A Fall Pest: Grey Aphids


If you grow anything in the brassica family (kale, collard greens brussels sprouts,cabbage, etc…) you have seen them.  Small.  Grey.  In clusters.  Hanging out on the under side of the leaves.  And they tend to make their appearance in late summer, early fall.    What are they?  Grey aphids.

Grey aphids  are also known as cabbage aphids.  If you want to get scientific, they go by Brevicoryne brassicae.  According to the University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources, these pests occur in dense colonies and “prefer to feed on the youngest leaves and flowering parts and are often found deep within the heads of cabbages or brussels sprouts”.  Interestingly, these little critters do not infest noncruciferous crops, so you don’t have to worry about them migrating to your beets or eggplants.  (And for the record, cruciferous crops are kale, collard greens, brussels sprouts, cabbage, etc..).  And if you have ever harvested your brassicas in late summer/early fall, you may have seen the damage done to the leaves: yellowing leaves or curled and mottled leaves.  Aphids do their damage by sucking the plant juices.  And if left unchecked, they can severely stunt the  growth and even delay or prevent flowering of the plant.

grey aphids

grey aphids

Now don’t give up hope.  Grey aphids can be controlled and even eradicated.

Control Methods

  • Natural enemies:  Some of them include parasitic wasps, lady beetles, lacewings, damsel bugs, and syrphid fly larvae.
  • Insecticidal soap, but be careful as the soap can cause leaf damage if applied on a bright, sunny day.
  • Tomato leaf water: Some gardeners have also had success in chopping up tomato leaves and steeping them in water overnight.  The next day, remove the leaves, add a teaspoon or two of dish soap and fill a spray bottle with the tomato leaf infused water, then directly spray the aphids.
  • Onion and garlic water:  Place a small onion and a whole bulb of garlic in a blender with water.  Blend until the mixture is smooth.  Allow to set 4 – 6 hours and strain out the solids.  Fill a spray bottle with remaining liquid and then directly spray the aphids.
  • Remove the infested leaves from the plants.  These leaves can either be destroyed or if you have chickens, feed to your flock.  If you don’t have chickens, you can also compost the leaves.
  • Spray the infested plants with a strong jet of water to knock aphids off the plant.

So if you have grey aphids on your fall brassicas, you can salvage your crops.  Natural predators and organic methods are both effective.  So go ahead select a control.  With some diligence, you can kick the aphids to the curb and enjoy some tasty kale, collard greens brussels sprouts,cabbage, or other brassicas from your fall garden.


20 Homestead Activities to Share with Young Children


People around the country are returning to their roots.  They are becoming modern homesteaders and joining the legion of others who want to cook meals from scratch, garden organically, raise backyard chickens, and learn the art of preserving.  But much as we are returning to our roots, what about the next generation?  Are we encouraging our children to become homesteaders or sharing with them the very delights we are experiencing?

Regarding if you began homesteading last month or have been at it for years, the key is to share the experience with your children.  Get them involved and share tasks so they have a better understanding of what you do on a daily or weekly basis.   You just be the inspiration for the next generation of modern/urban homesteaders.

To get your children engaged, think about their age.  What they are capable of?  What have they shown interest in?  Do they have the manual dexterity for certain tasks?  Have they asked to help?

children gardening

photo by April Sorrow

20 Homestead Skills to Share with Young Children

  1. Hang laundry to dry (can hang clothes on a drying rack if clothes line is too high for them to reach).
  2. Feed small animals such as rabbits, chickens, and ducks.
  3. Gather eggs from the nest boxes (if you have a lot of chickens, allow them to make multiple trips to the coop).
  4. Take them seed shopping or show them the catalogs and read the descriptions to them (buy some items they are interested in).
  5. Bring in kindling for the fireplace.
  6. Add material to nest boxes.
  7. Give them a small garden bed (or planters or containers) to help tend during the garden season.
  8. Purchase child-sized tools and show them how to properly use the tools (many nurseries or online garden stores now offer small tools for children, such as hoes, rakes, and watering cans).
  9. Teach them when various fruits and vegetables are ripe and when to harvest (allow them to sample as they harvest).
  10. Allow them to help pick the chicks, ducklings, or rabbits that you will raise.
  11. Teach them how to cook (start with easy projects such as measuring ingredients, how to mix, and how to follow a recipe).
  12. Have them help wash fruits and vegetables after harvesting (show them how dirt sinks to the bottom of the sink or bucket).
  13. Show them how you mend cloths: sewing on a button, darning socks, sewing on a patch, etc…
  14. Explain how composting is plant recycling and have them add materials to your compost bucket/bin/pile.
  15. Show them how to gather seeds at the end of the season (make sure to gather just one variety at a time and then how to separate seed from any pod or chaff and how to dry if necessary.  Use plain envelopes and allow them to decorate the packets.
  16. Show them how to wash dishes (save the sharp knives for yourself) and how a clean dish should feel… no grit or food residue stuck to it.
  17.  Teach them how to plant seedlings as well as seeds.  Allow them to dig the furrow or hole with their own garden tool.
  18. Have them help rake and gather leaves.  Let the experience be fun and allow time for jumping into piles of leaves.
  19. Show them how to press leaves and flowers.  When they are dry, your children can create their own craft project to decorate their room or perhaps to adorn the refrigerator.  (Paper and glue are great starting points).
  20. Ask them to get canning jars (one or two at a time) in the size you need (such as half pints, pints, quarts) for canning projects plus lids and rims.  Take this opportunity to explain why and how to can.

By involving your child(ren) in homesteading projects, you are teaching them valuable skills.  They learn the hows and whys.  They may experience some disappointments, but will discover that is part of the process.  When things go well, they will feel a sense of accomplishment.  They can point to something and say, “I did that”!  If you have more than one child, they will learn how to work together.  What a bonus!

For the best possible experience for your child, start small.  Don’t overwhelm them with tasks or complicated procedures.  Keep their safety in mind.  Don’t have them do a chore or task that could put them at risk for harm.  By keeping these things in mind, not only can you educate your little ones about homesteading, but get them involved so they truly feel part of the daily/weekly activities.  You just may be raising the next generation of homesteaders!

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/ugacommunications/6430961073/”>UGA College of Ag & Environmental Sciences – OCCS</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

California White: An Eggcellent Chicken for Urban Settings


Whether you have acres or a small backyard, chicken keepers are always searching for a great egg laying breed.  Sure, temperament comes into play.  Some folks may make decisions based on egg color, but for my money… when it comes to selecting an egg laying breed, California White is the one that I keep coming back to.

california white hen

california white hen

This chicken is a crossed-breed.  What this means is that this chicken has a parent that is a White Leghorn (hen) and the other is a California Grey (rooster).   Its feathers are white (with a few black marks/flecks), the bird sports a large single comb, and hens generally weigh in around 5 pounds or slightly less.  But in spite of their size, they are quite winter hardy and do just as well in our Colorado winters as our Orpingtons,  Barred Rocks, and Australorps.

California Whites are a great choice for the urban or backyard chicken keeper.  They tolerate confined spaces well (great for smaller urban coops), are more docile than Leghorns, generally begin laying around 17 weeks of age, and are machines when it comes to volume of eggs.  (So if your city ordinance only allows a few hens and you want enough eggs to feed your family, the California Whites are a much better choice compared to breeds that might lay 3 eggs per week).  The Whites pretty reliably produce 5 – 6 white eggs per week.  Imagine if you had 4 of these chickens?  You could get up to 2 dozen eggs per week which you could use to feed your family and maybe have enough to sell/trade with friends, family, or neighbors.

california white egg

california white egg

If you choose to let your California Whites free-range in your backyard, just be warned that they can fly higher than the average chicken.  I found one of my girls sitting on the 6′ tall property fence.  (To get her to come down by herself, I simply rounded up the rest of the flock and ushered them into the chicken run and gave them some scratch grains and meal worms.  The California White hopped down and ran over to get in on the treat action).  To prevent this scenario from playing out again, I clipped some of her primary flight feathers (the longest feathers nearest the tip of the wing) on one wing, avoiding any blood feathers.  NOTE: this does not harm the chicken.  Shortly after this feather modification, she tried to fly, but her flight curved into a direction she did not intend.  After that, she remained on the ground in our backyard.

Consider the California White when you are in the market for a prolific egg layer in an urban or backyard setting.  Given their temperament, hardiness, ability to tolerate confinement, and volume of eggs… you won’t be disappointed.  This breed is an eggcellent choice.