and strawberries

• Marigolds (French) with tomatoes, roses, potatoes, daffodils and beans

• Melons with sweetcorn

• Mint with cabbages and other brassicas, and peas

• Nasturtiums with cucumbers, zucchini, squash

• Onions with carrots, kohlrabi and turnips

• Parsley with roses, asparagus and tomatoes

• Peas with carrots

• Roses with grapevines

• Sage with cabbages

• Sunflowers with squash and sweetcorn

• Thyme with any Brassica

• Wallflowers with apples

Bad Companion Plants

• Apples with potatoes

• Beans with garlic

• Cabbages with strawberries

• Gladioli with strawberries, beans and peas

• Hyacinths with carnations

• Mint with parsley

• Sunflowers with any vegetable but squash

• Wormwood with just about everything

So next time you are planting your vegetables and flowers choose their neighbours carefully. When looking at people some neighbours are helpful, beneficial and nice to have around. Others are spawned in Hell and do untold damage. Make sure that the next time you plant out, you choose good neighbours for your flowers and vegetables!

Recipe of the Month: Steamed Date Pudding

75 g butter

1/2 cup sugar

2-3 eggs

125 g stoned dates, finely chopped

1 teaspoon lemon juice

3 tablespoons milk

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder


Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat well. The add dates, lemon juice, and milk to the mixture. Sift in the flour and the baking powder.

Place into a well-buttered oven-proof bowl and cover tightly with tin foil to prevent steam from making mixture soggy. Place an upturned saucer on to the base of a large pot. Place bowl with mixture encased in tin foil on the saucer. Fill the pot to about halfway with water. Watch water level and top up if necessary. Simmer gently for 2 hours.

Serve hot with custard or cream.

Well, we hope that you have enjoyed reading the fifth 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
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