Sexing Squash (no mood music required)

dirty words garden

B. Male, C. Female – Illustration courtesy of ANR Repository/UCCE Riverside

A common complaint I’ve heard among gardeners is that although their squash flowered, the blooms eventually fell off without setting any fruit.

One of the reasons for this occurrence is that the blossoms were probably male. Squash plants have separate male and female flowers on the same plant. The males produce the pollen, and the females set fruit.

Typically, the first flowing of the season is male. The female flowers will come next and the fruit should form. However, check to see if the squash is a hybrid. If so, the squash will produce female flowers first, but fail to develop fruit unless there are male squash flowers and bees nearby.

To determine the sex of the flower, look at the base of the flower. The male flowers are slender while female flowers have a bulbous part (ovary) at the…

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Herbs for Hens

Village Life New Zealand

I had read Linda Woodrow’s book, The Permaculture Home Garden before returning back to the village block and distinctly remembered her advise to include a range of herbs in the chook bucket so they could self medicate.

Over the years since I have included a wide range of herbs in my chooks diet and have never had any problems with their health. Predominantly the herbs I have used are thyme, rosemary, oregano, fennel, tarragon, parsley, basil, coriander … the list goes on.

From references I have learnt that herbs often accumulate micro-nutrients. Linda lists these in relation to use in the compost as mulch, and specifically mentions yarrow and thyme being beneficial for chickens to “dose themselves against intestinal worms”. There is also a cautionary note about using some herbs like comfrey which contains an alkaloid called pyrrolizidine and could be unhealthy in large doses to chickens.

I also use…

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Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

I have made this a few times now and it always gets rave reviews.

We got our slow cooker for Christmas a year and a half ago and it soon became our go-to kitchen appliance. I just love coming home to a lovely slow-cooked stew or casserole: all the flavour and minimal effort! The slow cooker gets well and truly abused over the winter months but we have little use for it in the summer. I either use it to make bolognese for lasange or pulled pork. My pulled pork recipe has been adapted from this one.

Pork shoulder is best for pulled pork and Tesco do a mini shoulder joint (approx. 700g) which is more than enough for two and is an absolute bargain at £3.

Be warned, the recipe requires overnight marinating.

Ingredients (Serves 2)

1 x 700g pork shoulder joint
English mustard
70g Demerara sugar
1…

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cowboy steak with coffee and chili rub

Wagshal's Blog

steak

Though coffee and beef may seem like an unusual pairing, an espresso-chili rub is the perfect complement to steak’s robust flavor, adding smoky, spicy flavor and giving the beef a nice caramelized crust.

TOTAL TIME: 24 min
Prep: 5 min | Inactive Prep: 5 min | Cook: 14 min
YIELD: 4 servings | LEVEL: Easy

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ancho chili powder, or other chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine ground espresso coffee
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 pound shoulder center steak (Ranch Steak), or top sirloin, about 1 1/4-inch thick

PREPARATION

Spray a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and preheat it over medium-high heat. In a small bowl combine all the ingredients for the rub and coat the steak well on both sides. Cook steak for 14 minutes, turning once, for medium to medium-rare. Allow steak to sit for 5 minutes before slicing.

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We’ve got a chicken tractor!

Pillow Talk from The Stanton House Inn

For all those excited to know, we at the Stanton House Inn have a new piece of equipment in the back garden: a chicken tractor!

Chicken tractors are basically movable coops without floors. The purpose of this equipment is to protect the chickens inside from predators and weather while allowing them access to greens, bugs, dust (to bathe in), and fresh air. As our tractor is relatively small, we move it anywhere from once a day to a few times a day, to allow the grass time to recover. We also take the girls into the chicken coop at night, as there’s no where for them to sleep safely from night-time predators.

Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm in Staunton, Virginia is one of the leading farmers that first made chicken tractors famous. Credit: Margie Burks/Flickr Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm in Staunton, Virginia is one of the leading farmers that first made chicken tractors famous.
Credit: Margie Burks/Flickr

But there are other benefits to tractors, as well. As can be guessed from their…

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