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How to Get Your Chicken to Lay More Eggs

Does it seem that your egg collection is decreased or that your hens aren’t laying as they once did? Or the yolks are pale and lackluster, lacking the nutrients they should provide? When the chickens are part of a plan for independent living or as a structured food supply, this can put a damper on things and thwart being able to rely on them as a nutritional resource. It can be a catastrophic event in a survival situation to have your chickens stop producing a crucial food source.

Eggs come from happy and healthy chickens, so a few tweaks here and there in your program can improve egg yields immensely. In an emergency situation it may be already too late to solve the problem, so here are the top tips and tried methods for getting your chickens to lay more eggs for a bountiful future.

Remember They Are Birds

The first thing to remember is that they are living creatures with their own hierarchy and social order, literally a “pecking order.” Although they have been domesticated ever since someone discovered how tasty they were, along with their ability to be good little producers of versatile daily nuggets high in protein, the most important thing to keep in mind is that chickens still retain their wild bird instincts.

These instincts include foraging, pretending to fly, the desire to roam and scratch for their food, and the mental need to hunt their food. If you do not have the luxury of a large area for roaming, you can still build a nice comfortable coop that suits their everyday needs while providing a good diet. Meeting these needs will be rewarded with the nice steady production of quality eggs.

Put the Egg First

Before we start adding things that go into the chicken, let’s talk about output, the egg. The egg is an amazing little structure. A porous shell offers external protection, this shell mainly consists of calcium carbonate with an invisible barrier made of protein. This protective protein barrier is called the cuticle and it acts as a shield to prevent contamination from bacteria. The nutrient dense yolk is suspended in a liquid composed of protein and water called the albumen that acts as a shock absorber and cushion.

A chicken egg provides 6-7 grams of protein and 6 grams of fat, fatty acids, essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals. To achieve the highest nutritional output in an egg, it’s important a laying hen is provided a well-balanced diet that is nutrient rich with a diverse diet and fresh, clean water daily.

Top Reasons Chickens Stop Laying Eggs

If you have already had your chickens stop producing, don’t worry it’s fixable with just a few simple modifications!

To understand how to get your chickens to lay more eggs, we need a quick overview of the main reasons chickens stop laying eggs.

Temperature

Having chickens on the ground where it’s drafty or damp, or if they are housed in a poorly sealed coop will affect your egg production as chickens do not fare well in anything but a warm, dry environment.

Light

Chickens lay eggs as a means to reproduce. In winter when a chick has the odds against him for survival, the chicken’s body goes into shut down mode by way of its endocrine system. The endocrine system is signaled to slow production when the daylight hours get shorter.

Molt

About once a year chickens molt and that process can last 3-6 weeks. Having several ages can help negate any lags in production.

Protein needs

When the temperature turns cooler the chickens need more protein to burn as calories. If this higher calorie need goes unmet, the chicken’s body produces fewer eggs to save on expenditure.

Stress

Being prey to most animals makes a chicken nervous about anything it can’t control. Loud noises, excessive noise in its surroundings, or the scent of strange animals can almost guarantee the chicken will stop production.

The Best Ways to Get Your Chicken to Lay More Eggs

We have covered the basics in chicken husbandry and what things can affect egg production. So now for the good news! A productive flock is as important to hobbyists as well as the off the grid lifestylists. Some people keep chickens as pets of course, but for those that are primarily raising a flock for the nutrition packed eggs production can be increased with some simple finessing and system tweaks.

Here are some of the best ways to get your chicken to lay more eggs, or how to get more bang for your “cluck”!

Basic Nutrition

No matter how happy or stress free your hen is, you must provide the basic requirements in her feed in order to have your hens lay. Good quality feed supplemented with oyster shells (or leftover egg shells) need to be available for her to peck at. Clean water is a must and should be readily available 24 hours a day.

How to Feed a Balanced Diet to a Laying Hen

Supplements

Oyster shell is the most common supplement for chickens, especially laying hens as the calcium provided by the shell is needed to make a healthy and strong egg. Many, as we do, use a portion of their leftover egg shells to add to the oyster shells. Without calcium supplements, the laying hen will pull it from her bones and it is similar to osteoporosis.

Kiss my grits

Good food and quality supplements are only half the battle, you need grit and oyster shell to supply the best possible foods for your chickens so you can get the best quality eggs. When chickens roamed free they consumed small pieces of stone and gravel as they foraged naturally, this also can happen when they free-range. Chickens in an enclosure need that grit to be supplied to them as it acts as their “teeth” by grinding food in their gizzard. Without this grit, food cannot be broken down or absorbed properly.

No junk food

Much like with humans, low nutritional value foods that are high in carbs are a no-no for your chicken. Breads, white pasta, potatoes, dairy and white rice are not good for your laying hen. Of course, the comfort foods we love are dangerous for your feathered friends. No salty, sweet, or fried foods and especially no alcohol!

This is a list of foods that can be toxic for your flock:

  • No spinach
  • No asparagus
  • No citrus
  • No onions
  • No raw beans that have been dried
  • No apple seeds
  • No eggplant
  • No avocado

Health conscious chicken treats

There are many things you CAN feed your chicken to promote more eggs and give them a healthy boost.

  • Oatmeal
  • Cottage cheese
  • Pumpkin
  • Melons
  • Sweet corn
  • Ginger
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Cucumbers
  • All grain pancakes
  • Mealworms

Hot tip: spicy. I had many people tell me that adding some red or green peppers boosted vitamin C and the chickens loved them.

Shed Light on the Subject

A hen needs 12-15 hours of light a day to provide the best production numbers in eggs. Installing a light can help keep the production even during winter, or on cool nights. Lights infused with red can prevent cannibalism and keep the coop soothed and calm.Most chickens lay their eggs by 10 am, so after egg collection it’s time for your hens to go out and get some fresh air and light.

Build a Proper Coop with These Tips

There is no one specific design that is best for a chicken coop. But there are a few basics to consider when making a coop.

Personal space

Allow 2-3 square feet of space per laying hen and it is easier to build out later on if your flock increases in size.

Flooring

Dirt is not a deterrent to predators as they can easily dig under the edges. Wood can rot and house parasites. Concrete is expensive and can crack over time. The most current materials used for chicken coop flooring are vinyl over plywood. Plywood also can be easily replaced as needed.

Roosts

Each hen should have at least 8 inches of roost space.  The most common way is to use a 2×4’ with the wider side facing upwards for the roosting bar. This protects those delicate feet in winter from biting cold and frostbite.

Make nest boxes a priority

A good way to make egg collecting easy is to use nesting boxes. A nesting box also protects the egg and helps keep it clean. One rule of thumb is to have one nesting box for every 3-4 birds, and install them about 2 feet off the floor. A layer of soft litter like wood shavings or hay can provide cushion for the egg while absorbing droppings.

Coop ventilation

Year round air ventilation is a must for a healthy coop. A good measure of thumb is 1/5th of your wall space should be vented. We used hardware cloth to cover the vents to keep off the little varmints and creepy crawlies. Be sure to use washers and screws to secure it down and check it regularly for any rips or holes.

Keep a Clean Coop

No matter what system you employ, the main thing is to provide a nice place to live, avoid overcrowding your chickens, and keep them in a clean and dry environment. A regular schedule of laying fresh litter in their houses and removing droppings will help the hens from tracking feces and dirt into nesting boxes and the eggs within. Hens flourish in hygienic conditions and it is advisable to have a quarantine period for any new stock before they are introduced into the flock.

Disinfection

There is a lot of controversy on this. Many swear by bleach, but I do not like it around my animals or eating stock. After some trial and error, I use vinegar to disinfect my chicken coop and lots of elbow grease. I like to disinfect at least every few months by cleaning out everything and then giving it a good hosing. A liberal spray down with vinegar is next and then time drying in the sunlight, which also helps kill bacteria. I soak any bowls or feeding dishes in it, then leave them to dry in the sun also.

If you have your chickens on a dirt floor, you may want to use hay over barn lime to keep things dry and hay is dust free, unlike straw. It does need to be changed every week, but it can be added to the compost.

For smaller flocks, use a tarp. You can lay it out and then cover it in hay. It is easy clean up, as when cleaning time rolls around just fold that sucker up and drag it to the compost pile. Disinfect with vinegar before adding more hay and rebedding.

Rodent Control 101

Rodents can be devastating to a coop and any community they move too. Unfortunately chicken coops are a magnet for mice and rats. The main timeframe is the harvest in fall. Its then that rats will try to invade as their main food supply source is depleted. Colonies of mice will spring up by buildings and they tend to stay inside.

The biggest indicator that you have a problem is droppings. A rat has 40 droppings daily versus a mouse’s 80! This contaminates feed and exposes you, your livestock and your flock to diseases which can include salmonellosis, toxoplasmosis, cryptosporidiosis, and brucellosis.

Rodents are also responsible for more than 25% of all farm fires classified as “unknown origin.” These nocturnal dwellers can easily be underestimated, and can wreak havoc on your flock. They are predators and will seek out chicks. Rat infestations can consume hundreds of chicks a day.

The best steps to take to eliminate a rodent infestation around your chickens can be summed up in these 5 methods.

Tidy the coop

Deter the vermin by taking away all places they could set up shelter. Brush, woodpiles, or scrap piles should be well away from your coop.

Lock the feed up tight

Metal trash cans or drums are the best at deterring the little disease carriers, make sure the lid locks tight.

Build a wall or barrier

A mouse can squeeze into openings the size of your little finger, so sheet metal is the best bet to line your coop. Make sure your doors are in good repair with no entry points.

Trapping the pests

Physically removing the rats and mice is the best remedy. Place traps around the perimeter. Colony traps that hold many mice at once may be a good option.

Rodenticides

A last resort of course, and rodents can become immune, so switching it up is needed. Keep it away from other livestock and only in extreme circumstances do I use this. But if it’s between my flock and the mice, I do what I have to.

Thoughts on Confinement Vs. Free Range

Confinement and free-range options for keeping your flock have their advantages and disadvantages. Birds that can free-range will have more room and more opportunity to fulfill their need to be “free” to forage and hunt. But risks are abundant with threats by disease and predators. Being able to identify and find eggs quickly, as well eliminate problems in a timely manner is a plus to being in an enclosed environment.

Access to the Outdoors can help provide variety in their diet as well as plenty of time to take sunbathing and dust bathing seriously. But to me it’s not worth the risk to have them outside and unprotected 24 hours a day so we use a chicken tractor in summer and poultry netting in spring.

What Is a Chicken Tractor?

A chicken tractor is an attachable mobile coop with a trailer hitch that can be moved around so the chickens can have fresh grass and foraging area. It helps spread their fertilizer around the fields as well as keep bugs down as they have fun “exploring” their new surroundings. A happy, healthy hen is your most productive hen.

Exercise

Hens with more belly fat are impeded when it comes to producing eggs, so basic exercise is a must for physiological and mental health. Letting them scratch for their food gives them an activity that boosts base metabolic rates and keeps them warm and limber in winter. Throwing the girls leftover veggie table scraps or fresh cut grass and weeds straight from the garden will keep them happy little ladies.

Cabbage heads (the ends) and older lettuce pieces are fun to peck and I use the compost provided as they turn their food into the dirt and manure for my melon and survival gardens. Other ways to boost compost value would be to add corn cobs, carrot greens, melon rinds, kale, corn silks, or any other veggie leavin’s you may have. My girls love the after dinner treats and are lined up at the chicken yard’s gate waiting for them every evening!

Give Them Things to Do

Nothing is as fun to watch or as sweet as observing hens taking a dirt bath. Chickens like being clean and dirt baths are a way to do this and they promote healthy feathers by whisking away oils, sweat and parasites. If you do not offer a dirt bath, most flock owners come to find their chickens in the flower garden or in the crops.

A few sources claim wood ash is good for a bath or diatomaceous earth, but I believe if I need a mask to be around it then it will get into my flock’s lungs also. I much prefer building my own dirt bath with a simple container that’s 24 x24” and at least a foot deep, or dig a hole and fill it. I use sand and dirt. This type of bath promotes sweet smelling ladies that are lice free, and it’s chemical free so you can’t beat that.

Stress Reduction

Stress is one of the top reasons why chickens stop egg production. A big stressor is also the cold on the body, as well as parasites irritating your chickens. Irritants such as pets, children, and loud music can affect production also. Chickens need a quiet, safe area to relax and claim as their own.

When bringing in new chickens, keep in mind that is a big stressor and production may stop for a few days to weeks as they adjust to their new surroundings. This is normal and soon they will pick back up where they left off when the transition is over.

Do you need a rooster to get your chicken to lay more eggs?

A rooster adds commotion and not much value to your flock unless you plan on raising hatchlings. For egg production, a rooster can make things worse. Plus half of your hatchlings will be roosters so be prepared to find new homes or cull the male chicks.

Culling for Optimum Production

Many people do not like the thought of culling their flock. For optimum production taking out the older laying hens and replacing them with young pullets not only keeps a chicken rotation going, but will release the need for the care of the older hens into retirement.

It is much more humane to find a loving home if you are attached. In situations where every resource has to not only produce, but be a functional part of a homesteaders life, it is better to butcher the older hens than let feed than can go to younger ones in their prime laying years be wasted on them. Soup stocks and frozen meat can last quite a while.

Final Thoughts

Life with chickens is a rewarding experience in any homesteader or food self-sufficient lifestylists program as there are so many ways chickens can help in a garden and around the homestead.

Integrating a chicken flock can benefit a homestead with a constant supply of nutritional eggs, quality compost, and meat when needed. Starting a flock is inexpensive and with just a few tips and tricks you can have those chickens laying more eggs and start to stockpile your bounty. In the old days, every yard had a few chickens pecking around as the eggs were a means of survival. Now it is becoming more and more popular to raise your chickens as the nutritional value and taste of fresh eggs are so much better than anything you can buy in a store.

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Saving Seeds will Save and Make You Money

Having a garden is great, whether you are having plants that bear flowers or the ones the cultivate fruits. Have you ever wonder, as you water tomatoes, how good it is if you can multiply them more and make a profit out of it? Well, guess what, saving seeds can actually do that for you.

But wait, there’s more! If you save your seeds, you do not only increase your chances of making more money, it can also help you save! If you know how to do the process correctly, you will no longer need to shell out money to purchase seeds for the next season.

That is why I decided to create this piece of writing because it is also dedicated to other gardeners, even if they are not after selling their crops.

Let’s cut the long wait and start discussing how you can make the most out of the seeds from your garden (or kitchen, if you are planning to start growing one).​

This article will

  • Tell you the difference between annual, biennial and perennial plants
  • Discuss what pollination is
  • Inform you about the importance of saving seeds
  • Teach you about the lifespan of a seed
  • Give you the materials you will need when you are planning to save seeds
  • Explain the process of saving your seeds: harvest, clean, and store
  • Share with you expert tips and tricks
  • Let you know the difference between hybrids and pure breeds
  • Answer frequently asked questions

#1. All about seeds

What are seeds?​

What are seed

Annual, Biennial and Perennial

Prior to discussing seeds themselves, let us be aware of the different kinds of plants. There are three kinds of them and let me show the difference one by one.

There are plants that produce seeds and develop them fully within 12 months; they are called annual plants. They complete their cycle within 1 year. Coin the term with annual which means year and you will remind yourself about this easily.

Others wait until the next year before flowering. For example, you have to expect your carrot or beet to flower and mature seeds next year even if you harvested them this summer. These types of plants are referred to as biennial plants. “Two years” will be your keyword with this type of plant.

These biennial plants are strong enough to survive cold seasons; you just have to help them. Your role, however, may vary from one location to the other. In some areas, layering leaves or hay on top of the soil is enough, on the other hand, some plants needed to be transferred to a warmer ground and you have to return them to their places when spring comes.

There is a type of plant which can bear and mature seeds continuously every year, the perennials. You might notice them hibernating during winter but they will surely grow back from the same root in the spring.

Pollination

Just like humans, plants can come from a pure ethnic group or they could carry a mix of different races. Plants can pollinate in three ways: from two types of plants, through the help of wind or insects, or by themselves.

If the plant reproduces from the first two processes, it is called cross-pollination. On the other hand, there are plants that have both male and female parts. In return, they would be able to successfully pollinate within. This is what we call self-pollination.

Plants which can self-pollinate can remain pure even without isolating them from other species but if you want to be sure, feel free to do so.

Examples of self-pollinating plants would be beans, lettuce, peppers, and tomatoes. Beets, broccoli, carrots, corn, cucumbers, leeks, onions, pumpkins, quinoa, and spinach are the examples of cross-pollinating plants.

Importance of saving seeds

Some of the people I know who started saving seeds did it for one reason: they wanted to save money. Although it is not much, since tomato seeds would cost as low as $2, they would need to spend more for the specific type they wanted. On top of that, they would even have to travel far and exert effort to find it.

Did you know that decades ago, farmers and gardeners do not really purchase seeds from the market? They simply save seeds and produce a good number of vegetable varieties from it. Every gardener knows how to do it before. And every one of them can successfully come up with a produce that is acclimatized to the type of land and kind of weather in their area.​

The rise of technology and modern agricultural processes may have made everything easier; conversely, they have reduced crop diversity drastically. It is not surprising to hear older people looking for fruits or vegetables with a specific description and even the biggest supermarket in town cannot provide it.

Since we are only left with few kinds of vegetables nationwide, the seeds that we can buy from the market have the tendency to be unsuitable to the kind of land in our locality. It is possible also that it could not survive our climate, and worse, it becomes susceptible to diseases and pests – things the farmers from the previous generation do not really consider a problem.

Saving seeds do not only save money, it also saves effort and time. When you have saved seeds, they are already prepared for development. This means all you have to do is to transfer your seed heads to one bed and rotate as needed.

Extinction is another concern for most gardeners that is why seed saving is highly encouraged. The crops we used to enjoy with our grandparents are starting to become wiped out. The culture that is attached to these kinds of flowers or fruits will be affected sooner or later. We may be able to create that traditional dish we have been serving for decades, but the taste will already be altered.

The problem with extinction is that it is not only the classification we should be worried about. Without people who save seeds of certain plants, our grandchildren might not be able to enjoy their presence anymore. Ever imagined them asking “What is an eggplant granny?”? How hard could it possibly be if they do not even know what a ‘plant’ is?

Without seeds, we will be having problems with food security too. With seeds, we no longer have to eat genetically modified produces. These types are often reported to be causing obesity and allergic reactions and are even sometimes classified as carcinogenic products. Grow your plants at home and you free yourselves and your families from crops that are exposed to chemicals. For more ideas, visit our friend at Be Self Sufficient.

If you are still not convinced about the importance of saving seeds, try watching the movie Lorax and see how the future generation wished to see a living tree and how they tried to guard one seed with their life.

#2. Saving Seeds 101

Beginners Guide

If you are already growing fruits and flowers, seeds then can be found all over your garden!

First-timers can start with self-pollinating plants such as beans peas, peppers and tomatoes. I will be guiding you how to identify healthy seeds later on.

For gardeners with advanced skills on seed saving, you can now try other crops such as cucumbers, gourds, melons, and pumpkins. You have to be aware however that there is a high chance that the products may not have the exact characteristics from the parent plants.​

Lifespan of a Seed

The survival of seeds differs from one species to another. Some seeds are naturally long-living and others are not.

The secret for their longevity depends on how carefully you followed the saving process. If the seeds are properly stored, they can stay ‘plant-able’ for three to four years. It is, however, best to plant and sow them according to their cycle.

Some farmers prefer older seeds for selected plants as they believe that they will produce more fruit by that time.

Things that can spoil your saved seeds:

  • Moisture
  • Heat
  • Light

Coarse Approximations

Parsnips can live up to 2 years. Seeds that can live up to 3 years include beetroot, chard and leaf beet, carrots, onions, leeks, spring, and parsley. Courgettes and squashes are viable for 4 years. Beans, lettuces, peas, peppers, and aubergines can last for 5 years. You can save tomato seeds until they’re 8 years old and cucumbers and melons until they’re 10.

What are the things you need to prepare when you plan to save seeds?

Labeling materials will be needed such as markers and optional stickers. This will be used when you warn yourself and others not to pick a particular fruit on your plant or tree. Another case in which you will need this is when you store multiple kinds of seeds. Labeling will help you identify them easier.

Harvesting materials would include pruners to cut off the stem of the fruit from the plant, a knife for cutting the fruit in half to expose the seeds, and lastly, spoon to scoop out the seeds.​

Cleaning materials will be needed after you harvest your seeds. Depending on your practice, culture, and the type of fruit, the resources may vary. The universal thing you will need is, of course, water.​

Others make use of metal sieve to separate the seed from the flesh. Supplementary practices might need glass jar and spoon, wherein they would put the seeds in water, stir it several times to separate it from other fruit parts. I recommend the latter technique for soft and tiny seeds.​

Storing materials are crucial in saving seeds. To separate multiple kinds of seeds, you may use a paper envelope or packets and Ziploc plastics. You have to prepare air-tight containers as well to prevent moisture from accumulating on your samples.​

Selecting and Harvesting Healthy Seeds

Hybrids are not advisable for beginners, instead, go for open-pollinated varieties or the ‘heirloom’ types. These are the ones that have been passed down from generations to generations.

The secret in producing the best fruits lies on the parent seed. Select only the best tasting ones to save.

For runner bean seeds, the healthy ripe ones can be expected from the bottom of the plant. Just like tomatoes, we have to leave them so that they can mature fully. Wait until you see swelling in its pods, and as it changes its color to yellow then brown.

For lettuces, seed heads must be dried for two to three weeks after flowering. The tricky part in harvesting lettuce seeds is that they don’t mature all at once, therefore, you cannot get many seeds in a single harvest. They will be ready when you see half the flowers have gone to seed.

For peppers, wait until they turn red and become wrinkled.

For tomatoes, you can acquire the seeds from the moment they get ripe. However, you might want to leave it on the plant until it gets overly ripe. They will appear to be wrinkled, dark red, and extra juicy. The aim here is to let the seed mature as much as possible.​

Cleaning and Processing​

When processing bean seeds, you can open the pods by hand. If you have a lot of seeds, you can whirl them. If you have huge chaffs, use a fork to separate. The remaining particles should be sorted through.

To prepare your lettuce for cleaning, shake off seeds every day from flowering heads one at a time. You can remove the remaining seeds through manual rubbing. Sift the seeds and chaffs using screens.

Peppers can be processed in two different ways. If you just have a small amount of pepper seeds, it is advisable for you to use the dry method. Remove the lowermost part of the fruit; the seeds in the central cone should be stripped carefully afterwards.

Large amounts of peppers need to be processed during the wet method. Cut off the peppers, this time, on the topmost part. Using a blender put water and add the peppers. Blend slowly until the seeds would sink on the bottom part.​

Slice tomatoes lengthwise and gradually squeeze to extract the middle cavity. This would be the seeds and the surrounding jelly. Place the extract in a glass jar, pour a small amount of water and let it sit for three days.

Ensure that you place the container in a warm area, and you stir it once every 24 hours. After a few days, the water will contain a fungus that eats the jelly components of the mixture. Because of this, germination is then prevented. Another benefit of the presence of the fungus is that it creates anti-bacterial substances that can combat diseases as manifested by bacterial cankers and specks. Let it sit.

Pour warm water into the container after three days. This time, the contents will settle down. Once it fully settles, pour the water out. Repeat until the seeds are rinsed fully.

Aside from the seeds of tomatoes, the flesh can be saved as well if this is properly done.​

Cleaning Techniques

  • BLENDING
  • HAND CLEANING
  • TARPING
  • THRESHING

This was exemplified in our discussion with tomato preparation. Blend water with fruit and the debris and bad seeds will float as the viable seeds will settle at the bottom. Pour the contents leaving the seeds below. Rinse several times until the water being poured off is completely clean.

Storing Seeds

There are different ways on how to store a seed. You have to be primarily concerned about avoiding the seeds to get moist or else they can spoil easily. Check the material of your container and the construction of your lid and seal to be sure.​

The materials that are highly advisable would be glass and tri-laminate foil bag. The transparency of the glasses makes it a perfect choice as it will allow you to observe the seeds easily. However, since light can also damage your seeds, getting colored glasses are wise. Plastic containers can also be transparent; my concern is that the seeds can be exposed to the chemicals of the plastic, eventually affecting the quality of the seeds nonetheless.​

For long term storage, foils are the best choice. Ensure that the foil is tightly sealed. Closely monitor the temperature. A temperature heat sealer that has a jagged sealing bar is also desirable.

For seeds with sharp edges, placing them in a paper envelope might help. Alternatively, you may use vacuum sealed bags before placing them in glass containers.

Make sure you do not forget to put labels on them.

Write down the name, their species, and the date you collected them.

To help you choose the perfect container you might want to read: Selecting containers for long-term storage.Maintain a temperature between 32° and 41°F.You might want to keep your seeds in the fridge if you have extra space.Aside from the temperature, ensure that the seeds will never get in contact with moisture. You may use silica gels or freshly opened powdered milk as desiccants.​

Maintain a temperature between 32° and 41°F.You might want to keep your seeds in the fridge if you have extra space.

Aside from the temperature, ensure that the seeds will never get in contact with moisture. You may use silica gels or freshly opened powdered milk as desiccants.​

#3. Saving Seeds: Expert Tips and Tricks

Planning

  • Get organized. Planning properly will help you save time, effort and money. Create a habit of recording so that you can identify the seeds you’ve saved, when you are supposed to sow it and its expiration date. It is also going to be helpful if you note down your observations when you get your produce from a particular seed. This will help you identify what needs to be adjusted or continued.
  • Once you are able to identify the fruit which you think has the highest quality of the batch, you have to label it. It is very important for you to label your target fruits as this will prevent accidental picking of the fruits by anyone.
  • If you wish to produce a pure-breed plant, save seeds from a number of individual plants; about 1 seed per plant is good.
  • Saving seeds from multiple harvests will maintain genetic diversity on your seed sample.
  • If you wish a particular characteristic (example: size, shape or color), get the seeds from the plant that has that a specific trait.
  • Want to know when the perfect time to harvest? When the fruits are starting to fall from the tree or plant, that’s your cue! Oh, I forgot, if there are no fruits, check the pods. You may start harvesting when the seeds rattle.

Saving Seeds

  • Problems with humidity on your container? Put some rice grains inside! It will absorb moisture. (You probably heard about putting your wet gadgets in rice box, or when you see rice grains in restaurant’s salt shaker, they all share the same rationale.)
  • To know the viability of seeds, get some of your samples, dampen it using a paper towel and place it loosely in a plastic bag. Allow it to sit for a few days ensuring that it is properly aerated and warmed. If there is a positive germination, then they are good to go.
  • When preparing peppers using the wet method, do not get the seeds that will float as those seeds are not fully matured yet, therefore, they are not good for saving
  • Drying may take time that is why patience is a virtue. Never speed this process up by cooking your seeds in the oven.
  • Check your sample from time to time. Freezing your seeds might help when you notice a presence of insects in your container. Three-day freezing is acceptable to get rid of them. Remove seeds that have white dots or holes.

Sowing

  • When you sow your seeds, lightly tamp the combination of soil, mix, and seeds in your container. This will ensure that there is a good contact between them. The effect of this tamping is that you will get an assurance that the nutrients will be relayed to the seeds.
  • Selecting your containers matter! Choose a container that is flat and wide. For starting seeds, clay pots are highly recommended. The wider the better, because this will prevent your seeds to overcrowd.
  • Decontaminate your containers before starting your seeds. You may soak your container in bleach (10% solution) for 15 to 30 minutes and dry before using.
  • Drainage and adequate air flow will prevent disease. Remember, bacteria and other pathogens thrive best in moist, dark and warm areas.
  • For practical gardeners like me, you may upcycle cardboard canisters and pill bottles for your storage needs. For starting seeds, feel free to use recycled plastic containers. Think about saving your next yogurt, ice cream, margarine containers for this purpose the next time you consume those.

#4. Hybrid or Pure Breed?

This has been a very controversial issue when it comes to seed saving. Technically, we discourage saving hybrid vegetable seeds to be saved as they will not be producing pure species by the time you harvest them.

Please be guided that the label F-1 does not necessarily mean ‘do not save’. You just have to be informed that this plant is from a successful cross-pollination of two pure lines because they wanted a specific characteristic to manifest. Hybrids are created naturally, however, if your plant is already from a hybrid seed, it is not wise to save your seeds because the generation that this plant will breed will be having low quality.

You might also encounter the word GMO seeds which, just like the hybrid seeds, are a combination of two or more varieties. Unlike cross-pollinated plants and seeds, on the other hand, genetically modified organisms are established in laboratories. If you read my statement slowly, I mentioned varieties, not ‘plant varieties’ to be specific because GE (genetically engineered) seeds are a combination of different biological kingdoms like bacteria and corn.

There are a huge number of researches that prove bad effects of genetically modified organisms on human health. Agriculturally, since GMO crops are still plants, they still have seeds which could be carried by insects and the wind. This may then cross-pollinate other produces. And we do not know how they might change the future generations of the affected plants.​

#5. Frequently Asked Questions

1.  How can I start to save the seeds in my garden?

Start to save seeds from crops that can be easily saved such as the ones we discussed above (beans, lettuce, peppers, and tomatoes). Make sure that you have an adequate amount of plants. Take into consideration the fact that you need to have a good population size to get your sample. You may have to adjust the placement of your plants to produce plants which are not hybrid. Proper spacing is important to prevent cross pollination.With this, it is important to properly plan what kinds of seeds you are going to collect and the sowing strategies you have to implement.

2. What are GMO? Are they suitable for saving?

GMO is an abbreviation that stands for Genetically Modified Organisms. From the term itself, these are living organisms that were produced with scientific innervations. Genetically modified organisms have DNAs that are combined from two (sometimes even more) different species.

There is a huge debate on this matter as there are localities banning GMO products. The benefit, however, of altering breeds is that they create a new type in which the good traits of two strains can be combined to create a product that will manifest them both.

Cross-breeding is typically done for different reasons. Primarily, agriculturists would want to create a crop that can resist insect and disease better, are more adaptable to different kinds of soil and climate, are much more tolerant to heat or drought, can withstand pollution, and has a bigger nutritional value. Aside from the aforementioned reasons, breeding can minimize the impact on soil and off-farm, develop produce for populations with low resources, and are claimed to support whole-farm ecology.

In some states, production of genetically engineered seeds is prohibited. There are so many studies that prove the negative consequences of a genetically modified organism. Hence, I also do not support saving seeds from a GE plant.

3. What are organic produces?

Organic produces come from 100% organic seeds. Organic gardening ensures that the crop is void of any chemicals in any form such as fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides. Farmers who grow organic produces make use of all-natural fertilizers, manures, and compost.

Aside from being safe, organic gardening is highly encouraged because it is also easy and more affordable.

Unfortunately, there are so many genetically modified organisms today. To prevent your organic garden to be contaminated with GMOs, buy single-ingredient organic foods, grow your own heirloom or open-pollinated plants, and practice isolation techniques for your plants.

4. How can I grow plants from seeds?

It’s easy! You can do it in five steps: select, harvest, clean, dry and store. Select which fruit you would like to grow next season. Wait until the fruit is overly ripe but not rotten. Once it is ready, cut the fruit in two, and scoop the seeds. Cleaning can be done in different methods if you are saving tomato seeds, put the seeds and the gel around it to a bottle of water and stir occasionally for two days. Once the seeds are totally separated from the gel, you may take it out and dry it. Use towels, plate or glass for drying. Never use paper products as the fibers can stick on the seed. Dry your seeds for at least 2 weeks. You may plant the seeds to your garden beds or pots once they dry completely.

5. I do not have a garden but I am planning to start one. Where can I buy seeds?

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How to Dry Cure Meat at Home

One of the old forms of food preservation is fermenting and curing meat. It’s also one  of the tastiest in artisan salamis, pepperoni, aged cheeses, and of course, bacon, just to name a few. Not only does fermenting add preservation to the meat, but it adds flavor, flavor. Need I repeat it again.

If learning how to do things the old-fashioned way, bringing back traditional skills and learning true art forms, or just plain eating delicious foods that you know where they came from and went into them, then you my friend, are in the right place. Let’s raise our cheeses and pepperoni together!

Today we’re talking about the art of using salt and fermentation to preserve your meat.Many people use the freezer or canning to preserve their foods, and while I’m a die hard Mason jar and canning addict, looking back at older forms of food preservation is just as important.

The art of fermenting is using the good bacteria (and salt with meats or dry curing) to give flavor and preservation to the meat, along with drawing out the moisture, which allows it to be a form of preservation. 

Advantages to Fermented and Dry Cured Meat

Cured meat increases in flavor as it ages, as opposed to time in the freezer where over time your meat slowly degrades. Hanging and aging your whole muscles cuts and salami it concentrates the flavors and gives it a more intense flavor process. Plus, there’s the cool factor of being able to have shelf stable meat cured like the pioneers did.

 How to Dry Cure Meat at Home

Purchase a culture specifically for meat SausageMaker.com or ButcherPacker.com  You can keep them in the freezer until you’re ready to do your meat.

The easiest way to preserve your meat is taking a whole muscle cut, make a salt and spice rub and cover it with the rub, and put it in the fridge for a few days. This way you don’t have to use nitrates or any special ingredients.

After a few days, when the salt has had a chance to get in there and draw out some of the moisture, hang it in a controlled environment at 60 degrees Farenheit with 70% humidity and let it dry until it’s lost about 30% of its water weight. That is preserved traditionally and you can eat it raw.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. I make a commission if you make a purchase, but it costs you  no more. Thank you so much for helping support this site and podcast.

Resources for Dry Curing Meat at Home

Kitchen Scale– digital kitchen scale weighing up to 18 pounds at a time to make sure you can accurately tell when 30% moisture loss has occurred.

Salt This is a pink Himalayan sea salt with no additives

Curing Salt– for use in ground up cured meats to help prevent the growth of botulism

The Cave – unit that allows you to control the temperature and humidity on any refrigerator or freezer.

Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing -the book on how to cure meats at home.

Three FREE Recipes on How to Dry Cure Meat at Home- homemade pepperoni, salami, and prosciutto

How long do you let your muscle cut cure?

Prosciutto cuts can take up to a whole year, but smaller cuts don’t take as long. It depends on when it looses the 30% of its water weight. So you need to weigh the cut going in and then after its aged.

You can make Panchetta, which you usually cook, so if you cook it, and don’t eat it raw, then the 30% weight loss isn’t as crucial.

How do you store your cured meat and how long is it good for?

You can continue to store it in The Cave to continue to age it and concentrating the flavors. If you keep curing it will get really hard, otherwise you can store it in your fridge.Lowering the temperature slows down the aging. You can freeze it as well.

Once the meat is completely dry cured, it is shelf stable. You can keep it out on the counter. But to keep it as palatable as possible,  you store it in the fridge or freezer to extend the shelf life and keep it from drying out too much.

Karen says they take they’re salami camping and don’t worry about keeping it in the fridge.

What cuts are a whole muscle cut?

The most popular would be your back leg of a pig, deer, or lamb. You can do something smaller like a loin or neck muscle. Just a whole muscle group, just follow the line and separate that muscle from the rest of the muscle groups. This way you don’t need a grinder.

A grinder is a small investment and you can find both manual and electric
meat grinders here–>stainless steel meat grinder

You can take any piece of meat and do this process of salting and dry curing it.

Back when people naturally cured their own meant, they’d use an basement, cellar, or attic.

You want a slightly warmer temperature so the good bacteria blooms and forces the bad bacteria out, and not being to cold helps with this.

You can use cheese cloth to wrap your meat while its hanging if its in an open environment like a basement or attic. For ease and safety, a contained chamber is best, not only to keep the bugs off, but to help with humidity and temperature levels.

Karen and James created a product, called The Cave, to control your humidity and temperature that attaches onto any refrigerator or freezer. It has a touch screen that allows you to set the humidity and temperature for dry curing meat, cheeses, and even culturing yogurt and sourdough. It has a wireless app so you can easily change the settings if you’re not home.

Right now (thru June 8, 2016) they have a kickstarter campaign going for the Cave including some special kits and e-books.

The fridge or freezer you put it on should be a single unit (no separate freezer) and the heater for warm cultures works best at 10 square feet.

With cheese and meat, if it gets to dry on the outer layer of your meat and cheeses then it creates a hard crust and that hard crust traps the moisture inside and creates a safety issue. This is why the humidity level is so important.

This is also true of your cheeses, if the good mold doesn’t start to form. We had some disasters in the first few years, before The Cave, which is why we ended up creating.

How to Make Bacon at Home

Take your pork belly and throw it in a container with spices, maple syrup or brown sugar is a favorite, and put it in the fridge and flip it once a day for a week. Then throw it in the smoker or in the oven and cook it to a set temperature and you’ve got your bacon.

On the Kickstarter campaign is bacon making kit, both ginger garlic and apple cinnamon bacon.

Salt Safety in Dry Curing

Again, you really need some type of scale. You need 2.5% percent of the weight of the meat to salt ratio, if the meat is 100 grams then you need 2.5 grams of salt to the meat.

If you’re grinding the meat you need to include some type of sodium nitrate or pink salt, and it’s .25% in order to prevent botulism. Nitrates are controversial, but our opinion is we’d much rather not die of botulism if we’re aging salami, the nitrates protect against that.

You don’t need to use nitrates in a whole muscle cut. Unless, you’re rolling up panchetta, in that type some of the meat has been exposed to oxygen, and some hasn’t. Nitrates are needed when the  meat has been exposed to oxygen and is then put into an anaerobic environment. 

Type of Salts for Dry Curing

You want to use salt that doesn’t have any additives to it, like anti-caking methods.

Sea Salt, Kosher Salt, Himalyan Pink Salt.

Is your cured meat okay if its moldy?

Orange and black are bad.

You’re dry aged pepperoni’s are covered in white mold.

You can buy mold powder to add to your meat when you’re hanging them. It’s beneficial to help with the moisture level and to establish the good mold.

We dissolve the mold culture into water and then spray our sausage with it to help bloom that mold onto the surface of our sausage.

What’s the molds purpose?

It helps the flavor profile and when you make a sausage like salami, the casing helps it not dry out too quickly, and the mold does the exact same thing. It helps regulate the moisture loss, so you don’t dry out the outside too quickly and then moisture gets trapped inside instead of releasing.

Three Dry Meat Recipes:

Home Curing Recipes Pepperoni: Homemade pepperoni is worlds above what you can buy in the store. It is also a great “beginner” fermented sausage, since it is aged in a smaller casing and is ready to eat much sooner than other sausages.

1400 g pork  600 g lean beef (or venison)  10 g Bactoferm F-RM-52  50 g de-chlorinated water  50 g salt 5 g Pink salt #2 (not Himalayan salt—pink salt is a mix of sodium nitrite/sodium nitrate)  30 g dextrose  56 g nonfat milk powder  13 g paprika  6 g sugar  6 g black pepper  6 g cayenne pepper  5 g anise seeds, crushed  1 g fennel  24 g reduced dry red wine (optional: boil wine for 15 minutes then chill)  3 meters hog casings, or 6 meters sheep casings

If using natural casings, soak the casings in cold water for about an hour, making sure to rinse and replace the water at least once halfway through. Open the casings underneath running water to rinse the insides. 2. Grind chilled beef and pork through the small die of your grinder. 3. Dissolve the starter culture (F-RM-52) in de-chlorinated water. Let sit for 20 minutes. While it is re-hydrating, chill the beef and pork in the freezer to keep it cold. 4. Combine meat with starter culture, salt, and remaining dry seasonings. Mix for 1-2 minutes, until it becomes tacky. 5. Add chilled dry red wine and mix until combined. If you took the optional step to boil off the alcohol and concentrate the wine flavors, be sure to add the same mass of liquid that the recipe calls for (start with a quantity of wine greater than 24 g and boil this down to 24 g). 6. Stuff immediately into casings. Prick all over with a sterile pin to eliminate air pockets. Weigh the mass of your sausages and record this value. 7. Ferment using the Cave fermentation controller at 85ᵒF and 90% relative humidity for 12 hours. 8. Optional: cold smoke for 6 hours. 9. Dry using the Cave fermentation controller at 55-60ᵒF and 75% relative humidity until the pepperoni has lost 30% of its weight. Adjust airflow so that it is highest at start of drying, and gradually decreases until the pepperoni is complete. This should take approximately 2-3 weeks, if using hog casings (less time if using sheep casings)

Goat Prosciutto: Lamb or goat prosciutto is easy to make, requiring only a few minutes of hands-on time before hanging in the Cave. It is intensely flavorful and has an amazing mouth-feel when sliced thin. This is a traditional recipe made with juniper berries, garlic, and fresh rosemary. You could also substitute other game animals for this

de-boned and butterflied goat leg (or leg roast)  3.8% sea salt  0.25% cure #2 (optional)  3.0% sugar  2.0% minced garlic  1.0% fresh rosemary (or 0.6% dried rosemary)  1.4% pepper  0.4% crushed juniper berries 1. Start by de-boning and butterflying the goat leg. Trim off any silverskin. 2. Mix the salt, cure, and seasonings Cure in the refrigerator: place it all in a zip-loc bag (or a covered non-reactive container) and put in the refrigerator. Cure for about 5 days, being sure to redistribute the cure every day or so. 4. Rinse in water or wine and pat dry. Weigh the meat and record this number. 5. Tie with butcher’s twine and hang in the Cave. Age at 55ᵒF and 75% relative humidity. The goat prosciutto is done when it has lost 30% of its weight and is firm to the touch. 6. Slice thin and enjoy!

Hungarian Salami Hungarian salami is a slow-fermented sausage with traditional flavors of Hungarian paprika, pepper, and garlic.

1200 g pork  400 g lean beef (or venison)  400 g pork fat  0.9 g T-SPX dissolved in 30 g de-chlorinated water 50 g salt  5 g pink salt #2  20 g Hungarian paprika  20 g pepper  10 g fresh garlic, minced  4 g dextrose  3 g white pepper  24 g reduced dry white wine (Hungarian Tokaji)  3 ft of beef middles 1. If using natural casings, soak the casings in cold water for about an hour, making sure to rinse and replace the water at least once halfway through. Open the casings underneath running water to rinse the insides. 2. Grind partially-frozen meat through small die and pork fat through large die. 3. Dissolve the starter culture in de-chlorinated water. Let sit for 20 minutes. While it is rehydrating, chill the beef and pork in the freezer to keep it cold. 4. Combine meat with starter culture, salt, and remaining dry seasonings. Mix for 1-2 minutes, until it becomes tacky. 5. Add chilled Tokaji wine and mix until combined. If you took the optional step to boil off the alcohol and concentrate the wine flavors, be sure to add the same mass of liquid that the recipe calls for (start with a quantity of wine greater than 24 g and boil this down to 24 g). 6. Stuff immediately into casings. Prick all over with a sterile pin to eliminate air pockets. Weigh the mass of your salamis and record this value. 7. Ferment in the Cave chamber at 70ᵒF and 90% relative humidity for 72 hours. 8. Cold smoke for 6-12 hours. 9. Dry in the Cave at 55-60ᵒF and 75% relative humidity until the salami has lost 30% of its weight. Adjust airflow so that it is highest at start of drying, and gradually decreases until the salami is complete. This may take 2-3 months if using beef middles.