Thursday, May 10, 2012

Babies, Babies, Babies Everywhere

Baby Chicks ~ Day 1

Picture perfect...
Bella & Dandelion
Yesterday was a busier than normal day at our house.  When getting ready for any baby, there are preparations to be made, things you forgot, last minute trips to the store.  Well, in this case, we were preparing for 277 baby chicks and really had to improvise in the end.  The plan was to build a brooder (baby chick house) for these little guys.  If you know Daddy at all, you know that he is a problem solver to the core & he thought & thought about the best way to build the brooder, etc.  The day we went to get the lumber, he decided that we would turn our storage shed (very inefficiently used) as our chicken house and he would build a insulated room inside of the shed for brooding.  The room has to stay at about 95 degrees the first week!  If you can tell by the pictures, the brooding room is not finished, but it looks beautiful so far!  I am so excited to see that little used shed turned into something useful & wonderful.  We're using a kiddie swimming pool in our school room for a few days, until the brooding boxes are finished.  

 Our 212 to date consist of Barred Rocks, Black Australorps, Black Jersey Giants, Silverlaced Wyandottes & Jumbo Cornish Rock Crosses (ugly meat birds).  We have 50 Goldenlaced Wyandottes & 15 guineas coming next week.  

We add these to our existing colorful flock of 9.  We have 1 bantam, Clover, 1 Polish chicken, Chachi, Suzan, Chloe, Gena, our guinea, Salt & Pepper, Kiko, and a couple others.  They've been free ranging for a year and have done wonderfully.  Clover, Chachi & Suzan are all about 7 years old and have started laying eggs consistently again after a couple year break.  I cannot say enough for the healing power of food and letting our chickens free range in some capacity. 
Dandelion ~ 1 of 2 Bantams

The kids are being so helpful, changing waters, digging worms, checking the temperature of the pool, to make sure they aren't too hot or cold, changing their bedding...  The list goes on, but it is all worth it.  The lessons they are learning by taking care of these animals are worth more than money can buy.  All are very excited to help & do the chores assigned with these little guys, just to be around them.  The nostalgia of it all may wear off in time, but for now, I'm enjoying this adventure.

Some things we're doing a little different.  I do not want to view our chicks as just "meat birds" or egg laying machines, but as our animals that we are in charge of & have a great responsibility to.  If we take good care of them, they will take good care of us.  They will put food on our table, certainly.  They will provide manure for our gardens, to help us grow better food for the future.  And they provide hours of entertainment for our children.  
Our family does not go on antibiotics unless it is absolutely necessary.  We didn't want to start these chicks out on traditional chick starter food that has antibiotics in it.  We've been adding apple cider vinegar, kefir & garlic to their water.  We've also made their food from whole grains, ground them a bit & soaked them.  Very little food is being wasted like when we give them an almost powdery food.  In a few short weeks, they will be able to free range for short periods at a time and they'll start catching their own food.  

This is the harder route, I'm sure, but I think it'll be worth it.  I've been called weird before, when I plant my tomatoes in my flower garden & transplant stinging nettle.  I love to experiment and see how things will work out.  I'm encouraged by Daddy's adventurous spirit & his words to do it, even if it means a little more work.  
Clover ~ The little mother

A funny little story...  As I brought the chicks into the house from the van yesterday, Clover was in the driveway.  She followed me into the house twice, searching for these babies she was hearing.  She never goes in the house!  I have heard that bantams are good mothers.  We shall see.
Gina ~ The guard dog

An interesting fact...  Guineas are excellent "guard" birds.  Gina will sound off an alarm if she sees a chipmunk or anything out of the ordinary.  I have been walking through the yard & been surprised to see her "charging" me, head down and running at me full speed ahead.  And they are ugly.  I'm looking forward to a few more, but I have a feeling that 15 are going to be quite LOUD!  
Chachi is just Chachi

Polish chickens are FUNNY!  Chachi's feathers are so long, they kind of block her eye sight.  She has a tendency to get lost, if her family moves on without her.  And when she gets lost, she squats down and camouflages herself, making her virtually impossible to see.  I have had to send one of the kids out when it was down pouring to go take her to her family, so that she would be safe.  And after it rains and she comes out to scratch & look for bugs, she is one dirty bird!

As I was monitoring the temperature of the "brooder" today, I was so thankful that God, in His infinite wisdom, has provided for me a perfect little brooder for our new little one, perfect temperature, perfect food delivery system, just perfect...  Thank you, Jesus!

The journey continues around here.  Never a dull moment.  
But full of memories and funny stories.

In Jesus Name, the Author & Finisher of Our Faith,
Daniel & Laura

Friday, May 4, 2012

Smoothies, Kefir & Loads of Energy

In recent years, I have been a huge advocate of eating a big breakfast.  Somewhere I read how important it was.  A diagnoses of hypoglycemia, ions ago, added to my need to have protein often.  I would insist my dear hubby eat his 3 eggs & big bowl of oatmeal before he went to work.  Or I'd take it personally and worry about him when he didn't.   I insisted and then drank my cups of coffee and tried to produce the energy it took to motivate my 6 children to get going in their day.  It was not working! 
The past month or so, I heard that a light breakfast may be better, that our bodies do not digest protein well early in the day.  Now, admittedly, I didn't check into this.  I just wanted to experiment.  Would a smoothie for breakfast be better for us?  Would we have more energy, feel better, make mornings a little easier?  With the blessing from Daniel, we started our smoothie adventure.  We started out with yogurt, juice, fruit...  You know, the typical "smoothie recipe" sweetness.  Although delicious, very expensive for our family of 9.  Today, our smoothie consisted of homemade kefir, kombucha, carrots, bananas, frozen berries, fresh rhubarb, 1/2 lemon (peel & all), fennel seed, flax seed, chia seed and our homemade green smoothie mix consisting of things like alfalfa, oat straw, dandelion root, cayenne pepper, etc.  Although not in any recipe book, it was fabulous.  We've thrown in beets, celery, cabbage, apples, pear sauce...  Just about everything we could think of.

The results have been astounding!  I am 32 weeks pregnant and most days do not feel the need to take a nap.  If I go to bed at a decent hour, I am up by 6:30 am without a problem.  The kids seem to have a lot more energy, but not the nervous, distracted kind, just good, productive energy.  Daniel & Ryan take an extra one for their afternoon snack while at work.  Every one has good, healthy bowels, making for a healthier family.  I am amazed!  I am elated!  I am so thankful to the Lord for answering our prayers and changing the way we eat a little bit at a time!  He's always teaching and showing us the way, if I'll stay alert and pay attention.

A little warning:  A smoothie like the one we had this morning could keep you in the bathroom 1/2 the day if you were not used to eating this way to begin with.  The kefir, kombucha, lemon & "greens" are all detoxifiers in one form or another and a little can go a long way.  For me, I watch how I feel and I make sure I drink lots of herbal tea and water to make sure I'm flushin' the junk out.  If I were to feel nauseated or really run down, I would back off on how big a glass of smoothie I drank.

Kefir Grains
A note about homemade kefir:  There is nothing easier!  Fill a quart size canning jar with milk.  Put in about 1 T kefir grains.  Cover with some sort of breathable material.  I use coffee filters.  Attach with rubber band.  Let it sit out on your counter for 12 - 24 hours, shaking occasionally.  Pour the finished kefir into a bowl and "fish" out the grains with your clean hands.  Put them in another jar and start all over again.  I will never make yogurt again!  It is amazing stuff, full of good bacteria to heal & strengthen your immune system.  and Dom's About Kefir both have a lot of good information about it.  I must state that the kefir that we would pay $4 for a small jug in the store tastes much better, but is full of garbage and NOT the same.  That's why we put it in our smoothies.  Although, several of our children and dear hubby love it plain.  Maybe when I'm not pregnant. 

Note about green smoothie mix and herbs:  I absolutely love  for all their information on herbs, their uses, cautions, remedies for every day maladies & very high quality herbs, teas & great books, too!

We still have our eggs, oatmeal, pancakes, omelets, and other yummy breakfast foods.  We just have them for at lunch or dinner time, which makes for happy campers around here.  They love their pancakes and eggs.  Gabriel would eat a whole pan of oatmeal if I let him!

Maybe next time, I'll write about all our latest gardening activities and small farming adventures.  6 days and counting until we pick up our baby chicks, all 277 of them.  Praise the Lord!

In The Name of Jesus, the Author & Finisher of our Faith,
Daniel & Laura