What’s for Dinner?…again

I get so tired of trying to figure out what to cook for dinner at 4pm – and no groceries in the house.  In an effort to ease my mind I sat down and jotted down a 30 day menu.  I’ve done this before with the expectation that I have to follow it day by day.   Inevitably, I always stray here and there and never gave myself wiggle room.  This time around I decided I would give myself room to move – and stick to the menu week by week.  So, we are over a week in and it is working well.  Groceries for the week are planned by what’s on the menu – I am not worrying about lunches because we always have left overs.  Another thing that has helped is to group dinners together in the same week that have similar ingredients or buy ingredients that will save and work later in the month. And, of course, buy the basics – milk, bread, cereal, oatmeal, smoothie stuff, whatever.

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Challenge: Write out your menu – realistically.  Stick to it 5-6 days of the week and see if this simple act of planning and organization help remove dinner anxiety.

Here is my 30 day menu:

  1. Easy Quesadilla (Rice, Beans, Cheese)
  2. Caprese Pasta Salad
  3. Rice Bowl (California Veg Blend over Rice and Soy, Sesame oil)
  4. Tostada (using ingredients from Quesadillas)
  5. Garden Burgers
  6. Soba Noodle Stir Fry
  7. Paninis (Left over goes into stir fry veg)
  8. Black Bean Enchilada Pasta
  9. Pizza (Cheese carry out)
  10. Stir Fry (Asian Style Veg Blend and Rice, Tofu)
  11. Falafel Salad (Greens, Falafel, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Feta) and Pita Bread
  12. Left Overs 🙂
  13. Vegetarian Chili Cheese Dogs (Veg: like Tofurkey Italian or Morning Star)
  14. Soup and Sandwich (Summer Veg Soup and Veg Reuben)
  15. Taco Salad (Greens, Fritos, Rice, Cheese and black beans, sweet corn base)
  16. Frozen Cheese Ravioli with red sauce, side salad, bread
  17. Garden Burgers (Southwest style using left overs from 15)
  18. Cheese Pizza and side salad
  19. Coconut Curry Soup and bread/crackers
  20. Onion, peppers, mushroom Fajitas
  21. Falafel wraps (Pita, feta, romaine, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, yogurt sauce, Falafel)
  22. Fried Rice Bowl (Fried vegetables and rice)
  23. Nachos (Black bean, cheese, rice base)
  24. Soup and Sandwich (Cauliflower and adult grilled cheese – pesto, tomato and cheese)
  25. Baked Potato Bar
  26. Vegetarian Enchiladas (cheese, spinach)
  27. Garden Pasta
  28. One Pot Veg Chili Mac 
  29. Panini (Grilled Veg or Portabello/Cheese)
  30. Burritos (Rice, Beans, grilled veg left over from Panini)

Spring Chicks – In Season

The rooster may crow but the hen delivers the goods.
Walk in to your local feed store this week and you will hear the chirps of baby chicks from every corner of the store.  They are so cute and for some of us it’s hard not to walk out without taking a few home.  And, why not!?
For those that think chickens are better in the country – think again.  There are many great reasons why you should consider a small backyard flock.  But what surprises people the most is how much fun these ladies are to have around.  The urban farm and backyard movement has really taken off. Take a walk around your neighborhood – I bet you would be surprised by the number of people who have a coop hidden somewhere in their yard.
But, before you take the leap, there are a few things to consider.  There is a lot of information out there.  It can be a bit overwhelming sorting out the good advice from the bad.  When we brought home our first backyard flock I did a ton of research.  What I found was a massive amount of bad information, conflicting experts and confusion. Still, doing your due-diligence will prevent disappointment and frustration.
First, check your local city ordinances but chances are this will not be a problem.  Most cities will allow a small flock with few restrictions.  In fact, not only will most cities allow backyard chickens – they encourage it. The most common restriction within city limits is the no rooster rule.  Poor guys get a bad wrap.
It’s not a good idea to walk into your local feed store and make a impulse buy during chick season.  I think another big surprise to raising chickens is how expensive it is.  Shelter, food and supplies can be a bit of sticker shock. Especially when you can by a dozen eggs in the store for less than $1.  Still, it’s worth every penny.
Do you want to raise chicks or are you wanting older pullets (female chicken under 1 year old) that are closer to the age to lay eggs?  Raising chicks is rewarding but a big commitment.  Sure they’re cute.  But if you don’t have the time, space or a proper brooder set up this option may not be for you.  If you want a chicken for eggs you may want to check local listings for “started pullets” from a reputable breeder.  Pullets will be around 12 -15 weeks or older and ready to go in the outside coop.  They will be much less time consuming and require minimal daily care.  Typically, a started pullet will cost about $15 each depending on the age and breed.
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Proper shelter and space are another factor in your decision.  How much room do you have (how many do you have the proper space for)?  Is your area predator proof?  Is your back yard fenced?  Neighborhood dogs are the number one killer of backyard chickens.  Planning for good care and protection is vital before you bring home your girls.
Do you know what your getting yourself into?  There are tons of great books for new backyard chicken keepers.  I am adding a list of my favorites below.  Before you commit financially and before you buy chickens make sure you know what to expect.  Chickens are not a lot of work.  But, they do require life-long specific and consistent care that you should commit to ahead of time or forget it.
What breed is best for you?  There are a lot of really pretty chicken breeds out there but they are not all created equal. Do your research.  There are some breeds that are better for laying, some that are known to be more docile, some that are better in cold climates – what specific needs do you have?  For a good idea of which breed fits you check out The Livestock Conservancy.
There is a lot to think about.  But a  small flock can give you so much in return – fresh local eggs, hours of entertainment, teach your kids responsibility, aerate your yard, natural fertilizer and pest control, and on and on.  It’s also a big step towards sustainability, self-reliance and talk about local eats!  Do your homework first and you will reap the rewards.
Looking for answers to some of your questions? For more information on all things backyard chickens check out these great books and blogs:
Recommended Blogs:
Recommended Books:
The Chicken Health Handbook; Gail Damerow
Backyard Homesteaders Guide To Raising Farm Animals; Gail Damerow
A Chicken In Every Yard; Robert Litt

Spring Garden Smoothie

I love my spring garden.  Much anticipated first sprouts out of the ground after the winter.  Spring flowers and veggies just make everything feel hopeful.

Spring vegetables are super easy to grow – anywhere.  They don’t require much space and are hardy.  You also don’t need to wait for May (Idaho) to get your garden started.  Lettuce, radishes, greens, peas and so on can all go out before the threat of frost is gone.

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There is an amazing variety of power packed leafy greens that help us break out of that winter slumber.  Even if your not a huge fan of greens you can easily add them to your diet.  And, you should.

If your looking for a quick, easy, delicious way to eat your veggies (or get kids too) try this.  We have seen many versions of this recipe and find this combo is our favorite for breakfast or afternoon pick me up.  The key to this smoothie is the protein and fat.  Those two elements are necessary with the addition of fruit and keep you full.

Like the smoothie ideas? Let us know – we have many more we have tried and love!

Spring Garden Super Smoothie

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Add all ingredients to blender in this order:

Handful of Spinach, kale, romaine (about 2 cups and can be any combo of these)

12 oz. Coconut milk (at this point blend greens until smooth)

1/2 Avocado

Serving of protein powder (plant based)

1 Date (Blend till smooth)

1 Banana

1 tsp Chia Seeds (Final quick blend)

Substitutions/Change ups

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil in place of Avocado
  • Hemp Seeds can be substituted for protein powder
  • Almond Milk or Coconut Milk work great in this smoothie
  • Omit Date if you don’t want added sweetness.
  • Add cinnamon, cashews or unsweetened cocoa pieces for variety

Recipe: Celeriac & Hazelnut Soup — The Veg Space

Nothing better than soup when it’s 1 degree outside!! Yum Yum.

Hello again! I hope you all had a restful and jolly Christmas break, and are still in holiday-mode until after the New Year festivities. Party season is still in full swing, of course, and if you’re entertaining over the next few weeks and looking for a dinner party starter or light lunch that looks impressive,Read…

via Recipe: Celeriac & Hazelnut Soup — The Veg Space

Happy New Year- really.

We are told that our town hasn’t seen this much snow in 20 years.  Boy, is it cold and I don’t see it going anywhere soon.  I follow a lot of chicken sites, homesteaders and gardeners on Facebook. I like the camaraderie and seeing how others are getting through this winter.  Snow can be pretty but all that gets lost in frozen water buckets and frozen oatmeal chunks hanging from feeders.  Still,  January will go fast and I need to start planning for Spring.

We had planned on small expansions year by year but I think we are actually going to scale back a bit this year. It is a shame for food to go to waste and even though a large amount of what we grow is for our animals we can only harvest so much.

My plans for this year will be to refine and tweak. We have unfinished projects to finish that will take priority. Also, this year I want to refocus my attentions to processing and storing all those cherries, apricots, berries, peaches, grapes and apples. Not to mention all the garden harvest.  I will have to let you know how this is going.

We are trying to decide if we will go to market or just sell directly to consumer. Either way we will have more than enough work and produce – I have never seen a gardener without surplus.

Planning- honestly, as much as I complain about the cold (and I mean every word of it), January 1 is always exciting to me. I love to plan and think about the possibilities for the year. Did you know that from today we will have gained 4 minutes of daylight on Jan 1?  Have hope.

And so it goes…

We have been working hard at preparing the garden beds and getting ready to go to farmers market. This is been a long and slow process and we have decided to take it as it comes.   This is been hard because we had to readjust our goals but this is a huge relief of meeting a quickly approaching deadline.   With more than half the garden planted we are hoping to go to market within a couple of weeks.  The rest will go in over the next few days.  Finally!!

The new pasture seed is finally coming up and the mud is turning to grass.  I have become… good… at setting siphon tubes.   For those of you that don’t know, this is where you have to coax running water from a ditch into a little 1 inch tube and pray it makes it all the way down the field.  So it is nothing short of a miracle when the field started to grow.

 

We have had a very wonderful relationship with two roosters that we inherited with the house. They became quick pets and a very special part of this place.  We lost them to a predator last week.   Even now I’m having trouble talking about it.  For those that don’t know the amazing companionship of a pet I feel sorry for you. What a great time we had.  Here’s to Big Red and Lucky Boy – we will sure miss them.

I believe that we were planted here on this small farm for a reason. At least I hope so- there have been a lot of ups and downs even since my last post. I will spare you the details. But- only for now – because without sharing the honesty of the hard it would diminish the joy of the good.

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Big Red and Lucky Boy

The Farm – update

Sharing anything personal has never been my strong point. So I’m a bit surprised that I feel that I need to share the experiences that we have been going through over the last several months. Maybe because I think there are some genuinely interested in what we are doing, or maybe just because as hard as it has been the adventure is still a good story and I want to remember it. Maybe the kids will get a kick out of my notes one day.

Short rambling timeline of events– just the highlights.

The Farm

October 2015: Rented the house in town to move 40 miles out of town to 11 acres. Living the dream – finally just taking the huge leap of faith to do what is important to us. The local food, sustainable living, homesteading, non-GMO and global food crisis is really important to us. Ready to work. There will be sacrifices and we are ok with that. The house is not what we expected. Cleaning is all we can think about now – we removed the carpet in the house to find wood floors. They need work but it could have been worse. It’s getting colder and the baseboard aren’t sealed – the wind is just blowing through the house. There also seems to be a large area of the floor that isn’t insulated. Not sure. The 2 hens and 2 roosters that were left behind have been penned in the aviary (yep) with the 8 doves. I have affectionately named the hens Marianne and Ginger while the roosters are Big Red and Lucky Boy. I hate having them in these small pens – they own the place. But, I don’t need baby chicks running all over. We have 5 hens that have yet to make the move and 31 chicks in the breezeway.

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November 2015: The house is a wreck and a lot more work than we had thought. Not to mention the insulation, heating, whatever isn’t keeping the house warm and the move in ready house is not move in ready – and we are hosting Thanksgiving. We are in the process of desperately building a chick run since what we thought would be the chicken coop/run is not workable (putting it nicely).   It will be less time and money to start over. Marianne and Ginger remain in the pen – it’s a good place for them. I have released Lucky Boy and Big Red. They need to be free range. There is a small pond in the yard – starting to freeze – we will need to watch that as it’s full of fish. Sunsets are pretty here.

December 2015: First chicken coop and run is complete – hens moved here end of November. We finally got the wallpaper stripped off the living room walls and painted – big improvement. The other rooms of will have to wait – just not on the priority list. We have not unpacked most of the household items – things are everywhere and we can’t find anything. I am feeling isolated and the short days are depressing. The truck broke down on my way to the store – apparently something significant… will have to wait. So, the car broke down too. Both car and truck going to the shop – borrowing a car.

January 2016: Truck and car out of the shop. Starting on the second chicken coop and run. Chicks are growing fast and adding pressure to get them out of the breezeway/chicken tractor. Roosters too – they are really pretty but need their own space. It’s stupid cold and the heating bill is over $500. There are now 7 doves – did I mention we have 13+ barn cats that came with the house. They like to hunt and got a dove. We have to work on the aviary wire. We mostly have kittens but several adults too so I am feeding them to get them through the winter. One I have named Mamma (she has kittens) and she follows us around. I feel bad for them. We finished the second shed and are working on the run – starting to move the pullets out with the hens. They hate each other. Big Red and Lucky Boy are our buddies. Really fun to have around and they run after us to see what we are doing – they are getting spoiled. image

February 2016: I think the days are getting longer. Heating bill going down – only $300 this time. Thinking about alternative energy. Garden seeds are ordered. Feeling a little more hopeful. Plotting out the 6 acres of bare ground that are getting imagetransformed into our market garden area. Very ambitious but why not. Live once – leave a legacy. Finally getting some clean up done around the place – trees are pruned. Old run down arbor came down and berries trimmed. Fish in the pond died. Not sure why. We are burning some of the pasture off – lots of weeds around the ditch. Oops – the whole pasture. Going to an Ag symposium – kind of looking forward to it. That was a waste of time and money – not relevant to anything we are doing. No one knows what the heck a CSA or market garden is. Started the onion seeds and artichokes. Really feel the clock ticking. Started plotting out the gardens – this is fun. Can start to see the outlines coming together. Digging the walkways in the gardens – not so fun. Ordering pasture seed for our small animal/chicken pasture and areas we are ready to deal with this year… expensive but mandatory. Sorting seeds packets for early indoor starts. I’m not sure where these are going – but it’s happening. Found a grant to have barn cats fixed – they sent me vouchers for free services. Just have to trap the cats – appointment in April.   Looking for live traps to borrow – not looking forward to that.

 

March 2016: All about starting seeds. Snow geese coming through by the thousands- amazing as they take over the surrounding fields.

Well, that should get you all caught up. We have a very busy spring planned. Going to market end of April. We have a lot to do . I am really wanting to get back to making bread and yogurt, etc. and hopefully have more to talk about there. Eventually, I think, we will get some of the building done and the work will level out leaving time for more balance. We’ll see.

I really feel this is important and it’s hard work – we appreciate those that have given us encouragement.

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Big Red

Urban no more

You had to see this coming…

Today I am officially removing the term “urban” from our blog title. Although I am a big advocate (and will continue to be) for urban homesteading and gardening, this no longer fits.

We are now farmers (well, kinda) living on an 11 acre homestead.  Needless to say between Summer of 2015 and January 2016 a lot has happened.  We look forward to sharing this adventure and all its ups and downs.  We are not rich professionals with a large savings who one day decided to move to the country.  This is a pure leap of faith.

To start things off I am sharing a link with you.  This site does an amazing job of explaining what we’re working for (for those of you who have asked).

What is a CSA?

Cheers!

Amy and Jerad

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Fermenting cabbage

Making Homemade Sauerkraut

We harvested 8 beautiful huge heads go cabbage.

We harvested 8 beautiful huge heads of cabbage.

This was my first attempt at fermenting and storing cabbage. I blanched and froze two of the eight heads and saved the rest as sauerkraut. I used the recipe above and it couldn’t have been easier. One tip- make extra brine, you will need it to cover the cabbage.

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Relk’s mini farm

Our mini farm continues to grow. I am learning a lot this year. Specifically, more than ever we are really trying to max out our space by intercropping and succession planting. I am also squeezing our planting distances. Probably more so than anyone would recommend but so far so good.

We doubled our garden size this year – who needs that much grass anyway. I also moved away from row planting which goes against everything I know and saw growing up. I also disregarded the recommendations for raised beds. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice this valuable space for clear defined walking paths – just ask my husband who wasn’t allowed in this space until all plants were fully visible.

So far we have been very happy with the results. We got a jump on planting due to a ridiculously mild winter so we have already harvest our Yukon Gold potatoes, cabbage and onions. All of which have already been replaced with their successor. Beans and peas are on and we have an amazing tomato crop ripening. Of course, the spring crops are done and I am setting up for our Fall planting now. Crop rotation is fascinating and I am learning how important this is.

We did everything from non-GMO heirloom seeds (organic too when possible). It’s been so rewarding and I hope to have enough starts next year to share- even more than this year.

I have found some amazing books and websites. I am compiling my list and will add them soon. One of the hardest things we have found is sourcing our homesteading supplies, feeds, seeds, etc. We support local as much as possible but also don’t wanted to be limited by the local retailers. This has been a big problem with our bee supplies – finally settling with two suppliers that I’m happy with but shipping is a problem.

Finally, as the harvest comes on I am learning to store food. We bought a food dehydrator and some freezer bags. Canning scares me the most but I will give it a shot!

Here’s some of what we’ve been doing. Hope you enjoy!

Starting seeds

Starting seeds

Organic non-GMO

The girls got an upgrade

The girls got an upgrade

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New this year!!

New this year!!