Tag Archives: chickens

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.

Welcome to Bell Hill Farm & Hen Scratch Quilting, Hollister CA

Welcome to Bell Hill Farm & Hen Scratch Quilting, Hollister, CA

It was a late winter afternoon as I drove through the hills along Cienega Road in Hollister, CA. Blossoms are falling from trees and tiny green leaves are budding, letting us know spring is on the horizon. Also known as the “Wine Trail”, Cienega road is home to gorgeous views and a handful of the town’s best wineries scattered along the hillside. DeRose Winery, a “green winery”, is one of the wineries along Cienega Road and just a short distance from the gravel road leading the way to Bell Hill Farm. The steep road is lined with oak trees and the chiming sounds of bells are heard from a distance above. I’m on my way to spend the afternoon with John and Janet Locey and their brood of animals of Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting.

Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting
Beautiful views that surround Bell Hill Farm

The hillsides along the road to their home are lined with mossy oak trees, picturesque of a woodland fairytale. The road, although gravel lined, is still rough and you must take care when climbing the hill. I carefully navigated my way around the backside of the house, found a parking spot and setoff to find Janet. I was greeted by a couple of four-legged furry family members, wagging tails, wet noses and all. I located Janet sitting in front of the house workshop. In her arms was a tiny 1/2 French Alpine 1/2 American Alpine goat, Chico, only 2 days old. The goat is one of three babies and was not faring along as well as the others despite being bigger than her siblings. Janet was feeding the baby goat because she had not gotten up to feed off her mother. I was fortunate to hold the baby goat for a moment after Janet fed her. Soon after placing the goat back with her mother, she was up and moving around. What a special moment it was for me to experience, witnessing the little goat fight to stand on its own. For Janet, this is nothing new; these are experiences she meets daily.
Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting

Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting
Chico exploring the daffodils after braving her first few steps

After tending to the baby goat, we jumped into our chat taking stock of every animal, project, and task in process at the Locey homestead. While Janet escorted me through her life I couldn’t help but notice how many projects she was immersed in and how she was keeping up with them all. I could barely keep up pace with her as she climbed the hills checking on her animals.

Janet and her husband John manage a family of goats, sheep, chickens, and ducks for their personal homestead, as well as operating Bell Hill Farm (Goat Milk Soaps & Lotions) and Hen Scratch Quilting (sewing machine repair, quilting retreats, patterns, quilts, supplies and more!). The ducks and chickens provide eggs & meat, the goats provide milk, the sheep provide meat, and Janet & John harvest it all for their family. Their home rests on the middle of the property. The surrounding hills are covered with wild flowers and moss-covered oaks. The goats live on the bottom half of the hill and the sheep on the upper half, all grazing on beautiful wild forage. The chickens and ducks keep watch near the goats and the dogs & cats follow John or Janet around the homestead keeping watch of them all.

Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting
Janet trying desperately to get out of the picture and her beloved Alpine Annamae

Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting
Moses the guardian of the pack
Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting
Sheep!!
Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting
Janet’s view from her milking stand

Janet was born and raised in Northern California on her family’s pre-gold rush era ranch where they farmed row crops. Her mother and grandparents kept chickens, which is how she developed a great love for the bird. Despite her deep roots of country living Janet had no prior experience raising small livestock such as sheep and goats. She and John raised their family on what you would call an urban homestead in the South Bay of California, almost 40 years ago. This urban homestead consisted only of chickens but her deep country roots were calling. Janet needed to move her family and her chickens elsewhere. It was then decided Janet and John would move their family to the Central Coast and the hills of Hollister California, over 25 years ago. Janet’s love for chickens helped them settle in the place they call home today. Janet advised it wasn’t the beautiful house or the picturesque landscape that sold her… it was the existing chicken coop on the property. An instant home for her chickens… she was sold and they moved in! When Janet and her husband John purchased the property it was covered in thick brush. To manage the terrain, they bought a couple of Alpine goats. Janet explained, “For a family on a shoe string budget you learn to be creative in how you tackle the challenges ahead.” While the goats were managing the brush they also managed to have… babies!

“A couple of goats, led to babies that led to milk, which lead to soaps & lotions” Janet explained as we walked along the fence line to the goat’s home. “It was a natural progression to go from having too much goat’s milk, not knowing what to do with it, to making soaps and lotions” Janet explained. “There is always enough milk for our soaps, lotions, for our family to drink, and even enough at times to make cheese for our family.” She took me along the goat’s path and I got to see spring in action, each area holding several babies and their mothers. All of Janet’s goats are registered with the American Dairy Goat Association. This allows Janet to track each goat’s heritage and milk line.

Through a course taken at UC Davis sponsored by the DHIA (Dairy Goat Improvement Association) Janet is a certified Goat milk tester. One day a month the amount of milk from each goat is weighed and recorded and a sample is taken and sent into a lab for testing. Reports are generated for milk production, percent protein, percent fat and somatic cell count (health of udder) along with various other information. Decisions on breeding and culling are based on these production records. The information gathered through this program goes into a data bank providing valuable information to the individual dairy goat owner and gathers statistics for the entire goat industry to use in research and educational programs.

The production data gathered though the milk test program may be submitted to the American Dairy Goat Association and the individual goat may earn a star if she meets the production requirement for her particular breed. The star may be passed down to her daughter if she meets the requirements then her registration papers carry the designation of a two star milker. That daughter may have a daughter that meets the requirement and then she would be a 3 star milker and so on. The goats must be on official test to earn the star and you can’t skip any generations. This information gives Janet direct insight into how she can better care for her animals.

I was already dizzy from all the information and how Janet kept up with it all; we had only just begun the tour. Between the goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, dogs and cats… who would have time to make goat’s milk body soap, lotion, and recently added to the lineup of products, laundry soap? I had to know how she was motivated to do this. What led Janet Locey and her family down the path of self-sufficiency, handcraftsmanship, livestock, and eventually Bell Hill Farm & Hen Scratch Quilting?

For over 30 years Janet worked as an accountant for local city governments and school districts; John was a maintenance manager for a local food processing plant. Although their careers provided a stable living for their family, they were frustrated with the outcome of industrial systems and their dependency on so many unnatural things. Janet and John believed there had to be more; more to offer their family and their community. Soon after moving into their country home, they began to experience the satisfaction of getting back to the basics.

Janet finished up outside and we made our way into the house. I was greeted by the sweet aroma of soap & lotion scents mixed with the savory aroma of a roasted chicken she was cooking for dinner. We worked our way down the hall and stopped at the first room; Janet’s office and soap room. The walls were lined with scents, packaging, bottles of lotion, and trays of curing soaps. Her desk was covered with soap wrappers and hemp ties, getting ready to package the next order for Sunday’s farmers market. I was in heaven. Something about the smell of plumeria and ginger (two yummy scents Janet provides through her soaps and lotions) that settles me. I took a moment before having to leave the room. I held each bar of soap to my nose inhaling deeper and deeper, trying to keep the scent with me. Before we left the soap room I noticed a stack of framed pictures. Janet pulled a handful of the frames out from behind some boxes. These pictures were much too beautiful to be hiding away. Looking closer I saw Janet’s signature donned the bottom corners of each piece. This was nothing more than a labor of love for Janet. A mixture of water colors and detailed lines – I got lost in her pictures, wanting to visit the places she was able to create on paper. Her prints are recreated on thick card stock note cards that follow her to farmers markets. Her art also hangs in a local bakery downtown.

Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting
Handmade, handcrafted goat’s milk body soap… Janet hand bevels each edge and personally wraps each bar of soap before packaging
Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting
Janet’s prints can be purchased at Heavenly Bakery in historic downtown Hollister, CA

We finished up in the soap room and moved on to the next room… the quilt room. You are greeted by a 3 foot pile of completed quilts and the walls are covered in quilts – all made by Janet. These quilts have intricate details and creative patterns. Janet’s quilts are truly a work of art. This beautiful quilt was published in two magazines “American Patchwork and Quilting” and “Quilter’s Newsletter.” Turns out the original quilt was a historic item and had been burned in a museum fire. Janet’s recreation was inspired by an AQSG (American Quilt Study Group) project and the quilt traveled for two years, displayed in museum exhibits and quilt shows across the nation.

Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting

Its mind-boggling when you focus on the detail of her work – it slowly starts to sink in and you begin to understand the tedious detail and patience it takes to put something like this together. I asked how long it took to sew one of the detailed quilts and without missing a beat, Janet quickly replied, “a year”. There in this room was a stack; a thick, time-consuming stack of quilts that were all carefully handcrafted and designed by Janet. She designs quilts and creates patterns for Maywood Studios Fabric for both Fall and Spring Quilt Markets each year. Three times a year Janet hosts a quilting retreat at the Saint Francis Retreat Center in San Juan Bautista. Her first session is SOLD OUT but there are still spaces available for the remaining two sessions. We left the quilting room, with my hands still in the pile of quilts… I had my eye on one. It was a turtle theme with varying shades of green and paisley patterns. I really want that quilt.

We briefly stopped in John’s workshop before heading off to Janet’s sewing room. A workshop filled with sewing machines and all of their little bits and pieces. John cleans and repairs old Featherweight sewing machines… in his spare time. He helps keep Janet up and running so her quilting deadlines can always be met. He also helps maintain many of the machines from guests who attend Janet’s “sewing sessions”. Each week Janet hosts a handful of women at her home in her sewing room. They work on quilts, learn new techniques, and share information. The room is long and the walls are covered with books and quilts. There are tables in the center of the room covered with sewing machines and pieces of brightly covered fabric and patterns. Janet thumbs through the shelves and quickly finds a stack of patterns. She spread the colorful fabric out in front of me and with a pre-made square she briefly showed me how she gets beginning quilters started.

I could see how passionate Janet was about teaching. Janet noted that through teaching others she gains so much more knowledge. “If you don’t learn something from those you are teaching, you’ve not done your job correctly”, Janet explained. We left the sewing room and worked our way through the house to the kitchen, our final destination and of course one of my favorite places to be! I was in heaven as Janet showed me all of her homesteading gadgets. From ice cream makers, to grain grinders, milking buckets, cheese presses, and even a fizzy water maker… Janet had everything a homesteader would need to make life easier and enable one to be more self-sufficient. One of the best parts of my visit was the taste of fresh goats milk cheese. Janet utilizes the extra milk from her goats to make several different types of cheese for her family’s consumption. There is a tiny “college” refrigerator sitting in the corner of her kitchen. This is the cheese fridge housing months of delicious aged goodness. Janet explained that it doesn’t make sense for her to take Bell Hill Farm goat milk tasks beyond soaps and lotions. Janet and her goats may make fantastic cheese but a certified dairy is a costly venture that she & John are not able to take on at this point in their lives.

Our visit was coming to an end. Janet shared with me a taste of their dinner; one of their own chickens, roasted, along with steamed rice made with homemade broth and local wheat berries. She had just finished washing the fresh collected chicken and duck eggs from her flock. She had several buckets lined up on the sink ready to go for the next milking of the goats. There was a giant container of soap shavings that she was getting ready to process for laundry soap. Across the kitchen sat a loom with a half transformed “rag rug”. It was clear that no matter the time of day, or day of week… Janet had something going, something in process. She was busy and she was happy. Janet explained that she’s coming to a point in life where most people would find themselves retiring and settling down – but she is not. She’s finally found her calling… she knows now what she wants to be when she grows up. “If only I started sooner; if only I was doing the things I am now with the energy I had in my 30s and 40s”, Janet explained with sincerity. With the very best advice she could provide, Janet expressed to me, “don’t stop what you’re doing. This is the best thing for your son, for your family, and for your health. You are making a difference and can make a difference in educating and motivating others”… on getting back to the basics of life.

It gives me great pride to share with people a story of a loving married couple of 40 years who do more in their 60+ young years of age than most 20 something’s’ I know. Thank you Janet and John for allowing me in your home and sharing with me your lives… Welcome to Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting!

Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting

Bell Hill Farm Products are:
– Goats Milk Body Soap
– Goats Milk Body Lotion
– Goats Milk Laundry Soap

All products are available in unscented. Other scents available are Almond, Lavender, Lilac, Plumeria, Sandalwood, Spice Mahogany, Vanilla, Yuzu, and Wild Oats & Honey. Janet can also put together special requests.

Benefits of Goats Milk Soap & Lotion:
– Does not contain harsh detergents or additives
– High levels of cream in goat’s milk provide moisturizing qualities
– Goats milk is high in protein, fat, iron, vitamins B, C, D, E providing bacteria killing properties (acne) and helps retain skins moisture
– Goats milk naturally contains glycerin for high moisturizing properties
– Low pH to that of human skin allowing for better absorption
– Goats milk naturally contains lactic acid which is an alpha hydroxy acid found in skin rejuvenation products

Bell Hill Farm Products can be purchased at:
– Directly from their website
– Local farmers markets (schedule on the Bell Hill website updated monthly)
– A monthly, 6 week, or bi-monthly CSA program with auto ship, details at the website
– At San Benito Bene in historic downtown Hollister, CA

Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting

Hen Scratch Quilting Patterns, Retreats, and more…
– Visit Hen Scratch Quilting for patterns that you can order directly from the website
– Janet also makes and provides supplies for Rag Rugs, perfect throws for every area of the house
– Contact John Locey via email for more information on Featherweight sewing machine cleaning, repair, and supplies

Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting

Janet’s prints can be purchased at:
Heavenly Bakery in historic downtown Hollister, CA
– Local farmers markets (schedule on the Bell Hill website updated monthly)

Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting

Original post written on March 17th, 2012 by The Sustainable Sweet & Savory Gourmet at site: welcome-to-bell-hill-farm-and-hen-scratch-quilting-hollister-ca