Homemade Citronella Candles

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candle project

I absolutely love DIY projects! Am I alone out here? If you love crafts as much as I do, then check out this easy to do candle project. You can substitute the citronella essential oil with another oil of your preference.

This candle would be perfect as a holiday or hostess gift. Happy crafting!

Photos and styling by Jen Altman

Project link provided by DesignSponge.com

Interested in raising Chickens & Ducks?

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baby ducks

On my future farm, I would love to have chickens. You can harvest the eggs for your own family or give them away when necessary. I am interested in chickens for their meat. My boyfriend LOVES chicken and I have a great Chicken Tacos Recipe that is to die for! I would also love some ducks. Ducks are similar to chickens and provide eggs as well.

I just caught an episode of P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home. Today, he gave an inside scoop on his chicken operation, his duck hoop houses made of recycled materials and also gave a recipe for broccoli slaw. I love watching his show! He always gives me inspiration for farm ideas. Here is a link to Allen’s blog.

I learned that in order to get the most of your chicken operation, you should start with 6-10 chickens. You should house them properly, keep their areas clean, feed them according to nutritional needs and allow 5-7 square feet of space per bird.

Here is an article on raising ducks and some recommended breeds.

Here is a blog post entitled, “How to Get Started Raising Chickens.”

Here is the Farm Raised Youtube Channel with many videos for backyard farmers. I hope you subscribe to it. It has tons of information about animals and animal care.

Here are two images inspired by today’s episode.

orpington

Blessings,

Stephanie S

Back to Writing

Dear Reader,

I am back from a very busy 6 months of life. I’ve moved to Indiana, wrapped up my Bachelor’s degree and am taking online courses to advance my design skills. Plans for the farm are still on hold, though a business plan is in the works.

I am looking forward to a field day with the University of Illinois Extension Office. The topics covered will have to do with Preparing for Extended Season Production. We will be learning how to build hoop houses and how to grow vegetables well into the fall season. I am excited! I will be able to use this knowledge on my farm someday to build a hoop house for the BUTTERFLIES!!! If you are interested in registering for the September 14th, 2013 Field Day in Pembroke Township (Kankakee County), Illinois, please click here.

Moving to Indiana has been an adventure. I made my way recently to Indiana Dunes National Park & Lakeshore. FUN!!! All trails have access to the beach. Here is a photo of that day:

Indiana Dunes

I would definitely recommend the trails to anyone visiting the area! Don’t forget your cooler and floaties! :)

Blessings,

Stephanie S

Collecting Worms for Compost

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It rained pretty heavily here in Champaign, Illinois. And you know what that means: worms! Worms covered every sidewalk and ground surface. I was able to collect 60 worms with the intention of adding them to my compost bin.

 According to composting101.com, worm composting, also known as vermiculture, turns food and yard waste into an organic and rich soil, which you can use to help your lawn, your flowers or your vegetable garden. Vermiculture typically utilizes red worms — Eisenia foetida (also known as red wigglers, brandling or manure worms) or Lumbricus rubellus (manure worm). Some vermiculture experts recommend one pound of worms for every one pound of garbage.

There are certain things one needs for successful vermiculture endeavors- a vermiculture bin, wet shredded newspaper, a 55 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit environment and soil. Feed them fruit scraps, vegetable peels, tea bags and coffee grounds. It’s best to feed them only once a week in small amounts. You can harvest anywhere form two and a half months to every six months.

For more information on vermiculture, visit http://www.composting101.com/worm-composting.html.

Stay tuned for my vermiculture update and photos!

Stephanie S.

Learning & Growing

I think the biggest challenges to raising your butterflies is having access to a secure space and having flower and host plants available. Butterflies need a warm and bright environment with plenty of room to fly and a room temperature of about 72 degrees. Butterflies also need flowering plants for their nectar and host plants to lay their eggs. In my experience is raising butterflies, these were the two limiting factors to my ongoing success.

I bought 22 caterpillars and reared most of them to healthy adult butterflies. However, once the butterflies emerged, I had very little space to accommodate and enclose them. I simply let them fly around my bedroom. The alternative to this is a butterfly enclosure or a screened tent if you can find one that fits into your spare room. These sort of enclosures are only intended for limited use and can cost upwards of about $125. The best route for those of use who do not have a temperature-controlled structure, such as a greenhouse is to use a spare bedroom. This way the butterflies are kept safely away from predators and at a comfortable room temperature. One also has the added benefit of a home office tax deduction!

Upon emergence, I also found that I did not have enough flowering plants or host plants to accommodate the butterflies. Sure I had enough sugar sources, like Gatorade, watermelon and sugar water, but I felt that this limiting diet affected the behavior and mating rituals of the butterflies. I wanted them to feed from flowers, but I simply had no local access to them. In the future, I will be sure to have plenty of host and nectar plants. I am starting an indoor growing program for plants such as Tropical Milkweed, Asters, Sunflowers and Zinnias. I plan to start the plants from seed in flats placed under fluorescent grow lights on shelving units. Starting plants from seed is a very economical route but one that also takes great care and attention to detail.

In the future, once I have enough space, I hope to build a greenhouse out of reused materials, such as wood from discarded palettes. There are some great videos out there that can guide you on how to build one inexpensively. I also plan on providing host and flowering plant plugs on my e-commerce website along with butterflies and caterpillars.

I’ll keep you posted on my plant propagation project! Stay tuned!

~Stephanie S.

Imagine Butterflies

LetsImagineButterflies.com

Feeding Your Butterflies

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Passion Vine can grow horizontally as well as vertically. The flowers are truly one of a kind.

What do butterflies eat? Well, they don’t eat they DRINK from nectar plants. The type of plant can  vary by species of butterfly. A butterfly’s main diet consists of nectar. Butterflies drink through a tube-like tongue called a proboscis, which uncoils to sip liquid food and recoils when the butterfly is not feeding.

Monarch butterflies especially like Milkweed plants. This includes Swamp Milkweed, Tropical Milkweed and Common Milkweed. Other common butterfly plants include Purple Coneflower, Butterfly Bush, Tall Verbena, Lantana, Aster, Black-Eyed Susan, Blazing Stars,  Buttonbush, Petunia, Sunflower, Violet, Passion Vine and Zinnia.

Butterflies also like fruit. They like watermelon and near-rotten banana. They also like Gatorade as well as sugar-water. You can make sugar-water by mixing 1 teaspoon of sugar for every 10 teaspoons of water. Be sure that the liquids are not left completely exposed to the butterflies or else they will fall on and won’t be able to get out. Instead, soak the liquid in a cotton ball or sponge. This way, the butterflies have a landing pad from which to feed.

If you are gardening to attract more butterflies, I would suggest planting your nectar plants in mass and in sunny locations. By grouping a number of the same nectar plants together you’ll enable butterflies to see your garden from a distance. You should also consider native nectar plants, so that they fare better in your climate.

If you are rearing butterflies, you can place fresh-cut flowers in their rearing cage. Butterflies normally feed one day after emergence. The economical route for plant material would be to purchase seed and nurse the plant to full growth, as fully grown nursery plants can be pretty costly.

~Stephanie S.

Imagine Butterflies

LetsImagineButterflies.com

Lantana camara is a favorite among butterflies.

The Butterflies Have Emerged!

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When I awoke this morning, I was surprised to see that the Painted Lady butterflies had already hatched! We have three butterflies and counting! And it all happened overnight! The butterflies emerged from their cocoons and climbed up the side of the rearing cage. They will now pump their wings with blood and chemicals to strengthen their wings in order to prepare for flight. This can take 3-4 hours.

There was blood when they emerged, but don’t be alarmed. This is perfectly natural. Be sure not to disturb the butterflies at this point. They are EXTREMELY FRAGILE. Any movement can make them fall and damage their wings.

Rearing butterflies has been wonderful, but they require an attentive and gentle handler. So far, I have lost two butterflies. Remember, not all of them make it to full growth potential. it is important to care for them daily by cleaning rearing cups and keeping them free of moisture and remove frass, and to make sure caterpillars have enough to eat. You can also remove chrysalises 3 or 4 at a time by replacing the filter paper in the rearing cup. This gives them plenty of room to grow.

As I am dealing with now, it is important to also have plants ready for the butterflies. This includes host plants and nectar sources. Visit my post “Feeding Your Caterpillars” blog post for more information on host plants and nectar sources.

A serious gardener would grow his own plants from seed, though it is not so easy to do. You may need shelving or room to store plants as well as an artificial light source to allow for indoor growing. I have yet to do so because it is rather costly, but I intend to begin soon. Growing plant from seed can mean the difference between a $2 packet of 50 seeds and a $13 plant. Stay tuned for future blog posts on the topic!

~Stephanie S.

Imagine Butterflies

LetsImagineButterflies.com

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