A birthday, Blowing Rock and a brooder box.

We went camping this weekend for my husband’s 30th birthday.

DSC_0751We stayed at Green Mountain RV Park in Lenoir and boy was it beautiful. We were tucked away amongst the beautiful Carolina evergreens and wrapped up in a blanket of fog almost all weekend. It was cold, wet and dreary. I wonder if that’s how Washington state is? Gosh, I’d love to visit that part of our country. 

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Anyways, we went to Blowing Rock on Saturday and an empty parking lot welcomed us. Understandably so due to the fog. We scored discounted rates because there was next to zero visibility but I wouldn’t have traded our intimate visit for the sunniest most toured day. We were able to take as many silly pictures as we wanted and take as much time to soak in what our God has blessed us with. Little O slept through the entire trip! We will be going back soon. With a $7/adult entry fee, a light (very light) walk and unforgettable view will not break the bank. If you plan on visiting the mountains of North Carolina I highly recommended making a stop at Blowing Rock.

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We are getting chick’s tonight!! I’m sooo excited!

We haven’t raised chick’s before so taking this on is a little intimidating. But hopefully all of our reading will guide us through a successful batch. We’ve had a cool spell here and honestly don’t know yet how young these little boogers are so we went ahead and got a heat lamp just to be safe. We also bought a feeder, chick feed, and a thermometer. All of that along with a $1 donation to the local 4-H Club ran us around $35 at Tractor Supply.

We need a box… duh! I asked an employee if they had any cardboard boxes in the back that they were going to throw away that I could have instead. He gladly unboxed a push mower just so I could have it. Brooder box… $0… check!

They need good carbon bedding. Something small enough that will allow them to scratch in but also absorbent. Daniel’s dad does wood work and just so happens to have a shop full of saw dust from untreated wood. Perfect! We will offer to get rid of that saw dust and have our chick’s bedding for $0.

They need grit in their gizzard to help them grind their food. After reading Joel Salatin’s Pastured Poultry Profit$” I learned creek sand is ideal for grit. It’s contains a wider range of natural minerals and is dressed with vegetable matter and bugs that makes it more appealing to the chick’s versus something off of a shelf. Grit… $0.

We are so fortunate to have good neighbors. Chick’s normally go anywhere from $5-$10 depending on breed. And our neighbor just hatched several Rhode Island Red chick’s. We are also getting these for free. Chickens are everywhere and I’m confident that in most situations a person would be happy to get rid of a few. It never hurts to ask! And if nothing else it may cost you a few bucks.

So $35 to get us started and a lot of that we won’t have to buy again. I’m so excited you’d think it was MY birthday! I can’t wait to share our new feathered friends with you!

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Use your calendar for more than your vacation days

Yesterday as I was putting O in her stroller I thought to myself how lucky I am. DSC_0690 I used to sit behind a computer staring at my calendar counting down the days until our next camping trip. I remember come garden time I would map out my garden over and over in my head and onto paper. There’s no telling how many times I told myself, “I wish I could just be at home working in my garden.” DSC_0696 As I buckled her in and we approached our garden I realized how lucky I am. I have the ultimate job… caring for our little girl and managing our homestead. I can now layout our garden and plant in one day versus planting after I’ve worked all day and throughout a week or two. I can also schedule my planting to know when to expect harvest from each plant versus having things come in ready to harvest while we are on vacation.

It never fails for that to happen. So yesterday I went through my seeds and counted out on the calendar marking the expected harvest day for each seed. The only crop that may come in while we are out-of-town would be corn but at least I know and can plan for someone to be here and pick the garden while we are gone.

I'm pretty sure I asked him to lift up his shirt and model for me.
I’m pretty sure I asked him to lift up his shirt and model for me.
Tilling our front garden.
Tilling our front garden.

Daniel tilled our garden the day before yesterday and got our potato patch ready. Ahhh there’s something about fresh moved dirt. I love it. I guess it’s just the farmer in me. Normally I would let the soil sit for a few days allowing the weeds and grass to die but I couldn’t resist. O and I planted green beans, cow peas, onion sets, spaghetti squash, and three different types of corn.

Our potato patch.
Our potato patch.
Potato patch soil.
Potato patch soil.

So far we’ve spent $27 on seeds and we have several stowed away for a fall planting. I still have to get a few more seeds and some tomato and pepper plants. We’ve been searching for a local that’s selling plants but we just don’t have many here that are selling organic plants.

By this fall we are hoping to have a green house. This would allow us to grow year around and start more plants from seed. It’s always been a goal of ours but with both of us working we could never make the time to build one. I’m hoping in the end I can have our garden at its finest under $100. That’s nothing compared to what is spent at the grocery store and this garden will hopefully shrink that expense.

When planting your garden remember to pay attention to the ‘Days to Harvest’ on your seed packet. Get a calendar just for your garden if it helps. On the day you plant, count the days that’s listed on the packet from that day and write what should be harvested that day onto the calendar. A lot of factors will play a role into whether you’ll harvest that day or not like weather, rain, etc. But if nothing else you at least have a guideline to go by. I even make plant markers and write.. what it is, the date I planted it and how many days till harvest and put them by the plant rows. I know some may say this is redundant but with how busy we get its nice to look back and have a memo.

My calendar for July so far
My calendar for July so far

Just an update on our raspberries… We have blooms!!

Our raspberries are blooming!
Our raspberries are blooming!
Our raspberries are blooming!
Our raspberries are blooming!

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DIY laundry detergent for a YEAR

Being a parent is awesome.

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You think you appreciate your parents before but once you have a child you really really appreciate them and may even make a phone call like, “Mom, I’m so sorry for what I ever put you through!” like I did.

But as I’ve realized the countless restless nights and many wardrobe changes are forgotten when you have one good day of nap time and you can get some chores done. Thankfully, little O is sleeping throughout the night now. She has been since she was about 8 weeks old. I am so lucky to have her.

Where there’s a family there’s laundry… a lot of laundry. I ditched the colorful plastic jugs over a year ago cutting my bill down to around $20 a YEAR for detergent. I could go on about how good it works but all I need to say is my husband is a diesel mechanic and this detergent works great on his clothes. I don’t wash O’s diapers with it yet if you’re wondering but it can be used with he appliances.

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First you’ll need a container with a good sealing lid to put it in. My mom donated a retired kitty litter bin and it works just fine.

Ingredients:

1 container of Oxiclean (3 lb)

1 box of baking soda (64 oz)

1 box Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (55 oz)

1 box of Borax (76 oz)

2 bars of Zote (shredded with a cheese grater)

A sandwich bag with holes in it filled with noodles (this absorbs moisture)

Optional: 1 container of Purex Crystals – I added these in my first batch but didn’t on my second.  It’s merely preference.

Mix everything together and there ya go! Use 1 tablespoon per normal size load. I do recommend making this outside because it’s a dusty mess when you pour it in.

It works great for our clothes and especially our wallet and I hope it does for you!

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On a sweeter note

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Well, the blueberries are blooming and they’re gorgeous. So far all of our transplants are sprouting beautiful leaves. So that’s a relief. It’s always a little stressful when you’ve exerted so much work and time into a plant and you check on them every day wondering.. “Are they going to make it?”. Thankfully, those days are over for the blueberries. I think it’s smooth sailing from here.

DSC_0519-1Dandelions are so pretty I don’t care what anyone says. It’s a shame people want to rid their yard of these guys. I personally think a yard looks its best with yellow freckles. There’s a ton of health benefits from these quaint flowers but that’s not what this post is about.

I actually want to share a recipe I tried the other day. This is not a food blog I know but this was too good not to share.

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So my husband’s favorite dessert is chocolate chip cookies. A simple man. You can set them beside the finest cheesecake and he will still reach for the cookies. Hey, I’m not arguing!

So I ran across this recipe for paleo chocolate chip cookies. This recipe is stupid simple. Thanks to Livin Paleo I’ve found my new favorite cookie recipe.

Ingredients:

1 & 1/4 cups almond flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup coconut oil softened, (not melted)

1/4 cup honey

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup chocolate chips

Instructions:

• Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a baking pan with silicone baking mat. (These mats are amazing if you don’t have one they’re worth looking into.)

• In a bowl mix dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl mix wet ingredients together.

• Once wet ingredients are well blended, add it to the dry ingredients. Mix well.

• Stir chocolate chips into the batter.

• Scoop tablespoon amounts of the batter onto the prepped baking sheet. Be careful not to crowd the cookies because they spread.

• Bake 8-10 minutes.

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These concluded every meal on our trip to Asheville even breakfast. And no I didn’t feel bad about it either!

Before you make these go to Livin Paleo’s blog and read her comments on the batter. It may be of some help with any batter consistency questions.

They worked great for me and my husband loooved them. Sneak these to your kiddos instead of the tubed cookie dough at the store. They won’t know what hit them!

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Mark green beans off your grocery list

Green beans. Ahhh the South’s staple vegetable.

It goes with every summer dish and snapping beans is every unruly kid’s punishment.

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Growing up you don’t realize how fortunate you are to have a garden. Nor do you realize how fortunate you are to have parents that spend their days, nights, and weekends picking, stringing, snapping, and canning beans. Or any vegetable for that matter.

There really isn’t any comparison to homegrown green beans. As I’ve gotten older I’ve had the desire to continue what I grew up doing. Raising a successful garden. One wouldn’t think so but I do believe there’s an art to it. Gardening is a continuous learning experience.. from plant placement to how much to plant of each vegetable. I guess that’s why I love it so much. Each year I have a better understanding and a better way to plant for the next year.

I remember my mom telling me that with her first paycheck as a young girl she bought herself a pressure canner. How awesome is that? When Daniel and I got married she and my bonus dad gave us our first pressure canner. I couldn’t have been happier.

Not everyone was blessed with the country experience as I was. I realize that. If you’re reading my blog you must have some kind of interest in owning a garden. And if you’re going to have a garden you’ll need to know how to preserve your vegetables. So if that’s the case you’re about to learn how to can green beans!

You’ll need:

•Beans!

•Canning salt – (table salt WILL NOT work)

•Pressure canner with 10 pounds pressure weight

•Quart jars, new lids, and rings

•Utensil (slender table knife will do) to remove air from jars and to get jars out of canner

•Pot to boil water

•Ladle

First, I start off with washing my beans. I only wash once but I know some that will wash up to 3 times. After they’re washed I snag my husband and we string and snap over a good movie. Sometimes it feels like a race because we split the beans in half and see who gets done first. It makes it go by quick!

Last year my mom taught me a trick of loading my jars, lids and rings into the dishwasher for a cycle minus the drying part. This cleans and heats them prepping them for canning. It worked great for me.

Once I have our beans snapped to my liking and jars clean and hot I want get my pressure canner going. Keep your jars in the dishwasher until your ready to use them. If you dont feel comfortable with the dishwasher method you can always boil your jars, lids, and rings. ALWAYS check your pressure valve. I’m not sure that that’s what it’s called but your pressure canner manual will elaborate on this step. You really shouldn’t skip it because you want to make sure your canner can vent properly.

I go ahead and fill up a pot of water and set to boil. I will use this to ladle over my beans.

Okay, I put around 1 1/2″ of water in the bottom of my canner, then I put a cap full of vinegar in with the water. Next, I get my quart jars out. Normally this is a team effort with Daniel helping me pack jars full of beans. Once we have around 7 quarts packed I get the canning salt and put 1 teaspoon in each jar. Followed by hot water until it’s about 1/2″ from the top of the brim. I then take a utensil to remove any air that may be caught amongst the beans. Submerging it into the jar with the beans will stimulate the air to surface. Once this is done we can apply the lids and rings!

Once the jars are sealed tight with lids and rings, I place them onto the wire rack in the canner and then put the lid on. Now, turn on the burner to the canner (medium high). Place your weight on the canner and make sure it’s set for 10 pounds pressure.

The goal is to build up 10 pounds of pressure inside the canner. Once the canner begins to jiggle, start a timer. At this point I would recommend referring back to your canner manual because I’m sure each is different. I let it cook for 25 minutes for quarts – cutting back the heat as needed to keep an even jiggle from my weight. (I think it’s recommended to jiggle a couple of times per minute.)

As soon as the time is up, urn off the burner allowing the pressure in the canner to drop. On my canner there’s a red button that will fall in when the pressure has been released. I know then it’s safe to take off my weight. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO OPEN THE LID BEFORE IT HAS COOLED AND RELEASED ALL THE STEAM. I let it sit a few minutes more before I take the lid off. I use a ‘jar grabber’ (Ha!) to move the quarts to a kitchen towel on my counter.

Of course you’ll have to repeat this process until your beans are all canned.

Then you can sit back and wait for the jars to sing. I’ve told my mom countless times there’s just not a better sound than the sound of your jars sealing.

You’re able to enjoy your gardens treasures year around once you learn to preserve your veggies. So go ahead and mark “beans” off of your grocery list.

Less is more

It’s about that time.

I planted a few rows of various leafy greens several weeks ago and they’re finally a few inches tall just begging to be thinned out. Thinning is so hard for me! I see these beautiful plants pushing up behind the soil showing their colors and now I have to pull some up.

gosh Tina.

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Thinning your rows is very important. By practicing this throughout your garden you’re allowing the appropriate amount of room for growth. Plants don’t have to compete for water, space, or nutrients. When I’m in an overly crowded room I feel like I can’t breathe. The same concept goes for plants… if they’re over crowded they can’t get good circulation around their roots.

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We spend too much time and money in our plants and garden for them to be competing for space, nutrients and only being half as good as what they could be.

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When your plants are a few inches tall refer back to your seed packet – so don’t throw any packets away yet! Your packet will elaborate on the plants thinning requirements. I simply pinch the plant at the root and lift up. Pulling the entire plant up exposing the roots. You don’t want to wait too long to thin out because you could take a risk of damaging other plants. Over time with lack of space the plants roots may become bound together with its neighboring plants and once you pull one up you could damage the root system of another. We don’t want that. We need them thriving!

If you haven’t started your garden yet it’s okay. You have time. When you do, keep your packets they have viable information on them! Your packet will guide you from planting your seeds to harvesting your crop and when it can’t… I will!

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The Contract

I’m a softie when it comes to animals. I guess I get it from my momma. She’s a huge animal lover. Having said that, I also know that God placed  animals on this earth for a reason. A very good reason at that.

I love being able to walk to our chest freezer and pick up a pound of deer burger, pig sausage, or wild turkey breast whenever I need it. I am so thankful and appreciative for my hardworking husband for spending his early mornings/late evenings hunting for us and for God giving us these animals. I cannot remember the last time I bought ground beef from the store and for that I’m thankful. The only meat I typically buy is chicken. Until this weekend.

If you follow my blog, you know we went to the Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville this past weekend and had the opportunity to sit in several classes. We’ve been wanting to raise chickens for meat, but as you know I have a big heart. I guess I’m not bothered by the other animals that are stowed away in my freezer because I didn’t kill them. I didn’t have to. If we raise chickens for meat… I will.

After sitting in Joel Salatin and David Schafer’s live chicken processing demo class on Sunday it was an eye opener. I’ve never seen such pretty naked birds. The thought of birds suffering throughout their life or the thought of sometimes seeing sunlight saddens me. Chickens are meant to be able to run free and stretch their wings. So what if I can raise a bird on green pasture, eating bugs, having dust baths, and foraging the way God intended them to? I’d say that’d be the perfect life for a chicken. Not to mention being slaughtered humanely versus the unethical methods commercial processing plants use.

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The chickens that are put on our store shelves are hung upside down in shackles then stunned. They stun the chickens to keep them still to allow the machines to cut their jugular. While stunning them keeps them still it also hinders them from bleeding well and causes them to clot around the bones. After reading this in Joel Salatins’ “Pastured Poultry Profits” I could recall seeing those dark spots at the joints of birds that I had fixed before and I buy “all natural” “hormone and antibiotic free” chicken. I thought I wasn’t buying into that crap.

After the birds are eviscerated they are put in chill tanks where fecal matter develops at the bottom of the tanks. The chicken that sits on our store shelves ready for purchase absorb this “fecal soup” (as Joel states in his book) due to their soft muscle tissue. About 9% of these birds weight are just that, fecal soup. After enduring all of the filth they take as many as 40 chlorine baths in hopes to rid them of the scum.

I can’t believe that this is okay to sell to people.

Daniel and I decided we want and will give our chickens the best life we can provide them. Breathing fresh air, hunting bugs, roaming on green grass and living as natural as possible. And after they reach full maturity (this varies between breed) we will slaughter them the more humane way as Joel demonstrated this past weekend. This is the ultimate contract between chicken and homesteader.  To give them the best life and them give us the best meat possible. I can feel at ease with this decision versus supporting the alternative.

Thank you Joel Salatin, Mother Earth News, and “Pastured Poultry Profits” for opening my eyes a little bit wider.