Cricket Song Farm

Cricket Song Farm

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


The sound of water trickling over rocks is not only soothing to the soul, but it will entice a variety of wild life into your garden.  

I found this rock with a natural indentation.  I placed it by my front steps and fill it with water.  Butterflies softly land and drink from it on hot summer days.

even lizards appreciate the murky depth of this small pond

I place several home-made bird baths throughout the gardens.  They catch the water from the over head sprinklers, and provide a  refreshingly,cool dip  for the many beautiful birds eating bugs in the garden.

click here for easy instructions to make a unique bird bath or feeder

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


A simple test can give you a fairly accurate reading of the pH (the acidity or alkalinity) of your soil.  Here in the South West high deserts our soil is more on the alkaline side.  However if your soil is clay, you will probably have a neutral or 6.0 to 7.0 reading.  

 pH requirements for plants:

BEANS 5.2-7.2
BEETS 5.8-7.3
CABBAGE 5.8-7.3
CARROTS 5.8-7.3
CORN 5.2-7.2
CUCUMBER 5.2-7.2
LETTUCE 5.8-7.5
ONIONS 5.8-7.5
PEAS 5.5-7.5
SQUASH 5.2-7.2
TOMATO 5.5-7.5

  For many years I have worked on improving my soil.  It actually tests neutral, however it is heavy, heavy clay.  Thousands of wheelbarrow loads of aged GOAT MANURE  (I have used all types of manure, but I prefer the goat) has been added to the soil over the years. Now I have beautiful, loamy, crumbly soil that grows the most beautiful, nutrient dense vegetables.  The best way to moderate your alkaline soil is to add 1/2 inch layer of composted manure over the garden and till in.  If you have thick heavy clay soil, add 1/2 inch layer of sawdust and an inch layer of manure.  The decomposition of the sawdust will help take up the excess nitrogen from the manure thus inhibiting the lush leaf growth and less fruiting caused by an abundance of nitrogen.  Tilling in this excess amount will also help break up the heavy clay.  I suggest letting your plants get a good 2 or 3 inch start, and then add a layer of compost as a thick mulch.  I then carry it one step further and add a thick layer of old hay or straw.  This is left in place after the plants die, breaking down over the winter and tilled under in the spring.  Then the gardens are re-manured, sheet-composted, and mulched.

Adding a thick layer of mulch cuts down on the water needed for proper plant growth.  The soil stays moist, allowing the roots to take in the needed water and nutrients.  It insulates the soil, keeping the temperature even, and aids in the growth of plant roots.  It provides food and habitat for earthworms and burrowing insects whose tunnels loosen and aerate the soil.  Mulch keeps vegetables that sprawl on the ground: tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, melons, etc. from mildew or decay.  Transplanted vegetables can be mulched soon after the plants are set.  Weeding is kept to a minimum.
Many items can be used as a mulch; hay, straw, leaves, un-sprayed grass clippings, corn husks, shredded corn stalks, pine needles (great for acid loving plants like strawberries), sawdust, weeds, native grasses, and even wood chips raked up from your winter wood pile.  If you haven't natural mulches available, try using dampened newspaper, shredded paper or cardboard.  They will break down over time, adding organic matter to the soil. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Recycled Vegetable Basket from a Lamp Shade

As you know by now, I don't sleep more than a couple of hours at night so most of the long dark hours my mind is conjuring up all kind of ideas, making to do lists,  counting endless sheep, and even trying to figure out why, if the letters....... d and o say do..... and t and o say to..... 
why does s and o say "so", with an "O" sound?

As I lay there one long sleepless night I came up with this idea for a 
I always try to recycle everything I can
we are even going to cancel our weekly garbage can pick-up.
We generally only have one little plastic sack, that you bring your groceries home in, 
 full of garbage a week.
I think I will just sneak it over into the neighbors can
(after I ask for permission of course)
Anyway, back to the project...........

Gather your supplies:
1.  a sturdy welded wire lamp shade, cover removed,
 make certain the center support is flush with the bottom ring
2.  jute twine
3. scissors
4. wire cutters
5. old chicken wire
use the smallest gage available
this will help keep the smaller vegetables in the basket
or use a hardware cloth or window screen if desired
6. a cordless, or regular hand-saw

cut green branches, limbs, or twigs,
 to form around the edges and to make a sturdy handle

attach the chicken wire (wish I had smaller wire) around the larger edge first
there will be a little excess wire as you near the smaller diameter bottom, just work it in,
over-lap the wire under the basket and attach to the center supports

using the jute twine wrap a twig around the edge
when choosing the sticks to use, look for a natural curve in the branch
I used limbs from a tree we just felled in the garden area
the branches need to be green and pliable

Attach a sturdy branch for a handle.
I caught the twine between 2 limb nodules for better support

I also placed a couple of twigs around the bottom,
sticks cut to the right length could also be placed on the sides
attached to the vertical lamp shade wire 

This makes a great Harvest Basket!
Make several of these to go in your root cellar or basement to store squash, potatoes, and other vegetables that need good air circulation.

For my next basket I will try wrapping a frame with grape vines, or split willow,  maybe even long strands of bindweed!
Note: as the twigs dry, you may need to tighten the jute wrappings.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


                    If you take care of your soil, the plants will take care of themselves.

Creating the proper soil conditions requires a little manipulation of the natural soil.

AERATION:  Plants and soil organisms will suffocate if insufficient air flow in the root system is unavailable.  Plant roots absorb oxygen from the air and give off carbon dioxide.  The leaves absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen.  Plants must be able to breathe.  Dense or compacted soil does not allow for air flow to the root system causing impaired growth and failure.

WATER:  The gravitational pull of the water percolates down into the roots.  As it flows downward it is replaced by fresh air from above.  In heavy, dense soil the water does not drain off fast enough and plants can literally drown.  Water vegetation with and inch of water weekly.  Not all water flows downward, some remains in the tiny spaces between the soil particles or is captured in humus.  This is the water taken in by the roots to hydrate and transfer minerals to the plants.  Good soil is both well drained and also has the ability to hold capillary water.

BALANCED NUTRIENTS:  Nutrients are the source of the plant growth.  They consist of mineral subsistence's found in the soil.  Plants require a balanced supply of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous, calcium, sulfur, magnesium, and other trace elements.  If a plant has an overall balance of nutrients it will produce good crops.  In deficient amounts, the plants will have poor health, slow growth and crop failure.

BALANCED PH:  "Potential Hydrogen" (ph) is a measure of the acidity and alkalinity of any substance.  Purchase a test kit at your local garden center or nursery.  PH is measured on a scale from 0-14.  Seven is neutral.  Most garden vegetables will grow in a soil PH of 6.0-7.0.  In acidic conditions, plant nutrients are attached tightly to the soil and cannot be absorbed by the roots.  In alkaline soils the nutrients combine through chemical bonds into substances the plants are unable to utilize.


To improve your soil first determine the PH ratio, the humus content, and the type of soil; clay, sandy or loam.

This simple method will help you determine what your soil content is:
Use a quart jar and add one cup of your garden soil.
Fill with water .  Place on the lid and shake the jar vigorously.
Let the soil in the jar settle for about an hour.  It  will separate into layers.  The ideal soil contains equal parts of clay, sand, silt or loam.  This test will help determine what to add to your existing soil.  If it is heavy clay, add sand, compost , and organic matter.  Add compost, humus, and organic matter to sandy soil to help it retain moisture.  COMPOST is beneficial to all soil types.  Compost mitigates both PH extremes.  The higher the organic matter content, the higher the soil quality.  The benefits of organic matter are biological, physical, and chemical, it influences microbial populations, it affects the stability of the soil structure, adding air to the soil, breaks up clay, binds together sand particles, and is an important nutrient source.  It improves drainage, prevents erosion, neutralizes toxins, and creates a  healthy soil for worms and fungi.  Compost contains some nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, but is especially important for trace elements it adds to the soil.  The humic acids in compost dissolve soil minerals and trace elements that make them available to the plants.  Compost hold 6 times its own weight and regulates the supply of water to be absorbed by the vegetation.  Fewer nutrients will leach out of the soil if it has adequate organic matter.  There are 16 elements known to be essentials to plants if they are to grow and re-produce.  They are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous, sulfur, calcium, magnesium, boron, manganese, iron, copper, molybdenum, zinc, and chlorine.  A soil rich in organic matter supplies plants with adequate amounts of the trace minerals.  If a soil is deficient in a mineral, only a small amount is needed to correct proper balance.  By using compost, mineral deficiencies are practically non-existent. 

for more info about composting

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Clear as MUD

I just wanted to let everyone know who attended my gardening class last night that over the next few weeks I will be posting more in dept gardening info.  Trying to cover the basics of gardening in just a short time makes everything about as clear as mud!  I had such a good time and enjoyed your  friendship, comments and suggestions.


In the meantime, pull up a chair and read earlier posts about gardening by looking under the TAGS 
section in the right hand column.  For example, if you want to read about POTATOES, click on the word potato, and all the posts I have written about potatoes will pull up on your screen.   Thanks again for inviting me to share my little farm with all of you!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Hand-dyed Eggs

I stopped by to visit my neighbor, Maureen, the other day.  She invited me in to see one of the projects she had been working on for her grand-kids.  As I walked by her kitchen counter I saw a big basket filled with these beautiful hand dyed Easter Eggs.  

She has been making these "Ukrainian" Dyed Eggs with her children since 1990.

Using a special pen filled with melted wax, designs are drawn on the eggs, the eggs are then dyed and the wax removed.  Repeating this process many times results in these beautiful  one of a kind eggs.

Maureen says to get eggs from well fed hens.  This ensures that they are fresh and have hard shells.

The eggs are dyed and then stored in empty cartons .  I asked if they ever exploded, (we have all found old eggs laying around the farm), but she said that it has rarely happened.  Eventually the inside dries out, and the eggs can be kept for many years.