Archive for February, 2010

Say No to Plumping!

Groups seek label changes for injected chickens

If you buy chicken meat in the store, as I still do  (Remember the chickens as meat are a work in progress for me, eggs first.)  you might notice that most of it is “plumped” or injected with broth, which is bad because it increases the amount of sodium and it increases the weight which increases price.  Currently the practice of “plumping” is viewed as “natural” and plumped meats can be labeled “100% natural” when it most obviously is not.  Groups are trying to change the labeling rules to exclude plumping from “100% natural meat”.  You can support such groups by joining the Face Book group “Say No To Plumping” and by signing this petition:  Say No To Plumping .



A Quaint Valentines Day

I have fond memories of cutting out paper hearts and gluing them to paper doilies to make a handmade Valentine for each student in my class.  This custom has been replaced by the dorkiest commercial Valentines I have ever seen. How lame is it to just print names on cards hardly bigger than a business card?  Can’t cable television leave just one holiday alone, please?  So naturally I wanted to do something completely different, so I crocheted 22 red heart ornaments and taped  each one to a bag of candy, and sent Vincent off to school with them.  I hope they are well received.

I also involved Vincent in our first Swap-Bot exchange for kids, a DIY Valentines swap, where he made two hand made Valentines and sent them and some goodies to his assigned partners. The packages included candy, pencils, stickers, the Valentine, a crocheted heart,  a feather from our chickens, and a little note.  The partner in Sweden told me her son loved the feather! I’m not sure yet, if the other package was received.  Vincent has not received any packages yet, due to the weather, but I hope we get them tomorrow.

I hope you all had a great Valentines Day weekend. Next year, lets’ all not wish for a white Valentines Day, Ok?


Good For You Banana Bread

With all this snow, my seven year old son Vincent has been home with me more than usual, and the other day I taught him to make Banana Bread, which we all love.  I thought maybe my readers might enjoy the recipe as well! I wanted to provide a picture of the bread, but this very morning Vincent was eating the last piece!

Good For You Banana Bread

  • 1 cup Sucralose sweetner
  • 1/3 cup of butter softened (or a trans fat free margarine)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 2 or 3)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 35o degrees. Grease bottom of 2 small loaf pans and bake for 35 minutes. Or grease one large loaf pan and bake for 60 minutes.

By eliminating the sugar and adding in the whole wheat, this recipe is good enough for dessert or breakfast. If you have to have something like “icing” try a slice with some vanilla yogurt poured over the top.  Bananas freeze well, so next time you have one that’s going spotty, peel it and freeze until you have enough to make the bread. This bread also freezes well. You can make up a bunch of little loafs, and cut them in half and wrap individually for lunches on the go.  Be sure to pull it out of the freezer the night before to let it thaw.

Speaking of thaw….I can’t wait for this snow to go away! How about you?


Snow-pocolypse 2010

We have had more snow than I’ve seen in the last 15 years! As long as we don’t loose power we are fine! Right now I’m very thankful that we normally use powdered milk and cloth diapers.  Thank the Gods for the heated chicken waterer that I bought in the fall, other wise I’d be bringing the chickens warm water several times a day.  We did change the timer on the lights to be on all night, and off during the “warmer” parts of the day. It will cost us more in electricity, but I’d rather not loose any hens in this weather. The leghorns that were molting are the only ones I’m really worried about. One still has a naked back, due to being Lucky’s favorite hen.  Here are some pictures of the snow!

Dog Pen Coop and Run

Dog Pen Coop and Run

Hungry Hens

Hungry Hens

Our Deck

Our Deck

Wild Birds at the Suet Feeder

Wild Birds at the Suet Feeder

Backyard Chicken PR

Backyard Chicken PR.

Here’s a terrific hand out for neighbors on back yard chickens and why it’s just a great hobby. This little hand out and a basket of eggs might make peace and a few converts!


Results From the Imbolc Post Card Swap

Here are the beautiful results from the Imbolc Post Card Swap in no particular order.

Imbolc Card 1 <This is the one I received.

Imbolc Card 2

Imbolc Card 3

Imbolc Card 4 <This is the one I made.



How We Got Started With Homesteading

Sharon, a neighbor who does biodynamic gardening asked me about my gardening experiences on her email list. Here’s my response…

I live out side of town limits (in Wicomico County, on the MD side) on almost 2 acres.  We moved here about five years ago and our first spring we planted several blueberry bushes, thorn-less blackberries, an apple tree and grapes. We also tried to turn our crab grass back yard into a huge garden with the help of  another family,  but boy did we bite off more than we could chew! We really had no clue what we were doing, but I’m very glad we got those perennials in the ground that first year. I did love the fresh zucchini! It was the only thing that grew well. We decided we didn’t know what we were doing and needed a better plan.  We were rather discouraged watching the bugs eat our veggies, but we knew we didn’t want to use any pesticides on them.

About two years ago we tried “Square Foot Gardening” which worked better, but not great. We didn’t have very good compost and our “Mell’s Mix” wasn’t right, but it was smaller and better planned. We learned all about Tomato Horn Worms.  One problem I ran into is that I just didn’t know how to prepare and cook fresh veggies! We started composting more, and we did put in a descent herb garden. We talked about raising rabbits for meat, and worm composting. We bought more books and read online, and subscribed to Mother Earth News!

Julian arrived in July of 08, and we decided my stay at home mom project would be chickens, not rabbits. We converted a dog pen that came with the house to a coop, and made plans to build better one next to it, where they could share the run. We bought some extra chickens from a vegetarian friend, mostly speckled sussexes: 7 roosters and 2 hens. Well, when the roosters started harassing the hens way too much, we thought we should eat them. That first kill was the hardest. Paul tried to break the neck by hand but, it didn’t go so well,  we didn’t know really what we were doing. We didn’t scald that first one, and the plucking was slow!  I was reading directions out of the book for Paul. We felt really bad about the botched kill, and opted to just use a hatchet next time, and to scald the birds. We did two at a time for next couple of weekends. After that we raised some leghorns, and butchered those roosters, this time I bought an orange traffic cone  for a killing cone, and that worked much better. I didn’t drop them in the bucket of blood this time.  And that was the last time we butchered any chickens. At the moment we only have two roosters and the rest are layers. We hope to raise some more to eat this spring. Also in 08, I was gifted some red wriggler worms  and got started with my “lazy no turning” worm composting. The black berries started to produce well, and I cooked several “Blackberry Buckles”..MMM!

In December 08 we planted 12 dwarf fruit trees and some more blueberries.  We ordered the dwarf trees from the Arbor Day Society.  The advantage of dwarf trees is that they don’t need a high ladder to pick, and you can plant more trees closer together. I’ve read that they will produce 2-3 bushels of fruit when they mature, which won’t be for several years.

So in 09 we decided to join Provident Organic Farms  CSA .  Paul still wanted to do a garden, but this time we used “How to Grow More Vegetables” by John Jeavons. I also got a great cook book from the CSA! . Paul double dug a bed, and we got some seed from our local farm store. I didn’t know anything about GMOs then, or seed saving. The first thing I learned is that sprouting seeds takes up a lot of space, which we don’t have. I hope to fix that this year, if it would ever stop snowing!  So we had the best luck with potatoes, and bush beans, but we had several pumpkins grow, a few cucumbers and the compost pile outside grew a lovely butter nut squash that I still have some squash from.  Those black berries that planted that first year were plentiful.   We were gifted some raspberries, a hops, and a fig too.   This past summer my mom taught me to can, we made grape jelly from our grapes, and some apple butter.

This year we need to put up a green house and build a chicken tractor. We might also be tearing down our deck and putting up a sun room with a wood stove. We are just a little too dependent on electricity for heat in an emergency for my comfort. I also bought a hand push reel mower. We have a riding mower, but needed something smaller for doing detail work around the trees and garden, and I thought a hand push mower would be perfect.  I also plan on making blackberry jam, which is my favorite.  I hope we get a few blueberries,  just enough for a taste.

Looking back, we were very discouraged after that first garden, but we stopped putting money and time into gardening for a few years, and bought books instead.  My mom bought me a copy of “Storey’s Guide to Basic  Country Skills” which is a great resource! If you have “Barnheart” this is the book you should start with! We also picked up the “Storey” book on chickens.  The CSA cookbook is called “Simply in Season” and it has really taught me how to use what’s coming out of the garden. I’d be lost without it! Every year we learn something new and get better at it. Finding the local organic community to help us has been the best blessing ever!  Thanks Sharon and Lisa!