What your pallet stamps mean

Moving is a big deal. It isn’t just taking stuff from one place and putting it in another. You have to pack, move, unpack and organize. We’ve been so scattered for so long that the unpacking and organizing is taking forever. It is certainly giving me something to do until Spring planting time though. I had ambitious plans to do a Fall/Winter garden but then I realized that I need to get my ducks in a row first and use the winter to get good and organized.

What I’m doing until Spring includes buying books and reading and also subscriptions to Mother Earth News and Grit. Side note on Mother Earth News and Grit: their websites have some awesome giveaways for things like homesteading supplies. I haven’t won anything but I keep entering. I love entering contests and sweepstakes. It’s like playing the lottery but doesn’t cost anything.

OK, back to what I’m doing: I’ve joined backyard homesteading type Facebook groups which are a wealth of information. I’ve asked one or two questions and always get tons of answers and responses. I’m planning for chickens come Spring and we’ll be working on the coop for the next few months. I’m keeping my eyes open for things and supplies that I can use. Pro tip: when you need supplies, TELL PEOPLE. You never know who will have what you need.

For example, Hubby works for a brewery and I mentioned that I wanted some pallets for my garden plans but didn’t know where to get some. He said “Oh, you want pallets? We’ve got some that we can’t use or return, I’ll get them.” and voila, I have pallets.

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I started searching for ideas of what to use them for and came across a thread in one of the aforementioned Facebook groups. Several people warned against using pallets that had been chemically treated. Apparently pallets are treated to kill bugs that might be in the wood and they can be heat treated or chemically treated. I never knew that was a potential problem but I learned that you can tell good and bad pallets by their stamps. The stamp isn’t always in the same place so I had to look for each one. Here is what I found on my pallets:

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The HT means each one was heat treated which is good because it means they were treated by heat instead of a chemical spray. Chemically treated ones would be marked MB. MB stands for Methyl Bromide which is a pesticide that can be harmful. Here is what the rest of the stamps mean:

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I had to Google IPPC because I’ve never heard of that before. IPPC is a group that safeguards against potentially harmful pests being carried to new areas of the world on products like pallets. Invading species could take over and do serious damage. They want to make sure trade among countries isn’t affected by those risks.

Now that I know my pallets are safe, I’m good to go on projects with them. Have you recycled pallets for anything? What’d you make?

One man’s trash is another man’s… compost bins

One of my to do list projects was compost bins. Manufactured ones weren’t in my budget and I was thinking of trying to make one from wooden pallets. Then one night I was on the Facebook and a neighbor in a local group posted that they had several compost bins they needed to get rid of. What??? I messaged him and confirmed they were still available- he had 2 left! Hubby and I rushed right over and collected them. 

Aren’t they beautiful? 

Our first offering! 

Hopefully by Spring, we’ll have some lovely rich compost for our garden beds. I’ve given my oldest kiddo the chore of emptying the coffee can of kitchen scraps into the bin every day. 

I love local Facebook groups for free and cheap stuff and for meeting our neighbors. If you haven’t got any local groups for your town or neighborhood, try making one. It really expands the sense of community. Plus you never know what you’ll come across! 

Chicken coop plans

One of my fondest wishes is for a flock of backyard chickens. Our area allows up to 8 for our yard size but I only want 3 or 4. First we need somewhere to keep them though.

I’ve been researching chicken coop plans and designs and stumbled across coops made from kid’s plastic playhouses. We just so happen to have a very beat up Little Tikes house at my inlaw’s:countingdays

Isn’t it sad looking? OK, I made it more sad with the filter that I added to the picture. It is missing a couple of shutters and faded but still sturdy. With some hard cloth wire (sturdier than chicken wire) over the windows and a roost and some nesting boxes, I think it will be fine. The plan is to build a platform to put it on so that it won’t be right on the ground, plus we’ll build a little run around it.

Here is the post that gave me the idea: Little Tikes Coops

and a video tour of one:

There are naked neck turkens in her coop in the video which I’d never seen before.

Have you seen all the cool chicken coop tour videos on Youtube? They’re so inspiring. I can’t wait to share our finished project!

What I Learned From Our Failed Camping Trip

When I was a kid, I went camping every summer, either with my aunt or my girl scout troop. I’ve been trying to think of something we could do as our family that would be cheap, fun, and close to home. Camping! I thought. Camping would be perfect.

Alas, I learned that buying the equipment needed to go camping can quickly add up. But then! I Googled and found the First Time Camper Program with the Georgia campgrounds which allows you to borrow all the gear needed and get advice from a park ranger. The gear is provided by REI and Coleman and includes a 6 person tent, 2 camping chairs, a stove and fuel, 4 toasting forks, lighter and/or matches, a lantern, and 4 sleeping pads to put under your sleeping bags.

I made reservations and counted down the weeks, talking up the trip to get the kids excited. My 2 year old is excited about anything if he isn’t yelling no, but my 6 year old took some coaxing. He wasn’t too sure about sleeping outside with bugs and no electronics.

The first trouble was trying to get everything packed and organized and realizing that I should have gone shopping the week before so I’d have time to review and buy anything forgotten. I also carefully made a list and then lost it. It was our first real trip as a family and I was so disorganized!

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We made it!

When we got there and checked in, our tent was already set up for us. Inside was a plastic locking storage trunk with our supplies. There was a hook up for water and electric. A park ranger came and met with us and told us about the park, showed us how to use the little propane stove, and gave us some tips on camping which included advice to stay out of the lovely greenery:

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Leaves of 3, leave it be. AKA Posion Ivy

Poison ivy hides among harmless stuff which I did not know. Yikes! The itchy residue can stay for a year on unwashed clothing, so if we walked through it, we would need to immediately isolate those clothes to wash. I was really thankful for the park ranger. She put the fear of itchies in the kiddos and they stayed away from the green stuff.

During all this, Hubby had not been feeling too hot. He had been having pain on his, uh, derriere, for a few days and it was getting worse. He thought it was a pimple but it was getting bigger and more painful. He lay down for a while and the kids and I unpacked the car. We all put our swim suits on and went to the lake’s beach. We all had a blast and stayed for several hours. I did remember sunscreen for everyone and no one got burned. The boys and I are all super pale so I use SPF 50 sunscreen.

Once everyone was worn out from the water fun, we rinsed off and headed back to the camp site. We had bought fire starters which were wax in paper cups, and some firewood from the park’s visitor center. It is important not to bring your own wood, because you don’t want to accidentally introduce non native flora to the area. Anyway, Hubby got the fire started while the kids got the hot dogs and marshmallows ready to roast. I worked on stringing up a line for the towels and swimsuits. Every time I hung something up, the whole thing would fall down. It was because my temporary knot wasn’t strong enough and would come undone. I finally got annoyed and just knotted the rope and tight as I could in a more permanent knot.

Hubby suddenly started feeling bad again, worse than before, and needed to go lie down. When he did, the fire went out. No problem, I thought, I can do this.

I gathered kindling, got the matches, and got busy getting the fire going again.

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Success! See?

Once I sat down and started to get settled, the fire went out AGAIN. I went to tell Hubby and found him sweating in pain. It turns out, he had a huge abscess. I made the decision right then to pack up and go home which we did. Hubby went to the ER where they lanced and drained a silver dollar sized abscess and told him there was no way he’d have been able to wait any longer to get it treated. Our little trip was a bust but I learned a few things:

Learn some basic knots because you never know what will need tying – like my poor clothes line.

Make a plan and follow through, including supply lists. Give your plan and list to other party members so if one person’s gets lost, there will be back up copies.

If anyone in your party doesn’t feel well, don’t try to stick it out. You don’t want to be stuck in the woods without medical care.

Know what poison oak, sumac, and ivy look like and bring calamine lotion, in case anyone runs into it. Be sure to bag up any clothing that comes in contact with poison plants and wash it in HOT water when you get home. I found out from the park ranger that the poisonous oils can stay active for a year on clothing so you need to get it washed off right away. Keep your dogs out of bushy areas when the plants could hide. If your dog gets it on their coat, it can spread to you.

Bring some fire starters. An easy one to make is: save your dryer lint, then wrap balls of it in strips of wax paper (about 6 inches or so), like candies. Poke the finished products down in the middle of your wood and light. My ex girl scout troop leader reminded me of this after I told her about my failure at making a fire.

What have I missed? Any good tips or camping stories to share?

Cats and mint

We’re closing on a house on the 31st. We’ve been rental nomads for so long, this feels unreal. I have big plans for being a homeowner. I’ve had container gardens this whole time but it isn’t easy. I could plant things like tomatoes in a container but I just don’t have the gumption. I’ve stuck to herbs such as mint. Mint is so easy! I knew a girl who took the piece of mint that was a garnish for her mojito home with her, stuck it in water, rooted it, and planted it. It lived and did nicely. This is my current container of mint:
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It looks like it is escaping.

My biggest wish is to be more self sufficient so my homeowner plans are all to further that. I want to be prepared if a zombie apocalypse happens. I’m a huge Walking Dead and Z Nation fan.

I want to:
Cut out the processed foods and cook from scratch
Bake our own bread
Have a garden and grow some of our own food
Have backyard chickens
Compost
Use less plastic in the kitchen and recycle more
Put in a rain barrel
Start canning and preserving food

… and more!

Big hopes and plans, I know. Especially with us having full time jobs and two small boys. It is a suburban house, but it is on a little over half an acre so at least we have a little plot of land.

I will admit that I don’t have any experience with chickens, but I’ve read a lot, and I have lots of cats. I know chickens require different care than cats, but at least I have an idea of animal care. That counts for something, right?
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Since I have such big hopes, and dreams, and plans, I thought that I would start a blog to document it as I go. I only have real experience with cats and mint, so that became the title.

So welcome! I hope that you will say hi, and follow along on this adventure.