Thursday, January 28, 2010

Meet the flock

I was out today during this nice 60 degree weather, preparing for the freezing temperatures and snow we will get tomorrow night....I love NC weather.  I was outside most of the afternoon preparing the chickens for the cold weather, cleaning their pen and dumping compost and fresh chicken litter in the garden (that story later).

So I figured since this blog is new and some of you may know me and some of you may not, it would only be proper to introduce you to our flock.  Our chicken adventure started when I was teaching Agriculture and the Animal Science class hatched 30 leghorn chicks....perfect timing since the hubby and I (or maybe more myself) wanted to get some chickens.  We went to work building our chicken house and pen with the help of my father.  A few weekends later we had the Poultry Hotel dad says if a bad storm came along and we needed to take cover, the chicken house would be the only thing left standing!  We built it with the intentions of housing no more than 4 hens, which is all two folks need to provide fresh eggs.

As the chicks grew we introduced them to their new home and they seemed pretty content with our handiwork!  A few weeks later, out of our 4 straight run leghorns, 3 grew up to be roosters, our luck.  So we found homes for two, replaced them with a Araucana hen and Rhode Island Red hen.  So here was our new flock, Bandit the Araucana, Rhodie the RIR, Legs the Leghorn, and one Leghorn Rooster....who of course we named Foghorn.

All was well in the chicken house...until Foghorn started crowing.  Now we know that roosters crow, but we wanted to see just how loud Foghorn was going to be....loud enough.  So we found him a home and replaced him with Lacey, the Laced Winged Wyandotte (I know, our names are real original).  Our 4 happy hens grew big and strong and began laying eggs on a regular basis.  The great thing about having 4 different birds was the fact that each one of them laid a different colored egg!
Green-Araucana, White-Leghorn, Light Brown-Wyandotte, Dk Brown-RIR

We lost Lacey the Wyandotte about a month ago, not sure what happened.  She was squatting on the ground, limp.  Her eyes were clear and alert but she would not stand up.  Now, Lacey was not a social butterfly.  She did not like us and would not let us pick her up.  This day she did, we knew something was wrong.  We put her in a box with a heat lamp and hay and hoped she would come around.  After a few hours she was still limp and would not take food or water.  This is where having livestock and a "backyard" farm snaps you into the reality of caring for animals.  My wonderful and brave hubby had to gently put her out of her misery and bury her.  I will say that we are not against killing a chicken for food, even one you have raised yourself.  In fact, I think that is the best source of chicken, if you can handle to processing.  But these girls are our pets and our layers, so seeing one go kinda tugs at your heart strings. 


So 3 it is.  Legs, Bandit, and Rhodie are doing well.  With the colder temperatures we have put a heat light in their house.  This works two fold, keeps their water from freezing and keeps those girls laying eggs all winter.

Chickens are fun.  That's all there is to it.  Their antics are amusing, they talk to you when you come to feed them and they get so happy over the little fresh hay or an earthworm.  We could all learn a lesson or two from a chicken!

Here is a video of the girls after they got fresh hay.  If you aren't familiar with chicken breeds, the red one is the Rhode Island Red, the white one is the Leghorn, and the Brown speckled one is the Araucana.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Breakfast Bar Goodness

I tried my hand at some homemade mixed berry breakfast bars the other day.  This was my first attempt at this new recipe which I modified from one I found online.  They turned out pretty darn good!  These are great for breakfast on the go or an afternoon snack.  Although I did not have fresh berries since they are off season, I used some frozen ones.  If you can't find fresh berries or they are not locally in season, frozen berries from previous seasons or organic frozen berries from your grocery store are just as nutritious and versatile as fresh berries (and cheaper if you are purchasing berries that are not in season!)  Can't wait to make them again when berry season comes around!

I modified the recipe just a little.  Instead of brown sugar I used xylitol, an all natural, low carb, sugar replacement, to make them a little more diabetes friendly and I added all natural vanilla extract to add the flavor that I missed from taking out the brown sugar.  You could also add molasses and natural sugar if you were not using brown sugar to add that same flavor.  All in all they are not too sweet and perfectly filling for breakfast and make great snacks for your kiddos (or in my case hungry hubby).  Here's the recipe for those of you who want to try it out! 

Berry Breakfast Bars
16 oz fresh berries  (or frozen, or canned)
2 1/2 tbsp cornstarch (or substitute 5 tbsp of all purpose flour for thickening)
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cup oats
1 cup brown sugar (or 1 cup xylitol + few teaspoons vanilla)
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup butter (I know this is alot, I actually used only 3/4 a cup)

1 Set oven temperature to 400 F degrees. Grease a 9x13x2-inch baking pan.
2 Thaw berries if frozen. Warm berries in saucepan until the juices run. (If using canned berries, omit this step and simply drain berries from can, reserving juices.) Strain berries and reserve one cup of juice, adding water if necessary to make one cup. Put berries aside and combine cooled reserved juice with cornstarch and lemon juice.  Return juice to saucepan, return saucepan to stove.
3 Cook and stir until thickened. Gently stir in berries. Set aside.
4 Combine flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and spices. Cut in butter until crumbly. Press 2/3 of mixture into greased baking pan. Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly; spread berries over this crust. Crumble remaining flour/oat mixture over berry layer and press lightly. Bake 20-25 minutes more, until lightly browned.
5 Cool in pan. Cut into 24 bars.

 Yum...thickened berry mixture

Finished product!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Homesteading for Diabetes

Being Type I diabetic and staying healthy takes time and effort.  Every thing I do and everything I eat impacts my disease.  A few years ago I left my job as a teacher and am currently unemployed.  Leaving a stressful career was the right choice for me and finding a job that I love and one that continues to support my healthy lifestyle is on my to-do list!

In the meantime,  I have been focusing more on my diabetes and how our lifestyle affects my disease.  My hubby and I were "healthy" folks before my diagnosis, eating mostly healthy foods and exercising on a regular basis.  I have always considered myself to be an aware consumer, eating natural and whole foods as often as possible.  But now more than ever I feel like what we put on our table has more of an impact on my current management of this disease and my long-term health. 

By default, I have begun to eliminate packaged foods from my diet (and in turn the diet of my hubby!).  I can't claim this was all because I had a vision of eating naturally and returning to the earth for my food (although I truly believe that is one of the best ways to eat).  It started as a necessity to controlling my diabetes.  It's much easier to count carbs and eat things when there are not hidden ingredients, sugar, and generally bad stuff.  In other words, I usually go for the pieces of fruit or a handful of nuts instead of something that I have to unwrap to eat.  As I began to incorporate this type of eating into my diet, I found that eating naturally has a positive impact on controlling my blood sugars, and the other benefits are not too shabby either (no artificial ingredients, no added chemicals, etc). 

Hubby and I have always been advocates for getting off the grid, living off the land and being as self sufficient as possible.  Our plan for the future includes land, a solar home, and a small working farm.  Right now, we are working hard to achieve that goal.  In the meantime, we are focusing on our humble one acre plot of land, doing the best we can to live off of what we have...a reasonable garden, 3 laying hens, and soon to come a hive of bees.  The prospect of being as sustainable as we can is exciting to both of us.

As our plans for the future merge with our current lifestyle, I can't help but smile when I think of what we have, what we are working towards and what this all means for me and the management of my disease.  As we work towards living as naturally as possible I think of all the homegrown veggies, fresh eggs, and fresh honey and know that the more natural foods I consume the healthier I will be and the easier my disease will be to manage.  I mean, is there any better way to manage diabetes than to get your exercise tending to a garden and livestock and eating healthy food that comes from your own hard work?  I think not!