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Sunday, December 23, 2012

P.S Holiday thoughts 2012

After I posted my last blog post I went into the kitchen to frost our sugar cookies and I was reminded of another thing I am grateful for today.
 I am was happy to have our old dog Thora standing in the kitchen shamelessly begging once again for a sugar cookie.The one and only thing she will beg for until you give in.Maybe Thora had her last walk in the woods with us this fall but she is still here to enjoy her favorite treat.
How could you say no to this face?

A younger Sol.

Also while looking for the photo of  Thora I came across this one of Sol,a younger fellow then.We were visiting a music shop and he tried out the guitar in the photo with glee.It is the same one he got for Christmas this year.

Holiday thoughts 2012

My it's been busy around here! A good kind of busy but busy.

Last weekend we took our Sol down to the PSU Farmer's Market so he could play his guitar with his teacher and to help Sol's teacher James pack up once the set was over.

James Clem and Sol.
Friends came to show their support for our budding musician.One said she must really love us to come down in the rain and the cold.

Ms Cole,all bundled up,it was a bit cold at the market.

Our good friends The Smith's came to town that day and stopped by before they went to the ballet.
A rare treat to have them here,after the ballet they came to stay with us for a night.
Little Miss Smith came from Sister's!
Somewhere on our computer is a video of the day but I am just not savvy enough to find it.The cherry on the top of the day was Sol got to bring home his Christmas present ,a new guitar of his dreams.I actually caught him hugging it he loves it so much.

We have also been busy getting our house back in order now that my Mom is resettled into her own place.I walked into our front room this morning and saw the Christmas tree and lights and could finally  feel that Ah moment,our house is back to being our house.I really feel like the photo above catches us and our vibe,music,art,vintage things and color all in one shot.Nothing very "homestead-ish" but what does that look like anyway?

On the homestead front we tried a small experiment with the chickens.We skipped a week of giving them some suet just to see, is it the suet,a random act of kindness on the hens part or a flop?So far no eggs during the week of no suet.Today I will restart them and see how it goes.
Chance and I have been busy doing lots of holiday baking.A point that I find ironic,here I am saying Issac and I should not eat grains and here I am baking a mountain of cookies.Well,we are not perfect,it is the holidays and we know our limits pretty well.
I blogged about my Great Grandma's Dark Secret's  three Christmas' ago and think they are totally worth sharing again.As always I made a batch and then had to call my Dad to say hello.The Dark Secrets are his Grandma's recipe and his favorite holiday cookie.Dad was pleased to know the cookies were at that moment in the oven baking.There's something to said about traditions and keeping them going. 

As I read through the Dark Secret post I was grateful we are past all of the woes we were going through then.Grateful  my family is well and safe.After the shootings in the past few weeks I have been thinking about so much awful news the reflection was good for me.That really sounds self centered doesn't it? It's not that I do not have compassion for the families who lost their loved ones,I do but that moment was like a little band-aid on my heart.We can heal and move on.

I work retail and have been a Preschool teacher so both shootings hit me pretty close.When teaching, my students were mine for a few hours out of the day and I would have done anything to protect them,even step in front of gun fire.I am a bear of a Mama and that bear-ishness always carried over on to my students.
The day of the school shooting Chance and I were in the car together and he said to me-
" When I heard the news all I could hear in my head were the heart wrenching sobs we heard in the E.R that one night." We had Issac in the E.R waiting our turn to get help to fix something we both knew could be fixed.But down the way from us parents had just lost their child to a gunshot.It has been a moment in time that will stick with us for all time.

One never knows do they? So be joyfully grateful for those you love and show it.Joy and gratitude don't cost a thing but the more you share them the richer you will be.
The Solstice has come yet again and we are turning towards the brighter end of the year.May your holiday be filled with brightness,joy,love and gratitude.
And remember to walk on the sunny side of the street. 

James Clem,Sol's teacher and his "Two Pea's in a Pod" friend.

One last thing before I close,I spied that I have a couple of new followers.Welcome ! Thanks for following along ,I look forward to hearing your future comments.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Empty Nest & Full Nest or Life is good.

Just a quick note-

We moved my Mom over the weekend.Did you hear a collective sigh from our house? Mom is happy and we are too.

Yesterday Chance found 3 eggs in the coop,the suet must be helping.Hopefully the eggs are an omen for us,one of good fortune and good things to come.

We are busy setting our house back in order so we can start thinking of the holiday and all of its cheerfulness.

On my holiday baking list is a batch of these peppermint bars,I do love bar cookies so easy to make.

It would be grand if I found the time to make a pom pom garland for the house.Small detail there,time.But I may make one just because and hang it someplace in the house anyway.

Have you ever been on Hunter Angler Gardener Cook? I like the website better than the book.

Holiday Cheer!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Lay some eggs,Dammit!

 This time of year our hens rarely lay any eggs,a point of frustration for us.We have tried changing to a better quality feed,running a light out to the coop and made sure they are let loose in the yard to forage.Nothing has worked yet.Then I get annoyed,I am feeding you chickens and the deal is I buy feed,you lay eggs.

Chance was talking at the curb with one of our favorite neighbors who is a nifty guy who has spent most of his life on a ranch in North Dakota.He still goes back a few times a year to make sure things are running fine.But anyway,the neighbor asked if we were getting any eggs,nope.The neighbor suggested feeding the hens some suet,that it is a sure fire way to get them laying again.The suet will give them some extra fat which they will convert into eggs.

Mmmm,a tub of suet.

Last night while we were at the local natural foods store Chance spied a tub of suet crumbles in the meat departments freezer section.We picked up the tub in the photo above for $.88,big spenders aren't we?
The tub is the same size as a large yogurt tub.

Today is day one of trying yet another experiment to get the hens to lay during the cold months.Our neighbor has given us other very helpful tips in the past so I am hoping this stays true with this one.I did do a bit of reading online and the general consensus was some suet is fine but to be careful of the chickens putting on too much weight.I am going to start by just giving them a handful at a time and see how it goes.


******The hens loved the suet! Now we wait.*********

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Zoodles for Dinner,yum

 I personally try not to eat much grain of any sorts.I find that I just feel better with longer lasting energy.But I do live in a house full of grain eaters.Over the past couple of months I have been looking at Paleo Diet recipes.Not because I am following that diet to a T but because the Paleo followers avoid grains too.I have tried the whole Gluten Free (G.F) route and still found I did not feel so good after eating many of the G.F things.

I am finding dinner following the Paleo guidelines is pretty easy.Or I can offer the rest of the family a side that is grain based that I don't eat.So far so good. Chance has been eating less grains and noticing an improvement in his energy levels.Sol eats most of what I put in front of him at dinner.Issac,he's another sad to me story,he would live on grains,grains,meat and raw veg.But like I mentioned in my last post,no pressure from me,just making a suggestion.

For tonight's dinner I made a Paleo dish I have been wanting to try, Zoodles with Sauce.Zoodles also known as Zucchini Spaghetti which is made from zucchini.(As if you couldn't figure that one out,Duh Rois.)You just make up a pot of Spaghetti sauce and pour it over the Zoodles.You can get the details by linking over to Nom Nom Paleo. Making the Zoodles was really easy and fast.

Tonight I did cook up some pasta knowing full well Issac would decline the Zoodles and was not sure of my Mom.Chance and I ate all Zoodles,Sol did half and half but then said next time he would just take the Zoodles.And surprise Issac went all pasta.Mom did half and half too and loved it.

We enjoyed dinner so much there was barely enough left for my lunch for at work tomorrow.It's another recipe I can add to our dinner ideas that I know we will like.I also thought it would be easy enough to use the Zoodles in other dishes that call for pasta.I am thinking something along the lines of pan-fried Asian noodles.

I hope you will check out Nom Nom Paleo's recipes,there's some good food over there.If you are G.F maybe you will find something new to try.Or you just like exploring new foods and food ideas.

Anyone else have a food based link they would like to share?


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Part 3: A ripple set in motion by a packet of seeds.

 I started writing this post a while back as part of a series I was thinking about.I finally got around to finishing it.If you want to go back to the start of the series here and here is where to go.It was interesting to me to go back and reread these posts and to finish this one.I started this before becoming a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner was even a thought and yet it feels like the posts were the beginning of a journey I did not know was coming. 

The ripple of change in our household was set in motion by a shovel,some muscle and a few seed packets.
We laid our plans for more garden beds,dug them deep,fed them from the compost and planted our seeds.

It was a big job and our muscles let us know it.Yet if felt good to use our bodies to work for something despite the aches.I suppose you could say those aches were the very first sign of changes on the horizon,our bodies were regaining strength.

As we worked we talked.laughed,dreamed and planned.Chance and I have always been able to work together and do it well.During this time we grew closer together adding to the strength of our relationship.We became a well oiled machine in our togetherness.

While we were waiting for the garden to grow I started to look at the food in our pantry.I watched for a few weeks to see what we were eating,how often, how much and what was a waste.At this point in time we still had a small list of processed foods in our cupboards,mostly the things the boys who were young teens craved and ate.Mac & Cheese, Ramen,crackers,chips and boxed cereal were the bulk of it.Not too bad considering what most Americans eat.

There were other foods the boys would beg for at the store,Poptarts,sugary cereals,soda pops,store bought cookies that I rarely gave into.All foods their friends had at their houses so of course the boys wanted to fit in.I get that as a parent,the need to fit in with your crowd but I was on a mission.So finding ways for the boys to feel "normal" about the food in our house and finding better alternatives was added to my mission's list of things to do.

I started out by weaning the boys off of the store bought crap they wanted by extending how often I bought something or not replacing it until they asked about it.The gaps got longer and after a few months I just stopped buying it.Some of the things they still really wanted around I found alternatives for,like the Mac & Cheese,I switched to an organic brand.(This actually goes against everything I think about organics but I was looking for harmony not perfection.) I started baking more of the snacks and treats we were eating too.

The one item that I have yet to get rid of is Ramen noodles, the boys prefer the ones form the Asian grocery stores doctored up with shredded cabbage and an egg dropped in.I just figure if this is the one junkie food in my pantry we were doing pretty darn good. Harmony is a grand thing.

We as a family sit down together most nights for dinner,it is our favorite time of day.We catch up with each others days,share stories,laugh and discuss a broad range of topics.At dinner I started to have conversations with everyone about the importance of good food how it fuels and nourishes our bodies and protects the Earth from harm.We had short conversations,I did not want the boys to feel as if I was preaching at them.I needed it to sink in like a little seed waiting to grow.

And after time it all stuck in their heads.I noticed they were thinking more about what they were eating.They started choosing not to eat fast food when away from home because they realized it made them feel really crummy.This is the biggest moment here, as in- angels with trumpets need to be blasting their horns and beams of light need to shine down right now.I mean holy heck! Two growing teen boys choosing to eat healthy even when Mama was not looking.Dang,I did my homework and got an A plus..I hit a home run here!

Want to know what I think my secret to making this work is? I think it is because I did not make it a big deal.No pressure,just asking you to think about it,you can make your own choices. I also think because I weaned them off the junk,no cold turkey freak outs needed to happen.

Ok so this all sounds like we are purest in our diet but honestly we are not.There are foods out there that now live on my list of treats.I never actually say "No,that's bad for you.I won't buy it."  Really,who does not want something that is a treat now and again. I try and compromise if possible.Is there a "better" alternative? If not I will give in knowing that it's not the main part of our diet.Over time I have noticed that we as a family have lost our taste for certain types of crappy foods so it comes up less and less.

This is getting long,phew. I have more I am going to write about in the coming weeks that will tie into this post,so look for it.

I also have some very good news,my Mom is moving out on the 8th of December.This is going to be such a grand thing I may have to dance once we have her moved.

My Gofundme fundraiser is growing much to my happiness.Chance and I have worked out that all of the money we make teaching some classes of the homesteading vibe will also go towards my school fees.We are working together to make my dream come true.

Have any of you ever made changes to your life style or diet? How did it go?


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Daring Greatly.

Recently I won a blog give away over at "And Here We Are." a blog written by a neat lady I met ever so randomly while at work one day and then again randomly I found her blog just by pure chance. I won a book titled "Daring Greatly." which is all about opening up your self to vulnerability-in a nut shell letting your armor down and letting the world see you for who you really are.

The title of the book comes from a speech given by Theodore Roosevelt.Below is a quote from his speech that sums things up nicely-

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; . . . who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” —Theodore Roosevelt

The book has given me plenty to think about regarding myself and where it is I want to go in life.So in the spirit of the book and Theodore Roosevelt I have started something that for me is daring greatly.
As some of you may know I have been working on getting back to school to become a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner.I have the passion,the drive,the dedication and determination to make this happen.My only stumbling block has been where to find the funds for the program.( I say stumbling block because a block keeps you stuck, where a stumbling block is just s hiccup in the road ahead.) Sadly,holistic health education just does not seem to have aid available to hopeful students.Silly system if you ask me.But I am focused on my target so I went out on a personal limb and I am asking for help.

I the ever independent-I -can- do -it-myself-prideful person has started an account over at Gofundme.Gofundme is much like Kickstarter but has more headings you can choose from including one for raising funds for education.

So Dear Readers if you or someone you know may want to help me along on my journey to find my passion with the end result being I can share my passion to help others,here is the link to my fund raiser page.My highest hope is I raise enough to cover all of the fees but even if with the help from others I mange part that will be better than not trying at all.No matter what the outcome of the fund raiser is I will go forward and reach my goal.

I would also like to thank Ariana from "And Here We Are." I am always amazed by how the universe works.Sometimes the connections made seem so random and end with such surprising results.Thank you for needing shoes for your Little Miss,stopping in the shop and reappearing on a blog from the other side of the world. Thank you again for the book, I will pass it on so someone else can dare to be great.

On the homestead front Chance and I made Red Current Jam last week.We used this recipe ,fast easy and tasty.If you are a fan of Lingonberry Jam, Red Current is worth finding the currents for.We had 3 pounds of currents and ended up with 10 half pint jars,plenty (I hope) for the coming year.

Chance and I are also leaving flyers around town about our chicken butchering classes with the hopes we can find enough people interested to hold another class or two.If you live local and would like to be placed on our up coming classes email list let me know in the comments.

Well, I must dash off and get ready for work.If I am not back here before Thanksgiving,I hope every one of you has a great day filled with blessings.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Learn and grow.

We finally got word that my Mom's apartment will be ready soon,we find out this coming Monday when she can move to her new space.Chance and I have let out a long sigh that the end is near.It has not been horrid having Mom here but it has not been The Walton's either.

I have learned a lot about my Mom and about myself while Mom has been here.We are two very different people even though we are Mother and Daughter. I can accept that,we are two human beings living two different stories,with two different views on how the outcome should be.Sadly my Mom can't seem to accept that,it's not a reality she can face.What I wish most is that she could see and understand that I am who I am because of all of the things I learn from her,the good,the bad and the ugly ones.I have just chosen to use those lessons to become strong and independent not afraid to live a full life.I can stand on my own two feet,have my very own dreams,voice my feelings, say no and still be a kind and loving person.

So I agree to disagree with my Mom even if she can't.Something that will be much easier to breathe in once she is in her own home.

Just before my Mom's news came Chance and I had been talking about yet again tinkering the homestead to make it work better.It's been long enough since we started out on this path that the need to reevaluate has come.

One area we are looking at is the front garden beds.We have problems with the neighbors cats wanting to use the one side of the garden as their cat box,leaving us with the problem of do we start a "war" with the neighbor over this or do we keep the peace and rethink those beds? We are rethinking the beds,we've lived side by side with the neighbors for 13 years now and keeping the peace is in everyone's best interest.So those beds will become flowers for cutting.Something I will enjoy hugely even though we will lose space for growing food.

The other issue we are having is we seem to have a new group of young kids in the neighborhood who  think it is alright to rob us of our food,as in pick it clean kind of robbing.We can't move the fruit trees, those are there forever.We might be able to move the blueberries but they are where they are because it's the best space for them.The tomatoes and peas can be moved to the back yard garden again.We have already lost some prime growing space to the cats and now this!

We have been watching for where the kids live so we can talk with their adults which would be the easiest of the solutions and the one we hope for the most.The two things hindering this is we have not seen the kids close enough to know their faces well and it's now cold and wet out ,keeping the kids more indoors.We are watching like hawks,we would much rather have a calm conversation than have to dig up and move a majority of the front gardens.I will add here,the signs we put up after the fruit was stolen did seem to bring some awareness so maybe some simple signs asking not to pick would work too.

In our back garden we also have some revamping we would like to do.We have one end of the yard that we have not done anything with as of yet.We have various thoughts,garden boxes to grow more food or flowers is one that keeps on coming up and the most favored.But Chance would also like to think about raising two lambs here this coming spring for meat.This would mean we put off overhauling that end of the yard until the lambs are gone.We need to sit down and think through the lamb idea,spring will be here sooner than we think so the choice needs to be made,meat or veg.

I have a couple of links to share with all of you.

First of all let me introduce to you a new-ish shop here in our neighborhood, New Suburbia. A friend of ours had seen a news clip about New Suburbia on a local news show and mentioned it to Chance but the friend didn't remember the name of the store so we were wondering all about it.Last weekend when we were running errands we came across the shop and stopped in.A nice surprise was awaiting us.We started talking to one of the owners,whom I kept thinking looked familiar to me but could not place the face,when she asks "Are you Rois and Chance?" Yes?? Well the world is a small place these days,we had met the owners and their family at a mutual friends house a few years ago so there is community connection number one.Then we started talking about Pete our chicken guy,they know him too along with a handful of other like minded people in the neighborhood.Looks like we've been circling each other for some time and bang we finally connected.

The shop is awesome,not only do they have feed,chicks and seeds but they also carry homesteading gadgets for home and garden.My heart kind of went pitter patter when I saw all of the vintage kitchen tools,yet another passion of mine.They also have different things you can rent from them,those tools you only use once in a great while or want to try to see if it would be worth buying your own.They have a butter churn you can rent for Pete's sake,how awesome is that.There is also a nice list of classes,Chance and I talked with the owner about doing some classes there,so that is in the works too.So stop by if you live in the area or want a field trip.

Then this morning I was on Google looking for new homesteading ideas of a higher skill set and came across an article written about Chance and I's very first Chicken Butchering class.Before you click the link I will forewarn you the very first picture at the top is of dead chickens,plucked and ready to gut.It's not ghastly but I know some of you won't like it.

I had totally forgotten there was a guy at that class only because he wanted to write this piece.I remember him asking us for permission and could he use our names ect. The vibe I got off the guy was odd and at the time I remember thinking."Oh boy,are we getting ourselves into something we did not plan on?" But it's all turned out better than we could have imagined at the time.
The article is pretty good but while reading it seemed like maybe there were parts missing some how.

I was also surprised this morning while on Google by how few homesteading sites or blogs there are now.I haven't bothered to google the topic in some time and am wondering where did everyone go? Is it because of the whole copy writing of the word Homestead or has everyone gone on to other things? Is there a new magic pass word to find these sites and blogs? I wasn't even finding sites with older posts on them,it was like the homesteading community online had vanished.What that heck,that sucks!

Tomorrow we hope to find ourselves in the woods hunting for whatever treasures we can bring home.Maybe it will be little bits like the ones in the photo above but maybe if we are lucky there will be some yummy to bring back.


Friday, November 2, 2012

It's been a long time.

 Hello all,

Just a quick note to say we are still alive and here.

My Mother is still here with us....What to say about that,I am learning a lot about our relationship and have come to realize she is kind of a vampire that sucks the life out of me/ us.Which means projects have not been happening,that just sucks.Being able to see that now I have put on my big girl panties and we are getting back to living our life and Mom can get over it.Sounds unkind but it's what needs to happen in order for sanity to return.

Issac has been really sick this week,he has come down with Mono.Poor kid,he told me he rather be in the hospital recovering from surgery.That just speaks volumes about how awful he is feeling.I am beginning to think we need to house him in a plastic bubble for the month of October since that seems to be a rough month for him historically.

I did not get into school for this round.A bit of a bummer but waiting until the next round will actually give me time to get my money ducks in a better row.I am not giving up! I will get there!

There's a couple of interesting things we have done recently that I hope to post about in the next few days.

Hopefully any of you that are East Coaster's weathered the storm and are safe and dry.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Wintering in..already?

 We have started to winter in over the last few weeks.Already I ask myself?

 But before it all began Chance,Sol and I went away to the southern Oregon coast to see some different views and to visit a friend.This was our first family trip without Issac,he was working and 18 more than old enough to be on his own but he was missed.
We saw people in kayaks watching whales here.We spied whale tails several times.
 When we returned we were gifted a box of apples from yet another neighbor.There were enough apples to make 11 half pints of Apple Butter for winter.This year I made the Apple Butter in the Crockpot, the person who realized this could be done was brilliant.While it was bubbling I could do lots of other things,including the grocery shopping,without worrying about it burning.Apple Butter is usually an all day stand near the stove kind of deal so being able to do other things at the same time was helpful.

Clockwise-Lobster Mushrooms,Chantrells and a small bag of Huckleberries.

Chance and I have been working extra days all summer and even though we took three days to go to the coast we were still feeling the need to escape the daily life.So this past Sunday we piled into the car with the Favorite Cousin and went to the woods to hunt for some early mushrooms.We found plenty especially since it was very early in the season.
We were lucky to find a new mushroom to Chance and I,Lobster Mushrooms,that my cousin knew all about.They are large, knobby lobster colored fellows,that actually smell a bit like fish.We cooked some up that night,I liked their flavor but the texture was odd to me.
The other find were the huckleberries.I manged to bring home a couple of cups worth which I froze until I have time to make some treat.

Old Dog Thora.
When we went to the woods our faithful companion Thora went with us.Sadly,we are pretty sure this was her last trip to the woods.We had to help her up,over and around things she used to just spring over or wiggle under.Thora is 15 now and her poor old hips are starting to bug her.

Bacon,good to eat and for trading.
Chance made us bacon which we have not had in a great while.Tonight he is starting a batch of Bacon Jam and Pancette.The Pancette will take a few weeks to cure so more about that later.

One large bowl of Hops ready for trade.

Yesterday Chance and I began some of the early winter garden clean up.We started by picking our hops.The bowl in the photo is huge,the largest metal bowl from Ikea.We also picked enough to fill a large basket to over flowing.Today Chance traded the basket full for beer,good trading there.We still have the bowlful to find a home for.If you live local and can pick them up,email us and we can work out a trade.

Like I said we've been working extra days at work which has really put a crunch on our time for homesteading.Two more weeks and I will be back down to 4 days a week so will have more time for getting things done and coming here to blog more often.I feel like I keep having to put things and people off. One more week...oh wait two more and on and on.But this time I know for sure it's only two more weeks.

If any of you would be so inclined to think good thoughts, tomorrow at 3:00 Chance has a job interview for a job he considers a dream job.One of the high lights,he could walk or ride his bike to work something he would love to able to do again.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Lacto-Fermented Pickles and Pickled Ginger.

 Sunday morning Chance and I realized we had enough pickling cucumbers in the garden to make a medium sized batch of  Lacto-Fermented pickles, so of course we dug out the pickling crock,went to the store for dill and got busy.

We used a friends recipe; that she developed to rival the ones in the Deli's in L.A,the hometown of both our friend and Chance. ( If you are from L.A,think Canter's) I am not even from L.A but have had the joy of some of those pickles and I am happy / sad to say, "Grandma,your recipe may sit in the book for a long while,these pickles beat yours."

 Since I did not think to ask our friend to share her recipe before I started this posting ,I won't be sharing it.Sorry,maybe she will stop by here and give permission.

 Lacto- fermented pickles are super easy and fast.An added bonus- the project did not heat up the house on  a hot day.All we did was make a hot brine,poured it over the cucumbers,placed a heavy plate over the top of the brine and pickles to keep the cuc's under the brine and left the crock on the counter over night.The next morning we put the crock in our extra fridge,the recipe says to wait at least three days before eating but longer is better.

These pickles are not canned and processed but are kept in the fridge for their whole life.The salt in the brine and the cool temps of the fridge  keeps the pickles from rotting and breaking down.If you link to the very first link I shared above,there is some interesting science going on when pickles are made this way.A fact I had no clue of.I have been seeing a lot of stuff around about Lacto-fermentation but have not gotten around to reading any of it until I went to write this post.

Once I started to do my reading I realized that Lacto-fermentation is helpful for maintaining a healthy gut an ever important issue in our house.And then I realized that I was yet again being followed around by the thought of food as medicine.Oi!  I really hope I get into school,I don't think the universe is going to let this one rest.

I also learned,grape or raspberry leaves are sometimes added to the crock of pickles to insure they are crisp and crunchy.Both plants have tannin which inhibits the growth of enzymes that make pickles soft. To late for this batch but we will be making more so I am hoping we can fiddle around with that since we have both grape and raspberry here.

A bit ago I had seen this recipe for Pickled Ginger and since we were going to the store anyway and having a pickling day I thought we might as well try this out too.We had everything but the ginger.

Now in hindsight,I should have gone over this recipe with Chance before I set out to make it,he's the pickle/curing person in the household not me.And the issue didn't come up until I was actually finished,Chance had left the kitchen when I started my project so didn't see where I may have gone wrong.

Once I had finished and the jars were sitting on the counter Chance and I went over the process.The question we came up with is "why didn't it call for heating the brine before you poured it over the ginger?"
 Yeah,there is enough salt in it to kill anything and the jars do go into the fridge but by heating the brine the vinegar and sugar would have become "married".That is, the sugar would have melted into the vinegar causing the two to blend better.

So not sure if my project will turn out.I have yet to taste it so we shall see.The brine did taste simply like vinegar.Cross your fingers it does some sort of science based magic while it is pickling and turns sweeter.

But I had fun messing around.I used all rice wine vinegar but would like to tinker with other kinds of vinegar next time.I did not color the ginger since I actually like the look of the natural ginger better.

I made one jar just ginger and one with a Thai inspiration.One comment in the comments section mentioned using red basil for the coloring,this was my ah ha moment on this one.We have Thai basil in the garden so I thought that maybe it would color the ginger and add some flavor.I also added to the bottom of the jar one very small chili pepper from the garden for a bit more heat.Ginger,chili pepper and basil three of my favorite flavors in Thai cooking all in one jar,yum.There's no coloring coming from the basil but hopefully the flavor will come through.

Chance also picked our red currents to make jam with.We ended up with 4 pounds of berries which we figure will give us plenty for the winter.When looking for a recipe to use for the current jam Chance found out the red currents are on the rare side here in the States so finding a recipe took some digging.He has ended up choosing one that is for Lingonberry Jam,the closest berry in flavor he could find.We love the Lingonberry jam we sometimes buy from Ikea,it is sweet and tart,perfect on warm toast in the winter.Since we are in the middle of a heatwave here we froze the currents until we have cooler weather.

My Mom has moved in and so far so good.It's going to take some time for all of us to find a routine and get used to living together.My Mom has lived alone since I left home so I think the bigger adjustment will fall on her.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Finding Lemon aid in a huge bowl of lemons.

I can not begin to tell all of you what a crazy time it has been here at Hrafinstaad.My head is spinning from it all.Figuring out how to turn the biggest bowl of lemons into lemon aid has been a  bigger challenge than all of the medical stuff we went through with Issac.I think it's all squeezed out with only a few bitter parts left.

Where to begin.....

How about with a bitter sweet thing first? As some of you know we have fruit trees in our front gardens,a grafted apple with 6 varieties and an Italian Prune.This year after waiting 3 years for a real crop of apples and 2 years for a small handful of prunes it was looking like we were finally going to have a bit of our own fruit.Yeah! Right? This past Saturday when Chance and I came home someone had stolen ALL of the fruit from our trees.

What a heart ache.I was dreaming of Apple Pie warm with a dab of vanilla ice cream.But noooo,poof our fruit was gone.We were so upset by this we posted signs on both trees.We nicely told the thief that we had been waiting three years for that fruit and it was for our family to eat.If they were hungry and in need they were welcome to knock on our door and we would help them with a meal.

Last night a lady neighbor and her little girl came to our door.These were new faces to me and that little one was sooo cute.They had read our signs and it sadden them since this was their first year getting a good crop of apples too.To show their camaraderie as fellow Urban Farmers, the lady baked us an Apple Pie! Ah dang that pulled at my heart strings.And I got to meet new neighbors.

A not so nice part to the past few weeks,Chance and I have been working,working and working with our schedules being changed almost daily.It was like we were inside the pitcher of lemon aid getting a good stir around to the point that none of us knew which was up.That's done and over with,whew.

The garden though has suffered. Well kind of,it has just grown into the biggest craziest jungle of food.It's still there and looking bountiful somehow.You just gotta rummage a bit to find what you are looking for.

And somewhere in there I decided it was time to get back to school and do something I had passion for.I have submitted my application for a program where I will become a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner.Which is a Holistic approach to food as medicine.That is a tiny nutshell of an explanation ,so here's a link with better information. I am trying to keep this a short-ish post.I will say though,this is something right up my alley and something I truly believe in,the proof being Issac and I's own health through this approach.

Finally the part that I don't know if there's enough "sugar" out there to make it sweet.Due to an emergency my Mom is moving in with us for 4-6 months.This my friends is as much of a jungle of chaos as our garden.All I will say is pray for our sanity.Donations of chocolate or booze gladly accepted.

I really can't say what the coming weeks will hold as far as blogging.Chance and I do want to make Current Jam using our Red Currents,not stolen but would have puckered the thief's lips making it easier to find them.And I have Apples for Sauce and Butter on order so that will happen.Oh and Pickles.

I am wanting to find the time to get back to my posting series and now that the time consuming  parts of life have slowed down it will happen.I know this does not sound all that insane but really we were stuck in a tornado waiting to land in Oz but came home to Hrafinstaad instead.There's a whole list of little things that just kept coming one after another,boring things like the washing machine needing to be fixed (Yet again thankful for Chance's useful hands and mind.) that I don't need to list but sucked.

Last of all I would like to thank Mercury for going into retrograde but next time keep your chaos to yourself!



Saturday, July 21, 2012

I really am still here but life is a bit insane right now with tons of changes coming soon.I can't say just yet what those changes are but it will all be for the best and will be worth the chaos in the end.

A few things I can say-

Issac landed his dream job working in a BMX bike shop as a mechanic/sales person.He hums as he packs his lunch on his work days.I think he loves his job.

Sol has been far and away many times with the Boy Scouts and leaves us again soon for the biggest Scout challenge he has done so far.A three part race-bike,hike and paddling are the three legs of this one.Every time he comes home he is taller and brown as can be.Oh and starving in the way only growing teens can be.

Despite a bit of negligence the garden grows,as well as that damn-able pig weed.Sigh,some day that crap will be gone.This years "kill the pig weed potion" equal parts Kosher salt and vinegar,only to be used where we won't mind sterile soil i.e the garden path but not the garden beds.So no pig weed in the path but still pulling it from the garden.Damn...

The fruit trees are fruitful.Mmmm I am thinking Apple Pie.

I still am planning to get back to my post series I started,soon I hope.

What are all of you up to? Leave a comment or a link so we can all catch up.


Monday, July 2, 2012

My life is awesome!

 Just a quick check in to say my life is awesome right now.With tons of new things and dreams swirling around that have me dancing around unable to focus on my post series.I will regain my focus soon, will get back on track and hopefully have some amazing news to share.

Until then here is my new favorite Happy Dance song.The words are a bit sad but the tune really gets me happy and dancing.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Part 2: Crohnies

A comment was left elsewhere regarding an interest in hearing more about Issac and I's Crohn's.I had not intended to go there yet but maybe a sidetracking of things will work out in the end.

Issac and I both have Crohn's that is easy enough to say but it's not really enough of an explanation.Crohn's can be located anyplace between your esophagus and your anus.The body's autoimmune system is confused when you have Crohn's,it decides that a section along your digestive track is a germ or foreign invader and attacks it.Crohn's can also cause inflammation through out the body,this inflammation is kind like the "side effects" of having Crohn's.My doctor once told me that you could wall paper a small room with a list of these.Because Crohn's is an autoimmune disease it ends up doing some wacky things,like the big black goose bump looking things I had on my shins in high school.Charming when you are 17 and wanting to fit in with your school mates. 

At this point in time there is no known or proven cure for Crohn's Disease.Some people say they have done it with diet but there is no solid proof of that.There are plenty of meds to control the disease some of them are dang scary,like the chemo Issac was on. Flare ups (that's when your disease is active) can happen on or off of drugs,there can be weeks,months or even years in between them.Both Issac and I are currently in what is called Surgical Remission, remission brought on through surgery.I have been off of drugs for 5 years now,not common and a mystery to my doctor.Issac has been off his meds for a year now.Is it luck or our diet?No one knows.

Ok,this is how I look at Crohn's,why it is hard to pin point and why it is different for each person.You have a deck of cards that is called Crohn's,each time that deck is dealt out it is first shuffled giving different results each time.Each person with Crohn's body is already unique through it's genes, life events or even the environment it lives in these things in my mind are part of how the Crohn's will present it's self.Yes,you have these set symptoms that make up the Crohn's but they get shuffled each time making it hard to make that winning prediction of this is the cure.Maybe that is a crazy crock of who knows what,sometimes I know something but getting it out in a nutshell is weird.  

Here Issac and I are, two Crohnies with the same disease located at the same spots in our bodies,right at the terminal ileum. That's right near your appendix,from the point of your right hip bone turn about an inch to the left.But that is where the sameness stops for us.

Issac has the kind of Crohn's that will burst his intestine and is the most unpredictable and very dangerous.When Issac's Crohn's is active it turns his intestine into tissue thinness and as of yet we don't have any idea what his warning symptoms are.Four years ago when Issac's bowel ruptured we had no warning other than he was in great pain,his bowel had already burst when we got to the E.R.

A lack of warning is common,some people are lucky and their bodies send warnings like weight loss,pain,no bowel movement or too many.Those black goose eggs I had in high school,those were one of my warning signs but the doctors were not paying attention,also common.

My Crohn's is the kind that causes my intestine to slowly swell shut.Leading to nothing passing and then I am in pain.If I am lucky and it is caught before it is completely shut the doctors can medicate me to open things back up but twice I have had surgery to remove parts of my small intestine because it was too damaged. I don't always get any warning a flare up is happening.In high school I lived through one for a year and a half with no idea what was going on other than if I ate anything my gut would kill me.Half a sandwich had the feeling of a 10 course meal in my stomach. The doctors just would not believe I was sick,they thought I  just wanted to skip school.Ha! Me the nerdy geek with straight A's. I ended up in the E.R and stayed in the hospital for 2 months under going 3 surgeries. But since then if I am having a flare up I just go from zero to the E.R.No time to prepare or prevent.

It all sounds scary doesn't it? And it can be if you let it be.That sounds a bit glib.Don't get me wrong here,I have panic attacks at times that I have to stop and check myself over.I  know my routine,I know what to predict,what the questions will be in the E.R and how it all should go.There's an odd comfort in that but it can still really,really suck.Having a disease that people can't see is like it does not exist,that I am just wanting to get out of living life somehow.People can be very quick to judge you.

 As a Mother there is nothing more horrid to hear the doctor tell you and your son that he has Crohn's too.It was a whirlwind flash of a moment,I could feel all the pain I had been through,all of the social awkward things that had happened and the wishes to be dead came flying into my Mother's heart.I was ready to melt into a sobbing puddle on the floor right then and there,my heart was shattered.

But my son is an amazing person,he turned to me and said "It's ok Mama,you have learned to live with it and so will I." What blind faith and courage. Ah man,how could I fall apart,here was this kid ready to take this on and I was going to have to lead the way.Pull up your boots Mama there's work to be done.

So now I am really at the beginning of my blog,how could we make a positive change in our health,we would grow it ourselves that's how.I had known that food impacted my health for a long time just not exactly how but how was I going to get my young teen son on the bandwagon with me was the bigger question.And how was I going to get the whole family in on this? (Chance and I try our best to make sure Sol does not feel like the Crohn's factor in our house overrides his needs and wants.Parenting is an act of balancing between your children,keeping things seemingly fair and equal but when one is sick for a long time that juggle gets harder.)

Sometimes when I think of the how and why we started to Urban Homestead I feel like we were giving the "system" the bird.There is no medical proof that changing your diet will cure our Crohn's but I am going to try anyway,or at least prolong the inevitable.That's kind of giving the doctors the bird,I am putting trust into myself,I got this handled if I need you I will call.You can keep your nightmarish drugs,please pass me some organic veggies instead.Homesteading is a bit radical in some circles,we are not buying into the big food systems and we are not buying into the lies about crappy food being safe.

From here on out the rest of my series will be about the positive changes we have seen over the past three years.Writing this post was hard to do,I am kind of superstitious about talking too much about the Crohn's,don't want to jinx things.I have also faced tons of negative judgement,been through trauma that has left me with panic attacks and pain of body and heart,as a fairly private person I would rather remain silent.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Part one: Crohn's and the beginning.

I have been thinking about this post for a couple of weeks now.Wondering,thinking,chewing ,reflecting over it all ,like a dog with its bone.I think in order to say all I have to say this may end up being a multi-posting kind of thing.

I have been blogging now for just over 3 years,it all started with our journey into growing more of our own food with the hopes that we could take control of our health in a better way.At the time we had one sick kid and me just back on my feet, both of us were recovering from surgeries for our Crohn's Disease, a stack of medical bills and vague answers from the doctor about diet and Crohn's.

Since starting my blog I have not wanted to write about the Crohn's factor in our daily lives.I don't want pity because in the world of Crohn's Issac and I are blessed with mild enough cases,we are fortunate.Pity and coddling really pisses me off .And honestly like Lance Armstrong not wanting his book to be about his cancer I did not want my blog to be about our Crohn's, It is not the sum of us,it is only a part of who we are.But it is the deep core of why I started my blog that has reached it's "ah ha moment" finally after three years of work and writing.

Four years ago the vagueness of the doctors was frustrating,how can diet not make a difference?A good diet when you are healthy is important,why wouldn't it be critical when you were not?Malnutrition and absorption of certain vitamins and minerals are a big issue with Crohn's,so when you are able shouldn't you be eating to build a strong body as a way to stock pile for the times when you can't eat? I kept hearing Issac's first   doctor talking to me when Issac first started to eat solids,"If you only feed him healthy foods,he will be healthy."
## Ok, that last bit about, he will be healthy,that kind of backfired didn't it.But we won't go there because my Mama's guilt can't handle it.I carry the Crohn's in my genes not Chance,it really sucks to the point that I still cry over it.As in right now my eyes are teary.  

Yet,all the gastro doctors would say is "Eat what you can tolerate". WTF is that supposed to mean?

I did a ton of reading,about Crohn's and what it does to your body as a whole, food and how it nourishes our bodies,all the crap in our food,organic,every diet out there (and some were out there.) and how some foods can combat the effects of diseases.

It was a worlds worth of information and like the world conflicting.But one of the things I did find over and over again is that all the junk,additives,pesticides,corn syrup,bad fats and all of the things with names I can't begin to pronounce were not good for our bodies at all.So my thought was "if all of these things are not good for a healthy body that can fight easily for its self,what are they doing to our over worked autoimmune systems** that is always in overdrive? If we eat a good clean diet maybe our bodies will calm down and be able to stop fighting so hard." Kind of like being able to work on a project in a tidy work space,you are not all tangled up in the junk that's in your way.

**When you have Crohn's your autoimmune system is always on over drive when your disease is active,your system can attack your own body because the Crohn's thinks that spot is something to get rid of.Sometimes it's your gut,sometimes it's places that are a bit random like your eyes,joints,skin or mouth.

I had known for a long time that junk/processed foods were not healthy and we did not eat many of them.I also knew that organics were the best choice for the health of ourselves and our planet.With all of the new information I now had in my head we decided to get rid of the rest of the crap food in our house,cook even more from scratch and go organic.

The first two were easy enough but the sticker shock of eating all organic was a blow.We were living on one modest income with 100 K in medical bills (never let anyone tell you there is nothing wrong with our health care system.We have insurance,imagine if we hadn't.) how were we going to make this work?As some of my long term readers may have guessed Chance and I are very,very determined.Give us a task and we will find a way to make it happen.We knew we could garden,we were already raising chickens and we knew we could work hard for our family. It was time to dig a bigger garden,raise more chickens and see what else we could do for ourselves to make things better.

Little did we know at the time that there was this whole movement going on,Urban Homesteading.And there were others out there doing the same thing for some of the same reasons,zero mile organic food growing right out your door.

The trendiness of it still  makes me chuckle,I was raised in a household with a big garden,chickens,cooking from scratch,canning and doing for your self,it was all normal to me.We were just going to go bigger than in the past with the hopes we could put up enough to get us through most of the winter.We also hoped that by growing our own we could free up some of our cash to buy organics we could not grow ourselves.

At the start of the blog all we thought we were doing was growing more food on our double city lot and sharing our journey through the blog.Man,has there been so much more than that happening.Things we never would have guessed at.How could we know how our whole household would change and evolve in some very positive ways.

I am going to close this here before I get ahead of myself or this gets too much longer.First though,I'd like to ask what brought you to Urban Homesteading and my blog?


Monday, June 18, 2012

This and that.

All righty then, we have our final answer about the Ants,they are not sure! You can read their whole reply here.  Without digging up the patio we may never know what's going on.They suggest Earth Worms are pulling the bits down to feed on.Personally,I think the hole size verses the size of the Worms in our yard does not work out.Tiny holes + fat Worms just won't add up in my book.Oh,well another mystery.

Last night Chance and I picked 3 pounds of Strawberries from the yard.This was our 3rd picking this year and since we have had our fill of fresh berries we put this picking aside for Jam.We will be using Food In Jars recipe for Strawberry Vanilla Jam minus the vanilla bean.From last nights picking we will get a double batch for now. We may do another picking and make one more batch if it works out.
Strawberries sliced and waiting to become Jam.

We are totally in love with small batch canning it is easy,fast and we don't end up with 500 jars of the same thing that we can't use up. I know most people want tons of extras for sharing but most of our friends can too so it is hard to find someone who would be excited about receiving jars of homemade jam.One friend of ours has started experimenting with turning extra jars of jam into fruit leather because they have been gifted so many jars.I find this to be inventive and a bit humorous,the visual in my head is a silly cartoon of a lady buried under a mountain of jars of jam with a "Help Me" flag flying above. 

Now that I am working the small batch canning also fits into our schedule nicely.The recipe says start to finish 45 minutes,we can easily accomplish that after dinner.Last night Chance and I chopped and sugared the berries and put the bowl in the fridge for tonight's jam session (oops pun there.)

We also feel like the small batch canning is proof we are doing a  good job around our homestead. As of last year more of what we are putting away for winter is grown right here at home by us with a zero mile footprint and totally organic.Two of our original goals when we started to push ourselves to do more for ourselves.
It's a huge feeling of accomplishment.Last night as we sliced the berries Chance and I were talking about how that bowl of berries was one of the pay offs for all of the hard work we have done over the past three plus years.I will admit that just a week or so ago I was so over the work hours we put into the garden this time of year.My body was rejecting and objecting,all I wanted to do was sit and enjoy the sunshine,not be out working in it while it was here.But that bowl of ruby red sweetness was like a big prize ribbon,although it was not blue it sure did feel like a first place prize.

Chance also picked about 1 1/2 pints of Raspberries last night that we put in the freezer.We will keep adding to the freezer bag until we have enough to make jam.It should not be long before that happens,our bushes are packed with berries this year.

I would really like to blog more about how we are feeling about where we are as homesteaders and what we hope is coming for us but I must get off to work for now.

How are your gardens growing? What are you proud of? What goals have you set for yourself?



Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ant update.

When I blogged about the Ants under our back patio I mentioned sending an email to The Ant Blog asking them about the twigs in the Ants holes.

Last night we received an email asking for photos and more details! I was so excited to hear back from them I did a bit of a dance.

The people at the Ant Blog told us in their email that they had never heard of Ants using twigs and leaves to fill their holes,just rocks.They are curious to learn more too.

I just sent them our reply and now the waiting begins.Having someone who knows Ants ask us about our Ants and their unknown behavior is very intriguing.The science loving Geek in me is chewing her nails all while the gears in my head are turning.

It's most likely not as amazing as I am thinking it is.I bet the Ants are just using what materials they can easily find in our back yard.Which is cool for the reason that the Ants are adapting to their environment.I really wish we had some sort of micro sized camera to stick under the patio so we could see the Ants at their work.

Gotta love nature and all of it's creatures.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Turkey Butchering

Last night we finally butchered the two Turkey Hens.Whew,that's done and over with.It was not the butchering I was glad to be done with but the Turkeys themselves.

We had a handful of friends who came to watch and lend a hand making the work go by quickly.

One friend came because she thought as a meat eater she should know a bit more about the butchering process.At the start she said she did not want to help,just watching thank you.That was fine by us,she was learning in her own way.By the middle of the whole thing she was helping a bit with the plucking and was more interested than she thought she would be.

Another friend thought that maybe he would feel squeamish but found it to be not so bad after all.What I think might have been helpful to this friend was Chance and I were simply talking about what we were doing,what was going on with the bird and what would be next in a calm relaxed way.Sometimes knowing what is going on can help a person relax and take things in.

The other two friends jumped right in asking how they could help.

Everyone had lots of good questions from the start to the finishing of the process.Chance and I both felt like we had finally done enough teaching of butchering that our answers came quickly and with confidence.

I did not take many photos of the whole thing figuring that I had posted before about Chicken Butchering and Turkeys are just the same just bigger.But my friend snapped one really awesome photo of the eggs we found inside of the first Turkey we opened up.When we opened up the Turkey the eggs were laying along her spine. The littlest one was farthest from her vent while the second one from the top was just before her vent.As a reminder a birds bum is called the vent.

 I did lay a  fully formed Turkey at egg at the top of the line up to show the eggs in order.So sorry for the splotch of blood there,I hope you don't mind it too much because really that was all of the blood that there was on the cutting board.

Turkey eggs in various stages.

So if you are looking at the photo from the bottom up you will see the growth of a Turkey egg.The ones that look like just yolks were pretty much that,little bags of yolk.After the photo was taken we popped each one to see what they were all about.We really were inquisitive last night.Chance and I had lots of "teachable moments" with our friends.Having such a small group of eager minds gave us time to stop and be in the moment.

The third one from the top had a nub of membrane that really had me wondering about the the "how does this form into an egg in a shell " question.When I have some time this evening I am hoping to do some research on the formation of poultry eggs.Hopefully I get the wording right for Google and will find what I am looking for.I find that sometimes I just don't have the scientific terms to get me where I want to be.

The second from the top was the most impressive.When we picked it up it had the feeling of an egg made of Jello,it was even wobbly yet firm.It was also smooth and not sticky at all,I thought it might be sticky. The hardened outer shell of the egg had not developed at this point.I was wondering if this would have been now today's egg.We popped it open and inside it was just like when you crack open an egg.It had both yolk and white.The outer membrane-would-have-been-shell was very much like a balloon in feel.

There was also a cluster of tiny eggs to be that did not make it into the photo that would have been at the very bottom of the line up.

Last night was a very good evening.Chance and I have found that people usually get wrapped up in the biology of the birds we are butchering.There is always amazement that our own organs and the birds are all lined up just the same,top to bottom.And even when we explain some of the twitching and sighs that come as a birds body is totally finishing its life people accept it as simply part of  the life cycle.( There movements in the now dead birds body after death that are just the nerves releasing that last bit of energy.The birds will also sometimes pass gas or make sounds that are just air leaving the body.Nothing scary,just a body working towards being done.)

Chance and I were reminded last night that although what we do around home has become ordinary to us,other people still find wonder in it.It was good to stop and enjoy everyone and to share our knowledge.

The other news from yesterday is very frustrating,Chance has been working a side job remodeling an apartment.He had been leaving all of his tools he was using locked in the apartment.Yesterday afternoon when he went to work on the apartment,the apartment had been broken into and a majority of his tools were stolen.The thieves not only took Chance's power tools but also some building materials.We are hopeful that the owner of the buildings insurance will cover the replacement of the tools.If not who knows how we will replace $2000 worth of tools that took Chance several years to purchase.Bloody thieves,what comes around goes around.Your day will come!


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Buy Vs.Make

The question about what we make and what we buy and why/how we've made those choices was posed to me today.That's a good question with an answer that is always in flux.

The fluctuations mostly depend on the variables,time,money and did anyone like it.Sometimes it's all about one of those and sometimes it can be all three.Yet there are a few things we do simply because we love what we are doing.Moments of passion can be blinding and make one look a bit foolish to some but that is love for you.

The one thing we do that is highly debated is raising our own chickens for their eggs.Is it really cost effective? I have yet to figure that one out.I think the start up of chickens can be a big dip into the pockets but once you have established your flock and coop things kind of balance out over time.

Right now we are spending around $30 a month on feed and get an average of 150 eggs from 8 birds.That comes out to about 12.5 dozen eggs which costs out to around $2.50 a dozen.You can buy eggs for that but do you know where they come from? Most likely they are not organic free range eggs either.(None of this factors in the start up costs.I left that out because we have had our coop for many years now and our flock is 3 years old.) If I sell the extra eggs this would be different of course but I give the extras away a lot of the time.

One thing not factored in to the eggs and chickens is all of that free lovely manure they make for us for the compost.In my mind having free manure that feeds the compost,that feeds the garden ,that feeds us is the biggest bonus ever. So I think for us the chickens are cost efficient and a passion.How can one not love chickens?

The talk of eggs brings up the making of homemade Mayo.We are always looking for ways to use up the extra eggs and so Chance started to make our own Mayo.It's super easy to do and very good but there were a couple of issues.The one person who was eating the Mayo most did not like it,while the other three of us who liked it could not eat it up fast enough.Issac won that one and we went back to store bought. It's not thrifty or smart if it's going to go to waste.

The baking of bread is always up and down here.The cost is so cheap that's never an issue.Mostly it's about time since no one ever complains about having fresh bread to eat.I am finding that although we love it my days at work tend to eat up the time it takes to bake bread.I have come straight home from work to bake the bread but ended up staying up a bit later than I wanted.Also do to changes in our eating habits the bread is not eaten quickly so is it worth the time spent making it? I love baking but if no one is going to eat what I bake I will move on.

Chance really enjoys making bacon for us but it's not a low budget item but the end product is worth it.Bacon is one of the few things that is all about the love and passion blinding us.

When we started canning our own stuff I was not sure if it was any cheaper or not.I bought my canning kettle used and jars have been easy to find either on sale new or second hand but it all did cost.I think canning is like starting up with chickens,you pay out more at the start than you do later on.

We have the added benefit that our garden is now able to produce most of what we need for canning jams.That has taken us 4 years to achieve and from here on out we may not have to buy fruit for jam.Well,apples we will still need to buy but berries we have plenty of.

Now Sauerkraut, that is off our list of things to make.We did one year,it was really easy and not much in costs but it made a dozen jars.After a few months we realized that we don't even eat Sauerkraut all that often.We like it but if it's just going to sit forget it.I know some people hang on to their canned goods for a few years but that kind of freaks me out.I want to eat up what we have canned by the next growing season for the item.I don't know why it makes me squeamish,it just does.

Once Chance priced a few of the things we had canned that would be equal to what we made and it looked like it was slightly less than buying.The amount of time it takes to can your own food is never paid attention to at our house,it's all about the love of good food.

Growing a garden is a must for us.It saves us money,we are blinded by it's bounty and we only grow what we will eat so no waste.For example,we are on our second picking of Snow Peas,we picked about a pound yesterday. We grow an organic garden and buy organic seed packets for around $2.50- $3.00 each.I have not checked the price per pound for organic Snow Peas this week but I bet the ones we are growing have already paid for themselves.I always figure that after I have picked one picking I have probably evened things out cost wise,after that in my book it's like eating for free.

I think this question is kind of a hard one to pin point.We cook a large portion of our food from scratch,close to 90% of it because it is a money saver,Chance and I are passionate about cooking and as a family we prefer the taste of homemade foods.Besides these points we consider the impact on health as well.

Over the years we have tried making all sorts of things,some were good and some were not.At this point the good ones are around and so ingrained into our pantry I don't really notice them anymore.After thinking this through with Chance we think the whole buy VS make issue for us is all about how much time we have.There has yet to be a project that was a total loss to us.We did whatever it was for the experience of doing it for ourselves.When things like the sauerkraut happen we just chalk it up as something learned and move on.
***Ah, Chance just added " Or the Hay bale garden from way back at the start of the blog.That was a total fail on every level we are talking about, it cost us money,we hated it and it failed." Yup that was an epic fail.

Some things are more time consuming eating this way and that can be a drag.There are days when I come home from work and think "Ah Crap!,Dinner." I will be honest here,Chance cooks most dinners during the week,he's home before me so it has fallen on him.On those nights it's all about getting something on the table before we are all ready for bed.That's where eating out comes into play or just some quick meal like Breakfast for Dinner.

Lately the one thing I really,really wish I could buy for us is a housekeeper who came daily.I would much rather spend my home time outside in the garden or working on some fun project. Wishes are nice to have aren't they?

What are things you make VS buy and why?


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Celebrating Sol.

Yesterday was our young Solomon's 15 th birthday.At his request we had Asian Salad Rolls for dinner followed by Chocolate Pie for his treat.

Yet again I am amazed that time is passing and our boys are turning into fine young men.Sol is now taller than Chance and won't be done growing anytime soon.Solomon Foster,his name means borrowed peace and that is him.Sweet, tender hearted and caring but needs reminders that  peace needs to be nurtured.

Sol is our tinker-music man.His love of music always makes me smile,as a young child he hated it when we played any kind of music and would cover his ears.Now music is always playing  when he is around,either on his guitar or from the stereo.He is also a great builder of wondrous,useful and whimsical things.He has built cameras,cigar box guitars,bikes and many little gadgets.He is spending all of his birthday money on building a moped to ride.
A boy and his bike.

The video below is dedicated to Sol,who is always growing the garden in his mind.Filling it with dreams and ideas and sharing them with us as he goes along.

Happy Birthday my Not so Little Man.Thanks for your handsome smile,bringing me snail shells from the woods,your love of creating and for homeschooling with me that year,we did it just fine.Love Mama.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Wee folk of Hrafinstaad

I wanted to share some of the littlest creatures that live with us,the ants and the bees.Two very important colonies that help complete our ecosystem here.

First of all let me show this interesting photo of the Ants.Well actually, that twig is sticking out of one of the ant holes in our back patio.Chance and I have been watching the Ants over the last many weeks and we have noticed an interesting thing the Ants do.
The Ants weather vane.

The day before it starts to rain here the Ants fill their holes with twigs that are up to 10 inches long.The twigs are placed evenly across the patio stones,about 8 inches apart in fairly straight lines.When our pear tree was loosing it's blossoms,the Ants used the base of the blossoms as tiny green umbrellas.Once in a while they also use little leaves like the pear blossoms.Once the sun is due to be out for several days the twigs and other bits are gone like magic.

We have never seen the Ants busy at their work. We are very fascinated  about this whole thing. How on Earth do they get those long twigs in those tiny holes?Sometimes the twigs are pulled down a few inches.I think pulling a twig in the hole would be easier than pulling one out,right? How do they know the rain will be here the next day? And why are they doing this? To keep rain out? To funnel it in but keeping it from being a gush of water,more drip/trickle like? 

I searched all over Google for information but mostly I found how to kill the Ants.I finally found " Ant Blog " based from The Field Museum in Chicago.The blog postings are based on peoples Ant questions.I emailed them my question and the same photo,I am still waiting to hear from them the answer for what the Ants in my yard are up to.

Bee House.
 The photo above is an old bird house that fell from the back fence.We had set it under our pear tree last fall to keep it out of the way.Then this spring when we started our yard work we noticed that someone had moved in.There is a family of bumble type Bees living in the house now.We have left the house to encourage the Bees to stay.While peering into the hole one day a Bee came zipping over  my shoulder and into its home,not worried one bit about what I was up to.Chance has a snake like flashlight for motor repair that we used to also look into the hole.There is an old birds nest that the bees seem to be using as the base for their own home.

We are more than happy to have the Bees living here.We see them out and about in the yard going about their days as busy as Bees can be.

Since they are a bumble Bee there's no hope of finding much honey in the hive but the Bees are useful any way.I read here that Bumble Bees do make honey but only a few ounces.The article also says the Bumble Bees will die in the fall but the Queen will live on.So we will leave them alone and let them live with us and hope the Queen stays and we have our Bee friends next year.

I have no photos of either creature.The Ants are tiny sidewalk type Ants,that are too small for my camera.The Bees are too busy to hold still for a photo.I tried to Google a photo of the Bees but could not find one that looked like ours.And after a couple of pages of images,things were no longer looking like my search so I gave up.Google can be a strange thing that way.

Hrafinstaad is looking green and lush this time of year.The gardens and fruit trees are full and growing.Sometime in the coming week will be finally butchering the Turkey's,something I am more than ready to do.I don't think I would want to raise Turkey's in the city again.Only because of their size verses anything majorly hard about them.They have been quirky homestead mates for sure.