Thursday, May 31, 2012

so much depends...

upon a red wagon
that used to carry children

and now carries
garden tools
branches for the goats
buckets of weeds
chicken feed
kelp for the cows

How do you haul?

Rural Thursdays.  Check it out here.  And I promise, this is my last rip-off poetry attempt.  Probably.

Rural Thursday Blog Hop

Friday, May 25, 2012

Homestead Where You're Planted

I think about ways to save money a lot.  It's one of the reasons we're doing what we're doing.  But truth be told, there are a lot of ways out there to save money, couponing being one of the most popular.  I tried a bit of that, but like many people, can rarely find coupons for items - especially food - that I actually buy.

So I thought I'd start a series about frugal living to encourage others in leading healthy, full lives without going broke.  I'm cheating a bit on this first installment, because I recently submitted a guest post to Money Saving Mom and am providing a link to it below.  "Homestead Where You're Planted" is the original title, and will suffice as the title to this post as I mull over a catchy title for the series.  Sorry - I'm spent right now.  Let's just say that running over a pothole and ruining two tires is not going to be a money-saving topic I address.

But at least we can (grudgingly) have the repairs made, thanks to other ways we find to save.

In the meantime, click here to read my Money Saving Mom post: "Save Money by Skipping the Grocery Stores"!

I'm linking up with Rural Thursdays!

Rural Thursday Blog Hop

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I'm a Mama Hen Again

But at least I didn't have to sit on any eggs.  Take a peek at our new peeps:

Barred Rock.  We have 31, and two are probably roosters.  We find that the hatchery always sends a couple extra.  These will be our new flock of laying hens.  Maybe I'm imagining things, but they seem sweeter than the Rhode Island Reds we got last year.

Cornish Cross.  We ordered 60 and got 62.  These are rather delicate birds, prone to foot problems, but they make wonderful broilers and are ready to butcher in about seven weeks.  I know, it's hard to imagine looking at this cute little guy!

And here's Mystery Chick.  So far, so good, unlike last year's little terror.  You can read here about Napoleon, our little Dominique Dictator.  Our neighbors got chicks several weeks ago and their two Dark Brahmas looked just like this.

Though the anticipated early morning ride to the post office to pick these little guys up is honestly a lot of fun, we'd eventually like to find a more sustainable model to follow.  For instance, why not let the hens hatch out some eggs?  We haven't spotted any broody girls yet, but we're watching.  As far as meat birds go, Cornish X do not reproduce well, but are the quintessential American meat bird.  We've been thinking of trying Freedom Rangers at some point, which are more of a heritage breed, but need to research the possibilities of letting them breed, too.  And we're not quite ready to do that...

Any other spring chickens out there?  Click here or below to check out the Homestead Barn Hop!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Are Your Fruit Trees Surrounded?

Last spring we planted twenty-something fruit trees from Stark Brothers, and placed the trees up at the front of the property, which was an otherwise useless space.  I admit that I wasn't the best caretaker of said fruit trees last spring and summer, as various bugs took up residence in the leaves.  This spring, however, I have determined to be more preventive, especially because I've heard that our mild winter neglected to kill off many pests, and that we're in for a rather buggy summer.  In other words, we're doomed.  Well, at least our plants are.

Since I'm also determined not to spray chemicals on my trees, this spring I'm trying Surround, an organic, clay-based spray that is supposed to protect the leaves and fruit from many destructive insects.  But it's apparently harmless enough to humans that you can eat it...not that I would.  Anyway, we first heard about Surround from Edible Landscaping, but it looks like it can be ordered from several places online if you do a Google search.

Young pear tree sprayed with Surround.
The first round should be sprayed on the leaves after the flowers fall off in the spring, and then after heavy rains (it takes a pretty heavy rain or two to wash the Surround completely off).  Generally, it needs to be re-applied every 7-14 days early in the season, and every 14 to 21 days later in the season when there's not as much new growth.

A downside of Surround is that, as you can see, it turns your trees white.  Does anyone know of other options if aesthetics are a concern?

Baby pears sprayed with Surround.
I will keep you posted on how well Surround protects our trees, but the only issue I've really had so far is with application.  After ruining four junky spray bottles, I broke down and bought a gallon sprayer from a big box store.  However, I'm not thrilled with it because it was cheap.  I'm also not thrilled with my thrifty self at the moment, because I never seem to learn that you get what you pay for.  I did a quick search on Amazon, and there seem to be some good sprayers out there in the $20-$30 range.  Any recommendations???

Here's some other unrelated, unsolicited advice regarding fruit-bearing trees:

1. Plant them instead of ornamentals.
2. Since they can take several years to bear fruit, the earlier you plant them, the better.  If you move to a new place, plant them before you unpack your toothbrush.  Seriously.
3. The first year, if your trees bear fruit, pluck all but maybe two or three off of each tree.  I know, it's painful.  But the trees need to focus their energies on forming strong roots, and if the fruit is allowed to ripen, much of that energy will be concentrated on the fruit and not the roots.  Strong roots = better fruit in the years to come.

Note: Surround has not, in any way, endorsed or sponsored this post. Its purpose is to educate others about my experiences as well as glean from the experiences of others who may have used this product.

I'm linking up with Rural Thursdays!

Rural Thursday Blog Hop

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Great Phytic Acid Debate

For those of you who bake breads from scratch, you may have run across the phytic acid debate in your search for methods and recipes that make for healthy food for your family.  If you're like me, you may have run across it years ago, dismissed it, and then years later panicked about it after being barraged by websites and blogs telling you that whole grains are killing you (and your loved ones) slowly and painlessly.

In short, phytic acid is present in both the bran and hull in most grains, nuts, beans, and seeds.  Because it has strong binding properties, it clings to both toxins and minerals in the body, and carries them out of the body with it.  Do you see how this can be both good and bad?  Sure, it gets rid of toxins, but can also leave you mineral deficient.  Click here to read a more detailed description from Nourishing Days.  If you are familiar with Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions cookbook, then you've probably read in detail her concerns and solutions for the presence of phytic acid in certain foods, the main solution being to ferment grains for several hours before consumption.  This can be done using a variety of methods, the most popular being soaking grains and/or flour in a cultured product such as yogurt, buttermilk, vinegar, or kefir. 

On the contrary, Bread Beckers offers the counter-argument.  Click here to read Sue Becker's take on the debate.

Where am I falling right now?  Somewhere in between.  Ever since we began grinding our own flour, I've noticed a huge difference in the health of our family, so I have a hard time believing what we've been doing is all bad.  Sally Fallon recommends the famous slowly-fermented sourdough bread instead of yeast breads, though the rising time in yeast breads can break down some of the phytic acid.  My rising times probably aren't long enough at this point to totally break down the phytic acid, but I feel comfortable with the yeast breads I've been baking for my family until I can do more research.

However, I have been soaking the flour I use for quick breads overnight, which has alleviated some of my "what-if-they're-right" concerns.  It has thrown me for a loop as far as the recipes I use, but I've found The Nourishing Gourmet (thank you, Christine!) to be helpful.  Her pumpkin muffin recipe rocked, but if anyone has a good soaked-grain recipe for strawberry muffins, send it on over!  My adaptation of my old recipe literally fell flat.

What about rice, beans, and other grains?  I've been trying to soak those as I remember to do so.  At this point in my life, recipe planning is non-existent.  The house, the garden, the children, and the animals all occupy a great deal of my time, so we kind of just rotate through the same types of meals every week.  It both drives me crazy and keeps me sane, if that makes sense.

So where are you in the Great Phytic Acid Debate?  Do tell.

I'm linking up to the Homestead Barn Hop.  Click here to visit!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Plea to Arugula Lovers

This spring I planted arugula (or roquette, rocket) in the garden because my nephew and Mother Earth News told me it would take care of the nematodes that were eating the roots of my watermelon plants.  I wondered why, and then I ate one of the leaves.  Let's just say the nematodes aren't the only ones turned off by arugula.

I have two rows of the stuff, planted where I'm going to put the watermelon.  Any ideas on how to make it more palatable...especially fresh?  I tried it in a modified version of this recipe by Pioneer Woman, but I used strawberry jam instead if fig spread and didn't use any meat.  Though it worked really well, and is less offensive when cooked, I need more ideas...

...because I have a lot of it...
...and it sure does look pretty, doesn't it?

I'm linking up to Rural Thursdays.  Even if I can't get the margins in this post to work anymore. 
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