Author Archives: Julia

Chicken Divan – A Family Favorite

A friend of mine gave me this recipe.  It is FANTASTIC.  I really like it, as does everyone in my family, including my 3 year old.

I’ve made a few changes to the original, but it is so simple, and yummy.

Ingredients:

Steps

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cover the bottom of a 8 x 8 baking dish with the shredded chicken. IMG_0566
  3. Cover that with the partially cooked florets (cook these for about half the time you usually do)IMG_0573
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the mayo, condensed soup, and  1/2 cup of cheese.IMG_0567IMG_0569
  5. Spread this on top of the chicken and broccoli.
  6. Sprinkle the remaining half cup of cheese over the casserole.IMG_0578
  7. Bake for 25 minutes.IMG_0580
  8. Serve over rice.  (Rice how-to here)

Notes:

As you can see from the pictures, I basically just cover the bottom of the dish with chicken and layer the broccoli over.  As you make it, you may find you like more or less chicken or broccoli.  Again, it’s up to you and what you like.  That’s one of the big pluses of cooking for yourself.

The flavors in the soup is so delicious I find I don’t need to add any extra spices.  The brand is made of whole natural ingredients.  You are not eating chemical soup with this, you are still eating real food. So if you are looking for a good replacement for your Campbell’s Cream of Whatever, I highly recommend these soups.

Honor Your Light – A Poem

It’s undeniable:

When you’re lit up.

When you honor that which lights you up.

You light up more.

You light up those around you.

So honor your light,

Honor your joy,

Do what makes your soul soar,

Your belly fill with butterflies

and Your Spirit Roar.

You Jump.

Not knowing if you’ll be caught,

but knowing the ride will be worth it.

No

Matter

the

Outcome.

Honor your light.

 

Stop Trying to Convince Yourself

I recently published a post about how good everything is waking up early, living in the country and living my dream:  “I Get To

I still stand by this post.  Sometimes the day-to-day is a drag and we have to remind ourselves of how lucky and blessed we are.

But sometimes, we spend so much time “focusing on the positive” and “looking at the bright side” that we are blind to the fact that the choices we are currently making are not serving us, and therefore, not serving the world around us.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t look for ways that we are blessed every day in every way.

What I am saying is that we need to be honest with ourselves when certain life choices aren’t working.  And when they aren’t working, we need make the changes needed to live the best life we can possibly live.

And I truly believe that each and every one of us has an inner barometer.  If we are quiet with ourselves, we absolutely know what is right for us.  The right path to take.  The right decisions to make when it comes to living your absolute purpose.  What will make you the most happy.

Because, as the Dali Lama says, “The purpose of life is to be happy.”  A deep, true sense of happy.  Not the sleeping in, eating-too-much, drinking-too-much-kind-of-happy.  The kind of happy where you feel quietly fulfilled.  The kind of happy that you feel when you lose yourself in nature.  When I take a deep breath on a cool crisp day in Autumn, everything falls away, and I am just happy.

And in quietness, we know what we need, and what we need to let go.

So if our whole being is expending energy to convince ourselves that we are happy, and seeking the light in our continual heartbreak, perhaps it is time for a change.  Instead of using coping mechanism after coping mechanism, what if we left the cause of the pain?  That way, we can focus our energies and our love for a greater good, our greater calling; instead of focusing it on our grief.

Although, there are times when we do just have to endure, and reach down deep and use coping mechanism after coping mechanism.

But what if..

Your kid or spouse is sick?

Endure. But you knew that.  In your quiet moments, you know you are meant to support and love and be there.

I’m not saying stop doing challenging things.  I’m saying move away from doing things that suck the life and love out of you. Move towards things that bring you light and joy.

Personal Example:

Running is a challenge.  I’m slow.  I’ve had stress fractures and have never placed in any race I’ve ever been in.  Getting out the door is a struggle, but it’s also a wonderful experience.  I feel more alive and more like me when I’m doing it and after I’ve done it.  More running make me happier.  It is a challenge,  but I’m not spending energy convincing myself I love it.  Once I have to use my energy to convince myself that running is wonderful, when I feel it just is not for me, I give myself permission to move on.

I am not defined by the activities that I participate in.  If I decide to quit running I am still me.  But right now, it is one of the things that gives me joy.

Walking away from what sucks us dry is a beautiful, powerful and smart thing to do.  It is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of courage.

Another way to look at this:

I have two bachelors degrees: One in applied Mathematics, and one in Economics.

In Economics, there is a theory is called “Sunk Costs“.  This theory applies to decision making in all cases.  However, most of the time, it is cited in business decisions.  The idea is that when making a decision,  look at the pros and cons currently in front of you, do not consider what has already been invested into a project.  A sunk cost is a cost that has already been invested and cannot be recovered.

For example: You buy a car that turns out to be a lemon.  You have made $1,000 of repairs and a week later, you find out you need to make another $500 worth of repairs.  When making the decision of whether or not to spend another $500 for repairs, the initial $1,000 should not be considered.  That $1,000 is a sunk cost and cannot be recovered, no matter what decisions are made. So if it is a good decision to invest $500 in car, it is good regardless of the $1,000 spent a week earlier.

A more personal example: I have spent time and money (and a lot of ego), wrapped up in homesteading.  I defined myself to be a homesteader.  It is what I strove to be.   I read and yearned.  I bought canning supplies and books.  But one day, I found that homesteading felt like a burden.  So, after much thought (quiet time, and more listening to myself actually), I decided to let myself drift away from it.  The fact that I spent huge amounts of time and effort in the pursuit of homesteading did not influence the fact that it was no longer fulfilling me as it once did.  The time and efforts I put into homesteading were sunk costs.

It is important to listen to our heart in our decision making process.  Our heart knows best when you are open to listen to its truth.

The reality is that the truth that you are seeking is already in you.

 

The Power of Moving On

As you saw from My Not So Simple Confession, I’ve decided to change gears in my life a little bit, for  now.

I’ve allowed for myself to switch directions a bit.  And I’ve given myself the freedom to go back.

This isn’t the first time I’ve done this, and it certainly wasn’t the hardest time I’ve done this.

Switching directions, without getting mad at myself is incredibly freeing.

It also helps me to see myself for myself.  I’m not a gardener, or a writer, or a runner.  I am a person who does those things.  When I stop doing one of those things, I’m still me.

The me-ness of me hasn’t changed.

The most difficult change I ever made in my life was quitting grad school.

I had dreamed of getting my PhD and teaching on the college level.  I dreamed of being called “Doctor Reeder”.  These were all labels that I held dearly to my identity.

But when I got to graduate school in Iowa, I was miserable and I was lonely.  I had no friends, and the study of economics was getting boring to me. And getting your PhD is an insanely intense pursuit.

If I quit, it seemed I had failed. I had nothing to go back to. But I was miserable in Iowa.

I traveled back to Pennsylvania from Iowa for my Christmas break and had a lovely time.  While on break, I agonized about what to do, with no clear answer.

I went to a party at my friend’s parents’ house.  While there, I talk to my friend’s mom, and told her I was thinking about quitting grad school and coming home.

I was expecting disappointment, judgement, or overall let down.  But do you know what I got?

I got a huge hug.  She said to me, “Oh, Julia, we would love to have you home!”.

That’s what I needed to hear.  No one cared about my degree.  No one that mattered anyway.  I would still be me, even if I gave up one of the biggest defining parts of my life.

Her love gave me the courage to move forward and do what I needed to do in order to be happy.

I was able to move on.

This lesson has allowed me to move through other parts of my life more seamlessly.

Continuing to do something or be in a relationship just because it defines you can be comfortable, but it’s also soul crushing and heavy.  Moving on from that soul crushing project or job or relationship can be difficult and terrifying, but so freeing.

And the more freedom you give yourself to move on, the more freedom you allow yourself to become the best version of yourself.  And that seems to make other transitions easier.

Your Life is Your Biggest Work of Art

Living deliberately.  Not going with the flow.

Choosing what’s right for you, because it’s right for you.

Or choosing it because it’s comfortable, even if it’s wrong for you.

No Matter what,

It’s your choice.

Your life is a work of art.

It’s your greatest, ultimate creation.

The small decisions you make everyday add up to one big creation in the end.

No matter what you chose or how you decide,

It’s yours.

No one else’s.

Like a painter, who selects brushes, colors, paint types and strokes.

Most decisions small and some large, all adding to one large creation.

That’s life.

You are responsible for your own life, and your own creation in the end.

My Not So Simple Confession

Some Facts:

I am an enthusiastic, all-in, 100% kind of person.

I have not posted on here in a while.

I have been neglecting my garden. On purpose.

I have been having a lot of fun lately, and am okay with both of the above facts.

My story:

Background:

I was in love with the idea of homesteading.  I still am.  But given that I am such an “all-in” kind of person, the second we moved to our mini-homestead, I got to work.  Within weeks of moving in, I had a large garden planned, I had chickens ordered, and my dreams were going BIG.

In fact, I’m staring at a paper where I posted my goals as a homesteader.  One of my goals was to supply 50% of our food needs.  I don’t think I got really close, but most of our meals contained at least one ingredient (and sometimes most of its ingredients) from our land.  While this gave ( and gives) me a great sense of pride and fulfillment, I felt like I was lacking something in my life.

My life was filled with working a full-time, high-stakes, high-stress job, and still is.  And then when I got off of work, I had a constant to-do list.  I had to pull the weeds, I had to plant the seeds, I had to harvest, then I had to be sure to process the harvest so it wouldn’t go to waste.  I always felt behind and I always felt like I was failing. Failing as a homesteader, Failing as a mom, Failing as a wife.

My garden began to feel like I was never done.  Never good enough.  It felt heavy.  It felt like a burden.  But it also felt good to eat from my garden.  My pride was swelling.  My ego was full.  From gardening? From eating off your land?  Yes, it was almost 100% ego driven.

The breaking point(s):

This happened in stages.  I started to feel weighed down.  Even if I wasn’t working on the chickens or working on the garden.  and when I wasn’t doing that, I was feeling guilty.

Stress of Meat Chickens:

We had a fox in the area.  This is a very similar story to the hawk from last year.  The fox would get through our electric fence, God knows how, and attack a chicken.  The fox must not have been big enough to actually pull the chicken, just big enough to hurt them.  So the fox would attack.  I would hear the awful  noise of a chicken in pain in the early morning hours.

This noise is almost indescribable, but it’s clear that the animal is in pain.  This first time this happened was at 5 am.  I had to butcher the chicken.  It was just about time to butcher it anyway.  but I was not prepared.  I was late to work and emotionally exhausted.

I had butchered a chicken before, but it was with the help of my dad, and I was a little more prepared for this. The actual taking of the chickens’ life was peaceful, and I know the chicken was not in pain.  On the other side of the coin, when I had to butcher the chicken that was attacked by the fox, it was clear the chicken was in pain.  It was so sad to hear, and my heart wept.  I cried when I was finished.  The images haunted me throughout the day.

I had no choice but to butcher the chicken.

Then, the fox struck again, but must have been able to drag the chicken off.  This was easier to deal with.

I stopped sleeping well.  I was always on alert for that fox.  Many times, I would hear an odd sound outside, and wake up in the middle of the night to run outside to try and scare a fox away.

To set the stage:  My husband and kid went on a weekend trip away, so  I had planned to butcher chickens.  Not something I was looking forward to, but something that had to be done. If you’re going to raise them, butchering them is part of it.

A week after the last strike, it was a blue  moon.  My husband and child were gone for the weekend, and I was home alone.  It was Saturday, around 2 am, and I was planning on butchering on Saturday, by myself.  I was sad that I would be butchering the next day and I wasn’t sleeping very well. I woke up to that awful sound. I hoped I was wrong.  But when I checked two chickens were injured and one was dead, but still warm to the touch.

My butchering had to start right then and there.  I started with the most injured chicken, did the next most injured.  When they were done, I processed the dead one.  It was sad and exhausting.  When I was done, I had no emotional energy left.  AND I had five more chickens that needed to be butchered.

I waited a week and butchered them.

At that point, I was so emotionally exhausted, I ordered a turkey from Ledamete Farm and named the two we were raising for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We now have two turkey pets: Priscilla and Turkey Lurky.  They entertain us and help provide a richer soundtrack of country living with their gobbling.

Lack of Adventure:

Before we moved to the country, we were rock climbing, and whitewater kayaking. I was running and biking and had a fulfilling yoga practice.  Moving here, I cast those activities off, and focused on homesteading.  While I enjoy(ed) it, I felt so one dimensional.  I felt like I was missing a part of me.

So I made a decision:

Something’s got to give. I can’t have it ALL.  My job, being a good mom, my homestead, my blog, my adventure.  I had to determine what made me me.  What made me tick.  What lit me up, made me feel alive.

What can I talk about all night?

What makes my heart happy?

What am I doing when I feel drunk off life?

And I came to a conclusion.  I have a few loves in my life: I love my family.  They are a source of deep joy.  I love adventure, activity and the outdoors.  I feel whole and like my truest self in that arena.  I love to express myself through written word.  Even if no one EVER reads it.

I have some likes: Gardening, cooking, homesteading.

And I have some needs: My job.

And I have to give something up.  I need to do what makes me happiest.  That way I can be the best mom, wife and person I can be. My best shot at living out my mission statement is to be as genuine as I know how.  And right now, I genuinely need a break from homesteading seriously.

Now what?

I’m going to keep on keeping on.  I’m going to continue to blog it up.  Although my topics may be a bit less focused on homesteading.  I’m going to continue to have my adventures: running, climbing, kayaking.

and I’m going to continue to be my most honest self, leave myself open to coming back to homesteading, and I’m going continue to share my journey with you, if you are so interested.

Thank you for coming along!

Turkeys!!!!

In previous posts, I briefly mentioned the fact that I we have turkeys on our homestead this year: (Posts: First Day of Meat Chickens, I Get To…).

Why did you get Turkeys?

Two reasons: Fun and Yum.  Or Yum and Fun.  Either way, for eating and entertainment.  Those are generally the two reasons anything (other than dogs) come to live on our patch of land.

The more I can grow from my land the better.  I want to use the land, and by using it responsibly, we help make the land more healthy.

Another reason I actually got turkeys is because when I did a quick search of Craigslist, a  woman was selling some day old chicks and some turkeys.  I was in her general vicinity to pick up our meat chicks, so I stopped by, and brought home to turkey poults.  I believe they were 2 to 5 days old at the time.

What Kind of Turkeys did you get?

I don’t know.  I bought them from someone I found on Craigslist.  I really liked her facility, and I will definitely buy from her next year.  I will probably also buy my laying hens from here on out as well.

One of the turkeys walking around outside of the chicken paddy wagon.

One of the turkeys walking around outside of the chicken paddy wagon.  You can see the grass is pretty beat up.  That’s where the wagon was the day before.

I can’t remember the exact breed.  It is either a bronze or a broad breasted bronze.  The broad breasted will fill out most like the grocery store turkeys.  The bronze is a little smaller.  I’m not sure which one it is.  And quite frankly, with my limited turkey experience, I’m not sure I’ll be able to tell by turkey processing time.

How do you raise Turkeys?

I put the turkeys in the brooder right along with the chicks. Most of the literature instructs keeping turkey poults and chicks separate.  I decided to ignore that.  The reasons sited to keep them separated is due to a disease called blackhead (a parasitic disease) and the large turkeys may injure the smaller chickens.

Young Turkey Poult in the brooder

Young Turkey Poult in the brooder

I had six meat chicks and those two turkeys in my first round of brooding for the year.  I cleaned the brooder daily and the flock was small.  This generally stops any disease problems.   A lot of problems with disease is due to overcrowding of animals – no matter what the species.  Also, the smaller flock allowed all critters to have plenty of room to spread out.  I had no problem with getting the chicks up to butchering weight.

I moved the turkeys outside into the chicken paddy wagon (chicken tractor) with the meat chickens at about 3 to 4 weeks old.  The chicken paddy wagon moves daily, so the chickens and the turkeys get fresh greens.  My original plan was to move the turkeys in with the laying hens at the time the meat chickens met their last day.

This did not happen.

Turkeys don’t move quickly.  And when I was moving the chicken paddy wagon one morning, one of the turkeys got his foot stuck under one of the runners.  He either sprained or broke his foot.  I thought I would have to put him down.  But he rebounded, and he’s almost 100% healed now.

But being that he was injured, I did not want to put him in a new flock.  He would probably be bullied to death.

So at this point, the turkeys are still in the chicken paddy wagon.  While not ideal, it is not forever.

According to my reading, the space needed in a turkey tractor for happy turkeys is 12 feet by 12 feet for 24 turkeys.  This works out to about six square feet per turkey.  Their current space is 10 feet by 4 feet.  So our turkeys get 20 square feet per turkey.  So they should be pretty happy.

The chicken paddy wagon is moved daily for fresh green for our gobblers.

The chicken paddy wagon is moved daily for fresh green for our gobblers.

They look pretty happy.

They act pretty happy.

My goal is to provide a happy life for them  (and all of my critters).

IMG_0558

I will be moving them to an open paddock in a week and a half after I process my second batch of meat birds.

What do they eat?

They began eating chick starter.  I fed them exactly what I fed my meat birds, and I still do.  But as turkeys age, their protein requirements decrease.  In the first seven weeks of life, their protein in take should be 26% to 30% of their diet. And then from 7 to 14 weeks of age, the require only 16% to 24% protein. After that, they thrive on feed that is 14% to 16% of their diet.

Our turkeys have access to fresh grass and a new insects everyday.  They go wild when I move the tractor, and seem to prefer eating the white clover.  (Oh, how I love white clover, almost as much as I love dandelions).

White clover also known as Turkey Candy

White clover also known as Turkey Candy

Costs

So far the costs have been low.  As I’ve had the turkeys mixed with the chickens, I can’t pinpoint how much they ate versus how much the chickens are consuming.  I am certain that I could buy a chemical laden turkey in the grocery store for less than my costs to raise these guys.  But there is a peace that comes with raising your own food.  I know my turkeys are having a good life, and living the way a turkey should.  I also get a lot of entertainment raising them.

So basically, my hobby produces awesome food.  Sign me up!

Overall

Overall, I love raising the turkeys.  They are hilarious and look like little dinosaurs.  Even more than the chickens.  I love their gobbles, and they seem to have so much more personality.  It’s also  neat to have wild turkeys in the area.

Wild Turkey with her two babies

Wild Turkey with her two babies

I feel like the turkeys are meant to be on this land.  I will continue to have turkeys well into the future.  In fact, I believe I will expand my flock next year, and sell a few extra turkeys for Thanksgiving meals.

Always an adventure, just out my backdoor!

I Get To…

I woke up at 4:30 this morning.  In order to take care of all of our animals and get out the door in time for work, it’s essential.

4:30 am is early.  It can be hard to do.

When I told myself I HAVE to get up to take care of these chores, it was difficult to get out of bed.

But then I changed the conversation I have with myself.

I decided I GET to take care of my critters.  My turkeys, my egg chickens and my meat birds.

I’ve had agrarian dreams for as long as I can remember.  I primarily wanted egg laying chickens.  I thought my homesteading yearnings would be quenched by having a few chickens running around.

Not so much.  We started off with six hens.  Then we added more chickens, and now we have 17 laying hens and one rooster to watch over them.

This year, I got to add two turkeys and chickens raised for meat.

My garden is huge and we got our first plum from our plum tree.

All of this takes a lot of work.  And in order to balance this, my work life and time with my family, I have to get up at 4:30 am.  (and having an amazing husband helps!)

But the reality is that waking up at 4:30 in the morning is what living my dream looks like right now.

So it’s really wonderful that I have these chores to do.  I love them, and I love having my animals.  I love providing a good life for them and eating off of our land.

I move differently throughout the morning when I realized that I get to do these chores.  When I “have to” do those chores, I trudged.  I was bleary eyed.  But changing “have to” to “get to”, I look forward to getting out of bed and seeing my chickens and turkeys.

So getting out of bed super early is a luxury for me.  So while I may be tired, and sleeping in sounds wonderful, the payoff of homesteading is worth it for me.

I also get to share this with you.

So thank you for reading and sharing in my journey.

Meat Birds – 3 Weeks Old

Time is flying.  Our meat birds are not.

All is still going well, and our routine remains the same with them.  We empty the brooder of all of the dirty pine shavings, replace with new, fill up water and food.  Done.

Except, they have been knocking down their feeder and waterer a lot, so I have ordered a new feeder and waterer off of Amazon so that we can hang it from the ceiling.

I ordered two of these feeders:

This feeder holds 3 pounds of feed, and should last a little longer.  The fact that I can hang it up should prevent and spillage of food.  I ordered one for the brooder inside and one for the Chicken Paddy Wagon outside.

I also ordered one:

I already have one outside, and I only need one inside.  It is only 5 quarts.  This seems to be a complaint for many, but I think having a little less water is good.  That way, you clean it every time you change it.  This should prevent it from getting too yucky.

Also, I’m only raising 10 baby chicks at a time.  If I was raising more, I would want larger food and water containers.

I will let you know my impression of these purchases once I use them for a bit.

Our chicks are feathering out nicely.  Their feathers are coming in on their wings, and now on their tail.

IMG_0516

We also bought 10 “Miscellaneous” chicks.  We got 3 black ones, 3 light colored chicks with stripes and 3 orange-brown ones.  The orange brown chicks are about 2/3 the size of the other chicks.  I have no clue what kind of breeds they are, but they are all clearly different. The size difference is quite obvious in real life, but a little more difficult to capture in a picture.IMG_0515

Raising meat birds is so much fun.  I think this is something we will continue doing in the future.   I’m excited (kind of) about tasting these guys.

3 week old Chicks-progress

The journey continues…

Weekly Video:

 

Meat Chickens – Week Two

Our chickens are two weeks old!!!  Time is flying.

All ten chicks are still in good health.

What’s Changed?

I no longer have to do the daily Pasty Butt check.  But I do shovel out the brooder daily, and put in new pine shavings.

We have also removed the heat lamp, since they no longer need it.  We are in the beginning of Summer, so the weather is warmer.  When removing the heat source, observe the chicks to see if they start huddling together to gather heat, or if they act normally.  The types of chicks and the current weather make a huge difference as to the exact time to remove the heater.  That’s why it is so important to observe.

And finally, we have to do daily cleaning of the brooder.  This means we scoop out most of the (poopy) pine shavings and replace it with fresh pine shavings.  I put the used pine shavings around my blueberry bushes.  They love the acidity of the pine.

The chicks are quickly feathering out, and I think they will be ready to move to the chicken paddy wagon (outside) next week, or the week after.  Again, it’s all about observation.

Progress Pictures:

Here is a the progression of the birds aging:

From Left to Right: 1 Day Old, 1 week old, 2 weeks old

From Left to Right: 1 Day Old, 1 week old, 2 weeks old

Previous Meat Bird Posts:

Weekly Video: