Sunday, July 31, 2011

Figuring out this dog food business again

Blogger still has some issues, so I have to comment to anything you post up here in this field.

Barb left me a comment on my last post that really had me thinking half the night.  I loved her idea of budgeting $1 per pound for meat.  She also feeds each of her dogs about a pound a day or a little more.  When I feed the dogs raw meat, I have been giving them a lot more than that.

Fact:  My dogs are very overweight, 75 and 85 lbs.  The average weight of boxers is 60 to 70 lbs.  So I'm not doing them any favors by feeding them the volume of chow that I have been feeding, raw or dry.

Unfortunately, they're used to that amount. Twice a day.  This morning I cut back on the dry to one cup each, and added some homemade chow.  After they ate, they looked at me like I was nuts and went back to licking the now empty bowls.

Fact:  When my dogs were eating more raw food than kibble, they started losing weight and coats got really shiny.

Time for a change.

Here's some info I found on the web:
Dogs lack the digestive enzymes to properly break down plant cellulose and absorb the nutrients from raw fruits and vegetables. These should be cooked or run through a blender first if you want your dog to derive full nutritional value from them. However, if you simply want to give your dog low-calorie, fun treats, raw fruits and vegetables are fine too. Dogs often enjoy broccoli stalks, carrot, celery and summer squash chunks. Virtually any pitted fruit or berry makes a nutritious snack. Yams and sweet potatoes, though sugary and starchy, are good for dogs. Some of the new grain-free kibbles include sweet potatoes as a major ingredient.

Read more: Fruits & Vegetables for Dogs |

So, here's some other ideas I'm using to suppliment with good stuff while my fat pooches get used to less food.  This might be on the cheap for you if you have a bumper crop in the garden:

I have hens, so eggs are a given.  An egg a day.
Green beans - I was surprised to see that the huge, institutional size can really wasn't much cheaper than buying regular size cans.  But if you can stock up on them when they have a sale, that'd be pretty cheap.

Again, this is just MY take on how to give my obese dogs a healthier diet instead of dry kibble and bacon grease.  I swear, if you have ever seen dogs that were fed raw meat and veggie/fruit treats, it'd make you a believer in it.  The last time I gave each dog just one chicken thigh and leg, I put dry kibble in the bowls.  Hardly any was eaten throughout the day.  I figured they were just holding out for the good stuff.

So tomorrow I'm heading to the greyhound supply place and picking up a case of race lean meat.  Current price on that is about $0.50 a pound = $1 a day, if I do what Barb does, giving each dog a pound.  That's affordable, about the same price as feeding them Purina. Right now my dogs are used to the bulk of a lot of chow, so I'll add some veggies to their diet, too.

Will I pitch the kibble?  No.  I don't live that close to the supply place and I want my dogs to have something if I run out, ya know?  I'm going to take a couple gallon freezer bags of kibble and put them in the freezer.  During the winter, I can get snowed in here for a few days at a time.  I'll also keep making bone broth occasionally, so I'll have that in the freezer to go with the kibble when they get that.  I added some half cooked grated carrot and zucchini to the bone broth and mush that's in the frig now.  They'll get a lot less kibble today and more homemade.  I should get into the routine easily enough, so maybe the kibble will end up being peacock and chicken feed in the end.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Pet food: Extra mileage from chicken

I have done a lot of reading on the web about making pet food. I think the best site I have come across for cats is  

The best source I have found for dogs is my neighbor. She has championship dock diving dogs.

Both sources advocate feeding raw (or mostly raw) meat and I agree with them. The only thing is that I can’t afford $80+ a month to feed two dogs raw meat from the Greyhound Supply place - 5 pounds of meat a day for my boxers. It’s a lot more if they get raw chicken, beef neck bones, canned salmon, etc from the grocery store. Ditto when I’m feeding 5 indoor cats. I use Lisa’s recipe (Lisa Pierson DVM from the above link) when I can, but again, sometimes the budget just won’t allow it. Almost all of our animals are rescue critters - I never dreamed I’d have this many pets!

Is my recipe complete? Absolutely not. Is it better than just pouring dry chow into their bowls? I think so. This stuff drives Lisa and my neighbor nuts.  I am also not a pet nutritionist, so proceed at your own risk.

So, my bunch will have to suffer with Iams (for the cats) and Purina (for the dogs) plus whatever else I can add to help their diet be a bit better while not going broke feeding everyone. All their coats have gotten shinier, and even the ancient cat has perked up tremendously by the addition of homemade chow and occasional raw.

Yes, you can feed chicken bones to dogs. Raw bones don't splinter, they break into pieces. Cooked bones will splinter, but if you cook them with apple cider vinegar and water, they will turn to mush. See bone broth link.

Okay, here’s what I do to get extra mileage from chicken -
I picked up two whole chickens and a package of chicken thighs at the grocery store for about $13 (on sale). First I cut off the entire breast from both whole chickens and put them into the freezer (future meals for Bill and me).

I gave the raw wings to the dogs who were sitting there guarding me. A bit of raw thigh meat went to the ancient cat.

The thighs and hind quarters from the whole chickens went into the stock pot along with water to cover the meat. The raw backs and gizzards went into the slow cooker with water.

After some cooking time in the stock pot, I took the chicken out of the pot and ladled out five pints of chicken stock for cooking. I then added the chicken livers and cut up hearts. The remaining stock was hot enough to cook it. After the meat cooled a bit, I pulled it off the bones, put it back in the stock pot and mushed it up pretty good adding some water. This is the basic cat chow.

The bones were added to the slow cooker along with a bit more water and a glug of apple cider vinegar to make bone broth. This is the basic dog chow.

I divided the mushed cooked chicken into 7 containers and popped them in the frig. The next morning, there was bone broth in the slow cooker, so I added some of that to the containers, stirred them up a bit and popped them into the freezer. I add some bone broth to the cat food for some added calcium and liquid.
The bones in the slow cooker won’t be done yet (if you can mush up the end of the leg bone or cut it easily with a fork, it’s done). It usually takes about 24 hours in my slow cooker. About half way through or the next morning, I’ll add another glug of apple cider vinegar and more water if necessary. The dogs will guard the kitchen for you.

I used to mush it all up too, but now I just let it cool then ladle it all into two or three plastic coffee canisters. As long as the bones easily mush up when you squeeze them, there’s no harm in letting the dogs eat them as they are. They seem to enjoy the added texture. Anyway, then those go into the freezer.
I have added chopped green and yellow veggies sometimes. I used to add egg, a bit of barley or oatmeal, but usually don’t now. My cats seem to like it better without the egg.

Okay, for my $13, I got:
2-4 meals for Bill and me, depending on what I make with the breast meat.
5 pints of chicken stock for cooking
A month’s worth of chow for cats
2 weeks of dog chow - more or less.

If you really want to take it the extra mile, you can take most of the chicken fat, render it and use it in the pastry for chicken pot pie or frying. You can also season and fry the skin to make chicken crisps - like fried chicken, but without the chicken.

Please remember that I have dry chow out for the cats all the time. I offer homemade stuff on a separate plate, same with Lisa’s recipe when I make that. The hounds get fed twice a day, dry and homemade together, just less of the dry. It’s not a bad idea to give everyone a vitamin if you're going to use your own recipe.

One cool thing about adding homemade to the dry dog chow is that they eat every speck of it. If they have just dry, they usually are walking around with that last bite and there’s dog food all over the floor.

Barb, Blogger still has issues and I can't comment underneath your comment.  My neighbor told me to figure about 3% of their weight for raw.  I think it came out to 4.75 lbs daily, maybe a bit less.  Since both boxers are overweight, she said they'd still lose weight even eating large portions of meat.  And she was right.  Both started sliming down as long as I kept them on the raw.  With the chicken hind quarters, that's sure the way to get 'em!  I buy three bags when they have them here, about every three months.  But then the dogs get three hind quarters a day (could do two, I bet).  She does three for each of her dogs, but they aren't the couch potatoes that mine are.  My boxers weigh 75 and 85 lbs.  The dogs are starting to look like us.  No, it's the other way around.  :o)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Clean your shower once every 6 months - honest!

It was around two years ago that I started my 'make it from scratch' frenzy.  While most things have been acceptable substitutes for the purchased stuff, some have been close to outstanding!  The daily shower spray falls into that category.  The recipe below makes enough for a big 28 oz spray bottle:

1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide
1/2 cup rubbing alcohol
6 drops Dawn or any grease cutting dishwashing liquid
2 tsp cheap liquid dishwasher rinse aid (Jet Dry type stuff)
enough water to fill the bottle

This is a fantastic homemade spray-on daily shower cleaner. It effectively cuts oils, dirt and soap scum, dissolving it away with minimal effort.  You can spray it on your liner, too.  I put the Dawn in last so it doesn't suds up while I'm adding the water to the bottle.  If you decide that you want to make a gallon of the stuff, don't add the peroxide until you put it in the spray bottle or it will eventually turn into just water. 

If this is used faithfully after every shower, you'll only have to clean your shower once every 6 months or longer.  Notice that I said 'faithfully'?  Those who can't be bothered to use it after they shower, should be made to clean the shower (slap, slap, slap).

I also keep a spray bottle filled with some mild bleach water.  Sometimes I have to hit the bottom edge of the shower liner with that.

Don't forget to label the bottles!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fighting Flies in the Coop

We had the freakest storm a couple days ago.  One storm came from the west (missed us).  Another storm came from the north (also missed us).  Then BOOM!  They collided and hit us full force from the east.  With no warning. Unbelievable wind and rain, we couldn't even see anything from the windows and the walls in the dining room were vibrating.  Scary shit, I'm tellin' ya.  The storm caught the shingles on the edge of the second story and just rolled it all back like a big, weird looking rug.  It also pulled a skylight right out of the roof and rain poured into the bedroom. (Excuse me while I go bawl a bit.)

Thank God for neighbors and a friend that dropped what they were doing and headed to our place.  The guys got tarps, lumber. etc, and 3 hours later the damaged roof area was all covered.  They worked really hard, as fast as they could while we all watched the black clouds building up in the northern sky.  It was just starting to rain again as they climbed down the ladder.

So yesterday we decided we were too old and tired to be shingling again and called a local roofing company.  We didn't do much in the way of cleanup outside because of the 100+ degree weather but hit it this morning.

Okay, how does the coop come into this story?  The day of the storm I thought I should clean the coop.   I left the door open to air it out a bit.  But I didn't get back to it.  As I said, the storm hit us so fast that there was no way I could get out there to close the EAST facing door of the coop.  Argh.  Yesterday I surveyed the coop floor, decided to again leave the door open to see if the floor would dry out before I cleaned it.  Big mistake.

So this morning when I opened the coop door...well, it wasn't pleasant.   All that straw on the floor along with the poo?  It was still wet underneath.  Duh.  It smelled like a feedlot in there.  Plus now there are 100 flies in there, too.  And here I used to think that I had the cleanest coop in the county.

Damage control time.
I got a big trash can and the shit shovel.  I scooped up all the wet crud and put down a thin layer of Stall Dry over the wet plywood.  Yes, I left the door open, but I am a little paranoid about it.  High heat again today plus all the extra humidity makes me wonder if a fan would even help much.

The entire time I'm scooping straw/poo, there is buzzzzzzing from the gazillion flies.  Ahaa!  Fly strips!  Milk jug traps!  Of course, I have to make 'em.  And I'm impatient.  So I cut some strips from a manilla folder, couldn't locate the hole punch, but a stiff ink pen worked pretty good to make holes, and located the string without too much effort.  Now there's no way I'm going to use honey ($7 for a little bottle) or real maple syrup (also $7 for a little bottle), so I grabbed the el cheapo pancake syrup and added some white sugar to it.  I painted the sugar goo on each side of the strips and headed out to the coop.  After I tied the strips around the joint, I noticed that although there were no flies on the first strips, there were 5 flies on the white cottage cheese container that I had used to mix the stuff and carry the strips to the coop.

Back to the house.  I grabbed a gallon milk jug from the recycle tub, drilled some holes (there was a Phillips head bit in the drill so it worked pretty good), then made the holes a little bigger using a fat ink pen.  For the bait, I used a mixture of one inch of water in the milk jug, added 1/4 cup molasses, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar plus a shot of white corn syrup (I'm running low-ish on sugar or I would have used that).  I found the lid for the milk jug in the trash and headed for the coop.

There was actually 3 flies on one strip, just one was stuck, and a fly on another strip.  Had I actually soaked the strips overnight I'm sure they'd be better.

I just checked the coop again.  After about one hour, there are NO stuck flies on the strips but there are actually 5 or 6 flies in the milk jug.  The heat expansion is causing the holes to shrink so I might have to make them a bit larger. 

The next plan of attack:
I have a bit of lunchmeat that's getting a bit 'iffy' so that's going to go into the next milk jug fly trap.
I also have a couple of those vanilla pine tree air fresheners.  Some people at swear you'll control the fly population in your coop by hanging them in there.

and a couple links about making milk jug traps: and

Update the following day:  Wahoo!  I just came in from the coop and wowzer, it smelled so nice!  Like vanilla and dry coop, ya know?  Really cool thing is that there were a total of two (that's 2) flies in there!!  So I put down some clean pine shavings and checked the fly traps.  Nothing on the strips.  I wonder how well they might have worked had I followed the directions.  The same 5 or 6 flies in the milk jug trap, now dead or playing possum.
The verdict?  It had to be the pine tree shaped vanilla air freshener that chased all those flies out.  Definately easier and faster than making traps and strips.  I did leave the milk jug trap in the coop as it won't be long before the air freshener loses it's uumph and it won't be effective any more. If I have lingering flies after that, maybe the milk jug trap will be enough.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Frugal Gardening and the Potato Update

I have another post describing all the volunteer potato plants I have this year.  If you haven't found it, take a look here:

I still have potato plants in the beets and green beans.  This morning I decided to dig a couple plants up to give the beets a bit more sun and give me a little more walking room.  The potato plants were far from dying, indicating that it's time to get to digging.  I figured I'd have just a few small spuds.  Wow, was I surprised.  Yes, there were plenty of little potatoes, some dinky potatoes and several good sized ones, too!  I tried to weigh them to see what the actual yield was.  Lacking kitchen scales, I tried the bathroom scales.  Not the best thing to use as I had a hard time seeing the dial thingy through all the potatoes, but I think I got about 6 pounds.  Not bad for volunteers which equals free!  (I'm so easily excited sometimes!)

I'm going to plant all the little ones from my entire potato crop in the area where I want next year's crop.  Maybe I'll never have to buy another potato!  Seed or otherwise.

In the meantime, it's fried potatoes and eggs for supper tonight, all from our little farmette!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Goin' to paint the floor!

I made an executive decision this morning.  After some encouragement from the folks at the Sufficient Self forum, I have decided to paint the floor in the big room upstairs. (Shhhhh, Bill doesn't know about this yet!)

I'm doing an Italian garden-y theme upstairs, complete with hand plastered walls, plaster stenciling, rubbed paint (so it looks aged and dirty), so I'm going to paint a well worn, scruffy, weathered floor.  Remember the ol' phrase 'Shabby Chic'?  Think that.  Just a side note, I saw a gal's website that had directions on how to do Shabby Sheik.  I was cracking up, thinking of her painting a guy named Ahab.  Or Habib.

Anyway, reasons supporting my decision are:
Easy to clean - with 5 long haired cats, the occasional upchucking from said cats, country living and crud dropping out of the treads on the bottom of our shoes..well, it gets pretty dirty around here.
Still a hard surface floor instead of carpet - see above.
Bunches cheaper than the alternatives of wall to wall carpet, carpet tiles, laminate, tile (I'm getting pretty tired of laying ceramic tile and have tons to do yet).
I have most of what I need already - I have at least 4 partial cans of oil based primer, thanks to family and friends who were cleaning and knew that I'd step up to the plate and haul them to my place. I picked up three gallons of yellowish/gold/mustard-y paint for $10 each at the local lumberyard a few months back, so that's a perfect shade of yeller for the undercoat. I have one gallon of expensive white paint, and some $5 off white paint that I can mix (I love the markdown paint cart a little too much).  We sell sandpaper, so we have gobs of that around here.  If I decide to put urethane over the top of it, I will have to buy that.

And I think it will look really cool.  It does in my mind anyway!

I started to empty the room to get started on the prep work.  It might be time to watch another episode of 'Hoarders'.  Doesn't that just make you want to start donating stuff??

I'll keep you posted on the progress.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Zucchini Jam - Who knew?

Many of the fruits I like just won't grow here.  Our soil is very alkaline. So's our well water, so ammending the soil just doesn't help in that area.  I have four peach trees, three too young to produce anything, the older one gave me 4 apricot-size peaches one year, and hasn't produced another one since.  My strawberries?  Oh har.  I might get one here and there to eat while I'm watering, but that's about it.

But zucchini?  Ya, it likes it here!  Too bad Bill doesn't like it.  So, in an effort to use what I have (plus disguise it) and make something that tastes good (the fine art of substitution), here's another zucchini recipe. I should have enough zucchini in a few days to try this.  It had a lot of great reviews - some said to cut back on the sugar.

Zucchini Jam

6 cups peeled, seeded and shredded zucchini
6 cups white sugar
1 (15.25 oz.) can crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 (6 oz) package of strawberry Jello (or orange, apricot, whatever flavor you like)

Combine zucchini, sugar, pineapple and lemon juice in a large pot over medium heat.  Boil mixture until the zucchini is clear.  Remove from heat, add Jello and stir until completely dissolved.  Ladle into hot, sterilized jars leaving head space.  Seal and process in a water bath canner for 5 minutes or the amount of time for your altitude.

I think I'll aim for an orange marmalade type jam.  If it works out well, maybe I'll add some actual fruit to the next batch!

Added later:  Well, it just tasted like the orange jello!  With texture.  Wasn't bad smeared on some toast, though.  I'd probably try it again with a different flavor of jello.