Friday, June 29, 2012

Beer / Mead Update!

We ordered some kits from Northern Brewer and the beer will be ready to bottle this weekend.  The Mead still has a month left - hopefully it turns out better than the last two batches.  They were pretty sour and harsh on the throat!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Paper mache the garden- keep weeds gone!

I read an article a while back in Mother Earth News on using newspaper to control weeds. Today I am testing this idea in my strawberry patch. I plan to keep the patch for at leas the next 4 years, so the less weeding I need to do is best. I hoed previous weeks and lay down a double layer of newspaper around the plants. It was slightly breezy today so I wet the paper as I went with the garden hose. When the strawberry patch looked as though it had been paper mached by a kindergartner I put down a layer of hay that has been composting for the past month. The paper should keep the weeds from popping through and the hay will mulch, fertilize and help to keep moisture in. I should add the hay was bedding and left over goat feed that has been well poo'd on by chickens, goats and rabbits. Hence the easy fertilizer! I will update with results in a few months.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Eating with Intention

Going back to a natural way of being encompasses every part of your life eventually. So why should it not change the way we eat? 6 years ago I was job stressed, life stressed and ate any thing that came in a cardboard box and said "healthy" on the label. I was not healthy. Chronic headaches, carpel tunnel, and IBS, not to mention the health issues I had while I was pregnant with our first 2 children.

The answer for total health and weight loss is so simple- go natural! Meats, fruit and vegetables. Can you see it in nature? Do you know where it has come from? Forget reading calorie, fats and carbs on the box, if it is in a box don't put it in your mouth.

I have to admit I was a diet junky. I have tried them all: Atkins, South Beach, high protein, low carb, weight watchers...the only sort of "life style" (rather than diet) I can say I agree with is from Weston A. Price Foundation. Natural foods, raw milk and fermented foods the way they were eaten for centuries. (For more info on this check out the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Eat Fat, Loose Fat also by Sally Fallon.)From a biblical point of view its anything listed in Leviticus 11 that God has told us is good and safe for us to eat.

Raising my own food has changed the manor in which I eat. Dinner used to be a rushed and mindless activity. Now however, when I look down at the chicken on my plate I am reminded of how much work went into raising that chicken, butchering it and then cooking it. It is hard to over eat and gorge yourself on food that has taken so long to grow, the same goes for any fruit or vegetable. We waste less, use more and take the time to truly be thankful for our dinner.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ginger root root beer

This is an old fashioned recipe I found in Back to Basics. I made it two days ago, bottled it yesterday and will wait two weeks and let you know how it tastes!

4 oz dried ginger root
1 gallon of water
juice of 1 lemon (3 tbs)
1 package active dried yeast
1/2 lb of sugar (I've heard some people use honey or another natural sweetener)

Pound or crush the ginger root and boil it with 1/2 gallon of water for 20 -30 mins. Remove from the stove and let it sit. Mix lemon juice and yeast in 1 cup of warm water and add to the ginger water. Add the remaining water, cover and let it sit 24 hours. Strain out the ginger and add sugar until dissolved. Bottle and place in the refrigerator. (it may explode at room temperature!) Should make 10 12oz bottles. (I bottled mine in old wine bottles.)

*The recipe does not say how long to ferment, I am going to wait 2 weeks which is the average time in fermenting beer.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Chickens- basics

Spring is in the air! It's the best time having farm animals, it is when all the babies are born or bought! Two years ago we purchased our first chickens as little peeps. Tiny, yellow, puff balls. Who could resist?

Chickens are an easy and fantastic addition of any household. They offer eggs, meat and poop! (best compost you can use in a garden for free!) Most cities are even willing to allow pet owners to have up to 6 hens in their backyard.

The manor in which you house your flock can easily vary. A chicken tractor (a moveable house to allow them fresh grass and keep mess to a minimum), a coop or free range roaming. Coops can be build out of nearly anything! I have even heard of someone using an old truck topper to keep chickens and letting them out in a fenced yard during the day. We have had two chicken tractors, allowed them to free range on our 1 acre and after needing more land for growing food we build a coop with a fence around it. It cost us $10 dollars and a couple of afternoons. We found scrap lumber at the dump and around our garage from previous projects to use, keeping the cost down.

Choosing a breed is sometimes the biggest decision. They are simply broken down into three categories: fancy, egg and meat birds. The fancy breeds are for beauty and show. The egg breeds lay eggs in a variety of colors: white, brown and shades of blue and green. Then there are the meat variety. Some chickens cross over into egg and meat categories they are referred to as dual purpose. For us, we have kept Buff Orpingtons, Rhode Island Reds, and Brahman. Most can be used as dual purpose.

A hen will usually start laying eggs around 18-22 weeks old (also called a pullet up until this point). She will continue to lay about 1 egg per day for about 3 years. In the winter however, when there is less sunlight hens can stop laying. Many people who do coop their chickens put a light in the coop to encourage laying all year round. If you are looking for mature laying hens, check their bottom to tell layers from liars. A good layer will have an oval, moist vent (bottom) and messy looking bottom feathers around the vent.

And just for the record, unless you have a rooster mating with your hens, your eggs are not viable. You will not crack one open and find a chicken inside! I have never had this happen (yet) and we do have a rooster, but unless the hen decides to sit on those eggs to hatch them (called being broody) you will not get baby chicks.

Keeping meat birds can be a humane and healthy way of raising natural or organic meat for your family. Meat or dual purpose birds are usually butchered around 8-12 weeks. (We will attempt to post a video at some point on how to butcher.) Unlike commercial chicken farms that cram as many birds into one small space, pump full of antibiotics and medications, you can raise happy free range birds on natural or organic feed. Remember what goes into your food goes into you! If you have a hard time with eating your "pet", use the rule of "name and claim it." We do not name our food, only the egg birds. We had a rooster named Doomwalker who crowed all the time and we end up having him for dinner one Sunday night. It was a long, sad dinner. So, don't name your food!

Feeding chickens can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be. Feed for chickens bought at a feed store or a Tractor Supply usually has two categories as well, scratch grains and ration feed. Scratch grains encourage chickens to do just that- peck and scratch. This is usually a ground or cracked corn or wheat, which many people are moving away from. Commercial feed rations come in either mash, pellets or crumble and a variety of protein levels depending if you are raising laying hens or meat birds. Meat birds usually need more protein (about 21%). I prefer using pellets because they seem to waste less. A typical 50lb bag of feed can run between $12 -$16 dollars. For my nine hens a bag last about 2 weeks. They also love kitchen scraps of fruit and veggies!

For more detailed information check out Story's Guide to Raising Chickens or Backyard in the Barnyard both by Gail Damerow

Goat Birthing Info

I am new at raising goats and they continually amaze me with new behaviors. I am not sure what to expect for kidding this spring. In my research I wanted to share a tremendously helpful link to Fiasco Farm. They seem to be very knowledgeable and offer photos, how to's and videos on goats. Happy farming!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Clean and Green

I am not saying I am OCD clean, but having a troop of dirt magnets running around this house has me frazzled. Who doesn't love a clean house? All the while keeping the cleaning products dirt cheap! Here are a few suggestions for making home made cleaners that I use with just a few basics.

All purpose cleaner:
20 oz spray bottle
5 oz vinegar
15 oz water
2-3 drops liquid soap

Glass cleaner:
1 tbs lemon juice
1/4 cup vinegar
2-3 cups hot water

Drain cleaner:
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup vinegar
4-8 cups hot water
pour the baking soda first, then slowly add the vinegar and top it off with the hot water.

Grout cleaner:
baking soda
hydrogen peroxide
Make it into a paste and let it rest 30 minutes and rinse with water.

Toilet bowl:
1/2 cup baking soda or 1/2 borax and scrub with brush

Dishwasher detergent:
2 cups washing soda
1 cup borax
1 cup baking soda
Use 2 tbs each load, and use vinegar as the rinse agent to help glass sparkle!

The guessing and waiting

One of my favorite things about our 1 little acre is being able to have goats. Ever since I was knee high I wanted goats. Their dopey eyes and curious nature only tends to remind me of myself. We have 1 goat in particular, Rene, who is a mix breed of La Mancha and most likely Alpine I am awaiting kidding for. The waiting is driving me crazy. We "field" breed out goats, meaning the does are penned with our buck Ed and because of this we can never be sure when kidding will happen. I know when the does start to look round we have about 6-7 weeks until we see those little sprites jumping about. Every day I try to guess and judge with no luck. So I wait and check and begin to doubt if she even has been bred. Only time will

Friday, January 6, 2012

Tooth paste

Who doesn't love a compliment? The one I get the most is, "you're teeth are so white!" Here's the trick, I don't use "tooth paste". I gave up on it awhile back in trying to reduce the amount of chemicals I put into my body. Fluoride has long been on a controversial list of things not good for you and yet is still sold to the masses without thought. The FDA released a finding this year stating that fluoride can actually cause tooth decay! It's in our water, tooth pastes and even some bottled juices. It seems like we have over done it with out much of a positive result. So here is my alternative to tooth paste. 1/2 cup baking soda 1/2 tsp salt a few drops of mint or peppermint extract mix in a jar with just enough water to make it a paste. Dip your tooth brush and enjoy healthy, clean mouth! PS I have not had a cavity in almost 10 years.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Suds up! A quick Laundry Soap

We have 5 people in our family, three of which are under 6 years old and we cloth diaper. The math will add up to more laundry than I want to deal with, let alone the price of detergent. I found this recipe on another site about two years ago and it can be made two different ways. You can use it as a powder or melt it into a liquid for more savings and still have fantastically clean clothes. 1/2 bar of ivory soap (you can use a laundry soap bar, but it's what I had with no dyes.) 1/2 cup Borax 1/2 cup Washing Soda (Arm and Hammer brand is a yellow box) Container for dry or a 2-5 gallon bucket I spent less than $5 on all three products at Walmart. Use a food grater to grate up the bar of soap as small as you can. If making the powder just add the rest of the ingredients into a container and you're done. Use 1 tbs per load. If you want more soap for your buck make it a liquid. In a large pot bring 6 cups of water to boil and add grated soap, stir until it is fully dissolved. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Fill your bucket with a gallon and 4 cups of water and add your soap mixture. Stir and let it sit a day to gel. It will be a liquid-gel. Use a 1/2 cup per load. The whole process took me less than 10 minutes to complete and I figured it out to cost about 1 cent per load using the liquid! My whites have never needed bleach either! If you want to get creative, Hobby Lobby sells sent for candles and soaps for $2 ranging from honey almond to patchouli. You can add a few drops to the whole batch. If you want to save money on fabric softener, add 1/2 cup of vinegar to your load. (I bought 2 gallons at Sam's Club for around $3 dollars.) I promise it will not smell and will be equally soft to commercial brands. It's perfect for softening cloth diapers and infant clothing without adding chemicals that can irritate sensitive skin. Happy laundry day!