Organic Mulch Composition

Back on 25 August 2017 my post was on Mulching Materials. One of advantages of mulch is that nutrients are added to the soil. The three major nutrients in fertilizer or mulch are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). The following gives the approximate percentages of the 3 major nutrients in selected organic mulches.

  • Alfalfa hay – (N) 2.5% (P) 0.5% (K) 2.0 %
  • Bean straw – (N) 1.2% (P) 0.,3% (K) 1.2%
  • Grain straw – (N) 0.6% (P) 0.2% (K) 1.0%
  • Olive pomaces – (N) 1.2% (P) 0.8% (K) 0.5%
  • Peanut hulls – (N) 1.5% (P) — (K) 0.5%
  • Peat – (N) 2.3% (P) 0.4% (K) 0.8%
  • Sawdust – (N) 0.2% (P) — (K) 0.2%
  • Seaweed (kelp) – (N) 0.6% (P) — (K) 1.3%
  • Timothy hay – (N) 1.0) (P) 0.2% (K) 1.5%
  • Winery pomaces – (N) 1.5% (P) 1.5% (K) 0.8%

Keep your fork


The Massanutten Squirrel Problem

Two things in abundance around the Shenandoah Valley and the Massanutten Mountain are places of worship and squirrels. I’m not sure which of the two there are more of, but four churches and a synagogue near here have/had a severe squirrel problem. It reminds me of the squirrel problem we had back in Iowa that I wrote about this past January. Here’s what happened out here.

The Presbyterian church called a meeting to decide what to do about their squirrels. After much prayer and consideration they determined the squirrels were predestined to be there and they shouldn’t interfere with God’s divine will.

At the Baptist church the squirrels had taken an interest in the baptistery. The deacons met and decided to put a water slide on the baptistery and let the squirrels drown themselves. The squirrels liked the slide and, unfortunately, knew instinctively how to swim so twice as many squirrels showed up the following week.

The Methodist church decided that they were not in a position to harm any of God’s creatures. So, they humanely trapped their squirrels and set them free near the Baptist church. Two weeks later the squirrels were back when the Baptists took down the water slide.

But the Lutheran church came up with a very creative strategy. They baptised all of the squirrels and made them members of the church. Now they only see them at Christmas and Easter.

Not much was heard from the Jewish synagogue. The caught one squirrel and circumcised him. They haven’t seen any squirrels since.

Problem solved!

Keep your fork


Squirrel Stew

Squirrel season is just around the corner. Besides the enjoyment of hitting the woods and coming back with a limit of ‘bushy tails’, we also enjoy a fine meal of squirrel. If you haven’t eaten squirrel stew before, or even if you have, here’s a simple recipe you’ll want to try.

2 squirrels, medium or large
3 qts water
3 medium potatoes, chunked
2 raw onions, diced
3 or 4 carrots, chunked
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Clean, wash and cut the squirrels into small pieces. Place the meat into a pot, add the cold water and bring to a boil. Simmer until tender. Add the vegetables and seasonings. Cook until the meat falls from the bones.

Keep your fork

To Those Who Survived The 30’s, 40’s and 50’s

A lot of us were born and survived during the 1930’s, 1940’s and the 1950’s. No matter what our kids and the new generation think about us, we are awesome!

First, we survived being born to mothers who may have smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant.

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn’t get tested for diabetes.

Then, after the trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright-colored lead-based paint.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, locks on doors or cabinets, and, when we rode our bikes, we had baseball caps, not helmets on our heads.

As infants and children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, no booster seats, no seat belts, no air bags, bald tires, and sometimes no brakes. Some of us came from big families where one or two of us had to ride on the shelf over the trunk in front of the rear window.

Riding in the back of a pick-up truck on a warm day was always a special treat.

We could drive before we could see over the steering wheel, smoked cigarette buts we found in the street, had our own jack-knife and played mumbly peg.

Clothes were always handed down and patches were necessary. We did not run around with our business hanging through holes in our jeans.

We shared the bed with our sibling, with multiple beds in the same room. No room of our own.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle, and no one actually died from this.

We ate cupcakes, white bread, real butter and bacon. We drank Kool-Aid made with real white sugar. And we weren’t overweight.


Because we were always outside working or playing… that’s why!

If we grew up on a farm there was milking cows, feeding the animals, working in the fields and gardens – there were no slackers. Everyone worked till all the chores were done and then everyone sat down to eat supper as a family.

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.

No one was able to reach us all day. And, we were OKAY.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride them down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We did not have Play Stations, Nintendos or X-boxes. There were no video games, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVD’s, no surround-sound or CD’s, no cell phones, no personal computers, no internet and chat rooms.

WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and knocked teeth out and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

We would get spankings with wooden spoons, switches, ping-pong paddles, or just a bare hand, and no one would call child services to report abuse.

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt and the worms did not live in us forever.

We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, 22 rifles for our 12th, rode horses, made up games with sticks and tennis balls, and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them.

Little league had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

The idea of being a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

These generations have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers, and inventors ever. The past 60 to 85 years have seen an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

If you are one of those between 1925 and 1955, CONGRATULATIONS!

You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids before the lawyers and the government regulated so much of our lives for our own good.

While you’re at it, send it to your kids, so they will know how brave and lucky their parents were.

Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn’t it?

Keep your fork

Dr. Pol Episode

The Incredible Dr. Pol, a TV program on Nat GEO Wild, is one of my favorite programs. Having taught agriculture for more years than I care to remember, I’ve taught almost every subject related to agriculture that you can think of, including animal health. I can diagnose some of the diseases/problems he comes up against before Dr. Pol tells the farmer/pet owner what the problem is. Here’s how one pet owner’s dog problem would go if I could script it.

An elderly woman wakes up one morning and finds her sixteen-year-old dog lying on the kitchen floor. “Oh, no”, she says, “there must be something wrong with Scruffy!”

She scoops up the dog and rushes him to Dr. Pol’s clinic. “Dr. Pol, please help,” she implores as she puts Scruffy up on the exam table.

After a brief examination, Dr. Pol says, “I’m sorry madam, but I believe your dog has died.”

“Oh, but there must be something you can do for Scruffy,” the woman says.

“Well, there is one thing,” says Dr. Pol, as he goes into the kennel and returns with a burlap bag. Dr. Pol opens the sack and places a scrawny old cat on the table next to the dog. The cat  looks at the dog and hisses. It circles the dog cautiously, sniffing and hissing.

Dr. Pol puts the cat back in the sack and tells the old woman, “I’m sorry, but there is nothing more I can do.”

The old woman says, “I guess you’re right, Dr. Pol. Scruffy hates cats, and if he weren’t dead he surely would have barked.”

Dr. Pol says that he will take care of the arrangements for Scruffy, and the old woman heads for home.

A few weeks later the old woman receives a bill from Dr. Pol’s office for $338. She thinks there must be a mistake so she returns to the clinic. When she asks about the bill, Dr. Poll pulls up the bill on the computer. He tells the woman that he had charged her $38 for taking care of Scruffy’s arrangements.

The old woman says, “That seems fair, but I don’t understand what the other $300 is for.”

After looking further at the screen, Dr. Pol says, “Oh, that was for the cat scan.”

(Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll ever see my idea on the program.)

Keep your fork

Tomato Gravy

After eating tomatoes fixed every way you thought possible, but still craving something new, here’s yet another tomato recipe for you to try.

6 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped into small pieces
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/2 c cream (or water)
3 Tbsp flour

Heat the oil and butter and sauté the chopped onions 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sugar, salt and pepper to the sautéed onions. After combining the flour and cream or water, stir the mixture into the prepared tomatoes. Stir while cooking until thickened.

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Mulching Materials

Mulching around your plants and between the rows may be done to keep the ground cooler during hot weather, conserve moisture, help prevent erosion or control weeds. A variety of materials may be used for mulching and they all have pros and cons to their uses. Here are some common materials along with their advantages and disadvantages.

  • Grass clippings – are generally easy to come by and are an excellent source of nitrogen. When turned under, they add organic matter to the soil. The clippings could contain harmful chemicals that have been applied to the lawn and may burn the plants. The clipping may also contain weed seeds as well as unwanted organic material.
  • Leaves – are readily available and either free or reasonably priced. They are rich in nutrients and easily spread. Leaves tend to mat down when wet and some leaves may contain too much acid for some plants.
  • Manure – is an excellent source of nutrients and organic matter when turned into the soil. It may be readily available if you live near a livestock/poultry operation. Manure must be well-rotted to prevent harm to the plants. It may be expensive and hard to locate. It may contain viable weed seeds.
  • Newspaper – Earthworms, the natural soil aerator, thrive on newspaper. It is easy to come by and easy to spread around the plants. Besides the need to be weighted down to prevent movement, it decomposes very fast.
  • Pine needles – Besides ‘looking pretty’ when spread in the garden, they are also easy to apply. Getting enough needles to use as a mulch may be hard to do unless you are close to conifers. Some plants can not stand the acid released from some needles.
  • Plastic – if it is a heavy plastic it may be used many years if carefully put down and taken back up. If you use an opaque plastic you could get complete weed control. It also warms the soil for early planting. Besides being expensive it is unattractive, adds nothing to the soil, and must be weighted down to be kept in place.
  • Hay or straw – Adds organic matter and some nutrients to the soil. It is somewhat economical and easy to use and generally easy to find. It may contain unwanted residues, weed seed, insects or diseases.
  • Wood shavings – are generally weed and disease free. They are easy to spread, generally economical in cost and available locally. Like pine needles, they may contain too much acid for some plants. They also tend to tie up nitrogen in the soil but do add some organic material to the soil when broken down.

Keep your fork