Friday, April 18, 2014

Chicks in the Living Room

Experienced homesteaders, hobby farmers and country folks in general would not think twice about buying a batch of chicks at the Local Rural King and raising them up for eggs. But a lot of my friends who were raised as city dwellers like I was might think that sounds a bit daunting.
Honestly, when they say chickens are the gate way drug to homesteading it is surely the truth, chicken are amazing creatures, and they spread an infectious form of happiness as they go about their daily business.
 
With a little reading and research anyone can raise chickens in a very small space. I currently live a suburban area and have two small coops in the back yard. I currently only have four hens and two of them are extremely small bantam hens so  I will raise these girls up to fill in the egg production by next fall.
 
Of course you really need to check the zoning laws in your area to make sure its OK to have chickens but most cities now allow at least a few chickens. If you don't keep a rooster, the girls (pullets) don't make any noise, they eat kitchens scraps and their manure can be composted to enrich garden soil.
 
Nutrition wise, eggs got a bum rap for a while but now the pendulum is swinging back towards recognizing eggs (the whole thing, not just the whites) as one of natures perfect foods and there is nothing more satisfying then sitting down to a plate of eggs fresh from your backyard flock. And of course, it is true that fresh eggs are so much better than the ones from the grocery store.
 
Chickens are really easy to take care of , they have few health problems and really just need fresh air, clean food and water and decent accommodations. There are a thousand different plans for chicken coops online that you can build or you can buy a small one at your local farms store. Everything you ever wanted or needed to know about chickens can be found online for free. With several great blogs and websites dedicated to chicken keeping of every kind you can become an expert in no time. I see  free Kindle chicken books offered at least once a week. With a little imagination a person can get started keeping chickens with little up front cost. Baby chicks sell for 1-2 bucks a piece and full grown laying hens sell on craigslist and in farm stores for around 15 per hen.
 
So until they are fully feathered these girls will be hanging out in the living room where I can keep a close eye on them until they are ready to move out into one of the coops. The sound of chicks pecking and chirping happily is music to my ears.
 
 
 


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Picmonkey- Wow it's really fun and free.

Another blogger mentioned this fun
website called Picmonkey www.picmonkey.com/
its a free photo editing site that allows you to add text, graphics and other interesting touches to your photos. You can edit you photos there as well. I always wondered how people got text into their photos.

At this rate in about five years I will
actually know how to create one of those beautifully professional blogs I so admire.....well maybe.

I look forward to the day I actually have some time to spend learning how to use this great new feature.www.picmonkey.com/

Monday, March 10, 2014

Meet Molly

My new granddaughter born on Valentine's day. 

My youngest son and I drove out to Texas for two weeks to spend some time with this little beauty and her mommy. They live  south of Houston. It was a good trip and I was sad to leave them behind but boy it is good to be back home in my kitchen and in my garden.
Too bad that darn job demands my return tomorrow.

Saving the Harvest means Saving Money

 
Bell Peppers:
 
Nothing is more disheartening than having the produce that you worked so hard to raise and harvest go to waste in the produce bin of your fridge because you had too much or your did not get around to using it. Same goes for store bought produce
I have thrown away or composted more beautiful fruits and veggies than I care to admit to because it spoiled before I used it. Knowing that is just wasted money,  I am really making a much greater effort these days to keep that from happening.  Here are some of the veggies I have recently harvested from my fall/winter garden that I have put up in the freezer.
Bell pepper diced up and spread on a cookie sheet to freeze before dumping in to freezer bags keeps the pepper pieces from sticking together to form one big ice lump. I use the same method to preserve fresh berries and even grapes.  
 
  
Collard greens are another crop that grows so abundantly here in the South that you are guaranteed to have more than you can use at once. Being from California, greens were a dish that I had to grow to love but since my Southern husband and daughter in-law love them I decided to give them a try and now I do like them and grow them too. To prepare any kind of greens, first the stem must be removed (I feed those to my rabbits) and then the leaves can be diced into smaller pieces and quickly blanched in a pot of boiling water for about 2-3 minutes and then rinsed in cold water or dunked in ice water, drained and then put into freezer bags for later use. I do the same with excess kale and even cabbage. I think anything from brassica family could be blanched and frozen. I sometimes will puree the Kale into a more liquid form to add to smoothies since it is so highly nutritious. I have yet to master Kale chips, I hear people rave about them but mine tasted kind of like dirt so until I find a more tasty way to make them I will pass.
 
I know for many these tips may sound simply basic, but for people like me who grew up with TV dinners and boxed mac n cheese they are new and valuable skills to learn, allowing me to save my harvest and save money by reducing wasted produce.
 
Collard Greens:
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Homesteading Heartstrings

If you have read my blog in the past you may notice that I changed the name of my blog again. I decided that this blog is about the journey, the process of getting to where I am going and one that will probably never be fully completed. So for now that title feels more fitting.

There are so many amazing blogs out there about homesteading and self sufficiency that it makes me wonder if I really have anything to contribute to the mass of information already out there. But, after so many months away from blogging I find that I really do miss it.  I miss making note of the things that I continue to do on a daily basis that are out of the ordinary in this age of convenience. I miss the interaction with other like minded people as well.

In my day in and day out life I am a nurse on a critical care unit and there a very few people who understand my fascination with this kind of a lifestyle, heck I don't understand why I feel so strongly pulled towards a harder way of living but I always have been. There is something in me that gets the most amazing satisfaction in laying out an entire meal on the table that was produced entirely on my own land, from the animals that I have raised and from the sweat that went into the vegetables that I have grown in my own yard. I have written before about how strongly I feel that we need to keep these old skills alive and pass them down to our children and grand-children. I still feel that way.

These days prepping for disaster has become a popular thing to do and I am all for that but if one of those scenarios does come to pass there had better be plenty of people around who know how to start from scratch and exist when the canned foods run out.  I definitely don't shun modern living, I think the internet is the greatest thing to ever happen in my life but I think that we take it all for granted and assume it will always be there, what if it were not? Could we get by? I digress, that is a topic for another blogger.

With those thoughts in mind,  I am re-dedicating myself yet again to continuing this blog even if only for the personal satisfaction of making note of this journey that I am on. Through all of the ups and downs in my life I always come back to the same place in my heart, the desire for a little place of my own in the middle of nowhere. A place where I can put down permanent roots and settle into the task of building a working homestead with gardens, chickens and goats to start with. Room to ride my horses for miles and a place that my grandchildren can run wild on and look forward to visiting. I am not there yet but I continue to work towards that goal daily, paying down my land, learning new skills and perfecting the ones I have already learned. I hope to do a better job of  making note of what I am doing regularly so that other like me can learn from my successes and failures along the way.