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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.

365 Project 2014 – Extra Long Week In Review 18 – 27

365 Project 2014 – Extra Long Week In Review 18 – 27 It’s been a little over a week since my last 365 post. I’ve been taking pictures daily, keeping with the cadence of the 365 idea but to avoid inundating those with daily posts I’ve kept it brief. We’re still getting immersed in our surroundings and are still attempting to work out a schedule – there is so much to get started on our tiny homestead… each day is baby steps to our new life…

365 Project 2014 Day 18 – Good day Saturday. Good day Sunshine. Like most Saturdays, I hit the road extra early with my ol’ girl and we trek out a few good miles through our hills. Upon arrival back home the sun begins to peek it’s way over our mountain side and push through the trees. At this point in the year I’m feeling extra guilty for enjoying such a beautiful sunrise as it should be cloudy cold and raining. Not beaming with sun and mild weather.
365 Project 2014 Extra Long Week In Review 18 - 27

We typically don’t let weather stop us from doing much. So even if it was cold and windy out we would have made this trek. But alas, it was not cold and windy… it was perfect weather for a beach day. After a bunch of errands we did just that and hit the beach. It’s the best get away because it’s free and you get the best nature has to provide. Here is my kiddo attempting a sand angel since snow has only been in our dreams.
365 Project 2014 Extra Long Week In Review 18 - 27

365 Project 2014 Day 19 – Day of Rest My beautiful niece and her new best friend. She’s giving comfort to my ol’ girl who is resting on this warm winter Sunday.
365 Project 2014 Extra Long Week In Review 18 - 27

One of the reasons we got to see our niece was for the family to pick up a few jars of my last batch of canned homemade applesauce for the season. It tastes like apple pie and the kids love it.
365 Project 2014 Extra Long Week In Review 18 - 27

365 Project 2014 Day 20 – Sharing is Caring. Our kind neighbor allowed us to invade their Meyer lemon tree. The possibilities are endless with Meyer lemons. Imagine if every neighbor had a fruit tree and shared.
365 Project 2014 Extra Long Week In Review 18 - 27

One of the many Meyer lemon results – candied Meyer lemon slices.
365 Project 2014 Extra Long Week In Review 18 - 27

365 Project 2014 Day 20 – Beach Day, again… We had taken a break from the beach because the past couple of months had been filled with preparations to immerse ourselves in a new environment, then we had the holidays to get past… we’re finally settling back into a routine and one major part of our routine is enjoying plenty of activity outside. We’re fortunate to be close to such beauty and minus some gas for the tank, adventure like this costs nothing but your time… this is time well spent.
365 Project 2014 Extra Long Week In Review 18 - 27

365 Project 2014 Day 21 – Sweet Start One of the results of the Meyer lemon cook off… Meyer Lemon Coffeecake. Yes, breakfast was delightful. Local organic ingredients and homemade. There is nothing better.
365 Project 2014 Extra Long Week In Review 18 - 27

365 Project 2014 Day 22 – Hey What’s That in the Sky? I almost forgot what clouds looked like. We’ve had clear cloudless skies for a couple weeks now. It’s the middle of winter and we’ve not a drop of water, not a cloud in the sky, not a cool day in sight. It’s scary to think about what is going to happen in the face of this drought. I’m doing my research and making every effort to conserve, educate, and hope for rain. Rain dance anyone?
365 Project 2014 Extra Long Week In Review 18 - 27

365 Project 2014 Day 23 – Good Night Sun. Despite a short week it’s seemed quite long and tiring to say the least. Letting go of the day’s stress to a peaceful sunset… good night sun, thank you for the beautiful view.
365 Project 2014 Extra Long Week In Review 18 - 27

365 Project 2014 Day 24 – Growing Up Fast I’m trying to figure out where the time went. I’m sitting here working when I look over and see my soon to be 4 year old attempting to write the word SHOES. Moments ago I had listed off to him the various errands that we had to run last that day and he then asked me how to spell SHOES. I spelled it for him and as I did, he wrote. I’m so proud but at the same time… wishing time would slow down just a bit… I’m not ready for this 🙂
365 Project 2014 Extra Long Week In Review 18 - 27

365 Project 2014 Day 25 – Exploring with Daddy It’s something special when you can hike off into the woods and explore… right in your own backyard.
365 Project 2014 Extra Long Week In Review 18 - 27

It gives me a warm feeling to watch my boys wander off in the sunset…
365 Project 2014 Extra Long Week In Review 18 - 27

365 Project 2014 Day 26 – Seed Count In the face of a drought, planning is key. Now that we’re settling into our new surroundings it’s time to get the garden in order. Our dependence on mainstream agriculture is causing a depletion of resources. If those who could, would grow their own produce, using water saving techniques… imagine the resources we could save and repair. The plan is to start the garden earlier this year to avoid the major heat of the summer and need for extra water. Time to take stock of those seeds…
365 Project 2014 Extra Long Week In Review 18 - 27

365 Project 2014 Day 27 – Avatar Tree The hubs calls this our Avatar tree. It’s the biggest tree in our view. It’s so majestic and mysterious. When Eucalyptus moves in the strong winds it makes a squeaking howling sound if you will. This morning’s fog was so thick and the wind blowing good that it sounded like rain falling. A girl can dream right…
365 Project 2014 Extra Long Week In Review 18 - 27

365 Project 2014 Week in Review 13 – 17

365 Project 2014 Week in Review 13 – 17

365 Project 2014 Day 13 – Homemade Bread After a full weekend of sick boys I had to spend Monday catching up on some of our basic staples. One of which is homemade bread. We have not purchased store bought bread (minus the occasional local baked sour dough) in years. I make our daily bread, buns for burgers, I’ve attempted hot dog buns or pretzel buns if you will but those need some perfecting. Considering 2 loaves of well made bread from the store costs roughly $3-4 each, I estimate I’m saving $20 bucks a month on bread alone in my grocery bill. That’s a rough estimate but either way I’m saving money and I know exactly what ingredients are being put into my bread.
365 Project 2014 Week in Review 13 - 17

365 Project 2014 Day 13 – Tea Time I’ve never been a big tea drinker. I can remember spending nights at my grandmother’s house and her evening routine always involved a hot cup of chamomile tea. Anytime she was sick she always had a cup of tea. It was a warming healing comfort to her. Well I needed that very much Monday evening. With boy the big boy and the little boy very sick I could feel it creeping up on me. Thankfully my cousin had gifted us some tea recently so I pulled out my cups and enjoyed a warm cup of calming chamomile tea. It worked. At least in my mind it did. It soothed my throat and relaxed me for the evening. Thankfully for the remainder of the week I fared way better than the boys. Could it have been the tea?
365 Project 2014 Week in Review 13 - 17

365 Project 2014 Day 14 – Learning to Snap No he’s not flipping me off although it looked like when I took the picture. He’s learning to snap and doing a mighty fine job at it too. He was so proud when his little fingers made the sound.
365 Project 2014 Week in Review 13 - 17

365 Project 2014 Day 14 – Bird Watching More like deer watching.
365 Project 2014 Week in Review 13 - 17

365 Project 2014 Day 15 – Happy Hump Day We’re mid week…watching the sunset on our ridge line gives me a sense of calm.
365 Project 2014 Week in Review 13 - 17

365 Project 2014 Day 16 – I’m an Artist! You sure are kiddo… you sure are!
365 Project 2014 Week in Review 13 - 17

365 Project 2014 Day 17 – Homemade Granola Bars TGIFF! It’s Friday and it couldn’t come too soon. I’m not a fan of rushing my days by but this week has been tiring with sick men and being cooped up with them. Once again, catching up on our weekly staples since I was preoccupied with my guys. Granola bars is another staple like bread that I choose to make myself. Consider you buy a box of granola bars at the store containing 6 bars at roughly $5 a box. I would have to go through a cost breakdown but on the surface the ingredients I used today didn’t equate to $5, it was less than and I came out with 24 bars. My kiddo eats at least one to two of these a day. Filled with organic oats, nuts, dried fruits, honey, and peanut butter… these have been the best homemade treat I’ve made to date.
365 Project 2014 Week in Review 13 - 17

365 Project 2014 – Days 9, 10, 11, & 12

365 Project 2014 Day 9 – Pinch me, I’m dreaming. The hubs and I both agree it’s still not sunk in that we live amongst such beauty. We were in the thinking realm of something’s got to happen… you can’t live waiting for something bad to happen. You can be prepared as best as you can but for the most part you must enjoy the moments as they are here; one day they will not be. Enjoy every moment you can.
365 Project 2014 Day 9, 10, 11, & 12

365 Project 2014 Day 10 – Dusty poo. This is what my son calls horse manure. He greeted our neighbor to tell them we were here to get some dusty poo. Yes, I’m shoveling shit for our garden. Some people would think gross, ewe, stinky, yuck and well, yes after all I’m shoveling shit. Surprisingly though I am fine. I don’t mind being outside working hard towards something that will overall benefit my family, our health, and our environment. Let’s also address the elephant in the room – the obvious 20 pounds extra on my frame. I’m not making excuses. Plain and simple, I didn’t put in the effort when times got rough over the past few months. From October till recently my mind has been preoccupied but today I am back on track. It’s ok to detour, whether good or bad, you’ve learned something from the unplanned path. Now back to where I was headed… 365 Project 2014 Day 9, 10, 11, & 12

365 Project 2014 Day 11 – Good day. 5 miles of hills under our belt and now a cup of coffee in hand while we watch the sun rise. Always a great way to start the day.
365 Project 2014 Day 9, 10, 11, & 12

365 Project 2014 Day 11 – Got Pie? There is nothing better than a warm gooey slice of homemade apple pie. This pie is for some friends who so generously donated practically brand new items to us for our new abode. They were moving and donating as they went. Since we’re unable to monetarily compensate I bake instead. This is my way of thanking those who provide such generosity. I wish I could do more…
365 Project 2014 Day 9, 10, 11, & 12

365 Project 2014 Day 12 – More dusty poo. Today I built out a temporary compost bin. Our neighbor was so kind enough to provide some temporary supplies till I get my plans in order. Given I am a little behind in the garden preparation area they thought it only fitting to help us get started with a few bits here. The surrounding material is a thick black flexible plastic with holes for air. I’ve got T-posts in various places to keep the sides from falling in. I then began layering. I was fortunate to have access to a tumbler composter so I had a good batch of moist already composting bits to add to the dusty poo. For now I will use the tumbler in conjunction with the open container. Each day I have a bucket of compost I’ll add to the tumbler and by end of week I’ll get a load of dusty poo and add the contents of the tumbler in layers. I’ll turn everything once I get to 3 or 4 feet of mix (reminder since I’m just starting). Soon I’d like to have at least 2 large rotating bins in conjunction with the tumbler and of course… a worm bin or two 🙂
365 Project 2014 Day 9, 10, 11, & 12

365 Project 2014 – Day 7 & 8

365 Project 2014 – Day 7 & 8

SLACKER! Yes, I’ve already fallen off the wagon in terms of keeping up with my posts. It has been a while since I’ve been in the blogging cadence so bear with me folks as I get my organizational act together!

365 Project 2014 – Day 7: Tuesday. Zombie Status. It was a rough morning. I woke at 1230am and never went back to sleep. A whole whopping 3 hours of sleep. I didn’t let that hold me back though… the ol’ girl and I hit the hills for our daily early AM trek. Needless to say I believe we were both pooped and cold when we returned. She’s always raring to go when we head out. Dog nails tip tapping on the hardwood floor, getting overly excited while I gather her leash and other items. Now she’s snuggled in her favorite blanket, out for the count as soon as we returned.
365 Project 2014 - Day 7 & 8

365 Project 2014 – Day 8: Rhubarb. The hubs came home with a donated rhubarb transplant for the garden. This weekend we’ve got to get the deer fencing up so I can start laying out the container system we will use for this year’s garden.
365 Project 2014 - Day 7 & 8

365 Project 2014 – Day 6

365 Project 2014 – Day 6

A Moment of Peace…
365 Project 2014 - Day 6

He’s Got the Eye of the Tiger (< —YouTube link) In our house we often break out into random song. It could be an original or a cover but song will occur. Don’t worry, we’re not attempting American Idol anytime soon but this moment I just had to capture. The kiddo was playing with some fun activity stickers he received as a gift and felt the need to belt out this tune. You can thank the hubs for this one; he’s a fan 🙂
365 Project 2014 - Day 6

365 Project 2014 – Day 5

365 Project 2014 – Day 5

Sun & Dirt Therapy Now that we’re finally unpacked (for the most part) and settled in to our new homestead the planning, cleaning, and preparation of all sustainable tasks begins. I realize now, even though I’m damn good at what I do professionally (what I went to school for), I was meant to be and work outside. I’m working hard today to balance the two worlds and so far it’s paying off but it’s not been an easy task. Being surrounded by all of this… is my payoff for the hard work.
365 Project 2014 - Day 5