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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Turkey Question

I was asked a question about turkeys limping. I have never had turkeys so the only advice I was able to give was to buy them a cane.  If you have any advice or information for the following question, please leave it in a comment. 

I have 4 bronze turkey babies. They are in a warm location eating and drinking. Two of them have started limping and I noticed that each has one swollen knee. Any ideas on the cause or cure?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Good-bye Girls

My family recently sold our little backyard farm.  

It sold in two weeks and we haven't found a new backyard farm YET,  we had to move into an apartment.
Since most apartment complexes frown upon raising chickens on the balcony, we had to find foster parents with the rights to adopt the girls. 

My friend Nora took on the job, and I couldn't be happier. She has a great yard, adorable sweet children, and she is close by for when I need to go and see the girls.

Funny story, her husband James was NOT happy with the plan Nora and I concocted, that is why we told him it was merely a foster program. After about two weeks, guess who is the biggest fan of the chickens? James!

I'm really really really missing the girls, and even more than that, I miss the eggs. Over the past four years I have turned into an egg snob. Here is a little video of the process of moving the ladies.


Monday, June 28, 2010


I attended a holistic conference this weekend and have a renewed goal to get my family eating healthier.  Periodically I will share our meals with you so you can maybe get some ideas for your own family. Here is what we had for lunch today.

Baked Pita Chips
Carrot sticks
Celery Sticks
Green Beans

(the kids dipped their veggies in ranch, but hey, it's better than nothing, right?)

Hummus Recipe
Recipe from herballegacy.com
1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans
*1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste), or 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds and 2 tablespoons olive oil
*3 tablespoons lemon juice
*1 clove garlic minced
*1/4 tsp cumin
*Salt and pepper to taste


Drain garbanzo beans, reserving liquid.  Put beans into a blender or food processor.  Add tahini or sesame seed and oil mixture, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, and 1/4 cup of the garbanzo liquid.  Blend together until mixture is the consistency of heavy batter (adding more garbanzo liquid if needed).  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Garnish with olive oil or chopped parsley.

Makes 12 servings, 2 tablespoons per serving

Friday, June 25, 2010

Holistic Conference

Michael and I are attending a holistic conference today. Some of our classes include instruction on essential oils, natural sweeteners, natural pain management and making tinctures. We are really excited about the conference and hopefully will be able to pass on the information to you!

Have a great weekend!


Do you remember this gal?
The one on the left with the bright red comb? 

We wondered if she was just an early bloomer or if possibly she was actually a HE.

It turns out that it's a HE. 

At 12 weeks, he was starting to get pretty loud and Megan decided it was time for him to find a new home. The suburbs really aren't the place for a rooster. 

Megan tried selling him in the classifieds, but when she didn't get any calls on him after a day, she took him to a farm near her house. Good bye little guy.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Raw Milk: The Devils Serum

by Mike

The other day I was talking to one of my coworkers who happens to drink raw milk. He was telling me about an experience he had while buying raw milk. He was walking out of the market where he bought it (yes we can buy it from a market here in Utah) and a lady walked up to him in her hospital scrubs. She said to him, "I normally don't do this, but did you know that that milk could kill you?' My friend quipped "Yes I do, I like to live on the edge. In fact, I am going to give some of this to my kids too." The concerned citizen's mouth dropped open and she turned and fled away from the crazy risk taker.

It is a funny story but it really got me thinking. At what point were we all so indoctrinated to think that raw milk comes straight from the bowels of hell to destroy humanity as we know it. Why are people so afraid of raw milk and the dangers it poses? I really wonder where this fear comes from.

Believe it or not, there are worse things than raw milk. That being the case, I have never seen an individual approach someone else and vocally tell them to stop. I have never seen anyone go up to a mom whose grocery cart is loaded with corn syrup laced fruit drinks and mystery cream filled twinkies to tell her that her kids are going to be obese and get diabetes. I haven't seen anyone go up to smoker outside my work to tell them they are going to die of cancer. No one has ever got on a podium  to talk about the evils of bagged spinach and the potentially life threatening bacteria that they contain. I have never seen anyone go up to a motorcyclist to warn them about road rash or the importance of a helmet.

Not only am I puzzled by individuals but there is hypocrisy with the government as well. As the FDA is deciding whether or not they are going to approve a new drug, they look at the benefits of a drug and compare them to the drawbacks. If good outweighs bad, then a new drug is approved. Why isn't the same philosophy applied to raw milk. Why don't they look at the good and see if it outweighs the bad before cracking down on local farmers that sell raw milk to consumers that are more aware of what's good for them than the majority of the people that are chomping down on Big Macs. 

Why then, when people find out about me drinking raw milk, do there faces go pale and they tell me I am going to die. They look at me and treat me as if I were the walking dead. I understand that there are potential dangers from raw milk but there are dangers everywhere. Why the extreme fear of raw milk? Let me know if you have a theory.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Grounds for Gardening

by Marisa

Some of you may get a boost in the morning by drinking coffee. Did you know that you can "boost" your garden as well with coffee? Not so much the coffee, but the coffee grounds. 

Coffee grounds are excellent to add to the garden or to your compost! I'm not a coffee drinker and neither is Michael. But, I just heard that Starbucks offers free coffee grounds, I guess you just have to ask for them.  They even reuse the bags the beans were packaged in, reducing their waste.

Ground coffee is high in nitrogen, making it a very good addition to the soil for fast-growing vegetables. Simply  sprinkle it around your plants for a slow release of nitrogen.  Studies have also found that coffee-grounds can help reduce the ravages of slugs and snails, and if you have ever had slugs, this is a great thing! During the winter, you can throw the grounds in the compost bin. When composting, it is considered a "green" material, remember that you want to try and keep equal ratios of green/brown material.  There is no need to separate it from the filter if you are composting, because the filter should compost as well.  If you worm compost, I hear the worms LOVE coffee grounds.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Do You Have Any Sugar Free Larvae?

By Mike

Our daughter is currently learning about different habitats for science class. A few weeks ago we learned about the desert habitat and the various animals that live there. I decided that it would be a good to watch an episode of Survivorman to learn a little more about what a desert habitat is like. For those of you that haven’t seen Survivorman, it is a show where he gets put in a harsh environment with his own camera and he has to survive for a week. While we were watching it he caught some grasshoppers to grill over the fire and eat. My oldest son said he wouldn’t have a problem eating grasshoppers. Being the father I am I tucked this away for future reference.

Last week I was downtown and I remembered that the planetarium sells bugs that you can eat so I went and bought a few to bring home. I bought some Larvettes and my kids thought it was pretty interesting to eat them. My youngest boy wouldn’t have anything to do with them but the rest of us tried them. It was like eating the husk of some wheat with a little seasoning. In case you are wondering, I grew up on a farm so I have eaten wheat husk accidentally.

You may ask what this story has to do with our blog. We have done a few articles about Michael Pollan and his books. He believes that you should only eat things that have five ingredients or less. We also have talked about the problem with too much sugar in our diets and foods, specifically the evils of corn syrup. Imagine my dismay when I looked at the ingredients list for Larvettes and saw that the first ingredient was larva and the second ingredient was sugar. It then went on to list various oils, and other ingredients that I can’t pronounce. I lost the box so I can’t tell you exactly what was in it but it had to have had at least 12 ingredients and most of them sounded like something you would use in a science experiment.

Now this article is partially in jest, but I can’t believe that I can’t buy larva that hasn’t been overly processed. Why do I need sugar in my larvae? It’s not really going to make them more appealing. They are mainly a novelty but our culture has become so accepting of processing food and adding sugar that even our larvae are unhealthy.

 This was just a good reminder to me to check ingredients and try to watch what I eat. One of the best ways to eat healthy is to grow our own food, or buy it from local farmers at a farmers market. It is also important that we try to cook our own food. We don’t always do this in our house and we still eat processed foods but we are trying to do better.

From now on when I eat larvae, I am going to grow my own.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gardening on the Cheap

by Mike

Gardening can be an expensive hobby if you let it but over the years Marisa and I have found ways to make it more economical. Here are a few of the things that we have found reduce our costs and make gardening more cost friendly.

1.Plan carefully for what you want. We sit down every spring and write in our garden journal what we want to grow. Make sure that you put in staples that you know your family will eat. You don’t want to waste time and money on something that no one wants. We usually pick a few new plants that we want to try each year but we don’t dedicate a lot of space to these plants until we try them and find out if they work well in our climate, and if we like them. After choosing what we want to grow, we map out our garden in detail. Since we have everything planned out we find that we don’t splurge on additional plants that we won’t eat or don’t have room for.

2.Grow your plants from seed. It isn’t hard once you learn how. You can create a nice seed growing rack. You can start your seeds in your window sills. You can also start a lot of them in the garden. It is much more economical to buy seeds than plants. In addition, if you buy heirloom seeds, you can harvest your seeds from year to year. Marisa and I don’t have to buy a lot of seeds anymore since we harvest from existing plants.

3.Get a gardening group together. You won’t usually need a whole packet of seeds. You probably won’t always use all of the seedlings that you grow as well since you usually start more than you need. If you can find a group you can share the cost of buying new seeds, mulch, and other expenses, and you can share seedlings which can reduce costs. If you can get the group to buy in larger units it will decrease your overall costs (think Costco). It also reduces your risk. If your seedlings don’t turn out, or your plants don’t yield as muc as you hoped for, some of the others in your group can give you some of theirs.

4.Make your own compost. There are fancy composters out there that work great but our garbage can composter has served us well and it only cost $15 to make it. It gives us wonderful compost from materials that would have otherwise ended up in the garbage. This is much cheaper than buying mulch from the store.

5.Reduce water use. One of the biggest costs to gardening in the city is water. An easy way to use less water is to make sure your soil retains water. There are cheap ways to do this. You can put leaves and grass clippings around your plants in the garden and they will help the ground to stay moist. You can also put down newspapers in your garden and it keeps the moisture in. Not only will you have to water less, these methods will also reduce the amount of weeding you have to do. If you live where it rains a lot you can also create a rain collecting system from which you can water your garden.

Gardening is a wonderful hobby that yields great results but it is even more enjoyable when you can make it more affordable.What other ideas do you all have to make gardening more economical. Please comment and share your knowledge with the rest of us.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


by Megan

Yesterday I watched my favorite chicken die.  She was a beautiful Americauna pullet - 9 weeks old.  I watched as she struggled to hold onto life after the neighbors dog, not really more than a puppy, had gotten under our fence and grabbed her.  I was only 10 yards away - within earshot if my window had been open.  My 5 year old son had found them and said to me very calmly, "Mom, a puppy is eating one of our chickens."  I said, "What!?"  to which he repeated with a little more alarm, "Mom, a puppy is eating one of our chickens!"  I ran out to find the puppy, tail between his legs, trying to crawl under the fence again, and our chicken gasping for breath.

I had wondered over the past few weeks if I would cry if one of them died.  A couple of years ago I saw a hawk carry away a small pullet and I burst into tears - but I thought perhaps it was a fluke because those were my first hens.  I wondered if I was as attached to these birds.  But when I came out and found her dying, I once again burst into tears.  I didn't know if I was supposed to save her - to mend her wounds or if it was too late.  I felt such an immediate sense of how small and vulnerable my little hens are - and how it was my responsibility to provide a save place for them to live.  I felt awful after I realized she was really gone,  lifting her limp body and putting it in a bag.  Since we have no backyard neighbors but wilderness I didn't want to bury her and attract predators so I put her in the trash.  I felt so guilty.  She was such a beautiful bird.  I had told my sons that we might even want to enter her into the county fair but instead she ended up in our trash.  It was a sad day.

Rest in peace, little hen.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Cornish Cross versus Freedom Rangers

We have harvested our broilers and done a comparison of our Cornish X (CX) versus our Freedom Rangers (FR). Here are the results.

Here are explanations of the different lines of the table.

Days to processing – we got the CX two weeks later than the FR because we knew that they grow faster.

Mortality – We always have problems with our CX and have a 10-20% mortality - sudden death, leg problems, enlarged craws, etc. The FR are much hardier.  Only 3 FR died but one got its leg broken somehow and didn’t gain weight and the growth of another was stunted by illness so we only counted those two as one bird. We processed 40 CX and 46 FR.
Total lbs of meat per bird - the CX caught up and surpassed the FR in weight gain per bird. They are bred for rapid weight gain and our experiment proved it. The FR actually looked larger but the CX are stocky and when you picked them up you could tell the difference. I think getting a 5.9 pound average carcass in 7.5 weeks is just amazing

Chick cost – We get our CX cheaper through 4H so they have an unfair advantage here.
Feed consumption and cost. Both CX and FR were on pasture but the majority of their feed still comes from purchased concentrates. The CX are much more efficient in feed conversion.  The FR are much more active and burn calories through their activity and it takes longer to get them up to weight. Feed is the main cost so this is a big issue.

Processing cost – we were originally going to harvest the birds ourselves but since we are going on vacation next week we don’t have time to harvest 86 birds. So we took them to the Mennonites. I have no problem paying them $1.94 per bird to do it.

Overhead costs – we estimate our overhead costs to be about $0.25 per lb. This is for mileage to take the birds to get processed and for wear and tear on waterers, feeders, heat lamps, pasture coops, etc.

Total cost and cost per pound – as you can see, it is not economical to for us to produce our own chicken. We can buy it cheaper in the store. We grow our own because we like backyard farming and producing our own food.

Our conclusion – I like the Freedom Rangers. They are pretty, active, and hardy. I don’t like Cornish Cross. They are ugly, lethargic, and die easily. However, we do have to consider the bottom line and I am leaning towards CX.

TASTE TEST – Next week we will take 10 CX and 10 FR iced in a cooler on our 2000 mile drive from Antietam Glen, Maryland to Alta Canyon Park, Utah to serve up a taste test at the Johnson family reunion.  Stay tuned for the results.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Questions from Readers

What's best for their "Bath's" we put out a container of ash - I heard it needs to be very small soas to choke any mites like diatomaeous earth we'd really like to use the ashes from our stove insert in an old small vegable bing from a past refrigerator

We just let them give themselves a good old fashioned dirt bath. We haven't had any issues with mites.

My chickens stopped laying eggs. Some of the couple of the eggs I cracked had watery egg yolks, What could be wrong with them. Thanks.

Is is possible that the watery eggs weren't as fresh? As the eggs become less fresh, they become more watery. Did all of your chickens quit laying eggs at the same time? It isn't a normal time to molt. You may have a pest of some sort.

I just discovered a large amount of (what I believe is) "Cup Fungi" in my veggie garden. I don't have a clue what to do about it. Is it safe for my plants? Do I need to get rid of it somehow? Please help! Thanks, Alyson alyson.smth@gmail.com

You must have had some wet weather lately. Cup fungi is a term used for many cup shaped mushrooms. The problem is many of them can send off spores and it may look like you have taken care of all of them, but they could come back. Since they are in the garden, you must be very careful how you take care of them. Do not use any old fungicide from the store, most are poisonous. If it is on just a few leaves, remove the leaves or areas it has affected. If entire plants are affected you may want to put a bag over the plant (to keep the spores from spreading further) and dig up the entire plant and dispose of them. Maybe even scrape up some of the soil below and around the plant and dispose of it as well. You will want to apply a natural fungicide on the area. You can make a Neem Oil spray by mixing 2 TBS neem oil (found at the health food store) to 1 gallon of water. Neem oil is a natural fungicide and should help prevent further spreading.

Readers, feel free to leave any additional advice in a comment.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Water rings

By Jennifer

This is how I like to water my tomato, squash, melon and pepper plants:

• First, dig a moat around the plants. (For the vacation-starved gardener, imagine you're creating a little palm tree on its own desert isle, which in my case is as close as I'll probably get to the real thing. Is my husband reading this?)

With tomatoes and squash use a one-foot radius for the moat; peppers can be a bit smaller. 

• Use hose to fill water ring, let water soak into the soil, then fill again. Go away for a week. (Like, on a trip?) 

If you'd like you can make channels to join all the water rings together to make watering easier. It will be like having your very own grownup sand box. (Again, do I need a vacation or what?) One year, while I didn't plan it, the five tomato plants in my garden box formed perfect Olympic rings as a lead-in to the China summer games. (Someone get me out of here!)

This method allows you to do a thorough, deep watering. Infrequent, deep watering helps plants form strong roots. Water rings are especially useful in clay soil to contain, and allow to soak, the water that would normally run off. l I water my tomatoes every 7-10 days this way. As you can see I also use grass clippings as a mulch to retain moisture.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


by Mike

People are like water. They tend to follow the path of least resistance, not always, but often. I think the laziest year of my life was my Freshman Year in college. I remember one time that our remote control to our TV broke. At first, we ended up watching just one channel because no one had the energy to get up off of the couch. Then one of our friends broke his leg and he had to use crutches. We commandeered his crutches, moved the couch within crutch distance of the TV, and used the crutch to change the channel. This was a lazy, path of least resistance, method to change the channel to our precious TV.

You may ask why I bring this up. Marisa and I had some free time the other night so we decided to veg in front of the boob tube for a while. We don’t have cable but we do have Netflix streaming to our TV. I found some episodes of an interesting show called The Lazy Environmentalist. It is normally shown on the Sundance channel. John Dorfman is the host and he has an interesting perspective. He is an environmental advocate but he believes that most people will not embrace environmentalism unless it is easy, cost effective, and convenient. While this is not true for everyone I think it is an interesting idea. In his show he visits people in there homes or businesses and tries to help them be more environmentally friendly. However, he doesn’t seem to expect them to make extreme measures, rather he tries to find easy ways to change what they do that will help the environment, while at the same time helping them. It is an entertaining and educational show that we both enjoyed.

I like John Dorfman's philosophy and I think it mirrors the philosophy we try to have with backyard farming. We want to encourage and inspire everyone to try to raise there own food. We know that not everyone can have a goat, or raise there own chickens. We do believe that everyone can do a little something to start raising there own food. Marisa had some great comments from a lot of you about what we can do to garden in our apartment. Now I have a new question. Think of those of your friends that don’t have anything to do with gardening. What would you tell them to do that would be an easy, unintimidating way to start raising there own food, or at least eating more locally? How can we help people start down the path of self sufficiency? Please comment on your ideas. I think, that once people eat spinach from there own garden, or once they go to a farmer’s market they will be bitten by the backyard farming bug and never go back.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Michael and I have been MIA (Moving Into an Apartment) which has caused us to go MIA (Missing In Action) and have neglected just about everything that didn't have to do with moving.

We sold our little backyard farm with high hopes to find a slightly larger home on a little more land where we could expand our operation. It seems like every house we are interested in just slips through our fingers like sand. We got in a bidding war over 2 houses we really like and lost out on both. Can you believe it?!?!? A bidding war in this economy and this housing market? I don't get it. This week there was a darling white house with green shutters and a wrap around porch on an acre, in my price range. We set up the appointment to see it, and got canceled on because it went under contract. I was devastated.

Bare with me as I bore you with family photos. Should I whip out the wedding pictures? Michael and I just celebrated our 12th anniversary. That would really bore you to tears!

Speaking of tears, I'm still a little bit weapy about moving. I put a lot of time, energy, and love into this little house and it no longer belongs to me. Plus, I have so many wonderful friends in this neighborhood that I really miss.  It would be one thing if I got to move into a different home and start a garden, and think about where to put bees, or dream about the possibility of a cow or some pigs.  But no, we are in an apartment.

So I've had some "ugly cries" over the last two weeks. I really don't cry....ever. But I have this week. And by ugly cry I don't mean shedding a tear or two, an ugly cry is where you are slobbering and mascara is smeared all over your face. It isn't pretty.

I decided that I needed to quit being a "princess" and to get over myself and make the best of the situation. So I'm on a quest to discover the possibilities of apartment farming. I mean, that is what this blog is all about. It isn't about going out and buying a farm, it is about taking small steps in the right direction, wherever you are and with whatever property you have! All of a sudden I feel empowered.

Apartment #268...get yourself ready baby.

Please leave a comment with any apartment farming ideas you may have for me!!! I basically have a balcony to work with. I requested a south facing patio, but they only had East facing. It is about 4 feet by 6 feet. Thanks in advance for your ideas!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

They're BA-AAACK!

By Jennifer

Silly me. I thought (OK, make that hoped) last year's discovery that leaf miners were devastating my leaf crops would be an isolated incident, never to be repeated in my fair garden. I got rid of all infested leaves and rotated crops for this season. Not only was the spinach I planted at winter's end in a different area of the garden, it was in a container with packaged soil. Immune, right?

Nope, as my dinner salad harvest showed me. Here again are the eggs, stacked like rice grains on the underside of leaves. If left to hatch the eggs will become burrowing worms that fatally channel between the layers of leaf tissue. (Fatal, that is, to the leaves.) All this on a merry chase to become adult flies and lay another generation of eggs. 

What's a gardener to do? One method is using floating row covers atop the plants so the fly can't land, but the evidence of eggs shows I'm already too late into the insect's life cycle for that. 

The Internet abounds with ideas for using different chemicals on the soil around leaf crops, but I really don't want to go down that road, especially since mine is just a small patch.

My approach, then, will be daily checking of leaves, constantly harvesting those with eggs. This may be one case where my Baby Bear-sized garden is just right -- because it takes hardly any time at all to inspect the leaves of each and every plant. The eggs are easily removed from the leaves by scraping or cutting away. So far I've seen no evidence of hatches. 

Have any of you successfully dealt with leaf miners? While somewhat entertaining, this thread on an Internet forum shattered my belief that gardeners are a kind, friendly, resourceful bunch. Please restore it for me!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Broiler Harvest

By Dale M. Johnson

I spent an enjoyable day helping friends harvest their broilers. There is satisfaction in turning these chickens into food for human nourishment. It is not cruel or abusive. It is ethical treatment of these animals. It is part of the circle of life which the Lord has laid out for us. It is a symbiotic bond.  Our purpose is to take good care of these chickens for their short lives. Their purpose is then to sustain our families. They have a right to a life without pain or discomfort. We have a responsibility to raise them properly and a right to use them for food. I believe it is a holistic relationship ordained by God. 

I understand some people feel squeamish about the harvesting process. I did too at first. It is not pleasant but you get used to it. You get blood on you. The smells are disagreeable.  Eviscerating the chickens is distasteful. But in the end when you put an iced carcass in a plastic bag and is ready to put into soup or in the frying pan or on a rotisserie, you know that it is all right and there is a sense of fulfillment in being involved in the processing. 

I am not suggesting that everyone needs to raise and harvest their own chickens. But I am encouraging everyone to understand and accept this process and appreciate the farmers who do it for you. So when you pick up a frozen chicken in the store, please remember where it came from – it once lived on a farm, a farmer took care of it, a processing company harvested it for you, and there is nothing wrong with you, your children, and your grandchildren eating it as long as you appreciate it and give thanks to Heavenly Father for it. 

Dale at the killing cones.

 Dale eviscerating a chicken. The gizzards in the foreground will be cleaned later. 

 The finished carcass goes into ice water.