Happy New Year and Welcome 2017!

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2017 is the year of the Rooster!!

As we say good bye to 2016, we evaluate all that it brought us! We make plans to improve and make things more efficient on our homestead. Here is a short list of things that we hope to achieve in 2017
1.) FINALLY finish the greenhouse and actually use it for starts!!!
2.) Depend only on our starts this year. Last year we bought a few pepper and cucumber plants. This year, we hope to do it all…and barter some of our starts at fairs and have another spring plant sale.
3.) Preserve our own seeds. I will experiment with the tomato seeds I preserved this season–if it work, it is super easy and there is no reason to buy seeds. If it does not work, then I shall try again and do more research to better my protocol.
4.) We hope to add to our home, so that will be a huge project! I am dreaming of having a bigger sun room or built in greenhouse, fingers crossed on this one.
5.) Work on a patch of grass that is overtaken by buttercups–we will conquer this war!!
6.) Put in our duck pond…maybe get a few ducks. We will only do so if we are able to build them a 100% secure home. I don’t want to ever live through another raccoon tragedy .
7.) Get meat birds to fill our freezers.
8.) Learn the art of making ham, bacon, sausages and other cured meats and smoked fish.
9.) Learn more about medicinal plants and dry more herbs for teas.
10.) Have an open house on the homestead.

A long hiatus from blogging–Happy Holidays!

It has been a while… I haven’t had a chance or words to sit down and share the last, gosh, 9 months of our journey to self sustainability. Today, I feel is the day!

There are many new and exciting events on the homestead.  I am officially a stay at home mom of 4!!  I was pregnant during the most prolific months of the year, making our huge to do list impossible and somewhat unrealistic!  Paul has been on double duty with chores and responsibilities–he makes me fall in love  with him all over again.  Although there was a lot to do–I feel like we accomplished quite a bit this year/season.

Since May, we have gotten meat bunnies, a breeding pair.  After numerous tries, we came to a conclusion that we are not rabbit people.  We tried all except barbecuing the meat.  I hear that’s the best way to eat a rabbit.  Maybe one day we will revisit the bunny meat.  As of now our bunnies, Buster and Honey will live out their years as manure producing pets.  Rabbit poop is excellent for the garden and its “cold” meaning it can straight into the garden.  Chicken poop needs to be diluted and has to “cook” for six months before its safe to use.

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We harvested our meat birds. This time around, it was a challenge for Paul.  We rented the whole set up used by commercial farmers and I believe that was our problem  (and Paul had the flu)!  It became so impersonal, it felt like we lost the connection with the birds we raised to nourish our family.  Don’t get me wrong, it was great getting 15 birds culled and cleaned in less than 3 hours but I think when we get our new batch of chicks in early spring, we will be going back to our old fashioned way of harvesting them.  We have to cull some of our older girls, we hope to confirm that our problem with the last harvest was just that and not a more deeper moral dilemma.  I would like to continue raising meat birds as the meat the kids consume is 90% chicken but I can not force Paul to do something he does not want to do.  Last harvest, our neighboring farmers Paul and Howard came to the rescue and helped Paul finish 7 of the 15 broilers.

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The chicks Debbie hatched are full grown adults. Unfortunately, 2 of the 3 are boys and need to go! One is a white mixed Araucana with a Rhode Island Red so he looks like a dirty white rooster with a little brown on his neck feathers.  The other one is a white Araucana and Brown Sexlink mix, he is more handsome but super annoying.  If all goes well, I might have found a buyer for them and three older hens.  If they don’t get purchased by the weekend, soup they will be. We can’t keep them in our neighborhood nor can they mate with our girls, since we don’t know exactly who their mama is.

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Food harvest and preservation 2016 was very plentiful and productive! We had our garden in full gear and collected a bountiful harvest,  We planted everything from seed and had a great success rate, which is a first for us. We have plans to expand and improve as always.  We used our seed blocks.  They were fun to play with and they produced quality starts.

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With our garden harvest, our beloved CSA from Helsing Junction Farm and the farmer’s market stand Carpenito Brothers we were able to preserve lots of good and healthy foods for our family to enjoy off season.  We made the most amazing marinara sauce from a recipe I got from Backwoods Home magazine where you slow roast the tomatoes on a bed of herbs, onions and garlic overnight at low temperature and then puree and reduce the sauce prior to canning. It was so good, I had to make a quadruple batch since the kids can survive on meatballs and spaghetti.  If anyone if anyone is interested, please comment and I will send you the amazing recipe!

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We also stocked up on tomatoes, green beans (plain and pickled), canned beans, canned Cioppino base (tomato juice from the roasted tomatoes and herbs, it smelled phenomenal), corn, peaches, cherries and plums (canned in minimal sugar syrup) and spicy Mexican vegetables–escabeche.  We also dehydrated mushrooms (foraged and from our garden, more on that in a bit) soup base vegetables (dehydrated fennel, leeks and cilantro/parsley melody), plums, apples and peaches.  We jammed quite a bit this year but not as much as we did in the past–we simply don’t eat that much jam.  All the jams we made came from local fruit, mainly plums and berries.  We had so many raspberries this year that we made five jars of raspberry preserves.

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I mentioned mushrooms above, I think it is safe to conclude that I love mushrooms.  Paul, being the wonderful husband as he is has gotten me a mushroom CSA.  Basically, the company send us mushrooms when it is time for us to plant them.  Thanks to them, we have harvested about 50lbs of garden giants.  We have did not get anything from the second batch and are still hopeful for the third (Milk mushrooms). It has been so cool to go to our very own mushroom patch and collect mushrooms.  We had so much that we gave away to my parents and sisters and dried a bunch as well. I am excited to do it again next summer!

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Quail, we finally got quail. Like literally a few days ago!  I am part of a Seattle Permaculture/Barter group and a gal was downsizing her flock and we were chosen by her to be their forever home.  They are super cute, shy and quite comparing to our LOUD chickens.  The last blog I wrote was about quail…and it was 8 months ago, so I am very excited.

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Last but not least the most exciting event since my last post was the change of seasons and the end of the growing season. We winterized the gardens and the animals.  Now, we are making crafts and goodies and getting ready for the holidays.  Time to reflect and plan for the next year. We hope to start planting our starts indoors in February and at the rate time flies, February will be here tomorrow.

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We hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and wish you a Merry Christmas!!

Thanks for reading!!

 

 

Pasty Butt!!

So, this is batch number five of chicks for us and a first pasty butt experience (also known as paste vent).

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What’s pasty butt you ask? Well, in a nut shell, pasty butt is when a chick poops and the poop gets dried on their down plugging up their vent (butt) . Seems like a simple thing but if goes untreated, it could be fatal.

Apparently, this is common in mailed chicks and is caused by stress.  This would explain why it is our first time experiencing this. All of our other chicks where locally bought.  Another cause can be over heating or under heating the brooder.  Chicks are sensitive to heat (or lack of) and get stressed out easily.  More uncommon causes can be viral or bacterial infections or improper feed, all leading to diarrhea, causing the poop to plug up its tiny little butt.  This is a fatal because their butt is literally plugged up and elimination can not happen.

The way to clean up pasty butt is pretty straight forward.  You run its little vent under warm water, making sure its warm and not hot or cold, gently softening the dried up poop.  Yes, you will have to touch chicken poop but chances are, if you are a chicken owner, a little chicken poop on your hands is no longer an issue. It is super essential not to rush the process and pull on any of the dried poo.  Chicks are delicate.  You can rip their skin or worse, you can cause intestinal damage.  Patience is the key.  So today in the morning, I spent about 10 minutes standing in my bathroom with a chick under running water.  The poor thing was confused at first but then I think he started to enjoy it.

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After the vent is visible (pink and puckered up), I dried the chick with a heated towel, wrapped her in a warmed up blanket stuck her in my coat (next to my chest) while taking her back to the brooder.  The down was still pretty wet so I put her right under the heat lamp and the little booger took a big poop!  Success.  About 15 minutes later, I checked on the chick and it was impossible to tell which one got a bath, all 15 were back to being cute, yellow and fuzzy.

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So according to the book of knowledge–Google and Storey’s guide to raising poultry, this could happen again.  And if it does, the same process should be repeated and and a cooked egg yolk should be added to the chicks diet for  day or two.  If it still occurs, you can put a little bit of vasiline or antibacterial ointment around the vent down to prevent poop from sticking to them.  Avoid oils, as they can become rancid and cause infection.

A very serious problem (if left untreated) with an easy fix–I’ll take it.

The chicks have grown a lot in their first week.  They are officially 9 days old and already have their wing feathers.  Pretty soon, their cutie-pie fuzzy down will be replaced with white feathers and they will go through a few weeks of ugly duckling experience.

On a separate note, today is day two of our broody hen Debbie sitting on a clutch (7) of eggs. If all goes well, we hope to hatch a few chicks of our own by April 24-ish.  We had a rooster up until this last weekend and hope to witness a chicken brooding eggs. We had to sell the rooster to avoid angry neighbors.

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Thanks for reading! Stay updated on the our journey with raising Jumbo Cornish Cross meat birds and our broody hen Debbie in her natural element.

 

Soil Block Party

It seems that the theme of my blog (and life) lately has been about not being able to reach set goals on the homestead. There is so much that we want to do but there is just too little time!  We got a lot of chores done last weekend–some were a little later than usual but I think we just need to accept the fact that with almost four kids, certain deadlines are not possible.  We aren’t sitting around dwelling about our tardiness, rather learning from our experiences.  Being a homesteader is an art on its own and we are still learning!

Here is a picture summary of us finally using our soil blockers to make soil blocks, for our vegetable starts.  This is our first attempt and I really hope that we sprout something.  We made more starts than we need in hopes of having a plant-start sale soon, as a little fundraiser for our homestead.  The kids are stoked and to be honest, so are we.

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The Duck Dilema

I want ducks! I really do, but Paul brought up a good point, our property is pretty small and ducks will turn anything into a mud puddle. We had plans to build them a secure area with a pool, and we still might, but for now, I think we will be duck-less.  I have mixed emotions about this but for now, I think it is for the best.

We still want a different egg and meat source other than chicken, so after a bit of research, we decided to give quail a try. Quail are a common backyard bird that have many benefits on a homestead.

Quail are smaller and quieter birds.  They require significantly less room (1 square foot per bird, vs. chickens at 3-4 square feet per bird) and quite content living in a caged hutch.  I had reservations about keeping any critter “caged” up, but apparently, quail do much better in such habitats.  They don’t free range without running or flying away and they can actually do more harm to themselves in a big space.  They tend to fly into things and if their habitat is too tall, they can break their necks.  Apparently, they are pretty low on the totem pole of poultry intelligence.  It is common to keep quail in a green house and most likely, they will be one of the occupants of our green house.

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quail

According to the available literature, quail eat less per body mass ratio and are very healthy sturdy birds.  They do not roost or lay their eggs in a nesting box (they pretty much lay where ever they feel like) and start to lay at 6 weeks (versus a chicken that usually starts laying at 6 months).  Male quail do not crow, so keeping both sexes is possible in a backyard setting (no pissed of neighbors is a good thing) and allows for fertilized eggs and hatching of eggs.

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baby chicks

Quail eggs taste similar to chickens eggs, although about three times smaller.  They make an adorable  egg salad or egg drop soup.  Quail meat is lean and tender.  One quail is a serving size for one adult meal.

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*All pictures are courtesy of Mother Earth News and Wikipedia.

I am looking forward to welcoming quail chicks to our homestead.  They are super cute and make the cutest little chirping noise.  It will be fun to have the kids collect teeny-tiny eggs.

Progress in the making

December flew by, the holidays are over and its already January 26th! Oi!! Time is rushing and we are starting to feel things heat up on our to do list.  We have chickens to put in the freezer and a green house to build (the ground has officially been broken).

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A few weeks ago, I cooked our last two birds…soup was good and the cutlets were enjoyed by all!  Our kids tend to do well with minced meat the most, so our options tend to be meatballs or cutlets, which ultimately is the same thing only cutlets are fried on a skillet.  We have six broilers that will be harvested for spring eating, and a batch of new birds will go into the brooder hopefully by early February.  We are choosing a different breed this time, Cornish Cross. These are the most popular meat birds because they are HUGE.  They are ready for harvest at 8 weeks, versus the Jersey Giants we have raised in the past and took 8 months to mature

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There lots of pros and cons to raising these birds.  People tend to love them or hate them. We are curious and will give them a try.  Here are some pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Mature and ready to harvest 6-8weeks
  • Excellent foragers
  • Very meaty
  • If kept properly. very sturdy and hardy birds

Cons:

  • Tend to over feed, must restrict to avoid joint and heart problems
  • Intolerant of heat
  • And apparently, poop like no other!

It seems that all the cons mentioned in the literature tend to be upkeep issues such as over feeding and lots of poop.  All of these are very manageable if you are on a small scale.  I hope we that we wont find these to be as much of a burden.  As for being heat intolerant, Paul and I are aware of this have the chickens scheduled to be kept and harvested before and after it is too hot.  We hope that this breed will fit our needs as the feed to meat ratios are excellent.  I read that some of the dual purpose birds (who take a bit longer to mature) are more superior in flavor then the Cornish Cross. We will have to judge for ourselves.  Our Jerseys were delicious but it took too long for them to mature, not being very economical for us to raise them. We will see if we can taste the difference.

The green house is very much in its infantile stage, everything is purchased now its is just the matter of putting it together, which seems easier than it really is when there are three kids and full time jobs involved–we can do it!!   Once we start, I will have updates on our FB page!  The green house will aid us in raising our meat birds and also giving our starts a better chance of being a success.  As of now, we have not been successful in planting our own starts and utilize a farmers market.  We really want to learn to be more reliant on our seeds and starts–wish us luck!

For Christmas, Santa brought Paul and I soil blockers.  Special tools to form soil in making little cubes for seedlings.  We got a few sizes for different vegetables, we are itching to get started!  We also hope to have a little plant “garage” sale. So far, we are going to have strawberry starts, succulents and salad starts.  I think the kids would have fun having a plant stand–versus the lemonade stand.

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On a another note, we have been eating from our pantry and are getting pretty sick of zucchini salad, so if anyone local wants to try some, there is a lot! It is very good as a salad or relish, but there is just so much of it.

 

Thanks for reading!! We’ll keep you updated.

 

2015 Was A Great Year!

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2015 has been kind to us! We had an plentiful growing season, healthy children and a happy homestead. We worked and played hard, dreamed big, accomplished lots and planned a whole bunch for 2016. We hope to ring in the new year with a green house that has been in the works for a long time, which will enable us to do so much more.

Some of our goals and aspirations are:

  1. Spend more time at home with our kids
  2. Learn a new art, craft or skill each month, starting January with sewing
  3. Improve and master our home-school skills and abilities–make everything a lesson
  4. Build and utilize our green house
  5. Build a duck habitat and finally get ducks
  6. Expand our garden beds
  7. Simplify our lives by getting rid of 20 or so things each month–starting in January
  8. Get our mushroom patch inoculated and productive
  9. Have more visitors–we love it when people want to come and play with the chickens and learn the art of homesteading!
  10. Be happy!! Live life for today–since there is no guarantee for tomorrow! 1234451_901559219885877_5168660438596806548_n

Happy New Year!  We wish you a good, healthy and happy 2016!

Thanks for reading!

Happy Everything!

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!! Happy Everything from our family to yours. Thank you for joining us on our journey to being self sustainable–it has been a great year on our homestead! We wish you health, joy, happiness and chickens!!  We are truly blessed!!IMG_20151224_064057 IMG_20151224_063912 IMG_20151224_064008 IMG_20151224_064021

Egg Drop Soup

Egg Drop Soup a la Lina

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This is one of my most favorite soups that is super easy to make! I don’t add starch–I like the thickened version but we try to cut on carbs.

2 quarts chicken broth

1 tsp grated ginger (you can use powdered ginger, but it’s just not the same)

3-4 grated garlic cloves

1-2 tbs soy sauce

1/2 cup of frozen corn or canned corn

A handful (package) of enoki mushrooms (can be found in an Asian store) or white mushrooms

Zucchini noodles (optional)

2-3 beaten eggs or 5-6 quail eggs per person

Bring the broth to boil, add the soy sauce, garlic, ginger, corn and enoki mushrooms. While the soup is boiling, whisk in the beaten eggs, or if you are using quail eggs, individually drop in all the eggs (poaching them). When ready to serve, place the desired amount of zucchini noodles in a plate and ladle the hot soup over. Enjoy! If you want to thicken it with starch, make a rue and add to soup prior to eggs.

Sage, Ham and Spanish Lentils Soup

Sage Ham and Spanish Lentils Soup

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This is similar to the split pea just a different legumes!

We also get our Spanish lentils from Palouse Brand of Amazon!  Again, we get nothing from Amazon or Palouse Brand from advertising their product.  We simply love the quality and how local they are!  They come in 5 pounds or more, initially, I was overwhelmed with the idea of having 5 pounds of lentils but rest assured, it really is not that much.

Palouse Lentils

2 cups of lentils

4 quarts of broth

2 medium potatoes (finely diced)

1 small onion (finely diced)

2 carrots (finely diced)

Ham (diced) about a cup

Sage powder or a few fresh sprigs

Salt/Pepper to taste

In your soup pan, saute onions, carrots and ham, add broth, lentils, potatoes and sage.  Cook until lentils are tender (but not falling apart)…voila dinner is done! Garnish with Parmesan cheese and devour.  Easy, hearty and delicious!