Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Big Chicken Experiment

Ok in 2012 we finally decided to bite the bullet and get chickens.  Not a big deal to some people but when you live smack dab in the middle of the city, it was a big decision for us.  I've been wanting chickens for a long time but my husband was NOT excited.  I finally talked him into it after promising that the kids and I would take care of everything and he wouldn't have any additional responsibilities.

We went and picked out 4 super cute chicks from the feed store and kept them in a Rubbermaid in my daughter's room.  One died the very first night.  Lots of tears from my daughter who's love for animals knows no bounds.  We went right back to the store and bought another.  After that things went along fine until about 2 weeks later when we lost another chick, our family favorite  :(  My daughter was now beside herself with grief and decided she was maybe not cut out for raising chickens.  Too late now I reminded her  :)  Back to the store for ANOTHER chick.

So my plan was to raise 4 chickens for a year and then slaughter two and buy 2 more chicks. And repeat that every year so we always have young egg laying chickens, and we can eat two a year.  However, I have a good friend who contacted me to see if I wanted a couple of egg laying hens right now.  I thought that would put my plan 6 months ahead of where I was so we added 2 more to our brood.

Now I needed a coop though so I got on Craigslist and found the mother of all city backyard chicken coops. I couldn't resist  lol  You can see how beautiful it is before we added chickens.  It doesn't stay that way long  :)
We also quickly realized that it wasn't nearly big enough.  It was great when the chickens were little but squishing 6 full size chickens into that teeny run was no good so we bought a dog run and attached it to the back to the chickens can go in and out at will.  During the summer we add a tarp to the top.  Since we live in the middle of the city, predators aren't a problem so they have a lot of freedom.

In 2013 we got some fertilized eggs from a friend and put them under one of our chickens that had gone broody.  She hatched all of the eggs.  It was SO awesome!  And the great thing was she took care of them so we didn't have to keep them in the house.  Here she is teaching them how to scratch for food.  Sweetest. Thing. EVER!
Now it's 2014, we are still LOVING our chickens.  We are planning on getting some baby chicks from the feed store again this year because I want to get some Ameraucana chickens who lay blue, green, or pink eggs.  Thinking it might be fun to add some more color to our egg basket.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

What We all Should Learn from Hurricane Sandy

Ok, it's taken me a couple of days to pull my thoughts together before writing this post.  I know that people are suffering and that saddens me greatly.  I also want to start off by saying that no matter how prepared we are, misfortune can befall us, and we can find ourselves in desperate circumstances that are not our fault.

That being said, there is a lot we can learn from Hurricane Sandy.  I suppose it's human nature to assume that nothing bad will happen to us and we will always have time to prepare.  However, history has proven otherwise.  Over, and over, and over, again.

I read with some dismay about how many people had decided to stay in harms way and were running out of food within only a couple of days after the storm.  Many had to be rescued and others had to sit around waiting for the govt to come in with food and water.  What a horrible, avoidable, position to be in.

When the unfortunate happens there are two kinds of people, those that are dependent on others for their survival and comfort, and those that can take care of themselves.  In most cases the only difference between the former and the latter is preparation.

I read a good article called False expectations add to East Coast disaster angst  In it they give some realistic information should you be caught in a disaster:

"It could be a week before you get help," he said, adding that the division has been telling residents in Utah for years to be prepared for any situation. It advises having both an emergency kit that can be grabbed quickly, in case of evacuation, as well as a stock of longer term resources at home.

"At the very minimum, you should have a week's worth of food and water storage, as well as other necessities," Dougherty said."

Preparation is not a "Mormon" thing, or a crazy "Apocalypse" thing, it's simply acknowledging that our futures are uncertain and we prefer not to be victims, and not to have to wait on others for the care and well being of our families.  Who knows when help will come?  It may never come.  We are responsible for our ourselves and should plan accordingly.

So, what can we do right now?  If you haven't already, here is a priority list.  Start with number one, and when that is done, do number 2, etc:

  1. GET WATER!!  In almost every natural disaster scenario, clean water is an issue.  Buy 50 gallon barrels and fill them up.  You should have 14 gallons per person available to you.  That is roughly a 2 week supply.
  2. Get 72 hours kits together.  One kit per person with food, water, clothing, shelter, and cooking utensils for at least 3 days. Put in a backpack or something portable in case you must evacuate.  Oh, and if you know a storm is coming and you are told to evacuate, DO IT!
  3. You should ALWAYS have at least 1 week's worth of food on hand but you also need to build up a 3 month supply.  This could be used if you had to shelter in place for any reason.  These should be shelf stable foods in case you lose power.  Also take some time to think how you would cook without power.  You could lose power for a week or more.  In other words, don't store up 3 months worth of microwave dinners in the freezer.  :)
  4. When those are done, work on a year's supply of long terms foods.  To many people this seems overkill but I would rather have food I don't need, than not have food I do need.  Also, I can use this food to help friends and neighbors that might need it.
  5. Lastly, don't forget to stock up on other necessities like toothpaste, TP, hygiene items, fuel for cooking, first aid stuff, etc.
You don't have to do everything in a day, but do SOMETHING. Today.

Let us be wise and learn from the experiences of others so that when our day of challenge comes we can not only help ourselves but help those around us as well.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Be Your Own Super Hero - Stock Up On Sprouts!

Ok this is a hysterical video (mostly because they actually found adults willing to act like this):

Preparedness Heroes Episode 1

but I love their point.  Sprouts are easy to store, easy to grow, and pack in vitamins and minerals your body would need in a time of food scarcity.  Too many people are intimidated by sprouts.  All you need is a couple of simple supplies and you are good to go.  Amazon carries everything you need:

Mason Jar

Sprouting Lid


You can get those fancy sprouting trays but they are not necessary, simple supplies work just as well.  You can probably find most of those things at your local grocer as well.  Doesn't matter where you get them but you should have them in your storage, and practice using them now, you will be amazed how easy it is and how yummy they are!  Mung beans are my favorite to sprout.  I like to just eat them straight as a snack.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Storing Spices

I had a question today about storing spices.  I thought I had done a post on that previously but I can't find it so I'm doing a brief summary here. 

When we were living on food storage I came to realize how important a good array of spices are.  It adds variety to your foods and can make the difference between your kids being willing to eat, and preferring to starve.

The problem is, spices do not have a long shelf life.  The way I have found that works best for me is to buy spices in bulk and then use them in my daily cooking.  That way I have a lot of everything and it still gets rotated.

When purchasing spices I shop either at Costco or WinCo.  If you have a WinCo near you and haven't discovered their bulk foods section yet, you are REALLY missing out.  Repent immediately and check it out next time you are in WinCo. 

Anyway, WinCo also sells these handy dandy spices jars that I use to keep my spices in.  I just added labels.  Then I went to an "Organize It" store in town and got some adhesive backed jar holders to attach to the inside of my cupboards.  And there you have it - a very convenient spice rotation system.

It always amuses me when I teach food storage classes because, invariably, the thing people are most interested in is my spice storage system  :)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

BUTTER! At last REAL shelf stable butter!!!!

Ok, if you are a follower of my blog, you know my butter saga.  When living off food storage, butter and cheese were the things that we missed most.  At long last the butter issue is SOLVED - thanks mostly to one of my readers who happened to mention shelf stable cream.


How is there such a thing?  Oh, but there is, my faithful readers, there is.  Not only does it exist but it also can be churned into REAL butter!

I hunted high and low to find it, it's really only available in Utah and Idaho (of course) but I did find a website that sells it, so I bought a whole case.  It came in the mail today when only my 13 year old and I were home.  I ran to the door and brought the box in.  It looked so plain considering the wonder that it contained.

I was so excited I was shaking and jumping up and down.  My daughter couldn't imagine what was in that magical box, but judging by my reaction she was anticipating something amazing  :)  We ripped the box open and she excitedly reached inside to see what could possibly be so incredible that it would "change our lives forever" as I put it.

She pulled out a box of the precious whipping cream - looked at my giant smiling face - and said, "It's whipping cream."  I shouted proudly, "Not just ANY whipping cream!  Shelf stable whipping cream!"  I was still dancing around the room.  "Mom, you're losing it." she said disappointedly and went back to her school work.

Whatever.  She's 13.  What does she know?

So anyway, I couldn't wait to try it out so I took it out of the box and poured the contents of one box into my Bosch mixer, and started whipping.

It whipped into perfect whip cream soft peaks almost immediately.

Then TWO MINUTES later it separated from the buttermilk and I had BUTTER!!!!

I drained off the buttermilk into a bowl to use later.  I added a little lemon juice to make it sour like the store bought kind.

Then I "washed" the butter in cold water, rinsing it several times until the water came clear.  It is important to wash out all the remaining buttermilk or the butter will go rancid.

Finally I mixed in some salt for flavor.

 Perfect butter straight out of the fridge  :)

I put it on toast and gave it to my pickiest eater to see what he would think.  He took a bite and didn't notice anything different than his usual toast.  YIPPEEEEE!!!!!!!

So, some important facts about this shelf stable whipping cream.  The expiration date is only 6 months (even less on mine because I ordered it from a re-seller and it apparently had already been on their shelves for awhile).  However, when I called the company they said it would be good up to a year.  Several other users online have also commented it will last longer than 6 months.  If you put it in the fridge it may last longer but it will also solidify.  It's still good but you'll have to scoop it out instead of pour it.

My plan is to pick up a bunch when I'm in Utah this summer and then just rotate it religiously.  (no pun intended - haha).  It was SO easy to make it won't be any big deal just to make our butter instead of buying it from now on, and well worth it to have real butter in an emergency.

When you are making it watch it closely.  It congealed into butter MUCH faster than when I used regular cream.  In fact, my first batch I missed the buttermilk separation completely and accidently ended up beating the buttermilk right back into the butter, ruining the whole batch.  It literally took less than 2 minutes.  Converting to butter that fast would also be a big blessing if we have no power and you end up churning it by hand.

Also, you can keep the churned butter in the fridge but it will get pretty hard, just like regular stick butter, so you can also keep it in a butter keeper, or on a cool counter, for easier spreadability.

Ok, seriously, my life is nearly complete now.  I feel completely prepared.  Bring on the Apocalypse......  :)

May last big hurdle is cheese.  I have my freezer thoroughly stocked with it but I hate to be dependent on power being on so my next project is to make and wax cheese.

Oh, and get some chickens.......

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

GREAT Sale on Freeze Dried Cheese

I haven't posted in awhile but I had to get on quickly just to let you know this info.  Costco is having a sale right now on Thrive Freeze Dried Cheeses.  If you follow my blog at all, you know that cheese and butter are the two things we missed most while living off food storage.  Right now you can get 6 cans of cheese for just $169 plus FREE shipping and handling.  A quick check shows that to buy these separately from the Thrive website right now would cost $277.63 with shipping.  And that's with them on sale.

In addition, Costco also has Thrive freeze dried meats on sale with 3 cans of chicken and 3 cans of beef for just $159.99 plus free shipping.  I absolutely prefer canning your own meat to freeze dried, but if you are determined to go this direction, this is a great price.  Purchasing these cans of meat from Thrive itself would cost you $286.52.

Click here to see all of Costco's Emergency Food and Supplies and be aware that this sale is only running until March 18, or until supplies run out.  I am ordering the cheese for sure.  Costco is often a great place to look for supplies, especially if you live outside Utah because their shipping is often free.  I even got my Shelf Reliance rotating can racks from them for way cheaper, plus free shipping.

Anyway,  I hope this is a good resource for you.  Good Luck!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

REAL Cream of Wheat

Have you ever made homemade cream of wheat?  It does not even resemble the stuff you buy in the box and it is YUMMY, and so good for you.  I made some this week and took pictures in case you have not tried it. 

First you need to grind the wheat very coarsely.  My electric wheat grinder can't do coarse enough.  My hand grinder can but it's too big of a pain to drag out so I use this handy little coffee grinder.  (You can also use a blender with the pulse setting.)

Just put a handful of wheat in there and grind it until it looks roughly like this:

I actually usually don't do it quite this fine because I like the larger pieces in my cereal. They kind of pop in your mouth when you are eating them and they are SO good! Anyway, once you grind your wheat, bring about 1 cup of milk and a pinch of salt almost to a boil on the stove and then add 1/2 cup of your ground wheat. Whisk it to prevent lumps.

Cook over low heat 10-20 minutes depending on how fine you have ground your wheat.  Use the longer time for more coarse wheat.  You also may need to add more milk to get the desired thickness.  Continue to stir ocassionally.  When the cereal is cooked add a half a tsp of vanilla and brown sugar if you want - I definitely do!

Yea I do stir that in before I eat it  :)

One of my favorite breakfasts on a cold morning, and it is really good for you (minus the brown sugar maybe  :)

Also, I found Ghee on sale at Costco this month!  If you don't know what that is, it's clarified butter.  Keeps for 6-12 months and does not need to be refrigerated.  I bought a Costco sized bottle for just $15 which is a screamin good deal for Ghee.

The guy at checkout was fairly dubious I knew what to do with this.  He said, "Do you know what this is?"  I promised him I did.  He was not convinced and said, looking at my lilly white skin "You know Indians are the ones who use this."  HaHa!

Ghee on homemade bread
 Anyway, if you've never used Ghee it does taste like butter but has a more grainy texture.  It will become hard if you put it in the fridge but on the counter stays at a more liquid state.  It does melt normally on toast and stuff but definitely takes some getting used to.  Believe me, if it's all you had, you would LOVE it.  However, it does need to be rotated regularly with such a short shelf life so if your family doesn't like it enough to use it now it might not work for you.

Also, if you live near a WinCo - ours began carrying Gamma lids a short while ago and they are just $6.49!  That is a great price and I love these screw on lids for 5 gallon buckets.  It's so much easier to get in and out of my buckets and keep things rotated.  I did notice that Emergency Essentials also has them on sale right now if you need some and don't have a WinCo.