Been quiet around here, eh? I promise that I haven’t forgotten about blogging. Let me tell you a little about the homesteader’s balancing act.
Homesteaders typically lead very normal lives – they just add a whole bunch of chores to it! Most homesteaders have the dream of working for themselves and producing what they need, maybe having a small home business to support their families. But very few I’ve run into can pull it off. We’re generally working “normal” jobs, raising kids and involved in typical activities, all in addition to trying to raise our own food, taking care of needy animals and maintaining our land. It can be exhausting sometimes just to sit down and make a to-do list (precisely why my husband hates them!).
This time of year is when the balancing act really comes into play. Spring is full of activity for homesteaders. So we’ve been busy mowing and weed trimming, garden prepping and composting, fruit tree and vegetable garden planting, storing up wood for NEXT winter, and the list goes on and on. (Let’s add military duty and a pregnancy to that for good measure, and you know why this blog has been quiet lately!)
You may ask then, is it worth it? Why not just go to the grocery store or farm market to buy your eggs and produce? And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But we homesteaders are fiercely independent…we like to do things for ourselves. We may seem crazy (and sometimes we do, literally, go crazy balancing it all), but the joys and rewards we reap from our efforts are like nothing else. So we keep plugging along. We’ll never get to the end of our to-do list, but does anyone, really?
I am a sugar addict. I love sweets. More specifically, I am a chocolate-anything addict. As many times as I’ve tried to cut back on sugar intake either to lose weight or just be healthier, I always fail.
We’ve all heard about high fructose corn syrup, and its dangerous effects on our health. Many people have begun to try to avoid it. But have we switched to anything better? Really, any refined sugar (including raw sugar, which I often use in baking) is not great for us. And don’t even get me started on artificial sweeteners…. They’re worse than any refined sugar out there and we’re starting to see the long-term health risks associated with these sweeteners.
So what can we do to satisfy that sweet tooth in a healthier way? Although I haven’t had success in cutting sugar completely out of my diet (and let’s face it, what kind of life would that be?), I have made some significant improvements in the types of sugars that satisfy my sweet tooth. There are plenty of nutrient-rich options out there. Yes, they can be more expensive than refined sugar (which really doesn’t make sense, since more labor has to go into processing them!), but that only helps me out in reducing my sugar intake!
Fruits and veggies – Yep! They have natural forms of sugar in them. You can’t go wrong there.
Raw honey – With it’s anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties.
Pure Maple Syrup – A natural sugar that is abundant in this part of the country!
Sucanat/Rapadura – This is dehydrated cane juice and is less processed and refined than other cane sugars. It also substitutes very easily for sugar in recipes.
One of my favorite bloggers has a much better article on natural sweeteners and has researched this subject a lot more than I have…take a look at her thoughts!
In this part of the world, we can’t just grow anything any time we want. There are seasons for everything we eat (and often times we can’t grow it here no matter the season!). So how do you have strawberries on your pancakes in the middle of winter? Or real blueberries for muffins? Or tomatoes for a soul-warming chili on the coldest night of the year? Well, you can pay exorbitant prices for mushy, nutrient-lacking tomatoes at the grocery store, or you can store up your own in season. Oftentimes we don’t think ahead about this though and are caught off-guard. We all of a sudden realize that fresh tomatoes (or raspberries or zucchini) are here and won’t stick around long, and frantically freeze/can/dry as much as we can in an afternoon. But if we had a plan for storing these foods for the year, we’d be much less stressed and much more efficient when the time comes!
Here’s a list of the main things we’d like to store up while they’re in season this summer/fall:
Wild Raspberries (picked from our property)
Cucumbers (for pickles)
The other part of planning is having the tools ready to properly store each of fruits or veggies you want to keep. The most common methods for preserving are freezing, canning and drying. Do you have enough jars and lids and the proper canning equipment ready for when those first veggies are ready? Or containers to freeze fruit well without worrying about freezer burn in a few months?
I encourage you to make a plan, think ahead this season, and see how much you can store up!
It’s cold here again…how about a nice soup to warm you up? We had this just a few days ago, and it definitely hit the spot!
6 slices bacon
3 cups corn (fresh or frozen)
1 medium onion, chopped
½ green sweet pepper, chopped
3 cups chicken broth
2 medium potatoes, cubed (with or without skins – your preference!)
½ teaspoon each of basil, oregano and parsley (or you can use an Italian spice blend)
Salt and pepper to taste
4 teaspoons flour
1 ½ cups milk
Cut bacon into ½ inch pieces. In stockpot, cook bacon pieces until just crisp. Remove bacon (reserving fat. Add onion and green pepper to the bacon fat in the stockpot. Sauté until veggies are soft and tender. Drain fat. Stir in chicken broth, corn and potatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes (until potato and corn are tender).
In a small bowl, combine flour, seasonings and about ½ cup of hot broth (from your stockpot) until smooth. Add flour mixture and milk to ingredients in stockpot. Cook and stir until slightly thick and bubbly. Stir in cooked bacon and ½ cup cheese (if desired) and heat through.
Pour into bowls and sprinkle with more cheddar. Serve with fresh, crusty bread, and eat to your heart’s content!
We gave up chemicals in the garden a few years ago, without much thinking about the challenges it would then bring! Above all, weed control and fertilizing. We found an easy solution to replace chemical fertilizers – composting (a post on that another time). Weed control, on the other hand, has been an uphill battle. Weeds are never-ending. They are the one and only thing I dislike about gardening. Often, I end up giving up by the end of the season and letting them take control of the garden. But that only decreases yields and leads to more problems. This year I am determined to not let them win. So I’ve been desperately searching for some organic methods to controlling weeds.
Come to find out, there are lots of ways to battle weeds without chemicals. Here are a few:
Corn gluten – This is found in products like organic Preen. You sprinkle it on the garden before the weed seeds germinate for the season, and it keeps them from sprouting. However, corn gluten prevents all seeds from germinating – meaning your good seeds, too. I tried this one year without a ton of success. Maybe I applied it too late, or not frequently enough (you have to keep applying throughout the season), but I still had lots of weeds.
Black plastic – I have not yet tried plastic. Black plastic is definitely an effective method of weed prevention. However, you have to be careful with it. First of all, it attracts heat. Sometimes that can be beneficial, but if you’re not cautious, it can easily fry your plants. Also, it is an impermeable material, which prevents water and nutrients from getting through to your plants. If I get really desperate, I may try black plastic next year. But I’d rather use a method that actually adds nutrients to the soil.
Landscape fabric – Landscape fabric works similarly to plastic, but it is porous, so it does allow water and some nutrients to pass through. It’s not quite as effective as plastic (some really persistent weeds can still penetrate it), but it is a really good option. I’m using this in my perennial herb garden. The fabric will last several years, so once I get the garden weeded and the fabric laid down this year, I shouldn’t have to worry about it for awhile.
Newspapers – In our vegetable garden, we’re opting for newspapers to help control weeds. The newspaper will obviously break down over time, but it’ll add nutrients to the soil as it does. We’ll lay several layers thick of newspaper down across our entire raised beds, and then we’ll poke holes where we put in plants or seeds. This will be covered with a layer of mulch.
Mulching – There are lots of organic mulches out there that will actually benefit your soil as they break down over time. Grass clippings, wood chips, bark and straw are all good and common options. Just be sure to lay a nice thick layer (I always skimp and make it too thin, which doesn’t work to prevent the weeds from getting through as well).
Whichever method you choose, I wish you luck in winning the battle against weeds this season!
Well, given our crazy weather, planting is on hold for a bit. Our seedlings are still coming along, but I won’t be moving any of them outside this week with the weather that’s being predicted! So on to another topic.
In our homesteading journey, we’ve been discovering lots about processed food versus real food. Unfortunately it has meant giving up eating some of my favorite (unhealthy) things! At least most of the time….
I have to admit…this one in particular was hard for me. Velveeta is in SO many yummy recipes. Casseroles, creamy soups, queso dip…doesn’t it make your mouth water just thinking about it? But once I learned about pasteurized processed cheese food, I felt like for our family’s benefit I needed to find an alternative. In general, it’s been super easy to just replace Velveeta (or other processed cheese) with cheddar. However, just recently I came across a family recipe that just didn’t work with cheddar – our favorite broccoli soup. The cheddar got all clumpy and nasty, and completely ruined the soup. Needless to say, I will be doing some experimenting with that one! (Next time I think I’ll make a roux with butter and flour, whisk in the milk and add the cheese to melt, just like you would do to make a cheese sauce for homemade mac and cheese. Then I can add that to the broth and other soup ingredients. We’ll see if it works! I’m open to suggestions.)
A quick internet search will find you several more articles on pasteurized processed cheese food if you’re interested in reading more. In doing so, I also found this alternative homemade version of American cheese. I’ll be giving that a try as well!
And even though I whine about my lack of Velveeta cheese, I can honestly say that my body feels much happier and healthier with the changes we’ve made, to a diet with more real food and less processed “stuff”! (And, besides, I’m not against indulging once in awhile….)
As I mentioned previously, we’re giving Square Foot Gardening a try this year. Our seedlings are well on their way, and now we’re working on preparing the raised beds. We have some existing raised beds in our garden area built by the previous owners of our property. But in order to grow everything we want to, we needed to add one more raised bed this year for the potatoes, carrots and parsnips that need a deeper space. My husband built one out of scrap wood we already had and wooden stakes. It might not be pretty, but it’s free!
Now what to fill it with? SFG recommends “Mel’s Mix”, which is a combination of equal parts of compost, peat moss and vermiculite. You can see our compost dumped in the raised bed in the photo above. That’s from two compost piles that have been decomposing for a year (one of them even older). We’ll mix that with peat moss, and then we’ll be ready to plant. Why skip the vermiculite? Its purpose is to lighten the soil and hold moisture. Peat moss does the very same thing. And since vermiculite is pretty expensive at our local garden store, we’ve decided to skip it.
Our next step in preparing the raised beds is to mark off the square feet. I’ve bought twine that I’m going to use to do that later this week. Then it’s time to plant cabbage, lettuce, onions and spinach! I can’t wait!
A quick garden update: We’ve already planted our peas (along that fencing behind the raised bed). The tilled area behind it will have pole beans and melons, growing on similar fencing, and to the right will be sweet corn and popcorn with winter squash planted among the rows. Although we’re growing everything else in SFG raised beds, we decided to still plant the big space-takers in the ground. And lastly, I just cut our first asparagus! So excited to see what truly fresh asparagus tastes like tonight!
I have TWO recipes for you on this great Food Friday! Last week I tried making Sloppy Joes with our venison sausage. It was delicious! And what are Sloppy Joes without a good roll? So here is also a link to our favorite recipe for homemade hamburger and hot dog rolls. We use whole wheat flour and they turn out great! (And the rolls don’t take as long as you think to make!)
Venison Sloppy Joes
1 lb venison sausage (or ground beef or venison)
½ medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced (or a dash of garlic powder)
½ green pepper, chopped
¾ to 1 cup ketchup
2-4 Tbsp brown sugar
Splash of Worcestershire sauce
Splash of vinegar (white or apple cider vinegar)
Small splash of Tabasco sauce (unless your sausage is already spicy)
½ tsp dry mustard powder (or a small squirt of prepared mustard)
½ tsp chili powder
½ tsp sea salt
Pepper to taste
Brown meat, onion and green pepper. Drain fat (although venison doesn’t typically have much). Add all remaining ingredients and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Hamburger or Hot Dog Buns
Have a great spring weekend!
It’s spring cleaning time! Actually, I got a bit of a head start on it this year. I’ve never been great about spring cleaning, but this year I’m determined to finish strong! I’m working through one room at a time, making it clean from top to bottom. Here’s my method – it’s very simple!
Pick a room for the day. I try to schedule it out in my calendar, doing 2-3 rooms per week.
Bring your vacuum, a bucket of water filled with warm water and your favorite cleaning solution, as well as a rag and old toothbrush.
Vacuum all the cobwebs and dust from the ceiling corners, as well as along any molding (I just run the long attachment around the top edges and down the corners, and along the molding at the bottom).
Then I get my rag and wash everything, from top to bottom. I don’t try to get every inch of wall, but focus on the areas where I can see dirt or fingerprints. Same for the door and doorframe, light switch plates, furniture, etc.
Last I use the vacuum attachment to clean around the floor edges, then vacuum the entire room.
Notice that I didn’t clean windows. I wait and do those throughout the entire house at the end.
It takes me about 30-60 minutes per room, depending on the size and how much “clutter” there is to clean (although I try to take a minimalist approach on knick-knacks and such because I hate dusting, just keeping out the essentials). It takes a little longer for the kitchen especially, because there I also have to wash cupboards and a lot more surface area.
There you have it! A simple way to do spring cleaning! Now back to that cleaning…
Here it is – my favorite sourdough recipe. This recipe was given me by a friend, Heidi. I have no idea where she got it from, but I’m sure glad she found it and passed it on! As I mentioned previously, I killed my last batch of sourdough by not tending to it for too long. Since then my husband has asked several times for me to make this recipe, only for me to tell him that I have no starter. So sad. But, now we all have starter just waiting to be used, right?
Sourdough English Muffins
1/3 cup fed sourdough
3 cups flour, plus extra for rolling out (I generally use freshly ground whole wheat)
1 cup water
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
Combine starter with 2 cups of the flour and 1 cup of water. Stir thoroughly, and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature overnight, or 7-10 hours.
In AM, add baking soda, salt, and sugar and gradually add remaining 1 cup of flour, until dough looses its stickiness. Turn dough onto floured surface and roll out to ½ inch thickness. Cut into rounds or squares. Place on ungreased cookie sheet, sprinkled with cornmeal. Sprinkle tops with cornmeal and leave to rise, covered with a clean dish towel for 45 minutes.
Heat lightly oiled skillet until very hot, then reduce heat to medium/medium-high. Cook muffins about 5 minutes per side, trying to turn only once (when sides look dry, like the edges of a pancake, they are ready to be turned).
Let cool and enjoy! We love to use these English muffins for homemade (healthier!) breakfast sandwiches, for BLTs, or just spread with natural peanut butter.
I hope you all have a joyous and blessed Easter weekend! Today I’m making Hot Cross Buns for the first time and, if all goes well, hopefully start a new Good Friday tradition!
If you start your own plants from seed, you’re probably in the full swing of things! When the weather was nice the last couple weeks, you may have even gotten a few early crops in the ground. We didn’t get anything planted, but were able to do some much needed cleaning out of garden beds in preparation.
Our seedlings are coming along *mostly* well. Unfortunately, we have “damping off” in our onions (even though I tried SO hard to prevent it this year!). I did a quick internet search and found a few tricks to try out and see if I can save them.
So far we’ve planted:
Onions (yellow and bronze)
Peppers (Anaheim and California Wonder)
This week I have a whole slew of seeds to get started: tomatoes, eggplant, more lettuce, marigolds, cosmos and several herbs. I need to get busy!
I hope your seedlings are coming along nicely!
Look! It’s bubbling! This is a view of my sourdough after the initial 48 hours. (Let’s just not think about how much bacteria is in the air at my house….)
After you get through the process of feeding your sourdough starter, it’s ready to make bread or any other recipe you might desire. In fact, some of my favorite sourdough recipes are not bread at all! There is a Sourdough Banana-nut Cake recipe that I LOVE from a Hobby Farm Home issue. There’s yummy sourdough pancakes with chocolate chips, sourdough biscuits and sourdough pizza! Then there’s the beloved recipe coming on Friday….
Now that your sourdough is ready to use, you’ll need to maintain it. Although it’s pretty darn resilient, it can be killed. I know…I’ve done it. (Aren’t you just dying to see the photo of my nasty, neglected, moldy sourdough starter? I’ll spare you.)
If you don’t bake bread every day (and let’s be honest, who does?), you’ll need to store your starter in the refrigerator between uses. The night before you want to use it, get your starter out of the fridge and dump the contents into a clean glass bowl or jar. Feed the starter with equal parts flour and water, and allow to sit out overnight at room temperature (covered with cheesecloth or a tea towel). The next morning, get on with your baking!
Be sure to put one cup of the starter into a clean jar to save for the next batch, feeding it with—yes, you guessed it—one cup each of flour and water. Let the jar sit on the counter until it starts to bubble again (this won’t take long if your starter is healthy…just an hour or so). Then put it back in the fridge, covered with cheesecloth, for the next time you’re ready to use it.
If it’s been a week and I haven’t used my starter for anything, I go ahead and do the feeding-letting sit out-process anyway, to keep it active. Just don’t neglect it too long, or you end up with that nasty moldy stuff. And if you take good care of your sourdough starter, you’ll be able use it for many months and years to come!
Earlier this week, we talked about how good sourdough is for you. If you missed it, check it out. Another reason sourdough is so healthy for you is because those beneficial bacteria help to digest your food. We eat a lot of food that is actually really difficult for our bodies to digest (like granola, which is toted as a health food!). When you make sourdough bread, it has to sit and rise for awhile (traditionally overnight). During that time, the good bacteria are “pre-digesting” the grain for you. This makes it a whole lot gentler on your digestive system. Just another great reason to make that yummy sourdough!
Today we’re going to make our starter. It’s going to take a few days, so hang in there with me. I promise it’s really easy though! Get your materials ready. Just a note: any type of flour you have on hand will work just fine.
Day 1: In your Mason jar or glass bowl, combine one cup of flour with one cup of water. Cover the container with a piece of cheesecloth, and secure with a rubber band or string. Find a warm place out of direct sunlight (a corner of the kitchen or on top of the refrigerator works well) and allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours, stirring occasionally.
Day 2: Stir the mixture and return to its warm spot! Large bubbles should start to form in the mixture soon, if not already. That’s those good bacteria workin’ it!
Day 3: Next we need to feed our soon-to-be sourdough starter! (All living things need to be fed, right?) So after that first 48 hours, add another 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water, stirring well. Return to that warm, comfy spot. (You may have to use a larger container at this point if your starting container was on the small size.)
Day 4: Repeat Day 3, adding 1 cup each of flour and water. The mixture should definitely be bubbling by now.
Day 5: Dump your starter into a bowl and wash the starter container. Put one cup of the starter back into your clean container, and feed with ¾ cup flour and 1 cup of water. The remaining starter in the bowl is called cast-off. You can use it for any number of sourdough recipes, but it won’t be quite as strong enough to rise bread yet. A quick internet search will find a whole slew of sourdough recipes (like pancakes, pizza dough, biscuits, even desserts) that you can use your cast-off for.
For the stronger mixture to use in bread, repeat the feeding process (1 cup each of flour and water) every 12 hours for another three days. Then your sourdough starter will be finished!
Get working on your starter and check back early next week for instructions to maintain it long-term (Yes, you can kill it. I’ve done it). Then for next week’s “Food Fridays” I’ll post my favorite sourdough recipe!
Yum…fresh, warm sourdough bread.
Sourdough isn’t just yummy, it’s extremely healthy for you! That’s because it has bacteria in it…yep, bacteria. Bacteria aren’t all bad. There are lots of good bacteria around us. You’ve heard all the recent hype about probiotics, right? In our sterile society where we want everything germ-free (and if you know me, you know I’m one of these!), we’re realizing that our bodies really need some bacteria. Living in a perfectly sanitized environment is actually bad for us! So we’re finding ways to incorporate beneficial bacteria into our diet and environment (most popularly in yogurt). This is one of the reasons our family drinks raw milk and tries to use natural cleaners in our house, instead of the neon-yellow stuff that claims to kill everything.
Anyway, back to sourdough. Sourdough is a great source of beneficial bacteria. And if you’re up for a little science experiment, we’re going to catch some of those bacteria from our very own homes! (Yes, you do have bacteria in your home. Embrace it.) This is a great learning project to do with your kids, and also a good opportunity to practice some baking!
Here is what you’ll need to get started:
Quart or half-gallon size Mason jar (or bowl…just don’t use metal, as it can react with the starter mix)
Rubber band or string
Gather your materials, and then come back Friday for sourdough starter instructions and more health benefits. Next week I’ll post my favorite sourdough recipe (hint: it’s not bread!).
I honestly didn’t think I’d be posting recipes for the grill in March. But given our fantastic weather lately, I figured I’d post at least one grilling recipe in hopes that our great spring continues!
I apologize in advance for the lack of precise measurements in this recipe. But it’s one of those things that you can adjust and tailor to your own taste, or based on what you’re grilling with the potatoes that day!
Easy Grilled Potatoes
2-3 large potatoes
2-3 Tbsp mayonnaise
Garlic powder (or fresh garlic, minced)
Salt and pepper
Prepare a double thickness of aluminum foil to make a pouch. In a bowl, mix together mayo and seasonings to taste. Use whatever seasonings will go with what you’re grilling. Slice potatoes (we leave the skins on). Toss potatoes in the mayo/spice mixture. Spread potatoes in foil, dab with butter, and seal up the foil packet. Grill for about 30 minutes on medium/medium-high.
Some people go crazy “being prepared”. They feel that if they stock up enough food/water/medical supplies/whatever else, then they’ll be able to ride out any potential scenario. This is true to some extent. Having enough of life’s essentials for your family to survive in the event of an emergency is smart and prudent.
However, there is a problem I’ve noticed with this approach. First of all, not everyone has the money or space to store years of food and supplies for their family (including us!). But second is this: so you store up on beans, wheat, rice, and other long-storing foods. When the time comes to use them, will you know how? Do you know how to soak and cook dried beans? How about how to grind wheat into flour with your grain mill? (Hopefully you were smart enough to get one of those if you stocked up wheat!) Or, if you stored up flour, do you know how to make a loaf of homemade bread that your family will actually eat?
Don’t get me wrong: storing up on food and other goods is an important thing. We all take for granted our steady twenty-four-hour access to a grocery store (or Wal-Mart).
But our family chooses to take a little different approach. We choose to live a prepared lifestyle now. And while storing up is all well and good, we want to live a life now that reduces our dependency on others, consumes less, conserves precious resources, and is just generally more simple. Yes, we have food items stored up, but we’re learning how to use them in our everyday cooking. When I go to the grocery store, I’m mostly buying fruits and vegetables, and a few other things that we can’t (or choose not to) produce on our own. Everything else I buy in bulk and use as we need. And this summer, when the garden is in full swing, I expect that my grocery cart will feel downright empty each week!
I used to compare our amounts of food storage to other friends who were also storing up, and felt like we were so far behind. But you know what? I don’t feel bad anymore. I came to a realization not too long ago that we’re getting closer to the point that if the power went out for weeks because of an ice storm (not this winter!)—or the economy tanked and everyday provisions were not as readily available—we’d hardly skip a beat. We’d make it. And not just survive, but be able to more forward with relative joyfulness and ease!
What is your family’s approach to “being prepared”? I’d love to hear about it!
I LOVE soup. I love making soup and I love eating soup. I miss it in the summer (although I’m happy to utilize the grill and enjoy lots of different salads during the warm months). But when cool weather comes, soup is my friend. Although we’ve had a very mild winter here, it’s still cool enough to enjoy a good bowl of soup.
Below is a recipe for one of my healthy favorites, Tuscan Bean & Sun-dried Tomato Soup. Because of the beans, it’s hardy enough to be a meal in itself. I like that it uses rosemary, which I love but don’t have a ton of recipes utilizing it. And because the beans are mostly pureed into the soup, it doesn’t taste overly bean-y. Trust me, it’s delicious and quick. If you want a robust and healthy soup, give this a try! I’d serve it with yummy homemade bread and salad.
Tuscan Bean & Sun-dried Tomato Soup
1 cup medium pasta shells
1 ½ Tbsp olive oil
1 small white onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tsp dried rosemary
1 bay leaf
½ tsp red pepper flakes
2 cups water or chicken stock
1 medium carrot
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, julienned (I don’t always have sun-dried tomatoes on hand, so I usually substitute diced tomatoes)
2 16-oz cans canellini beans, or equivalent of cooked dry beans
2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese (use the real stuff!)
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions. At the same time, heat olive oil in soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, rosemary, bay leaf and red pepper flakes. Sauté until onion is soft. Add water, tomatoes, carrots and beans, reserving 1 cup beans. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat. Cover and simmer 7-10 minutes. Let cool slightly. Puree veggie mixture with blender/food processor. Return to pan. Add cooked pasta and remaining whole beans and heat through, adding water if too thick. Serve with parmesan cheese.
Do you want to keep chickens, but don’t have a good place to house them? A chicken tractor might be your best option! Many people just don’t have enough acreage or a fenced in area for chickens to pasture, but that shouldn’t stop you from having chickens. Chicken tractors are moveable housing for chickens, often build out of wood and chicken wire or fencing. They usually provide a simple covering for shelter. The great part about chicken tractors or mobile coops is that your chickens can be out in pasture, eating grass, bugs and other natural food, and when that area gets all scratched up, you can just move them to a fresh area.
You can build a chicken tractor yourself relatively easily (there are many plans available on the internet) and can spend as little or much as you want, depending on how fancy you want to get. Check out this site for a little inspiration!
We’re looking at plans to possibly build a chicken tractor for our meat chickens this year. Our laying hens are allowed to free range during the daytime (we have enough space for them to roam freely). However, the meat birds need to be more contained. Last year we set up a small fenced area connected to the barn, however they scratched up that area pretty quickly and then just had dirt. We’d rather them be able to have some pasture, and think a chicken tractor might be the answer!
When our son turned one year old, and was switching to cow’s milk, I did a lot of research on milk. Frankly, I was scared of what was being fed to confined cows at large dairies, and specifically of the growth hormones and antibiotics given them. It just didn’t seem natural or safe to me. I also am a fan of buying food as locally as possible, both for the health benefit (the more the food has to travel, the more the nutrients degenerate) and to support the local economy.
Naively, I called a nearby farm and asked if they sold milk directly to the public. I was just looking to buy milk locally, and without the use of artificial growth hormones. At the time, I wasn’t even thinking of raw milk. The answer was a big “no”! The farmer explained to me that he’d be in huge trouble if he sold milk directly to consumers due to licensing requirements. I had no idea of the laws that surrounded the issue of raw milk.
That began my discovery of raw milk. After lots of research, talking with a friend who was buying raw milk for her family, and visiting this farm.
Here are just a few of the reasons we made the switch to raw milk:
1. Health benefits – I am not a doctor or scientist, but I became convinced through my research that pasteurization destroys many of the beneficial components of milk, including the “good” bacteria that helps us fight diseases and allergies (these are now added back into many yogurts on the market). And after well over a year on raw milk, I can say with confidence that our family is much, much healthier.
2. Raw milk is a natural food – I want to eat my food as close to the way God intended it as possible. That means limited processed food (although in our society it is very difficult to avoid this completely), and food prepared as naturally as possible. I feel that this provides our family with the biggest health benefits from the food we eat.
3. We like buying locally – We can buy our milk directly from a trusted source. The profit goes right to the farmer, and we know that our milk hasn’t traveled through many hands to get to us. That makes it cleaner and safer, and as fresh as possible.
4. We’re drinking organic milk from pastured, healthy cows – These cows get sunshine and a natural, pastured diet as much as weather permits. They are not fed soy, any growth hormones or antibiotics, or pesticides.
5. We feel safe drinking raw milk – I won’t go into the history of why pasteurization came about, but the conditions the cows were living in were a huge factor. Pastured, healthy cows produce safe, healthy milk.
Drinking raw milk is obviously a personal decision for each family to make. However, I’d encourage you to at least do a little reading at http://www.realmilk.com and http://www.raw-milk-facts.com. We made the switch and haven’t looked back!
Below is my seed starting schedule for this season. I’ve already started several plants and am excited to start a lot more in the next few weeks! I’ve gathered my information from Mother Earth News, How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons, and information on my specific seed packets. Many plants have a range of dates when they can be planted, and my schedule is based on the earlier side of the ranges (as I want to be sure they are hardy enough when it comes to transplanting time!). I will also do subsequent plantings of Lettuce, Swiss Chard and Spinach for a more continual harvest. I hope you find it helpful and are able to adjust it to your own needs!
Average Last Frost Date – May 18
Week of 2/24:
Onions, Leeks, Parsley, Calendula – Sow Indoors
Week of 3/9:
Peppers, Cabbage – Sow Indoors
Week of 3/16:
Brussels Sprouts – Sow Indoors
Week of 3/23:
Broccoli, Cauliflower, Lettuce & Swiss Chard (if starting indoors) – Sow Indoors
Peas, cool-weather Greens (like turnips, etc.) – Direct sow in garden (or as soon as soil can be worked and weather conditions permit)
Week of 3/30:
Tomato, Eggplant, Lettuce & Swiss Chard – Sow Indoors
Week of 4/6:
Basil, Echinacea, Thyme, Marigolds, Cosmos, Lettuce & Swiss Chard – Sow Indoors
Spinach (later end of the week) – Direct Sow in garden
Week of 4/20:
Onions, Leeks – Transplant to garden (can also direct sow at this time)
Cabbage, Lettuce – Transplant to garden
Chamomile, Dill, Cilantro – Sow Indoors
Week of 4/27:
Cucumber – Sow Indoors
Brussels Sprouts, Lettuce, Parsley – Transplant to garden
Parsnips – Direct Sow in garden
Week of 5/4:
Melon, Pumpkin, Squash – Sow Indoors
Broccoli, Cauliflower, Swiss Chard – Transplant to garden
Beets, Carrots – Direct Sow in garden
Week of 5/18:
Corn – Can begin first planting of corn if you’re brave!
Echinacea, Thyme, Chamomile, Marigolds, Cosmos, Calendula – Transplant to garden
Week of 5/25:
Cucumber, Tomato, Basil – Transplant to garden
Corn – Direct Sow in garden
Week of 6/1:
Eggplant, Melon, Peppers, Pumpkin, Squash, Dill – Transplant to garden
Pole & Lima Beans – Direct Sow in garden
You can start again in mid to late summer for a fall harvest of the cool weather crops (look at your seed packets or the Mother Earth News link above for timing!).