Garden View

Garden View
Hello and Welcome! I decided to start this blog for everyone out there who has an interest, or WANTS to be interested, in living a life that is a little more sustainable. I am still learning, and invite you to follow this blog to learn along with me. I will share what I have learned as we go, and hopefully you will pitch in and share what YOU are doing to live a little more off of what you can grow and DO from home. PLEASE BELIEVE ME when I say, if I can learn how to do this on a very small backyard plot in a city, then ANYONE can do this!!

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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Lazy Layers-Is it OK to butcher older hens?


Some of our laying hens will be 3 years old this spring.  And they have gotten VERY lazy!  What I am referring to is their natural slow-down in egg production.  Actually, this is one of the major things that prospective chicken owners MUST (and usually don't) consider when making decisions about purchasing chickens. 

Hens will produce a great supply of eggs for you for the first 2 years or so, then they have a significant decline each year thereafter.  Each breed will have different productivity levels, so do your homework before choosing a breed.  I chose the type of chickens that we have for very specific purposes;  most of the breeds that I have were chosen because they are considered "dual purpose."  This means that they can be used as layers and/or as meat birds.  I wanted a bird that would give us good egg production and then provide food for our table when they slowed down. 

Please understand that this is a VERY personal choice; I recognize that there are MANY that choose to love their low production hens until ripe old chicken ages.  I think that's wonderful too.  In fact, we have a couple in our flock that are NOT dual purpose hens that will retire with us as they age.  For our initial dual purpose flock, we chose Plymouth Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Reds and Golden Star (or Golden sex-link). 

Here are some common Dual-Purpose chicken  breeds and some of their characteristics:

Breed Avg. Weight (Hen) Egg Production Egg Size/Color
Australorp 6.5lbs Excellent (250+/yr) lays through winter and in heat of summer LG/Brown
Barred Rock (Plymouth, Buff, Partridge) 7.5lbs Good-Very Good (180-240 eggs/yr est.) Med/ Brown
Brahma (buff, Light) 9.5lbs Good (3-4/wk or 150+/yr, good winter production) Med/ Lt. Brown
Buff Orpington 8lbs Good-Very Good (200-280/yr est.) LG/ Brown
Delaware 6.5lbs Very Good (200-280 est.?) LG/ Brown
Jersey Giant 10lbs Good (180-260/yr estimate), long laying season LG-XL/ Brown
New Hampshire Red 6.5lbs Very Good (200-280 est.) LG/ Brown
Rhode Island Red 6.5lbs Excellent (200-280 est.) LG/ Brown
Salmon Faverolle 6.5lbs Good LG/ Cream to Lt. Brown
Sussex (Speckled, White-lays better) 7lbs Very Good-Excellent, Good Cold weather layer LG/ Lt. Brown
Turken (or 'Naked Neck") 6.5lbs Good Med-LG/ Lt. Brown
Wyandotte 6.5lbs Very Good (180-260 eggs/yr est., good cold weather layer) Med/ Brown
Breed Hardiness Broody Personality
Australorp Cold and Heat Y docile, quiet, tame
Barred Rock (Plymouth, Buff, Partridge) Very Cold Infrequent docile, friendly
Brahma (buff, Light) Heat and Cold Occasional calm, docile, makes good pet, feathered feet
Buff Orpington Very Cold Frequently docile, quiet, affectionate, good with kids
Delaware Very Heat and Cold Y superior meat characteristics,' calm, rapid growth, white feathers (less visible on skin after plucking/processing)
Jersey Giant Somewhat-Very Cold Y calm, easy going, long laying season
New Hampshire Red Heat and Cold Y usually calm, quick to 'put meat on'
Rhode Island Red Heat and Cold Infrequent docile (males can be aggressive)
Salmon Faverolle     excellent disposition/great with kids, feathered shanks and 5 toes, 
Sussex (Speckled, White-lays better) Very Cold Y calm, curious, good foragers
Turken (or 'Naked Neck") Cold and Heat Occasional reduced number of feathers on body and none on neck, 
Wyandotte Very Cold Often docile, quick to 'put meat on'

Now, there are MANY more dual purpose chicken breeds out there and this chart is certainly not exhaustive.  I chose to represent these breeds as they were the most common as well as the most interesting to me.  I live in a suburban area and am limited to a handful of chickens, so things that I look for in a backyard chicken might be different than those with more space.  For example, I will not choose a breed that is NOISY.  While I am authorized by law to have chickens in my backyard, I also want to be a good steward of this concept and not irritate the crud out of my neighbors by having extremely talkative chickens.  Trust me, I LOVE sitting and listening to chicken noises, but I also know that not EVERYONE does (*sigh*).  Also, we do choose to use the hens for meat when they slow down in egg production, at about 2-3 years old.  SO, I want a bird that is 'heavier' and will provide a good family meal after she has blessed us with a couple years of delicious eggs.  Now some may completely disagree with this, but if you are a meat eater it is worth you while to come to terms with the fact that your food was once a living-breathing creature with a personality.  And please hear me when I say that I LOVE my chickens and processing is THE HARDEST thing to do as a homesteader (in my opinion).  HOWEVER, if you take only one thing from this post, please hear this:  I choose to do this because I can KNOW how our food was treated and KNOW that it was completely loved and spoiled while living a very good life in our backyard; AND I can KNOW without question that it was dispatched humanely when the time came.  If you do even a simple search on typical meat production in the US, you will (should) be VERY appalled, disgusted, and hopefully motivated to make different choices on your next trip to the store (buy from local farmers or Co-Ops)!  EVERYONE has the responsibility to make the choice of what they will eat....not many take the initiative to understand how it came to be their food and whether it was ethically and humanely raised and treated. 

Also to make note of is that as chickens age, their meat can tend to get a little tougher.  There are some great ways to cook this meat, such as Coq'A'Vin and Crock pots, to make the meat tender and flavorful.  Also, by planning ahead to cook the meat this way, you can skip the long process of plucking when processing and just completely skin the chicken, feathers and all.  The skin will not need to be retained since it will not be needed to retain moisture in the meat for a roasting process if using the aforementioned cooking process.  (There are many great resources available if you need instructions on how to process a chicken-that will not be covered in this post).

I hope that this helps if you are considering adding chickens to your backyard this year.  Deciding whether you will be using your birds as dual purpose is just ONE of the many considerations you must make when taking that leap.  And don't worry, a dual purpose bird will still make a great pet if you lose your gumption later on. 

Happy Homesteading!





Helpful Links:
http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/csa/csa.shtml
http://www.eatwellguide.org/search/advanced
http://www.hobbyfarms.com/farm-breeds/poultry_chickens_all_landing.aspx

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Freshy Fresh Winter Skincare Routine


Just remember.  I'm NOT crunchy.  I'm sticking to that.  I have, however, experienced enough of a difference in making my own skin-body-hair care products that I can't go back to the synthetic/chemical-laden-plastic-bottled stuff in the store.

WHY GO AU-NATURAL?


Ummm, chemicals.  That's why.  And you're putting them on your face!  Anywhere you have pores (i.e. anywhere you have skin), you will absorb what you put on it.  If the average person uses 10 different products on their skin daily, you're absorbing well over 100 different chemicals through your spongy body (yes, I just called you spongy.  I'm not saying you wear square pants and live in a pineapple under the sea.  Our skin is more like a sponge than a barrier with this stuff).  Take a gander at these digits (which are all EW!):
  • 4 Pounds: The average amount of lipstick a woman ingests over her lifetime
  • 11: The percentage of the 10,500 ingredients used in the personal-care products that the US      
  • 1,110+: The number of ingredients banned in cosmetics in Europe
  • 10: The number of ingredients banned in cosmetics in the US
  • 20: The percentage of personal care products that contain at least one chemical linked to cancer.
  • 22: The percentage of cosmetics contaminated with possible cancer causing impurity 1, 4-dioxane
Source:  The Environmental Working Group

Ready to ditch those pretty looking plastic store bought bottles yet?

I live in Colorado, where we enjoy beautiful weather year round.  But we also live in a cold dessert atmosphere.  That=DRYNESS.  We have a whole-house humidifier as well as individual room humidifiers to combat the dry air that causes dry skin, hair and static.  As soon as winter rolls around, the hair that begins to cling to my face and invite itself to explode as though I've recently befriended a light socket with my tongue, that's my cue to add a bit more moisture to my products and routine.  SO, since you already know I'm NOT crunchy but do enjoy natural alternatives and making my own, how's about I share my winter skincare routine with ya?

The below concoctions work well for me in our cold/dry environment.  My skin type is normal to combination and also, MAYBE, aging (*sigh-it happens to the best of us).  You may have to experiment to find the combination of ingredients and routine that work best for you.  I  abide by the basic mantra of Face Wash-Toner-Moisturizer-Sunscreen-2x per Week Scrub or Mask routine.  To make that trial and error process easier for you, I'll break down some basic natural ingredients that are good for ALL skin types:


Face Wash 

I found the best overall base for this to be Castile Soap.  This is a mild soap that gives sudsing action and is completely plant derived.  It doesn't dry the skin, cleans well and doesn't leave a residue.  (I also use this in hair and body wash as bases too).  I also have Vegetable Glycerin as a large part of the base recipe.  This emollient stuff retains moisture and pulls oxygen into the skin.  I've added honey and varying essential oils to boost this cleanser as needed throughout the year.

Winter Freshy Fresh Face Wash:


2-3 Tbsps Mild Castile Soap (depending on how sudsy you want it to get)

1/2 Cup Vegetable Glycerin

3 Tbsps Honey (buy local!)-moisturizing, humectant, antibacterial

2-4 drops CPTG (Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade) Essential Oil

  • Lemon for detox/purifying
  • Lavender for calming sensitive skin
  • Melaleuca (tea tree) for acne,
  • Wild Orange-cuz it's got a sweet and yummy fragrance, is energizing and uplifting
  • Frankincense for anti-aging properties and age spot reduction as well as moisturizing (love this super-amazing all purpose oil for the skin!!)


Toner

The base for this is witch hazel (no broom required).  This is a perfect  natural astringent and can even be used on sensitive skin.  This stuff is gentle enough to be used alone or you can combine it with other stuff to make it doubly-special for your skin.  Just make sure you are buying good quality stuff that doesn't contain alcohol-cuz that will dry out your skin, and that's what we're trying to avoid.  Mountain Rose Herbs has a really good one.

Winter Freshy Fresh Toner:


1/2 cup Witch Hazel

1/3 cup Green Tea (cooled)-antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, improves tightness of skin and overall appearance, and the polyphenols in the tea may slow down the aging skin process.   BOOM

1/2 Organic Cucumber-if not organic, peel first.  Process in blender or food processor.  
Cuc's are a mild astringent, has high water content for moisturizing and reducing puffiness, high Vitamin C and caffeic acid content (soothes inflamed/irritated skin), AND the peel has stuff in it (silica) that helps firm up sagging skin! 

**Combine all ingredients and store in air tight container in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.

2-4 drops Essential Oils:  See above to customize or search HERE for more ideas


Moisturizer

The point here is to seal in moisture and add ingredients that will enhance your skin properties

NOT My Winter Freshy Fresh Moisturizer:

Rather than reinvent the wheel-I found this FABULOUS moisturizer that I use day and night, year round.  I wasn't sure about the Bentonite Clay at first, but after using it consistently, it keeps impurities at bay, so it stays.   It can get grainy at times after it soaks in, but I just dab with a clean towel or paper towel.  You can adjust the ingredients throughout the year for more/less moisture or change up the EO's you use to address different needs of your skin.

Click HERE for this skin moisture awesomeness recipe!

Additional Essential Oils to consider adding to this recipe: 

Bergamot, Myrrh, Geranium-all have calming effects on the skin
Sandalwood-smooths skin (BONUS-has positive effects on mood too!)
Frankincense!!  This is the workhorse of skincare.  Especially for those of us who MAY be entering the 'aging' skincare needs.  Ahem.


SO-there you have it folks.  Invest in yourself and do what it takes to take care of your beautiful and/or manly spongy skin in healthier ways than that plastic junk in a bottle on the shelf.  And if you need help with that explosive hair, here's my natural haircare link.   Hey-this is Natural Living so easy even I can do it!  




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Friday, February 14, 2014

Farm Dreams

Tell me HONESTLY; You ever had a dream that occupies most of your thoughts, most of the time?  Have you ever wanted something so badly that you feel like devouring every single bit of information available in order to prepare for making it happen?  Then you have probably also experienced the push and pull moments where you start to feel a little scared when considering all of the details.  You start to wonder if you could really do it.  My Farm Dreams are just that: a concoction of endless details, excitement, fear and wonderment.  It is driven by a God-given love for animals and caring for them; as well as a newly acquired passion for raising food and food animals without detriment to the earth OR our bodies.

https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/images/food/images/cows_Netherlands.jpg
I can't be alone in this, right?  I know I'm not the only wanna-be farmer girl living in the city trying to learn and do what she can in the urban setting, but ever longing for wide open spaces.  And cows.  There's a lot of details involved with big dreams.  But what if it fails?  It's a scary thought when you are at the edge of the precipice looking at what it might take to make that leap across to the other side.  Sometimes you start to look over your shoulder at what you will be leaving behind, forgetting about the passion that drove you to the precipice to begin with.  If you truly want to make your Farm Dreams happen, I would like to share with you what our family is doing to work towards accomplishing those very things.  It's important to remember that there is no one prescription to making your farm life dreams happen.  First and foremost,you have to have a vision and goals to make this happen!

"As your vision becomes your passion, dreams will give place to reality."-Joel Salatin

1.) What do you want?  Have you thought about what scale you want to manage?

            -Hobby Farm:  A little of this and a little of that.  Are you, like me, an animal lover and want to have a little of everything?  Look into all of the details required for the amount and variety of animals you want to have.  Can you afford this?  Do you have the time to commit to caring for them every day (even when you are sick, tired and just don't wanna!?)

                   -Production Farm:  Do you want to raise animals for profit?  On what scale?  Do you have experience?  If not, plan to start on a more conservative level and see #3!

                           -Somewhere in-between:  and what does that mean to YOU?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Featured_picture_candidates/Baby_goats
**Regardless of which model you choose, do your homework!  Research breeds, looking at both the positives and negatives.  What are the housing requirements and costs of upkeep?  Ultimately, you want the most bang for your buck, right?  So choose animals that will give you high production for low cost.  Don't spend money on things that won't make you money-especially at the start.  For example:  I really want goats....but I want them because they are CUTE!  I actually want to devote my time and energy into chickens to start out then adding in cows as we go.  While goats can also produce many things, I don't want to overextend myself, especially during the start up stages.  We have already started developing a business model that doesn't include them at the onset.

2.)  Are you willing, and able, to WORK?

Let's face it: even though we have a deep love for animals, it is still work.  There are always things that aren't pleasant with farm life that someone (aka: YOU) still needs to take care of---every day.  If you don't want to work hard, face the fact that this may not be the best choice for you.  If you are not as physically capable, find someone to partner with that matches your goals and that can provide the physical labor.

"Really, accomplishing your dream is not so much about mechanics and opportunity as it is about character qualities: self-denial, perseverance, commitment, focus."-Joel Salatin in "You Can Farm"

3.)  Look Around and DO IT!

While you have visions of farm dreams and chicken fairies dancing in your head, what could you be doing right where you are?  Could you turn your back (and front) yard into a vegetable garden and mini orchard?  What about adding a few chickens?  There really is a lot that you can do from where you are to start learning and growing, even if it's starting with an herb garden indoors, or vegetable pots on your apartment balcony.  It's better for you to start learning BEFORE you get your land anyway.  The land itself is not a necessary element to becoming a successful homesteader.  Learn how to become more self sufficient and to 'farm' what you can from where you are right now.  Could you grow some extra produce and take your eggs to a local farmers market on a small scale business level?  Come up with a marketing plan BEFORE you plant the seeds or buy those cute peeping chicks.  If you can get started doing this right now, from where you are, you will gain invaluable experience and learn a lot along the way about how you want to manage things.  Think about how far that will take you when you finally DO acquire some land and you can do this on a larger scale!

4.) Finances

We are using Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace in order to get completely out of debt so we aren't starting out in a hole.  It's all about setting yourself up for success in every way possible.  This means that we will grow our farm business slowly, but I'm OK with that because it means that we won't be overextending ourselves before we have money coming in to support the initial operation costs (plus, we will no doubt still be working 'regular' jobs).

As mentioned in #3 above, there are a LOT of things you can do to start 'farming' that don't require much space OR much capital.  You can easily raise broiler chickens in your backyard with a portable chicken tractor, or even on some rented land (or borrowed yards) nearby.  Or raise several great laying hens in your backyard and you can sell eggs to neighbors, coworkers or at the farmers market.  It doesn't HAVE to be complicated....but we can sure make it that way without trying very hard, can't we!  If you have a Farm Dream that starts at the base of your soul and works it's way out into every other sentence you speak, God has given you something called a CLUE!  And you don't have to wait until you can buy that chunk of land, etc, etc.  You can start acting on your dream on whatever scale you can in whatever environment you are in now.  Don't listen to the naysayers or give in to the fear of success or failure; if God has given you this desire, listen to where He is guiding you and GO FOR IT!

Now, get out there and get some dirt under your nails and chicken poop on your shoes!











Here's some great books to get you started and keep you motivated:

YOU CAN FARM, by Joel Salatin
PASTURED POULTRY PROFITS, by Joel Salatin
FOLKS, THIS AIN'T NORMAL, by Joel Salatin
VERTICAL VEGETABLE GARDENING, by Chris McLaughlin
BACKYARD FARMING ON AN ACRE (MORE OR LESS), by Angela England
BACKYARD MARKET GARDENING, by Andy Lee
FRESH EGGS DAILY, by Lisa Steele
THE PERMACULTURE HANDBOOK, by Peter Bane
PERMACULTURE: A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE, by Bill Mollison




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