Big, Bold and Broodyful?!

Broody: wishing or inclined to incubate eggs.

ChickenCloseupOur Barred Plymouth Rock “Brock Lesnar”

Exactly one year ago we became the parents to four beautiful hens. With our never-ending goal to keep expanding our homestead, we felt it was the next natural step to take.

As first time chicken owners we had a plethora of concerns that we thought we’d might come across, like is it legal to have chickens in our area, how loud will they be and what about the neighbors!? Never did the term broody cross our minds, especially when selecting the breed of chicken as we were researching them.  Low and behold a few months ago we noticed Maude, our Black Australorp, acting a bit ornery – like a teenage girl on steroids.  As daunting as the task of handling a teenager is, we did what any parents would do, we poked her with a stick. Now i know that doesn’t seem like the best mode of operation, but from reading other forums we discovered that some owners had snapped their hens out of their motherly instinct by prodding them out of the coop. We followed suit and with a little luck disaster was averted! But like any strong-willed teenager she was back on that broody saddle no more than a few weeks later.

On our second go around with all things broody, we decided to take a step back from the picture and see if we could do something other than beating our problem with a stick. So this main hen decided to take some action. Enter, Amazon.com. I swear this isn’t a promotion for Amazon but you really can buy anything on that website. So with their expedited service, just a few days later Maude was sitting on 10 fertilized eggs. I know what your thinking, fertilized eggs? Amazon? Who, what, where, when, why?! Because of the sheer convenience, with work, farming, and all the other needs pressed into a 24-hour day, convenience reigns king.

10 fertilized eggs, with no promise that they’re female, throws a few wrenches into the works, about 10 wrenches to be exact if they turn out to be all male. Living on our small urban homestead we cannot afford the luxury of 10 cocks crowing in the morning!  Jokes aside we put the 10 fertilized eggs in the coop and watched as Maude followed her natural instincts.

chickenbutts

Three precarious weeks later, signs of new life began chirping from the coop! In the melee that is the birthing process, we were blessed with 3 healthy chicks. Maude was 3 for 10, in baseball that’s a great day at the plate, and more importantly less wrenches on mine! In all we had 4 duds that didn’t break through the shell and 3 casualties of this ole thing called life. So now we wait, hope, that these 3 are females but more importantly it was just nice to see Maude not thrown into some cage and forced out of her broodiness.

Looking back on our broody experience we’ve come to see, (reluctantly), that Amazon is awesome! In all seriousness though it’s amazing what you can learn in 21 days. By following Maude on her first experience into motherhood, I’ve gained some confidence in my own life, realizing that we all have the natural instincts to get by, no matter what life throws at you (especially with Amazon in your corner!). Without any experience, she knew exactly what to do from the get-go, from teaching them to eat to jumping into the coop. Going forward we’ll play it by ear on whether we’ll order some more fertilized eggs or go back to the ole poking method. Like Maude, we’ll take it in stride.

Maude&chicksMaude and her Three babies.

 

Works Cited:

“Broody.” Def. 1. Oxford Dictionaries. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 July 2017.

Coop, The Happy Chicken. “6 Easy Ways to Break a Broody Hen.” The Happy Chicken Coop. N.p., 14 June 2016. Web. 06 July 2017.

Let’s get dirty.

 

GHG2017.210 months has passed since our last blog post and where it may have seemed that we were quiet on the blog end, we’ve never been busier on the farm end.  In 10 months time we have both switched jobs, watched 2 beehives fail, satellite farm on 3 properties, introduced a flock of 4 hens and 3 chicks, as well as one new and very healthy beehive.  bee.2This season we will be bringing updates to you from our Urban Homestead – everything from the how-to’s of the farm to the wtf’s is that in our beehive! We want to share our learned experiences and hopefully in return receive some constructive criticism. Best of luck to all you homesteaders out there – Summer is upon us!red.2

 

 

Happy Spring 2016 Everyone!

From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow. – Aeschylus

2016 p.1

Happy Spring 2016 Everyone!

We are brimming with excitement and possibility as we always are in spring, when the possibilities and our hopes are soaring high and the thought of pests and predators are like faint memories.

Now is the time of year when many people begin to think about planting seeds and starting a garden, but we’ve been at it for a few months already. I mentioned last year the importance of starting our crops from seed rather than buying plants from the local hardware stores because (like most things in life) you can’t beat the quality of a homemade or homegrown product. It’s worth noting that most of the vegetable plants that you buy from big name hardware stores are sprayed with pesticides that kill bees and other pollinators.

2016 p.6

Seeds Sprout!

Seed starting is an enormously fun and rewarding process for us, because in the dead of winter there are limited avenues to focus our farm-passion on. First of all,  we get to choose our luscious crops from a sprawling library of heirloom seeds. Then, we diagram all of our satellite plots, carefully delineating where the sun and shade occupy the space so we can plant each crop in the places where they can best thrive.

This year we are very focused on increasing the yield from each crop. First, we projected our desired yield per crop and calculated how many seedlings were required to achieve our goal. Then, we push the tiny seeds into some fresh soil and watch as the miracle of life sprouts before our eyes!

Transplant Now!

We can hardly wait to transplant our more than 200 gorgeous tomato plants, 150 eggplant, 200 pepper plants and an array of herbs into the garden! And that doesn’t even begin to compare to the number of various crops that we will be direct seeding this year after learning that they do better that way – such as cucumber, zucchini, beans, and of course all the root vegetables. The recent frosty spring nights have made us thankful that we did not jump the gun and transplant early. The first crops that we are looking forward to harvesting this spring are the garlic and onion bulbs that we planted in October 2015.

 Looking Forward

We have so much more to tell you about our beekeeping adventures, our passionate search for more land, and most exciting yet: backyard chickens! Join us as we head into our fifth year as urban farmers — 2016 is going to be a wild and crazy beautiful ride!

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Source:

Keim, Brandon. How your bee-friendly garden may actually be killing bees. Wired Science, June 25, 2014. http://www.wired.com/2014/06/garden-center-neonicotinoids/

Homestead Hack: All Natural Toothpaste

Toothpaste

 Why Make Homemade All-Natural Toothpaste

Most commercial toothpastes, along with many other personal care products on the market, contain ingredients that I would rather not have ingested into my and my family’s systems. Such  ingredients include, sodium fluoride, triclosan, sodium lauryl sulfate, propylene glycol, and diethanolamine. Although we are all used to hearing how important sodium fluoride is for your teeth, the fact is that fluoride’s only role in toothpaste is to poison the bacteria – but how does that poison affect the rest of the body? Another problem I have with commercial toothpastes are the artificial sweeteners that are routinely added to help with taste, but these sweeteners can actually promote tooth decay – which seems oxymoronic for a product whose sole purpose is to prevent tooth decay.

After searching for an organic commercial alternative, I switched gears and decided to make our own all-natural toothpaste. It was important that the toothpaste clean the teeth and mouth, act as an anti-bacterial, and have a whitening effect. The first recipe was simply baking soda and water. This was a very effective cleaner and whitener but the taste left much to be desired and the consistency is not what most people are used to when brushing their teeth. The next recipe that I experimented with included baking soda, coconut oil and peppermint essential oil. The taste of this one was slightly better because of the oils, but it still lacked that quality of toothpaste that we have all grown accustomed to.

Toothpaste ingredients

The New & Improved Recipe:

Researching and using health-beneficial ingredients is extremely important in all of my Homestead Hack recipes. I believe that it is possible for us to make our own personal care products that not only lack harmful ingredients but that include very healthy ones. Below is a list of the ingredients that I used and why:

Why Coconut Oil – antibacterial, antimicrobial, and anti-fungal. Kills bacteria that cause ulcers, throat infections, gum disease and cavities.

Why Baking Soda – mild abrasive which aids in cleaning and whitening teeth, and restoring pH balance. The more baking soda added to your recipe the stronger the whitening effect, however baking soda is also rather salty in taste, so less can be used to achieve preferred taste.

Why Calcium Carbonate Powder – cleaning and polishing agent. Calcium powder is a natural mineral that acts as an abrasive. This gives the toothpaste amazing cleaning power.

Why Xylitol – a natural derivative of plants, fruits and vegetables , xylitol is a fantastic alternative to sugar and artificial sweeteners.   Unlike other natural or synthetic sweeteners, xylitol is actively beneficial for dental health by reducing cavities to a third in regular use and helpful in the remineralization of teeth. Xylitol is a beneficial ingredient in toothpaste because it promotes gum protection, fights plaque and gingivitis, and makes the toothpaste taste good!

Why Myrrh – an essential oil that is added to toothpaste and mouthwash because of its medicinal qualities. Myrrh toothpaste is known to soothe irritated areas of the gums, mouth and throat, and to promote quick healing of cuts and ulcers. Taken either externally or internally, it is also thought to promote healthy gums and strong teeth. Its microbial and antiseptic qualities make myrrh an effective remedy for bad breath and gingivitis.

Why Peppermint – due to its antiseptic properties, peppermint essential oil is very useful in dental care. It also eliminates bad breath and helps teeth and gums fight off hazardous germs. Unsurprisingly, these attributes mean that peppermint oil is added to numerous toothpastes, and it has also been shown to be useful in the treatment of toothaches.

Homestead Hack: All Natural Toothpaste Recipe

Ingredients

  • About ½ cup coconut oil (or less for desired consistency)
  • 5 tablespoons calcium carbonate powder
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of baking soda
  • 3-5 tablespoons Xylitol (or as much as you like to your desired taste)
  • 15-20 drops of peppermint oil (optional)
  • 10 drops myrrh extract (optional)

The Process

  1. Melt or slightly soften coconut oil.
  2. Mix in other ingredients and stir well. If using semi-hard coconut oil, use a fork, if not, use a spoon. If you are using completely melted coconut oil, you will need to stir several times while the mixture cools to keep the baking soda incorporated.
  3. Put mixture into small glass jar (different ones for each family member works well)
  4. Let cool completely.
  5. To use: dip toothbrush in and scrape small amount onto bristles. Could also use a small spoon to put on toothbrush.

toothpaste 9

 Does it Work?

After using this all-natural toothpaste I  have noticed increased whiteness, decreased tooth sensitivity, less plaque buildup and really smooth feeling teeth. The taste and consistency are pretty close to commercial toothpastes which makes the switch much more palatable, and you can feel confident that you and your family are not introducing potentially dangerous chemical compounds into your systems.

NOTE: Adding  distilled/boiled water to the recipe will help with making  the consistency smoother if that is preferred. However, anything made with water is good for 14 days, so it might be wise to make smaller batches. (We prefer it without water, but everyone’s tastes differ).

*Did you make your own toothpaste? Please share your experience in the comments section!

 *~*~*~*~*~*

Sources:

Connett , Michael Fluoride Is Not an Essential Nutrient. Fluoride Action Network | August 2012. http://fluoridealert.org/studies/essential-nutrient/

Nazaryan,Alexander. “Is Cancer Lurking in your Toothpaste and your Soap and your Listick?” Newsweek. September 4, 2014.  http://www.newsweek.com/2014/09/26/cancer-lurking-your-toothpaste-and-your-soap-and-your-lipstick-268322.html

Steinberg, LM; Odusola, F; Mandel, ID (Sep–Oct 1992). “Remineralizing potential, antiplaque and antigingivitis effects of xylitol and sorbitol sweetened chewing gum.”. Clinical preventive dentistry 14 (5): 31–4. PMID 1291185. Retrieved 13 November 2013.

Scheinin, Arje (1993). “Dental Caries, Sugars and Xylitol”. Ann Med 25: 519–521.

Shilling M1, Matt L, Rubin E, Visitacion MP, Haller NA, Grey SF, Woolverton CJ. Antimicrobial effects of virgin coconut oil and its medium-chain fatty acids on Clostridium difficile. J Med Food. 2013 Dec;16(12):1079-85. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2012.0303. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24328700

http://www.coconutresearchcenter.org/

What’s the Deal With Fluoride?

http://www.worldhealth.net/news/toothpaste_cancer_alert/

http://xylitol.org/articles-about-xylitol/benefits-xylitol-toothpaste

(http://www.epicdental.com/v-293-where-does-xylitol-come-from) ]

Additional Reading:

Fluoride, Teeth, and the Atomic Bomb.SOURCE: Waste Not # 414 | September 1997 | By Chris Bryson & Joel Griffiths. http://fluoridealert.org/articles/wastenot414/

 

Fall Planting Garlic, Onions & Shallots

No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.~ Thomas Jefferson

Early Planting for an Early Harvest

I love garlic, but have never tried to grow it before. In my research, I learned that onions, garlic and shallots all have very long growing seasons. By planting them in mid-late fall, you get a real boost on the crop and are in a position to harvest bigger bulbs earlier come late spring/early summer. I ordered organic bulbs of all three crops and went to work planting them in our garden. Simply dig two-inch deep trenches about six inches apart and then plop the bulbs in roughly four-five inches apart from each other and loosely cover with dirt. For the onions and shallots it’s important to leave the pointy tip sticking out of the dirt slightly so they get direct sunlight.

 

 Cold Hardy Sprouts

About two weeks after planting the crops I noticed that green sprouts were already shooting up through the soil. At first, I thought, ” Oh no! What have I done wrong? These aren’t supposed to grow until spring!” I frantically scoured search engines for advice and reassurance.

Luckily, after connecting with garlic growers more seasoned than ourselves, I learned that this early growth is fairly typical. The green tops of the garlic, onions and shallots are very cold hardy, so they can sprout in fall and then survive through the winter while their bulbs underneath the soil remain protected by the mulch. Once the warmer temperatures roll in the crops will come out of dormancy with a head start.

We will add more mulch around our crops before the winter fully arrives, and we may cover the crops as well if the temperatures drop closer to 0ºF. Come spring, we will add a little fertilizer and hope they are ready by June! It’ll be nice to have things ready for harvest when much of the other crops are just kicking off.

marigold

Marigolds make the garden bed pop!

Travel Log: Inspiration From Far Away

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray ~ Rumi

Co. Donegal

A 400 year old farmhouse located on the family homestead

Laughs, Love and Soda Bread

We just returned from a week and a half visit to see friends and family in Ireland. It is a beautiful country, as many people will attest, with amazing scenic views, quaint little farming towns and bustling city hubs. I often notice, however, that even as beautiful as the rolling hills of the countryside are, it is the people who make the trip so special. It was very difficult to leave after just one week full of laughter, quality time spent with loved ones, and the delicious homemade food. This post is a fond tribute to a wonderful holiday spent in the motherland.

Lake Co. Donegal. Near St. Columba Well

A strikingly beautiful lake in Co. Donegal

Adventures in Ireland

Hiking is one of our all-time favorite hobbies, after playing in the garden of course. So, we are always on the prowl for hidden trails and out-of-the way scenic lookouts. Driving along a quiet country road we came upon a strikingly beautiful lake and pulled over to snap a few shots. Luckily we did, because just a stones throw away we found an entrance to a hiking trail! The only markings we saw on this trail were small homemade signs that read St. Columba’s Well, so of course we needed to see what this was all about and embarked on the adventure. The trail was absolutely gorgeous, surrounded by tall trees and brightly colored shrubs and brush. After walking for about 15 minutes we came upon a little lane that led into an alcove encircled with trees. At the bottom of this lane was a 1500 year old well. This well is believed to be at the childhood home of the boy who would become known as St. Columba, one of the patron saints of Ireland. It was really energizing to stumble upon something so old and still functioning. The water inside the well looked clear and clean.

St. Columba Well Co. Donegal

The Magical Moss Field

Standing at the bottom of the alcove looking at the ancient well was very moving, but just to the right of us was a scene even more striking. We stumbled onto a beautiful, bright green moss field amid a forest of tightly grouped pine trees. The sun was shining down through the trees and illuminating the moss on the ground. The rays of sun gave this whole moss forest a magical appearance. At that moment, standing there taking in the gorgeous surroundings, I think I half expected to see a fairy start buzzing around – the place looked that magical!

Moss field. Co. Donegal

The Moss Field located next to St. Columba’s Well. Co. Donegal

The striking beauty of Ireland cannot be overstated, and the weather adds a layer of complexity to appreciate. In the course of one day you can experience almost every season from hail, to sunshine, to strong winds and rain and, if your lucky, another bout of sunshine!

Lake

Another shot of the lake next to St. Columba’s Well. This whole area was very scenic.

Farm Animals

Practically everywhere you look, there are grazing sheep or cows. Bales of hay are stacked high and stored for the winter feedings. You’d be hard-pressed to drive more than ten minutes in any direction without seeing a band of cows grazing or flock of sheep wandering the hills. And really the most striking thing is how happy the animals seem. Compared to how most farm animals are treated in the US, it is refreshing to see contented animals grazing on open pasture.

Farm Animals

Homestead Inspirations

Staying on a homestead during our trip really brought the feeling of living in harmony with animals even closer. We had up close and personal access to a flock of backyard chickens, and this access was especially exciting and inspiring to us. Waking up in the morning (or afternoon!) and cracking a farm fresh egg into the pan was so unbelievably satisfying. As the eggs cooked in the pan, we could look out of the kitchen window and see the bird who gifted this lovely egg running around the yard! After a few farm fresh eggs, it is hard to go back to buying and eating the supermarket variety.

Chicken 1

Backyard Chickens

We were able to observe a flock of about 15 hens, going about their daily routine of eating, scratching and pecking. We were delighted to learn the they are very low maintenance, relatively quiet (even with two roosters!) and required minimal attention aside from feeding and locking up the coop at night.

backyard chicken

Because of our stay on an Irish homestead we’ve become inspired in many ways, most specifically with raising backyard chickens. Even though we live in an urban area, we do have a fairly sizable backyard – enough space, in fact, for a small flock of a few pet chickens. We are so inspired, that since our return from Ireland, we have already cleared a whole 10’x20′ section for the chickens in our backyard, and bought a beautiful chicken coop with an attached run. We plan to assemble the coop before winter so it is ready for a few hens come spring.

Lake Co. Donegal

A stunning shot of the Irish landscape

Final thought

In Ireland, farming is an everyday occupation. In America, it is not. Although we are sometimes looked at as renegades or as hippy dippy for our choice in vocation, it is something we feel compelled to actualize. The fact is that we could farm in Ireland, happily, but America needs us and other young people to help restore the family farm for this century. We feel called upon to help better the lives and health of people, animals, the soil, and Earth’s atmosphere. The current model of farming in America leaves a lot to be desired, and with that it the back of our mind, we will take a lesson from the Irish family farmer and his menagerie of happy animals.

We are more dedicated than ever to move full steam ahead with our urban farming plans, homestead goals and sustainable living aspirations.

Bring It On.

GHG

Met this little fella on the side of a cliff. He’s just become our new mascot!