Saturday, 26 October 2013

An a-maze-ing 50th anniversary gift: Man surprises his wife by mowing a cornfield maze to look just like their wedding photo

An a-maze-ing 50th anniversary gift: Man surprises his wife by mowing a cornfield maze to look just like their wedding photo

Corn is the color of gold so perhaps it makes sense that one farmer in Ohio decided to surprise his wife for their 50th golden anniversary with a cornmaze in their honor. 

Each year Phillip and Marie Derthick (72 and 75, respectively) host a corn maze at their farm in Mantua, Ohio. 

Past corn mazes have been designed in tribute to sports teems like the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers or to commemorate anniversaries - like astronaut John Glenn's first orbit around earth.

But this year, Marie didn't know what her husband was up to when it came time to plan the corn mazes design. 

'He did it with the kids. They kept it a secret,' Marie told Good Morning America. 

In June, she finally found out about the maze which depicts she and her husband on their wedding day, with an image of the church where they were married at the top and even Phillip's favorite antique tractor at the bottom.

'I couldn't stop there, I had to put my favorite tractor in there too, along with my favorite gal,' Phillip told USA Today.

'I thought they were nuts, but it's actually turned out very well,' Marie said.

The Derthick's cornfield is 17 square acres, but surprisingly the corn maze only took one day to construct and includes three difference corn mazes. The longest maze runs 4.4 miles and includes the couple's faces and the church. 

For now, the couple are keeping plans for next year's maze under wraps 
'We've got to come up with something good,' Marie said. 

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Gold in trees leads to hidden deposits

By Rebecca Morelle
Science reporter, BBC World Service
Gold in trees leads to hidden deposits

Money might not grow on trees, but scientists have confirmed that gold is found in the leaves of some plants.

Researchers from Australia say that the presence of the particles in a eucalyptus tree's foliage indicates that deposits are buried many metres below.

They believe that the discovery offers a new way to locate the sought-after metal in difficult-to-reach locations.

Dr Mel Lintern, a geochemist from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), said: "We've found a lot of the easy deposits in Australia and elsewhere in the world as well.

"Now we are trying to tackle finding these more difficult ones that are buried beneath tens of metres of river sediments and sand dunes.

"And the trees are providing us with a method to be able to do this."

Buried treasure

Gold particles have been found around the soils of eucalyptus trees, but the researchers confirmed that the plants were taking in the element.

Using the Australian synchrotron - a vast machine that uses X-rays to probe matter in remarkable detail - they found traces of gold in the leaves, twigs and bark of some trees.

The amounts of the precious metal were tiny.

"We've done a calculation, and found that we need 500 trees growing over a gold deposit to have enough gold in the trees themselves to make a gold ring," said Dr Lintern.

However, the presence of the particles pointed to greater riches buried more than 30m (100ft) below.

Dr Lintern said: "We believe that the trees are acting like a hydraulic pump. They are bringing life-giving water from their roots, and in so doing, they are taking smaller dissolved gold particles up through the vascular system into the foliage."

Currently, the metal is found in outcrops, where the ore appears at the surface, or it is detected through exploratory drilling.

But the researchers said that analysing vegetation could offer a better method to find untapped gold deposits.

Dr Lintern said: "Not only do we believe it is a way of stretching the exploration dollar further, because exploring for these deposits can be quite expensive, it also minimises the damage to the environment because we are taking a very small sample from the trees themselves, as well as the leaves and twigs on the ground."

The researchers said the technique could also be used to find other minerals such as iron, copper and lead in other parts of the world.

Planted Spice rack in kitchen

Planted Spice rack in kitchen

6 Tips to Do Gardening on Tight Budget

6 Tips to Do Gardening on Tight Budget

A lot of people are into gardening but those people end up losing all of their money because there are a lot of things to buy

For people who are highly interested in improving the looks of their garden, all you have to do is be creative with how you work on it. Gardening on a tight budget may have you thinking that it’s impossible, but you’ll be glad to hear that we have tips for you to get started while saving.

If you naturally have a green thumb, you can easily make something out of your garden with the help of other people’s garden. Buying pots of plants in shops can be quite expensive and you may even end up using your credit card for it

Ask your neighbors if you can get a few cuttings from their plants  Putting them in a glass of water will help it grow. Just make sure you replace the water regularly, or around every 2 days.

· By putting up a few things in your garden, you can easily update its look. Water features can make a huge improvement for your garden but of course, fountains and those water items can be expensive. Save all of your old cups and glasses and be creative with it  Glass bowls would look really fresh in a garden. You can just look for ideas in magazines or online.

· If there are a lot of things that you have to buy for your garden, you can go to flea markets to get cheaper prices for the items. You can even haggle for it to get even better prices and sometimes, the seller will give you a better discount if you are going to buy everything from them or in bulk.

· Lighting can also make a huge difference on your garden Remember you don’t have to put a lot in order to make it beautiful. You just have to strategically place everything so that they are blending in

Try to attract the natural pollinators as well such as bugs and other insects. This will help you garden grow faster

Leave a few cracked items in your items for them to hive and you will attract those little critters in no time.

· You can also plants bulbs in your garden because they are quite easy to grow and are low maintenance. As soon as they’re big enough to be cut, plant them all around your garden so that by the next season your garden will be blooming all over

You can plant snowdrops in your garden, they look pretty even if they are just scattered everything.

Follow these tips and avoid using your credit card that may end up hurting your credit score and credit report  Be creative and look for ways to save money Make use of the old items in your house to save even more money.

What Does the Leaf Says About Nutrient Deficiency Problem

Helpful chart to identify deficiency problems in plants
What Does the Leaf Says About Nutrient Deficiency Problem

What Leaf Says About Nutrient Deficiency Problem

Understanding Root Cellars

Setting up a Simple Root Cellar

In the days before fresh produce was available in supermarkets year-round, a root cellar was an essential part of every home. They're a lost way of life and were once a crucial link in the subsistence chain. In one form or another, we may need to rely upon them once more -- this time after the pole shift. Conditions might render a root cellar a luxury, but it's an option we should be knowledgeable about.

Let's take a look at key points from the book "Root Cellaring" by Mike & Nancy Bubel. I'd consider this one a must-get, and I purchased my copy through the Barnes & Noble web site.
The authors found with proper planning they could produce about 33 kinds of vegetables for winter storage.

  • Vegetables store best if harvested at the peak of maturity. This takes a little planning.
  • Many storage vegetables grow best in the cool growing days of fall.
  • Unblemished, disease-free vegetables keep best.
  • Well-fertilized kale, collards and cabbage contain more vitamin C than those grown on lean soil.
  • Whole grains will remain in good condition for two or three years if kept cool and dry and protected from insects. Pick a tightly closed container that shuts out light and that insects and rodents can’t penetrate. Grains don’t belong in a damp root cellar.
  • Cured meats, especially ham and bacon, can be kept in a root cellar if the temperature is 40° or below. (About 4° C)
  • You can even put potting soil in the root cellar over the winter so it won’t be rain-soaked when you need some for spring seedlings.
  • Root vegetables can be left in the ground until hard frost, and that way the temperature in your root cellar is more likely to be at an optimal level.
  • It shouldn’t be necessary to clean most vegetables, but handle with care and store only your best. Curing isn’t necessary for most root vegetables.
  • Leafy tops of parsnips and beets are good to eat.
  • Lowering the storage temperature is the single-most important thing you can do to promote the longevity of root vegetables.
  • The optimal temperature for most root vegetables is around 32° F (0° C)
  • The majority of storage vegetables are biennials -- those that go to seed after a winter dormancy period. Nature intends them to last the winter.
  • Store enough items so that a few losses won’t matter.
  • Inspect your stored vegetables weekly.
  • The main cause of shriveling in storage is low humidity.
  • The authors also discuss outside storage of vegetables in mounds, also known as clamps. However, I couldn't find a web site that dealt with this topic.
  • If you’re willing to dig a hole for it, an old refrigerator can provide good storage space for vegetables. You bury the refrigerator to take advantage of the moderating and more constant temperature of the sub-surface soil. Keep the refrigerator well covered and protected from moisture, and you may need to install a vent.
  • If winters are mild (average temperatures over 30° F) you won’t be able to reach the optimum temperature in a root cellar. In this case, the vegetables should keep well in a heavily-mulched garden row.
  • In planning a root cellar, temperature is the first consideration. You want to maintain temperatures at 32° to 40° F (0 to 4 C).
  • Double-doors or a small anteroom (fore-room) provide an additional degree of protection from temperature swings. Insulation also helps maintain a stable temperature. You can use sawdust, wood shavings, cinders, straw, even dry leaves. Some outdoor-survival books discuss how to keep insulation dry.
  • The next requirement is high humidity, about 90% to 95%. This will help prevent the food from shriveling. You can measure humidity with a hygrometer, though humidity shouldn’t be a problem in a post-shift world. If the cellar has a dirt floor, it will provide natural moisture. If necessary, you can place water in shallow pans. You can also pack root vegetables (especially carrots, beets, and parsnips) in damp sawdust, sand or moss to reduce surface evaporation. If you can install one, an arched ceiling will cut down on condensation problems.
  • You also need proper ventilation, and this means installing a low air-intake opening and a high air outlet on opposite sides of the room. In Europe, the pipes are often insulated to help prevent condensation. Don’t place your storage shelves right against the walls. Your food can get moldy. Ditto if you place your storage bins right on the floor. A palette-type device is recommended.
  • The storage room should be kept dark.
  • You want to clean up the cellar annually.
  • Crates utilize space more effectively than baskets.
  • A space eight-by-eight feet (about 2.5 square meters) should be plenty for the average family.
  • Root cellars are too humid for canned goods, unless you consume these in perhaps the first year.
  • You don’t want a strong draft through the bin, because this will remove moisture from the produce.
  • If the outdoor temperature is higher than the root cellar, keep the air-intake vent closed during the day.
  • If it’s extremely cold out and the cellar is reaching below 32° F, you can put some hot coals in there to warm things up.
  • Store only your best vegetables.
  • Keep them as cool as possible between harvest and storage.
  • Dug-in root cellars work well because they are insulated by the earth surrounding them. The soil is a poor conductor of heat, so the temperature of the ground six feet under the surface is cool and fairly constant. The natural moisture of the earth helps to keep humidity high. It is important to provide drainage around the cellar so there is no water-logged soil to freeze and cave in the walls.
  • You can cover a dirt floor with gravel, but you don’t want a concrete floor. You also want a drain to allow excess water to seep out. Cover it with a screen. Excessively rainy conditions may call for a trench.
  • In many places, most root cellar crops can be safely left in the ground until November.
  • Keep carrots and beets away from any condensation that might by dripping from the ceiling.
  • If mice become a problem, you may have to screen individual containers of vegetables.
  • One enterprising person made a root cellar out of a discarded truck which he drove into a dug-out hillside.
  • If you don’t have a thermometer, you can put a container of water in the cellar. If it starts to freeze up, you’ll need to warm up the cellar somehow.
  • Incidentally, a root cellar can make an excellent shelter from tornadoes and hurricanes.
  • Old-timers sometimes built the front wall of a root cellar twice as thick as the back wall.
  • You need a good roof that doesn’t allow moisture to penetrate the cellar. If it’s structurally sound, you can place a couple feet of dirt on it for additional insulation.

The Bubels go on to describe characteristics of different storage items:
  • Apples: I don’t foresee growing these, but they’re considered the ‘queen’ of storage fruits.
  • Beets: good keepers. The ‘Long Keeper’ variety is just that -- a great keeper. The leaves are vitamin-rich. Can last 4 to 5 months in storage.
  • Brussels sprouts: might keep 4 to 5 weeks if kept in perforated plastic bags. This reminds us we might want to stock up on plastic grocery bags for this purpose.
  • Cabbage: if it splits, it won’t keep.
  • Chinese cabbage: can last up to three months. You can even replant them in a box of soil in the root cellar.
  • Carrots: a summer planting is best for winter keeping. They are the backbone of any food-storage plan. The roots are rich in vitamin A and they can last several months in storage. With adequate mulching, you can even keep them right in the garden row for the winter.
  • Cauliflower: keeps only a short time at best, two to four weeks.
  • Celeriac: a good keeper.
  • Celery: see how late you can keep this in the garden, and then maybe you can get a month or two of storage out of it.
  • Garlic: needs lower humidity than root vegetables. If you can find a cool, dry place, it can last seven or eight months.
  • Horseradish: very hard and a good keeper.
  • Jerusalem artichoke (sunchoke): can last several weeks in plastic bags or in damp sand.
  • Kale: high in vitamin content, easy to grow, extremely cold-hardy.
  • Kohlrabi: the leaves are good to eat. Packed in damp sand or sawdust, it can keep well into the winter.
  • Leeks: especially cold-hardy. Can make it through a winter outdoors if well mulched, or you can plant some in your root cellar in tubs of sand or soil.
  • Lettuce: has a short storage life.
  • Onions: seed-grown onions are especially good for storage.
  • Parsnips: these are perhaps the hardiest of all root vegetables. Be sure to dig them out. If you pull them, you can lose half the root. If you nick the roots with the shovel, don’t store them. Nicks and blemishes invite spoilage, and this applies to all root vegetables. For longer storage, pack them in damp sawdust. Leaves, moss, or sand will work well too. The leaves are edible.
  • Sweet Potatoes: the roots are vitamin-rich, and they can keep several months if stored well. Must be cured.
  • White Potatoes: beware of planting the kind you buy in the store -- they may contain disease. Cool nights promote storage of starch, making for a longer-keeping potato, so the later-maturing ones are best for storage. Must be cured and kept in a dark spot. They can last four to six months.
  • Pumpkins: those that have lost their stems won’t keep well.
  • Winter radishes: they’ll last until February if well stored.
  • Rutabagas (Swedish turnip): will last two to four months in storage.
  • Squash: if it’s well stored, it will keep for up to six months. Cure them for 10 to 14 days. Like pumpkins, keep them dry and moderately warm.
  • Tomatoes: late-planted tomatoes are best for storage.
  • Turnips: these are among the hardiest of vegetables. In storage they might put out pale, leafy tops, good for stews.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Vehicle Planters Collage

Vehicle Planters Collage

5 Steps To Successful Indoor Fruit Trees

5 Steps To Successful Indoor Fruit Trees

The keys to successful container growing are:

1. Select the right size pot with adequate drainage holes (we recommend a 16+ inch pot)

2. Use a soil mix that is lightweight and drains well.

3. Develop a watering schedule so the tree stays on the dry side of moist. Usually once a week is fine but it will depend on the soil you use and the dryness of your indoor environment. Err on the side of watering less as opposed to watering too much ...

4. Provide 6 - 8 hours of direct sunlight (or a grow light) per day.

5. Plant the tree so the root collar is above the soil line and the top of the root crown is barely below the soil. Do not cover the trunk with soil at all.

8 Best Chicken Breeds for Homestead

8 Best Chicken Breeds for Homestead

Monday, 21 October 2013

Weeds as Indicators of Lawn Problems

Sandra Mason
Extension Educator, Horticulture
Weeds as Indicators of Lawn Problems

One person's weed is another person's wildflower. A weed is just a plant out of place. We have all felt like weeds at times. A rose in a strawberry patch is a weed. The optimist's definition of a weed is a plant whose virtues are yet to be discovered. 

Weeds are just plants having to deal with an unhappy human. Weeds draw scorn, particularly in lawn areas. It is impractical to expect our lawns to be totally weed free all of the time. But according to Tom Voigt, U of I turf specialist, large numbers of weeds in a lawn can indicate certain problems such as:

  • too much traffic
  • improper lawn species selection
  • too much shade
  • unfavorable soil conditions
  • poor lawn management techniques.

Although it doesn't always hold true, certain weeds can be more prevalent under certain conditions. Voigt recommends learning to recognize specific weeds and their favorite conditions to help identify some lawn problems. Correcting these problems can help reduce the need for herbicides. Some of the common conditions and their weed indicators are:

  • Acid soils (bentgrass, red sorrel)
  • Compacted soils (annual bluegrass, bermuda grass, common chickweed, goosegrass, knotweed, mouse-ear chickweed, prostrate spurge)
  • Dry soils (black medic, carpetweed, red sorrel, sandbur)
  • Dry and infertile soils (yarrow)
  • High fertility soil (annual bluegrass, bentgrass, bermudagrass, crabgrass, mallow, purslane)
  • Low fertility soils (plantains, red sorrel, smooth brome, timothy)
  • Low mowing height (annual bluegrass, bentgrass, bermudagrass, crabgrass, white clover)
  • Moist or poorly drained soils (annual bluegrass, bentgrass, common chickweed, crabgrass, goosegrass, ground ivy, mouse-ear chickweed, speedwells, violets, yellow nutsedge)
  • Moist fertile soils (curly dock, henbit, yellow wood sorrel)
  • Moist infertile soil (white clover)
  • Moist shade (annual bluegrass, nimblewill, rough bluegrass, violets)
  • New seedings (barnyard grass, crabgrass, henbit, purslane, yellow foxtail)
  • Shade (annual bluegrass, common chickweed, ground ivy, mouse-ear chickweed, nimblewill, violets)
Some weeds such as dandelions and quackgrass are not particular as to their environment or lawn conditions.

Weed problems can be lessened by proper lawn management. Weeds have a difficult time getting established in healthy competitive lawns. Mechanically removing weeds by hand or hoe can eliminate small numbers of weeds.

Herbicides can be used once proper lawn management and soil condition improvements have been initiated. Broadleaf weeds such as dandelions are often killed by using postemergent herbicides. As with all pesticides–read, understand and follow label directions.

When using postemergent broadleaf products follow these guidelines:
  • Be sure to watch environmental conditions. Watch wind speeds. Often early mornings have less wind. Apply when air temperatures are between 65 and 85 degrees F. Adequate soil moisture is important for the herbicide to work properly. Do not apply when precipitation is expected within 24 hours.
  • Don't mow for a few days prior to application or following application.
  • When possible spot apply with herbicide rather than treating the whole area.
  • Apply these herbicides to new seeded areas only after they have been mowed four times.
  • Wait at least 30 days following application before seeding into areas treated with post emergence broadleaf herbicides. Many broadleaf weeds can also be treated effectively during active growth in autumn.

Realistic expectations about our lawns and proper lawn management techniques can go a long way to control weed problems. Herbicides are another tool in weed control, but not the only tool.

Catch Slugs With Citrus

Catch Slugs With Citrus

Catch slugs with citrus. Leave a bunch or lemon / orange / grapefruit rind out overnight near slug prone plants. In morning you will find slug attracted towards citrus and remove them.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Preparation and corn silage maturity is key to successful harvest

Preparation and corn silage maturity is key to successful harvest

It is hard to believe, but corn silage harvest will start soon on many dairy farms.

Please review the following information as you prepare for the upcoming harvest. At this time in the growing cycle, the most important manageable factor that will influence the nutritional value of this year’s corn silage is maturity at chopping.

Harvesting corn silage too early (i.e., silage with less than about 30 percent dry matter) usually results in a lower starch concentration in the silage, which means more corn grain may need to be supplemented.

Least expensive

Corn silage is usually among the least expensive ingredients in a diet and high inclusion rates will reduce feed costs.

However, because wet silage can reduce feed intake by dairy cows, dietary inclusions rates for wet silage are usually less than for normal silage which can increase overall feed costs.

Overmature corn silage (silage with more than about 38 percent dry matter) also has less nutritional value than normal corn silage because of lower fiber and starch digestibility.

Kernel processing partially reduces some of the negative effects of maturity on starch digestibility and is strongly recommended for mature corn silage, but it will not make mature corn silage equal to corn silage harvested at the optimal dry matter concentration (30 to 38 percent dry matter).

A portion of the crop that is harvested will be lost during fermentation and storage. That loss is considered shrink.

Factors that affect shrink include:

Type of silo structure: (bags and sealed silos usually lowest, conventional upright silos intermediate and bunkers usually have greatest shrink).
Moisture concentration at filling. Wet silage can have high shrink because of excessive fermentation and seepage. Dry silage can have high shrink because of spoilage (for example, mold) during storage and feed out.
 • Chop length

Chopping too coarsely increases the amount of air trapped in the silage mass and reduces compaction. Chop just coarse enough to provide enough ‘chewable matter’ for the cows. Approximately 5 percent of the material on the top screen of the Penn State shaker box is usually adequate.

• Rate of filling

Slow filling reduces the rate of fermentation so that pH stays high for a longer period of time which increases shrink. The faster you fill and pack (filling faster than you can pack will increase shrink), the less shrink.

• Air trapped in the silage mass and air infiltration into the mass promotes yeast and mold growth causing shrink. Pack, pack, pack, and when you think you have packed enough, pack some more.

• Not covering the silage in a bunker silo greatly increases shrink. Several studies have shown that covering a bunker with plastic returns around $8 in savings for every $1 invested in plastic and labor needed to cover the silo. For maximum benefit, cover quickly after the silo is filled.

•Silage inoculants

Silage inoculants can increase, decrease, or not affect shrink (how is that for a useful statement). The standard silage inoculant (lactic acid bacteria) usually reduces fermentation losses slightly (i.e., reduces shrink) but often slightly increase spoilage losses during feeding.


If spoiling during feed-out has been a problem on a specific farm, then use of lactic acid bacteria may increase overall shrink and would not be recommended.

If spoilage has not been a problem on a specific farm, then use of lactic acid bacteria should be considered because of the reduction in fermentation losses.

If spoilage has been a problem, propionic acid bacteria (Lactobacillus buchneri) is recommended. This inoculant often increases fermentation losses but usually reduces spoilage losses more.


Minimize shrink by chopping fine enough (but not too fine), filling rapidly, packing well and sealing the silo with plastic. Lactic acid bacterial inoculants will reduce shrink a bit if spoilage during feedout is not a problem. Lactobacillus buchneri inoculant will reduce spoilage during storage and feedout but will increase fermentation losses slightly.

Maximize nutritional value of corn silage by chopping when corn is between 30 and 38 percent dry matter.

(This was published originally in the August 2009 issue of Buckeye Dairy News and was written by Dr. Bill Weiss, OSU Extension Specialist, Dairy Nutrition and Forages).