Sunday, December 9, 2012

Fermented Feed for Chickens

If you aren't fermenting feed for your chickens, it's time to get started. 

Fermenting their feed boosts the nuitrition and will result in:
1.  Healthier chickens
2.  Lower feed costs for you.

Did you catch that?  Healthier chickens AND lower feed costs!  Most people report that they save about 1/3 of the feed cost.

Sounds like a win/win to me!  To read all the details about it, go to Leigh's site at http://naturalchickenkeeping.blogspot.com/p/fermented-feed.html  and plan on being there for a while.  She has tons of information with practical, natural ways for flock management.  Make sure you read her posts on Gnarly Bunch on the Healing Story tab.  The chapters are short and to the point (with pictures) that show amazing progress with a mistreated flock of chickens.  There's the proof that her methods are the best!

Back to fermented feeds.  You're going to have to decided which way works for you.  Right now the easiest thing for me is using some Folger's plastic coffee cans (cannisters?), a couple pieces of thin material and a couple big rubber bands.

I filled two cans about 1/3 to 1/2 full of scratch grains.  I then added water to cover the grains plus about an inch. I gave both cans a quick stir, covered the opening with the cloth and secured with the rubber band.  I put the cans in a warm, out of the way spot. Update: The first year, I occasionally added a blurp of apple cider vinegar. Do NOT add anything, just water. And put the lid on your container.

The next day, I poured the liquid from one can into another one that had dry grains.  I just slowly poured through the material covering the top of the can.  I added a bit more water to the new grains, gave it a swirl, covered with the now wet on one side cloth and set it aside. I was surprised at how much the grains swelled up. Fed wet grains to chickens and ducks.  Only half of them ate at first, but the next time I went outside, all of it was cleaned up.

The day after that, I used the now two day old can of grains, drained the liquid into another can of dry grains, etc etc.  This time all the feathered critters just chowed down. 

By letting the cans sit for two days, there's more time for fermenting. 
My chickens are still free ranging and there is still green things/weed seeds, etc that they can eat.  As the cold weather progresses, I'll come up with a bigger bucket system.  I also want to try sprouting grains for the birds, but that's another page.

photo credit: Wikipedia


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Free Chicken Food and the Self Sufficient Life

In the spirit of being frugal and trying to live a self sufficient life, I have been gathering/harvesting for my chickens and guinea fowl.  My goals were to get plant material for mulch, seeds from the weeds for free food and something for them to scratch in to keep them occupied on the days that they aren't able to free range.  With a thick enough layer of mulch, maybe the ground won't be frozen solid on some of the sunny winter days.  And of course, that helps to support bug life which is more free food later.  We have an enclosed run behind the coop and a fenced area in front of the coop.

Probably the best move I made with this last bunch of chicks was giving them ragweed for treats when they were still caged up in the enclosed run.  Now when they're free ranging, they still chow down ragweed and lambsquarter.  So I cut off ragweed, lambsquarter and a few other grassy looking plants that I have no name for, and put them in both runs.  When the leaves dried and fell off the plants, it looked almost like hay.  The chickens were going nuts in there, scratching and digging.  Now, it's just a pile of dry weed stalks.  The rain and sun have bleached the plant material.  But when I lift the stalks, the scratching starts again.

This late in the season, all the weeds have seeds.  Ha!  More free food for the chickens. We hauled in more weeds and grasses that we had pulled up or cut down.  If we had the room, I'd be cutting big weeds and hanging or storing them to dry (away from rain and sunlight). 

Last year I threw scratch grains into the front run every morning.  They always have access to feed in the coop, but they like the scratching outside more.  This past spring, there was a jungle of plant life in their front yard!  Lots of milo, millet, sunflowers, wheat, etc.  What didn't get eaten grew into plants which held moisture and offered shade during our hot, drought stricken summer.  And of course, more free food. 
Of course, the birds get all the egg shells, fruit peelings, etc.  But now I throw everything into one of the runs.  Last year there were three volunteer tomato plants in there from the previous years scraps. 

I would have a hard time stocking up on chow if I kept feeding it to critters as treats while I gathered.  So now, as I have bread ends, cracker crumbs, crumbles from the cat and dog food bags, etc, they are saved and put into the feeders or the metal trash can that I store their purchased grains in. I just make sure it's all good and dry.

And of course, there's always the gardening aspect of it all - pumpkins, squash, etc, etc.  But this wasn't the best gardening year in our area, so I have nothing other than some buggy tomatoes.

In my search for new ideas on this topic, I saw a blog post where a gal engaged the help of her little kids to gather jars of dandelion seeds.  Later in the winter, she sprouted them for her little flock!  She had the pics for proof.  I wish I had bookmarked her page!!  I also wish that I could hire her kids.

Anyway, here's yet another page with pictures of common weeds that you might be able to use for chicken feed:

http://simple-green-frugal-co-op.blogspot.com/2009/05/chickens-eat-my-weeds.html

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

How to Ripen Hard Pears

For the past few weeks, I have been gathering - harvesting what I can (which is very little) and foraging for winter feed and bedding for the critters by using what resources I have available on our land. 

I picked pears from my neighbor's tree...twice.  I had to go back the second time for another 5 gallon bucket of them after I read how to ripen them.  Seems that if you have access to one of those ancient varieties of pears (you know the kind, you can cook them for two hours and they never seem to get soft), put them in the frig for a minimum of two days.  The pears can even be stored clear down to 30 degrees F without freezing (they say).  But they need that cold storage to ripen without having core breakdown.

After the cold storage, ripen on the counter or in a closed cardboard box.  Just don't forget to check them every couple of days to pull out the ripe ones.

It worked for me.  Today I was eating little, nicely ripened pears again.  With juice dripping off my fingers as I peeled them, I accepted the fact that at my current rate of consumption, there would not be any left for preserving.  That is, unless I go get some more!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

More Uses for Orange or Citrus Peels


Image from ifood.tv

I love orange peel.  You can just make so dang much with it.  For some time I have just put peels in vinegar and made homemade orange oil cleaner .  That's when I wasn't eating them candied with sugar or with chocolate this way

Now I'm going a little crazy with the peels.

So here's the latest:

I added some orange peel to homemade soap. 
I just put the peel on a plate and let it air dry until it was really dry and crispy.  After a couple weeks (I forgot about 'em) the peels went into my Magic Bullet hand blender and I gave 'em a good whirl.  I ended up with orange peel dust (and ringing ears, it was pretty noisy).  I added some to the soap at trace (it was just castile soap, nothing fancy).  I was experimenting to see if there would be some noticeable orange fragrance in the soap.  There was some, but not for long.  The unexpected thing was that the soap cleared up the acne on my friend's face.  She still talks about it.  Maybe she's trying to drop a hint, eh?

Scouring powder
Simple ingredients, using 5 Tbsp of baking soda, 3 Tbsp of Borax and 3 Tbsp of ground citrus peels.  Crunchy Betty uses grapefruit peels to make hers.  She's so cool.

Next on the list is Orange-cello .  Vodka and orange peels?  Wow.  Other recipes here are orange and olive oil salt and orange butter!

Salt preserved orange or lemon peel ?  Sounds good to me.

Cupcakes!!  Baking cupcakes or muffins in orange peel?  Who'da thought it.  Check it out at Beyond A Garden

Care2.com lists 22 ways to use lemon peel .

And I didn't even bother to TRY to count all the uses for citrus peels listed at Local Kitchen .


Credit: iStockphoto/Alessandro Marzo

That sounds a little familiar...

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Getting Rid of Fleas, the Cheap and Green Way.

Fleas.  I hate 'em. 

It's been a tremendously bad year for bugs here.  We have two boxers that are in and out the back door, so now they have fleas.  I should say WE have fleas.  What I really hate is that my dogs have fleas...uh.. on their rear ends.  In some research, a vet referred to them as "asshole" fleas.  That pretty much says it all.

Alrighty, then.  First thing I did was fill up an empty shaker bottle (it used to have cinnamon in it) with some DE (diatomaceous earth).  It was an easy way to powder my dog's butts and undercarriage.  Yes.  And under the tail-ish.  I'd sprinkle it in my hand and just pat away.  The dogs ended up loving this extra attention.  I ended up wishing I had a brain scrubber.  We had the male dog neutered when we adopted him, but you know......  Try to keep the dust down and be careful if you're going close to their face.

I powdered dog butts two or three times a day for about a week before our dogs totally quit trying to scratch (they couldn't reach the area!).  Remember that it takes a bit of time for the flea to die, plus most likely, there are fleas in various cycles. 

That's step one.  Next is to attack the yard!  It doesn't do any good to treat Fido if you aren't going to deal with the area where he's getting the fleas to begin with.  Get a couple boxes of Borax from the laundry aisle of your local store.  Sprinkle that all over the yard where Fido runs.  Do it again the next day.  Water it in a bit if you want to.  It will stay effective for all kinds of bugs for two to three years.  DE won't work after it's wet, but Borax will.

Back to the house.  Dogs powdered, yard treated.  Now wash their bedding and vacuum, vacuum.  You can sprinkle some Borax or DE in the vacuum bag to take care of any fleas that end up in there.  If you have a bagless unit, don't just empty the cannister in the kitchen trash or you'll have recycled fleas.  You have to be vigilant with vacuuming.  Every day.  Every crack (not dog crack, though).  Plan on doing this for a few days.

It took about a week or so for our dogs to quit scratching.  Initially they stopped scratching after a few days, then started again for a couple days.  I'm guessing it was the last batch of flea eggs that hatched and we're done with them.

One of the best pages I have read about fleas is Paul's: http://www.richsoil.com/flea-control.jsp
He doesn't like Borax, but since I'm not using tons of it that often, I'm not afraid of it.  People have added it to their laundry wash for generations.  You decide what you're going to use.  :o)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Homemade Vaseline (without the petroleum)

I couldn't wait to post this!  Have you ever heard of homemade Vaseline?  Without the petroleum, of course.  Merissa has all the easy instructions (did you see that it's easy?) at

http://www.littlehouseliving.com/homemade-vaseline.html#comment-33838

Love this stuff!  And her picture (below) is pretty dang nice, too!

Post image for Homemade Vaseline


Homemade Lye for Making Soap

A lot of self sufficient people make soap, both laundry and bar soap.  Homemade laundry soap will save you some bucks every month, but bar soap?  Well, depends on the recipe and ingredients!  Of course, the good thing is that you know exactly what is in your soaps. 

Unless you're using melt and pour for your bar soaps, you have to use lye, which is sodium hydroxide OR potassium hydroxide to make bar soap.  Recipes are different for each product - it's not interchangeable. 
Most soapmakers today buy their lye.  A long time ago they made their lye from wood ash.

"Lye made from wood ash is potassium hydroxide, not sodium hydroxide -- there's 10 times as much potassium as sodium in wood ash."  (Copied from the link below.)

For the brave of heart, here's a couple great links on how to make lye:

http://journeytoforever.org/biodiesel_ashlye.html

http://www.lifeunplugged.net/everythingelse/make-lye-from-wood-ash.aspx

And this one has the soap recipe to go with it:
http://www.frontierfreedom.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=105


This stuff just appeals to the inner scientist in me.  Bill would just give me 'the look'.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Homemade bug repellent!

When I was a kid, we'd occasionally head to southern Oklahoma to visit my aunt.  Ungodly heat and humidity seemed to be the norm with every visit.  They also seemed to have mosquitoes by the zillions.  My aunt would pour puddles of apple cider vinegar in her hand and just rub it all over me.  Whatever bites I already had seemed to stop itching sooner plus I don't remember getting more bites.  Could be that I was afraid of getting another rub down of vinegar.  Who knows?

I did find a great post over at Crunchy Betty's, including a recipe plus other suggestions for bug repelling.  Take a look - http://www.crunchybetty.com/crunchy-kids-shoo-spray-homemade-insect-repellent


And she has the homemade bug repellent in such a cute little spray bottle!

What about treating bug bites the natural way?  Try some of these:
http://www.keeperofthehome.org/2012/07/how-to-treat-bug-bites-naturally.html



Tuesday, July 17, 2012

DIY Chicken Feed Sack Tote

This was just too funny, and too cool!  I had to pass it along.



You can get the directions, complete with photos from


Some people are just too creative!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Natural Way to Deworm Critters

Such a great thing to post...my barn cats have worms.  Yeck.

I have known about it for some time.  I have also been buying some treatment from the local store to mix in their food.  Over and over.  At $5 a shot.  But I have one smart cat - Spot.  He knows what the stuff smells like and there's no way he's eating that crap.  Or that's his attitude anyway.  I have tried mixing it with various foods that he'd normally tear into, like tuna.  Nope.  A couple of sniffs and he walks away.  Since the barn cats eat out of a couple of dishes, he keeps the worm cycle going in all of the cats.  Having a pregnant or nursing mother cat also added to the challenge.

Today I decided to take the natural way - DE (diatomaceous earth - not the swimming pool stuff).  I had read on a bunch of sites that you use 1/2 tsp. per cat, once a day for four days, then repeat in two weeks. I was lucky enough to see Spot and the nursing mother close by without the other rats, I mean cats around.  I mixed up 1 tsp. of DE into a bit of hamburger and split it between the two cats.  The stuff is tasteless, so Spot chowed down.  I did the same for the two other cats.   So we'll see. 

A couple other things that I'm going to try is garlic and pumpkin seeds.  I have plenty of garlic that I can mince to mix w/ their food, but at first it's getting them accustomed to the taste.  I'm sure that Spot will be the challenge here, too.  Ditto with ground pumpkin seeds added to their food.  But I did put a few pumpkin seeds in the ground today.  The ducks and I will enjoy some pumpkin if I can keep the squash bugs off them.  I'm also going to try these methods on my hens.  I'm a big advocate of free range, but the hens all come running when I shake the oatmeal jar.  I think I'll add some DE to their oatmeal and some to their feed in the coop.

Walter at Sugar Mtn has a great blog post about using natural deworming methods for his critters.  He's got a great blog, too, so plan on being there a while!

http://sugarmtnfarm.com/worms-au-natural/

I do want to mention that traditional worm medicine paralyzes the roundworm, then cat (and chickens) poop 'em out.  My attitude towards this was to give the critters something to make them really poop and hopefully get more nasties out of their system.  I gave the cats a bit of yogurt a few hours after they had the de-worm medicine.  The hens got some oatmeal, applesauce and yogurt mixed together.  Every critter was poo-ing.  Except for Spot.
I'm not so keen on having my cats with belly aches for four days, so I think I'll pass on the yogurt this time.

Update 7/19:  I'm not convinced that the DE is doing much of anything.  The thing that make it effective on insects is that while it feels like talcum powder to us, it's very sharp to the bug.  It scratches the outside of the bug, causing it to dehydrate and die.  In that respect, DE is good while it stays dry.  Which it's not when eaten. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Better Homemade Window Cleaner

I recently found a different recipe for window cleaner.  I never made one of the old recipes because it used ammonia and I just can not tolerate that stuff.  Plain vinegar water didn't work all that well.  I also don't take a newspaper, so I don't have a stash of them to use for wiping off windows. So yesterday I mixed up this new recipe and wow!  It works really good, just as good as Windex or whatever you buy.

Simple stuff as usual:

2 cups of water
1/4 cup of white vinegar
1/2 tsp. liquid dish soap (I like Dawn)

Mix it all together in a spray bottle.  Give it a couple shakes before you spray it on your windows.  Don't forget to label the spray bottle.

This gave me the squeaky sound you get when your windows are getting clean.  No streaks.  And frankly, I like using old t-shirts or rags to wash windows. 

I love this stuff.  It inspired me to wash a few more windows today.  And it appeals to the eco-friendly, tightwaddery side of me, too.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Great Garden Sink Idea and Harvesting Garlic

A few years ago I discovered this wonderful garden sink idea at Mother Earth News.  One of these days I'm going to have this baby.  This is their image:

You can read about this garden work station (plus a bunch of other handy gardening tips) at http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/Plant-Care-Summer-Garden.aspx

I don't do a traditional compost pile like the image, but there's always a tomato plant or a duck that would appreciate the water.

This morning I dug the garlic.  Wow!  Most of the bulbs were a lot bigger than what I can buy in the grocery store locally and definitely larger than anything that's come out of my garden in the past.  I'm happy.  Nothing else is doing squat in my garden, so I appreciate the little things.

I don't have a root cellar or cold room in my house, so I do what "they" advise NOT to do.  I freeze it.  (Who are "they", anyway?)  It's great to pull a couple of already peeled cloves out of a freezer bag, chop 'em up and throw them in the skillet with the onions.  I don't notice any loss of flavor, texture sure isn't an issue since I'm not eating it raw and no one has gotten sick or died.

Usually "they" advise to let your garlic dry.  I do just the opposite since I'm going to freeze it.  And I want to finish it up today.  I dug the bulbs, then hosed them off to get most of the dirt off the roots. Using scissors, I cut off most of the roots and most of the stem.  Put the bulbs in cold water.  You might want to use a glass or metal bowl so the garlic smell isn't an issue later.  In a bit, you can trim off the rest of the root and stem, peel off some of the outer skin and put them back in clean, cold water.  After about 30 minutes, the skins are easily peeled off and the cloves can be popped into a freezer bag, then frozen.  If they have been in the water for about an hour or so, cut off the end (root end) and give each a squeeze.  They'll pop right out of the skins. Of course you don't want a lot of water in your bag, so drain them well before freezing.
Soaking dried cloves in cold water for 10-15 minutes (or longer) is a great way to get the papery thin skins off.  The clove will just pop right out of the skin.  Smashing it with the side of my big ol' knife might make me feel like Emeril for a moment, but I hate picking the smashed garlic pieces out of the papery skins.  I'll pull it out of the freezer any day.  Just my take on it.

Added the next day:  Here's what I ended up with from my $0.25 bulb of grocery store garlic that I planted last October:


Two and a half cups of already peeled garlic, ready for the freezer.  The house smelled like a pizzeria.



Saturday, May 5, 2012

Homemade cough drops

We got back from Camarillo, CA last Tuesday.  Our son's wedding was - how do I put this - Best -----Wedding-----Ever!!!!  Wow!  We had so much fun.  Camarillo is a beautiful area, acres of strawberry fields, ocean breezes, NO BUGS (they're all at my place this year) and a whole lotta people.  And I mean a LOT of people.  So I brought home some mysterious upper respiratory crud as a souvenier. 

I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize to the 200+ people on our flight home that are going to want to kick my butt in about a week.  Agh.

It didn't hit me hard until the day after we got home.  Yesterday I thought I was going to cough up my left lung.  Bill was gone and the dogs don't drive, so I hit the web for homemade cough remedies.  I'd read about them before but never actually tried any of them.  You know how they always say to drink lots of fluids when you're sick?  I learned that this is one of the best things you can do if you have a dry cough.  It makes the crud in your lungs less sticky so your coughs are more productive.

One site that had a lot of helpful tips is http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Homemade-Cough-Drops .  There is a list of ingredients that you can choose from to make your 'tea' or base for cough drops.  I don't keep much around here that can't be used for something else (like horehound, osha root??) so I settled for what I had on hand - a somewhat wrinkly chunk of ginger.  I also subbed honey for the corn syrup and got to cooking.

Know what?  It might be glorified candy, but it's working.  I'm not coughing nearly as much.  The half gallon of weak tea w/ honey and cinnamon that I have drank is also helping.  Besides the exercise I'm getting by running to the bathroom every 20 minutes, the crud in my lungs isn't hanging on so tightly.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Redneck Vacuum Sealer

Bill and I watched a few episodes of Doomsday Preppers last night.  If you haven't seen any yet, they air on the National Geographic channel.  From what I read, this show has the largest audience from anything Nat Geo has aired.  It's worth the time to watch, even if you don't agree with the concept or buy into the gloom and doom scenario.  If you are a prepper, you might discover a new idea, too.

I have been interested in being more self sufficient for years...mostly because there were too many times that we were broke.  But I think it's also just my own OCD.  Whenever I think of something I need, the first thing I do is try to figure out how I can make it/do it/etc using what I have on hand.

Yesterday I was baking two big pans of boneless chicken breasts because they were starting to get some freezer burn on them.  If I would have had the vacuum sealer, I could have put them in smaller bags right when I got home from the store, sealed 'em = no problem later.   Or I could have used some foil.  But I didn't.  So...now I'm serious about getting a vacuum sealer.  And I want the jar attachment, too.  In my research I stumbled onto this youtube video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGHoCLwUheQ

I have to admit, now I'm wondering where my turkey baster is.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Memories of June Cleaver

The past few years I have spent more time in my makeshift kitchen than what I ever did back when I had a 'real' kitchen and kids at home.  I guess my priorities gradually shifted and the things I wanted then are not the things that I want now.

Periodically I have images of myself wearing a dress, a fancy apron and high heels while cheerfully canning up some tomatoes.  Oh, don't forget the pearl necklace.  That's June Cleaver from the old "Leave it to Beaver" tv series.


I was a kid when the series was running, but I remember being amazed that her dress and apron were spotless and she never was yelling at Beaver Cleaver or his brother, Wally, no matter what they did.  Huh.  My life was somewhat different.

Fast forward many years.  I was married with three kids of my own.  I don't think I even owned an apron, never wore a dress to make supper and for sure, I was yelling at my own kids.  Once, at a mom and pop restaurant, the owner was smiling at our youngest son, then about 6 or 7 yrs. old.  He finally came over to our table and said how much our son reminded him of Beaver Cleaver.  We just cracked up laughing.  He did kind of resemble the Beav!  We may have found it cute, but our son didn't.  He flat refused to eat there again.  Here's an image of the Beav (Beaver Cleaver):



My kids would divorce me if I ever put some potentially embarassing pictures of them on here, but trust me, our youngest did look a lot like the Beav.  But once again I was reminded of June.  This time I wondered who had dreamed up that perfect/impossible to be television mother.  Had to be some guy with mother issues.

Fast foward to the present.  For some reason, June comes to mind often.  She's working her butt off, yet always has a smile on her face and the wisdom that comes with ages.  Me?  I'm working in the kitchen, still no apron, spaghetti sauce splattered on the front of my t-shirt.  I picture June in her dress and pearls...with chicken pucky stuck to the bottom of her high heels.  It's an endearing image.

While looking at Google Images for the above pics, I found the following blog and had to laugh:

http://junecleavercookingclub.blogspot.com/search/label/Main%20Dish

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Our first Ducklings

Check these little guys out - too cute!  They were having their first swimming lesson in the duckling wading pool AKA paint roller tray.




They were in an inch of warm water having a supervised swim.  I think Bill and I had more fun watching them than the ducks did.  After a bit of playing around in the water, I put them back on dry shavings under the 100 watt bulb that's serving as a heat source in their brooder box.

We have no idea what breed they are or whether they are male or female.  That's just how they came from the farm and ranch store, so it's anybody's guess at this point.

I spent some time looking at various chicken tractors, duck houses, etc.  I was searching for something suitable that would be fast and cheap to construct as it would be temporary housing.  I finally found a page (and closed it!!!) that had images of their straw bale chicken housing for 60 hens.  It was pretty basic and worked well for them.  When the bales started to break down, they were replaced with new bales.  The old ones were then torn apart and the hens finished ripping them to shreds, eating any seeds and doing their fertilizing thing (poop).  Later it was hauled off for compost.

So in a flash, I knew that was the thing to do here, too.  We have a totally enclosed run behind the coop that's rarely being used right now.  All I have to do is close the trap door from the coop, stack the bales, add a piece of scrap plywood for the roof, top it off with a couple cinder blocks and I'll have a bonafide redneck duck house.

Okay, there's a bit more to do, but you get the idea.  We have a leftover concrete form that would make a good base and raise the bales (and ducks) above grade in case of heavy rain.  I can tie the bales together, and probably figure out something to secure the plywood roof and the bales to the base.  A few pieces of PVC pipe scrap will create a ventilation gap at the top.  There's plenty of room for the little Rubbermaid stock tank that will be their 'pond' for the time being.  I can elevate it on blocks or a pallet, then run a piece of garden hose from the plug to outside of the run to drain and refill the little stock tank.  They can also get underneath the coop for more run around room. 

The best thing about this plan is that the young ducks will be able to get to know the other critters safely until they're big enough to free range with the hens.  I'll need to add some hardware cloth to the lower part of the enclosure so the cat paws can't reach in to snag a little duck, too.  But for now, they're house ducks.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Ceramic Tile to Carpet Tiles to Curtains

We are laying tile in front of the french doors upstairs this weekend.  I am supposed to be done with that by now, but you know how it goes.  Oh!  Before I forget again, if you're into laying your own ceramic tile, put a cup of white vinegar in a bucket of water when it's time to wipe the grout down.  It will clean that haze off in nothing flat instead of rinsing and wiping over and over.

We decided to go with carpet tiles upstairs because of the herd of cats.  The tiles will be easy to yank up to clean well, and then put back on the floor.  We got ours at http://icarpettiles.com/ .  The prices were reasonable, shipping was horrendous, but we had the tiles in just a couple days.  I was surprised that it was still cheaper to order them and pay the freight charges than to order them from Lowes or wherever and have free shipping to the store.  Anyway, it took longer to lay them than what we expected but it was mainly because Bill was being a bit OCD about it.  Sure looks good, though!  We didn't put the carpet tiles in the area where the tile is going as I tend to be a bit messy.  Creative people are rarely tidy.

I have been thinking about window treatments for a long time.  I have always made my own curtains.  I never liked the quality of purchased curtains unless you got up to the really high dollar ones.  Being broke with three little kids always prompted me to be a DIYer.  There was a learning curve with making curtains, but I got it figured out.  I even made lined Roman Shades with scalloped valances that had candle wicking (!!) and panels w/ tie backs...for seven windows.  I must have been nuts.  It took me forever.

So, today I started looking for instructions for a specific type of valance so I don't have to think about it too much.  The first link I opened was http://craftstew.com/sewing/free-curtain-patterns .  Wow!  Tons of links!  One of them was to Mag Ruffman's blog.  I love this gal's style of writing, her humor and talk about some great tips.  Catch her blog about drapes at http://www.toolgirl.com/toolgirl/2005/04/planet_of_the_d.html .  Planet of the Drapes?  Cracks me up!

I am always surprised at how expensive curtain rods are.  In our last house, I used 1" PVC pipe for the rod (spray paint it if you don't want white) and the old glass door knobs on the ends.  I used a bit of hot glue to hold them in place after I put the valance or curtain on.  On one large set of windows, I found a fancy shower curtain rod was about 1/3 the price of a nice regular curtain rod.  The valance hid the ends well enough so I just used the rubber ends that came with it.   What was crazy was that I could get heavy cotton cutwork lace shower curtains for a LOT less than the same thing cut to standard window sizes.  No problem there, I can cut 'em down to save that much money.  We had a hard time finding hardware for that large of a 'rod', so we used some wood brackets.  I can't remember if Bill cut them out or if we bought them.

In our current bedroom, I bought pretty wicker-look Roman shades at Lowe's.  Our son had given me some gorgeous silk saris, l-o-n-g, with a lot of the knots still on the fabric.  Dark red and gold, the real deal from India.  Entirely too pretty to cut up into anything - but perfect for a window swag.  I used three plant hooks - two on the corners of the window trim, one in the center, but about 10" higher than the trim.  I put three black rings that have clips on the plant hooks.  I first folded the sari almost in half lengthwise. The sari has gold, basically finished edges and I wanted them to show. I then found the center point, clipped it on the higher, center ring, then draped it slightly to each of the side clips.  The rest just hung down and I trimmed the unfinished edges and left them.  Since I did a travel theme in that room, it worked out really well.

I still haven't decided on a plan for all the windows in the room we're currently working in - four windows and a set of french doors.  I do know that I won't be making scalloped valances with candle wicking, though.

Updated 3/19/2012:  We won't be buying carpet tiles again.  Our cats have totally destroyed one of them.  They have a couple scratching posts and things, but every day there is at least one spot that 'a' cat has pulled up the edge of a tile.  Bill's out in the shop now, making a different type of scratching post for the morons.  The catnip is starting to grow outside, so I'll get some leaves and rub 'em on the new carpeted post to see if that will help draw feline to that carpet instead.
Updated again 8/25:  The carpet tiles also outgassed baaaadly for weeks and it took forever for most of the smell to leave.  I should say that we got carpet tiles that had a foam backing and were supposed to look like regular carpet after they were installed.  Ha.  It does, right after you vacuum.  By the next day, you can tell that it's not regular carpet.  We also had trouble with a cat urinating (!!!!!!!!!) on select tiles.  Sigh.  Good thing we bought extra carpet tiles.  By the time it was over, we had put three coats of urethane on the subfloor (that didn't work as well as I thought it would), and three coats of exterior oil based primer/ sealer on the offending areas (that did work!)  The cats destroyed several tiles, probably 12.  They haven't been tearing them up lately, so maybe the worst is over.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cheap homemade Irish Cream

I wouldn't be considered much of a drinker in most circles.  But during the colder months, my alcoholic beverage of choice is a shot of Irish Cream in a cup of coffee.  There's Bailey's, Carol Ann's and a few other brands.  All good stuff.  All 20 miles away.  When the weather is nasty cold and I want a cup of coffee with a glug of Irish Cream, the last thing I want to do is get in the car and drive to get a bottle.

So, being the cheap AKA frugal person I strive to be, I wanted a recipe.  I have tried several, some of which cost as much to make as a bottle of the real stuff cost.  Finally someone gave me their recipe that uses cheap, rot gut whiskey and other cheap ingredients.  No, it's not as good as Carol Ann's and it's definitely not Bailey's, but it's not bad at all in a cuppa joe.

In this recipe, I use all store brand or private label ingredients.  It's also pretty flexible for your own tastes.  Every batch I make is somewhat different as I tend not to measure...sorry.

1 can sweetened condensed milk (or make your own sub - recipe below)
3 cans evaporated milk
several drops or more of imitation coconut flavoring
1 to 2 TB chocolate syrup
1/2 cup strong coffee
2 three ounce packages of instant vanilla pudding mix
1/2 to 1 cup whiskey, depending on how boozy you want it

Blend it all together with a stick blender, store in frig.  It might thicken up a bit, so add either more coffee or more whiskey, whatever your tastes are.  I have tried to make small batches in a wide mouth bottle, just shaking it instead of busting out the stick blender.  Trust me, this does not work.  I always end up with blops, blops and clumps of pudding no matter how much I shake it.  So use your blender, stick blender or mixer.

I have used instant coffee (brand name), but I thought it tasted better with regular coffee.  I'm going to make a fresh pot of coffee if I'm making Irish Cream, so I started using real coffee instead.

Sweetened Condensed Milk Substitute

1/3 cup boiling water
3 TB butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup nonfat dry milk

Melt the butter in the boiling water, add the sugar and stir well.  Add the dry milk and blend well,  This will thicken as you blend.  This recipe makes about 14 oz and can be used in place of one can of purchased sweetened condensed milk.  Make it when you need it as it won't store well.

There are also recipes for evaporated milk substitutes, but I have never used all subs in the Irish Cream recipe.  I always wonder if it's going to make it taste like powdered milk...not my favorite flavor.

I just made a batch, so if you're close by, come on over.  Coffee pot is on.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Babysitting goats

I have the coolest neighbor.  Stacy and her husband have lived around the corner for a couple years, but it's been in the past few months that we have struck up a friendship.  We have a lot of things in common and one of the best things is that our husbands even like each other!  Like she said, how rare is it that you all really like each other?

No one could ever call these people lazy.  They just flat get with it, no matter what the project is.  I used to be called the #1 project minded wife, but I have to pass the title on to Stacy.  Wow, plans and more plans, written down, graphed out, subject to change if a better idea comes along.  They are good scroungers for necessary materials, but not afraid to buy what they need.  They'll drop what they're doing to come help us, give us a call if they need an extra pair of hands. A while back they asked if we wanted to split a cow with them.  Now they're getting two calves in the spring, raising them and having them processed in the fall.  One for us, one for them.  It's going to be hard for me to eat something that I have personally met, but eventually I'll get over it.  Pass the BBQ sauce.
And they have a tractor that we can borrow anytime. You gotta love 'em.

They decided a while back to get into the goat raising business for a retirement job.  I kept bugging Stacy about milking said goats.  If you have never had fresh goat milk, you're missing out on the good stuff.  Wowser!  Anyway, she was determined NOT to milk the goats, but said that I could.  Hmmm....no thanks.  Then she saw how much goat milk soap sold for.  Bingo!  Now we're making practice batches of soap, looking forward to having some fresh milk to make soap....or lotion....or cheese.  I'm not sure if she's planning on me milking these critters.  I'm almost afraid to ask.

They have several acres of ground that they'd like to plant in alfalfa to help cut their feed bills for the goats.  I just happen to have a couple of acres behind our place that's orchard grass with a fair amount of weeds.  So, a bunch of her goats are going to hang out here for the spring and summer.  I'll have to make sure they get locked up at night and have fresh water, but that's no biggie.  We have a couple ideas for a shelter, and some electric fencing will keep them in their designated areas.  I hope.  At least she's around the corner if I have any problems, right? 

The whole thing sounds like a win/win situation.  They will still have some goats there, will be taking care of the cow critter destined for our freezer, and can plant the acres they want without having to pasture all the goats there.  I'll get the beef for minimal costs, maybe some el cheapo (or free?) goat milk and my weeds mowed down.  It's a plan!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Chaos at My Feet

The day following my previous post, there were more cats missing.  Three of our little cats and one that was about a year old.  I plunged into a deeper slump.  With four of them gone at one time, I figured it had to be a coyote pack that thought my property had a cat buffet. 

I was down to two barn cats.  I kept thinking of Barb's comment (below previous post).  I was moving on towards acceptance - telling myself that I did give them better care than a lot of folks out here give their outdoor cats.  I picked them up (well, most of them anyway) every day, fed them twice a day, fresh water daily, basic vet care, several straw bale shelters to choose from and a few hidey holes in case they needed a quick escape.

A couple mornings later, I was almost dreading the daybreak.  I was afraid I might see just one cat or worse yet, no cats.  When I finally forced myself to look out, wow!!  The four were back!  I took their food outside and had the usual tangle of six cats at my feet. 

I'm okay with it.  In fact, now I enjoy it.  All that purring and meowing is music to my soul.  I'll continue to miss Frank, but I'm so thankful that I still have the others today.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Loss of a Companion and Healing

Of all the things I had thought about, planned, etc, about when we moved out to the country, the one thing that never crossed my mind was how much death there is out here.  People don't blog about it, nothing obvious other than butchering critters (eeek), nor did I ever read anything that told me to be prepared.

When we first moved out here, one of the new neighbors suggested that I never name any of the outdoor critters.  She called her spinster barn cats #1 and #2.  They lived to be a ripe old age of 9, which is very old for most barn cats, she said.  Apparently two to three years is the average age they make it to, depending on the area that you live.

Of course, I didn't heed her advice.  How could I when I had those first adorable chicks?  And of course, the first casualty was Marigold, my favorite little hen.  Stupid bird would hop into my lap any time I would sit outside and I fell in love with her.  I think a hawk got her, but I don't know for sure.  I cried off and on for several days, reminding myself that it was just a chicken.  Okay, some of us have really soft hearts.  I also cried when the last one from that first bunch of chicks died.  Ozzie was about three years old, and she just slowed down more and more each day, in spite of what I did.  There is only one in this batch of hens that has a name, Moonbeam.  And only because she will not go into the coop while there is a speck of light.  I did not allow myself to interact too much with these birds when they were little so I wouldn't get too attached to them.

We also have lost a few young barn kitties through the past couple years.  Each one was hard for me, but we recently lost Frank, my favorite.  We don't know what happened.  He and Momma cat were constantly together, then she was by herself.  She was very vocal, maybe trying to tell me what happened, but I couldn't understand other than to know something had happened by her tone.

My heart is broken again, but I know I'll heal as time goes on.  I still look for him in the usual places, hoping by some miracle he'll be there.  That too, will pass as time goes on.  He was such a pain in the butt, especially every time I was trying to garden, but I miss him. 

And I'm thankful that he was part of my life.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Starting the New Year!

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season!

New Year's Eve quietly passed by with pizza and conversation.  We drove to our friend's house, yakked for a few hours then headed home.  I didn't have to see any ball drop to know that it was the start of a new year, ya know?

I'm not one for resolutions, but there are a couple that I'd like to pass on to you: 

Make this the year that you rid yourself of friends that aren't really friends and relationships that just suck the life out of you.  We've all had them.  You might hate to hurt someone's feelings, or hate the initial confrontation.  Do it anyway.  You'll be much happier later.

I had two 'friendships' that I had to end.  One was with a gal that had the 'it's all about me' syndrome.  You know the type.  The conversation always had to revolve around what she was doing, what she got, what she wanted.  Agh.  After a number of years, I decided that it really wasn't worth it.  Yes, years. 

The other 'friend' took advantage of me for an awfully long time, too. I'm a slow learner some times.  But I knew long before I gradually ended the relationship that I felt just lousy after being around her.  What really corked it was listening to her talk to people on the phone, being all syrupy sweet, then hearing a blast of nastiness about them after she hung up the phone.  Made me wonder what she said about me when I wasn't around.

So, tell yourself that you deserve to have a better friends and they deserve to be around people that truly appreciate them, so it's not all bad.

And the other thing:  Find your passion and go for it!  Make this the year that you rid yourself of the job that you absolutely hate.  Do something different that gives you enough money to get by on and follow your bliss.  Consider changing your lifestyle or location to make that happen. Easy to talk about but much harder to do.  If you can't chuck your job, then do some things that you truly love when you're not working.  Say 'no' to things that take up your free time and say 'yes' to doing things you want to do.  Need to learn a new skill for a different job?  Then start researching now on how to do that.  Need to go to college to learn that skill?  Start looking now for 'free' money to help pay for tuition, books, materials.  Make an appointment with an advisor and see how and where to start.  Then take that first step.  Don't stop there, take the second step.

Sometimes it's finding the resolve to keep taking steps that's hard.  I had one friend years ago that wanted a bathroom painted in that dark purple that you'd see on a pansy.  Fear of failure (?), fear of critisim, fear of XYZ, whatever, kept her from ever having it.  She got as far as buying two gallons of paint.  Once a year, she'd take the paint back to the store to have the gallons shaken up again, then back on the shelf in her house.  The last time I talked to her, she still wasn't brave enough to open a can and roll some on the walls.  Several people offered to help, but she just hadn't found the courage to be different yet.

I always wanted to learn how to make soap. I finally decided that this time I was going to do it.  Now I'm not sure what I'm going to do with 20 bars of plain soap.  Especially since I want to try some different recipes.

Bill hasn't filed for divorce because of it.  My friends that don't do the homemade 'anything' think I'm nuts, but they still like me.  Or they tolerate me well.  These are good relationships, huh.