Thursday, April 28, 2011

The One Dress Protest

There really are some great blogs and information on the net if you take the time to sift through the crap.  Today on the Frugal Village forum, someone posted this gal's blog - One Dress Protest, Fasting from Fashion.  She's going to wear the same dress every day for a year.  All I can say is that my hat's off to her!

You can read her blog and follow along here -

My personal fashion habits, or lack of them, is based pretty much on whatever shirt I grab from the closet.  I'm not picky, I just want to be covered.  Most of 'my' clothes in the closet are Bill's clothes, too.  We have gotten fat together so we still can wear the same jeans and shirts, all 'mens'.  That helps a lot.  I have no problem wearing mens clothing, but he might have a problem wearing 'womens', ya know?

We used to get a lot of t-shirts from the company we work for, so there's been quite an accumulation through the years.  We used to have eight identical t-shirts, but I think we're down to three of those.  Our boys know to bring their donation bag to Ma and Pa's first, so we can dig out anything 'new' or needed first.  Then we take the rest to the DAV or wherever.

Honestly, I don't miss the fashion bug at all.  My every day clothes are my work clothes, designed to get dirty.  I don't mind wearing them on the days that I'm not planning on gardening or basic slaving away.  If I happen to suddenly change my mind and start playing in the dirt, it's no big deal.  I don't have to come in the house just to change clothes.

And I have been known to hit the grocery store wearing shoes that still had some chicken pucky stuck on the bottom.  Oh well.

Monday, April 25, 2011

ACV lowered my cholesterol - maybe!

I'm pretty sure that taking the ACV daily lowered my cholesterol.  For years it had been running in the 225 range and the only thing I did differently was to drink some ACV and water every day.  I recently got the lab report from my recent blood work and!  (Drum roll, please....) my cholesterol was 176!!!!

I did some reading about that possibility.  Lots of folks said that while they were trying to lower their blood pressure by drinking some organic ACV daily, the added bonus was that it lowered their cholesterol, too.  But there were plenty of people that said that it didn't work for them.

Oops!  I forgot one thing.  I did consume copious amounts of butter instead of Benecol or Smart Balance for a few months.  Now I won't get into another saturated fat debate here, but perhaps it was a combination of the two that did it?  Not that my doctor will believe it, but she seems nice enough not to tell me that I'm totally looney.  I'm still fat and out of shape, so it's obvious that I'm not doing the diet and exercise thing.  Here's the site that made me do some thinking:

My friends think that the lab made a mistake, but I'm not going to pay over $200 for another blood test just to see if they're right.  I'll wait till next year and see what that lab report says.

Now then, I'm currently drinking my own brew, which isn't nearly as strong as the Braggs.  I don't know if that will make a difference.  If you try this, remember that your mileage may vary.

Added 8-14:  I just posted a recipe for Switchel.  It makes it a LOT easier to drink some ACV every day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Goin' to make vanilla!

In the leanest times our our marriage, I always bought el cheapo imitation vanilla.  Once in a while I'd get the better stuff, but there didn't seem to be too much difference between the two, other than the price.  Then one day I was given a bottle of Mexican Real Vanilla.  Wow!  This stuff was so good!  You could suddenly taste vanilla in food.  If I would have had an ice cream machine, I would have been cranking out vanilla ice cream by the gallons.

To make vanilla, obviously you need vanilla beans.  The search was on.  Locally I found a cute, but dinky bottle that had maybe three little 3" beans in it.  You had to add your own booze.  Price was $12.97.  The closest Wal-Mart had nothing.  The closest health food store had only ONE bean, priced at $7.00!!  They said that vanilla beans were really, you are expensive.

So of course, the peeps at Sufficent Self Forum came to the rescue!  My mucho thanks to Rhettsgreygal for posting! I did the same as Rhettsgreygal, bought one pound and got a quarter pound free from these people:

The cost was around $29, including shipping, for approximately 200 vanilla beans.  That's $0.15 per bean.  And the beans are roughly 6" long.
And here's her recipe that I'm going to use:

Vanilla Extract

The recipe is simple:  Approximately 6 vanilla beans per one cup of vodka, brandy, tequila, or other choice of alcohol (should be at least 70 proof).  Approximately: 1.00 Liter = 33.8140565 oz
                         1.75 Liters = 59.1745989 oz

I split the beans in half and put them in the bottle of liquor (after removing about a cup or so of liquid).  After putting in all the beans, refill with as much remaining liquor.  I shake the bottle a few times a week.  It is suppose to be ready after 1 month, but it gets better the longer it sits.  You can remove the beans by pouring through a coffee filter if you prefer.  I plan on keeping the beans in the bottle unless I give as a gift to someone who would be "wigged out" by having them float around in the bottle/jar. 

If you can smell the alcohol when you open the bottle, it is not ready.

I use the Grade B Extract Vanilla beans.  I purchased the 1 pound size and got the 1/4 pound of Grade A Beans.  In total there are approximately 200 beans in this size order.  I use mostly the Grade B beans with some of the Grade A beans.  I haven't tried the first batch yet.  I am holding out for 3 months (which will be June 3rd).

If you want to read what other people have said about REAL homemade vanilla, you can read the entire thread here:

I might end up buying an ice cream maker yet.  Ummm, real vanilla bean homemade ice cream.  Doesn't that sound good?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Wind, rain and a tornado close by

We're having really lousy weather.  Rain, wind and more rain. It suddenly got cold, too!  There's even a freeze warning for tonight.  But the wind today is one of the worst ones we've seen out here.  We're so open that everything hits us full bore.  I think it's 40 mph now and gusts higher than that.

Yesterday we had some nickel size hail, gales of wind, sheets of rain and a tornado touched down five miles from here.  So we did what most people in Kansas do - go outside to see if you can spot the tornado. 

Bill had moved the vehicles under the pole shed early yesterday, just in case it did hail.  This morning he said he was going to the store to get a few things.  So he backs out Dan's car, parks it in it's usual spot (Dan's still overseas somewhere, Myanmar?  Where's that??  I need to dust off the globe).  I saw Bill walking back to the pole shed to move the next vehicle in line.  Phone rings.  It's a business call so I'm trying to sound somewhat professional, even though that is not my basic nature.  I glance out the window and Bill is now more in front, whereas the pole barn is towards the back of the property.  He was getting out of the car, back in the car, tires spinning, back out of the car to look, back in the car, etc.  I can't help but notice that half the car is in the farm field, about 100' from the pole shed.  Did I mention that it's been raining for two days?

It was hard to focus on answering questions on the phone and take in the drama that was unfolding outside.  It was also hard not to laugh.  I finally hung up the phone and my very wet husband asked if I'd help him.
"Do I have to push the car?"
"No, you can drive, I'll push."

It didn't take too long at all and we were back in the house.  Gordon, that owns the farm field, does a fine job of tilling, that's for sure.  His ground is a lot softer than ours.  I'm still not sure how Bill ended up driving in the field.  All he said was that he couldn't see out the back window.  I'm pretty sure that he was going forward then, though.  Excuse me while I go somewhere to laugh...he's in the same room with me now.

I think it might be August before we can drive the car out, or we'll need a tractor to pull it out.  Sometimes you just gotta roll with what life gives you.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Feeding Chickens on the Cheap

I love my hens, I admit that right up front.  I have my second batch of chicks in a brooder box in the shop now.  They are almost past that cute stage as they are teenage chickens, long gangly legs and big feet.  I only have two full grown hens in the coop.  Last year was hard, we lost two in the same day to some predator and one just slowed way down and died in her sleep one night.  Sigh.  The year before we lost several to racoons (three in one night) and then two more to a weasel (after we had the run enclosed).  I had no idea there were weasels in Kansas, and he just walked right through the fencing - bastard.  But the plan was to have 8 hens that would have forever homes here.  We don't butcher critters.

So, I'm not going to let them free range quite as often.  I have always thought that was the best way to go.  They eat bugs, weeds, weed seeds, fertilize all over the place instead of in the coop or run, etc, etc.  They also scratch up whatever you just planted.  Keeps life interesting.  But I hate the thought of them being cooped up in an enclosed run, no pun intended.

We have a totally enclosed run behind the coop.  That's pretty much just dirt with some straw.  The hens also have a fenced front yard.  If I didn't have the little girls going into the coop soon, I'd probably shut the trap door so they couldn't get in the enclosed run and get something planted there for them.  But we have Frank, a young male cat that I also love, who likes to chase the chickens once in a while and he just climbs over the fence.  So the little birds will have to be full size before they go in their front yard.

On to problem solving.  Any food they get other than what's in the feeder is free food.  And I'm all about cheap is good, but free is better. 

Plant some straw bales and water well.  One year I tried straw bale gardening.  I didn't really have success with that, but it was probably mostly my fault.  In the end, I had three, very water saturated bales slowly decomposing.  I finally got around to knocking them apart and they were full of grubs.  Holy cow, those hens thought I had opened up a buffet for them.  They dug around in the straw for days.  Grubs were gone in a flash, but they were eating things that I couldn't even see.  I have access to almost free bales of straw (mostly because the farmer always wants to just give them to me, but I always throw a few bucks in his truck when he brings them.  He gets water from our wells occasionally, so it's a win/win thing.)  I use the straw as mulch in the garden and occasionally I'm lucky enough to have a few volunteer wheat plants from it.  Chickens like that, too.
Saving egg shells.  I just crush 'em up and put them right into the feeder now.  I used to put them in the garden, but then hens aren't always allowed in there. 
Planting extra veggies in the garden so there's plenty to share.  Cucumbers and tomatoes are favorites.  My past girls weren't too interested in pumpkin, squash, cabbage, other things that most hens like.  I read that if you take zucchini, etc and shred it, the hens will go nuts over it.  I guess they think if it looks like worms, it must be edible.  One year I let cucumbers get fairly large, then sliced them in half and froze them in grocery sacks.  In the winter when there wasn't any green stuff, I'd let the bag sit in the sink to thaw, then take the cucumber mush out to the coop. 
Wild sunflowers, etc.  There used to be a lot of them along the outside of the run.  Last year, there were none next to the run, but a good crop of them inside.  As they grew, the run had more shade, and the little seeds were gobbled up later in the season.  I wonder if there will be any this year?  If there isn't, I'll transplant some from the garden, put a bit of fencing around them until they are established and get another crop growing in the run.
Grass clippings.  If your birds are kept in a run, some short grass clippings will give them something green to eat and help cut down on your feed bill.
Plant beets inside their front yard.  A couple years ago, the chickens just demolished my beet crop by eating all the tops as soon as anything was visible.  So much for planting veggies outside the garden. This year, I'm planning on planting a wide row of beets in the middle of their front yard, then put a little hoop of fencing over the top and ends.  They should be able to reach in and get some of the tops, but not all, so hopefully I'll still get some beets later.  If there is enough space, I could do that over a bit of grass, so they'd always have something green to peck at even when it all turns to dirt.
Bug bucket.  Bugs.  I'm against 'em.  But the hens need protein and bugs are protein.  Yeck.  I saw a video on that showed a tripod made from tree cuttings and a bucket hanging in the center.  There were holes cut into the sides on the bucket, about an inch from the bottom.  If I remember this correctly, the guy put icky meat (road kill would work) in the bucket, and then some mulch on the top to hold down the smell.  As the meat got really crappy, maggots would drop out of the holes for the hens.  Black soldier flies were buzzing around and then hens would snag them, too.  If I can figure out a way to support the bucket without having to set the thing in concrete, I might try this.  It's pretty windy here some days, so I'll have to ponder this a bit.
Garden cleanup in the spring and fall.  I love this!  I always leave all the garden debris in the garden until close to planting time.  The hens scratch the straw into bits, eat bugs, seeds, old veggie scraps, etc, do light tilling and some fertilizing.  Any bigger, woody stalks that are still there when it's time to plant usually get hauled to the back of our little field to decompose.  Ragweed, well, that stuff we burn.  Hate ragweed.
Kitchen scraps, of course.  I have a rule that nothing goes to waste around here, and that includes leftovers. I won't feed any of my critters moldy food, either. But there's veggie ends, outer leaves, etc that end up in the kitchen compost can.  Too bad the hens won't eat coffee grounds.  I do have a couple recipes that use the seasoning packet from Ramen noodles.  The hens love noodles.  You don't have to cook them, just put them in a bowl, cover with cold water and let them sit.  Any noodle will soggy up and you can dump it all out for the hens.
Bug board. (Added 6-7-11)  I just remembered this the other day.  Some guy said to water a spot in the run or wait until it rains, then throw down some scrap wood flat on the ground.  He had a couple scrap pieces of plywood that he used.  He'd leave it there for several days, then remove it.  Underneath were all kinds of buggy things and the hens were happy campers.
Throwing scratch grains on the ground:  Every morning when I open the door to let the hens into their front run, I sprinkle a couple cups of scratch grains in different areas around the run.  There were always some grains that none of the hens ate, so they'd be there the next morning.  But after we had some rain, those grains would start to sprout and then the hens ate them.  Some people will sprout grains for their hens in the winter, but I wasn't interested in doing it.
There's always grains on the coop floor in front of the feeder.  They don't peck at those, but if I take the time to sweep it up and throw it out into the run, they think it's some kind of treat.  Chickens aren't known for their brains.
Edited 8-9-2012 - Wow, this worked really well!  The hens front yard is a little eco system of it's own this year.  Tall, green stuff to keep the ground cooler, lots of stuff for chickens to eat and most of the time, no watering in spite of our drought!
Flooding the ground with water:  (Added 9-3-11)  This was a surprise.  We had made some waterers using scrap guttering.  Last month when it was really hot outside, I would spray water all over the clumps of orchard grass and whatever that little brushy weed is so the wind blowing through it would cool the air a bit down at the ground level in the hen's fenced front yard.  Then hens would walk through all the wet stuff, pecking away.  On the hottest days, I would do this every couple of hours.  Now the hens just run out to the spray and fluff their feathers.  Anyway, I'd also freshen their gutter waterers.  I noticed that they'd start pecking at the water that flooded over the guttering.  They weren't just drinking, they were pecking at something edible.  So I held the hose in one spot for half a minute or so, then moved to another spot.  It was crazy!  The hens were just pecking away, scratching in the water and having a party.  I don't know what they were pecking at, maybe grass and weed seed?  Invisible little critters?  Whatever it was, it got eaten.  I was able to use the same couple of areas for days before there was an obvious lack of pecking.  So I picked a couple other areas to spray the water on.  The race was on!  I was just spraying enough water to cause some puddling.