Farm Fresh Food

Farm fresh food.  It's good stuff.  

::  Eggs, about eighteen per day.

::  Wild greens, because they're plentiful, drought resistant, delicious and I can't get salad greens to grow in the garden to save my life.  Clover, lambs quarters, wood sorrel, sheep sorrel, alfalfa.  Weeds are where it's at.

::  Onions, which aren't quite ready yet, but irresistable, and oh so tastey.

What fresh foods are you enjoying right now?
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Five Reasons to Let Mama Hen Hatch Chicks

While we were away from this space last month, one of our new Black Copper Marans went broody. We decided that it might be a good time to replenish our flock, so we left a dozen eggs under mama hen.   For twenty some odd days we waited, candling eggs, and wondering if this experiment of nature would actually work for us first year homesteaders.  Around day twenty three we about gave up.  It was a Friday and we decided that if they didn't hatch by Monday, we were going to call it quits and send the eggs to the compost bin.  On Sunday evening, the first chick hatched, with each to follow over the next twenty four hours.  We ended up with eight healthy chicks.  We gave the other eggs a few more days, but nothing happened.  

Having purchased our chicks through a hatchery last year, we had no idea about taking care of these mama hatched bundles of fuzz.  To our amazement, we didn't have to do anything.  We took care of mama, and she took care of her babies.  The only thing we did intervene with was to bring them into the house.  It was still in the upper 30's at night, and I was afraid the other hens or rooster might try to attack the chicks, so we set up a play pen for mama and her brood.  

Here are our top five reasons to let mama hatch her own chicks...

1.  No incubator needed.  Mama rotated the eggs and got them just where they need to be for hatching.

2.  No heat lamp.  Being off grid, this was a concern of how we would keep newborn chicks warm. Mama took care of that.  

3.  Healthier chicks.  Last year, almost every chick from the hatchery ended up with pasty butt.  We spent weeks nursing sick chicks back to health.  This year, we didn't have to nurse any babies.

4.  Fast learners.  Within hours, they were eating and drinking.  Within days, the chicks were scratching at the dirt.  It took days for the hatchery chicks to figure out the food and water, and weeks to figure out scratching.  They also developed faster, physically.  Their feathers came in quicker than the hatchery chicks.

5.  Saves money.  Other than feed, there was no cost for these new chicks.  

Our chicks are all fully feathered right now and have been moved, with mama, to an outdoor pen until they are large enough to be introduced to the flock.  Our other Black Copper is broody now and we're going to let her sit on a dozen eggs, too.  We should have a few new chicks around the second week in July.  Our plan is to keep the hens for eggs and raise the roosters as meat birds.  

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Kettle Dyeing Yarn

I played around with a new technique that I've never tried before.  Kettle dyeing with multiple colors. Now, I was under the impression that kettle dyeing was when you added your yarn to a cold vat of dye, letting the yarn and dye solution heat up together, undisturbed, until all of the dye was exhausted.  I do that a lot and love the tonal results.  From what I've been reading though, kettle dyeing can cover a wide range of techniques.  It seems to be the difference between hand painting the yarn, then steaming it to set the color and letting it soak in a dye solution to exhaust.  This method was a little nerve wracking, since you don't have much control over where the color goes, but it was a lot of fun to try.  It's kind of like magic watching the colors blend together.  I didn't take photos, but here's my process...

::  Fill a roasting pan with just enough cool water to cover the top of the yarn and 1/2c. vinegar and soak yarn until saturated.

::  Heat water until it's steaming, but not boiling.  You don't want bubbles.  They will felt your yarn.

::  Mix dye colors while you're waiting.

::  Pour dye solution over yarn.  Don't touch it, stir it, or poke at it.  The dye will bleed into the whole skein.  I know, this is hard. Wait for the dye to exhaust.  Some colors take longer than others.
::  Add another color, leaving a gap in between for the colors to bleed a little.  They do.  It's really neat. Also, make sure that the colors work well together and won't turn to mud.  Unless you like the color of mud.  Wait for the dye to exhaust again.

::  Repeat with all of your colors.

::  When the skein is finished, turn the heat off and let it cool.  

:: Rinse.  Dry.  Knit.  Or in my case, I'm making them into kits and mini's for the shop!

What's your favorite dye technique?

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Handmade Soap

Our handmade soap.  We use it every day and love it so much that we bring it everywhere we go. Most of the time, you'd even find a bar in our backpack, because I hate to use those nasty restroom soaps.  This week, I found out that our soap boxes are being discontinued.  I've been wanting to give our packaging a makeover for a while now, but haven't been sure of the what or how, let alone the time to figure it out.  I knew that I wanted less packaging.  Less waste.  Less paper.  Less ink.  More towards our lifestyle {and our soap}.  Simple.  With the news of our boxes, it was just the push I needed to create something new.  We may tweak it again, but for now, I really like it.  

Mike has also been asking me to make him a shaving soap for months, so for Father's Day, I've made a brick of Bentonite Clay Shaving Soap, and added the new labels.  The soap is filled with rich lathering oils, bentonite clay to detox the skin, and local beeswax for healing.  You can find it in our shop here.

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Last month our laptop charger broke and it's taken almost that long to get a new one.  {Apple, could you please redesign your charger cords, so I don't have to keep replacing them every six months.  It's kind of spendy.} Yes, that means we went a whole month without the computer.  Well, sort of.  It means that we had to work from a borrowed smart phone and that, my friends, is not a workable solution.  Smart phones, are not very smart.  Talk about a time suck.  That little contraption can go anywhere and everywhere.  I found it in my pocket, in my backpack, in the garden, and even in the boat.  It was great for keeping up with orders in the shop, emails, and the occasional Instagram photo {we're on Instagram, now!}, but terrible for any kind of writing here on the blog.  Hello tiny buttons, made for inhuman sized fingers. And it's impossible to upload or edit photos from my dslr.  {At least, as far as my technical abilities will allow.}  Anyhow, it's nice to be back in this space again, reconnecting, and I can't wait to show you what we've been doing around the homestead these last few weeks.  

p.s.  If you have an Instagram account, please do share in the comments.  I've kind of fallen in love. The vibe is so much better than Facebook and the like.

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