Monthly Archives: December 2014

The Eggs Are Back!!!

Over the Christmas baking season, I had to buy eggs.  17 hens in the coop, and I had to buy eggs.  Hmm, that didn’t feel good.  I’ve heard advice to put a light on in the coop.  It will fool the chickens to think that the days are longer and they will lay more.  I have refused to do this.  Why? I think there is a reason that chickens do not lay when the days are shorter.  I do not want to go against nature.

So between the molting and the shorter days, we were getting anywhere from no to 2 eggs a day for a total of about six eggs a week.  We ate a lot of oatmeal during this time.

I think our egg drought is OVER!  Our egg collection number have gone as such: 3, 3, 4, 6, 3.  WOOOO!!!! We’re back and we’re eating omelets!!

We have some really neat colors coming in, too.  We have blue, pink with brown spots, pink with white spots and brown.  No white ones to be mentioned yet.  20141229_103452

New Affiliate Announcement!!

I am very excited to announce that I have partnered with Mountain Rose Herbs.  Why am I so excited by this?  I have used this company for over two years.  My mom has started using Mountain Rose about 6 months ago.  We both really love this company.

  • They have awesome teas.  I love the loose leaf teas.  I save so much money by using loose leaf tea.  My favorite is the Mint Chocolate Mate.  I buy it by the pound, it is so delicious
  • I bought my tea making accessories through them.  I bought this awesome tea travel mug, which I use daily.  I put the tea in the bottom of the glass bottom, fill it with hot water, and put the lid on.  You have loose leaf tea to go.

Their products are amazing and high quality.  They are so reasonably priced.  For example, Turmeric at the local health food store is almost $30 for 100 capsules.  At Mountain Rose Herbs, it’s only $9.25.  And it’s organic!!

I would be using the company and promoting it whether I was an affiliate or not.  I love them.  Beautiful, high-quality products at very reasonable prices.  Sounds excellent to me!  I was so excited when I found out I could partner with them officially.

I trust them and have used them for years.  I will continue to use them and I hope you do, too.  I also hope that if you decide to use them, you go through my links, as I get credit for your purchases.  However, I still want you to use them, whether I get the credit or not.  I will have a banner on the side of my blog so that you can access it easily if you decide to order through me.

I also want to take a moment to make a promise  to you.  I will only endorse or become an affiliate or be sponsored by products and companies I use.  I will also always let you know when I have a beneficial relationship with a company.   It is my hope that you love this company as much as I do.

Have you used them?  What are your thoughts of their products?  What is your favorite product?

Mountain Rose Herbs. A Herbs, Health & Harmony Com

Herb Profile: Lavender

Lavender is beautiful, smells great and easy to grow.  It is one of my favorite smells.  You can use it infused in your teas, as a garnish on your soaps, or simply as fodder for bees.  And super bonus for lavender: It’s a perennial!! Which means you plant it once and you’re done.  It will continue to come back and you can harvest it time and time again.  The roots will continue to grow and harbor an ecosystem that continues to mature.

Variety Selection:

There are many different types of lavender.  I have four planted in my garden: English “Jean Davis” Lavender, French “Boysenberry Ruffles” Lavender, “Grosso” Lavender and “Lady” Lavender.  My Lady Lavender is only grows to a height of 10 inches, while the Grosso Lavender can grow as high as 2 feet.  Lady and Grosso have purple flowers while the Jean Davis has white flowers and Boysenberry Ruffles have reddish-purple blooms.

The point is not to outline the differences in each variety, but to draw your attention to the fact that there are many different varieties that are better for different purposes and different planting zones.

20141229_103057The Grosso Variety has the strongest aroma, while the Boysenberry Ruffles does not have as strong of an aroma.  How do you make sure that you get the best Lavender aroma from your selected plant?  When you are at the nursery, brush the top of the plant and inhale.  You will be able to detect the different intensities of each plant by doing this.

If you want a beautiful blooms, you may want to select a variety that blooms a bit longer.  For example, Jean Davis only blooms in summer, while Grosso and Boysenberry bloom spring and summer.

Buying and Planting Lavender:

I purchased my lavender from a nursery.  They come in little pots and are easily transplanted.  You can plant certain varieties by seed, but you need to start them inside, and only certain varieties do well propagated from seed.  Most other lavender can be propagated from cuttings.  However, lavender is rather cheap to buy and easy to grow.  I will be experimenting with growing lavender from cuttings in the future.

Plant your lavender in a sunny location, in well drained soil.  It’s that simple.  Select a location, dig a hole, put the roots in, cover the roots with dirt.  I also mulch mine down with straw.  I mulch everything with straw, though.  I use straw because it is local and sold by a small, family owned farm.

Two types of Lavender: English Lavender in the foreground and Grosso in the back ground.  They are still green in December.  What a treat!!

Two types of Lavender: Jean Davis Lavender in the foreground and Grosso in the back ground. They are still green in December. What a treat!!

What can Lavender be used for?

Lavender naturally adds beauty to your land while feeding bees and butterflies.

Culinary: You can have lavender infused teas, oils and vinegars. It can flavor cheese, sugar and honey.  It is also a wonderful garnish.

Medicinal: The medicinal uses for this is long: the scent causes a relaxation response in the body, relaxing muscles, while having sedative, anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.  Lavender is anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-septic.

Other Uses: It can be used in a sachet for your drawers or as an add-in to potpourri.

Lavender is a beautiful addition to any garden, and also works as a companion plant as it repels fleas, moths, whitefly and ticks.  Although the ticks may seek refuge in the  plants just outside the lavender barrier.  The lavender sachets can also repel mice and rabbits!  These qualities make it an ideal companion for:

  • Your Veggies: carrots, leeks and you brassicas (this is your broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, etc).
  • Your Flowers: Roses love the benefit of the pest repellent from the Lavender.  The Lavender also works as a living mulch, shading and protecting the soil.
  • You Fruit Trees: By bringing in pollinators and repelling the moths and whiteflys, lavender will make your trees happy!!!

I will be adding a lot more Lavender around my property in the coming season.

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Another Bird of Prey

I walked to my back door and looked out the window at the sky.  I saw a typical sight, a crow attacking a large bird, presumably a turkey vulture.

First of all, crow are amazing animals.  They will defend their territory against birds of any size.  When watching the aerial show, I noticed this turkey vulture had some non-turkey vulture characteristics.  For instance, vultures wing tips are finger-like.  This means that the wing tips splay out and you can actually see distinct feathers at the tips of the wings, whereas bird of prey have a wing with a more solid looking wing.

Yes, this large bird had the wings of a bird of prey.  This bird was much larger than any hawk I’ve ever seen in my back yard.  As this bird was driven closer and closer attempting to get away from the attacks of the crow, I saw it was a …

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Bald Eagle.  Yes!! A bald eagle came into my backyard and perched upon the tree to see what could be seen.  The Eagle sat there for about 30 minutes, surveying the land, and taking a break after a recent attack.

Several times, it seems as though this Eagle was looking at my chickens for a bit of a snack.  My chickens, at that time were no more than 30 feet away from me.  My thoughts on an Eagle eating my chickens? “That would be pretty cool if I got to see an Eagle land that close to me!”

However, I don’t believe I would be as excited if an eagle ate 3 chickens in one day, as those hawks had. It still would be amazing to see an eagle that close in the wild.  Fortunately/ Unfortunately, the hawk had no interest in the meal that was below him.  He flew off, leaving myself and everyone in my house filled with excitement, gratitude and a sense of awe.

Lacto-Fermented Cashew “Cheese”


I am a meat eating, cheese eating human being.  So when I say that this vegan (AKA non-dairy) cheese is delicious, you can take that to the taste-bud bank.  It is also lacto-fermented, and with that comes all the health benefits of pro-biotics.  (See my other pro-biotic rich recipe here: lacto-fermented carrots) This was inspired by the Fresh P, over on YouTube.  Holy Hannah.  It is good to have this recipe.

Start with:

  • 2 1/2 cups of raw cashews **They need to be raw for this to work**
  • 1 Tablespoon of Chili powder

Place your 2 1/2 cups of RAW cashews in a quart mason jar, add 1 Tablespoon of chili powder and fill with water so that your cashews are completely submerged.

Place it on a relatively warm shelf and wait.

Wait for 3 to 5 days.  They will start to bubble, and if you try one, it will be a bit tangy.

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Drain the cashews and save the liquid.

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Set this aside while you:

Continue with your blender or your food processor.  If you have a high powered blender (think VitaMix) use that, if not, pull out your food processor.  I made mine in a standard, low powered blender.  It was a pain and I didn’t get the consistency that I wanted.  However, it was delicious.  In your powered mixing vessel, whatever you use, place in:

  • 1/4 tsp dill weed
  • 1/2 tsp cumin (this is my favorite spice)
  • 1/4 cup dried parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Onion Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder
  • 10 peppercorns (or 1/4 tsp of ground pepper)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 tsp of smoked paprika

Grind all these up until they are a powder, add the cashews, and add the liquid one tablespoon at a time while blending until you reach your desired consistency.

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Use it as a dip for fresh vegetable or on toast.  Most importantly enjoy!!!!

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My Great Coop Coup

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about getting stuck in the chicken coop for an hour.  I came to a lot of conclusions, one conclusion I didn’t include in that post was how I escaped.

While I came had some powerful realizations about my life while in the coop at the end of the hour, I was ready to get out.  So I was relieved when I heard my mom letting the dogs out of the house.  They came to the edge of their fenced in yard and started barking.  They were just within sight from the window of the coop.  I was so happy.  They were my Lassie’s.  I started banging on the metal roof of the coop.  But I didn’t start making a racket soon enough to catch my mom’s attention before she went back in.  That’s fine, I knew I could get her attention to release me from my impromptu meditation chamber once she came out to let the dogs in.  At least I hoped so.

So I strained and I watched the dogs’s movements, hoping I would see them scurry to the door when my mom came to the door let them back inside.  When my mom came out to let the dogs in, she noticed that one of the dogs refused to move away from the fence.  That dog was Tuxy.  Our old Border Collie/Collie mix.  (He looks like a black Lassie.) 20141215_142907While she was goading him to come inside she heard the ruckus I was making in the coop.  She rushed outside to release me.

I was free.  I got a big hug from my mom, and then went on to give a big hug to my son.

Since then Chris has added a safety release string on the inside of the coop which he tested.  20141215_145514

It consists of a long string and a drilled hole.  Simple and Effective.

Lacto-fermented Garlic Carrots

Recently, I have been experimenting with lacto-fermentation.  What in the world is lacto-fermentation?  This is a way of processing your food so that it enhances it’s store-ability, and it’s digestibility.  Your body can better process the nourishment of the fermented food than pre-fermented foods.  This way of storage is superior to canning because:

  • You don’t have to worry about botulism.  Botulism is one of those scary things that can live in home canned foods.  Botulism is the last thing to die when we process our home-canned foods.  The other things that live in our food keep the Botulism from spreading too much.  Botulism also needs an anaerobic environment to proliferate.  So if you don’t kill all the nasty Botulism the when you process your food in your water bath or pressure canner, you are creating the perfect environment for these killer bacteria to take over your food.  This is the scariest part of being home canner. I still can, and will probably continue to can, but I respect canning, and the protocols of canning.  It can be life and death.  Lacto-fermenting is not life or death.
  • There is little or no heat needed for this processing.  My dad and my father-in-law have strong memories of a hot kitchen in July and August made even hotter by boiling water for the canner and boiling foods.  Canning produces a lot of heat.  (**TIP ALERT**I have some ways that I work around this for tomatoes: I freeze my tomatoes and can them when I have time and the weather is cooler.  That way it’s more comfortable and the tomatoes peel EASILY!!)
  • Canning can break down the nutrients in foods, lacto-fermenation enhances the nutrients.
  • You know all those probiotics that are super popular right now.  A 30-day supply can be over $40?  Yeah, these pale in comparison of the probiotics contained in the lacto-fermented foods.

Most folks’ gateway into lacto-fermenting is through sauerkraut.  Mine was through garlic carrots.  This is so easy and simple.

What you need:

  • Quart Glass Jar
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds Carrots
  • 2 tablespoons Sea Salt
  • 2 Cups of water
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • Cabbage leaf
  1. Put 2 cups of water in a sauce pan, add 2 tablespoons of salt, and heat.  We’re doing this to combine the salt and the water, so it doesn’t have to be crazy hot.  Remove from the heat and let cool
  2. While the water is cooling, peel your 3 cloves of garlic and put them in the jar.
  3. Chop up your carrots in whatever way your like.  I chop mine up into quarters and then break that down into finger length pieces.  Picture when someone brings a veggie tray to a party.  The way those carrots look is what I go for (***TIP ALERT***NOT THE BABY CARROTS, NEVER USE BABY CARROTS, THEY ARE TREATED WITH CHLORINE AND THIS WILL NOT WORK).
  4. Place these carrots in the jar.

    I recommend using whole garlic gloves and not crushing them.

    I recommend using whole garlic gloves and not crushing them.

  5. With cooled salt water (this means it’s comfortable to the touch), cover the carrots and garlic.  It is really important that everything is covered here.
  6. To make sure that all of your veggies remain submerged, place your cabbage leaf on top. Carrots exposed to air will rot and not ferment.  Rotted food is not good for you.20141105_184741
  7. Cover with a lid and let sit in a warm environment (65-80 degrees) for 7 to 10 days.  Be sure you burp your jar daily.  This part I found to be really cool, and it lets you know your ferment is working.  When you unscrew the lid, lots of air bubble rush to the surface.  20141105_212416
  8. Now you’re in business.  You can eat your carrots right away or you can store them in a cool area such as your basement, root cellar or even fridge.

Super simple, Super Easy, Super Yummy.

 

The Dandelion Mind: Do you have it?

Do you have the Dandelion Mind? I know I do.  What is the  Dandelion Mind and what does it mean?  First let’s talk about a dandelion in real terms.  I’ve talked about why these weeds are a blessing before. I love this plant which others deem a weed.  I love it for so many reasons:

  • Dandelions are dynamic accumulators of nutrients.  A dynamic accumulator is a plant that mines nutrients (micro and macro) and minerals from deep within the earth and brings these nutrients to the surface.  This helps with overall soil health.
  • The dandelions break up compacted soil.  They make the soil more habitable for other plants.  They are paving the way for other plant life.
  • Dandelions are resilient, and spreading the seeds of the dandelion is fun and easy ! (think of blowing the beautiful white fluffy head and making a wish)
  • All parts of the plant are edible or useful.  They even have medicinal qualities which aids digestion.
  • It is a beautiful flower.

But others can see Dandelion as a nuisance:

  • It’s not grass.  It grows wildly and spreads easily.  It is therefore a weed.

What does the dandelion mind mean to me?  The Dandelion Mind means you try to mine value and bring that value to the surface to help the beings around you.  Whether that’s cooking a healthy meal, teaching someone a skill, or just leading by example.  Being the best you you can be.  You try to be useful.  You ask yourself what you can do to help.  Spreading your way of doing things can be fun, much like spreading the white fluffy seeds of a ripe dandelion.  Dandelions add beauty in the world.  You might add beauty  through music, art or by modeling kindness.  You have your own unique beauty to add.   But beware, not everyone sees the beauty of the dandelion.  That doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful, it just means that there are some folks who don’t see it.  And that’s okay.  The dandelion will still bloom, providing nectar for the bees, and flowers for a child’s bouquet for their mother.  The Dandelion Mind celebrates the differences.  The Dandelion Mind is not mad at the grass for not being a Dandelion, it still mines the nutrients and breaks the compacted soil, making the land more fertile for other plants to grow, including grass.

The dandelion will continue to live and thrive where it is needed most.  So if you let your beauty shine, and contribute by being true to yourself, no matter what the surrounding opinion, you have the Dandelion Mind.  So bloom on beautiful Dandelions, bloom on.

Seed Saving – Squash

I had a rough year with squash.  I planted four kinds: Delicata, Pie Pumpkin, Butternut, and Spaghetti squash.  I find all of these types of squash to be delicious.  Squash Vine Borers agree.  They decimated my squash vines.  I yielded a total of 1 Delicata, 2 Pie Pumpkins, 7 Butternut Squashes and 1 Spaghetti Squash.  The Borers’ yield was much higher.

The squashes that survived, survived the plight of the borers.  They also fruited in the soil, the pollinators, and the climate specific to my area.  These squash were open pollinated, which means that the bees were responsible for pollination.  I could have pollinated them myself so that I would have a more reliant seed result, but I did not.  Perhaps next year.

I am saving the seeds from my squashes as these seeds come from plants that are well adapted to the growing conditions in my garden.  That way, as time progresses, the plant that evolves from these seeds will be custom made for my garden.  Here’s how I saved the seeds (and this method will work for any squash):

When I was ready to eat one of my squashes, I started to prepare it as usual, cutting down the middle of the squash.

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I scooped the seeds out, and put them in a glass mason jar.

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Then I filled the jar with enough water to cover the seeds.

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And then I let the seeds sit fore a few days.  I think I left this one sit for almost two weeks.  That’s a bit of a long time, but It works.  After this time the top of your water may get some growth:

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Drain your seeds.  I drained my seeds directly outside, as there was a definite odor to them.

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Run them through a sieve to clean your seeds.  Use cold water here.

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Don’t be afraid to use your hands.

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Lay the seeds out on paper towels and allow to dry.

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Make sure the seeds are completely dry, and I mean SUPER DUPER COMPLETELY DRY, if there is any moisture, your seeds will mold.  Once dry the seeds are ready for storage.  I put mine in an old glass container, labeled it, and now I’m ready to plant my butternut squash next year.

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I will do the same with the rest of my squashes, so that I have squashes that are hand selected by me for the characteristics I want.

 

My Hour in the Chicken Coop

Last week, I got locked inside the chicken coop.  Not my finest moment.  I stepped in the coop to check on the chickens’ supply of food, water and any potential eggs.  The wind pushed the door closed and in an instant, I was shut in the coop.  There was no clear way to get out, and I didn’t have my phone.

It really wasn’t that bad.  There is a window, and I could sit on one of the roosts.  I wasn’t too cold either.  Luckily my mom was inside with Jaxson, so I didn’t need to worry about his safety and I knew Chris would be home before dark.  At that point, I figured I could make enough noise to get his attention, and I would be freed.  So I was at peace with the fact the I was stuck inside a coop by myself  with the company of some chickens.

At first I sang some songs at the top of my lungs.  Why? Because I love to sing.  Singing these songs made me happy and passed some time.  When I had sung everything I wanted, I was left in the quiet with my thoughts.  I was trapped, there was nothing else to do except reflect, meditate and ponder.  I have been derelict of having quiet time for reflection, and now I had it.  I had no distractions to keep me away from my thoughts.  This was a true blessing.  A blessing that needed to happen.

Sitting in quiet with the occasional cackle of a chicken, a few thoughts/realizations/insights flowed into my mind.  My first realization was that  I need to be more grateful.  When this first thought came to me, I sneered.  Me!? More grateful!!!?? I’m so grateful.  How can I need to be more grateful!!!!???

Well, before being trapped in the chicken coop, I was focusing some of my challenges instead of solutions.  I am so grateful for my family, but I tend to lack gratitude in other areas of my life.  I focus on what I could do if I had more land, when I would feel so much better if I focused on the fact that I have 2.25 acres.  I can have chickens, I can have a huge garden and oodles of trees.  And eventually, I can add goats and honey bees.  I have a lot more possibilities when I have a grateful heart.  I see possibilities and feel empowered, instead of seeing barriers and feeling like a victim.  This change, I wove into my life right away.  And when I find myself feeling down, or overwhelmed, I bring my attention back to gratitude. This helps me to refocus my lens.  I have seen a large change in my life since I cleaned off the lens in which I view the world.

My second insight was that I need to devote more time to being in the moment.  The advent of smart phones have allowed us to have our minds distracted every second of every day.  If we have to wait at the doctor’s office, we pull out our smart phone.  If we are waiting for a class to start or waiting for the train to come, we pull out our smart phone.  We play with them until we go to sleep at night and check them first thing in the morning.  While I think smart phones are a very powerful tool that have a positive place in society, we need to handle them with care.  We need to be there for our friends, our families and ourselves.  Constantly allowing ourselves to be distracted from the “now” impedes our abilities to enjoy the moment and enjoy those who surround us in the moment.  I know this has been my weakness.  I am working on being in the moment with my loved ones and with myself.  I am also working toward giving myself some time to be alone in my thoughts.

These realizations have positively changed my life since my time locked in the coop.  I am very thankful for this hour I had to myself.  My time in the chicken coop allowed me to review and rethink some of how I handle myself.  And it allowed me to realize we need to install a mechanism inside the chicken coop so that I can open it from the inside.