Chickens Love A Wood Ash Dust Bath

We burn wood for heat in our house, mostly wood that we collect from our property. High winds bring down a lot of limbs from the trees so we cut them up and use them for heat, as well as bring down any “standing dead” trees in the forest. A weekly by-product of our wood heat is wood ash and when we don’t place it around the base of our fir trees for soil amendment, we occasionally place some in our hen yard for the girls to use for dust baths. In the winter and spring months, here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s mud season, so chickens are in need of some dry dirt for dust bathing, as a pest repellant to rid of mites and bothersome bugs that harbor in their feathers and on their skin, which must be itchy as heck. It also gives them a little added magnesium and calcium.

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Our hens love their wood ash baths. They fight over them, in fact!

Here’s how we help our hens use wood ash to rid of their unwanted pests: We find a small “hen bowl” that they’ve dug in the yard, for bathing, and pour in the wood ash. Within minutes, they’ll scratch it around, mixing in the surrounding dirt, and then lay down in it to dust themselves up! A pop-up hen spa!


Apparently dried lavender and dried lemon balm are also great pest deterrents so sprinkling some into your wood ash bath could be an excellent potpourri addition for your chooks. We do love pampering our girls! After Valentines Day, our leftover dried roses were turned into rose petal chicken bedding for their coop, along with some blue paper hamster bedding a neighbor give us from our Buy Nothing group to line the chicken coop floor. Pretty!!

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Rose petal and blue paper hamster bedding make for a fun late-winter coop bedding.

What spa treatments do you give your hens?

I Wrote A Book

From a young age, I’ve dreamed of writing a book. I think I had a small inkling of what that book would be about, so my internal voice has been slowly writing it since I was about 7. I recall wishing I could start a movement where people didn’t have to spend their hard-earned money on the things they needed to live. I wanted to start an everything store where all things were available for free, like cinnamon bread and my own book that I wrote that might help solve people’s problems with money. It was early idealism during a time when I first came to understand there were “haves” and “have-nots” in the world, painful inequities that touched people deeply. But I never truly believed that one day I’d be given the opportunity to write a book, bound together as an offering of ideas lived, and made final. Now that I have a book coming out in a matter of days, one co-written with by my friend, Rebecca Rockefeller, the launching of it is, admittedly, bittersweet. Somehow, we’ve written a book that’s near-impossible to sell

The Buy Nothing, Get Everything Plan, with its oxymoron of a title, is an intentional book, a challenge to buy less and share the bounty around us, seeking to further spark a movement Rebecca and I started with the Buy Nothing Project network of local gift economies. Over 6,000 of them have sprung up all over the world with nearly 1.5 million participants. We want to show people how our reliance upon buying things can be turned upside-down if we rely more upon our neighbors, our own ingenuity, and the abundance of our own goods and services we can share in our communities instead. There are ways to Buy Nothing while getting just about everything you want and need.

Our book is due out in bookstores on April 14, 2020, and ironically most bookstores are now shuttered due to orders from our governors and the much-needed imperative to stay home due to COVID-19. The in-person book tour we set up with 9 booksellers along the US West Coast including Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego has been cancelled, with the hope that these independent booksellers will host us in the future. Nothing is more important than stopping this virus from spreading further and that means staying at home.

We may call it “social distancing” but what we’re all actually doing is physical distancing while social connecting, weaving our inter-personal connections even tighter, tying people all across the globe together through our simple humanity. By way of virtual creativity, people are now sharing their expertise for free, through videos shared online, via Zoom gatherings, on their Facebook feeds, over YouTube, through emailed newsletters, every way they can. From free therapy sessions, workouts, yoga classes, cooking classes, and how to-fix-it tutorials, we’re creating a worldwide shareocracy that’s non-commercialized and offered freely from the heart. Our book is literally about this, a blueprint for sharing of ourselves in times of peace so we can be prepared for times of chaos.

We had no idea the chaos would come so soon. The more we establish these systems of connection with one another, the more we’re capable of achieving en mass, for the common good, in honor of our community, ourselves, and also the environment. But now it’s imperative we take these steps for our very survival. The less we go to the store, the safer we are. The more we can make-do with what we have at home, the more we can reuse, repair, and repurpose, the less we have to run to the store. Stretching what we already have in our homes to meet our needs is not an act of austerity, it’s one of resilience, and we believe that resilience can be had without suffering.

Much of my blogging here, and the conversations we’ve had in the comments and through email, has inspired this book, coming from a desire to simplify and reuse what we already have in abundance surrounding us, rather than going out and buying new. I do hope, ironically, that you’ll – yes – buy the book and read it – feel free to share it – and participate in our call to action to find daily ways for us each to share more and live generously.

How to Share During a Pandemic

The following post is reblogged from a post I wrote with my co-founder of the Buy Nothing Project, Rebecca Rockefeller, to be shared widely in hopes people reconsider hoarding in these times and instead rekindle our connections with each other to promote more sharing:

We live on Bainbridge Island, just a 35-minute ferry ride west of Seattle, where we’re 20 miles from Ground Zero of the US COVID-19 outbreak. Things escalated quickly just over a week ago, when Governor Jay Inslee declared a State of Emergency to help us confront the community spread of this disease. Within two hours of his announcement, our local grocery stores were empty of many household staples, from rubbing alcohol to cans of soup.

It is tempting to react to this pandemic by attempting to build a private fortress against the virus and the ills of the world. We are urging everyone to resist this embrace of scarcity thinking. Instead of stocking up on finite resources (think toilet paper), where “more for you, is less for me,” we believe the better protection for all of us comes from a sharing mindset that focuses on the abundance we have as a community.

Please read the rest of this post on our Buy Nothing, Get Everything website, where you’ll also find a forum and other “freesources” available for communities to use right now, to conserve resources, share the abundance, and connect more readily with each other during these trying times.  The rest of this post can be found here. (Thanks for continuing!)

Avocado Pit Turned Fake Egg

It was a dark and stormy winter….and my hens were bored. Here in the Pacific Northwest, our hen yards can get pretty mucky and the chickens tend to turn to deviant eating behaviors, like, well, eating their own eggs. There, I said it. Gross! That’s like….oh, never mind. We can’t allow this to happen, because the purpose of backyard chickens is their yummy eggs, a critical part of our family’s mostly vegetarian diet. (Our hens do produce other products for us, like amazing compost.) But no, we won’t be allowin’ them hens to eat their eggers.

I found a great solution to deter an egg-eater, right in my compost bucket: An avocado pit!

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An avocado pit works beautifully as a dummy egg. © Liesl Clark

For years, I’ve used dummy wooden eggs, plastic easter eggs, egg-shaped stones, golf balls and pingpong balls as dummy eggs, to deter the little peckers (egg-eaters) from pecking apart their eggs. Dummy eggs are just that, fake eggs that chickens think are real (think, bird brain.) They peck ’em and realize they can’t break ’em and therefore we stop the deviant eating  disorder in its tracks. Problem solved.

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One of these things is not like the other. © Liesl Clark

So, don’t go and buy fake eggs. Please. Just use an avocado pit in your nest box. Deploy 5 of them if you’d like, and your egg-eater will get frustrated when the avocado pits won’t crack and produce an egg-licious mess in your laying box.

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© Liesl Clark

Enjoy your guacamole knowing your avocado pits can be put to use!

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New use for an avocado pit. © Liesl Clark

How to Preserve Arugula

Arugula likes me. For some reason — likely the soil on our property and the not-full-sun exposure — arugula, that spicy green also known as rocket, grows profusely in our garden. We never have to plant it because it just keeps sprouting year after year in our vegetable beds. I weed out the bed interiors and let the arugula grow along the edges, creating a green perimeter where kale, peas, and Egyptian walking onions happily grow in the middle.

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But this spicy goodness only lasts for the summer months and we dearly miss arugula the rest of the year. I make as much arugula pesto as I can and freeze it in small jars for pizza and pasta topping for later. Yet, since I have so much of it, and have been giving as much as I can away, I’ve been searching for a way to preserve arugula, so we can enjoy our it in the cold months of the year.

Frozen arugula doesn’t taste like arugula and doesn’t work well in smoothies, either. Blanching it takes the verve out of it, too. But, preserving arugula in olive oil, and freezing it, helps seal in the flavor!

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Here’s how: I use a pie tin and chop as much arugula as I can to fit just below the rim of the pie tin.

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I then pour in extra virgin olive oil until it’s about an inch deep and put the tin in the freezer. When it’s totally frozen, pop your tin out of the freezer and break your frozen oil/arugula into chunks that you can then store in the freezer in freezer bags or a large glass jar. I never buy freezer bags, but just reuse ones that I acquire through other frozen items we get at the store, or I double bag some Ziploc bags. Please don’t buy plastic bags, as there are so many in our landfills, we can simply make do with what we have, or ask for them on our local Buy Nothing groups.

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So, what do we do with our frozen olive oil/arugula chunks? In the winter, I use one at a time, in salad dressings, on top of pizzas, in pastas, salads, and stir fries. The arugula still has its punch and my crop is extended into the heart of the cold months, reminding me of the dog days of summer.

Purple Deadnettle Purple Smoothie

Purple deadnettle is my new favorite weed. At the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, they have a great description for this lovely purple fuzzy flower to pop up in early spring: “This common weedy plant is a member of the mint family and forms early groundcover mats, with fuzzy, spade-shaped leaves and delicate purple-pink flowers, a lovely addition to a spring weed bouquet.”

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For years, I’ve pulled it out of my vegetable garden, and have given it to my happy hens who devour it immediately. But this year, I’m eating as many weeds as I can, that are within just feet of my front door. For this, purple deadnettle is your friend. It’s a superfood, with known anti-inflammatory properties! I always let it flower because I know it’s one of the first spring flowers the honey bees use for nectar and pollen. Purple deadnettle looks a little like henbit, which is also edible, so there’s little chance of you getting a stomach ache from this beauty.

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So, in our bellies it goes, with morning or lunch smoothies, pestos, or atop our green salads. Here’s a quick recipe that’s our staple for most smoothies, and you can replace the fruit with any favorite fruit you have on hand or replace the purple deadnettle with kale if you no longer have any on hand:

Purple Deadnettle Purple Smoothie

1 small bunch purple deadnettles, flowers and stems included

2 bananas

1 Cup coconut milk

2 Cups mixed berries (we love blueberries, marionberries, blackberries, and raspberries)

1 scoop of your favorite protein powder (I use Vital Proteins collagen)

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That’s it! I throw a sprig of mint into our pretty glasses as garnish and the kids drink it down. When it ends up really thick, we use spoons and eat it like ice cream. Often, our bananas and berries are frozen, so this serves as a meal or an ice cream treat for the whole family.

Sticky Weed Cleansing Drink

You probably know this weed well, for its clingy tendencies. In the Northwest, we affectionately call it sticky weed. It comes in the door on our dog, our socks, and the backs of our sweaters. Also known as clivers, cleavers, goosegrass, catchweed bedstraw, or sticky willy, this little bugger with tiny hooked hairs that’ll stick to you better than velcro, now holds a special place in my kitchen culinary arts: I use it in a simple spring cleansing drink, thanks to the advice of a friend.

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The Kew Royal Botanic Gardens has this to say about its uses:

Galium Aparine — “The whole plant is edible, though not particularly tasty, and in China, for example, it is eaten as a vegetable. Its seeds can be roasted to prepare a sort of coffee substitute. It is also reputed to have a number of medicinal properties, having been used in traditional medicine (usually as an infusion) to treat kidney problems, skin disorders and high blood pressure among other ailments. Archaeological evidence suggests that it may have been used in this way for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Cleavers is still used by medical herbalists today, although scientific evidence regarding its effectiveness is still lacking.”

I use it as a spring “cleanse” that might be good for my kidneys but just tastes wonderful, and excites my need to get the most out of the plants around me. As I weed it out of my garden, I set it aside to be washed and then stuffed into a jar filled with fresh water and throw it into the fridge.

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Twenty-four hours later, we have a refreshing sticky weed infusion that tastes like spring green. It thickens the water a little, too, (or maybe I’m just imagining that) making it feel silky on its way down.

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Drink Your Sticky Weed © Liesl Clark