Friday, April 30, 2010

A change in my life.

Mike and I moved to the country last May. We both grew up in very urban areas and neither of us really had much exposure to anything country. I rode horses as a kid, but that ended quickly when my parents realized how allergic I am. However, I do remember that during the time my lessons were, I had such a great time. The gal that taught us (my sister and myself) to ride, owned so many animals and I have fond memories of petting the goats and getting to feed the cows.

I was raised on the water. I always thought I would need to be near the water when I got older.. boy, was I wrong. Moving to the place we are now has been one of the best things that has happened during our time together.  We have each found that we have a passion for anything country. It is truly remarkable.

I think that one of the biggest things that I have come to realize is how truly remarkable nature is. The dirt, the air, the birds, the animals. How could I have lived this long and not understood how incredible this place is? I have become fascinated and amazed at growth. Over the last year, I have watched our chickens grow from tiny little fuzz balls to something to beautiful and affectionate. Before our move, I never gave eating chicken a second thought. I always thought that chickens were dumb.. but raising them.. loving them.. has given me a different view on everything. After we processed the chickens, I literally cried on two separate occasions, because of the distinct compassion and love that I feel for the animals. I cherish them and have such respect for them and how they give up their lives so that I can continue living.  It has become such a special relationship. One that I wish I could have experienced prior to this year.

I remember the first day we got chickens. We adopted Rhonda and 4 chicks. When We let Rhonda into the coop, she walked around exploring and the second I sat down, she jumped up onto my shoulders. I knew that the connection was just beginning.

There was a beautiful area that was over grown with weeds and branches that we decided to convert into a garden. Neither of us had really much of a connection to gardening, but we decided to give it a try! Little did I know that it would completely change the way I think about the earth, the weather, the miracle of life. 

This spring, I have come to marvel at the growth that comes from such a small seed. I am in awe that such a small thing can produce the things that keep us alive and keep us healthy. As korney as it sounds, I am almost moved to tears when I see the progress that these living, breathing things make during such a short time. What a wonderful recipe.

Sunlight + water + love = An abundance of life

Though we are Jewish, I have never truly been a very spiritual person. But how can one deny something bigger exists, when the proof is in your garden, in your chicken coop, in your home? Moving has changed me. In more ways than I ever thought possible.

On a bit of a sadder note, upon entering the coop this morning, I found one of the my babies lying dead on the floor. Her name was Penelope. She was never aggressive with other chickens and she was always up for a little pet. Her call sounded like popeye and Mike and I could always tell who was calling, even if we were no where near the chickens.  She was such a good girl and I have spent all day thinking about her.

This life that we lead has taught me so much. It has not only taught me so much about growth and life, but also about death and the sadness that comes with it. It has taught me to cherish all living things no matter how small and insignificant it may seem. The best thing? I am so happy. I live a life that I wish others could experience. I have a wonderful man that loves and cares for me. I have two amazing dogs that add so much laughter to my life, and I have a little flock and garden that give me so much to be thankful for. 

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Oh No! We've Got Worms!

The good kind...

Kelsi and I found a pretty good deal at a local store on worms so we decided that we were going to start a worm bin. We bought a half pound for under 20 bucks at Best Buy Surplus in Spokane, which is pretty good in this area, we have encountered a lot of folks who charge an arm and a leg for anything "green related". We also bought 2-10 gallon bins at the local "Made in China" store for 4 dollars a piece. 

The bottom bin will catch the worm tea that drains from the top bin. Once the top bin is full of worm castings, we can motivate the worms to move from the upper bin to the lower by loading the bottom full of new bedding and fresh food. Then we can harvest the top bin which will contain virtually worm free castings.
This is the bedding that we used. It is mostly composed of an out of date phone book torn into 1in strips. There are also some shredded paper balls from my paper shredder.
This is just after I added the worms to there new home.
They look pretty happy don't they?

Also on an unrelated note Juliette got a hair cut today. She looks so pretty!

Oh. Kelsi looks pretty too!

Thanks for reading. If anybody out there uses worms for composting and has some useful advice for us new comers feel free to share! Thanks

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Chicken Processing: not graphic

So, as many of you know Kelsi and I are very disappointed with the way American meat is raised and processed these days. We decided that if we wanted to continue to conscientiously eat meat we were going to have to take it into our own hands. Truthfully this is much easier said than done. Around the first of March Kelsi and I decided to buy ten Cornish cross meat birds.

We will never buy this kind again. We lost two of them in the first two weeks and the other 8 seemed to be so old, their little legs couldn’t support the massive bodies and only place they were able to walk was to their food and water, other than that their whole days were spent sitting. We hadn’t researched this bird much before purchasing and we definitely learned the hard way that birds selectively bread to get bigger, fatter, sooner aren’t the kind of bird we want on our farm.
So this week the birds were up to size and we decided it was time to process. I must say that I was very concerned about this act. I haven’t ever killed anything besides bugs and fish. It was hard and it was a life changing experience for me. Never have I felt so close to my food. It gave me the same rewarding feeling that I get when I bring a huge load of fresh veggies up from the garden, or a huge stack of eggs from the coop. It sounds like such a romantic idea. I have a lot of respect for the animals whose lives are given up to support mine.

Grow your own food. Process your own food. Live healthier. Live happier.

Kelsi and I were completely responsible for everything to do with these chickens except the hatching, so we got to see what they ate, where they lived, and that they were processed in a humane and respectful manor. I think that if one is passionate about how their food is produced than this would be a rewarding experience for that person. The hens that we raised died so that we can live on.

I just want to show some things involved in the process without getting graphic

This is the chicken plucker that I made. It fits into a regular drill and spins, this removes the feathers rather quickly. It is very simpler and easy to make. It is just a 4in sewer cap with black rubber bungee cords pieces hanging out the sides. Each bungee was cut to a few inches in length, then cut in half  length ways leaving a nub on opposite sides to keep them from flying of the plucker. 
4in sewer cap: 1.85
3/8 carriage bolt: 1.58
2- 21in black bungees w/ s-hook: 4.58
2 each- 3/8 nuts/washers: .48
Total cost: $8.49 for a pretty darn good little plucker

Another view. 16 plucker fingers in total.
This is the plucker station. The plucker is mounted with a corded drill by zip ties through the board.
 This is our outdoor processing station. It was a nice way to spend the morning, outside processing meat the way it used to be done. On the right are the cones that the birds are inverted into and then drained in. On the left is the turkey fryer used for scalding prior to plucking
Supplies used:
2- large street cone: 12.00
Used 5 gal painters buckets: Free(I had them already)
Turkey fryer with pot and base: 65.21
Total cost: 77.21
This is the folding table we used to clean out the chicken.
Butcher table: 29.00
 8 chickens, after an ice bath
Ice bath bin: 9.99
 The finished product. We ended up with 5 whole chickens, 3 halves for the bbq and I split one up for breasts, legs/things and bones for the stock.
 Making stock. Lots of fresh veggies involved.
We ended up with 11 8oz jars of stock. The stock is more of a broth based on the amount of chicken flavor. We probably didn't use enough chicken in it. Not bad though for our first time making stock.

That's it, thanks for reading!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Arbor day 2010

I hope everyone had a wonderful arbor day. Kelsi and I started out our day by going to Spokane Regional Waste systems compost fair which was fairly interesting. Just for going they were giving out these free compost bins. They look small in the picture, but the are actually 3 feet tall by 3 feet in diameter. They will be perfect for all of the chicken bedding as we clean out the coop this week.

Also we went to a plant sale today at Manito Park and we bought 3 lilac plants form the lilac society of spokane. We bought a purple, white, and violet one for a dollar a piece! So we may not have planted a tree today but we planted some lilacs. Thats a fair trade I think.
This is a photo of our greenhouse, and the plants tucked in for the night under a nice blanket of floating row cover. The wind blew in a major cold front. 
Also on an exciting note, I found out today that I was accepted to nursing school at NIC. I will start in the fall and be done in two years! I am very excited!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 23, 2010

The greenhouse is finished!

So this is a bit of old news here, but we finished framing the greenhouse, framed in some vents, built a door, and covered the whole thing with soft plastic. We did this is all about two or three weeks ago, but we have been kinda slacking on the updates.
This is what it looks like on the inside. We used 1/4 in hardware cloth as a shelving topper and it is working really well. On the right you can see our gebera daisy plants for the wedding center pieces. Also on the right are some tomatoe plants that we recently transplanted into larger pots

Here are the tomatoes. They are getting so big. They look much shorter than they are because we buried the plant rather deeply when we transplanted to make long deep roots.
This is one of the gerbera daisy flowers soaking up the sun

Some melon and squash starts at different stages of growth.
Looks pretty good set amongst the green field grass.
Some starter trays enjoying the warmth of the greenhouse
Not greenhouse related but this is how Mere looks at two months old. She is so small still. She also has a mohawk. Very cute one at that.
Duck, duck, goose
This is one of the gates that goes into the meater's yard, it had this slope down to it that we weren't using and looked rather unsightly. So we had the great idea to a pond form there, we found it for free on Craigslist. It works pretty well so far and fills that void very well.
This is the angle of the land and you can see why it fits so well for us.

That's it. Thanks for reading!

Duck, Duck, Goose

Is it a possibility that the ducks are actually becoming more comfortable with something other than themselves?! 

WHOA! Sophie is so independent and the duck so dependent that together they are a perfect pair! Sophie likes to come into the house when the door is open and since the ducks follow her everywhere, they decided it would be nice to pretend to be inside too! This is the closest they have ever gotten to us.

Roaming the yard and fields together have become the norm over at our house. Thank goodness. I love seeing them free and not being too afraid to come out.

On a different note, I made two loaves of bread yesterday. One white and one wheat. I have had the toughest time with the wheat. It gets so dense.  How do they made it so fluffy and delicious at the grocery store. I don't understand! At the least the white bread was good. This photo is from right before I stuck them in the oven.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Documentary review: Killer at Large: Why Obesity is America's Greatest Threat

Tonight at work I had a bit of downtime so I figured I would try to watch a new food documentary that I had not seen. I found a great list for those of you who are interested in some movies on what and how we as a nation need to change in order to survive.
Killer at Large: Why Obesity is America's Greatest Threat is a very well put together documentary that was mostly focused on the affect that the food industry has on our children and young adults. There is a wide focus on American policy, as well as advertising directed at our children. The American government seems to be so comfortable in bed with these multinational powerhouse producers of garbage food, that they have lost sight of what is important. What is most important are our children! The successors of our legacies. The children, who parents work so hard to raise, now have a shorter life span than their parents.

Whenever I watch these documentaries I am always further convinced that Kelsi and I are doing the right thing. Not only for us now, but for our future children and those in our community who benefit from us producing our own food. This would be a great movie for anyone who has a child eating school lunches or who eats anything you didn’t prepare for them. Kelsi and I just have animals for now but someday we will have our own little ones and I sure hope things are different by then.

As always actions speak louder than words. Kelsi and I were mostly shopping at the big grocery stores around our area (Albertson’s/ Wal-Mart), but nearly 2 months ago we stopped supporting those businesses and began shopping solely at our local organic and natural living store Huckleberry's. This has been a great change for us, not only financially, but lifestyle wise. Preparing meals and snacks for work now takes some thought on my part. I cannot just grab a handful of granola bars and some canned chili and run out the door. My lunch for work the last 5 nights has had an organic apple, orange, banana, and a large organic salad in it each night. This is vastly different from a couple months ago. Our days of processed foods are quickly coming to an end.

A blog without pictures isn't very exciting, so here is a picture of my beautiful bride to be and her favorite little bird, Sophie!

Thanks for reading

Monday, April 19, 2010

The newest member of our family..

Mike has been really wanting some ducks to live on our little expanding farm. I, on the other hand, kind of wanted a goose! However, Mike won and I let him get two ducks. They are pretty boring. Im not gonna lie. They really dislike us too. The second they see us, they freak out and run the other direction! Silly ducks. I was a little bummed that we didnt hold out for some geese instead and always saw the little  geese at farm stores and wanted to take on home! Oh well..

Well, last friday, I got up with enough time to go to northwest seed and pet and get some potato bags and then make it to yoga. Northwest Seed and Pet always has an array of animals and I love to go in a look at the puppies and chicks and stuff. That is exactly what I did. I was a little disappointed that there werent any cute puppies for me to snuggle, but then I saw her. One lone little goose all alone in a cage.  I knew I had to adopt her.

The person I spoke with said that a couple who were living in a trailer had dropped her off because they realized they cant have a goose where they live. She was so sweet that I took her home right then. She didnt even sit in her box on the way home.  She sat on my lap and looked out the window!

When I got her home I ran in to show Mike. I was very excited. She followed me where ever I went and I felt bad leaving her while I showered. So, she sat in the bathroom during that time and pecked at herself in the mirror. It was so sweet.

I didnt know what to do with her! Not only was she following me everywhere, but she would cry when I got too far too! It was precious. So, I let her hang out with me while I worked on de-rocking the raised beds. Did I mention that she likes to try and taste anything that is near?

Well, it has been a few days and she has become quite independent. She still cries for me when I am too far and she still tries to follow me everywhere and attempts to eat my hair, but she has helped the ducks venture out and she likes to play in the grass on the lawn and swim in her little pool. The ducks seem to be getting better.

I cant wait to see how she develops. She is SO sweet. Oh, and we named her Sophie. Sophie the goose.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Our visit to the dairy

In the past couple of weeks, Mike and I have been discussing purchasing milk from a local source. So, this last tuesday, we made a trip out to Spokane Family Farms to see the milk process and, more importantly, to see the condition and quality of life of their cows. 

I must say, we had a really good time. The cows were so cute and it was cool to be able to watch the owner sanatize and milk those big girls. The picture above shows a pretty girl eating some treats while getting milked. They keep their head locked in so that they dont whip out during milking and hurt themselves and the milker.

Who would have thought that cows can be so expressive? Look at this pretty girls eye. You can tell that she is really nervous about me standing near her. Eventually, she let me pet her a little bit, but she stayed looking pretty nervous. throughout the time. 
Mike and I are totally against grain fed beef and really wanted to support a business  that did not feed their cows grain. For those who dont know, cows are not supposed to eat grain. They are supposed to eat grass! Grain fattens them up and then kills them slowly. A cow that eats grain will only live a maximum of about 120 days, before its insides eat themselves. Terrible, huh? Anywho, these cow owners arent feeding them grain. What looks like grain is actually vitamins and mineral wrapped in molasses, so that they will eat it. The cow owner tests each bail of hay and then supplements  what is missing into the 'grain'.

This photo is one of the milking process. He uses Iodine around each teet to kill all the bacteria and then connects the little sucky tube thing that milks them!
Mike tried to pet that cute cow. She didnt really want to be touch though.  
See what I mean about the expression in their eyes?
Then, we got to see the baby calves! Holy moses! They were so freaking cute. This cute little girls kept licking me and trying to eat my clothes, my hair, anything that she could get ahold of! Her name was Blessing. 
Have you ever had a cow kiss? I have! Their tongues feel a lot like sand paper. But still so endearing.                                                                                   
So, all in all, we found that these cows are treated incredibly well. No, they are not organic, but this is because their cows are their pets and if one of them get sick, they do everything in their power to save them. The milk get put in a separate container for awhile and then tested everyday until it is all out of their system. Pretty cool, huh? I'm pretty sure that we are definately getting cow someday!