All posts by Sweet Savory Sustainable

A Lifestyle Project

Meyer Lemon Curd

Meyer Lemon Curd
Yield: 1 Pint Jar Cooking Time: 15-20 minutes Prep Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients – Equipment Needed
6 egg yolks
1 whole egg
zest of 1 Meyer lemon
3/4 cup cane sugar
3/4 cup Meyer lemon juice
6 to 7 tablespoons cold butter
1 sauce pan OR double boiler
whisk
sift / strainer
juicer (optional, just your hands works well too!)
zester / micro plane

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Step 1: zest one lemon, roughly a tablespoon worth of zest, set aside. Juice lemons, strain pulp, and set aside.

Step 2: Separate egg yolks from egg whites. Reserve egg whites for another recipe* Add egg yolks and one whole egg to sauce pan or double boiler**. Add in lemon juice, sugar, zest, and whisk till incorporated. Now turn on your heat low, keep whisking…

* Side note – saving eggs: Separated eggs can be frozen easily and stored in a freezer sealed bag for at least six months to a year. In my instance, I have backyard chickens and have an abundance of eggs, so in order to not waste, I separate them, and freeze. This recipe is made with frozen eggs.

** Side note – double boiler vs stand alone sauce pan: this is based on your comfort level of cooking eggs to ensure you don’t turn your yolks to scramble. The double boiler keeps the liquid eggs from the direct heat, allowing you more flexibility when whisking to not develop scrambled eggs. If you do not have a double boiler, you’re still good… just keep the temp very low, and don’t stop whisking. Worse case, get out that fine mesh strainer and run your curd through to remove any lumps that may have formed during cooking.

Step 3: one by one add in a tablespoon of butter. Whisk till incorporated and add another, one at a time. Keep whisking. At this time, get a small metal spoon and take a dip. Time to taste test before the curd comes together. Not sweet enough, add a teaspoon or more of sugar and keep whisking… keep whisking… and watch the magic start to happen.

Step 4: after 15 + minutes of whisking you will see your curd start to thicken. Keep in mind, once you turn off the heat the curd will continue to cook and continue to thicken. When you’re able to form soft peaks with your curd you are ready to turn off the heat and set aside. Once cooled, transfer your curd to a pint jar with sealing lid. If you’re concerned with lumps, run your curd through a fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps formed during cooking.

Storage: half pint and pint jars by Ball or Kerr freeze extremely well and this recipe will freeze incredibly well for at least 6 months. Its consistency remains in tact even after freezing. Store in the fridge in a sealed pint jar for up to a week… if it lasts that long.

ENJOY!

Meyer Lemon Curd
Serving Suggestion: we enjoyed a dollop of Meyer Lemon Curd this morning atop my homemade french toast and berry sauce… everything from scratch… bread, berry sauce, & lemon curd!

Egg Breakfast Cups

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Bacon & Kale Cheesy Egg Cups – Part of a Successful Weekly Meal Plan
Yield: 12 individual egg cups Temp: 325° (f) Cooking Time: 25 minutes Prep Time: 15 minutes  

Ingredients – Equipment Needed
undefined 1 head kale, chopped
undefined 5+ strips bacon, cut/crisped (save some bacon grease for cooking the kale)
undefined 12-14 eggs, medium to large
undefined ½ cup combined, shredded Parmesan & mozzarella cheese
undefined Kosher salt/pepper to taste
undefined 12 pan muffin tin
undefined Parchment paper or cupcake liners
undefined Skillet
undefined Canning funnel

Step 1: Preheat oven to 325° (f) and prep the muffin tin with liners. Set aside. My best advice for still intact, non stick egg cups is to use parchment paper by making your own muffin tin liners or purchasing liners that are specifically made from parchment paper. Making your own is super simple and here is a really quick cool video I found on the interwebs by Cooking with Manuela on how to make your own. If making your own is not your thing, I use these from Paperchef all the time and I 100% swear by them *not a paid ad

Step 2: Dice bacon and crisp in a pan. I use a cast iron skillet, but any pan will do. Make sure to drain the fat (but save it!!) while cooking to ensure a good crisp on the bacon. Once crisp, remove from pan and set aside.

Bacon rendering in a cast iron skillet.

Step 3: Wash, dry, and remove kale from stems. Chop and place in skillet with a tablespoon of the reserved bacon fat. You can omit and use olive oil or any oil of your choosing. Kosher salt and pepper to taste. Saute until desired wilt or crispness has been achieved, add back bacon and toss for a few minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Step 4: Crack and whisk eggs with kosher salt and pepper. Set aside. Fill each muffin tin with a tablespoon of bacon kale mixture. Sprinkle shredded cheese mixture on top.

Step 5: If you have a canning funnel, I would totally use it because it will help to eliminate any drips or spills, which in turn makes egg cup removal from the muffin tins a bit tedious… the funnel helps keep everything in the cup where it needs to be. If not, use a large spoon or ladle and fill each muffin tin ¾ full.

Step 6: place in a 325° (f) preheated oven for 25 minutes. Serve and enjoy immediately or do as I do and store in airtight containers in the fridge for your meal planning win during the week.

Additional Ingredient Options: Here are some additional examples of breakfast egg cup variations I’ve made this year:
undefined Broccoli, bacon & goat cheese
undefined Kale, sweet peppers, & cheddar cheese
undefined Sweet peppers, zucchini, sausage & Parmesan cheese

A Note About The Ingredients I Use:
The eggs in this recipe and all recipes I create are made from the chickens I raise. They are fed organic feed in addition to all of the organic produce scraps from my kitchen and all that nature has to provide for them in my pasture. All other ingredients I do my very best to source locally if it does not come direct from my homestead (i.e. the produce & meats) as well as organic and non-gmo options. These recipes do not need to be local & organic but this is what I chose to do for my family.

The Story: I’m a fulltime remote employee for a global tech giant, I wrangle two very active boys and husband daily. The dog needs walking & the chickens need food. The land needs tending and there are only so many hours in a day, then you need to eat. This year I’ve decided to reinstate meal planning and meal preparation. Egg cups – the first installment of that plan. I’m typically (when Covid-19 doesn’t have us stuck at home) on the go, tacking on 120+ miles a day in the car in addition to meetings, kids activities, tending to the homestead, trying to stay physically fit and all the things life has to offer. In my back to basics journey I’ve made deep strides to improve the health in my life and I don’t want to hinder the progress by eating crap on the fly. Having good for you, fueling meals ready on the go is key for success in my day to day. This recipe makes 12 egg cups for me for the week. I warm up 2 egg cups a day from Monday through Saturday for my breakfast. Sundays are left for meal planning and meal prepping. I’ll be 100% honest, these are best the moment they come out of the oven and look a little sad on day two, but the taste is still delightful and fills me up on the go. So, here’s to your meal planning success, Egg Cups!

Banana Bread Muffins

According to the interwebs, banana bread was one of the top icons of the recent quarantine. Everyone and their grandmother has been baking like their lives depend on it and banana bread was at the top of the list. This is not your grandmother’s quarantine banana bread. These are fluffy, moist and quite chocolaty. A perfect mobile breakfast for the meal planning guru’s arsenal, easily adjusted to be gluten free using a 1:1 baking flour, and really the only way I’ll enjoy banana anything… muffins!

Chocolate chip or double chocolate with deep rich red dutch cocoa, better than grandma’s. If my grandmother heard me say this… she might agree! This recipe is hers, with a twist.

As it relates to a meal planner’s arsenal, these muffins store well in the fridge or freezer and easily warm up in the oven or microwave oven for a good meal “on the go”. During what I refer to as meal prepping Sundays, I make at least a dozen and this will satisfy breakfast for my little boys for the entire week.

So don’t let those bananas go to waste on your counter top. If anything *pro-tip*, peel, cut in half, freeze on a cookie sheet, and then transfer to a freezer sealed bag to use for future smoothie material. OK, I’ll enjoy banana two ways… but for now… muffins!!

Banana Bread Muffins
350 (f) degrees / 25 – 30 minutes baking time / 10-15 minute prep time
Yield One Dozen (12) Muffins

3 Medium Ripe Bananas
2 Large Eggs
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/3 Cup Brown Sugar, Packed
3/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
3/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder

1 Teaspoon Spice (combination of cinnamon, ginger, & nutmeg)
1/2 Cup Butter, Melted
2 1/4 Cup All-Purpose Flour
1/3 Cup Chocolate Chips (or as many as you like!)

For Double Chocolate Chip Make the Following Ingredient Adjustments
Add 1/4 Cup Red Dutch Cocoa Powder
Reduce All-Purpose Flour to 2 Cups only


For Gluten Free Make the Following Ingredient Adjustments
Replace All-Purpose Flour with 2 1/4 Cups of 1:1 Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Baking Flour

STEP 1:
Pre-heat oven to 350 (f) degrees. Prepare a muffin tin with liners. Set aside.

STEP 2:
In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment mix bananas, vanilla, sugars, spice, baking soda and baking powder. Once fully blended and fluffy, whisk in melted butter. Once incorporated, change the whisk attachment to the mixing attachment to fold in the flour (& cocoa powder if making the double chocolate variation) and chocolate chips.

If no stand mixer is available, start by mashing the bananas and sugar together with a fork or potato masher, then with a hand whisk or handheld mixer whisk in vanilla, spice, baking soda and baking powder. Once fully blended and fluffy, whisk in melted butter. Once incorporated, use a spatula and fold in flour (& cocoa powder if making the double chocolate variation) and chocolate chips.

Your batter should be thick and not able to easily fall from the spoon.

Why add the soda & powder to the wet ingredients & not the dry like every recipe on the interwebs??? I’ve found that by whisking the soda & powder with the wet ingredients, it helps to create a fluffier texture. This is why I recommend folding (do not over mix) your flours into the wet to avoid breaking down the fluff you’ve just created. I’m no scientist but baking is a science and to test & experiment is to find new improved ways to do things!

STEP 3:
Fill each cupcake liner to the brim. Don’t overflow but fill them to the top. Place the filled muffin tin in a preheated 350 (f) degree oven for 25-30 minutes. Test with a toothpick to ensure a clean removal & your muffins are done and ready to consume.

STORAGE:
Stores well in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week or in a freezer bag for a few months. Heat up on the go in the oven or the microwave for a few minutes. Perfect with your morning beverage to go!

Enjoy!!

Simple Country White Bread

“Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.” – Ursula K. Le Guin

I first started making bread eight years ago. I was trying to save money and cut out all of the crap in our daily consumption. The original recipe was quite tasty but there were too many ingredients involved for me to consider it cost saving. Plus, a simple tasty slice of bread is made from just a few simple ingredients.

Simple country white bread consists of flour, yeast, water, honey, and flax seed or chia seeds. I add the seeds for protein and omegas. The seeds are 100% optional and not needed to get a great fluffy loaf of bread. I store our loaf in an airtight container in a cool location. The loaf will last the week for the oldest’s sandwiches for lunch or honey toast for my youngest for breakfast. Any leftovers get turned into french toast at the end of the week!

SIMPLE COUNTRY WHITE BREAD

350 (f) degrees / 38 minutes / yield avg. 12-14 slices

  • 3 cups organic unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 tablespoons yeast
  • 1/4 cup organic chia or flax seeds *optional
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons raw local honey

STEP 1: In a bowl combine yeast, honey, and warm water. Note, not too hot or it will kill the yeast. Set aside and let activate. You’ll have a layer of foam when you know the yeast has bloomed.

STEP 2: Once the yeast has bloomed add flour, seeds (*optional), salt, and olive oil. Mix. You can use a stand mixer with bread attachment or the best tools you have in the kitchen… your hands. Mix until combined and kneed for a couple of minutes. Add flour if it is too sticky. Once combined, set aside in the bowl, covered with a dish towel in a warm location. Let rise or double in size.

STEP 3: Prepare a loaf pan with parchment paper. Once the dough has doubled in size, kneed out the air for a couple of minutes, shaping to your desired loaf pan. Cover with dish towel and set aside in a warm location to double in size.

STEP 4: Preheat oven to 350 (f) degrees. Once doubled in size, sprinkle the top of the loaf with some warm water and place in preheated oven for 38 minutes. When finished, remove from oven and loaf pan and place on a wire rack to cool.

STEP 5: Store in an airtight container in dark cool location for up to a week. ENJOY!

Granola Bars

“Before I had kids, I didn’t even know it was possible to destroy an entire house with a granola bar.” – Twitter Quote

I will be revisiting all of the recipes presented on this site, as well as sharing new ones. The first recipe I’ll be revisiting is my infamous granola bars!

When I first wrote this recipe, I was starting a new journey, looking deeper into the food I ate and attempting to make better decisions on what my family consumed. Looking back on the recipe, what seems to be healthy on the outside may not always be healthy on the inside. I chuckle because I had added extra brown sugar in the recipe that really doesn’t need to be there.

Now don’t get me wrong, the original recipe is still very tasty but I decided to remove the brown sugar and make some other adjustments to reduce the amount of sugar we were consuming in our day to day lives. These bars are quick & easy to make and quite versatile. I make a batch weekly for my boys. The granola bars are better than ever and according to my oldest son, should be famous!

GRANOLA BARS

350 (f) degrees / 25 minutes / yield avg. two dozen bars / Prep Time: 15 mins / Bake Time: 25 mins / Total Time: 40 minutes

  • 4 cups organic rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup organic chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup organic flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup organic butter, melted (*can sub coconut oil)
  • 1 cup organic dried fruit, chopped
  • 1 cup organic peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup raw local honey
  • 1/2 cup organic semi sweet chocolate chips (*can sub cacao nibs)
  • 9 x 13 pan
  • sheet of parchment paper

Step 1 – preheat oven to 350 (f) degrees. In a large bowl combine oats, seeds, and chopped dried fruit. Mix well.

Step 2 – fine chop dried fruit of choice. You can really use any kind you like. In my recipe I use 1/2 cup dried chopped cranberries and 1/2 cup dried chopped apricots. Add to the bowl and mix.

Step 3 – add melted butter and mix to ensure all ingredients are coated.

Step 4 – add peanut butter, honey, and chocolate chips. Make sure to mix well so all ingredients are well incorporated.

Step 5 – line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper. Press your granola mixture into the pan, making sure you have an even spread across the pan.

Step 5.a optional – this is where you can get creative. I don’t add this to the ingredient list above but you have the option to add an extra layer of peanut butter to the top of the granola mixture or chocolate chips. When the granola’s are done baking, you would use a spatula knife and spread the layer of chocolate thin to cool and harden. The layer of peanut butter needs no attention after baking

Step 6 – place in preheated 350(f) degree oven for 25 minutes. When finished, place on wrack to cool. Pro tip – once the tray has cooled, place the tray in the refrigerator for an  hour to make cutting your bars less sticky and more uniform. Once cooled you can cut your bars to desired size. I typically cut the bars 4 inches in length which yields me up to 24 bars. Store in airtight container in the fridge for up to a week… If they last that long 🙂

ENJOY!

PS: this recipe is quite versatile and simple to adjust. Don’t want chocolate chips, keep them out. Ingredients not coming together well enough, add more peanut butter or honey. Too sticky, add more oats. Substitute butter for coconut oil. Add any dried fruit of your desire. Add more nuts, chopped up walnuts or almonds or sunflower seeds. The possibilities are endless… have fun and enjoy!

Let’s Talk About Mindset – 2020 Version

Happy New Year! It is still hard to believe it is officially 2020. Honestly I still feel like it’s 1995.

A decade has come to a close and a new decade is upon us. 2020 is considered perfect vision and I’d like to think that after the past 10 years my vision is finally clear. You see, this is not my first time writing about weight loss, fitness, or mental health. Since the decade started, I’ve lost 100 pounds two times over. This was due to extremely difficult pregnancies and an unhealthy outlook on myself. Sadly the weight continued to return. From the start of 2010 over the past 10 years I’ve spent learning how to be a mom, fully devoting myself and every moment of my time to my family. I completely lost myself and my identity in the process.

Around the summer of 2018 I had about enough and I started to dig my way out of a decade (possibly a lifetime) of funk. After months of research I came across a woman who lived in Denver. She was young. She was an athlete. She was preaching some pretty back to basics information that just clicked. She was in the process of developing an online subscription fitness program and recently became co owner of a gym in Denver, CO . You know a million people can tell you the same thing but it will be just one person who says it or performs it in a way that just gets through. Tara broke through.

The following is a testimonial I wrote the first week of January 2019 about the fitness program TL Method and how it has drastically changed my physical and mental health. It is January 1st 2020 and I’m revisiting this write up, realizing not much of my thoughts have changed so I want to share it again. I can’t thank Tara enough. I also can’t thank my team enough. I hope you enjoy. I’ve also included some photos and sample workouts from the program for reference. One of the biggest things that still rings true is that I’m just going to keep going. I’m not going to stop working my ass off to do better and be better than I was yesterday. My life depends on it and I will become a better mom with it. Thank you for reading and thank you for your support.

The LEFT picture is from July 2018 when I made the mindful decision to join the #TLMethod with Tara Laferrara. The picture on the RIGHT is me today, just two days before 2019 came to an end. Not sure how much weight or how many inches have been lost and I don’t care… I look and feel awesome!

PAST POST: Let’s talk about mental health. Let’s talk about fitness. Let’s talk about food. Let’s talk about resolutions & goals.

We’ve made it through the first week of 2019!  High five! The first couple of weeks of the new year seem to be flooded with blueprints for resolutions, reinventing, trying new things, setting new goals.  I believe goal setting is important and I definitely believe in trying new things but I wanted to do something different this year. I’m going to simply keep going. I am going to keep working hard. I am going to keep pushing myself to be better than I was yesterday and the day before.  That’s it. Nothing drastic, nothing out of reach. It is sustainable. I’ve made huge strides in 2018 as it relates to my mindset, my mental & physical health, so I’m just going to keep working hard in 2019 and trying to be a better me every day.  That’s it.  In the past I would set out these giant, unobtainable lists. The ideas are grand but not sustainable by any means.

2018 was a year of lessons, a lot of opportunities to challenge myself and operate outside of my comfort zone.  It was also a year of learning to be comfortable in my own skin.  Sounds a bit odd at my age, but it happened.  Since childhood, I’ve not had a healthy view of what being beautiful & fit was. I had curves and I was beautiful but I didn’t see it as such. I always wondered why I was always more developed than others and it made me embarrassed. I hid under large sweatshirts and baggy clothes.

Never would you find me in tight anything because I was always afraid of how I looked… I’m done worrying about what other people think of me and how I look. I am only concerned with how I feel and I feel great which in turn radiates in my energy I put out.

It has taken years of hard work but I’m learning to have a healthier view of myself vs. what I’ve been fed from childhood. It’s taken time to understand everyone’s body composition is different and that is OK. Once I had my two boys, I struggled with my new body even more than before. There are a lot of stretch marks, scars, and extra skin.  Mentally I was fat, ugly, and exhausted.

Over the last 8 (**now 10 yrs**) years, I’ve lost 100 pounds, twice, after each pregnancy. I experienced difficult pregnancies so physical activity was null each time. My system and metabolism were shot from the hormone changes as a result . I met my weight loss goals each time but my mental goals were far from attained. I obsessed over the number on the scale vs. how my body and mind felt. This was probably the worst part of the process. You believe you’re working so damn hard but yet the number on the scale doesn’t move. I struggled with food. Large portions and emotionally eating. Not necessarily bad foods; simply lacking balance. I would restrict myself from carbs or other foods that made me happy. In my life, restriction equates to failure. I need to be able to sustain the lifestyle and keeping myself from something I loved was making it hard for me to maintain.

For those who have been following me for some time you know I like to cook a lot of good food and drink lovely drinks. This makes me happy and taking away those things was breaking down my mindset to keep going, to be consistent .

I make much of what my household eats, from scratch. I also rely heavily on food prep to ensure I don’t mindless snack or go through a drive thru. I also don’t restrict myself from things that makes me happy.

2018 I made the year to get comfortable with being uncomfortable; trying new things and stepping outside of my comfort zone. I’ve got two boys. I’m still young (definitely at heart). It was fucking time to get off this emotional roller coaster because I have a life to live.  

I did a lot of research, seeking out communities I could relate to.  Growing up, I watched my hard working, single mother use free weights and workout in her living room every evening no matter how long or difficult her day was.  She loved weightlifting.  I remember, I was of preschool age, waiting in line with my mom at a local gym grand opening to get Rachel Mclish’s autograph. Her influence guided me as a teen to purchase my own set of weights & strength train at home.  In my 20s I dove into yoga under Ben Thomas who was a direct student of BKS Iyengar.  In my later 20s I began Sanshou with Cung Le at his Santa Clara gym.  Weightlifting, yoga, and mixed martial arts were all components of fitness in my life as I got older. These are communities I sought out to guide my mental & physical groove today.  It took a few months of trying new things; 8 week yoga or animal flow programs, kickboxing, kettlebell & body weight challenges.  All things I loved but nothing was resonating, still I kept going, I kept trying new things.  The cool thing about exploring new programs was opening connections to people I would not have come across before. This brings me to Tara Laferrara.

I’ve been following a lot of personal trainers on Instagram over the past year. This is how I discovered Tara. May of 2018 I did her 7 day body weight challenge.  After the challenge, she offered an 8 week program that included 6 days a week of planned workouts from weightlifting, body weight, yoga, and mobility exercises. Along with the program came an accountability group.  The accountability group was WAY out of my comfort zone. The program as a whole, included everything that fired my soul. The major plus is I gained a group of supportive people who helped me get through mental challenges. The group on Facebook is private (some of us connect else where as well), and lets you know you’re not alone on the journey.  After the 8 week program she launched a full membership, called the TLMethod, very similar to the 8 week program. I’ve been a member ever since.

I’ve had gym memberships and I’ve signed up for online workout communities but I never stuck with any of them. I live in the country. I don’t have a lot of options close to me. Any extra funds fuel my children’s & husband’s extracurricular activities (Jiu-Jitsu and Mountain Biking). I have a very full schedule and no extra child care. I need something flexible, cheep, and that I can do at home with the equipment I have.

Let me preface this is not a paid promotion. I believe in the program and the support of a community, whether it be live or online. The TLMethod is a program I access via my phone or laptop, anywhere. Over the years I have been gifted or acquired free weights ranging from 1 to 35 pounds. I invested in resistance bands and makeshift certain household items for benches or steps. These, in addition to my body are the only tools I use in the TLMethod. I plan my day to ensure I make time for myself but I don’t have to think about workouts that will challenge me and provide results, Tara does it for me, 6 days a week.

The key statement here is “make time for myself.” Life happens. Life is always going to happen. Life will always provide some road block, speed bump, something to challenge my day to day. How I chose to react to the situation will determine my success to keep going. I also have to make a conscious effort to ensure I make time for me to take care of me because no one else will do it for me. If I am no good to me, I will be no good to anyone else. The work, the chores, the challenges will be there but those moments for you will not. We’re only given so many hours a day. Be wise how you use them.

The program and accountability group is comprised of so many different people, so many different components, yet we’re all showing signs of success through our various journeys. Some Vegan, some Vegetarian, some on Keto, some just going with the flow. Minimal judgement yet full support of the journey. I chose to stop restricting myself and just made better judgement on size and moderation.  I eat everything that makes me happy, but I am smart about the process. 

I wish I could say what the ahha moment was for me.  Possibly seeing the progress.  I stopped obsessing over the number on the scale.  I’ve kept some measurements to give me a gauge but the big win, the success has been how I feel about me.  I feel good.  I feel strong.  I feel beautiful.  I read something about progression photos and how the photo doesn’t show how your mind has progressed. I have no idea how many more inches has been lost since I started this journey and I don’t care. What I care about most is how I feel physically and mentally and right now… I feel fucking awesome!

Me two days before 2019 came to a close. You see, I’ve lost a lot of weight more than once. I have a lot of loose skin and stretch marks for days. I’ve come to love these parts of me because it tells a story of overcoming adversity… bish… those are my tiger stripes!

My journey has been a long one.  I’ve struggled with my mental outlook from childhood to present day.  The addition of becoming a mom made the struggle that much more difficult.  The journey through this program has made me love how I’ve grown.  I love how strong I am.  I love me.  So this new years, I’m going to continue being a bad ass and working hard to be a better me every day.  Ending with an example workout that is part of the TLMethod program . 

TL Method Upper Body Day Example Workout – for complete workouts signup at http://www.taralaferrara.com

Tomorrow I keep going no matter what. This year… I’m going to keep going.  

Rocking my #TLMethod gear into 2020…
Happy New Year & Happy New Decade… YOU GOT THIS!

The Last Time

The Last Time…

Last night, after the hubs and I finished reading a story to our oldest son, the kiddo passed out his typical round of hugs and kisses before jumping into bed. He jumped into my arms and at that moment I realized times were changing and fast. It happened before my eyes. Our oldest son is now 5.5 years old and for these 5.5 years I feel like we’ve done what we could to soak up every minute of his growing, his life, and his experiences… until this moment. He was so heavy; heavier than I could remember. His long legs now dangled down past my knees as he wrapped his arms around my neck. He is no longer the tiny little boy who could jump in my arms and I could carry him around on my hip. He’s a big boy now.

He went from this…Last Time 

…to this overnight!Last Time

Over the past several months I have nursed a high risk pregnancy, recovered from a cesarean section, and since have been carrying a baby around daily. I’ve not been able to pick up my kiddo as I used to months back. At that moment of him jumping into my arms I realized how much I missed. Despite me being present I still missed out on his growth and development into such a big strong boy.

The hubs and I wanted a second child but we had put off getting pregnant for a long time. I knew pregnancy would hinder me useless for several months due to a couple displeasing conditions (Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) and a Septate Uterus). My lack of activity and participation wouldn’t be such a big deal if we were solo but we had a growing preschooler to tend to. I couldn’t pick him up as much, and towards the end, at all. Here today, 11 months later I see how much I have missed out on. I felt like years flashed before my eyes. What happened to my sweet baby?

A couple weeks after we told him he was going to be a big brother. I was at the height of my sickness (HG) and was couch or bed ridden. He was showing me his Ninja Turtle moves to cheer me up.Last Time

The hubs recently wrote two numbers on our kitchen white board. These numbers represent the number of times we have left to plan special moments with the boys before that telltale age when they’re ready to not “hang out” with mom and dad anymore. It makes you realize the time allotted for building memories with them as littles is all too short.

Brothers…Last Time

Time seems to pass even faster now that there are two. I can’t keep my eye on both of them long enough without a growth moment passing before my eyes. In the past three months, since our second son was born, my oldest son has blossomed into a brave, outgoing little boy; doing things we’ve never imagined he’d be doing until now.

Rock climbing all the way to the top!Last Time

First day of KindergartenLast Time

The littlest one is hitting his own milestones, changing diaper sizes, holding his head up without support, cooing, smiling and aware of the world around him. I’m not ready to hear “mom” instead of “mommy”. I’m not ready to let go of the cuddles. I’m not ready to let go of being their comfort when they’re scared at night after a bad dream. I’m not ready to let go of bedtime stories or kissing boo boos or any of it. I want to savor every minute… I wish I had savored more.

I look back on the years I stayed home with my first child and wish I had slowed down and soaked it all in just a little deeper. Due to my age and physical ailments while pregnant this will be the last time. The last time we’ll surprise our family with the news of a baby. The last time I will listen to a heart beat in my belly or feel the moment of flutters and kicks late at night. The last time I wake up in the early morning to change diaper after diaper and nurse hour after hour.

Moments after our 2nd son was born…Last Time

Last Time

I’ve heard some people say “I can’t wait till they’re out of the baby phase.” I get it. The whole process of trying to figure out what the hell you’re doing with this tiny fragile human life and to make sure you don’t fuck up is pretty damn stressful and hard… but I wouldn’t want to rush through any of it.

Soaking up the moments of bonding…Last Time

Looking back on my first son, I was so lucky to have the opportunity to get the extended time with him that I should have savored it more. This is why I’m trying my hardest to savor these moments with my youngest, because this is the last time.Last Time

Graham Bars

Graham Bars

When I was a kid sweets were not a frequent part of our household unless it was the holidays or a birthday. I spent a majority of my after school afternoons at my grandmother’s house waiting for my mom to get off work. The snacks Grandma kept for my afternoon stays were basic; cheese, nuts, fruit, and the occasional package of fig newtons. Needless to say I consumed a lot of fig newton’s given they were the only semi-sweet treat in the house.

Fast forward many years later. I still carried a love of fig newton’s but given our change in food habits, store bought fig newtons didn’t fit into our food lifestyle. Fig newtons were, in our minds, filled with over processed unknown not good for you ingredients. I didn’t think much of making my own fig newton’s until we moved to a property that had a fig tree. Upon having more figs than I knew what to do with (besides sharing with friends) my first attempt in cooking with figs was a pear and fig tart.Graham Bars

Graham Bars Although it was a tasty option I needed to find more recipes to use up the figs… fig jam seemed like the logical next step. The hubs did not approve. He was not a fan. The jam was not a flavor we were used to. It was a simple recipe of orange juice, sugar, pectin, and of course figs. Now here I sit with an abundance of fig jam and nothing to do with it. Then nostalgia set in and my memory of fig newton’s flooded back. Why couldn’t I try? I could use the fig jam as the filling!!

The crust or cookie outer layer of the newton was not as easy to figure out. Most of the recipes I came across were more like a shortbread than a soft cookie. I made a batch. They were OK but I gave up after one attempt. I like shortbread but as a healthy snack it didn’t fit; too much butter, sugar and not much else.

We eventually moved and said goodbye to the fig tree. I took with us several jars of fig jam that I had canned from the previous season. What was I going to do with this jam? I couldn’t waste it. I had to figure something out. Then it hit me; my graham cracker recipe! It was the perfect cookie consistency and something I felt good about making more than once a month. I got to work and made our first batch.

The result was fantastic! I finally did it… fig newtons, graham style… I made graham bars! The hubs and kiddo approved!Graham Bars

I was finally able to use up the last of the jars of fig jam by way of the graham bars but now what was I to do. I no longer had easy access to figs. The logical next step was to use different fillings. Why not get wild with our graham bars…Graham Bars

We made apple…Graham Bars

and blueberry…Graham Bars

Blueberry monster faces of my niece and kiddo… who says kids can’t enjoy a healthy snack and still have fun…Graham Bars

and my favorite… apricot graham bars… all from local organic fruits in our community.Graham Bars

The graham bars are now a go-to in my snack arsenal for the kiddo. You can use any preserve, store bought or homemade. I choose to thicken up my filling by adding in a couple tablespoons of grass-fed gelatin. The blueberry filling didn’t need it because of its already natural heavy pectin content but the apricot needed some thickening. For purposes of this recipe I will reference the apricot but you can use any fruit preserve of your liking, with or without the gelatin added (just skip this step in the recipe and go straight to spreading out on the graham dough).

So here’s to bringing back childhood memories… with a twist… fig newtons graham style… Graham Bars… enjoy!!

 

Graham Bars

350 (f) degrees for 25-30 minutes / 30+ graham bars depending on cut size

Graham Cracker Recipe

1 Pint Favorite Fruit Preserves (we’ll use apricot in this recipe)

2 tablespoons grass-fed gelatin (optional)

 

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 (f) degrees

Step 2: Prepare a deep edge cookie sheet tray with parchment paper

Step 3: In a sauce pan whisk in 2 tablespoons of grass-fed gelatin with your favorite preserves (in this recipe we’re using my homemade apricot jam made with local organic apricots, spice, lemon juice and pectin). After well mixed, remove from heat and set aside to cool.Graham Bars

Step 4: Follow the instructions to make graham cracker dough here: Graham Cracker Recipe. Once you get to the rolling portion of this recipe move on to step 5 below.

Step 5: Cut your ball of chilled graham cracker dough in half. You’ll roll each half separately. Roll your dough in the shape of a rectangle, roughly a quarter inch thick. Transfer the rolled dough to your parchment paper lined cookie tray. The dough will be delicate so be prepared for breakage. It doesn’t have to be perfect… if it breaks, just press the dough back together! Now take your cooled preserves and spread a thin layer over the entire rectangle leaving a quarter inch space around all edges.Graham Bars

Step 6: Now carefully fold each side half way making sure the final fold overlaps the first fold. Press the ends together to keep the preserves from oosing out during cooking. Repeat step 5 and step 6 with your 2nd half of dough. I take a sheet of tin foil and crumple it up to create a barrier between the two halves as there will be spreading during the cooking process. This creates a barrier to avoid the two halves baking together into one.Graham Bars

Step 7: Place the cookie sheet on the center rack of a preheated 350 (f) degree oven for 25-30 minutes till edges are crisp and the graham is golden brown. Remove from oven and rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting. After cooled you may remove the tinfoil barrier and cut desired sized bars. I use a pizza cutter but any knife will do.Graham Bars

Step 8: ENJOY! Your graham bars will store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to a week… or the refrigerator for two plus weeks… if they last that long.Graham Bars

So there you have it… my take on the fig newton… only better! Graham bars. Use your favorite preserves of any kind and enjoy!

 

 

There’s A Bun In The Oven

There’s a Bun in The Oven

It has been an amazing roller coaster of a year, 2014. Our little family found a beautiful place to call home that will allow us to fulfill many of our goals towards a less dependent lifestyle. We have the best neighbors anyone could ever ask for and we are grateful. After 19 years of renting together I believe the hubs and I have paid our dues and this is our reward.

bun in the oven

We’ve spent more time outside this year than in the past 5+ years collectively.

bun in the oven

We created a beautiful garden that will continue to grow and flourish in the years to come.

bun in the oven

bun in the oven

We’ve built our own coop and added some feathered friends to our household for fresh eggs.

bun in the oven

bun in the oven

Despite a full 9-5 schedule with new roles, promotions and more, I’ve still been able to maintain keeping things homemade, from scratch, local, and organic. I’ve been able to keep canning, keep making my kiddo’s snacks from scratch, and most meals… most… are cooked at home.

bun in the oven bun in the oven bun in the oven bun in the oven

Our handsome little boy has grown by leaps and bounds. He’s learned to ride a bike without ever using training wheels and has overcome his fear of swimming.

bun in the oven bun in the oven

He’s developed a love of nature and wildlife.

bun in the oven bun in the oven

He loves to draw and write words, “Mommy, how do you spell…?” He teaches us more and more every day.

bun in the oven bun in the oven

We took one step further in our journey for food closer to home. We learned how to harvest and butcher a pig that has filled our freezer for the year. We added homemade bacon and sausage to what we’ve learned how to make vs. buying at the store.

Bun in the oven bun in the oven bun in the oven

We took tiny steps to get ourselves involved in our new community with hopes for more involvement in the future.

bun in the oven

The hubs and I went on our first real date in over 4 years. Official Date Night of 2014!

bun in the oven

We celebrated 90 amazing years of the woman who has been an integral part of my entire life and has shaped us all, the matriarch of the family.

bun in the oven

I picked back up an old hobby and got the best anniversary present ever, celebrating 19 years with the best father and husband.

bun in the oven

We finally got a real family photo for the first time since our kiddo was born. I also got the opportunity to include my ol’ girl with us in the photos thanks to Marisa Duran Photography.

bun in the oven bun in the oven

I was so happy to capture this moment with my girl because as these photos were taken I knew in my heart there were going to be major changes on the horizon. Positive changes but major ones none the less.

The first of those changes was the major decision to add another four furry legs to our household. As we started the last month of 2014 we welcomed lil’ girl to our home with open arms.

bun in the oven

It may seem that the decision was quick but we’ve been talking about another dog for more than a couple years now. It was important that we didn’t let any more time pass to allow another member of our family to grow with our son. It boiled down to now or never. This statement, now or never, lends well to the next major change in our lives… at the age of 37 with a lot on the horizon it was now or never that we made this final leap to close the circle of our little family…

bun in the oven

From the moment my son was born people were in my ear, “we’ll see you back in 2 years with another”, “when are you going to have another”, “don’t you want more”, “it’s only fair to your son to have a sibling” and the comments continued. Of course I wanted more children. Of course I want a sibling for my son. But it was so much more than that. So much more than most could ever understand. From the moment I learned I was pregnant with my son I was deathly sick. Not morning sickness, all day all night sickness. So sick that one could not drink water or eat food without every ounce coming back up within minutes or hours of consumption. A sickness that depleted every ounce of energy from one’s body where simple tasks like taking a shower or washing a dish would wipe one out for the entire day or week. The sickness has a name and its hyperemesis gravidarum. Only with the assistance of medication and forced fluids was I able to make it through 8 months. My son arrived a month early and after 30 hours of labor and an emergency C-section did we make it out alive and more than well.

Those eight months were the hardest months of my life. In the end it was all worth it but with a heavy price. Not only was my physical tested beyond belief my mental as well. It took close to 6 months before I could get to a true recovery state. In my case, having a child changed every bit of my being and existence. Our lifestyles did a complete 360.

When I was pregnant with my son I had family and friends with 20 minutes of me in any one direction. The husband was close to work and my mom was within minutes to get to me when I was in need. With the strong support of my employer, I was able to take the bed rest that was required while still maintaining my job. I had no one else to tend to other than myself. The hubs did the groceries and cooked dinners. Every so often I’d have to let 2 already potty trained dogs out to wander the yard for fresh air. Otherwise I lay in bed for what seemed to be months. My mom would visit on weekends to bring over my cravings only for me to throw them up soon after. Exhaustion and stress only amplified the intensity of the illness so my activity was minimal to none.

Once my son was born and the questions constantly imposed, I was forced to be reminded daily of how I struggled and how times are now oh so different. I could not imagine (although I know many women who do) having to tend to a very active toddler while trying to manage the extreme sickness. Constant throwing up, nausea that never goes away, dehydration, exhaustion, aches and pains from throwing up, and constipation from the harsh medication. As I mentioned our lives did a 360 which meant that I was no longer brining in an income. We moved well over an hour away from family, friends, and support. I did not have a village to turn to in times of need. For as much as my little man and I had been through in the previous months I didn’t want to take any more time away from him that had already been taken.

The questions were a constant but I was able to push past them without much explanation. After all, most I’d speak with never could truly understand how sick I was.

As time progressed, my son started preschool and I returned to work. We moved on and upward with our lives thinking about our futures. We’ve always wanted more kids but as I just explained the pros and cons were to be heavily weighed. After much thought, planning, and as much preparation as we could do for ourselves knowing what was going to be ahead… we decided it was time. It was now or never and well…

With all of the planning and preparation I had hopes. I had hopes that this pregnancy would be different. After all, it is true that everyone is different… but how different is the question. With my first son I was sick within a day of my missed period. After 2 months of throwing up, extreme dehydration and lack of nutrition the doctors to finally placed me on Zofran, which is an anti-nausea medication. I had also been on Phenergan which was a suppository and only added to the worst experience of my life. It took roughly 4 months for the medication to regulate but if I missed a session, hello toilet!

Given our timing and planning, I had high hopes to be able to surprise the hubs on Christmas with a wonderful ultra sound picture, vibrant and happy, and not nauseous. Wrong. Within a week of my missed period the sickness started to creep on me. Given my history my OB did not hesitate to prescribe Zofran immediately. I know many “natural” moms that follow me and read my ranting’s may look down upon my use of a chemical, synthetic drug during pregnancy. Believe me, I’d rather not be throwing up, I’d rather NOT be taking a bunch of pills just to get through my day… but I can’t. Don’t tell me to eat crackers or ginger. This sickness is so much more than that. Smelling and eating peppermint, ginger, crackers, and broth, etc.; every natural remedy that has been thought of, women of HG have attempted. Even with the use of medications like Zofran the nausea is still very much present on an hourly, daily basis. It also does not always stop the puking sessions. As I mentioned exhaustion is a killer and doing a bit too much no matter how much medication will most likely result in an evening in the bathroom hugging the toilet.

I was a week into the medication when we brought our little four legged fury child home. Our lil’ girl is just that… so little and so new. She is a puppy. Puppies require potty training, puppy training, acclimation to a new home and a new pack. Of course this is also December and my most favorite time of the year. A time filled with decorations, baking, family time, holiday crafts, DIY gift making and more. This is my time and more than ever an important one because it is the last Christmas that I’ll have my kiddo just to myself.

Roughly 2 weeks into the medication, a week with a new puppy, and a mounting list of projects to get done for Christmas ahead, I still had hopes. I was exhausted but not yet sick beyond control.  We were out and about to get our Christmas tree and I had forgotten to bring my medication. Keeping in mind I had not yet told the hubs I was pregnant. I was trying so hard to keep it a surprise but after 19 years he knows me more than I think. I should also take more consideration to understand that not only was the first experience of HG a huge impact for me, it was huge for him as well. We’re in the car and I couldn’t help but express how crappy I felt at the moment and he knew right then and there. “You’re pregnant… aren’t you???” Well, so much for that White Christmas surprise. Instead he learned of the news in the car parked in the parking lot of a FedEx and a Five Guys Burgers. Joy. Coming to the end of the 2nd week of starting the meds and the sickness was rearing its ugly head. Every smell, everything made me sick. My poor kiddo kept asking when I was going to feel better. It’s not like me to sit on the couch for more than a couple minutes at a time. I’m a battery that keeps going and for me to be sidelined causes much concern from those who know me.   I wanted to wait to tell our kiddo till after I made it out of the 1st trimester. I wanted to get past his birthday before sharing the news but there was no hiding it. I was just too sick to keep something like this from him. So that following weekend the hubs and I so carefully told the kiddo he was going to be a big brother. It took some time for it to sink in. It wasn’t until he got to see the ultra sound picture did it really make sense there was something growing in my tummy. Since then he’s been asking a million questions with excitement and curiosity.

It was at roughly 6 weeks into the pregnancy when the illness had fully overcome me. My early morning routine, a routine that I cannot make much adjustment to, was causing great havoc. The sheer act of waking up is a task in itself. Knowing that the moment you open your eyes the nausea will wash over your entire being and you’re in dry heave mode. The light at the end of the tunnel was an already planned time off due to the holidays and an extremely supportive employer and team members. If it wasn’t for my wonderful managers and team members to pick up my slack… I wouldn’t be functioning as I am today. As much as I loathe when my little man catches a cold I was also thankful he was home sick with me so I did not have to rush him off to school. We both spent the week hibernating. He was such a big boy and so helpful beyond belief. The poor hubs who has a 3 hour round trip daily commute has been picking up the extra slack by taking care of dinner and the evening kiddo routine. I’ve been nothing but a lump on a log. I’m of no help. The week of Christmas was the worst so far and I know it has everything to do with exhaustion. I had to do as much as I could for my DIY presents, mandatory errands and doctors’ appointments over an hour away from home. They all took a major toll. By Tuesday before Christmas I was bed ridden and couldn’t move. Despite the medication I threw up daily, dehydrated and in pain. I made it to two family gatherings over the course of Christmas Eve and Christmas, but beyond that… I’ve been bed ridden.

I’ve missed out on crafts with my kiddos, volunteering at his school, baking cookies with the kiddos, and my favorite… amusement park rides with my lil’ man. I had to sit behind while the family went out for a Christmas light celebration and amusement park rides. I’m the one who usually rides the rides with my kiddo and for the first time I wasn’t there. I was so sad but knowing my kiddo was getting a chance to get out and have fun, pushed me through.

At this point in the journey I must take it one day at a time. Some days are more tolerated than others. I am fully accepting that I can’t do all what I do normally. I know there will be a time for it all in the future but for now I must rest. I am concerned for the days to come when work resumes. Will I be able to without being unbearably uncomfortable and putting a strain on my team? I hope for the better. I hope to get past this as I did with my first. Why do I share all of this with you… because a big part of my life has been this blog, the stories I share, the information I share, and the photography that helps me to tell the story. The blog will continue because it’s become a part of me but it will be sidelined until I get past this illness. It could be a couple weeks or it could be the entire duration of the pregnancy. Of course we hope for the best but understand anything can happen.

For now we’ll take it one day at a time and I hope to check in as often as I can with updates on the homestead and all we’re doing to get ready for the next venture in our family’s life. Thank you to all who have been there since the beginning and continue to follow me through the ups and downs. Thank you for the support! From my growing family to yours… I wish you the very best in the New Year!

 

Raising Chickens

Raising Chickens

“I want there to be no peasant in my kingdom so poor that he cannot have a chicken in his pot every Sunday” – Henry IV

I have memories of birds as a child but never had I had the opportunity to work with raising chickens.  I had a duck when I was little.  My duck’s name was Feathers.  He was big and bad.  He attacked all those who came in his path, especially my step mother who’d tend to the flock daily.  My duck would chase her poodle around the yard.  We had one male and two females. I only visited Feathers in the summer and one summer he and his girls were gone.  I have memories of my tita and tito visiting my grandmother bringing along bounty from their garden and eggs from their chickens. I’ve raised parakeets throughout my childhood but that has been the extent of my exposure to birds throughout my life.  Never have I had hands on experience being around, working with, or raising chickens…

Shortly after having our son we started making the lifestyle shift towards back to basics.  During this time we kicked around the idea of raising chickens for eggs.  Unfortunately it was only an idea because of where we lived.  Our landlords would not allow us to have chickens despite my excellent care of their property.  After almost four years of talk, hoping, and wishing we’re finally able to take the step.  We’re raising chickens!

Part of our path to live a less dependent lifestyle is learning how to manage small livestock.  Chickens are the gateway! We are choosing to raise chickens for meat, for eggs, for compost, for pest control, for learning and responsibility, and for family fun!

When we first had the idea we wanted to purchase our chickens from a sustainable source that supported Heritage Breeds.

raising chickens

We still have this end goal in mind, in addition to hatching and raising our own, but we had to get started somewhere.  We have to learn, practice, fail, succeed, and learn some more.  Before we spent extra time and more importantly money, we looked to our local feed store for options.  The feed store had Barred Rocks and Rhode Island Reds.  The Rhode Island non industrial are on the list for the Heritage Breeds but I can’t confirm if the ones we’ve purchased are considered “industrial” or “non-industrial”.  We got 2 of each.  We were told that they were all girls but even the best of the best can be wrong in sexing a chicken.  Only time will tell.

Now the ideal setup would be you get your chickens home (if not already hatched at home) and straight to the brooder.  A brooder is the nursery chicken coop if you will; a non-drafty, warm, clean, secure area for the chicks to roam, and a place for their food and water.  Our ideal brooder will sit in a secure area outside next to an electrical source.  It will be protected from the elements but still allow for the birds to get natural light during the day and closed off and warm at night.

Here is an example of what we would like to have.  I envision ours on legs, high off the ground for me to be able to work from a standing position vs. kneeling.  I also would use a different heat source and have a risible roof for easy cleaning.  We have a cement slab next to our house in vicinity of my view as well as electrical source that would house a brooder nicely.

raising chickens

The heat source I would use would be an EcoGlow Chick Brooder.

raising chickens

Our end goal is to be able to raise our own chickens for both eggs and meat.  We would need a setup for our incubation, brooder, and a final home for the egg birds and the meat birds.  We plan to semi free range our birds.  I say semi because they will still have to be in an enclosed area because of predators.  We don’t have the option to have guardians (dogs) and electric fences. We will depend on large enclosures over pastured areas that allow them to roam, scratch, eat bugs, get sun and fresh air, and still be protected from predators.

For now, this is what we’re working with…

We don’t have a garage that could accommodate such a setup for a brooder and we’ve not yet built our ideal brooder to sit on the cement landing pad outside our house. When we brought our chickens’ home at 2 weeks old they went upstairs to my office.  Yes, I’ve had baby chickens in my office for the past month.  We did some minor research and gathered what little supplies we had at home and got the birds’ setup in my office.  On the surface this is a cute nice idea but in reality – they are dirty birds.  They scratch, they flap their wings, and they make lots and lots of dust.  Each day they get bigger is each day they make more of a mess.   They start to take flight.  They like to roost on the edge of things… poop goes everywhere.  In reality a 4 inch high container is not sufficient no matter how much protection you have on the floor.  Their food & water was always dirty, shavings were everywhere, and as I mentioned they like to roost.  They’d hang out on the edge of the container with their little fluffy butts facing the WRONG WAY… poop everywhere!

raising chickens

After a week of constant sweeping, scrubbing poop, and cleaning their food & water I said enough and purchased a large galvanized metal trough.  Our trough stands 4x4x2.  Resting on leftover cardboard boxes, the trough has been a lifesaver in keeping the birds clean, safe, as well as keeping my office clean.

raising chickens

We’re using a long square wooden dowel along the top of the trough that hangs the water and food.  This allows the birds room to roam but also keeps the food & water out of their poopy mess.  Remember, they love to scratch and flap their semi flightless wings which cause huge amounts of dust and kicks up poop.

If you’ve researched heat sources you’ve found the typical heating lamp that looks like this.raising chickens

During our research we’ve discovered that this heat source comes with several risks and challenges.  The risk is of fire.  These lamps get hot and if they get knocked over in anyway and fall, a fire is most likely the result.  The challenge is that despite it being a dim light it is still a light and can throw off a chicken’s natural balance.  When the sun goes down so should the chicken.  They aren’t humans.  They don’t run off of artificial light.  When the sun is up they are up and when the sun is down they are down.  The EcoGlow is perfect in both regards because it is fire safe and does not emit any light.

We’re raising chickens on a budget right now and getting started for us is using the very basics of what we have around the homestead.  We will scrimp and save to get the safe guards in place that will keep us successful in the future.  For now we will come up with a temporary fix for our housing and heating purposes but for future chicken raising we will invest in the EcoGlow and build a secure brooder that will go outside.

Our heating source was different but simple.  We took a terra cotta plate and on the plate we placed a porcelain light fixture equipped with a cord and 60 watt bulb.  We then placed a terra cotta pot over the top of the fixture and plate.  The plate and all of its contents then rest on top of a large mason brick that is wide enough to support the base of the plate.  There is no light that emits from the fixture.  Even unplugged the terra cotta retains the heat but never gets hot enough to start anything on fire or burn anything that rests upon it.

raising chickens

 

raising chickens

Keep in mind we live in California on the Central Coast.  It will never be Minnesota cold.  These birds are inside my office, free from draft, next to a sunny window in a tall secure trough.  They are cold hardy birds to begin with so this heat source works well in a pinch.  Now if you’re in a state with freezing temperatures, then no, a 60 watt bulb in a terra cotta pot will not be sufficient.  It works for us for now giving us minimal risk and challenge.

raising chickens

The birds huddle near it at night and away from it during the day… it has proven to provide the perfect amount of heat they’ve needed since living in doors.

Every morning I give them fresh water and food and every morning these little peepers greet me.  As they’re getting bigger and braver, they’re hopping up to the top of the tough as I prep their food and water.

The general rule of thumb for keeping your baby chicks warm is 95 degrees at birth and 5 degrees decrease every week till they depart for their new digs.  This age all depends on your chickens.  We’re in preparations now to get our birds outside and they are officially 6 weeks old.  When we first brought our chickens’ home we placed a cardboard box with the bottom open and a door cut out over the heat source.  During the day they’d roam around outside the box but at night they huddled inside the box next to the heat source.

Here are a couple images of our little girls wandering around outside the cardboard box, exploring their surroundings during the day.

raising chickens

Peek-a-boo I see you!

raising chickens

Here you see our lovely Elvis (we thought he was Elvira when we first brought them home… like I said, only time can truly tell) roosting on top of the cardboard box above the heat source.

raising chickens

As they got a little older we removed the cardboard box to allow for the heat to circulate more at night.

Here they will go once they transition outside.  They have a free roaming area to scratch, eat bugs, and roam.  They have nesting boxes and a coop to sleep in and rest at night.  Is this our ideal coop?  No.  We’d prefer our birds to have more room to roam but for now this will do as we learn.  Obviously this will only house a few birds, at most.  My goal is to have a dozen egg layers and roughly 15 to 20 meat birds in rotation.

raising chickens

Once they transition outside it’s not just a matter of placing them in the coop and that is that.  They won’t start laying eggs until roughly 4 to 5 months old.  That is a long way off while they transition to their new digs.  Until then, the nesting box is off limits.  As I’ve read, a sleeping hen is a pooping hen.  If they learn to poop in their nesting boxes then your fresh eggs will have more exposure to contamination.  We’ve secured a simple piece of plywood in the space between the nesting box and the coop.  This will be removed closer to the time they will start laying.

The coop will go in our back clearing, near the landing pad where the brooder will soon go.  They will have the company of our neighbors chicken’s whose very large coop is just up the hill from us.  At night we will place the coop over a hard surface to protect the birds from anything that may attempt to dig underneath.  During the day they will have access to grass, dirt, bugs, and fresh air and sun.

I mentioned earlier our birds are now 6 weeks old.  They’re clearly showing signs that they’re ready to move to the big leagues.  They no longer crowd around the heat source and they’re constantly roosting and attempting to fly the coop.  In preparation we’ve blocked off the nesting box and are putting in a larger more accommodating feeder & water source.  Here you see we are building our own waterer with chicken nipples and PVC tubing.  The nipples were $5 a pack at the local tractor supply and the PVC pipe was just a few bucks at the local hardware store.  We’ll have a similar setup for the feeder and both items will be secured to the sides of the coop to allow the birds to have plenty of room to roam.

raising chickens

This is all trial and error.  I by no means claim to be an expert and am always open to listen and learn from those who’ve experienced more.  We will make adjustments as we go and share those adjustments with you… but for now these fixes are all working well for us and our birds.

Elvis says “what, you have a backyard… then you should have chickens!!!”

Raising Chickens

We realize everyone’s situation is different.  Some are not allowed based on their city ordinances, or possibly they are renters and the landlords won’t allow it.  In those instances I encourage you to seek out local sources for eggs.  First and foremost chickens are NOT VEGETARIANS they eat bugs.  They need to roam and scratch.  They need to free range to be healthy and provide healthy meat and eggs.

Healthy chickens look like this…

raising chickens

Not like this…

raising chickens

If you have a backyard and an interest I highly recommend doing your research and getting started with the basics.  As I mentioned earlier we’re raising chickens for eggs because we eat eggs almost daily, for meat because we want to know where our meat source comes from and deserve a cleaner more sustainable option, for compost because their poop does wonders for our produce garden, for pest control because they eat BUGS, for responsibility because the kiddo has to learn, and for family fun because they are fun little critters that bring us lots of joy.