Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones.

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 These have been quite a conversation starter. “Are those bones on your counter ?”, “Why, yes they are !”. I’ve actually meant to take them down to the root cellar, but my procrastination has at least yielded some entertainment. I make stock with the marrow bones from our beef order, and then I rinse them off and save them. You might be asking why at this point. Simple, it’s for the trees ! I have plans for adding a few fruit trees to the garden this spring (and also raspberries). Trees need phosphorous for good root development, and since phosphorous is not very mobile in the soil, it helps to add a source to the hole when planting. Bone meal is a good way to get phosphorous ! So into the hole go the bones. Granted, these will be more of a long term source of P due to the fact that they aren’t ground, but hopefully the trees will be around a long time.

Phosphorous has been on my mind as of late. I have a high pH soil in the garden (7.8, we’ve got calcareous soils in these here parts) and it means phosphorous can become unavailable do to reaction with all that calcium. Nutrient balancing in general is a goal for the the veggie gardens this year, but that is a whole other post !

 

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Adventures with Tallow

With my stash of rendered beef tallow in hand I had a few projects I wanted to try. As an avid organic gardener, I’m always trying to keep the diversity of species around our house maximized. In addition to leaving seed bearing plants like sunflowers and cone-flowers standing through the fall and winter, we also have a couple of bird feeders I try and keep stocked. The tallow meant I could add another type of feeder. I’ve been inspired in a number of ways by the books of Irmgard Kutsch and Brigitte Walden about the Children’s Nature and Garden Centre in Reichshof, Germany. In Autumn they have a description of making a bird feeder from seeds and fat placed in a clay flower pot with a branch attached for a perch. The picture makes it all clear!

I hung this near our established feeder before Christmas. Then I waited – and waited. Come the beginning of January I was starting to worry that the birds wouldn’t figure out where the food was, or maybe the really cold temperatures were making the tallow too hard. This week, however, the birds proved me wrong and a chick-a-dee found the treasure !  After that all her friends joined in, including nuthatches and a downy woodpecker who is our biggest customer. While we see these birds eating seed from a feeder, in the spring and summer they are voracious eaters of insects (especially during nesting season). Our three friends all made the top 10 list of The Best Birds for Your Garden. Here’s hoping a little extra fat will help this winter !

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The next use for tallow was in helping ME this winter. The dry conditions inside do a number on my skin, so I’m always on the lookout for an even better moisturizer. A little time on Google turned up this recipe which claims animal fats are much better for our skin (makes sense, us being animals and all). I used avocado oil instead of olive oil and added some shea butter for good measure. It has been working great so far !