Chickens – you eat what they eat!

It’s true with any animal, you eat what they eat.  That’s why people want grass-fed beef, and organically free ranged everything else these days.

Honestly, I’m no different – however living on a 0.16 acre lot in a city subdivision means you have to make some compromises.  Our girls are not allowed to free-range according to city ordinances and therefor must be confined at all times.  Also, organic feed is expensive, and most of the brands I have looked into and/or tried end up needing more supplementation than “standard” feeds do in order to maintain the health of our flock.

Let me show you what I mean:

This “recipe” is the guideline I’ve used for at least two years now as what looks like the best combination of food and supplements to keep our hens healthy, happy, and laying.  It calls not only for feed, but other items like brewers yeast, probiotics, and herbs to be added.

When I choose to feed organic – keeping in mind I still have to make the cost as low as possible – I choose this brand that I can order from Azure Standard:


Rogue feed comes in a 40lb bag and is $21 plus shipping costs, and I have to order a whole months worth at one time.

In order to get the health benefits I’m looking for I also have to add probiotics, brewer’s yeast and garlic, and also decide if I’ll be adding sunflower seeds and if I want those to be organic (meaning I’d have to order them from azure as well) or if I can pick them up from the local feed store.  If I do that, then the probiotics, yeast and garlic, and sunflower seeds will not be organic.  I never add extra corn, I don’t find it necessary since almost all feed has it anyway, and it’s always GMO unless you buy an organic feed.  I keep DE (Diatomaceous earth) on hand anyway so that is no added cost or effort, and oats are sometimes added sometimes not depending on the time of year and if I remember.

So, not only am I spending $21/40 pounds (and we go through about 180 pounds a month to feed our flock) I’m spending an additional $75-$100 every two to three months on additional supplements, that are not organic.

On the other hand if we feed non-organic feed we feed this – which I can pick up at our local feed store for about $16/50 pound bag.  So I’m spending $5 less and getting 10 pounds more.na3038494

On top of the price difference, this feed already has “prebiotics, probiotics and yeast culture that support digestion” as well as marigold extract that is not only healthy for them but makes beautiful golden orange yolks.  Could I chose to add additional supplements to it – of course and my hens (and therefor their eggs) would be all the more healthy, but I also don’t feel I have to to keep them strong and beautiful the way I do when we feed “basic” organic feed.

Even if I didn’t supplement the feed at all and fed the girls exactly what came out of the bag, organic feed is almost exactly double the cost per month of what non-organic feed is.

So, while I wish that we could feed 100% organic year round I just can’t justify the cost – especially in the winter when we get just one or two eggs a day – and especially since the supplements aren’t organic.

So, what do I do, I release the guilt of not feeding my girls organic, and then feeding their GMO corn tainted eggs to my family and friends, by reminding myself how much better they taste and look then the same eggs off the store shelf.

Someday when we have acres of land and we can free range our flock to offset the amount of feed they go through, maybe it’ll be worth the cost difference to go back to organic feed all the time.  But until then I do the best I can with what I’ve got.

Farm Food Friday: Beans



The magical fruit

The more you eat

The more you toot

The more you toot

The better you feel

So lets have beans at EVERY meal!


Ahh beans, that magical fruit, a staple is so many different types of cuisine but any more relegated to BPA lined cans on store shelves full of sodium and not much else.

True facts: dried beans and peas (aka legumes) are full of fiber and protein and are also a great place to find folate, iron, and antioxidants.

It is reasons like this that legumes make up a large part of the diet of vegetarians, vegans, and in cultures/geographic areas where meat is either not a large part of the diet for religious beliefs or because it’s not raised as food.  But I’m not here to tell you why beans are so awesome (because, they are) or why you should eat them (because, you should) or how many pounds of legumes are eaten world wide on a daily basis (lots!), I’m here to tell you why you should be making your own and not buying them “conveniently” in cans from fat cat corporations.


Let’s break it down like this, on average you can buy a full pound of dried beans at or around the same price for 1 can of beans.  1 can of beans averages between 1.5 and 2 cups of beans ready to eat.  1 pound of beans averages 3 to 5 cups of dried beans and each cup of dried bean swells to 2 to 4 cups of cooked ready to eat beans.  So if you buy 1 pound of beans that has 3 cups of dried beans, and that cooks up to 6 cups of cooked beans, you have made three to four cans of beans for the same cost as one store bought can – and it’s really not that much work!


I cook beans (I’m not going to address the rest of the legume family in this post, we’ll save that for another time shall we) on a rotating scale year round.  In the cooler months when we all crave soup I cook several varieties (pinto, black, kidney, garbanzo (aka chick peas), cannelloni, great northern, and others), in the warmer months when soups and chills aren’t on the menu as much I tend to stick mainly to black beans and pinto beans. It doesn’t matter what time of year though, I always have cooked beans on hand ready to add to recipes.

Here’s another awesome thing about dried beans – it doesn’t matter what kind, they all follow the same processes for cooking!

Here’s some not so awesome stuff though: “Some kinds of raw beans, especially red and kidney beans, contain a harmful toxin (lectin phytohaemagglutinin) that must be removed by cooking.” and ”undercooked beans may be more toxic than raw beans.” (Thanks Wikipedia!)

So, here’s the deal COOK your beans, when in doubt, cook longer.  When done, beans should have a medium firm texture that gives way to mild pressure (you should be able to squish it in your fingers by pressing, but you shouldn’t have to squeeze hard).  If your bean seems hard or crunchy at all, it’s not done yet, if your bean mushes when you pick it up or is a giant pot of bean goo, you cooked it too long.  Don’t fear though, I’ve been cooking my own beans for years and I only gave my husband food poisoning once, and it wasn’t too bad.😀

If that terrifies you, skip the rest of the post, and keep buying them from the store.  But really, don’t worry follow along and you should be OK.  (That being said, you’ve been warned and you can’t hold me responsible)


So, here’s what I do – it is by no means the ONLY way to cook beans, in fact it technically isn’t even the safest way, but it works and it doesn’t involve me sitting at a stove with a timer.


1) Select your beans.  I’d say start with no more than a pound at a time until you get the hang of it.


2) Remove your beans from their package and rinse them well under running water.  Often the packaging and sorting process leaves beans dusty and dirty, you want to get all that rinsed off.  While you’re rinsing look for any small stones or sticks the sorter may have missed and pull those out.


3) Dump your clean beans into a slow cooker (at least 5 qt) then fill the slow cooker with water at least 3 inches above the line of the beans.  Remove any beans that float.


4) SOAK, soak your beans.  By presoaking them, you help to unify them and their cooking times, cutting back on the chance of undercooked and therefor toxic beans.  Soak your beans 8 hours minimum and probably no more than 12 hours.

As your beans soak they absorb liquid, so check them every now and then (unless you’re in bed, it’s totally OK to do this overnight) to make sure they have at least an inch of water covering them all the time.


5) After your beans are soaked, drain them.  Just dump all the beans and water back into your colander and let them drain.  Then give them another good rinse.  While you’re at it, rinse out the insert for your slow cooker a little bit too.


6) Dump your beans back in the slow cooker, and cover them with water just as before, about three inches over the beans and no more than 1 inch from the top of the cooker rim.


7) Cook them.  Turn the crock pot to HIGH (this high setting is needed to get the beans hot enough to cook the toxins out).  On average I have found 1 pound of beans needs 3 hours – larger beans or dense beans (like garbanzo) may need a half hour to an hour more, and smaller beans (navy and small red beans for example) need a little less, maybe 2.5 hours.  Again, check them every now and then to make sure they have ample water.

If you start cooking more than one pound at a time (my 7 quart slow cooker can handle a max of 3 pounds just FYI) I typically add an extra half hour to an hour per extra pound of bean, thats what I have found to cook the larger about properly.


8) When your time is up, check the beans for doneness and either remove them from heat or let them cook longer.


9) When your beans are done, dump them out into your colander again – be careful, beans may grow during cooking and what once fit in your colander now takes up more space.


10) Let the beans drain and cool to about room temp.


11) More choices: package them up or use them right away.  If you chose to use them within 48 hours feel free to cover them and stash them in the fridge till you’re ready to use them.  If that isn’t the case you’re going to need to freeze them, that’s what I do.  To freeze package them in freezer zip top bags with approx. 1.75 cups of beans (no liquid) per bag.  That equals about 1 can.  Label with the type, amount, cooking day and freeze.


Ta-da!  With minimal hands on time you’ve replaced the sodium filled, chemical laden store beans with home cooked easy to grab from the freezer and use beans!


If it does seem like a lot of work, try making multiple batches at the same time (assuming you have more than one slow cooker)  I can cook 1 pound of dried beans in my 3 quart, 2 in my 5 quart and just barely 3 pounds in my 7 quart, and I’ll often use them all at once to replenish my supplies all at the same time.

If you aren’t sure where to buy dried legumes, look at your local grocery store, they are usually in the same isle as the canned beans or near the rice.  If, like me, you want to make organic legumes (holy cow, they are expensive in cans!) you will either have to shop (probably the bulk section) of your local health food store or order online.  Personally I order all mine from Azure Standard.  OOOR, you can grow your own beans for drying if you have the garden space for that (which would be awesome, and I’d be a bit jealous!)

Sunday evening in the garden

Snapped a few pictures while we were out watering tonight.

We are starting to see melons appear and grow. This year we planted: Eel River, Ein Dor, Malali Watermelon, Hearts of Gold cantaloupe, Green Flesh Honeydew, and Orange Watermelon.





We are continuing to get more Armenian Cucumbers than I will ever have any clue I what to do with them all.




Our tomatoes are ripening on a daily basis.




Our peppers are starting to really come in.


Our two citrus trees are also growing beautifully. It should be a fantastic harvest of oranges and lemons this year.


Farm Food Friday (Finally): Homemade Vegetable Broth

Lets start off with two things 1) I like alliteration and 2) the difference between a broth and a stock.  Really, the only difference is that a stock is unseasoned (contains no added salt/sodium) where a broth does.  Truly this only matters in the culinary world, and not in store bought packages where they all seem to have sodium, but none the less I wanted to get that out of the way.


Vegetable broth happens to be one of the easiest things you can make from scratch in your own home, and I can basically guarantee that you have everything you need already on hand.

The hardware:

Cutting board


large stock pot (could use a large sauce pan if you aren’t making a big batch)

Optional: sauté or frying pan

The software



Yes, thats it, any combination of vegetables and herbs really.  Some basic guidelines for selection (I know I’m not the only one out there that requires more than just “toss whatever in a pot”) Stay away from potatoes, especially the skin, they can make your broth/stock too starchy and the skin can add a flavor of dirt to your end product (not so yummy).  Onion skins can be hard to fish out of the end product, and beats can and will turn your broth red/orange.  I wouldn’t make any kind of broth every without onion, carrots, and celery in it, they add a classic flavor, but that’s just my opinion.  You can collect your veggies one of several ways – go out and buy supplies specifically to make a batch of broth (seems wasteful in my mind), you can pull out the less than awesome stuff from your produce drawer (floppy celery, shriveled carrots, wrinkled tomatoes etc.) which is what I did this time, or as you prep your food, you can save the discards (carrot and celery tops, the root end of onions, etc) and freeze them in a storage container or freezer bag until you have enough to make stock.  Personally, number two is always the easiest for me, because number three never happens, because all that stuff either goes out to the chickens or in the compost before I remember I was trying to save it.  But really, whatever works for you is just fine.

IMG_3249 IMG_3250

Now chop it all up.  I recommend smaller chunks (one inch or so) for veggie broth, because that means more surface contact which means more flavor, if you were doing a meat broth, you could use large hunks (quartered onions, etc) as they are just adding flavor rather than the focus of the flavor.  Here is the optional step, sweat the Mise en place (carrots, onion, celery) to start their flavor juices flowing.  That is totally optional, I did it this time, but I may skip it next time, just depends on how much time I want to devote.

Next toss everything into your stock pot, including some fresh herbs (I just walked to the backyard a cut some of whatever sounded good, I think I have rosemary, thyme, parsley, and maybe some other stuff) I’d at least recommend some thyme and rosemary as they have such good aromatic properties, but really anything would work, oregano, sage, parsley, basil, whatever sounds good to you.  Then cover it all with water by at least an inch.


IMG_3251 IMG_3252


Then, let it simmer for as long as you can stand it.  I cooked mine for several hours, maybe five or so.


I think my pot has onion, celery, carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, parsley, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, mushrooms, parsnips, a little bit of red pepper flakes, fresh ground black pepper (as large of a grind as my pepper mill would do) and about two tablespoons of salt.


Once you are done extracting the flavors from your veggies and herbs, it’s time to strain and store.  Slowly pour your broth out into a colander or large sieve positioned over a bowl to strain the solids out from the liquid.  You may have to do this in several batches, emptying the colander or bowl to allow space for the more broth to be separated.  If your colander has large holes, I’d recommend a couple layers of cheesecloth or paper coffee filters to be sure you catch all the peppercorns and any other small spices that you may have added.  When you’re done, you want nothing but liquid in your broth container.


Now we come to storage.  If you made a small batch, you could divide it up into the serving sizes you want (anything from an ice cube tray to a half gallon jar I suppose) and freeze it.  Personally I made a HUGE batch and chose to can it.  If you go this route, please note that the jars will have to be pressure canned not water bath canned.





I filled my jars (I did pints and quarts) leaving an inch of headroom (for the pints, this gave me the same amount as what comes in a standard store bought can of broth) and canned them per my pressure canners instructions, which were 10 pounds of pressure for 20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts.  We personally own the previous model of this 16 quart Presto pressure canner, and it’s treated us well for the several years we’ve been using it.  Your instructions may be different based on your canner type though, so be sure to check the manual for processing times.

Homesteading 101: planning out your property

We live in San Antonio, not the country, and our property is a total of 7915 sq ft or 0.182 acres – not exactly what you picture when you hear farm.  However, we have made it work for us, and I just wanted to share a little bit so that you can see how it could work for you too.

So far in our journey, we have mostly kept our micro farm confined to the backyard, we have approximately 350 sq ft of garden space, a flock of chickens (currently 7 laying hens and 11 babies, by the end of the year we will have a total of about 20 birds), two 50 pound dogs, three cats, and a 5 1/2 year old daughter – oh and a large in-ground swimming pool.

So, how do we make all that work to it’s maximum output and reap the most from it?

We plan, we attempt, we modify, we change, we adapt.

Lets start with the basics – I’m a highly visual person, I need to SEE a plan before I can work toward a goal.  SO, I started with what I could easily use – the property evaluation created by the mortgage company when we bought our house in 2006.


From that, I traced out a copy of the basics (and pertinent info) that I could mark and plan on.


The orange/red diagonal lines are cement (something we aren’t taking out any time soon) the blue is our pool, and the green Xs indicate where there are established trees (as of today).

Another helpful tool (especially if you plan to add livestock to your urban farm and your city code requires spacial regulations on enclosures (San Antonio requires all enclosures (which I have taken to mean night time enclosures) to be 100 feet from any other dwelling other than the owner.) is google maps satellite view, which may not be a current representation of your yard, but will be accurate for housing locals.

propertyevalmap copy

Using their map view, you can zoom all the way in, use the scale and measure the distance between wherever you’r considering housing your animals and neighboring properties (our chicken coop is JUST at the 100 foot mark and is roughly where that location pin is in the picture (thanks google for making that simple lol)) that way you aren’t out there with a tape measuring trying to measure between your house and your neighbors.

With these simple and easily found tools you can work on a plan for your yard.  Weather you just want to put in a simple small kitchen garden, or you’d like to become self-sufficient just from your property, it’s easy to work toward a goal when you have the spaces easily mapped out and measured.

If self-sufficancy is more of what you’re interested in, a couple books you could look into are listed below.  And, as always, check the city code where you live regarding animal regulations, and in some places if there are regulations as to what or where you can plant (only native plants, front yards have to maintain so much grass etc.) and ESPECIALLY check with any HOA bylaws that may be applicable (we do not have an HOA in our neighborhood and don’t have to worry about that).  In Texas (and other states) if you violate an HOA’s CC&Rs they can actually put a lean on your house, so keep an eye out for those.  Also, even though we don’t have an HOA, we do have persnickety nosy neighbors who like to report us to the city for code violations, so we also have to be careful to operate inside the law.  (To anyone who may be reading this – we have an excess animal permit for our chickens so don’t bother calling ACS to report us for having more than three, they know already, they came out inspected and approved them – so there!)

For more information on self-sufficancy homesteading check out:

My two favorites:

Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre

The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre!

There are lots of others as well, including blogs, pinterest boards, other books on anything from a quarter acre to an acre, youtube channels, magazines, and more.


I hope this helps you realize you don’t need huge areas of land to become less dependent on the supermarket and more self sufficient.




We are expecting babies this October.  Small, cute, fluffy, chirpy, babies.  14 of them to be exact.  Just in time for my birthday the first week of October the post office should call sometime midweek and let us know there is a loud package there and asking us to come pick it up.  Inside there will be:


Golden Cuckoo Marans Females

Easter Egger Females

White Leghorn Females

Welsummer Females

Exchequer Leghorn Female

1 Rhode Island Red Female

Partridge Rock Female

1 Silver Laced Wyandotte Female

Golden Laced Wyandotte Female

Meyer Meal Maker (our surprise)


I’m not going to lie, I’ve had names picked out for some of these birds as soon as I decided to out the breed on my wish list (which contains about 25 different breeds).  OK, in full disclosure, some of them are on my wish list because of names that popped into my head relating to the breed.

Which is to say, some of the girls have names already.  The two white leghorns are Camilla and Louise, and the Rhode island Red will be Little Red. After that I’ve got nothing, and no direct theme has been laid yet.  I was thinking of trying to name them all after fictional chickens, but there seem to be a lot of fictional roosters and not so many hens.:-/


On the other side, someday I’ll have a trio of Buckeyes with a rooster named Brutus and two hens named Chocolate and Peanut Butter.


Until that day, I guess I need to find some new names…


I have a love hate relationship with canning.  I love the outcome (when it works properly) and I love being able to enjoy the fruits of my labor, however I hate the labor.  I can understand why my generation (or even my parents generation really) doesn’t can their own foods.  It’s work, hot, steamy, drawn out work.  Why bother to make your own jelly or jam when you can buy a jar of it so inexpensively at the grocery store – or even the same thing at the Farmer’s Market?  Why not let someone else do the work for you?  Why bother?


Well, because honestly, it’s so truly rewarding to open a jar of jam, spread it on a nice warm slice of bread, and enjoy.  Not to mention that once you have the initial supplies (not going to lie, the start up costs in canning can be pricy) I would say 80 to 90 percent of the time you are going to end up with a finished product that is less expensive than it’s store bought counterpart, plus you know exactly what went into your jar and you can’t always pronounce what went into the store’s jar.


This week I took a bit of time out of my Monday morning and made a small batch of strawberry jam with the four cups or so of berries I could salvage from the last of the berries I went a picked a couple weeks back which were now turning into an awesome science fair project on the deconstructive powers of mold in my fridge.  That I think is the best part of jelly, jam or preserves – you take a product that visually is unappealing – bruised, beat up, shriveled, malformed, etc. and reform it into something that not only looks pretty, but allows you to still enjoy the wonderful flavor that was there all along.  The berries I used were still perfectly fine to eat, they just didn’t look like anything I’d want to serve on a platter (the ones that were too far gone, moldy, etc went in the compost) and now they not only taste beautiful, but in their sparkly glass jars they look so pretty too.


Why do I bring all this up?  Well, it’s that time of year, at least down here in Texas (sorry those of you still dealing with snow storms – I promise though, the spring sun will show up eventually).  We are actually running to the end of strawberry season already, and I just got my first email this week that one of the local orchards has peaches ready.  Our tomato plants out in the garden already have little green globes growing on them, and our pepper plants and summer squash/cucumbers are all in the dirt happily flowering away.  It won’t be long now till summer harvests lead way to storage issues and the need to be able to preserve the amazing flavors and colors for use in the drab winter months.  In the past I have done a canning series on my other blog, this year I’m bringing it over here – to a point.  I plan to share recipes with you, but I probably won’t give instructions on how to can all of them.  If you do need further instruction on canning, supplies, or resources check out some of the links below, and in the mean time, plan to come back Friday for my first canning recipe.  A blog post I’ve been working on for over a month!



Information, and more:

My own canning 101 introduction post

Simply Canning

The Ball canning company site

Canning Pantry

Food In Jars