Chicken Feet Thawing

The recent ice storm wasn’t a surprise. With several days notice of the impending storm, I made sure the animals had enough hay to stay snuggly, fresh water, and feed in their pens to wait it out.

But then there’s that rooster who didn’t get the memo. Needless to say, the morning after the storm I inspected the pens and found a rooster falling over, not able to walk with red, frozen feet.

roosterfeetSo to the barn he went to start his feet thawing.

20150222-124402-45842733.jpgForget frost bite, like in his comb…more evidence he does not roost in the coop at night…those feet were frozen solid and clanked as I put him into the crate. I started a slow thaw at first with a heat lamp. At least he was still eating and drinking….a good sign. After a few hours he was out in the garage by the wood stove to stay overnight.


The next day he was walking about pretty well and getting restless to be out of the crate. The blood flow has returned to his feet but I’m watching for any dead toes or tissue before he can go back to the flock.

I’m chick-momma-hopeful it’ll be in a day or two!

20150223-083805-31085514.jpgUpdate on Popsicle 2/25/15: The past few days, he was eating, drinking, and walking albeit stumbly. He started to have some diarrhea and a bit cranky knocking his feed over letting me know he did not like being caged up. I was hopeful his crabbiness was a sign he would recover. But today, I went out to check on him and clean his cage and found he had died. He never recovered from the feet freezing. :(


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Winnie’s kidding soon

I’m getting so excited for Winnie’s kids to arrive! Her freshening is just a month away and she is getting pretty cranky.

“I’ve been there Winnie, and don’t blame you one bit!”

This week’s physical is looking good. It’s my practice to take a quick weight check and an overall look to make sure she and the kids are growing at a good, healthy weight. A nice 69.8#…I do believe she’s a bit larger than last year kidding triplets.


Of course she’s protesting an udder check and sitting on her rump. Lol
But she’s uddering up nicely.

So with her having a good appetite and no apparent problems, her kidding is right on track as we near her March 19th due date.


Now the biggest question: how many kids are in there?!

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A warm weekend + prepping your garden space

No buds on the trees? After this weekend there might be.

No buds on the trees? After this weekend there might be.

I gladly escaped the house this weekend and enjoyed three days of sunny, above 50 degree weather. It’s not normal for us here in the Midwest to be enjoying weather this beautiful in January — but then again, as the old saying goes, and if you don’t like the Midwest’s weather, you can wait about 5 minutes for it to change.

Of course, with it being January, there’s not much I could do in the way of planting or gardening, despite feeling ready. But, I was able to prep my outdoor gardening space so that I’m ready to go after freeze warnings have ended. Continue reading

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Greenhouse: Using recycled tubs

When we remodeled our full bath, I saved the old metal tub. I saw its potential as a garden bed but it lingered in the metal heap for years.

Last year it made it into the greenhouse and proves to be a wonderful winter gardening bed. I loved the tub so much, Mr. SP found two old porcelain washer tubs to place in the greenhouse from a swap meet.


I do believe the greens, herbs, and tomatoes are loving the greenhouse while it’s been down right cold outside.

Greenhouse Quicky: recycled tubs


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The Sustainable Prepper’s Sourdough Starter

I’ve always been envious of the farm women who have nurtured a crock of sourdough starter passed down through the generations. So back in 2011, I started my own batch to get our tradition going.

Below is my old fashioned recipe for getting a crock growing. There’s nothing better than some fresh sourdough bread mothered in fresh butter & local honey!

It will prevent yeast growth.

2 crock bowls (or any ceramic/stoneware bowl or glass jar)
long handled wooden spoon (or plastic)
measuring cups

2 cups of water
2 cups of flour (I prefer organic)



Mix starter well until flour is incorporated, no lumps.

1. Mix water & flour in the crock.
2. Cover lightly with cheese cloth or leave it open if you do not have any problems with pests i.e. fruit flies. This will allow the natural yeasts to find your bowl and inoculate the starter.
3. Let crock set aside in a undisturbed place for 3-5 days. It will be bub

bly and start to smell sour with a whitish texture.
4. Once ready, take out the amount called for in the recipe, pour the remainder into a clean crock bowl, and refrigerate covered with plastic wrap.

Starter care:

  • Tuck covered crock into the coolest back corner of the fridge. This lets it go to sleep.
  • Check monthly to ensure no green fungus has developed.
  • Occasionally, take out the crock to replenish it. Just add 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of water, and let set out for a day or two.
  • I prefer:
    to use the starter weekly, replenish weekly.
    to use the starter monthly/bi-monthly, replenish monthly/bimonthly.
  • If used very frequently, double the replenishing amounts to build a larger batch. You need to have enough to keep the starter going for future uses.


    Increasing my sourdough starter in a larger crock for family sharing.

Using the starter:

  • Take starter from the fridge, give a good stir, take out the amount called for in the recipe and let come to room temp before using.
  • Add back into crock equal amounts of the starter used with flour and water. i.e. 1 cup used = replace with 1 cup flour and 1 cup water.
  • Let set for several days repeating steps 1-4.

Trouble shooting:

  • If it is not bubbly, give starter a good stir and let set a few more days.
  • If it isn’t sour smelling or like a strong sourdough stir in another cup of flour, another cup of water, and let set a few more days.
  • If starter is too sour, add 1/4-1/2 tsp of baking soda to flour when replenishing.
  • A dark grayish water may top the sleeping starter batter…this is fine, just give the starter a stir and either replenish for a few days or return to fridge.
  • If it begins to turn moldy green, toss out and start over.
  • In a bind, the start can be frozen in a jar but I have never had the need to do so. Let the starter thaw in the fridge overnight then let set out for a day or two. Repeat the starter process to replenish the yeast if not very bubbly.





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Frosty weather car prep

Frosty cities. I'm not a fan.

Frosty cities. I’m not a fan.

Despite being nearly six hours from Mom’s farm (where she’s noticed the geese are gone), I can’t be saved from the frosty weather that’s about to hit us all. It looks like we’ll be suffering through this wintry mix together. (Families that freeze together, stay together?)

Since I have my own mini homestead, I’m up and at ‘em today, trying to be sure I’m prepared for any unfortunate weather that may come this week – and into the winter months. While there’s things to do around the house – putting away the hoses, pulling in plants and making seasonal necessities easy to reach (shovels, salt, etc.), my biggest focus is on our vehicles.

Being in the middle of nowhere, commuting to work is a necessity. And, with long distances that are usually backroads, there’s no cellphone reception or heavy traffic. Meaning, if you’re stuck or broken down, you’re likely on your own.

Several years ago, I was a teaching assistant during graduate school. Lucky for me, I still had to be at class periods/office hours regardless of inclement weather. Around December, a rough snowstorm dumped about 17 inches of snow on the campus and town, most of that coming down while I was working. Can you imagine a university dismissing 35,000 students when a foot of snow is already on the ground? It was disastrous.

So much so, that I ended up parking my car and walking the 3.5 miles home in the snow, mostly uphill, due to blocked and unplowed roads. While I was sore the next day from that 3 hour hike in 12-plus inches of snow, I was proud that keeping those extra socks, scarves, gloves and hats in the car, along with my hiking boots, paid off. I was cold when I got home, but I wasn’t frozen or sick, and being prepared made the journey more of an adventure than an impossibility.

The girls who wore leggings and thin jackets to class that day? I’ve heard countless stories of how that wasn’t such a good day.

That whole tundra experience taught me the importance of not eye rolling mom and dad, and later, the fiancé, about car preparedness. If that situation could happen in an urban area (which honestly made the whole issue worse), it’s even more important to be prepared for being stuck out in the country.

 So, what do I keep in my car? I house my essentials in an old milk crate. They include:

  • Hat, scarf, gloves and socks
  • Hiking boots  – the fiancé and I are avid outdoors people, so we invested in good boots that are multipurpose.
  • Snacks – granola bars, gum, nuts, etc. I try to keep items that are high energy, but will hold up in the car for periods of time before they’re swapped out and eaten.
  • Water – This is harder to keep from freezing in the winter months, so during cool weather, I’ll keep an empty water bottle on hand that can be filled up and reused anywhere.
  • Blanket
  • Winter windshield wiper fluid in a spray bottle – You’d be amazed how this is helpful at getting open frozen doors or quickly deicing something. I often keep this by the back door in the mornings I need to get going quickly, but wasn’t able to pull the car into the garage the night before.
  • Tea light candles
  • A small jug of kitty litter or sand

My fiancé also keeps a small shovel in his car, and I think it’s a great idea. We probably need to add one to my kit.

Then, there are other essentials that stay in year round, including extra oil and antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, a portable tool set, jumper cables, a mini battery charger and a small tire pump (purchased from Harbor Freight for $8, this thing has been a lifesaver).

That’s it! While it seems like a lot, it mostly fits in my handy milk crate, which is easily removable from the car if need be. If you don’t have your own car box ready, I’d suggest thinking about your weather conditions and what items would help you in case of an accident or unfortunate situation.

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Beef & Barley Vegetable Stew

beefbarleystewTime for my Beef & Barley Vegetable Stew! Freezing and canning this yummy stuff for the cool days arriving.

In large stock pot add 3 quarts chicken broth & remaining water to fill bit past halfway, beef steaks (pan brown outside, do not cook thru) & cut into cubes, cut chunky fresh veggies (i.e. potatos, greenbeans, carrots, celery, onion, corn, peas, lima beans), box of barely, seasonings to taste (kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder, basil). Bring to boil then simmer several hours until barely is puffed & stew is thick. Recheck seasonings by taste, let simmer few minutes longer if more seasonings are added. Enjoy!

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The geese are leaving & winter is moving in!

It’s official, winter is about here.geese_6968

The geese (several large flocks in “V” formation) are making their exit. Flying over my property on the morning of November 5th, they’re heading southeast and in a hurry!

That’s my sign to step it up in getting the toosh in gear for weather prepping!



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The Greenhouse


lean-to style greenhouse

I think every gardener dreams of a greenhouse. Last summer, Mr. SP finally finished mine and it’s been fun learning how to make it functional for year round growing.

There are many styles and sizes of greenhouses. The choices are endless but I chose to make a lean-to greenhouse off the side of my shed.


polycarbonate sheeting for the roof


Just a single doorway works fine.


Estate & farm auctions or recycle centers are a great place to get windows for the greenhouse. greenhouse_9985The narrow windows work great when turned on their sides. We put in two windows and a door.


A layer of garden cloth topped with gravel is the greenhouse floor. Of course it didn’t take me long to start measuring some pallet tables into the planning.

The walls were first covered with plastic sheeting and then overlaid with polycarbonate sheeting.

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Love onions? Plant Egyptian Walking Onions

I was first introduced to winter onions by the in-laws. Oh yum! What a joy to see such a large bed of onions that not only lasted through the winter but replanted themselves for decades!

Pic source:

The onions do not propagate through seed or bulb but instead by producing onion sets (mini onions or bulblets) on their tops. Once the tops are heavy with sets, which average 4-12, they tip over and hug the ground planting themselves. Talk about easy gardening!

These onions are white, have a wonderful sharp, bite, and cook up tender. They can be used young like scallions, green onions, or let grow into full size 2″-4″ bulbs for slicing and cooking.

Recently, the family onion garden came to an end. Even my my own starts placed in the herb bed died out due to this walking. So I went on a search for these “winter onions” to get us back in onion production again.

It took a bit to identify but I was happy to finally able to find they were called Egyptian Walking Onions (Allium proliferum). Their self-replanting of the onion sets earned them the nickname “walking onions” as they can move across a garden each season. But in a pinch, one can just pluck off the bulblets and replant them.

One may not find Egyptian Walking Onions at the local garden center or co-op but there are many garden seed companies online that do sell them. Shop around as they can be a bit pricey for a small amount of sets. I was very excited to locate them on the Ebay store One Stop Poppy in bulk. I purchased 200 onion sets for under $20! Do checkout this store as I’m unsure just how long this special will last.


They arrived quickly by mail in a bubble mailer ready for planting. I have more than enough bulblets now to restart a few onions in the herb bed, send to the in-laws, and share with my daughter to start her own walking bed of onions. But now the dilemma…deciding on a good location on the farm to plant a large portion of these lil’ yummies this fall and the remaining next spring with plenty of room for walking!

I love these onions and could go on & on but so many have already mentioned their sustainable character to add to garden. Here’s a few:

Egyptian Walking Onion

Mother News: Egyptian Walking Onions

Grow Your Own Greens (video): Easy to Grow Perennial Walking Onion Provides Food For a Lifetime

Happy Gardening!

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