Saturday, October 29, 2011


These are the seeds of my garlic chive plant. They are part of the reason why I haven't blogged for a week. It is all part of my "Homesteading" agenda. What is homesteading? By definition:  Homesteading is a lifestyle of simple self-sufficiency. 

I want to be a homesteader in every sense of the word. I want land, as in acres, with chickens, cows, goats, numerous fruit trees and gardens dotting the land. I dream about it. I crave it. Of course, with that dream comes time to actually work the land but my dream is there. I believe dreams can come true.

My neighbor, Shawn, has this same dream. We bumped into each other at the bookstore and he had a handful of "homesteading" books in his hands. Conversation sparked. He has "the dream" as well. We both came to the same conclusion that if we want that dream, we have to prove that we really want it and need to make our 1/4 acre into our own personal homestead now. There is really so much we can do with the land that we have. There are spaces that have not been utilized. If we can't "homestead" what we have, we have no right to gain bigger acres with bigger responsibilities. 

Therefor, I have been very busy. Not that I haven't always had a garden, planted fruit trees, bought chickens, etc. But, there is so much more I want to do. I sit here with a broken back and dirty toenails that still haven't cleaned up like I would like. I have been shoveling Cow stuff in my garden today. Really, all week. I decided to do all the tilling by hand with a little shovel and some gloves. I finished one side in just under 8 hours. I still have another side to go. My sidekick has been way too busy this week and it has been all me. It is a great workout! The ground was hard....really hard. But, it looks fluffy and dark and ready for plants. Super late but  nonetheless, I am going to have plants.

I also enjoyed pruning my very tall plum tree much to the amusement of my little neighbor boys as I scaled the fence and balanced with a trimmer in one hand. Believe me, it was impressive. I have also dried some seeds from my garden just pulled out for next seasons garden. Gardening is expensive. If you don't use some of your own seeds and your own mulch, the cost keeps adding up. I am trying to cut that cost down a little. We will see how the seed thing goes. If you want to dry your seeds, simply let that plant go to seed if seeds aren't produced in a fruit/veggie. Dry the seeds out and then store them in a packet in the fridge or freezer. Here are some cute seed packets to print:

There is something about working the land that is so completely satisfying. For me, nothing compares. I love dirt on my toes and hands. I love watering things. I love collecting my chicken eggs daily. I loved processing the 40 pound box of apples this week to freeze for later use. I love my new pomegranate tree with the promise of future backyard yields. I love the oranges and tangerines starting to turn a shade of orange. I love being able to go outside without the fear of melting. I belong on a farm. I was born in the wrong century. But.....I will have my dream. It may be on 1/4 acre for now but it will be perfect. I am a homesteader. I am really tired. I think everyone should have a piece of land to work. It brings you closer to the Almighty. Nature is purifying. I could go on and on about the health benefits of why we should all grow food but you all know that. But, it is for the mind as well. Life is too busy, too rushed. We all need a little time out to put our hands in the dirt and to smell the fresh air. 

Try it. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Roll up water bottles.

I have struggled to find a good water bottle that my teens will actually like to carry around school. I don't buy plastic, throw away water bottles unless on a trip in my effort to help save the world a bit. However, I have a teen in particular that will buy his own because I haven't found a water bottle cool enough for him to bring to school or one that will not leak at all.

In California last week, I saw this neat water bottle that rolls up when you are done for easy storage. It freezes, doesn't leak and looks "cool". Top it off, it is BPA free! Hooray. I bought a couple and after trying them out on the highschoolers, the little ones begged for their own. Amazon saved the day and we ordered a few more.

They have this great clip on them so they can clip right to their backpacks. Lightweight, stylish and durable. Thanks, Vapur. Great idea.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Chicken Feed

Now that I am a chicken rancher, I get many emails about what I feed my chickens. This is a great question and one I have thought a lot about. The reason I have chickens isn't so I can spray off the chicken droppings three times a day just for is so I can have the best, most nutritious eggs sans the hormones and pesticides that are in store bought eggs. Therefor, if I fed them the exact things that are fed to commercial chickens, I would just be spraying off the patio in vain. I certainly don't know everything about chicken ranching yet, but with the help of my professional buddies I  get to bombard with questions, I am learning as I go.

The question I get mostly relates to corn and soy. Yes, corn and soy is in EVERYTHING!!!! We must all have DNA that shows up now with little corn cobs linking our double helix and coated with a glaze of soy. If you ever read a label to almost anything processed, you will find these ingredients in there somewhere. The problem with this is that these are super GMO'd and super horrible for you. Chicken feed is usually heavy laden with these two ingredients. I thought it was because it was the cheap way to feed them. I learned a little from my BACKYARD FARMER friend, Galen who always schools me on whatever I email him. 

Here is what he said to me when asked about corn and soy costs:

The biggest issue I run into is the impression that corn and soy are the cheapest grains and that is why they use them for feeds.  Soy cost twice as much as corn and corn cost more than wheat, Milo, peas. oats etc.

The protein is higher and that is why they use them. you have to add protein like fishmeal or blood meal to other grains to get the protein % to the proper level for the type of feed being made and the fishmeal and other protein products are very expensive.

A 50# bag of corn around  $15

A 50# bag of Fishmeal  $65-85

Chickens need their protein. To be good layers, they need the right composition of calcium, protein, vitamins and greens. I am sure they could survive off of about any scraps around, just like humans do on a regular basis, but to get the best eggs and lots of them, their diet is important.

What do I feed my chickens? Mine get to roam the backyard and eat lots of grass and bugs first off. They had a field day in my mulch bin as I stirred it and the little roaches came crawling out. Yuck. They eat everything we have left over: oatmeal from breakfast, pancakes, stale bread, rice, noodles , odds and ends from every fruit and veggie I don't use, kefir, etc. When I step out the back door, they run up to me like I am their queen. The chicken mama, as my husband calls me. They know I usually have something good in my hand and they greet me with all the love their little chicken bodies can show. I don't feel so guilty about wasting when I know in the end, it will turn into an egg!

For their grains, I use three different feeds. I get them all from THE BACKYARD FARMER. I use a layer feed, a scratch and an egg enhancer. 

The layer feed has extra ingredients for calcium like oyster shells and fish meal. His feed has corn in the ingredients but it is not the first thing on the list and contains fish meal and alfalfa as well. The Super scratch also has wheat and milo. The Ultra Egg enhancer is my very favorite as it turns the yolks a deep orange indicating the nutrients embedded in these fresh, backyard eggs. I give them a cup a day to munch on for all 5 birds. They go crazy when I sprinkle this down. The Backyard Farmer whips this up himself. He says he will be making a soy/corn free feed coming up but it will be more expensive. I am OK with giving a little corn, but I like that it isn't what my chickens live on. They get all sorts of grains and nutrients, all sorts of fresh produce and grass. They get vitamins and high grain feed. They look like healthy, happy chickens. 

So, my fellow chicken mama's out there; I hope this answers some questions. Like with humans, the key is moderation. If you could do all corn/soy free, that is best but since that is hard to find unless you are making it yourself, do your best to moderate and feed them all sorts of things balancing their proteins. I will keep you posted when THE BACKYARD FARMER has his corn/soy free feed available. Till then, I will keep on using my current mixture that is the best I can find. 

Remember, businesses will sell what is in demand. If we don't ask for it, we won't get it. Every time I go to Costco, I see more and more organic and healthy choices. I am so impressed and if we didn't buy it, they wouldn't stock it. They even had organic premade hamburger patties this last time. Love them! Support good food.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Getting in Gear

Whomever the person is who gave us fall break, bless them. We just returned from another glorious week at the beach. It was a little rough getting up this morning to an alarm but somehow, we dug deep and got out the door. I pieced some sort of breakfast and lunch together out of absolutely nothing in the fridge. Thanks to the chickens who welcomed me home with an egg to make some muffins and the few scraps here and there in the fridge. I wondered how it would be if I couldn't shop today and had to live off what I had for a month. I am halfway tempted to try it but after a week at the beach, I desperately need some good greens. Sure, we could survive. I do have a year supply but I would miss the fresh food and the garden isn't quite in yet. The chickens were privileged to the garden while I was away since the gate was left open and everything is pretty much down to the stalks. It was time to dig them up anyways but I was going to leave my pepper plants. No more. Hope they enjoyed their feast.

I want to do so many things right now that it is hard to do any of it. It just seems that when your list is so long, it is hard to focus on any of it if you know what I mean. I am picking up a 40 pound box of apples today that will need processing, I need to get my garden in this week, preschool lessons planned and taught, a merit badge clinic I need to teach on cooking, baseball and soccer games, etc. , etc. All good things but so overwhelming. Add to that the 20 loads of sandy laundry waiting for me and grandparents who need visiting. I just realized that it is also early release for parent teacher conference this week which means less productive hours at my house. Oh well, glad to have the kids home. I guess they will have to be put to work.

Anyways, I love this time of year. The holiday's are beginning. I am anxious for cool weather and family time. I love having my family together and know that that time is drawing more and more to an end. The oldest is applying for college now and soon a mission. I realized that at the beach this week, it may be his last time there with us for a few years. Big time mommy pains. How could time go so quickly? 

Thank you fall break. Thanks for letting me have my children for a week. Sorry we dodged out on the ball games but I just had to have them to myself. Just a little longer. Today I will work on my list. Laundry first, food next. At least we are starting out the week with great tans and fully rested spirits. Hope you all had a good break too.

If you live out in the east valley and want to get a 40 pound box of local organic apples to munch on this week too, shoot me an email. My friend has a few boxes of Granny Smith left for $40 for the box. Super great deal. They are going fast!!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Chimichanga; Unfried, Uncheesed.

This was half eaten before I remembered to take a picture for you all. Not so pretty but quite tasty. I have been struggling to come up with some good Mexican food without cheese. Not all of us are completely dairy free at  my house but I have been trying to keep meals dairy free for a good handful of my household members. Now when you are also trying to do meat only a couple of the meals a week, the laying off of cheese is even more tricky. The thing I have been missing is the occasional enchilada or chimichanga. In desperation to make it seem like we were eating a chimichanga, I put this dinner together with a little inspiration from a recipe from Miss Molly's cookbook. It passed the food critic's in the house. I did put a little tiny bit of cheese in a couple and honestly, I didn't taste much difference in the non cheese ones. You could really go as low fat and healthy as you want with this dish.

Here is how it assembled, to the best of my recollection:

Baked Chimichangas

Flour tortillas, whole wheat or white
Butter or Olive Oil to brush tops of tortillas
1 cup cooked and shredded chicken (optional)
2 cups black beans
1cup corn corn
1 medium diced onion
1/2 cup diced red, yellow or orange bell pepper
1 cup pureed type salsa
1 -2 tsp.Cumin 
Cheese if desired

Saute onions and peppers in olive oil or butter until limp. Add cumin then all other ingredients but tortillas. Season to taste with extra cumin, salt and pepper. Add enough salsa to make mixture a little moist, not overly wet.

Fill tortillas with mixture and cheese if desired and roll with both ends closed. Brush tops with olive oil or butter and put in a pan. Bake at 400 for 25 minutes.

Top with shredded lettuce, tomatoes , cilantro, avacado's and whatever else you want to throw on it.