Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hard Work on the Homestead (Part One)

     With Spring and Summer just around the corner there will be a lot of outside chores demanding our attention.  So, we've been spending time lately getting things done on the inside while we can.  I created a mile long list of things that needed to be done before outside duties call.  So, in the last several weeks, my husband has been hard at work checking off my seemingly never ending "honey-do" list.  I found it only fitting to take a moment and dedicate a blog post to him.  He's spent countless late nights working on projects and hour after hour trying to perfect his amateur skills.  We've been married for seventeen years and he has never been one I'd consider a carpenter.  However, he's proven to the both of us that with a lot of practice and determination he can pretty much build whatever I dream up.  And, now that a few projects are under his belt, he's not looking very amateur anymore. Below you will find some pictures and some bragging.  Maybe you'll be inspired. If we can "do it ourselves", I know you can! :-)

     The first picture I'm sharing is a before that doesn't yet have an after. For those of you that follow us on Facebook, you saw posts asking for well wishes as we began the project of hanging beadboard in the kitchen and breakfast nook. That project took about two weeks to get on the wall and a few days past that to get it all painted. Although my husband has come quiet a long way in improving his carpentry skills, his caulking and painting still leaves a little to be desired.  This is a good place to state that as long as we've been married, very few projects have made it to the "complete" status without help from my sister-in-law and my mother-in-law.  Regarding the recent projects, they've stepped in to do caulking and painting...that's their "usual" job.  And, might I add they do it from the heart.  So, that saves me a TON of money.  I must also add we are very fortunate that my dad has A LOT of power tools.  He has willingly loaned them out to us without hesitation.  If we didn't have access to the tools he has, I'm not really sure how the "honey-do list" would be getting these big DIY projects checked off of the list.
      Above you can see that the beadboard is up.  In this picture, the trim wasn't up nor was any of it painted.  Before an after picture is posted, I will have to get the table back.  That's the other area where my sister-in-law helps get projects to "complete".  If anything needs refinished or refurbished, she's the one to go to.  Currently, she has the table and is in the process of giving it a facelift.  Although I do like the traditional country style of this table, I am ready for a change.  I figure it can always be sanded back down to the original finish in years to come if we decide to do that. (Check back later when Part Two is posted to see the finished beadboard and how the table turns out.)

     The main area of the kitchen and breakfast nook now looks refreshed and brightened with a nice coat of white paint all over the newly installed beadboard.  However, the island/bar in the kitchen is the place where all four of my children and all of their friends gather.  They are there for breakfast, for snacks, for homework, and for just hanging out while I'm cooking in the kitchen.  You can imagine the wear and tear that area receives. So, we decided to paint that just a little bit different. 

     If you notice, not only did the beadboard change from white to black, but the barstools also received a facelift and went from black to distressed red.  (Another thanks to my sister-in-law).   I wish I had thought to take the TRUE before picture which was of the bar area with no beadboard at all under it.  It was just the painted sheetrock wall. 

     After the beadboard project was complete, the DREADED garage project began.  Not to be redundant but we have four children ages 12 and under.  So, you can imagine how quickly a garage gets out of shape...piled with bikes, riding toys, balls, gloves, sidewalk chalk, "junk" from a quick car clean out, etc.  You name it, it was in our way in the garage.  So, I actually got to be helpful in this project.  I spent a LONG time cleaning the garage in order to make room for a project I've had my eye on for quiet a while.  The inside of our house doesn't lend the space that's needed for a mudroom area like I'd love to have.  So, we decided to make the best of our garage and create a "mudroom" in the space before you walk into our home.  In this picture in the bottom left, you can see just a taste of how out of sorts the garage was.  But, now we LOVE the space.  It's like a little bit of square footage added to our living area because it has turned out to be the mudroom we never had.  The top picture shows how it looks now...the same space where all the junk used to be. Let me brag really big husband built 98% of this all by himself!  He had a great friend come over and help him get the frame all squared up but he did all the rest. I gave him a picture from Pinterest and said, " this please."  He under estimated himself when he didn't think he could do it. I'm proud of him that he did.  (Don't tell him that he only proved how many other things he can do!) We still have to add one more hook to the far right cubby and do a tad bit of caulking but it is already a very functioning space. 

     You'd think after all of the above work I would let the poor guy rest.  BUT, he has just today completed yet another project from the "to-do" list.  And, it was yet another first for him.  He installed hardwood floors in our bedroom.  He did a fabulous job!  Tomorrow we get to move all the furniture back in and reap the full view of that DIY project.  But, I have no doubt it's gonna look great. One bedroom down and two more to go.  He is almost worn to a frazzle but much more confident in himself and his handyman skills than he was just a few weeks ago. 
       Thankfully, I have a hard working husband and a very supportive family that steps up to the plate working tirelessly for hours on end.  Without everyone working together my "to-do" list would still be sitting there because my budget wouldn't be able to afford the labor of getting it all to "complete".  
     We've made a huge dent in our list but stay tuned for Part Two of this post to see the rest of our work.  Don't forget that in the midst of all these chores, we've still been "bringing the farm to us".  Today we reached our record of three eggs in one day. We got two eggs yesterday.  We are well on the way to all seven of our current hens laying eggs.  And, in a few short weeks we will add several more chickens and five ducks to our backyard flock.  You guessed of the things reaching the top of the to-do list now is the construction of a duck house.  Not to mention getting ready for our garden. And, have I mentioned I'd like to learn to can??  Work on a homestead is never complete! 
THANK YOU to everyone who has helped!  It takes a village!! 



Sunday, March 3, 2013

ALMOST Homemade Orange Cinnamon Rolls

     Although it's nice to make things 100% from scratch, sometimes we have to find just a little bit of a short cut to help us out.  Not long ago I was watching The Pioneer Woman and she made homemade orange rolls.  I've been craving them every since.  They looked really tasty and eventually I will get around to making her recipe.  But today, I didn't have the time to make the dough and let it rise but I did have enough time to enjoy a few  minutes of baking.  I love to be in the kitchen and baking is one of my favorite hobbies. So I made ALMOST Homemade Orange Cinnamon Rolls.  Below you will see the steps I took and you'll quickly see the catch as to why these rolls are "almost homemade". 

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and gather these ingredients:
~Crescent Rolls (2 big packages or 4 small packages)
~Orange Marmalade
~Brown Sugar
     Open the Crescent rolls and roll them out flat with a rolling pin. 

Once you've gotten a nice sized rectangular piece of dough, spread butter and marmalade all over the dough.  Then, sprinkle brown sugar all over the top. (A light covering of butter will do.  I learned, although I thought a thorough covering would be best, I think they will keep their shape better with a light coat.)

Next, roll the dough into a jelly roll shape, pinching the dough closed along the way.    Don't worry!  It's okay to get a little bit messy.

After the dough has been rolled up just right, slice it into cinnamon rolls and place onto a baking pan.

Place the rolls into the oven and bake for 12-14 minutes.  Remember, all ovens bake a little differently so keep an eye on your rolls and bake them until they are a nice golden brown.

While you are waiting for the rolls to bake, mix up the frosting.  You'll need these ingredients:
~Powdered Sugar...about 2 1/2 cups
~About 1/4 cup of milk
~1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
~1 teaspoon of pure vanilla flavoring
Adjust the ingredients to fit the consistency you like best. 
Mix the above frosting ingredients with a mixer until nice and smooth.
Pour over the orange cinnamon rolls.

Transfer them to your favorite serving platter and enjoy!
     This was a quick and easy way to make orange cinnamon rolls.  I took the shortcut by using the crescent rolls for the dough, thus the "almost homemade" part.  But, I added all the other ingredients from scratch and made a breakfast the family enjoyed.  PLUS, my daughters got to lend a helping hand.  It was a win-win.  I hope your family can benefit from this recipe.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Couponing 101

       Those of you that are familiar with our blog and Facebook page already know that we are a family of six.  That means it takes a lot of money to do most anything in life.  Especially, keeping the pantry stocked.  In today's economy many are trying to make every dollar stretch to a bare thread.  I know we are.  A couple years ago, a really good friend got me started in couponing.  It was a huge blessing. Couponing allows me to purchase several of a particular item that I would otherwise probably not buy at all because of the price.  In our family, one box of cereal barely makes two breakfasts, one box of "treats" has 8 or 10 at the most and will fill only a day or two of lunches, and a bag of apples might last three days.  Couponing brings the prices down to affordable and allows me to purchase the name brand items. 
          However, for the past several months (since before Christmas), I've taken a break from it.  I didn't really do that intentionally.  I just got distracted with holidays, with home projects, and with "bringing the farm to us".  BUT, it's made a dent in the budget by not using coupons.  Not to mention that my children and even my husband are frequently complaining that "there's nothing to eat around here".  Obviously, we are far from hungry. We are fortunate enough that although the pantry may not always hold the exact special something somebody is craving, we've never had a truly empty stomach.
          This past week I told my husband that I am ready to get back to keeping my coupons organized.  It just so happens that I've had more than one friend from my personal FB page ask me to share tips they've seen me share in the past.  SO, what better way than to write a blog post?  This way, I'm sharing to those that have asked and hopefully I'm introducing somebody new to the beauty of couponing.

     First of all, get familiar with Coupon Lingo.  Here are some terms you will see as you begin to search links for coupons.

(Remember, sales are regional. So be sure to check with the stores you frequent for their particular terms and guidelines dealing with coupons.)
Coupon Lingo
                          B1G1, BOGO, B1G1F – “Buy 1, Get 1 Free”
$/$$ - Dollars off wyb XX dollars
.50/1 - Fifty cents off one item
.50/3 - Fifty cents off 3 items
DND5 - Coupon says Do Not Double, but the bar code starts with a 5, most computers will still double it
NED - No Expiration Date
Blinkies - Coupon dispensed near product, in the store (usually from a “blinking” red box)
Catalina - Coupon dispensed at the register at the time of purchase (on separate paper)
Peelie - Coupon that you peel off the package
Tear Pad - Pad of refund forms or coupons found hanging from a store shelf or display
FAR - Free After Rebate
IP - Internet Printable (a coupon you print off the internet)
MFR - Manufacturer
MQ - Manufacturer coupon
MIR - Mail in Rebate
OOP - Out Of Pocket
YMMV- Your Mileage May Vary (you may find the item priced differently or it may not work for you the same)
PG - Proctor & Gamble Sunday insert coupons
RP - Red Plum Sunday insert coupons
SS - Smartsource Sunday insert coupons
V - Valassis (former name of Red Plum inserts)
FLIP - Food Lion Internet Printable
Regional - Coupon value only distributed to a certain area
UPC - “Universal Product Code”. It is that box of black lines that the checker passes over the scanner at the checkout.
WYB - When You Buy
WSL - While Supply Lasts
SASE - Self Addressed Stamped Envelope
CRT - Cash Register Tape (coupon that prints on your receipt)
ECB - Extra Care Buck (CVS)
ESR - Easy Saver Rebate (Walgreens)
IVC - Instant Value Coupon (Walgreens store coupon, found in Walgreens Easy Saver Catalog and on in store tear pads)
RR - Register Rewards (these are the Catalinas that print out at Walgreens)
SCR- Single Check Rebate (rebate system at Rite Aid)

Here are some other things I do that I think you'll find helpful:

1.      If you haven’t already, subscribe to the Sunday paper.  For now, the paper is still in print so we may as well take advantage of the coupon inserts.  This is where you will get many coupons from Smart Source, Red Plum, and P&G. 

2.    If you have friends who get the paper but don’t use the coupons, get the word to them that you’d like to have their extras…all of the inserts or the ones they’re not using.  The reason for this is because in cases where you want to buy more than one of something that’s a really good deal, you’ll have a coupon for each of the items.  (Recently, Smart Balance milk was BOGO and having a coupon for each one allowed me to get it for free.)

3.    If there is a really good coupon, you may even want to go buy more than one of the Sunday paper.  A paper only costs a couple bucks and sometimes there can be one single coupon for $5 off of an item.
4.    Keep all of the coupons until they expire.  You never know what you’ll try if it’s cheap enough and you have a coupon to go with it.

5.    YOU HAVE TO BE WILLING TO TRY THINGS THAT ARE ON SALE.  That means, you can’t say, for example, “Well, I won’t buy that 'x brand' peanut butter because I only like 'y brand'.”  If you have good coupons for a certain brand, be willing to try it.  Be flexible about what types of snacks you want to have around the house.  It's always exciting when our local store as a Buy One Get One Free (BOGO) item that I happen to also have a coupon for.  That item will for sure be a snack purchase!
    (With all of that said, only buy what you feel sure you're family will like or be willing to try.  Don't waste your money on something that YOU KNOW your family won't eat or consume.  No matter how cheap it is, if you won't use it or donate it to a good cause, it's a waste of your hard earned money.)

6.    Get an organizational system for your coupons. There are a couple of different methods for this. Your personality type will dictate which system works best for you.  
  • Cut every coupon out and organize it in categories such as dairy, personal care, meat, etc.  You can buy accordion style 4x6 folders for this. The plus of this is that you can get into a habit of cutting coupons every week and when you're ready to use them, they are already cut out.
  • Separate each sheet of the coupon inserts and place them in sheet protectors in a three ring binder….place them alphabetically by product. This allows for page length pages to turn.  The plus is the add is easier to see but the negative is that you'll have to cut the coupon out right when you are ready to use it. (Or when you sit down and match coupons to the weekly ad.)
  • Buy a 3-ring binder and fill it with baseball card protector sheets.  Each little square section a baseball card would normally go in is where you put the coupons.  You can use tab dividers to organize by category.
  • What I do as of now:  I keep the coupon inserts intact and write the date on the outside of them.  That way when a website refers to where to find a coupon (IE:  in the Smart Source from 7/18), then I go to that particular insert and only cut out what I know I need.

Coupons can be printed.  Below is a list of links I frequently visit to see what coupons are available and print out the ones I need.

     Couponing is time consuming.  However, once you get the hang of it you will have a system that works for you and it will get easier and easier.  Some people make "dates with friends" to do couponing.  Socialize with a friend while you work together to clip and sort coupons. You may not be able to break free every week to do it.  Just find time to do it in a way that supports your shopping budget.  If you stock up on things monthly, be sure to do the coupons at least once a month.  If you shop every weekly sale, then clip or print coupons weekly.  You will be surprised at how much money you can save when you spend time preparing for the sales.  Don't get hung up on it though.  Do what works and do it to make your life easier.  It's okay to pay full price for something if you're in a crunch.  Sometimes paying full price is worth the peace of mind of just getting "it" done and getting on to the next thing on your list. 

Here's a photo to encourage you:
By using coupons and taking advantage of the weekly ad, I saved $120.55 on this purchase.  My total out of pocket was $91.90.  That's pretty good considering it included the big ticket items such as washing detergent, diapers, sunscreen, and canned drinks. 

I hope these tips have been helpful and will encourage you to get your pantry stocked in a budget friendly manner.  Happy couponing!

**This post is written based on my own personal experience with couponing.  I am not affiliated with nor am I advertising for any particular link listed. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Which Duck Breed is Your Favorite?

     We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of our backyard ducks.  They won't be here until June so we have a while to wait.  We need that time to get their house and run area built and ready for them.  While we are waiting, we are reading about the breeds we chose in our first online order.  We are getting tips from all resources we have available.  As we did with the chickens, we are just jumping into being duck parents and learning as we go.  So, I figured why not ask our followers?   Below you will see images of each breed and a small description of their temperament. These are not our ducks.  They are the various breeds that will be in our backyard soon.  (I do not take credit for taking the pictures. "Google Images" is the source for the photographs. The description of each duck is taken from I trust this source to provide you with accurate information regarding each variety of duck listed below.)  Use the provided  information to vote on your favorite breed. You don't have to own ducks to vote. You can vote based on your experience with each breed, appearance, temperament, or level of egg production...pretty much whatever suits your fancy!

Cayugas are named after the Cayuga Lake in New York. The history of the duck is unkown but it shows characteristics of a Mallard based breed. Their feathers can change colors throughout their life, gray colors can show up between 4 and 18 months of age. Cayugas are medium-weight ducks that have beautiful, iridescent, greenish-black feathers. This is a quiet, hardy breed that lays dark, grayish colored eggs.

Average mature weight: Drake 7lbs., Duck 6lbs.  
Hardiness:    Good
Personality:  Calm
Production:  130-180 eggs per year

Khaki Campbell

The Campbell was developed in the 1800's in England. Adele Campbell the maker of the breed selected for a large carcass size while maintaining egg production. By the 1920's this breed became recognized as the most abundant layer, laying around 340 medium size eggs per year. These beautiful ducks are a warm khaki color, similiar in tone to brown military uniforms. Adult drakes should have slightly darker brown head.

Average mature weight: Drake 4 1/2 lbs., Duck 4 lbs. 

Production:  220 eggs per year
Personality:  Nervous, Possible Flyer


These large ducks have similiar color and markings to wild Mallard ducks. However, these ducks are considerably heavier and do not fly. They were developed in France but the English influenced the Rouen into what we know today. The English increased its weight, changed its shape, and improved its colors. The production type are good foragers, calm, and have gentle disposition. They are known to wander far distances which can make them easy prey. Nice and meaty.

Average mature weight: Drake 8-9 lbs., Duck 6-7 lbs. 

Hardiness:   Good
Personality:  Calm
Production:  140-180 eggs per year

The unusual look of these ducks originates from a flock of mis-colored Khaki Campbells. The Welsh farmer who first discovered the mutation began breeding for the unique color around the middle of the 20th century. A couple of decades later, the first hatching eggs, followed by adult breeders, were sent to the United States. Just like their predecessors, these ducks are great foragers and prolific layers.

Average mature weight: Drake 5½ lbs; Duck 4½ lbs.

Personality:  Very calm, non-flyer
Production:  150-200 eggs per year


Please feel free to leave a commnet about this blog post.  Helpful tips and suggestions from duck owners with experience are gladly welcomed. Don't forget...go to the poll and vote!  When the poll closes I will post which breed was voted the favorite among our followers. 


Thursday, January 31, 2013


     WOW!  I've just finished reading the first edition of  From Scratch Magazine.  In the "farming" and homesteading blog world there has been much hype of its arrival.  After much anticipation, I was able to read the virtual copy for FREE.  It does not disappoint.
      Every article was well written, the magazine is overflowing with beautiful photographs, and filled to the brim with information.  There are a couple articles in particular that stand out to me. They gave me an extra boost of confidence that what we are trying to do with our small space in rural Alabama is really a good thing. I will talk more about those later.  But first, let me go astray for just a bit to give you a little more in sight to Our Crazy Coop and how we got started with the idea of converting our regular home to a homestead and how we began "bringing the farm to us".
      It is very much still a work in progress but it really has quiet a humorous beginning...and maybe to some, a rather ridiculous idea that prompted this journey.  I was shopping with my mom and sister-in-law when we came to a store that sold things for the home.  These things included picture frames, knick-knacks to sit around, and figurines.  All were of a rustic and "farm" style, suiting my taste "to the T".  We wondered around and so happened upon a section of ceramic roosters and hens...decorations that prior to that day I had not really been inclined to collect. But, the comment was made, by one of the two women accompanying me, that having a decorative chicken displayed somewhere within a home symbolizes the homeowners ability to decorate well.  REALLY??  Guess what?  I didn't have A FAKE CHICKEN in my house just sitting around somewhere.  LOL!  But, just in case that old saying was a true one, I had to make sure that I found the just right ceramic beauty to that was suitable for my rustic style but not too terribly "country".  


    I purchased the little lady you see in the picture above and placed her in the perfect spot on the kitchen counter. Then, I showed her to my children.  Our girls absolutely loved her.  They began petting and kissing that figurine...making a big fuss.  So, I said to my husband, "We should get real chickens if they love this one so much!"  Our second son was beside me when I said that. The thought of us getting real chickens was as exciting to him as it would've been if we had told him we were putting Disney World in the backyard!  We spent the entire next afternoon after church, just surfing the net reading about chickens, coop plans, the general cost for raising them, and everything chicken.  We watched one YouTube video after another.  Within just that short time frame, we were convinced that we were going to be backyard chicken owners.  It was only a couple days later that we downloaded plans to build the coop and placed the online order for baby chicks. 
     When we spread the news of that decision to our family and friends, we are pretty sure they thought we were crazy!  (Thus, the name of our blog was created.) As if having four children, one outside dog, and two inside dogs wasn't enough??  But, many of those same people also thought we were crazy when we had child number three and then child number four.  And now, they wouldn't know us any other way.  It is Our Crazy Coop and we love it.  That brings me to what I was writing this blog entry for in the first place.
     Although we are very much enjoying the journey, we are early on the path and we are frequently asked, "Why??"  When trying to answer that, especially considering the out of the norm way we came to our decision, I find us trying to justify to some people why we'd want to add all this extra responsibility.  Although this new found passion has won us over, once or twice we've double guessed ourselves with questions such as, "Do we really have the longevity for this? Are we in it for the long haul? Are we able to make the sacrifice of time and money that it takes for this?" 
      The first edition of From Scratch Magazine has helped me answer those questions and put some of those worries at ease.  Page after page kept my interest and I'm so glad to know that it will continue coming each month having pages overflowing with information. In this edition Lisa Steele, from Fresh Eggs Daily, shares her valued opinions and eagerly accepted advice in a question/answer feature, you can read about starting plants from seeds, gardening, canning, and much more.
    Now, back to those couple articles I referenced in the beginning.  The article that really sums up my feeling for the new lifestyle we are starting begins on page 36 and is titled "The Farmstead" by Rachael Taylor.  The first quote from her that stands out to me is, "Chickens are the gateway drug to a farming lifestyle."  I laughed out loud when I read that quote because it is so fitting for our family.  My friends would certainly agree that my having chickens has given me a new high and yet another thing to be passionate about. You can't have just one or two chickens! From the moment we got them an instant desire to "bring the farm to us" evoked. This all started just a little more than four months ago and in such a short time it just seems so perfect.  There are challenges.  It takes a lot of planning and a lot of time to make your backyard a homestead. And, we are only just beginning.  While I'm sure there are plenty of things we are yet to face, I know this...the animals need to be good quality, they need to be fed good quality food, and their housing/fencing requirements need to be met in a way that will protect them and keep them healthy.  Ultimately, the animals are there for our family so their health equals our health in the long run.  I'm not a patient person when it comes to getting things I want, so this has been hard.  I'm also a perfectionist.  I want everything to be done right and I want our backyard to look like a "farm" not like a junkyard. Again, I agree with Rachael that "the biggest challenge is always money."   Everyone knows raising a few kids keeps the budget stretched and the calendar busting at the seams. They are going to want to participate in sports and dance and cheer. The animals are going to need feed and fencing and occasional medical care. I'm finding though, that being passionate about making this work makes me do without a few things. One less take out dinner, one less new sweater, one less a little more money left over to buy feed for the chickens and save for our other goals.  There are other homesteading things  you can do to help save money.  Emily McGrath of Our Little Coop gives great tips on pages 58-60 to start your own mealworm farm. That's a great way to save money over time for the "extra snacks" we spoil our chickens with. We've passed by the mealworm treats more than once while out buying feed because those extra treats can get a little pricey.  (Just this week, I emailed my husband with a link provided by  about growing mealworms.) I was happy and thankful to see Emily's helpful article included in the 1st edition. That'll be yet another project added to the never ending to-do list.
     So, for now, we've got chickens in the backyard, we've acquired a Ranger ATV that we are excited to be able to use in things such as gathering vegetables to deliver to neighbors and transporting the coop cleaning materials and feed across the way.  We have ducks scheduled to arrive in the summer, we've created this blog, and we have a Facebook page for Our Crazy Coop.  I've found more "friends" on line than I ever thought were out there.  It's been wonderful to find a network of people sharing the same interests and passions. It's also great to know that they are only a keyboard away and ready and willing to share advice about things that work and don't work in the areas where they have more experience than we do.  This network of people is a network that is willing to share just because it's a friendly gesture and not because something is expected in return.
       Today, there are many who can't understand trying to create this lifestyle in such a chaotic world. Again, the magazine wins me over with another article beginning on page 51, written by Melissa Jones.  It's titled  "5 Ways to Make Your Homestead a Success". As the title suggests, she points out five things to focus on when planning your homestead.  Points number three and four are my favorite.  She says,  "Homesteading is all about community" and "Making connections with people and businesses is more than just trying to sell products from your homestead--it is about fostering a community that encourages the importance of family, self-reliance, and a simpler way of life."
     That's what everybody is really searching for...  a simpler way of life...isn't it? Sometimes it means giving up other things to be able to do this.  I worry about that because with four children, we are bound to have other things that will  pull us away from home on weeknights and weekends and will keep us with a packed schedule.  But, it's the big picture that matters.  We are hoping given the young ages of our children, the exposure to this kind of life will take root and let them see the quality family time that can come from it. 
     Sometimes "being weird" and not doing what everyone else is doing is okay. Some people really may find it strange that we'd want to grow a big garden, have chickens and ducks, and maybe one day a couple of miniature goats.  Especially since we are not on a "true farm".  But that's alright.  Yes, it is work.  Yes, it may make us have obligations that cause us to have to pass by some things that we otherwise wouldn't have had to pass by. IS worth it.  Quoting Rachael Taylor again, she says she has traveled all over the world, "...And yet, none of that quiet compares to your very own bit of Earth--a homestead--to call your own."  Thank you From Scratch Magazine for highlighting all the reasons having a homestead is okay and for letting us feel JUSTIFIED in our new journey.
(You can keep up with us while we are "bringing the farm to us" by visiting our Facebook page,


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

From Classroom to Coop

     I am a second grade teacher by day, and a "farm girl in training" after hours. I'm a mama of four and a wife all the time.  Our family is relatively new to being backyard chicken owners and we are learning new things every day while "Bringing the Farm to Us".  So, when I can take advantage of the opportunity to unite all my titles, it's a good day. 
     Let me first give credit to a blog I follow titled,  It is spending time reading their blog that gave me the idea to sprout lentils. (They have a link on their site with directions.)  Being that it was in perfect timing for Science objectives that needed to be met in my classroom, I figured we could do a lesson that could go from classroom to coop and benefit both my students' education, and the health of our chickens. (And, as I explained to my students, if the chickens are eating healthy, they'll give us healthy eggs, and therefore the food my family is eating will be healthy...and that's another lesson on another day!)  SO, project "How to Sprout Lentils" began.

     On day one, our class went to the science lab.  While there, the students were divided into five small groups and each group prepared a jar of lentils to observe.  (I wish I could include pictures of each group of students having such fun, but unfortunately, I can't put my students on the internet.)
          Step 1 
If you notice, the jar lid has been replaced with shelfing paper.  This is a great item to use in this project because it allows the water to be drained out of the jar very easily. Just place the ring to the jar on a piece of shelfing paper, and cut around the paper so that it will fit inside the ring. 

Step 2
We placed a heaping tablespoon of lentils in the jar and covered the lentils with water.  The jar sat on our classroom counter over night.

Step 3 (and this is repeated daily)
The next morning the students got back in their small groups and each student got a turn to drain the water, and continue shaking the jar until all students had a turn and all water was thoroughly drained.  Every day of the project, the students had to rinse and drain the lentils and write an entry in their Science Lab Journal.  The entry had to explain what changes they observed from day to day as well as how we were taking care of the lentils on each day.

After the first day of rinsing and draining, and the lentils had been left on the counter over night, the lentils started sprouting.  The students were so excited to see the small sprouts beginning to form!

Every day, the students made an entry in their journals. Keeping the Science Lab Journal: How to Sprout Lentils, helped the students be an author to an informative little booklet that they could take home and share.  And, our neighboring second grade class is now doing the same project.  So, my students are excited that they are able to provide directions on what to do each day. 

After about five days, the lentils had filled the jar more than half way up. It was amazing to see the excitement in the students when they could see such an obvious growth from day to day. These are the kinds of projects that make a teacher smile.

When the project was complete, it was a win-win situation.  My students learned a lot and they provided a healthy treat for our chickens.  Taking the lentils from classroom to coop is something we will continue to do!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Then 'til Now

Having never had baby chickens before, we were almost like new parents (not quiet as  nervous) awaiting the arrival and a little unsure of how the whole process was going to go. Here (in the photo above) is where it all started.  A phone call from the post office early on an October morning, let us know our babies were ready to be picked up. By the way, we found it unbelievable that we were going to have LIVE CHICKS arrive BY MAIL! Until you have chickens, that's not a topic that just comes up in conversations. Therefore, we didn't know much about them.  Amazing how once you do have them, you will find a segue to chickens in most any conversation.  

Although we were newcomers to the hobby of raising backyard chickens, we had done a lot of reading and new a little bit about what to expect.  We had their brooder box nice and toasty when they got to their new home.  Above, you see their first picture.

Of course, once we dedicated ourselves to being "chicken parents" I started shopping for chicken gadgets.  It seemed appropriate that their space should be named Mother Hen Drive, so why not buy a sign?? This picture was taken on the third day we had them. 

 For the first several weeks, we fed them medicated starter feed.  We had no trouble with it and the chicks seemed to love it.

The thermometer was placed in an easy to view spot so that we could be sure to keep the temperature right about 95 degrees for those first several days. 


 To the left and the right, you see the Rhode Island Red named Pretty Is. This is about the time she was realizing she actually has wings. 

The above two pictures are Black Jersey Giants named Gertle and Gussy. This is when they were about a month old.  Even at that point, we could tell a noticeable difference in their size.  "Giant" is a great part of their name.  


Francine is the Barnevelder.  It took us a few weeks to figure out if she was a Barnevelder or a
Partridge Rock.

Hissy, named by our eight year old, is a Partridge Rock.  This is her at about 4 weeks old. You can see how it was hard to distinguish her from the Barnevelder.

Rainbow, appropriately named by our now five year old, is a Golden Campine.


This is Shelly.  We are not totally sure what she is because we only ordered two Black Jersey Giants.  BUT, she is very much like a Black Jersey Giant and we are beginning to think maybe she is one.  Our order form says the seventh chicken is a "rare maran" but she looks just like the giants. Time shall tell.

They've always been good eaters.  Looking back at this picture now, they seemed so little even when at the time we took this picture, we thought they we so big! (Notice how much bigger the Black Jersey Giants are than the others.)
This picture was taken just a couple weeks ago.  They were eating sweet potatoes and cottage cheese.  I find myself laughing at the extent I go to, making sure the girls get good treats. And, on a regular basis, we mix the The Breakfast for Champions. You can find a recipe for that at

If you had told me a year ago that I'd be tending to chickens, and going the extra mile to make sure they get a healthy diet, I'm not sure I would've believed you. Funny how actually getting them will make your love for chickens take a 360 degree turn.  Well, maybe I shouldn't say it exactly that way.  I suppose it was never that I didn't like chickens, it was just that I had never put a lot of thought into them.  Now...I can't imagine not having them!

Today, the chickens are almost four months old and look like this.  They are growing and thriving and are such a joy to observe.

                                                     This is Francine, the Barnevelder. 

Gertle and Gussy have no problem holding their own...the giants that they are. :-)

Rainbow is the Golden Campine.  She is a very unique little chick.  She is also one of the most stubborn in being still long enough to get a good picture.

Pretty Is...isn't the name just perfect for her?  A Rhode Island Red, she always seems proud to grace the camera with her presence.

 This is Hissy the Partridge Rock.  Funny how all the names they got as babies are turning out to fit them just right.  She doesn't exactly hiss but she does make a sound and get out of the way when you're trying to get her to be photogenic. 

Then 'til's been just shy of four months and I'm so glad to be at now. Each day with this new found hobby is an adventure.  Having backyard chickens has been such an inspiration for our family.  They've made us want to do more things to become a little more self-sufficient. They are the building block of this sweet little homestead we've found right in our backyard.  Because of them, we are now anxiously awaiting the first eggs and planning a garden to have fresh and homegrown vegetables to eat with our "homegrown" eggs.  We're "bringing the farm to us" and we are loving it!