Goats, rabbits, chickens (pages)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rocky Creek Valley Farm YouTube Channel

Well, we've been working hard to get our YouTube Channel up so here it is! Only two videos so far, but we have a lot in the "editing" room so stay tuned.
Go here to view

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How-To-Tuesday Natural Dying of Easter Eggs



I know I promised Brain Box Part 2 but since Easter is in a few days I thought this post would be appropriate. So, BB II (subtitled: how I keep my sanity) is slated for next week.

Dying with plants is a time-honored, tried-and-true, safe and natural method of coloring eggs.

First choose a mordant (fancy name for something that "sets" the color): alum, cream of tartar or white vinegar. You can proceed without one, but you will have far better success with deeper richer color.

Next, select your herbs and spices. There are hundreds of plants to dye with but this will get you started.
Blue: woad or red cabbage
Lavender/blue: hibiscus, red grape juice
Gold: tumeric
Yellow: safflower, safron, carrot tops, marigold, goldenrod, cosmos, chamomile, plantain, agrimony
Lt. Orange: curry, carrots, tansy shoots, paprika
Red: St. Johns Wort, dandelion root
Red brown: chili powder
Tan yellow: yarrow
Green: coltsfoot, rosemary, spinach, hyssop, tansy, marjoram, golden delicious apple peel
Pink: beets, sorrel, pickery, madder, raspberries, cranberries
Purple/lavender: blueberries, violets
Brown: onion skins, coffee, 4 black tea bags, comfrey, rosehips, fennel, juniper berries, burdock
Black: black walnut, alder

And, here is the basic recipe:

1 Tbls mordant
4 cups water
2-4 Tbls ground or finely chopped herb or spice
or 1 cup whole, cut, sifted herb
non-aluminum pan

OK, one more choice to make: hot process or cold process.

COLD: Bring your mordant, dyestuff and water to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 1/2 hr to 3 hrs with the lid on depending on the depth of color you are looking for. Strain and cool. Add egg; soak until desired color is reached. You can even refrigerate overnight. In fact BE SURE to refrigerate if you plan to eat the eggs. We always eat them, but I know so many folks who don't. Especially after kids have played hide/find, hide/find for two days.

HOT: Bring mordant, dyestuff and water to a boil, add eggs. Simmer 15 minutes then remove from heat. Cover and let sit 15 minutes more. Remove eggs. Rinse. This process gives you better color, but your eggs are usually overcooked; a moot point if the kids play crochet or bowl with them.

Special effects: vegetable oil adds a glossy sheen. Prior to coloring make patterns by wrapping egg in rubber bands, masking tape or leaves & nylon stocking. Dab with a sponge while egg is still wet from dye. Drop oil into dye for a marble effect.

Perfect eggs: Allow eggs to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Put into pan, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, then cover with cold water. Let eggs sit until cool, drain and refrigerate.

Plant dyed eggs are generally beautiful pastels. It's so much fun to play around with and sometimes the color is a total surprise from what you were expecting. It's a learning experience with children and you have the added peace of mind that you aren't putting yet one more chemical into your family.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

THIS is why I slap my hands if I even think about putting some serious seed into the ground...it was 29 this morning in the Valley. Every time I woke up last night I thought about my baby plants and chicks.

The chicks are in their new diggs-- a brooder house complete with a completely enclosed yard. Farmer Gary took our old brooder house (after we moved Jack and his Mables to their new diggs)and outfitted it for the new little babes. He used broom handles for tiny little roosts...it is so stinkin' cute.

They just love it. They scratched around in their yard just like they'd been doing it forever.

Gary designed the outside enclosure in panels so we can take it apart and REuse it for other things. We tried our best to varmint-proof it; time will tell.

They have been in it for several days and have only had one incident. I had to build an "isolation" pen for one Little Mable; the others had pecked her 'till she bled. So, I cleaned her all up and applied some handy, dandy Herbal Aid Salve that I made from dandylions grown here at Rocky Creek! It stopped the bleeding immediately and the next day she was ready to join her sisters in the main pen. So far, they have left her alone.

Gary installed two heat lights but it had been so warm I only needed one. Until last night. Jeepers. Really? 29 degrees? And, the wind whipped around like a crazy person. Since the main structure of the brooder is old it has a lot of cracks. True to farmer-mentality, I stuffed it all around where the top meets the sides with straw, then after the door was closed, I stuffed around the door with straw. It looks like a square-pants-straw-house. Odd looking but effective. Inside there is about 6 inches of straw on the wooden floor and "leaves" of straw around the walls. Actually, very cozy. But, still, it got 58 degrees in there last night...too cold for the age of the chicks. They should have 70-75 degrees.

But, they seemed chipper and ready for breakfast this morning. They always clean out their feed bins during the night and when I fill them Cassie is right there wanting her share of chicken starter! I didn't open the door to their yard and they weren't too happy about that, but it needs to warm up considerably before I let them out.

As you know, our Red Star laying hens are, well, red and we named them Mable. So, our little New Hampshire Reds are, you know, red, too, so we named them Mable as well. We call them Little Mable now, but that is changing fast! Our black Jersey Giants are Milly. For giants they sure aren't giant. The Little Mables are much larger. The Aracana's are Tilly..can't wait to see their colored eggs. And, the Cochins are Lilly. They are incredibly cute with their little feathered leggings!

Mable and Jack love their new big chicken house. It took a couple of days before they could "give up" their little brooder house. Every time the door was open (Gary was working inside) one of them would sneak in and lay an egg on the floor as the nests had already been removed. But, now, they are all aclimated and appear to love their new condo. They have room to spare--little do they know that they will be invaded by all the Little Mables, Millys, Tillys and Lillys when they grow up!

On the garden front...as you can see by my count down ticker at the top of the page, the BIG planting day is fast approaching. My herb refrigerator, cold frames, future herb kitchen and garden room are full of seedlings, seeds and bare-root plants waiting for the day.

Since we REplotted our garden sizes (what a job that was) I transplanted a third of my garlic so it wouldn't be in the "path", over a hundred plants. Whew. I hate DO-OVERS.

So, I'd better get crackin'. But, before I go a word about GMO's. You know how much I loathe them. HERE is a template letter to send or give your grocery store(s) requesting the LABELING of GMO food. I want to know what's in my food and so should you.

In spite of GMO's....hey, Life Is Good. :)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How-To-Tuesday Brain Box Part I



BRAIN BOX

.

Next week I will eleaborate on what's in my Brain. And, that's scaryBefore Outlook, before DayTimers and Franklin and fancy planner binders, before talking cars (GPS), before the world wide web there was the Brain Box. Don't let its unassuming posture, its mild manner, its low-key attitude fool you: it's a power house of information. I'm not sure how many gigabytes a 3x5 file box holds, but it suits me.

I couldn't and wouldn't live without it. It has been my faithful companion and had an honored place on the counter for years. It knows the birthdays I celebrate with family and friends, it knows when I will clean the toliet and it knows the new recipes I am adding to my FOOD FILE. It knows my prized and priceless herbal formulas; for that alone, it's a shining star.

Yes, I use Outlook. Yes, I use a planner. But, the Brain Box quietly contains my life. Not the hectic, changeable schedule of meetings and mileage tracking, but the core repeatable activities like housekeeping, meal planning and seasonal clothing.




Choose any box, they come in several sizes and material. Although, I'm not sure how decoupage adheres to plastic. My Brain Box is metal. Glue on cutouts of your favorite things; mine are WORDS (of course). Then give it a good top coat; it will last for years. Then, if you tire of it, just sand off the old pics and glue on new ones.

My little box has served me well and has undergone many transformations. (When my kids were young it was "Moms Brain".) And, will probably have many more.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Smooth Move

I think a lot about good food. Not in the culinary-taste-testing-dinner out kind of way, but in the what's-in-it and what's-it-doing-to-my-body way. This morning I read an article to read it go HERE describing the affects of aspertame and MSG on our bodies and I have to tell you, I no longer want to say put down that diet soda. Instead, at the risk of being arrested for assault, I want to knock it out of your hand. (And, MONSANTO, just keeps on showing up everytime there is an attack on your health).

Your choice is this: guzzle a drink that "excites" your brain cells to the point of cell death or drink a smoothie. Continue to drink and eat aspertame(Nutra Sweet, Equal, Spoonful, Equal Measure) proven to cause depression, brain lessions, fatigue, anxiety, heart palpatations and memory loss (just to name a few) or take five minutes and fix a smoothie. OMGSH..does that decision even require thought? At least adults have a measure of protection with the blood-brain barrier. But, in children this "fence" is not fully built yet, so their vulnerability to brain damage is exponentially higher. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not take my word for this. There is ample evidence. Multitudes of studies. Scores of trusted researchers have presented a clear message: Aspertame is dangerous. Let me repeat: ASPERTAME IS DANGEROUS. Stop ingesting it. Stop giving it to your kids. Read labels. Do some research. Start here. This article lists doctors and scientists and studies and symptoms and actions and in-actions by the FDA.

Making smoothies is a natural alternative to unhealthy drinks. It is SO easy. And, it's quick. And, there is an unlimited variety. Check out my smoothie matirix HERE. It's a quick-to-read chart on smoothie possibilites. If the words "chart" and "matrix" turn you off, think of it as a Smoothie Super Recipe. The Mother of all Smoothie Recipes.

Once you start making smoothies, there will be no stopping you! They are quick, easy and kids love them. They not only like drinking them, they like making them and deciding what goes in them. So, come on Mom, get crackin'. Take charge of your health and your kids' health. HAVE A SMOOTHIE!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How-To-Tuesday -Taking Herbs

One of the most frequent questions/comments I get is: I really want (honest) to use herbs, but I don't know how. I'm going to show you one way to take herbs...if fact, it's one of the BEST ways to actually get the good stuff from herbs into your body. It's called

HERBAL INFUSION.

Making an infusion is so stinkin' simple you'll wonder why you haven't been doing it all along.

You will need:

a quart jar complete with lid
herb of choice (more on that later)
boiling water

That's it. See how simple?

Fill the quart jar about 2/3s full of dried herb
Pour on just-under boiling water
Screw on lid.

Wow, Elizabeth, didn't know it was THAT easy! I hear that a lot, too.

Let it sit on your kitchen counter a minimum of four hours--overnight is ideal. Think of it as a really REALLY strong tea. You want to get all those juicy, healthy consituents, all those vitamins and minerals out of the herb and into the water. (Actually, you are not geting ALL of the good stuff out. We'll do that another day.)

After what I call the "stewing" time (4-8 hrs), strain the herb off, throw it in your compost pile (what? you don't compost? Well do that another day, too). Now, you have several helpings of all that nice herby liquid. Green goodness. Refrigerate your quart jar of liquid health, keep the lid on. It will keep around 36+ hours in the frig.

At this point you have several options.

You can drink a glass now, but most folks want it either hot or cold, not somewhere in between! A cup a day trumps a synthetic vitamin in any universe. You can add honey and/or lemon to up the "palatableness". You can add it to other juices you drink (oj, tomato, grape, etc). Be creative!

You can pour it into ice cube trays and freeze. This is great to pop into smoothies or any cold drink; you can even throw the cubes into soups/broths while cooking. Or, freeze into "herb pops" for the kids. Sneaky mom.

Which herb to use? Today, let's start with oatstraw (same as oatgrass). I love this herb. It is a wonderful restorative NERVE tonic. It gently works with stress, exhaustion, grief, any nervous condition. With regular use it reduces inflammation. It's a great balancing herb for female cycles and strong bones.

It is VERY high in chromium (a great blood sugar balancer), magnesium (you need this for your calcium to work & oatstraw is the BEST source of it) and silicon (good nails, ladies! It is high in calcium, fiber, niacin & vitamin A. It has average amounts of iron, phosphorus, riboflavin, selenium, thiamine and vitamin C. Plus oatstraw has trace amounts of many other nutrients.

I love infusions because they are so ABSORBALE and USABLE by our bodies. Plants know where to go inside our bodies and what to do when they get there. Hmmm, just the way the Creator intended! Plus, herb infusions give us BALANCED nutrients which is so much healthier than taking them singly.

Oatstraw is fairly common; you should be able to find it at any herb store. I also have it HERE

Green Blessings, and if you have any questions...ask away! :)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Gardens Galore

Yesterday it was hot hot hot and today it's blustery frigid. Mable is saying hey, what's up here? In spite of Mother's Nature's spring show of I-can-do-it-all-in-one-day weather (yesterday: hot/cold/rain/wind/hail) egg production is at an all time high: 9-10 a day. And, the chicks are getting so big. I may have to put a "no-fly" guard above their cardboard corral as the outside brooder is not quite ready for them.

Take a peek at this great little book: The Backyard Homestead. All the how-to's you'll need to grow your own food. If you don't have a garden yet, come on, you can do it. Even if it's just one pot...BEGIN. You cn also click on my Amazon widget on the right side of this blog.

We have been working on (paper plotting) Rocky Creek's gardens FOR MONTHS. We are planning gardens with the intention of getting high tunnels. Gary attended a working seminar and learned some valuable info about installing them. And, as is true to our nature, we decided to change the size of the gardens from 42 feet long to 72 feet long. So, instead of nine gardens we will have six that will accomodate three moveable high tunnels. (We missed out on the high-tunnel grant this year-- DRAT) Plus, we moved our raised garden (which has nine 8x4 beds) out of the high tunnel configuration. I am updating my Garden Planner--GROW VEG
today...that will take several hours. But, then I think we are good to go! I have boxes of seeds waiting quietly in the dark to be planted.

If you are thinking about gardens, try out GROW VEG It's an on-line garden planner--I love it. Plant to your heart's content and change your mind as often as you like! It tells you all the pertinent info about plants and even has where you can buy them.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Yo Yo Weather

It's bad enough for the plants to have to cope with up and down temperatures. My neighbor said her lilacs have frozen for three years running. I enjoy warm spring temps as much as the next person, but mid 80's? Really. And, it's always April Fool because the temps always drop to freezing or below a few days later. We had near 90 degrees a few days ago then we had 29 last night. My 1-3 week old chicks have heat lights in their little brooder area, but when the temp rises outside, the temp rises inside. They get too hot so I raise the heat light further from them then they get too chilly. Ei yi yi. Where is that mother hen when you need her?!
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